ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part III Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 25th, 2015


Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings.

  1. Preseason NIT: Three ACC schools will begin play in a tournament on Thanksgiving Day, with the first being Georgia Tech (#87) as the Yellow Jackets look to bounce back from Sunday’s terrible buzzer-beating home loss to East Tennessee State. Brian Gregory’s already-warm seat is surely hotter now, so he desperately needs a good performance from his squad in Brooklyn this week. The best way to make up for a bad loss is to pull off a huge win. That possibility exists for Georgia Tech if it can get by Arkansas (#102) on Thursday (ESPNU – 2:00 ET), and if highly regarded Villanova (#2) takes care of Stanford (#119) as expected in the other semifinal. The championship game will be on Friday afternoon (ESPN2/U – 3:00 ET).
  2. Advocare Invitational: Defending ACC Champion Notre Dame (#20) also begins tournament action Thursday (ESPNU – 6:30 ET), taking on Monmouth (#134). At first glance this looks like a mismatch, but keep in mind that the Hawks pulled off one of the season’s first upsets, stunning UCLA on opening night in Pauley Pavilion. On Friday, Mike Brey’s guys will get a solid second round opponent in either Iowa (#19) or Dayton (#44). This Orlando event has one of the strongest fields of Feast Week, with seven of the eight schools in the top 100. On the opposite side of the bracket are Wichita State (#23), Xavier (#25), USC (#45) and Alabama (#94). If everything goes as planned for the Fighting Irish, they can pick up a couple of wins that will probably look great on their resume all year long.
  3. Wooden Legacy: Boston College (#118) faces a stiff challenge in Anaheim, as the Eagles meet Michigan State (#13) in an opening round game on Thursday (ESPN2 – 6:30 ET). Jim Christian’s team may not be as bad as we thought in the preseason – the Eagles are 3-0 for the first time in seven years. That includes Sunday’s win over crosstown rival Harvard, Christian’s second in a row over the Crimson after Boston College had lost the previous six meetings. The Spartans are heavy favorites to meet Arizona (#8) in the finals on Sunday (ESPN2 – 10:00 ET). Looking to play spoiler will be Boise State (#60), Providence (#62) and Evansville (#66).
  4. Emerald Coast Classic: Another ACC team that will be a heavy underdog in its opening tournament game is Virginia Tech (#148), who goes against Iowa State (#16) on Friday (CBSSN – 7:00 ET). Things should be somewhat easier for Buzz Williams and company on Saturday, as the Hokies will get either UAB (#93) or Illinois (#101) in the two-day event. But based on their shaky 2-1 start versus weak competition, Virginia Tech has not looked like a squad that’s ready to compete with top-100 teams on a neutral court. So far, Maryland transfer Seth Allen (sat out last year) has been unable to shake off the rust, shooting a frigid 31.0% from the field and committing a total of 13 turnovers in the three games.
  5. Gotham Classic: Like Louisville, Pittsburgh is not participating in a traditional tournament. Beginning in mid-December, the Panthers will play four straight exempt games as part of the Gotham Classic. The only time that Jamie Dixon’s squad will face an opponent away from home is when they take on Davidson (#64) on December 20 (ESPNU – Noon ET) in New York’s Madison Square Garden. The other three games will be in the Petersen Events Center over a two week period; December 11 – Eastern Washington (#200); December 13 – Morehead State (#179); and December 23 – Western Carolina (#203). Those all look a lot like the schools that tend to show up on Pittsburgh’s non-conference schedule during the Dixon era. Of course, Dixon was counting on an opening day meeting with Gonzaga to boost this season’s schedule rating. And with that game cancelled, Pitt will have one of the poorer non-conference slates among power league schools.
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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part II Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 23rd, 2015


Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings.

