There haven’t been too many seasons as humbling as 2014 was for Steven Orr Spurrier, whose South Carolina Gamecocks were predicted top ten nationally but had to beat a D1AA team and win a bowl game to finish with their heads above water at 7-6. Among the six losses was a 45-42 overtime loss to Tennessee, a game in which the Gamecocks blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead.
Prior to last season’s disappointment, the Gamecocks had won 41 games the previous four years, the best stretch in school history, which is why Spurrier called last season’s 7-6 only “a decent season.”
Humble lasted only a second. Spurrier couldn’t help himself. After a millisecond pause of humble reflection, Spurrier chimed in, “In Knoxville, they’re still doing cartwheels because they went 7-6 and won a bowl game.”
That Spurrier moment brings back memories of the old days at Florida when the head ball coach couldn’t resist an opportunity to tweak the Vols. Remember when he called the Citrus Bowl the winter home of the Tennessee Vols and said “you can’t spell Citrus without a U and a T”?
On a more serious note, in an interview given to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Spurrier was asked about how he would prefer to be remembered.
“I’d rather be known as a good coach … it’s what I do is coach,” Spurrier said. “I don’t need to be known as a lousy coach that won the Heisman. I’d rather be known as a good coach.”
Throughout Billy Donovan’s coaching career at Florida, the Gators have forged an offensive identity as one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country. Unselfishness and exceptional shot selection have been cornerstones of the Donovan offensive philosophy but then came the recently concluded season in which the Gators shot 43.4% from the field, 32.3% from the 3-point line and a miserable 63.5% from the foul line. Had Florida shot a decent percentage from the field, the 3-point line or the foul line, the Gators would have won at least 21-22 games and would have been playing in the NCAA Tournament instead of staying home.
Some of Florida’s poor shooting can be attributed to injuries. Sharpshooter Michael Frazier sat out of seven games with a high ankle sprain that rendered him highly ineffective in the three games after he returned to the team. Injuries kept Eli Carter out of the lineup five games. Leading scorer Dorian Finney-Smith, who shot a very respectable 42.6% from the 3-point line, missed games with injuries and suspensions. In his absence, there was rarely anyone capable of picking up the slack.
Because the Gators lacked shooters and had little in the way of an inside presence, defenses played tighter on the perimeter so there were fewer good shots to be had.
If the Gators are to return to their winning ways (16-17 this past season), they’ll need a better inside game and better shooting on the perimeter. Finney-Smith is not expected to return to the team, but Frazier will and Carter has another year of eligibility to regain the scoring touch he showed when he played at Rutgers his first two seasons. Devin Robinson came on at the end of the season and his 3-point stroke should be vastly improved. The Gators should also get a boost from the return of DeVon Walker, who missed last season with a torn ACL, and the additions of freshmen Kevaughn Allen, a high riser from Arkansas who led North Little Rock to the state championship, and Keith Stone, a 6-7, 230-pound stretch four who can knock down jump shots.
Shooting woes have not been confined to the Gators. This has been one of the lowest scoring seasons since the advent of the 35-second shot clock. It’s enough of a concern that the NCAA is experimenting with a 30-second shot clock in the NIT and there is talk of widening the foul lane to NBA proportions in an effort to open things up.
If you watched Thursday’s NCAA Tournament games, lost in the excitement of so many white knucklers (a record five games decided by a single point), was some of the worst shooting you will ever see.
We were treated to such brilliant shooting as UAB’s 3-18 effort from the 3-point line in the Blazers’ 60-59 upset win over #3 Iowa State, which distinguished itself with a 6-23 effort. Ole Miss hit six 3-balls and threw up 21 Scuds in its 76-57 loss to #6 Xavier. Purdue and Cincinnati were a combined 9-52 from the 3-point line in #8 Cincinnati’s 66-65 win over #9 Purdue. In North Carolina State’s 66-65 win over LSU, the Wolfpack was 5-24 from the 3-point line. LSU missed its last 12 shots from the field and its last six free throws.
Some of the bad shooting can be attributed to good defense since typically, the better defensive teams make it to the NCAA Tournament, but that doesn’t explain the number of wide open shots from the perimeter that were bricked nor does it explain the number of blown layups. And let’s not even talk about the number of missed free throws in the final minutes.
A 30-second shot clock and a widened lane should help some, but probably the biggest change that has to be made is by the coaches themselves. Much like the NFL has become so predictable with a majority of teams running a knockoff of the West Coast Offense, college basketball has become so enamored with pick and roll-based offenses that it’s all about 3-pointers and dunks and nothing in between.
There is no mid-range game. It doesn’t take a basketball junkie to figure out how LSU blew a 16-point lead to North Carolina State. In the second half, NC State played it tight on the perimeter and gambled that its bigs could handle Jarrell Martin and Jordan Mickey one-on-one. If LSU had been willing to take the 12-15 foot jumpers that NC State was giving away, the Tigers would be moving on to the second round. Instead they’re one-and-done and heading back to Baton Rouge.
As exciting as the games were at the end Thursday, only a few teams shot the ball well. Villanova went 11-22 from the 3-point line and shot 63.2% from the field while blowing out Lafayette, 93-52. Arizona shot 60.4% from the field and 45.5% from the 3-point line in hammering Texas Southern, 92-73. Kentucky and Georgetown were the only other teams to score more than 70 points in regulation.
1. Big East, 4-0
2. (Tie) Pac-12, 3-0; ACC, 3-0
4. SEC, 3-2
8. (Tie) American, 1-1; MEAC, 1-1; Atlantic 10, 1-1; Big 10, 1-1
11. (Tie) MAAC, 0-1; WCC, 0-1; Atlantic Sun, 0-1; Mountain West, 0-1; CAA, 0-1;
SWAC, 0-1; Patriot, 0-1; Ivy, 0-1; Southland, 0-1; Southern, 0-1; Big Sky, 0-1 32. Big 12, 0-2
We’ve got an academic scandal at North Carolina, whose pristine reputation has been smeared by evidence both football and basketball players took bogus courses for years. We also have more coaches than ever before calling for changes in one-and-done rules. How much academic and social development can take place when a basketball player spends a year on a college campus, taking only the bare minimum classes to stay eligible? We also have the NCAA claiming it’s not responsible for academic development of players yet it sets rules for graduation rates.
With all the bad publicity the NCAA is getting these days, perhaps it’s time to hire Father Guido Sarducci as a special consultant. More than 25 years ago Father Guido came up with the idea of the “Five Minute University,” which would be a perfect fit at both UNC and Kentucky.
Do you think a 30-second clock will significantly boost scoring in college basketball or is it simply a matter of finding better shooters?
While coming home from visiting a sick friend at the VA Hospital Thursday afternoon, I heard the old Three Dog Night version of Laura Nyro’s great song “Eli’s Coming.” Three Dog Night had a good run in the 1970s but they couldn’t sustain their success because they weren’t good songwriters. Nearly every song they performed was an arrangement of someone else’s original. As long as they had good arrangers who could adapt someone else’s music to their talents, Three Dog Night churned out the hits.