ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part I Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 15th, 2018

morning5_ACC

Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings. All times are Eastern.

  1. Myrtle Beach InvitationalWake Forest (#101) tipped off the ACC’s early season tournament action with a loss this morning, taking on St. Joseph’s (#90) in the first round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational and folding in the second half by a score of 89-69. On Friday, the Demon Deacons will play the loser between UCF (#74) or Cal State Fullerton (#132). West Virginia (#14) is the prohibitive tourney favorite in this event, being the only team in the field rated among KenPom’s top 70. Danny Manning‘s team figures to be in some close games during the rest of the weekend, and winning a couple of tight games in Myrtle Beach would be a huge confidence boost for Wake’s young players.
  2. Charleston Classic: Virginia Tech (#31) also had an early tip time today, knocking off Ball State (#99) in the first round of the Charleston Classic. The Hokies will likely see Alabama (#56) in Friday’s semifinals (1:30 PM), giving Buzz Williams’ club a chance for some payback — recall that the Crimson Tide knocked Virginia Tech out of last season’s NCAA Tournament in a first round meeting. In the other half of the bracket, Purdue (#16) looks like the most likely school to reach Sunday evening’s title game (ESPN2 – 8:30 PM). With seven top-100 KenPom teams in Charleston, the Hokies have a chance to grab some nice resume-building wins this weekend, and they may need them because the rest of their non-conference schedule is rather soft.
  3. 2K Empire ClassicSyracuse (#8) heads to Madison Square Garden tonight for the 2K Empire Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project. The Orange will meet their old Big East rival Connecticut (#97) in tonight’s opener (ESPN2 – 7:00 PM) with Oregon (#19) and Iowa (#38) squaring off in the nightcap. The two winners will meet in Friday night’s championship game (ESPN2 – 6:30 PM). So far this year, three-point shooting has been horrendous when Syracuse plays — at both ends of the floor. The Orange are only converting 18.2 percent of their deep tries, and Syracuse’s opponents are not much better in sinking just 22.0 percent from behind the arc. A Syracuse-Oregon championship game would probably be the nation’s best match-up of the week. The Ducks would provide a stiff challenge for Jim Boeheim’s zone, having made 43.8 percent of their three-point attempts in two blowout wins last week.
  4. Gotham Classic: This is a non-traditional event in which the games are all pre-scheduled. Notre Dame (#51) has already hosted two games as part of the event, beating Illinois-Chicago (#190) on November 6, and suffering an upset to Radford (#158) last night. Next up for Mike Brey’s club are home games with William & Mary (#150) this Saturday (ACCN – Noon) and Duquesne (#165) on Tuesday, November 20 (ACCNE – 7:00 PM). In years past, this event wrapped up with a game in Madison Square Garden, but apparently this particular field of teams was too weak to make that happen. This event is unlikely to boost the Irish’s NCAA resume, but Notre Dame’s upcoming schedule will take care of that. The Irish’s next five games are against top-80 KenPom teams from power-six basketball leagues.
  5. Barclays Center ClassicPittsburgh (#120) is also not participating in a traditional winner-advance tournament this season, instead opting for four pre-scheduled games as part of the Barclays Center Classic. On Monday, the Panthers beat Troy (#163) in their first game of the event. Next up for Jeff Capel’s squad are a pair of home match-ups with directional schools – Central Arkansas (#289) tonight and North Alabama (#336) on Saturday. The main event will take place in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, where Pittsburgh will meet Saint Louis (#81) on Wednesday, November 21 (ACCNE – Noon). A win over the Billikens would indicate that Capel is ahead of schedule as he rebuilds the Panthers’ once proud program. It could also help him reestablish a strong presence in New York City, which was once a very fertile recruiting spot for the program.
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ACC M5: 11.12.18 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 12th, 2018

