This year in college basketball has been a roller-coaster, with major upsets becoming a nightly occurrence and blueblood programs experiencing growing pains.
Oklahoma is shooting 46.7 percent from 3-point range, which is all kinds of absurd
The Sooners are making almost half of their triples, and only one team (2012 Northern Colorado) has made more than 45 percent of its 3’s for an entire season since KenPom started tracking these statistics in 2002. Oklahoma’s current mark is on pace to shatter Northern Colorado’s 2012 figure, and there’s a reason why some consider Oklahoma the Golden State Warriors of college basketball.
Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard both shoot well over 50 percent from distance, and Isaiah Cousins is a lethal marksman, too. Oklahoma is a historically good shooting team at this point in the season.
The most efficient offense in the country belongs to Notre Dame
Last season’s Notre Dame team was one of the most fun groups to watch in recent college basketball memory. When Jerian Grant, Demetrius Jackson, Pat Connaughton, Steve Vasturia and Zach Auguste shared the floor, it was nothing short of basketball art. But with two of those key cogs moving on to the NBA, the Fighting Irish were expected to take a step back this season.
Notre Dame’s defense has slipped, but somehow its offensive production is virtually identical to last season. The Fighting Irish lead the country in adjusted offensive efficiency with a mark of 123.0, just .2 points lower than their figure last season.
Jackson had assumed the alpha dog role seamlessly, and Bonzie Colson and V.J. Beachem have proven to be capable replacements for Grant and Connaughton. Notre Dame is having trouble finding a defensive identity, but Mike Brey has to be considered one of the best offensive coaches in the country with what he’s pulled off this season.
The most efficient defense in the country belongs to West Virginia
Last year, the main beneficiary of the ‘Press Virginia’ system was that it propped up West Virginia’s offense. The Mountaineers struggled (and still do at times) to score in half court sets, and the purpose of playing such a chaotic defensive style was to create easy baskets in transition.
Like last season, West Virginia leads the country in forced turnovers. But the Mountaineers are actually forcing less turnovers than they did last season (28.0 turnover percentage in 2014-15; 27.2 turnover percentage this season). And yet, Bob Huggins’ crew has vaulted up from No. 45 to No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency.
What does that all mean? West Virginia still terrorizes opposing ball handlers, sure. But it’s also stifling foes even if they break the press, which is not something the Mountaineers did last season. Nobody is going to want to play this team come March, because their motor just never stops.
Iowa has improved its 3-point efficiency by 7.7 percent
Some may roll their eyes at how much publicity the 3-point shot gets, but it’s hard to deny its importance. Last season, the Hawkeyes were 274th in the country in 3’s attempted and 210th in 3-point percentage. This year, those numbers have skyrocketed to 147th and ninth, respectively.
Guys like Jarrod Uthoff, Peter Jok and Mike Gesell all deserve huge credit for improving their 3-point stroke, and Fran McCaffery also deserves praise for instilling confidence in his guys to launch from deep. The change in philosophy is certainly paying off for Iowa.
Luke Kornet is leading the nation in blocked shots
The Vanderbilt power forward blocked 1.1 shots per game last season, and just 0.6 the year before that. Kornet has undergone a growth spurt since arriving in Nashville, and in his junior season, he’s blocking 3.3 shots per game. On Jan. 12 against Auburn, he recorded a triple-double of 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 rejections.
Nobody that watched Kornet as a freshman could have envisioned him becoming such a fierce rim protector.
Virginia’s offense has been significantly better than its defense
Virginia is famous for its Pack-Line defense, but its offense is the main reason why the Cavaliers have won 16 of their first 20 games. Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill form one of the best duos in college basketball, and London Perrantes has gone from an occasional clutch shot-maker to a consistent third option on offense.
With that said, Tony Bennett’s squad is having its worst defensive season since 2011. The Cavs rank 45th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency; they rank ninth on offense. It would be fair to say that Virginia has struggled to adapt to the defensive rule changes, as opponents are getting to the free throw line far more against them than in years past. The Hoos are also feeling the loss of Darion Atkins, the team’s best rim protector from a year ago.
There is still time for Virginia to look like, well, Virginia again, but this doesn’t look like a typical Bennett squad in late January.
Oakland swingman Max Hooper still hasn’t attempted a 2-pointer this season
That’s right. We wrote a story on Hooper a few weeks ago, and in his past two games, all he’s done is drain 16 triples. He’s attempted 168 field goals on the season, and every last one of them has been a 3. Keep doing you, Max.