For college students and college basketball fans, Exam Week is the worst week on the schedule. For students, this week is the culmination of three months worth of procrastination, cliff notes and Wikipedia. For college basketball fans, it’s the lightest week of hoops action we will see all season.
With so very little going on this week in terms of action, the staff at College Basketball Talk is going back to school. Over the next five days, the CBT Staff will be responsible for answering an essay question in one of five different subjects.
Thursday’s exam covers physical education. But be warned, this isn’t your typical “Swim four lengths of the pool in order to get a passing grade” P.E. exam. No, this may end up being the most difficult exam of the week.
Jack Taylor, the Grinnell College sophomore, scored an NCAA-record 138 points in a game earlier this season. It was a result of the rapid and concentrated scoring style that Grinnell implements in every game. Do you believe that Division I will ever see another 100-point game in the modern era? Keep in mind Frank Selvy of Furman scored 100 in a game in 1954. Please specify potential players coaches and scenarios.
If a Division I player is to ever score 100 or more points in a game it would have to be a “perfect storm” of sorts, with a number of factors needing to break in that player’s favor. The first thought was to take a look at some of the names that come up when discussing some of the game’s best “gunners.” Three players of note are Butler’s Rotnei Clarke, Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson and Louisville’s Russ Smith.
All three players average at least 17.1 points per game and have possession percentages of 25% or higher (meaning that the player accounted for at least one-quarter of his team’s total possessions), with Smith leading the way in both categories (20.3 ppg, 32.6% possession). A look at what Jack Taylor did in his 138-point outing reveals a percentage of 82.2%. For any player to have a shot at scoring 100 points it’s not about getting hot so much as it is having a coach and teammates committed to getting them the majority (if not all) of the shots. Taylor attempted 108 of Grinnell’s 136 shots and ten of their 16 free throws.
Looking at the top five scorers in the country all have possession percentages of at least 28%, with Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum (24.9 ppg) leading the way with a percentage of 33.6%. In order of their possession percentage the remainder of the top five shakes out like this: Creighton’s Doug McDermott (32.3%; 22.7 ppg), San Jose State’s James Kinney (30.3; 22.6), Central Connecticut State’s Kyle Vinales (29.4; 23.5) and Virginia Tech’s Erick Green (28.3; 24.4). But like the three gunners above, these five would need a lot of help from their coaches and teammates to achieve the opportunities needed to reach triple digits.
Those opportunities wouldn’t come solely by way of getting fed the ball on every possession either, as a ridiculously fast pace would be needed over the 40 minutes. Grinnell ran up 126 possessions in that exhibition game (125.6 to be exact, but you can’t play 0.6 of a possession), a number that’s business as usual for their program. The five teams that average the most possessions per game in college basketball today: VMI (80.7 possessions/game), Northwestern State (78.7), UTSA (77.8), Seattle (77.2) and Longwood (76.9). Of the eight scorers mentioned above Henderson’s team averages the most possessions per game, with Ole Miss ranking 21st nationally at 74.9.
To get a player to the 100-point mark would take a great deal of preparation in the preseason to get guys in the physical condition needed to play at an insanely high pace, as defensively the team would have to press all 94 feet. But in the end this is a gimmick, along the lines of Jimmy Patsos throwing a triangle-and-2 at Davidson a few years back with both players guarding Stephen Curry. Sure Loyola (MD) got some national attention, but they also ended up on the receiving end of a 30-point beating. Gimmicks to gain national attention may be of use to a school like Grinnell, but a Division I program doing so and becoming a laughing stock could get a coach fired.
There’s also the question of the player’s teammates going along with the idea. Most players, if not all, when being interviewed for recruiting sites say that they want to play fast (even those who are slower than molasses and incredibly lazy) when asked what they’re looking for in a school. That aspect won’t be much of a problem. But giving up touches so someone else can hoist away? Good luck selling that. The players may nod and say “yes, coach” when given the instructions, but will they carry it out? Not so sure, especially given the number of Division I games that are televised (the same can’t be said for Division III).
No Division I player will approach the 100-point plateau again; the folks at Furman can feel secure in the fact that Frank Selvy was the last.
* All numbers are from statsheet.com.
Professor’s Notes: Considering this feature will never be accomplished at the Division I level, you did an admirable job providing suitable candidates to do so. Your analysis of teams most likely to run enough possessions in order to get a player open for 100 points is spot-on. VMI and Central Connecticut State are the most likely candidates to put a player in position to even get close. However, it would have been great to read more about current players like Smith, Clarke and Henderson. In the right situation, say, Rotnei Clarke at Central Connecticut State, it could be plausible to see him score in the upwards of 70+ points in a single game. But as you mentioned, the perfect storm would need to occur. Also, the mention of other gimmicks, such as the triangle-and-two, scores major brownie points.