Inside the Numbers: Three Point Shooting

One of the most common subject lines that graces my inbox is “why can’t Beilein’s “shooters” shoot?” A close second would be  “WHY WON’T MICHIGAN PLAY TWO BIG MEN AT THE SAME TIME?”

Throughout the first several years of the John Beilein era, the concern has been valid. Despite shooting a larger proportion of three point shots than most other teams in the country, Beilein has yet to field an above average three point shooting team in Ann Arbor. Early on this season, it appeared that Michigan was ready to fire up more missed threes. At the end of November, six games into the season, Michigan was shooting just under 30% from long range. Half way through December, 11 games into the season, the Wolverines were still shooting just 31% on threes. Despite that sluggish start, Michigan has consistently improved into an average to above average three point shooting team. Don’t believe me, here’s a chart:

This improvement is encouraging for a number of reasons. Most impressively, a bulk of the improvement has come versus quality competition in conference play. This isn’t about Michigan padding its shooting stats versus the likes of North Carolina Central or Concordia, Michigan has shot the ball well versus conference foes. Michigan is shooting 39.2% from three point range in conference play, a stat that ranks fourth among Big Ten teams. Michigan has managed to post this respectable percentage despite attempting the second most threes in the league (and an average of 56 more than than the three teams ahead percentage wise). More numbers and thoughts after the jump.

Here are Michigan’s shooting numbers by season including partial numbers for this season (obviously there are 10+ games to be played in 2011):

3PFG% By Year Season B10
2007-08 31.2% 30.0%
2008-09 33.4% 32.1%
2009-10 29.7% 30.3%
2010-11 34.8% 39.2%

In fact, Michigan’s core group of shooters are all shooting the ball pretty well. Here’s a look at the three point numbers on an individual level. Jon Horford and Blake McLimans combined 2 of 23 certainly doesn’t help things. (These are numbers for the entire season.)

Zack Novak 44 110 40.0%
Evan Smotrycz 31 80 38.8%
Matt Vogrich 18 47 38.3%
Stu Douglass 34 92 37.0%
Tim Hardaway Jr 40 128 31.2%
Darius Morris 15 51 29.4%
Jon Horford 1 7 14.3%
Blake McLimans 1 16 6.2%

Of the guys that take a large percentage of three point shots, Hardaway is really the only one that is not an above average three point shooter. Consistency wise, there’s still room for improvement across the board. Any team is going to have bad shooting nights but the next step toward improvement is minimizing the number of subpar games. Here’s a look at Michigan’s game-by-game performance:

Is Michigan the best three point shooting team in the midwest? Not quite yet. Four or five bad shooting nights in a row and Michigan’s shooting numbers will look awfully similar to years past. However, there is at least reason for optimism going forward when you see that the numbers are finally starting to improve.

Bonus chart! Zack Novak’s in-season improvement has been dramatic.

  • SJWolv

    In conference play, the problem has been defense as opposed to 3 point shooting. I’m somewhat frightened by the fact we are almost shooting 40% from 3 in conference and are 3-6.

    I hope two factors help with defense next season, 1) the Big 10 gets worse due to the seniors leaving and Sullinger going pro and 2) the freshman get better at D. I don’t think the additions of B&B are really going to help us on the defensive end but I could be wrong. Evan needs to learn how to stay out of foul trouble and help us on the defensive end. He blocked Iverson’s shot at the beginning of the Minny game, so I’ve seen flashes of his potential.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Pretty much right on. Defense has been the issue. In fact, defense is an issue conference wide. That being said expecting the defense to improve next year shouldn’t be a stretch considering the experience that Michigan will gain.

      • gpsimms

        re: conference wide issue…

        Every big ten game I watch Johnson or Leuer or Sullinger or Battle etc. throw in ridiculous nba turn around fall away shots. I think on some levels crazy offensive talent beats defense. I think the conference defense being worse than ever is more a function of this being the best big ten I’ve seen in a while.

        I think the conference in kenpom’s adjusted d is about in the same place it always is, it’s just the competition he’s adjusting for is better than it’s been.

        • SJWolv

          You’re right, in 2009 the average adjusted O ranking for the conference was 58.9, in 2010 it was 66.9, and this season it’s 37.8 So as you mentioned, the league is lighting it up offensively this season.

          Looking at the average adjusted d over the past three years it was 71.5 in 2009, 70 in 2010, and 61.5 in 2011.

          So, all in all the conference has improved in both O and D, but O has improved significantly. Last year’s team couldn’t shoot but could defend, this year’s team can shoot but can’t defend. Let’s hope the D improves next season, that’s they key.

          • gpsimms

            which is why I’m so stoked about next season. The Beilein offense is working, this year, with a million freshman and zero seniors, against a great big ten, and all because they can shoot. There’s no reason for the offense to regress, and the big ten graduates a ton of talent.

