ACC Stock Report: Volume I

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on November 14th, 2019

While Duke’s victory over Kansas in the Champions Classic and Cole Anthony’s historic start have garnered much of the ACC attention, there are some stories under the surface that are also worth noting. Here’s this season’s initial stock report.

Stock Rising

A Happy Derryck Thornton Has Landed at Boston College (Boston Herald)

Derryck Thornton Four years after starting his career at one of the ACC’s flagship programs, Thornton has started his final collegiate campaign at a perennial cellar dweller, looking to take advantage of a last chance to alter the narrative of a disappointing career. After reclassifying and getting to Duke a year ahead of schedule, Thornton logged an uninspiring season in Durham before ultimately opting for USC rather than compete for point guard minutes with future one-and-doner Frank Jackson. Things never really materialized as anticipated for him in Los Angeles, and now, as he watches contemporaries like De’Aaron Fox and Lonzo Ball about to sign their second NBA contracts, Thornton is looking to turn it all around in Chestnut Hill. His early returns have been dynamite. Perhaps now maturing into that five-star prospect, Thornton has piloted the Eagles to a trio of early wins, scoring a career-high 23 in the conference-opening win against Wake Forest, following that up with another 22 in a win over a talented South Florida team and handing out five assists in short minutes against High Point. Popular opinion was that this was a make or break year for Jim Christian at the school, and preseason expectations were portending an inevitable break. But a strong start by Thornton has the Eagles feeling a little bit more optimistic.

Stock Holding

Pittsburgh. It’s tough to make sense of an inconsistent 2-1 start by Pittsburgh, but maybe it should be expected given such a youthful roster. After a gritty opening win against a Florida State team that has since authored a dismantling of top-10 Florida in Gainesville, the Panthers dropped a home game to #256 Nicholls State before going back on the road to pull away late from Robert Morris. The central reason for concern regarding a potential leap for Jeff Capel’s club in year two was an inability to stretch the defense. However, in junior college transfer Ryan Murphy, Pittsburgh may have found a perfect fit to complement attack-first guards Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens. Murphy’s energy and marksmanship shot the Panthers back into the opener against the Seminoles, and his 28 points against Nicholls State nearly singlehandedly avoided the upset. The 6’2” junior has now accounted for half of the Panthers’ 18 triples through the team’s first three contests, and after drawing his first start Tuesday night, he looks to be a fixture for Capel’s squad going forward.

Stock Falling

Jim Boeheim is Already Cranky (USA Today Images)

Jim Boeheim’s Act. After his team’s dreadful opening night performance against Virginia — 34 points on 24 percent shooting — Boeheim lashed out at the ACC, which had the gall in his eyes to “grab the money” and start the season with an intra-league slate to promote the rollout of its newly launched television network. Boeheim has been at this long enough, is certainly smart enough, and is undeniably rich enough, to know that this whole thing is a television show, and that’s why his salary has risen presumably about 40 times to $2.5 million dollars a year over the span of his illustrious 44-year career. Typically, Boeheim doesn’t reach his maximum level of ornery until mid-March when he is defending a weak non-conference schedule, but the combination of opening with the reigning National Champion, and then getting spanked in front of his home crowd, really had him in mid-season form. Fortunately, the Orange will once again play a whole bunch of non-league games (all of them) inside the New York State border before really attacking the teeth of the league docket. His team won’t be any worse, because it won’t face a better defensive unit than Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers, and as Boeheim rightly alluded to, the offenses generally trail the defenses in the early part of the season. And as for Bennett, shouldn’t he have been the coach feeling slighted? His team was forced to open the season on the road at Syracuse? Not a word — just another dominant win, with no whining about it.

Share this story

This is a Different Looking Duke Team

Posted by Brad Jenkins on November 11th, 2019

After just two games, it’s obvious that this year’s Duke team is not going to look (or play) like any of head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s recent Blue Devils’ squads. His roster this season is devoid of NBA Lottery talent, so success in Durham in 2019-20 will be much more dependent on a group effort.

Sophomore point guard Tre Jones is Duke’s clear leader at both ends of the court. (AP Photo)

Typically, Duke features two players that dominate the team’s offensive touches — think Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett last season; Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter the year prior; and Jason Tatum and Luke Kennard the season before that. So far, Duke’s new points by committee approach has resulted in good balance – five Blue Devils are averaging between 10.0 and 16.0 points per game. Also, Coach K appears to be altering his traditional method of minutes distribution, i.e., playing more than seven guys. Through the Blue Devils’ first two outings, nine players are seeing more than 12 minutes of action per contest. It’s been a long time since Krzyzewski has employed this approach, a fact he acknowledged after Duke’s 89-55 win over Colorado State on Friday night. “I need to learn how to sub again.” What remains to be seen is whether the lack of a go-to scorer will cost his team in tight-game situations. There is an advantage to having multiple options that defenses must prepare for, but there are also times when somebody just needs to go get a bucket. Early signs suggest that perhaps Cassius Stanley will develop into that guy. Though less heralded than fellow freshmen Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt, Stanley has been Duke’s most impressive rookie to date — leading the team in scoring (16 PPG), while being extremely efficient (13-of-17 FG).

