March Madness: What Role Did the Three-Point Shot Play in the Round of 64?

Did first round winners shoot more? Or were they simply more efficient from beyond the arc?

There are a ton of ways to win NCAA tournament games.

Teams have done it with offensive pace, defensive pressure and elite rebounding, among many other things. You could certainly argue that three-point shooting is up at the top of that list, as well.

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As we stared down this year's 68 teams, we had no choice but to consider long-range shooting as a major factor. Three-point shooting teams abounded, as the tournament field consisted of 11 of the top 25 teams in made threes, 14 of the top 25 in three-point shooting percentage, and 4 of the top 25 (4 of the top 18, actually) in three-point attempt rate for the NCAA regular season.

Here at numberFire, we even pointed out a handful of games that could be decided by three-point shooting.

Looking back at the first round as a whole, has the triple affected the outcome of the games? If so, how much?

Here's how the Round of 64 winners performed when posting a better three-point attempt rate (3PAr), making more three-pointers or shooting a superior percentage from long range.

Winners 3PAr 3PM 3P%
Count 10 11 23
Total Games 32 32 32
Win Percentage 31.3% 34.4% 71.9%

In a nutshell, efficiency has trumped volume. Among the trio of different three-point categories, attempt rate was the least likely to lead to a win. Three-point makes were almost as equally a non-factor. In fact, when making 10 or more shots from beyond the arc, teams are 4-6 through the Round of 64.

On the other hand, when possessing the advantage in terms of three-point percentage, team's are 23-9 through the first 32 games. On Day 1, their record was even better, at 13-3. In the 23 total wins, teams' average three-point percentage was 42.0%.

The only teams to lead in all three categories and emerge victorious were: top seeds Gonzaga and Kansas, 2 seed Duke, 7 seed Saint Mary's, 8 seed Wisconsin and 9 seed Michigan State. So, it's clear that winning all three categories isn't of the utmost importance. And the same goes for just simply obtaining three-pointers in volume.

A winning three-point shooting team seems to be the most efficient one. They make the most of their attempts, no matter the volume. It will be interesting to see if this trend holds as the tournament progresses into the second and third rounds of play. Until then, it's certainly something to watch for in today's contests.