Last season, the men’s basketball 3-point line was extended to 22 feet, 1¾ inches, which made the most valuable shot in the sport a little bit tougher. The national 3-point percentage dropped from 34.4 percent during the 2018-19 season to 33.3 percent last season. Through Dec. 9, it’s 33.0 percent for the young 2020-21 season.
But the longer distance hasn’t stopped players from adding a more accurate or more frequent 3-point shot to their repertoire. Others have simply adjusted better to the new distance in the second season of the extended 3-point line.
Here are players on potential March Madness contenders whose early returns suggest that they’ve become better 3-point shooters than years past.
All stats are current through Dec. 9.
Adam Flagler, Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell, Baylor
Baylor was ranked No. 2 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll and the Bears have maintained that position thanks to a 4-0 start, which included an impressive 82-69 win over Illinois on a neutral court.
Last season, Baylor was an above-average 3-point shooting team at 35.1 percent, but the Bears weren’t full of dead-eye 3-point shooters. While acknowledging that Baylor has only played four games, the team is making 46.4 percent of its shots behind the arc, which ranks fourth nationally.
Jared Butler is 9-for-19 (47.4%) after shooting 35.1 percent and 38.1 percent as a freshman and sophomore, respectively. If the Bears’ leading scorer and highest-usage player can also maintain a 3-point percentage that’s in the mid-to-high 40s, then good luck beating the Bears.
But it’s not just Butler.
Presbyterian transfer Adam Flagler is 12-for-25 this season (48.0%), which is a full 10 percentage points than his freshman season two seasons ago. He made 101 of 264 3-point attempts that season, so he has proven he’s capable of being both a high-volume and high-accuracy 3-point shooter, but the early returns suggest he might trade some of his 3-point attempts for an even higher 3-point accuracy while playing for a loaded Bears squad.
Then there’s Davion Mitchell, who wasn’t much of a 3-point threat at Auburn in 2018 or Baylor last year, when he shot 28.8 percent and 32.4 percent from 3, respectively. He’s 8-for-14 (57.1%) this season, as he’s averaging two made 3-pointers per game after making just 34 threes in 30 games last season.
Courtney Ramey, Texas
Texas’ defense is one of the best in the country at limiting opponents’ 3-point accuracy and attempts. Opponents are shooting just 22.5 percent from behind the arc against the Longhorns and 3-point attempts only make up 26.5 percent of opponents’ total shots.
Offensively, Texas has benefited from Courtney Ramey’s improved 3-point shooting as the 6-3 junior is shooting a career-best 41.7 percent, which is roughly 10 percentage points higher than his percentage last season. Ramey was a 38.6 percent 3-point shooter on 145 attempts as a freshman, so he has proven he can make shots from deep, but he has shown through six games this season that he has not only regained his freshman-year form, but he might also be even better.
Miles McBride and Taz Sherman, West Virginia
Last season, West Virginia finished with the 11th-most efficient defense and the 67th-most efficient offense, per kenpom.com, but this season, the Mountaineers have found a better balance in the opening weeks of the season, in part because of improved 3-point shooting.
West Virginia is No. 13 offensively and No. 11 defensively, through Wednesday. While the Mountaineers are only shooting 31.9 percent from deep as a team, that’s still an improvement from their woeful 28.6-percent 3-point shooting last season.
After making just 24 threes at a 30-percent clip as a freshman, guard Miles McBride has made seven 3-pointers through five games and at a 41.2-percent accuracy. Teammate Taz Sherman has made a team-high nine 3-pointers after making just 28 all of last season. He’s shooting 60 percent from deep after making just a third of his treys last season.
Marcus Sasser, Houston
Sasser was a solid 3-point shooter last season when he made 57 3-pointers at a 35.2-percent clip. However, he’s been lighting it up from deep during the Cougars’ first three games this season. He’s 12-for-24 as he is averaging four made 3-pointers per game at a 50-percent rate.
Sasses was 7-for-9 from deep in Houston’s season opener against Lamar.
Rocket Watts, Michigan State
Watts has big shoes to fill as he helps replace Cassius Winston, who was a 43-percent 3-point shooter last season, after shooting 39 percent the year before that and 49 percent as a sophomore.
Through five games this season, Watts is making 36.8 percent of his attempts from deep after making just 28.1 percent as a freshman, when he was taking more than four per game, on average.
Tre Mann, Florida
As a freshman, Mann made just 22 3-pointers in 29 games, while making just 27.5 percent of his 80 attempts. Through three games as a sophomore, Mann has made five 3-pointers on just eight attempts, which is an encouraging sign that he could be a low-attempt but high-accuracy 3-point shooter.
Jaime Jaquez, UCLA
As a freshman, Jaquez made just 25 3-pointers in 30 games, while shooting 31.6 percent from deep. Through the Bruins’ first five games, he has already made 10 3s while knocking them down at a 47.6-percent clip.
Jaquez is tied for second on the team in scoring at 14.2 points per game. He made three 3-pointers against both San Diego State and San Diego.