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Just Keep Shooting, Villanova

After (and even during) Monday’s massacre at the hands of Oklahoma many pundits from across the sports world were critical of the Wildcats for shooting too many 3-point shots. They were wrong.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

If Steph Curry misses 10 3-pointers in a row, and is open from three, should he shoot?

Of course!

Now no one on Villanova is Steph Curry, but the point remains: 'Nova is a team loaded with really good 3-point shooters. They should keep shooting. Despite this, nothing could stop the runaway train of pundits from repeating over and over after the Oklahoma game that Villanova shoots too many threes.

Villanova does shoot a lot of 3-pointers. So far this year, they’ve taken 31.1 per game, second in the nation. That is substantially more than they took last year when they shot only 23.2 per game. Unfortunately for the Wildcats they were only shooting 30.4 percent, while last year they shot 38.9 percent.

If you are lazy or don’t understand sample sizes, the obvious conclusion is shoot fewer threes. But telling guys with a history of making shots to quit shooting just doesn’t make sense.

So, does Villanova still have good shooters?

Absolutely! If you like math way too much (I do), you can let KenPom explain how he knows 'Nova has good shooters. If you want the simple version, I know because I’ve seen them shoot over the past few years. Even with the rough starts this year, Josh Hart shoots 38.3 percent on his career from three; Phil Booth shoots 41.8 percent; Kris Jenkins shoots 35.3 percent; Ryan Arcidiacono shoots 34.8 percent and has gotten better every year on campus.

So if the shooters are capable, then there are two factors that can be holding them back, bad luck and bad shot selection. I think bad luck is a big part of it so far. Even good shooters go through slumps but those slumps don’t often last all season so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Shot selection on the other hand, can almost always improve.

In the Oklahoma game Nova shot 4-for-32 from 3-point range. This was a combination of missing some good looks and taking some bad ones. The second part of that Nova can do something about. They took some quick and contested shots, as well as out-of-rhythm shots.  Some of that is simply a result of Oklahoma playing very good defense (3rd in KenPom), but that is not an excuse for quick bad shots. Against better teams you have to work harder from good looks.

Sunday against La Salle, Villanova shot much better. La Salle’s defense is bad (231 in KenPom) but it was not just bad defense or shooting skill that resulted in the improvement. The Wildcats got better looks by driving and kicking, playing through the post (Daniel Ochefu is an underrated passer) and perhaps most importantly by swinging the ball from side to side to make the defense rotate and create some really good looks. The results showed up in more than just the 3-point percentage (46.4percent), but in the assist column where 24 of the Wildcats 28 baskets were assisted.

Villanova is a good shooting team and fortunately for fans, head coach Jay Wright is far too smart to overreact like the pundits. The Wildcats will keep firing away from long range and if the La Salle game is any indicator, they’ll shoot at a fine clip, in part by working hard to get better shots.