Will the Ducks Live or Die by the Three-Point Shot?

Victor Flores FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Like many college basketball teams, the Ducks relied heavily on three-point shots last season. They weren’t the most prolific team from deep range, but they weren’t a relentless rim-attacking team either.

The stats back this up. In their 28 wins from the 2012-13 season, Oregon shot 36.7% from three-point land. In their 9 losses, 26%.

This isn’t exactly revelatory, as most teams struggle to put the ball in the hoop during losses. It’s hard to lose games when you’re sinking a bunch of shots.

Despite Oregon’s dependence on the three ball, though, they didn’t live and die by it either. Just look at how they shot in their close losses last season (I define “close” here as any overtime game or a game where the final score was within four points):

  • December 19:  91-84 in overtime to UTEP – 28.6% from three-point range.
  • February 2:  58-54 to Cal – 16.7%.
  • February 7:  48-47 to Colorado – 20.0%.
  • February 21:  48-46 to Cal – 13.3% (27.6% total shooting from the field! Cal was a nightmare for the Ducks last season).
E.J. Singler

E.J. Singler

Those percentages are awful and the Ducks still almost won. One or two more threes in each of those games wouldn’t have made Oregon’s shooting percentages look much better, but they would’ve given the Ducks four more wins and a 30-4 regular season record. The NCAA would have had a hard time giving them a 12 seed in that situation.

These games are meant to illustrate just how good the Ducks were last season. They could contend even on off nights. That said, they certainly weren’t perfect and didn’t light the world on fire from behind the arc.

Oregon shot 32.3% from the three’s company (my nickname for three-point territory; don’t steal it) in the regular season, tying them for 252nd place among 347 Division 1 teams. That’s obviously not very good, especially for a team that depended on the three-point shot so much. And that shooting performance was with E.J. Singler, who shot 35.9% on threes. That was the best rate among Oregon players last season and it came on 142 three-point attempts, which was just one behind Daymean Dotson’s team-leading number of attempts.

A player who shot that well, that often, will be about as easy to replace as an amputated limb. Singler was vital to the team’s success and now he’s gone trying to develop a pro career (he can shoot, so he’ll have a chance).

But Singler’s absence shouldn’t cause Ducks fans to dread their team’s chances this coming season.

Dominic Artis, who was just a freshman last year, nearly beat out Singler for Oregon’s three-point shooting title, hitting 35.8% of his deep looks. Artis attempted 95 threes, but because he missed nine games due to injury, his number of three-point attempts per game wasn’t much less than Singler’s or Dotson’s.

Speaking of Dotson, he shot 32.9%. Ray Allen might scoff at that number, but 32.9% really isn’t that bad when you consider Dotson attempted the most three-point attempts on the team and he, like Artis, was just a freshman last year.

It’s encouraging to know that two of the best players on last year’s team were freshman and were not afraid to fire shots from the deepest territory on the floor. With one more year of experience, there’s a good chance they’ll improve their shot selection. Frankly, they’ll probably become better at shooting from long range no matter how smart their shots are.

Dominic Artis

Dominic Artis

They sure seemed to improve by the end of last season. Artis returned from his injury problems on February 28 and proceeded to shoot 38.1% from three-point land the next nine games. His rate during conference games (12 total contests) was an absurd 48.4%.

Dotson shot an astronomical 42.9% from three range during his last six games of the season, including his great outing against Saint Louis in the second round of the NCAA Tournament when he made five of six shots from deep.

Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that the last six to nine games of a season involve, A) small sample size, and B) arbitrary end points. Those samples of games might not represent Dotson and Artis’s true levels of performance, and while specific dates like February 28 or the start of Pac-12 play are handy, they’re not all that meaningful.

However, seeing these guys shoot efficiently at the end of the season could very well mean they actually improved with more experience. And because they were only freshman, the “better with experience” narrative is much more believable since that was their first season playing college ball.

These two will be the main players to watch next season with specific regards to three pointers.  If they can become elite in that area, the team won’t have to rely much on other players to contribute behind the arc.

Joseph Young

Joseph Young

But the 2013-14 Ducks aren’t likely to be a team with just two shooters. Four of Oregon’s newest players: Joseph Young, A.J. Lapray, Jalil Abdul-Bassit and Mike Moser, have been known to shoot a high quantity of threes with high quality results (Moser is the only one whose percentages haven’t been fantastic). If their shooting abilities don’t suddenly and inexplicably disappear, Oregon could be a terrifying floor spacing machine.

Look again at those four close losses referenced at the beginning of this article. The Ducks could’ve been a top-ranked team had they won those games, and they only needed to make a few more shots. This coming season, if they can improve their three-point shooting to at least league-average, making the Sweet 16 will seem like forgone conclusion.

Featured image at top of page – Kevin Cline



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