When Arizona State's Eddie House went for 61 points in last
Saturday's 111-108 double overtime win over California, jacking
up 30 shots (of which he made 18) and driving hard to the hoop
to earn 19 free throw attempts (he made 18 of them, too), it
brought back memories of a time when players routinely took over
games and single-handedly destroyed the opposition. Yet even
with that outburst, House's scoring average increased to a mere
24.0. You might think that with the advent of the shot clock and
the three-point shot--both of which were introduced in the
mid-1980s--that high scorers would be commonplace in today's
game. But you'd be wrong.
Of the top 25 single-season scoring averages in NCAA history,
only three were put up after the shot clock was brought in
(chart, right). In 1969-70, the season in which LSU's Pete
Maravich averaged an NCAA-record 44.5 points per game, six other
players also averaged at least 30. Two of them--Notre Dame's
Austin Carr and Purdue's Rick Mount--averaged more than 35. The
current NCAA scoring leader, George Washington guard SirValiant
Brown, was averaging 25.8 points a game through Sunday. All of
which begs the question: Where have all the gunners gone?
Consider for a moment what Maravich accomplished. He came in as
a sophomore (freshmen were ineligible in those days) and
averaged 43.8 points a game. He increased that to 44.2 the next
season and to 44.5 his senior year. "Growing up in Kentucky, I
went to Memorial Coliseum every time Pete Maravich came to
town," says Jimmy Dan Conner, a guard for Kentucky in the
mid-1970s. "It was a happening."
Certainly it's not a lack of talent that's keeping scorers down
today. In fact, the opposite is probably true. Because there are
so many more talented players now than there were in Maravich's
day, teammates of even the hottest shooters are less inclined to
allow themselves to be cast as lesser lights alongside a
shooting star. "With the way kids transfer today, I wonder if
some of the other top players would leave if one guy was doing
all the shooting," says Marquette coach Tom Crean. Adds Jamal
Crawford, who through Sunday led Michigan in scoring with 17.4
points a game, "To be honest, a person's teammates would stop
that nowadays. Everybody wants to be a scorer."
Coaches and coaching techniques have changed, too. "Years ago
the coaching world was offensively oriented," says former
Marquette coach Al McGuire. "Teams played defense by holding the
ball on offense because there was no shot clock." Today's
coaches, by contrast, are obsessed with defense, and many of
them have their best shooters coming off the bench as
three-point specialists while their better defenders play most
of the minutes.
The increased roughness of the game keeps scoring down, too.
Last month, while Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Jim
Paxson, who played 11 seasons in the NBA, was in Chicago
attending the Great Eight tournament, he turned to Don Donoher,
who coached Paxson at Dayton, and said, "Can you believe how
rough it is out there? It's rougher than the NBA games I played
"College basketball has gone more to the coaches since my era,"
says Calvin Murphy, who averaged 38.2 points in his sophomore
season at Niagara, 1967-68. Indeed, the wardens are running the
asylum, and they know their history: Only once since the NCAA
began tracking annual scoring leaders in 1947-48 has a player
led the nation in scoring and won a national championship in the
same season. (That was Clyde Lovellette, who scored 28.4 points
per game for Kansas in 1951-52.) That was a remarkable feat, but
unless today's players can convince their coaches that it can be
duplicated, the days when college basketball was ruled by the
likes of Pistol Pete and his gunnery mates will remain a distant
The Eye of the Hurricane
It isn't often that a player comes along who can shoot threes,
play defense against guards, block shots and rope cattle all in
the same weekend, but Eric Coley, a 6'5" senior forward at
Tulsa, is able to tie all those things together. Coley has been
enamored of the cowboy life ever since he was a young boy
visiting relatives in Oklahoma. "I got a Welsh pony I called
Girlfriend for my 13th birthday," he says. Before eighth grade
he moved from Rochester, N.Y., to Eufaula, Okla., where he lived
with an uncle. He owns three quarterhorses, one of which he
boards near his Tulsa apartment, and he likes to go calf roping
on weekends. He has saddles lying around his living room, and he
fantasizes about going into professional rodeo once his playing
days are over. "I absolutely love it," Coley says. "When I'm at
the rodeo, I can just be me."
