Minnesota’s 3FGA/FGA Percentage to Rise Significantly in 2013-14

August 5, 2013
Minnesota’s 3FGA/FGA Percentage to Rise Significantly in 2013-14

We expect the Gophers will attempt 3-point field goals more often during 2013-14 than in any season over the past decade. The two primary reasons for this expectation are: (1) Minnesota’s 3FGA/FGA percentage has historically been low and (2) the team’s roster will rely heavily on players who often utilize the 3-pointer. Those reasons sound simple, but it’s important to differentiate the real reasons from a basic “it’s because of Coach Pitino” argument.

Last Five Years: Minnesota and Richard Pitino

The chart below illustrates 3-point field goal attempts as a percentage of total field goal attempts (3FGA/FGA) for the past five seasons. For example, in the 2011-12 season, 28.9% of Minnesota’s field goal attempts were 3-point attempts. Pitino’s percentages reflect FIU (2012-13), Louisville (2011-12 & 2008-09) and Florida (2009-10 & 2010-11). The green line reflects an approximate NCAA D-I average of 33% each season.

3FGA Chart

In his three most recent years of assistant coaching, Pitino’s teams shot 3-pointers less often than the average NCAA team. Last season at FIU (37.5%) his team shot from long range more often, but still didn’t rank within the top 50 3FGA/FGA percentages in the nation.

We believe Richard Pitino will adjust his game plan each season as needed based on his roster. That said, the fact that Pitino is now the Gophers’ head coach does not mean they will always have an above average 3FGA/FGA percentage. In 2013-14, however, we expect they will.

Minnesota has consistently been below average over the past five years. In the past decade the program has been above 32.4% only once (35.6% in Tubby Smith’s first season). These low comparables are the first reason we believe the Gophers will have a higher 3FGA/FGA percentage in 2013-14 than has been seen over the last decade.

This Year’s Roster vs. Last Year’s Roster

We believe the key (far and away) offensive players for Minnesota are Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins. In addition we believe Malik Smith (33.1 mpg last season) will have every opportunity to earn major minutes.

All three are high 3FGA/FGA percentage players. Also, Smith and Andre Hollins are both high volume shooters.

Minnesota’s top starting lineup in 2012-13 is listed below. The Shot % column reflects the percentage of the team’s shots taken by the player when he’s on the floor and the 3FGA/FGA column illustrates the player’s 3FGA as a percentage of their total FGA.

Player Shot % 3FGA/FGA
Andre Hollins 26.5% 53.2%
Austin Hollins 21.7% 53.0%
Joe Coleman 20.4% 11.0%
Rodney Williams 21.5% 16.4%
Trevor Mbakwe 18.8% 0.5%
Totals 108.9% 30.4%

Because you can’t attempt 108.9% of your total attempts, we ratably reduced each player’s Shot % to reach 100% and came to a weighted average 3FGA/FGA of 28.8%.

Coleman, Williams and Mbakwe are no longer at Minnesota. For illustrative purposes, we’ve replaced these three with Malik Smith, Joey King and Elliott Eliason.

Player Shot % 3FGA/FGA
Andre Hollins 26.5% 53.2%
Austin Hollins 21.7% 53.0%
Malik Smith 25.0% 71.4%
Joey King 21.3% 54.9%
Elliott Eliason 10.2% 1.6%
Totals 104.7% 56.2%

Again, we’ll adjust each player’s Shot % to reach 100% in total. Doing so results in a weighted average 3FGA/FGA of 52.8%.

Even if you remove Joey King and assume a hypothetical player whose 3FGA/FGA is only 15.0%, the weighted average remains high at 44.7%.

Minnesota won’t reach 52.8%. Only two teams in the last five seasons (i.e., just over one-tenth of one percent of all teams) have eclipsed that mark in D-I basketball.

The reality is some players will show different tendencies in 2013-14. However, an assumption of a 3FGA/FGA percentage in the upper 30’s or even into the 40’s does not look unreasonable despite it being significantly higher than what Gopher fans have usually seen in the past. Last year the average Big Ten team’s percentage was 32.9% and ranged from 23.0% (Purdue) to 43.1% (Northwestern).

A year ago we talked about the key metric for Gopher wins in Big Ten play being their 2FG%. In 2013-14 it may very well be defensive 2FG% for this squad. However, the higher volume of 3-point field goal attempts will add in win-loss volatility that can help in earning upset victories or conversely, cause Minnesota to lose games they “shouldn’t” on paper.

The subject of 3-point shooting tendencies leads into many related topics, but for now we’ll leave you with the above as food for thought. Have comments or questions? Send us a message via Twitter @LateNightHoops or email at latenighthoops@latenighthoops.com.

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