The newly-accelerated speed of play in NCAA Men’s College Basketball may have had some side effects other than a simple increase in tempo and higher scores. The faster pace may make teams change the way the play the game itself. One place we might see such a change is in three-point shooting. Teams often resort to hoisting a “desperation three” if their half-court offense has bogged down and the horn on the shot clock is about to sound.
I’ve compiled the statistics for three-point attempts and three-point shooting percentage for the complete 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons from the NCAA’s archive. This season’s figures represent those same data through games of January 25, 2016. Including 2013-2014 enables us to compare any change this season to “normal” seasonal change before the shot clock was shortened. Here are the results for three-point attempts:
With the shorter clock, teams have been averaging a smidgen over twenty three-point attempts per game this season, about one and a half more than in 2014-2015. Three-point attempts grew between 2015 and 2014 as well, but the rise in 2016 is some 3.5 times greater than the increase between 2015 and 2014. Even if we deduct the 0.42 growth in attempts between 2014 and 2015 from this year’s total, that still leaves an additional 1.5 three-point attempts per game since the clock was shortened. “Desperation” three-point shots probably account for a lot of this growth.
All these extra three-point shots have not affected accuracy. Teams shot 34.3 percent from outside the arc in 2014-15 and are shooting a statistically identical 34.6 percent now. More striking is the sharp decline from the rate of 36.1 percent in 2013-2014. While three-point accuracy rebounded slightly this season, it still remains statistically below 2013-2014.