  1. Maui Invitational: It just wouldn’t be Feast Week without the Maui Invitational, which has been around in some form since 1984. Wake Forest (#80) will be this year’s ACC representative in the Hawaii tournament, as the Demon Deacons are slated to meet Indiana (#15) in today’s first round (ESPN2 – 5:00 ET). Danny Manning‘s team has been shorthanded in its first three games — including wins over UMBC and Bucknell along with a home loss to Richmond — but there is a chance that some players will return soon. Manning announced after Wednesday’s defeat to the Spiders that Codi Miller-McIntyre (foot) and Cornelius Hudson (suspension) will make the trip to Maui, but he said that he considered it doubtful that Miller-McIntyre would play this week. As usual, there are a number of highly rated teams in the Maui field — in addition to the Hoosiers, some other participants include Kansas (#5), Vanderbilt (#19) and UCLA (#47)
  2. CBE Classic: Roy Williams hopes the rest of his team’s three-game trip through the Midwest goes better than it started on Saturday. North Carolina‘s homecoming game for Marcus Paige did not work out as planned; not only did the injured star have to watch the game from the bench in street clothes, but the Tar Heels lost to a pumped up Northern Iowa team, 71-67. Look for Williams’ squad (#7) to bounce back tonight (ESPN2 – 9:30 ET) when it takes on Northwestern (#69), coached by a familiar rival — former Duke player and assistant coach Chris Collins. Next, the Tar Heels will take on either Kansas State (#94) or Missouri (#148) — the co-hosts of this Kansas City tournament — on Tuesday night. The championship game will be played at 10:00 ET (ESPN2).
  3. Legends Classic: Another team headed by a former Duke guard will be N.C. State’s (#56) opponent in Brooklyn tonight (ESPN3 – 9:30 ET) with Bobby Hurley in his first year at the helm at Arizona State (#68). Both teams suffered upset losses in their opening games — Mark Gottfried‘s Wolfpack to William & Mary and the Sun Devils to Sacramento State — but since then each team has won two games at home. In the other semifinal, LSU (#54) takes on Marquette (#100), a team coached by yet another former Blue Devil player and assistant coach, Steve Wojciechowski. Although the games should be fairly entertaining with several evenly matched teams, the big story of this tournament has to be the New York City debut of the nation’s #1 freshman (maybe even #1 player) in LSU’s Ben Simmons.
  4. MGM Grand Main Event: So far this year, Clemson (#40) has beaten up on three teams rated in the 200s nationally, all in nearby Greenville, the Tigers’ current home. Brad Brownell‘s squad will face a slightly stiffer challenge in playing Massachusetts (#157) in Las Vegas tonight. The other schools in this four-team tournament are Creighton (#83) and Rutgers (#210), so it’s not exactly a power-packed field. Still, if Clemson plans on getting to postseason play next March, neutral court wins over mid-level competition are a must. As usual, Clemson appear to be quite capable on the defensive end, holding opponents to 47.0 points per game and 32.4 percent field goal shooting. The question will be one of offense.
  5. Battle 4 Atlantis: In only its fifth year of existence, this event has quickly become one of the best Feast Week tournaments. In just a short period of time, the Bahamas event has become a desired destination for many of the sport’s power schools. Compared to the Maui Invitational — the longtime top draw of the week — the Battle 4 Atlantis offers a similar resort experience for fans without the long travel there and back for schools located outside the west coast. This year Syracuse (#38) joins six other top-100 teams in the Atlantis field. Jim Boeheim‘s Orange start with a break by facing the only lowly regarded team, Charlotte (#275) in Wednesday’s opening round game (ESPN2 – 2:30 ET). After that, Syracuse is guaranteed a worthy opponent on Thanksgiving Day, going up against either Connecticut (#26) or Michigan (#37). And with big dog Gonzaga (#6) sitting on the other side of the bracket, the Orange could have a great opportunity to log some huge non-conference wins on their resume.
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For This Year’s Crop of Duke Freshmen, Patience is a Virtue

Posted by Matt Auerbach on November 19th, 2015

What last season’s iteration of Duke basketball made us forget, this season’s version reminded us quite vividly during the Blue Devils’ loss to Kentucky at the Champions Classic — which is that the adjustment from high school to high-level college basketball isn’t all that easy. After a pair of tune-up tilts in Durham last week, Duke took the floor in Chicago boasting the most discussed player in the country in Grayson Allen along with the nation’s top-rated crop of incoming rookies. After a sound humbling at the hands of the hungry Wildcats, what they left with were a bunch of question marks and a better appreciation of the special nature of last year’s special freshman class.

