It took about seven minutes of play last night for Xavier radio color man Byron Larkin to pronounce Trevon Bluiett “en fuego.” Bluiett’s third make of the night was so pure that you could actually hear the cords ripping in the audio broadcast. One night like that for a pure shooter may not be such a rare thing, but right now Bluiett is on an unholy tear to start the season. All Xavier fans can do is wonder how long it can go.
Last season Bluiett was good enough for the Musketeers that he merited serious NBA draft consideration. Even though he spent time hampered by an ankle injury, he put up a line of 18.5/5.7/2.1 on .438/.371/.754 shooting. In major conference basketball, especially in the defensively minded Big East, that’s an impressive line. Trevon took 13.4 shots per game and 6.8 three pointers. He shot frequently, and he shot very well. What Bluiett is doing so far this year, though, makes that pale in comparison.
To start the 17-18 season, Trevon is posting a line of 21.3/5.2/2.8 on a frankly almost unbelievable .536/.468/.882 shooting line. That’s nearly three points per game more, and it’s coming on 1.2 fewer shots per game. Eight tenths of a point of that are coming at the line, where Tre has gotten on 46% of his attempts to score. In short, he’s shooting the ball incredibly well, even for a guy with a reputation as a good shooter.
But can Bluiett keep this going? Well, the easy answer is that his numbers are likely to take a dip for the simple reason that the schedule is getting tougher. On the other hand, Tre is averaging 18.5 points against KenPom tier A and B level opponents this year, and 26.5 points against A level. Even those numbers contain some reason for hope, because it seems very unlikely that will combine to go 2-10 from behind the arc in two games this year like he did against Xavier’s two B level opponents, Arizona St and Baylor.
Bluiett’s numbers elsewhere present the same sort of give and take. On the one hand, he’s simply shooting the ball better than he ever has. While some progression is to be expected, and has been evident in his entire career, a 13.6% jump in effective field goal percentage doesn’t seem sustainable. On the other hand, Bluiett is shooting more efficiently this year as a result of shot selection.*
Two point jumpers represent a low rate of return, and Xavier’s senior forward is shooting 7% fewer this year. Tre is also getting to the rim 1.5% more often and using his newly acquired strength to be 9% more effective in finishing there. While Bluiett is taking more three pointers this year by just over 5%, he’s been assisted on 90% of those attempts, meaning he has time to catch and release in rhythm, rather than having to dribble into it. Finally, Bluiett’s free throw rate is also up over 5%, another indication of his willingness to get himself into dangerous positions and get to the line.
None of that, of course, actually answers the question of whether Tre will stay this hot. It’s clear that he’s committed to playing his role for the team, delighting in killing off UC while telling their bench “you can’t guard me.” We simply won’t know until hopefully well into April just how long this hot streak will last. What we can know for certain is that it is a ton of fun to watch while it happens.
*All rate and ratio numbers courtesy of Hoop Math and KenPom.com