Regardless, the Tennessee Vols aren't draining treys in 2008-09 the way they did in the past. After hitting 3-pointers at a 36.5 clip in 2006-07 and a 35.7-percent clip in 2007-08, the Big Orange is making just 32.4 percent this season.
In addition to shooting the 3 worse than a year ago, the Vols are defending the 3 worse than a year ago. Opponents are hitting 32.9 percent this season, up from 31.2 last season.
Tennessee's 3-point shooting could be critical since more and more teams are playing zone defense and daring the Vols to launch from outside. After attempting just 84 treys in the first five games (16.8 per outing), the Big Orange attempted 123 in the next five games (24.6 per outing).
The Vols' best 3-point shooter to date has been freshman Scotty Hopson, who checks in at 41.9 percent (13 of 31). Junior college transfer Bobby Maze is shooting 35.0 percent (7 of 20). Redshirt freshman Cameron Tatum (15 of 45) and junior Tyler Smith (5 of 15) are shooting 33.3 percent each. Renaldo Woolridge, a 6-8 freshman, has run hot and cold en route to a 32.6 percent (15 of 46) success rate.
“The thing you've got to do with Renaldo is ask yourself 'What is he good at?' Even if he's out there for 15 minutes, allow him to do what he's good at,” head coach Bruce Pearl said recently. “Right now it's that he's a big man that can shoot the basketball. His percentages aren't as good as you'd like but if you don't let him shoot it, what is he doing out there?”
Junior Wayne Chism is struggling at just 22.7 percent (5 of 22), which has some fans grumbling that the 6-9, 240-pounder needs to be shooting inside the lane rather than outside the arc. Pearl disagrees.
“Wayne got off to a slow start shooting the ball but he's shooting the ball a little bit better,” the head man said. “We need the weapon of Wayne being able to shoot the 3-ball against the best teams on our schedule ... absolutely.”
Josh Tabb (3 of 8, 37.5 percent) probably needs to shoot more from 3, while fellow junior J.P. Prince (1 of 11, 09.1 percent) probably needs to shoot less from 3.
“I think J.P. is going to be somewhat inconsistent from 3,” Pearl said. “It's not his greatest strength but he can shoot it. I don't know that he's ever going to make a great percentage from 3 but he's capable.
“He's better from 2 than he is from 3, so teams are going to guard him that way. They're going to wall him off and try to prevent him from getting to the basket, where he's really good. Therefor, the 3-ball will be presented to him. I don't think he's going to be a great 3-point percentage guy this year but I hope he's going to shoot it well enough that you've got to guard him. If you don't, that's going to make him a less effective passer, playmaker and penetrator.”
Although Pearl wants his players to feel free to unload from 3, he admits that some have more freedom than others. The green light comes with a caution light, as well.
“There's different shades of green,” he said. “I want Scotty and Cameron hunting it and shooting. I want J.P. to feel like when he's open and in the framework of what we're doing, take it. He should not shoot it early. He doesn't have the green light to take a 'huh' shot.”
Here's a game-by-game look at UT's 3-point shooting to date:
11-29 in Game 1 vs. Chattanooga
2-17 in Game 2 vs. UT-Martin
4-8 in Game 3 vs. Middle Tennessee
6-14 in Game 4 vs. Siena
10-16 in Game 5 vs. Georgetown
7-24 in Game 6 vs. Gonzaga
7-22 in Game 7 vs. UNC Asheville
6-26 in Game 8 vs. Temple
6-22 in Game 9 vs. Marquette
8-29 in Game 10 vs. Belmont