Coley's diverse skills make him an avatar for the balanced
strength of the No. 19-ranked Golden Hurricane, which, at 14-1
through Sunday, is the biggest surprise of the first half of the
season. He's unconventional, efficient and tough--just like his
team. He will likely finish his career as Tulsa's alltime leader
in steals. Through Sunday he was the Golden Hurricane's top
rebounder (6.5 average) and fifth-leading scorer (11.8) this
season, and he fell just two steals short of a quadruple double
during a Dec. 4 win over UAB. "He can dominate a game without
scoring," says Tulsa coach Bill Self, who knows a rising star
when he sees one. When Self was on the basketball team at
Oklahoma State in the early 1980s, he befriended a javelin
thrower on the Cowboys' track team named Garth Brooks, and for
six years they played on the same summer softball team. "We'd go
every Wednesday night to Willie's Saloon to hear him play," Self
says. "One year as a joke the softball team made up T-shirts
that said GARTH BROOKS WORLD TOUR. Now who's laughing?"
This was supposed to be a retooling year for Tulsa after it lost
6'8" senior Michael Ruffin, a second-round draft pick of the
Bulls, from a team that went 23-10 and reached the second round
of the NCAA tournament. The Golden Hurricane hasn't missed a
beat, though. "The real reason for our success is that we share
the ball," says Self, whose players have earned six of their 14
wins against teams that made the NCAA tournament last year, the
most prominent having been Tennessee, which Tulsa beat by 20.
The Hurricane has benefited from improvements by its returning
players--most notably 6'10" senior center Brandon Kurtz--as well
as an infusion of talent led by sixth man David Shelton, a 6'6"
transfer from Independence (Kans.) Community College, who
through Sunday led Tulsa in scoring with a 13.9 average. "Nobody
on our team is great," Self says, "but everybody is good."
Though the champion of the scaled-down WAC--it now has just
eight teams--no longer earns an automatic bid to the NCAA
tournament, the Golden Hurricane's strong nonconference record
should make it a shoo-in if it performs well during league play.
That might be a mixed blessing for Tulsa, which could once again
become a springboard for a successful coach. Nolan Richardson,
Steve Robinson and Tubby Smith all coached the Hurricane before
moving on to higher-profile positions, and last spring Self
received overtures from at least four schools regarding their
vacancies. Still, there appears to be plenty of good basketball
ahead this season. If it does turn out to be Self's last ride
with Tulsa, there are worse ways to head off into the sunset.
Healing at Oral Roberts
Rebuilding a Shooter's Touch
Nathan Binam, a 6'4" southpaw guard for Oral Roberts, faced a
tough choice in late September 1998. The index finger on his
shooting hand had been mangled in a car accident, and one option
was to insert a steel rod into the finger, leaving Binam with a
normal-looking digit that wouldn't bend. The other option was to
have the top half of the finger amputated, which would give him
the chance to play basketball again. The choice was easy.
"Basketball has always been a huge part of my life," Binam says.
"I just wasn't ready to give it up yet."
Fifteen months have passed since the finger was amputated just
below the knuckle, and Binam, a fifth-year senior who took a
medical redshirt year last season, has started all 14 games this
year and is third on the Golden Eagles in scoring with an
average of 12.4 points per game. Though he must do without the
inch and three quarters most critical to a shooter's touch, he
has converted 35.8% of his three-point shots, and on Dec. 11 he
made Oral Roberts's biggest shot of the season, an off-balance
trey with six seconds remaining in a 60-59 win over Tulsa,
handing the Golden Hurricane its only loss. "If you had told me
two years ago that Nathan would come back and play like this, I
would've had a hard time believing it," says Golden Eagles coach
Scott Sutton, whose team was 6-8 at week's end. "He's our most
consistent shooter, by far."
At first Binam had his own doubts about whether he would be able
to make it back. He had trouble just dribbling the ball when he
first returned, and shooting required a significant adjustment,
since he relied on the index finger to guide the ball. Last
summer he hoisted some 500 shots a day and learned to compensate
for his loss by relying more heavily on his middle finger and
releasing the ball closer to his body. Both he and Sutton say
that he's a better player than he was before, in large part
because he spent last season studying the game as an unofficial
Of course, Binam would prefer to have the use of a full finger,
but he acknowledges that he has reaped some benefits from his
injury. "I wouldn't exactly say it's been fun, but it has been a
challenge," he says. "I met that challenge, and I overcame it. I
feel good about myself for doing that."
Living and Dying With the Trey
In this season of the ubiquitous upset, the difference between
winning and losing has often come down to three-point shooting.
Case in point: Missouri. The Tigers lead the Big 12 in
three-pointers made and attempted, and in the second half of a
Dec. 21 win over then No. 15 Illinois the Tigers shot 80% from
behind the arc. Conversely, they were 0 for 14 during the first
half of a 51-46 upset loss to Winthrop on Jan. 4....
