College basketball teams may be raining 3-pointers, but that’s not the Raider way
Nagy’s reasoning is also supported by mathematics. Any possession that ends in two foul shots is almost always a hit — especially this year for the Raiders, who are on course to set a program record with 76.8 percent shooting.
In offensive efficiency, the Raiders are a solid 70th in the nation with 1,048 points per possession.
If they were fouled every time they had the ball, given their impressive free-throw clip, they would theoretically average 1.536 points per possession.
Purdue leads the nation this year with 1,188.
“They always say if you shoot 33% from 3 it’s like 50% from 2. Well 50% from 2 is great. But I’d rather take 75% on the line free throws,” Nagy said.
“If our team walked to the free throw line every time on the floor, we would score 150 points.”
This is only a slight exaggeration. In a 75 possession game, the Raiders would score 115 points.
“If you just throw 3, you won’t be fouled. I like the free throw line. That’s where we want to be,” Nagy said.
In research by SI.com‘s Isaac Schade, UNLV led the nation in 3-point attempts in 1986-87 with 781.
Only three other teams have tried more than 500.
The Runnin’ Rebels may have seemed like a team ready to live and die by the 3s then, but that amount would only rank 125th in 2018-19 (the last season that was untouched by COVID-19).
Savannah State shot 1,119 threes in 18-19 to lead the nation. Villanova hoisted 1,158 while winning the national title in 2017-18.
The 3-point distance was 19 feet 9 inches when implemented, and Division I teams averaged 9.04 attempts and 3.51 completions in the inaugural year.
It was moved to 20-9 in 2008-09, then to the FIBA distance of 22-1¾ in 2019-20.
In 2018-19, teams averaged 22.45 attempts and 7.75 completions.
In 2019-20, a bit slowed by the greater distance, they averaged 21.69 attempts and 7.26 completions.
The collective 3-point percentage generally stayed between 34.0 and 35.9 until the line was moved back three years ago.
It fell below 34% for the first time in 19-20 to 33.47%.
There was a slight uptick, however, in 2020-21 to 33.98%.
Although Nagy’s style is never mistaken for Rick Pitino’s happy 3-point offense, the Raiders would actually fall into the middle of the pack throughout his six years – from a high of 23.4 tries per game in 2018-19 to 19.3 this season.
And the return to current levels is more staff-focused.
The Raiders are shooting 32.6% from the arc and making 6.3 per game this season – the lowest clips in either category since Nagy arrived.
They shot 38.1% in his first season and 37% last year.
“We’re definitely missing one of our best shooters,” Nagy said, referring to injured second-year guard Alex Huibregtse. “We have other guys who don’t shoot the ball with confidence like they should.
“Trey Calvin is not one of them. I wish Trey would take more. I have the impression that it exceeds them. But I can’t fully explain (the drop).
Even without getting points in clusters, the Raiders are still third in the Horizon League and 81st nationally with 75.1 points per game.
They’re tied for 49th nationally (out of 350 teams) with 499 free throw attempts, and junior winger Tanner Holden leads the nation in free throws with 150 and is second in free throw attempts with 188.
Northern Kentucky is one of the most active 3-point shooting teams in the league with 26.4 attempts per game while shooting 34.2 percent. But coach Darrin Horn’s philosophy is closer to Nagy’s.
“We are definitely 3-point friendly. I don’t pay attention to the number. We don’t have a goal every game. But I think it suits our staff,” he said.
“But if I had a Grant Basile, we’d be throwing a lot more.”
The 6-foot-9 Raiders junior is fifth in the league with a 17.8 average.
“I think winning requires a combination (which includes) reaching the foul line,” Horn says. “That’s what made Scott’s teams so good for so long. Whether they take a lot of 3s or not, they can shoot, they still have a post presence, and then they kill you on the glass – and they get to the foul line partly because they kill you on the glass.
“Now they score in all three areas. That’s why you look up, and they lead the league in scoring every year.
The Raiders finished fifth nationally with an average of 82.0 in 2020-21.
“We actually don’t talk about the 3 with our guys. We talk a lot about trying to get two feet (from the basket) and finish,” said Horn, who led Western Kentucky to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2008.
He added: “We won two games last month where the other team made 13 or 14 threes.
“They didn’t reach the foul line.”
Wright State at Oakland, 9 p.m., ESPN2, 980