ACC Tournament: Three Thoughts On NC State – North Carolina

Posted by mpatton on March 11th, 2012

A lot of controversy surrounded North Carolina‘s 69-67 win over NC State and the officiating. I already wrote my comments on the officiating. This article is about the game.

  • NC State was moving the wrong direction when CJ Leslie fouled out. All of the controversy surrounding the calls that lead to Leslie’s fifth foul overshadowed the events surrounding the game. North Carolina was on a 7-0 run, and NC State’s body language was really bad. Leslie, who up to that point had carried the Wolfpack, looked worse than anyone else. Even the coaching staff was in disarray: Mark Gottfried admitted after the game that he didn’t know it was Leslie’s fifth. But when he fouled out, it fired up NC State–namely Lorenzo Brown–and it finally pushed back to having a chance to win it in the last minute. Two turnovers–the second of which thwarted a wide open game-tying layup by DeShawn Painter–are what directly cost the Wolfpack the game. And give credit to Justin Watts for hustling and getting his hands on that pass when it looked like Painter was all alone.

    Lorenzo Brown Took Over After CJ Leslie Fouled Out.

  • Kendall Marshall played another very good, multi-faceted offensive game. Don’t look now but he’s scored in double figures in each of his last three games shooting 53% from the floor (and 6-11 from beyond the arc). He’s continued his record-setting assist campaign, dishing 10, 12 and 10 dimes in the games. If that continues, North Carolina is really tough to guard.
  • Tyler Zeller had another outstanding game, but he wasn’t able to take it to the next level until NC State bigs got in foul trouble. Obviously, that’s a little bit of a circular argument because guarding him is what got them in foul trouble to begin with. But it will be interesting to see how he performs against Florida State‘s physical front line with limited time from Henson (in the first game Zeller went for 14 points and 14 boards; Henson went 10 points and only 3 boards).
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A Rational Discussion of ACC Officiating

Posted by mpatton on March 11th, 2012

I waited a few hours to write this article because I wanted a chance to digest the game and get past the officiating. Instead it became about the officiating in NC State‘s loss to North Carolina, which I think was bad throughout but also very one-sided. I don’t think there’s a conspiracy in the ACC. I also can guarantee I couldn’t do a better job than the guys on the floor. But I do think that referees, no matter how hard they try not to, come to games with biases that affect 50/50 calls. Officiating requires making a split-second decision. That’s why selling contact is so successful. There’s no slow-mo or replays, and officials can’t even wait to see which way you fall (when they do, everyone including myself rips them for making late calls). Blocks and charges are the most difficult of these calls. Anytime someone falls down there are three choices: block, charge or no-call. But someone could hit the deck at any time. It’s not like players raise their hands and say, “Sir, I’m going to get a little out of control here but not lower my shoulder. Keep an eye on my defender’s feet for me.”

Gottfried Wouldn't Discuss Officiating Afterward

The biases come into play when it’s truly a 50/50 call, but you have to make the call. No matter what, officials are going to know that North Carolina is a good team and Tyler Zeller is a good player. Even if you brought in a top-notch official who’d never heard of Zeller, it wouldn’t take very long for him or her to figure it out. Knowing this, when a 50/50 play happens with Zeller, an official is more likely to give him the benefit of the doubt. In an ideal world, would they see everything and make the right call regardless of the context (player, team, time, etc.)? Yes.

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ACC Tournament: Semifinals Preview

Posted by mpatton on March 10th, 2012

This is the juciest semifinals the ACC Tournament had to offer: rematch of NC StateNorth Carolina (where it’s likely John Henson will be limited at best) that will seal NC State’s NCAA bid, pride and return to relevance with a win and the DukeFlorida State rubber match (where Ryan Kelly is hurt) featuring the Seminoles playing better basketball.

NC State Gets One More Shot At Its Rival.

