2013-14 ACC Season Review – Part IIPosted by Brad Jenkins on April 10th, 2014
Now that the 2013-14 season is all over, let’s take a look back at how each ACC team performed. We will do so in three parts, dividing the league into groups of five teams based on ACC Tournament seeding. For each school, we’ll compare its actual season results with preseason expectations, and point out the surprises in each case — both the pleasant and unpleasant. Finally, we will take a quick peak at the short- and long-term prospects for each program. In Part II today, we’ll look at the middle-of-the-pack, teams that finished #6 through #10 in the league standings. This includes the team that overachieved the most compared to expectations, and one that was disappointing in its last season in the league.
6) Clemson (23-13, 10-8 ACC) - NIT (L: Semi-Finals)
Clemson came in to this season with low expectations, picked to finish #14 in the ACC media’s preseason poll. But led by all-ACC first teamer K.J. McDaniels, the Tigers’ came within a whisker of making the NCAA Tournament. Only an extremely weak non-conference schedule tarnished their resume. Of course when Brad Brownell set that schedule up, he was probably more concerned with building a young team’s confidence heading into a stronger ACC with the additions of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame.
- They were who we thought they were. During his four years at Clemson, Brownell’s squads have been much better defensively than offensively. This year was a perfect example with the Tigers finishing fifth in the league in defensive efficiency and #13 in offensive efficiency.
- We didn’t see this coming. In his junior year, McDaniels exploded into a star on both ends of the court. He accomplished the rare feat of dramatically improving his offensive efficiency (ORtg – 111.4) while also increasing his usage (28.6%). As a sophomore, those numbers were 102.4 and 23.0, respectively. In addition, McDaniels was voted the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
- What the future holds. If McDaniels returns for his senior year, the Tigers will return basically intact and be expected to compete for a high finish in the ACC. If McDaniels enters the NBA Draft instead, Clemson will have even a harder time scoring than they usually do. For long-term success, Clemson must recruit more talented offensive players. It will also be interesting to see if Brownell will look to toughen up that non-conference slate next year. Perhaps McDaniels’ decision will impact that too.
7-Tied) N.C. State (22-14, 9-9 ACC) - NCAA (L: 2nd Round)
As often happens with Mark Gottfried teams, N.C. State played better than expected after losing five of their top six players from the prior year. Of course, that one returnee, T.J. Warren, turned out to be pretty darn good. Actually, Warren had a tremendous season and carried the Wolfpack all the way to a surprising NCAA Tournament bid. After a First Four win over Xavier in Dayton, N.C. State was looking good against #5 seed St. Louis before a monumental collapse brought the Wolfpack’s season to a screeching halt.
- They were who we thought they were. With a team as young as this year’s Wolfpack, ups and downs were going to be expected. That was reflected in some extreme performances. N.C. State lost six home games during the season, but posted four ACC road wins and also beat a good Tennessee squad in Knoxville. Sometimes, the inconsistent play showed up within the span of a single game, such as blown late leads at Syracuse, versus North Carolina at home, and of course against St. Louis.
- We didn’t see this coming. After a promising freshman campaign, we all expected more production from T.J. Warren but he went above and beyond that with an average of 24.9 points per game while shooting an impressive 52.5 percent from the field. Warren won the ACC POY award and has announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.
- What the future holds. In addition to Warren, N.C. State loses point guard Tyler Lewis, who is transferring to Butler. But the Wolfpack will have plenty of good young players returning, and they will add three talented freshmen along with Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey, so the program looks to be in pretty good shape. Next year, expectations will probably be fairly modest again, so look for N.C. State to surprise.
7-Tied) Florida State (22-14, 9-9 ACC) - NIT (L: Semi-Finals)
Florida State had a good year, just missing out on the NCAA Tournament and reaching the NIT semifinals. Not predicted to be a top 40 team, they were a bit surprising in the non-conference slate, knocking off VCU and Massachusetts and suffering very close losses to Michigan and Florida. In the ACC, the Seminoles were consistently pretty good, hovering near .500 all the way.
