Chicks, Major College Basketball Conferences Still Dig the Long Ball

College basketball shoved the men's three-point line back a foot last year, which led to a lot of consternation around my neighborhood about how it was the doom of the long ball. My neighborhood happens to be this one -- 3PA/FGA: 47.9 ( 7) -- one of the rootin', tootin', shootin'-est teams in all the land: Michigan. Last year the Wolverines' three-point attempts shot up just in time for the line to move out, and the result was ... vast improvement from Michigan's 10-22 2008 season and the program's first NCAA tournament bid since Whitewater was a big deal? Does not compute. I'll take it, but does not compute. ↵

↵It turns out that moving the line back did very little to stop the rain of threes and had even less impact on how many of them went in. Basketball Prospectus's John Gasaway has the numbers from Big Six (ACC, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, SEC and Pac 10) conference games, and they compute: ↵In 2008 34 percent of shots were 3-pointers and the percentage made was 34.7. In 2009, the percentage of shots that were from beyond the arc was 33.2 with a success rate of 35.2 percent. ↵

↵

↵That's right: 3-point percentages went up. That 0.8% slice of threes that aren't taken any more must have been horrible shots. Like eyes-closed-one-hand-punching-a-spectator horrible. Gasaway's attempt at explanation is similar: ↵

↵
↵⇥Perhaps the major conferences were burdened with more players who, until 2008-09, thought they had three-point range when in fact they did not. The new line spooked those players, perhaps only temporarily, into not shooting threes. Meanwhile, players with bona fide range from 19.75 feet turned out to be precisely the players who could also make a shot from 20.75 feet. ↵
↵

↵I favor random chance, myself, but that might be why. Ken Pomeroy did another study encompassing all of D-I that showed a greater dip in both threes shot and percentage made—that is, a dip at all in the latter. So maybe it had the desired effect in smaller, three-happier conferences where the decision to launch is more often a lesser evil than attempting to put in on the floor and exposing the reason you're at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. ↵

↵

↵If I wasn't a fan of the aforementioned rootin' tootin' shootin' team, I'd be in favor of pushing the line out again. Sometimes college basketball seems like a slightly contested three-point shooting competition, after all, and if the bombers didn't take the hint last year another kick in the pants might get the message across. But I am, so nevermind all that. Viva the long ball. ↵

↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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