Dunks make the highlights. Fast-breaks can change the momentum.
But give me the 3-pointer, the corner jumper or the transition-pull-up, and that can easily alter the trajectory of the game or ignite a run.
So, in the attempt to rank the top shooting teams, I canvassed conferences and schools and came up with a list of teams that can get it done this season if you need to count on making perimeter shots.
Onto the debate!
1. Virginia: The Cavaliers return three of the top shooters in the ACC in Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter. Guy gets 3-point buckets in droves at a 42.5 percent clip. Jerome and Hunter both have range. And the bigs, including 7-1 Jay Huff, can stroke it too, knocking down a high percentage. The reason the Cavs will once again be in the mix for a high NCAA seed isn’t just because of their defense. It’s because this crew can knock down shots.
2. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have their own big three with Kenny Williams (40.2 percent with 72 3s last season), Luke Maye (50 3s last season) and Cameron Johnson (116 3s in his career). Toss in Coby White and Nassir Little and the depth is there for the Tar Heels to be quite a pain to defend along the perimeter.
3. Gonzaga: The Zags made a program record 328 3s last season and only lost Silas Melson. Zach Norvell Jr. is a money shooter who will be a go-to guy throughout the season. Josh Perkins has been more selective and will bury key shots. While Rui Hachimura is more effective driving than spot-up shooting, the bigs like Killian Tillie can be a tough to defend facing the basket. The Zags added Geno Crandall late and the expectation is that he will make shots, too. Gonzaga will be in the hunt for the title because of their perimeter prowess.
4. Marquette: Markus Howard will take and make big shots, regardless of where he is on the floor. He could end up as the Big East player of the year. Sam Hauser is one of the top 3-point shooting players in his class. Greg Elliott and Jamal Cain combined to go 37 of 85 on 3s last season. Overall, the returning group made 42.4 percent of its 3s. Freshmen Joey Hauser and Brandan Bailey are being billed as contributing shooters too. The Golden Eagles are a contender in the Big East because of this offense.
5. Purdue: Carsen Edwards. He could be the national player of the year, in addition to being the toughest player to contain in the Big Ten. Edwards can score from all over the floor facing the basket. Add Ryan Cline and Eric Hunter Jr., and the Boilermakers have enough pop to be potentially over 40 percent on a regular basis. Sasha Stefanovic and Aaron Wheeler will be counted on to score facing the basket, too. And Matt Haarms says he’s ready to contribute in that way, too.
6. TCU: The Horned Frogs were the top shooting team in the Big 12 last season, ninth in the nation. And with 57 percent of its made field goals back, the Frogs are a good bet to be a tough team to defend on the perimeter. TCU returns 69 percent of its made 3s from last season. Desmond Bane led the Big 12 with 46.1 percent on 3s. Kouat Not was fourth at 43.4 percent. They’re both back.
7. Villanova: The Wildcats lost quite a bit from last season’s championship team. But it’s hard to not see the Wildcats as one of the best shooting teams in the country. It’s in Nova’s blood. Phil Booth averages 37.5 percent on 3s. But keep in mind he wasn’t the primary option. He will be much more so this season. Eric Paschall shot 35.6 percent on 3s last season and he’ll be called on to do more this season, too. Now, add Collin Gillespie and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree shooting more and the additions of Albany’s Joe Cremo and freshman Cole Swider who are all going to be burying 3s. Having Jahvon Quinerly creating for all of them will be even more of a bonus.
8. Kansas State: Let’s keep it simple. The Wildcats return 7 of the top eight scorers from last season, and the top three — Dean Wade, Barry Brown, Jr., and Xavier Sneed — can all make big-time, late-possession shots from the perimeter. The Wildcats should be an offensive power in the Big 12.
9. Loyola-Chicago: The Ramblers didn’t get to the Final Four on a fluke. They can shoot with any team in the country. Clayton Custer, Cameron Krutwig and Marques Townes are all back. And they all shot better than 44 percent from the field. The Ramblers were 20th in the country at 39.6 percent on 3s last season. Sure, a few are gone, but toss in newcomers Cooper Kaifes, Isaiah Bujdoso and Aher Uguak, and the numbers should stay around the same this season.
10. Auburn: The Tigers have a shot to win the SEC again and if they do it will be because they can shoot. Bryce Brown has made 241 3s in three seasons, the most by any Tigers’ player in the same time span. He’s 23 shy of becoming the all-time leader. The Tigers made 324 3s last season, 35 more than any other Auburn team. Bruce Pearl’s crew averaged 9.5 3s a game last season. Jared Harper and Samir Doughty should help Brown average that amount again.
11. Davidson: The Wildcats should go into the A-10 as the favorite and Kellan Grady the player of the year. The trio of Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundsson and KiShawn Pritchett made a combined 175 3s. Bringing back Luke Frampton from an ACL injury gives Davidson one of the best shooters in the program. Davidson was one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country last season. The Wildcats will be again.
12. Tennessee: The Vols tied Auburn for the SEC title and a main reason why was how prolific the Vols were at 38.4 percent on 3s. Lamonte Turner, Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bowden all made more than 50 3s last season. Schofield made multiple 3s in 23 games last season. Bowden, Schofield, Turner and Jordan Bone have all seen their 3-point percentage increase each season. This team can ball and make buckets.
