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Ranking the Top 10 3-Point Shooters in College Basketball History

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystJanuary 10, 2017

Ranking the Top 10 3-Point Shooters in College Basketball History

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The three-point shot is the great equalizer in college basketball.

    Like the forward pass in football, the addition of the three-point line was once considered a gimmick. It wasn't until the start of the 1986-87 season that it was nationally adopted, but an ability to shoot three-pointers has become one of the most important aspects of college basketball.

    It will come as a surprise to no one that Stephen Curry is near the top of the list. The baby-faced assassin made 19 of his 36 three-point attempts in the first three games of the 2008 NCAA tournament, leading Davidson to one of the most surprising Elite Eight appearances in history.

    In ranking these top 10 gunners, we considered both accuracy and frequency.

    Hats off to Keydren Clark of Saint Peter's for making 435 career three-pointers, but he didn't even warrant an honorable mention while shooting just 36.5 percent for his career. At the other end of the spectrum, Dan Dickau shot 46.2 percent from beyond the arc in his career at Washington and Gonzaga, but he only made 215 three-pointers in those four years.

    Instead, these are the top 10 players who made a ton of three-pointers without missing a ton as well.

     

    Statistics on the following slides courtesy of NCAA.org, Sports-Reference.com, ESPN.com and KenPom.com (subscription required).

Honorable Mentions

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    Nam Y Huh/Associated Press

    David Holston, Chicago State

    Holston put up downright ridiculous numbers during his four seasons with Chicago State. He finished his career with 450 made three-pointers, 529 assists, 254 steals and 2,331 points.

    However, the 5'8" guard sure did have the benefit of playing a lot of fast-paced games against horrible teams. For all the three-pointers that he made, he only shot 39.2 percent from downtown.

     

    Curtis Staples, Virginia

    Staples finished his career as the all-time leader in three-point field goals and maintained that status for eight seasons until J.J. Redick came along. He now ranks ninth on the list with 413 career triples.

    But Staples shot just 38.2 percent from three-point range for his career. Was he ever actually one of the best three-point shooters of all time, or was he just the first above-average long-range shooter who was allowed to attempt nearly nine three-pointers per game?

    38.2 percent wouldn't even have been good enough to rank in the top 50 for this past season.

     

    Jack Leasure, Coastal Carolina

    A significantly more difficult omission than Holston or Staples, Leasure is one of just five players with at least 400 career three-pointers (411) and at least a 40.5 three-point shooting percentage (40.7). The other four players to achieve those marks all appear in the top six on this list.

    So why not Leasure?

    Quite frankly, he didn't do anything to improve the team. The Chanticleers went 58-59 in his four seasons with the team and failed to make the NCAA tournament even once.

    It's not entirely Leasure's fault that the rest of the team stunk, but we're talking about a team that played as many games against KenPom Top 100 teams as it did against non D-I teams during his four seasons14 of each. I would like to think that one of the 10 best three-point shooters of all time would be able to single-handedly carry a team to at least a .500 record against that strength of schedule.

10. Ryan Wittman, Cornell

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Years Played: 2006-2010

    Three-Pointers Made: 377

    Three-Point Percentage: 43.1

    Before Ryan Wittman arrived at Cornell in the fall of 2006, the Big Red had a losing record in nine consecutive seasons, posting an overall record of 88-154. They had not been to the NCAA tournament since 1988.

    That all changed in a hurry thanks to one of the best three-point shooters to grace the college courts.

    Wittman shot better than 41.5 percent from three-point range in each of his four seasons at Cornell. He averaged at least 15.0 PPG each year, leading the team to three NCAA tournaments and an overall record of 88-33.

    His senior year was Cornell's best ever. The Big Red went 29-5 and knocked off No. 5 seed Temple and No. 4 seed Wisconsin to reach the Sweet 16. In those two games, Wittman made seven of his 11 three-point attempts and averaged 22.0 PPG.

    As soon as Wittman graduated, Cornell's basketball program reverted to its losing ways. The Big Red have had four straight losing seasons since Wittman's departure, including last year's horrendous 2-26 record.

9. Kyle Korver, Creighton

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    LEON ALGEE/Associated Press

    Years Played: 1999-2003

    Three-Pointers Made: 371

    Three-Point Percentage: 45.3

    Kyle Korver is the only player in college basketball history to make at least 370 three-pointers while shooting at least 44.0 percent from long range.

    Unlike a number of the names on the list, Korver didn't play a metric ton of minutes. J.J. Redick logged 4,732 career minutes. Travis Bader was right behind him at 4,702. But Korver played just 3,540 minutes in his four seasons with Creighton.

    There's no way to know if Korver would have maintained his efficiency with tired legs, but extrapolating his per-minute numbers to 4,700 minutes results in 493 career three-pointers.

