Commentary

Living and dying by the 3

Vandy, Michigan among those that can't win without the long ball

Originally Published: January 19, 2012
By John Gasaway | Special to ESPN Insider
Jeffery TaylorJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesThanks to sharpshooters like Jeffery Taylor (45 percent from deep) Vandy is thriving from behind the arc.

One of the things I've always loved about college basketball is the sport's manifest willingness to change its fundamentals. And the introduction of the 3-point shot before the 1986-87 season marked arguably the single most fundamental alteration of any college sport since the adoption of the forward pass in college football in the early 1900s.

Now, 25 years after the 3-pointer's debut in Division I, we find that a small but significant minority of major-conference teams rely heavily on shots outside the arc for the sum total of their offense -- so heavily that it's impossible to imagine these offenses operating without 3s. Which major-conference offenses exhibit the highest degrees of perimeter orientation? And how's that working out for them?

To assess teams' true stylistic preferences and not merely their nonconference scheduling philosophies, I'll be using numbers from conference play. Looking at how a team performs against its rivals at the time of year when "home" and "road" are systematically balanced can tell us quite a bit about a given coach's innermost wishes on offense. Let's see which teams are relying most on the long ball.

1. Vanderbilt (3FGA/FGA: 0.51)

Meet the only major-conference team that's attempted more 3s than 2s thus far in conference play. The Commodores have launched no fewer than 51 percent of their SEC shot attempts from beyond the arc. More importantly for Kevin Stallings' team, they've been making all those perimeter shots, hitting a red-hot 47 percent of their shots from outside. That level of accuracy's likely to come down a bit, of course, starting with tonight's game at Alabama. Still, with shooters like John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor on the floor, the drop-off probably won't be too drastic. Vanderbilt has started conference play scoring 1.19 points per possession, and there are things it does well besides hitting 3s, things like offensive rebounding and hitting 2s. Vanderbilt is highly perimeter-oriented, but it's not necessarily perimeter-reliant.


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