ACC M5: 12.27.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 27th, 2012

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  1. Fox Sports Carolinas: NC State forward CJ Leslie has long been thought of as the Wolfpack’s most talented player, but his immaturity has overshadowed his innate talent for most of his first two years in Raleigh. However, his recent performance against St. Bonaventure, where Leslie totaled 33 points and eight rebounds, is the latest culmination of a season-long maturation process, according to Fox Sports’ Andrew Jones. Leslie, whom Mark Gottfried has coached very differently from other players, calling him by his first name “Calvin,” has finally started to show the potential that made him eigh’s most touted recruit in a long time. If Leslie can continue to improve, NC State has a fantastic chance to advance past last year’s Sweet Sixteen appearance.
  2. Yahoo! Sports: Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports, like many other prognosticators, is backing off of his original choice of NC State to win the conference. Eisenberg differed from most, however, in also selecting North Carolina to finish ahead of Duke as well (NC State-Duke-UNC was the most popular projection). He is now definitely backing off the Tar Heels as well, whose poor play has dropped them out of the Top 25; and while he favors Duke to win the conference now, he warns us not to give up on NC State. Eisenberg also calls attention to league disappointments (Florida State and UNC) and the burgeoning conference player of the year competition between Virginia Tech’s Erick Green (America’s leading scorer) and Duke’s Mason Plumlee.
  3. Washington Post:  Maryland has sailed under the radar this year. After dropping an extremely close opener to then #3 Kentucky, the Terrapins have not lost another game. Still, the Terps only received seven votes in the latest Top 25 poll. This low profile is emblematic of the team’s coach, Mark Turgeon, who has had to replace one of the game’s iconic head coaches in Gary Williams. As detailed in Rick Maese’s article,Turgeon’s disciplined, calculating approach has been nurtured through various experiences in his career, dating back to middle school basketball. But while remaining fiercely competitive, he also has struggled to balance family with basketball. Regardless, after reading this piece it seems like Turgeon is the right man to lead the Terrapins forward as they transition from the ACC to the Big Ten.
  4. Salisbury Post: A big part of Duke’s rise to #1 this year can be credited to an improvement in the team’s defense. Last year, Duke’s defense was the worst (#70) that it has been since Ken Pomeroy began his ratings in 2003. Duke’s defense has improved in nearly every facet this year and now ranks ninth in the Pomeroy rankings. Another notable accomplishment for this Duke team includes the fact that all five of its starters are averaging in double figures, which has not happened in Durham since 2003-04. However, Mike Krzyzewski knows that his team is not perfect, saying, “This season will not be a perfect one.” Still, with their performance against one of the toughest opening stretches in recent memory and an improved defense, it is hard not to be bullish about Duke’s long-term chances this year.
  5. Florida Today: Flying under the radar during Christmas season was Miami‘s struggles in the Diamond Head Classic. Playing without senior forward Reggie Johnson, the Hurricanes ended up finishing fourth in the tournament, including a costly overtime loss to Indiana State in the third place game where Miami squandered a late seven-point lead. However, assuming Johnson can return from his injury, Miami should end up being alright. Miami has yet to lose a game where it has been at full strength (Durand Scott was suspended in the loss to Florida Gulf Coast) and Johnson missed the ISU game as well as the previous night’s defeat to San Diego State. Look for Miami to continue to fly under the radar in conference play, but they will need to be a bit more careful in the ACC because these two losses will give them a slightly smaller margin for error in their quest to make the NCAA Tournament.
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ACC Presidents Pledge Solidarity, But For How Long?

Posted by EMann on December 7th, 2012

Ethan Mann is a writer for the ACC microsite. He is a senior at Duke University and can be reached at emann970@gmail.com.

In the wake of Maryland’s abrupt departure for the greener pastures (ringed with money that actually does grow on trees) of the B1G, the ACC has been bombarded with rumors of the imminent departures of several other of its members, which would signal the impending demise of the conference. Georgia Tech, Virginia, and North Carolina have all been rumored to be in talks with the B1G, with Florida State and Clemson reportedly linked to the Big 12.

What will the ACC look like by the time of the next presidential election? (Duke Chronicle)

Although the conference just added Louisville to replace Maryland, replenishing the supply of teams at 14 for football and 15 for all other sports, most pundits and observers thought that this would not significantly change the ACC’s tenuous position. Unless the ACC can somehow renegotiate its television contract, which pays less than any of the other four major conferences (sorry Big East, but changing your name from C-USA does not mean that you can still be considered a major conference), many will still consider the ACC on shaky ground. The league might need to start groveling for Notre Dame to give up its football independence, but the odds of that happening after this season seem unlikelier than Maryland reneging on their move to the B1G.

