Rushed Reactions: #6 Virginia 72, #7 Duke 63

Posted by Matt Patton & Brad Jenkins on March 16th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways.

Virginia claimed the ACC crown. (credit: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

Virginia claimed the ACC crown. (credit: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

  1. Virginia was the better team. They took all of Duke’s shots and punched right back. They dominated stretches with rebounding and defense. It took a miracle stretch by Jabari Parker to keep Duke in the game. Virginia’s balance and defensive strength (along with winning the regular season and tournament) will make people think of Miami last season. Virginia’s constant off-ball screens on offense kept Duke defenders out of sync the whole game, which led to all of the fouls. Virginia has three lock-down defenders in Joe HarrisMalcolm Brogdon and Akil Mitchell. That’s enough to slow every team down. Also while the Cavaliers only got credit for five blocks, it felt like more than ten (while only committing 15 fouls). Last but not least, Virginia is going to be a nightmare draw in the NCAA Tournament. This is an impossible team to prepare for–especially on short rest. They may go cold and make an early exit, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when they are in Arlington.
  2. Jabari Parker solidified his high lottery status. He had a couple of just ridiculous buckets (a step-back three and a transition dunk to name two), and an unstoppable stretch while Mitchell was on the bench. Don’t be fooled by his inefficient stat line. Parker was the best offensive player on the floor. After the game, Coach K pointed out that Parker has a ways to go: “Part of his development is, when he makes those [NBA] moves, is to finish, get fouled, not get fouled, you know what I mean. [...] His should be a combination.”
  3. This was likely a battle for a spot in the East Regional. This loss may hurt Duke even more soon. I don’t think the Blue Devils ever had a shot at a top seed (take away the loss to Wake Forest and it’s a different story), but they definitely had a shot to play through Raleigh and then New York City. Now? Who knows. It’s still possible, but Virginia definitely put themselves in the driver’s seat for a nice location and a two-seed (likely with a very favorable one to boot).

Player of the game: Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia. Still snubbed. Yeah, he was named all-tournament, but he made a really strong case to complete Wally Walker snub to most valuable player transition. Brogdon locked down Rodney Hood for much of the game. He also stepped up when Virginia needed a bucket, be it a field goal or a free throw. Lamar Patterson started the year imitating Oscar Robertson, but it was Brogdon who finished as the most versatile offensive player. The difference was even more obvious when you take defense into account.

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ACC Championship Preview: #6 Virginia vs. #7 Duke

Posted by Brad Jenkins & Matt Patton on March 16th, 2014

It’s the game that we all expected when the ACC Tournament brackets came out last weekend. Duke vs. Virginia. Let’s preview the ACC Championship game by answering the key questions headed into this one in Greensboro.

Joe Harris gets a second shot against Duke this season with an ACC title on the line (credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today).

Joe Harris gets a second shot against Duke this season with an ACC title on the line (credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today).

1. Can Virginia’s balanced scoring offset the star power of Duke’s Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood?

Yes and no. The Cavaliers can’t get in a shootout, but I don’t think they’ll try. Virginia is an experienced team that plays to its strengths. I’ll be very surprised if Duke can push them out of their comfort zone. That said, if Hood and Parker are both firing on all cylinders, I’m not sure how Virginia will put up enough points to win. Look for them to try to make Parker into a jump shooter or to force things against multiple defenders since he’s struggled passing out of double teams when he gets head full of steam. Hood is a little more difficult to contain (since he’s really a second option), but I expect to see a lot of Justin Anderson hounding him. Neither of these teams will quite be at 100 percent, playing their third game in three days, but I think that favors the more balanced team.

2. Duke hasn’t been hitting as many threes lately. Who do you expect to help keep the offense going if shots aren’t falling?

