By Ashleigh Sargent
One foot might not seem like a major difference – unless it’s on a basketball court. And unless it’s the three-point line you’re talking about.
Last year, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel decided to move the traditional women’s three-point arc before the start of the season. In a (literal) step towards gender equity, the women’s three-point line now matches the men’s line at 20’9,” a full foot farther from the basket and the old women’s line of 19’9.” (Read my October 24 post about this.)
So did it matter?
Not surprisingly, the change did have an impact on shooters. NCAA stats, just posted last week, show Division I players shot 30.72% this season, down from 31.74% in 2010-11. (The 2010-2011 DI ‘s top 3-pointer shooter, Drexel’s Kamile Nacickaite saw her percentage fall from 47.8 to 32.6 this season.)
Concerned? Don’t be.
When the men’s line moved to 20’9” for the 2008-2009 season, stats show the shooting percentage from beyond the arc dropped from 35.23% in 2007-08 to 34.40%. It hasn’t risen back to its 2007-08 level yet, but has increased slightly in the last two seasons.
The new line probably also impacted offenses in more subtle ways. The number of attempted threes per game dropped from an all-time high of 16.60 in 2010-11 to 15.84 in 2011-12. Teams also scored 1.3 fewer points per game this season. Players may have adjusted to struggles from the three by looking to score on drives to the basket or feeds to the post.
Will the women’s shooting percentage increase?
Almost certainly. It takes time to adjust and players need practice from the farther distance. On my Wellesley College team, we spent a lot of time shooting from the new line before, during, and after practice. (Our shooting percentage from the three actually went up this season!)
As new players move up through the ranks of women’s college basketball and gain experience, I’m betting the three-point shooting percentage will only go one way: Up.