Preseason Three Point Analysis

Dylan Burkhardt

stu-douglass-three llp-three novak-three

Like it or not, John Beilein’s basketball teams are perimeter oriented teams. Beilein has a model and, besides a few tweaks here and there, he is comfortable sticking to it because it works. The ideology behind a POT is that you shoot a lot of threes while sacrificing offensive rebounding for not turning the ball over; the catch is that you have to make your threes.

While Michigan’s statistical profile last year was a lot closer to the West Virginia Beilein model than the year before, it still wasn’t quite there. The main issue was Michigan’s team three point shooting percentage of 33.4% (32.1% in conference).

Luke Winn points out that Michigan doesn’t return any one who made over 34.5% of their three point shots while Beilein’s best team at West Virginia returned 6 players that topped that mark.

Basically Michigan managed to win a lot of games last year despite being a perimeter oriented team who can’t make threes – the cardinal sin. To repeat that success, or improve upon last year, they are going to have to make more of their threes if when they shoot so many.

To put this in perspective, I put together a scatter plot of 3PA/FGA (how many threes a team takes) versus 3pt field goal percentage.


(The Big Ten teams are all listed with conference-only numbers, while Beilein’s WVU teams are from their entire season.)

The axes are aligned at conference averages (35% 3PFG%, 37% 3PA/FGA) which leaves us with four quadrants.

  • Bottom left: teams who shoot few three pointers and make them at a below average rate.
  • Top left: teams who shoot a lot of three pointers and make them at a below average rate.
  • Top right: teams who shoot a lot of three pointers and make them at an above average rate.
  • Bottom right: teams who shoot few three pointers but make them at an above average rate.

The graph is pretty intuitive but here are some thoughts about other teams in the conference:

  • Offensively challenged teams like Minnesota and Illinois fall in the lower left quadrant but at least they aren’t wasting their attempts.
  • Ohio State shot the three point shot very well but could have probably shot it a little more.
  • Northwestern is the only team in the top right quadrant, they shot the three a lot but managed to make it consistently.
  • Wisconsin and Purdue are pretty central, meaning they have some good three point shooters but they are also very balanced.
  • Michigan State doesn’t shoot a terrible percentage but they rarely shoot the three.

You can see Michigan is in the top left quadrant – meaning they take a lot of threes (more than anyone in the conference) but make them at a below average rate. Michigan obviously wants to move toward the top-right quadrant of the graph where most of Beilein’s West Virginia teams fall.

Michigan appears to be moving in the right direction, they saw about a 2% increase in their three point shooting percentage from Beilein Year 1 to Year 2. But, their three point shooting percentage on the year was still over 1% lower than Beilein’s worst three point shooting team at West Virginia.

The upshot is that there are a lot of guys who have shown that they can shoot that just need to be more consistent. Stu Douglass, Laval Lucas-Perry, and Zack Novak all had multiple hot shooting games last year but they also had their fair share of 0-4 or 0-6 games.

The encouraging part about freshmen is that they become sophomores, I think it’s fair to expect all three to make substantial strides in their consistency and overall shooting percentages.

Freshman Matt Vogrich has widely been proclaimed as one of the top shooters in the incoming freshman class and judging from early practices, he will be able to contribute. If Douglass or Lucas-Perry are cold, it’s always good to have one more shooter to try off the bench.

Manny Harris’ shot continues to improve as well,  and an uptick of a few percentage points on Manny’s three point percentage could be worth 10-15 spots in the NBA draft.

Last year’s team resembled a Beilein team statistically in many ways but three point shooting will be the difference between a good and great Michigan team this year. Douglass, Lucas-Perry, Novak, and Vogrich hitting threes consistently continues to open up the offense and has a bit of a snowball effect. Forcing teams to play pressure defense on the perimeter opens the backdoor cut and also prevents teams from stacking the paint against penetration from Manny Harris and Darius Morris.

  • JayRich

    The whole time I was reading this I was thinking “the best thing about freshmen is next year they are sophomores.” I am glad you put that line in because these guys had a full summer of knowing how to eat right, work out right, and practice the right way. I know incoming freshman come during the summer but the returners have had since late march/early april to get it together. Sounds like Novak in particular has made it a point of emphasis to change his body.

  • Giddings

    If nothing else, this analysis shows just how high the ceiling is for this team. If we can make it to the second round of the Tournament from the upper left quadrant, imagine what we can do if we move to the upper right quadrant…

  • AG2

    I can’t help but wonder if the reason their mediocre 3pt shooting compared to Beilein’s teams at West Virginia didn’t affect them as much because the Big Ten as a whole is a worse shooting conference than the Big East.

    Then again, to say it didn’t affect them as much sorta ignores the fact that they finished 7th in the Big Ten.

  • AC1997

    To me the other thing about the freshmen from last season isn’t just improving their shot, but improving their shot selection. THAT is what you can see the biggest improvement with as a player progresses. He knows when it is a good idea and when it isn’t to launch that three.

