ACC Burning Questions: Florida State

Posted by Matt Auerbach on October 25th, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Will the stable of talent Leonard Hamilton has assembled in Tallahassee finally manifest into an NCAA bid?

The preseason hype swirling around the Florida State basketball program has seemingly become a summer rite of passage. But sure as we are to be inundated with grand proclamations of Leonard Hamilton‘s crew becoming a factor in this season’s ACC title race, it is almost as certain that results will fall significantly short of expectations. Heading into his15th campaign at the helm, Hamilton once again has a roster that appears capable of earning the Seminoles’ first NCAA Tournament berth since 2012. In light of recent disappointments, however, it would be prudent to exercise a cautious approach with this bunch.

It's Dwayne Bacon's team now that classmate Malik Beasley left early for the NBA. (Greg Oyster, 247Sports)

It’s Dwayne Bacon’s team now that classmate Malik Beasley left early for the NBA. (Greg Oyster/ 247Sports)

Upon his arrival on campus last year, the popular belief was that McDonald’s All-American Dwayne Bacon was a one-and done player. And while classmate Malik Beasley parlayed his immediate success into a first-round NBA Draft selection, Bacon opted for another year of seasoning. From a physical standpoint, Bacon’s size and strength are commensurate with that of typical NBA wings – the issue is with refining his skill set. The freshman led the team in scoring and rebounding, crossing the 20-point threshold an impressive 12 times despite only shooting 28 percent from behind the arc. He will be relied upon to make the leap from productive freshman to an all-ACC performer this season. He has the talent and pedigree to do just that.

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ACC Burning Questions: Georgia Tech

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 24th, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: How long will it take Josh Pastner to turn around the Georgia Tech program?

It’s been a long time since the Georgia Tech basketball program has been a consistent winner. If fact, the Yellow Jackets have only put together one winning ACC season in the past two decades. When Brian Gregory was fired soon after the end of last year’s 20-win campaign, that opened the door for Josh Pastner to bolt from his sputtering Memphis program to take over the reins in Atlanta. With a depleted roster awaiting him, Pastner will not be expected to do much in Year One. But given the high level of competitive balance within the ACC, can Georgia Tech hope for progress anytime soon?

Josh Pastner faces an uphill climb to turn around the Georgia Tech program. (Photo:

Josh Pastner faces an uphill battle to turn around the Georgia Tech program. (

The cupboard in Atlanta is not completely bare, but there is not a lot of talent left on the shelves. College basketball insider Jon Rothstein recently noted on Twitter that “Georgia Tech may have the worst power-five roster I’ve ever seen. Yellow Jackets won’t win a game in ACC play this season. Book it.” Considering the fact that Boston College is still in the league after going 0-18 in ACC play a season ago, that statement, while somewhat exaggerated, may not be too far off the mark. Gregory never could seem to get over the recruiting hump in Atlanta, so he frequently used upperclassmen transfers to keep the roster competitive. That Band-Aid approach resulted in a nice 21-15 season with an NIT appearance last year, but five seniors have since departed and Pastner has inherited the mess. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 10.24.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 24th, 2016


