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A deeper look at KU's three-point shooting and how it compares to recent years

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Kansas players Jamari Traylor, left, Joel Embiid, center, and Brannen Greene celebrate a three from teammate Wayne Selden against West Virginia during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas players Jamari Traylor, left, Joel Embiid, center, and Brannen Greene celebrate a three from teammate Wayne Selden against West Virginia during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

If you've been paying attention at all, you know by now that this year's Kansas basketball team has left a little to be desired when it comes to three-point shooting.

It's not that the 2013-14 Jayhawks don't have solid three-point shooters — Brannen Greene and Conner Frankamp have pure strokes and Naadir Tharpe can knock down the long-range shot with regularity, as well — more that the team has not utilized the three-point shot the way past Kansas teams have.

Part of the reason for that is both Greene and Frankamp have played limited minutes through the first 24 games of the season (both are averaging around 7 minutes per game) and the Jayhawks (18-6 overall, 9-2 in Big 12 play) have relied heavily on pounding the ball inside to a deep and talented group of big men and the free-lance abilities of freshman forward Andrew Wiggins for their offense.

Overall, the KU's three-point percentage has remained solid. Through 24 games, the Jayhawks are hitting 35.9 percent of its shots from downtown, which puts them tied for 111th in the country and 5th in the Big 12.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts a three over Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane during the first half on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts a three over Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane during the first half on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It also is right on par with the percentage shot by KU's three most recent teams — the 2012-13 shot 36.4 percent; the 2011-12 team shot 34.5 percent; and the 2010-11 team shot 38.2 percent.

So while this year's Jayhawks are on pace to finish in the same ballpark as their recent counterparts in terms of percentage, they are quickly falling behind in terms of three-point makes.

This year's team has made 132 three-pointers and attempted 368. That averages out to 5.5 makes per game in 15.3 attempts per game. Both numbers are the lowest through 24 games in the past four seasons.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe puts up a shot over Iowa State guard Monte Morris during the second half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe puts up a shot over Iowa State guard Monte Morris during the second half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

Here's a quick look back at what each of the past four KU teams (including this season) had done from downtown by this same point in the season, complete with a look at the top four three-point shooting options on each team.

— All stats below through 24 games —

• 2013-14 •
Three-point makes: 132
Three-point attempts: 368
Three-point percentage: 35.9
Players with 20 or more three-point makes: 3
Players with at least 1 three-point make: 9
Naadir Tharpe: 35-80
Wayne Selden: 30-83
Andrew Wiggins: 29-83
Frank Mason: 11-37

• 2012-13 •
Three-point makes: 140
Three-point attempts: 394
Three-point percentage: 35.5
Players with 20 or more three-point makes: 4
Players with at least 1 three-point make: 7
Ben McLemore: 47-108
Elijah Johnson: 34-108
Travis Releford: 26-60
Naadir Tharpe: 23-70

• 2011-12 •
Three-point makes: 147
Three-point attempts: 423
Three-point percentage: 34.8
Players with 20 or more three-point makes: 4
Players with at least 1 three-point make: 8
Tyshawn Taylor: 41-91
Conner Teahan: 38-102
Elijah Johnson: 37-131
Travis Releford: 20-55

• 2010-11 •
Three-point makes: 179
Three-point attempts: 454
Three-point percentage: 39.4
Players with 20 or more three-point makes: 3
Players with at least 1 three-point make: 11
Tyrel Reed: 48-125
Josh Selby: 27-62
Brady Morningstar: 20-55
Marcus Morris: 18-51

Kansas guard Frank Mason puts up a three against Texas guard Isaiah Taylor during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Frank Mason puts up a three against Texas guard Isaiah Taylor during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

As you can see by looking at the numbers, KU's top three-point shooters this year are taking and making fewer three-pointers than the top four long-range bombers from each of the past three seasons.

What's more, if you took the best pure three-point shooters on this year's KU roster (Frankamp, Greene & Andrew White) and combined them into one player, that player still would have low totals of makes (23) and attempts (68) due to limited playing time.

Given the increased importance of three-point shooting in today's college game, along with the correlation between hot shooting teams and their chances at victory, KU's numbers through the first 24 games of the 2013-14 season have to be at least a bit of a concern. There's no doubt that KU coach Bill Self and those on the roster would like to knock in a few more three-pointers per game, a feat that, if it came, would both loosen up things inside for KU's big men and give guys like Wiggins more room to work on drives to the rim.

But while KU's volume of makes and attempts might lag behind that of its predecessors, the fact that the Jayhawks still are knocking in a quality percentage is a good sign. The problem with lower volume is that it increases the importance of each attempt, making the misses sting more and the makes more critical.

In KU's most recent game — an 85-82 overtime loss at Kansas State on Monday in which the Jayhawks made just 3 of 17 three-pointers — both Frankamp and Greene logged the second most minutes they have played all season, at 15 apiece, more than doubling their season averages.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden puts a shot over Kansas State guard Wesley Iwundu during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden puts a shot over Kansas State guard Wesley Iwundu during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Both players have a ways to go on the defensive end to make receiving double-digit minutes a more regular thing, but their presence on the floor certainly would help KU's chances of bringing its three-point totals closer to where Self's teams have been at this point in the past.

There are a lot of factors that will determine just how well this team finishes the season and how far it advances in March, but getting better and more consistent three-point shooting from the entire roster figures to be as important as any of them.

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