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Boring Scoring?

Not necessarily

Duke v Louisville
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - JANUARY 23: Matthew Hurt #21 of the Duke Blue Devils shoots the ball against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on January 23, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Last season was the second straight in which the ACC scoring leader, in that case Duke’s Matthew Hurt, averaged fewer than 20 points per game. Hurt contributed 18.6 per outing, fewer in conference play.

Such modest offensive punch doesn’t pace the league all that often. In fact, it’s occurred about one season in five over the course of conference history. Lately it’s happened more often – four times in seven years. What this reveals is anyone’s guess, other than that rules changes meant to improve scoring haven’t worked all that well on a micro level.

If the 2022 scoring pacesetter likewise averages under 20, then we have a pronounced trend to dissect.

Not that a gaudy scoring average indicates the incontrovertible worth of a performer or the freedom provided by liberalized rules. Or, that the failure to produce 20 points per outing on a consistent basis is by definition an offensive shortcoming in a scoring leader.

Strikingly, some of the best players in ACC history led the league in scoring with fewer than 20 points per game, including five players of the year. The most recent sub-20 POY was Josh Howard, the sole Wake Forest winner of the award in this century.

Danny Ferry and Len Bias, two of the overlooked greats ever to play in the league, each twice earned POY recognition in the 1980s, once each while averaging about 19 points.

Lack of 20-point scorers is hardly a fatal flaw; Virginia made subdued individual offensive punch something of a habit long before Tony Bennett’s arrival in 2009-10. Through good times and bad, prospering greatly in recent years, the Cavs haven’t had a 20-point scorer since Norman Nolan in 1998, Jeff Jones’s last year as head coach.

Cavaliers led the ACC in scoring only four times, most recently Jeff Lamp in 1979 (22.9) and most impressively Buzzy Wilkinson in 1954 and 1955 (30.1 and 32.1 points, respectively.)

No ACC player has averaged as many as 30 points since Wake big man Len Chappell supplied 30.1 in 1962, the school’s sole Final Four season. NC State’s David Thompson, the ACC’s greatest player ever, chipped in 29.9 per game in 1975.

While we’re at it, let’s debunk a persistent myth about an under-20 point leader, UNC’s Michael Jordan.

He did in fact average better than 20 points per game as a sophomore with 20.03 across 36 games in 1983. That was second only to Georgia Tech’s Mark Price at 20.3. Jordan contributed 19.58 in leading the ACC in 1984.

A PAUCITY OF POINTS
ACC Scoring Leaders Who Averaged Fewer Than 20 Points Per Game (Listed By Average In Descending Order)
Avg. Player, School Season All-ACC Team Record
19.71 Al Thornton, FSU 2007 yes 22-13
19.58 Michael Jordan, NC 1984* yes 28-3
19.63 Michael Young, UP 2017 no 16-17
19.55 Josh Howard, WF 2003* yes 25-6
19.53 Olivier Hanlon, BC 2015 yes 13-19
19.06 Danny Ferry, D 1988* yes 28-7
19.03 Elijah Hughes, SU 2020 yes 18-14
18.95 Len Bias, Md 1985* yes 25-12
18.61 Matthew Hurt, D 2021 no 13-11
18.48 Gene Banks, D 1981 yes 17-13
18.21 Lee Shaffer, NC 1960* yes 18-6
17.91 Terrell McIntyre, C 1999 no 20-15
17.04 John Richter, NCS 1959 yes 22-4
* ACC player of the year.