Coach K will have to exercise some more patience with this class of rookies than was required a year ago. (AP)

Coach K will have to exercise some more patience with this class of rookies than was required a year ago. (AP)

Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, Jahlil Okafor and Allen made up the Duke’s incoming class of 2014, and while the the holdover sophomore initially struggled to adjust, the others seamlessly transitioned to the college game. In last year’s Champions Classic win against eventual Final Four participant Michigan State, the trio had their handprints all over a 10-point victory. Jones played with the poise of a point guard well beyond his years, scoring 17 points and committing no turnovers in his 31 minutes of action. Okafor showed the dominant form that would define his only season at Duke, making eight of his 10 attempts from the field. And Winslow proved to be a whirling dervish of controlled aggression, scoring 15 points of his own and grabbing six boards in a team-high 36 minutes. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part I Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 19th, 2015


Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings.

  1. Puerto Rico Tip-Off: Miami (#23) tips off the ACC’s early season tournament action later today, taking on Ben Howland’s rebuilding Mississippi State (#133) squad in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (ESPN2 – 5:00). With an otherwise less than challenging non-conference schedule, Jim Larranaga’s team could pick up some quality wins here, with potential meetings against Utah (#20) in the second round and Butler (#31) in Sunday’s finals (ESPN2 – 7:30). This trip was arranged in no small part to give senior guard Angel Rodriquez a homecoming. A native of Cupey, Puerto Rico, the senior will be highly motivated to lead the Hurricanes to the tournament title on his home island.
  2. Charleston Classic: Tony Bennett will try to get Virginia (#4) back on track after Monday’s upset loss at George Washington. The 73 points that the Cavaliers gave up were the most they have allowed in regulation since an 87-52 blowout loss to Tennessee in December 2013. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of problems ahead for Bennett’s vaunted defense, which was whistled for 24 fouls against the Colonials. The competition at the Charleston Classic this weekend is not of the highest caliber, however, as the Cavs open with Bradley (#272) tonight (ESPN2 – 9:30) and could face a couple of the three non-top 50 major conference schools also in the event — Oklahoma State (#56), Mississippi (#64) and Seton Hall (#73). This tournament’s championship game will be played on Sunday night (ESPN2 – 9:30).
  3. Paradise Jam: If the first two games of the year for Florida State (#35) are any indication, Leonard Hamilton will have his highest scoring team in years. The Seminoles are averaging 103.5 points per game after registering two beatdowns over weak competition and freshman Dwayne Bacon has been a star, scoring 23 and 27 points in back-to-back games. Florida State is the co-favorite in the Paradise Jam along with a Tulsa (#41) squad which upset Wichita State earlier this week. If the two favorites meet in the finals, it will be on Monday night (Nov. 23 – CBSSN – 10:00). The Seminoles will face Hofstra (#95) in Friday’s opening day of play (CBSSN – 4:30) and could meet up with an interesting South Carolina (#47) team in the next round.
  4. 2K Sports Classic: Another team looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss earlier this week is Duke, which travels to Madison Square Garden for the 2K Sports Classic this weekend. Mike Krzyzewski’s perimeter corps had a difficult time finding good looks against the quicker Kentucky backcourt in Tuesday’s loss at the Champions Classic, and the Blue Devils’ transition defense was carved up to the tune of 14-point deficit in fast break points. Individually, sophomore Grayson Allen will look to bounce back after a miserable 2-of-11 shooting performance and just six points against Kentucky. The opponents in New York will not be of Kentucky’s ilk, but they will still be a challenge for this young Duke squad. Friday’s (ESPN2 – 7:30) opponent will be VCU (#51) and Sunday will bring either Georgetown (#44) or last year’s NCAA title game opponent, Wisconsin (#24).
  5. Brooklyn Hoops Holiday InvitationalLouisville (#22) has already begun play in this event, which is not a traditional tournament in any form. Every game has predetermined matchups and Louisville gets to host the first three games, including Tuesday’s 87-52 win over Hartford (#312). Also visiting the KFC Yum! Center as an exempted game will be North Florida (#100) on Saturday (November 21) and St. Francis (NY) (#239) next Tuesday (November 24). In the Cardinals’ only game of the event away from home, they will meet St. Louis (#152) in Brooklyn on Saturday, November 28. Collectively, these games will not be much of a boost to an already weak non-conference schedule that Rick Pitino has lined up for his inexperienced squad this season.
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North Carolina’s Other Guards Looking Strong Thus Far

