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Xavier is trying to eliminate the three pointer

If we can’t make them, you can’t either.

Syndication: The Enquirer
This is our three point shooter. There are many like him, but this one is ours. Our three point shooter is our best friend...
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The modern game of basketball increasingly revolves around an arc. Teams go positionless, bigs shoot threes, guards shoot a lot of threes, Steph Curry skips around gleefully, heaving from anywhere he can see the rim. Over half of Villanova’s shots this year have come from deep and they don’t even lead the nation in attempts or 3PA/FGA. If you watch a basketball game, you’re going to see a ton of threes.

Unless you watch Xavier. Sean Miller is a great coach and, as great coaches sometimes do, he has zigged while the rest of the world zags. Xavier simply doesn’t shoot very many three pointers. The 189 they have attempted in 10 games is around half of what Nova has chucked up. Quincy Olivari has 65 of those attempts, and a cool 46.2% three point shooting percentage. No one else even has double digit makes, despite Trey Green and Des Claude each lifting 35 times.

What that means is that Xavier gets 25.1% of their points from threes, good for 298th in the nation. They have a 3PA/FGA of 31.5%, good for 306th in the nation. In short, Xavier’s offense is predicated on something different than everyone else’s. In something of a contradiction the Musketeers are sixth in the nation in assists per field goal made. X moves the ball like electrical current, they just finish with it inside the paint, not outside the arc.

This isn’t just a stylistic choice that Coach Miller is making. If he was a complete idiot he could let players Dan Skillings or a very pedestrian Simas Lukosius just keep heaving. He’s not, though, so he’s adjusted to the fact that his team shoots 33.9% behind the arc. As mentioned before, that’s heavily influenced by Quincy Olivari. Without their sharpshooter, Xavier is shooting 27.4% from deep. That would be good for 331st in the nation. (Houston Christian is dead last at a shocking 21.2%.)

It would be crazy for Xavier to shoot a bunch of threes when they aren’t very good at them. Everyone else does shoot a ton, though, so how does Xavier intend to keep pace? For starters, they play blazing fast. The average Musketeers possession last 15.5 seconds, 32nd fastest in the nation. If you score a bunch and fast it starts getting hard to match. The other thing they do is take the three away from opponents.

Teams only shoot 29% behind the arc against Xavier. Only two teams, Delaware (50%) and Purdue, have even shot over 33%. If your plan is to come in and bomb X to death, you have your work cut out. X has a lot of speed and length to contest at the arc, few teams have the equivalent height to shoot over Xavier’s.

That’s if they can even get a look. Teams get 25.4% of their points from deep against X, 307th in the nation. Only 32.2% of their shots even come from behind the arc. Only 43 teams in the nation limit teams so well from the three point line. Essentially, Xavier makes every team play like they do.

This is departure from the game as it stands now. Coach Miller has built his team around what they do well, not what the current trend is. Aware that other teams aren’t likely to agree to go back to the Maravich days with no three point line, the Musketeers have basically forced teams to play the way they want to. The returns aren’t all in yet, but Xavier is playing a different game than everyone else.