  1. Syracuse tipped off its season on Friday night with Orange Madness in the Carrier Dome. Jim Boeheim may be in the twilight of his great career, but the way his school renews the basketball year is not old-school at all. Much like Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness, the event attracts celebrities and is all about entertainment — making sure that players, fans and recruits enjoy the festivities. Sophomore forward Tyler Lydon is expected to have a breakout season for the Orange, but this week he experienced a different sort of breakout — a rash caused by poison oak which caused him to miss two days of practice.
  2. Unlike the light-hearted action at Syracuse, Duke‘s players really got after it during their 20-minute scrimmage that wrapped up Countdown to Craziness in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night. The intensity of the game was good from a competitive perspective, but it almost backfired when Grayson Allen awkwardly barreled into Amile Jefferson‘s legs while aggressively pursuing a loose ball. After an anxious minute on the floor, Jefferson got up and appeared to be sore but not injured. In other news from the practice, freshman Jayson Tatum showed why he is considered a top-5 NBA Draft pick by pouring in 18 points to lead all scorers.
  3. North Carolina got some bad news over the weekend when it announced that junior Theo Pinson will be out indefinitely with a fracture of the fifth metatarsal on his right foot. Pinson is expected to replace the departed Marcus Paige — who, ironically, also missed the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign with a foot injury — in the Tar Heels’ starting backcourt. Roy Williams has the luxury of good perimeter depth this season, although senior Nate Britt is the only other player with much experience. In the meantime, Britt should get the nod as Joel Berry’s starting running mate, but expect sophomore Kenny Williams and freshmen Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson to gain some extra early playing time as well. Pinson will probably not return until mid-January at the earliest, and sadly this continues his historical pattern of being prone to injury.
  4. After years of struggling to advance deeply in the NCAA Tournament, Mike Brey has now guided Notre Dame to the Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons. Two key players that played on both of those teams are now missing — point guard Demetrius Jackson and center Zach Auguste. As the Irish’s only viable post threat, Auguste may be the more difficult player to replace, and it seems that is what Brey had in mind when he started talking up seldom-used Martin Geben back in the spring. Under Brey, it’s not uncommon for big men to make a leap in productivity as upperclassmen, but we would be shocked if Geben approaches anything close to what Auguste posted during his last two years in South Bend.
  5. After having to play its home games in Greenville, South Carolina, last season, Clemson is looking forward to playing in a remodeled Littlejohn Coliseum this year. Everyone around the program seems very pleased with the new facility, but head coach Brad Brownell has the right perspective when he said, “The building doesn’t win you any games. A better office, nicer TVs and couches doesn’t win any games. Hopefully it brings guys together in an environment where they spend more time together and become closer and that bond wins games.” The other hope is that the updated facilities help the Tigers in recruiting – Brownell has proven he can compete with the big boys in the ACC when he has decent talent.
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ACC Burning Questions: NC State

Posted by Matt Auerbach on October 21st, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Will the Wolfpack’s new lead dog be able to replace its top Cat?

A year ago, North Carolina State’s season seemed to have been derailed before it even got started. With the unanticipated departure of All-ACC second teamer and leading scorer Trevor Lacey to the pros, the Wolfpack had lost half of a dynamic backcourt from its surprise run to the Sweet Sixteen. And while Anthony “Cat” Barber did yeoman’s work last season in mitigating the absence of his viable second fiddle, the team just never generated enough traction as the Wolfpack missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Mark Gottfried’s five-year tenure. As he embarks on year six in Raleigh, Gottfried once again will be tasked in replacing his leading scorer, as Barber opted for the NBA after a spectacular All-ACC junior campaign.


Mark Gottfried hopes five-star freshman Dennis Smith Jr. (right) fills a fraction of the void left by Cat Barber’s departure. (The Fayetteville Observer)

Despite captaining an extraordinarily average team, Barber ranked seventh nationally in scoring at 23.5 points per game and second in the country in playing 96 percent of his team’s minutes. In his stead, Gottfried will hand the keys to the offense — an offense that ranked as last season’s 33rd most efficient — to the capable hands of five-star recruit Dennis Smith Jr. Smith, who chose the Wolfpack over Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky, suffered an ACL tear prior to his senior season, meaning he hasn’t seen any game action since 2015 (when he was named the Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year in North Carolina). By all accounts, Smith is now healthy and will undoubtedly have an opportunity to become one of the nation’s most impactful freshmen. Read the rest of this entry »

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Meet the ACC’s Newly Eligible Transfers

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 21st, 2016

Compared with just a short decade ago, many more student-athletes are going the transfer route. When we combine that trend with the 60-75 underclassmen who turn professional each spring, the aggregate result is that roster turnover is at an all-time high. When it comes to media coverage of newcomers, the focus tends to primarily be on freshmen. So in order to get familiar with the transfers entering the ACC this season, we have provided the list below that breaks non-freshmen newcomers to the league into four groupings (traditional transfers; graduate transfers; JuCo transfers; sitting out this year). Players within each category are ordered according to the anticipated impact that they will have this season.trad_transfers

