It’s time to trust these Kansas Jayhawks with three-pointers.
That’s hard, I know. KU fans are used to March heartbreak following bad shooting nights. Coach Bill Self has been quoted over and over about how a poor three-point shooting game often coincides with the end of his team’s season.
And yes, the Jayhawks could miss a lot of them again in their most important game later this year. It’s possible. Anything is.
That’s not as likely as you might think, though.
KU has good three-point shooters. A lot of them. Roughly halfway through the season, Frank Mason is at 55 percent, while Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk are both at 44. Devonté Graham — the one who would probably be my pick in a shooting contest — is at 38 percent while taking the most on the team.
It’s why KU needs to continue to play to get outside shots no matter if the first few go in, trusting that its best offensive weapon will be effective if given enough ammunition.
The Jayhawks did that Tuesday in an 81-70 victory over Oklahoma. KU made only 3 of 11 first-half threes, and in previous years, the tendency might have been to force things inside while cursing the basketball gods for one of those games where “shots weren’t falling.”
Instead, KU had a little faith. Mykhailiuk fired up a three on his team’s first second-half possession after he missed his two first-half attempts.
“I felt good about my shot after I made my first one,” Mykhailiuk said. “I just shot a couple more.”
So did his teammates. Graham followed with one before Mykhailiuk made another, and KU turned a nine-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead in less than 3 ½ minutes.
The Jayhawks finished 9 for 16 from three in the second half, with Self admitting he was happy with the team’s outside shot selection.
“I thought we took pretty good looks,” Self said. “As a matter of fact, I thought late game, Frank may have turned down two or three good looks to give a shot to Josh (Jackson), when in my opinion he should be looking to shoot it.”
KU continues to hit threes at a remarkable rate.
The Jayhawks are at 42 percent, which is third nationally behind only UCLA and Kennesaw State. Through four Big 12 games, they’ve made 45 percent of their threes … with no other conference team shooting better than 39 percent.
But perhaps this is most impressive: KU’s three-point shooting has been exceptionally consistent, at least as of late.
The old cliché is that it’s hard to shoot well from the outside for six consecutive games in the NCAA Tournament. The thought is that every team will be off at some point.
These Jayhawks haven’t slumped, though. The team’s three-point shooting percentages from its last 11 games look like this: 62, 54, 55, 56, 47, 29, 35, 36, 50, 50, 44.
Another way to look at it: KU has shot better than 35 percent in 10 of its last 11 contests and better than 50 percent in more than half of those games.
In other words, this team not only has had a high three-point ceiling; it’s also had a high three-point floor.
Could things go badly? Sure. Could a poor shooting night happen? Of course.
That’s ignoring a bigger reality, though. Lots of things in basketball are out of a team’s control. Luck happens. Stuff happens.
All you can do is play to your advantages and hope for the best.
It’s why Self’s best three-point shooting team should simply let it fly — both now and in the season’s most important games.
Jesse Newell: @jessenewell