Mike Strange: Offense not a strong point in the SEC

Mike Strange
Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) draws a foul as he collides with Vanderbilt guard Dai-Jon Parker (24) at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) draws a foul as he collides with Vanderbilt guard Dai-Jon Parker (24) at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Arkansas scouting report

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Cuonzo Martin answers questions about individuals on his team

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Once upon a time, a basketball trip to the University of Arkansas conjured up a frenetic ride with seatbelts fastened. There was a name for it: 40 Minutes of Hell.

The purveyor of that supercharged experience, Nolan Richardson, has been retired to his ranch for a decade now. However, the concept of "40 Minutes of Hell" has taken on a new meaning this winter.

It's how some spectators would describe watching all too many SEC games.

Richardson coached the Razorbacks in 558 games. In only 10 did both teams fail to score 60 points.

In the 2012-13 SEC season, it seems every other game both teams fail to score 60 points.

That was the case in four of the seven recent midweek SEC games, including Tennessee's 58-57 win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday and Arkansas' 59-56 loss at Alabama on Thursday.

Texas A&M and Mississipi State worked overtime to produce a 55-49 result. All told, nine of 14 SEC teams failed to hit 60 in the midweek games.

In 1991-92, the year Richardson's Razorbacks hit the SEC at a gallop, they scored 90 or more in 18 games.

They weren't the only ones. That same year, Rick Pitino prodded Kentucky to 90 or more 12 times.

A 54-53 game was once unthinkable. Now, it's routine.

Every SEC team except Ole Miss has played in at least one game in which "60" never appeared on the scoreboard. Mississippi State sets the pace with six. UT, Georgia, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt have each played five.

Even No. 8 Florida has a curious 58-40 win over Savannah State on its record.

The Vols have one game in which neither team hit 40 points, that 38-37 shootout at Georgetown.

Tennessee has scored 56, 54 and 58 in its past three outings — and won two of them.

With a minimum of 12 games left, it's safe to say there will be a sixth such "Stuck in the 50s" pace, matching the most since coach Kevin O'Neill's final slow dance, 1996-97.

At this point, let me say that high-scoring basketball and good basketball are not synonymous.

In coach Wade Houston's tenure (1989-94), the Vols never played a game in which neither team hit 60 points. Those teams might have been entertaining, but they never went to an NCAA tournament and logged three losing records in five years.

By the same token,low-scoring basketball can produce positive results.

Don DeVoe's 1981-82 Vols tied for first place in the SEC. Eleven of their 30 games saw neither team muster 60 points. The last was a 54-51 loss to Virginia in the Sweet 16.

I'm sure UT fans would do handstands to see a similar season-ending result this year. But that was a different era.

The shot clock was introduced in 1985-86 to discourage 54-51 games. The 3-point shot was added a year later to further boost offense.

And they did. UT coach Cuonzo Martin is a product of the shot-clock era. UT promotes the fact that Martin and staff are the highest-scoring coaching staff (as players) in all of Division I.

So while Martin is a staunch defensive advocate, he has no aversion to scoring. His first UT squad played only one game in which both teams scored in the 50s.

That said, his second UT team struggles to score. And that makes the Vols a good fit in a league where the speed limit seems to have been reduced to 55.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 10

ahchris5#1415815 writes:

The players spend too much time in the weight room and Tattoo parlor and not enough time on the floor shooting.

Jakevol writes:

While some shooters have off nights as most do, lession is you can always play defense. Even great AAU coaches will tell their kids this at an early age. Defense is a given and reduce turn-overs, all the time. Turn-overs are like golfers who leave putts short, their putts never have the chance to go in the cup.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

But as you see when the SEC steps out to play other conferences, they get their butts whacked.

The fact is, the SEC has fallen WAY off in basketball.

My feel for the reason?? They don't balance their teams with both shooters and athletes.

UK, Vandy, and UF attempt to...most of the other SEC schools now, including UT, just go recruit the 'most athletic" kids they can, and the result is terrible offensive basketball.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to Jakevol:

While some shooters have off nights as most do, lession is you can always play defense. Even great AAU coaches will tell their kids this at an early age. Defense is a given and reduce turn-overs, all the time. Turn-overs are like golfers who leave putts short, their putts never have the chance to go in the cup.

Defense is a good thing but in the end it all comes down to shooting at least 50% from the floor and consistent shooting by the Vols is what wins games and our history of shooting 50% at walton isn't good..Hogs are a carbon copy when it comes down to matching up size wise with us..This is a huge game for us confidence wise,,Got to get the road game monkey of our back

rtrchatt writes:

Watching SEC BB is like watching Big East FB... college kids doing their best.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to emailnodata:

But as you see when the SEC steps out to play other conferences, they get their butts whacked.

The fact is, the SEC has fallen WAY off in basketball.

My feel for the reason?? They don't balance their teams with both shooters and athletes.

UK, Vandy, and UF attempt to...most of the other SEC schools now, including UT, just go recruit the 'most athletic" kids they can, and the result is terrible offensive basketball.

I agree that coaches too often fall in love with athleticism at the expense of pure basketball skill, which they ironically don't have enough practice time to correct. However, I disagree that this is just an SEC thing. Scoring is down in all of college basketball over the last several years. The reason mentioned by the previous poster is one of them; the defense can and should be there every night, but the ball doesn't always go in the basket no matter how well you run your offense. For some reason, we fans of SEC football applaud the "defense first" strategy that has helped establish the SEC's national dominance but don't appreciate the same kind of conservative, defensive-oriented strategy in basketball even though it is based on the same principle.

Other reasons given by Jay Bilas on a recent ESPN GameDay show were the annual departure of some of the best young offensive players to the pros--with the consequent necessity of developing team offensive cohesion and strategy around a team's CURRENT crop of early-entry pros--and the prevalence of the pick-and-roll offenses without enough good guards to run them. Others have pointed to the decline of fundamental training by coaches at lower levels. This may just be a cyclical thing that may well change if, for example, the NBA establishes a lower age limit of 20 to be drafted. Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith among others think this should and well may happen before long.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Defense is a good thing but in the end it all comes down to shooting at least 50% from the floor and consistent shooting by the Vols is what wins games and our history of shooting 50% at walton isn't good..Hogs are a carbon copy when it comes down to matching up size wise with us..This is a huge game for us confidence wise,,Got to get the road game monkey of our back

I agree that this a huge game for the Vols. If they are to have any chance at all for the post-season, this is the kind of game they have to win. No question the odds are against them, so a win would be a major boost to team confidence as well as help their post-season chances.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I agree that this a huge game for the Vols. If they are to have any chance at all for the post-season, this is the kind of game they have to win. No question the odds are against them, so a win would be a major boost to team confidence as well as help their post-season chances.

As usual John your are right on the money..A road win is an absolute must especially since this is a very equal match up

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

@johnlg
Good post.
When I say "shooters", i'm thinking of Chris Lofton, Jajuan, guys like that, plus some of the guys like Billy D likes put on his perimeter: tall shooters.

Funny on the football, while I agree in principle...did you notice in the bowl games the SEC defenses got torched, and the SEC offenses carried the day??

Wonder it the "tide" is turning?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to emailnodata:

@johnlg
Good post.
When I say "shooters", i'm thinking of Chris Lofton, Jajuan, guys like that, plus some of the guys like Billy D likes put on his perimeter: tall shooters.

Funny on the football, while I agree in principle...did you notice in the bowl games the SEC defenses got torched, and the SEC offenses carried the day??

Wonder it the "tide" is turning?

No argument with any of this. We can always hope that the offense comes back in college ball. Don't get me wrong; I like a quick-paced game as much as anybody. Defense is not just holding the other team's score down, it is getting the key stops even when both teams are hot. Some players just are better shooters, have a natural sense for when they have an advantage, and have a plan to maximize their opportunities. You can never have too many of those, but ultimately, any team has be able to score when they need to. When you don't have great individual offensive players, you have to have a plan that can get good shots for everybody. Until the Vols can develop that ability, the best defense in the world can only take them so far.

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