This group represents what we know as the traditional transfers — those who are moving from one four-year school to another and, as a result, were forced to sit out last season. Virginia’s Austin Nichols is expected to step in as Anthony Gill’s immediate replacement in the post. He should fit right in with Tony Bennett’s scheme defensively and will provide additional rim protection after proving to be an elite shot-blocker in his two years at Memphis. The word out of Raleigh is that NC State’s Torin Dorn has looked great in preseason workouts and may be ready to start for the Wolfpack. Clemson figures to get major production from at least two of its transfers — Marquise Reed was a big-time scorer on an NCAA Tournament team in 2014-15 (Robert Morris) and Elijah Thomas was a top-50 type recruit coming into college.

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Louisville Receives NCAA Notice of Allegations

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 20th, 2016

Earlier today Louisville announced that it had received the NCAA’s notice of allegations concerning last year’s stripper scandal, providing a redacted copy of the notice. As it turns out, the NCAA has charged the school’s basketball program with four Level One violations – the most severe level on their spectrum. The investigation stems from accusations made by former escort Katina Powell, who claimed in her book, Breaking Cardinal Rules, that former Louisville director of basketball operations Andre McGee paid her and other escorts thousands of dollars in exchange for sex with recruits and players in Minardi Hall, an on-campus dorm.

Louisville's Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich plan to fight the Level One allegation against the Cardinal's Head Coach. (Photo: WHAS11)

Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich plan to fight the allegation made against the Cardinals’ Head Coach. (Photo: WHAS11)

All four of the Level One violations are directed at individuals, which means the school has potentially avoided crippling ‘lack of institutional control’ or ‘failure to monitor’ sanctions. However, Rick Pitino was personally delivered a Level One charge for failing to demonstrate that he adequately monitored his assistant coach, McGee. At a noon press conference today, athletic director Tom Jurich said the school will dispute the serious charge against the Cardinals’ head coach. Two other Level One violations involve McGee’s role in the scandal. It will be hard for Louisville to contest those charges, since it’s unlikely that any further facts in the case can be uncovered. As Pitino noted at today’s press conference, “Andre has been advised by his attorney not to speak.” The final violation is directed at Brandon Williams, who was on the Louisville staff after the scandal broke. Williams is charged with failing to cooperate with NCAA investigators by refusing to turn over requested phone records.

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ACC Burning Questions: Wake Forest

Posted by Matt Patton on October 20th, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: What sort of “sophomore leap” can we expect from Bryant Crawford, John Collins, and Doral Moore?

Wake Forest is coming off an incredibly disappointing season. Despite having a pair of talented seniors in the lineup, the Demon Deacons managed only two league wins last year, causing fans to suffer flashbacks of the Jeff Bzdelik era. The 2015-16 team was better than its record, though, and that discrepancy largely falls on the shoulders of the team’s most talented (and now graduated) players: Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas. This year the Demon Deacons will lack their senior leadership but that may finally provide Danny Manning the distance he needs to fully reshape the basketball environment in Winston-Salem. First, I’m an admitted Manning apologist. His results have so far been inconsistent, but Bzdelik passed along a culture so toxic that no one could have reasonably expected a quick fix. This, however, is the year Manning must start to show real progress (with next year being the year to make a leap in the conference standings). The road will be tough and the win total may not reflect significant improvement, but Wake Forest needs to beat the worst teams in the league (here’s looking at you, Boston College and Georgia Tech), while playing competitively against the better teams (hey, Virginia).

