ACC Conversation: Final Four Preview and Coaching Carousel Update

Posted by ACC Team on March 30th, 2018

Rush the Court’s ACC microsite writers Brad JenkinsMatt Auerbach and Mick McDonald chatted this week to wonder why the ACC couldn’t get a team to the Final Four and talk about a pair of new head coaches joining the league.

Brad Jenkins: Well guys, the ACC came up empty in this year’s Final Four. Last week, we addressed what went wrong for Virginia and North Carolina. Why did Duke not make it either? Matt, why don’t you start?

Matt Auerbach: Well, I’m not exactly sure I’d tackle it from the same perspective. North Carolina and Virginia both lost games to opponents who were inferior — or, more accurately in the Tar Heels case, had inferior seasons. As for Duke, I think they just got nipped by an excellent team with an elite head coach playing its best at the right time of year. It’s a coin-flip game, and we’re having a different discussion if Grayson Allen‘s shot at the end of regulation falls. But that’s just the way the ball bounces sometimes.

Kansas Slayed Mighty Duke to Get to the Final Four (USA Today Images)

Mick McDonald: Right. If Allen’s shot goes in (and man, was it close), we are breaking down an epic Final Four matchup with Villanova this weekend. That said, I thought the key to the game was Bill Self. He coached a hell of a game and frustrated Marvin Bagley III unlike any team had all season. Also, imagine being a Mississippi State fan watching that game. That was the Malik Newman they were promised two years ago! He was outstanding.

Matt Auerbach: Newman was fantastic and his evolution into being the Malik Newman that everyone expected him to be as a freshman has been the change in Kansas‘ season that has elevated the Jayhawks to this point.

Brad Jenkins: I know a lot of people are pointing to Allen’s incredibly close miss as tough luck. But if it had gone in Duke would have been very fortunate to win the game. In my opinion they were outplayed considering all the open shots Kansas missed and the great job the Jayhawks did on the boards in addition to defensively on Bagley. Also, I know Duke had a couple of big calls go against them in overtime, but up until that point, I thought they had gotten a very generous whistle — particularly on out of bounds situations.

Matt Auerbach: Yeah, the whining coming from Duke fans about the block/charge call on Wendell Carter is falling on deaf ears here — they must be kidding.

Mick McDonald: Sorry if I shed no tears for any Duke fans whining about officials (and I know you aren’t, Brad.)

Brad Jenkins: I wasn’t surprised that a Blue Devils’ freshman struggled in the moment, but didn’t we think it would be Trevon Duval, not Carter?

Matt Auerbach: And I agree on the open looks as well. Kansas missed a ton of shots they generally convert. As for Duke, it’s not nitpicking to say that they just didn’t force feed Bagley enough. That’s where their advantage was and they just didn’t go inside to their best player enough.

Mick McDonald: That was an issue in most Duke losses this year. Too many Allen/Duval/Gary Trent jumpers and not enough Bagley. Although I will say I thought just having Svi Mykhailiuk frustrate Bagley and constantly double-down with a guard was a really nice strategy by Self given Kansas’ lack of size.

Matt Auerbach: Self is incredible. I have nothing more to add on him other than the fact that it’s still blows my mind how he gets an alley-oop dunk out of seemingly every timeout.

Brad Jenkins: Agreed. Great job by Self and Kansas’ veterans for implementing a solid game plan on short notice. Any thoughts on Florida State and Leonard Hamilton‘s decision to let the clock run out early against Michigan and his reaction in the postgame when asked about it?

Matt Auerbach: He had the 4.5!

Leonard Hamilton Wonders What the Fuss Was About (USA Today Images)

Mick McDonald: Haha. I actually do think people are making a bigger deal of it because of the gambling aspect. Is it a bad look? Yes. Should he have handled it better in the postgame interview with Dana Jacobson? Sure. But people are way too focused on that. That isn’t why they lost the game.

Matt Auerbach: I’ll give Hamilton a pass. In the moment, it was a tough question to respond to, and in his mind it wasn’t relevant to the outcome. He’s had a long career where he has always behaved like a gentleman, and his apology illustrates that. So, for me, it’s nothing.

Brad Jenkins: I like Hamilton as well. Always thought he has a solid perspective on things — winning/losing basketball games doesn’t consume him like it does most coaches. Well, since we don’t have any ACC teams still playing, let’s move on to other news. This week we got to new additions to the ACC coaching ranks. What are your thoughts on Chris Mack to Louisville?

