Three-Point Shooting in the Barnes Era

Start going back through Tennessee’s best shooting games under Rick Barnes, and you discover very quickly how much we enjoy playing Arkansas:

UT’s Best Three-Point Shooting Games (10+ Makes, 2018-23)

  1. 2022 Arkansas: 12-of-18 (66.7%)
  2. 2018 Arkansas: 11-of-17 (64.7%)
  3. 2019 Arkansas: 11-of-18 (61.1%)
  4. 2022 Longwood: 14-of-24 (58.3%)
  5. 2023 Mississippi State: 12-of-21 (57.1%)

Stay tuned for Senior Day against the Hogs, but in the meantime, note that Tennessee’s January 3 win over Mississippi State is one of the five best performances we’ve seen from a Rick Barnes team.

And, just a few weeks later:

UT’s Worst Three-Point Shooting Games (10+ Attempts, 2018-23)

  1. 2023 Auburn: 2-of-21 (9.5%)
  2. 2022 Michigan: 2-of-18 (11.1%)
  3. 2020 Alabama: 2-of-18 (11.1%)
  4. 2023 Kentucky: 3-of-21 (14.3%)
  5. 2021 Florida: 3-of-21 (14.3%)

You’ll recall, even if you’d like not to, that the Vols hit their highest mark up there on March 5 last year, then made the list again in the Longwood game on March 17…then topped the worst list 48 hours later.

Until now, as the Vols went 2-of-21 on Saturday against Auburn.

And we won!

That, as always, is the biggest takeaway.

We assume this team can win if their shots are falling. But the truth is, this group and last year’s team are both better at that than any of their Barnes predecessors:

UT’s Record When Shooting 30+% From Three

  • 2023: 14-0
  • 2022: 23-1 (Rupp Arena)
  • 2021: 13-4
  • 2020: 8-6
  • 2019: 24-4
  • 2018: 21-6

In the “it doesn’t take much” department, Tennessee’s defense is so good, the Vols handle business with relative ease when they just get 30+% from the arc. Of those 14 wins, only two involved any degree of danger: Maryland (7-of-21, 33.3%) and Starkville (10-of-24, 41.7%).

But Auburn’s no slouch, and this team is also proving they can win even when the three ball is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. So far this year, Tennessee has six games shooting 40+% from three, and six games shooting less than 25% from three. I wouldn’t call this team streaky, but we are hanging out at the endpoints the same amount of time. Still, the Vols are 4-2 when shooting less than 25% from three. Last year’s team at that number was 2-6. Only the 2019 Vols (5-0!) did better when threes simply weren’t going down, because they were so good at getting twos.

So yeah, you want this group to shoot 30+% from three. But when they don’t, I think offensive rebounding remains the best available metric to predict their success. The most meaningful takeaway from last week was probably Florida more than Auburn in that sense: Vols shoot 20% from three, opponent shoots 35% from three, Tennessee grabs 14 offensive rebounds but still loses in part from great individual post play on the other side. No one is bulletproof this year.

But when you look at the whole picture going back through Barnes’ tournament teams, the Auburn win is more about this team’s chances when absolutely nothing is going in, which are better than they’ve ever been. We don’t need much from three for this team to succeed. But even when we don’t get it, the Vols can still be there in the end.

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1 year ago

This article makes me feel better, thank you lol. You would think the sky is falling from all the “fans” on twitter