You might have heard the three-point revolution has overtaken the NBA. Franchises such as the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets have geared their rosters around the shot — to great success — and Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau wants his team to shoot and make more threes.
The value of the three-pointer has been well known in the NBA for a while now, but it has also fully infected the college game, albeit at a slower place. Three-pointers accounted for 37.5 percent of field-goal attempts in college basketball this season, according to statistics website kenpom.com, up nearly 5 percent from the 2013-14 season. There was one coach and program who recognized this sooner than most, and it’s one of the reasons why Villanova and coach Jay Wright are back in the Final Four for the second time in three seasons.
Perhaps no program better embodies the three-point revolution in college than the Wildcats, who are six made threes from setting the single-season NCAA mark.
Five seasons ago, the Wildcats ranked 196th in the country in terms of the percentage of points they scored from three-pointers (26.8 percent), according to kenpom.com. This season, they ranked 16th (39.8 percent). Their effective field-goal percentage, a metric that weighs three-pointers as counting 50 percent more than two-pointers, was 59.3 percent, second best in the country.
Wright saw where basketball was heading and adjusted his recruiting and playing style accordingly.
“It’s just gradually progressed where it’s become a big part of recruiting, a big part of our scheme, and also a big part of our development program,” Wright said.
If you’re wondering, the Gophers were essentially the statistical opposite of Villanova. Only 27.2 percent of their points came from the three-point line, 282nd out of 351 Division I college teams. Their effective field-goal percentage was 48.7, 272nd in the country and well below the national average of 51 percent.
Villanova, meanwhile, boasts five players who play more than 27 minutes per game and shoot 38.5 percent or better from three-point range.
The success Villanova has had playing smaller lineups, spreading the floor and bombing away from deep hasn’t been lost on Wright’s coaching counterparts.
“I think, in my generation, Jay Wright’s changed basketball,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said before his team’s loss to Villanova in the Elite Eight. “He’s the one that invented small ball, where your 4-man [power forward] can shoot threes. They always have four guys on the floor that shoot. This is the way that our teams try to play. … So this guy, he’s transformed basketball, the way they play, and we’re all kind of doing the same thing.”
But Villanova has been doing it a little better than most.