Ohio State Basketball: To Three or Not to Three?

By Michael Citro on February 27, 2014 at 2:15 pm

The biggest story of the 2013-14 Buckeye basketball team is its ongoing inability to find any semblance of a consistent offensive game.

Opponents have successfully deployed zone defenses that Ohio State struggles to solve. Even when the guards successfully penetrate and kick out for open outside shots, the bricks thrown up could be used to house every man, woman and child on the planet. Twice.

Ohio State’s outside shooting has been pretty brutal at times. For example, the 3/20 performance from outside the arc allowed Michigan to sneak out of the Schott with a double-digit win in the hoopy version of “The Game.”

The Buckeyes followed that performance with a 3/13 night from downtown at Illinois but pulled away late to win because of 10 steals and also because it was Illinois.

Surely the team isn’t as horrible as 6/33 (18%) over a two-game stretch, right? Right?!

Well, it was on those particular two nights.

The Buckeyes have taken a whole lot of heat for their shooting this year — and rightfully so — but is this year’s team really abnormally bad from beyond the magical three-point arc?

In terms of the conference, Ohio State is eighth out of the 12 teams in three-point field goal percentage. In fact, it’s only fifth in total field goal percentage and a dismal ninth in scoring offense.

Ohio State has hit 34.1% of its three-point attempts in 2013-14 (176/516). Junior forward LaQuinton Ross is the only player above the 40% mark this season, knocking down 40/99 this year (40.4%). That in itself isn’t too unusual. The Buckeyes have had more than one shooter over 40% on triples only 12 times since 1986-87, and only once since 2008-09.

However, if Ross falters, it would be only the seventh time Ohio State failed to field a 40% bomber.

Only eight previous Ohio State teams in the three-ball era have shot worse from the arc than this year’s squad. The nadir came in 1997-98, when the Buckeyes connected on only 31.2% from deep. That team jacked up 458 treys, hitting 143 of them. Neshaun Coleman was the distance “ace” that year, hitting 34.4% (43/125). Michael Redd was on that squad but hit only 30.3% from downtown.

JJ was one of three players over 42% from deep in 1986-87.
Jim Jackson was accurate from the arc.

Since the installation of the three-point line, Ohio State has averaged about 36.3% per season from long range, so, yes, this year is below normal.

The 2003-04 team finished with the same three-point percentage as this year’s current 34.1% clip, while 18 other OSU teams have shot better in the three-ball era. Matta’s 2010-11 club scorched the twine from Threesville, finishing at 42.3% as a team. Three players on that team (Buford, Diebler and Lighty) topped the 40% mark for the year, led by Threebler’s 50.2%. Only three other teams in OSU history had as many guys hit 40% or better from deep (minimum of at least as many attempts as games played).

I admit to being saddened that the 2010-11 team had the best bombing percentage since the initial club of the three-point era in 1986-87, which hit 41.8% as a team, behind the long-range bombs of Curtis Wilson (46%), Dennis Hopson (42%), and Jay Burson (42%). There have only been three Buckeye seasons to top 40% mark from the arc as a team — Jim Jackson (43%) and Jamaal Brown (42%) led the 40.5% shooting club of 1991-92.

It’s probably unwise to count on the Buckeyes raising their shooting percentage from the arc by season’s end. There are two road games and a home date with Michigan State remaining in the regular season. Then it’s off to the B1G and NCAA tournaments. Competition will be tough the rest of the way.

The good news is that every time the Buckeyes have hit under 35% outside the arc under Thad Matta, they’ve bounced back the next year to shoot over 35% as a team.

So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

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