It's only 12 inches.

Still, there's a big fuss over the NCAA's decision to move the men's three-point line back one foot to 20 feet, 9 inches this season.

But legitimate long-range shooters aren't worried. Maybe, the rule change will limit less-talented players to -- excuse their giggles -- midrange jump shots, they say. Post players believe they will have the last laughs when defenses spread out and the lane opens up.

Now, if only they could all find the new three-point line.

The women's committee opted against moving their arc, so it remains at 19 feet, 9 inches. At venues around the country, players have to distinguish between two lines. At Williams Arena, a maroon line marks the women's three-point mark and a gold line is for the men.

The Gophers kick off their season tonight against Concordia (St. Paul), the first of three games in this weekend's National Association of Basketball Coaches Classic at Williams Arena. It's a weekend that will serve as a test for the new rule and any confusion that comes with it.

"The length of the line is not confusing, but sometimes I've noticed that I come out and I think I'm shooting a three, but I'm looking at the maroon line, but I have to step back and look at the yellow one," said Gophers guard Lawrence Westbrook, who made 39.3 percent of his three-pointers last season. "For me, I don't know, I wish they could take the [women's] line off for the men's game and put it back."

Making room inside

Gophers coach Tubby Smith, who serves as the president of the NABC, said if the longer three-point line spreads the floor, his team will benefit because post players will have more room. Of course, that will only happen if teams prove they are threats from outside, something Smith's team did a year ago with the old three-point line.

Minnesota was second in Big Ten play in its three-point success rate, hitting 38.1 percent of its attempts (129 of 339). Returnees Blake Hoffarber, Lawrence Westbrook and Jamal Abu-Shamala all shot better than 38 percent from long range in conference play.

"You know, the three-point line is a significant change in the game," Smith said. "The jury will be out until the end of the year, after we evaluate, do the surveys and see the numbers as far as shooting percentages.

"Did it help the interior play? Did it force people to play more zones? For us, so far, it's been beneficial, because it does spread the court, and with inside players like we have, we should be OK."

Overall, the Gophers made 36.7 percent of their three-point attempts in 34 games last season. In last week's exhibition victories over Division II opponents St. Cloud State and Northern State, they made 39.3 percent of their threes (13 of 33).

Since the NCAA adopted a three-point line in 1986, teams have relied on it more and more every year. Teams recruit three-point specialists, as if taking a three requires a doctoral degree.

The fact that NCAA squads hoisted up 19.1 threes per game, the highest average ever, bothers coaches such as Michigan State's Tom Izzo. He said the NCAA should move the line all the way back to the NBA mark of 23-6. That way, only the most skilled players will consistently hit the shot.

"I wish it would be moved back even farther," he said. "I think the risk and reward is ridiculous. I think it was low risk, high reward. Now, it's medium risk, high reward. It should be to me high risk, high reward, where it's a shot only certain players can shoot. Not everybody can just step out and shoot it."

Gunners will still gun

But players don't shoot as well as they did when three-point shooting became a part of college basketball. In 1986, teams hit 38.4 percent of their three-point attempts. Last season, they made 35.3 percent of them. So if a longer three makes it more difficult, there are two likely outcomes: players will take fewer threes or the shooting percentages will decrease again.

Either way, Gophers guard Blake Hoffarber said he doesn't expect to change his shot selection. Almost 75 percent of his field-goal attempts last season came from beyond the arc (164 of 220). He hit 42.7 percent of his three-point tries and set a team freshman record with 70 three-pointers last season. The three is so normal for him that a few inches won't affect him or other above-average shooters, he said.

"I really don't think, for guys that normally shoot the three-point shot, it really affects you that much at all," Hoffarber said.

Well, not everyone can hit a shot from the seat of his pants.

Players that normally hit only a few threes throughout the season will have the most challenges with the new line, said Penn State coach Ed DeChellis. He doesn't know what to make of the change just yet. But he is already observing some interesting adjustments in practice that might hint at what's to come.

"I see us in practice, some guys maybe would normally take some shots I think have passed them by just because it is a little further out there now and not as comfortable maybe right now," DeChellis said.

Maybe, all of the concerns about the three-point line moving back a foot have been blown out of proportion, Abu-Shamala said. For the senior co-captain, the formula that has been around since the 1980s is still relevant today. And the rule change is just a part of the game.

"You kind of adjust," he said. "You see the line. That's where you have to shoot from."

Provided, of course, you find the right line.