How much of a difference the new three-point line in college basketball will make this season depends who's talking. It's been moved back a foot, to 20 feet, 9 inches.
It’s only a foot.
How much difference could it really make?
When it comes to the new three-point line in college basketball this season, it depends who’s talking.
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If it’s Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, the new three-point line — expanded to 20 feet, 9 inches from 19 feet, 9 inches — likely won’t affect the game at all.
“It literally has not changed a thing with us that I’ve noticed [during scrimmages and practices],” Romar said last week at Pac-10 media day.
Washington guard Justin Dentmon agreed, saying earlier in the week, “If you can shoot it, you can shoot it,” and the extra foot won’t matter.
But others around the Pac-10 think the longer distance could make a noticeable impact.
“At first, I didn’t think it would be that big of a difference when I was asked about it,” said Washington State coach Tony Bennett at media day. “But I’ve been noticing in practice how many shots we take on the line [a player standing on the line].
“I think it will separate the men from the boys. There are a lot of guys who think they can shoot the three, and with the new line they may be more selective with their shots. Maybe they will attack and get into the paint more.”
That was one of the intents of the change, which was made in May 2007 but will finally go into effect this season. The NCAA rules committee members who voted for the change felt the three-pointer had become too big a part of the game. When the three-pointer was first instituted in the 1986-87 season, each team took an average of nine three-pointers per game. Last season, that number was a record-high of 19 per team, per game.
The hope is that moving the line back a foot will spread the floor and open up the lane.
Oregon coach Ernie Kent said he wasn’t a proponent of the change, adding, “Our game is a great game. All you had to do is watch the Final Four to know that.”
But Kent said he thinks the change might do some of what the committee wanted.
“It will open up the lane, make it better for the big guys in there,” he said. “Teams will spread it out more. I’ve already noticed that with our team. At the same time, it will bring back the midrange game.”
Kent, though, agrees that players who were good three-point shooters before likely will be now, saying only those who were marginal three-point shooters are likely to be affected. “With our guys, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “If you can make a three or two, just make the shot.”
Of coaches at Pac-10 media day, UCLA’s Ben Howland was the most pessimistic about the direction the change could take the game.
“I knew it would be different,” he said. “[People said] one foot doesn’t matter that much. It does matter a lot. You’ll see more teams go to a zone and pack things in and make the game boring.
“When you play against zones you have to be more patient on offense, so you are going to see a slower-paced game because it takes time to break down a zone. But when you spend the time to do it, you are going to get wide-open shots. The reason they put that rule in is because they thought it would open up the game. I think it is going to have the opposite effect.”
Several players mentioned something those who voted in the rule might not have thought about — the fact that there will now be two three-point lines on the floor, one for the men and one for the women. The women’s line remains at 19-9.
“It’s kind of weird having both lines out there,” said UW forward Jon Brockman, who has never attempted a three-pointer with the Huskies. “It kind of makes you think twice out there.”
Brockman predicted “there will be a lot more shots that are twos instead of threes because people aren’t used to it. Their feet are going to be on the line.”
Oregon’s Tajuan Porter, who has taken 485 three-pointers in his two-year college career, agreed.
“I know on our floor, the [women’s] three-point line is darker than the men’s, so sometimes you have to look down to see if you are shooting a three-pointer,” Porter said. “Out of your peripheral vision, you see the darker line first, so it’s a big adjustment.”
Romar was curious to hear what other coaches and players at media day thought about the line.
But ultimately he stuck to his thinking that it won’t make much difference other than maybe further convincing those who shouldn’t be shooting three-pointers to hesitate even more.
“But those who could shoot it [before] still can,” he said.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org