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ACC M5: 12.06.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 6th, 2012

  1. ESPN: North Carolina guard/forward PJ Hairston has been playing a new position this year, the power forward spot. Robbi Pickeral discusses how in North Carolina’s small lineup (three guards plus Hairston with James Michael McAdoo), Hairston enjoys his new role because it creates mismatches and allows him to stretch the floor with his outside shooting ability, something atypical from a player at his position. Roy Williams expects to use this lineup often in the future, as it was successful against UAB last weekend. Hairston also plans to take the ball to the basket more to take advantage of his handling skills instead of settling for threes, and he has also gained some additional confidence because of this move. His numbers are so far much improved from last year, and if UNC continues to use this smaller lineup, they can stretch the floor with several three-point shooting options, something a bit out of the norm for a Roy Williams lineup.
  2. Washington Post: Maryland has a renewed focus on defense this season, as typical scouting sessions are focused on closely observing opponents’ offensive tendencies on film. Head coach Mark Turgeon said that the Terps’ victory over George Mason last weekend was the first time he has been happy with his team’s defense all season. One of the most important tasks Turgeon has undertaken is getting his freshmen on board with the team’s defensive focus. Alex Len and Dez Wells have especially bought into the defensive schemes that Turgeon hopes will become contagious amongst his younger players. At the moment, Maryland is ranked 78th in Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency ratings largely due to their opponents very rarely turning over the ball, so that is one area where the Terrapins will need to improve.
  3. While maybe not as important to the average Seminole fan as the triumph over the Seminoles on the gridiron two weeks ago, Florida’s evisceration of Florida State in Tallahassee last night was a sure sign that the Seminoles have a long way to go this season. Yes, Florida is one of the very best teams in the country but FSU was nowhere even near competitive with the Gators, something that they were even in 2006 and 2007 when Florida won their consecutive national championships. In the 25-point defeat (and it didn’t even seem that close), Florida State shot only 35% from the field and committed 22 turnovers, while Florida shot 49% and ran out on the Seminoles from the opening tip. Michael Snaer was the only Seminole in double figures, so if this game does not serve as a wakeup call for Leonard Hamilton’s team after the home embarrassments to South Alabama and Mercer, nothing will.
  4. Local radio voice Mark Thomas was inspired by NC State’s effort in its victory over Connecticut in the Jimmy V Classic two nights ago. The most important takeaway, according to Thomas, is that Mark Gottfried and his team appear to have realized that while they are a very talented, they are not good enough to just roll the basketball out there and out-talent the other team. The game against UConn showed the importance of topping that talent with strong effort, and NC State’s performance in the second half was certainly indicative of that. While it may be tough for NCSU to match Duke in the ACC this season, performances like this one will definitely remind observers as to why they predicted NC State to win the conference in the preseason after all.
  5. Duke extended the contract of athletic director Dr. Kevin White through the end of June 2019. White, since coming from Notre Dame in 2008, has overseen three national titles (including the 2010 men’s basketball title) and 12 ACC titles. Duke’s athletic teams have also been exceptional in the classroom, with only one team earning a GPA below 3.0 last semester. Duke’s athletics have also placed in the top 2o in the Director’s Cup (which measures performances in all sports) in each year during White’s tenure. While no one knows when head coach Mike Krzyzewski will step down, with White seemingly in place for much of the next decade, he may be the one officially making the extremely difficult call on who will replace the sport’s all-time leader in victories, a very difficult call indeed for even an AD with White’s pedigree.
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ACC M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 5th, 2012

