12/17/22 Davidson, Fletcher Loyer 3-pointer

Freshman guard Fletcher Loyer shoots a 3-pointer against Davidson during the Indy Classic at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Loyer hit 1 of 8 from 3-point range.

The Purdue basketball team ranks 303rd in Division I men’s basketball in 3-point shooting after 13 games.

Showing the potential for improvement after starting the year 34.5% from behind the arc, Purdue failed to effectively turn around its 3-point shooting struggles in the next four games. The most recent game against Florida A&M was a particularly underwhelming performance, with a 6-of-25 shooting from behind the arc.

As they enter conference play, the Boilermakers’ only visible stain seems to be their shooting woes. They are 13-0 with a top-25 defense and top-5 offense, according to Kenpom.com, an online statistical ranking.

Of the last 22 national champions, 16 have shot at least 37% from behind the arc. If Purdue were named the national champion today, its current percentage of 30.5 would place it dead last among all champions since 2000.

It is unexpected for the team to shoot as poorly as they have. Fortunately, strong offensive rebounding and impressive 2-point shooting have helped maintain a high level of offensive performance.

However, it's likely that what were close wins against Nebraska and Davidson will soon become losses in the more challenging conference play that lies ahead for the Boilers if the team doesn’t shooter better from 3.

So is this a cause for concern for the team?

An easy way to see if the team’s 3-point shooting is more a factor of random chance, rather than outside factors, is to look at this statistically. Stay with me here while I try to explain this in mathematical terms.

A Wald interval, also known as a binomial proportion confidence interval, is a way to estimate the probability of an event occurring based on the number of times it has occurred in a sample. This interval gives us a sense of the range of possible values for Purdue's 3-point shooting percentage and quantifies the uncertainty of the current shooting.

The 95% confidence interval for Purdue's 3-point shooting, is between 36.9% and 29.9%. This means if the team were to take an unlimited number of 3-point shots, its shooting in the same sample size would fall within this range 95% of the time.

Given that the Boilers could have realistically achieved a shooting percentage between 36.9% and 29.9% at the onset of the season, the current 30.5% figure is subject to fluctuation. In other words, the sample size of Purdue's shooting statistics is still too limited at this juncture of the season to be predictive of the final figure.

It is still possible the Boilermakers have been significantly unlucky and will, in fact, bounce back to the league average of 34% or even higher. It is not uncommon for teams to experience shooting slumps, and it is likely that Purdue's current woes are simply a result of random chance.

Head coach Matt Painter remains steadfast in his belief that the shooting will eventually turn around.

"We just didn't make open shots, and the guys we had shooting the basketball are guys that make more than they (did tonight)," Painter said after the Nebraska game, in which the team shot 7 of 29 from behind the arc.

In nearly every game in which the Boilers struggled with their 3-point shooting, Coach Painter has lauded the team's shooting ability and emphasized that the shots taken have been quality looks.

Painter's assertions are supported by analytical evidence. Purdue ranks first among all teams in terms of offensive shot quality, according to ShotQuality.com, a website that analyzes multiple variables (who is shooting, shot distance, player shooting ability, etc.) of each shot to rate its quality.

Purdue is getting its best shooters open looks. And the shooters aren’t the problem either.

Last year's team boasted 38.4% 3-point accuracy, ranking fifth in the nation. While the team lost two key shooters in Jaden Ivey and Sasha Stefanovic, they were replaced with freshmen Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer.

Loyer won the national high-school 3-point contest last year, and Smith leads the team in 3-point percentage. Young players do, however, take time to adjust their shooting to the college level.

As the Boilermakers enter conference play, it is worth considering their impressive performance against top-ranked opponents. When the team was shooting at its peak, 38%, it decisively defeated heavyweights such as Duke and Gonzaga in lopsided victories.

It will hope to do the same against the next opponent, Rutgers, which brings back bad memories from the last time Purdue played it while ranked No. 1 overall.

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