If the outside jumpers aren’t falling — and by playing the third straight grueling game in as many days, there’s a good chance they don’t — then Duke will have to rely on its two future NBA forwards to make plays. Jabari Parker makes plays that are almost unstoppable, even by great defenses like Virginia’s, so he figures to be the best candidate. Rodney Hood’s conditioning will be tested after chasing T.J. Warren all over the court yesterday. Rasheed Sulaimon has had success in the tournament with his penetration, so he may also try to create scoring chances that way.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Virginia 51 – Pittsburgh 48

Posted by Matt Patton on March 15th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways:

Justin Anderson is Virginia's spark plug. (credit: Scott Muthersbaugh / Burlington Times-News)

Justin Anderson is Virginia’s spark plug. (credit: Scott Muthersbaugh / Burlington Times-News)

  1. Virginia has officially arrived. While the Cavaliers didn’t put away Pittsburgh until the very end, they made the championship game looking for the school’s second ACC title since joining the conference, and first in nearly 40 years. This team is Tony Bennett’s baby: They are one of the only teams in the country to improve their win total in each of the last five years. His team doesn’t always run attractive offense (though it’s certainly better than the final score would indicate), but its defense is spectacular. Down the stretch it was clear that Malcolm Brogdon has taken on the go-to role. He committed a costly turnover that led to James Robinson’s layup with 10 seconds left, but look for Virginia to put the ball in his hands down the stretch. Part of the reason for that is because Joe Harris excels off the ball, but it’s also a testament to Brogdon’s growth.
  2. Retro officiating fit the teams. With two physical defenses on the court, the refs opted to swallow their whistles by only calling 20 fouls in the first 38 minutes (there were seven in the last minute for obvious reasons). There weren’t any easy rebounds to be found. And while Pittsburgh likely benefited from the style most of the game, there was a lot of contact on James Robinson’s layup that cut the Virginia lead to one with 10 seconds left. When asked about contact on a layup late, Akil Mitchell said he was “a little bit” surprised that there wasn’t a whistle. Jamie Dixon wasn’t impressed: “We just saw it on video. What can you do? What can you do? Just watched it. Everybody saw it.”
  3. Pittsburgh needs to get to the rim more. Down the stretch Jamie Dixon opted to spread the floor and attack the basket. It was very effective. Especially when Lamar Patterson isn’t hitting jumpers, Pittsburgh is best attacking inside. Patterson, Robinson and Cameron Wright are all very good finishers, and that doesn’t even take into account that teams can only help off Talib Zanna if they want him to get a putback. The Panthers still need to shoot enough jumpers to keep people honest (though I’m not sure Jamel Artis should take any threes the rest of the year).

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Possible Jeff Bzdelik ACC Swan Song Ends Against Pittsburgh

Posted by Matt Patton on March 13th, 2014

His postgame press conference said it all. Jeff Bzdelik‘s body language and tone, never his strongest attributes as a coach, showed the toll of another Thursday ACC Tournament loss to Pittsburgh.

“They hit us right between the eyes. We were on our heels the entire game.”

Jeff Bzdelik didn't have the answers against Pittsburgh. (credit: Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer)

Jeff Bzdelik didn’t have the answers against Pittsburgh. (credit: Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer)

While his postseason and conference road records paint a black and white picture of Bzdelik’s tenure at Wake Forest, there are certainly bright spots when you look closer. He recruited a young core of talented players that showed a lot of potential in sweeping Tobacco Road at home this season. He also sat down with the deck stacked against him. People love to cite Dino Gaudio’s record, but there’s no denying Wake Forest was in a tailspin after Skip Prosser died. It’s not Bzdelik’s fault the vaunted 2008 class didn’t pan out. But no one expected the turnaround to move so slowly.

“We just lost some confidence, and we’ve been fragile with that throughout the course of the entire year.”

This game cast a similarly dark shadow. Wake Forest was outclassed at opening tip, unable to slow down the Panthers’ offense. Early, the Demon Deacons couldn’t grab a rebound. Pittsburgh, to its credit, couldn’t miss. While Travis McKie had one of the worst games of his career, Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson executed flawlessly. Every time the lead got to single digits, Pittsburgh responded with a run. Coron Williams had another good game, and Codi Miller-McIntyre showed flashes of his aggressive potential, but there’s no sugarcoating a 29-point loss.

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Maryland’s Last ACC Tournament Ends With a Whimper

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 13th, 2014

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

I’m going to miss Maryland, especially the rivalries with UNC and Duke. I think it’s a good move for them, the ACC is about to get too tough for them in basketball and football.” – Longtime North Carolina fan and ACC Tournament attendee Kevin Armwood.

