Shoot the rock ...  at the basket

Why K-State lost to KU Tuesday

By The Mercury

The comment has been made that K-State’s reliance on three-pointers against the Jayhawks Tuesday night was a flawed strategy, the evidence being that K-State hit only nine of 30 such shots. The latter figure was a season high.

It would have made more sense, those espousing this view contend, to take it inside on KU, possibly even getting their big men in foul trouble.

Far be it from us to get in a fight with irate amateur coaches, but the stats can be read any number of ways, including in defense of the three-point strategy … assuming that’s what it was.

We’ll concede the Cats took an abnormally high number of outside shots Tuesday; their previous high in attempts this season was just 26, and they’ve averaged just 18.

But there was a good statistical basis for accelerating the three-point attack. As the accompanying chart indicates, since the start of conference play the Wildcats had hit 40.8 percent of their three-point attempts. In the two most recent games, that percentage had been 46.3. From beyond the line, that’s a hot streak.

In fact given the additional point awarded for making a three, the effective field goal percentage of a team hitting 46 percent from that range is close to 70 percent. No coach in their right mind would discourage that.

It didn’t work out. The Cats on Tuesday shot 1.22 standard deviations below their average for conference play, a level of under-achievement that is statistically likely to occur roughly 15 percent of the time. That it happened against KU may have something to do with the Jayhawks’ defense, or it may just have been bad luck. Rodney McGruder made only three of nine three-pointers; in previous conference games, he’d made 15 of 31. If you have a shooter doing upwards of 50 percent from beyond the arc, are your instructions to him more complex than “Shoot the rock, baby!”?

It’s not like the Wildcats were burning up the nets when they did go down low. K-State made 11 of 27 two-point attempts, or 41 percent. Their average for conference play to that point had been 45 percent.

The lesson starting Saturday at Iowa State and going forward is a simple one: Make shots.

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