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Is Kansas really a good 3 point shooting team?

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The Jayhawks keep hitting threes, but can we expect it to continue?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Last summer, I submitted the following question to the RCT mailbag for the podcast: Could this be Bill Self's best 3 point shooting team at Kansas?

After Frankamp announced his transfer, I immediately backed off this suggestion, and early shooting struggles by Svi and Perry Ellis had me thinking that 3 point shooting might actually be a weakness for this year's team. Now things have changed again, with Kansas shooting 39.5% from behind the arc halfway into the season (good for 24th in the country). It would seem my initial feeling about the Jayhawks' shooting was on target, but still I find myself questioning it.

After 15 games, it seems a little late to say "small sample size," but this high shooting percentage still seems flukey to me. Last year, Kansas shot just 34% from behind the arc. Since then, Conner Frankamp transferred, and Andrew Wiggins (a 34% shooter) and Naadir Tharpe (37%) left, and two of Kansas' three new perimeter players, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, are a combined 15-45 (33%). Why then, is this team shooting so much better?

The answers are what make me think that there's some fool's gold in the early returns. One major part of it is Kelly Oubre. Billed as a streaky shooter, the freshman had many fans cringing with his odd delivery and flat long-range shot. As of today, Oubre is 16 of 35 from outside (46%). There's nothing in his high school scouting report to suggest this will continue, and if I were to wager on it my money says it won't. The other component of the drastic improvement can be seen on the chart below

Player 13-'14 3P% 14-'15 3P% Difference
Selden 32.8% 34.5% 1.7%
Greene 33.3% 42.5% 9.2%
Mason 32.7% 50.0% 17.3%

It's normal for a freshman to improve their numbers entering their sophomore year, but we're talking about huge jumps here. I can definitely buy that Wayne Selden's 34.5% is legit. In fact, I'd say it sounds very accurate. Frank Mason's 50% however, is unsustainable. Last year Mason hit just 18-55 attempts compared to being 21-42 right now. Much like I defended Mason as being better than his shooting numbers last year, I have to say he's shooting above his actual ability level right now. That number is going to come down. Brannen Greene is known as a shooter, so I can buy some improvement from him, but he's likely to level off as well. If you take out his 5-5 game against Georgetown, he's right back to where he was last year.

My point is not that this isn't actually a good perimeter shooting team. I think Mason and Greene are both above average shooters, and Selden, Ellis, Oubre, Graham and Svi are average at worst (and Svi will probably end up much better next year). The problem is that to get to the 39.5% the Jayhawks are shooting right now has required unsustainable accuracy from Mason, Oubre and Greene, who account for nearly half the team's attempts. It's good that Kansas is shooting more threes this year, and even better that they're making them. What concerns me is what will happen to the offense when the shots stop falling at such a high clip. When, not if.