Three-Point Analysis

Here's something I don't do too often around here: basketball statistics. After the Clemson game I followed up on a hunch that I've had since the middle of the season, teams shot much better than their season average against us from downtown.

3FGVT% - 3FGS% is the money column. It's the difference between a team's three-point percentage against Virginia Tech and its season average. A positive number indicates a team shot better from behind the arc against Tech than they did over the course of the season (through 1/27).

Date Opponent Result 3FGVT% - 3FGS% 3FGVT 3FGVTA 3FGVT% 3FGS 3FGSA 3FGS%
1/27/2013 Clemson L 14.51 10 21 47.62 101 305 33.11
1/24/2013 Virginia L 8.7 11 23 47.83 108 276 39.13
1/19/2013 Wake Forest W 0.34 7 19 36.84 96 263 36.5
1/12/2013 @ Georgia Tech W 2.49 8 24 33.33 99 321 30.84
1/9/2013 Boston College L 2.7 8 22 36.36 139 413 33.66
1/5/2013 @ Maryland L 10.86 10 23 43.48 107 328 32.62
12/29/2012 BYU L 3.42 7 19 36.84 129 386 33.42
12/23/2012 Colorado St. L 11.53 11 24 45.83 106 309 34.3
12/22/2012 Bradley W 2.78 8 23 34.78 104 325 32
12/15/2012 Ga. Southern L 8.29 11 26 42.31 116 341 34.02
12/10/2012 Mississippi Val. W -14.49 4 29 13.79 97 343 28.28
12/8/2012 @ West Virginia L 12.44 10 24 41.67 95 325 29.23
12/1/2012 Oklahoma St. W -15.54 4 23 17.39 108 328 32.93
11/27/2012 Iowa W -12.1 4 22 18.18 109 360 30.28
11/23/2012 Appalachian St. W -0.06 8 22 36.36 126 346 36.42
11/19/2012 @ UNC Greensboro W -1.66 11 35 31.43 137 414 33.09
11/15/2012 VMI W -11.84 8 37 21.62 174 520 33.46
11/12/2012 Rhode Island W -27.9 1 21 4.76 114 349 32.66
11/10/2012 East Tenn. St. W -14.34 3 16 18.75 138 417 33.09

The important stuff:

To add some context, Creighton is first in the nation in three-point percentage (44.8%), while Mississippi Valley State is last at 28.3%. Some thoughts:

  • Virginia is ranked 16th nationally at 39.1%, and they still managed to shoot almost 9% higher against the Hokies.
  • Not once during Tech's 7-0 start did a team manage to shoot higher than their season average. What is Tech doing differently defensively between now and then? Could it be a combination of opponents finding their stroke plus tired turkey legs not getting out to the perimeter quick enough?
  • In each loss, Tech's opponent has shot better than their season average.

Some individuals have shot well above their mean too. Colorado State's Dorian Green hit 5 of 6 threes (86%), contrast that to his 34.88% season average. Virginia's Evan Nolte and Joe Harris shot 55.56% and 66.67%, respectively, against Tech. On the year they average 44.26% and 46.67%. Clemson's K.J. McDaniels went ham, hitting 5 of 7 from deep (71.42%), even though he averages just 32.99% this season. It is possible the Hokies are doing all they can defensively, and are running into hot shooters. After the Clemson loss, James Johnson had this to say.

James Johnson on what went wrong as far as all of Clemson's treys: "Nothing went wrong, they made shots. If we're in man and they knock 3s down, what went wrong with man? If we're in zone and they make 10 3s, what went wrong? They come in last in the league (in 3s). We're not in a situation where I think we could guard their post guys inside. We've got to try to play some statistics, we've got to try to play a little bit of zone and try to take them out and make them do something that they can't do or they haven't done, and they made shots tonight. I think most of them were contested. We had a couple that we should've got but most of them was contested. ... Damarcus Harrison hit a big time shot with the shot clock running down right in front of their bench on the baseline, tough shot. They made some contested shots but they had a couple that we made some mistakes in our defense and that's going to happen. They shot the ball extremely well."

Hopefully J.J. can figure out a fix, because allowing teams to shoot threes at a rate of 31.8% (105th nationally) on the season, and 41% over the last 10 games probably won't result in many more wins.

I fully admit there's a possibility for human error (transcription) in this analysis.



Great Post Joe. I think the increased 3PT FG% is a product of two issues: fatigue and effort. I will tackle them one at a time.

Fatigue: This team is clearly gassed. We're all aware of the fact that we're playing with so few scholarship athletes that JJ has been forced to increase our elite players' minutes more than he'd like. To make matters worse, guys that should be solid contributors (I'm looking at you Robert) are really struggling and JJ has been forced to constantly tweak each guy's minutes outside of the gameplan. Then we had two weeks of guys dropping dead from the flu. Then you look at a game like yesterday, where every one of our post players is put in foul trouble with 12+ minutes to go and you have a perfect storm of crappiness. Guys are getting over-worked and we lack the depth to pick up the slack. We knew this could happen as the season wore on and one of the ways it shows is in the stats above. Beyer and Johnston & Co. have been great and put in solid minutes, but lesser talent only gets you so far.