  1. Yikes. It’s not quite at the level of Clemson’s futility in Chapel Hill, but Boston College has now lost to Harvard for the fifth season in a row. While Harvard has shared or won the Ivy League title the last two years, the team was not expected to be quite as formidable considering the absence of two key contributors from its NCAA Tournament team last season. Although Ryan Anderson had 23 points on 11-12 shooting, Boston College’s anemic defense (Harvard’s starters were 25-41 from the floor) was definitely the culprit in this loss. Boston College’s expectations are not high this season, but consistently losing to Ivy League opposition is not something that teams aspiring to improve in the ACC typically have on their to-do list.
  2. NC State finally got the marquee win it needed to assure everyone not to push the panic button in Raleigh quite yet. Wearing uniforms stitched with “Don’t Ever Give Up,” emblematic of former Wolfpack coach Jimmy Valvano’s famous speech at the ESPYs shortly before his death, the Wolfpack got a 69-65 win over Connecticut in the event that bears the late coach’s name. While NC State’s vaunted freshmen struggled, veteran forwards Richard Howell and CJ Leslie each had double-doubles in the Wolfpack’s victory. Beating UConn doesn’t quite carry the cachet that a win in Ann Arbor would have had, but seeing NC State finally emerge victorious in a nationally-televised match-up should help the Wolfpack begin to recover from the burdens that everyone’s preseason expectations may have placed on them.
  3. Chapelboro: Freshman point guard Marcus Paige of North Carolina is expected to return to action this weekend against East Tennessee State, after missing UNC’s victory over UAB last weekend following an elbow injury. With negative x-rays supporting the decision, head coach Roy Williams is confident that Paige will be able to play. Getting the freshman back should be helpful for the Tar Heels, who have had a lot of uncertainty with their lineup this season. Williams says that while his team is small, it is not necessarily quick enough to play overly aggressive defense, so they have practiced a zone. Having a healthy Marcus Paige in the lineup is important for North Carolina as the team hopes he can continue to improve and become a consistent, steadying presence during ACC play.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: The calling card of Florida State’s recent success has been its exceptional defense. However, head coach Leonard Hamilton has not seen the consistent effort that his recent teams have put together at the defensive end this season. The statistics bear him out: the Seminoles are only ranked 80th in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency rankings, by far their worst mark in the last five years (the Seminoles were in the top 15 the last four years, including finishing first twice). Hamilton is particularly worried about his team’s defensive intensity as Florida State faces Florida next, a team ranked second in the overall Pomeroy rankings and third on offense. Hamilton hopes that playing their in-state rival can provide a return to the intensity that his team has shown in years past.
  5. Clemson’s T.J. Sapp has decided to transfer away from the program. Sapp, a sophomore guard who has started all seven of Clemson’s games this season, gave no reason for his decision to leave. Even though Sapp was starting, he was averaging only about 15 minutes per game this season. Sapp’s decision to transfer leaves Brad Brownell with three guards with the potential to slide into his starting spot:  freshman Adonis Filer, sophomore BYU transfer Damarcus Harrison, and freshman Jordan Roper. Out of those players, Filer has used the most possessions when he has been in the game, with Filer and Roper having extremely similar offensive ratings, slightly superior to Harrison.
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ACC M5: 12.04.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 4th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: Maryland’s Alex Len has had a breakout sophomore campaign, averaging nearly 15 points and nine rebounds per game so far this season. The Ukrainian has been so impressive that many are now speculating about his draft stock. While it is far from certain that Len will leave school after this year, he is currently seventh on NBADraft.net‘s mock draft for next season and looks likely as a lottery pick if he elects to declare for the pros. Even if Len only stays in college a few more months, if he continues to play this well, Maryland is going to be a very tough out in March. While Len may not eclipse Mason Plumlee’s on-court numbers this year, if he decides to declare next spring he may very well end up going higher in the draft than the early NPOY candidate.
  2. Point guard Jontel Evans is slowly working his way back into suddenly surging Virginia‘s lineup. After struggling (largely without Evans) in losses to George Mason and Delaware earlier this season, Virginia emerged victorious from Wisconsin’s Kohl Center in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which is always a feather in the cap even if the Badgers are a little bit down this year. Evans played a season-high 23 minutes in last weekend’s victory over Wisconsin-Green Bay where he tallied seven assists. Both Evans and head coach Tony Bennett are excited at how quickly Evans has recovered from his foot surgery, and the team’s fortunes should only improve as Evans becomes even more ingrained in the Virginia rotation.
  3. Georgia Tech finally returns back to the renovated McCamish Pavilion after a long road trip, which featured a third-place finish at the DirecTV Classic in Anaheim and a competitive loss to Maui Invitational champions Illinois at Assembly Hall.  The Yellow Jackets will begin a seven-game home stand by hosting in-state rival Georgia tonight, a Bulldogs team that was highly competitive with both Indiana and UCLA earlier this season but is still only 2-5 overall. This game should be a litmus test to evaluate just where the Yellow Jackets are at this point in the season; a win certainly shows that the team is going in the right direction, whereas a loss would definitely be cause for great concern in Atlanta.
  4. Duke Chronicle: Tom Gieryn’s article discusses how Duke basketball’s focus on “Togetherness” thus far this season has definitely paid dividends for the Blue Devils. Last season, Coach Mike Krzyzewski talked of his team, saying, “It’s like a surprise gift. You open it up, and for the most part, it’s been a nice surprise, but I never have any idea what’s in there.” This year, the legendary coach said about his team, “They’re good guys—like, they hang together,” Krzyzewski said after Duke’s championship victory in the Battle 4 Atlantis. “They laugh at each other’s jokes. I don’t laugh at most of them. I don’t get most of them. The bottom line is they’re good guys and they like one another.” This sentiment was definitely not always apparent on last year’s squad. Even if Duke slips a bit from its extremely high level of play thus far, the team’s chemistry should help it recover a lot more quickly than last season where the slightest bit of adversity seemed to negatively impact a more fragile team. Also, Duke’s defense has benefited, at least in part, to this improved chemistry (though replacing Austin Rivers with Rasheed Sulaimon and Ryan Kelly’s defensive improvement have also played a huge role).
  5. Keeping it Heel: Matt Hamm suggests that head coach Roy Williams may not be managing his rotation in the most efficient way. Hamm’s major issue is that Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons are playing too much, at the expense of freshman Brice Johnson, and that PJ Hairston, who seems like the player most capable of creating his own shot, is averaging less than 20 minutes a game. This year has presented a bit of a challenge for the Tar Heels, as they lack a truly elite point guard or pure post player, both of which have been emblematic of Williams’ best teams at North Carolina. While making these changes may help, North Carolina will still need to continue to adjust its offense and be more flexible with lineups, something that Roy Williams has not exactly been known for in his tenure in Chapel Hill.
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ACC M5: 12.03.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 3rd, 2012