            Last year, the shooting regressed, but don’t forget there was a reason for that: we had no point guard. And the D will improve a little on its own, but also will be compounded by the regression of the rest of the big ten offensively.

            And of course, that is why next year is the “show me” year for Beilein. If the rest of the big ten graduates Lucas, Summers, Leuer, Battle, Moore, Johnson, McCamey, etc, and all those teams reload, and their reloaded talent is immediately better than our vets, then it means Beilein’s never gonna get it done here.

            I’m on record as a Beilein believer of course, and think he will get it done next year.

  • gpsimms

    nice analysis…but WHY WON’T MICHIGAN PLAY TWO BIG MEN AT A TIME??!?!?!

    • Tom_McC

      It’s a pick your poison deal. Horford and Morgan don’t strike me as a duo that would strike fear into BT defenses. If you are gonna play 2 bigs, at least one needs to be an effective back to the basket guy. Neither Horford or Morgan are there yet. So you have 2 players who aren’t real threats in the block taking up space in the paint, limiting the driving lanes Darius has.

      Add to that, I don’t think Horford or Morgan are very good decision makers yet(they aren’t horrible, mind you) so that is a concern as well. I just don’t see the value of putting a guy like Horford in the game with Morgan because neither are go to guys in the post. They both do a good job of rebounding and finishing plays that the offense or Darius creates…but beyond that, there is no evidence available to suggest playing 2 bigs at the same time is the best way for UM to play.

      And fwiw, hoping, is not evidence.

      • gpsimms

        i was kidding, i’m not “one of those”

    • Kenny

      Are you kidding. Smot and Morgan start every game but our depth at big men ends there. Horford is physically not ready yet, McLiman is the biggest disappointment. Christian, not technically a big man, does not even take a shot besides the 2 pt made against state. When Morgan or Smot is in foul trouble, only one of them can stay, that’s why Smot was asked to play a lot of 5. The hope for the next season is a stronger and offensively more polished Horford and an McLiman who can knock down 3s.

      • gpsimms

        um. yes, i am kidding check 12.55 pm comment.

  • Tom_McC

    In terms of the shooting piece, if UM continues to shoot the ball more and more consistently from 3, we will start to see what this offense is REALLY capable of. It may not fully materialize this season…but if we can assume that UM has a core of average to above average shooters and these guys are completely comfortable with all that this offense can provide, we should start seeing this offense become extremely efficient. Defenses will have to stay with shooters, which will continue to open driving and cutting lanes and as UM upgrades its talent level and/or the current players add to their offensive games, this should be a fun club to watch going forward, at least in terms of how they play on the offensive end.

  • JimC

    I’ve been thinking about where this team is weak – it’s not in the shooting from the 2 / 3. And Darius in the 1 is a strength.
    Probably 5, and especially 4, are shaky/inconsistent spots, imo.

    • Beast1530

      If Smotrycz is shooting the ball well, the offense will be much better because it spreads out the defense by forcing the 4 to guard him closer to the 3 pt line instead of packing it in the paint. Much better offensive flow and more opportunities for backdoor cut.

  • Michael4

    As poor as the defense has been several games this year have been lost on just a few key plays. If we make a critical shot or 2 or get a stop on defense we could have potentially won several more games. That excites me because as this team matures I think they will find ways to win more of those close games.

  • Merlin

    What about zone defense-when is the Beilein 1-3-1 going to get going? I think one of the issues is that it is really hard to zone the Big Ten this year-too many great shooters. Even poor shooting teams like Michigan State-you are afraid to zone because they can kill you on the offensive glass. Still I think we are going to see more zone from Michigan mixed in as the season comes to a conclusion and it may be of the 2-3 variety.

  • michigan fan

    I am one of those who thinks we play too small. I don’t think Morgan and Horford are currently strong or experienced enough to be on the court together. When they do get more experience, I still don’t think they will be out on the court together. Or if we get a new big recruit I think we will still see only one big on the court at a time. That’s how Beilein plays. We can’t match up size or strength wise with other strong teams. If we hit our 3’s we might win, otherwise we will probably loose. Maybe it’s just me, be we seem to have one of the smallest/lightest front courts of any major program and I don’t see this changing. I wonder if this style of play hurts us recruiting? Don’t know.

  • AG2

    What is it about Assembly Hall that turns every team that goes in there into Depaul?

  • Xerxes

    Man, is this deja vu all over again, or am I hearing about a Michigan team that’s improving on offense with a defense that will improve with experience. :) All kidding aside, this is a different situation then RR’s team and I think we can expect some great things from this team next year.

  • maxwell’s demon

    I think Smotrycz may finally be the shooter/player Beilein has been looking for, but clearly his defense needs to improve.

  • Tweeter

    Dylan, I apoloigize. i figured as much but did it anyway, my bad.

    Well the horror has continued for State, 20-6 halfway thru the first half. How in the world does a team with the talent that State has, only score 6 points in ten minutes against the worst defense in the conference?

