NCAA basketball has been in the first weeks of summer workouts, and the coaches have begun to take note of the areas of focus for their respective teams.
Of special interest to most Covington and Newton County college hoops fan is the SEC as two former local players -- Ashton Hagans (Kentucky) and JD Notae (Arkansas) reside there. Several SEC coaches took time to address the media via a Thursday teleconference, providing updates as to what the next few months before the season will look like.
The consensus theme seemed to be all of the "new" coming into college basketball as a whole and particularly in the SEC. When the season begins in November, there will be a couple of new rules affecting the college game. In the SEC, there will be a number of new coaches at the head positions.
Roster construction for all 14 teams was a consistent topic for the coaches with all of the teams expected to have some marked differences in that area from this past season.
Here are some of the highlights and notes from the Thursday teleconference.
The NCAA will be moving the three-point line back.
Earlier in June, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel agreed to move the three-point line back to 22-feet one ¾ inch – the international distance for the line. One of the main reasons for the change as cited by the PROP is to reduce the reliance of college offenses on the three-pointer while also giving the shot more value. Another by-product of the difference would be the opening up of dribble-drives and spreading the floor on offense. The change will come into effect for the 2019-20 school year, but only for Division I programs.
“The three-point line [change] I love it,” said Georgia men's basketball coach Tom Crean. “And coming from my coaching background, we utilize the three percentage-wise, and the success with that over a period of time – we weren’t very successful with it last year. And that was disappointing to me. We spent a lot of time shooting the ball and we didn’t get the progress that I was hoping we would make. But we had the NBA line down permanently in our practice gym, so we’re really working on range a lot. I’m happy that the line is moved back, I think it plays to the spacing of the game.”
Kentucky head coach John Calipari agreed, but for a different reasons.
“I like the three-point line spreading out because the teams that – I’m not a big proponent of shooting 40 threes – and if you are, that percentage is going to go down now,” University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “I think it’ll make the game more about movement and spacing and open up the lane a little bit more, so I think it’s all good. But it’ll play out.
“For young kids to say ‘that line is moving back and we’ll shoot the same’ -- I just don’t see that happening,” he continued. “I think percentages will come down, and now as a coach, you’ve got to make a choice: Are we going to shoot that many threes, or are we going to be a driving, late touch kind of team?"
Following in the footsteps of the NBA, college basketball will reset the shot clock to only 20 seconds after offensive rebounds.
Much like with the change to the three-point distance, the consensus from the coaches was that the new shot-clock rule was a welcomed change. Coaches noted that the frequency of running a new play in the NCAA after an offensive rebound as it stands is low so, the whole 20 seconds won’t be used. The speed of the game, however, looks to see an uptick -- a welcome outcome from some of the coaches.
Jerry Stackhouse will be taking over at Vanderbilt, and Erick Musselman will be the new lead man at Arkansas.
There will be few new faces on the sidelines of SEC basketball, but Stackhouse and Musselman remain as two of the most anticipated hires in the league, if not the nation. Both are former NBA players with years of basketball experience -- Musselman has previously coached in the NBA and the G-League.
The hires will add a level of attraction and talent to the coaching pool of the SEC. Stackhouse will be taking over a Vanderbilt squad that woefully underperformed last season, going 0-18 in conference play. The Razorbacks weren't incredibly unsuccessful, but a change was made at the head coaching position. The roster will eventually look different with several transfers coming in, including Covington native and former Newton Rams 1,000 career points scorer JD Notae.
“We’re very excited about the upcoming season,” Stackhouse said. “It was obviously a tough season, last year for our guys. But being able to sit down and talk with them and work with them this summer, they’re really excited to put last year behind them, and they’re working extremely hard, and we’re looking forward to the season.”
Musselman said he liked the way his young program is tracking already, just a few months into his tenure.
“We’ve had a good offseason so far, and obviously as a new coach there’s an adjustment period,” Musselman said. "Trying to get to know the players, re-recruit your own roster, as well as trying to form a staff. We’re moving in the right direction, the players have been working extremely hard and have great buy-in so far.”