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 18th, 2015

When Marcus Paige broke his hand on November 4 and it was announced that North Carolina’s star guard would miss the first several games of the season, the obvious positive spin on the situation was easy to anticipate. The Tar Heels would still win its first several games comfortably while the other guards on the roster would be gifted a great opportunity to improve. Upon Paige’s return, the narrative went, his backcourt mates would have greater in-game experience to support the ACC’s Co-Preseason Player of the Year in their quest for a National Championship. Sometimes spin turns out to be reality: After the Tar Heels’ first two games of the season, that plan seems to working out beautifully.

Theo Pinson has shown good playmaking skills with Marcus Paige out. (Will Bratton/WRAL)

Theo Pinson has shown good playmaking skills with Marcus Paige out. (Will Bratton/WRAL)

Last Friday night North Carolina tipped off the season with an impressive 91-67 neutral court win over Temple in Annapolis. The Heels followed that up with a lackluster performance in its Sunday home opener against Fairfield, a game in which the final score of 92-65 was not indicative of how close the game was. In both games, the Tar Heels have received great offensive production from its current backcourt rotation — sophomores Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson along with junior Nate Britt. This trio has combined to average 39.5 points per game thus far, complementing the strong production from the Tar Heels’ frontcourt. In a bit of a surprise, Pinson has been the most effective playmaker on the floor, twice leading the team in assists, including a super performance on Sunday: eight assists and zero turnovers. Meanwhile, Berry and Britt have been lighting it up from deep, combining to make 12-of-20 threes. Perhaps Paige’s absence has helped to answer one of the biggest questions about perimeter shooting going into this season. Read the rest of this entry »

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Evaluating Duke’s First Two Games

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 17th, 2015

It’s always premature to form ironclad opinions based on a team’s first two games of the regular season, especially when the team in question is as young as Duke‘s 2015-16 squad. Throw in the fact that the competition the Blue Devils faced over the weekend was far from stellar, and we still have most of the same questions about Mike Krzyzewski’s current edition that we had before the season began. Nevertheless, here are some observations from Duke’s two home wins over the weekend, a 92-74 victory over Siena on Friday and a 113-75 demolition of Bryant on Saturday night.

Grayson Allen has picked up right where he left off in the 2015 Final Four, averaging 27 points in Duke's opening two games. (Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)

Grayson Allen has picked up right where he left off in the 2015 Final Four, averaging 27 points in Duke’s opening two games. (Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)

There were two major questions for Duke coming into this season. First, could this year’s highly-touted freshmen class approach the spectacular success achieved by last year’s rookies? And secondly, were Duke’s four returnees capable of elevating their games after mostly exclusive use in the past as role players? To the first question, the newcomers played much better collectively against Bryant than they did in Friday’s opener. Krzyzewski spoke about the differences in their performances between the two games:

“I didn’t think they talked well last night. Part of that, I think it’s your first game at Duke, your first real game. For Brandon [Ingram], it’s his first start. I reminded them that it’s Grayson [Allen]’s first start last night too. It was Marshall [Plumlee]’s first start in two years. We have a lot of young guys. Grayson and Marshall [Plumlee] weren’t into themselves last night, they were trying to help everybody. When you’re young, sometimes your thoughts are just with you instead of talking. Tonight, they talked well. They were consumed with Duke. We saw that they played better. That’s just a learning process that they have to go through.”

