Rushed Reactions: #11 Tennessee 86, #6 Massachusetts 67

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 21st, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes Has Been a Dominant Inside Force in the Tournament. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes Has Been a Dominant Inside Force in the Tournament. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

  1. This looked like a mismatch coming in, and it was. Maybe it wasn’t that way according to seed, but most basketball followers could see this one coming. It’s also a win in the “New vs. Old” computer systems battle. Coming into the game Ken Pomeroy had Tennessee ranked #9 and Massachusetts at #50, while the RPI had the Minuteman rated #21 and the Volunteers in a tie for #40. Clearly the NCAA Selection Committee put more stock in the RPI when it came to seeding these two squads. It also proves that playing in the First Four isn’t such a bad thing, despite the travel issues. With this victory, Tennessee becomes the fourth team in as many years to win at least one more NCAA Tournament game after playing in the First Four.
  2. Turnovers have been a problem all year for Massachusetts. Coming into the game, the Minutemen hoped that their turnover offense (#213 in the NCAA) would get a break matching up with a Tennessee defense that ranks even worse (#256) at forcing miscues. But that edge went to the Volunteers in a big way during the crucial first half of this one. Massachusetts gave the ball away 10 teams in the first 20 minutes, helping Tennessee build a huge edge in points-off-turnovers (+9). Despite the loss, senior Chaz Williams closed out his fine career by leading the Minutemen to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. He finished with 12 points and five assists, but committed five turnovers, including four of those in the pivotal first half. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #14 Mercer 78, #3 Duke 71

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 21st, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Mercer guard Langston Hall (21) and other Mercer players celebrate after the second half of an NCAA college basketball second-round game against Duke, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Raleigh, N.C. Mercer won 78-71. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Mercer guard Langston Hall (21) and other Mercer players celebrate after the Bears shocked Duke Friday afternoon. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

  1. It’s better to have great young talent than good experienced talent, but not always. Mercer had a huge experience edge coming in with five senior starters in its lineup. Their poise and execution were at a high level almost the entire game, and in the end that was just enough to overcome the disparity in talent. The talent gap was most apparent on the offensive boards where Duke dominated with a +13 advantage. But the Bears were better in all of the fundamental stats, winning the turnover battle (+4) and shooting much better from the field (by nearly 20 percent). For most of the contest Mercer got the shots they wanted and were the more fundamentally sound team. The Bears were also the calmer-looking group down the stretch, perhaps aided by the confidence gained in winning five overtime games this year.
  2. Duke’s defense was historically bad this year. For most of the game Mercer was able to execute its half-court offense and get good shots, especially at the rim. And as was the case for much of the season, Duke couldn’t defend without fouling. We all knew that interior defense would be a weakness for them this year, but most thought that the Blue Devils would make up for that with great perimeter pressure. That did not turn out to be the case. Some think Duke had a harder time than most adjusting to the enforcement of rules protecting offensive players from defensive hand-checking, as well as making it harder to draw charges. That may be part of it, but it its more likely that this group just doesn’t have the mindset to dig in and stop people. Read the rest of this entry »
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2014 ACC Tournament Superlatives

Posted by Brad Jenkins & Matt Patton on March 16th, 2014

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week. Based on our observations from the entire tournament here are our choices for the best of the best, on and off the court.

All ACC Tournament Team

  • Joe Harris, Virginia
  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
  • Jabari Parker, Duke
  • Talib Zanna, Pittsburgh
  • T.J. Warren, N.C. State

ACC Superlatives

Clemson' Rod Hall Loses The Ball in Attempt to Upset Duke at the Buzzer. (Photo: Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports)

