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Time to worry about the 3-point streak, again.


It has been nearly 30 years and 1,013 games since Kentucky played a basketball game where they didn’t make a three point basket. Everyone reading this is well aware that is the longest active streak in college basketball. It means absolutely nothing, but by god, I’m not above caring about it a great deal. The day it ends, I will be slightly heartbroken. That is, if it ends.

One of the main concerns with this year’s team is its outside shooting. If you’re like me, in the back of your mind, there is a worry that this year may be the year we see the streak end. No? Didn’t occur to you? Ok, well, I’ll just pretend as if you care. I went back and gathered shooting data from every team since the streak started just to see if we have reason to worry.

I went back and charted UK’s three point data (3pt attempts, 3pt made, 3pt percentage) since the streak started in 1988.

Since 1988, Kentucky has shot 19,429 threes and made 6,894 of those attempts. This gives UK a 3-point shooting percentage of around 35%. Not too bad. Most importantly, this gives us a big sample size to base our conclusions off of.

First, let’s determine the probability UK missing all their 3-point attempts in a given game. I used the cumulative stats since 1988 as guidelines to determine variables. Since 1988, UK has shot at about a 35% clip while shooting about 19 threes a game. Pretty simple. The probability is just the chance of a miss to the 19th power. Doing the math:

P(x)=(.65)^19

= about .0003

So, in a given game there is a .03% chance of UK missing all their 3-point shot attempts. But hey, they’ve played 1,013 games. So, in that span, what kind of odds have we overcome to maintain our favorite streak? Well, more math:

P(x)=nCx*p^x*(1-p)^n-x

=1013C1*(.0003^1) *(1-.0003)^(1013-1)

=about .224

This means that in 1013 games played, there is a 22.4% chance of UK playing a game in which they fail to make a three. While impressive, UK’s streak isn’t super unlikely. The numbers favor us making at least one three in all of our games.

However, with each game played this year our odds of ending the streak will go up but by a very insignificant amount. After 30 games our chances will have gone from 22.4% to 22.8%. It’s an increase but not by much, even if we shoot at less than a 35% clip from behind the arc. In conclusion, while it’s possible for our beloved three point streak to end, the numbers suggest it’s more likely the streak will live on.

This data gives even less meaning to this streak and more reason to not care about it at all. Frankly, I don’t care what the numbers say. I like the streak and I will continue to care about it because I want to. It’s fun and I hope it never ends.

Article written by Barrett Lindsey

I drive a Saturn. Here's my twitter handle that you probably won't follow: @BarrySliceKSR

8 responses to “Time to worry about the 3-point streak, again.”

  1. Dusten

    Hmm, I feel like standard deviation should have been involved here. Not a mathematician, but this seems overly simplistic and sort of downplays the streak. How many one-three-pointer-made-games have there been over that time period?

  2. Rixter

    If the 3-point streak is in your Top 10 concerns in life, then you’re living a pretty magical existence

  3. sap

    In effect, you assume that each three point shot has an independent probability of being made. You also make the underlying assumption that the number of three point attempts is constant at 19 each game. Both really, really throw off the calculations and really underplay how impressive the streak is. In computing these probabilities, we cannot just assume that things “balance out”.

    I’ll use an extreme example to clarify the point, but the affect still applies in less extreme examples. Suppose there were two consecutive games. In the first, game UK took 0 3pt attempts. In the second game, 38 3 pt attempts. It averages out to 19 3pt attempts per game. However, the chance of the streak ending is 100%.

    Certain teams make guarding the 3pt line a huge emphasis. Also, certain UK teams have had far below 35% 3pt averages. There is a huge amount of probabilistic dependence.

    Long story short — if we look at the number of teams with a streak even close to this long, it is a very select list. This should be the real story about how difficult a streak it is.

  4. tfordstyle

    This post smells of garlic farts.

  5. ukkatzfan

    My guess is the 3pt streak is broke this year. And that will be the deciding factor into Cal going to coach the Rockets where he will be joined by Boogie and Lebron to win a NBA title to hang next to the Astros world series banner. #GoStoops

  6. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door

    Will there be a final exam? 😜

  7. TheNewOriginal

    Excellent post.

  8. Ukgrad2006

    Why are we even talking about this… We have the Almighty Savior on our team, BRAD CALIPARI! Fear not, this streak is still good for another 3 years.