The University of Maine men’s and women’s basketball teams begin America East Conference play Saturday against Albany.
As of Sunday night, Realtimerpi.com’s power rankings of the 33 Division I conferences had the America East men 25th and women 21st.
Albany is a tough opponent for the Black Bears. The Great Danes men (5-6) are ranked 190 of 351 teams. They beat Yale, which beat defending NCAA champion Connecticut.
The defending league champion Albany women (7-4) ranked 110th, but the 8-4 UMaine women were the highest-ranked America East Conference team in the power rankings at 94.
Statistically, the UMaine men’s and women’s teams are similar offensively. The men have had several tough losses and could be 5-6. Both teams are shooting 41 percent from the floor, but the women are shooting 30.1 percent on 3-pointers and the men only 28.4 percent.
Both are struggling shooting from the floor, especially from the 3-point line. The women are shooting 23.2 3’s per game, making 7.1, and the men have made 5.5 a game but are shooting 19.5 per game.
The UMaine women are averaging 50.4 field-goal attempts per game, but 45.8 percent of those are 3-pointers. The men shot 35.3 percent of their shots from the arc among 55.2 shots overall.
Liz Wood is the only women’s player making higher than 33.3 percent (36 percent), while Kevin Little (40 percent) and Zarko Valjarevic (33 percent) lead the men.
The women are fortunate despite statistically overusing the 3-pointer and are not shooting it well. The men have not been able to overcome their shooting problems but also take too many 3-pointers while shooting a low percentage.
Teams that live by the 3 may die by the 3 and usually don’t win postseason tournaments.
Given the above stats, here are some New Year’s resolutions to help UMaine women’s basketball coach Richard Barron and men’s coach Bob Walsh improve their teams’ 3-point shooting:
— Use good 3-point shooting techniques, develop better 3-point shot selection and use pump-fake 3-point attempts more when defenders close out on those shots.
— Teams should try to get the ball inside to the low block a lot more. The passer facing the player on the low block is already facing the basket, so if the defense double-teams the low block, that player can pass to a player whose defender is doubling down as the 3-point shooter is already open, squared to the basket.
Above average 3-point shooters shoot 40-plus percent when they are wide open on an inside-out pass from the low block. On perimeter passes off double-downs, or off the dribble and kick-out passes, they shoot 33-39 percent.
The percentages decrease significantly coming off screens or off the dribble. This occurs because the player receiving the pass is usually facing the passer, not the basket. This results in shooters not being ready to shoot as soon as they get the ball. Shooters must be squared to the basket, hands in the correct shooting position where they want the ball, and legs already bent. If they don’t, they will rush their shot and not be able to get it off.
— When 3-point shooters face a quick close-out they should pump-fake a 3, as the defender’s momentum is coming toward them. That makes it easy to dribble by the defender or get fouled. Few players use this move at any level.
These New Year’s 3-point shooting resolutions might help UMaine players improve their 3-point percentages and lead to more success in conference play.
Here is a 3-point shooting trivia question: How many Division I men and women are shooting over 40 percent on 3-pointers this season?
Remember, men’s players must average 2.5 made 3’s per game and the women 2.2 per contest to qualify. An above-average 3-point shooter should make at least 40 percent.
There are 351 men’s teams and 351 women’s teams and some 5,000 players competing at the Division I level.
Feel free to offer up your guesses on the “Off the Rim” blog. I’ll share the answers next week.