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC Opening Game Reactions

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 7th, 2019

No conference launched the college basketball season quite like the ACC, with seven league games already in the books by Wednesday evening, in addition to Duke taking down Kansas in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. Here’s are five things that stood out over the opening two nights of ACC action.

Cole Anthony Blew Everyone Away on Wednesday Night (USA Today Images)

Cole Anthony is the real deal. Attention to everyone who did not put Cole Anthony on your preseason first-team All-American teams: You were silly and this is just the beginning of how silly you will look. After a slow start in the season opener against Notre Dame, Anthony took over in the second half, finishing with 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists on 12-of-24 shooting, including 6-of-11 from long-range. The performance was even more critical given that the Tar Heels were short-handed with Brandon Robinson on the shelf. A star is born in Chapel Hill. Now let’s just see if someone can get him some new glasses.

Should we be more worried about Duke’s offense? The Blue Devils notched a big win Tuesday over Kansas in the Champions Classic, but there are definitely concerns about Duke’s offense. The Jayhawks gifted the Devils 26 turnovers, but they still shot just 35.9 percent from the field and didn’t put the game away until the very end. Additionally, Duke made just eight of its 24 three-point attempts. Tre Jones was 0-of-4 from long range and Jack White and Alex O’Connell (2-of-9 combined) didn’t provide an offensive spark off the bench. The good news? There is plenty of time for Mike Krzyzewski to build an offense around Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt and Cassius Stanley.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC Burning Questions, Part 5: Duke, North Carolina & Virginia

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 1st, 2019

Duke Burning Question: Who replaces Zion Williamson?

Coach K Has Less Talent This Season But Always Finds a Way (USA Today Images)

Just kidding. No single person can replace what Williamson gave the Blue Devils last season (40.8 PER and 70.8% eFG), which represents one of the best seasons in the history of college basketball.

Actual Duke Burning Question: How will Mike Krzyzewski make all the new pieces fit?

Tre Jones is back to continue to be one of the most pesky on-ball defenders in the country. His pass-first mentality (24.0% assist rate) and ability to take care of the ball (13.2% turnover rate) were an ideal fit with stars like Williamson and RJ Barrett filling lanes. Without the benefit of their transcendent services, however, Duke will need more than just passing and defense from the sophomore. If defenses resort to giving him more space — remember, Jones shot just 26.2 percent from three-point range last season — he needs to knock down open shots at a higher clip for this team to reach its potential.

Duke’s freshman class, as usual, is one of the best in the country. Big man Vernon Carey is an old-school, below the rim player who will be tested against smaller lineups (and may even force Krzyzewski into a zone). Stretch-four Matthew Hurt will provide much needed outside shooting, while athletic wings Wendell Moore and Cassius Stanley round out the class. Krzyzewski will also make bigger asks of his returning players. The Blue Devils will rely on Javin DeLaurier (88.8 Defensive Rating) to guard more athletic big men; Alex O’Connell will be asked to add bulk to his 37.5 percent three-point shooting; and Jack White (27.8% 3FG) hopes to regain his stroke. It’s tough to see how these pieces will work together to make Duke an elite squad, but the Hall of Fame coach will no doubt find a way for the puzzle pieces to fit together.

North Carolina Burning Question: Is Cole Anthony college basketball’s next superstar?

Last year, it was Williamson who took the college basketball world by storm. Two seasons ago, it was Oklahoma point guard Trae Young. Here is a bet that North Carolina point guard Cole Anthony becomes the next can’t-miss, Twitter-trending, talking-head magnet of the game this year. We know how much talented point guards can thrive in a Roy Williams offense — it’s also reasonable to suggest that he has never had a talent at that spot quite like Anthony.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC Burning Questions, Part IV: Syracuse, Florida State & Louisville

Posted by Matt Auerbach on October 30th, 2019

Syracuse Burning Question: Can Elijah Hughes and the Orange make enough shots to spend a March off of the bubble?

It’s No Coincidence the Orange Man Resembles a Bubble (USA Today Images)

For a school with pedigree and a track record of sustained basketball excellence, the last half-decade has been somewhat of a slog for Syracuse. Almost perennially the power school at the heart of the bubble conversation, the Orange have lost 13 or more games in each of the last five campaigns. And with four starters gone from a 20-14 squad, Jim Boeheim‘s roster would suggest another March where his disposition is wrought with anxiety.

