Committee extends men's 3-point line to 20-9
Twenty years ago, the NCAA made one of the most significant rules changes in its history when it instituted the 3-point shot.
In the year of the 20-year anniversary, the NCAA men's basketball rules committee decided the line needed a makeover.
So, beginning with the 2008-09 season, assuming the measure is approved May 25 by the Playing Rules Oversight Committee, the line will move back a full foot to 20 feet, 9 inches. The committee chose, however, not to expand the size of the lane.
The change could dramatically affect post play, who takes and makes a 3-point shot and at what percentage, and possibly lead to an increase in mid-range shot attempts.
"I'm not surprised, this is something that has been talked about for quite some time," said coach Billy Donovan of Florida, whose two-time defending national champion Gators were ninth in the country in 3-point field goal percentage at 40.9 percent. "I still feel that teams will continue to utilize the 3-point line as a key component of the college game. That being said, I think the next discussion needs to be about widening the lane in conjunction with moving the 3-point line back."
The women's committee decided to keep its line at 19 feet, 9 inches, meaning there will be two distances and, possibly, two different lines on courts that men's and women's programs share.
Larry Keating, who chairs the rules committee and is also an associate athletic director at Kansas, said he didn't foresee the oversight committee rejecting the measure. In the past, he said, rules changes went through the board of directors and got caught up in other legislation. He said that's not the case anymore.
Keating said the lane width won't be changed. So, the line will now be three inches longer than the international line, giving high school players an ability to graduate to an international line, a college line and, perhaps, in some cases, to the NBA line of 23 feet, 9 inches.
For the most part Thursday, reaction to the change was favorable.
"Players are good enough that they will adjust," said BYU coach Dave Rose, whose Cougars ranked fifth nationally in 3-point percentage (41.5). "The purpose was to open up the space on the floor. But I don't think a foot will make that much of a difference. Players will figure it out."
"I think it would be a good change," said Texas A&M sophomore guard Josh Carter, who led the nation in 3-point percentage last season, making 50 percent (86-of-172). "I would have no problem stepping out and shooting a little longer shot. Everybody wants to go on to the NBA and the pros shoot it from farther out, so I think it would be fine."
His new coach, Mark Turgeon, said the distance will help coaches who are preaching shot selection.
"Too many players think they can hit that shot and it was hurting shot selection," Turgeon said. "It was getting to where all five guys were shooting it. Now [the 3-point shot] will go back to being more of a specialty role."
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who is the current president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said he was surprised the committee adopted the change without altering the width of the lane.
"I thought you had to do both," Boeheim said. "Moving the line back is good and I wanted that, but I almost thought you had to do both. We've definitely helped the low-post guy. We've created space in there. We'll have to see how it plays out."
Bruce Pearl of Tennessee wasn't in favor of the change. He has one of the top returning 3-point shooters in the country in Chris Lofton, who made 106 3-point field goals and shot 41.9 percent as a junior.
"[2008-09] could be a tough year for the Vols for two reasons: We won't have Chris Lofton and it will be a bit farther for the rest of our guys," Pearl said, adding he believes "if it's not broke, don't fix it."
"I don't know if it's going to open the lane up more," Pearl added. "I think this will make zone defenses much more effective. The matchup zone will make a comeback. Teams that play a lot of zone should be real happy with this."
Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz, who was serving on the committee for the first time, said he plans on marking the new distance on his practice court by the spring of 2008 to ready for individual workouts. Lutz said he is doing that since most of the time lines are put on the courts only one time. The cost of changing the lines on courts across the country is the main reason the distance won't be in place until 2008-09.
Lutz said his players usually shot well beyond the existing 3-point line, so he doesn't see the added foot as a big distraction. But he said players still gravitate toward the line when they take their shots.
"This should allow for more mid-range games and spreading the floor," Lutz said. "It will force coaches to make a decision on defense. It remains to be seen what will happen with 3-point percentages."
Lutz said he wasn't in favor of widening the lane so that the mid-range game could be preserved.
"The criticism was that there was too much jammed-up play," Lutz said of the current configuration on the floor. "That led to physical play."
The rules committee also eliminated the first lane space nearest the basket on each side during free-throw alignment and added two situations in which referees will be allowed to use courtside monitors to determine whether a flagrant foul has occurred. They may also use monitors to determine who may have played a role in a fight.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.