Clemson’ Rod Hall Loses The Ball in Attempt to Upset Duke at the Buzzer.
(Photo: Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Tournament co-MVP’s – Harris and Brogdon. On a team as balanced and unselfish as Virginia, its hard to just pick one guy.
  • Best Defensive Player – Akil Mitchell, Virginia. In the championship game, Mitchell harassed Parker into 15 missed shots, and collected 11 defensive rebounds.
  • Craziest Game – #5 Pittsburgh 80, #5 North Carolina 75 in Friday’s Quarter-Finals. Pittsburgh raced out to an 18 point lead in the first half before a North Carolina rallied to within 10 at the half. The second half almost became one of the all-time tournament comebacks. Pittsburgh led by 16 with 4:30 to go, but then the Tar Heels turned up the defensive pressure and closed to within 3 with 12 seconds left before the Panthers held on. During the furious comeback, the North Carolina fans came alive and almost pulled their team all the way back.
  • Most Intense Moment – Clemson’s Rod Hall’s mad dash at the end of the Tigers’ Quarterfinal game with Duke. The last play of the day Friday was the most dramatic moment of the tournament. With four seconds left and his team trailing by one, Hall drove towards the lane, split two defenders, had the ball poked away and hit the floor, leaving most of the remaining folks in the arena screaming for a foul call that never came. Meanwhile, Duke and its fans exhaled deeply, knowing how close they came to an early exit.
  • Best Individual Game - Talib Zanna, Pittsburgh in the above game with North Carolina. Zanna was a dominant force inside and the key to the Panthers win, finishing with 19 points and 21 rebounds, which included 10 on the offensive glass. That 21 rebound total ties the senior Zanna for third-most in an ACC Tournament game.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Duke 75, N.C. State 67

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 15th, 2014

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ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

Three Key Takeaways in Duke’s ACC Semi-Final win.

Jabari Parker Slams Home Two of His 20 Points in Duke's Win over N.C. State. (Photo: Robert willett/newsobserver.com).

Jabari Parker Slams Home Two of His 20 Points in Duke’s Win over N.C. State.
(Photo: Robert willett/newsobserver.com).

  1. Duke’s offense is good enough to carry the Blue Devils to the Final Four – and it will have to. When Duke is clicking like it was on Saturday, they are tough for even good defenses to handle. In scoring an impressive 1.36 points per possession, the balanced Blue Devils were too much for a weary N.C. State team to overcome. Not only did Jabari Parker (20 points) and Rodney Hood (14) score well, but Duke also got 16 points from Rasheed Sulaimon and 14 more from Quinn Cook off the bench. But the Blue Devils’ defense kept the Wolfpack close in the first half, allowing a sizzling 66.7 percent shooting and only forcing four turnovers. The second half was a different story, as N.C. State only shot 35.5 percent, but a lot of that has got to be attributed to the Wolfpack having weary legs after playing their third game in three days.
  2. N.C. State ran out of gas. This is no surprise but still must be pointed out. The second half of the third tough game in a row is usually when you start to see the legs go, and that was the case today. Not only did the Wolfpack hang with Duke in the first half, but they could have easily had a nice lead at the break. At one point close to halftime, N.C. State was shooting over 70 percent from the field, only had one turnover, and the team fouls were in there favor (+4), but the score was tied. That probably was a little demoralizing to the young N.C. State team, and when Duke spurted ahead by double figures in the second half, the tired Wolfpack shooters couldn’t keep up, going 1-of-10 on second half three pointers.
  3. Two stars are better than one. T.J. Warren was sensational again, making contested shots time and again on the way to 21 points and eight rebounds for the game. But Duke’s star forward duo of Parker and Hood was enough to more than offset Warren’s effort. Hood made Warren work hard for everything, holding the ACC Player of the Year to under 50 percent shooting, 10-of-22. On the other end, N.C. State had its hands full trying to focus on the two Duke stars. That attention created openings for the Blue Devils guards which were exploited by Sulaimon on the drive, and Cook from long range (3-of-4 on threes). N.C. State got nice contributions from some surprising sources early, including eight first half points each from Anthony Barber and Lennard Freeman off the bench. But the Wolfpack needed a better shooting game from Ralston Turner (2-of-10), the team’s second leading scorer, to support their star.

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Rushed Reactions: N.C. State 66, #11 Syracuse 63

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 14th, 2014

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ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

Three Key Takeaways in the Wolfpack’s upset win.

N.C. State's Star T.J. Warren Celebrates Upset Over Syracuse. (Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

N.C. State’s Star T.J. Warren Celebrates Upset Over Syracuse.
(Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

