Thursday, May 03, 2007

The bigs get some help

In the 2006-2007 NCAA Tournament, college basketball saw several significant things: the sputterings of mid-majors after year-long talk about how college basketball had changed forever after George Mason, the affect of NBA-talent freshmen boosting major programs, and the return of the big man.

The big man had supposedly disappeared a long time ago and a 1998 SI feature claimed that dominant centers and power forwards would not play a significant role in college basketball anymore. Oden and Hibbert showed us that there is still market value for a 7-0 behemoth in the paint.

This week, the NCAA voted to increase that market value many times over. A new rule change has dictated that the college three-point line will be moved back a foot starting with the 2008-2009 season. This change was accompanied by the high-profile absence of any rule change in the size of the lane.

Effectively, this will mean that sharpshooters and their defenders will be spotting up even farther from the basket and creating more space between the post-up guy and the help-side defense.

In a situation like last year's NCAA opening round game of Davidson and Maryland, Davidson defenders will be even more out of position when trying to double team the post. Not only did the behemoth post players just get a new shot in the arm, but mid-major teams with fairly accurate 3-point shooting forwards might have just been knocked down a notch.

It has been well-documented that the 3-point shot has helped give college basketball the relative parity that it enjoys today and most analysts have claimed that moving the line back will not hinder guards who can already shoot the three-pointer from that distance anyway.

However, this change will affect players like mid-major forwards Thomas Sander and Ian Johnson before him who have made their living from being a three-point threat at the top of the key. The three-point threat of the big man has been one of the main points of distinction within the small conferences and in the NCAA tournament.

Did this move have to happen eventually? Yes. I will concede that the jump from the college game to the professional game needs to be lessened and this is a good step in that direction. But in the short-term, it might prevent a first-round upset or two and it will put a premium on big men who demand double-teams in the paint.

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