Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Impact Of The New Three

Posted by Zach on June 30, 2008 photo

In the scope of college basketball these days, more and more teams are relying heavily on the three-point shot to win games. At just 19 feet and 9 inches away from the basket, the three-point line has opened up scoring opportunities for long-range dynamos like Stephen Curry and Chris Lofton that seem to be taken with more frequency than the lost art of the mid range shot. Mid majors run their offense not around “how can we get the ball into the paint?” but “how can we get the best look from three?” Basketball, especially at the college level, has changed dramatically.

That’s why I’ve been surprised talk about the three-point line move from 19’9 to 20’9 hasn’t received as much publicity. Sure, the move isn’t too awfully drastic, and I’m sure teams had the new line painted in their gym just seconds after their 07-08 season came to an end, but it’s still a move that may turn marginal three-point poppers into terrible ones, and could turn some marginal three-point shooting teams into ones addicted to their worst enemy.

Without even looking this up, I could have guessed Butler shot the most threes of any team in the nation last season. As most compelling mid-majors tend to be, Butler has always been centered around the three-point shot. They actually take more threes (40.8% of their shots) than twos (39.1%), and you can be sure head coach Brad Stevens recruited more Indiana boys ready to shoot 3’s.

The loss of A.J. Graves, Pete Campbell, Julian Betko and Mike Green may squelch that plan slightly, but this how Butler plays, along with many other mid-majors. Drake shot 38.4% of their shots from downtown, Davidson 34.4%, BYU 33.1%…and even high majors like Georgetown, Oregon and Vanderbilt (all over 1/3 of their shots) could be affected. How are freshman on these teams going to adjust? Will, say, Brad Stevens or Bob McKillop allow his team to shoot 35% of their shots from deep when, surely, the national percentage will go down with the line being pushed back?

It opens up an interesting question that these coaches must consider. It also lends to the idea that high-majors who have the recruiting prowess to reel in these talented 6’9 and 6’10 forwards and centers that dominate the post, once again, have the ultimate advantage. The teams that relied on the three-point shot less than anyone else, North Carolina at 18.8%, will not be affected. Connecticut, Michigan State and UCLA are all also members of the top five. UNC, for example, loves to penetrate with Ty Lawson or feed the post to Tyler Hansbrough. Wayne Ellington and Danny Green are the only players who can become too three-heavy at times, until Roy Williams sets them straight.

What you could see from the new three-point line: a decrease in the number of threes taken and threes made, coaches disallowing their low-30% three-point shooters to pop treys at any open look, a struggle for freshmen mostly relying on the long jumper, a decrease in the amount of mid-majors stunning high-majors by pouring in threes, at least for the time being. The move may be somewhat subtle, but will the impact be?


3 Responses to “Impact Of The New Three”

  1. Dan said

    I actually don’t think the change is going to have a huge impact. The one thing it will do is the power forward-type players that shoot a three every once in awhile will probably just stop for good. And teams might spread the floor a little more.

    But I think mid-majors that shoot the 3 well will continue to do so, and players that can stroke it from the outside won’t be affected that much. Shooting if from just one more foot back shouldn’t be a huge issue.

  2. Patrick said

    The biggest effect will be that teams will spread the floor more, therefore giving the major conference teams with quicker and stronger players an advantage.

  3. Zach said

    I agree, Dan, it won’t be a huge issue. But you could see some trend changes if the percentages start dipping even by single points, and you may see less and less marginal three-point shooters take those types of shots with as much frequency. The impact won’t be gigantic by any means. More small than anything.

    I think it was a good move for college basketball in the overall.

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