In this online project, we celebrate 25 years of three-pointers. But college basketball players began hoisting long-range jumpers for bonus points long before the 1986-87 season.
Fordham claims to be the first program to use a three-point line in a game, against Columbia on Feb. 7, 1945. The line was set at 21 feet and also used in free throw situations as players had the option of taking their shots from the regular 15-foot distance or from 21 feet, which counted as two points. The teams combined for 20 three-pointers and eight two-point free throws.
The Southern Conference experimented with the line in 1980-81, resulting in a lot of points and plenty of confusion. VMI's first three-pointer was made by Mario Cristo with his team trailing Furman by three points in the final seconds. Apparently unaware of the new rule, Furman players began shaking the hands of their VMI opponents, thinking they had won by a point. Instead, Cristo's clutch shot forced overtime.
These are the things we found out when reaching out to every Division I men's basketball program for our annual Polling Place feature. With the considerable help of sports information departments, beat writers and radio talent, we went 344 for 344 during our two-month project.
The package is broken down by conference and includes a behind-the-scenes look — and fan reaction — of Illinois' most famous shot, delivered by Deron Williams in the comeback against Arizona in the 2005 Elite Eight.
We also tracked down videos of many of the shots highlighted in our online escapade. We're still trying to find footage from Fordham in '45.