I give both underdogs very good odds at winning. NC State could go either way: the team was amped after beating Virginia so this could be a bit of an emotional letdown game, but in a rivalry game I expect the Wolfpack to be in top form. CJ Leslie is playing as well as anyone right now and the Wolfpack have the athleticism to run with the Tar Heels (especially when some of the alternative lineups are on the floor). I expect Kendall Marshall and Henson to get plenty of rest so that’s a lot of those alternative minutes.

Florida State should have a little bit of an edge against Duke sans Kelly. The one thing that will keep Duke in it is Florida State’s recent inability to close games. If the Plumlees get into foul trouble like they did in Tallahassee, we’ll be seeing a whole lot of Josh Hairston. And while the Seminoles have struggled against teams playing small ball, Hairston isn’t exactly a stretch-four like Kelly.

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ACC Tournament: Three Thoughts From Duke – Virginia Tech

Posted by mpatton on March 9th, 2012

Duke ground out a 60-56 win over Virginia Tech, giving the Hokies their twelfth loss by five points or less this season.

  • This game was nearly as ugly as the Miami-Georgia Tech slugfest last night. Tyler Thornton and Austin Rivers combined to take 57% of Duke’s shots. And while it wasn’t pretty, both guys came up with the big plays when Duke needed them. Rivers kept the team in business at the beginning of the game before letting his frustration get the better of him. It was his full-court sprint for a tipped ball that iced the game after he completed the and-one. Thornton was more important defensively, coming up with three steals, but he also deserves credit for knocking down a very big three to put Duke’s lead back at eight when it looked like the Hokies were making a push.

    Ryan Kelly Is Critical For Duke's Success This Month

  • Virginia Tech’s offense needs work this offseason. A lot of it. The Hokies waste way too much time on offense. Duke played decent defense, and Seth Greenberg mentioned slowing the game down as part of the game plan. But successful clock-chewing teams squeeze 25-30 seconds out of every possession and take good shots (see: Wisconsin). Robert Brown’s 3-3 halftime stat line, and offensive rebounding were the only bright spots. The Hokies’ defense was very effective though. It forced Duke’s offense to flow through Thornton, and made it very hard for Duke to get the ball inside (though once the ball got into the lane, the Blue Devils were effective scoring).
  • The Blue Devils really need a healthy Ryan Kelly to make a run in March. Without Kelly Duke’s bench only managed six points. His absence also spotlights frontcourt depth issues. Mason Plumlee played a very “intelligent” game according to Mike Krzyzewski, but both Plumlees are liable to pick up fouls. Kelly’s ability to stretch the defense would’ve opened up the lane a lot more for Rivers to drive and the Plumlees to post.
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ACC Tournament: Three Thoughts From North Carolina – Maryland

Posted by mpatton on March 9th, 2012

Maryland ended up losing by 16 thanks to five garbage time points. But the story of the game was John Henson‘s injury, which forced Roy Williams to use alternative line-ups for much of the game.

  • There may be a more serious chasm between Mark Turgeon and Terrell Stoglin than I originally thought. Stoglin kept Maryland in the game. He got trigger happy at times, but his shots fell far more than any other Terrapin starters. At one point in the second half according to Adam Smith (I was behind the North Carolina bench), “Turgeon, stomping: ‘I can’t coach him!’ after Stoglin wasn’t listening.” Obviously, you don’t want to read too much into Turgeon’s frustration in a game that was spiraling out of control quickly. But those two need to be on the same page.

    Terrell Stoglin And Mark Turgeon Need To Resolve Their Differences.

