Devil’s Advocate: Duke May Still Deserve a #1 Seed

Posted by EMann on March 17th, 2013

Ethan Mann is a writer for the ACC microsite. He can be reached at

Even taking into consideration that Miami won both the ACC regular season and conference tournaments and the fact that Duke lost on Quarterfinal Friday to a Maryland team that almost certainly will not make the NCAA Tournament, Duke still has a very strong case for a #1 seed despite what many analysts are saying. Yes, Miami, if they do not receive a #1 seed, will become the first team in the history of the ACC not to get a top-line seed after winning both the regular season and the tournament. It might be another story if Miami had knocked off Duke on the way to the ACC title, but defeating a #7-#8 seed North Carolina team in the finals for the third time does little (sans the “conference champion” label) to improve their profile. It seems a bit insane that Duke could be dropped from the overall #1 seed, as many analysts projected after their win against North Carolina last Saturday, all the way to the #2 line based on just this weekend’s results. Duke is ranked #1 in the RPI, has lost only once with Ryan Kelly in the lineup, and has no truly bad losses. At this point, through an objective analysis, the only team to consider as a lock for the top line is Louisville. Since the committee does not consider “regular season championships” or “conference tournament championships” nearly as much (or at all) in comparison to overall body of work, taking a look at all of the contenders for the #1 seeds yields these profiles:

Miami won the ACC Tournament, but did beating North Carolina, rather than Duke, really earn the 'Canes a #1 seed?  (USA Today)

Miami won the ACC Tournament, but did beating North Carolina, rather than Duke, really earn the ‘Canes a #1 seed? (USA Today)

Duke (RPI #1)

  • 27-5 (14-4, 14-5 including tournament)
  • Record against the RPI Top 25:  6-1 (Wins-Louisville [BE Champion], Miami [ACC Champion], Ohio State [potential B1G Champion], North Carolina x2, VCU, Losses-at Miami)
  • Record against the RPI 26-50:  3-1 (Wins-NC State, Minnesota, Temple, Losses-at NC State)
  • Record against the RPI 51-100:  5-3 (Wins-Kentucky, Davidson, Maryland, Florida State, FGCU, Losses-Maryland x2, at Virginia)
  • Record against the RPI 101+:  13-0

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What the ACC Tournament Means for Big Dance Possibilities

Posted by EMann on March 14th, 2013

While there are four teams in the ACC who are almost certain to make the NCAA Tournament, their seeds will likely be affected by how they perform. For the other eight teams, their result in the ACC Tournament will determine whether they qualify for the NCAA or any other postseason tournaments. The teams are listed below in order of their ACC Tournament seed.

#1 Miami (24-6, 15-3, RPI: 4 SOS: 4, KenPom: 14, Average Seed per Bracket Project: 2.51):

Larranaga Has the ACC Spotlight On Him Now (Credit: Nick Wass/Associated Press)

Larranaga Has the ACC Spotlight On Him Now (Credit: Nick Wass/Associated Press)

After Miami’s stumble to only win the conference regular season by one game overall (including dropping a game at home to Georgia Tech), Miami has slipped to a either the lowest #2 or the highest #3 seed in most bracketologists’ predictions. Miami probably can’t rise to a #1 seed by winning the ACC Tournament (even by beating Duke in the finals), but if it beats Duke en route to winning the title, Miami should be a safe bet for a #2 seed. Making the finals of the ACC Tournament could lock Miami into a #2 seed depending on the other teams’ results in their respective tournaments (i.e., Georgetown, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State), so Jim Larranaga’s team should be hoping for these teams to stumble to lock up a #2. It is highly unlikely, even with a Friday loss, for Miami to fall below the #3-line, though, given its regular season title and quality wins over Duke and Michigan State.

