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A Statistical Look at Iowa State’s 3 Point Shooting Woes

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Here’s how bad things ACTUALLY are this season from behind the arc

Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

After Iowa State’s 7 point victory over Big 12 bottom-dweller Oklahoma State this week, I felt I had to address the abysmal 3 point shooting that has plagued this team all year. So often we’ve talked about the Cyclones’ inability to shoot the ball from behind the arc, but these numbers often come without context.

For example, did you know that St. Josephs leads the NCAA with 31.3 3PA per game? OK, great! We’ve established 31 is a lot. Now what about 24.6 attempts, which is, on average, roughly how many time Brian Ferentz clogs the toilets at Kinnick each year (or the number of 3’s Iowa State chucks towards the rim each game).

Did you also know that 24.6 3PA is good for 3rd most in the Big 12? That’s right, Iowa State trails only TCU and Texas in this category. But this is nothing new for the Clones. Last year they attempted 23.2 3PA, and 21.1 before that.

In total, the Cyclones have attempted 442 total 3’s this year, good for 108th in all of the NCAA. Last year’s team thought 18 games had an eerily similar 437 attempts. Just as our fanbase loves beer, Steve Prohm’s teams like to shoot the trey ball.

Again, nothing out of the ordinary.

So we’ve established that Iowa State shoots quite a few 3’s each game, at a high clip, but nothing out of the ordinary in comparison to both the NCAA as a whole and the Big 12.

However, when you take makes and shooting % and throw both into the equation, a clearer picture starts to paint itself. Last year’s team took 5 less 3’s through 18 games, as I mentioned above. Last year’s team also made 17 more 3’s.

3P% through 18 Games:

19-20: 140/442

18-19: 157/437

Last year’s team also had twice as much talent (and twice as much attitude, I may add). But this begs the underlying question that has creeped into the mind of every Cyclone fan this season. Is Steve Prohm adjusting his system around the guys who he has, or is he recruiting guys to fit his system? This year, it appears that neither is true. Case in point, the not-so-curious case of Prentiss Nixon. Nixon shot 33% from behind the arc on 4.9 attempts per game during his 3 year tenure at Colorado State, which indicates that yes, Coach Prohm was well aware of his struggles shooting the basketball. This year, Prentiss is ALSO shooting 4.9 3’s per game, but only at a 22% clip.

Another good example is Rasir Bolton. Bolton entered the year averaging 4.5 3PA per game on 36% shooting. Now, he shoots just 33% on 4.4 3’s per game. In fact, each returning Iowa State guard/forward except for Zion Griffin and Terrence Lewis are now shooting worse from behind the arc this year than they were last year. This is by no means an all-encompassing statistic, for example, Haliburton is shooting 41% this year compared to 43% last year, but his volume has increased dramatically. Finally, the two freshman are shooting a combined 22-79, which certainly is not helping.

But what’s the point to all of this? There’s two schools of thought, the first being that Coach Prohm should continue to roll with what he’s seen success with in the past. Adjust the players to the system, continue to “Bombs Away” from deep, and hope for the best. The second line of reasoning would require another change, this time adjusting to the lack of shooting and packing the paint, similar to what happened against Oklahoma State, the caveat being it only took almost 30 points from Solo to beat the worst team in the Big 12 by 7.

All that being said, each time this team has faced serious adversity following difficult games, of which there have been many, the players have responded and put together some nice performances. Iowa State will have plenty of opportunities to put together high quality wins during this next stretch of games, but up next the 16-2 Auburn Tigers await, fresh off a Final Four appearance last year, and led by a coach in Bruce Pearl that likes to play a similar brand of up-tempo ball. If Iowa State can find a way to adjust to either improve their shooting from outside, or successfully pivot in another direction, they might just surprise a few people going forward, including our own fanbase.