Effort: I think if you asked JJ candidly if he wanted to play so much 2-3 zone, he'd flat out tell you hell no. It puts guys out of position on the defensive boards, which makes quick transition difficult. Plus, he really doesn't have the guys to make it work. When you look at a team like Syracuse - who specializes in the 2-3 - they have guards and bigs that are quick and have great length (Jay Bilas just got a hardon), which makes the 2-3 very difficult to break down. We straight-up lack the personnel to make it work effectively. We're not long enough to disrupt the skip pass and we're not quick enough to close down the backside swing pass, both of which are giving the opposing teams WAY too many open looks. It's not just a matter of them hitting more 3's against us, these teams are getting wayyyyyy too many wide open looks from 3-point range. When you're playing high major teams, they should knock these shots down minimum 35% of the time.

I noted in my comments within mikey4vt's game recap the following: The 2-3 Zone was by-and-large effective. As a defense, you want the other team to launch threes against you because of how low-percentage the shots were, and as JJ did postgame, Clemson deserves credit for making those shots. My issue with the D was that they aren't extending enough and playing with their hands up. All 5 guys should have their hands up and out the entire time to disrupt the vision, passing lanes, and shots of the defenders. Hands down is typically a sign of fatigue or laziness, and if I'm JJ, I'm telling my players to keep their hands up or I'm pulling them out because they're telling me they are tired. The best stretch we had was at about the 4-minute mark in the 2nd Half where we repeatedly trapped the first pass over mid-court and used our feet and hands to smother the ball. We need more of that harassment throughout the other 38 minutes.

We've got to play zone to keep guys fresh on the offensive end, but by improving fundamentals we can be even moderately more effective defensively. These are simple things like keeping hands up, and finding a guy and boxing him out the second the ball goes in the air. Rant over.

Tech's Zone

As you said, the huge problem with Tech's 2-3 zone is the lack of any length and athleticism. First of all, when you have EG and Rankin (or even Brown) out top, you have two undersized to average sized guards. When you look at Syracuse, they have Carter-Williams, a 6-6 freak of a PG, and Triche. Then, inside, Tech has Eddie, who has never given consistent effort on defense, Barksdale, who is wayyyyyy too slow to be playing in one of the outside spots underneath, and then Raines/JVZ, neither of which are much of shot blocking threat. Syracuse on the other hand, has Fair, Christmas, Sutherland, Coleman, and Grant, all extremely long and athletic players RECRUITED to play in that kind of defense.
Basically, JJ knows that we can't guard teams man-to-man, so he has to throw in some 2-3 zone and other junk defenses that continue to expose our athletic deficiencies and result in huge point totals, especially from behind the arc, for opponents.

Agreed. I'm wondering how much thought JJ's given to installing a 1-3-1 to disrupt teams that get hot hitting jumpers. I don't think it would be effective for a couple of reasons, the main one being we would run our baseline guy ragged and don't have the depth to sub in and out enough. But we could run it with certain lineups for short periods. I would put Marshall Wood (when his foot is 100%) running the baseline, park our slowest post player in the middle of the paint (whether its CJ or Cadarian) and prop his arms up in the air, put Eddie and JVZ on the wings to close out, and EG/Rankin up top. That would give you a bigger lineup than JJ typically trots out there, but it would put Wood at his natural position, move Eddie to a position where he can handle the ball a little more to create, and make you more athletic in the post. Just a thought.


Certainly can't get much worse on defense right now, so I would probably give it a try in practice to see what happens. I think Wood, at least in a few weeks, would be a good fit for the baseline but I also think JVZ would get abused off the dribble if he was on one of the wings (I'd probably put Brown in and play him on the wing, as long as this is a defensive conversation). With that being said, I'm a big fan of a 1-3-1 coming out of timeouts and at end of half/game situations to throw a wrench into whatever the other coach drew up. The 1-3-1 is very tough to score on for one or two possesions, but as a base defense, teams normally will figure out how to attack the gaps and find open shots pretty quickly, which may be why no one (at least that I know of) plays exclusively 1-3-1.

Oh God no I would never play that as a base set, but out of timeouts or end of half as you suggest is a great notion. Small doses.

Women's Team

All JJ has to do is go down the hall and talk to Dennis Wolfe about that. He executes the 1-3-1 out of timeouts and it usually works. Of course Wolfe learned a lot from Greenburg, so going to him is like going back to what we already had...hmmm...

The Zone

Is not the problem. I have played in zone defense, man to man, and full court defense before, and I can tell you it's not the problem. It is the players having piss poor footwork, not keeping their head on a constant swivel, and they do a very poor job in anticipating where the ball may go.

