Duke made a little noise last year by becoming the first national champion since Syracuse in 2003 that didn’t rank in the top 25 in scoring, shooting and 3-point percentage. Actually WVU, Michigan State or Butler — the rest of the Final Four — would have set the same standard because none of them were in, or, in all but one instance, even close to those top 25s.
We understand offense isn’t as efficient or as exciting as it once was and we roll our eyes at final scores from the CAA and the Big Ten and wonder what the Pac-10 has that others do not. Still, numbers in those three key categories are down from where they were even a few years ago.
Which makes you think …
When Huggins came to WVU for the 2007-08 season, 14 teams averaged 80 or more points per game. That dropped to nine in 2009 and 2010 and stands at just 11 today. Eight of those teams are in the expanded 2011 NCAA field of 68.
Four teams finished the 2008 season shooting at or above 50 percent from the floor. A total of three have been there the past three seasons, including none in 2009 and only Kansas this season.
Ten teams shot at or above 40 percent from 3-point range in 2008. The number rose to eleven in 2009 and dropped to seven last season and sits at nine today.
The Mountaineers are No. 148 among 335 Division I teams in scoring (69.5), No. 226 in shooting (42.7 percent) and No. 207 in 3-point shooting (33.5). They’re 16-1 when they outshoot the opponent and 17-3 when they rebound the opponent, as well as 5-0 when they shoot better than 50 percent from the floor and 11-5 when they score 70 or more points.
WVU was similarly ranked in those three categories and had similar W-L records in those games last year. Many top teams struggle to shoot and/or score. So you wonder, with all this “parity” and a quality of play that sees the pack grouped tighter togther than it has been in quite some time, if a team that isn’t skilled at any of those three skills — like last year’s Final Four — could again cut down nets.
Well, since Duke was actually No. 10 in scoring in 2010, and scoring remains a huge part of winning, the answer is “Probably not.”
“You’ve got to score,” WVU Coach Bob Huggins said. “I told them when they started to get ready to play in the tournament last year that because there’s so much film to go over, that because people prepare so hard and so well, that you don’t get a lot of open shots.
“If you do get open shots, you’ve got to make them. If you look at the teams that advance in the NCAA Tournament, those are the teams that make a lot of open shots. They take advantage of defensive lapses because there aren’t many.”