After more than a decade of debate about moving the 3-point line, the NCAA men’s basketball rules committee pushed it back one foot in the offseason. Based on his first game with the extended line, Texas guard A.J. Abrams won’t be fazed by the change.
Thrust into a more prominent role following the departure of D.J. Augustin for the NBA, Abrams looks to build on a strong performance in a season-opening victory as the seventh-ranked Longhorns host Tulane on Tuesday night.
In the first major alteration to the 3-point shot since its inception in 1986-87, the NCAA moved the line from 19 feet, 9 inches to 20 feet, 9 inches in the offseason - a move designed to create more space between post and perimeter players and reduce physical play in the interior.
While the added distance figures to reduce 3-point percentages marginally this season, it doesn’t look like it’ll be a problem for Abrams, who was 5-for-9 from behind the new arc as Texas beat Stetson 68-38 in its season opener Friday night.
“It’s just a couple inches back. For the shooters, it’s not a big deal,” said Abrams, who had a game-high 21 points. “It’s going to weed out some of the big guys from shooting it.”
It was the 18th career game with at least five 3-pointers for Abrams, Texas’ all-time leader with 289 shots from long range. The 5-foot-11 senior will likely add to that total significantly this season as he’s expected to be the focal point of the Longhorns’ offense in the absence of Augustin, who’s playing in the NBA after two seasons at Texas.
As impressive as Abrams was Friday, Texas coach Rick Barnes expects more from his offense as a whole. The Longhorns had 15 turnovers and went just 6-of-16 from the free throw line in scoring the second-fewest points in a season opener in Barnes’ 11 seasons with the team.
“We didn’t run the way we’ve run in the past. That was the slowest pace we’ve played so far and I can’t really tell you why,” Barnes said. “Defensively, if we can have that kind of effort, it will keep us around in a lot of games.”
Though Barnes saw plenty of room for improvement in the opener, particularly on the offensive end, he’s confident that his team will eventually put things together.
“I think we’re like all teams right now. We’re still finding our way,” he said. “We’ve got guys playing different positions than they did a year ago, we’ve got players playing more minute than they did a year ago. So we’ll keep tweaking and keep working until we finally mesh into something good. I’m not sure when that will be, but I think it will happen.”
Barnes expects his team to take at least a small step forward against Tulane, which beat McNeese State 68-62 in its season opener Saturday. Kris Richard and Kevin Sims led the Green Wave with 17 points apiece.
Tulane is 6-9 all-time against Texas. This is the teams’ first meeting since the Longhorns’ 85-68 victory Jan. 17, 1973.