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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Five ACC Storylines to Watch this Offseason

Posted by Matt Patton on April 11th, 2016

With the long offseason ahead of us, let’s take a look at five key ACC storylines to keep an eye on over the summer.

  1. NCAA Sanctions: After investigations that surrounded both programs in different ways this season, there should finally be some closure for Louisville and North Carolina. Louisville is still trying to get in front of NCAA sanctions by self-imposing its own (in addition to this year’s postseason ban, the program also recently added recruiting penalties). This strategy has worked well for other schools, but predicting eventual NCAA punishments is an exercise in futility. North Carolina is the more interesting case — the Tar Heels may not receive any sanctions or they may get the book thrown at them. What remains unclear is whether there will be administrative fallout from either scandal. I would not be shocked if Rick Pitino ends up stepping down from his post — especially if the NCAA deems the Cardinals’ self-imposed penalties insufficient. But I would be shocked if Roy Williams did.

    Rick Pitino may be in for a stressful offseason. (photo: Getty Images)

    Rick Pitino may be in for a stressful offseason. (photo: Getty Images)

  2. Coaching Carousel: This is a slow year for the ACC in terms of coaching turnover. Pittsburgh lost Jamie Dixon to his alma mater, TCU, and Georgia Tech fired Brian Gregory. The Yellow Jackets were initially spurned by Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel and Bryce Drew (who went to Vanderbilt instead), and after reports that Cal’s Cuonzo Martin was their top candidate, athletic director Mike Bobinski hired Josh Pastner away from Memphis. Pastner is far from a sure thing in this spot, but he should be able to put more talented teams on the floor. Whether those teams will have more success than what Gregory mustered (two teams with winning records; no NCAA Tournament appearances) remains to be seen. In Pittsburgh, many fans were upset with the hiring of Kevin Stallings away from Vanderbilt (ironically, the response from Commodores’ fans mirrored Dayton fans after Georgia Tech hired Gregory). Stallings will have his work cut out for him in the Steel City, but he was a solid coach with several very good teams in Nashville. Like Jamie Dixon, he may have stuck around the same place a little too long, but there’s no reason to think he won’t do reasonably well there. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Way Too Early Power Rankings: Part II

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on April 8th, 2016

Yesterday we presented our projected order of finish next season for the bottom third of the ACC; today we will take a look at the upper two-thirds. The truth is that not all that much appears poised to change. Most of the contenders from this season should expect to be contenders again next season, and most of the teams that struggled are likely to do so again. However, one squad should enter the 2016-17 season as a clear favorite. With another top-ranked recruiting class and the return of several key players, Duke will be the conventional choice to win the ACC and compete for the national title next season. The ACC should also have three other teams that will rank among the top-15 nationally. After the top four, the next six teams could be placed in almost any order — the race should once again be that tight in the middle of the league. Here’s our top 10 as we look ahead to the 2016-17 season.

1) Duke

Grayson Allen led the way for Duke with 29 points. (Credit: Getty Images/ Jim Rogash)

Grayson Allen returns to a loaded Duke squad that will be the favorite to win the ACC in 2016-17. (Credit: Getty Images/ Jim Rogash)

  • Key Losses: Brandon Ingram, Marshall Plumlee
  • Key Additions: Amile Jefferson (RS-Injury), Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson
  • Nutshell: To say the Blue Devils will be loaded next season may be an understatement. The question will be whether Mike Krzyzewski can find sufficient chemistry between talented newcomers and veterans like when his team cut down the nets in Indianapolis in 2014-15. He hasn’t had this kind of depth in quite a while, but perhaps Coach K’s experience in managing minutes for his U.S. National Team this summer at the Brazil Olympics will be good training.

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North Carolina’s No Good Very Bad Ending to Fairy Tale Season

Posted by Matt Patton on April 7th, 2016

There’s no arguing that North Carolina is among college basketball royalty. The Tar Heels are one of only three programs with a truly national fan base (the other two are Duke and Kentucky). They own five national championships and consistently recruit a level of talent that most programs can only dream of. But with the news of a multi-year academic scandal and corresponding NCAA investigation hanging overhead, the carefully-curated lustre of “the Carolina Way” had faded. The uncertainty of the drawn-out investigation resulted in a surplus of negative recruiting and several classes that lagged behind the other national powerhouses.

