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How the NCAA’s rule change to extend the 3-point line could affect Northwestern

It’s probably not good.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

With only nine scholarship players currently on the Northwestern basketball roster, Chris Collins has quite a bit to be worried about right now. The distance of the 3-point line probably wasn’t a main offseason concern. Yet, Northwestern likely received some unfortunate news on Wednesday when the NCAA announced that the 3-point line in men’s basketball would be moving back to the international distance.

It’s an interesting move from the NCAA, who claims that moving the 3-point line back will both, “make the shot more challenging,” as well as, “keep the shot as an integral part of the game.” In 2008, the line was adjusted from 19 feet, 9 inches to 20 feet, 9 inches. Following the change, the percentage of made 3-pointers in the NCAA decreased by around one percent, from 35.2 percent to 34.4 percent.

How does this rule change impact Northwestern?

In short, it’s a rule change that attacks the team’s weakness. NCAA programs overall tend to be really good at making 3-point field goals, but for Northwestern, that’s not the case. An average Division I team converts from beyond the arc at a 35.2 percent clip, but the 2018-19 edition of the ‘Cats connected on the shot at a 31.3 percent rate.

The rule is designed to slow down the nation’s success with 3-pointers, but NU hasn’t really taken advantage of the three-pointer recently. That 31.3 percent conversion rate was good for 13th in the Big Ten, and in the bottom quadrant nationally. The ‘Cats inability to connect on 3-pointers killed them in big games such as their lone Big Ten Tournament contest against Illinois, where the team went 7-for-28 from deep.

So while this rule is probably a good change for a men’s basketball game that has become heavily reliant on the 3-point shot, it’ll emphasize a weakness for Northwestern. And maybe this is merely a small change that will render a minute impact on the success of Collins’ team, but it certainly won’t help.