When fans enter Willett Hall for a men’s basketball game, or any Division I men’s contest across the country, they will notice an extra line at the top of the arc.
No, the 4-point shot has not been introduced to the game (even though we would love to see it), but the 3-point line has been extended to 22 feet 1 3/4 inches for all National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s basketball competition, which is also the same distance used in international competition.
The decision was proposed by the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee, and passed by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel in June of this year, according to an article from NCAA.com.
The panel and governing body as a whole, made the decision based on three reasons, the article said: “Making the lane more available for dribble/drive plays from the perimeter. Slowing the trend of the 3-point shot becoming too prevalent in men’s college basketball by making the shot a bit more challenging, while at the same time keeping the shot an integral part of the game (and) assisting in offensive spacing by requiring the defense to cover more of the court.”
Here in Farmville, the Longwood men’s basketball team prides itself on the 3-point shot under second year head coach Griff Aldrich and uses it as a major part of the offense.
Through six games, the Lancers sit 36th in the nation in 3-pointers attempted with 136, and are converting at a clip of just over 36 percent after hitting 52 of said attempts.
Aldrich pointed to the up and down nature of his team from deep this season, going 14-22 against Maryland Eastern Shore and then 7-29 against Northern Illinois, as a possible byproduct of a trend around the nation of lower offensive efficiency.
“Can you attribute that to just an extended 3-point line? The answer is probably going to be that it’s not a direct correlation, but you would think that that’s having a massive impact,” said Aldrich.
According to KenPom.com, a site which gives in-depth details into college basketball analytics, the current number one team in the country, Michigan State, has an offensive efficiency rating of 114.4, which is down from a 121 rating to end last year’s season.
This rating specifically measures points scored per 100 possessions.
Longwood, which finished as the 256 ranked team in the nation a season ago, according to KenPom, had an offensive efficiency rating of 99.5 at the conclusion of last season. Now, the team currently sits at 283 in the overall rankings, and has an efficiency rating of 96.1.
Aldrich said in this day-in-age of college basketball, players want to shoot the three ball and will sometimes value it over a dunk. In result, the team is looking to recruit players who can shoot threes, while doing it at a consistent and efficient rate.
Spacing on the floor is another huge key to the Lancer offense, which causes the opposing defense to guard a larger area of the floor.
“If the defense only has to guard 15 feet and in, then they can just pack the paint. But if the team is making threes, and then you’re having to run out and guard threes, then we can pump fake you, get into the lane, pass it, pass it again, and the defense is all of the sudden flying around,” said Aldrich. “So, you know, extending it, all you’ve done is added another two feet that we would say, you know, the defense has to cover.”
Senior guard Shabooty Phillips said the team uses tape to measure out the NBA 3-point line, which is 23 feet 3/4 inches away from the basket at the top of the arc, to better assist with the spacing of the team. Its purpose is to create more space for Lancer players to step into their shots or make decisions off the dribble.
Despite the distance change, Phillips said he shoots the ball the exact same way as he did before and there wasn’t much of a learning curve when the new line was put into place. Phillips, who had a team-high of 74 3-pointers a season ago, has begun this season only shooting 31 percent from deep, and looks to up his level as the season runs its course.
Senior guard JaShaun Smith continues his record-setting career from the perspective of three point efficiency, currently firing 54 percent from long range, which is also tops on the team.
From a defensive perspective, senior guard Jaylon Wilson said the team, as a result of the extension, has had to be more talkative on the court in order to communicate where the opposing players are and to clog passing and driving lanes.
“We work on communication every day. So communicate for defense, offense and even simple drills to make sure we are always talking to each other and we always stay connected,” he said.
Lancer fans will have to wait for nearly a month to see their team shoot from long range on the Willett Hall court, as they will face The Citadel on Dec. 19 with a 7 p.m. start.