Michael Snaer’s Late-Game Heroics Save Florida State Once Again

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on February 6th, 2013

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsinDurham

Florida State has had a rough go of it this season. A shocking loss on opening night was followed by struggles during non-conference play with the ACC yet to show the Seminoles any mercy either. But if there is one shining light for FSU in the darkness that has enveloped it’s season, it has been the late-game heroics of Michael Snaer. The senior guard struck again on Tuesday night with a buzzer-beating layup that pushed FSU past Georgia Tech and gave Snaer his third game-winning shot in the last five games.

Before the season started Snaer was a favorite by many to win the ACC’s Player of the Year award but his inconsistent play hurt his resume early on and no-shows against Miami and Duke in the last few games haven’t helped it recover. But if there is one piece of his game that can be argued for it is his flair for the dramatic. Dating back to his game-winning three in Cameron last year, Snaer has been one of the most clutch players in college basketball and his three deciding hoops this season make him responsible for more wins than five Division I teams. Read the rest of this entry »

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Miami Finally in the AP Top 10, But Still Trails Duke…

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on February 4th, 2013

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsinDurham.

The Associated Press has released two editions of their Top 25 since Miami dismantled Duke back on January 23. and all they’ve done since is continue rolling over ACC competition including a huge road win in Raleigh over N.C. State on Sunday. Yet for some reason the Hurricanes can’t seem to leapfrog the Blue Devils in the poll. Are the voters still holding early-season losses against them? Are Duke’s three top-five wins from the first month of the season still holding up? Both are legitimate questions, but what shouldn’t be up for debate is that Miami is the best team in the ACC right now and are probably going to take the regular season conference title.

Miami crushed Duke, 90-63, earlier in ACC play but still find themselves ranked below the Blue Devils. (AP Photo)

Miami crushed Duke, 90-63, earlier in ACC play but still find themselves ranked below the Blue Devils. (AP Photo)

This is the part where all of the “the polls don’t matter” comments come in to play and, while that may be true, Miami has done everything in its power to prove it has a better team than Duke. Has that been true all season? Absolutely not. But it has been true over the past couple of weeks. While Miami has beaten Florida State (71-47), Virginia Tech (73-64) and N.C. State (79-78); Duke has beaten Maryland convincingly (84-64), Wake Forest in a close win (75-70), and Florida State with a perfectly played game (79-60). With one common opponent in Florida State, the comparison can be easily made with the Hurricanes getting the slight edge.

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Mason Plumlee Makes His Case For ACC Player of the Year

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on February 1st, 2013

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsinDurham

The ACC Player of the Year award is, just as with every conference’s top award, an honor that has different meaning depending on whom you ask. Some would define it as the most outstanding player in the conference during the season. For others, the award should go to the player who was the most indispensable and without whom his team would have fallen well short of where it finished. Going even deeper down the rabbit hole, some believe that a player who makes a bad team competitive isn’t as “valuable” as the best player on the best team in the league. I trend towards the second definition with a bit of the third mixed in, settling on the award going to the most indispensable player on one of the league’s top teams. Using this criteria, Duke‘s Mason Plumlee has made one of the strongest cases in the league.

Mason Plumlee scored a career-high 32 points with 9 rebounds on Wednesday against Wake Forest. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Mason Plumlee scored a career-high 32 points with 9 rebounds on Wednesday against Wake Forest. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

On Wednesday night, Duke escaped Wake Forest with a 75-70 win on the back of a career-high 32 points from Plumlee. On a night where Duke shot 2-of-14 from three-point range and turned the ball over more than they are accustomed to, the Blue Devils got a good win because of Plumlee’s ability to come through time after time. Without Ryan Kelly in the lineup, Duke has had to rely on Plumlee more on both ends of the court and while it took some growing into, the senior finally looks like the same player who was on pace to do things the ACC hasn’t seen since Tim Duncan averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. [Ed. Note: We are not trying to suggest that Plumlee is even close to the player Duncan was in college so save the angry comments and tweets.]

