ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part I Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 16th, 2017

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Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings. All times are Eastern.

  1. Charleston Classic: Clemson (#49) tips off the ACC’s early season tournament action later this afternoon, taking on Ohio (#153) in the first round of the Charleston Classic (ESPN2 – 5:00 PM). On Friday night, the Tigers will play either Dayton (#106) or Hofstra (#120) and the championship game will be played on Sunday night (ESPN2 – 9:30 PM). This event has a solid and balanced field this season — the eight teams playing are a combined 10-0 so far, and are all rated between #48 (Auburn) and #163 (Indiana State, which won at Indiana in its opener). Clemson has a decent shot at its first title in an exempt tournament since they won this event way back in 2008. Brad Brownell’s team should enjoy a slight home crowd advantage if the Tigers’ fans aren’t too consumed with Saturday’s football game against The Citadel earlier that afternoon in Death Valley.
  2. 2K Classic: Virginia Tech (#45) heads to Madison Square Garden tonight for the 2K Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project. The Hokies face Saint Louis (#163) in tonight’s opener (ESPN2 – 7:00 PM) with Providence (#32) and Washington (#130) squaring off in the nightcap. The two winners will meet in Friday night’s championship game (ESPN2 – 7:30 PM). The Hokies are off to a nice 2-0 start this year and currently rank second in the nation in scoring per game (121.5 PPG). If they meet a solid Providence squad in tomorrow’s title game (ESPN2 – 7:30 PM), it would be a great opportunity for Buzz Williams to make an early statement.
  3. Paradise Jam: Normally this event takes place in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but because of major damage to those islands from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, will serve as the tournament host this year. Wake Forest (#69) won’t get the Caribbean experience but Danny Manning probably isn’t in much of a vacation mood anyway after dropping the season’s first two games at home —  including Tuesday night’s 13-point loss to none other than Liberty. The Demon Deacons will face Drake (#221) in their opening tilt on Friday night (8:30 PM), and if Wake Forest advances as expected (no sure thing at this point), it would likely get Colorado (#81) in Saturday’s semifinals (8:30 PM) and perhaps Houston (#58) in Sunday evening’s title game (8:30 PM). It appears that none of the tournament will be televised but live streaming will be available for all the games on FLOHOOPS.COM.
  4. Jamaica Classic: Unlike most of its fellow Caribbean island resorts, Montego Bay was mostly unaffected by this season’s major hurricanes so it can host this event as planned. Instead of using the traditional winner-advance tournament format, all of the match-ups here have been predetermined. Florida State (#52) will play two games against teams with the same nickname (Rams). On Friday (CBSSports – 6:00 PM), the Seminoles will take on Fordham (#200) with another game against Colorado State (#121) coming on Sunday afternoon (CBSSports – 5:00 PM). It’s too bad that Rhode Island — the best of the “Rams” schools — was unavailable for this event, but regardless of that, Florida State isn’t likely to get much of a schedule strength bump from these two games.
  5. Hall of Fame Tip-Off: Boston College (#91) is off to one of its best starts in recent memory, trouncing three bottom-50 schools by an average of 26.3 points per contest. The competition will be at a much higher level this weekend at Mohegan Sun Arena, however, as the Eagles will meet Texas Tech (#31) on Saturday (ESPN3 – Noon) followed by either Northwestern (#33) or La Salle (#109) on Sunday afternoon. ESPN2 will air both of the games on Sunday — beginning with the consolation game at 3:00 PM, followed by the championship game at around 5:30 PM. After this event we will have a better gauge on just how improved Jim Christian’s team really is this year.
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ACC Weekly 5: 11.15.17 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 15th, 2017

