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THREE-POINTER IS TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

Random reflections on a memorable NCAA Tournament:

Rick Pitino has coached three teams to the Final Four, all of them in the era of the three-point shot. He was one of the first coaches to understand how profoundly the shot would affect the college game. But Pitino has a problem with the three-pointer. It's too easy.

"I think it's way too close (19 feet, 9 inches) where marginal shooters are taking the shot," Pitino said during the Final Four. "I've said this since 1987, there's no question it needs to be moved back to the international distance (21-6). I think it's so necessary from a spacing standpoint to the low post."

Pitino is right. Teams have been too reliant on the three-pointer. There's something wrong when Illinois, the top-ranked team in the country, throws up 40 shots from behind the arc in a national title game. The Illini took only 30 shots from two-point range. They made enough threes (12) to get back in the game, but it was ridiculous after awhile.

The three-pointer brings excitement to the game. It allows teams to make up large deficits in a hurry. But too many teams are playing the game backward these days -- from the inside out. Basketball was designed to be played the opposite way, with an emphasis on moving the ball inside and working for high-percentage shots.

Moving the three-point line back two feet would bring the sport back into balance. When the 6-foot-10 centers are firing away from behind the arc, the shot loses a lot of its charm. When a team shoots 40 in a title game, it cheapens the shot and diminishes the quality of play.

There's a move afoot to move the NCAA's three-point line back nine inches to 20-6. That would at least be a start. Move it back, guys, or one of these days we'll see a title game where one of the teams abandons the two-point shot altogether.

Three deserving coaches went into the Basketball Hall of Fame this year: Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, and Hubie Brown, who played at Niagara and was one of the great coaching minds of his day. It was fitting to see Brown enter the Hall in the year when Niagara made it back to the NCAA Tournament after 35 years.

No NBA players were inducted this time. Apparently, there's a feeling that too many pros have been selected in recent years. The hoop Hall of Fame honors players, coaches and contributors at all levels of the sport. There is no Hall exclusively for the NBA players.

I'd like to see separate Halls for the college and pro games. David Stern, the NBA commissioner, has expressed interest in an NBA Hall of Fame. But he has been discouraged by people who feel it would hurt the existing Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., which struggles to sustain itself.

North Carolina became the second team in three years to beat three consecutive foes from one conference en route to the national title. The Tar Heels beat Wisconsin in the regional final, Michigan State in the national semifinals and Illinois in the championship game.

Syracuse accomplished the same feat two years ago, beating Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas of the Big 12 on the way to its first national title. That was the first time a team swept three teams from a single conference to win it all.

It's too soon to say who will be the No. 1 team next fall, not knowing which stars will jump to the NBA. North Carolina will be a clear choice to repeat if Sean May, Rashad McCants and Marvin Williams return. But the Tar Heels might lose all three.

My pick is Kentucky, which loses only one senior of note, Chuck Hayes, and returns most of a talented young team that came within a double overtime of the Final Four.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com