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Florida State Lacks Same Toughness That Won the Seminoles an ACC Title

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on January 28th, 2013

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsinDurham

Pat Riley once spoke about the “disease of more.” When a team wins a championship, everyone wants something more. More attention, more minutes, more responsibility. When Florida State won the ACC Tournament last season, they did so with a hungry core of experienced players who were committed to playing defense and being tougher that anyone else in the league. With Michael Snaer back to lead a group of 10 returning players, the Seminoles were expected to contend for another ACC crown this season. But without the same unselfish hunger that was personified by their battle-tested center, Bernard James, the Seminoles have been a team instead represented by the effort that saw them run out of the gym in Miami on Sunday night.

Devidas Dulkys, Florida State

Devidas Dulkys (4) and Bernard James (on ground) were major parts of last year’s ACC championship team. (Photo via Orlando Sentinal)

Sunday was just the latest letdown in a season that has had far more valleys than peaks. An opening night loss to South Alabama at home should have been a red flag, but was written off as an aberration. Then three straight losses to Minnesota, Mercer and Florida revealed that this team was headed for a much different fate than its predecessor. Without James, the ‘Noles lack the same defensive prowess that helped them overachieve last season. Led by their senior big man, Florida State had the #5 field goal defense (38.1 percent) in the nation, were #7 in blocks (213), #41 in total rebounds (1,273), #44 in defensive rebounds (869), and #66 in scoring defense (62.9 PPG) last season. Without James anchoring them on the defensive end this year, those rankings have risen to #121 in field goal defense (41.2 percent), #36 in blocks, #283 in total rebounds, #271 in defensive rebounds, and #93 in scoring defense (66.8 PPG).

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North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston Thriving in Complementary Role for Tar Heels

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on January 25th, 2013

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. You can follow him on Twitter @DevilsinDurham.

The concept of the sixth man in basketball is based around an extremely talented player sacrificing minutes for the better of the team, knowing that his role is to lead the second unit and provide energy when the starters aren’t clicking quite the way they should. These players have a feel for the moment. They are like closers in baseball, waiting their turn to make a difference, with the best players coming through so often it feels automatic. Never someone you want to rely on but always a perfect ace in the hole, North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston has thrived in this role and his play has told the story of the Tar Heels’ season as well as any.

P.J. Hairston, North Carolina

North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston has been one of the Tar Heel’s more important players in 2012-13 as the team’s sixth man. (Getty Images)

Hairston ranks third on the team in both scoring (11.9 PPG) and rebounding (4.2 RPG) and has been a perfect change of pace when replacing Dexter Strickland and his defense-first mentality in the lineup. A gifted scorer, Hairston’s play in relief of Strickland has been been one of the primary determinants of how the Tar Heels’ offense performs on a nightly basis. When Hairston is hot, the entire team benefits. Of the 17 games Hairston has played in this season — he sat out the 83-59 thrashing at Indiana — the Tar Heels have won 13 and are outscoring their opponents by just over 12 points per game. In those games Hairston’s scoring average jumps up a point to 12.8 per game, but in an odd twist, his minutes drop just a tad (from 20.2 per game overall to 19.4 per game) in those wins. With less time on the floor, Hairston has actually been more effective. His shooting percentage in those wins is 42 percent which is noticeably higher than his overall average (39 percent). A true sixth man, Hairston is at his best when operating at full speed in short bursts.

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Life on the Road in the ACC: Still Predictably Difficult

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on January 23rd, 2013

N.C. State is 15-4 overall and 4-2 in the ACC and has as much potential of any team in the conference this season. Led by powerful big men and electric wing players, the Wolfpack got their signature win when they knocked off Duke in the RBC Center a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, Mark Gottfried‘s crew has also picked up two very telling losses that speak to the existence of home court advantage in the ACC more than the Wolfpack’s inconsistent play.