Brice Johnson and North Carolina met their match Monday. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Brice Johnson and North Carolina met their match Monday. (Photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

“When you’re a kid growing up, you don’t dream of missing the last second shot, or a team beating you at the buzzer,” he said. “You dream of having that moment. That confetti. Seeing your family over there crying tears of joy. Hugging guys you’ve had blood, sweat and tears with for four years. That’s what you dream of. We were close to that dream.”Marcus Paige

All of this set the stage for Roy Williams to rebrand his team — one of college basketball’s elites — as a Cinderella despite starting the season as the top dog (preseason AP #1). Some experts quickly left the Tar Heels’ bandwagon after they blew a mid-November double-figure second half lead at Northern Iowa (a team that was ultimately one broken press away from the Sweet Sixteen, remember). A narrative has existed over the last few years — promoted incessantly by Dan Dakich’s egocentric view of history — that North Carolina lacked toughness. The early loss to the Panthers played into that narrative, but it more or less became gospel when the Tar Heels allowed a lesser Duke squad to steal a February victory in Chapel Hill even with Matt Jones injured for most of the game. Suddenly Doug Gottlieb was mentioning that Williams was considering retirement to allow Hubert Davis to assume the helm. Since that loss on February 17, the Tar Heels played with an “us against the world” mentality that we hadn’t seen from them. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Way Too Early Power Rankings: Part I

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on April 7th, 2016

After a pair of impressive performances in the NCAA Tournament over the last two years, how will the ACC measure up next season? Based on what we know to this point, it looks like 2016-17 could be another very strong year for the league. Some roster adjustments — transfers and the like — will naturally occur between now and October; and a new NCAA policy allowing college players until May 25 to declare for the NBA Draft is likely to impact a few rosters as well. Today we list our bottom five teams heading into next season; tomorrow we will reveal our top 10. To get started, here is how the 15 ACC teams finished this season, ranked in order of their final KenPom rating.

Most of this season’s lowest-rated teams are projected as improved next year, while several schools near the top may drop off slightly. That means we should once again expect a logjam in the middle of the league standings. The following predictions assume the return of the following players who have declared for the NBA Draft but will more than likely be back.

  • Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
  • Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
  • Chinanu Onuaku, Louisville
  • Abdul-Malik Abu, N.C. State

On to the 2016-17 way too early power rankings:

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On Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim: Hall of Fame Alumni

Posted by Matt Patton on April 2nd, 2016

Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim couldn’t seem more different on most days. Both reflect their environments: one is a cranky New Yorker; the other sounds every bit like he grew up in Swannanoa, North Carolina (a town of fewer than 5,000 people in the eastern North Carolina mountains). But the two have fascinating reputations to unpack.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, left, and North Carolina head coach Roy Williams, right, greet each other before for the start of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. Syracuse won 57-45. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, left, and North Carolina head coach Roy Williams, right, greet each other before for the start of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. Syracuse won 57-45. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

Williams was a longtime assistant for Dean Smith, and he rarely lets an opportunity get by without letting you know about it. Everything from his disinterest in calling timeouts to stop opponent runs to his frequent first half subbing harken back to his assistant coaching tenure under Smith. After a decade on the Tar Heels’ bench, Williams left in 1988 to take over a Kansas program in disarray as a result of Larry Brown. Hardly a rebuilding job, though, Williams made the NCAA Tournament in every year he was in Lawrence except his first (the Jayhawks were still on probation). He wound up taking Kansas to the Final Four a total of four times, including the 2002-03 season, right before he left for Chapel Hill. At the time, Williams famously said, “I could give a sh– about North Carolina,” immediately following his championship game loss to (ironically) Jim Boeheim and Syracuse.

Back at his alma mater starting in 2003, Williams took over a floundering program that had lost 36 games in its previous two seasons (it would take Williams six years to log 36 losses). Matt Doherty bequeathed him a young team with many of the players Williams would ride to his first national championship — Raymond Felton, Jawad Williams, Sean May and Jackie Manuel. But Williams’ Tar Heels bore no resemblance to the ones coached by Doherty. They ran like the wind and turned the undersized May into an unstoppable juggernaut. It’s impossible to consider now, but North Carolina was arguably one more bad hire away from long-term irrelevance (with Coach K just down the road having just won his third championship in 2001).

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ACC Back in the Final Four With Two Teams, Again…

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 31st, 2016

When North Carolina squares off with Syracuse in Saturday’s late national semifinal, it will mark the sixth time in league history that the ACC has entered two schools into the season’s final weekend. It’s been a great March Madness showing for the conference, with a record six schools in the Sweet Sixteen, a record-tying four teams in the Elite Eight, and an overall 18-5 record. The last time the ACC sent two teams to the Final Four was in 2004, when the league still carried nine teams. Since then, the ACC has undergone two major expansions that resulted in an immediate and noticeable downturn in its long tradition of basketball excellence. But combined with last year’s fine NCAA Tourney showing, it appears that the ACC has regained its status as the best among the nation’s major hoops conferences.