  1. Tomahawk Nation:  It may be getting closer to panic time in Tallahassee. One day after the football team claimed an ACC title to match the basketball team’s from last season, Leonard Hamilton’s team’s performance indicated that the chances of it returning the favor are growing quite slim. Florida State fell at home to Mercer yesterday, 61-56, marking Mercer’s first victory over the Seminoles since 1954. For the Seminoles, a preseason top 25 team, it was their second incredibly inexcusable home defeat that may have lasting implications come March. The defense returned to levels more typical of recent Florida State teams (it has been a major culprit this season), but the offense, despite Leonard Hamilton going 11 deep, failed to get anything productive going, and mustered just one point down the stretch in their final three possessions. Going into a match-up Wednesday with intrastate rival Florida, who has dominated its opponents this season, the prognosis is certainly troubling for FSU.
  2. A much more positive surprise in the ACC this season has been the strong play of Virginia Tech, who remained undefeated after upsetting 15th-ranked Oklahoma State this weekend. Playing no small role in this surprising start is senior guard Erick Green. In this fantastic Jeff Goodman article, Green acknowledges that he would have left Blacksburg if not for the hiring of new coach James Johnson, who had played a major role in recruiting Green to Virginia Tech. Green is having a huge senior season, averaging about 25 points per game and catalyzing the Hokies’ new up-tempo offense, which Green credits as a large part of their success. While Virginia Tech may not be able to sustain this run of play indefinitely, they will definitely be a much larger factor than expected in the conference this season.
  3. Charlotte Observer:  Following their blowout loss to top-ranked Indiana, North Carolina hoped to respond positively in their Saturday match-up with UAB. While the Tar Heels were extremely impressive offensively, with Dexter Strickland moving to point guard and Leslie McDonald entering the starting lineup in the wake of Marcus Paige’s injury, their defense left much to be desired according to head coach Roy Williams. During a timeout early in the second half, Williams implored his team to step up their defensive intensity during a tirade that got the team’s attention. With UNC’s highly inconsistent performance so far this season, Williams certainly hopes that the Tar Heels can provide offense similar to that of Saturday’s game (102 points) while also heightening their defensive intensity.
  4. Devils in Durham:  As everyone surely knows, second-ranked Duke is off to a phenomenal start this season. But one player that has likely been overlooked in the wake of the excellent performances of Mason Plumlee, Quinn Cook, and Rasheed Sulaimon, among others, is junior point guard Tyler Thornton. Inserted into the starting lineup to replace the injured Seth Curry on Saturday against Delaware, Thornton stuffed the stat sheet in spots other than the points column-providing 10 assists and three steals. Coach K appreciates Thornton’s defensive intensity and has lauded his acceptance of a generally reduced role in the wake of Cook’s improving play. Thornton’s contributions are typically not of the flashy variety, but since he is “such an easy guy to play with,” according to Krzyzewski, he will definitely play a pivotal role in Duke’s team success this season, particularly with his devotion to tenacious defense.
  5. In what could be Maryland‘s last appearance in the BB&T Classic played in the nation’s capital, the Terrapins, in their penultimate season in the ACC, are quietly making a case to be mentioned amongst the conference’s elite teams this season. While Maryland struggled offensively in a 69-62 victory over suburban rival George Mason, their defense was able to put together a strong performance. Dez Wells continued his phenomenal play, scoring 25 points, while also reaffirming a commitment to defense inspired by watching films of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Wells insisted that he wants to guard the best player every game, since a great player is also great on defense as well. If Wells and Maryland can continue this defensive commitment, they will be an extremely scary squad during ACC play, particularly if their offense can improve.
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ACC M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 16th, 2012

