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college basketball early season regression candidates

College Basketball Early-Season Regression Candidates

Early-season statistics can often skew expectations or projections for the rest of the year due to their small sample size. When analyzing college basketball, it is important to identify unsustainable trends for both teams and individuals.

A regression candidate is a team or player that is averaging a specific statistic that will not last the entire season. If a team is overachieving in a certain area, regression to the historical mean can be expected to a certain extent. Likewise, if a team is severely underachieving expectations, positive regression, or progression to the historical mean can also be anticipated.

Obviously, outliers occur each season, but Kentucky and Tennessee stand out as early-season regression candidates due to their current three-point percentages (3P%).

Kentucky:

Through four games, Kentucky is shooting 23.1% from three-point range. To put that into perspective, there are only two schools in the entire nation (Quinnipiac and Charleston Southern) that currently have a worse 3P%.

Furthermore, UK’s current 3P% includes a 6-of-18 shooting performance against preseason’s top-ranked Michigan State. Aside from that game, here are their totals this season:

  • 2-of-14 (14.3%) against Eastern Kentucky
  • 4-of-17 (23.5%) against Evansville
  • 1-of-12 (8.3%) against Utah Valley

 

Needless to say, Kentucky’s early-season three-point shooting struggles are hindering the Cats, despite their season debut win over MSU.

One of the more concerning aspects of their poor outside shooting is that each of their last three games were at Rupp Arena. It might be understandable for a young team like Kentucky to struggle from outside the arc in their first true road game, but that’s not the case here. To see such poor outside shooting from a talented team is alarming, especially when it leads in part to the year’s biggest upset.

While the current trends are worrying for Kentucky, it is most likely a short-term downswing at the beginning of a long season. UK doesn’t have any true knockdown three-point shooters, but they are collectively better than their 23.1 3P% shown so far.

On an individual level, several players have underperformed compared to their previous rates. Grad-transfer Nate Sestina’s career 3P% is 36.4, and he is averaging 22.2 thus far. After a 3-of-8 start against an elite opponent, Tyrese Maxey shot a combined 2-of-11 from beyond the arc since.

In the last 10 years, the lowest 3P% from a Kentucky team was 33.1%. Over the next few weeks, UK’s 3P% should progress towards the current national mean of 33. Their next four games are against below-average competition, and a get-right spot is upcoming for this talented squad.

Tennessee:

Tennessee is another candidate for regression to the mean, but for the opposite reason. The Volunteers shot the lights out in three out of their four games this year, averaging 41.1% from three-point range. In their first three games, they shot a combined 24-of-52 (46.2%).

While Tennessee’s 3P% as a team is impressive, senior guard Jordan Bowden is converting three-point attempts at an elite level. Since the season opener, in which he missed his only three-point attempt, Bowden shot 12-of-20 (60%) from downtown, including a 6-for-8 game against Murray State.

As fun as this hot streak is to watch, it is likely unsustainable, even for an experienced player like Bowden. His career 3P% is 36.5 with 3.7 three-point attempts per game.

However, just because his current pace is unsustainable, it doesn’t mean that he will regress all the way back to his career average. Through this early stretch of the season, there are a few encouraging signs.

Bowden is averaging more three-point attempts than in previous seasons. He is currently averaging 5.3 three-point attempts per game and has averaged 7 in his last three games. His role in the offense expanded, but his efficiency kept pace so far. Even if he expectedly falls off his current mark, Bowden is primed for a breakout offensive year.