After spending an inordinate amount of time this weekend ruminating the frolic of 13 threes against Fordham alongside the cud-chewing six previous games of arc futility, I've come to this conclusion: I'm not getting worked up anymore over three-point shooting woes.
They most certainly matter, but VCUs success on offense is not predicated on knocking down double-digit threes at a high percentage.
To me, the ability to rain threes at a 37% clip or higher is the difference in VCU being a good offensive team and a devastating one. I've decided that the threes are an incredible weapon and a separator, but VCU doesn't have to rely on them. Devastating is fun and preferred, but thankfully I don't believe it is a must in order to win.
Seven words sum up what I believe to be the ideal impetus of the VCU offensive attack:
Get. In. The. Lane.
By. Any. Means.
The main reason is because getting into the lane, as evidenced by the statistic points in the paint, shines a light on efficient offense. Points in the paint are comprised, for this VCU team, in these four ways:
- Point blank shots on dump downs to Juvonte Reddic, who's shooting 56.3% from the field.
- Rim runs from Rob Brandenberg or Darius Theus shooting layups.
- The Freight Train, chugging to four feet.
- Layups that are the paychecks from havoc creating steals and live ball turnovers.
You can add frequent trips to the foul line, not included in the statistic, to this measure. When you attack the rim, you get fouled. Here's what you need to know about the importance of getting to the line. When VCU takes 20 or more free-throw attempts, we are 12-2 this year.
Without question, havoc is a symbiotic strategy. Great defense leads to smooth offense, and likewise made shots allows the Rams to set up that defense.
Points in the paint is the best success indicator of VCUs overall attack. It's the end-game for havoc's defense: if intensity is present, VCU is forcing turnovers. Those turnovers lead to points--layups and dunks off live ball turnovers when it's working well. The Rams are 18-0 when forcing 15 or more turnovers (and 0-5 when forcing 14 or fewer).
Those layups are also points in the paint, so it's no wonder VCU is 9-0 this season when it scores 35 or more points in the paint, but just 9-5 when scoring 34 or fewer points in the paint.
Here's another way to look at it.
VCU leads the A-10 in two-point field goal percentage at 52.5%. We're shooting 28.5% from three in conference games and topped 29% just twice. Scary? Not really. VCUs overall offensive efficiency rating of 110.2 is first. Put in more classical terms: VCU is avergaing 77.9 points per game, also first. Second place is more than six points per game behind.
For all the arc lamentations, we're doing something right.
Let's look at the past two games as an example. Rhode Island was a turkey carving. VCU made 10 of 12 first half field goals and 11 of 13 second half field goals in the paint. The Rams hit two threes and two other jump shots. Everything else was in the paint, which allowed us to overcome 19 turnovers and 2-11 three point shooting.
Against Fordham, a 25-25 tie became a 34-25 lead in just 44 seconds. Three rapid-fire threes changed the complexion of the game, quickly. The big "but," however, is that we took 21 threes in the first half alone and held just a five-point lead. I maintain we didn't explore the lane enough.
Strategically, the threat of the three is a weapon in itself.
There are coaches who, in their scouting, tag one player from the opposition as the X. The X is the guy that is to be marked all over the floor, the one guy the coach does not want to beat his team. That's the role Troy Daniels plays for VCU. Not one opposing coach wants to see Daniels swish that first one. We all know what's coming next.
Earlier this year Shaka Smart used the word decoy, and that fits. The threat of Daniels opens up space for the #21 Train to head down the lane, or for single coverage on Juvonte Reddic. We saw this with Rhode Island, a game the Rams steamrolled to victory. Graham scored 19 points and Reddic 18.
But when Daniels and his band of marksmen are hitting, the VCU offense can be devastating. I give you the first six minutes of the second half of Saturday's game.
So, what do we take from this?
When we're playing well, points in the paint is a number that balloons. That means we're turning over our opposition and getting run outs. Or, we've established Reddic on the block. Or both.
Whatever the case, it means we are scoring, which allows us to set up the press. Threes aren't the end-all, but rather a weapon of mass destruction. It's NICE to hit threes, but we don't have to HAVE a pile of them to be successful.
The offense needs to be electricity personified; that is, dynamic and jolting, but shooting through the path of least resistance. Inside-out for open threes, or layups. Bomb in threes to destroy our opponent's will.
Success becomes about shot selection.