Individually, Brandon Ingram scored 15 and 21 points, respectively, in the two games, and exhibited much better shot selection in his second college start on the way to making 4-of-6 threes (he was just 1-of-9 from deep in the opener). He also used his length well to act as a disruptive defensive force, with a combined four steals and three blocks over the two outings. Ingram was also often employed by Krzyzewski as a ball-handler from the top of the arc, a set that will make him even more of a match-up problem for most collegiate forwards. Read the rest of this entry »

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2015 ACC Basketball Power Rankings

Posted by Matt Patton on November 16th, 2015

Over the last two weeks, we previewed each of the 15 ACC teams individually to get you ready for the season. Links to those previews can be found within each of the preseason power rankings listed below, which were voted on by our crack microsite staff of three. Also look for our preseason conference awards, which will publish a bit later today.


Virginia Cavaliers 1. Virginia (304): Can the Cavaliers win the ACC regular season for a third straight year? With a veteran cast led by Malcolm BrogdonAnthony Gill and maybe the nation’s stingiest defense, Tony Bennett probably has the squad to do it. This season, Virginia should take the next step and make a deep run in March.
North Carolina Tar Heels 2. North Carolina (290): Marcus Paige‘s injury could prove to be a setback, but Justin Jackson is poised to become one of the top players in the country. The team returns nearly all its production from last season, and assuming Joel Berry makes the leap we all expect, this group of Tar Heels should absolutely be one of the national favorites come March.
Duke Blue Devils 3. Duke (213): It’s not fair to expect this highly-touted class of Blue Devils’ freshmen to live up to the exploits of last year’s superstar class. Expect this team to take a while to find its stride, with a lot of ups and downs along the way. But if the youngsters grow up in time, Mike Krzyzewski should find himself with another tough out come March.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4. Notre Dame (202): The Irish will lean heavily on the production of three returning starters and a successful offensive philosophy that led to the second best efficiency in the country last season. It will need to make up for the loss of departed leaders Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, but Demetrius Jackson looks like one of the best point guards in the country.
Miami Hurricanes 5. Miami (157): The last time Jim Larranaga had a squad this experienced was in 2013, when Miami won both the ACC regular season and tourney titles. The conference appears to be much stronger at the top than it was three years ago, but this veteran group of Hurricanes could still be a sleeper contender, led by three all-ACC caliber seniors.
Syracuse Orange 6. Syracuse (132): Dajuan Coleman holds the keys to Syracuse’s success this season even if senior Michael Gbinije looks to be the team’s star. After a lackluster finish a year ago, this team could become one of the best in the conference if the pieces fit together well. If the NCAA’s nine-conference game suspension stands for Jim Boeheim, though, it could be tough for the Orange to find their stride.
Florida State Seminoles 7. Florida State (105): The Seminoles are a trendy darkhorse candidate this year thanks to superstar freshman Dwayne Bacon joining Xavier Rathan-Mayes in Tallahassee. Leonard Hamilton will have to find a defensive stopper in the frontcourt, however, if this team wants to crack the top of the league.
LouisvilleLogo 8. Louisville (104): With considerable turmoil surrounding the program off the court, the Cardinals will rely on two graduate transfers and a Hall of Fame coach to navigate the loss of its top four scorers. Never count out Rick Pitino, but he’s facing an uphill climb to succeed in the ACC this season.
NC State Wolfpack 9. NC State (81): This team has a lot of good pieces, but how will Cat Barber handle being the alpha dog without big shot Trevor Lacey around? A trim Beejay Anya should terrify ACC players hoping to score in the paint. This team oozes potential, but will need time for everyone to adjust to life without Lacey and Ralston Turner.
Pittsburgh Panthers 10. Pittsburgh (62): Last year’s Panthers were the worst defensive team and among the weakest rebounding units in Jamie Dixon’s long career. As a result, mproving those two areas has been a major topic of discussion for Pittsburgh’s head coach this preseason. Dixon hopes that a pair of graduate transfers are good enough to toughen up the front line, where last year’s problems originated.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 11. Wake Forest (29): Look for Danny Manning‘s winning ways to creep into Winston-Salem this year, although a move up the standings will be tough because the ACC is much stronger top-to-bottom than in previous years. Devin Thomas needs to have a first team All-ACC caliber season for the Demon Deacons to approach the top half of the league.
Clemson Tigers 12. Clemson (16): Once again, we expect the Tigers to defend like crazy while struggling to score – just as they have throughout Brad Brownell’s tenure. Can Brownell survive another year of not making the Big Dance? It won’t help that Clemson has to play all of its home games in Greenville this season, 30 miles from campus, while Littlejohn Coliseum gets a needed facelift.
Virginia Tech Hokies 13. Virginia Tech (15): It’s only taken Buzz Williams two years to almost completely turn over this roster, with junior Devin Wilson currently the only scholarship holdover from the past regime. The Hokies’ talent level is improved, but his youngters are probably another year or two away from getting close to the upper half of the league.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 14. Georgia Tech (12): It’s another year on the hot seat for Brian Gregory, who has yet to post a winning ACC record in his four previous campaigns in Atlanta. Pathetic outside shooting has been a constant problem during the Gregory era, and the Yellow Jackets desperately need senior transfer Adam Smith to help turn that around to give a decent frontcourt room to operate.
Boston College 15. Boston College (3): This team is one of the younger teams in the country, but Jim Christian brought in Florida transfer Eli Carter to beef up the team’s experience. If one of the freshmen turns out to be a diamond in the rough, this team might find a way to escape the ACC cellar.
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NC State Loss to William & Mary Impacts More Than Loss Column

