At this point, I think we all know the big matchups in this one: If Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji can reasonably frustrate Dean Wade, and if Devon Dotson can play Barry Brown to somewhat of a stalemate (especially if he can avoid turnovers), Kansas should win.
Instead, I am going to use this preview to consider a mini thought experiment I have been having over the course of the season. On Saturday, Kansas gave up 26 three point attempts to Texas Tech, who made over 60 percent of those attempts. Tech is not a bad shooting team, but they aren’t a particularly great one either. Not to say that Kansas deserved to win by any stretch of the imagination, but more broadly speaking, with the national 3PA/FGA (share of field goal attempts that are threes), going to almost 40 percent, more and more games are being decided via a 3-point lottery of sorts.
To wit, Kansas is 2nd in the Big 12 in both 2-point shooting and 2-point defense, while the Wildcats are 5th in 2-point shooting and 7th in 2-point defense. But while the Wildcats have given up the 2nd most 3-point attempts in the league, opponents are shooting just 34 percent on those threes against them.
While we’re at it, Tech gives up the 3rd most 3-point attempts in the league, but teams shoot a paltry 31.5 percent against them from deep. And with 3-point shooting largely being in the domain of the offense, and “consistently winning on the battlefield of 2-point percentage at both ends of the floor is typically important for future success” it seems as though the streak will (likely) end at least partially because Texas Tech and Kansas State had the good fortune of their opponents missing more open threes than KU’s (or Iowa State’s, although the Cyclones have been quite stingy in terms of giving up attempts in conference play).
I don’t think college basketball is in as much danger of homogenization as the NBA is. The best offense in the land, Gonzaga, is 252nd in 3-point rate, although it would have been above average as recently as three years ago. Still, I wonder if this NCAA tournament will be decided by whether the team you play makes 33 percent of the threes it takes, or 38 percent of them.
For a lot of teams, the math makes sense. Kansas State, for example, isn’t a particularly efficient team from two, so why not shoot a three every possession?
Given how often I am on record over the last few years yelling at Kansas to shoot more threes, it probably makes me a hypocrite to say I don’t want single elimination NCAA tournament games turning into a 3-point lottery. But, I do think it makes the regular season less important, and I think it is a big reason why the FIBA three-point line will be used experimentally in the NIT this season. I also think eventually it will lead to the college game adopting the FIBA line, or maybe even the NBA line.
Oh, and I will pick Kansas to win 73-68 tonight.