2011 Final Four Coverage: Explaining VCU's Torrid Shooting

Sometimes when you're hot, you're hot. 

Of course utilizing such a term much actually underscore what VCU has done over their previous five games to reach the Final Four for the first time in program history. The Rams haven't lit up the nets from the outside in this year's NCAA Tournament - they've torched them, shooting a remarkable 53-of-121 (43.8%) from beyond the arc. Their lowest total for three-pointers made up to this point has been the eight they hit in an 18-point win over Purdue and they've managed to bury a dozen in three out of their give total contests. 

Common logic - and even statistical evidence - suggests that the Rams are due to cool off at 'some point from this torrid shooting streak, but then again pundits have been saying that since they reached the Sweet 16. Upon closer inspection it becomes readily apparent that VCU has all the makings to continue its perimeter shooting prowess given the versatile manner in which the Rams get their three-point attempts.

The first thing that immediately jumps out is the manner in which VCU has gotten the majority of its shot attempts from beyond the arc. Typically, spot-up sets are the most common play type for three-point attempts as teams rotate the ball around the perimeter or skip passes up over the top to open shooters. The Rams have certainly utilized this play type to a large degree, according to Synergy Sports Technology 32% of their field goal attempts from this range have come as a result of spot-up possessions. What is somewhat surprising however - and begins to explain the sheer number of open looks VCU has gotten - 33% of their shot attempts have come as a result of the pick and roll. This added movement has allowed the Rams to get open looks from the outside as the defense collapses into the lane to provide help against this set. Granted, Jamie Skeen, Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell all currently shoot better than 40% from beyond the arc (undoubtedly with some help from this recent stretch), but facing bigger and longer defenders this additional space has surely helped matters even more.

The transition game has also played a roll in the Rams perimeter success as well. During the regular season fast break touches accounted for just over 13% of the teams total possessions, with the Rams producing an adjusted field goal percentage of 61%. Since the tournament began transition three-point attempts have accounted for 15% of the team's total perimeter shooting, not a tremendous total, but it speaks to the fact that VCU's guards are looking for open shooters as the defense scrambles to recover.

Then there's the tremendous job the Rams have done of recognizing where the open man is and delivering the basketball in a timely fashion. Seven different players have assisted a three-pointer over the course of the last five games, with contributions coming from all spots on the floor. In fact, of the 121 total three's attempted, nearly 40% have come as a result of one player creating a scoring opportunity for another. Not surprisingly Joey Rodriguez has been the primary catalyst, firing off passes that have led to 26 three-point attempts as he has continuously forced the defense to collapse on drive and kick type plays out of isolation and pick and roll sets.

Jamie Skeen has done a good job of capitalizing on the added attention he has received from defenses as his play has been elevated in tournament play. The forward does his work from the post, doing an excellent job of recognizing double-teams and delivering the basketball to suddenly open shooters on the outside. This has been a strength throughout the season for the former Wake Forest player, his post-up derived offense (his shots and passes leading to shots) has produced 1.07 points per possession, which puts him in the top 10% nationally. His relatively low turnover rate on the block (11%) and high adjusted field goal percentage produced (56.2%) speaks to an intelligent passer with a nose for finding outside threats.

Is it plausible to think that the Ram are due for a cold shooting night from the outside? Absolutely, again, the law of averages is definitely leaning towards that. However, as long as they continue to have this level of movement in their offense coupled with excellent recognition by their players of where open shooters are, defenses will have to work very hard to contest shots and hope they stop falling at such an extreme rate. 

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