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  1. Sports Illustrated: For the most part, Duke’s battle with second-ranked Michigan State last night lived up to the hype. The game was borderline unwatchable because of frequent whistles for stretches of the second half, but the rest of the evening showcased two very talented teams squaring off in an electric environment. The top story from Duke’s victory will be Grayson Allen‘s scorching three-point shooting (7-of-11 3FG), but Trevon Duval’s superb point guard play may do more in the long run to shore up the narrative that the Blue Devils are this year’s favorite to cut down the nets. In sadder news, associate head coach Jeff Capel’s father, Jeff Capel, Jr., succumbed to ALS yesterday. Capel had coached everywhere from high school to the NBA, including a particularly successful stint at Old Dominion from 1994-2001.
  2. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Everyone knew Pittsburgh would be bad this season, but back-to-back losses to open the season against Navy and Montana just hammer the Panthers’ struggles home. Only a little over 3,000 fans showed up to watch Kevin Stallings‘ team lose its second game of the season, which bodes poorly for the second-year coach’s future at the helm. Very rarely is firing a coach at midseason a good idea, but it doesn’t take very long to drift into irrelevance so the program should consider drastic measures. The long shadow of Jamie Dixon’s unceremonious departure (along with Stallings’ buyout) will make hiring the Panthers’ next coach even more challenging.
  3. Durham Herald-Sun: All aboard the Kevin Keatts train! The new NC State coach got a bevy of good news this week as incoming freshman Braxton Beverly was deemed eligible to play right away (following a somewhat controversial NCAA ruling that meant he had to sit out). That good news was followed up by top-rated junior college recruit Kevin Funderbunk announcing his decision to play for the Wolfpack next season. Oh, and don’t forget that NC State is undefeated (3-0) and has not been tested yet this young season. Alas, the wins came against three teams that are an insult to cupcakes, and it’s still a transition season in Raleigh, but things are already looking up.
  4. Winston-Salem Journal: Conversely, things are not looking up in Winston-Salem. After a brutal 0-2 start with losses to Georgia Southern and Liberty at home, Danny Manning’s team looks like it belongs in the Jeff Bzdelik era. Bryant Crawford attributed the team’s struggles to a lack of effort on defense, but some of those are likely growing pains following the drastic change in composition of the team between last year and now. Luckily for the Demon Deacons, their non-conference schedule mostly remains manageable, so they have a little time to figure things out. Still, barring a miraculous run in conference play, it’s safe to already count Wake Forest out of the Big Dance.
  5. Collegiate Times: Virginia Tech hasn’t played anyone yet, which should add a grain of salt to the Hokies’ fast-paced domination in their first two games (against The Citadel, there were a staggering 95 possessions as Virginia Tech scored over 130 points). Negativity aside, Nickeil Alexander-Walker has been phenomenal to start the season. If he can continue his robust production into conference play, Buzz Williams is set.
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Rushed Reactions: #4 Kansas 65, #7 Kentucky 61

Posted by Walker Carey on November 15th, 2017

RTC is providing coverage of the Champions Classic in Chicago.

Three Key Takeaways.

Kansas and Kentucky Battled It Out in Chicago Tonight (USA Today Images)

  1. This was the very definition of an early season college basketball game. After the first game of the Champions Classic exhibited two elite teams duking it out to the end in very exciting fashion, the second game between Kansas and Kentucky — while also close — left something to be desired. The Jayhawks earned the 65-61 victory despite shooting just 35.3 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from the three-point line, and 56.3 percent from the charity stripe. The starting backcourt was even worse — Devonte’ Graham, LaGerald Vick and Malik Newman shot just 11-of-41 for the game. Kentucky shot the ball somewhat better –finishing at 41.8 percent from the field — but torpedoed its chance to win with 18 turnovers. These ugly performances certainly make sense when you consider Kansas is clearly still adjusting to life without Frank Mason II and Josh Jackson, and Kentucky is once again breaking in an entirely new rotation. There are more growing pains coming for both teams as they maneuver through the regular season, but the talent is definitely there for each team to be a factor in both its conference and the national landscape.
  2. Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox gave Kentucky fans a glimpse of the future. While several Kentucky freshmen struggled on the big stage in Chicago tonight, Diallo and Knox showed flashes of what made them such highly-sought recruits in the first place. Diallo’s speed and athleticism were on full display, as his tenacious defense bothered the Kansas backcourt all night and led to several difficult shots. The Wildcats, on the other hand, needed someone to step up offensively and Knox provided that boost. The freshman scored a game-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting (3-of-6 from the three-point line). Freshman growth is not linear, but both Diallo and Knox took substantial steps in the right direction in tonight’s defeat.
  3. Kansas needs to find a way to get Udoka Azubuike more touches. In a game where Kansas struggled to get normal production from its backcourt, it instead found great success in pounding the ball inside to sophomore seven-footer Azubuike. The big man finished the game with 13 points and eight rebounds while making all five of his shots from the field. It was baffling to understand how he only got five shot attempts in 34 minutes — especially considering how poorly Kansas shot from the perimeter — but Bill Self made it known in his postgame remarks that his guards need to do a better job of getting the ball to Azubuike.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Duke 88, #2 Michigan State 81

Posted by Walker Carey on November 14th, 2017

RTC is providing coverage of the Champions Classic in Chicago.

