Boston College’s Defense is Terrible on an Historic Scale

Posted by Kellen Carpenter on January 17th, 2014

Remember that time when there were a bunch of folks rumbling about how it was time for Boston College to take a big step forward this year? The Eagles were virtually losing no production while bringing back a number of players who had shown flashes of brilliance. At Operation Basketball, the media that covers the ACC picked Boston College to finish eighth in the conference, while at this very website, a bunch of turkeys picked them to finish seventh. With the Eagles currently lurking near the bottom of the ACC standings, these predictions might seem silly, but taking a step back: losses to Syracuse, Clemson, and Maryland aren’t so bad. That’s just a tough(-ish) opening schedule.

What Has Happened to Steve Donahue's Defense? (Boston College Athletics)

What Has Happened to Steve Donahue’s Defense? (Boston College Athletics)

The really concerning thing about Boston College, you might say, is how the team did during non-conference play. No matter where you are, 4-9 is not a great way to start the year, especially with your four wins coming against Washington (not bad), Florida Atlantic, Sacred Heart and Philadelphia (a legendary program that is nevertheless in Division II). Of course, this poor performance can be explained away too: BC played a bunch of really good teams. In Division I, Ken Pomeroy currently calculates the Eagles as having the fifth-toughest overall schedule and the 22nd hardest non-conference schedule. Can we really say that Boston College is playing poorly given the quality of opponents they are facing? Perhaps BC’s crummy record is just an artifact of scheduling: context overwhelming a team that would look much better against average competition. It’s early in the season. Surely those who dare to call Boston College terrible are simply overreacting!

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Jarreau Injury Exposes Shallowness of Washington Frontcourt

Posted by Kellen Carpenter (@kellenlc) on November 11th, 2013

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday night’s Washington vs. Seattle game. 

The Washington Huskies’ season did not start auspiciously: Perris Blackwell, the intended starting center and star of their exhibition game (21 points and nine rebounds) was held out for the opener against Seattle University due to lingering concussion symptoms. Desmond Simmons, another potential frontcourt starter, had already been shelved earlier due to a knee surgery. So, when forward Jernard Jarreau landed on the floor with a sickening thud less than two minutes into Sunday night’s game, it must have felt like more than bad luck for head coach Lorenzo Romar.

Jernard Jarreau

Jernard Jarreau’s Condition Was Unknown at the Time of this Writing

Jarreau was one of the stars of Washington’s exhibition against Central Washington, scoring 17 points and pulling down nine rebounds. So when a potential highlight fast break bucket was interrupted by an Isiah Umipig flagrant foul that sent Jarreau to the floor for several minutes before the training staff could help him up and to the locker room, Romar had to refashion a plan of attack that didn’t involve his three primary frontcourt rotation players. He just barely pulled it off. Midway through the first half, it looked like Seattle was ready to capitalize on the misfortune. The Huskies were ineffective on both ends and Seattle seized the lead. Umipig’s quickness was carving the Huskies to pieces on his way to leading all scorers with 15 points at the half. Eventually Washington’s depth was too much for the overmatched Redhawks, and indeed, the short-handedness of the Huskies gave a couple new faces a chance to shine.

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ACC Team Preview: Boston College Eagles

Posted by Kellen Carpenter on November 1st, 2013

This is Steve Donahue’s fourth year as coach of Boston College and the question is floating through the air: Is it the year? After an abysmal sophomore season where Donahue floundered with a nearly all-freshman class, last year was a turning point for the program. Sure, the team only went 7-11 in league play and lost in the second round of the ACC Tournament, but it was still progress and the groundwork that Donahue has laid looks strong. This year, the hard work starts to pay off. Boston College is ready to make some noise… with one big catch.

boston-college-preview-2013]

In 2011-12, the freshman pair of Ryan Anderson and Lonnie Jackson gave Boston College some hope for the future. Now, as juniors, both have clear roles in the Eagles’ team system. Anderson is capable of a double-double every night while Jackson is the team’s designated sharp-shooter on a team loaded with outside shooting. The two offer veteran leadership on a squad that basically lacked significant contributions from upperclassmen for the past two years. On top of that foundation came the dynamic freshmen duo of Joe Rahon and Olivier Hanlan. Though only a freshman, Rahon provided an instant steadying presence at point guard and ultimately led all freshmen in the conference in total minutes played. Hanlan, however, brought more to the team than a steady presence. The dynamic freshman guard played well all season, but he came on with a fury at the end of the year, setting the ACC Tournament record for scoring by a freshman with 41 points against Georgia Tech. He would ultimately win ACC Freshman of the Year.