  1. Scout:  Clemson freshman forward Jaron Blossomgame has decided to redshirt this season following a compound leg fracture he suffered in April. Blossomgame had worked very hard to recover from his injury, but since he did not want to return during the middle of the season when the rest of the team was already familiar with its preferred style of play, he and Brad Brownell came to this mutual agreement. While Blossomgame is disappointed he won’t get to start his Clemson career until the 2013-14 season, he thinks that redshirting will be positive for his development. His contributions will be missed, as he would be able to provide some scoring ability and depth for the frontcourt, but ultimately both coach and player think that redshirting is the best pathway forward.
  2. Fox Sports Florida: The Coaches vs. Cancer Classic takes on special meaning for Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton and his program. Hamilton has lost four family members to cancer: his grandmother, father, and two brothers, one of whom lost his battle with the disease shortly following Florida State’s maiden ACC tournament championship in March. Another one of Florida State’s family, former assistant Kenny Williamson, who was on Pat Kennedy’s staff in the early 1990s, also recently passed away due to cancer. Expect Florida State to play with a special chip on their shoulder in this event, which has raised over $85 million since its inception in 1993. The Seminoles are fortunate that this tournament enabled them an automatic berth to the semifinals, as they lost in their first game in the event earlier in the week. The Seminoles will face BYU on Friday night, with a matchup between Notre Dame and St Joseph’s determining the other finalist.
  3. Hampton Roads:  With Jontel Evans slowly recovering from his injury (he played only three minutes in Virginia’s loss to Delaware on Tuesday, and doctors have not cleared him to play more than 10 minutes a game), Tony Bennett’s team has looked for answers at point guard. Unfortunately, Evans’ backup, Malcolm Brogdon, does not appear to be returning from his injury either anytime soon. Brogdon had surgery on his foot on March 7, and Bennett is confident that doctors will clear Brogdon to play at some point this season. But he has not played or practiced this season, which leads to the question of whether there is any point in rushing him back. If Brogdon cannot return and Evans remains limited by his own injury, this would leave only Joe Harris as a reliable creator, and Virginia’s offense would likely struggle as they have for most of the season thus far.
  4. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: It took all of one game following Georgia Tech’s opener for the excitement surrounding the new McCamish Pavilion to wear off. Georgia Tech’s struggle to get by Presbyterian had far fewer fans in attendance than the sold-out opener, and the Yellow Jackets’ play possibly was a consequence of the sparser crowd.  Georgia Tech needed a large second half run to put away their overmatched opposition, which led Coach Brian Gregory to comment that “For us to be who we want to be eventually, that stuff can’t matter [referring to the crowd size]… and we’re not there yet.” Georgia Tech will probably need to score more than 52 points and make more than a third of its shots to get the Atlanta crowds excited to see them play.
  5. Thursday was a much better day for the ACC. Conference favorite NC State had a relatively easy victory in Puerto Rico over Penn State, with strong performances from freshmen TJ Warren and Rodney Purvis. Virginia Tech, who has recently committed to a more up-tempo offense, outplayed VMI, who regularly plays one of the fastest tempos in the country, showing that it has at least mastered some parts of this new approach. And Boston College was competitive in a 10-point defeat against a much more athletic Baylor team in Charleston (predicted to finish near or at the top in the Big 12), indicating that they will not be the “guaranteed” victory they so often appeared to be last year. The ACC will need more nights like this in order to show that the conference has legitimate depth, rather than what some of the other ACC teams (looking at the Florida schools and a certain one in Charlottesville) have shown thus far.
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ACC M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 15th, 2012

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress:  Virginia has limped out of the gates to a 1-2 start, including an embarrassing home loss to Delaware in the NIT Season Tip-Off. But the bigger story at play may be their injury issues. Senior point guard Jontel Evans, who was limited to just three minutes in the game against Delaware, has been struggling to recover from surgery to his right foot to repair a stress fracture. While Evans is not known for being an electrifying scorer or shooter, his steadying presence defensively (he made the ACC All-Defensive team last year), including leading the team in steals over the past two years, and offensively (leading the team in assists) would definitely help provide structure to an offense that has sorely struggled without him. With backup Malcolm Brogdon injured, Virginia has employed a myriad of options at the point, including leading returning scorer Joe Harris and a walk-on, among others, with a clear dropoff from Evans’ typical play. Virginia will certainly be patient with Evans’ return to an increased amount of minutes, but they surely must hope he can return in a fuller, healthier capacity soon before the team potentially has more crippling out of conference losses.
  2. If the ACC wants to gain more respect as a conference on the national scale (at least relative to the Big Ten and the presently constructed Big East), it cannot afford for teams thought of as likely to make the NCAA Tournament to have potentially resume-crushing losses before Thanksgiving. Virginia is 0-2 against the CAA, having lost to George Mason on the road (somewhat acceptable) and Delaware at home (not good). Preseason #25 Florida State dropped its opener at home to South Alabama, and Miami, projected fifth in the ACC, lost to Florida Gulf Coast, who is in just their second year with NCAA Tournament eligibility, though they were without starting guard Durand Scott (suspended) and forward Garrius Adams (injury). Regardless, these teams will likely be a bit more antsy on Selection Sunday than the pundits thought in the preseason.
  3. Charlotte Observer:  NC State has recently been the third wheel in the Triangle basketball scene, but that certainly has started to change under Mark Gottfried. In this Observer piece, Joe Giglio details Gottfried’s recruiting strategy, which is already starting to pay dividends. With NC State’s Sweet Sixteen run last year, Gottfried has already “earned street cred with the best players in the country,” according to recruiting expert Dave Telep. Along with their initial success in the coach’s first year, in addition with Gottfried’s tireless recruiting, his comfort with the media, and his commitment to a “system,” according to Giglio, Gottfried has enhanced NC State’s perception greatly — which is a huge aspect of the recruiting world. With six top 50 recruits signed or committed from the classes of 2012, 2013, and 2014, the Wolfpack has more top 50 recruits in those classes than either Duke or North Carolina. Gottfried will definitely be a force to be reckoned with for a long time, especially considering that he will likely outlast both of the Triangle’s other coaching giants (Gottfried is only 48 years old), barring a major surprise.
  4. A lot of ink has already been given to Seth Curry’s phenomenal game against Kentucky, especially in light of his nagging shin injury which has limited his practice time. But a story to continue to watch for at Duke this season is the play of sophomore point guard Quinn Cook, and Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News added his perspective to the situation. Cook, who started both of Duke’s exhibition games, has been benched in favor of Tyler Thornton in each of Duke’s regular season games. This is not to say that Cook has been terrible, as he played 30 decent minutes against Kentucky. By placing Thornton in the starting lineup in these two games, Coach K has signaled to Cook that nothing is guaranteed, and even Cook realized this about his early season performances, saying, “I played sub-par. I was thinking too much.” Cook has not been spectacular in Duke’s first two games, but it seems like he is definitely taking steps in the right direction. Duke will need him to continue to progress if they are going to be a serious title contender next spring.
  5. There was only one game involving ACC teams last night, as Georgia Tech prevailed in a slog over Presbyterian, 52-38. The Yellow Jackets actually trailed at halftime before overwhelming the Blue Hose with their size in the second half. The Yellow Jackets won despite shooting only 33.3% for the game. While Georgia Tech certainly avoided joining the club of ACC teams posting embarrassing early non-conference losses, coach Brian Gregory will certainly see room for improvement as the season goes on. This game was played as a result of negotiations which involved Georgia Tech’s football team opening against Presbyterian this season, interestingly enough.
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ACC M5: 11.14.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 14th, 2012