#2 Duke (27-4, 14-4, RPI: 1, SOS: 1, KenPom: 5, Average Seed per Bracket Project: 1.00):

Duke is in prime NCAA Tournament position. It typically dominates the ACC Tournament (having won 10 of the last 14 tournaments). With the Blue Devils undefeated (18-0) with Ryan Kelly in the lineup and boasting the top RPI in the country, Duke is almost assured as a lock for a #1 seed in the tournament. If Duke wins the ACC title, they should be the overall #1 seed and play in the East Region. Making the finals would likely assure that #1 seed in the East, and any other result will still likely give Duke a #1 seed elsewhere. If Duke loses on Friday it could possibly drop from the #1-seed line, but that is an unlikely result given Duke’s laudable overall resume to this point.

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Considering the Duke Hangover Effect: Fact or Fiction?

Posted by EMann on February 21st, 2013

In a series of events that seems almost predetermined, Maryland, fresh off a signature win against Duke (in what could be the last game in this rivalry played in College Park) and now finding itself either squarely off the bubble or in the Tournament, went out and dropped its next game at lowly Boston College. The Wall Street Journal has already written about how beating Duke has merited a court rushing (“including this season, in 27 out of Duke’s 33 losses in true road games [the last ten years], the fans have rushed the court”). There hasn’t been as much focus on what happens to these teams after getting their “signature win” over the Blue Devils. Beginning in the 2007-08 season, teams not named UNC are under .500 in their next game after beating Duke. Yes, it is a small sample size, but it is worth taking a closer look at this phenomenon.

Maryland won at Duke, but followed it up with losing at Boston College.  The Duke Hangover at work (Yahoo Sports)

Maryland beat Duke, but followed it up with losing at Boston College. The Duke Hangover at work (Yahoo Sports)

Here is just one example of this “Duke hangover”: Feb. 26th, 2011 – Virginia Tech upset top-ranked Duke, 64-60, and looked prime to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth. However, the Hokies lost their final two regular season games (at home against a BC team that did not make the NCAAs, and at a Clemson team that barely did) to finish 19-10 (9-7 ACC), and after bowing out in the ACC semis to Duke, found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble.

I went through the ACC data from the 2003 season onward to determine just how often teams lost its next game after playing Duke. Teams who lost their next game after playing Duke are bolded below. Teams who made the NCAA Tournament are italicized, with their seed and round they lost in listed for reference. I mentioned the ACC Tournament only in the years in which Duke did not win (2004, 2007, 2008, and 2012).

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Duke and North Carolina Never Disappoint: Four Takeaways From Wednesday Night

Posted by EMann on February 15th, 2013

Ethan Mann is a writer for the ACC Microsite. He is a senior at Duke University who just attended his last home game as an undergraduate against North Carolina and re-watched the game on TV for further analysis.

As the saying goes — throw all the numbers out for Duke/North Carolina. Rankings, records and all the rest are immaterial. UNC had rarely been competitive against good competition this season until Wednesday night, and the last time an unranked North Carolina team came into Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Tar Heels were thrashed 82-50. This game was much different, as evidenced by the final score of 73-68.

Rasheed Sulaimon was a second-half catalyst in Duke's victory against North Carolina. (AP)

Rasheed Sulaimon was a second-half catalyst in Duke’s victory against North Carolina. (AP)

Here are four takeaways from the game:

  1. Why did North Carolina not use this lineup much earlier in the season? Roy Williams finally decided to start PJ Hairston (second on the team in offensive efficiency) alongside Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo, and Hairston rewarded this choice by scoring 23 points and grabbing eight rebounds (seven of which were on the offensive end). Instead of starting offensive black hole Desmond Hubert, the head coach finally turned to a lineup with more offensive firepower so that his team did not fall into a massive early deficit like they did against Virginia Tech, NC State, and Miami, to name just a few. If North Carolina is going to make the NCAA Tournament and maximize its chances of winning there, Hairston must play starter’s minutes.
  2. James Michael McAdoo might be the most frustrating player in college basketball. McAdoo was preseason first-team all-ACC and some people might still vote him there because of his stats (he is averaging 14.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game). However, this is a case where the stats do not match reality. McAdoo is an incredibly talented and athletic basketball player, but in reality he was mostly ineffective Wednesday night. He had a couple of highlight plays (including a nasty reverse dunk that gave UNC a 38-31 lead early in the second half), but following that play, he increasingly settled for mid-range jumpers, which he did not convert. And worse, the 57% FT shooter went just 1-of-5 from the line, including several crucial misses in crunch time. Why McAdoo settled for jump shots instead of going aggressively at the foul-prone Mason Plumlee was a bit of an enigma. He finished with nine points and eight rebounds on only 4-of-12 shooting, which is unacceptable for a player with his talents. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Bracketology: Week of February 5

