Archive for October 16, 2008

One Foot Deeper: Men’s Basketball Changes 3-Point Distance Pt 2

October 16, 2008 2 comments

Yesterday’s post was a look at some of the views on how the new three point line (moved back a foot to 20 feet, 9 inches) will affect shooting for men’s college basketball players. It’s a storyline that will surround everyone’s favorite team, whether they were good shooters, or bad shooters, volume outside shooters or allergic to the three-point shot.

But. The three can be a game changer. Can a team win without hitting the three? What kind of team can win like that? And what teams might find their offense a little less efficient if they do not fully adjust to the new 3-point line?

St. John’s head coach gave some comments recently to the Syracuse Daily Orange:

Some coaches praise the logic behind the decision with an “about time” sentiment. Finally the college basketball 3-pointer is beyond that of a middle-school team. Even St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts – whose team was abysmal from downtown – is thrilled with the change. The Red Storm finished 13th of 16 Big East teams in 3-point field goal percentage last year (.333).

But Roberts believed the shallow shot was a joke in the first place – a middle-school gimmick long overdue for a change.

“I think that if you’re going to give people an extra point for a shot, it should be a tougher shot – it should be deeper,” Roberts said.” I am happy they moved it back because it was so easy of a shot. I say that even though we didn’t shoot it great.”

….And those that “should” shoot 3s tend to fire away from deeper zip codes, anyway, he said. It comes as no surprise to Roberts that Rautins could care less about the new line.

“I don’t think it’s so deep that it’s going to change the game a whole lot,” Roberts said. “If you have a guy that’s a long-range shooter like (Jonny) Flynn and Rautins, they shoot it from two feet behind that line, anyway.”

The Red Storm shot 29% of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc, which was 289th in the country. In other words, the players and/ or the coaching staff is averse to the three. I suppose that explains why Avery Patterson, Larry Wright, and, perhaps to a lesser extent Qa’rraan Calhoun (who is rumored to have thought of himself as a 3/ wing instead of a 4/ post player) are no longer in the fold.

My first thought when I see an extreme non-three point shooting team is that the three is the great equalizer. Gets a team back into the game in a hurry; helps a physically inferior team knock off an opponent; and it’s a joy to see good shooting form over brute force. I also think, at first, that such a style can’t work, especially when confronted with an opponent having a hot shooting night. And nogt shooting the three is a missed opportunity to score in bunches.

paris horne red storm basketball st. john'sBut Roberts’ former employer, Bill Self at Kansas, would beg to differ with me. That Jayhawk team was 287th on that list of Division I teams’ percentage of shots (3pt’ers attempted/ field goal attempts) from beyond the 3-point arc – 29.3% of their shots were from downtown. Similarly, Billy Clyde Gillispie’s Kentucky team tried 31.5% of their attempts from beyond the stripe, 239th in the country. For comparison, the most successful team that leans heavily on the three-point shot is Butler, shooting 48.5% of their attempts from beyond the arc.

Both Kentucky and Kansas, of course, shoot for high percentages inside and outside the arc, which is necessary to win in this style. And both teams obviously have more high-major, interior players with a wealth of height. No amount of offensive rebounding can cover up a team that can’t shoot at all.

Both squads really stamped out scoring especially from inside the arc. Opponents shot 43% against Kentucky and 41.2% against Kansas from 2-point range. St. John’s allowed 48.6%, and that has to change to create more transition opportunities (which tend to be higher percentage, near-the-rim opportunities).

Does the Red Storm have the horses to compete without the outside shot? Didn’t the three help them win the few games they did win? Is the frontcourt talent good enough to score against the talented forwards and centers of the Big East?

The staff seems to treasure toughness and rebounding; in past years (especially 2006) they have forced turnovers and suppressed shooting on defense. And there are good principles there; teams have had a tough time with St. John’s (certainly a tougher time than when they play, say, DePaul or Providence).

Another year of practice and training could make St. John’s a potent defensive force. This team won’t have much more trouble with the distance; the bar for outside shooting success is set low, and few of the players take the shot anyway.

Now, Seton Hall, and Louisville, they need to work on their shooting and shot selection, along with Villanova’s Fisher and Stokes (who were a little erratic as freshmen, but better than St. John’s guys), and Rutgers’ Mike Coburn. Louisville took a lot of shots behind the arc, and hit 35% – good, but not great. Samardo Samuels power and ability should make those players look inside first. I could riff on Northwestern’s dependence on the three-pointer, among other things… but I will let this post lie for now, and come back to the effects of the new arc at a later date.