  • North Carolina has an embarrassment of riches up front. Even after Henson’s wrist injury, the Tar Heels got 14 points and eight rebounds from James Michael McAdoo in just under 30 minutes of playing time. McAdoo got criticized after preseason expectations were much more than he delivered. But his game looked a lot more polished against Maryland. Offensively he brings a lot of things that Henson doesn’t (after the game Kendall Marshall mentioned his ability to face up and slash to the basket). He’s also an incredible worker. Even potentially losing first team All-ACC forwards Henson and Tyler Zeller, North Carolin should still own one of the best front lines next year thanks to McAdoo.
  • Maryland’s front line needs some work. Alex Len blocked a couple of shots early, but he and James Padgett combined to go 0-7 from the field (and 0-2 from the charity stripe) and only hauled in four rebounds in 34 combined minutes of play. That’s not going to cut it. Ashton Pankey and Mychal Parker put up a strong effort off the bench, combining for 15 points and 12 boards.

Miscellaneous notes:

Henson’s wrist was x-rayed and the results reportedly came back negative. He didn’t play because he was having trouble grabbing the ball. Sounds like there will be a MRI and he’ll be reevaluated tonight and tomorrow.

It’s also worth noting that Kendall Marshall continued his improved offensive play, knocking down 3-4 threes. It can’t be said enough how much harder that makes the Tar Heels to guard.

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ACC Tournament: Three Thoughts from Wake Forest – Maryland

Posted by mpatton on March 8th, 2012

In the end it was a dominant win by Maryland. Jeff Bzdelik pulled his starters at the under-four media timeout (to be fair, Nikita Mescheriakov and Tony Chennault had already fouled out by that point).

  • Starting with Wake Forest, this game didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. The Demon Deacons played Maryland tough the first 15 minutes and fell apart. After leading 26-21, Maryland went on a 35-9 run including the beginning of the second half. The biggest issue all afternoon for Jeff Bzdelik’s squad was production from players not named Mescheriakov, CJ Harris and Travis McKie. Those three scored 52 of Wake Forest’s 60 points (it would’ve been more had Bzdelik left them in to the bitter end). Chennault and Carson Desrosiers combined to go 1-13 from the field. That won’t cut it coming from starters. Period.
  • On Maryland’s end, it’s really tough to judge how impressive the Terrapins were against Wake Forest. There’s no argument that they didn’t dominate the game, but Wake Forest also lost all of its will to win after giving up its five-point lead in dramatic fashion down the stretch in the first half. The best news from Mark Turgeon’s standpoint is that he got to rest his thin line-up for much of the second half, which will keep the teams’ collective legs fresh for a game tomorrow against North Carolina.
  • In contrast to Wake Forest’s starters, Maryland’s combined to go 25-43 from the field (58%) thanks to one of Nick Faust‘s best games of the year (19 points on ten shots) and a very strong game from James Padgett (5-6 from the field). This Maryland team could make North Carolina work tomorrow if Faust and Padgett can combine for more points than Terrell Stoglin.
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ACC Season Wrap-Up and Tournament Preview

Posted by mpatton on March 8th, 2012

First, here’s a quick preview of the ACC Tournament. You can find the rest of the power rankings after the jump.
The two Thursday games you should keep a close eye on are Clemson – Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest – Maryland. I trust Miami and NC State will have no trouble putting away their opponents, though Georgia Tech has played a couple of very good games this year.
While North Carolina is the prohibitive favorite, I think Florida State probably has the second best chance. Hear me out: Duke is playing without Ryan Kelly, which means the Plumlees and Hairston are it inside; factor in a history of ignoring the conference tournament for North Carolina combined with Kendall Marshall feeling “tired,” and I think you’ve got a recipe for a team not from North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament for the first time since Maryland in 2004.
I also expect strong runs from bubble teamers NC State and Miami, as both try to secure their at-large hopes with another marquee win.
  1. North Carolina (27-4, 14-2) – It’s funny how the difference between a successful season can come down to one game. Had North Carolina lost to Duke at Cameron, people would’ve pointed to the Tar Heels’ lofty preseason expectations and how they came up short. Instead, Roy Williams’ squad finally showed the world just why it was ranked so high early in the season. Kendall Marshall hit shots, the defense clicked and the game felt over by the first media timeout. Now the Tar Heels have the inside track for a one-seed, owning the head-to-head victory with Michigan State that will definitely come in handy. There are still legitimate questions about North Carolina’s intensity, but if that intensity is in the ballpark of Saturday night opponents should be scared. Don’t pencil the Tar Heels into the Final Four before seeing the ACC Tournament. This team’s worst enemy until the final weekend will be itself. One person in particular to keep you eye on is Marshall. He was snubbed from first-team All-ACC (he missed by two votes), so I expect him to come out aggressively Friday. He’s also shows recent offensive improvement, coming up with two of his best performances of the year in rivalry games against NC State and Duke. When he’s taking and hitting open looks, the Tar Heels are impossible to guard.
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ACC Morning Five: 03.04.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 5th, 2012

