Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

November 17, 2008

What New Three-Point Line?

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:22 pm

The college basketball season is all of seven days old and already it’s clear that the new three-point line, discussed for years and anticipated keenly heading into this season, is effectively imperceptible in real time. Consider….

  • VMI wins at Kentucky, 111-103, devoting a robust but not freakish 43 percent of their shot attempts to threes.
  • Rhode Island scares the heck out of Duke before losing 82-79 in Cameron Indoor. Though URI devoted but a paltry 26 percent of their shots to threes, they in fact pushed the Devils to the limit by making a freakish 71 percent of said threes.
  • Butler opens the season by winning at Drake, 58-48, in a matchup of two teams exemplifying to the utmost the term “perimeter-oriented mid-major Bulldogs.” The two squads of Bulldogs combined to attempt 45 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.

In other words, we can still encounter teams shooting a lot of threes or even, more importantly, making a high percentage of threes. True, we may yet find at the end of the year that the percentage of attempts launched from three-point land has in fact declined a little. (We here at Basketball Prospectus will keep you posted.) But a slight dip here after years of increasingly three-happy games would merely return us to, say, 2006, not 1996.

The key number here is 35. Despite ritual protestations that threes had become “too easy,” the truth is that for the last 15 years three-point accuracy in D-I had effectively stabilized right at 35 percent. Meanwhile the frequency of threes was on track to intersect with that same number: had the line not been moved a foot further out it’s likely that, for the first time, at least 35 percent of field goal attempts would have been threes this year. (My redoubtable colleague Ken Pomeroy has a nifty graphic illustrating all of the above on page 3 of our College Basketball Prospectus 2008-2009. Buy it today!) Moving the line out a foot, then, can be seen as a sound tweak, nothing more.

I like sound tweaks. They move the sport forward. When John Wooden played at Purdue, each made field goal resulted in an ensuing jump-ball at center court. (Not many “points in transition” back then.) Moving the three-point line around or “opening” (kind of) the season with 23 hours of ESPN’d hoops or using raised floors in football venues–bring it all on. One of the aspects of college hoops that I appreciate most is its manifest comfort with this kind of ameliorative pragmatism. Where college football fans scream like personal injury lawyers with each and every (seemingly annual) minute futzing over the clock rules, college hoops has a long history of happily wreaking havoc on its fundamentals and minutiae in equal measure: instituting shot clocks and three-point shots, expanding tournament brackets (the President-elect doesn’t have to intervene in our sport to give its season its only rational conclusion), allowing dunks, banning mid-air timeouts, and all the while becoming more popular. Moving the three-point line out a foot thus might be more important for the continuing reformist spirit it bespeaks than for its actual impact. 

4 Comments »

  1. […] What New Three-Point Line? TAFKATBTW with something a little more “bloggy” this year.  Doesn’t see that the extra 12 inches are making much difference so far. […]

    Pingback by Spartans Weblog » Monday Night Potpourri — November 17, 2008 @ 11:05 pm

  2. […] I said this in passing yesterday but it bears repeating: ESPN has done a truly sublime thing with this ”First Annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon,” otherwise known as “23 hours of hoops.” College basketball is still in search of its proper annual commencement. Technically, of course, the commencement this year was Georgia State vs. Houston, a game played in a 95 percent empty Cameron Indoor Stadium. […]

    Pingback by Basketball Prospectus | Unfiltered — November 18, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

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