13. Kentucky: The Wildcats have championship talent and the shooting will continue to be a plus as the season progresses. Tyler Herro was a hot-shot shooter in high school, Jemarl Baker Jr., Quade Green, Immanuel Quickely will all be counted on to make 3s. Quickely won the McDonald’s All-American game 3-point shooting contest. And the sleeper, yes the sleeper shooter, may be the most talented of the newcomers in Keldon Johnson. The Wildcats made 26 3s in a trip to the Bahamas. Eliminate one bad game (2 of 20) and the Wildcats were at 50 percent.
14. UCLA: The Bruins have the shooters in Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, both who have shot over 35 percent on 3s. Prince Ali is back as well and he shot over 35 percent on 3s. Steve Alford was known for his shooting as a player and you bet his teams mimic his past performance. UCLA was the best in the Pac-12 on 3s in the past two seasons. The Bruins set the record for most attempted 3s (872) and made 3s (354) two seasons ago, made 310 and attempted 813 last season. The expectation is that the trend will continue.
15. Michigan State: The Spartans lost their money shooter in Miles Bridges, but the return of Cassius Winston, Nick Ward and Matt McQuaid gives Tom Izzo’s crew plenty of ammunition. The Spartans returnees shot 42 percent on 3s. Winston was at nearly 50 percent with 49.7 percent last season. He should be the top 3-point threat at his position in the Big Ten.
16. Kansas: The Jayhawks have one of the highest-percentage shooters in Udoka Azubuike at 77 percent. But those are likely coming a few feet from the basket. Sure, Devonte Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman are gone. But expect Lagerald Vick, Charlie Moore, Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson, Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji will provide the necessary shooting that Bill Self is used to from his perimeter players. Self’s system will generate open looks. And this team will make its share.
17. Duke: The Blue Devils don’t have Grayson Allen and that means they won’t be the same kind of shooting team. On the surface, this won’t be a classic 3-point shooting team. But come on, does anyone really believe the Blue Devils won’t be able to shoot at a high clip? I don’t. The talent is in place to still be effective and Tre Jones, Cam Reddish, Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett will score facing the basket and not just slashing to the basket. This will be the only kind of ranking where Duke isn’t listed in the top 10. By the end of the season, the Blue Devils will end up being a shooting team that is ranked much higher.
18. Nevada: The Wolf Pack are a high-octane offensive team, but it’s more about getting to the rack than popping 3s. Still Caleb Martin made 100 last season. And he will probably match that this season. Jordan Caroline will gets his share and if Cody Martin can bury a few and the newcomers too, then the Wolf Pack will be a shooting team that is tough to defend.
19. Syracuse: The Orange return their lineup after a surprising Sweet 16 run. Tyus Battle, Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett can all make shots, even when the shot clock is winding down. The addition of Buddy Boeheim, yes Jim’s son, Elijah Hughes and Jalen Carey means the Orange will be much more up-tempo and looking for the quick hitters when open.
20. Michigan: The Wolverines lost a ton of their shooting in Mo Wagner, Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman. But you know who is back? John Beilein. Guaranteed Beilein will have this squad making shots. And it’s not like there is a complete talent drain. Freshman David DeJulius made 76 3s as a junior in high school. He joins returnees Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole, Zavier Simpson and Isaiah Livers — all who can make perimeter shots. Oh, and Poole made the biggest 3-pointer in Michigan history to beat Houston in the second round to get the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 at the buzzer.
21. USC: The Trojans get Bennie Boatwright back and he might be the best 6-10 shooter in the country. He fancies himself a guard in a big-man’s body. He is one of the toughest matchups. Jonah Matthews is also a prolific 3-point shooter, making 42.3 percent beyond the arc. In each of the last three seasons, the Trojans continue to increase their 3-pointers made. Last season, the Trojans made 296. There’s a chance they could match that again this season.
22. Houston: Rob Gray is gone. But the Cougars still could be the best shooting team in the American ahead of UConn and Temple. Corey Davis Jr. and Armoni Brooks made nearly 200 3s combined. Davis buried 103. He’s trying to become only the second player in Houston history to make more than 100 3s in multiple seasons. Davis made at least one 3-pointer in 29-straight games, that’s second best in Cougar history. Brooks made seven 3s twice last season — against ECU and SMU. Kelvin Sampson will give this crew the green light to light up Houston this season.
23. Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks will push Davidson, George Mason and Saint Louis for the top of the A-10. And a main reason will be the 3-point shooting. Taylor Funk made 84 3s last season, Lamarr Kimble made 40 in 2016-17 (only played in one game last season due to injury) and Charlie Brown Jr. was a 38 percent shooter on 3s. Jared Bynum and Pierfrancesco Oliva, Anthony Longpré and Lorenzo Edwards will enhance this team’s offensive production facing the basket, too.
24. Vanderbilt: Bryce Drew was a tremendous shooter when he played. And he’s got a chance to have one of his better shooting teams as a head coach. He’s got one of the top point guards in the country in Darius Garland. Garland’s ability to get in the lane and create space will open up shooting for his teammates. That means Matt Ryan, Aaron Nesmith, and Yanni Wetzell will be in position to make spot-up jumpers and likely plenty of 3s. Toss in the highly-touted Simisola Shittu slicing toward the basket and the Commodores will have plenty of options to score in front of the basket.
25. Oregon State: This is my sleeper in the group. The Beavers have two 1000-point scorers returning in Stephen Thompson Jr. and Tres Tinkle. These two and Ethan Thompson give the Beavers three of the better shooters in the Pac-12. The three combined for 147 3s last season with 64 for Thompson, 48 for Tinkle and 35 for Thompson.