Marcus Paige and North Carolina will face a familiar foe in Saturday's National Semi-Finals. (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)

Marcus Paige and North Carolina will face a familiar foe in Saturday’s National Semifinals. (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s a little surprising how often individual conferences send multiple teams to the same Final Four. Of course, only one school per conference could participate in the NCAA Tournament for the first 36 years of the event. That changed in 1975 — thanks in large part to Maryland’s exclusion in 1974 — and, from there, it only took one season for a league to place two teams in the season’s final weekend — Indiana defeated fellow Big Ten school Michigan in the 1976 title game. In 1980, the Big Dance became a fully open tournament, with no limit on the number of teams a conference could send. Since then, 65 percent (24 of 37) of the subsequent Final Fours have featured multiple teams from the same conference. Particular hats off to the 1985 Big East, a league that sent three of its members to the Final Four. As you can see below, the Big Ten leads the way with multiple appearances over that span.

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ACC Crashes the Sweet Sixteen Party in Unprecedented Way

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 23rd, 2016

The ACC has advanced a record six teams into the Sweet Sixteen of this year’s NCAA Tournament, giving the league an impressive total of 11 appearances in the second weekend over the last two years. Last year’s placement of five ACC teams in the regional semifinals was only the second time a conference had put that many teams there (Big East — 2009), but this year’s sextet marked a new record for postseason conference superiority. There has since understandably been much discussion on how to contextualize this year’s performance, and we’ll weigh in on that question while examining its meaningfulness for the conference as a whole.

The Biggest ACC Surprise is One of the Most Recognizable Names (USA Today Images)

The Biggest ACC Surprise is One of the Most Recognizable Names (USA Today Images)

The ACC has gone through two major expansions in the last dozen years, poaching schools from the Big East in each case. At least dating back to the early 1980s, those two leagues (often along with the Big Ten) have waged battle for the prestigious title of best conference in college basketball. The league’s first round of additions (Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College) in the mid-2000s were added for their prestigious football programs and lucrative television markets — the result was that the league’s status as first among basketball powers slumped. But the most recent ACC expansion north resulted in the acquisition of four good-to-great basketball programs. The arrivals of Syracuse, Louisville, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh sparked notions that the ACC could become the best basketball conference ever assembled. And so far, so good. After a shaky first year as a bulky 15-team league, the ACC has now logged two consecutive seasons of impressive postseason success. Two of the ACC’s six Sweet Sixteen participants this year are recent additions (Syracuse and Notre Dame), and a third newcomer, Louisville, would have certainly been a high seed had the Cardinals been eligible this year.

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NCAA Tournament Instareaction: ACC

Posted by Matt Patton on March 13th, 2016

The ACC got seven bids to the NCAA Tournament. While not a huge surprise, Syracuse was very, very fortunate to earn an at-large bid. Additionally, Roy Williams ended up correctly predicting that both North Carolina and Virginia would wind up on the top seed line. Here are some quick best- and worst-case scenarios for the ACC teams in the field.

North Carolina celebrates winning the championship game of the 2016 New York Life ACC Tournament in Washington, DC, Saturday, March 12, 2016. (Photo by Liz Condo,

North Carolina Celebrated Another ACC Tournament Title Yesterday. (Photo by Liz Condo,

North Carolina (#1 East): The Tar Heels were the second overall seed, which shows how much the committee respects winning both the regular season and conference tournament titles (and perhaps also considered the time Marcus Paige missed from injury). That means a pair of opening round games in Raleigh, but the bad news for North Carolina fans is that the #4 and #5 seeds in the region (Kentucky and Indiana) are both grossly underseeded. It almost guarantees a challenging Sweet Sixteen game in Philadelphia.

  • Best Case: The Tar Heels build on their recent momentum and win the National Championship.
  • Worst Case: North Carolina’s Sweet Sixteen opponent is firing on all cylinders from behind the arc and sends the Tar Heels packing.

Virginia (#1 Midwest): In another surprise twist, Virginia was a #1 seed and the third overall (the committee must have watched the ACC Tournament!) with a trip to Raleigh on tap for the first weekend. The Cavaliers have a great chance to make it to the regional in Chicago, but #5 Purdue could be a very challenging Sweet Sixteen opponent. The rest of the bracket is favorable with one glaring exception: #2 seed Michigan State. The Spartans will be favored to meet Virginia in the Elite Eight and have ended Virginia’s postseason in each of the past two seasons.

  • Best Case: Virginia finally breaks through and silences the doubters with the school’s first National Championship.
  • Worst Case: Virginia, worn out by an incredibly talented Purdue team, is destroyed by the Spartans (leaving Tony Bennett thrilled that he opted to not go to the Big Ten).

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