John Collins is an analytics darling, but can he make the leap the statistics say? (Photo Credit: Bob Hebert)

John Collins is an analytics darling, but can he make the leap the statistics suggest? (Bob Hebert/Getty)

To replace Miller-McIntyre and Thomas, look no further than sophomores Bryant CrawfordJohn Collins and Doral Moore. Collins in particular carries the Luke Winn-endorsed high usage and efficiency hallmark of breakout sophomores, and Crawford effectively replaced Miller-McIntyre’s role for much of last season. How competitive Wake Forest will be, though, depends mostly on the team’s ceiling (the ACC is stacked) and I’ll be surprised if Crawford and Collins aren’t the keys to the Deacs’ highest performance. Crawford will need to cut down on his turnovers while Collins needs to prove efficient in increased minutes, but those are achievable goals. Moore, on the other hand, showed flashes of brilliance last season. You can’t teach tall, but Manning appears capable of coaching up his bigs. If that holds true, Moore could become a real star in the ACC by the time he’s done there. Joining the trio of star sophomores are graduate transfer Austin Arians from Milwaukee, who should provide some immediate help on the wing. Don’t look for Arians to become a volume scorer in Winston-Salem, but he can keep opponents honest with his shot and he never turns the ball over. It’s also possible we’ll see a quantum jump from Mitchell Wilbekin this season. His brother Scottie Wilbekin made a big step forward at Florida between his sophomore and junior years. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Burning Questions: Boston College

Posted by Matt Patton (@mpatton0) on October 19th, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Can Boston College show enough improvement to buy Jim Christian some time?

As we and others predicted would occur, last year was an unmitigated, winless disaster for the Eagles. With only one starter returning, Boston College didn’t field a team that had any chance of realistically competing in the ACC (the Eagles’ final KenPom ranking (#226) was nearly twice as bad as next worst Wake Forest). It was a rebuilding year in every sense of the phrase. This year might turn out better in Chestnut Hill, but Jim Christian‘s squad must drastically improve its offense while still lacking the necessary talent to compete and win regularly in conference play. Eli Carter and Dennis Clifford, the team’s most used and important players last season, are both gone. Sammy Barnes-Thompkins, Matt Milon and Idy Diallo also transferred away, although none were systemically very important. These departures present an opportunity for the remaining players to quickly improve, but they are also another steep hurdle in Christian’s efforts to rebuild the program.

Jerome USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Robinson was a lone bright spot for the Eagles last season. (USA TODAY Sports)

A lone bright spot last season was the play of Jerome Robinson. He was a crucial part of the offense and a very efficient shooter. The two big questions surrounding Robinson are whether he is ready to be the center of Boston College’s offense and if he can improve on his atrocious turnover rate. Unfortunately, the responsibility of carrying more of the offense makes keeping his turnover rate down an impossibility, but a second year of conditioning and experience should only help in most other areas. Christian will also need leadership and improvement from sophomore AJ Turner, senior Garland Owens, and redshirt freshman John Carlos Reyes (who is tasked with replacing Clifford). Read the rest of this entry »

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The Difficulty of Replacing Malcolm Brogdon

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 17th, 2016

The last three seasons have been historically good for Virginia basketball in winning 89 games, claiming an ACC Championship, and earning two NCAA #1 seeds along the way. But for that level of excellence to continue this season, the Cavaliers have an enormous pair of shoes to fill. Four seniors departed the program, and one of those, Malcolm Brogdon, experienced one of the most decorated seasons in recent ACC history. Not only was he voted the ACC Player of the Year and the league’s top defender, the senior was also selected as a consensus All-American and the NABC National Defensive Player of the Year. Replacing a player of such high caliber on both ends of the floor will not be easy for head coach Tony Bennett, but just how hard will it turn out to be?

Malcolm Brogdon Led Virginia Back to the Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

In 2015-16, Malcolm Brogdon became the first player to win ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. (USA Today Images)

To gauge what Bennett is facing in replacing Brogdon, we looked at recent conference history. Since the conference began selecting an All-ACC Defensive Team after the 1999-2000 season, there have been 26 players who were on the list of top-five league defenders and also named First-Team All-ACC in the same year. Of those 26 stars, 13 were either the ACC Player of the Year and/or the league Defensive Player of the Year in that season (Table 1).


