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Long-er Range

Monday, November 17, 2008


Courtesy: John Branch, The New York Times

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Cornell was scrimmaging, and someone flung a quick pass outside to the junior forward Ryan Wittman, one of the best 3-point shooters in the country (46.5 percent last season) and a star of the defending Ivy League champion. He caught the ball, flicked it and watched it swish through the net.

His feet were comfortably behind the new red line on the floor, the one that arcs in a semicircle, 20 feet 9 inches from the basket -- a foot farther than in the past.

Like everyone else in men's college basketball, Wittman is getting his bearings as the basketball court has been remapped. It was just a few weeks ago, during a shooting drill, that Wittman made four long shots in a row. A coach pointed out that each would have counted as 2 points, not 3, because Wittman's toes crossed the new line.

"I had no idea," Wittman said.

Players and coaches in N.C.A.A. men's basketball have no clear idea, either, what to expect when the season opens Monday.

On the floor, the difference does not seem like much -- less than the length of a typical basketball shoe, about 5 percent farther from the basket than the old line. But such a subtle shift is enough to alter offensive and defensive strategies, and even affect recruiting.

In a more practical way, the new line could create confusion for players, coaches and officials, because the old line at 19-9 remains in place for the women. The two lines must be different colors, but there is no standard from court to court.

"It does get kind of confusing when you've got two lines on a court," Wittman said. "Especially when you're running down on a fast break, you're not really paying attention to where your feet are lined up."

The new 3-point line is a real concern for teams like Cornell, which had the fourth-highest 3-point shooting percentage in Division I last season (40.9), and returns all its key bombers for what many predict could be another championship season.

To read the Branch's story in its entirety, please click here.