  1. N.C. State finally got that elusive quality win its been hunting all season. After last second losses to Syracuse and North Carolina in the ACC regular season, the third time was the charm for the Wolfpack. While the win may not put N.C. State into the NCAA field just yet, at least it keeps that dream alive. And with many other bubble teams falling all over the country, the Pack may be in great shape for a bid if they can at least get to the championship game. This game was following the same script as those previous two heartbreaking losses, with the Wolfpack building a nice second half lead only to see the opponent come back and take the game down to the wire. But this time, N.C. State rewrote the disappointing ending. It was instead the Wolfpack that made more winning plays down the stretch. Two of the biggest were on the defensive end, as N.C. State drew offensive fouls on C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis in the last three minutes of play.
  2. Syracuse is in a serious shooting slump. The main reason that the Orange lost four of six games after starting the year with 25 straight wins was that they shot under 40 percent from the field in all six games. After closing the regular season with a solid performance (48%) at Florida State, Jim Boeheim was hoping that was the start of a turnaround. Now, that game just looks like an outlier. Against an N.C. State defense that ranked 11th in the ACC in opponents’ shooting (42.2%), Syracuse struggled all night, shooting just 32.7 percent for the game. The last scattered Syracuse possession was a perfect example as the Orange missed six straight shots, many badly. In particular, its stars are no longer making shots like they did earlier in the season. C. J. Fair was a woeful 3-of-16 in the game and guards Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis combined to go 7-of-24 themselves. Perhaps the major minutes those players logged all year have finally gotten into their legs. And with this year’s Syracuse team not nearly as stingy defensively as last season’s Final Four squad, things are not looking good for a deep NCAA Tournament run for the Orange this year. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: Virginia 64, Florida State 51

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 14th, 2014

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ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

Three Key Takeaways from Virginia’s ACC quarterfinal win over Florida State.

Virginia's Anthony Gill Slams Home Two of His 16 Points Off The Bench. (Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Virginia’s Anthony Gill Slams Home Two of His 16 Points Off The Bench.
(Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

  1. Virginia got back to being Virginia. After allowing Maryland to score 1.14 points per possession in the last game of the regular season, the Cavaliers got back to doing what they do best – stifling opposing offenses. Florida State only managed 51 points in 59 possessions, which is much more in line with how Virginia played in the 17 ACC games prior to its season-ending loss at Maryland. The Cavaliers were particular stingy in the first 10 minutes of the second half, while extending a five-point halftime lead to a fifteen-point spread. For the game, Virginia forced 15 turnovers and limited Florida State to only three three-point baskets and 11 free throw attempts.
  2. Florida State appears headed to the NIT. The Seminoles are probably on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble. Most experts had them as one of the last four out of the bracket before today’s game, so this loss pretty much seals the deal. One of Florida State’s season-long problems, ball-handling, showed up again in this one, as the Seminoles committed seven turnovers in the game’s first 10 minutes. The early miscues kept Florida State from building an early lead. The Seminoles started the game aggressively and held a 5-0 edge in offensive rebounds early before Virginia methodically took control of the game. Senior Okaro White led the Seminoles with 17 points but only four came after half-time.
  3. Virginia is a deep and versatile basketball team. Another key to the game was Virginia’s bench led by Anthony Gill, who finished with 16 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes. Gill really came through in the first half, providing inside points and energy that was sorely needed with starting big men Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey combining for only two first-half points. And with Malcolm Brogdon having his worst scoring game since ACC play began, senior Joe Harris responded with an aggressive offensive game. All this indicates the depth and versatility of this Virginia squad, making it hard on opposing teams to focus on any one or two players.

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Maryland’s Last ACC Tournament Ends With a Whimper

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 13th, 2014

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

I’m going to miss Maryland, especially the rivalries with UNC and Duke. I think it’s a good move for them, the ACC is about to get too tough for them in basketball and football.” – Longtime North Carolina fan and ACC Tournament attendee Kevin Armwood.

And so it is over. After 61 years in the league, Maryland has played its final ACC Tournament game. The end came suddenly on a Boris Bojanovsky dunk with less than a second to play, lifting ninth-seeded Florida State over the eighth-seeded Terrapins on Thursday afternoon, 67-65. Maryland put up a game effort, coming back from an 11-point second half deficit to tie the game at 63 with under two minutes to play. But just like so many times during this season, the Terrapins once again couldn’t close the deal. The end came so swiftly that the rest of the ACC fans in the building didn’t have a chance to taunt the Maryland group on their way out of the building (and the conference).