    • Tweeter


      • Dylan Burkhardt


      • georgeesq.

        41-20 at half.

    • JimC


  • Tweeter

    Really? Intentional foul on that play? Is that the new rule? Its automatic when an elbow catches someones face? If so, fine, but that is a retarded rule.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Jim Burr special.

      • Tweeter

        I dont feel like looking it up, but do you know if that is a new rule? Any contact is auto intentional foul?

        • Dylan Burkhardt

          There are new rules about elbows but that was not my interpretation. I’d have to look at the rule book though.

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    This game is, uh, not well officiated.

  • Tweeter

    Ok, now I have seen it all. Another intentional foul on a fast break where the guy looked like he reached for the ball at the same time he stepped in front of Lucas to slow him down? What is going on right now?

  • JimC

    Viagra on the BTN. What a combo.

  • Tweeter

    The refs have completely lost control of this game. They have no idea what a foul is anymore

  • JimC

    buzzer beater 3! that’s the way to keep momentum!

    • Tweeter

      Just wow. So glad I am not a state fan because I would probably have two broken hands and a tv through my window right now.

      • JimC

        They are seeing their storied program crumble.
        Kinda like M football from 08

  • Alex

    Don’t think it’s going to matter. You think Izzo is rethinking his decision over the summer? As has been said there are still many games left in the season but State needs to get their act together quickly if they want Tourney action.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Uhm, the Cavs have lost 20 games in a row. I think he’s still happy.

      • Alex

        That’s very true.

      • Mattski

        Need to put plus boxes here–as at mgoblog–so that we can approve comments like this one. Btw, did everyone see the video of Manny dunking on LeBron? It’s funny, because Manny still looks like a skinny college player by comparison. But he’s having 20 and 27 point games!

        • Dylan Burkhardt

          Actually thinking of getting something like that implemented. Stay tuned. ;-)

  • AG2

    There are two ways to think about this:

    1. Indiana and Iowa are going to catch up to us in the Big Ten Standings

    2. Michigan is going catch up to the rest of Big Ten.

    We are a 16pt dog @ OSU.

    Manny Harris floater in the lane to put the Cavs up 3 with 3:30 to go.

  • Tweeter

    I mean, what is the story here? Have the players quit on Izzo? were they never that good to begin with and just had a couple lucky runs? Was Raymar Morgan just that awesome? Is Izzo way overrated as a game coach? This team should only have two wins in conference right now if their opponents just make free throws in the last minute.

    • Jeff

      My honest opinion is he signed too many bad kids. In addition to having to kick two of them off the team, there were other off the court issues. Nix has basically admitted he was doing too much partying, and I’m sure he’s not the only one.

  • AG2

    I don’t think the team quit. They just went from very deep to very short-benched. Bird and Gauna redshirted, Lucas isn’t 100%, Lucious is gone, Allen is gone, Summers is Summers, Payne isn’t ready for prime time, Nix regressed, Sherman didn’t improve that much, and Roe isn’t an offensive option.

    You know, Indiana could win the Big Ten Tournament. Think about that.

  • Tweeter

    time for top Chef! At least I will see something good tonight

  • Bigfoot

    This is petty and dumb, but I can’t resist: hhahahahaha sparty hahahahaha!!

    • Mattski

      Unlike Dantonio–who strikes me as a hypocrite–I don’t think I’ll ever dislike Izzo or his lunch pail teams (though maybe they’ve all grown a bit complacent?) But insofar as a fall-off for them might help M’s recruiting. . .

    • JimC

      I like.

  • the_white_tiger

    Dylan, is there any way that we could see the standings for the “pick to click” contest?

  • Kenny

    Suddenly the loss to Indiana is not that bad.

  • Kenny

    I am not surprised to see state being trashed by Iowa. I predicted before the season start that the off-season incidents were going to bite them back. They bullied other teams with their physical play over the years, but once they show the venerability and is no longer feared, every team is pumped up to kick their butt. Their loss to us at Breslin was the turning point, and indiana is one FTM away to repeat our feat, now every team in the conference is confident to have them at home and thinks about beating them on their own court. Pay back time baby.

  • KRN

    NOOOOOOOOOO, Dylan!!!

    Just watch. Now Michigan will suffer its worst three point shooting drought of the year against Ohio State. I still remember the articles on “The case for giving Zack Gibson more minutes” last year and “Michigan’s improved defensive efficiency” before the conference slate this year. :P

    All kidding aside, I’m really excited to see if this will continue and how it will affect future games. If we can keep this up and stop hemorrhaging points due to defensive lapses, we could really make some noise late into the season going into the Big Ten Tournament.

  • Section13Row15

    I firmly believe that had Turner not hit that shot against U-M in the Big Ten tourney last year, we would’ve won the whole Big10 tournament and gotten an NCAA birth for the second year in a row.

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