ACC Decade in Review, Part 2: The Five Best Players

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 10th, 2020

As the new new decade gets under way, it’s a good time to reflect on the past 10 years of basketball in the ACC. Recently, the Rush the Court ACC microsite team — Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24), and Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) — got together to select the five best teams and players that the league has produced from the 2009-10 through 2018-19 seasons. Today we reveal our choices for the top five ACC players of the decade. Of course, selecting an All-Decade team is always a subjective exercise, but it’s now more difficult than ever, considering the current makeup of college basketball. How does one definitively compare one-and-done freshmen phenoms with solid four-year performers? And what about other players that leave school early after stellar sophomore or junior campaigns? No doubt, this was a much easier process when college basketball’s best stuck around campus for most of their careers. Case in point, in the past 10 seasons, only four players were selected first team All-ACC more than once. An average of 11 players earned that distinction in the prior three decades. With the current state of affairs in the sport, we are forced to put more weight on individual season accomplishments – all five of our selections below were consensus first team All-America selections in their last, or only, year of college action. Four won ACC Player of the Year honors in those decorated seasons, and the only one who did not was beaten out in the voting by another member of our top five. Here are our choices for the ACC’s All-Decade team.

MALCOLM BROGDON, VIRGINIA 2012-16 (Player of the Decade)

Malcolm Brogdon was the only player of the decade to be named a 3-time All-ACC First-Teamer. (Getty Images)

The most accomplished four-year performer of the past 10 seasons, Brogdon was the steady force behind Virginia’s rise to prominence. During his last three seasons, Virginia went 45-9 in ACC play with Brogdon being named first team All-ACC each year by the league’s coaches. As a senior, he not only won ACC Player of the Year, but was also selected as the conference’s top defender. National honors poured in as well – along with earning consensus first team All-America honors, he was named National Defensive Player of the Year by the NABC. During his time in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers won two ACC regular season crowns and captured the ACC Tournament title in 2014. The only blemish on Brogdon’s college basketball resume is the lack of a Final Four appearance. Virginia looked like a shoo-in for the 2016 Final Four, but the Cavaliers squandered a late 15-point lead and lost to Syracuse in the Elite Eight, the final game of Brogdon’s outstanding career.

ZION WILLIAMSON, DUKE 2019

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

10 Questions To Consider: A Weekend of Marquee Matchups and Important Conference Games

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 10th, 2020

With each passing day March inches closer and closer. As conference play continues, this weekend includes a key match-up between the Big 12’s best, Big Ten surprises, and preseason All-Americans. Here are 10 questions I have in advance of the action ahead.

  1. Which conference play trend gets busted in Iowa City? (Maryland @ Iowa, Friday, 7 PM EST, FS1) Through four league games, both Maryland and Iowa have seen struggles on one end of the floor grow dramatically. For the Terps, their adjusted offensive efficiency has dropped by 12 points in Big Ten action, while Iowa’s adjusted defensive efficiency sits 15 points higher in league play than its season average.
  2. Will Baylor be able to match its season-long success on the opponents’ glass against Kansas? (Baylor @ Kansas, Saturday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Baylor has a top-40 offensive efficiency thanks in part to the team’s top-10 offensive rebounding rate. In a pair of match-ups with Kansas last season, Baylor grabbed 18 and 26 offensive boards. Scott Drew’s squad will be challenged by the length and rebounding ability of Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack.
  3. Have the Gators turned a corner? (Florida @ Missouri, Saturday, 8:30 PM EST, SEC Network) After starting the season 7-4, Florida has now won three straight games, including a pair of SEC contests. In the team’s first 11 games, the duo of Andrew Nembhard and Kerry Blackshear were averaging a combined 23.4 points per game — over the last three games, however, the pair is averaging 35.7 points per game.
  4. Can Providence keep things rolling against a one-loss Butler team? (Butler @ Providence, Friday, 9 PM EST, FS1) After opening the year 6-6 with four losses to teams outside of the KenPom top 100, Providence has now rattled off four straight wins against top-100 teams. Senior guard Maliek White tied his career-high with 19 points in his last game — after shooting 13-for-49 from three-point range in Big East action last season, White has gone 6-of-11 in three conference games.
  5. Which style of play will come out on top between Big Ten foes? (Wisconsin @ Penn State, Saturday, 2:15 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Greg Gard’s Badgers head into the weekend with an adjusted tempo that puts Wisconsin among the five slowest teams in the country. On the flip side, the Nittany Lions will come in ranked as one of the top 40’s fastest teams. Side note: Wisconsin has beaten Penn State 12 times in a row.
  6. Can Rutgers do something it hasn’t done since the 2001-02 season? (Rutgers @ Illinois, Saturday, Noon EST, Big Ten Network) Since an early December loss to Michigan State, Rutgers has now won six consecutive games, including three against KenPom top 30 teams. A win on Saturday would extend that winning streak to seven games, something Rutgers has not done since a stretch in November/December 2001.
  7. Will Michigan State continue to shoot well from beyond the arc in Big Ten play? (Michigan State @ Purdue, Sunday, Noon EST, CBS) Entering Michigan State’s Thursday night tilt at Minnesota, the Spartans are shooting a Big Ten best 38 percent on three-point attempts in league play. This is up from the team’s 33.8 percent in non-conference action.
  8. Which superstar shines brightest in this marquee matchup? (Marquette @ Seton Hall, Saturday, 4 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Entering the season, Markus Howard and Myles Powell were marquee names as two of the nation’s best volume scorers. In three match-ups between the two teams last season, Howard made just 6-of-28 three-point attempts, whereas Powell made 12-of-30. If one goes off this weekend, it could spell doom for the other team.
  9. Which offense will make enough plays in a game featuring two of the nation’s best defenses? (Texas Tech @ West Virginia, Saturday, 6 PM EST) Points will be at a premium in Morgantown this weekend. Will Texas Tech be able to clean up offensive rebounding attack of West Virginia? Will West Virginia be able to make free throws? Will Texas Tech’s Davide Moretti find his stroke? The junior has gone just 11-of-41 from deep since December 1.
  10. Can Miami get key stops or is it time to start talking about Pittsburgh? (Pitt @ Miami, Sunday, 6 PM EST, ACC Network) In Jim Larranaga’s first eight years at Miami, the Hurricanes had an average defensive efficiency ranking of 55th nationally. As of Thursday, Miami’s defensive efficiency sits outside of the top 200. Last season, Pitt began ACC play 2-2 before it dropped its next 13 ACC games. Coming off of their first win at North Carolina in program history, Pitt has a chance to add its name to the bubble with a win at Miami.

Share this story

2019-20 RTC16: Week Eight

Posted by Walker Carey on January 6th, 2020

The beginning of conference play is always good for temporarily removing the shine from a team or two that had been a non-conference darling. This season that phenomenon applies to #11 Louisville and #13 Ohio State. Louisville started its season 9-0, but has since lost three of its last five games, with the most concerning coming Saturday in a 13-point home loss to #10 Florida State. Guard play continues to be a significant issue for the Cardinals, as Fresh Kimble, Darius Perry and Ryan McMahon combined for just 14 points on 6-of-27 shooting in the loss. Ohio State was another early season standout, as the Buckeyes stood at 11-1 on Christmas Day and looked to be the class of a strong Big Ten. They have since lost two straight, including a puzzling 61-57 home loss to Wisconsin last Friday. While sloppy play was a major reason for the defeat (Ohio State committed 14 turnovers to just eight assists), it must be noted that the Buckeyes are currently without junior starting forward Kyle Young, who had an appendectomy early last week and is game-to-game moving forward. It is certainly too early in league play to speculate whether Louisville and Ohio State will regain their early season form, but it would be wise for both teams to get back on track before their NCAA Tournament résumés begin to take significant hits. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

2019-20 RTC16: Week Six

Posted by Walker Carey on December 23rd, 2019

Another week of the season has been completed and another #1 team fell victim to an upset. Like Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke and Louisville before it, #4 Kansas had a rather short stay in the top spot of the RTC16. The Jayhawks saw their nine-game winning streak end on Saturday with a one-point loss at #12 Villanova. Following the defeat, Kansas coach Bill Self hypothesized that the parity we are seeing this season is because he believes there are not as many good players as there used to be in the sport. He referenced his own team as an example, noting that star forward Dedric Lawson left Kansas after last season with eligibility remaining. Self’s argument has merit, as the 2019 NBA Draft had 175 early entries while the 2018 NBA Draft had 181, but it does seem premature to conclude that this season will not see a dominant team emerge once conference play fully begins. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

What’s Trending: Roster Shake-ups, Big Shots and the Wacky Side of College Hoops

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 23rd, 2019

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

The week began with Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon making a decision to have hip surgery and redshirt this season. While it might be a decision that many within the Hawkeyes’ program saw coming, it’s a decision that will have a lasting impact on the ceiling of the team this season…

A day after Bohannon made his decision, the injury that kept Cole Anthony out of the Tar Heels recent loss against Wofford was revealed. Anthony, suffering a partially torn meniscus, will miss four to six weeks of action. While North Carolina ended its four-game skid against UCLA over the weekend, their play on the offensive side of the floor was suspect – shooting just 41.8 percent from the field and turning the ball over 17 times. After finishing each of the past four seasons with a top 10 offense, Roy Williams current squad sits outside of the top 60.

Days after the news of Anthony’s injury came the surprising move of another star freshman as James Wiseman decided to leave Memphis. In just three games as a Tiger, Wiseman averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Dealing with the wrath of the NCAA which led to his “suspension,” Wiseman’s decision allows him to prepare full-time for the 2020 NBA Draft.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Quarter-Pole Check-In on the Big East

Posted by Brad Cavallaro & Justin Kundrat on December 18th, 2019

We’re only about five weeks into the regular season and yet it feels like an eternity judging by how much has happened thus far. Between the risers and fallers, early season disappointments and pleasant surprises, the Big East has had no shortage of compelling storylines. Below, Big East writers Justin Kundrat and Brad Cavallaro regroup and recap several of the key questions the conference is facing going into the holidays.

With only a close loss at Baylor, Butler has emerged as a Big East contender (or even front-runner) by analytics and their body of work. Do you see the Bulldogs as a legitimate contender or just a team off to a hot start?

Is Butler the Big East Team to Beat? (USA Today Images)

JK: With Seton Hall floundering and Villanova skirting by against inferior opponents, there’s no question in my mind that Butler is the top dog in the conference right now. The Bulldogs won’t overwhelm you with size or athleticism or shooting or lottery picks, but this team is as cohesive as any in the country. They remind me a bit of some of the Virginia teams in recent years, in that every game is played on Butler’s terms. The Bulldogs currently rank 338th nationally in tempo and opponents are getting just 16.7 percent of their shot attempts in transition, good for 12th nationally. Combine that with a defense that is elite in both defensive rebounding and discouraging perimeter shots and you have a recipe for success — there are no easy buckets with this team. On the other end, there are occasional concerns about the offense over-relying on Kamar Baldwin, but others have stepped up in recent games (here’s looking at you, Sean McDermott). And when opponents are scoring just 54.5 PPG, you don’t need multiple 20+ point scorers on the roster. Anyway, count me in as a buyer of Butler stock.

BC: I think at this point Butler is absolutely a contender. Between Seton Hall’s injuries and Xavier’s recent disappointing play, Butler and Villanova look like the clear front-runners in the Big East. While the Bulldogs do not have top-half conference talent, their excellent chemistry and buy-in from their role players has created a “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” scenario. While team synergy looks like the main reason for Butler’s early success, they are also receiving some great individual performances. Baldwin has taken the step from great player to star and the defense has been excellent with players like Aaron Thompson and Bryce Nze setting the tone. I think the most likely scenario is that Butler settles into the #15-#20 range nationally, but if they can get more from Jordan Tucker and Khalif Battle, the ceiling is even higher.

Seton Hall has disappointed, surrendering late game leads versus both Michigan State and Oregon? Can they back up their lofty preseason ranking and who emerges in Mamu’s absence?

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Is It Time to Panic in Chapel Hill?

Posted by Matt Auerbach on December 18th, 2019

Concerns about this version of North Carolina had been bubbling since its no-show home blowout loss at the hands of Ohio State two weeks back. Those concerns have now been heightened to crisis level after Sunday’s loss to Wofford, piggybacking the pregame news that star freshman Cole Anthony would be sidelined indefinitely with a knee issue.

Roy Williams Wears His Emotions (USA Today Images)

Because of the visibility of the game along with the scintillating performance by Anthony, the takeaway of the Tar Heels’ opening night win over Notre Dame now seems silly. The praise for Anthony, breathless as it was, was deserving, as he began the season in a manner few before him have — scoring 34 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out five assists. In the shadows of the analysis, though, was the fact that Anthony HAD to do that for his team to dispose of an average Notre Dame team, as only Garrison Brooks joined him in double figures.

As the schedule softened, Anthony’s productivity understandably dipped, but his efficiency also stumbled. The freshman hasn’t eclipsed 50 percent field goal shooting since the opener, and he is averaging nearly four turnovers per contest — and if you think there is an intimation that Anthony is the problem, citing these statistics is simply a way to take the opposite position.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

2019-20 RTC16: Week Five

Posted by Walker Carey on December 16th, 2019

The past week of the college basketball season was marked by unbeaten teams falling victim to unranked opponents away from home. It began Tuesday night when #4 Louisville fell to Texas Tech in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, while #7 Maryland was unable to overcome a slow start in a loss at Penn State. Both defeats showed that each team is a bit more susceptible offensively than previously thought, as Louisville only shot 34 percent from the field while committing 19 turnovers and Maryland shot just 33 percent while committing 20 miscues. Both the Cardinals and Terrapins also failed to get strong performances from their stars, as Louisville forward Jordan Nwora was held to just 4-of-16 shooting and Maryland forward Jalen Smith logged only five field goal attempts. #3 Ohio State joined the fray late Sunday afternoon when it trailed throughout the game in an 84-71 loss at Minnesota. Much like Louisville and Maryland, the Buckeyes were done in by poor shooting (38.3% FG), turnovers (14), and a poor performance from a key contributor (forward Kaleb Wesson was just 4-of-13 from the field while committing six turnovers). Louisville, Maryland and Ohio State are all primed for successful seasons, but they must view setbacks like those from the past week as something to learn from and correct. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big 12 Temperature Check

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2019

While the ACC and Big Ten continue the absolutely farcical exercise of playing conference games before all non-conference games are in the books (and make no mistake, that’s what it is), the Big 12 is among the power conferences still cutting their teeth against non-league foes. As we hit the quarter-pole of the season, it’s a good time to take a look around the league and make some quick but measured evaluations.

Bill Self is Amused By Your Doubts (USA Today Images)

Kansas still looks like a title contender. Before the season, Bill Self proclaimed that the NCAA’s notice of allegations was going to “motivate [him] in a pretty competitive way,” and the results on the court to date are bearing that out. The Jayhawks sit at 8-1 with an impressive set of victories and appear to be getting better by the game. Most notably, Udoka Azubuike‘s improved physique has helped him stay effective on offense, and it’s serving as a foundation for improved defensive play. The big man is committing just 3.1 fouls per 40 minutes while blocking just under two shots per game. There are other positives, of course. Devon Dotson has picked up right where he left off; Marcus Garrett has been a completely different player than the one whose performance against Duke led so many to question the viability of Kansas’ backcourt; and Ochai Agbaji is playing like an upperclassman in what was supposed to be his freshman season. The play of those four have allowed complementary pieces like David McCormack, Tristan Enaruna and Isaiah Moss to stay in those roles a year after personnel issues and injuries forced Self’s hand into relying more on K.J. Lawson, Charlie Moore and Mitch Lightfoot than he had planned. The Jayhawks do have a few things to iron out, particularly their perimeter defense and ability to stretch the floor, but in a volatile year atop the polls, Kansas is more than holding their own.

Baylor could be right there with them, but the Bears have some work to do. No, I’m not talking about their resume, which includes three wins over top-20 teams over a three-week stretch. Scott Drew’s team scored just 86 points per 100 trips in the wins over Arizona and Butler, teams which more closely resemble the Big 12 foes that await them come January than the dregs on which Baylor has feasted elsewhere. The Bears are one of the most physical teams in the country, making scoring a chore for every opponent it has faced thus far, but the offense needs to be more consistent against the best the schedule has to offer. Jared Butler is living up to the hype, but here’s hoping Tristan Clark isn’t out for long.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC Stock Report: Volume II

Posted by Matt Auerbach on December 10th, 2019

With the intra-league docket on pause until New Year’s Eve, now is a good time for coaches to take a breath and evaluate where their teams sit in the wake of just completed holiday tournaments and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Finals and the holiday season dilute most schedules prior to the reconvening of the ACC slate, but there are still a few games with intrigue on the horizon. One of those occurs tonight, featuring the team that has established itself as perhaps the favorite to capture the league title.

Stock Rising: Louisville

Louisville is the Early Favorite in the ACC (USA Today Images)

I had some reluctance to fully buy in to this Louisville ensemble being the league’s best team, but given its performance through nine games, it may be time to cede to the results. The Cardinals were barely tested in seven November victories, winning all but one of those contests by double figures, while defeating zero top-80 KenPom teams. However, in vanquishing Michigan, a team that ran roughshod over stiff competition on its way to winning the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, the Cardinals definitively proved worthy of inclusion among the nation’s elite.  Chris Mack’s squad is doing it on both ends of the floor, the only team nationally inside the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. A microcosm of that balance is the team’s best player Jordan Nwora, who is about as an efficient three-level scorer as there is in college basketball. The 6’7” junior forward, who tested the draft waters last summer, is also excelling on the defensive end and on the glass, and is currently the leader in the KenPom Player of the Year standings.

In a year devoid of dominant outfits, consistent output needs to be acknowledged, and thus far, no one in the league has come close to the Cardinals’ level of consistency. Tonight, they get another chance to prove their worthiness of the nation’s top ranking against last year’s national runner-up, Texas Tech, at Madison Square Garden. Get past that, and it should be an undefeated Louisville entering Rupp Arena to face intrastate rival Kentucky on December 28.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story