  1. In the much-hyped Champions Classic -between Duke and Kentucky, their first game against each other since December 2001 for the blue-blood rivals, Duke pulled out the victory, 75-68. Duke’s three seniors, Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly all excelled in the game against the Wildcats. Curry had perhaps his best game in a Duke uniform, with 23 points and acting clearly as Duke’s go-to player in the second half. Plumlee had 18 points despite second half foul trouble, only missing one shot (including making 4-4 free throws), keeping Duke in the game early when their shots were not going down, and Kelly played excellent defense on Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer. Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon also had a solid game despite a woeful shooting performance in the first half, burying three clutch second half treys while also leading Duke in rebounds (six) and assists (five). This was a huge confidence builder for a Duke team that had perhaps been a little overlooked this season, and although Kentucky in November is likely nowhere near the ceiling it will eventually reach this season, Duke will be happy to have this feather in their cap come Selection Sunday.
  2. If not for Duke’s victory tonight, the ACC’s anemic performance in Tuesday’s other games would have gotten a lot more attention, as it was not such a banner night for the rest of the conference. Miami, who struggled to beat Stetson in its opener and lost to St. Leo in the exhibition season, lost to Florida Gulf Coast, 63-51, and shot only 29% from the field. Virginia, meanwhile, dropped its second game out of three, failing to advance in the NIT Season Tip-Off by losing at home to Delaware in yet another punchless offensive effort (Virginia has yet to reach 60 points this season). For two teams expected to contend for NCAA Tournament berths this season, these are extremely clear signs that something will have to change for each of these programs to reach their potential.
  3. Tallahassee Democrat:  Leonard Hamilton definitely has a much different Florida State team this year. It is a team with the potential to be much more explosive offensively, but it also seems to lack the defensive chops of years past. After allowing South Alabama to shoot over 60% from three in FSU’s opening game defeat, their next opponent, Buffalo, shot 50% from the field. The difference was that Florida State was much better offensively against Buffalo, as the team hit nearly 60% from the field on its end of the court. Hamilton is definitely excited about the potential for offensive fireworks, but cautions that there will be some growing pains as this young team continues to meld and that they need to bring the energy that they showed against Buffalo.
  4. Scout:  NC State had a convincing win against Miami (Ohio) in their opener, but the ACC preseason favorites still can get a lot better, according to coach Mark Gottfried. Gottfried insinuated that his team still needs to learn their individual roles, particularly on defense. At the same time, he lauded the play of forwards CJ Leslie and Richard Howell, especially in how the two communicate with each other on the court. Gottfried believes that his team has great defensive potential, especially from freshman Rodney Purvis, but he realizes that it will definitely take some time for everyone to get on the same page. At the very least, Gottfried sees the upcoming Puerto Rico Tipoff as a great opportunity for his team, and it is refreshing to see the coach having an upbeat attitude with the pressure of heightened expectations this season.
  5. In exciting news for fans in ACC country, the NCAA announced that the PNC Arena in Raleigh would host second and third round NCAA Tournament games in 2014 and that Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte would do the same in 2015. The NCAA Tournament was most recently played in Raleigh in 2008, where North Carolina started its Final Four run that year and Stephen Curry keyed Davidson’s Elite Eight Cinderella story. Charlotte hosted second and third round games in 2011, where both Duke and North Carolina advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, and also the regionals in 2008, when North Carolina advanced to the Final Four. With the continuing popularity of college basketball on Tobacco Road, it is not surprising that the NCAA continues to select sites in the Tar Heel State for tournament play.
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ACC M5: 11.13.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 13th, 2012

