The NCAA announced its new rules for the 2019-20 men’s basketball season in June, including one which moved the three-point line back 16 and three-quarter inches — a change Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) coaches were quick to support.
The purpose of the rule change is to allow offenses to space the floor better and decrease teams’ reliance on three-pointers, according to the NCAA rules committee. The new distance is the same as international basketball and was debuted during the 2018 and 2019 National Invitation Tournaments (NIT).
Loyola played in the 2019 NIT and shot 5-for-14 from distance in a season-ending loss to Creighton University in the first round.
“I’m glad they moved it back. … I love it,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said on a conference call with MVC coaches and members of the media July 1. “Shooting the three’s been a big part of what we love to do. … I think it’s going to help the game, space it and put a premium on shooters.”
The Ramblers ranked third in the MVC in three-point percentage last year, shooting at a 36.6 percent clip from beyond the arc. As a conference, all 10 MVC schools shot at a combined 35.1 percent from downtown — which ranked eighth out of 32 Division I conferences.
Southern Illinois University led the MVC with a 37.4 percent clip from outside. The Salukis saw former head coach Barry Hinson step down in an emotional press conference at the conference tournament in March and hired former Loyola associate head coach Bryan Mullins 12 days later. Mullins, a Southern Illinois alumnus and two-time MVC Defensive Player of the Year, played professional basketball in France from 2009-13.
Now a first-time head coach, he said although defenses will have to work harder to guard a spaced-out offense, he thinks his players are up for the challenge of the extra distance.
“I think it’s great for the game,” said Mullins, who shot 39 percent from beyond the arc in his four seasons as a Saluki from 2005-09 — a mark which ranks 11th in school history. “I think it’ll increase the spacing, offensively, and … it’ll kind of separate the guys who can really shoot it from the guys who can kind of shoot it. I think all-around, it’s great and it’ll be interesting how the percentages turn out throughout the first year of it.”
The rule is specifically meant to change the offensive side of the game, but defenses will also have to adjust in order to guard against new playing styles. Bradley University held teams to 32.7 percent from the field in 2018-19, which ranked second in the MVC, en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Braves head coach Brian Wardle said he thinks “change is good,” but he’s not sure just how much defenses will be impacted by the new regulations.
“Hopefully, it spreads the defense out a little bit and opens up driving lanes more — that’s obviously the goal of it all,” Wardle said. “We’ll see. I think teams will make adjustments along the season if they’re struggling with that area.”
College basketball season is set to begin Nov. 5, according to the NCAA, meaning fans will have to wait another 126 days to see how teams’ game plans change with the longer distance.