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Savran: Easy 3-point shot distorting game

Saturday, March 17, 2001

Just about anyone will tell you that the 3-point shot is the greatest thing to happen to college basketball since tattoos and droopy shorts. Count me out -- with a qualifier.

It's a good idea gone bad because it has totally changed the approach to the game and, thus, the way it's played. Teams come down the floor on a fastbreak with numbers -- two-on-one, three-on-one, three-on-two. Instead of keeping the ball in the middle, pulling up at the free-throw line to pass to players driving to the basket for the easy layup, shooters stop behind the arc -- spotting up, it's called -- waiting to try for the home run instead of taking the easy two.

No matter how good the shooter, the percentage of a 3-point attempt is significantly lower than a dunk. Unless you're behind in multiples of three with limited time remaining, it's a poor play. The 3-pointer has gone beyond merely altering the game, it has distorted it. It's become too tempting. And too easy.

When first instituted, the line was at 17 feet, 9 inches. A layup. Since then it's been moved back two feet. Still a layup. The 3-pointer should be kept in the college game, but if you want it to have a premium effect, move it back to where it takes a premium effort, say 21 or 22 feet. You make one from out there, you're truly rewarded for excellent shooting. Plus it might re-emphasize ball-handling and passing skills lost because the easy triple has become just too easy.

Kudos to the NIT. Instead of their usual "we'll make it up as we go along" scheduling, they now actually have brackets, a blueprint for their tournament. They can still partially dictate who gets to the semifinals in New York by awarding home-court advantages based on potential ticket sales, but at least they no longer determine matchups with a cash register and a Ouija board.

Isn't it funny how less scorned the NIT becomes when local teams are in it?

It happens every spring. Those on the outside looking in, noses pressed up against the windowpane of the NCAA tournament, complain about Fiduciary State Teachers College getting in by virtue of their upset win in the Savings & Loan Conference tournament. Meanwhile, Whiner A&M cries that they've been unfairly discarded because they played much tougher competition than the Fightin' Debits of FSTC. Maybe the Weepin' Whiners of A&M have a legitimate beef. But one of the things that makes the NCAA tournament this country's most popular enduring event is that a Gonzaga or Valparaiso pulling off an upset every year energizes the fans. It gives every single game, at least before tipoff, a spark. Based on history, there's always a chance. The glass slipper is out there, you just have to find Cinderella. Certainly the best 64 teams aren't in the NCAA tournament. But if 94 teams were invited, there would be a complaint from the 95th.

Plus, Monmouth is every bit as much a member in good standing of the NCAA as is Duke, no more, no less.

One tip for the selection committee. If I were king, or at least Billy Packer (and if you ask him, that's one in the same), I would rule that unless they win their conference tournament, no team should be invited if they were under .500 in league play. Overall records are misleading because of the glorified scrimmages masquerading as games early in the season. Holiday tournaments book rent-a-victims looking for a warm weather vacation, so the host teams can't possibly lose. Lose more than you win in conference play? Sorry, but you're uninvited.

The countdown on recruiting violations at Iowa State has got to be on. Their starting group has guys from Louisiana, California (by way of New York City), New Jersey and Georgia. Playing in Iowa? I could see the attraction of glamorous destinations such as Las Vegas or Los Angeles. But Ames, Iowa? Come on.

Speaking of noses pressed up against the NCAA windowpane, how about poor ESPN? They televise a thousand more games than necessary, more than anybody could possibly be interested in, from November through February, then they're left with millions of words describing blank pictures, analyzing games shown elsewhere. It's like baseball's spring training cities. The focus of attention for six weeks, come April 1 they're abandoned, forced to watch the seeds sewn in their town blossom in the cold climes. Forgotten for another year. The good news is we're done with Dick Vitale's bellowing for another season.

Stan Savran is the host of a nightly sports talk show, 8-9 p.m. on WBGG-AM (970).

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