Posted by EMann on February 5th, 2013

With nearly half of the ACC docket gone and Miami continuing to cement its hold on an undefeated league record, now is as good a time as any to continue with the bracket talk.

Miami has an outside shot of getting a #1 seed.  Who would have expected that after losing to Florida Gulf Coast? (Asheboro Courier-Journal)

Miami has an outside shot of getting a #1 seed. Who would have expected that after losing to Florida Gulf Coast? (Asheboro Courier-Tribune)

Definitely IN

Duke (19-2, 6-2):  While Duke is not first in the ACC (and has a 27-point defeat to the team currently leading the conference), the Blue Devils would almost assuredly receive the highest seed of any team in the ACC if the season ended today. (A similar margin of defeat for North Carolina last year against a team from Florida did not cost them a #1 seed).  Wins against Louisville, Minnesota, VCU, and Kentucky have definitely lost some of their luster in recent weeks, but Duke is still #1 in the RPI rankings and is now ranked #4 in the national polls. The Blue Devils put together by far their best performance post-Ryan Kelly in their resounding defeat of Florida State over the weekend. While Kelly’s return is still uncertain, talk is that he could return to action around the end of February. Duke gets its first revenge game on Thursday at home against NC State, and a win there against a snake-bitten NC State team would do wonders to increase Duke’s legitimacy without Kelly playing. Duke will obviously hope to have him back at 100% soon, because potentially huge games loom in Duke’s final four conference games (@Virginia, Miami, Virginia Tech, @UNC). At the moment, Duke would probably be the third or fourth #1 seed, and could possibly gain the overall #1 seed by running the table, or could fall to a #2 seed if they drop two or three more games in league play depending on what happens in the Big Ten, with middling scenarios (one or two additional conference losses and an ACC Tournament championship) likely keeping them about where they are now.

  • Seed projection:  #1 (now), could fall to a #2
  • Best wins:  Louisville (neutral), Ohio State, VCU, Kentucky (neutral), Minnesota (neutral)
  • Worst losses: @Miami (just by the sheer margin)

Miami (17-3, 8-0):  The Hurricanes may be the hottest team in America right now, having won nine games in a row. Their victory on Reggie Johnson’s last second tip-in in Raleigh on Saturday made Miami the heavy favorite to win the ACC’s regular season title, as they hold a two-game lead over the closest opposition, Duke, whom they have already defeated by 27 points. The Hurricanes are also ranked #2 in the RPI (behind only Duke), so all of the computer numbers are going to bat for them, and they have also risen into the top 10 in the AP poll. Miami’s only truly difficult conference game left is against Duke in Cameron, but aside from that, they should be favored in every game and the conference right now is clearly theirs to lose. Miami has a great case for a 2 seed right now with its RPI and resounding defeat of Duke, which could be the most impressive feather in the cap for any team this season. If they run the table in the ACC, they will get a #1 seed, and if they finish 16-2 or 17-1, their chances of a #1 seed are still pretty good, especially if they also win the ACC Tournament. The game against Duke could be a battle for top seed and would put the winner in the driver’s seat headed into the ACC Tournament.

