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The Bearcats’ Trouble with the Three

Cincinnati’s incredible defense had a weak point last season: the Bearcats weren’t always able to shut down shooters from deep.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-St. Joseph's vs Cincinnati Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The identity of the Cincinnati Bearcats begins and ends with defense. Everybody knows that. However, despite its prowess, UC was not a perfect defensive machine last season.

While the Bearcats made it so opponents were almost wasting their time trying to score in close to the rim, with UC ranking third in the country in opponent two-point field goal percentage (.413), they did not do as good a job of keeping foes from taking and making shots from long range. In fact, UC did a bad job of defending the 3-point line. The Bearcats allowed 240 3-pointers on a success rate of 34.7 percent, ranking 217th and 249th in the nation in each category, respectively. Of the 2090 total points they allowed, 34.4 percent (720) came from beyond the arc, while teams averaged 7.3 triples per game.

Perhaps surprisingly, this weak point did not always lead to a bad result for the Bearcats. Quite the contrary. In 14 games, UC allowed more than seven 3-pointers, and the team went 10-4 in those contests. However, those four losses were some of the most devastating of the season. Iowa State hit nine 3-pointers on 30 tries in an 81-79 win. Temple went 10-for-22 in its 77-70 win at Fifth Third Arena (plus Devin Coleman hit another five by himself in the Owls’ double overtime win later in the year). Then UConn and St. Joseph’s hit 10 and nine, respectively, during the Bearcats’ brutal last two games of the campaign.

In the overall scheme of things, having more trouble against the the three is better than not being able to tighten up in the paint. Essentially, UC was employing the same tactic most people use in pick-up games. Let the other team beat you with threes while keeping things locked down when they drive to the hoop. However, as the 3-point shot continues to dominate the game, UC would be smart to start making 3-point defense a larger priority.