Three Key Takeaways.

Duke’s Grayson Allen Led the Blue Devils to a Marquee Victory (USA Today Images)

  1. This should be a game we all want to see again in San Antonio. While not always the most fundamentally sound contest, tonight’s clash between the Blue Devils and Spartans certainly lived up to the hype in terms of star power and excitement. Even though it was played in mid-November, it most certainly had a big game feel. Both the Duke and Michigan State fans that journeyed to the United Center for the showdown made their presence known throughout what was a hotly-contested affair. The only real bummer from the game was that Duke star freshman big man Marvin Bagley III left the game just prior to the 10-minute mark of the first half after taking an inadvertent poke to the eye from teammate Javin DeLaurier. Both squads feature many young contributors, so it is fair to assume they will each get better as the season progresses. At this point, it is difficult to argue that a Final Four or National Championship game between Duke and Michigan State would not once again be appointment viewing. These could be the best two teams in college basketball.
  2. Grayson Allen is once again going to be headline the news all season long. The player a majority of college basketball fans love to hate is back for his senior season — and, if tonight’s performance serves as any indication, that senior season is going to be rather noteworthy. While playing all 40 minutes, Allen led the Blue Devils to victory with a game-high 37 points (11-of-20 FG, 7-of-11 3FG) and came up with big shot after big shot down the stretch when his team needed them most. After a junior year that was marred by another tripping controversy, some nagging injuries and overall inconsistent play, the senior guard is beginning this season by letting his play garner the headlines. Considering Duke’s otherwise young roster, it would be beneficial for Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils if that trend continues throughout the season.
  3. Even in defeat, Michigan State can still take away some positives. The Spartans are certainly disappointed by tonight’s result, but disappointment should not be the only thing they take from this evening’s defeat. Even though he struggled to get in the lane for much of the night against Duke’s size and length, star sophomore Miles Bridges still finished the game with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and four blocks. Michigan State also received a lift from its interior, as both freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. and sophomore Nick Ward battled valiantly with Duke’s frontcourt all night. Jackson finished with 19 points and seven rebounds while showcasing the reasons why he is considered an elite NBA prospect. Ward also chipped in 19 points while using his wide frame to force Duke’s young front line into some foul trouble. A loss is a loss, but this was one that left the Spartans with things they can build upon moving forward.

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Morning Five: 11.14.17 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 14th, 2017

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  1. R.J. Barrett‘s commitment to Duke seems to be a case of the rich getting richer as Mike Krzyzewski continues to rack to highly-rated recruits. It was not that long ago that it seemed like John Calipari was luring almost every top recruit to Kentucky, but over the past few years Krzyzewski has certainly held his own. In Barrett, Duke gets its third straight #1 recruit following Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley III. Barrett, a 6’7″ small forward who recently reclassified from the class of 2019 to the class of 2018, chose Duke over Oregon and Kentucky. Although there are still several top recruits who have not committed it looks like the Blue Devils have a good shot at finishing the year with the #1 recruiting class as they already have commitments two other top-10 recruits (Cam Reddish and Tre Jones).
  2. Darius Garland committing to Vanderbilt might not draw the same level of attention as Barrett’s commitment to Duke, but it is more surprising. As RTC alumnus Chris Johnson notes Garland, a five-star recruit, is taking an unconventional route bypassing the traditional powerhouses. Garland had been considering Indiana, Kentucky, and UCLA, but ultimately decided to stay in his home state. It’s unclear if Garland’s commitment will help Bryce Drew lure in any more recruits, but it cannot hurt.
  3. Like most people we were surprised by BYU junior guard Nick Emery announcement that he was withdrawing from school this year. Like most people we originally assumed it was the result of an investigation into whether he may have received impermissible benefits, but according to Emery the reason for him withdrawing was the stress from a divorce although some find that hard to believe. Whatever the reason, it is a big loss as the Cougars will be hard-pressed to replace the talent of a player who averaged 16.3 points per game as a freshman (his numbers were down slightly across the board as a sophomore).
  4. On Friday, Oklahoma State announced that preseason first-team All-Big 12 guard Jeffrey Carroll would be held out amid eligibility concerns. Carroll, who averaged 17.6 points (on 53.7% shooting) and 6.6 rebounds per game last season, could return as early as next week although we are never sure how long these investigations will take especially with the FBI involved. Getting Carroll back would be a huge lift for the Cowboys particularly with a game against Texas A&M looming on November 20.
  5. We usually are not interested in stories about athletes not qualifying academically since all the stories tend to be similar (player bounced around from school to school, etc), but the story of Stanford freshman Kezie Okpala caught our eye. Okpala, a top-50 recruit in the class of 2017, was ruled ineligible because of a grade he received in an AP Calculus class in his last semester of high school. We aren’t sure what Stanford’s policy is in accepting high school credits or what the rest of Okpala’s academic transcript looks like, but it seems absurd that someone taking AP calculus could fail to qualify academically (albeit by the standards of one of the top universities in the world) while the vast majority of players will never take a math class that challenging in college much less high school. More than anything it speaks to the absurdity of the NCAA or any other governing body determining academic eligibility when schools vary so widely in their academic requirements.
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What’s Trending: Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 13th, 2017

