Last spring, I called a few of the college basketball recruiting guys to get the skinny on this historic recruiting class Duke was putting together, and the one thing the recruiting guys kept talking about was the 3-point shooting.
“They can all play,” 247 Sports’ Jerry Meyer said. “The question is the shooting.”
That seemed to be the general consensus, and the way this season is playing out, those guys had this team pegged. Duke lost its second game of the year on Monday night to Syracuse, shooting 9-for-43 (21 percent) from the 3-point line.
Duke played that game without Cam Reddish, the best shooter in the starting lineup, but even with Reddish Duke shoots 32 percent from the arc as a team.
Here’s Duke’s starting lineup:
- Cam Reddish: 35.8 percent
- R.J. Barrett: 31.7 percent
- Tre Jones: 28.6 percent
- Zion Williamson: 28.3 percent
- Marques Bolden: 0 percent
Off the bench, Duke has a couple capable shooters in Alex O’Connell (38.1 percent) and Justin Robinson (44.4 percent), but they’re averaging 19 minutes per game between them. The guy who plays the most minutes off the bench, Jack White, is shooting 32.8 percent on his 3s.
For the most part, Duke makes up for this by shooting 59 percent from inside the arc, which ranks second in the country, and holding opponents to 40.4 percent shooting, which is fifth in the country. Plus, the Blue Devils are essentially unstoppable in transition.
If you were going exclusively by the math, Duke shouldn’t take another 3-pointer the rest of the season. At 59 percent on its 2s, Duke is scoring 118 points for every 100 attempts while scoring just 96 points for every 100 3s it takes.
Of course, going exclusively by the math is usually a pretty bad idea in sports that aren’t baseball. Duke has to keep shooting 3s to keep defenses from just completely packing the lane.
But now that we’re into conference play and the shooting hasn’t gotten much better, Duke should consider taking a lot less 3-pointers. As it is, they’re 99th in the country, shooting 26 3s per game.
That’s 10 too many. At least. Drop that down to 16 3s per game and replace those shots with 2s, and Duke’s going to score an extra 2-3 points on average.
Recruiting analysis doesn’t always translate to the next level, but this Duke roster is exactly what the experts said it would be — dazzling, with one major important flaw.