It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a decade since Steph Curry provided one of the most exciting runs in NCAA Tournament history with the Davidson Wildcats.
What Curry did in the 2008 tournament is stitched into the unbreakable fabric of one of sport’s best events, but it also showed that great 3-point shooting teams can exceed expectations in the NCAA Tournament.
When looking at past NCAA tournaments, the teams that made the most 3s had some runs and some upsets. For instance, Davidson made the eighth-most 3s that year and made the Elite Eight as a No. 10 seed while Duke, the team with the 15-most made 3s, lost in the second round as a No. 2 seed.
But as the years went on, although there were still upsets, 3-point-shooting teams began to have more success. Here’s a look at how teams that finished in the top 40 at the end of the season for 3-pointers made performed in each tournament since 2009.
2009 NCAA Tournament
Champion North Carolina ranked 31st in made 3s and was 10th among all NCAA Tournament teams. Of the 13 teams that finished in the top 40 of made 3s in 2008-09, only four lost in the first round and they were all No. 13 seeds or lower. No. 12 Western Kentucky was 30th in 3s made and upset Wichita State in the first round and 10th-seeded Michigan won its first round contest, finishing 11th in the category.
The Tar Heels were the only team in the top 40 to make the Final Four. Louisville, 10th in most 3s made, made it to the Elite Eight. The NCAA Tournament team with the most 3s made, Oklahoma State, was a No. 8 seed and lost in the second round.
2010 NCAA Tournament
Nearly half of the top 40 teams with the most 3-pointers made was in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, highlighted by national champion Duke, which ranked seventh, and the 12th-seeded Cornell Big Red which made a surprising run to the Sweet 16. Cornell was the NCAA Tournament team with the most 3s made and ranked fourth in the nation with 326.
No. 14 seed Ohio made 278 triples on the season — good for 20th in the country — including 13 in its upset of No. 3 seed Georgetown. Buler, which made the national final as a No. 5 seed, was 34th and fellow Final Four participant West Virginia was 40th. St. Mary’s, 15th in the statistic, upset No. 2 Villanova in the second round. However, Duke was only one of four teams in the top 40 that were seeded No. 3 or higher to make it to the Elite Eight. Two missed the Sweet 16.
2011 NCAA Tournament
VCU was the next great NCAA Tournament run after Davidson in 2008. Looking back, maybe there were signs that was coming. The Rams finished second in the country with 339 3-point field goals made after their improbable Final Four trip as a No. 11 seed. Even without the NCAA Tournament games, the Rams still would have finished in the top 25 of 3s made.
National runner-up No. 8 seed Butler was 14th in the country in triples and No. 12 seed Richmond was 15th. Of the 19 teams in the top 40 in 3-pointers, 10 teams reached the Sweet 16 and three of the teams reached the Final Four teams.
2012 NCAA Tournament
The Florida Gators made the most 3s in the 2011-12 season and went to the Elite Eight as a No. 7 seed. The Ohio Bobcats were one of the most surprising team in the tournament with a run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 13 seed. They finished 20th in the country in 3-pointers, one ahead of Michigan, which they beat in the first round.
Now, the top 3-point shooting teams are still subject to upsets. No. 2 seeds Duke and Missouri were beaten by No. 15 seeds in the first round despite finishing 22nd and eighth in 3s. Five of the 17 teams in the top 40 of 3-pointers made the Sweet 16, two made the Elite Eight and zero were in the Final Four.
2013 NCAA Tournament
NCAA runner-up Michigan was ninth in 3-pointers in the 2012-13 season and No. 9 seed Wichita State, which made the Final Four, finished 35th. It’s worth noting, however, the Shockers were outside the top 40 before the tournament. No. 13 La Salle, which was 33rd in 3-pointers, made a surprise run to the Sweet 16.
Seven of the 17 top-40 teams in the tournament made the Sweet 16, four of them made the Elite Eight. Only one of the 10 teams that didn’t make the Sweet 16 was upset by a higher-seeded team.
2014 NCAA Tournament
Connecticut was the highest-seeded team as a No. 7 seed to win a national championship since Villanova won in 1985 as a No. 8 seed and the Huskies finished 18th in 3s made. Wisconsin was the other Final Four team that was in the top 40 of 3-pointers, ranked 12th.
Duke had the fifth-most 3s made and lost as a No. 3 seed in the first round to Mercer, which finished 15th in the category. There were 15 NCAA Tournament teams in the top 40 and six made the Sweet 16. Of those six, only Baylor, a No. 6 seed, and UConn beat a higher-seeded team to get there. Baylor beat No. 3 seed Creighton, which was first in the NCAA in 3-pointers.
2015 NCAA Tournament
Three of the Final Fours teams ranked in the top 30 of 3-pointers, with national champion Duke making the 26th-most, runner-up Wisconsin 25th and Michigan State 17th, which was a No. 7 seed. For the upsets, No. 3 seed Iowa State lost in the first round and was 40th in the statistic and No. 1 seed Villanova, seventh in 3s made, lost in the second round.
The top three NCAA Tournament teams in terms of 3-pointers — Eastern Washington, first; Davidson, third; Belmont, fifth — were all lower seeds that lost in the first round. Indiana, ranked ninth, and North Florida, which finished 10th, also lost in the first round as lower seeds. Outside of the Final Four teams, just three of the other 13 top-40 teams in 3s made reached the Sweet 16, two made it to the Elite Eight. Nine of the 16 top-40 teams lost in the first round.
2016 NCAA Tournament
The top two NCAA Tournament teams in 3-pointers made went to the Final Four — Oklahoma, third, and Villanova, seventh, — with the Wildcats winning the championship. No. 10 seed Syracuse finished 25th in shots made beyond the arc and made the Final Four as well. The biggest upset of the tournament came against the team with the 17th-most made 3s in the Michigan State Spartans, which were a popular championship pick as a No. 2 seed.
The Northern Iowa Panthers nearly made it to the Sweet 16 as a No. 11 seed in 2016. They ranked 33rd in the country in 3s. In addition to the three Final Four teams, four other teams of the 11 NCAA Tournament teams that ranked 40th or better in 3s made the Sweet 16. Michigan State and No. 11 seed Michigan were the two teams of those 11 that lost in the first round.
2017 NCAA Tournament
Just five of the 18 teams in the top-40 for 3s made it to the Sweet 16 in 2017, with only the Oregon Ducks — 17th in 3s — making the Final Four. However, as the NCAA Tournament team with the most made 3s that season, the Michigan Wolverines made it to the Sweet 16 as a No. 7 seed.
Kansas (28th), Duke (35th) and Villanova (37th) were the only top-40 teams to lose to lower seeds. Kansas and Duke each lost to Final Four teams. UCLA was the second-highest NCAA Tournament team in made 3s and lost to No. 2 Kentucky in the Sweet 16 as a No. 3 seed.
2018 NCAA Tournament
This past season, three of the four Final Four teams were in the top 11 of NCAA team leaders 3-pointers, with national champion Villanova at the top with 464 shots made from deep and Kansas finishing second with 391. Michigan, the national runner-up made the 11th-most 3s.
Buffalo (No. 13 seed), Marshall (No. 13 seed) each won its opening-round game and No. 7 seed Nevada made a run to the Sweet 16 — all of which were in the top 20 of 3-pointers. Seven of 17 teams in the top 40 were in the Sweet 16 and three in the Elite Eight. Two of the 10 teams that didn’t reach the Sweet 16 were beaten by higher seeds. The two that lost were a No. 8 seed that lost to a No. 9 seed and a No. 4 seed to a No. 5 seed.