Posted by Matt Auerbach on November 14th, 2015

Coming off a surprising trip to the Sweet Sixteen a year ago and returning a promising young nucleus, there was a lot of optimism surrounding NC State as it tipped off its 2015-16 campaign in Raleigh last evening. So positive were the feelings around how head coach Mark Gottfried had reinvigorated the program during his four-year tenure, the school rewarded him with a lucrative contract extension on season’s eve. And that is exactly where all the good news came to an end. The Wolfpack proceeded to get blitzed by William & Mary, allowing 51 first-half points before falling by a score of 85-68 in a very disappointing performance. The Tribe shot 52 percent from the floor while holding the Pack to a 38 percent clip, racing out to a big early lead that eventually extended to 23 and controlling the game from tip to buzzer. It was an awful start to the season for a team that has made the NCAA Tournament in all four of Gottfried’s years at the helm, and the news has since worsened.

Mark Gottfried Celebrated His Contract Extension With a Horrific Opening Performance

Mark Gottfried Celebrated His Contract Extension With a Horrific Opening Performance

Terry Henderson, the presumptive replacement for Trevor Lacey on the perimeter, suffered torn ligaments in his right ankle during the loss and is now expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks. The 6’5” junior guard, who was seeing his first official Wolfpack action last night after transferring from West Virginia, was held scoreless in seven minutes. In his two years in Morgantown, Henderson proved to be a fearless and capable sniper, connecting on 89 three-point field goals despite never being a focal point of the offense. As a sophomore, he averaged 11.7 points per game as the third wheel in a dynamic backcourt alongside Juwan Staten and Eron Harris. Gottfried, who is looking to replace Lacey as well as Ralston Turner from last year’s club, was counting on Henderson to replace a significant portion of their departed production. The Raleigh native seemed to be the perfect fit to complement a point guard in Cat Barber who excels at beating the defense off of the bounce.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Circle These: The Top 20 ACC Non-Conference Games