By comparing team records before and after the loss of the all-everything player, we see that a team has never improved its record afterward. Of course, none of these situations are exactly alike — talent returning or entering the program in the following season varies widely depending on the school. For instance, 2002 Duke without the services of NPOY Shane Battier started five future NBA players, including another NPOY in Jason Williams. In 2014 Miami’s Jim Larranaga not only lost Shane Larkin, but he also lost his other top five players as well. Virginia’s situation in the post-Brogdon year seems to fit somewhere in the middle of those extremes. The high quality of its newcomers may be enough to get them close to matching last season’s 13 league wins, but history appears to tell us that meeting last year’s win total is the ceiling for a team that loses such an elite all-around performer.

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ACC M5: 10.17.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 17th, 2016


  1. North Carolina on Friday night held its annual ‘Late Night With Roy’ event to tip off the new season. After the usual light-hearted fare featuring various dance, skits and skills contests, the Tar Heels conducted a scrimmage that needed overtime to settle the outcome. Earlier last week, Roy Williams hosted a preseason media day where the main topic of interest was how the team will adjust to the losses of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. Williams described the situation as such: “Because it’s not two out of eight. It’s your two best. Markedly, maybe you could say your two best in every part of the game. It’s not just a numbers game.” The good news is that there is plenty of experienced talent still on hand with three seniors and three juniors comprising the expected top six players in Williams’ rotation. In fact, there are only 16 McDonald’s All Americans from the 2013 and 2014 classes still playing college basketball, and five of those will be suiting up in Carolina blue and white this season.
  2. Louisville also recently conducted its preseason media day and Rick Pitino seems to be very excited about his group this year. He’s expecting a lot of improvement from his sophomore class and is also happy with his team’s depth — particularly along a front line where as many as seven players may see regular minutes. We found it interesting that Pitino said the Cardinals may need to stray from their typical defensive zone trapping pressure game. Rather, he claims that this year’s team will play about 95 percent man-to-man defense because of their relative inexperience. What we find odd is that last year’s group — which finished second in  KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings — had relatively the same level of experience and were able to execute Pitino’s multiple defensive looks just fine. Considering his track record in teaching defense, we will naturally trust the head coach to make the right call. After all, he has coached eight top-five defenses in the last nine years.
  3. It was throwback night in Tallahassee last weekend when Florida State held its annual tip-off event known as ‘Jam with Ham’ on October 7. The festivities were conducted in Tully Gym on campus, the Seminoles’ home court until 1981. Leonard Hamilton hopes some of the residual magic from that building — the 1972 NCAA runner-up Seminoles called it home — rubs off on this year’s version. Highly-touted freshman Jonathan Isaac flashed his talent and versatility in the scrimmage, and this may be Hamilton’s deepest team in years. The Seminoles are expected to return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2012.
  4. Most of the talk during N.C. State’s recent media day concerned the Wolfpack’s two most highly-rated newcomers, point guard Dennis Smith and Turkish center Omer Yurtseven. Mark Gottfried is plenty impressed with Smith, calling him “the best guard in the country, period, hands down.” As for Yurtseven, there’s no timetable for when the NCAA will rule on the big man’s eligibility but his availability may be more crucial than first contemplated because of the status of the Wolfpack’s two senior big guys. Gottfried said that he plans to redshirt Lennard Freeman so that he can fully recover from a lower leg injury. The coach also said that Beejay Anya weighed 344 pounds just a few short weeks ago, making it unlikely that he would be in condition for major minutes from the outset.
  5. On October 1 we learned that Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear was not going to be ready when the Hokies started practice because of offseason foot surgery. Last week, head coach Buzz Williams announced that the sophomore big man may in fact miss the entire season. This development would be a big blow to the Hokies’ frontcourt, leaving them short on depth and height in the paint. Williams often played small-ball last season as Virginia Tech closed strong in conference play (winning its last five ACC games), using 6’7″ Zach LeDay and 6’6″ Chris Clarke in the post. But the 6’10” Blackshear also got plenty of minutes when the Hokies needed a tall body on the floor to combat the ACC’s top post men. If he can’t play, then Williams will need 6’10” freshman Khadim Sy to grow up fast.
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