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ACC Team Preview: Clemson Tigers

Posted by KCarpenter on October 30th, 2013

Last season, Clemson went 5-13 in the ACC and 13-17 overall on the way to a first round ACC Tournament exit to Florida State. This season, Clemson will try to do the same thing while losing program cornerstones Devin Booker and Milton Jennings. While Booker was a steady if unspectacular presence and Jennings a maddeningly inconsistent riddle, both were senior veterans who held down the Clemson frontcourt. This didn’t translate to many wins last year, but the Seminoles’ strong interior defense did show up in the numbers: Clemson was third in the conference in opponent two-point percentage (45.3%) and block percentage (12.6%). It’s a slim silver lining, but it was a small comfort last season. This season? There are lots of clouds on the horizon. A team that failed to do much of anything else effectively has its last strength taken away from it. What’s left for the Tigers?

Clemson-Preview-2013

 

K.J. McDaniels is a still-underrated swingman with offensive and defensive savvy. His ability to block shots is freakish. At 6’6”, he had the second highest block percentage in the conference (8.32%), surpassed only by the 6’10” Julian Gamble. His shooting remains unspectacular, but he had the second highest offensive efficiency on the team while taking the greatest proportion of shots. He might not be a perfect-world first choice on offense, but he is capable of handling the role while also playing stout defense.

Beyond McDaniels, however, the Clemson frontcourt has few proven options. Sophomores Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith averaged 6.6 and 5.6 minutes per game, respectively, and in that limited time didn’t do much to earn themselves more run. Though Nnoko has some intriguing potential on the glass (12.8% offensive rebounding!), his super-small sample size can’t be overstated. The newcomers to the team offer a little depth and some promise, but it’s unclear whether they are ready to contribute immediately. Jaron Blossomgame was touted as a guy with a lot of potential before injuries derailed his Clemson debut. If he is healthy he might make a big difference for the Tigers. Likewise, junior college transfer Ibrahim Djambo and freshman Sidy Mohamed Djitte. Djitte, in particular, may be a big help to Clemson down the road, but early reports suggests that he is still very raw. As he develops, however, he will provide a strong cornerstone for the Tigers for years to come.

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Attention Tall Hurricane Students: Miami is Holding Tryouts Today

Posted by KCarpenter on October 24th, 2013

So, the sanctions came down from on high, and lo things were… not that bad. Miami‘s basketball program is losing a single scholarship for the next three years as part of the NCAA’s sanctions at the end of a protracted investigation. Still, if you want to be a part of an embattled and now-penitent sports team and are a Miami student, the time has never been better.

Miami's Future Walk Ons Owe A Thanks to DeQuan Jones

Miami’s Future Walk -Ons Owe A Thanks to DeQuan Jones

The defending ACC champions are holding tryouts today and honestly, they could use some help. While Rion Brown remains, the cast that took the ACC by storm last season is gone. Reggie Johnson, Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble, the three-headed center that anchored the conference’s best defense, have all left, leaving only scraps in the middle. If you are a tall student who can be persuaded to touch a basketball, today just might be your day. In fact, the time has never been better to be a walk-on at Miami. The scholarship penalty and the lack of talent at every position (other than the wings) means that Miami needs walk-ons more than ever as well as needing more walk-ons than ever. Will non-scholarship players see important minutes during the season? Let’s not get crazy. Still, you’ll never know unless you show up to tryouts — 5:00 PM at the UM Fieldhouse. Good luck.

