33% odds are not great. Tell someone they have a 33% chance of surviving an elective surgery and they’ll likely elect not to have it. While a baseball player batting .330 is probably pretty happy, a quarterback completing 33% of his throws is likely only fit to play for the Dolphins or Bengals in their desperate tank-off. However, 33% could be the magic number for Xavier when it comes to three point shooting.
Last season the Musketeers were 11-5 when they made at least a third of their three pointers. Dip a bit lower to even 31% and you get a 14-7 record. Not great, but more than enough to get you on the way to the tournament. That’s because Xavier’s strengths don’t lie in making outside shots. Xavier doesn’t need to be elite from deep in order to win games when players like Tyrique Jones, Zach Hankins (oh, for another year of him), Zach Freemantle, and Naji Marshall scoring inside. Even Paul Scruggs flashes great post up game.
Last night Xavier finally shot the ball well behind the arc. Bryce Moore’s 3-6 puts the gloss on that line, but the rest of the team still shot 37% from deep. That’s more than enough to win games when you dominate the glass and score effectively inside. These Musketeers crushed Towson on the glass and shot 51% inside the arc. When you collect 34% of your own misses and 75% of your opponent’s, you can win.
Those factors, and Xavier’s ferocious new defense mean that the three point shooting can be a painful sideshow most of the time. Imagine last year’s Auburn game with this year’s defense. The pieces are largely the same, but that team let Auburn run up a 113 offensive rating and score 1.13 points per possession. Xavier made 37% of their three pointers, but couldn’t win a game against a future Final Four team because they couldn’t get a stop. Drop this season’s defense in there and things are different. (And yes, I’m aware the personnel is somewhat different).
That’s why the three point shooting doesn’t have to be great this year. Xavier has the 16th best defense in the nation and last night showed signs of becoming their usual selves on the offensive glass. Shooting 40% behind the arc was great and certainly went a long way toward letting Travis Steele rest his stars, but it shouldn’t be necessary this season. Aim for 33% and let the defense and interior scoring carry the day.
Or just start making shots and let us all dream of Atlanta in March.