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Barry Jacobs On The Scoring Decline

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USA Today reported recently that scoring in Division I men's college basketball has hit a 15-year low, with teams averaging 68 points per game. That's three points lower than in 1997-98, according to STATS, which bills itself as the "global leader in sports information, technology & content."

The ACC conforms neatly to this statistical scoring profile with the season all but over. True, North Carolina and N.C. State remain alive in the NCAA tournament, and Miami competed on Monday night in the second round of the NIT.

Still, the numbers are not apt to change all that much.

What emerges is that, consistent with the article's assertion, scoring is lower in the ACC this season than at any time at least since 1997-98 and probably longer.

This year's average of 68.5 points per game by ACC teams is near the D-I average and a striking 3.6 points lower than last season's mark. The decline has been more or less steady since 2001, when the ACC's peak was 79.3 points per game.

Boston College's 59.1-point average in 2012 is the lowest by any ACC squad since N.C. State scored 57.5 a game in 1982.

USA Today reported that, through the conclusion of conference tournaments on March 11, teams in the six power conferences endured 139 games in which the winner failed to score 60 points.

ACC squads scored fewer than 60 points in 95 games this season. Only 18 of those totals came in winning efforts. Five ACC teams were under 60 at least a dozen times in 2012: BC led with 17 (in 31 outings), followed by Georgia Tech with 15 (of 31), and Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest with 12 each.

At the other end of the spectrum Duke and North Carolina each notched a single sub-60 effort. Both came against Florida State. The Blue Devils had 59 points in a loss to FSU in the ACC Tournament semifinal and the Tar Heels scored 57 in a defeat at Tallahassee.

Twenty-one times in 2012, ACC teams scored fewer than 50 points. These outings did not go well. In fact, only FSU won while its scoring was so parsimonious, beating Virginia Tech 48-47 on Feb. 16 on a last-second three by Michael Snaer.

Virginia lost its NCAA opener against Florida, 71-45. That matched the Cavs' low for the season in a home loss to Virginia Tech.

Get this: the last time an ACC team scored so few points in the NCAAs was 1985, when Maryland lost 46-43 to Villanova in the Sweet 16 and North Carolina lost to the Wildcats, the eventual champions, 56-44. That was prior to the advent of the shot clock and 3-pointer.

Rock bottom for an ACC offense this season were the 36 points produced by Georgia Tech in a loss to Miami in the ACC Tournament. The Yellow Jackets also managed a puny 37 points in a home defeat by Clemson and 38 in a defeat at Atlanta against Virginia.

So, have we caught on to an era of tough defense? Rotten offense? Fewer skilled scorers and shooters? How much worse can it get?

Average Per-Game Scoring By Recent ACC Teams
(Dividing Line Indicates ACC Expansion To Double-Digit Members)
Year Pts Per     Game Total     Games Total     Points High     Scorer Low     Scorer
2012 68.5 394 27008 NC, 82.0 BC, 59.1
2011 72.1 404 29145 D, 80.9 V, 61.9
2010 72.2 406 29312 M, 79.7 V, 65.5
2009 75.3 397 29881 NC, 89.8 FS, 68.3
2008 75.8 401 30381 NC, 88.6 NS,  67.3
2007 75.2 406 30517 NC, 85.7 D, 70.4
2006 74.1 385 28520 D, 81.1 Mi, 67.9
2005 76.1 353 26850 NC, 88.0 VT, 68.5
2004 76.2 291 22160 WF, 83.5 C, 65.7
2003 74.3 281 20884 D, 81.1 FS, 68.1
2002 78.9 286 22565 D, 88.9 FS, 71.8
2001 79.3 287 22769 D, 90.7 FS, 69.5
2000 73.6 295 21701 D, 88.0 C, 64.4

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