And so it is over. After 61 years in the league, Maryland has played its final ACC Tournament game. The end came suddenly on a Boris Bojanovsky dunk with less than a second to play, lifting ninth-seeded Florida State over the eighth-seeded Terrapins on Thursday afternoon, 67-65. Maryland put up a game effort, coming back from an 11-point second half deficit to tie the game at 63 with under two minutes to play. But just like so many times during this season, the Terrapins once again couldn’t close the deal. The end came so swiftly that the rest of the ACC fans in the building didn’t have a chance to taunt the Maryland group on their way out of the building (and the conference).

Maryland Fans React to Loss in Final ACC Tournament for the Terrapins. (Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

Maryland Fans React to Loss in Final ACC Tournament for the Terrapins.
(Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

Certainly Terrapins fans have some mixed emotions regarding the school’s move to the Big Ten next year. There has always been the feeling among Maryland faithful that the ACC Tournament was an uphill battle for their school, particularly when it was held in the state of North Carolina (as it always seemed to be). So it’s fitting that Maryland’s last go-round in the grand-daddy of conference tourneys took place in Greensboro. After today’s loss, Maryland finishes its ACC tenure with a slightly lower winning percentage in ACC Tournament play (45.2%) than in its ACC regular season games (50.7%). Perhaps ironically, or perhaps just an artifact of sample size, the Terrapins have a better all-time tournament record in Greensboro (26-23) than in the four seasons when the event took place in the Washington, D.C., area (3-4). All three of Maryland’s ACC Championships were won in the Tar Heel State, with two of those net-cutting ceremonies taking place in Greensboro, the last in 2004 when Gary Williams led the Terps past arch-nemesis Duke. Of course, the most famous Maryland ACC Tournament moment came in the 1974 championship game overtime loss to N.C. State that kept the Terrapins out of the NCAA Tournament despite ranking in the top five of the polls all season long.

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ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

The 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off Wednesday in Greensboro. This should be one of the more entertaining tournaments of recent years, as every team has something to play for from bottom to top. It’s startling that so many are dismissing Virginia, who just won their first outright ACC regular season championship in 33 years. Syracuse has been left for dead after once being projected to be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing four of their last six to close the regular season. Duke and North Carolina need late runs to continue to improve their seeding for the Big Dance. The lone likely bubble team in the conference, Pittsburgh, will seek to bolster its resume. Everyone else seeks to shock the world and win the whole thing to steal a tourney bid. Here is RTC’s ACC Tournament preview, with predicted champion included.

This year's ACC tournament field should be wide open.

This year’s ACC tournament field should be wide open.

The first round kicking off on Wednesday is a new wrinkle for a newly-enlarged conference, and there won’t be any big surprises there. Virginia Tech owns two wins (their only two conference wins) over Miami this year; that will change this time around. It’s very difficult for anyone to beat a team three times in the course of one season, and this isn’t a juggernaut squad by any means. Jim Larranaga’s team tops James Johnson’s. Maryland, fresh off of its stunning win over Virginia in the season’s final game, will keep their momentum rolling in knocking Wake Forest out on the first day. The Demon Deacons don’t win away from home, and that won’t change in Greensboro. Georgia Tech will continue the disastrous year that Boston College has endured by out muscling them inside with Daniel Miller and capping off the win with Trae Golden’s ace free-throw shooting.

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The RTC Podblast: ACC Tournament Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2014

The regular season is over, Championship Week is here, and it’s now or never for all of the teams that have talked a rather big game but haven’t necessarily backed it up with their play on the court. To that end, we’re going to be rolling out nine RTC Podblasts this week, one to preview each of the seven power conference tournaments as well as the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West (to scroll through all that have been released, click here). In this, our ACC Tournament edition, RTC microwriter Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) joins us to discuss a top-heavy field headed to Greensboro. The Big East, AACSEC and Big 12 Tournament pods were released on Monday, and the Big Ten and Pac-12 Tourney previews came out earlier today. Be sure to check back for the A-10 and MW preview podblasts tomorrow. Enjoy!