Mick McDonald: Obviously Mack is an excellent coach. I’m curious to see how and if recruiting is affected by all the previous scandals there, but I’d be pretty surprised if he wasn’t very successful.

Matt Auerbach: I think it speaks strongly to the Louisville brand and the appeal of the league. Given the uncertainty surrounding the near-term future of Louisville hoops, I was stunned they could get a guy as accomplished as Mack who had such strong ties to his former post as an alumnus at Xavier. I think the school is the big winner here, as is Mack’s bank account, but at this moment I don’t consider the Louisville job to be a huge step up from the job he just left.

Chris Mack Joins the ACC (USA Today Images)

Mick McDonald: I think money is the main factor here because I agree that, besides getting into the ACC, Xavier isn’t THAT big of a step down from Louisville. I mean, they won the Big East and got a #1 seed this year. I’m pretty sure Mack more than doubled his salary.

Matt Auerbach: And, as we all know fellas; happy wife, happy life. I believe Mrs. Mack is from Louisville.

Brad Jenkins: What does it say about the two leagues when an ACC school facing NCAA trouble can snatch the coach from the #2 program in the Big East and it’s also his alma mater?

Mick McDonald: The Big East has been very competitive on the court, but their athletic departments (as a whole) can’t compete with the ACC financially.

Matt Auerbach: I think it speaks volumes about the league and about the power of football and the influence it can have over even the most elite basketball programs.

Mick McDonald: We’ll see how strong it is when Roy retires if UNC can pull Jay Wright from Villanova… (mostly kidding…)

Brad Jenkins: Well said! What about Jeff Capel to Pittsburgh? Good move for him or very risky?

Mick McDonald: Can’t it be both, Brad? I think it’s a low-risk situation for Capel given the state of that program and gives him a chance to show his recruiting chops on his own once again. But… Pitt is a HARD job right now.

Jeff Capel Gets His Own Program (USA Today Images)

Matt Auerbach: I think it’s a fine move for him, but he still has a lot to prove as the keeper of his own program. As for the inevitability of the Duke job opening up at some point in the near term, I think if he’s successful at Pitt he’ll maintain a high level of consideration. But, I’ve always felt that that gig is Chris Collins‘ or Steve Wojciechowski’s job to lose.

Mick McDonald: I know this is off topic but it’s always been INSANE to me that those are the types of guys rumored to take over for Krzyzewski. I know Duke seems like the type of place that wants to keep it “in the family,” but they could get anyone they wanted, basically, right?

Brad Jenkins: Initially it seemed like a surprise move, but considering that he probably wanted to be close to his dad in the last few years of his life, I think Capel probably would have taken a head coaching gig before this. As for the future of Duke it’s still a big question mark. I’m not sure the program could get anyone they wanted outside the “family.” How did replacing John Wooden work out?

Matt Auerbach: Yeah, I guess I’m just drawing that assumption based on the way his bench has always lined up even when those guys were still his players. I do think Nolan Smith‘s outfit choices this weekend eliminated him from serious consideration.

Mick McDonald: All that said, back to Capel. I am very intrigued to see if he can get players to Pitt. He’s known for bagging (no pun intended) big-name recruits, and the Panthers have struggled with that even when they were good.

Brad Jenkins: Haha! I think Jon Scheyer is one to watch too. His demeanor is very similar to Brad Stevens, so we may see a scenario in a few years where Wojo or Capel gets the job initially but can’t quite keep the train rolling and Scheyer ends up being the guy (10 years from now).

Matt Auerbach: I can totally see that. Scheyer was an underrated player and an underrated Stevens doppelgänger too, now that you mention it.

Mick McDonald: I will never be able to take Scheyer seriously because he looks just look my friend from college who once used a bottle of tequila to brush his teeth at the airport on the way home from spring break. But that’s really my problem, not his.

Brad Jenkins: We’re already seeing some player defections from ACC schools. Any surprises so far?

Mick McDonald: CJ Walker surprised me. It always seems like Hamilton’s guys love him even though extended minutes aren’t there. I think Walker could be a pretty good player somewhere else with more playing time.

Matt Auerbach: I agree that that was surprising. Rarely do we see guys who are starters and contributors on Elite Eight teams opt to leave the program. Granted, I think Forrest gave them more at times, particularly defensively, but there was nothing externally that led anyone to believe that he wasn’t going to be an integral part of the plan going forward.