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

The road to San Antonio started on Friday…

It’s only after one game, but… Cincinnati is the best team in the country…

It’s only after one game, but… Frank Haith‘s seat is getting warmer…

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Morning Five: Opening Day 2017 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 10th, 2017

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  1. In an off-season filled with too many negative stories to keep track of, one of the bright spots is the return of Michigan State sophomore Miles Bridges. To most, his decision to return to school forgoing (or at least delaying) millions of dollars was irrational, but as Carvell Wallace notes Bridges does have his reasons to return for at least one more season. While we still can’t say that we agree with his decision it does provide a better rationalization than we have seen elsewhere and gives good insight into who Bridges is.
  2. On Tuesday we mentioned that Bruce Pearl‘s job might not be secure, but we had no idea that the next day news would come out that he was refusing to cooperate with Auburn and its investigation into the FBI allegations. If that is true and Pearl continues to refuse to cooperate with the administration we do not understand how he can stay on at the school. Pearl is a good coach, but not nearly good enough to compensate for a mediocre performance at the school with a show-cause in his recent past and his unwillingness to work with the school in a federal investigation.
  3. Compared to the other legal issues we have seen around college basketball lately the misdemeanor charges filed against Connecticut junior Jalen Adams seem pretty trivial. Adams, who averaged 14.4 points and 6.1 assists per game last season, has been charged with a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of an accident after he crashed his scooter into another scooter during an on-campus race. Unless he has had disciplinary issues in the past that we are not aware of we expect that Adams won’t face any significant punishment.
  4. When North Carolina defended its basketball program by saying that the student-athletes had not been granted special privileges because the fraudulent classes they had taken were available to all students we wondered when its academic accrediting body would come around questioning its academic standards. It looks like that day might be coming soon as The News & Observer (the paper that led the investigation into the scandal) reported that accrediting body is taking a deeper look into the school. We doubt that the school will face any major penalties, but it seems odd that the school defended its basketball program by throwing itself under the bus.
  5. The suspensions of Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson got more complex on Tuesday when Gary Parrish reported that Ron Bell (a former friend of Josh Pastner) was the individual who provided the players with the impermissible benefits. We are struggling to understand why Bell would turn on Pastner, a man he says saved his life when he was dealing with drug addiction, but it does appear that Bell has solid evidence of providing benefits to the two players and speaking extensively with Pastner on October 2, the day that the school announced the suspensions. The school has not given much in the way of a response to these allegations and it is unlikely that Pastner will face any long-term consequences from this (other than maybe his reputation within coaching circles), but we are almost certain that the people who will be affected by this the most are Okogie and Jackson.
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The 2017-18 RTC16: Preseason Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on November 9th, 2017

