Clockwork Orange: NCAA Investigating Syracuse Basketball

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on October 24th, 2014

It wasn’t a good week for ACC student-athlete academics. First the Wainstein Report dropped like a bomb in Chapel Hill. Now Syracuse may be due for bad news next week. Jim Boeheim, along with several former members of the basketball team’s “support staff” for academics, all got invitations to the NCAA’s upcoming Committee of Infractions hearing.

Jim Boeheim is in for a tough week. (photo credit: Syracuse.com)

Jim Boeheim is in for a tough week. (photo credit: Syracuse.com)

The story surrounding Jim Boeheim’s program isn’t new. The investigation started at least a year ago, as originally reported by the Syracuse Post-Standard and CBSSports. The investigation is looking back at least a decade (dating to Carmelo Anthony), and spans everything from academics to the drug policy to extra benefits. Boeheim hinted in his recent book that the investigation focused on academics:

We suspended [Fab Melo] for three games. After that, we were under the impression that he could appeal and do some academic work to get himself eligible. He did that work. But then there arose a question about how he had gotten eligible, and he was declared ineligible again, right before the NCAA Tournament. The issue is extremely complicated, and at any rate I can’t really go into it because it is part of an ongoing NCAA investigation.

Based on the reported invitations — and the information from Boeheim’s book — it may have been an internal investigation of extra benefits that made the NCAA look more closely at the program, but expect the findings to focus on academics.

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ACC Preview: Boston College’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on October 24th, 2014

Last place or not last place?

It’s not easy taking over a slumping program in a conference that just added three perennial Top 25 programs. It’s even harder when you can’t start until April and you lose your two of your three best players before you even take the job. That’s where Jim Christian stands a little over six months after replacing Steve Donahue. Perhaps his most important battle, though, was won when Olivier Hanlan decided to stay in Chestnut Hill. Hanlan’s presence — along with a graduate transfer and a healthy center — are the only reason this is a burning question at all.

Jim Christian needs to change the culture in Chestnut Hill (photo credit: Ted Fitzgerald/Boston Herald)

Jim Christian needs to change the culture in Chestnut Hill (photo credit: Ted Fitzgerald/Boston Herald)

Any look at Boston College this season has to start with Christian, a former coach at Kent State, TCU and then Ohio before coming to Chestnut Hill. He built a solid MAC program at Kent State, improving nearly every year while he was there. During his last year at TCU, he turned one of the worst programs in the country into a middling Mountain West team with a few solid wins (including one over Virginia). But there’s not much data from which to judge his time at Ohio, and he’s never coached in a major conference.

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ACC M5: 03.25.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 25th, 2014

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  1. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Great piece on Jim Boeheim‘s legacy. It’s insane to mention his six double-digit seed losses without mentioning his 30 appearances (where having the chance to lose to a double-digit seed is a compliment). I love asides, so the Keith Smart reminder was my favorite part. Those single-shot “what if” games can be brutal, though (if Gordon Hayward hits that halfcourt heave, how does Coach K’s recent legacy look?).
  2. Charlotte Observer: Man this is a tough second-hand account of Marcus Paige (who announced on Twitter that he’s returning next season) after North Carolina’s loss to Iowa State. To state the obvious, Paige took the loss hard, reliving his late turnover instead of his game-saving plays this season. This feels like something that will we’re going to hear a lot more about next season when Paige makes a run at ACC Player of the Year.
  3. CBSSports.com: Chris Mack is a “legitimate target” at Wake Forest, per Gary Parrish. What’s unclear is which side is leaking the information (my gut says Ron Wellman). Take the report with a grain of salt, as reports that don’t say a hire is imminent seem to miss as often as they hit. Regardless, Mack would be a great hire. He’s a big-time recruiter who was an assistant there under Skip Prosser, he’s incredibly likable, and he’s got a track record of winning. I don’t see how Wellman does much better unless he’s been inspired by Virginia Tech to spend some serious coin.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Here’s a look from ACC historian Barry Jacobs on the conference’s Sweet Sixteen streak (focusing on 1990 until today), which Virginia kept intact on Sunday. Probably the most startling part is that NC State and Clemson are tied for the fewest appearances of any ACC school (not raided from the Big East) with two trips each. OK, well it’s not shocking that Clemson isn’t lighting up many Sweet Sixteen scoreboards, but NC State’s time is head-scratching to say the least.
  5. Boston Globe: I for one don’t see Tommy Amaker taking the Boston College job. I could definitely be wrong and don’t have any inside information, but he’s incredibly stable at Harvard right now. He’s making good money, his wife has a terrific job on the faculty, and he’s got the rest of the Ivy League trying to play catch-up with what he’s built in Cambridge. At Boston College, he’d have a similar rebuilding job in front of him, and probably more money. But there’s a lot to be said for stability too.
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Triangle Basketball Apocalypse: A Retrospective

