People occasionally ask me what the key to winning college basketball games is. My answer is always the same: take over half your shots from beyond the arc and make over 40 percent of them. Sadly, no coach has ever taken me up on that. Oh sure, every season there is usually a team or two that satisfies the first criterion, but never both.
While I’ve never had a conversation with William & Mary head coach Tony Shaver, through eight games his team is maintaining my crazy rate of three-point production. Fully 50.2 percent of the Tribe’s shots are threes (ranked 4th in the nation) and they’ve made 41.0 percent of them (32nd). They’re not so hot in other areas – they don’t rebound well, they make few twos and get a lot of those attempts blocked anyway. And to say their defense is porous would be kind. But none of that matters if you’re going to rain in threes every game.
William & Mary has yet to be held below a point per possession and in each of their six wins they exceeded 1.1 PPP, including a 12-point victory at Wake Forest (where oddly only 34 percent of their shots were threes). Since Shaver took over in Williamsburg before the 2003-04 season, his teams have been increasingly three-happy, but never terribly accurate. Undoubtedly, they won’t be able to maintain this pace in either category and it’s a bit early to declare that their offense is Gonzaga East, but the Tribe are still a story worth following.
The extent of the college’s hoops tradition is that the single-game rebound record is held by the Tribe’s Bill Chambers (51 in a 1953 game – some sort of cyborg combining DNA from Blake Griffin and Michael Beasley isn’t going to break that.) While Northwestern is getting a lot of mileage out of the fact they have never been to the NCAA tournament, W&M can claim that as well. In fact, the Tribe has been to the postseason exactly once – losing a first-round game in the 1983 NIT. William & Mary was founded in 1693, so that’s one quasi-March Madness experience in 316 years! There’s still a long way to go (given that the team went 10-20 last season), but with additional postseason options available these days, that could be changing this season.