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|
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.)
|Tim Hardaway Jr||40||128||31.2%|
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.