Posted by Matt Patton on March 24th, 2014

NC State, Duke and North Carolina all lost over the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament in excruciating fashion: NC State led essentially the whole game before slowly relinquishing a 99 percent safe (according to kenpom.com) lead in the final four minutes to Saint Louis; Duke’s stars failed to produce en route to also blowing a 90 percent safe lead in the final five minutes to a double-digit underdog; North Carolina made the round of 32, but never got a last shot (presumably to win the game) because of a hesitant clock operator. Let’s take a deeper look at all three.

Roy Williams was understandably deflated after bizarre finish. (credit: Christine Nguyen / Durham Herald Sun)

Roy Williams was understandably deflated after a bizarre finish in San Antonio. (credit: Christine Nguyen / Durham Herald Sun)

There’s no sugarcoating the NC State loss. It was brutal to follow. Drawn out and essentially feeding on itself (each missed free throw made the following ones even more difficult), it was just the toughest collapse to watch. Truthfully it was the worst collapse in a very long time. No one finished watching that game thinking that the better team (at least at this moment) had won. The Wolfpack dominated the first 37 minutes before Saint Louis got desperate and reached into the well-worn halls of NC State history for Jimmy V’s relentless fouling strategy. It worked. The Wolfpack made eight of 18 free throws in the final 2:44 of the game, while the dormant Billikens offense jumped to life, scoring 16 points over the same span (19 points if you count Jordair Jett‘s and-one with three minutes left that started the comeback). That was just shy of a third of Saint Louis’ offensive production over the first 37 minutes. Unsurprisingly, Jim Crews’ team went on to win in overtime after Tyler Lewis rattled out the would-be game winner at the buzzer from (gulp) the free throw line. Good luck finding a more drawn-out collapse.

