MURRAY -- It's going to be a busy summer for Murray State men's basketball. It always is.
The Class of 2019 -- freshmen in Noah Kamba, Demond Robinson, Chico Carter and Matthew Smith, as well as a junior-college guard in Jason Holliday -- will be arriving in the coming days and will help lead MSU head coach Matt McMahon's youth camps with the returning roster, while getting comfortable in Murray.
The staff is in the middle of developing the 2019-20 non-conference schedule, which has started to become clearer with games like Evansville (at the Ford Center on Dec. 21) being announced, but remains incomplete at this time.
And then there's the upcoming NBA Draft, in which McMahon and company will travel to Brooklyn's Barclays Center for the ultimate gift-wrap on this past season: the inevitable top-three selection of point guard Ja Morant.
But this week's announcement by the NCAA regarding several rules changes -- which included the push back of the 3-point line to the international length (22 feet, 1.75 inches), the reset of a shotclock to 20 seconds (instead of the full 30) on an offensive rebound, and the allowance of coaches calling live-ball timeouts in the final two minutes in the second half and overtime -- has McMahon's interest piqued.
Particularly, the new 3-point rules and how they could end up changing the college game for the better.
"I think the theory behind it is very good: to open up the floor, (create) more spacing, create more driving lanes for offensive players, maybe open it up in the post a little bit more," he said. "I think the interesting part about it is the theory is good if you can shoot the basketball. So if teams can't shoot it, I think we could see a lot of more packed in man-to-man defenses, a lot more zone defenses.
"I think the other layer to it is, for the first time … (and it's) not as drastic as the NBA … but the corner 3-point shot is closer than the rest of the arc. Does that change some of the designs to what you do offensively and defensively? To get a little bit closer three, or defend the closer three from the corner? There's a lot to think about as we go through summer in preparation for next season."
Over the last four years of McMahon's tenure, the 3-pointer has been a big source of discussion within the program -- though not so much from the offensive side.
Guys like Tevin Brown, Jonathan Stark, Terrell Miller and Jeffery Moss have made a living there, sure, but the team as a whole hasn't bombed away:
• 2018-19: 258 makes (174th in the NCAA), 731 attempts (182nd), .353 3-point percentage (130th)
• 2017-18: 271 (119th), 719 (162nd), .377 (52nd)
• 2016-17: 289 (66th), 803 (54th), .360 (129th)
• 2015-16: 226 (177th), 621 (221st), .364 (91st)
No, where the 3-pointer has been an emphasis for the Racers -- especially over the last two years -- has been its denial. And it's an identity within McMahon's program that isn't going away soon:
• 2018-19: 204 opponents makes (23rd), 713 opponents takes (133rd), .286 opponent 3-point percentage (third)
• 2017-18: 199 (15th), 649 (82nd), .307 (seventh)
• 2016-17: 260 (257th), 722 (228th), .360 (242nd)
• 2015-16: 191 (36th), 528 (20th), .362 (275th)
"What I hope doesn't happen -- for the sake of the college game -- is defenses pack in more tight zone defense and just invite average shooters to bomb 22- and 23-footers," McMahon added.
For the past two seasons, the National Invitation Tournament has been the training ground for such rules changes … and with interesting results.
Per stadium.com, in 31 games in the 2019 NIT, teams were 474-of-1,436 (33 percent) from behind the extended arc, while teams shot 34.4 percent from 3-point range over the course of the entire season.
In the NIT, 38.1 percent of shot attempts were threes, compared to 38.7 percent during the entire season.
"It was 10 years ago from when the line moved from 19-9 to 20-9, so it went back a foot," McMahon noted. "This time it's gone back another foot and a half. I do think it's going to have a huge impact on the game. It's going to eliminate some marginal shooters from taking those 3-point shots.
"I think it's going to take some defensive strategies from coaches. A lot of it will be wait-and-see how it all plays out in November and December."
Murray State's oft-discussed backcourt will be athletically gifted -- but young -- for the 2019-20 season. And though the rotation is beyond unsettled, guys like Kamba and Carter were brought on to become immediate contributors alongside the likes of Brown, Brion Whitley and Jaiveon Eaves.
Enter Holliday, whom McMahon hopes can translate his defensive prowess (60-plus steals last season) and experience to the guard corps and help MSU maintain its defensive edge at the perimeter for this year and beyond.
"I think as you build your team, you're trying to put all the right pieces in place to give yourself the best opportunity to win," McMahon said.
"As we looked at our last scholarship position, we're going to be very young in our backcourt. There's no doubt about that. I think very talented. Couldn't be more excited about our backcourt. But young, and inexperienced.
"We felt we needed a guy who was older. Had a couple years of experience at the junior college level. And I think one of the many things we'll miss with guys like Ja and Shaq (Buchanan) is just … people will look to the numbers … but it's that toughness and relentless competitive spirit those two guys had.
"So, we felt we needed to bring experience on the perimeter … and toughness. And we think he certainly brings both of those qualities to this team."