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How the new three-point line will impact Ohio State, rest of the Big Ten

As the three-point line moves to FIBA distance, three pointer’s will be tougher to come by... or will they?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Purdue vs Virginia
Carsen Edwards attempts a three-pointer in Purdue’s Elite Eight matchup against Virginia. The Boilermakers relied on the three more than any other team in the Big Ten
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason, the NCAA voted to move the three-point line out by more than a foot to match the international three-point line, which now sits at 22 feet and 1 34 inches. This is up from the 20 feet and 9 inches that had been used for the past 10 years. My initial assumption — and I’d assume that of many others — was, “Teams are going to shoot fewer threes now and at a lower percentage.” This may be true initially, but in the long run, it could balance out. I think the impact of this change will be twofold:

  • Initially, teams will shoot fewer threes and will shoot them at a lower percentage. Extending the line will make threes more difficult, and thus coaches will need to get creative with their offenses, open the floor up a little bit, and score in the paint.
  • Once teams begin to adjust to this new line, I think the triples will return. It may not be this season, but in the seasons to come, everything will level back out. When Sir Isaac Newton said, “For every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction”, he was actually talking about basketball (obviously), and it makes sense!

As teams are forced to work the ball inside and create better looks from mid-range and under the basket, defenses will collapse to guard those types of shots. This will leave the perimeter open for shooters to take (now slightly deeper) threes.

When asked about this new three-point line at Ohio State’s media day, Chris Holtmann said, “Percentages will probably drop a little bit, but in my opinion it will open up the floor a little more and put more of a premium on having guys who can work off the bounce and operate in tight spaces.”

There will likely be a bit more scoring inside, but that should open up the three ball in the long run. You can dive into the statistics to defend this theory a whole lot more if that’s your thing, and NCAA.com wrote a great article on it.

However, rather than just talking about the change itself, let’s look at which teams in the Big Ten will be most impacted by the new line. When looking at the impact that a deeper three-point arc will have on teams, shooting percentage is actually not what we want to look at. What we’re interested in is the percentage of offense that came from three-pointers for each team.

Every team will probably struggle a bit more with the change percentage-wise, but the impact it has on each team’s scoring will be expressed based on how dependent that team was on the three for points in general.

For example, let’s say team “A” scored 50 percent of their total points off of threes last season, and team “B” scored 25 percent of their total points off threes. Moving the line back does not mean that team A will have a worse shooting percentage than team B this season, or that team A will be a worse team in general than team B. It means that team A’s offense may regress more directly due to the new line than team B’s will, because team B was not as dependent on the three for points.

I applied this concept to every B1G team from last season, and ranked them from most reliant on threes to least. These rankings reflect statistics from last season, and do not factor in roster changes that have happened since the season ended. Three-point percentage and total threes made last season are added for additional context.


B1G Three-Point Shooting 2018-2019

Team % of Offense from 3PT 3PT % 3PT Made
Team % of Offense from 3PT 3PT % 3PT Made
Purdue 38.3% 36.4% 311
Michigan 34.2% 35.1% 266
Northwestern 33.1% 31.3% 233
Ohio State 32.5% 34.3% 249
Illinois 32.4% 34.5% 259
Nebraska 31.8% 33.9% 258
Michigan State 31.3% 38.3% 273
Iowa 31.0% 36.1% 267
Wisconsin 30.9% 36.6% 235
Maryland 30.5% 35.3% 232
Penn State 29.9% 32.0% 222
Rutgers 27.2% 31.2% 191
Indiana 25.3% 31.4% 193
Minnesota 22.2% 32.1% 178
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com

A few of them are surprising, like Northwestern (for how much they depended on threes) and Michigan State (for how little they relied on threes, considering the weapons that they had). These statistics were from last season though, and each team’s roster is a little different now. Taking that into account, this is how I think each team’s offense will be impacted by the new three-point line:


Teams least impacted:

Minnesota

The Gophers attempted the fewest three-pointers in the B1G last season, and I don’t see that changing much. Jordan Murphy is gone, but Drexel transfer Alihan Demir will step in his place as a worthy, but probably less talented replacement.