  1. Winston-Salem Journal: Friday it was confirmed that senior Ty Walker was kicked off Wake Forest’s team for “an unspecified violation of athletics-department rules.” Looking at Walker’s career as a whole, the dismissal isn’t surprising in the least. But it did feel like he turned a page on the court after coming back from a suspension last semester. His mom even flew across the country for his senior night. That’s how I lost the forest through the trees. I’m not going to rip Walker for lack of effort; nor am I going to rip Jeff Bzdelik for the punishment. In the end, it seems like a sad but fitting end to the former five-star recruit’s career.
  2. Blogger So Dear: Speaking of Wake Forest, this is an honest take on the school’s basketball program, assessing blame where it’s due. I would be a little harsher on Bzdelik for the last couple of years, but I also think he deserves next year to show what he can do with no offcourt distractions and a couple of recruiting classes he brought in himself.
  3. Atlanta Journal Constitution: The ACC Tournament is back in Atlanta for the sixth time this year. But as Tim Tucker points out, it’s probably going to be more difficult for Atlanta to attract the conference tournament after Pittsburgh and Syracuse deepen the ACC’s footprint in the north. Personally, I’m very happy the conference decided on Philips Arena, which seats just under 20,000 people, instead of the Georgia Dome (where the tournament was supposed to be originally), which has a full capacity of over 70,000 (though that was significantly reduced the two times the ACC Tournament took place there). The bottom line is that this year is Atlanta’s chance to sell the conference on the Philips Arena experience in order to compete with Madison Square Garden or the Verizon Center down the road.
  4. Fox Sports Florida: The ACC desperately needs Miami and/or NC State to step up this weekend. The conference is looking squarely at four NCAA bids if the Hurricanes and Wolfpack meet early exits. If not for a season sweep of Miami, Mark Gottfried’s squad would be in some serious trouble (and Miami would probably be in a much stronger position for an at-large bid). But the fact is that both teams have very weak resumes and need a good win to push the ACC to five bids.
  5. Burlington Times-News: I’m officially tired of these articles bemoaning the lost days of a great ACC. The facts are simple: The ACC is down right now, and most of the dip is due to a coincidence that left eight of the 12 member schools looking for new coaches over the last couple of years. That’s it. Combine that with back-to-back titles from Tobacco Road and you have a recipe for the Duke – North Carolina rivalry overshadowing an under-performing league. It’s true that the hype for the rivalry always made other ACC fans cringe, but give the new coaches some time. As they build successful programs, ESPN will give more air time to other schools.

EXTRA: Here’s the ACC Tournament bracket. I think Miami and NC State have very good chances to win two games and Wake Forest has its best chance to win a game for the first time since 2007.

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2012 ACC Tournament Seeding Scenarios

Posted by mpatton on March 2nd, 2012

With the ACC Tournament quickly approaching with one game separating everyone from Atlanta. Right now that means there’s a real traffic jam of schools going for the fourth seed (Virginia, Miami, NC State and Clemson) and the ninth seed (Boston College, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest). Below is a chart that hopefully makes sense of everything. A big shout-out to Patrick Stevans, who put together the scenarios.

Warning: it gets pretty complicated.

ACC Tournament Seeding Scenarios

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