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NCAA proposes moving 3-point line to FIBA distance for 2019-20 season

The proposal will be reviewed June 5. The difference will be a foot and a few inches. What impact will that have on mid-major college basketball?

VMI’s Garrett Gilkeson takes a shot against UNCG’s Malik Massey at the Greensboro Coliseum on Jan. 31, 2019.
VMI’s Garrett Gilkeson takes a shot against UNCG’s Malik Massey at the Greensboro Coliseum on Jan. 31, 2019.
Mitchell Northam / Mid-Major Madness

Changes could be coming to men’s college basketball.

No, this has nothing to do with the FBI investigation.

On Friday, the NCAA announced a proposal that would move the 3-point line back to the FIBA distance of 22 feet and 1.75 inches from the basket. Currently, the arc is planted at 20 feet and nine inches.

This proposal and others will be reviewed and either approved or denied by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on June 5. If approved, the move would be effective for the upcoming 2019-20 season.

In explaining its recommendation for the move, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee said this would make the lane more available for dribble-drive plays from the perimeter, it would slow the trend of the 3-point shot becoming “too prevalent” by making it “a bit more challenging” and it would assist in offensive spacing.

In the 2019 NIT, where the FIBA distance was tested, participating teams shot a combined 33 percent from 3-point range. During this past regular season, all teams shot a combined percentage of 35.2

The 3-point shot was introduced to the men’s college game in the 1986-87 season. That year, just 16 percent of all shots were taken from behind the arc. Per KenPom, 37.5 percent of all shots in men’s college basketball were taken from behind the arc in the 2017-18 season.

As the years go on, basketball teams at all levels — in the men’s and women’s games — are experimenting more with the three, trying to maximize its potential. More players are taking three-pointers than ever before, and some teams are finding lots of success with it, using it as their primary source of offense.

Of the top 15 teams in 3-point shooing from this past season, seven of them made the NCAA tournament: Wofford (41.4), Fairleigh Dickinson (40.0), Virginia (39.5), Virginia Tech (39.4), Colgate (39.3), Gardner-Webb (39.1) and Marquette (38.8).

Four of those teams are from mid-major conferences. Joining them in the top 10 best 3-point shooting teams this past season were Lehigh (42.3), South Dakota State (40.8), Grambling (40.3), Louisiana-Monroe (39.6) and Omaha (39.2). While these teams didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, they found success with the behind-the-arc shot.

At the mid-major level, where raw size and athleticism is sometimes hard to come by, skills — like shooting from deep — are emphasized in order to compete with the likes of the Power 5. If UMBC doesn’t knock down 12-of-24 shots from outside in Charlotte on March 17, 2018, then we likely never witness the greatest upset ever in men’s college basketball.

Will the difference of a foot and a few inches have a massive impact on the 3-point shot and the success mid-major teams have found using it? We’ll have to wait and see.

Other proposals the NCAA will decide on June 5 are...

  • Resetting the shot clock to 20 seconds after a field goal attempt hits the rim and an offensive rebound is made in the front court.
  • Players being assessed a Flagrant 2 foul or ejected should they use derogatory language about an opponent’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
  • Allowing coaches to call live ball timeouts in the last two minutes of the second half and the last two minutes of overtime periods.
  • Allowing instant replay review in the last two minutes of the second half and the last two minutes of any overtime if a basket interference or goaltending call has been made.