How Will College Basketball's New Three-Point Line Affect the Game?

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent INovember 12, 2008

The guys over at Rush The Court did some very interesting statistical analysis on who would benefit the most and who would be hurt the most with the change to the deeper three-point line during the upcoming season (20'9" from 19'9"). Their hypothesis:

Teams that have a large differential in their home/away three-point shooting percentages are likely to have fewer “pure” shooters and therefore will be most negatively impacted by the one-foot longer three-point line next season.

Their assumptions:

  • We’re assuming that all team three-point percentages should decrease with the longer distance.
  • Teams with "pure" shooters should have high relative three-point percentages no matter where they shoot the ball—home or away.
  • There will be a natural drop-off in most team's three-point percentages on the road because of adverse conditions, but good shooting teams will remain good shooting teams. Teams with questionable shooters will show a marked decrease between their home and road three-point percentages.
  • We admit, given the turnover of players from season to season, that the predictive value of analyzing '07-'08 data for the '08-'09 season is tenuous at best.

By their calculations, Temple, Ole Miss, and BYU will be hurt the most, while IUPUI, Baylor, and Michigan State will be hurt the least (it's good stuff, check it out).

My opinion differs (although, to be perfectly honest, I think that the move is short enough that there won't be a tremendous effect, since 20'9" is still in the range of most players at the D-I level, and thus must be defended accordingly).

As much as I love statistics, I think that they are only useful to a point: for example, as we touched on yesterday, the debate between Luke Harangody and Tyler Hansbrough. You can look at PPG, RPG, FG%, pts/shot, team possessions per game, number of touches they get, how much the team uses the player. The list goes on and on (check out KenPom for any statistical need).

But when it comes down to it, the only real way to determine who is better is to ask yourself, "Who would I rather have on my team?" Think about it like this: You are the captain picking teams for a pick-up game. Do you take Hansbrough or Harangody?

Statistics are great for analysis, for arguments, and for discussion, but at some point, a decision has to be made based on what the guy can do on the court. It's as simple as that.

The same thing goes for the discussion about the three-point line. First of all, I disagree a bit with the assumptions. Personally, I think the difference in shooting percentages for home vs. away is based much more in the mental makeup of the player than in the ability of the shooter (especially when you deal with the hostile crowds on college campuses).

The rim height never changes, but the conditions do, and it is the guys that can handle the taunts and the chants that will make shots on the road. Call it having mental toughness, call it having moxie, call it having balls, whatever—the ability of the shooter doesn't change.

I don't have any statistical data to back it up (if someone does I would love to see it), but in this day and age I am willing to bet that a majority of the threes that are taken are already shot from beyond the new three-point line.

Unless you are spotting up, so much of where you get a shot off from comes from things the shooter can't control, like the angle of the screen you are coming off, how good the screen was, the timing between the passer and the shooter, etc.

At that level, with how athletic players are and how well they are coached and prepared for each game, when you are open you have a split second to get the shot off. The shooter is much more worried about getting a good look at the rim than where exactly he is on the floor.

And the best shooters—well, they will fire from 28 feet, so the line moving back won't affect them too much.

Who will be helped by the three-point line moving back

I think that teams that have a good low post scorer surrounded by good shooters will benefit the most. Think Notre Dame (not to harp on Harangody, but they are fresh in my mind).

When Harangody has the ball on the block one-on-one against a defender, more often than not he is going to score, either by getting a basket or drawing a foul and going to the line (many times both).

So as a defense, to combat that, you need to slough off guys on the perimeter and help, or send someone to double, and that extra foot will make it that much harder to get back out to the shooters.

Guys like Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney are going to be able to knock down open threes even if it is from a foot farther back, especially if they have more time.

Some other teams that could benefit: Arizona State, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Gonzaga to name a few.

Who will be hurt by the three-point line moving back

I think that teams that are perimeter-oriented with an offense based on penetration will be hurt the most. Think Memphis. Coach Cal's offensive system is one where he spreads the court and isolates his players, allowing them to try to beat their man one-on-one.

If they can, they go all the way to the rim. If they can't, they try to draw a helper and then kick the ball out to the open man, allowing him a chance to go one-on-one against a defender closing out, and so on (it's called the Dribble-Drive Motion, and it is more complicated than that, but you get the gist).

Anyway, with the deeper three-point line and subpar shooters, it will allow defenders to slough a little farther off their man, both on the ball and off the ball.

This will make it harder to beat your defender, harder to draw a helper, and allow the helper to close out shorter when he returns to his man (he can close out shorter because a deep two is better than allowing penetration, and if it is a subpar shooter, than you are less worried about the deeper three).

Other teams with similar styles that could be hurt: Louisville, UConn, Baylor.


All that said, the least complicated way to give an answer is to say that the teams with better shooters will benefit and the teams with poorer shooters will be hurt. If you can shoot, you can still hit a three from 20'9". If you can't shoot, than it will be that much harder for you to beat your man.