To 3 Or Not To 3

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Sean Singletary ‘s 76 3-pointers lead the team.

Ask just about any basketball fan what they know about Virginia and phrases like “guard driven” or “perimeter oriented” will likely be included in the answer. That’s almost a given. After all, the Cavaliers four leading scorers – led by Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds – are perimeter players. The Hoos’ offensive identity is built around those players; they are a jump-shooting team. Have been all season.

Take it a step further, though. The Cavs are not only a jump-shooting club, they are a 3-point shooting team. “Live by the 3, die by the 3” as the saying goes. But, considering the make-up of this team, is that such a bad thing? In other words, does Virginia take too many 3-pointers?

In a word: No.

Arguably, the 3-point shot is the weapon that makes this team as dangerous and successful as it is. Just ask Gonzaga. When UVa gets hot from beyond the arc, it can be nearly unbeatable. It’s worth the gamble. High risk, high reward.

Teams can’t afford to give up those long-range shots so defenders are forced to guard more closely, which frees up driving lanes. That, of course, forces the defense to help in the lane and that frees up shooters. It’s a self-feeding cycle in many ways.

That’s why coach Dave Leitao decided to build the offense around his players’ driving and shooting ability – five players (Singletary, Reynolds, Mamadi Diane , Adrian Joseph , and Jamil Tucker ) can shoot the 3. All of those players have made at least 20 treys and surprisingly Reynolds ranks the lowest at 35.3% on the season, making the Hoos a difficult team to guard.

Plenty of teams have outside weapons, though. So why is it such a wise decision for the Hoos?

The answer comes from basketball math. The general theory: If you can shoot 40% from 3-point range, that’s the same as 60% from inside the arc. Take 5 shots for example. It takes two made 3-pointers to equal three