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Midnight Madness in the ACC

Posted by Kellen Carpenter on October 18th, 2013

Once upon a time, Lefty Driesell, the head coach of the Maryland Terrapins, invented something he called Midnight Madness. To help build excitement for the coming basketball season, the team would have an open practice/scrimmage that would kick off at the first possible moment a team was allowed to practice. It was, honestly, kind of a weird idea. But sure enough, eventually students got on board with showing up late one night in October to watch their beloved Terrapins begin the season. This tradition quickly spread beyond Maryland to the rest of the ACC and, eventually, to much of the nation.

In 2013, the tradition is all but dead. This is Maryland’s last year in the ACC. Changes in NCAA rules now have allowed practice to begin much earlier in the season. Midnight Madness has gone from a near-universal tradition to  an afterthought on many campuses. Still, Maryland is in the conference one more year and not everyone has given up on the event, so let’s take a quick look at those who are keeping the faith.

Driesell pioneered Midnight Madness at Maryland

Driesell pioneered Midnight Madness at Maryland

Celebrating Tonight

Somewhat fittingly, Maryland has the biggest treat for hoops fans: a return to historic Cole Field House, the home of Maryland basketball for so many years. Duke and Syracuse are offering ESPNU-covered scrimmages while NC State offers up the goofiest subtitle for their event, though they lose goofiest title to Clemson’s “Rock the John.” Incidentally, “Rock the John” will apparently feature fire jugglers, but that’s nothing compared to “Orange Madness.” Although Syracuse canceled a performance by rapper Ace Hood for their festivities, the event still promises a performance by Hilby the Skinny German Juggle Boy. No, really.

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Reflections on Erick Green’s Great Season on a Terrible Team

Posted by KCarpenter on April 23rd, 2013

Virginia Tech was not very good this past year in the same way that Michael Jordan was kind of competitive. During ACC play, the Hokies went 4-14 in the conference and 13-19 overall. This team once lost at home to Georgia Southern, a team with a putrid 7-11 record in the Southern Conference. They were easily the worst team in the league defensively and could generously be called mediocre on offense. As a team, this season was a disaster. But for its senior captain, Erick Green, 2012-13 was a season of individual brilliance.

Erick Green

Erick Green Blew Up the ACC This Year, Even if the Hokies Didn’t

Basketball is a team sport, and it’s understandable that some people have a problem praising a player on a team that was, by all accounts, wildly unsuccessful. It’s a reasonable way of thinking, but it overshadows real talent and brilliance. Yes, Green didn’t transform his squad into a championship contender, but if that’s the bar, it’s set impossibly high. The truth is that Green put together one of the most sensational seasons in college basketball.

Let’s talk all-around offensive prowess first. Of players who used more than 28% of their team’s possessions, Green was ranked fifth in offensive efficiency in all of Division I basketball. The national leader was cult hero Nate Wolters of South Dakota State. The three players between Wolters and Green? Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, and Michigan’s Trey Burke. You may have heard of them, as they were all named First Team All-Americans this season. It’s easy to scoff at the idea that Green belongs in this group’s company, but the senior compares very well to these other big-name high-volume and high-efficiency scorers.

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The ACC in the NIT: Previewing Maryland vs. Iowa

Posted by KCarpenter on April 2nd, 2013

Raise your hand if you had Maryland as the last ACC team still playing basketball in April. Sure, the Terrapins are only playing in the NIT, but for Mark Turgeon’s crew that means something. In Maryland’s most recent win against Alabama, the team showed flashes of the talent that many had predicted for it headed into the season. Specifically, Alex Len, who has disappeared for long stretches during the season, dominated the Crimson Tide on his way to a 15-point, 13-rebound and five-block performance to lead his team to a one-point win. The inconsistent Maryland that muddled its way through the conference schedule seems to have mostly disappeared. It’s a good thing too, because Iowa, the Terps’ next foe tonight in Madison Square Garden, is a bit of a ringer.