- They were who we thought they were. Most coaches have tendencies that show up over the years that define their programs, some good and some bad. For Leonard Hamilton, the good trend is finding long, tall athletic defenders who block shots and defend the basket at a high level. The bad traits are turnovers on offense and defensive rebounding. The Seminoles blocked a lot of shots and had an excellent defensive field goal percentage, but both of the negatives were evident this season as well. Florida State ranked #322 in the country in turnover rate, and #329 in defensive rebounding percentage.
- We didn’t see this coming. Normally, long-range shooting is not a strength of the Seminoles, but this year’s squad connected on 38 percent of their three-point shots, led by Devon Bookert (43%) and Ian Miller (40%). As a team that’s 2.5 percent better than any of the previous six seasons.
- What the future holds. Next year the Seminoles will be without Okaro White and Ian Miller, but they may be improved as their young big men continue to develop. The perimeter should be fine, led by juniors Bookert and Aaron Thomas. Thomas in particular, may be primed for a breakout season worthy of all-ACC consideration.
7-Tied) Maryland (17-15, 9-9 ACC) - No Postseason
It was a disappointing last season in the ACC for Maryland. On paper they appeared to have talent close to the level of the top four teams in the league. But many of the characteristics of an underachieving team showed up: bad decision-making with the ball, internal bickering, poor shot selection, and an inability to win close games. The result was a fourth straight season of no trip to the NCAA Tournament. As they move on to the Big Ten, Mark Turgeon needs to turn this program around. He has improved the recruiting since taking over for newly elected Hall of Fame coach Gary Williams, but his team and player development have not been up to par.
- They were who we thought they were. Point guard play has been a problem at Maryland since Greivis Vasquez left after leading the Terrapins to a share of the ACC regular season title in 2010. That spot was the key question coming into the season, and it never got fully answered. Sophomore Seth Allen missed time early with an injury, and was it was thought that he could do the job upon his return, right before conference play. Allen put up decent numbers but just wasn’t a pass-first type of guard who knows how to involve others.
- We didn’t see this coming. It’s almost unimaginable that a team with two powerful post players, two tall forwards that can shoot outside, and two talented athletic wings would struggle so much to score. Even with its point guard issues, Maryland had no business finishing #11 in the ACC in offensive efficiency.
- What the future holds. Maryland is in the Big Ten now, so who cares, right? OK, we’ll give them a parting look anyway. Turgeon must remake the culture of the program and it may have already started. Three players have already announced that they are transferring out, and incoming freshman Melo Trimble may be the floor general they need to fix the point guard issue. There should be enough talent to get the Terrapins back to the NCAA Tournament next year, but they must find a way to make that talent work together.
10) Miami (17-16, 7-11 ACC) - No Postseason
Once again Jim Larranaga proved why he is so highly regarded as a coach. It can be argued that leading this Miami team to a winning season is just as impressive as the job he did in 2012-13 when the Hurricanes won both the ACC regular season and tournament titles. This is a coach who doesn’t mind trying different things, such as switching to a matchup zone after 10 games in the season and slowing games down to a snail’s pace in order to give his team a better chance to win.
- They were who we thought they were. Going into the season, Miami had to replace almost all the scoring from the 2012-13 ACC Champions so we knew points would be tough to come by. On the season Miami only managed to score 61.5 points per game, an 11 percent drop from the year before.
- We didn’t see this coming. The Hurricanes were not highly regarded at all going into conference play, but back-to-back games in early January got our attention. First came a narrow loss at undefeated Syracuse, and that was followed by a surprising six-point win in Chapel Hill. Those performances showed that Larranaga had found a way to play that was going to be competitive – namely the matchup zone and tempo control. In fact, Miami was so effective at the slow-down strategy that they finished with the lowest tempo in the country for the season, at only 58.5 possessions per contest.
- What the future holds. The first thing of note is that Miami will once again have to replace some key players, as they lose three of their top four scorers. The good news is that three talented redshirt guards will be joining the Hurricanes, including former Big 12 starters Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas). The frontcourt will be the question mark, but don’t be surprised if Larranaga figures out the answer. This past season was probably the floor level of the program now.