morning5_ACC

  1. Card Chronicle: As this article at Card Chronicle points out, Louisville fans may need to show some patience this year despite obvious excitement about the beginning of the Chris Mack era. Success in 2018-19 should be measured by progress on establishing standards for the kind of toughness that Mack’s teams exhibited at Xavier more than the Cardinals’ win-loss record and/or postseason status. To that end, expected starter Jordan Nwora came off the bench in Louisville’s opening tilt against Nicholls State because of poor practice performances leading up to the game. Transfer center Steven Enoch was impressive in his debut, however, posting 15 points, grabbing eight boards and going perfect from the foul line (9-of-9 FT).
  2. Miami Herald: Just prior to Friday’s opener against Lehigh, Miami announced that junior big man Dewan Hernandez was being held out because of eligibility concerns. It is possible — perhaps even probable — that Miami’s decision on Hernandez is related to last week’s announcement that the NCAA has been given the go-ahead from the federal government to start its own investigations into recruiting wrongdoing using FBI evidence. Hernandez’s name came up in the recent FBI trial as someone who convicted former Adidas runners wanted to bribe with cash payments. In Friday’s game, Chris Lykes showed he may be ready to take on a much larger role for the Hurricanes as a sophomore, notching a career-high 22 points in their 83-62 victory.
  3. News & Observer: Duke experienced a minor letdown in its trickier-than-expected 94-72 home win over Army on Sunday afternoon. After the game, head coach Mike Krzyzewski said his players let “significant noise” creep into their heads following last week’s blowout win over Kentucky, which affected the Blue Devils’ preparation. We also found it interesting that ESPN chose to broadcast this game on its primary network directly opposite the early afternoon NFL games. Doing so speaks to the interest and impact of Duke’s star-studded freshman class, especially social media superstar Zion Williamson. For anyone who thinks reversing the NBA’s one-and-done rule would be good for college basketball, would ESPN put Duke-Army on its flagship channel against the mighty NFL if Marques Bolden was the most heralded player on the floor?
  4. Tigernet.com: We knew Clemson would be led by its three returning senior starters this season — Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas — but the Tigers’ remaining supporting cast was unproven offensively. So far, however, Brad Brownell is getting excellent production from his other two starters, David Skara and Aamir Simms. A defensive specialist last year, Skara scored in double figures in each of the Tigers’ two easy wins last week, while Simms is making our colleague Mick McDonald look very smart for picking him to be an ACC breakout player this year. The sophomore forward is averaging 15.0 points per game while shooting 75.0 percent from the floor. Furthermore, after making only 14 threes last season, Simms has already sunk 5-of-6 attempts from distance so far this year.
  5. News & Observer: It appears that we may have our first in-season roster casualty in the ACC as freshman big man Ian Steere could be leaving NC State after playing in the Wolfpack’s opener. Kevin Keatts is known for playing only one big man on the floor and it must have become obvious to Steere that his minutes would be limited behind incoming transfers Wyatt Walker and D.J. Funderburk. Even looking ahead to next year, the Wolfpack will also welcome former Kentucky forward Sacha Killeya-Jones to its roster. On the court, however, it looks like Keatts is having no problems blending his newcomers into a dangerous unit, blowing out NC State’s first two opponents by an average of 48 points.
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Several ACC Takeaways From Opening Night

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 7th, 2018

Opening night of the 2018-19 season was a total success for the ACC as league members swept their nine opponents last evening by convincing double-figure margins. Here are some takeaways from the three most prominent contests played by conference squads Tuesday night.

DUKE’S NEWCOMERS EXCEEDED THE HYPE

Zion Williamson and his fellow freshmen lived up to their immense hype in Duke’s big win over Kentucky. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

It doesn’t sound possible after all the preseason buzz surrounding the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, but Duke‘s rookies were even better than advertised in a 118-84 thrashing of top-five Kentucky. This game represented a mismatch in talent from the outset, as Duke’s celebrated trio of RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish combined to finish with 83 points on 56.6 percent shooting. Barrett and Williamson, in particular, were amazing in transition, but they also scored much more easily in the half-court against a bevy of long and athletic Wildcats. At least for one glorious night in early November, Mike Krzyzewski’s squad had all of the answers to its preseason questions surrounding outside shooting (12-26 3FG), defense (Kentucky lingered around 1.0 PPP most of the game) and depth (eight Blue Devils saw double-figure minutes). After years of struggling to find a true point guard to orchestrate the offense, Duke looks like it has a diamond in Tre Jones, who finished with seven assists and zero turnovers. Even junior Jack White came off the bench to play 30 solid minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing a game-high 11 boards. Yes, it’s only one game — but if the Blue Devils can stay healthy, their potential is downright scary.

