Friday, March 13, 2009

And Now You Know!: Austin Carr

Once upon a time there was, arguably, the best team to ever play in any sport in any level of competition. In a span of 2 years 358 days the UCLA Bruins never lost a game. It was 88 games straight to be exact from January 23, 1971 - Jan. 19, 1974, ironically sandwiched between two Notre Dame victories.

It was during this time as well when UCLA was in the midst of winning 8 of 9 NCAA Men's Basketball Championships. (The one loss came to UTEP, formerly known as Texas Western in 1966. This team is also quite historic as they were the first team to field an all-black starting line up.)

During this streak UCLA averaged 85 points per game while outscoring their opponents by over 23. For those who don't know how this epic streak ended at the hands of the Fighting Irish, picture this: UCLA up by 11 with 3:22 left to play about to continue their streak and Notre Dame finishes on a 12-0 run to win 71-70.

For this story though we are more interested in UCLA's last loss prior to this streak. Notre Dame was anchored by senior guard Austin Carr at the time. In another classic battle between heavyweights, Carr netted 46 points in the 89-82 victory over the Bruins. It was one of 23 games in which Carr scored 40+ points in a game throughout his 74 game career at Notre Dame.

Carr averaged 38.1 ppg his junior year and 37.9 as a senior. What is more impressive is that unlike today, there was no three-point line. Stephen Curry has nothing on Austin Carr, nor does any player of the last decade as only once has a NCAA Division 1 player averaged 29 ppg (Jason Conely, freshman VMI, 2001). It wasn't until 1980 when the NCAA adopted the three-point line. It was then that Ronnie Carr hit the first three, no relation though to Austin but you can imagine how many huge games Carr would have had if he played on a court with an arc at 19'9", 22'6", and 23'9", much like you see on many courts today. Of course 22'6" being the distance for men's college basketball three-pointers.

Not only that but there was no shot clock until 1986 in the NCAA. Even then it was a 45 second clock.

Sadly though, as good as Notre Dame was and Carr was for them, he never won a Championship, no thanks to UCLA. But Notre Dame only went 2-3 in the NCAA Tournament over Carr's three years. Back then the Tournament field only consisted of 25 teams. Carr to this day holds the record for most points in a tournament game with 61 and scored 52 on two separate occasions in the Tournament as well. Carr averaged 51.4 ppg in his five appearances in the NCAA tournament.

So as we get ready for tournament play next weekend keep in mind the era of Austin Carr and how even if Stephen Curry doesn't get into the dance, he would never match up to the best tournament scorer.

And Now You Know! (And Knowing is Half the Battle)

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