They are constantly reacting instead of being active, and that's part of a very thin bench (a very familiar refrain from under Seth Greenberg's tenure), and as I have said on Twitter numerous of times, the conditioning will become more and more of a factor as the season goes on.

I have seen too many times Tech giving up open layups because somebody on the low blocks fail to notice the backdoor play was developing, and that is part of experience. The other part is I have seen Tech players failing to fight through screen, getting lost by losing track of the player they are guarding, and leaving somebody wide open on the wing.

That is a systematic failure from top down. I like what JJ is doing with the current squad, but come on, somebody else not named Erick Green need to start scoring.

Robert Brown is in a shooting slump. Okay, why does he keep insisting on settling for jumpers instead of attacking the rim? I always tell myself whenever I have a struggle to "return to the basics" and it work often. It's more mental and some techniques than physical.

Rankin is a bit of a mystery. He seem to disappear for stretch of time and then somehow finds his stroke. Woods appear to be solid, but definitely need to develop into a threat. Will Johnston was hot from downtown, but absolutely terrible on defense. I have seen him lose track of his guard too many time to count.

Each defense strategy - 2-3 zone, 1-3-1, 3-2, triangle-2 defenses have their strength and weakness. That's why any coaches worth their salt are paid to break down the match ups and exploit it.

I support Logan Thomas and make no apologies for it.


I totally agree the zone is not the problem, poor team defense in general is the problem. We simply can't guard anyone.

Can someone please clarify who said the zone is the problem? We all seem to be in agreement that the zone isn't being played properly, but no one has said using the zone is the issue...

Don't think

It is anybody on this forum that are saying the zone are the problem.

It's easy to blame the losses on playing different defense style, which is utterly rubbish because it's basically fundamentally the same, all requiring feet to be active and heads on a swivel.

I am trying to say the thin bench doesn't help with the team, which is becoming almost the norm in Blacksburg, and that is NOT good.

JJ is going to have to start recruiting athletes in order to compete with the ACC, otherwise, I fear that he might crash and burn.

I support Logan Thomas and make no apologies for it.

Have to disagree

I think this team can guard, but what is killing this team is not being active, clogging the passing lanes, rotating to the weak side to give help, trapping down low, and basically being active.

While the up-tempo was great in the first few games, it is clear that Tech do not have the players to keep the frenzied pace like UNC can (although that is debatable right now), and that is being magnified in a nasty way with the ACC slate.

Tech simply need athletes who can play the power and small forward spots (I refuse to use the numbering system that is becoming commonplace these days), and get a damn center who can demand constant double teaming who can score with his back-to-the-basket in the post!

Tech has never had a problem recruiting guards. If JJ were smart, he would travel to Villanova or VCU and ask what he could do in order to be competitive in the ACC. Villanova likes to use the 3 guards and 2 forwards line up, and they are extremely athletic. VCU loves to push the pace and run their patented HAVOC system.

I support Logan Thomas and make no apologies for it.


If a team isn't active defensively, doesn't get in passing lanes, doesn't rotate, and doubles down poorly, how do we "guard" anyone? The only solid on-ball defender we have is Rankin, and he fouls too much normally to consistently play significant minutes. Green and Eddie give minimal effort on defense, Brown's improving on D but is still a liability, and our post defense has been horrific. I don't understand how we "guard" anyone...don't get me wrong though, I do think green is a top 2 guard in the country along with Burke, he just doesn't play defense.

Couple of things

A couple of things have stood out to me yesterday when we were in the zone and as a defensive team as a whole.

1. Great post

2. When we were in the zone yesterday we did a terrible job denying the pass to the free throw line, guards were not active in ball denial and our bigs are simply not athletic enough (raines) or strong enough (jvz) to help deny the pass either or make the pass from the free throw line out to the wings difficult. This pass getting to the free throw line continually made our guards collapse leading to an easy 3 pt jumper from the wing (I don't think McDaniels shot a 3 from anywhere other than the wings) Eddie/Wood are not quick enough to close out from the baseline to contest the shot from the wing. We were able to contest some shots but most were fly bys yesterday after the shooter had already released the ball so it didn't bother the shooters much.

3. Yesterday we lost almost every 50/50 ball and long rebound, while you can't win every ball or grab every rebound you have to do a better job than we did yesterday limiting offensive possessions for the opponent. We gave them so many second chances and a lot of times off of these long rebounuds/loose balls whatever clemson player ended up with the ball found a wide open teammate for an easy 3

4. As mentioned above we are not a zone team we are not long enough or athletic enough to play zone every possession down the floor but with a depleted roster JJ had to play the odds like he did yesterday and hope they stayed true but as we all know gambling is not fair.

UVA: Jefferson's biggest mistake


Great Discussion Here

I thought everyone's comments were better than the stats I crunched.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, we'll see what happens tomorrow night against Miami.