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Baylor Basketball: Building the Big 12’s Best Offense with Long 3-Point Shots

They’ll fire from anywhere

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Baylor Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

After losing their best player, Baylor redesigned their offense. The Bears were 9-6 and 1-2 in the league. Things can change quickly. The Bears now have the Big 12’s best offense and the third most efficient offense nationally during conference play.

One major reason is that Baylor takes deep threes. Will Schreefer, an engineer, and Jesse Newell, Kansas’ beat writer for the Kansas City Star, examined data on long 3-point shots. The big takeaway: shooters stay efficient a few feet beyond the line and out to NBA range. Newell wrote last year:

While points per shot dramatically decrease as NBA players move away from the rim, the same couldn’t be said for deeper threes. In general, those were still efficient attempts, especially when compared to two-point shots not close to the basket.

Another way to look at it: Schreefer had college teams making NBA threes 34.5 percent of the time last season, while Hoop-Math’s data says the NCAA average for mid-range shots is 34.9 percent. Those numbers are basically the same, but the NBA three is worth an additional point.

There are other reasons to think that long threes could be beneficial to an offense. For one, the deeper shot often is more open, and adding a foot or two onto an attempt typically won’t be a problem for a high-level shooter anyway (Svi Mykhailiuk’s NBA Combine video is some evidence of that).

When I talked with King McClure before the season he told me:

If a person can shoot, kind of like Trae Young or Phil Forte. If you have range like that, that really, really can mess with a team’s defense. The college floor is so compact. There is a lot of help on the floor. When you’re able to stretch out and the defense has to move with you, it creates more space and driving lanes for the big..the help side defender has to make a decision, am I going to tag the roller.

He’s shooting 28 feet, I gotta close out to the NBA line, maybe a little bit further.

“We play Phil Forte, we gotta adjust our zone for one person.

Baylor had a problem though. The Bears entered conference play as the second worst 3-point shooting among power seven schools. Baylor ranked 322nd in 3-point percentage. That seemed shocking, especially given how well Baylor shot in their two scrimmages.

The Bears decided to gamble that they’d figure it out from deep. Baylor leads the Big 12 with a 40.2% margin from deep during conference play. As Baylor’s taken deeper threes, they’ve cleared driving lanes and forced opponents to run over the top of screens. That’s given Makai Mason, King McClure, Devonte Bandoo, Matt Mayer and Jared Butler space to operate.

Things have sure worked out. Mason just nailed 9-of-12 threes against TCU. McClure went 7-of-11 from three against Oklahoma State. Jared Butler has hit 44% of his triples during conference play. And Devonte Bandoo is shooting 52% from three during Big 12 play—the second best mark in the league.

With so many good shooters, and with the knowledge that a few feet can open up space, Baylor looks to keep shocking the league: