Arkansas scouting report
Cuonzo Martin answers questions about individuals on his team
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.