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record.

  • 0:00-3:17 – Virginia Earned Its ACC Title
  • 3:17-8:06 – Best ACC Team and NCAA Tournament Potential
  • 8:06-12:09 – Disappointing ACC Teams
  • 12:09-13:51 – Predictions to Be Proud Of
  • 13:51-20:29 – ACC POY and First Team Discussion
  • 20:29-23:43 – Is Virginia the Favorite in Greensboro?
  • 23:43-25:43 – Dark Horse Picks
  • 25:43-28:04 – Pitt’s Upside/Downside in the ACC Tournament
  • 28:04-30:53 – Team With the Most to Gain
  • 30:53-33:40 – Final Thoughts on the ACC Tournament
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ACC M5: 03.10.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 10th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. The ACC: So the ACC Tournament bracket is set! And it’s loaded with juicy match-ups. We’ll definitely have more on this soon but you can see the bracket below to start setting your DVR (although make sure to extend it, because there’s no way the second games in the pairings will start two hours after the first ones). Might I suggest the potential Maryland-Virginia rematch (or a desperate Florida State’s chance to avenge the Cavaliers’ beatdowns from early in conference play), North Carolina getting a bubbly Pittsburgh team, Miami getting another chance to spoil NC State (and if not another chance for the Wolfpack to avenge their controversial loss at Syracuse), or Clemson getting another shot at Duke? And that doesn’t even look forward to the semifinals.
    ACC-bracket
  2. Backing the Pack: Austin Johnson brings the goods on the history of TJ Warren‘s number at NC State. The Wolfpack have only retired one jersey (David Thompson), but #24 has been worn by a series of great NC State players (including Warren’s father, Tom Gugliotta and Julius Hodge). Warren is earning his spot in the rafters this week with simply ludicrous offensive production (83 points in two games!). It’s a shame All-American awards generally rely so heavily on team quality because Warren’s play the second half of the season has been other-worldly. He should at least walk away with the ACC Player of the Year award and a lottery pick, which isn’t bad recognition at all.
  3. The Daily Orange: It’s oral history time! This time David Wilson travels back in time for the Big East ACC-American classic six-overtime game between Syracuse and Connecticut. There are very few games that stick with me (especially games that I didn’t attend live and didn’t involve ACC teams), but this one qualifies. I was writing a paper and watching the game in the background back when WatchESPN was still ESPN360 and was just starting to take off with live events. That game forced me to pull an all-nighter to finish the paper because it just sucked me in. And never ended. But let the people involved in the classic tell the story.
  4. Wall Street Journal: Here’s an amusing article on more enterprising Duke students (and possibly random people sneaking into the Duke-North Carolina game instead of camping out. Students have tried everything from ambushing the stadium to masquerading as a band member to hiding out inside.) Duke is a weird team. For around 30 minutes on Saturday against North Carolina they looked unbeatable. And for the other quarter of the game, no lead felt safe. Go ahead and put me down for having no clue what the top four ACC seeds are going to do over the next few weeks. All feel like they can lose to just about anyone on the wrong night or blow anyone out of the building.
  5. Hampton Road Daily Press and Charlottesville Daily Progress: Maryland has played (and won) its last regular season ACC game. Time to get nostalgic! It was fitting that the Terrapins played Virginia on the way out. The schools have been playing each other for a century, and the Cavaliers closed out Cole Field House a while ago. Maryland and Rutgers may prove the ultimate litmus test for super-conferences (Notre Dame would also count if not for its continued independence in football). If college sports continues increasing television revenues despite hurting geography and natural rivalries, super-conferences make sense. If this backfires, look for more emphasis to stay with the geographic footprint.
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Morning Five: 11.14.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2013