FLORIDA STATE’S DEFENSE IS LEGIT

Duke wasn’t the only ACC team to dominate a highly regarded team from the SEC last night, as Florida State used a strong second half start to pummel Florida, 81-60. Leonard Hamilton‘s team utilized old school defense to fuel its NCAA Tournament run to the Elite Eight last March, and it was more of the same against the Gators in holding their rival to a frigid 37.0 percent from the field and forcing 16 miscues. The Seminoles weren’t bad on the other end of the floor (1.12 PPP), either, especially considering they are currently without leading scorer Phil Cofer (broken foot). Florida State converted a robust 11-of-23 from three-point land, with PJ Savoy leading the way in nailing 5-of-7 from deep. Normally, Hamilton’s teams usually take some time to gel, but it looks like Florida State is already set to roll this year. If this is the ACC’s seventh best team (per the ACC Media preseason poll), then the league is in outstanding shape relative to the rest of college basketball.

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ACC Conversation: Preseason Projections – Part 2

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 6th, 2018

Rush the Court’s ACC microsite writers Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24) and Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) recently got together to chat about the upcoming 2018-19 season and share their thoughts on all 15 ACC schools. Here’s Part 2 of that conversation. Part 1 can be found here.

Justin Robinson returns to lead Virginia Tech after being a Second Team All-ACC selection in 2017-18. (AP Photo)

  • Brad Jenkins: Let’s discuss Florida State. I was a little surprised at ACC Media Day to hear Leonard Hamilton and his players talk about coming up short last year — as if the Elite Eight wasn’t good enough. That impressed me (if they really believe it). How good can the Seminoles be this season?
  • Mick McDonald: I think they are being overrated somewhat thanks to the NCAA Tournament run. They’ll be solid — Leonard Hamilton teams usually are. They’ve got good depth and guys like Terrance Mann and Phil Cofer (when he returns) who are proven ACC players, and a guy in MJ Walker who could be in for a breakout year. But I see them much more as a solid sixth-eighth place team versus one that can compete for the league title.
  • Matt Auerbach: Which is essentially what they were a year ago. But we tend to remember how teams finished and apply our expectations based upon that. I think Florida State will be good, in fact better than a year ago, but that puts the Seminoles at around 11-7 in the league.
  • Brad Jenkins: Florida State does have a pretty decent ACC schedule, as the Seminoles will play the bottom four teams on the road, which could help them place higher than expected. Buzz Williams did a good job last year of hiding Virginia Tech’s size disadvantage by going to a pack-line defensive philosophy. Can the Hokies get away with that again? It feels like this is the year that Buzz has been building for.
  • Mick McDonald: Count me all-in on Buzz. I think you can make an argument the Hokies have the best backcourt in the league with Justin Robinson and Nickeil-Alexander Walker. Chris Clarke is a poor man’s Jae Crowder from Williams’ awesome Marquette teams, and they have a few other guys who shoot the lights out. I have them fourth in the ACC and a borderline top-10 team nationally. If Kerry Blackshear can stay out of foul trouble, this team can beat anyone. (Editor’s note: This conversation took place before Wednesday’s announcement that Clarke had been suspended indefinitely from the Hokies’ squad.)
  • Matt Auerbach: Agreed. I love Robinson and that’s a great comp for Clarke. Ty Outlaw can also really shoot it. Blackshear is the X-factor here. When he plays well, this team will be nearly impossible to deal with in Blacksburg and will be able to compete with anyone on the road.

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ACC Conversation: Preseason Projections – Part 1

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 5th, 2018

Rush the Court’s ACC microsite writers Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24) and Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) recently got together to chat about the upcoming 2018-19 season and share their thoughts on all 15 ACC schools. Here’s Part 1 of that conversation.

Danny Manning needs his young stars to come through for Wake Forest to move up the ACC standings. (Walt Unks/Winston-Salem Journal)

