Last week, we ranked Division I schools by their 3-point performance this century. But does being at the top of that list spell good things for a program? Indeed it does.
We looked at the 3,600,541 total 3-pointers taken since the 2000-01 season (1,249,423 of which were made), and the research shows there is a strong correlation between 3-point success and win-loss percentage.
In fact, the two teams with the highest win percentages since the 2000-01 season also had the highest 3-point percentage since then.
The top overall is Gonzaga, which is 509-109 (.824) this century while shooting 38.2 percent from the 3-point line — both the best marks in Division I.
Right behind is Kansas, with a 536-115 (.823) record and a 38.1 percent performance from deep — both good for second place.
Of course there are outliers. Out of 317 teams, Memphis has the 192nd best 3-point percentage (.344), but the seventh-best win percentage (459-168, .732). Southern Utah is the 13th best 3-point shooting team (at .371), yet has only won 36.9 percent of its games (196-339).
But of the 50 most accurate 3-point shooting teams, only 12 have a win percentage below .500 since 2000-01.
|Saint Mary's (CA)||0.366||0.675|
|Southeast Missouri State||0.361||0.382|
Still, that’s only looking at 3-point percentage, which doesn’t offer a complete picture of how good a team is at 3-point shooting, as teams that shoot fewer 3-pointers have an obvious advantage.
So let’s turn back to the 3-point index that we used to rank teams. Scroll to the bottom of the article if you want to know exactly how we did it, but the general idea is a metric that measures how each team performs against the field in a combination of 3-point percentage and total 3-pointers made.
Using that ranking, the correlation is even stronger.
Of the Top 50 teams in that ranking, 43 have a winning record over the past 17 years. Even the seven with losing records are pretty solid (for losing teams), with an average win percentage of 46.8.
The average win percentage for our Top 10 3-point shooting teams is .709. In a 32-game season, that would translate to approximately 23 wins.
Let’s go one final step deeper. Outside of general success, does 3-point prowess lead to a better March Madness? Absolutely.
Of the 316 teams that have been in Division I every year this century, 139 have made the NCAA tournament since the 2000-01 season.
The median wins during that span for a team ranked in the Top 50 of our 3-point index is 10.5, while the median for the teams outside the Top 50 is just two wins.
And it shows in the champions too.
In 2016, Villanova shot 36.2 percent from the line while making 347 total 3-pointers on the season, which then ranked as the 20th most of all time. That season they won the national championship on a 3-pointer.
Last year, Villanova shot 40.1 percent from 3-point range (the 14th best mark in the country) while making 464 on the year — 22 more than any other team in the history of Division I basketball. The Wildcats won their second championship in three years.
Coincidence? The data says anything but.
*Now for the math explainer (some of) you were waiting for. To create our ranking of the best 3-point shooting teams, we couldn’t just rank teams by shooting percentage (which would give an advantage to teams that shot fewer 3-pointers), or by total 3-pointers made (advantage to teams who shot more). Instead, we created a simple 3-point index, comparing each team's performance in both categories to the full range of performances in both categories. Each team’s 3-point index is calculated as follows: