How much mid-range is too much mid-range?

So: what points can actually be made here? Firstly, it is important to note that everyone’s philosophy is very different, and everyone gets their wins in different ways. Rick Barnes has 11 KenPom Top 25 finishes in the last 19 seasons, including 9 Top 25 offenses, despite only ranking inside the top 50 on eFG% once (2018-19). The second-best offense in college basketball last year, Baylor, got nearly 29% of their shots from Other Twos and barely hit above our Mendoza Line at 40.7%. Per Bart Torvik, the 8th-best offense across college basketball over the last five seasons is North Carolina, a team who’s averaged the 155th-best eFG% in the sport. (Worth noting they rank #1 in per-100 rebounding margin by a country mile, of course.) Good things are possible even if you don’t do them the analytically-friendly way.

Yet that all seems a little too tidy. Of the top 25 offenses (on average) over the last five seasons, 22 rank in the top 100 on average in eFG%. 15 are in the top 50. Of the 25 best shooting offenses over the last five seasons, only BYU gets more than 28% of their offense from non-rim twos, and only five of the top 25 go above 25%. All of the top 10 teams by average Adjusted Efficiency in basketball since 2016-17 have averaged at least a top 100 eFG% (eight in the top 50), and of the top 25, only West Virginia is below the national average in eFG%. (Again, they make up for it by having the second-highest OREB% and sixth-highest defensive TO%.) 

Mid-range shots are wonderful when they go in, and I treasure any player who can hit them consistently. However, our notion of them being good shots in all of basketball comes from the very top level in the NBA, where the average team converts 40.7% of their mid-range attempts and the 75th-percentile hits 43.6% – nearly 4% higher than the average college team in both aspects. If your college team is hitting these shots at 43.6%, you are absolutely within your right to take as many as you want, but the problem is that very few teams in the last decade have done this when taking a lot of mid-range twos. (Only nine teams have hit 43% or better on Other Twos while making them 30%+ of their offense in the last three seasons combined, five of them in the shortened season of 2020-21.)

The message is clear: shooting wins games. Shooting makes your offense better more than anything else. However, shooting has two parts: the make or miss, of course, but the actual quality of the shot in the first place. The shot you’re taking needs to be a good one for the process itself to make sense. If you’re behind the 8-ball in your shot quality process, it makes it that much harder to stand out from a shooting efficiency perspective and, thus, offensively as a whole.

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