To avoid that fate, Syracuse will need to make more shots from all over the court. The Orange rated 229th nationally in effective field goal percentage a season ago, and were objectively poor from beyond the arc (229th), in two-point range (213th) and from the charity stripe (260th). The loss of its most accomplished scorer and offensive initiator, Tyus Battle, isn’t a great start on improving that ineptitude, but perhaps a more featured role for Elijah Hughes would pay dividends. Hughes led the team with 87 threes a year ago, and was the most efficient scorer the Orange had by a comfortable margin. However, he often times deferrred to Battle, Oshae Brissett and even Frank Howard, relegated to a catch-and-shoot man. This year, Hughes will undeniably be the alpha dog, and how he handles that elevation will likely tell the story of Syracuse’s season.

Florida State Burning Question: Is this the new normal at Florida State?

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC Burning Questions, Part 3: NC State, Notre Dame & Miami

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 28th, 2019

N.C. State Burning Question: Will the Wolfpack’s frontcourt be good enough?

Senior point guard Markell Johnson hopes to lead N.C. State back to the NCAA Tournament. (PackInsider)

For Kevin Keatts to lead the Wolfpack back to the NCAA Tournament in his third season in Raleigh, he must find a way to develop a better interior group — especially defensively — to complement his potent backcourt. Last year, NC State allowed its ACC opponents to make 51.6 percent of their two-point tries (13th in the ACC) and ranked ninth in the league in defensive rebounding. And, oh yeah, the Wolfpack lost their two best defensive rebounders (Torin Dorn and Wyatt Walker). Further mucking things up is the status of NC State’s best returning big man, DJ Funderburk who is serving an indefinite suspension. Even with Funderburk available, Keatts would have to rely on newcomers to help man the post. Redshirt freshman Manny Bates should bring rim protection, but his offense is a question mark. Lehigh graduate transfer Pat Andree is known for his outside shooting touch (41.9% 3FG last year) but entering the ACC will be a big step up in competition for him.

There is a plethora of talent and experience available on the Wolfpack’s perimeter. Leading the way will be senior point guard Markell Johnson (12.6 PPG, 4.2 APG, 42.2% 3FG) and his returning running mate, junior Braxton Beverly (9.4 PPG, 2.5 APG). On the wing, expect a pair of former transfers to show improvement in their second go-around in Raleigh. C.J. Bryce (11.6 PPG) and Devon Daniels (9.3 PPG) are the prototypical players to fit Keatts’ style. They both can shoot from distance, attack off the dribble, and harass opposing ball-handlers. Blake Harris recently decided to transfer out of the program, but that still leaves plenty of outside firepower. However, for NC State to return to the Big Dance, the guards will need help from their bigger buddies.

Notre Dame Burning Question: Will the Irish make some shots this year?

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC Burning Questions, Part 2: Clemson, Virginia Tech & Georgia Tech

Posted by Mick McDonald on October 24th, 2019

Clemson Burning Question: Can the Tigers score enough to compete?

Brad Brownell’s 10th Year at Clemson is a Transition One (USA Today Images)

As Dabo Swinney and the Clemson football team continue to reel off wins, the Tigers’ basketball team flies under the radar. That might be a good thing for Brad Brownell, as his club loses its top three scorers from a second round NIT squad. To make things tougher, Clemson’s projected starting point guard, Clyde Trapp, suffered a torn ACL over the summer. While Brownell’s teams pride themselves on defense (Clemson ranked 28th nationally in field goal percentage defense and 14th in adjusted defense, via KenPom), they’ll need to find someone to put the ball in the basket if they want to hang around the bubble. Forward Aamir Simms had a promising freshman year in 2017-18, but he regressed last year, seeing declines in his scoring (14.2 to 13.6 PPG) and conversion rate (53.6 to 52.5% eFG) and an increase in turnovers (13.9 to 15.1% TO). Sophomore guard John Newman could never really get going last season, but he’ll be counted on for a big increase in usage this year. Brownell will also rely on transfers, including versatile wing Tevin Mack (formerly of Texas and Alabama) and sharpshooting former Tulsa guard Curran Scott (39.6% 3FG). Look for freshman guards Al-Amir Dawes and Chase Hunter to get some run as well, with Clemson going perimeter-heavy around Simms as a small-ball five.

Virginia Tech Burning Question: Can Mike Young work magic in year one?

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC Burning Questions, Part 1: Boston College, Pittsburgh & Wake Forest

Posted by Matt Auerbach on October 22nd, 2019

Boston College Burning Question: Will the second consecutive early departure sabotage another campaign before it even begins?

