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Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Updated: September 18, 4:32 PM ET
THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL DEPARTMENT

By Elena Bergeron and Ryan McGee

ONE GIANT LEAP

This is the cast of characters who participated in the 1986 NBA Three-Point Shootout. Wonder how they'd feel about the new line.

It's just a foot. That's both a lament and the sigh of relief bubbling from the college ranks since everyone has had a chance to check out the new three-point line that debuts this season.

For designated shooters, especially those who have had experience with the international arc (which is three inches closer than the new 20'9" college line), the move won't do much but help to settle the pecking order. "I ended up playing Patty Mills [of the Aussie national team and Saint Mary's] in Greece, and he was hitting 25-footers," says BYU swingman Jonathan Tavernari (37.6% 3FG), who played for his national Brazilian team this summer. "I came back and hit a 30-footer to beat the buzzer. Good shooters are used to hitting shots from anywhere. We'll see who's who in college this year."

Maybe so. Then again, anyone expecting long-distance shooting percentages to crash could be on the wrong track. In fact, it's everyone but the deep shooters who will feel the effects most. "Guys will have to set screens farther out, especially if you're running a play designed for a three," says Miami guard Jack McClinton (42.7% 3FG). "And the bigs who do step out will have to learn to settle for the midrange shot."

You know who is going to like the renovation, though? Schools that run fourand five-out offensive sets (think Air Force and Duke). Those teams will thrive on a floor that is spread even more. So will teams with spacing-heavy systems (Georgetown, Memphis).

Even if the shooters want to downplay the new dimensions, it's hard to argue with the NCAA's attempt to close in on the NBA's measurements. (For now, it's the only league to do so, but in 2010, FIBA's three-point line jumps back to 22'2", and its trapezoidal lane will be chucked.) Some think the homogenization isn't going far enough. Florida's Billy Donovan, for one, thinks that while they were at it, they should have widened the college lane to match the size of the NBA lane. It's a valid request. Problem is, when the three-point legislation passed in 2007, the NCAA decided it would cost too much to get all the courts up to the new code.

Still, even Donovan would have to admit that the small step back is a step in the right direction.


MESSING WITH SUCCESS

When Gus Johnson called this kid "Spider-Man," we almost lost it.

Stephen Curry can't stop viewing the tape of Davidson's painful Elite Eight loss to Kansas. But he never makes it to the final play, the one in which he dumps the ball to Jason Richards for a desperate final brick. He's much more interested in what Richards does in the first 39 minutes.

This year, Richards' job, running the point, will be Curry's. "It is different," admits the 20-year-old All-America junior. "But I did play the position in high school, so it's not totally foreign. And I've had some help getting reacquainted."

By "some help" he means one-on-one instruction from ball distributing paragons like Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, Steve Nash and LeBron. "All summer long, I'd have no idea where he'd be calling from," says Wildcats head coach Bob McKillop. "If someone had a camp for point guards, Stephen was there. And I got rave reviews."

At first blush, McKillop's decision to move his star scorer seems just this side of insane. Who in his right mind would consciously curtail the number of shots taken by the nation's best shooter (25.9 ppg, 43.9% 3FG)? But coach and player argue that fewer shots won't necessarily be the result of the switch. They figure it can't hurt that Curry will be controlling the game's tempo and be better able to pick the defender he wants to exploit.

"In our system, when the point passes, he has to move all over the floor to find the ball again," says Curry. "I'll still get my shots off a screen or have the ball late in the shot clock. I get to be more aggressive. I just need to limit my mistakes."

Like the one he made on that last bit of tape he refuses to watch.

- RYAN MCGEE