Is Three the Magic Number?

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There’s no doubt we’re seeing more and more three-point attempts in college basketball but is three the magic number for winning a championship?  In looking at the last ten NCAA champs for both the men and women, we have found that’s pretty much true on the men’s side while it’s a mixed bag on the women’s side.

For D1 Men, there’s definitely a rise in three-pointers made and attempted among the champs with Villanova’s most recent title teams leading the way by a wide margin.

Three-Pointers Made Per Game – D1 Men
2018 Villanova 11.6
2016 Villnova 8.7
2010 Duke 7.5
2015 Duke 7.3
2014 Duke 7.2

For D1 Women, UConn certainly likes the three-pointer, getting almost 27% of their points from three-pointers with their last six championships.  But the other four rely significantly less so on the three-pointer, possibly a case of not trying to beat UConn at their own game but finding something equally effective to win games.

% of Points from Three-Pointers- D1 Women
UConn (’09,’10,’13,’14,’15,’16) 26.6%
Other Champs (Texas A&M, Baylor, South Carolina, Notre Dame) 17.3%

For D2 Men, the percentage of points from three-pointers has jumped from 27% from 2009-2013 to 39% from 2014-2018 but the effective field goal percentage has dropped a couple of points indicating that while more of their points are coming from three-pointers, it may not be the most efficient way they could operate.

For D2 Women, there has been virtually no change in three-pointers made or attempted. However, the effective field goal percentage has jumped up about 2 percentage points, the efficiency at this level has been found INSIDE the three-point line, at least among the champs. Although I’ve seen among a number of our clients at this level of significant rise in the number of attempts – it seems like the champs haven’t bought into that philosophy yet.

D3 Men are paralleling the D1 Men with the more recent champs making significantly more three-pointers per game – no one coming close to Nebraska Wesleyan and their nearly 400 made three-pointers this year.

Three-Pointers Made Per Game – D3 Men
2018 Nebraska Wesleyan 11.9
2017 Babson 8.9
2013 Amherst 8.5
2009 Wash U. 7.3
2015 UW-Stevens Point 7.0

For D3 Women, DEFENSE is the name of the game.  Similar to D1 Women, one team has been dominant during this time.  Amherst doesn’t give up much  on defense so the style of play is in stark contrast to the pace and space that gaining popularity these days.  But you can see by the numbers below, they’re not only opening up wide margins against their opponents but teams can’t score in bunches from behind the arc to get back into games making them so tough to beat.

Three-Pointers ALLOWED Per Game – D3 Women
2017 Amherst 2.2
2011 Amherst 2.6
2018 Amherst 3.0
2013 Depauw 3.3
2014 FDU-Florham 3.8

So, while three-point attempts are definitely up, it would appear right now that it’s only magical, as it relates to winning a championship at for D1 Men and D3 Men.