Theories Vary on Defending 3-Pointers

Theories Vary on Defending 3-Pointers

Twenty-five seasons have elapsed since college basketball added the three-pointer, and still, there is no consensus on the optimal way to defend it.

Should coaches instruct their defenders to take the three away altogether, merely try to contest it, or goad their opponent into settling for long-distance attempts? And how should coaches digest the findings of Ken Pomeroy, who concluded this February that defenses, when examined in aggregate across Division I, don't have much control over their opponents' three-point percentage -- and that opponents have a certain situational threshold for deciding when to take a three, and after that, it's like playing a lottery? I imagine that control-freak coaches get worried by Pomeroy's data on the unpredictability of three-point percentages.

What Pomeroy believes -- we talked about this at length last week, to stave off offseason boredom -- is that the best three-point strategy, and the one a defense actually has a lot of control over, is to limit an opponent's overall number of attempts. Especially if you're the favored team. The fewer entries you allow an opponent to have in the lottery, he says, the less likely you are to get burned by an upset.

What I was curious to examine, from a coaching perspective, is not only the teams that adhere to the limiting-attempts philosophy (in particular, St. Louis and Wisconsin) but also the defensive schemes that "beat" the three-point percentage lottery in 2011-12. What are the ways teams try to tilt the lottery odds in their favor?

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