One of the most popular complaints about the Gophers this season concerns their inability to stop the three.

Why can’t they get more aggressive, get in players’ faces as they’re shooting from the perimeter?

Well Ken Pomeroy says it wouldn’t make much difference. According to his plot charts posted here, the Gophers defense – like any defense – doesn’t have much control over whether a three-pointer goes in or not.

Take a look at the second graph first: 

For the sake of example, look at the left-most dot. That, like all the dots on the grid, represents a team (They are all called opponents here because Pomeroy is trying to prove something about defense). The percentage of three-point shots teams allowed this opponent to take in the first half of the conference season is about 17 percent, while they were allowed to take about 21 percent in the second half. That opponent is kind of an outlier, but if you look at where the dots intersect on the grid, you will see that most of them are pretty consistent from the first half of the schedule to the second.

That trend is what forms the upward pattern of the dots (opponents). Basically: some teams, because of whatever defensive schemes they have in place, will allow more threes. Some teams will allow less. That is usually pretty consistent throughout a season, as this plot shows.

Where you can’t find a pattern – above – is how often those three-pointers go in. 

Essentially this: A defense can control whether an opponent will shoot a three. But players cannot control, in that defense, whether that team is able to make the three.

As Pomeroy pointed out to me, Gophers coach Tubby Smith has long had defenses that have given up a lot of three-point attempts. Clearly, Smith has other reasons – having nothing to do with three-point shooting – for choosing his defense. 

But it does make the Gophers especially susceptible to an opposing team getting hot from outside. Yet according to these graphs, that has more to do with whether the opponent is a good-shooting team and less to do with the Gophers’ perimeter defense.


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