Commentary | Points, wins piling up for SCF, Cardinal Mooney basketball teams

Points, wins piling up fast for SCF, Cardinal Mooney

adell@bradenton.comFebruary 17, 2013 

Basketball around these parts doesn't get a lot of respect.

But State College of Florida and Cardinal Mooney are changing that perception faster than you can say shoot.

They are trend-setters whose body of work deserves a national perspective.

They are scoring at a clip reminiscent of the Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s, the Showtime Lakers.

They run, gun and put up points in bundles.

But here is the kicker: They share the ball, and their schemes are built on defense.

From 1957 through 1995, the NBA's team scoring average was 100 or more points per game. Since the 95-96 season, it has been more than 100 only twice.

If you project Cardinal Mooney's average over the length of an NBA game, the Cougars would be scoring 109.5 points per contest, which would be the highest total since the Showtime Lakers of 1986-87.

NBA games are 48 minutes, while colleges play 40 minutes and high schools 32.

NBA teams averaged 96.3 points per game last season, which comes out to 2.01 points per minute. The NBA's highest-scoring season was 1966-67, when Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell played and the league averaged 117.4 points per game, or 2.45 points per minute.

SCF has already surpassed those numbers, and college basketball uses a 35-second clock, compared to the NBA's 24 seconds.

The Manatees came into the weekend ranked second nationally in junior college, averaging 98.9 points per game, or 2.47 points per minute.

Cardinal Mooney's numbers are astonishing

because there is no shot clock in high school. The Cougars are averaging 73 points per game, or 2.28 points per minute.

The most impressive thing about these two teams is that they are unselfish, which might seem improbable given their penchant for scoring.

SCF is second nationally in assists, averaging 24.2 per game, while the Cougars are dishing out 16.7 per game. The Manatees are second nationally in field-goal percentage (53.2) and seventh in 3-point field-goal percentage (53.2).

Cardinal Mooney is hitting 50 percent of its shots and is knocking down 35 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc (171-495). The Cougars average 18.3 attempts from 3-point land per game, or 0.57 attempts per minute. SCF averages 21.3 attempts from the bonus land, which is 0.53 per minute.

These two are not just haphazardly launching shots. They excel on defense and get a lot of run-outs for fast breaks that give them high-percentage shots.

Cardinal Mooney is allowing 53.9 points per game. SCF is giving up 62.4 ppg and is eighth nationally with 12.3 steals per game.

And here is a red flag. If you rely on the 3-point shot and you are playing SCF or Cardinal Mooney, you better make them.

Missed shots from long range result in long rebounds more than 75 percent of the time. For a team that wants to run, that's like being invited to a gourmet dinner.

In Cardinal Mooney's 92-70 region semifinal victory over St. Petersburg Shorecrest last week, 15 of the Cougars' 38 field goals were layups. Five came after missed 3-point attempts by the Chargers and five after turnovers.

To run the break, be able to pull up for a jumper on a dime or take it to the basket, you need versatile players. SCF and Cardinal Mooney have them.

"We can put the ball in the hoop in various ways," Cardinal Mooney head coach Stefan Gates said. "Part of that is we are able to put pressure on our opponents with our defense and that leads to easy run-outs and easy baskets. You get a lot of three-on-one opportunities and we have players who can take advantage of those opportunities. But you also need to be able to get shots in the paint and we can do that."

Now all of this would be meaningless if these teams were not winning. But Cardinal Mooney is 24-3 heading into its region semifinal Tuesday at home against St. Petersburg Catholic. SCF entered the weekend at 22-6 and is having one of its best seasons in decades.

Both head coaches come from basketball hotbeds. SCF's Brock Erickson learned his basketball in the New York metropolitan area and patterns his philosophy after Iona College, annually one of the highest scoring teams in the country. Cardinal Mooney's Gates grew up in Ohio.

Scoring a lot of points doesn't guarantee wins. Virginia Military Academy led the country in scoring from 2006 through the 2011, but during that five-year stretch only had two winning seasons, and one of those was a less-than-impressive 18-13 record.

Producing mega points and winning is a dream.

And SCF and Cardinal Mooney are living it.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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