The Chase for 180: A quest to find college basketball’s best shooter

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Who is the best shooter in the country?

It’s a tough question to answer, isn’t it? Does being a “shooter” simply mean merely being a high-level marksman from beyond the arc? Can a player who thrives in the mid-range but rarely ventures out into three-point land be eligible? How heavily should we be valuing stats like efficiency and effective field goal percentage when taking all of this into account?

One number that we like to use is “180”. How do you become a 180 shooter? By shooting 50% or better from the field overall, 40% or better from three and at least 90% from the charity stripe. No college basketball player accomplished that feat last season, but Creighton’s Doug McDermott did become a 180 shooter, with his 49.0% 3PT making up for shooting “just” 87.5% from the free throw line.

Below, listed in alphabetical order, are ten returning players likely to merit consideration this season. Later this month, we’ll begin providing weekly updates tracking this.

1) Sean Armand (Iona): 161.2 
2012-13: 16.6 ppg, 43.5% FG, 40.9% 3PT, 76.8% FT

Prior to Stephen Curry knocking down 11 three-pointers against the Knicks in February, who held the Madison Square Garden record for most three-pointers made in a game? That would be Armand, who’s back for his senior season after averaging 16.6 points per game in 2012-13. With Lamont “Momo” Jones out of eligibility, there may be more shot opportunities for Armand and he has the skill needed to take advantage.

2) Travis Bader (Oakland): 166.6
2012-13: 22.1 ppg, 39.4% FG, 38.6% 3PT, 88.6% FT

The field goal percentage is a little low, but keep in mind that Bader is asked to do a lot for the Golden Grizzlies on the offensive end of the floor. Bader finished the 2012-13 season with a shot percentage of 29.2%, leading Oakland in that statistical category by more than five percentage points. He’ll certainly get shots up, and if he can knock them down at a higher clip he’ll be a fixture on the list.

3) Jeff Elorriaga (Boise State): 159.1
2012-13: 10.2 ppg, 44.4% FG, 44.7% 3PT, 70.0% FT

Much of the attention during the preseason has been heaped upon Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks and with good reason, as those two are the feature offensive options for the Broncos. Don’t forget about Elorriaga, who has turned into one of the Mountain West’s best perimeter shooters. The question for Elorriaga: how many free throws will he attempt after shooting just 40 in 2012-13?

4) Corey Hawkins (UC Davis): 171.6
2012-13: 20.3 ppg, 47.4% FG, 40.0% 3PT, 84.2% FT

The son of Hersey Hawkins can light it up, as evidenced by his 41-point outing in a win at Hawaii last season. The junior, who began his collegiate career at Arizona State, reached double figures in 26 of the 28 games he played in. And in Big West play Hawkins shot 53.7% from the field, 52.5% from three and 81.1% from the foul line.

5) Tyler Haws (BYU): 174.1
2012-13: 21.7 ppg, 48.3% FG, 38.1% 3PT, 87.7% FT

Haws will be an All-America candidate this season, due not only to his ability to find (and create) quality looks but to also knock them down at a high rate. Haws dropped 42 on Virginia Tech last season, shooting 14-for-15 from the field (6-for-8 3PT) and 8-for-9 from the foul line. Failing to reach double figures just twice in 2012-13, there will be no shortage of quality looks for Haws this year.

6) R.J. Hunter (Georgia State): 158
2012-13: 17.0 ppg, 43.9% FG, 36.5% 3PT, 77.6% FT

Hunter’s presence is one big reason why the Panthers are capable of winning the Sun Belt in their first season in the league. With a year of experience under his belt, Hunter should be even better-equipped to deal with the different looks opponents will show. And don’t underestimate the impact that Ryan Harrow’s arrival can potentially have on the quality of shots Hunter finds within the GSU offense.

7) Doug McDermott (Creighton): 191.3
2012-13: 23.3 ppg, 54.8%, 49.0% 3PT, 87.5% FT

McDermott is also one of the best players in the country, returning to Creighton to take on the new challenge that is the Big East. And while the level of competition is raised, McDermott will continue to find quality looks within the Bluejay offense. As a junior McDermott failed to shoot at least 40% from the field in just six of Creighton’s 36 games, and given how many shots he attempted (518) that’s rather impressive.

8) Preston Medlin (Utah State): 168.5
2012-13: 47.4% FG, 39.3% 3PT, 81.8% FT

Medlin played in just 16 games last season due to a broken wrist, but he’s healthy now and will once again be primary scoring option for the Aggies. Like McDermott he’ll have to get used to tougher competition, as Utah State makes the move from the WAC to the Mountain West, but he’ll be fine. As a sophomore (2011-12) Medlin shot 49.6% from the field, 42.8% from beyond the arc and 80.1% from the charity stripe.

9) Nik Stauskas (Michigan): 175.4
2012-13: 11.0 ppg, 46.3% FG, 44.0% 3PT, 85.1% FT

We’ve seen the videos of Stauskas’ shooting exploits, and he’s proven to be quite the marksman in game action as well. The Ontario native worked hard to expand his game during the offseason, and if the end result proves to be more quality looks from inside of the arc Stauskas will be a fixture on this list.

10) C.J. Wilcox (Washington): 160.1
2012-13: 16.8 ppg, 41.9% FG, 36.6% 3PT, 81.6% FT

By the time Wilcox’s senior season ends he’ll be Washington’s all-time leader in made three-pointers, and he can score from anywhere on the floor. But Wilcox’s staying power on this list could come down to how some of his teammates perform offensively; if they prove to be consistent threats the fifth-year season will reap the benefits in the form of higher percentage looks.

Five freshmen to keep in mind

1) Jabari Bird (California)

2) Conner Frankamp (Kansas)

3) Aaron Harrison (Kentucky)

4) Jabari Parker (Duke)

5) James Young (Kentucky)

Mykhailiuk returning to Kansas for senior season

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Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.

Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

Senior year gonna be fun😈👌🏼🤘🏼 #KUCMB

A post shared by Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (@sviat_10) on

The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.

Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.

Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.

Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.

Swanigan to stay in draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.