Commentary

Is one foot back on the 3-point line a step forward for NCAA hoops?

Originally Published: July 11, 2008
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

AKRON, Ohio -- One after the other, the 3-point shots were off the mark. It was just a drill with some of the top college guards in the country at the LeBron James Skills Academy.

It doesn't mean much since it was just a random Tuesday in early July. But throughout the drill, a few players glanced down to make sure they were behind the right 3-point line -- the new 3-point line, one that is a foot farther back than it has been.

[+] Enlargenew NCAA 3-point line
AP GraphicsThe men's basketball 3-point line has moved a foot back from 19 feet, 9 inches to 20 feet, 9 inches.
Next season, the 3-point line will move from 19 feet, 9 inches to 20 feet, 9 inches. That by itself could be an issue for plenty of players, regardless of position. But making the issue more confusing, the women didn't move their line back. So, in the majority of arenas, where the men and women play on the same court, there will be two lines marking the 3-point line, as was the case at Akron's Rhodes Arena earlier this week.

"It's hard to tell what line you're behind when you're pulling up," said Gonzaga sophomore wing Austin Daye. "It's hard to look down, so you have to have the instinct to know where you are."

Akron's women's 3-point line was the traditional black that matched the outline of the lane. The new 3-point line was white.

"It's very distracting," said South Carolina junior guard Devan Downey. "We're one of those schools where the men and women play on the same court, so you've got to be mentally ready. If you take the 3, you need to make sure you're taking the new one, not the old 3. You don't want to hit a big shot and it's a 2, not a 3."

Arizona State sophomore guard James Harden said he believes some shooters might adjust their form for the longer shot.

"One foot is a big difference," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "Percentages will go down for some. It was good that we kept the lane the same so there will be more separation [between the lane and the 3-point line] so we won't clog [the middle] up. Everybody may go down, and a marginal 3-point shooter may now be below marginal."

A number of coaches expressed concern about how officials will handle the two-line discrepancy, especially early in the season.

"It may depend on which line is the darker color," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "At our place, the women's line will be the dark line like it always has been and ours will be lighter. It may be difficult for the officials to determine. Everyone has to be really focused to get it right."

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said the biggest change will come with more zone defense and less hedging out to challenge a shooter.

That's a problem for some teams, but not all. Davidson's Stephen Curry said his team's spacing is so good, so wide, that 1 foot won't make a difference in how the Wildcats shoot or are defended.

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Curry's coach, Bob McKillop, was coaching the U.S. Under-18 national team in Washington, D.C., this week as it prepared for the competition next week in Argentina. He said terminology will be a problem for him. He said he regularly tells players to get to the top of the 3-point spot, but is that the top of the circle at the lane (the women's line) or the new 3-point line a foot back?

"It will be confusing for the players, no matter what we say now," McKillop said Wednesday after practice at the Washington Wizards' training facility at the Verizon Center. "I wish we had a standard line across every level of play, college, FIBA, the NBA."

Pearl insisted that the most controversial issue will be more stoppage of play for officials to review replays on whether the shot was a 3-pointer or a 2-pointer. Officials can review scoring and timing issues but not judgment calls.

John Clougherty, the ACC's coordinator of officials, who was watching referees at the LeBron camp, said the issue came up at the league's spring meetings. Clougherty said schools must make the lines different colors.

"We want to get it right," Clougherty said. He added that officials won't hesitate to review more shots if there are questions because of the two lines, especially early in the season as everyone is adjusting to the new rule.

If there was a consensus, though, it is that the skilled shooting big men, the power forwards and centers, who can step out and shoot 3s will be affected most by the increased distance.

"Those bigs may not shoot it from that line as much as they had," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "A lot of teams have their 4s and 5s shoot that shot. They may not now."

The 1-foot change "may throw them off," said Miami guard Jack McClinton of the shooting bigs.

[+] EnlargeJack McClinton
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesMiami's Jack McClinton is one player who doesn't anticipate any problems with the new 3-point line.
But not every team's big men are that tied to 19-9.

"You'll still see Tyler [Hansbrough] shoot some this year, and you'll see [incoming freshman] Tyler Zeller, too," Williams said. "Both those guys can shoot them."

Not everyone is buying that a foot ultimately will make much of a difference. Syracuse's Jonny Flynn said players have all summer to work on increasing their range. He said there is plenty of time to make an adjustment.

Baylor point guard Curtis Jerrells said point guards should have the peripheral vision to see whether a wing is on the right line before giving up the pass to a shooter. Drew said his players take deep 3s anyway.

"I never toed the line anyway," McClinton said. "A lot of my shots were NBA 3s."

VCU coach Anthony Grant, a U19 team assistant to McKillop with Georgetown's John Thompson III, said Wednesday in D.C. that players want to shoot a deeper 3-pointer so he doesn't anticipate a problem, either.

"I may be in the minority," Thompson said. "But I don't think it will be a problem. In a perfect world, sooner or later the women and men will have the same line. Aesthetically, it's ugly to have lines all over the court. That line, though, is in your head, and if you look back before there were lines, guys took longer shots. Players are trained to go to that 19-9 line and start shooting from there. From now, they'll start shooting [from the new line]. It won't be a big deal."

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com