Synergy: Tracking Marquette’s 3-point strengths

You don’t need advanced statistics to know Marquette is a bad 3-point shooting team.

You don’t need KenPom to tell you very few of Marquette’s points come from beyond the arc.

You definitely don’t need a Synergy account to realize every opposing coach is going to throw some type of zone at the Golden Eagles, daring them to take long-range shots.

Yet, simply being aware of these facts doesn’t provide much insight. Any 12-year-old with any semblance of basketball knowledge can watch a few Marquette games and come to the same conclusion. It is not enough to state that this team is no good, an obvious observation on its own.

Instead, I decided to delve a bit deeper and ask not why they stink  (they simply are not good shooters and this juncture of their collective careers)  but rather how they can maximize the few weapons they do possess.

As a team, Marquette is shooting 30.1 percent from 3-point land, tied with St. John’s for dead last in the Big East. This number is down from 33.7 last season, 34.9 in 2011 and 41.3 in 2010. I don’t have an answer for why the regression has been so steep, or why it happened at all, all I do know is that whereas threes were what kept Marquette in games when Lazar Hayward was manning the paint, 3-point makes are almost like an added bonus this season.

This has made the emphasis on getting paint touches that much more crucial, as it frees up shooters on the perimeter and increases the odds of having shots go in. Now, Buzz and his staff are smart enough to game plan around this glaring deficiency. The results speak for themselves in the Wins column, but also in the fact that Marquette has the third highest field goal percentage in the conference. They have done this by taking higher percentage shots closer to the hole and getting to the line.

Yet, as has been the case in most of Marquette’s losses, a good defenses, usually zone, that can stop the penetration and limit paint touches can make the Golden Eagles look like the worst offense in the country. One potential remedy is not to take more threes, which has little to no success, but to have  the right players take smarter threes.

Only one player can be described as a “good” long range shooter and that’s Jamil Wilson. Wilson is shooting a team best 42.6 percent from beyond the arc, a full 11 points better than the next most accurate shooter, Todd Mayo.

Yet, despite hitting threes at a decent clip, Wilson simply hasn’t taken enough of them. This may be due to streakiness, as he tends to miss and make in bunches. He has made three or more consecutive 3s three times this year, but missed three or more four times, including nine straight misses from Dec. 22 to Jan. 12.  When he’s not on, he won’t even look at the rim.

He hasn’t been particularly good during conference play, shooting only 36.7 percent on 30 attempts. However, he has come on of late, hitting eight of his last 11 attempts since the South Florida game.

It’s not enough to tell him to take more Take a look at his shot chart below, taken from a Synergy review of all his attempts.

Graphic by Andrei Greska/Data from Synergy

Graphic by Andrei Greska/Data from Synergy

His favorite spot to shoot from is from straight away, where he’s hitting at just about his season average, a more than respectable 43%. About a quarter of these shots came  with him as a trailer in transition, while most came when Marquette was facing a zone or off a pass from the right side of the floor.

Speaking of sides of the court, the difference in Jamil’s baseline three percentage is striking. Granted he doesn’t have enough attempts to definitively say he shouldn’t shoot from the right baseline, but it is still surprising.

The key takeaway from that chart is that Jamil should have the green light at any time during the game to launch from just about any spot on the floor.

One problem comes when Jamil is forced to hang around the free throw line when Marquette is facing a zone. He has had a few good zone busters from that range, but for the most part, he gets lost in the defense inside the arc. This forces other players to be the ones to take threes late in the possession.

This becomes a problem when your “best” shooters shoot 31 percent (Mayo), 31 percent (Trent Lockett), 31 percent (Juan Anderson) and 30 (Vander Blue) percent from beyond the arc. We will focus on just Blue at the moment as he has put up the most shots on the team with 94 attempts.

His percentage may not be great looked at in a vacuum, but when you realize he shot 16 percent on 25 attempts as a freshman and 25 percent on 31 attempts last year, it is much more impressive.

The key for Vander is to take more shots from the wings, and less, if any from the top of the arc. Take a look at his 3-point hot zones below.

Graphic by Andrei Greska/Data from Synergy

Graphic by Andrei Greska/Data from Synergy

That 1-10 from straight away is mind boggling, as it’s supposed to be one of the easier threes to take. Vander takes most of his shots from the elbows with limited success. He needs sneak over a bit more at times, particularly when Otule and Gardner are being doubled.

When you combine Vander’s zones with Jamil’s you can see that Wilson shines where Blue struggles. Knowing this, Marquette must emphasize proper spacing with these two to provide the most possibility for a make.

Wilson is shooting 50% (15-30) on open threes. The key will be finding him more often and having him shoot a larger share of the deep balls. Easier said than done of course, but for Marquette as Tourney time comes, the CV will be out on the Golden Eagles. Any adjustments, as minor as they may become crucial come March.

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2 Comments on “Synergy: Tracking Marquette’s 3-point strengths”

  1. Tim
    February 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    Really great and interesting stuff here. Really appreciate the effort.

    One small bone to pick when you say: “This may be due to streakiness, as he tends to miss and make in bunches. He has made three or more consecutive 3s three times this year, but missed three or more four times, including nine straight misses from Dec. 22 to Jan. 12.”

    Unless you have more formal analysis you left out, this is probably just regular randomness. There have been studies of streakiness and for the most part it doesn’t seem to exist.


  1. Synergy: Vander Blue midrange numbers best in the country | Paint Touches - February 21, 2013

    […] ← Synergy: Tracking Marquette’s 3-point strengths […]

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