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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The New "Downtown"

Will bricklayers be out in record numbers now that the NCAA has moved the men's three-point line back one foot to 20'9"? Or will a select few sharpshooters separate from the pack and earn the green light from the new distance?

As Andy Katz detailed last month, the changes are mental more than physical, not just because of the longer distance, but due to the presence of multiple different three-point lines painted on the court. The head coach at Mississippi even wants to see a one-foot-thick line painted on the court, though more for the referees' sake than the players.

If confusion is a real issue for some players, it will add reaction time and diminish the instincts of these top-shelf athletes, who have grown up shooting treys from the same distance for years.

Spectators are sure to be even less accustomed to the new line when the season starts; perhaps even chiding a player for taking such a deep shot before coming to their senses. Still to be determined is if fans will notice a difference in gameplay. It is hard to see the new line affecting teams that play a run-and-gun style of offense. Some shooters on those rosters regularly pull up from well behind the arc already. Furthermore, the difference can be overcome for just about anyone just through repetition. If a player works enough in the offseason during game conditions, he will become comfortable with the new distance and from which line to fire.

Again, it's not like the new distance is out near NBA range (23'9"). The thing to watch for then is which players actually put in that extra work before the season starts to stretched their range and get accustomed to the new length. Will that big man who has developed his outside game start jacking up 20-footers rather than refine a couple more post moves? Or take a tweener, like Marcus Landry, for example. I am sure Landry can hit the longer shot in practice. But from what I have seen in games past, his range extends as far as him toeing the line. It will be interesting to see if Landry's three-point attempts reach the 54 he tried last year.

How might the new distance affect the Badgers
The rule change could actually be coming at a good time for the Badgers, as Brian Butch and Michael Flowers have both just graduated. We saw Butch sink a long 3-pointer to beat Indiana, but it wasn't pretty. Flowers wound up as a very good spot-up three-point shooter, but it took a lot of work.

Wisconsin's starting guards this year, Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes, definitely have plenty of range on their outside shot--though Pop needs to improve his shot selection in general. Beyond the surefire starters, I think Jon Leuer and Tim Jarmusz should be able to handle the transition. On the other hand, Keaton Nankivil probably won't be putting up any threes even though his ability to hit from outside was touted as a bonus for a power forward prospect.

If the returning junior guards are a push and Landry is not a candidate to put up any more threes than he did last year, you have 200 attempts combined vacated by Butch and Flowers. We can expect a rise in attempts from Leuer and Jarmusz based on playing time. I have not seen enough of any incoming freshmen to comment on them, but none are known as sharpshooters at this point and there is sparse playing time available in the backcourt anyway.

In my eyes, the Badgers may not attempt as many three-pointers as last year and Bo Ryan may be happy with that. Wisconsin's average margin of victory has been significantly higher (+12.9 in '08, +12.3 in '07) as the team has reduced its average three-point attempts by about two per game. The Badgers averaged over 18 3-pt FGA/g the two years prior to their back-to-back 30-win seasons.

Defensively, I have heard people say that the new distance could harm the Badgers because they have been burned by hot three-point shooting in the past and now they will have to extend even further, opening up the middle of the lane. To that I say, maybe so. That is the point, isn't it? But Wisconsin will be in the same boat as everyone else in that regard and traditionally the Badgers possess one of the most stout team defenses in the land. Plus, take one look at UW's future rosters--seeing more room for big men to maneuver looks pretty darn good, doesn't it?

For now, we'll just wait and see how all the extra lines look on the new court ...

- Here's to bright futures, Michigan State!
- Rundown on some of the talented backcourt players from Illinois in the Class of 2009. Wisconsin getting one was key, but having that many prospects in your backyard is almost silly.


  1. this rule change is long overdue. goodnight cinderella.

  2. At Indiana was the only game last year that I remember the Badgers being saved almost totally by the 3 point shot. On the other hand we have got busted out of the tournament 2 years in a row by a small hot-shooting 3 point team. I think this is a big positive for us, especially since we have the size on the blocks to defend the interior.


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