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ACC M5: 03.24.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 24th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Where to begin? Since the last morning five, Buzz Williams (and Yahoo! Sports) shocked the world by taking the Virginia Tech job. And while it was clear he was unhappy at Marquette, most people expected him to hold out for a better opportunity. Even more shocking is that the Hokies will pay him less than Marquette when all is said and done. Some more details in this David Teel piece, but if nothing else the hire shows an unprecedented investment in basketball at Virginia Tech. This is a game-changer in the conference going forward.
  2. ESPN: Speaking of the coaching carousel, hall of famer Jim Calhoun (!) is reportedly interested in the Boston College (!!!) job. Now, I’d be shocked if this actually happened. For one, Calhoun will be 72 this summer and has a history of health problems; two, his public relationship with Boston College hasn’t exactly been rosy of late; and three, he had serious APR issues at Connecticut. But I’m on board with Kyle Egan that Gene Difilippo shouldn’t overlook Calhoun’s interest. At a minimum Calhoun would generate both media and fan buzz. Assuming he stayed two or three years (which seems like the maximum), he’d also probably bring a serious upgrade in talent to Chestnut Hill. Boston College needs both of those things and as quickly as possible.
  3. Winston Salem Journal: Dan Collins nails his coverage of the end of the Jeff Bzdelik tenure here (and has a great intro here). But now it’s time to look forward. And Virginia Tech juist raised the bar significantly both in terms of hype and money, which often go hand in hand. Ron Wellman needs to “win the press conference,” so to speak. A candidate who’s gaining (entirely rumored) steam–at least from my perspective — is North Carolina Central’s Levelle Moton. Moton is high energy, young and has success in the area. At a minimum you’re taking a shot on a guy who’s incredibly likable and should be able to recruit well (and might stay for a very long time). I think Wake Forest looks for a safer (more experienced) hire, but with the stakes high Wellman may need to take a risk.
  4. Backing the PackTar Heel Blog, and Duke Basketball Report: Whew boy it was the basketball apocalypse this week in the Triangle. First NC State blows a 99% lead (according to KenPom.com) to Saint Louis because it can’t buy a free throw. Then Duke‘s stars have poor games and Mercer upsets the Blue Devils in Raleigh. Then North Carolina coughs up an eight-point lead in the final four minutes to Iowa State. I’ll take these one at a time in another post, but suffice to say, it was brutal. To rub salt in the wound, North Carolina Central the best team out of the MEAC in years got demolished in the round of 64.
  5. Charlottesville Daily Progress: As expected, Virginia is the last ACC team standing (in the NCAA Tournament, at least). Tony Bennett’s team kept the ACC from missing its first second weekend since the NCAA Tournament expanded. The Cavaliers poleaxed a good Memphis team Sunday night to carry the ACC’s torch to the Sweet Sixteen in what looks to be a fascinating matchup with a very trendy Michigan State team. Truthfully, when Virginia is shooting like they were Sunday, they won’t lose. I like Virginia to go to the Final Four out of the East, but facing Izzo in March (for anyone not named Roy Williams) is nothing to sneeze at.
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Previewing #8 Colorado vs. #9 Pittsburgh

Posted by Matt Patton & Andrew Murawa on March 20th, 2014

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Pittsburgh will take on Colorado in Orlando at 1:40 PM ET Thursday afternoon on TBS. RTC correspondents Matt Patton and Andrew Murawa sat down and conducted a quick Q&A about the game featuring ACC vs. Pac-12 squads.

Without Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado seems vulnerable especially on offense. (credit: David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

Without Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado seems vulnerable, especially on offense. (David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

Matt: Obviously Colorado took a step backwards when it lost Spencer Dinwiddie in January. How have the Buffaloes replaced his offensive production, and is their seed inflated because of what they did with Dinwiddie earlier in the season?