    I was about to make a profound statement that Michigan loses Lee, Merritt, and Grady – none of whom I associated with good shooting except Grady – but if you look at their numbers they were all above 35%. Hmm….maybe that’s a negative rather than a positive. Then again, about the only shots that Merritt and Lee took were open threes – implying that knowing WHEN to shoot has a significant impact on your percentage.

    Finally, there’s the case of Zach Gibson. While his 30 attempts were a drop in the bucket on the season it can only help to have him shoot fewer shots from the perimeter.

  • Ganderson

    After reading this post I was left wondering how much Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims compensated for our poor 3-pt shooting percentage. Once we lose Manny and Deshawn (very likely after this season), should we expect to have a good team with JB’s system if we cannot raise our outside shooting percentage at least 3-4 points? Nobody on the team can do the things that Manny and Deshawn do for this team on a daily basis. This brings me to my next point: I believe that inking Trey Ziegler is tantamount to a smooth transition from this year to the next, especially if we do not increase our 3-pt shooting percentage.

  • Tom, Too.

    I have a strong feeling that D-Mo is the starting point guard because of Zeigler. I think JB wants to show Trey that he goes with stud Freshman immediately and that if Trey comes to AA, he will hand him the keys to the wing position….similar to what he is doing with Morris.

  • Wes Mantooth

    If Matt Vogrich lives up to his hype as a shooter I think he’ll be a huge addition for the team. It’s pretty much inevitable that LLP, Stu, & Novak will hit dry spells on and off. Having Vogrich come off the bench to hit a couple of threes can go a long way in helping the team’s confidence and keeping them in games when the other guys are cold. I’m psyched to see what he brings to the table…

  • David

    Tom, Too:

    I don’t know, man. I think D-Mo is the starting point guard because he can get into the paint regularly and create open looks for our shooters. We don’t really have anyone else besides Manny that can do that.

  • Darius is not the starting point guard because of anything to do with Zeigler. If Darius starts it’s because he’s the best point guard.

    So far, Manny Harris, Kelvin Grady, Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, and (kind of) Laval Lucas-Perry have started as freshmen. I don’t think there is anyway that you can say Beilein WON’T start a freshman if he’s good enough to play.

  • Tom, Too.

    In the past two years, he didn’t have a choice but to start those guys….

    I am just saying, if it a tie, D-Mo gets the nod…

  • Beast1530

    Michigan was a very young team last year and they didn’t make the greatest shot selections. However, saying that no returning players have shot at least 34% from 3 point land is a bad thing. He’s forgetting that there’s a chance of progress which is likely since Novak, Douglass were freshmen. Manny Harris’ jumpshot looks worlds better than last year. Just a smoother stroke and a controlled jump shot. My concern is Sims shooting a lot of threes from the 4 spot which he will play at times.

    Another thing to consider is the 3 point line moved back a little bit but it’s not significant to make a huge impact on the 3 point shooting percentage but it’s a possibility.

    I’d expect to see Michigan to move toward the right quandrant this season.

  • Tyler

    We can all be honest and say that the players that left who had great “leadership” and put up a couple points a game won’t be that big of a deal. Sure it’s great to have but if your a great player and leader (Manny,Deshawn) then that will probably have a better affect on the team. I definitely expect to see Novak and Douglass improve and D-mo slowly progress over the season. I noticed Zeigler was at the Penn State game and from what I hear had a good time.

  • Dave

    anyway you slice it michigan is going to be much improved this year………they have all the scoring plus the new additions will go beyond what they have lost easily……..other than rebounding i for see them getting better in just about every other category for example, ppg, point allowed, shooting percentages, assists, turnovers might be an issue on the occasion depending on if darius gets carried away sometimes, hoping to see many more backdoor cuts this year, wins, and just overall more crips solid play……..everything is there to be damn solid

  • Erik

    Dylan, any hypothesis then on why UofM was successful last year compared to previous WVU teams? Would a similar scatter plot of turnovers per possession show something the same? IE: UofM made fewer threes but took better care of the ball?

    There must be some factor that canceled out the poor 3pt shooting, whether it was rebounding, turnovers, or defense.

    What I think is impressive is that not only did they do well despite the small 3pt success, but they also played in a slower paced conference (Big Ten) than WVU. This should have placed even more emphasis on FG and 3pt percentage.

  • JBlair52

    I posted this elsewhere – but the biggest reason I think we’ll see improvement this season on 3 pt shots is because we’ll be better at attacking the hoop.

    LLP, Novak, and Stu all seem to be working on attacking the hoop more and becoming quicker, leaner, stronger, etc.
    From high school Morris sure seems like he’s big on attacking the hoop and we know Manny can.

    Having guards with size that are an actual threat to pull and pop a jumper or attack the hoop will create kick-outs for open 3’s and better looks.

  • maxwell’s demon

    I think by the heart of the season we should definitely see an improved team over last year (including 3fg %). But these first couple months may not go as smoothly as everyone hopes if Morris can’t immediately give us 25 minutes a game and we have to have Stu or LLP run a lot of point. While we didn’t lose much from last year, we collectively lost a lot of minutes at PG.

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