Alex Len, Maryland

Alex Len is Playing Good Basketball Again (AP Photo)

According to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, the Hawkeyes currently rate as the 21st best team in the country, largely on the basis of its 19th-ranked defense (Maryland ranks 48th and 33rd, respectively). By these measures, Iowa is head and shoulders above its NIT fellows, and easily the best team to not make the NCAA Tournament this season.  Like Maryland, Iowa sometimes struggles to shoot the ball consistently, but it plays such tough defense and rebounds so tenaciously that poor shooting is unlikely to sink the Hawkeyes. Unfortunately for the Terps, one of their greatest strengths is vulnerable to Iowa.

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The ACC in the NCAAs: Previewing Marquette vs. Miami

Posted by KCarpenter on March 28th, 2013

It wasn’t always easy for Miami to get to this year’s Sweet Sixteen, but it was certainly never easy for Marquette to make the same journey. Ultra-tight games and impressive comebacks highlighted the Golden Eagles’ close wins over Davidson and Butler, while Miami romped over Pacific and held on against Illinois. Say what you will about Buzz Williams‘ team, but improbably this team has figured out how to handle the big gut-check moments. During the regular season, Marquette played four overtime games and won three of them. I’m honestly uncertain if “clutchness” is a real phenomenon, but the Golden Eagles give my doubts doubts.

Larranaga and Larkin Intend to Take the Hurricanes to the School's First Final Four

Larranaga and Larkin Intend to Take the Hurricanes to the School’s First Final Four

Big news came for Miami when it was announced that Reggie Johnson would not be traveling with the team for tonight’s match-up, but it’s unclear just how significant this news actually is. Johnson missed a huge chunk of the season with an injury and was out of shape and often ineffectual when he finally returned to the court. Against the smallish Golden Eagles, how much would the lumbering Johnson actually have played anyway? In Miami’s statement game in the ACC championship against small ball North Carolina, the center played all of three minutes. His time instead went to Rion Brown and Julian Gamble,  a pair of players who supercharge the Hurricanes’ offense and defense. It feels unlikely that Johnson would have (or should have) played all that much against Marquette. It’s not that this news doesn’t have a big impact on Miami’s title chances, but for the purposes of this match-up, it doesn’t feel particularly significant for those who have watched this team closely.

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The ACC in the NIT: Virginia and Maryland Poised to Square Off

Posted by KCarpenter on March 27th, 2013

Sure it’s not as prestigious as the Big Dance, but one ACC team has already punched it’s ticket to a “final four” even if it isn’t the Final Four. Maryland narrowly defeated Alabama to claim the first berth in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden last night. Tonight Virginia will square off against Iowa for the privilege of challenging the Terps for a spot in the NIT Final. Of course,  for Virginia to get there, the Cavaliers must defeat Iowa, a potentially very challenging task.

It's Bedlam in College Park as the Terps Make the NIT Final Four (Yahoo Sports)

It’s Bedlam in College Park as the Terps Make the NIT Final Four — Or Not (Yahoo Sports). 

By Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, Iowa is the best team in the country that wasn’t invited to the NCAA Tournament, with Virginia a close second. The two teams are quite similar: both feature stout defenses and unbalanced offenses that primarily feature two stars.  While the Wahoos thrive on the sweet shooting of Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, the Hawkeyes get most of their offensive mileage out of the uncanny abilities of Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White to get to the free throw line. Together, the pair has combined for 320 made free throws this season. White, in particular, has a free throw rate of 86.6%, averaging nearly seven free throw attempts per game in less than 30 MPG. In 40 minutes, that projects to drawing 6.6 fouls per game. This doesn’t seem like a big deal for a team like Virginia, which is generally very good at avoiding fouls, but it could be a problem in terms of its front line depth. Freshmen Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte have been excellent complementary pieces for the Cavaliers, but both still foul too much.  Averaging 4.1 and 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes, respectively, the two seem likely candidates for disqualification against the savvy play of White and Marble.

Still, the Cavaliers have two things that the Hawkeyes don’t: notably, home court advantage and Harris. Harris has had only a mild showing in the NIT so far, which, unfortunately for Iowa, may portend a big game due for the versatile guard. Iowa is likely the better team and the Hawkeyes probably expect to dominate the boards against Virginia, but between the offensive wizardry of Harris and the significant edge of playing in Charlottesville, Virginia has a very good chance to get to the NIT semifinals.