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The Perils of Sporting Your Undergrad Colors in a Hostile Arena

Posted by EMann on January 30th, 2013

Note:  The writer of this piece, Ethan Mann, is an ACC microsite writer and Duke senior who has attended all but one home basketball game in his three-plus years in Durham, as well as being part of the group that organizes the tenting for the UNC game. He can easily spot when people who go to Duke let it get to their heads.

A few Miami graduate students, who happen to be Duke alumnae, decided to attend the Hurricanes’ 90-63 shellacking of the then-#1 Blue Devils last Wednesday. Their experience was not so great, as they wore their Duke colors and were the target of verbal abuse not just from Miami undergrads but apparently also from school administrators. Michelle Picon, one of these Duke undergraduate/Miami medical students, felt so affronted by her experience there that she wrote an op-ed to the Duke Chronicle regarding the mistreatment they endured both before and during the game.

Picon, Right in the Duke Sweatshirt, Probably Wishes She Hadn't Written into the Duke Chronicle At This Point

Picon, On the Right in the Duke Sweatshirt, Probably Wishes She Hadn’t Written into the Duke Chronicle At This Point

Ladies and gentlemen, I f—ing kid you not, the Dean of Students and the Vice President of Student Affairs stood between us and the stadium, allowing dozens of people to pass us in line as they lectured us on our apparently deplorable and wildly unacceptable desire to show support for our home team. Four-plus years as Cameron Crazies, hard-earned Duke degrees and constitutionally protected freedom of speech notwithstanding, senior administrators of the undergraduate campus dared scold us for wearing Duke blue to a basketball game.

Look, I completely understand their anger — you should be allowed to wear your colors to a basketball game anywhere you want. However, by sitting in the Miami student section, it is more or less assumed that you are going to cheer for Miami. This was probably the most high-profile game in the history of Miami basketball so I can understand the administrators’ desire to make the student section look as good as possible (hence, free of Miami students who might be Duke basketball fans from their youth/undergraduate affiliation, etc.) to display school spirit. Also, the claim about freedom of speech is just incredibly erroneous. They were honestly lucky to be let in the game at all wearing the Duke stuff, because at some schools they would not allow entry into the student section unless they put a shirt from the home school on over their Duke attire.

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Bracketology and Reality: ACC Version

Posted by EMann on January 24th, 2013

Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology was released on January 22. While it might be a bit too early to start evaluating his selections with full confidence, there are definitely some interesting predictions he has made about the current state of things in the ACC. For one thing, he has five teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament from the conference in this mock bracket:  Duke (overall #1 seed), NC State (#3 seed), Miami (#5 seed), North Carolina (#9 seed), and Maryland (#11 seed).

There might only be 3 ACC locks for the NCAA Tournament after the regular season.

There might only be 3 ACC locks for the NCAA Tournament after the regular season.

  • Duke (16-2, 3-2):  If the season ended today, it would be tough to dispute Duke’s credentials as a #1 seed, considering that they are ranked #1 in the overall polls and #1 in the RPI, but without Ryan Kelly (for a still undetermined length of time), the Blue Devils are not the same team that defeated Louisville, Ohio State, and Minnesota. Regardless, barring a major collapse in the ACC (losing more than four games overall), it would be hard to see Duke losing its spot on at least one of the four top lines, though it would obviously prefer not to drop too many more so that it would be placed in the East Region (Washington, DC) instead of being shipped out to Los Angeles.
  • NC State (15-4, 4-2):  NC State has probably fallen off the #3-seed line with its shocking loss to Wake Forest earlier this week. While NC State is currently ranked #16 in the RPI, they are likely to drop more in the near future (RPIForecast has the Wolfpack projected to finish #25 in the RPI). NC State’s porous defense and generally mediocre play in the ACC (aside from the Duke game), including a loss to Maryland and barely scraping by non-Tournament contenders Clemson and Boston College, finally came back to bite them in losing to a Wake Forest team that was just 9-8 prior to that game. While NC State is certainly a lock to make the NCAAs at this point, unless they can beat Duke in Cameron and/or beat Miami and have success against UNC, it is highly unlikely they will stay quite so high. If they finish 11-7 in the ACC, as projected by both Pomeroy and Sagarin, a #5 or #6 seed seems more likely, considering that NC State’s best non-conference wins are against UConn and Stanford.

