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New 3-point distance could assist Gonzaga’s offense

The NCAA has approved moving the 3-point line to the international basketball distance, which probably won’t raise an eyebrow for the six international players on Gonzaga’s roster next season.

For the rest of the Zags and the college basketball world, it’s a significant change that, on paper, appears favorable for Gonzaga. Just don’t expect the Zags to stray from their approach, which has often been inside-out with their run of standout bigs over the last decade.

“We’ve always been an above-average shooting team,” GU assistant coach Tommy Lloyd said. “I don’t think we’ve necessarily relied on making a huge number of 3s to win games. We’ve always felt we want to attack the basket and the paint, get to the (free-throw) line and get 3s off that type of stuff.”

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel voted to move the 3-point line to 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches from 20 feet, 9 inches. The new rule is effective this season in Division I and the following season in D-II and D-III.

The 3-point line was extended from 19 feet, 9 inches to 20 feet, 9 inches prior to the 2009 season. In 2009, Gonzaga made 39% behind the arc before tailing off to 35.3% in 2010, the lowest percentage in the program’s 21-year streak of NCAA Tournament appearances. In that 21-year span, GU has made at least 39% eight times, including 40% in 2015 and 40.4 in 2001.

The NCAA committee said the change was made for three reasons: opening the lane for dribble penetration, slowing the prevalence of 3-pointers by making the shot tougher and creating space should defenses choose to cover more of the court.

Lloyd isn’t sure how it will play out “but I like the premise. I don’t see us making any significant adjustments on either end of the floor.

“For the international players it’s normal,” he said. “For a lot of American players, we’ve had trouble getting them to shoot on the college 3-point line forever.”

The rule change probably won’t bother proven long-range shooters or players already familiar with the international distance.

“It’s going to impact guys that are developing shooters,” Lloyd said. “That’s going to make a difference for them, and a lot of those are going to be bigs.”

The Zags have one of the best-shooting bigs in the country in rising senior Killian Tillie. The French native is a career 47% shooter from distance. If he continues to hit at a high rate, the floor theoretically should open up more for his teammates.

Rising sophomore forward Filip Petrusev made nine 3s last season in limited minutes. Incoming Zag Brock Ravet showed range beyond the high-school distance (19 feet, 9 inches) and forward Anton Watson was an effective 3-point shooter for Gonzaga Prep.

The West Coast Conference has traditionally featured quality shooters and strong team shooting percentages.

“Our conference has been skill-based and teams are comfortable spacing the floor with good shooters,” Lloyd said. “It’ll be interesting to see if that extra foot creates a few more driving lanes and makes the rotation for a double team on a big a little farther.”

The bottom line is the most important factors won’t change for Gonzaga.

“Having very good shooters is one part,” Lloyd said. “The other part is running an offense that gets good shots.”

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