Andrew: The biggest adjustment that Colorado has made to adjust following the Dinwiddie injury was to slide junior Askia Booker – previously known as an inveterate gunner – over to the point guard slot. Since that time, the number of shots per game out of Booker hasn’t changed much (only twice in the 17 games since the Dinwiddie injury has Booker hoisted fewer than 10 field goal attempts), but the quality of those shots has improved and it has been balanced by an obvious interest in getting his teammates involved. Other guys like Xavier Talton and Jaron Hopkins have seen their minutes and production increase as well, but both have been fairly inconsistent. All of this leads to the fact that while it has been admirable how the Buffaloes have held it together after the loss of their floor general, this team isn’t much of a threat to surprise in the NCAA Tournament, and the #8 seed is a generous appraisal of the team that will take the floor on Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 03.18.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 18th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Boston Globe: Great story from Bob Hohler on Boston College‘s worst sports scandal, which is being made into a 30 for 30 (which, assuming they got everyone to talk, could be awesome). Basically, mobsters — some of the ones who would later inspire the movie Goodfellas — decided that they could make money on the Eagles fading games. So they recruited three players (really coerced two after recruiting one) to help shave points in a few of their games. They weren’t really successful, but the story came to light when one of the mobsters was trying to make a deal with the feds a few years later. Fascinating stuff.
  2. ESPN: As had been rumored, James Johnson is gone at Virginia Tech. He certainly struggled during his two years in Blacksburg, but athletic director Jim Weaver put him in an almost impossible situation (especially for a coach with no previous head coaching experience). Gobbler Country does a good job running down why many of the team’s struggles weren’t his fault, but when it came down to it, new athletic director Whit Babcock decided Johnson wasn’t the man for the job. It’s not going to be easy to find a home run replacement, though (read: one better than Seth Greenberg).
  3. Bluefield Daily Telegraph: Speaking of replacements, you can check out some “when hell freezes over” possibilities elsewhere, but Brian Woodson nails at least one candidate who I think is closer to where the Hokies will end up (unless Babcock is ready to shell out some serious money). Woodson points to Mike Young, the current head coach at Wofford. That said, I think it’s really dangerous to mention Gregg Marshall’s name around any long-tenured coach at a small conference school (he’s definitely the exception, not the rule). Tim Thomas also does a good job throwing out a little higher-profile (but still mostly reasonable) possibilities for Jones’ replacement too.
  4. College Chalk Talk: Here’s some insight from Leonard Hamilton’s right hand man Stan Jones on five things Florida State looks to develop in players over their career. This reads a little like a speech from a coaching camp, but it’s still interesting to get a feel for the big picture goals that top programs have for their players. Also, I’m a big fan of starting off paragraphs with quotes. Jones shows a remarkable amount of breadth in his quoting, pulling everyone from Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst to George Bernard Shaw. Bravo.
  5. Engadget: Cool news as the ACC released an Apple TV channel dedicated solely to the league. I am on board with the idea that we’re moving to an a la carte television model where more people will use Apple TV or other streaming services to engage with content. Props to the conference for trying to be on the forefront of that shift with this move. Essentially, it sounds like the channel will offer similar things to the ACC Digital Network, but having it all in one place is great.
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ACC M5: 03.17.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 17th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: So the big news out of Greensboro is that the ACC is working on a deal with the A-10 to send the ACC Tournament to Brooklyn for 2017 and 2018. This is good because Greensboro always has a horrible atmosphere and it will be so much more sophisticated in New York City. Kidding. Seriously, I think it makes sense to move the ACC Tournament from year to year (keeping it in Greensboro a plurality of the time since a plurality of the teams can drive there easily). The championship game will also be moved back to primetime Saturday night. I have my concerns about Brooklyn, but I think there are enough Duke and Syracuse fans from the area to help fill the stands as the weekend progresses. That does require that one or both of those schools advances, but it’s a fair bet that both will be good under their current coaches. Long story short: the ACC should not move the tournament permanently to New York City (or anywhere else). Expect more on this from me later.
  2. Syracuse Post Standard: All hail Patrick Stevens! He killed bracketology this year as the only analyst I know who predicted all 68 teams (NC State threw everyone for a loop). The ACC got lucky getting the Wolfpack in (though having two one-seeds in the NIT would’ve been a slap in the face), and Virginia was favorably seeded on the top line. I’m very excited for Syracuse and Ohio State to cause the powers at be to lower the shot clock in hopes of increasing scoring. Though the real game to hope for is Duke – Iowa because Iowa is 1) underseeded, 2) likes to run, and 3) plays no defense. Basically, lots and lots of points.
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Good story on Stamey’s and it’s close ties to the ACC Tournament. If you haven’t been, you should probably go next time you’re in town. The barbecue is fantastic. Right down the road from the Greensboro Coliseum, the restaurant–which opened around the birth of the ACC–has become an ACC Tournament tradition for many. The iconic school flags hang (although they sold the Maryland flag to buy a Louisville one), the hushpuppies are hot, and the pork smoked good and slow.
  4. Charlottesville Daily Progress and Hampton Roads Daily Press: Good local takes on Virginia‘s ACC championship. The anecdote about Justin Anderson deferring to Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris says everything about this Virginia team. Everyone knows his role. And they don’t back down (at least not since the horrific beatdown in Knoxville). Coach K also offered good analysis in his post-game conference: “Brogdon’s a first-team, all-league player,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s steady, kind of unflappable and so strong mentally and physically. He and Harris … they’re two men. Those two and Mitchell give you three of the better players in the country all on one team.”
  5. Syracuse Post Standard: Sometimes the Selection Committee does something too good to be a coincident (or too bad, at least from Roy Williams’ perspective). But this, I can get down with. Both Tyler Ennis and his brother Dylan Ennis (who plays for Villanova) will be in the same sub-regional. That means friends and family can see both brothers without having to split like their parents last weekend for the conference tournaments. So props Ron Wellman and company. Even if it was an accident.
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Rushed Reactions: #6 Virginia 72, #7 Duke 63