Indiana

Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford are gone, along with seven other departures. With a new cast of characters, IU could become a better three-point shooting team, but that is still to be determined. They relied on it heavily last season.

Michigan

Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske are two returning starters, neither of whom should be asked to shoot from deep more than once in a blue moon. If Michigan uses Simpson and Teske properly this season, the new line should not impact them too greatly.

Michigan State

Michigan State is returning the majority of their Final Four team, and it’s remarkable how efficient they were shooting from deep last season while not relying on it for most of their points. This team could win 25 games without even attempting a three (maybe not, but you catch my drift).

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Semifinals-Michigan State vs Texas Tech
Cassius Winston attempts a three in Michigan State’s Final Four game against Texas Tech. The Spartans shot 38.3% from three as a team last season.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Teams impacted some, but not too badly

Iowa

The Hawkeyes were in the middle of the pack with how reliant they were on the three last season. Tyler Cook is gone, but Luka Garza is a load down low. Jordan Bohannon may miss the whole season with hip surgery as well. If the offense without Tyler Cook (and possibly Bohannon) sputters, Iowa could end up shooting more from deep out of desperation.

Rutgers

Rutgers did not attempt many threes last season, and when they did, they missed. If Rutgers does the smart thing and reduces their attempted threes, the new line shouldn’t hurt them too much (sorry, Rutgers).

Penn State

As long as Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins are there, Penn State has the blueprint for their offense. They have two reliable guys who can score in the paint, and Stevens can create his own shot from basically anywhere on the floor. Penn State shouldn’t be too effected by this if those two are running the ship.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes were very reliant on the three last season, and were either red hot or couldn’t hit anything most games; no in between. None of the five new arrivals stand out as exceptional three-point shooters, so I think Chris Holtmann will get creative with this influx of talent, and the Buckeyes will shoot fewer threes this season than we’ve been accustomed to seeing.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Ohio State
Justin Ahrens connects on a three against Iowa. Ahrens scored a career-high 29 points in the contest
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois

Aside from their putrid ball handling last season, Illinois shot a decent amount of threes (fourth in conference in attempts) and hit them at a decent rate (seventh in three-point percentage). They also have a giant energizer bunny of a big man in Giorgi Bezhanishvili, who will be a sophomore this year and a focal point of the offense.

Nebraska

Simply putting Nebraska here by default, since Tim Miles was fired and almost the whole Nebraska roster has been turned over. Will be interesting to see how the Huskers play in Fred Hoiberg’s first year.


Could actually cause some issues

Purdue

The Boilermakers relied on the three more than any team in the conference last season, and attempted almost 100 (!!) more threes than the next team. Unfortunately for them, Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline, their leading scorers and three-point specialists, are both gone. There’s certainly the potential for regression here.

Northwestern

Northwestern was the third most reliant team on threes last season in the B1G, and they still weren’t... uh... good? Like Rutgers, they were pretty atrocious shooting from deep, but the difference is that roughly 13 of Northwestern’s points came from threes. That shows how rarely Northwestern actually put the ball in the basket last year.

Maryland

While Maryland wasn’t heavily reliant on the three last season, they also had Bruno Fernando. He’s gone now, and Maryland’s top two returning scorers, Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith, only shot 34 percentage and 27 percentage from three, respectively.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Maryland vs LSU
Maryland’s Anthony Cowan takes a shot in their second-round NCAA Tournament game against LSU
Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin

Much like Maryland, Wisconsin was not overly dependent on the three last year, but that’s mostly because they had an all-conference center in Ethan Happ. He’s gone now, and Wisconsin will have to look elsewhere for offense. They do return three starters who shot 35 percent or better from distance (Brad Davison, Nate Reuvers, and D’Mitrik Trice), so the Badgers could prove me wrong by the end of the season.