The other day, on a treadmill in Charlotte, I was reminded why I can’t stand college basketball. Forced to occupy my time, I began watching a game between Iowa and Indiana.
I can’t remember any of the players’ names, but at one point, an Indiana guard threw an entry pass into the low post, where a Hoosiers big man began to make a move.
For no apparent reason, the Iowa perimeter defender rushed down into the low post to double-team, despite Indiana’s big man having no discernible advantage. The big man threw it back out and the Indiana guard knocked down a 3-pointer.
And a game remains ruined.
When the NCAA introduced the 3-point line prior to the 1986-87 season, it profoundly altered the game in a terrible way. Overnight, everything changed, from the way the game was played to the kinds of players playing the game to the way coaches coached the game.
In the 1985-86 season, if a guard took a 20-footer, something was amiss offensively. Few 20-footers could even be considered a good shot back then. With no shot clock and no bogus reward for a shot’s length, why would any player launch from out there?
One year later, the 20-footer, whether uncontested or with a hand in the face, became the most desirable shot the game of basketball has ever known. Teams used to work 20 or 30 seconds at a time figuring out ways to find big men inside.
With one rule change, the philosophy of basketball changed. Why look inside when your limited 5-foot-11 guard can let one go from outside and get an extra point for it?
The worst byproduct of the college 3-point line (19 feet, 9 inches) is that it unfairly skews the game in favor of smaller players. Even worse, that advantage extends to one-dimensional small players.
Want a theory about why there are so few dominant centers today? How about that the game — and ball — is being dominated by little guys who have more relevance than they should?
One of the reasons the 3-point line was introduced in the mid-’80s was to alleviate congestion in the lane, to give big players more room to operate. The thinking was that if defensive teams wanted to "pack it in," then they’d pay the price when the opposition started taking 3s. It also figured to add excitement.
Excitement? I guess it can be exciting when a team rallies from 11 down with three minutes left by knocking down a few 3s. But taking 20-footers is what the first 37 minutes were about, anyway.
The college 3-point line cheapens the game, allows marginal players to have a greater impact than they should and diminishes the impact of skilled interior players.
There still is a place, however, for the 3-point shot in college basketball — it’s out at 23 feet, 9 inches, where the NBA line is.
Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.