ATHENS - Mark Fox has called the the epidemic of low-scoring college basketball games a “national issue.” And he’s right.
But it’s also a big SEC issue.
A look inside the numbers reveals just how much the ability to put the ball in the basket has slipped in the conference:
Five years ago Georgia - during its the Dennis Felton-Pete Herrmann season - was the only SEC team not to average at least 70 points per game.
This year, there are eight SEC teams averaging under 70 points per game. And Georgia's 64.9 points per game during the 2008-09 season, which was more than five points lower than the next team, would rank ahead of six other SEC teams this season.
This year, Georgia is averaging 59.6 points per game, which is second-worst in the SEC, ahead of only Vanderbilt (59.1). But as we pointed out there's plenty of company, with more than half of the conference (eight out of 14 teams) averaging 66.9 points or less this season.
Just four years ago, nine of the SEC’s 12 teams averaged at least 70 points per game, and two more (Georgia and Alabama) averaged at least 68 per game. In other words, scoring has gone to the point that the team that ranked second-worst four years ago would now rank in the top half of the conference.
So what's the problem? I'll deal with the national problem in a story for Wednesday's papers, including comments from Fox, Billy Donovan and Jay Bilas - the latter of whom has made the sport's diminished quality of play his cause celebre'.
On the SEC level, it would seem the low-scoring is symptomatic of just not being a strong conference: Florida is a Final Four contender, and a few other teams may make the NCAA tournament (Missouri, Kentucky and Ole Miss are contenders). But otherwise this is a conference that ranks eighth in the RPI, and the quality of play reflects that.
The low scoring is not because SEC teams are being efficient: Only two teams (Florida and Kentucky) are making more than 45 percent of their field goal attempts, and most of the SEC’s teams rank in the bottom half of the NCAA in field goal percentage.
And SEC teams are also struggling to hit their 3-pointers: Nine of the SEC’s teams rank in the bottom half of the NCAA in 3-pointers per game.
And don’t blame expansion: Missouri is second in the league at 76.5 points per game, so it's done its best to bring up the quality of play. Texas A&M (62.6) is 10th, fitting right in with its new conference mates.