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 12th, 2015

There are several different methods available to decide which conference is the best in college basketball. One way is to treat every game equally, and we rely on computers for that, utilizing such tools as the outdated RPI or the tempo-based models like the Pomeroy ratings. A popular conventional wisdom-based practice is to judge leagues based on their relative strength at the top — for example, the number of ranked teams in the weekly polls or high seeds in the NCAA Tournament. But regardless of how we choose to judge the different conferences, the performance of a league against the best of the rest goes a long way toward establishing the perceived pecking order.

Tom Crean's ranked Indiana team will face three ACC schools in non conference play. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images).

Tom Crean’s ranked Indiana team will face three ACC schools in non-conference play. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Today we review the 2o best scheduled non-conference games involving ACC squads in the upcoming season. We chose that number of games because that’s how many times an ACC school will face a team ranked in the Top 25 of one of the two national preseason polls. This includes one game with an indeterminate opponent — Syracuse’s second game of the Battle 4 Atlantis will be against a ranked team regardless of whether the Orange win or lose their first contest in the Bahamas. In addition to those 20 guaranteed meetings with ranked opponents, seven ACC schools could see another ranked team in an early season tournament depending on how their brackets play out.

  • Miami – Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Utah, Butler)
  • Duke – 2K Classic (Wisconsin)
  • N.C. State – Legends Classic (LSU)
  • Wake Forest – Maui Invitational (Vanderbilt, Kansas)
  • Georgia Tech – Preseason NIT (Villanova)
  • Boston College – Wooden Legacy (Arizona)
  • Notre Dame – AdvoCare Invitational (Wichita State)

It’s worth mentioning that computer-based non-conference strength of schedule ratings will be determined by how good opponents turn out to be over the course of the entire season. There will always be wins that look good in November and December that don’t seem so great after reality sets in later in the season. Likewise, losing to an unranked team early in the year may not appear so bad in March when that same opponent turned out to be a legitimate team. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Preview: Virginia’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 11th, 2015

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

Can Virginia win a third straight ACC Regular Season title?

After back-to-back ACC regular season titles, Virginia enters the 2015-16 season as a consensus top-10 team nationally. More importantly, Tony Bennett’s program has established itself as one that looks like it can sustain serious success going forward for years to come. Using a proven system of tight half court defense and a balanced efficient offense that doesn’t depend much on individual explosiveness, Bennett is now in a position that any coach would envy. Each year Virginia seems to lose a couple of key guys that are replaced with experienced, tough players. Just like that, the Cavaliers’ machine rolls on. This year’s big loss is Justin Anderson, who left a year of eligibility on the table to leave early for the NBA. Anderson’s mid-season broken hand and subsequent appendectomy may have cost Virginia a chance at greatness last season, but at least it gave other Cavaliers more preparation for this year. Before looking ahead, let’s appreciate what Tony Bennett and company have accomplished over the past two seasons. 2Year VaThis two-year run by Virginia ranks as the ninth best (by winning percentage) in ACC regular season history (a 62 year span). In addition to that impressive conference performance, the Cavaliers have now posted back-to-back 30-win seasons, a feat which has been accomplished only seven other times in the ACC. In fact, Virginia is the only school on that list other than perennial league powers Duke (5 times) and North Carolina (2). The core reason for that success has undoubtedly been the Cavaliers’ stingy pack line defense, a philosophy that produced some amazing defensive performances last year. Here are some examples of such efforts, and note that these contests span a period of four months — Virginia’s defense was outstanding throughout the entire season: Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Preview: Duke’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 10th, 2015

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

Can Mike Krzyzewski lead another freshmen-heavy team to the Final Four?

