There may not be another team in the country that poses as much of a threat from behind the three-point line as Michigan. Not only do the Wolverines make the ninth-highest percentage of their threes (42.6 pct.), only 11 other teams unleash a larger share of threes than them (45.2 3PA%). The only other program that comes close to matching both of those Wolverine percentages is North Florida:
What makes Michigan so dangerous from deep is its consistency. Everyone knows the ol' adage: "Live by three, die by the three." But that hasn't applied to Michigan. They're thriving on the three. In nine of their last 10 games, they have drilled at least 40 percent of their threes. They also have made at least 10 threes in nine of their last 10 games:
|December 5, 2015||Houston Baptist||11-23||47.8|
|December 8, 2015||at SMU||10-36||27.8|
|December 12, 2015||Delaware State||11-27||40.7|
|December 15, 2015||Northern Kentucky||8-18||44.4|
|December 19, 2015||Youngstown State||12-30||40.0|
|December 23, 2015||Bryant||17-35||48.6|
|December 30, 2015||at Illinois||10-24||41.7|
|January 2, 2016||Penn State||14-25||56.0|
|January 7, 2016||at Purdue||11-27||40.7|
|January 12, 2016||Maryland||12-29||41.4|
Michigan is so consistent with its three-point shooting because it has so many snipers. There are not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but SIX (!!) Wolverines that have knocked down at least 40 percent of their triples this season. They are Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Aubrey Dawkins, Caris LeVert, Duncan Robinson, Derrick Walton, and D.J. Wilson. And two of them -- Robinson and Walton -- have made more threes than they have missed. Plus, this doesn't even include Zak Irvin, who's connected on 11-of-25 threes (44.0 pct.) in his last four games after a tough 7-of-41 stretch (17.1 pct.) to open the season once he returned from back surgery. So that's seven Wolverines that have attempted at least 20 treys this season and can punish defenses from deep. The odds that opponents can shut down most of them or that most of them have a cold-shooting night at the same time is slim. One or two or three of these players usually will feel it from downtown, which is why the Wolverines are able to light up the scoreboard with threes.
So this is a Michigan team that makes 42.6 percent of its threes, averages 10.9 made threes per game, and doesn't experience much variance with its three-point shooting. It begs the question: could this be the Wolverines' best three-point shooting team ever?
Yes. The answer is yes.
The NCAA adopted the three-point line prior to the 1986-87 season, and, in those early years, Michigan had some excellent three-point shooting teams. The Wolverines made at least 40 percent of their threes in each of those first four seasons, and their two highest three-point percentages in a year still are in 1988-89 (46.8 pct.) and 1986-87 (43.2 pct.).
However, Michigan still was acclimating to life with an outside arc painted on the floor. The Wolverines hadn't played with a three-point line and didn't know how to weaponize their skilled outside shooters. Instead, they continued to play with a style similar to what they had before the three-point line. Thus, Michigan didn't shoot many threes. In fact, in those first four years, not once did threes consist of more than 18 percent of Michigan's field-goal tries. Opponents didn't have to worry about U-M going off from downtown.
They do now, though, because, 25 years later, John Beilein has weaponized the three:
All eight Michigan teams to exceed a three-point rate of 40 percent were coached by Beilein, and none have capitalized as much as this season's team. The 2015-16 outfit is second in three-point rate (45.2 pct.) and third in three-point shooting (42.6 pct.) in school history. There may be too much of a margin for this Michigan team to break the program record for best three-point percentage in a season (46.8 pct.), but, due to the high volume of threes that the Wolverines are putting up, they're on pace to shatter the school record for most threes made (305) in a season. Through 17 games, Michigan has drained 186 threes, averaging 10.94 per game. Even if Michigan was to lose its first Big Ten Tournament game and first postseason tournament game, U-M would hit 361 threes if it maintains that average. That'd be 56 more than the current record! That's ridiculous!
Additionally, that's not the only record at risk of being broken. Robinson has his eyes set on rewriting the single-season individual three-point records. The D-III transfer has drilled 59-of-106 threes (55.7 pct.) through 17 games. If he can sustain this pace, not only would he set the new record for best three-point percentage, which is currently held by Glen Rice (51.6 pct., 1988-89), he would finish with at least 115 made triples, which would be 14 more than the record 101 three-pointers that Louis Bullock converted in 1996-97.
So Michigan and Robinson have the opportunity to have the best team and individual three-point shooting seasons in school history. However, of course, there's no guarantee that either attains those respective milestones. First, opponents could adjust how they defend the Wolverines in future games. They could opt to extend out more to Michigan's shooters on the perimeter, to which the Wolverines would respond by attacking the extra space inside. Beilein said as much to the media yesterday. And, second, though Michigan's three-point shooting has been consistent, it could fluctuate more as U-M faces stingier defenses in the Big Ten than it did during the non-conference schedule.
Nonetheless, what Michigan has achieved from behind the three-point line thus far has been nothing short of amazing, and, if the Wolverines can keep it up for the rest of the year, they'll pose a threat at more than being the nation's best three-point shooting team.
They'll pose a threat at being Michigan's best three-point shooting team. Ever.