Pitt's basketball team has gotten off to a 6-1 start for a variety of reasons. The team is shooting well from the field, making more free throws, rebounding well, and taking care of the ball. One little-discussed reason, however, is that the Panthers are taking advantage of the three-point shot more than usual.
Thus far, Pitt has already taken 139 three-pointers this year, averaging about 20 per game. To put into perspective just how much more then Panthers are shooting from beyond the arc, here's a quick breakdown of how that stacks up in past ten years:
|Year||Threes Per Game|
Pitt's three-point shooting had diminished quite a bit (those earlier seasons included marksmen Ronald Ramon and Ashton Gibbs, who took their fair share) over the past three years, that number has spiked so far this season.
What's more important is that the team is making them, too.
Here's a look at the percentages over the past decade (again, keeping in mind that we're only about 20% of the way through this year):
Not only is the team taking more shots from downtown, they're making significantly more of them. As of Tuesday, the 42% they've made ranked 15th in the nation.
There are, of course, a few things to keep in mind. It's still early and while Pitt has played a very good Purdue team and what has been a decent Duquesne team, competition has been light to this point. Because most games haven't been too close, Pitt is playing a loose style lending itself to more of these types of shots. They've also been able to get them off easier than what they probably will be able to later in the season. These numbers may not hold up.
But one reason to think that the attempts might is that the team hasn't relied on only one guy doing the majority of the work. Point guard James Robinson has been the unlikely player leading the team in long-range attempts with 28, but this is hardly a one-man show. Jamel Artis and Sterling Smith have each taken more than 20 attempts, and Chris Jones (17) and Cameron Johnson (19) aren't far behind, either. When you add in a guy like Damon Wilson (11), you see that they have plenty of guys ready and willing to take those shots.
Can the percentages hold up? We'll see. I'd expect them to come down a little as the competition gets better, but what's encouraging is that so many guys are shooting well. Robinson, whose offensive game has been virtually smashed to pieces over the past three seasons, is making 43% of his shots from long-range. Artis is even better at 52%. Smith is even better and leads the team with a blistering 61% - he would be second in the nation if he made a few more shots to qualify. Wilson is at 46% and Sheldon Jeter at 45%. Chris Jones and Cameron Johnson haven't been great at right around 30% but the other guys are more than carrying them. I could see the made percentage to hang around 40% which, as a team, would be great.
I'm not entirely convinced that the team will continue to take as many shots as they have early on. And as a fan of what Pitt has done in the past, I don't want to them to get into a lull and try to shoot themselves to victory from the outside. I'm a big fan of the high-percentage shot and that's one thing that Pitt has done so well. But with so many competent three-point shooters, this is an element of the Panthers' team that we should continue to see this season.