USC basketball: VCU often lives by the three, doesn't hope to die by it, Rams Coach Shaka Smart says
Virginia Commonwealth has averaged 22.8 three-pointers per game this season, the 19th highest total in the nation. And the Rams make 8.2 of those per game, good for 18th nationally.
Overall, that's a lot of shots from beyond the arc, and when the NCAA tournament rolls around, hot shooting from deep can pay off.
Just look at Indiana's win over Kent State in the 2002 regional semifinal. The Hoosiers hit 15 of 19 from three-point range and beat a team that, really, was better than them.
The downside of that is that the three-pointer is a high-risk, high-reward kind of shot.
Exhibit A: Duke missed 15 straight three-pointers against West Virginia in the second round of the 2008 NCAA tournament -- and lost.
Exhibit B: Oregon shot nine for 38 from three-point range against Mississippi State in the first round of the same tournament, including missing 19 of 21 from beyond the arc in the second half -- and lost.
So, I asked VCU Coach Shaka Smart, whose team faces USC (19-14) in a first-round NCAA tournament game here Wednesday night, if he thinks his team's deep-shooting style is good or bad in tournament play.
"I think people say if you live by the three, you die by the three," he said. "And if that's all we shot, then you really are playing Russian roulette going into a game.
"But I think in the games were we've been extremely effective, we've been able to establish a presence inside and then also make shots outside. And that's when we've been at our best.
"As recently as beating George Mason in the CAA semifinals, we did a great job attacking the basket. We got to the foul line. And then we made a lot of shots from outside. Let's face it, when three-point shots go in, that scoreboard moves really fast. That's the best way to win."
If the Rams spread USC's defense out and their shooters -- they have six players who have made 25 or more three-point shots -- have good looks and make shots, the Trojans could be out of the game early.
Then again, USC is allowing 5.5 made three-point shots per game this season on an average of 16.5 attempts, and the Trojans are going to be focusing on taking away the three-point shot from VCU.
And since USC has one of the better defenses in the nation, it could hold VCU to a season low, which usually happens when the Trojans play somebody.
Either way, it should make for an interesting matchup.
-- Baxter Holmes in Dayton, Ohio