morning5

  1. The residual from Tuesday’s Champions Classic buzzed throughout the sports world on Wednesday, with considerable discussion devoted to rank-ordering the superstar freshmen who were on display (Parker, Randle, Wiggins was a popular order), discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the four teams, and projecting the areas in which each will get better. But perhaps the biggest storyline that came out of the game was related to the interview that Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski gave afterward. In response to a media member’s question about the not-exactly-secretive practice by NBA teams to tank games in order to position themselves for high draft picks next summer, Coach K waxed poetically in his response about the virtues of good old-fashioned competition: “As an American, I wouldn’t like to think that an American team would want to lose or create situations where you would want to lose. [...] Maybe I’m naive and I’m going to go read a fairy tale after this.” Full clip here. Speaking of competition, ESPN cleaned up with its broadcast of the double-header, recording the second-highest rated regular season non-conference game in history for #1 Kentucky vs. #2 Michigan State, and the nightcap game wasn’t terribly far behind.
  2. Sports Illustrated hit the newsstands on Wednesday with spectacular timing, choosing to release its 2013-14 College Basketball Preview issue in the wake of all the good Champions Classic vibe and avoiding the AP and USA Today/Coaches polls’ mistake of choosing Kentucky for its top spot. Utilizing a neat four-region cover format, the experts at SI instead went with Louisville as its preseason #1 team, although there aren’t any real surprises among the rest of their list (Harvard at #20, maybe?). For their full top 20 rankings and excerpts of some of the articles printed in the preview, check out this SI.com One and One post here; for complete scouting reports on each of the ranked teams, check out their online post here. But if you really want the full experience, get analog and enjoy the magazine the way it was intended — in hard-copy, ink-and-paper, magazine format.
  3. Speaking of the Cards, the AP announced on Wednesday that the school had negotiated the exit fee from its one-year foray with the AAC as it looks to head to the ACC next July. The final number turned out to be $11 million, which is roughly the revenue that Louisville creates in the price of a handful of hot dogs and beers at the Yum! Center during a basketball game. OK, not really, but the most profitable basketball program in the nation – estimated to bring in an annual surplus of $23-$28 million per year — shouldn’t have any problem whatsoever in finding enough couch change to write the check. With a move to its new conference starting next season and all the additional television revenue that will come with being a part of the dominant east coast sports league, expect those coffers to continue to rise.
  4. When Louisville joins the ACC in 2014, the next basketball season will culminate in a blockbuster ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, for the 25th time. But with the push to save itself and add teams from above the Mason-Dixon Line, the league is looking to make its hallmark event a bit more inclusive and cosmopolitan than the longtime location of league HQ. A part-time move to New York City is an inevitability, but before the nation’s oldest conference tournament heads to the Big Apple, the league has decided to take baby steps with a trip to Washington, DC, in 2016. The ACC has accepted this dance with the District once before at the Verizon/MCI Center in 2005, an event that was notable for its relatively light attendance over the course of the weekend. The DC area had also hosted several ACC Tournaments prior to that at the old Capital Center in Landover, Maryland, but in all of these events, the Terps and maybe Duke were the only real attractions. Syracuse, Notre Dame and to a certain degree Pittsburgh, on the other hand, all have huge alumni bases in the East Coast megalopolis between Washington and New York, now just an easy train ride between city centers. And Louisville fans travel well. Contrasted with nearly a decade prior, expect the 2016 ACC Tournament even without local team Maryland involved to be a fantastic success.
  5. Finally today, if you read nothing else, read this story from SI‘s Seth Davis about Duke guard Andre Dawkins‘ struggles with clinical depression. By all accounts, depression is a medical condition that people who don’t suffer from it have a lot of trouble understanding. Why not just pick yourself up? Why not just find something that makes you happy? The truth is that picking yourself up and finding something meaningful is extremely difficult for those with the disease. The complicated brain chemistry involved with the condition doesn’t just go away because they want it to, and as Davis elucidates so nicely with the story on Dawkins, the only way it can be solved is through therapy and (sometimes) medical intervention through antidepressants. The happy ending here is that Dawkins is back on the Blue Devils for his senior season and he really wants to play basketball again, something that he had almost no desire to do two years ago. That’s a win right there, and Davis should be commended for bringing this encouraging story to the forefront. Even if you hate Duke, you’ll have to root for Dawkins after reading this one.
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Morning Five: 05.16.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2013

