Season in Review: Three Point Shooting

Dylan Burkhardt


Because this blog has been around for roughly as long as John Beilein has been at the end of the bench in Ann Arbor, three point shooting has been a frequent topic. Beilein’s teams are obviously known for the three point shot and his teams have ranked in the top 25 for percentage of threes attempted during seven of the last nine seasons.

We’ve debriefed last season quite a bit but haven’t taken a long look at Michigan’s three point shooting and how it affected the season.

1. Last year’s team was John Beilein’s best three point shooting team at Michigan

For even the most casual observers, this fact was pretty clear. Michigan was a good, but not great, three point shooting team on the season. There were still a handful of 2 for 18 or 4 for 28 games but there were quite a few more 7 of 13 or 14 of 28 games compared to the 2009-10 season. The final season three point numbers are still just about average when compared to John Beilein’s teams at West Virginia that shot 35.7% over five seasons.

3P% Overall B10
2010-11 35.3% 38.1%
2009-10 29.7% 30.3%
2008-09 33.4% 32.1%
2007-08 31.2% 30.0%

Where this team truly excelled was where past teams struggled mightily: making threes in Big Ten games. For the first time under John Beilein, Michigan shot the ball better in Big Ten games, significantly better. The Wolverines made 38.1% of their threes in Big Ten games which was the second best in the league, trailing only Ohio State’s impressive 45%, while attempting the second highest proportion of three pointers.

The one thing that differentiated last year’s team from previous Beilein teams was that there were multiple legitimate three-point shooting threats. The next chart compares the top five three point shooting percentages (w/ over 20 attempts) over the last four seasons:

2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11
35.9% 36.1% 39.3% 38.7%
31.8% 36.1% 32.9% 38.5%
31.5% 35.1% 30.8% 38.1%
30.3% 34.4% 30.6% 36.7%
28.5% 33.5% 28.4% 35.8%

Only one shooter on the 2009-10 team (Vogrich with just 28 3PA) shot the the ball more efficiently from three point range than the fifth best shooter on the 2010-11 team. Even more importantly, the top five shooters from the 2010-11 team return next season and should improve.

Shooting depth is important because of it’s direct effect on the effectiveness of offensive spacing. If you spread the floor with five players that are all threats to make threes, the defense has to defend significantly differently. Which leads to the next point …

2. Last year’s team converted on a high percentage of two point shots

Yr 2P%
2010-11 51.7
2009-10 49.8
2008-09 50.4
2007-08 45.2

Plenty of the two-point shooting credit has to go to Darius Morris. Morris was phenomenal creating his own offense and hitting an array of different shots in and around the painted area. Morris converted 53% of his 347 two point attempts and Jordan Morgan was even more impressive around the hoop, finishing 63% of his 225 2-point attempts.

But Michigan’s shooters deserve plenty of credit for opening things up in the middle of the floor. It seems odd to think that 2-point shooting numbers would improve significantly as the roster loads up on three point shooters but Beilein’s teams at West Virginia show a similar trend. Beilein’s final three teams at West Virginia all shot over 52% on twos, ranking in the top 30 nationally, despite being renowned for their three point prowess.

Before the season started, I questioned whether there would even be anyone to attempt 2-point field goals. Morris was an average 2-point shooter as a freshman and most other players, both returning and incoming, had reputations as perimeter shooters. At 51.6%, Michigan actually had the third best 2-point shooting percentage in Big Ten games ranking well ahead of teams like Wisconsin (49.5%), Purdue (48.4%) and Michigan State (47.4%).

3. Last year’s team didn’t attempt dramatically fewer three point shots

Year Record 3PA/FGA Rnk
2010-11 21-14 43.0% 13
2009-10 15-17 43.3% 12
2008-09 21-14 47.9% 7
2007-08 10-22 40.7% 42

On the season, Michigan attempted almost the same proportion of shots from three point range as the year before. The previous two seasons both saw far fewer threes than year two of the Beilein era when Michigan attempted almost half of its field goals from behind the arc. If anything, the shift in philosophy came during Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims’s final season rather than last year.

Many pundits proclaimed Michigan’s late season turnaround as a product of shooting fewer threes. The Wolverines did attempt fewer three point shots over the final 15 games but not nearly as many as some would lead you to believe. Over the first 20 games, Michigan attempted 43.2% of its field goals from three point range and went 11-9. The Wolverines went 10-5 over the final 15 games and attempted 41.8% of their field goals from behind the arc. That’s a legitimate difference but it’s far from dramatic and could also be explained by attempting fewer threes late in games while trailing.


There’s no getting around the importance of three point shooting in this offense. John Beilein’s teams are going to attempt a lot of threes, not just because of roster composition but because the three point shots open up the rest of the offense. The good news is that as Michigan’s three point shooting continues to improve, the rest of the offensive should improve in parallel. The bad news is that if the three point shooting regresses next season, other elements are liable to bog down as we saw during the 2009-10 season.

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  • sane1

    Another very interesting analysis. Everything really is very interrelated and difficult to draw conclusions. For instance, was the improved two point shooting a result of the three point shooting spreading the floor, or was it Darius ability to get in the lane and score or dish to Morgan for easy buckets that opened up the three point shooters for easy looks?

    • Agree that it’s all dependent. I was a bit surprised to see the high 2-point numbers for Beilein’s teams at West Virginia. Those teams didn’t really have any Darius Morris types that were great at getting in the paint, from what I recall. 