Is All Lost at Boston College? (USA Today Images)

Despite what has amounted to a lost decade of hoops in Chestnut Hill, Jim Christian’s charges had a slight glimmer of hope when the 2017-18 season came to a close. Seven league wins, the most since 2013, and an NIT appearance, the first postseason of any kind since the same year, had Boston College excited for a breakthrough last season. However, when half of one of the league’s preeminent backcourts vaulted to the NBA (Jerome Robinson) and the other (Ky Bowman) opted to eschew his final year of eligibility a year later, the Eagles seem destined for yet another year of irrelevance, cemented at the bottom of the ACC standings.

To add injury to insult, the player most equipped to fill the dynamic shoes of Bowman, rising sophomore Wynston Tabbs, will miss the entire year after September knee surgery. Much will therefore fall on the shoulders of former five-star recruit Derryck Thornton, now at his third collegiate stop, and senior Nik Popovic, the team’s leading returning scorer and second-leading rebounder. Expectations are bleak, as Boston College is the only ACC school outside of the KenPom preseason top 100, and if that plays itself out on the floor, it seems unlikely that Christian will be back to steward the Eagles for a seventh season.

Pittsburgh Burning Question: Will Jeff Capel’s progress continue?

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC 2019-20 Tipoff

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 21st, 2019

We are now just over two weeks away from opening night in college basketball, so it’s time to start our preseason coverage here at the ACC microsite. Over the next two weeks we will provide key question previews of all 15 ACC schools and we will also be sharing our preseason thoughts on Twitter. Follow us there – @rtcACC, Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24), and Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald). But first, let’s put a bow on last season and take a quick peak ahead at the upcoming campaign.

2018-19 Recap

Redemption and miracle finishes were the themes in Virginia’s dramatic run to the 2019 National Championship. (USA TODAY Sports)

It was another highly successful year for the conference. The ACC became the first league in history to land the top three rankings in the final AP poll – Duke, Virginia and North Carolina – all of which earned #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Then, in one of the all-time best NCAA turnarounds, Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers collected the program’s first National Championship just one year after suffering the agonizing distinction of becoming the first top seed in history to fall to a #16 seed. To add to the drama, Virginia faced extreme peril in each of its final three games in last season’s tourney. According to KenPom’s win probability model, the Cavaliers overcame the following situations:

  • Elite Eight vs Purdue – Trailed 70-67 with 16 seconds to play (Win Probability = 12.2%)
  • Final Four vs Auburn – Trailed 61-57 with 17 seconds to play (Win Probability = 5.5%)
  • Title Game vs Texas Tech – Trailed 68-65 with 22 seconds to play (Win Probability = 13.0%)
Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC Conversation: NCAA Tournament Regional Recap

Posted by The ACC Team on April 3rd, 2019

Rush the Court’s ACC microsite team of Brad Jenkins, Matt Auerbach and Mick McDonald chat about the ACC’s lone Final Four participant, as well as the losses suffered by ACC squads in the regionals.

Zion Williamson’s Collegiate Career Ended in Washington, DC, on Sunday (USA Today Images)

Brad Jenkins: Welcome to April, fellas! Although it’s a little disappointing that only one of the ACC’s trio of top seeds made it through regional play, we still have the league’s best team, Virginia, heading to Minneapolis. But before we look ahead, let’s recap the amazing regionals action we just saw. Before we look at the individual ACC squads that perished, what are your overall thoughts on what we witnessed? Was this the best Elite Eight ever?

Mick McDonald: The 2005 NCAA Tournament is the standard bearer for amazing Elite Eights, and I think this year’s crop rates right up there with it. All four games featured two excellent teams playing at high levels in close games. We got two overtime games, a heavyweight battle between two legendary coaches, and one of the best individual performances in the history of the tournament from Purdue’s Carsen Edwards. Top it off with the amazing buzzer-beating scramble by Virginia to lock in an all-time moment, and I think you can make a pretty good argument for it being the best.

Matt Auerbach: All things being equal, the one that could rival this Elite Eight was, as Mick referenced, the one back in 2005. But, given the epic nature of the finish between Virginia and Purdue — with a backdrop of the performance of Edwards and the redemption of the Cavaliers — to highlight a weekend where another game went to overtime, another was decided by a point and another — Texas Tech vs. Gonzaga — was perhaps the best played of them all. It was an exhilarating set of games, and undeniably one of the best set of Elite Eight games ever.

Brad Jenkins: I’ve been watching this tournament since… well, let’s just say for quite a while. I can’t recall a better four games to get to the Final Four. And the Virginia-Purdue classic is on the short list of the best college games I’ve ever watched. Now, let’s talk a little about the ACC teams that bowed out in the Sweet Sixteen, beginning with Florida State and Virginia Tech. Tough losses for both programs, but historic seasons nonetheless.

Matt Auerbach: Yeah, I think Florida State just kind of ran into an off night situation with Gonzaga. It felt as though the Zags kept them at a comfortable distance throughout the contest, and the Seminoles could never get a spark to surge into the lead. As for the Hokies, you can’t get any closer than that!

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story