    However, he struggled when it mattered most. Creighton made the NCAA tournament in all four of his years there, winning a grand total of one game. In those five contests, he shot just 34.8 percent from three-point range.

    Despite putting together a solid career as a three-point specialist in the NBA, it's hard to justify putting Korver in the top five when he was so mortal when the world was watching.

8. Steve Novak, Marquette

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    DARREN HAUCK/Associated Press

    Years Played: 2002-06

    Three-Pointers Made: 368

    Three-Point Percentage: 46.4

    Like Kyle Korver, we're left to wonder what Steve Novak might have accomplished by averaging 35 minutes per game.

    Novak played just 15.9 MPG as a freshman and finished his four-year career averaging 27.0 minutes per contest. It wasn't until his senior season that he averaged better than 30 MPG.

    But Novak made the most of what time he did have on the floor by shooting 46.1 percent from three-point range and 93.1 percent from the free-throw line. Allowing him to take an open shot was pretty much a death sentence.

    So why didn't he play more minutes or take more shots?

    Unfortunately for Novak, his first three years were also Travis Diener's last three years at Marquette. Tom Crean's combo guard averaged 177 assists and 186 three-point attempts during the three seasons that overlapped with Novak.

    Better yet, Novak's freshman season at Marquette was the year that Dwyane Wade exploded onto the national scene and led the Golden Eagles to the Final Four.

    When it was finally Novak's time to shine, he made 46.7 percent of his 259 three-point attempts as a senior, averaging 17.5 PPG in Marquette's first season in the Big East.

7. Jaycee Carroll, Utah State

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Years Played: 2004-08

    Three-Pointers Made: 369

    Three-Point Percentage: 46.5

    There probably aren't very many people who recognize his name, but Jaycee Carroll was one of the most efficient scorers of the past decade.

    While playing for a Utah State team that annually plays at one of the slowest paces in the country, Carroll finished his career with 2,522 points and averaged 1.47 points per field-goal attempt.

    According to KenPom.com (subscription required), Carroll had the highest O-rating in the country among players used on at least 24 percent of possessions during the 2007-08 season. Other names in the top 10 include Kevin Love, Tyler Hansbrough and Stephen Curry.

    Over the last 17 seasons, only Northern Arizona's Stephen Sir finished his collegiate career with a higher three-point percentageand Sir scored less than half as many career points as Carroll.

    It's a shame the Aggies didn't have anyone else who could do anything during Carroll's junior and senior years. He averaged 765.5 points per season for those two years, while no one else on the team eclipsed 470 in either season.

6. J.J. Redick, Duke

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    Craig Jones/Getty Images

    Years Played: 2002-2006

    Three-Pointers Made: 457

    Three-Point Percentage: 40.6

    Anecdotally, J.J. Redick was the best college three-point shooter of all time.

    Statistically? Not quite.

    On one hand, he graduated with more career three-point field goals than any other player in history. Redick shot an impressive 40.6 percent despite having to expend so much energy running around screens all over the court just to get six inches of space to take a shot.

    But compared to the other names on the list, 40.6 percent is almost pathetic. Had Redick shot 46.5 percent like Jaycee Carroll, he would have made an additional 67 three-pointers. He was a volume shooter in an offense that has been designed for three-point shooters for three decades.

    To be fair, fatigue was pretty clearly an issue for Redick, as he seemed to run out of gas at the end of every season. In 14 career NCAA tournament games, Redick shot just 33.9 percent from downtown. He only once shot better than 50 percent in a tournament game and followed up that 5-of-7 effort in a 26-point win with a 1-of-11 outing in a four-point loss in his freshman season.

    Exhausted legs or not, it's a shame that he couldn't come up big when the Blue Devils needed him most. In his four seasons, Duke won 116 games, earning three No. 1 seeds and a No. 3 seed. However, Redick only played beyond the Sweet 16 once.

5. Mark Alberts, Akron

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1988-1993

    Three-Pointers Made: 375

    Three-Point Percentage: 43.9

    Mark Alberts finished his playing career at Akron more than two decades ago, meaning that photos of him in action are pretty much impossible to find. But who doesn't love Zippy?

    Alberts' spot on the list of career three-pointers made is pretty remarkable for several reasons.

    First and foremost, Alberts played sparingly as a freshman. According to Sports-Reference.com, Alberts only logged 308 minutes while making 52.9 percent of the 68 three-pointers he attempted. For the sake of comparison, J.J. Redick played 1,013 minutes as a freshman and made 39.9 percent of his 238 three-point attempts.