  • Brad Jenkins: Happy New Year, gentlemen! Let’s start with a look at the projected bottom of the league. Matt, you did our preview piece on Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Can any of these teams surprise us and contend for an NCAA bid like the Yellow Jackets did two years ago?
  • Matt Auerbach: Great to be back, guys! The short answer to that, Brad, is no. I just can’t see it. The best-case scenario for the first two, particularly Pittsburgh, is that they are competitive and playing a more exciting brand of basketball than they have the last two years. Jeff Capel was a home run hire that will ultimately steer the Panthers back to relevance. Josh Pastner built up some equity with his run to the NIT finals two years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be much to be excited about in Atlanta. As for Wake, if Jaylen Hoard could have a Trae Young or Deandre Ayton type of impact, sure. While extremely talented, I think the odds of that occurring, however, are near nil, and the pressure will be mounting on Danny Manning if another disappointing season ensues.
  • Mick McDonald: Great point on Capel, Matt. Pitt basketball at least feels interesting again. They’ll be bad this year but I’ll be interested to see how guys like Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens begin their careers. I think they may actually be better than Georgia Tech. Pastner’s team looks rough.
  • Matt Auerbach: Without a doubt, of the three, I’d be least surprised if Pittsburgh won four or five games.
  • Mick McDonald: I know Manning keeps pulling good recruits but it feels like he needs to have a team make some noise sometime soon.
  • Brad Jenkins: I think there’s a chance for Capel to do something like what Pastner did in his first year in Atlanta based on the new energy he has in the Pitt program, but the ACC schedule rotation did him no favors — they have zero home games against the predicted bottom four in the league. Is Manning the ACC coach on the Hot Seat this year?
  • Mick McDonald: I guess, but given how his recruiting is going, I’d bet Manning gets at least one more year.

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ACC Burning Questions, Part 3: Clemson, Miami & NC State

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 31st, 2018

As we head into another exciting ACC season, we will be reviewing the key question for each of the league’s 15 squads. Today Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) looks at the middle of the conference, with Clemson, Miami and NC State

Clemson Burning Question: After last year’s surprisingly successful season, can the Tigers repeat that performance?

Clemson returns one the nation’s top backcourts with seniors Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed. (TheClemsonInsider.com)

Last season was a breakout year for Brad Brownell’s program in many ways: a school-record 25 wins; a program-most 11 ACC victories; a top 20 finish in the AP poll; and, a trip to the Sweet Sixteen that included a resounding victory over fellow power conference upstart Auburn. With a veteran squad returning this season, Clemson is poised to build upon that success and perhaps even improve it. Last year the Tigers were consistently solid on both ends of the floor, using a three-guard lineup to shred opponents from the perimeter combined with a stifling defense (KenPom’s seventh-best nationally). Another key for the Tigers’ unprecedented success was that they finally learned how to win close games in league play. After a gut wrenching 2-9 performance in contests decided by fewer than seven points two years ago, the Tigers went 4-3 in such games last season.

Leading the charge this year will be one of the nation’s top backcourts, featuring two fifth-year seniors — Marcquise Reed (Second Team All-ACC, 15.8 PPG) and Shelton Mitchell (12.2 PPG, 3.6 APG). Also returning for his final campaign is Elijah Thomas (10.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.3 BPG), one of the best two-way big men in the league. We agree with fellow RTC-ACC writer Mick McDonald, who lists the Tigers’ 6’7″ sophomore Aamir Simms among his top breakout candidates in the ACC this year. A key for Brownell will be replacing the production of departed guard Gabe DeVoe — a dangerous three-point bomber, DeVoe helped spread the court, allowing Reed and Mitchell excellent driving angles. But even if Clemson’s offense slips a bit, its defense should be good enough to keep the Tigers in the upper half of the ACC with another trip to the Big Dance.

Miami Burning Question: Will the Hurricanes’ guard play be good enough?

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Several Takeaways From ACC Operation Basketball

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 26th, 2018

Charlotte’s Spectrum Center was the site of this year’s ACC Operation Basketball and we were in the Queen City earlier this week to cover the annual event. In this post we present some of the primary takeaways we observed and interesting quotes we heard over the course of the day (links to the coaches’ and players’ press conferences can be found here), and at the bottom we also present the preseason award results as voted on by participating media.

STILL LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS TO COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S PROBLEMS

Notre Dame’s Mike Brey had a lot to say about the current state of college basketball as well as the ACC’s new scheduling changes at ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte.
(dailypress.com)

A major topic of discussion at ACC Operation Basketball once again this year was the fallout from the ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting. At last year’s event, the FBI probe had just revealed incriminating allegations involving two ACC schools, Louisville and MiamiN.C. State was later added to the naughty list. Coincidentally, the first criminal trial of individuals involved in some of these pay-for-play schemes wrapped up on Wednesday with guilty verdicts for all three defendants. But the big fallout has yet to come, possibly in the form of NCAA sanctions against the schools (“victims”) complicit in those nefarious recruiting activities. In his morning address, ACC’s commissioner  John Swofford was very supportive of the NCAA reforms based on last spring’s Rice Commission recommendations, while acknowledging that “I don’t think it’s going to be perfect. I think we’re going to have to test some of the things that are being changed, tweak them as we go along.”