Bill Bayno is in his fifth year as coach at UNLV, and the
Runnin' Rebels seem no closer to a return to national prominence
than when he started. Their 106-66 loss at Cincinnati on Jan. 2
was the worst drubbing in school history since a 57-point defeat
by Houston in 1971, and it dropped Bayno's record against ranked
opponents to 4-14 since he took over at UNLV....
Bayno's former boss at Massachusetts, John Calipari, may top a
lot of athletic directors' wish lists as coaching job openings
develop in the next several months. Calipari, who's working as
an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers, has reportedly been
offered a five-year contract worth $900,000 annually by Memphis.
Word has it Calipari has until Feb. 1 to decide if he will
accept the offer....
Few at the start of the season ranked Boston College point guard
Troy Bell among the top newcomers in the nation, but the 6'1"
Minneapolis native is the early favorite to win the Big East's
Rookie of the Year award. Bell was second in the league in
scoring through Sunday, with a 19.3 average, and he had 28
points in each of the 9-4 Eagles' two biggest wins, over
Michigan and Providence.
For the latest scores and recruiting news, plus more from Seth
Davis and Grant Wahl, go to cnnsi.com/basketball/college.
COLOR PHOTO: RICH CLARKSON Despite defenses geared to stop him, Maravich averaged 44.2 points a game for three seasons.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO Coley lassoed three rebounds in the Hurricane's victory over TCU.
It used to be that averaging 35 points or more for a season was
almost commonplace. In the 31 seasons from 1947-48 (the first
season for which the NCAA lists individual statistics) through
1977-78, that mark was attained 20 times by 16 players. But in
the 21 years since then, scoring 35 a game has become about as
rare as a Rick Majerus fast. Only three players--Bradley's
Hersey Hawkins, Loyola-Marymount's Bo Kimble and Kevin Bradshaw
of U.S. International--have reached that plateau, and they did
it with the benefit of the three-point shot, which was
introduced in 1986-87. When the averages are adjusted for
three-point inflation, only Bradshaw makes the list of the top
PLAYER, SCHOOL SEASON PER GAME
Pete Maravich, LSU 1969-70 44.5
Pete Maravich, LSU 1968-69 44.2
Pete Maravich, LSU 1967-68 43.8
Frank Selvy, Furman 1953-54 41.7
Johnny Neumann, Mississippi 1970-71 40.1
Freeman Williams, Portland State 1976-77 38.8
Billy McGill, Utah 1961-62 38.8
Calvin Murphy, Niagara 1967-68 38.2
Austin Carr, Notre Dame 1969-70 38.1
Austin Carr, Notre Dame 1970-71 38.0
Rick Barry, Miami 1964-65 37.4
Elvin Hayes, Houston 1967-68 36.8
Marshall Rogers, Texas-Pan American 1975-76 36.8
Butch Komives, Bowling Green 1963-64 36.7
Dwight Lamar, SW Louisiana 1971-72 36.3
Darrell Floyd, Furman 1954-55 35.9
Rich Fuqua, Oral Roberts 1971-72 35.9
Freeman Williams, Portland State 1977-78 35.9
Kevin Bradshaw, U.S. International 1990-91 35.5*
Rick Mount, Purdue 1969-70 35.4
Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati 1957-58 35.1
*average of 37.6 adjusted by awarding two points for each
three-point field goal
WEEKLY SEED REPORT
Losses by some high-profile teams caused tremors among our top
seeds, but in the end they didn't prove earth-shattering. One
significant move was made by Arizona, which shifted from the top
spot in the South to the No. 1 seed in the West by virtue of its
win at Stanford. The Cardinal's loss, however, was deemed less
egregious than Connecticut's home court loss to Notre Dame, so
Stanford remained a top seed, while UConn fell a rung.
The Huskies' drop was Auburn's gain, as the Tigers moved up a
notch to become the No. 1 seed in the South. How they did in
Tuesday's matchup with Kentucky in Auburn will tell whether the
Tigers deserved that seeding or not.
The loser of the week was Maryland, which dropped out following
a pair of defeats, to North Carolina State and Duke. The battle
for that last spot among the fourth seeds was a close call, but
Kentucky edged out Tulsa to take the Terps' place.
1. Stanford (12-1)
2. Connecticut (11-2)
3. Florida (12-2)
4. North Carolina (11-4)
1. Auburn (13-1)
2. Duke (11-2)
3. Syracuse (11-0)
4. Texas (9-3)
1. Cincinnati (14-1)
2. Michigan State (11-4)
3. Tennessee (14-1)
4. Oklahoma State (12-1)
1. Arizona (13-2)
2. Indiana (12-1)
3. Kansas (12-2)
4. Kentucky (10-4)