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Analyzing the Last Unbeaten in ACC League Play: Miami Hurricanes

Posted by EMann on January 19th, 2013

Not too many people would have expected Miami to be the last team in the ACC without a conference loss, sitting at 4-0 in league play at present, but that is indeed what has happened as we sit at just short of one-fourth of the way through league play. Ryan Kelly’s injury at Duke, North Carolina and Florida State’s disappointing play, and NC State acting in two straight games where the court was rushed (being on the winning side of one and the losing of another) have opened up this unlikely scenario. Is Miami’s run sustainable, especially considering that they are playing without big man Reggie Johnson?

Reggie Johnson

Miami has started off ACC play quite well without Johnson-is this more a product of a fairly soft schedule or has the team truly adjusted? (USA Today)

Miami has three losses overall, and absences were to blame for all of them; their stunning loss to Florida Gulf Coast in its second game of the season was without Durand Scott, who was suspended, and Johnson, of course, missed Miami’s losses to Arizona and Indiana State following his thumb injury. In conference play, Miami has defeated Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Boston College on the road, and Maryland at home.

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How Will Ryan Kelly’s Absence Affect Duke? Examining the Alternatives at the PF Position…

Posted by EMann on January 12th, 2013

With Duke’s first big ACC road test against pre-season conference favorite NC State looming on Saturday, all eyes have turned to how the Blue Devils will function without stretch forward Ryan Kelly. Kelly, who has been red-hot in Duke’s last three games as teams have started to meet NPOY candidate Mason Plumlee with frequent double-teams, is a huge component of Duke’s offense. Kelly leads Duke in offensive rating and for the season is shooting over 50% from the arc.

Wake Forest v Duke Basketball

Ryan Kelly’s absence could provide Duke with the opportunity to develop some depth (Chicago Tribune)

While nothing seems certain, most people are estimating Kelly to be out for around a month, depending on how the foot (which is not fractured) responds to treatment. This opens up a phenomenal opportunity for Duke over this period to establish something that they have struggled with this season:  post depth. Duke has essentially used a 6.5 man rotation this year, with its bench consisting of Tyler Thornton (over 20 minutes per game), along with junior Josh Hairston, will start at Kelly’s position in his absence, who averages just over 11 minutes a game. Freshmen Alex Murphy (5.6 mpg)and Amile Jefferson (8.8 mpg) are also likely to see extended minutes at the 4 with Kelly being out with his injury.

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Several Thoughts on Duke vs. Davidson

Posted by EMann on January 3rd, 2013

Duke outlasted Davidson 67-50 in a gritty, physical contest at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte last night. It was a game that was certainly a tale of two halves as the teams were tied 29-all at halftime before Duke went on a decisive 12-0 run early in the second half to virtually put away the game. I was in attendance and here were some of my thoughts about the game:

Mason Plumlee was hassled all night by Davidson's defense.

Mason Plumlee was hassled all night by Davidson’s defense. (AP)

  • Davidson’s Defending of Plumlee-National Player of the Year candidate Mason Plumlee had his worst game of the season, tallying only 10 points and seven rebounds. He attempted only seven shots and turned the ball over six times. Plumlee was held to only two points in the first half, and Duke’s big man never looked comfortable with Davidson’s immediate double-team every time he got the ball near the post, which led to several poor shots and turnovers. Or, they forced him to catch the ball on the perimeter where he could do much less damage. Plumlee showed flashes of improvement in the second half by making a very difficult hook shot midway through that stopped a brief Davidson spurt, but regardless, Davidson’s defense on Plumlee was largely responsible for how close the game was early, and other teams will likely watch this game tape closely to emulate Davidson’s defense on the big man.

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