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Three point shooting: The stat that will determine the national champion

Both Texas Tech and Virginia have had dynamic performances from deep throughout the year

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Semifinals-Michigan State vs Texas Tech Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The past two days have been filled with insinuations that this year’s national championship game between Texas Tech and Virginia will be the most boring of the 21st century. While both teams are known for their strong defenses and slow pace, they have the potential to put up points offensively.

Virginia is third nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency according to Kenpom, while Texas Tech is a respectable 28th. Barttorvik’s T-rank tool shows that both offenses have been top 12 nationally since February 1st, and since March 1st both teams have been shooting above 38% from three. That last point is crucial given how both teams have had performances directly correlated to their beyond-the-arc shooting.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Semifinals-Michigan State vs Texas Tech Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech is 18-0 when shooting at least 36% from three. Considering their season long average is 36.6%, it is logical to assume that whenever Tech shoots above average from three they win. The defensive three point stats are a little less clear, as Tech lost games against Kansas State, Duke, and Iowa State despite holding all three under 25% from deep. One thing that is evident is the correlation between threes allowed and tournament success, as all five tournament opponents of Texas Tech have failed to hit their seasonal averages from long range.

Virginia has only lost three games this year, however two of those games came when shooting under 25% from three. The other was a complete outlier game from Duke, who hit 62% of their threes despite being a 31% team across the whole season. Virginia’s three point defense has been top ten all year, however the Cavaliers have surrendered eight three point makes in all five tournament games so far, which has created close games against Gardner Webb, Purdue, Oregon, and Auburn. Virginia plays a “pack line” defensive strategy that does allow for three point looks, however on paper Virginia has the perimeter defenders to rotate onto shooters and prevent clean looks. The problem with that defense occurs when teams play a four-out offensive concept, which coincidentally is a common feature of the motion offense (Tech’s few designed offensive sets revolve around having one big inside, and most rotational lineups have four guards/wings) that the Red Raiders run.

Ultimately this game will come down to the perimeter offense of both teams. In theory Texas Tech should have shooting opportunities against the pack-line defense, however the flip side is that Virginia will have opportunities with four positive shooters in their lineup (Clark, Hunter, Jerome, and Guy.) That being said: Texas Tech has one of the best shooters in the nation in Davide Moretti to counter what Kyle Guy gives Virginia, and Texas Tech’s defense has been incredible on the perimeter this tournament. If Texas Tech can be efficient from beyond the three point line while holding Virginia to a mediocre percentage (around 31%-their three point percentage in the tournament), they will return to Lubbock as NCAA champions.