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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

It Would Have Been a Travesty if Antoine Davis Surpassed Pete Maravich's NCAA Career Scoring Record

Antoine Davis' college basketball career is officially over now that Detroit Mercy has decided not to pay a fee to play in a postseason tournament to extend their season and provide him with a chance to break Pete Maravich's NCAA career scoring record. The 6-1, 165 pound Davis deserves credit for being a consistent and productive player who averaged at least 23.9 ppg in each of his five (!) collegiate seasons, but he played 144 college games--he was one of many players granted an extra season of eligibility as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic--and it would have been a travesty if he had broken Maravich's mark despite never averaging 30 ppg in a season. Davis said that he feels "cheated" that Detroit Mercy did not participate in postseason play, but the Titans finished 14-19 this season and did not earn the right to play more games. Detroit posted sub-.500 records in each of Davis' five seasons, including 8-23 in 2020. Maravich's LSU teams were not powerhouses, but they never suffered a losing season, and in 1970 they finished second in the SEC behind Kentucky while posting a 22-10 record (including 13-5 in the SEC). 

Davis was a very good college player, but Maravich was by far the most dominant scorer in college basketball history. Maravich scored 3667 points in 83 games (44.2 ppg) in three varsity seasons. When Maravich's college career ended in 1970, he had scored nearly 700 points more than the second highest scoring collegian of all-time, Oscar Robertson, who scored 2973 points in 88 games (33.8 ppg) in three varsity seasons for the University of Cincinnati. Maravich is one of just five players who led the NCAA and NBA in scoring, and his college career scoring average is a record that has stood longer than Babe Ruth's career home run record stood; Austin Carr ranks a distant second with a 34.6 ppg college career scoring average.

Maravich played in an era when varsity careers lasted three seasons, not four (and certainly not five), and he competed against the best players because it had not yet become vogue to leave school early to join the professional ranks; there is no question that Early Entry Players Have Diluted Both College and Pro Basketball. Maravich's era was also more physical than the modern era. The three point shot did not exist in college basketball until the 1980s, and a review of the documented distance of Maravich's college field goals made suggests that if the three point line had existed he would have averaged well over 50 ppg! That estimate does not even take into account the reality that if the three point shot rule had been in effect then the spacing would have been different and opposing teams would have been forced to defend Maravich more closely, opening up driving lanes and creating opportunities to draw fouls. It is conceivable that Maravich would have averaged 55 ppg or more in today's college game with the three point shot, watered down talent, and less physicality. Looking back at what Maravich accomplished in college and in his 10 year NBA career, it is not difficult to believe that he could have doubled Davis' college career scoring average of 25.4 ppg, because Maravich was a much more skilled (and bigger) player.

If Maravich's point total is ever surpassed by a player who played four (or more) seasons, then the NCAA should list two record holders: the three season record holder (Maravich) and the four (or more) season record holder. This is not a Roger Maris/Babe Ruth situation which involved a single season record with the regular season lasting slightly longer in Maris' time than in Ruth's; this is a completely changed college basketball landscape in which varsity players participate in dozens more games than Maravich did, with the opportunity to buy the opportunity to play even more games despite playing for a team with a losing record. It is worth noting that Maravich's 22-10 team did not even qualify for the NCAA Tournament during that more competitive era, because at that time only conference champions were invited to the NCAA Tournament.

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posted by David Friedman @ 10:09 PM



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