Columbia — In basketball, one foot isn't a lot space. It's less than a dribble, or even a step. But some coaches, like Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, believe it could make a huge difference.
The NCAA will find out soon enough with a new rule change this season, moving the men's 3-point line from 19 feet, 9 inches away from the basket to 20 feet, 9 inches. Missouri has been practicing with the new line on the court since the rule was made official early in the offseason, and the Tigers will play their first official game with it Saturday at Mizzou Arenaagainst Prairie View A&M.
"Hopefully it'll take away those guys that aren't really good shooters," MU coach Mike Anderson said.
As for how it will affect the Tigers, Anderson believes he has more shooters with 3-point range than he did last season when Missouri made just more than a third of its 3-point attempts. But excluding Justin Safford, who made seven of 19 attempts from behind the arc, the Tigers lost their three most accurate 3-point shooters: Marshall Brown, Stefhon Hannah and Keon Lawrence.
Anderson said the new distance shouldn't affect the Tigers ability to shoot the three, especially with guys like Matt Lawrence, Marcus Denmon and Miguel Paul who frequently shoot from well beyond the line. For Missouri, the biggest impact of the new rule will be the extra floor space.
"It won't change how we try to play," Anderson said. "At the same time, its intent is to open up the spacing and the lanes to get to the basket for post players."
Missouri's up-tempo offense relies heavily on spreading the floor with its quick guards, and Matt Lawrence is confident it will help give the Tigers' big men more room to operate. If the Tigers can make shots from long range, the extra foot should help players that excel at penetrating with the basketball, like Denmon.
"When you hit a couple shots, the defense starts to play you a little bit," said Denmon, who made a combined 10 of 13 3-pointers in the black-and-gold game and the two exhibition contests. "That gives you more space to drive and get to the basket or kick it out to your teammates."
Defensively, extending out beyond 20 feet won't be anything new for the Tigers, and Anderson said he'd like to see other offenses shooting even farther outside. The extra foot could also have an impact on the defensive end.
"I think it allows us to pressure a little bit more," said Lawrence, who made a team-high 72 3-pointers last season. "We have the guards further out, maybe we get to isolate a little bit more, and we have quick guards like J.T. Tiller and Miguel Paul and Zaire Taylor that can pressure the ball real well."
Lawrence said the additional space created for the big men could cause some problems for the Tigers in Big 12 play since they have one of the smallest front courts in the league. Anderson said Missouri will approach its interior defense the same way, applying pressure and double teaming when necessary.
At this point, the Tigers figure to be well-adapted to the shooting aspect of the new line and the presence of the old line due to the women's game. The only problem that might not be worked out is the new line's proximity to the sideline as it intersects the baseline.
"I've seen that a lot in practice," Denmon said. "I might not know that I'm that close to the out-of-bounds line."