Returning Deep-Shooting Duos Are Usually Disappointments. Is Marquette’s Trio Immune?

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Photo Source: SNOTAPWI

by Eli Boettger – October 4, 2017

Markus Howard isn’t even a year removed from his 18th birthday, but this autumn, the 2018 Marquette Golden Eagles season rests solely in his possession.

Actually, that couldn’t further from the truth.

Instead, he represents 33.3% of the greatest returning perimeter shooting trio in college basketball history.

Marquette welcomes back three guards (Markus Howard, Sam Hauser and Andrew Rousey), all of which recorded more than 60 three-pointers on better than 43.0% shooting from beyond the arc.

What makes Marquette’s trio so special is that it’s actually the first of its kind. Since 2000, no team has ever returned three such players, and there have only been ten teams that returned a duo that converted a combined 120+ threes on 43.0% shooting or better.

The complete list of these duos is below. Two players (Creighton’s Doug McDermott and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette) went on to win national player of the year awards.

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After sorting through the combined stats of all ten of the duos, I found some unexpected results. Nearly every returning duo actually declined the following season.

Of the ten duos since 2000, four converted more combined three-pointers the following season, and only one of the ten had a higher three-point percentage than the previous season. Air Force’s 2007 returning perimeter-shooting duo of Matt McCraw and Dan Nwaelele was the only one that showed modest improvement (11 more three-pointers, 0.2% increase in three-point shooting) in both triples made and three-point percentage.

So why do these duos decline as time goes along? Well, it’s hard to say.

It’s possible, though, that opposing teams did a stronger job keying in on at least one of the shooters the next season. I found the year-to-year three-point attempt rate differences for each of the aforementioned pairs, which can be found in the table below.

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Only two of the duos (Creighton and BYU) did not have a player that decreased his three-point attempt rate the following season. Colorado State’s Aki Palmer (-10.1) and Portland’s T.J. Campbell (-8.8) saw the largest declines in three-point attempt rate.

The only substantial finding is that Air Force’s Matt McCraw-Dan Nwaelele duo had the largest three-point attempt rate drop-off of any of the ten duos. As mentioned earlier, only McCraw and Nwaelele saw an increase in both three-pointers made and three-point percentage of the ten duos.

Since 2000, only 92 players (not duos or trios) have had multiple seasons with 60+ three-pointers and a three-point percentage greater than 43.0%. Seven players have done it three times, and one player (Utah State’s Jaycee Carroll) did it all four seasons.

Needless to say, improving upon a 60 3P/43.0% 3P% season is next to impossible, especially when opponents have an entire offseason to scout, watch film, and make subsequent defensive adjustments.

When it’s said and done, don’t expect Marquette’s terrific trio to record better statistics in 2018. This doesn’t mean that they won’t be as effective, though. As long as head coach Steve Wojciechowski can properly utilize his three shooters (either as decoys or three-point threats), it should open up the rest of Marquette’s free-wheeling offense.