Brad Jenkins: Yeah, that surprised me too. I wasn’t shocked that Omer Yurtseven would test the NBA Draft, but I am a bit shocked that he’s not returning to NC State regardless and would transfer anyway.

Mick McDonald: Yurtseven isn’t really Kevin Keatts’ style of big man (he seems to prefer more athletic types, while Yurtseven can’t really move his feet at all on defense), so that didn’t totally surprise me. I still think he winds up going pro overseas.

Brad Jenkins: I guess I was just thinking that Yurtseven was featured pretty prominently this year, but we can never know how the personalities mesh in such situations.

Matt Auerbach: Yeah I thought he improved a lot from year one to year two. I just think the European kids are more inclined to go pro with the cushion of heading back home if the NBA doesn’t work out.

Brad Jenkins: Who else should we be watching for NBA early entry?

Matt Auerbach: I think the guys that come to mind immediately for me are Deng Adel and Ray Spalding at Louisville. Critical for Mack in year one to have those two return. If they do, then Louisville can be a top half of the league team again, to be sure.

Mick McDonald: I haven’t seen yet, but I’m assuming Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker at Miami are both leaving.

Matt Auerbach: Brown has already declared without an agent. I assume Walker will be close behind, with an agent in tow.

Brad Jenkins: Good call on the Louisville guys. What about Tyus Battle?

Mick McDonald: Oh yeah. Syracuse has some good talent coming in. They could be really tough if Battle returns. (I think he should and most likely will be back.)

Matt Auerbach: Huge for Syracuse that he stays. With that recruiting class and the trio of Battle, Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett, the Orange could have a very formidable team next year.

Brad Jenkins: I guess we expect all four Duke starting freshmen to go, but what about Marques Bolden? I don’t think he’s draftable yet, but there were a lot of transfer rumors with him a year ago.

Mick McDonald: What’s the deal with Duke and E.J. Montgomery? Are they still trying to sign him? And if so, does that take the starting spot Bolden might have right now and make him more likely to go?

Brad Jenkins: My guess is that Montgomery is waiting to see if Bolden stays first and what the Kentucky bigs decide to do. If both squads are crowded he just might opt for North Carolina or someone else. No need for him to rush his decision.

Matt Auerbach: There’s no place for Bolden in the nouveau NBA. If Jahlil Okafor can’t hack it there, then Marques Bolden definitely cannot.

Mick McDonald: Yeah I was thinking transfer over NBA.

Matt Auerbach: I can see Trent staying, maybe, but the other three are as good as gone.

Mick McDonald: I think Trent is gone too.

Matt Auerbach: I tend to agree.

Brad Jenkins: Any other thoughts before we wrap up? Depending on the defections we discussed things will change. But next year the ACC should be strong again. I see Virginia, Duke, North Carolina and maybe Clemson as potential top 10 teams with about six more as solid NCAA-caliber squads.

Mick McDonald: I think Syracuse will be in that top mix as well.

Matt Auerbach: I totally agree on all of the above. The league will once again be powerful, and the hype surrounding Duke’s new class will be at a fever pitch again.

Mick McDonald: And Boston College to the Tourney! That’s my main goal for next year, besides Virginia not losing to a #16 seed again.

Matt Auerbach: Ha. I think both wishes will be fulfilled.

Brad Jenkins: All the Eagles need is a celebrity nun as team chaplain, right? Speaking of Loyola-Chicago, I guess we’re all expecting Villanova to cut down the nets Monday, right?

Mick McDonald: I would take Villanova but it wouldn’t surprise me if Kansas got the Wildcats on Saturday with the way Newman is playing. I think they’d handle Michigan. Loyola getting to Monday night would be pretty wild.

Matt Auerbach: I’m done making predictions, but if you’re forcing me to, I’ll take Michigan in a close one in the 50s and Villanova to squeak by Kansas. I think the Wildcats would beat Michigan pretty easily as well. I hate to sound trite, but it does sort of feel like a de facto title game on Saturday night.

Mick McDonald: I think Kansas could beat Villanova, but if they do, I might take Michigan? Who knows, though. This Tournament has been insane.

Matt Auerbach: Totally unpredictable and totally awesome. As always.

Brad Jenkins: I think Villanova is a clear favorite but Kansas and Michigan are certainly capable in a one-game scenario. Ok, guys. It’s been another great season and we’ve had so much fun covering it. Enjoy the Final Four, because after that we’ve got seven months of anticipation before we do what we love all over again.

Mick McDonald (50 Posts)


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