    Then, after making 122 three-pointers as a sophomore while shooting 47.3 percent from distance, he suffered a preseason ankle injury that caused him to miss the entire 1990-91 season. He wasn't nearly as accurate after the hiatus but made more than 100 three-pointers in both his junior and senior years.

    Lastly, Alberts didn't play nearly as many games as they do today, logging just 107 games played. Over the course of his final three seasons, he averaged 4.225 made three-pointers per game. By comparison, Redick only averaged 3.29 made three-pointers in his career at Duke.

    Because he played for a small school in a no-name conference a lifetime ago, this might be the only "top three-point shooters" list in the world that has Alberts ranked in the top five. All things considered, though, it's hard to argue against him being one of the best.

4. Travis Bader, Oakland

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Years Played: 2010-14

    Three-Pointers Made: 504

    Three-Point Percentage: 40.5

    Travis Bader didn't just break J.J. Redick's record for three-pointers in a college career, he shattered it.

    Bader broke the record against Milwaukee on Feb. 2 of this past season and proceeded to put a cushion of 47 three-pointers between himself and second place.

    But like Redick, Bader was a volume shooter. Bader made more three-pointers than anyone else on the list, but he also shot at a lower percentage than any of them.

    In 23 of Oakland's 33 games this past season, he attempted at least 10 three-pointers. Bader wasn't quite as happy-go-lucky as Marshall Henderson, but he never met a shot he didn't like.

    Kudos to Bader for breaking the record, but it was a product of nurture more than it was nature. He was in the unique position of playing in an uptempo offense in a below-average conference for a coach who didn't care if he missed 10 three-pointers per game.

    Put Redick on Oakland for four years, and maybe he makes 600 three-pointers.

3. Chris Lofton, Tennessee

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    Travis Lindquist/Getty Images

    Years Played: 2004-08

    Three-Pointers Made: 431

    Three-Point Percentage: 42.2

    Chris Lofton ranks sixth on the all-time list of made three-pointers, but he made his triples at a higher percentage than any other player in the top 20.

    In all four of his seasons, he led the Volunteers in points scored, finishing his career with 2,131. Though his three-point percentage declined each season (from 46.5 as a freshman to 38.4 as a senior), he averaged at least 3.0 made three-pointers per game in each season.

    The National Association of Basketball Coaches voted Lofton as a third-team All-American for his sophomore and junior seasons and put him on the second team for his senior year.

    His final season was Tennessee's best ever. He led the Volunteers to a 31-5 record and their only appearance at No. 1 in the AP poll. Unfortunately, they were unable to secure the first Final Four appearance in school history, as they were destroyed by Louisville in the Sweet 16.

    Hard to believe he never played a game in the NBA.

2. Stephen Curry, Davidson

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    Brett Flashnick/Associated Press

    Years Played: 2006-09

    Three-Pointers Made: 414

    Three-Point Percentage: 41.2

    Stephen Curry is the only player on the list who spent fewer than four seasons in college yet still ranks eighth all-time for made three-point field goals in a college career.

    At an average of 138 three-pointers per season, he would have finished his career with 552. At the time, it would have been the most ever by a margin of 95.

    One of the premier three-point shooters in the NBA today, Curry's numbers actually took a pretty sizable hit in his junior season after Davidson's incredible run to the Elite Eight in 2008.

    After Jason Richards graduated (8.1 APG in 2007-08), Curry had to become a combo guard. Curry's APG nearly doubled from 2.9 to 5.6, and he attempted substantially more two-pointers and free throws in the process of having to become less of a spot-up shooter.

    He still managed to shoot 38.7 percent from three-point range as a junior, but it impacted his career percentage just enough that we couldn't quite put him at No. 1 on the list.

1. Tony Bennett, Virginia

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Years Played: 1988-1992

    Three-Pointers Made: 290

    Three-Point Percentage: 49.7

    It's kind of bizarre that Tony Bennett's teams have come to be renowned for excellent defense, because he was the deadliest three-point shooter of all-time during his playing days with Green Bay.

    Not only does Bennett have the highest career three-point percentage in college basketball history, but the gap between him and second place (46.9 percent) is wider than the gap between second place and 26th place (44.6 percent).

    Bennett didn't make nearly as many three-pointers as everyone else on this list, but the game was a lot different back then.

    During Bennett's freshman season, Michigan won the national championship while attempting just 419 three-pointers as an entire team. That's an average of 11.3 three-point attempts per game. Marshall Henderson single-handedly averaged 12.6 attempts per game last year.

    Connecticut attempted 741 triples en route to the 2014 titlean increase of more than 75 percent from Michigan's tally in 1988-89.

    Had Bennett played five years ago instead of 25 years ago, he most certainly would have attempted more than 584 three-pointers and would be at or near the top of the list of three-pointers made in a career.

     

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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