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Virginia’s shot selection reveals how the offense has improved

UVA has been shooting outside with more frequency while hitting a higher % from inside.

NCAA Basketball: Davidson at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Through ten games, the Virginia Cavaliers are shooting 48.6% from the field, which is good for 57th out of 351 schools in the country. Their offensive efficiency is ranked 31st so far, up from 50th at the end of last year and their eFG% had improved from 87th to 48th as well. UVA’s shot selection may be the key to this offensive resurgence at this point in the season.

Almost 35% of Virginia’s shot attempts have come from behind the arc. Meanwhile, 32% are from shots in the paint and 33% elsewhere from two-point range, as illustrated by the shot chart below:

Dedicating almost 35% of your shots to 3-pointers seems like a lot, but it actually ranks 241st in the country. Looking at full season data over the years though, this season so far is the highest % of 3-pointers UVA has taken since at least 2011. The percentage of shots in the paint and 2-point jumpers are consequentially low as well, as shown in the chart below:

UVA Shot Selection Over Time

Year % Shots in Paint % Shots 2pt Jumpers % of Shots 3pt
Year % Shots in Paint % Shots 2pt Jumpers % of Shots 3pt
2018 32.00% 33.30% 34.70%
2017 34.50% 32.50% 33.00%
2016 38.80% 32.90% 28.30%
2015 37.90% 34.50% 27.50%
2014 38.90% 31.40% 29.70%
2013 36.80% 32.30% 30.90%
2012 33.10% 37.10% 29.80%

How has UVA fared in these ranges? The shot chart below shows that the 3-point % is 7% worse than the 2-point jumper %.

That makes sense; 3-pointers are obviously further shots. However, the percentages were not that way in the past two seasons, as seen in the chart below comparing the season so far to prior full seasons.

UVA Shooting Percentage Over Time

Year FG% in Paint FG% 2pt Jumpers FG% 3pt
Year FG% in Paint FG% 2pt Jumpers FG% 3pt
2018 65.10% 43.70% 37.60%
2017 60.70% 38.00% 38.50%
2016 65.20% 37.70% 40.30%
2015 62.00% 36.10% 35.00%
2014 57.30% 38.70% 36.90%
2013 57.10% 39.50% 38.50%
2012 61.90% 41.50% 33.00%

Shots in the paint and 2-point jumpers are either the highest percentages or near the highest they have been for the Hoos in the past seven full seasons. Overall, Virginia is shooting 53.6% from 2-point range so far, which would be their highest in at least 15 years.

The improved play of Kyle Guy and Devon Hall and the shooting range of other key players are big factors in this change in shot selection as well. Half of Guy’s shot attempts are from behind the line, but more surprising is that 24% of his shots are from the paint, compared to just 15% last year. His shooting percentage around the rim has increased from 37% last season to 61% this year as well. This added dimension has been crucial to Guy’s team-leading 17.0 points per game. Not to be outdone, Devon Hall’s shooting percentages are even better. The over-looked senior is shooting 78% in the paint, 38% from 2-point jumpers, and 43% from beyond the arc.

In fact, Hall and Guy currently lead the team in shot attempts in the paint and makes in the paint. That could be seen as a lack of production from UVA’s post players but it is just a change in strategy. Last season Isaiah Wilkins led the team with 61 made buckets in the paint, but the forward now leads the team in made 2-point jumpers instead with 12. He takes the same percentage of his shots as jumpers, but has improved his FG% on those shots from 38% to 67%. Likewise, Mamadi Diakite has already made nine 2-point jumpers, knocking down shots at a 47% clip, after only hitting ten all last season.

Going forward it will be interesting to see if this shift to 3-pointers and success from 2-point range continues during the tougher ACC schedule and beyond.

(Thanks to our graphics expert Alex Cheung for the shot charts and for the paint vs. mid range 2 pt data.)