Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fundamental Truth: Shooting Is Offensive Scoring off in Division I as Defense Gets Tighter

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fundamental Truth: Shooting Is Offensive Scoring off in Division I as Defense Gets Tighter

Article excerpt

It gets uglier each week in the college basketball season.

Low-scoring games in the 60- and 50-point range. Terrible shooting. Horrendous shot selection. Physical defenses played by better athletes than ever before.

What has happened to scoreboard-scorching offense? Scoring has dropped four of the last five years in Division I play and now hovers at about 70 points a game. Field-goal accuracy is at 43.3 percent, the lowest since January 1970. Free throws are at 66.5 percent; the last time free-throw shooting dipped below 67 percent was 1956. The 3-point shooting percentage is at 33.7, maintaining a steady decline since the 19-foot, 9-inch shot was installed in the 1986-87 season. The basic premise is that defenses are simply better for three reasons: more sophisticated scouting, better player personnel and the variety of defenses teams employ. "I think coaches are really into video work, categorizing tape and catering their defenses to stop the strengths of the opposition," Kentucky coach Rick Pitino said. "Everything is computerized to do that." There's little doubt that videotape study in college is something that has been learned from the NBA, where teams have their own video departments. But that has meant little until recent years, when the college game started recruiting better athletes. They can run and jump with unbelievable quickness, but the drawback is they haven't bothered much to hone their fundamental shooting skills. "You see guys who can't shoot free throws, and that all goes back to your roots," Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said. "That's fundamentals." South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler agrees. If a recruit doesn't shoot well in high school, chances are he won't get much better in college. "If a kid isn't a great shooter, we can't make him one," Fogler said. "Shooters are shooters. There's only so much you can do to help." Although Arkansas assistant and chief recruiter Mike Anderson said, "There are great shooters out there to recruit. . . . you've just got to find them." Such coaches as Georgia's Tubby Smith say it's easier to take a good athlete and make him a solid defender than take a shooter and make him a defender. …

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