Given the timeliness of the verdicts, many ACC coaches were asked to chime in on the topic. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina head coach Roy Williams had been highly criticized for comments they had previously made on the matter, so both Hall of Fame coaches spent time on Wednesday clarifying their points of view. Kryzyzewski repeated the explanation he gave following Duke’s exhibition game on Tuesday night, claiming that his use of the term “blip” to characterize the revelations was not meant to be dismissive on their importance. Likewise, Williams explained what he meant when he claimed to be “dumbfounded” by the new information: “A very intelligent person one time told me there’s a difference between being indifferent or having a lack of knowledge. And my problem is I have a lack of knowledge about those things. I’m not very indifferent about it at all.” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey showed that he was willing to go deeper with his comments in saying, “But certainly there’s some NCAA issues here. There’s no question about that. […] We’ve got some guys that aren’t amateurs, let’s handle that.”

CHANGES COMING FOR CONFERENCE SCHEDULES

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Meet the ACC’s Newly Eligible Transfers

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 18th, 2018

With all the player turnover these days in college basketball, coaches can no longer rely on incoming freshmen to fill their open roster spots. Correspondingly, ACC coaches hit the transfer market very hard every offseason to plug the holes resulting from their teams’ various spring defections. In order to get familiar with the transfers entering the ACC this season, the tables below break out all the non-freshmen newcomers into three groupings (1) graduate/other immediately eligible transfers; 2) traditional transfers that sat out last year; 3) those sitting out this year). Players within each category are ordered according to the anticipated impact that they will have this season.

The ACC will welcome 15 immediately eligible transfers this season. Four of that group will be suiting up for Kevin Keatts’ NC State squad, as the second-year head coach has basically flipped his Wolfpack roster in just two years. Junior college transfer Derek Funderburke will battle graduate transfer Wyatt Walker for post minutes, while Eric Lockett (FIU) and Blake Harris (Missouri) will join a loaded perimeter in Raleigh. Next, several ACC staffs signed graduate transfers from the mid-major ranks to fill glaring backcourt holes. Louisville‘s Chris Mack reacted quickly to his depleted roster by grabbing Christen Cunningham and Khwan Fore from Samford and Richmond, respectively, a pair of proven guards. Zach Johnson (Florida Gulf Coast) joins Miami as the transfer on this list most likely to have a major impact. Given the departures of Bruce Brown, Lonnie Walker and Ja’Quan Newton from last year’s Hurricanes’ squad, Johnson should be Jim Larranaga’s primary perimeter scorer this season. Florida State and Wake Forest both prematurely lost a guard in the spring, causing those programs to respond with graduate transfer replacements. David Nichols (Albany) may actually be an upgrade for the departed C.J. Walker in Tallahassee, while Torry Johnson (Northern Arizona) somewhat eases the loss of Bryant Crawford from Danny Manning’s Demon Deacons. Another impact graduate transfer, Javan White (Oral Roberts),should provide solid rebounding support for Clemson’s returning starting center Elijah Thomas.

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ACC M5: Offseason Storyline Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 16th, 2018

morning5_ACC

We are now just three weeks away from opening night in college basketball, so it’s time to start our preseason coverage here at the ACC microsite. Over the next several weeks we will provide key question previews of all 15 ACC schools and we will also be reporting from ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte a bit later this month. But first, let’s catch up on some of the most important storylines affecting ACC schools since the season ended last April.

