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October 31, 2008

MT strategy may be altered by 3-point line

Twelve inches.

You can cover the distance in less than a full step. If someone stands 12 inches away from you, you'll likely feel like your personal space is being violated.

It's a small distance, but 12 inches will have a large impact on college basketball this year.

The 3-point line has been pushed back a full foot to 20 feet 9 inches, a move that is nearly certain to have a significant impact across the sport.

Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis has put a lot of thought into the issue as he prepares his team for the coming season and he has reached the same unavoidable conclusion.

"I think the line is going to make a difference. If people don't think backing up another nine or ten inches matters, it does," Davis said. "I can see it in our practices. I think it doesn't bother the really really good shooters. I think some guys that used to shoot 30 or 32 percent could really be bothered."

How will the new line affect the Blue Raiders specifically?

Middle Tennessee has four returning players that hit better than 35 percent from 3-point range last year and Davis says he's confident that his best shooters will be able to comfortably make the adjustment.

Kevin Kanaskie, Nigel Johnson, Desmond Yates, Demetrius Green, and Eric Allen all have the range to be successful from behind the line.

Davis may be more interested in how he can use the new 3-point line to help his team defensively.

The Blue Raiders held opponents to 34.7 percent shooting from behind the arc last year, but they should be able to improve on that number by taking advantage of the potentially expanded defensive possibilities that will be available.

"You may see more zoning," Davis said. "We played some zone at the end of last year and you may see more of that in college basketball. I'd be shocked if (3-point) percentages don't go down. I'll tell you what will happen early is you'll get a lot of long 2-pointers being shot, which are terrible percentage shots. I'm going to be curious after the year or after 15 or so games what the shooting percentage in college basketball looks like."

Where the new line may make an even bigger difference is in postseason play or during the regular season when upset minded mid-major programs take aim at opponents from Power Six conferences.

The days of a David getting hot from 3-point range to knock off a Goliath may be fewer and farther between.

"It may be an advantage to the most powerful, bigger conferences," Davis said. "Maybe for some smaller schools trying to pull upsets that need to make 13 or 15 threes to win a game, we may not see as many of those as there once was."

Rivals.com national basketball writer Andrew Skwara agrees with that assessment.

"Overall, I think the new 3-point line helps the high-major programs more than the mid to low majors, especially in NCAA Tournament settings," Skwara said. "The original addition of the 3-point line generated more double-digit comebacks, which the smaller schools often need to upset BCS programs. By moving the line back a foot we will see less of those. Plenty of coaches have already said they have seen shooting percentages start to dip in their practices. Plenty of guys can shoot from that distance but it does make it significantly tougher."

Basketball will still be basketball and coaches will figure out which players they want to give a 3-point green light to as the season progresses, but that small extra 12 inches of territory may end up being a deciding factor in determining which teams finish the season celebrating.

GoMiddle.com Countdown to Tipoff

40 days-October 6th: Schedule full of challenges, opportunities
39 days-October 7th: Sun Belt newcomers to watch
38 days-October 8th: Strong memory motivates Yates
37 days-October 9th: Kanaskie in position to leave a legacy
36 days-October 10th: Johnson driving force behind MT attack
35 days-October 11th: O'Neil hopes to pick up where he left off
34 days-October 12th: Boyd's long awaited debut getting closer
33 days-October 13th: Allen may be MT's missing piece
32 days-October 14th: Hudson aiming for quick recovery
31 days-October 15th: Williams can be a first year factor
30 days-October 16th: X-Factor Hair could push Raiders over top
29 days-October 17th: Green's contributions important for MT
28 days-October 18th: Lighter Haddock making big early impression
27 days-October 19th: Jones adjusting to new level
26 days-October 20th: Avery is a glue man for Blue Raiders
25 days-October 21st: Hopson brings plenty of value
24 days-October 22nd: Inside a scouting report with Artie Pepelea
23 days-October 23rd: Case has bright outlook in new post
22 days-October 24th: Top five wins of Kermit Davis era
21 days-October 25th: Top five near misses of Kermit Davis era
20 days-October 26th: Davis era: Top five individual performances
19 days-October 27th: Hoops facilities have come a long way at MT
18 days-October 28th: GoMiddle.com Preseason All Sun Belt-First Team
17 days-October 29th: GoMiddle.com Preseason All Sun Belt-Second Team
16 days-October 30th: GoMiddle.com Preseason All Sun Belt-Third Team
15 days-October 31st: MT strategy may be altered by 3-point line

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