Wake Forest Fans

Wake Forest fans at the Joel celebrate during their upset win over N.C. State on Tuesday. (AP Photo)

NC State currently has a 1-3 record on the road with two of those losses coming in their last three games. Losses at Maryland and Wake Forest look bad by themselves but when looking at them next to their lone road win — a five-point win at Boston College — the trend becomes upsetting. By this time of the season they have shed the “young team” moniker and their big-minute freshmen have actually been the bright spots for this team away from home. In their three ACC away games, the Wolfpack are shooting 43 percent from the field, down from their outstanding 51 percent total for the season. This is where the issue has been as Gottfried’s team is holding opponents relatively in check on defense with a negligible difference between home and away (41 percent on the road, 40 percent overall). Typically, teams that rely on their defense and scoring inside do well on the road (see Florida State last year), while teams that rely on shooting the ball well from the perimeter inevitably falter in hostile situations.

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Future ACC Stars Shine at 2013 Hoophall Classic Led by Jabari Parker, Tyler Ennis and Chris McCullough

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on January 22nd, 2013

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsinDurham

I spent this past weekend sitting courtside at the 2013 Hoophall Classic. This was my second year spending five days watching the best and brightest in high school basketball take the court at Springfield College’s Blake Arena, just a three-minute walk from the gym where James Naismith first told a group of YMCA athletes all about his brand-new game. There was only one truly competitive game in the entire tournament: Monday’s match-up between Findlay Prep and Montverde, but the value of the tournament is not in the competition. Instead, it is in watching players who are either college-bound or yet to make a decision about where they will continue their careers. This weekend was loaded with future ACC players and it appears that the league will be in fine hands going forward.

Jabari Parker is a Legitimate Difference Maker (AP)

Jabari Parker is a Legitimate Difference Maker (AP)

Leading the way for this group was the consensus No. 2 player in the country, Jabari Parker. The future Duke forward lit up Oak Hill for 28 points and did it all in the flow of the game. He knocked down threes, attacked the basket and did everything without forcing the issue or trying to do too much. He looked as though he is still a week or two away from being back at 100 percent but he looked every bit the Duke-style forward that will slide right into the rotation for the Blue Devils next season.

Syracuse fans, who may still be worried about the Big East at this point, can look forward not just to the ACC but to the players who will be joining them over the next few seasons. Two Syracuse commitments impressed the crowd this weekend in Chris McCullough and Tyler Ennis. McCullough is an evolutionary Chris Bosh, a stretch four who can attack the basket with elite athleticism but can also step away and hit a mid-range jumper. He wowed the crowd with a few highlight reel dunks that every Orange fan will enjoy thoroughly over the next few weeks. Just a junior, McCullough will be a problem for ACC defenses if he can improve any aspect of his game over the next few years. Ennis is the future for the Orange at the point guard position. A bigger player, Ennis has great court vision and did some nice things off the ball for St. Benedict’s (NJ) when they used another player as the primary ball-handler. The heir apparent to Michael Carter-Williams, Ennis will fit right in with Jim Boeheim’s schemes and his long wingspan make him a dream for the top of that 2-3 zone.

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Boston College’s Ryan Anderson and Olivier Hanlan Have Eagles Headed in Right Direction

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on January 12th, 2013

Boston College

Ryan Anderson (left) and Boston College are 1-2 in the ACC but have lost their games by a combined eight points. (Michael Ivins/US Presswire)

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for RTC. You can find him on twitter @jp_kelley or, for Duke-related ramblings, @DevilsinDurham

Boston College was one of the original schools to read the tea leaves and bolt from the Big East to the ACC. While their tea leaves may have read “go before UConn does” instead of “save yourself!”, the Eagles have been a fixture of the ACC landscape for some years now despite only having a few competitive seasons.

This season will not be a deviation from the trend, but the baby Eagles are playing a fun brand of basketball and have two bonafide ACC players leading the way in sophomore forward Ryan Anderson and freshman guard Olivier Hanlan. Through three conference games this season, BC has looked like a team that, when everything is going well, can threaten any team on any given night. With a quality win over Virginia Tech and close losses to N.C. State and Wake Forest, Steve Donahue’s boys are growing in confidence every game. Read the rest of this entry »

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