  1. Not that there have been too many games to base these decisions on, but the first ACC player of the week for the season is Maryland forward Alex Len. The Ukrainian sophomore tallied a career high 23 points and 12 rebounds in Maryland’s close loss to Kentucky on Friday night in the Barclays Center. If Len can continue to play like that, he has a chance to move into the grouping of elite ACC big men that includes Mason Plumlee, James Michael McAdoo, and Reggie Johnson, among others. NC State guard Rodney Purvis took Rookie of the Week honors after leading his team in scoring against Miami (Ohio).
  2. Keeping it Heel: Roy Williams is obviously a great coach with two national titles to his credit. But with this year’s team not of his typical mold in Chapel Hill, he has had to change his philosophy somewhat. It has long been a North Carolina tradition not to start freshmen at the beginning of the season when more proven options are available, but  Williams has gone with freshman Marcus Paige this season as the starting point guard. According to Horran Cameron, Williams has realized that the best players need to be on the court regardless of experience. It remains to be seen if Paige can blossom to the level of Williams’ national championship point guards Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson, but it is a good sign for the freshman that he has gotten this level of trust from Day One.
  3. Today is ESPN’s 24-hour basketball marathon and it is capped off by one of college basketball’s great traditional match-ups:  Duke vs. Kentucky, this time, as part of the Champions Classic in Atlanta. It is the first time that Coach K and John Calipari have met since Calipari began coaching at Kentucky, and the first time the schools have met since December 2001. The featured matchup of this game will surely be Duke senior forward Mason Plumlee taking on Kentucky freshman sensation Nerlens Noel. While Kentucky may be athletically superior, they are a much younger team than Duke, and Coach K typically has Duke ready to play in these marquee early games. While this match-up will be excessively hyped throughout the day, treat it as an early season litmus test for two teams that have high expectations for this season.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat:  Following Florida State’s disappointing opening game defeat to South Alabama, which dropped the team out of this week’s Top 25, Leonard Hamilton has called upon his upperclassmen to play an increased leadership role, especially senior guard Michael Snaer. With seven newcomers on the roster, Hamilton hopes that his upperclassmen can keep the team going while the younger players get acclimated to big-time college basketball. The likelihood of Snaer, Ian Miller, and Okoro White all having subpar games at the same time is pretty slim — although it did happen against South Alabama — so it is clear that these players will need to be on top of their games to avoid more embarrassing losses. There’s a lot of basketball left to be played, so it is good to see Hamilton trying to light a fire under his team after a lackluster opener, and it appeared to pay off considering Florida State’s resounding bounceback victory against Buffalo.
  5. The Virginia Cavaliers have not gotten off to the best of starts, particularly with expectations fairly high following the program’s NCAA berth last year. Following a defeat in their opener against George Mason, the Cavaliers struggled to put away Fairfield in their NIT Season Tip-Off first round game in the only close game involving ACC teams last night.  However, with both starting point guard Jontel Evans and backup Malcolm Brogdon out with injuries, Tony Bennett was forced to turn to junior Joe Harris to run the point in crunch time. While they don’t play the same position, it looks as though Harris is going to be relied upon nearly as much as Mike Scott was last year to produce when the Cavaliers need help. While the experiment worked yesterday, Bennett surely hopes that Harris can move back off the ball to his more natural wing position and that his true point guards can return from injury as the competition in this tournament gets tougher (Michigan, Kansas State, and Pittsburgh are the other major conference teams in the event).
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ACC M5: 11.12.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 12th, 2012