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

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

Virginia claimed the ACC crown. (credit: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

Virginia claimed the ACC crown. (credit: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

  1. Virginia was the better team. They took all of Duke’s shots and punched right back. They dominated stretches with rebounding and defense. It took a miracle stretch by Jabari Parker to keep Duke in the game. Virginia’s balance and defensive strength (along with winning the regular season and tournament) will make people think of Miami last season. Virginia’s constant off-ball screens on offense kept Duke defenders out of sync the whole game, which led to all of the fouls. Virginia has three lock-down defenders in Joe HarrisMalcolm Brogdon and Akil Mitchell. That’s enough to slow every team down. Also while the Cavaliers only got credit for five blocks, it felt like more than ten (while only committing 15 fouls). Last but not least, Virginia is going to be a nightmare draw in the NCAA Tournament. This is an impossible team to prepare for–especially on short rest. They may go cold and make an early exit, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when they are in Arlington.
  2. Jabari Parker solidified his high lottery status. He had a couple of just ridiculous buckets (a step-back three and a transition dunk to name two), and an unstoppable stretch while Mitchell was on the bench. Don’t be fooled by his inefficient stat line. Parker was the best offensive player on the floor. After the game, Coach K pointed out that Parker has a ways to go: “Part of his development is, when he makes those [NBA] moves, is to finish, get fouled, not get fouled, you know what I mean. [...] His should be a combination.”
  3. This was likely a battle for a spot in the East Regional. This loss may hurt Duke even more soon. I don’t think the Blue Devils ever had a shot at a top seed (take away the loss to Wake Forest and it’s a different story), but they definitely had a shot to play through Raleigh and then New York City. Now? Who knows. It’s still possible, but Virginia definitely put themselves in the driver’s seat for a nice location and a two-seed (likely with a very favorable one to boot).

Player of the game: Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia. Still snubbed. Yeah, he was named all-tournament, but he made a really strong case to complete Wally Walker snub to most valuable player transition. Brogdon locked down Rodney Hood for much of the game. He also stepped up when Virginia needed a bucket, be it a field goal or a free throw. Lamar Patterson started the year imitating Oscar Robertson, but it was Brogdon who finished as the most versatile offensive player. The difference was even more obvious when you take defense into account.

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ACC Championship Preview: #6 Virginia vs. #7 Duke

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

It’s the game that we all expected when the ACC Tournament brackets came out last weekend. Duke vs. Virginia. Let’s preview the ACC Championship game by answering the key questions headed into this one in Greensboro.

Joe Harris gets a second shot against Duke this season with an ACC title on the line (credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today).

Joe Harris gets a second shot against Duke this season with an ACC title on the line (credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today).

1. Can Virginia’s balanced scoring offset the star power of Duke’s Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood?

Yes and no. The Cavaliers can’t get in a shootout, but I don’t think they’ll try. Virginia is an experienced team that plays to its strengths. I’ll be very surprised if Duke can push them out of their comfort zone. That said, if Hood and Parker are both firing on all cylinders, I’m not sure how Virginia will put up enough points to win. Look for them to try to make Parker into a jump shooter or to force things against multiple defenders since he’s struggled passing out of double teams when he gets head full of steam. Hood is a little more difficult to contain (since he’s really a second option), but I expect to see a lot of Justin Anderson hounding him. Neither of these teams will quite be at 100 percent, playing their third game in three days, but I think that favors the more balanced team.

2. Duke hasn’t been hitting as many threes lately. Who do you expect to help keep the offense going if shots aren’t falling?

If the outside jumpers aren’t falling — and by playing the third straight grueling game in as many days, there’s a good chance they don’t — then Duke will have to rely on its two future NBA forwards to make plays. Jabari Parker makes plays that are almost unstoppable, even by great defenses like Virginia’s, so he figures to be the best candidate. Rodney Hood’s conditioning will be tested after chasing T.J. Warren all over the court yesterday. Rasheed Sulaimon has had success in the tournament with his penetration, so he may also try to create scoring chances that way.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Virginia 51 – Pittsburgh 48

Posted by Matt Patton on March 15th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways:

Justin Anderson is Virginia's spark plug. (credit: Scott Muthersbaugh / Burlington Times-News)

Justin Anderson is Virginia’s spark plug. (credit: Scott Muthersbaugh / Burlington Times-News)

  1. Virginia has officially arrived. While the Cavaliers didn’t put away Pittsburgh until the very end, they made the championship game looking for the school’s second ACC title since joining the conference, and first in nearly 40 years. This team is Tony Bennett’s baby: They are one of the only teams in the country to improve their win total in each of the last five years. His team doesn’t always run attractive offense (though it’s certainly better than the final score would indicate), but its defense is spectacular. Down the stretch it was clear that Malcolm Brogdon has taken on the go-to role. He committed a costly turnover that led to James Robinson’s layup with 10 seconds left, but look for Virginia to put the ball in his hands down the stretch. Part of the reason for that is because Joe Harris excels off the ball, but it’s also a testament to Brogdon’s growth.
  2. Retro officiating fit the teams. With two physical defenses on the court, the refs opted to swallow their whistles by only calling 20 fouls in the first 38 minutes (there were seven in the last minute for obvious reasons). There weren’t any easy rebounds to be found. And while Pittsburgh likely benefited from the style most of the game, there was a lot of contact on James Robinson’s layup that cut the Virginia lead to one with 10 seconds left. When asked about contact on a layup late, Akil Mitchell said he was “a little bit” surprised that there wasn’t a whistle. Jamie Dixon wasn’t impressed: “We just saw it on video. What can you do? What can you do? Just watched it. Everybody saw it.”
  3. Pittsburgh needs to get to the rim more. Down the stretch Jamie Dixon opted to spread the floor and attack the basket. It was very effective. Especially when Lamar Patterson isn’t hitting jumpers, Pittsburgh is best attacking inside. Patterson, Robinson and Cameron Wright are all very good finishers, and that doesn’t even take into account that teams can only help off Talib Zanna if they want him to get a putback. The Panthers still need to shoot enough jumpers to keep people honest (though I’m not sure Jamel Artis should take any threes the rest of the year).

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Duke 63, Clemson 62

Posted by Matt Patton on March 15th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

  1. Don’t trust Duke in the NCAA Tournament. This is admittedly a harsh assessment, and the Blue Devils certainly deserve to be listed among the contenders for the title. When they’re hot, they’re borderline unbeatable. And they have a deep rotation of skilled offensive players. But their defense has serious issues. Duke gave up points on nine straight possessions after going up by 13 points in the second half. They scored some too, so it didn’t look like a dominant Clemson run by any means, but what should have been the time Duke put the Tigers away became the time Clemson held on to challenge for the game. Clemson’s offense is mediocre. Those kinds of runs can’t happen, but they’re beginning to seem like standard second half occurrences with this Duke team.
  2. On the other hand, Duke rebounded really, really well. Unlike defense, many concerns people have with Duke don’t make a lot of sense. This is a very good rebounding team, especially when shots aren’t falling like on Friday night. Amile Jefferson is both a capable offensive player — benefitting from not being the focal point of opposing defenses — and a force on the glass. His and Jabari Parker‘s post games mean Duke has no trouble scoring down low. Jefferson has grown a lot over the course of this season. Remember, during the first half of this season, Josh Hairston was playing comparable minutes to Jefferson (and Marshall Plumlee wasn’t playing at all). As a side note, Quinn Cook’s development has flat-lined — for whatever reason he can’t find much consistency. Offensively, I think point guard play is Duke’s biggest concern going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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