Maryland Fans React to Loss in Final ACC Tournament for the Terrapins. (Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

Maryland Fans React to Loss in Final ACC Tournament for the Terrapins.
(Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

Certainly Terrapins fans have some mixed emotions regarding the school’s move to the Big Ten next year. There has always been the feeling among Maryland faithful that the ACC Tournament was an uphill battle for their school, particularly when it was held in the state of North Carolina (as it always seemed to be). So it’s fitting that Maryland’s last go-round in the grand-daddy of conference tourneys took place in Greensboro. After today’s loss, Maryland finishes its ACC tenure with a slightly lower winning percentage in ACC Tournament play (45.2%) than in its ACC regular season games (50.7%). Perhaps ironically, or perhaps just an artifact of sample size, the Terrapins have a better all-time tournament record in Greensboro (26-23) than in the four seasons when the event took place in the Washington, D.C., area (3-4). All three of Maryland’s ACC Championships were won in the Tar Heel State, with two of those net-cutting ceremonies taking place in Greensboro, the last in 2004 when Gary Williams led the Terps past arch-nemesis Duke. Of course, the most famous Maryland ACC Tournament moment came in the 1974 championship game overtime loss to N.C. State that kept the Terrapins out of the NCAA Tournament despite ranking in the top five of the polls all season long.

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ACC Tournament Observations: Bzdelik and Johnson Hot Seats Remain Toasty

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 12th, 2014

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

For the first time in its storied history, the ACC Tournament is a five-day event. Of course that was a necessary evil of expanding the conference to 15 schools, but Wednesday afternoon’s action represented the dawn of a new era in tournament history. In the afternoon session, two coaches positioned on the proverbial hot seat led their teams with mixed results. Twelfth-seeded Wake Forest shot a season-high 61 percent on its way to a 81-69 win over #13-seed Notre Dame; while in the second game of the day, #15-seed Virginia Tech hung close but fell 57-53 to #10-seed Miami.

The Upper Level Of The Greensboro Coliseum Was Curtained Out On Wednesday. (Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

The Upper Level Of The Greensboro Coliseum Was Curtained Off On Wednesday
(Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

Knowing that interest for the opening round games was not going to be very high, the ACC decided not to include Wednesday’s games as part of its ACC Tournament ticket package. With most traveling fans reluctant to come to Greensboro that early, the ACC office also knew that attendance would be low. The league therefore decided to curtain off the Coliseum’s upper level for today’s games, like when UNC-Greensboro plays its home games in the building. The result is a more intimate-feeling arena, but the real goal is to avoid the embarrassment of exposing all the empty seats in the vast upper level of the Greensboro Coliseum. Estimating crowd size is an inexact science but there appeared to be around 6,000 to 8,000 fans in attendance for the afternoon games.

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ACC Weekend Preview #10

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 7th, 2014

It’s the final weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of March 5, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features some important matchups that will determine seeding in next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Saturday – North Carolina (23-7, 13-4 ACC) @ Duke (23-7, 12-5 ACC) – ESPN (9:00 PM)

Marcus Paige Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina's Winning Streak. (Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Marcus Paige’s Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina’s Winning Streak.
(Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#8) Duke 80-72 (#23) North Carolina

nc-duke

While neither of these teams have played their best basketball lately, North Carolina has managed to keep winning (12 straight) while Duke took a bad loss on Wednesday at Wake Forest. In that one Duke collapsed down the stretch, much like they did in earlier ACC road losses at Clemson and North Carolina. On the other hand, the Tar Heels have made enough plays to win three straight close games against teams with losing conference records. North Carolina’s improved offense has dipped lately, having its two worst offensive efficiency games during the winning streak in the last two contests. But the Tar Heel defense has remained solid, holding four of their last five opponents under 1.00 points per possession. Duke is mired in a team wide shooting slump which continued with a miserable 6-of-27 effort from three on Wednesday night. And unlike many Blue Devil teams of the past, the defense is not elite enough to overcome such shooting woes. Duke has been unbeaten at home since losing at the end of the 2012 season to North Carolina. If they want to stay unbeaten at home this year, the Blue Devils probably need to have a comfortable lead late. If it comes down to team toughness and resiliency, the Tar Heels may have the edge.

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ACC Weekend Preview #9

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 28th, 2014

It’s the next to last weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 26, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features a battle for first place, with the winner likely headed to the ACC Tournament in Greensboro as the top seed.

Saturday – Syracuse (26-2, 13-2 ACC) @ Virginia (24-5, 15-1 ACC) – ESPN (4:00 PM)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title. (Photo: VirginiaSports.com)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title.
(VirginiaSports.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#4) Virginia 58-53 (#10) Syracuse