  1. Redshirt freshman forward Alex Murphy of Duke was an interesting DNP: Coach’s Decision during the opener against Georgia State on Friday. After starting both of Duke’s exhibition games, Murphy strangely did not appear in a game where the forward surely expected to receive minutes (Krzyzewski instead started three guards). Mike Krzyzewski said, “We did not get to the point where Alex could play,” and insinuated that he was not injured. This may be of concern to Blue Devil fans — while Murphy’s offensive game is unpolished, his quickness and size seem to make him an ideal player to utilize in Tuesday’s matchup against Kentucky. But if he can’t get off the bench against Georgia State, why would Kentucky be any different? In theory at least, Murphy would offer the size at the small forward position that Duke seemed to lack all of last season, so it could be a big picture concern down the road if he does not get some burn in early games.
  2. Washington Post: The Maryland Terrapins have plenty to build on following their 72-69 loss to third-ranked Kentucky in their season opener at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn Friday night. Sophomore forward Alex Len outplayed Kentucky’s top-ranked recruit Nerlens Noel to the tune of 23 points and 12 rebounds, and often looked like the best player on the court. Mark Turgeon was especially proud of his team coming back from a 13-point deficit while they fed on the crowd’s energy. While this very young Maryland team was ultimately disappointed to come up a little short in their upset bid, this game definitely showed that Maryland will be a force to be reckoned with in the upper echelons in the conference this season.
  3. The defending conference champions have a lot of work ahead of them. #25 Florida State dropped a stunner at home Friday to South Alabama, 78-73 in one of the biggest upsets in the first weekend of college basketball. Some of the most shocking numbers in the upset related to Florida State’s ineptitude on defense, which has typically been their linchpin in the Leonard Hamilton era. South Alabama shot 60% from behind the three-point arc (9-15), whereas last year Florida State only allowed opponents to shoot 30.9% from beyond the arc, and star Florida State guard Michael Snaer struggled with just 2-of-11 shooting and five turnovers. Don’t look for both a bad game from Snaer and the perimeter defense too often, but when it happens, the Seminoles are going to have a very hard time winning games.
  4. Lynchburg News and Advance: New Virginia Tech head coach James Johnson won his debut against East Tennessee State on Saturday, but cautioned that the season “was a grind,” and also noted that his players (especially senior guard Erick Green) were far more excited about the victory than he was. More importantly, Virginia Tech premiered some form of its intended up-tempo offense this season, and while the team started slowly, the Hokies eventually got things clicking from the perimeter, where they hit 10-25 from three-point territory. While we don’t want to read too much into just one victory, if Virginia Tech can continue to improve its up-tempo offense, Johnson’s team may sneak up on some people in the conference this year.
  5. Boston College and forward Ryan Anderson may have some newfound toughness and leadership this year. The sophomore, who led all rookies in the league in double-doubles last year, put up an impressive 29 points and 17 rebounds in the team’s 84-70 victory over FIU on Sunday. But it was a flagrant foul that probably illustrated the difference between last year’s team and this year’s, according to head coach Steve Donahue, who wants his team to be “nasty” on the court, something he felt did not happen enough last year. After FIU had rallied to tie the game in the second half, Anderson responded with a jumper, and then soon after was flagrantly fouled on a breakaway. After the play, his teammates rallied around him, and they only surrendered two more baskets during the rest of the game, which Anderson even said was a huge change from what would have happened last year. Any little bit helps for a team that struggled mightily last year, and a tougher Boston College squad can only help the conference.
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ACC Team Previews: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by EMann on November 1st, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams.  Today’s victim:  the Duke Blue Devils.

The 2011-12 Duke Blue Devils will be remembered primarily for two things:  (1) Austin Rivers’ dramatic three-pointer at the buzzer to cap a miraculous comeback and beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 85-84, which will live permanently in the rivalry’s lore; (2) their stunning 75-70 loss to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That Duke team, however, had a very strange portfolio for most of the season — mostly manifested through its porous defense (by Duke standards), which ranked 70th in the Ken Pomeroy rankings. It was also strange in that it featured a player in Austin Rivers who never quite fit into the Duke mold in many people’s eyes; while Rivers was certainly an extremely competitive player, the combination of his reliance on the ball for much of the team’s offense and individual success (and scoring incredibly inefficiently:  his offensive rating was the second worst on the team), along with the ensuing chemistry issues that his style of play seemed to cause, ultimately derailed the Blue Devils (along with Ryan Kelly’s injury). Duke also finished 8-0 in road play in the ACC, but lost three conference games (and nearly five – a 20-point comeback against NC State in the second half and an overtime victory against lowly Virginia Tech) at home, a shocking result for a generally good Duke team in Cameron Indoor Stadium. While it did defeat eventual runner-up Kansas and Michigan State at neutral sites, among others, in non-conference play, it was also destroyed by Ohio State. This year may very well feature addition by subtraction, and Coach K has clearly focused on teamwork and communication as the season gets underway as he sensed that as contributing at least partially to the team’s defensive woes last year.

Rasheed Sulaimon has a great chance to win ACC Rookie of the Year.

Newcomers

Duke has four new players eligible for this season, as the fifth newcomer, Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, quite possibly Duke’s best player on the floor during Countdown to Craziness, must sit out this season. Two of these players are true freshmen, headlined by guard Rasheed Sulaimon. Although Rodney Purvis at NC State has gotten most of the headlines as the favorite for ACC Rookie of the Year, look for Sulaimon to heavily challenge for that honor. Sulaimon is a versatile player in the mold of many of Mike Krzyzewski’s favored guards over the years:  a solid outside shooter who can also attack the rim, as well as a strong perimeter defender. With Seth Curry’s undisclosed injury keeping him out for possibly another couple weeks, Sulaimon has been temporarily slotted into the starting lineup.  While Sulaimon may not start once Curry returns, he will definitely play a ton of minutes and should see the court at crunch time to take advantage of his opportunity. Forward Amile Jefferson, who chose Duke over NC State at the 11th hour, will provide high motor play and solid interior defense, though his offensive game is still a bit unrefined.  Look for him to contribute 10-12 minutes a game.

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