The last time we recall the coaches of the Atlantic Coast Conference making an obvious push for significant rule changes, the NCAA hierarchy bought into the absurdity of forcing basketball players to decide just seven days after the Final Four whether or not they would be entering the NBA Draft. For good.
So how about we just forget that during the ACC spring meetings they voted to endorse another series of rule changes?
Except when the gentlemen in that room speak, people are likely to listen. There were nine NCAA championships – 10 if you count the one Danny Manning earned as a player – won by current ACC coaches. Their collective opinion is likely to carry some weight.
Even though it’s wrong.
Their four proposed changes:
• Expanding the NCAA Tournament to 72 teams. Because, let’s face it, the ACC only getting nine teams into the 2018 field was tragic.
• Widening the foul lane on collegiate courts. Because if the low-post basket isn’t already extinct, let’s make sure we kill it off entirely.
• Resetting the shot clock to 20 seconds rather than 30 if a team grabs an offensive rebound. Because why punish a team for failing to block out?
• Moving back the 3-point line. Just because.
There actually is no better reason for pushing back the college 3-point line than simply it sounds like something cool to say. The 3-point line was moved only a decade ago from the 19 feet, 9-inch distance that had been the standard since the colleges adopted the rule in advance of the 1986-87 season. It now stands at 20 feet, 9 inches.
That’s about 5 inches in from the international distance, and 3 feet closer than the NBA line.
For one to argue the college 3-point line needs to be moved back, one would have to present the case that the current standard is too easy. And that’s where the problem arises: There is no case.
There is no question the collegians are taking and making more 3-pointers than they ever have, but the difference is not that profound. This past season saw teams attempt 21.1 threes per game. That’s up from 18.89 in 2006-07, the season before the colleges first moved back the line. While the colleges are shooting 17 percent more 3-pointers now than a decade ago, NBA teams are trying 60 percent more threes.
Where should the pros move their line? Liechtenstein?
Are collegians so much better now at making threes that the shot obviously is too easy? They connected on 35.19 percent of their attempts this season, which represents almost no improvement from the pre-change 35.04.
So what is the point of moving the line? The NCAA Men’s Basketball rules committee sets a standard that is in force for all three divisions, and that generally are adopted by members of the NAIA and NJCAA. Which means roughly 1,800 colleges are reliant on the rules committee to set standards that are good for the game. And they’ve been doing a fabulous job recently, with the emphasis on freedom of movement leading to an increase in scoring from the dark days of 2013 (67.5 points per team) to this season’s more dynamic style (73 points per team).
When Michigan struggled in vain to catch up to Villanova’s offensive juggernaut in the 2018 title game, the Wolverines tried 23 3-pointers. When Michigan State fruitlessly chased North Carolina’s machine in the 2009 championship, the Spartans tried 23 3-pointers. When Georgia Tech was run over by UConn in the 2004 final, the Jackets tried 22 3-pointers. It seems the game hasn’t changed all that much.
If the rules committee desired to instruct NCAA members to resurface their courts at considerable cost in order to place a different standard on the 3-point shot, there ought to be a compelling reason.
“Because the ACC said so” does not seem like enough.