Syr-Va

This match-up will probably decide the ACC regular season title. Virginia could be the least publicized 15-1 major conference team ever. With Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina getting most of the national attention, the Cavaliers have methodically taken care of business and rolled through conference play. They also seem to be on the upswing, winning their last two games by over 20 points after three straight single-digit victories. Malcolm Brogdon continues to be a model of consistency. It’s almost unreal to look at his game-by-game scoring totals. Not only has he scored in double figures in every ACC game, but he has scored in the 12- to 17-point range in 14 of the 16 games. And in the other two contests, he had 11 once and — you guessed it — 18 in the other. The good news for Syracuse is that Jerami Grant is expected to play in the game. The sophomore missed the entire second half of Monday’s contest at Maryland with a lower back issue. In that game, the Orange won another nail-biter, bringing their record in close games (decided by five points or less) to a rather fortunate 6-1. For Syracuse to get Virginia in a close one, it better shoot much better than the team has lately. In the last four games, the Orange have averaged an extremely low effective field goal percentage (39.0). That doesn’t match up well with Virginia’s league-best defense.

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Rushed Reactions: North Carolina 85, N.C. State 84 (OT)

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 27th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways.

North Carolina's Marcus Paige Outdueled N.C. State's T.J. Warren. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige Outdueled N.C. State’s T.J. Warren.
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  1. North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and N.C. State’s T.J. Warren put on a show for the ages. The two stars seemingly traded baskets for the entire second half and overtime of this one. After being held to four points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first half, Paige exploded for 31 more after the break, the last two coming on a game-winning driving layup with less than a second to go. Warren was equally unstoppable, finishing with a game-high 36 points that included two free throws that tied the game and forced the extra session with two seconds left in regulation. To put these performances in perspective, the previous scoring high in an ACC game this year was the 34 put up by Warren in a home game with Wake Forest, so this one game now has the top two individual scoring totals of the season. Paige was red-hot from the perimeter, hitting 7-of-10 from three after halftime. Most of the bombs seemed to come just when North Carolina looked to be in trouble, with perhaps the biggest coming in overtime to cut a six-point Wolfpack lead in half with 2:40 to go. The Tar Heels tried multiple defenders and three different zone defenses to corral Warren down the stretch, but nothing seemed to slow down the ACC’s leading scorer as he scored 19 of N.C. State’s last 27 points in the final nine minutes of action.
  2. N.C. State Looks Headed To The NIT. The Wolfpack lost another chance to get an eye-popping win much like they did at Syracuse 15 days earlier. Not only do they lack a marquee win, but N.C. State is now winless in eight games against the RPI top 50. Even if the Wolfpack wins out to go 10-8 in the ACC regular season, their best win will have been over Pittsburgh, which is currently #45 in the RPI. With that resume it would likely take at least a run to the ACC Tournament finals for N.C. State to get any consideration from the NCAA Selection Committee. But considering the Wolfpack’s modest preseason expectations, even an NIT bid would be a positive thing for such a young team. Read the rest of this entry »
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Heading into March, Duke Much in Need of Its Upcoming Break

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 26th, 2014

After dispatching Virginia Tech 66-48 on Tuesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke will get a much-needed week off. Going into this break, the Blue Devils have played five games in the last 11 days. It was already going to be a tough stretch in the schedule, but it became even more so when a rare Triangle winter storm forced the postponement of the game with North Carolina, originally set for February 12. The rivalry tilt was rescheduled for play on February 20, the only available date that made sense for both schools, but it created a situation where Duke has basically been playing every other day for the last week and a half. Now with a clear schedule until next Wednesday at Wake Forest, it’s a good time to assess how this Blue Devils’ team is currently playing and their prospects moving forward.

Rasheed Sulaimon's Playing Well On Both Ends Of The Floor. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Rasheed Sulaimon Is Playing Well On Both Ends Of The Floor.
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Perhaps the best thing to happen for Duke lately is the emergence of Marshall Plumlee. After spot duty and inconsistent play for most of the season, the redshirt sophomore has developed to the point that he is now clearly the top frontcourt reserve. Plumlee had shown some flashes of talent previously, most notably in a home game against Florida State in which he achieved career highs in points and rebounds (seven each). That outing was followed by a total of two points and seven rebounds in Duke’s next four games. But in his last three outings, the youngest of the Plumlees has shown much more consistency. In 47 total minutes combined, he has scored 11 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. He has also had an impact on the defensive end, blocking five shots over that period. Earlier in the year, Plumlee was very weak at defending the high pick-and-roll and was often late in help situations. That part of his game has improved enough so that Duke can now take advantage of Plumlee’s size to help with it’s biggest issue on defense – protecting the basket. That weakness was on display again in the Virginia Tech game. The Hokies’ trio of big men, hardly an imposing bunch, converted 16-of-22 field goals against the Blue Devils’ interior.

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