  1. FBI Trial. Perhaps the biggest offseason story in college basketball is taking place right now in a New York City federal courtroom. The FBI’s investigation into the shady world of big-time recruiting has led to a criminal trial of several former Adidas employees who are accused of defrauding colleges by paying recruits (and their families) to sign with certain schools. Not surprisingly, the riveting testimony has generally revealed that college basketball programs are not really “victims” in this process; rather, as CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish points out, they are co-conspirators. Two ACC schools are mired in this web as former assistant coaches at Louisville and NC State have been accused of paying recruits. The oddest reaction to the evidence that has been released so far came from North Carolina’s Roy Williams, who claimed that he was “dumbfounded” by the recent revelations. This is the same coach that has publicly stated he once turned Florida in to the NCAA for its recruitment of Mike Miller nearly 20 years ago.
  2. NCAA Reform. After receiving a number of recommendations last spring from the Dr. Condoleezza Rice-led Commission on College Basketball, the NCAA Board of Governors and Division I Board of Directors announced some reform measures — such as giving athletes more flexibility in professional opportunities — in how the sport operates. Unfortunately, none of these incremental changes will really address the root cause of the behavior that has been uncovered in the ongoing FBI investigation. As long as the antiquated model of student-athlete amateurism exists, there will continue to be a market for talented high school players to receive money and benefits from interested parties.
  3. New Regimes Begin. The ACC’s two new head coaches — Louisville’s Chris Mack and Pittsburgh’s Jeff Capel — spent the late spring and summer restocking and preserving their respective rosters. When Mack took over the Cardinals’ program, he inherited just six returning players (including only one starter), one redshirt transfer and no incoming freshmen. Mack responded by signing three graduate transfers, two of whom, Christen Cunningham (Samford) and Khwan Fore (Richmond), should see major backcourt minutes in his first season. For Capel, job one was to convince several holdovers from the disastrous Kevin Stallings era to remain with the program — the longtime Duke assistant not only managed to perform that task, but he also signed some highly-rated freshmen to fill out the squad in his initial campaign in the Steel City.
  4. Bye Bye, RPI. Finally! Believe it or not… Ronald Reagan was sitting in the Oval Office when we last had an NCAA Tournament field selected without using the RPI. As the guiding metric for the Selection Committee since way back in 1981, the RPI has been an outdated tool for at least a decade in the era of advanced analytics. But as this article from SBNation.com points out, plenty of mystery surrounds the replacement rating system being called the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET). As with the RPI, the NET will be used primarily as a sorting tool in the hope that Quadrant results – part of the evaluation system put in place a year ago – will better reflect actual team strength. There will be no shortage of discussion, and we shall see how it works when March rolls around.
  5. Conference Hype. The ACC is receiving considerable preseason love from the national media heading into the 2018-19 season. Seven league members are in both the CBSSports.com and ESPN.com preseason Top 25 ratings while NBCSports.com places eight ACC teams in its version. As expected, each of last year’s top three teams in the league – Virginia, Duke and North Carolina – are once again regarded as consensus top-10 squads. Several ACC players are showing up on preseason All-America teams as well, led by North Carolina senior Luke Maye and Duke superstar freshmen R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson. We got an early peek at Coach K’s talented young duo in August, when the Blue Devils played three exhibition games in Canada.
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ACC Offseason Storylines to Follow

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on April 11th, 2018

With the 2017-18 season in the books, here are a few ACC storylines to follow over the next several months. 

FBI Investigation / NCAA Action

Last September the college basketball world was rocked by news that the FBI was sticking its nose into the seedy underbelly of the sport’s recruiting practices. Several prominent programs were identified as involved in pay-for-play schemes, with ACC members Louisville and Miami experiencing significant subsequent fallout from those allegations. The Cardinals, for example, fired Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino right before the start of practice, leaving inexperienced assistant coach David Padgett to lead the team to a disappointing NIT berth. Furthermore, the NCAA is expected to eventually revisit its sanctions against the Louisville program from the stripper scandal to determine if more penalties are warranted. At Miami, head coach Jim Larranaga saw his integrity questioned for the first time in his lengthy career, which may have affected his team’s performance on the floor which culminated in a forgettable 0-2 postseason. The greater impact of the FBI probe on the two schools has unquestionably been in recruiting – neither team has yet to sign a newcomer for the 2018-19 campaign, leaving incredibly thin rosters in place heading into this offseason.

Jim Larranaga has to rebuild his reputation as well as Miami’s roster in the wake of the FBI’s investigation into NCAA basketball recruiting. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

After the FBI case was initially made public, the implication was that many more schools and athletes would eventually be caught up in the government’s web of wiretaps, plea bargains and confessions. We didn’t hear any more information from the FBI until this week, however, when the government claimed that at least one member of the N.C. State coaching staff was allegedly involved in a cash payment to the family of Dennis Smith in late 2015. So far, all of the allegations involve schools and players tied to the shoe company Adidas, but if shenanigans related to Nike are also exposed, expect a number of prominent other schools (including ACC heavyweights) to be affected. While we wait on further developments in this expanding case, it’s already worth noting that the credibility of one of the FBI star witnesses as well as the conduct of one of its chief investigators has been called into question. Stay tuned.

Rule Changes – On and off the Court

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