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Where Have All The Scorers Gone?

Long time passing? Maybe not that either.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Virginia
Jan 11, 2020; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Buddy Boeheim (35) celebrates with guard Joseph Girard III (11) after scoring against the Virginia Cavaliers during the second half at John Paul Jones Arena. 
Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Last season was the third straight in which the ACC scoring leader, in 2022 Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim, averaged fewer than 20 points per game. (That’s fewer, not less, for all you language manglers.) Boeheim, a senior, contributed 19.2 per outing, a tad fewer in conference play (18.95).

Wake’s Alondes Williams, the ’22 ACC player of the year, averaged 18.5 points, and finished second.

Historically, players displaying modest offensive punch haven’t topped the league all that often. In fact, until recently it was relatively uncommon, happening just about one season in five over the course of conference history. But lately that’s changed, becoming a trend – five times in the past eight years, to be exact.

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.

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 or more points per outing on a consistent basis is by definition an offensive shortcoming in a scoring leader.

Teams with balanced scoring might suppress individual output by spreading the point-producing load. Or not. In the case of Buddy Boeheim, last season’s ACC scoring leader, he was virtually alone in carrying the Orange scoring lead. The only other Syracuse player to finish among the league’s top 20 scorers was guard Joe Girard III at 13.8, 20th in the league. He’s back in 2022-23.

Other possible explanations for modest scoring leaders: Defenses have clamped down in reaction to scoring enhancements in the perpetual strategic jockeying for advantage. Or, in order to facilitate offense, officials let more contact occur, ultimately to the detriment of individual scorers. Or, the constant drain of top players to the pros, often before they can fully develop their games, deprives the conference of powerful offensive producers.

Players Who Led ACC In Scoring With Fewer Than 20 Points Per Game (Richter, Shaffer, Banks, Bias Played Without 3-Pointer)
Avg. Player, School Season
19.71 Al Thornton, FSU 2007
19.63 Michael Young, UP 2017
19.58 Michael Jordan, NC 1984*
19.55 Josh Howard, WF 2003*
19.53 Olivier Hanlon, BC 2015
19.16 Buddy Boeheim, SU 2022
19.06 Danny Ferry, D 1988*
19.03 Elijah Hughes, SU 2020
18.95 $Len Bias, M 1985*
18.61 Matthew Hurt, D 2021
18.48 $Gene Banks, D 1981
18.21 $Lee Shaffer, NC 1960*
17.91 Terrell McIntyre, C 1999
17.04 $John Richter, NCS 1959
* ACC player of the year.
$ 3-point shot not available.