Nobody expected this VCU team to be in the Final Four, but as a corollary, nobody expected VCU to be murderous from the perimeter in five straight games. Cinderella or not, any college team that shoots 43.8% from three over five games is going to be hard to beat.
So how are they doing all this? SB Nation's Mid Major Madness investigates.
First, there's the kind of three point looks they're getting:
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.
Then there's the transition shots they're taking:
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.
And finally, the assists they've been getting:
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.
What's the common denominator in all this? Whether it's in transition, off a skip pass, or after a pick-and-roll, VCU is getting A LOT of open looks. They're hitting threes because they're offense keeps teams off balance, and gets them a lot of easy opportunities from the perimeter.
It's not to say this is easy to replicate; it helps that forwards like Jamie Skeen can step out to the perimeter and drain threes. But it's also not a function of luck, or some March Madness fluke. VCU creates havoc on offense, and when it works, that havoc creates a lot of holes on the perimeter.
After that, making 43.8% of your threes--and making the Final Four--becomes a lot more realistic.