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ACC Scoring Down (But Not Out)

This year’s scoring leader race is a bit sedate.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Duke
Jan 18, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Louisville Cardinals forward Jordan Nwora (33) calls timeout as three Duke Blue Devils attempt to foul him during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Cardinals won 79-73.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville had won 10 in a row, held steady at fifth in the AP poll and sat atop the ACC standings. Leading the way was upperclassman Jordan Nwora, the preseason ACC player of the year.

Then things changed as an elongated league season hit the mid-February grind.

For only the second time this year the Cardinals lost consecutive games. Granted, Louisville was on the road. Still, both Georgia Tech and Clemson inhabited the ACC’s bottom half when they vanquished Chris Mack’s club.

“This week wasn’t a good week for us,” Mack said after his potent offensive squad lost at Clemson. The Cards scored 14 points in the first half.

The 6-7 Nwora was held to 2 points on 1-6 shooting at Atlanta, checked much of the time by a gritty smaller player, 6-foot Jose Alvarado. The junior then scored 5 points on 1-5 shooting at Clemson. Nwora didn’t start against Clemson, but played 29 minutes.

Until the loss to the Tigers Nwora had paced ACC scorers throughout the 2020 season. But his average dipped to 18.23 points, eclipsed by Syracuse’s Elijah Hughes, who jumped to a league-best 18.88 with a 25-point effort in a close loss at Florida State.

Regardless of the leader at the moment, it appears increasingly likely the ACC will be paced in 2020 by someone with a scoring average below 20 points per game.

That doesn’t happen all that often. In fact, it occurs about one season in six over conference history and not since 2017 when Pitt’s Michael Young checked in at 19.6.

Should Hughes, Nwora or someone else pace the league with an average below 20, it would be the fifth time in the 21st century, and the third in six years, the ACC leader was that punchless. So much for rules changes geared to improve scoring.

Oddly, some of the best players in ACC history led in scoring with fewer than 20 points per game, including five players of the year.

Players Who Led ACC In Scoring With
Fewer Than 20 Points Per Game
(This Season Through Feb. 15)
Avg. Player, School Season
18.9 Elijah Hughes, SU 2020
19.6 Michael Young, UP 2017
19.5 Olivier Hanlon, BC 2015
19.7 Al Thornton, FSU 2007
19.5 Josh Howard, WF 2003*
17.9 Terrell McIntyre, C 1999
19.1 Danny Ferry, D 1988*
18.9 Len Bias, M 1985*
19.6 Michael Jordan, NC 1984*
18.5 Gene Banks, D 1981
18.2 Lee Shaffer, NC 1960*
17.0 John Richter, NCS 1959
* ACC player of the year.