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Nebraska vs. Wayne State, 11/01

Nebraska head coach Tim Miles watches his team warm up before taking on Wayne State on Nov. 1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. 

Tim Miles was studying Ken Pomeroy's numbers before studying Ken Pomeroy's numbers was cool.

The then-North Dakota State coach was one of the early subscribers to Pomeroy's advanced metrics website for college basketball in the early 2000's, using the KenPom statistics to help guide the Bison through a successful transition from Division II to Division I.

Those metrics, and many others, say the three-pointer is the most effective shot in the game. It's worth more, obviously, and much more valuable than a long two-point attempt. Why pull up from 18, 19, or 20 feet when you can stop a little sooner and attempt a shot worth an extra point?

"Actually we’ve been talking about it for years in terms of — we’ve talked about eliminating the dribble two. And that really didn’t resonate very well (with our players)," Miles said as Nebraska prepared for Sunday's game against Southeastern Louisiana. "So we just said, 'take the three.' So it’s not rocket science or anything like that. You just kind of change your terminology."

The change in terminology comes along with a change in how Nebraska's roster is built. Pretty much every Husker, save for maybe former offensive lineman recruit Tanner Borchardt, has the green light from beyond the arc.

Against Mississippi Valley State in the season opener, NU's 15 made threes were the most under Miles. Nebraska's 37 attempts from beyond the mark represented 53.6 percent of its total shot attempts.

That number isn’t likely to stay that high all season, but it is a rather large outlier for a team that just twice since 2001-02 has attempted more than 40 percent of its shots from long range in a season.

"It’s more been a thing that, the guys are a little older, a little more understanding of what it looks like. So they understand that the dribble two is just the least effective shot in basketball," Miles said. "That’s what we’re trying to get our opponents to do, and it’s what we’re trying not to do."

It's also Nebraska following the national trend. Through 117 games played nationally as of Friday afternoon, the Division I three-point rate — the percentage of shot attempts that are three pointers — is at 39.3 percent, according to the KenPom database. 

That's the highest percentage since the NCAA universally adopted the three-point line starting with the 1986-87 season, and a 1.8-percent increase over 2017-18.

While it’s still very early, the year-over-year increase is the most since the 1987-88 and 1988-89 seasons, or, the second and third seasons the three-point line was universal in the college game.

Last season, 35.2 percent of Nebraska’s field goal attempts were three-pointers, the most in Miles’ time in Lincoln. If the Huskers stay on anything even remotely near the pace they established in their season opener, it will be the first time since Miles took over in 2012-13 that NU finishes higher than 151st nationally in three-point rate.

"There’s a trickle-down effect. There’s no doubt that small ball in the NBA has contributed to the renaissance, so to speak. But it’s always been the most effective shot," Miles said. "And I think as analytics have come in the last three or four years, more accepted into play and more talked about, it’s just one of those things that when you look at the rationality of it all, we really need to do a better job of it."

If there's a template to try and duplicate, the Huskers don't even need to look to the pro game. 

Villanova won last year's national title by shooting threes on 55 percent of its field goal attempts, which was 10th in the country. The Wildcats haven't been outside the top 31 nationally in that statistic since the 2012-13 season, and not coincidentally, have won 29, 33, 35, 32 and 36 games while going 165-21 over the past five seasons.

A team that in head coach Jay Wright's early years was among the bottom third in the country in three-point attempts last season broke the NCAA record for made threes and buried Kansas with a Final Four-record 18 threes in the national semifinals.

No one is suggesting Nebraska is on the same trajectory as Villanova. But hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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