Then, if the Cavaliers can get to Madison Square Garden, they can look forward to a tilt with the same Terrapins whom they swept in conference play. A strong showing in the NIT doesn’t do much for conference pride, but it sure does a lot more than losing early in the NIT.

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The ACC in the NCAA: Previewing UNC vs. Villanova

Posted by KCarpenter on March 22nd, 2013

Villanova is like Michigan State or Kansas to North Carolina. For whatever reason, these teams just feel fated to meet in the tournament. The last two times these teams met in the tournament were 2009 and 2005, with UNC headed towards a National Championship both times. Though hopes are not nearly so high for either of these teams this year, this match-up feels very familiar, even if all the players have changed. In a normal year, this Villanova team would be very well-equipped to deal with a Roy Williams coached North Carolina team. Jay Wright‘s squad is tough on the interior, allowing very few easy inside buckets and rebounding on their own glad with quite a bit of skill. Offensively, the team relies heavily on penetration to get to the foul line more than any other team in the country. It’s not hard to see how a team like this would frustrate the likes of Sean May, for example, with tough defense and eventual foul trouble.

Carolina Fans are Ready For Another March Run (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Carolina Fans are Ready For Another March Run (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Of course, this year’s Tar Heel squad is starkly different from the typical squads Williams has fielded in the past decade. Tough interior defense is all but irrelevant to a UNC team that attempts (and makes) more threes than just about any Carolina line-up of the Williams era. This perimeter oriented squad happily bombs away, using drives more than post-ups to earn a little space from the defender, and unfortunately for Villanova, this team isn’t particularly well-suited to handle this approach.

The Wildcats are an abysmal team against the 3-pointer with opponents converting 36.8% of attempts, good for 299th in Division I. Now, a clever critic might point out that 3-point defense is really more about limiting attempts than how many treys the opponent can successfully make, but this clever critic would be disappointed by this measure too. Villanova’s opponents have been able to take a rather high proportion of threes, attempting long bombs on 35.7% of field goal attempts. Offensively, it looks like the Tar Heels are a good fit to exploit the Wildcats’ flaws.

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The ACC in The NCAA: NC State vs.Temple

Posted by KCarpenter on March 22nd, 2013

Though North Carolina State slumped into the ACC tournament in a season that saw the Wolfpack fall short of admittedly lofty expectations, in the conference tourney the team was able to demonstrate some of the potential that led many to believe this team was an easy favorite for the regular season conference title. Strong performances over Virginia Tech and Virginia set a tone for what this team could be in the Big Dance, and a loss to Miami in the tournament semi-finals is hardly something to lose too much sleep over.

In some ways, facing Temple is a bit like NC State facing itself. Like the Wolfpack, Temple looked very strong earlier in the year but struggled in conference play before mostly righting the ship late. Both teams have a potent offense and a defense that often seems indifferent at times. Yet in the team’s differences, we may have the keys to the game. There are two main ways to win a game: shoot better than the other team or shoot more than the other team. Against NC State, it seems likely that Temple will shoot more.

CJ Leslie and NC State come into its second round contest against Temple as the favorites. (AP)

CJ Leslie and NC State come into its second round contest against Temple as the favorites. (AP)

A lot of the offensive efficiency of the Temple Owls is due to the great care that the team takes with the ball. The Owls turn the ball over on only 16.2% of possessions, which is the 9th best rate in the country. Couple that with the indifference of the Wolfpack to forcing turnovers (outside of Lorenzo Brown‘s individual brilliance) and it looks like Temple has an inside track to gaining a few extra possessions through ball control. Against many foes, NC State has been able to offset discrepancies in turnovers with excellence in offensive rebounding, but Temple may have an antidote to Richard Howell‘s relentless attack on the glass. Anthony Lee has consistently been one of the best defensive rebounders in college basketball all season, and though he likely won’t be able to keep Howell boxed out on every carom, he certainly seems equipped to have a better chance than most. It seems fairly likely that the Owls will end up with a few more shot attempts than the Wolfpack.

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