On Oct. 25, a million years and an entire regular season of college basketball ago, Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico sat in front of reporters at Crisler Center for her team’s media day, explaining her blueprint for the Wolverines’ offense in the post-Naz Hillmon era.
Central to their scheme, Barnes Arico shared, would be an increased focus on 3-point shooting. In the 2021-22 season, Michigan finished 12th in the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage, making just 30% of its shots from deep.
In spite of that, the Wolverines ranked fifth in overall scoring offense across the conference. The need for high-volume, accurate three-point shooting felt less pressing due to the dominance of Hillmon on the interior.
Following Hillmon’s departure, Barnes Arico promised a refocused Michigan offense — one committed to making the 3-pointer an integral part of its identity.
“This year, way different than last year, we’re gonna shoot the basketball.” Barnes Arico said.
But after the completion of the regular season — during which the Wolverines shot 33.8% from deep — it’s worth examining whether or not that increased dependence on 3-pointers ended up happening. Statistically, Michigan shot marginally better from beyond the arc and at a higher volume this season. But more impactful than those year-to-year percentage increases has been the development of reliable 3-point scoring from new sources as the season has progressed.
“We are going to shoot it more than ever before,” Barnes Arico said on Oct. 12. “We have some really great scorers from the outside, and I think we’re going to open up the floor a little bit more.”
And during regular season play, the Wolverines did shoot more from outside than the year prior — though not by much. This year, the Wolverines averaged six made 3-pointers per game on the season, good for 11th in the Big Ten.
Leading the attack from deep is senior guard Maddie Nolan, who averages 5.9 attempts per game on 33.3% shooting. Nolan — who earned the moniker ‘Maddie Nylon‘ for her prowess from deep — shoots more than double the amount of 3-pointers of any teammate.
But while the increase of 1.4 made shots since the 2021-22 season had a palpable impact on the Wolverines’ offense, the number isn’t indicative of the remarkable change in offensive priorities promised by Barnes Arico.
Omitted from those numbers, but notable in the story of Michigan’s season, was the improvement of role-players from deep as the season ensued. Young players found themselves building increased roles through reliable shooting.
One player whose three-point prowess shown through in key moments was sophomore guard Jordan Hobbs.
Hobbs’ role at the beginning of the year was limited, but an injury to sophomore guard Laila Phelia thrust her into the starting lineup over the season’s final month. And some big 3-pointers in meaningful minutes aided the Wolverines’ offense throughout that stretch. In their Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal loss to Ohio State on March 3, Hobbs’ four-point play to open scoring set the tone for one of their strongest showings of the season.
“Jordan starting off the game with the and-1 three kind of started the momentum for us,” Nolan said after the game.
And the list of improved shooters doesn’t end with Hobbs. After shooting under 30% on 3-point shots a year ago, Phelia transformed into a crucial piece of the Michigan attack from deep. Her ability to shoot, and make, 3-pointers at a high clip ended up being the difference in a number of contests, and it was a major reason why she earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors.
Despite those marginal changes in both volume and efficiency, the impact of those newfound 3-pointer’s reliability played a huge role in the revamped Wolverines attack.
And as Michigan heads into the NCAA Tournament, continued improvement from beyond the arc will be key in its ability to make a run.