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The Daily Tar Heel

Analysis: How the 3-point revolution impacted UNC basketball

Joel Berry NCSU

Guard Joel Berry II (2) celebrates during North Carolina's 96-89 win over N.C. State on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018 at PNC Arena.

The 3-point shot has revolutionized the game of basketball. 

In the last ten years, five national championship teams have finished in the top 30 in 3-point accuracy. The two most recent champions, Villanova and Virginia, finished in the top 15 in 3-point shooting, shooting 40.1% and 39.5%, respectively. 

But how has the revolution from deep shaped the recent successes and failures of North Carolina basketball.


Despite Head Coach Roy Williams' emphasis on play in the paint, the Tar Heels aren't immune to the rising importance of the 3-pointer. When there is individual 3-point success at UNC, national championships seem to follow. 

Each of the last three UNC championship teams had at least one guard in the top-five list of most career 3-pointers in North Carolina program history. Joel Berry, Wayne Ellington and Rashad McCants occupy spots No. two, four and five on the list, respectively. 

The other two players on that list are Shammond Williams, who helped the Tar Heels to three Final Fours in his career, and Marcus Paige, who hit an unforgettable game-tying 3-point shot with seconds left in the 2016 title game. 

In the 2016-17 campaign, Justin Jackson joined Berry from beyond the arc by racking up 105 triples, the North Carolina single-season basketball record. Roy Williams' other two championship teams enjoyed team success from beyond the arc, with the 2009 team shooting 38.7 percent and the 2005 team shooting 40.3 percent.


When the Tar Heels aren't sharp from 3-point land, on the other hand, the season as a whole seems to fall flat. In the two seasons that Roy Williams has missed the NCAA Tournament at North Carolina, his teams shot below 33% from deep. 

In the 2009-10 season, UNC ranked 235th in Division 1 in 3-point percentage. This past season was even worse, with the Tar Heels falling to 306th and barely cracking 30% from downtown. 

In these two seasons, North Carolina finished in the bottom third of the ACC standings. This past year marked Williams' first losing season as a coach.

Next season's outlook from deep

The lack of 3-point success last season could become even more daunting for Tar Heel fans with some of their best outside shooters leaving. Cole Anthony declared for the NBA Draft, while Brandon Robinson and Christian Keeling are graduating.

Williams will be looking to rising sophomore Anthony Harris to help fill the gap. Harris, who missed the majority of the season with an ACL tear, shot 42.9% from three in his five games for UNC this season. 

A pair of top guard prospects, Caleb Love and R.J. Davis, also have the potential to fill the gap. And Puff Johnson, another incoming first-year, will hope to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Cameron, who is second all-time in single-season 3-pointers and gave the Tar Heels a boost from downtown.

For UNC to get back to its winning ways, it seems, the team will have to light it up from deep next season.


@DTHSports |

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