Scoring a tough task in men’s basketball in 2012

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Coaches can scout opponents easier than ever with no shortage of games available on television or online, even using DVRs to record broadcasts and file them away for an upcoming league game or a team that could pop up in their NCAA tournament bracket.

With those factors working together, it’s no wonder offenses are forced to slow things down and work deeper into the shot clock. And of course some teams run clock by design to shorten games and prevent more talented teams from utilizing their athleticism to wear them down.

As a result, the average number of shots in a Division I game has fallen to its lowest level in 15 seasons, down from 115 in 1997-98 to about 109 this season. And with turnovers also down, teams are getting fewer chances to run out in transition for easy baskets.

“I think most teams would love to get up and down the court _ most kids like to run and play,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “… People are just not giving you those easy opportunities because they’re defending and working hard and not allowing you to get your first, second and third options.”

North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller has seen plenty of that in his four years. Most opponents aim to lull the fast-paced Tar Heels into a halfcourt game, and the 7-footer said that pressure builds on players in those slower games to “get the maximum out of every shot you can.”

“It’s a tough game to play,” Zeller said. “I think offensively you can get the game up a little higher and make (opponents) speed up. But I think it’s something where you have to be able to win those games in the 50s as well as the 80s.”

The decline has been especially noticeable in BCS conferences filled with big-name programs. Through Sunday’s conference tournament games, there had been 139 games involving a BCS team in which the winner failed to score 60 points. That total is the highest of the past decade, up from 92 last year and 28 more than the next-highest mark in 2005-06.

No team illustrated that better this season than Southern California.

The Trojans went from around 77 points per game in 2002-03 to about 53 this year, the biggest drop of any BCS program in that span according to STATS LLC.

The Trojans _ on their fourth coach during that time _ shot 39 percent this season and didn’t score more than 58 points in a game after January. They closed a six-win season with a 43-38 loss to Washington State in the regular-season finale followed by a 40-point showing against UCLA in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.

As USC coach Kevin O’Neill said, “Nobody is enjoying this.”

“I have no answer for it,” he said of his team’s shooting woes. “It’s frustrating. Bob Knight said: When you make shots you look pretty and when you miss, you don’t get invited to the prom.”

And of course the Trojans aren’t in the NCAA tournament.

At Louisville, coach Rick Pitino has long been known for leading strong offenses. But this year’s Cardinals scored 56, 57, 51 and 49 points in their final four regular-season games before clinching an automatic NCAA bid with just 50 points in the Big East final.

“Definitely it seems like a lot of teams we’ve been playing … have been trying to slow the pace down,” Cardinals forward Kyle Kuric said. “Work the ball a lot, not take quick shots and kind of play within themselves, try to keep the score real low and just try to prevent us from getting on the break as much as possible.

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