For everyone out there in the last pockets of resistance, this is the pronouncement from on high: The three-pointer is here to stay. "It has surpassed my fondest expectations," says Ed Steitz, the secretary-editor of the NCAA men's basketball rules committee and the man thought of as the father of the trey. "It's brought the outside shooter back in the game, it's brought the defenses away from the basket, and it's added a new dimension that the game has never seen." To support his contention Steitz proudly points to the results of a questionnaire sent out by the rules committee after last season to 4,000 refs, coaches and writers. Eighty percent of the respondents favored the three-pointer.
"I like the rule because it almost absolutely rules out the zone," says Bradley coach Stan Albeck, whose Braves at week's end led the nation with 8.7 three-point shots per game. "It puts us back in the entertainment business." Says New Mexico coach Gary Colson, a member of the committee that drafted the rule, "I think it's the greatest thing we've ever done in college basketball. That guy from South Dakota who maybe isn't that quick, he's got a chance now."
Still a matter of disagreement, however, is the current distance of the three-point line from the center of the basket: 19'9". Too easy? "We debated that for quite some time," says Steitz, "but we decided to keep it there until the data says it's too close. I think if [the success rate of three-pointers] gets up to 41% or 42%, then we have to look at it as a danger signal." Last season that percentage was around 38%, which, Steitz says, is exactly what the committee expected it to be. This season the percentage has been about the same, though attempts are up. Still, 10 teams are making treys at a 45.9% clip or better; Hofstra leads the nation with a stunning 54.9%. Last season's NBA three-point leaders, the Los Angeles Lakers, nailed only 36.7% of their attempts—from farther away.
So, should the NCAA move its line to match that of the pros, which is four feet deeper most of the way around and 2'3" farther away in the corners? "The three-pointer would just disappear," says Colson, who, along with some other coaches, favors a shift to the international line, which is nine inches beyond the NCAA's. Wherever the three-point line ends up, the bottom line, says Steitz, is clear: "Last year I said that in three years people will be saying, 'What was all that furor about?' I still think that's true."
Big East conference play has begun, and that can mean only one thing: Georgetown is brawling. This time the opponent was previously unbeaten Pitt, which lost both the fight and the game (62-57) at the Capital Centre. Hostilities commenced with 11:27 remaining in the first half when Hoya guard Mark Tillmon elbowed Panther forward Nate Bailey in the back, apparently in protest over the way Bailey had jerked the ball away from him. When Pitt forward Jerome Lane stepped in to defend Bailey, Tillmon took a swing at him. In jumped Georgetown's Ronnie Highsmith, who pulled Lane to the ground, whereupon Tillmon completed the mugging by leaping on the pile and delivering several more blows. In the face of the frenzied howling of the pro-Hoya crowd, the officials heroically ejected only Tillmon, eschewing the usual compromise tactic of tossing out a player from each team.
Georgetown coach John Thompson minimized the fight's significance: "I've never seen a basketball fight where anyone got hurt."
THEN THERE WERE THREE
The first week of conference play left Oklahoma (page 71), Temple and BYU as the only Division I undefeated teams. In addition to Pitt's loss to Georgetown, these titans bit the dust for the first time: