ACC Burning Questions: NC State

Posted by Matt Auerbach on October 21st, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Will the Wolfpack’s new lead dog be able to replace its top Cat?

A year ago, North Carolina State’s season seemed to have been derailed before it even got started. With the unanticipated departure of All-ACC second teamer and leading scorer Trevor Lacey to the pros, the Wolfpack had lost half of a dynamic backcourt from its surprise run to the Sweet Sixteen. And while Anthony “Cat” Barber did yeoman’s work last season in mitigating the absence of his viable second fiddle, the team just never generated enough traction as the Wolfpack missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Mark Gottfried’s five-year tenure. As he embarks on year six in Raleigh, Gottfried once again will be tasked in replacing his leading scorer, as Barber opted for the NBA after a spectacular All-ACC junior campaign.


Mark Gottfried hopes five-star freshman Dennis Smith Jr. (right) fills a fraction of the void left by Cat Barber’s departure. (The Fayetteville Observer)

Despite captaining an extraordinarily average team, Barber ranked seventh nationally in scoring at 23.5 points per game and second in the country in playing 96 percent of his team’s minutes. In his stead, Gottfried will hand the keys to the offense — an offense that ranked as last season’s 33rd most efficient — to the capable hands of five-star recruit Dennis Smith Jr. Smith, who chose the Wolfpack over Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky, suffered an ACL tear prior to his senior season, meaning he hasn’t seen any game action since 2015 (when he was named the Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year in North Carolina). By all accounts, Smith is now healthy and will undoubtedly have an opportunity to become one of the nation’s most impactful freshmen. Read the rest of this entry »

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Meet the ACC’s Newly Eligible Transfers

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 21st, 2016

Compared with just a short decade ago, many more student-athletes are going the transfer route. When we combine that trend with the 60-75 underclassmen who turn professional each spring, the aggregate result is that roster turnover is at an all-time high. When it comes to media coverage of newcomers, the focus tends to primarily be on freshmen. So in order to get familiar with the transfers entering the ACC this season, we have provided the list below that breaks non-freshmen newcomers to the league into four groupings (traditional transfers; graduate transfers; JuCo transfers; sitting out this year). Players within each category are ordered according to the anticipated impact that they will have this season.trad_transfers

This group represents what we know as the traditional transfers — those who are moving from one four-year school to another and, as a result, were forced to sit out last season. Virginia’s Austin Nichols is expected to step in as Anthony Gill’s immediate replacement in the post. He should fit right in with Tony Bennett’s scheme defensively and will provide additional rim protection after proving to be an elite shot-blocker in his two years at Memphis. The word out of Raleigh is that NC State’s Torin Dorn has looked great in preseason workouts and may be ready to start for the Wolfpack. Clemson figures to get major production from at least two of its transfers — Marquise Reed was a big-time scorer on an NCAA Tournament team in 2014-15 (Robert Morris) and Elijah Thomas was a top-50 type recruit coming into college.

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Louisville Receives NCAA Notice of Allegations

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 20th, 2016

Earlier today Louisville announced that it had received the NCAA’s notice of allegations concerning last year’s stripper scandal, providing a redacted copy of the notice. As it turns out, the NCAA has charged the school’s basketball program with four Level One violations – the most severe level on their spectrum. The investigation stems from accusations made by former escort Katina Powell, who claimed in her book, Breaking Cardinal Rules, that former Louisville director of basketball operations Andre McGee paid her and other escorts thousands of dollars in exchange for sex with recruits and players in Minardi Hall, an on-campus dorm.

Louisville's Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich plan to fight the Level One allegation against the Cardinal's Head Coach. (Photo: WHAS11)

Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich plan to fight the allegation made against the Cardinals’ Head Coach. (Photo: WHAS11)

All four of the Level One violations are directed at individuals, which means the school has potentially avoided crippling ‘lack of institutional control’ or ‘failure to monitor’ sanctions. However, Rick Pitino was personally delivered a Level One charge for failing to demonstrate that he adequately monitored his assistant coach, McGee. At a noon press conference today, athletic director Tom Jurich said the school will dispute the serious charge against the Cardinals’ head coach. Two other Level One violations involve McGee’s role in the scandal. It will be hard for Louisville to contest those charges, since it’s unlikely that any further facts in the case can be uncovered. As Pitino noted at today’s press conference, “Andre has been advised by his attorney not to speak.” The final violation is directed at Brandon Williams, who was on the Louisville staff after the scandal broke. Williams is charged with failing to cooperate with NCAA investigators by refusing to turn over requested phone records.

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ACC Burning Questions: Wake Forest

Posted by Matt Patton on October 20th, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: What sort of “sophomore leap” can we expect from Bryant Crawford, John Collins, and Doral Moore?

Wake Forest is coming off an incredibly disappointing season. Despite having a pair of talented seniors in the lineup, the Demon Deacons managed only two league wins last year, causing fans to suffer flashbacks of the Jeff Bzdelik era. The 2015-16 team was better than its record, though, and that discrepancy largely falls on the shoulders of the team’s most talented (and now graduated) players: Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas. This year the Demon Deacons will lack their senior leadership but that may finally provide Danny Manning the distance he needs to fully reshape the basketball environment in Winston-Salem. First, I’m an admitted Manning apologist. His results have so far been inconsistent, but Bzdelik passed along a culture so toxic that no one could have reasonably expected a quick fix. This, however, is the year Manning must start to show real progress (with next year being the year to make a leap in the conference standings). The road will be tough and the win total may not reflect significant improvement, but Wake Forest needs to beat the worst teams in the league (here’s looking at you, Boston College and Georgia Tech), while playing competitively against the better teams (hey, Virginia).

John Collins is an analytics darling, but can he make the leap the statistics say? (Photo Credit: Bob Hebert)

John Collins is an analytics darling, but can he make the leap the statistics suggest? (Bob Hebert/Getty)

To replace Miller-McIntyre and Thomas, look no further than sophomores Bryant CrawfordJohn Collins and Doral Moore. Collins in particular carries the Luke Winn-endorsed high usage and efficiency hallmark of breakout sophomores, and Crawford effectively replaced Miller-McIntyre’s role for much of last season. How competitive Wake Forest will be, though, depends mostly on the team’s ceiling (the ACC is stacked) and I’ll be surprised if Crawford and Collins aren’t the keys to the Deacs’ highest performance. Crawford will need to cut down on his turnovers while Collins needs to prove efficient in increased minutes, but those are achievable goals. Moore, on the other hand, showed flashes of brilliance last season. You can’t teach tall, but Manning appears capable of coaching up his bigs. If that holds true, Moore could become a real star in the ACC by the time he’s done there. Joining the trio of star sophomores are graduate transfer Austin Arians from Milwaukee, who should provide some immediate help on the wing. Don’t look for Arians to become a volume scorer in Winston-Salem, but he can keep opponents honest with his shot and he never turns the ball over. It’s also possible we’ll see a quantum jump from Mitchell Wilbekin this season. His brother Scottie Wilbekin made a big step forward at Florida between his sophomore and junior years. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Burning Questions: Boston College

Posted by Matt Patton (@mpatton0) on October 19th, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Can Boston College show enough improvement to buy Jim Christian some time?

As we and others predicted would occur, last year was an unmitigated, winless disaster for the Eagles. With only one starter returning, Boston College didn’t field a team that had any chance of realistically competing in the ACC (the Eagles’ final KenPom ranking (#226) was nearly twice as bad as next worst Wake Forest). It was a rebuilding year in every sense of the phrase. This year might turn out better in Chestnut Hill, but Jim Christian‘s squad must drastically improve its offense while still lacking the necessary talent to compete and win regularly in conference play. Eli Carter and Dennis Clifford, the team’s most used and important players last season, are both gone. Sammy Barnes-Thompkins, Matt Milon and Idy Diallo also transferred away, although none were systemically very important. These departures present an opportunity for the remaining players to quickly improve, but they are also another steep hurdle in Christian’s efforts to rebuild the program.

Jerome USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Robinson was a lone bright spot for the Eagles last season. (USA TODAY Sports)

A lone bright spot last season was the play of Jerome Robinson. He was a crucial part of the offense and a very efficient shooter. The two big questions surrounding Robinson are whether he is ready to be the center of Boston College’s offense and if he can improve on his atrocious turnover rate. Unfortunately, the responsibility of carrying more of the offense makes keeping his turnover rate down an impossibility, but a second year of conditioning and experience should only help in most other areas. Christian will also need leadership and improvement from sophomore AJ Turner, senior Garland Owens, and redshirt freshman John Carlos Reyes (who is tasked with replacing Clifford). Read the rest of this entry »

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The Difficulty of Replacing Malcolm Brogdon

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 17th, 2016

The last three seasons have been historically good for Virginia basketball in winning 89 games, claiming an ACC Championship, and earning two NCAA #1 seeds along the way. But for that level of excellence to continue this season, the Cavaliers have an enormous pair of shoes to fill. Four seniors departed the program, and one of those, Malcolm Brogdon, experienced one of the most decorated seasons in recent ACC history. Not only was he voted the ACC Player of the Year and the league’s top defender, the senior was also selected as a consensus All-American and the NABC National Defensive Player of the Year. Replacing a player of such high caliber on both ends of the floor will not be easy for head coach Tony Bennett, but just how hard will it turn out to be?

Malcolm Brogdon Led Virginia Back to the Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

In 2015-16, Malcolm Brogdon became the first player to win ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. (USA Today Images)

To gauge what Bennett is facing in replacing Brogdon, we looked at recent conference history. Since the conference began selecting an All-ACC Defensive Team after the 1999-2000 season, there have been 26 players who were on the list of top-five league defenders and also named First-Team All-ACC in the same year. Of those 26 stars, 13 were either the ACC Player of the Year and/or the league Defensive Player of the Year in that season (Table 1).


By comparing team records before and after the loss of the all-everything player, we see that a team has never improved its record afterward. Of course, none of these situations are exactly alike — talent returning or entering the program in the following season varies widely depending on the school. For instance, 2002 Duke without the services of NPOY Shane Battier started five future NBA players, including another NPOY in Jason Williams. In 2014 Miami’s Jim Larranaga not only lost Shane Larkin, but he also lost his other top five players as well. Virginia’s situation in the post-Brogdon year seems to fit somewhere in the middle of those extremes. The high quality of its newcomers may be enough to get them close to matching last season’s 13 league wins, but history appears to tell us that meeting last year’s win total is the ceiling for a team that loses such an elite all-around performer.

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ACC M5: 10.17.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 17th, 2016


  1. North Carolina on Friday night held its annual ‘Late Night With Roy’ event to tip off the new season. After the usual light-hearted fare featuring various dance, skits and skills contests, the Tar Heels conducted a scrimmage that needed overtime to settle the outcome. Earlier last week, Roy Williams hosted a preseason media day where the main topic of interest was how the team will adjust to the losses of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. Williams described the situation as such: “Because it’s not two out of eight. It’s your two best. Markedly, maybe you could say your two best in every part of the game. It’s not just a numbers game.” The good news is that there is plenty of experienced talent still on hand with three seniors and three juniors comprising the expected top six players in Williams’ rotation. In fact, there are only 16 McDonald’s All Americans from the 2013 and 2014 classes still playing college basketball, and five of those will be suiting up in Carolina blue and white this season.
  2. Louisville also recently conducted its preseason media day and Rick Pitino seems to be very excited about his group this year. He’s expecting a lot of improvement from his sophomore class and is also happy with his team’s depth — particularly along a front line where as many as seven players may see regular minutes. We found it interesting that Pitino said the Cardinals may need to stray from their typical defensive zone trapping pressure game. Rather, he claims that this year’s team will play about 95 percent man-to-man defense because of their relative inexperience. What we find odd is that last year’s group — which finished second in  KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings — had relatively the same level of experience and were able to execute Pitino’s multiple defensive looks just fine. Considering his track record in teaching defense, we will naturally trust the head coach to make the right call. After all, he has coached eight top-five defenses in the last nine years.
  3. It was throwback night in Tallahassee last weekend when Florida State held its annual tip-off event known as ‘Jam with Ham’ on October 7. The festivities were conducted in Tully Gym on campus, the Seminoles’ home court until 1981. Leonard Hamilton hopes some of the residual magic from that building — the 1972 NCAA runner-up Seminoles called it home — rubs off on this year’s version. Highly-touted freshman Jonathan Isaac flashed his talent and versatility in the scrimmage, and this may be Hamilton’s deepest team in years. The Seminoles are expected to return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2012.
  4. Most of the talk during N.C. State’s recent media day concerned the Wolfpack’s two most highly-rated newcomers, point guard Dennis Smith and Turkish center Omer Yurtseven. Mark Gottfried is plenty impressed with Smith, calling him “the best guard in the country, period, hands down.” As for Yurtseven, there’s no timetable for when the NCAA will rule on the big man’s eligibility but his availability may be more crucial than first contemplated because of the status of the Wolfpack’s two senior big guys. Gottfried said that he plans to redshirt Lennard Freeman so that he can fully recover from a lower leg injury. The coach also said that Beejay Anya weighed 344 pounds just a few short weeks ago, making it unlikely that he would be in condition for major minutes from the outset.
  5. On October 1 we learned that Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear was not going to be ready when the Hokies started practice because of offseason foot surgery. Last week, head coach Buzz Williams announced that the sophomore big man may in fact miss the entire season. This development would be a big blow to the Hokies’ frontcourt, leaving them short on depth and height in the paint. Williams often played small-ball last season as Virginia Tech closed strong in conference play (winning its last five ACC games), using 6’7″ Zach LeDay and 6’6″ Chris Clarke in the post. But the 6’10” Blackshear also got plenty of minutes when the Hokies needed a tall body on the floor to combat the ACC’s top post men. If he can’t play, then Williams will need 6’10” freshman Khadim Sy to grow up fast.
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Evaluating Last Season’s Rule Changes

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 14th, 2016

After a college basketball season in which overall scoring fell to its lowest point in the shot clock era, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel in 2015 approved a set of new rules and other modifications that were designed to increase the pace of action and increase overall scoring. Before we dive too deeply into the upcoming campaign, let’s evaluate the implementation of those rule changes by comparing some key metrics from last season against the four previous seasons.


There’s little doubt that college basketball benefited from last year’s rule changes. The average NCAA team scored 71.5 points per 40 minutes, an increase of 5.4 points over the prior year. This was a result of the wise decision to implement a comprehensive approach to implementation. Reducing the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds was the most discussed change, but that alone didn’t account for the scoring bump. Offenses also got more efficient, rising from an average of 1.020 points per possession in 2014-15 to 1.036 last season. Credit for that improvement largely goes to officials for enforcing freedom of movement as well as to coaches and players for adapting to the new rules. The same cannot be said about the 2013-14 season, one in which the NCAA first tried to address declining offense. A focus that year on officiating led to more points but the uptick in scoring was mostly driven by a huge increase in free throw attempts (see chart above). It did nothing to make the game easier on the eyes, and it also correspondingly left us with a need for drastic changes because referees reverted back to previous norms the following season (2014-15).

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ACC M5: 10.12.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 12th, 2016


  1. After all the success in last year’s NCAA Tournament and with a good mix of key returnees and talented newcomers sprinkled throughout the conference, the ACC is receiving considerable national love heading into this season. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman recently put forth the idea that the ACC this season could be in position to match the Big East’s record of 11 teams making the Big Dance (2011). A few things would need to line up in order for this to happen. The ACC should have enough good teams to qualify, but the teams stuck in the middle of the pack are necessarily going to take several losses. What the league needs is a couple extremely weak teams at the bottom of the standings that give the others two or three easy wins. Say hello to Boston College and Georgia Tech! While we think sending a record-tying 11 teams to the Tourney this year is rather unlikely, things should set up well enough that nine league teams should have a reasonable shot this season.
  2. The biggest injury news of the young preseason was released last week when Duke announced that Harry Giles, the Blue Devils’ highly-regarded freshman big man, recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee. That makes three knee operations in roughly four years for the 18-year old. His estimated recovery time for this setback was projected at six weeks, which would mean Giles would become available for Duke in mid-to-late November. Considering the possible implications to Giles’ NBA Draft status, CBS’ Gary Parrish reported that many scouts think it’s now doubtful that a team would risk its #1 overall pick on him in what appears to be a strong draft year. Others have floated the idea that Giles may be better served by skipping this entire season at Duke to preserve his still-high draft status and not risk further injury. We think, however, that the best course of action for him is to return when healthy and prove his elite talent by becoming a key member of a national title contender.
  3. A pair of ACC teams in August took advantage of the NCAA rule that allows a foreign exhibition trip once every four years. Virginia‘s Tony Bennett took his team to Spain for five games against relatively weak competition, and used an interesting approach — only dressing 10 of his 13 scholarship players in a rotating manner — so each player sat out one game. This strategy allowed the staff to focus on different player combinations with significant minutes together. Another purpose of the trip was to begin to establish a new leadership dynamic on the team, with Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill and two other seniors having departed from the program. It sounds like London Perrantes is already stepping up, but he will need some help from the five juniors on this year’s squad.
  4. The other ACC program to travel this summer was Wake Forest, as Danny Manning’s Demon Deacons played three games in the Bahamas. This kind of trip is perfect for a team in Wake’s current position. With the last remnants of the Jeff Bzdelik regime now gone — namely, Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre — this will be Manning’s first season in Winston-Salem where all the key pieces will be his recruits. It appears that he has some good young talent on hand within the program, but it’s vital that they mature together quickly into a cohesive unit. The hope is that the Deacons maximized those extra 10 practices that are allowed with these summer trips.
  5. We freely admit that this next story caught us totally off guard (pardon the pun), but it appears that Pittsburgh senior Jamel Artis (6’7″, 220 lbs.) is going to see time at the Panthers’ point guard spot this year. We wonder if this is really more a case of new head coach Kevin Stallings disliking his backcourt options as Pitt looks to replace four-year starter James Robinson, but we just haven’t viewed Artis as a typical point guard to this point in his career. Last year Artis logged a nice assist rate of 19.9 percent, but he finished with an almost equal turnover rate of 19.6 percent. It will be interesting to see how Stallings moves forward with this dilemma.
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Reviewing Four ACC Offseason Storylines

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 11th, 2016

We are now fewer than five weeks away from opening night in college basketball, so it’s time to start our preseason coverage here at the ACC microsite. After a record-setting NCAA Tournament performance last March, many pundits have tabbed the ACC as even more competitive this year, with hopes of challenging the record for most NCAA Tournament bids in a single season (Big East, 11 bids, 2011). Over the next several weeks we will preview the fortunes of all 15 ACC schools by projecting how each squad will maximize its strengths and mitigate its weaknesses, and we will also be reporting from ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte on October 26. But first, let’s catch up on several of the most important storylines in the ACC since Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater toppled North Carolina on Championship Monday night back in April.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford had a pair of major announcements during this past offseason. (Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

ACC Commissioner John Swofford had a pair of major announcements during the offseason.
(Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

NCAA/ACC Take Stands

Perhaps the most interesting offseason news had more to do with politics than basketball. Ever since the North Carolina legislature passed the controversial HB2 law last March, the state has suffered backlash in the form of outside businesses and entertainers boycotting the state. It was only a matter of time before the NCAA and ACC followed suit. Both entities were probably holding out hope that state politicians would repeal the law before time necessitated action, but it appears that no changes are imminent. On September 12, as a result, the NCAA announced that it was removing all of its postseason events from North Carolina, including this season’s NCAA Tournament First and Second Round scheduled for Greensboro. The NCAA recently awarded that site to Greenville, South Carolina — the first time an NCAA Tournament will be held in the Palmetto State since 2002. South Carolina had previously been the state on the NCAA’s naughty list over its confederate flag flying on the capitol grounds in Columbia, but that ban was lifted last year after its removal. Just two days after the NCAA’s September announcement, ACC Commissioner John Swofford made his own statement that the ACC would also be moving its championship events out of North Carolina. The ACC Tournament was already set to begin a two-year run in Brooklyn this season, but future scheduled sites for the event include Greensboro and Charlotte. In the near-term, the NCAA’s stance is the most important. North Carolina has been a frequent spot for early round games over the years, providing a nice home court advantage for local ACC schools — most notably, Duke and North Carolina.

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