Talk about a tough act to follow. After a season that saw Mike Krzyzewski win his 1,000th career game and capture his fifth NCAA title at Duke, it’s hard to imagine a coach ever having a better year. More than that, after spending years and years as the most hated program in the sport, it seems that Duke has achieved a measure of “coolness” lately, especially in the recruiting world. Perhaps it’s a result of Coach K’s decade-long tenure as coach of the USA senior national team and the success of coaching NBA stars to gold medals. Maybe it’s the perception (and reality) that Krzyzewski has embraced the one-and-done era of college basketball. Either way, it’s interesting to see the Duke coach get praise for adapting to the new way of winning in college hoops, yet the inventor of the model, Kentucky’s John Calipari, has been regarded in a much more negative light (as a system manipulator) over the last six years. Each coach has now won a national championship with a starting lineup of mostly freshmen. There were productive veterans around to guide the young stars in both programs’ title runs, and the three main freshmen on both squads were unusually mature — mentally and physically. That’s why it would be unfair to expect Duke’s latest highly acclaimed group of newcomers to match the success of their predecessors. It’s just not ‘normal’ to do what Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow accomplished in their first year, just as it wasn’t for the 2012 Wildcats’ super-frosh — Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague.

Mike Krzyzewski hopes this year's vaunted freshmen class at Duke can approach last season's frosh accomplishments. (Jim Dedmon-USA Today Sports)

Mike Krzyzewski hopes this year’s vaunted freshmen class at Duke can approach the exploits of last season’s group of Blue Devil newcomers. (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for last year’s Blue Devils, especially on the defensive end. The low point of the year came when Duke suffered back-to-back double digit losses to unranked teams, N.C. State and Miami. They were so bad defensively at that point that Krzyzewski, in a desperate and out-of-character decision, implemented a zone defense that Duke would go on to use more often than ever before in the Coach K era. Eventually, the freshmen learned to execute the man-to-man principles that the great Blue Devils of the past were known for, and the result was one of the best defensive performances we’ve seen in recent NCAA tournaments — Duke’s six opponents only managed to score .93 points per possession, and four of those teams boasted top-21 offenses according to Ken Pomeroy. The experience of last year’s team reminds us of a couple of things when considering the future defensive prowess of this year’s squad. For one, don’t expect the Blue Devils’ freshmen to immediately grasp Duke’s man-to-man principles, which may result in another year of a decent diet of zone mixed in;. Secondly, the possible early struggles of the freshmen on the defensive end don’t mean that dramatic improvement over the course of the year can’t happen again.

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ACC Preview: Notre Dame’s Burning Question

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on November 9th, 2015

Is the entrenched culture under Mike Brey enough to overcome the loss of two of the most decorated players in program history?

When Jerian’s Grant last second prayer went unanswered in Notre Dame’s valiant attempt to upset Kentucky in the Midwest regional final, it put an end not only to a remarkable late season run by the Fighting Irish but to two careers that won’t soon be forgotten. With the graduations of Grant and fellow classmate Pat Connaughton, Brey bid farewell to a combined 3,204 points, 1,166 rebounds, 947 assists, 268 steals and 8,821 minutes. What’s more telling than the staggering loss of that numerical production is that the club, given its setup of the roster, has a better chance to seamlessly replace those gaudy statistics than the exceptional intangibles provided by the departed captains.

The Notre Dame faithful is trusting that Mike Brey's system will prevail this season. (AP)

The Notre Dame faithful is trusting that Mike Brey’s system will prevail this season. (AP)

For Brey’s sake, he must trust that the sum of his ingrained system is greater than the individual parts. Coming off a 32-win season, an ACC Tournament title highlighted by a meticulous dismantling of eventual national champion Duke, and a deeper March run than any team in school history since 1979, Brey should feel more confident than ever that he has laid the groundwork in place to eventually return the school to its second Final Four. Read the rest of this entry »

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