      Two years ago it felt like every team packed the lane in against U-M, daring them to shoot threes. It usually ended badly. 

      This year the offense seemed more balanced, able to attack what the D gave them, despite still taking a lot of threes. 

      • Tom_McC

        I think it should also be mentioned and factored into the analysis that the college 3 pt line was moved one foot the season JB came to UM(2007).  Especially comparing numbers to WVU, it should be mentioned. 

        I don’t know that one foot makes THAT much of a difference but it is reasonable to assume(I haven’t bothered to research it) that the overall college 3 pt shooting dipped since the line was moved back.

    • Evan

      I agree.  I felt that if we worked from inside out, we got a better look from 3.  When we worked around the arc and shot a 3, it didn’t seem to be as effective.   Hopefully we can still work that inside out game next year… or else we may be in trouble.

  • Billiam

    I believe you’re trying to state that 3 pt shooting affects 2 pt shooting.  Perhaps it’s the other way around?  IE, perhaps the greater 2 pt efficiency led to better 3 pt efficiency.

    I guess the only way to test this is if next year we don’t score a lot because no one can drive.  (I’m praying that Burke, Brundidge, or THJ can, but…no one’s proven.)


    • Bill

      Good point, I think they work together. 3’s make you come out and guard and 2’s make you lay off a help which helps get open 3’s. That’s what made the offense so effective teams couldn’t just guard against 3’s.

    • Mattski

      It’s a matter of isolating statistics along a continuum, inevitably–in some ways–unsatisfying. Getting that three, and a third more points from the shot, is a key to Beilein’s strategy, not just because of the bottom line but because of the way it can make best use of the whole (half) court. It’s neat, and important, and also gets you the easy two.

      But I think we might also assume that accuracy is accuracy, and that three-point shooters, provided they fit the athletic mold Beilein also seeks (can dribble, create shots, etc., “ceteris paribus”) should also be good shooters generally. This might further muddy the waters when we just try to talk about threes. While this might not implicate Stu Douglass or Zack Novak or even Smotrycz, it should hold up for Hardaway and may hold for the incoming freshmen; maybe they will help backfill what’s lost with DMo leaving. When you talk about the two in connection with the three–just to point up one of the holes in my own analysis–you also need to distinguish between the easy two/lay-in and the outside shot. I’ll bet some statistician has a nice model that shows how the easy two equates, or does not, with the hard two and the three. . . 

      • Billiam

        With regard to your last sentence:
        What would you measure?  makes and misses of lay-ups and 3s?  I’m confused?

  • bball

    I think the players and coaches did an excellent job adjusting to what the other team was giving them.  I noticed it game to game and even within games.  Hardaway Jr. was became excellent by the end of the year recognizing how they were defending him on a play-by-play basis.  Sagging off – hit the three.  Doubling – hit the cutter to the basket.  Overplaying the shot – drive it to the hoop, etc, etc.  Aside from adding better shooters and the existing 3-point threats (stu and Novak) shooting better, I think the guys ended up with many, many more quality looks this year, which also helped provide the bump in shooting.

  • Bill

    The 3 pt shooting open things up for Morgan too and he got really good at making himself available in the lane. This offense is really effective when they make threes. Creates a lot of easy 2 pt shots for the guys who keep their eyes open. Evan’s ability to drive and if Tim works on taking it to the basket could make a very productive offense. With the skills on this team it makes for difficult match up problems which Beilein’s offense seems to thrive on.

  • Anonymous

    This is a great read, Dylan.  I also think it’s worth noting that this past season was the first with a roster full of only Beilein recruits. So I think from top to bottom, the depth of good outside shooters was at the level Coach is used to having.   Therefore, the three point shooting was back into a normal statistical range for Beilein coached teams.  

    Going forward, having versatile kids like TH Jr, Trey, Carlton, GR3 and Stauskas will allow the offense to attack the basket or hit from the outside, depending on the defense and what’s falling for the offense.  I’m excited because this offense will continue to become more efficient, productive and fun to watch.  

    • Bluebufoon

      Good Morning folks– Stefan Jankovic gave a new school list yesterday at Pangos-All-American camp with Michigan listed as the first team on the list. Thats two U-M mentions by Jankovic thids week, his recruitment could be one to watch.

      • He seems like a more athletic Smotrycz. Could be a nice player to shore up depth at the four.

      • Kenny

        I love this development. It seems that Michigan really picked up steam in recruiting Jankovic. 

        • Bernadin Joseph

          sounds like Stefan had a good weekend at Pangos. Hopefully coach B can wrap this up before some of the other big boys start sniffing around.

          • Anonymous

            I think its a little late for that.  From the couple articles I read, it sounded like Syracuse, georgetown, west virginia, wake forest, northwestern, had all offered, and Stefan was hearing from Duke and UNC.  I think it is safe to say he is a pretty big time prospect right now.

          • Anonymous

            oops, didnt mean to make it sound like it was too late to land him.  Just that it was too late to get him signed up before other big time schools come a calling.

  • Rkw

    hey dylan is stauskas playin in any of the aau tourneys this summer or is he still battling injuries?

    • Bluebufoon

      Stauskas is supposed to be back for the NBA Players camp later this month but I would think Nick will show up next weekend at U-M’s Elite camp, especially if he’s healthy enough to play. Speaking of the U-M Elite camp, I’m dying to know now if Jankovic will be at elite camp ?