And so it begins — that wonderful time of year when we once again see old familiar faces on the television along with our favorite teams playing college basketball. It is a glorious time, indeed. With a sizable slate of games set to commence on Friday, we officially unveil our 2017-18 preseason (and revamped) RTC Top 16. We have decided to trim our poll from 25 to 16 teams this season as a means to provide more thorough analysis and justifications for the best teams in the country. This initial poll will hold for the next 10 days or so, but you can expect our weekly regular season RTC16 to release on every subsequent Monday morning starting November 20. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick and dirty analysis that dives more deeply into how those teams are shaking out from top to bottom. To see how we did last year, check out our 2016-17 preseason poll — sure, we nailed a few (North Carolina, Oregon, Kansas, Gonzaga and Kentucky), and missed on some others (Indiana, Syracuse, Connecticut and Texas). We promise we will try to do better this time around. Here’s the preseason poll. Enjoy opening weekend!

Quick N’ Dirty Thoughts.

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Morning Five: 11.07.17 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 7th, 2017

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  1. We hate to open a M5 before the season begins by speculating about a coach’s future, but we do wonder how long of a leash Bruce Pearl has at Auburn. When Pearl came to Auburn following his run-in with the NCAA that resulted in a show-cause penalty, the general consensus was that he would quickly turn the Tigers into a contender. Unfortunately for Pearl and the Auburn administration,  that process has taken longer than anticipated and this year’s team was hit with a big setback when they announced that Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley, two of their top players, will be held out indefinitely as they are part of an ongoing investigation that is believed to be related to Chuck Person and the FBI. That announcement was followed by an exhibition loss to Division II Barry University and the news that longtime athletic director Jay Jacobs will be stepping down at the end of the academic year. If Pearl doesn’t show some signs of progress and there are signs of the FBI investigation moving beyond Person, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a new athletic director move in another direction.
  2. The Tigers are far from the only team to be feeling the effects of the FBI investigation. In fact, in their own state, Alabama announced yesterday that it will be holding out Collin Sexton, one of the most hyped freshman in the country, while they investigate potential eligibility issues that also appear to be related to the FBI investigation. Sexton’s absence could be a massive blow to an Alabama team that appears to be on the verge of making a breakthrough this year. Without Sexton and his offensive firepower (MVP of the U-17 World Championships where he led the US in scoring and assists) those hopes of a NCAA Tournament appearance would be in serious jeopardy.
  3. Staying in the SEC, but avoiding the FBI (for now), Texas A&M  will be without the services of Robert Williams for the first two games of the regular season after he was suspended for a violation of school policy. Williams (11.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game as a freshman) is a potential lottery pick and his absence against West Virginia in the season-opening will make an upset even more unlikely. As as Williams comes back to the team focused, the Aggies should be one of the top teams in the SEC. Like the absence of Williams, we would not worry too much about Duke suspending freshman point guard Trevon Duval from its exhibition against Bowie State this Saturday for a violation of team rules. While we would normally be more worried about a freshman getting suspended so early, Duke has enough experience with Grayson Allen in the backcourt that they should be able to withstand any growing pains while Duval adjusts to college life.
  4. While not nearly on the level of the FBI investigation, Georgia Tech‘s announcement that it will be holding Tadric Jackson and Josh Okogie out of games indefinitely for receiving impermissible benefits could have an enormous impact on their season. Jackson and Okogie reportedly received less than $525 and $750, respectively, in benefits from a booster. Based on precedent, in addition to repaying the person who provided the benefits, Jackson would be expected to miss 20% of the regular season (six games) and Okogie would be expected to miss 30% of the regular season (nine games), but as we all know this is up to the discretion of the NCAA and at this point we don’t know what that will mean.
  5. Many people downplay the importance of preseason polls, but at the very least they signal the imminent arrival of the college basketball season (and they are actually fairly accurate). This year’s preseason poll wasn’t particularly shocking as it is mostly based on projections and there tends to be quite a bit of groupthink with these things. The most interesting things to us are that four of the top five teams will be playing in the Champions Class, which usually has at least two or three top-5 teams, but based on our recollection it has never had all four in that category. The other is that the voters seem to be assuming that a lot of players will be able to maintain their eligibility despite the ongoing NCAA investigation.
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What’s Trending: Countdown to Tip-Off

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 7th, 2017

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

You know college basketball is around the corner when…

Jay Bilas and friends are forced to go after the NCAA following another head-scratching decision…

You know college basketball is around the corner when…

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