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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | September 1, 2021

How many good 3-point shooters you really need to win an NCAA title

Johnny Juzang back at UCLA catches up with Andy Katz

If you want an edge when you fill out your NCAA tournament bracket (and who doesn't?) here is a quick tip — pick a national champion that has at least three players who average one or more made 3-pointers a game.

Nineteen of the last 21 national champions had at least three of those guys. That's one of the things I learned from looking at every national champion's roster this century. Here's what I found:

  • A national title contender probably needs at least three players who average at least one made three per game
  • It wouldn't hurt to have a high-volume 3-point shooter, or two, too. Eighteen of the last 21 national champions had at least one player who averaged at least two made 3-pointers per game. Ten of the last 21 had multiple such players, including 2021 national champion Baylor, which had three players who averaged  at least two 3-pointers per game.
  • National championship hopefuls should probably have at least three players who make at least 35 percent of their 3-point attempts. Eighteen of the last 21 national champions had at least three 35-percent 3-point shooters. The average number among those teams, however, was closer to four — 3.76 35-percent 3-point shooters per team, to be exact.
  • You better have at least one 3-point marksman and ideally multiple. We're talking about players who make at least 40 percent of their threes. Eighteen of the last 21 champions have had at least one 40-percent 3-point shooter and the average during that stretch was roughly two such players per team.

Here's the complete breakdown, based on the number of rotation players each team had who averaged at least one 3-pointer per game, who averaged at least two 3-pointers per game, and who shot at least 33, 35, 37 or 40 percent.

Year Champion Avg. 1+ 3PM AVG. 2+ 3PM 33+% 35+% 37+% 40+%
2021 Baylor 5 3 6 6 5 3
2019 Virginia 3 2 5 4 4 3
2018 Villanova 5 3 7 7 6 4
2017 North Carolina 3 2 5 3 3 1
2016 Villanova 5 1 4 4 3 0
2015 Duke 4 1 6 5 5 2
2014 UConn 4 1 5 4 4 3
2013 Louisville* 4 0 2 2 2 1
2012 Kentucky 2 0 3 3 3 3
2011 UConn 3 0 3 2 1 1
2010 Duke 3 2 4 4 4 0
2009 North Carolina 3 2 4 3 3 3
2008 Kansas 3 1 4 4 3 3
2007 Florida 3 2 4 3 3 3
2006 Florida 3 2 5 4 2 1
2005 North Carolina 4 1 5 5 4 3
2004 UConn 2 2 4 4 3 2
2003 Syracuse 3 1 3 2 0 0
2002 Maryland 3 1 4 3 3 1
2001 Duke 4 2 4 4 3 2
2000 Michigan State 4 1 4 3 3 2

*Louisville's participation in the 2013 NCAA Tournament was later vacated.

On average, the last 21 national champions have had more than 3.5 players who have averaged at least one made 3-pointer per game and almost 1.5 players who have averaged at least two 3-pointers per game.

Villanova's 2018 national championship team was one of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams to win a national title, with a group that shot 40.1 percent from distance during the season and 41.5 percent during its six NCAA tournament games.

The Wildcats had five players who averaged at least one made 3-pointer per game and seven rotation players who made at least 35 percent of their attempts, which was the national average for 3-point percentage that season. 

Only 2004 UConn, which shot 40.2 percent from three for the season, and 2012 Kentucky (37.8%) had just two players who made at least one 3-pointer per game, on average.

MAKING HISTORY: Here's how teams do after they earn their best NCAA tournament seed ever

Eighteen of the 21 teams had at least one player who averaged multiple made threes per game and coincidentally, the teams that didn't won the tournament in consecutive seasons.

Now, what about the number of good 3-point shooters you need based on percentage?

On average, national champions this century have had more than four players who have made at least 33 percent of their threes, more than three who have shot at least 37 percent and roughly two 40-percent 3-point shooters.

Twenty of the 21 teams examined had at least three players who shot at least 33 percent from three (17 of 21 had at least four), 18 of the 21 had at least three who shot at least 35 percent behind the arc (12 of 21 had four), 16 of 21 had at least three players who shot at least 37 percent and 13 of 21 had at least two 40-percent 3-point shooters.

Syracuse's championship team in 2003 stands out as the most extreme example of a team with a limited number of good 3-point shooters with just three players who made at least 33 percent of their threes, two who were at least 35-percent 3-point shooters and none who made at least 37 percent of their attempts on the season.

WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT: After a team pulls off an upset in the first round, what typically happens next?

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