morning5

  1. It’s now been nearly two days since the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes was won by Bill Self and Kansas. Reactions have run the gamut and we ran down a number of the better ones in yesterday’s M5. One we missed was this fantastic piece by Sam Mellinger at the Kansas City Star, who writes that everyone in the media and greater college basketball community needs to be very careful with the hyperbole when discussing Wiggins next season as the “Best High School Prospect Since Lebron.” Mellinger breaks down each of the best prep players in the last 10 years since Lebron, and the truth is that most of them can’t even sniff an NBA All-Star Game at this point. Some guys continue to progress, while others level off, and it’s a lesson worth remembering. Then he finishes things off with a fantastic anecdote about the humility of prep Lebron. Well worth a read.
  2. Once the ACC raided the Big East to lock up prized programs Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, it appeared inevitable that the league would eventually move its showcase event — the ACC Tournament — to Gotham in short order. Those premonitions seem to be coming true, as ESPN.com reported on Wednesday that the league is “thoroughly investigating” a move to the World’s Most Famous Arena at some point in the next several years. The ACC Tournament is scheduled to be in Greensboro in 2014 and 2015, but the options are open afterward, while the new Big East has contractually obligated MSG to hold its postseason tournament there until 2026. The crux of the matter is that the Big East will need to meet certain benchmarks to keep its deal with The Garden alive, and given just how shaky the league has become in the interim, many ACC insiders believe that the “legal ramifications” to move its own event will get worked out as a matter of course. Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is also an option too, of course, but make no mistake, the ACC Tournament will eventually reside at least part-time in NYC.
  3. While on the subject of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the league is holding its spring meetings in Amelia Island, Florida, this week and SI.com‘s Andy Staples caught up with commissioner John Swofford to get the inside scoop on how he pulled off “the most chaotic reorganization in the history of major college sports.” It’s somewhat wonky and process-oriented, but it gives a true insider’s perspective on the importance of the Maryland defection and how the perceived likelihood that the Big Ten would seek to continue moving south (Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech) had Swofford failed to get his schools to agree to the media grant of rights deal in April. Although conference realignment has been disastrous to college basketball in some ways, we’re hoping like everyone else who loves the sport that this particular initiative holds steady and removes the incentive for continued raids for a good long while.
  4. Yesterday was a busy day on the transfer wire, as quite a few prominent names announced that they are on the move. The most surprising name was perhaps Penn State’s Jermaine Marshall, who was projected to be a key cog in the Nittany Lions’ resurgence next season but has instead decided to leave school to pursue professional options. The least surprising decision was that Arizona State’s Evan Gordon announced that he is headed to Indiana, where as a graduate transfer he will be eligible to play immediately for Tom Crean. A few other notables: Minnesota’s Joe Coleman is leaving the Gophers; Tulane’s Josh Davis will land at San Diego State; and, Florida’s Braxton Ogbueze will resurface at Charlotte. Davis will be eligible to play immediately at SDSU under the graduate transfer exception.
  5. Perhaps seeing a bit too much of Rick Pitino in the media lately, Kentucky head coach John Calipari held his own press conference yesterday to discuss the state of his program. And since we’ve already addressed the subject of hyperbole above, why not let Coach Cal bring us full circle: “We’re chasing perfection. We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done before in the history of this game.” The perfection he refers to of course is the elusive-since-1976 undefeated season by a Division I men’s basketball team. Since Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers ran the table 37 years ago, no team has won the national title with fewer than two losses (including Calipari’s 38-2 championship squad in 2011-12). Look, we’re never going to say never because as soon as you do something like that, a Florida Gulf Coast goes to the Sweet Sixteen. But there have been an awful lot of great teams pass through the years without a sniff of a perfect season, and the concept that a team led by a bunch of freshmen — even freshmen as good as UK’s group will be — can bring the noise every single night for up to 40 games next year is nothing more than fantasy. Still, the players don’t know that, so it’s another great marketing/strategic ploy from the master salesman living in Lexington. For what it’s worth, the Wildcats sit as a 4:1 (20%) or 5:1 (17%) favorite in Vegas to win next year’s title.
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Rushed Reactions: Miami 87, North Carolina 77

Posted by mpatton on March 17th, 2013

rushedreactions

Matt Patton is an RTC microsite writer. He filed this report after Sunday afternoon’s ACC Tournament championship game.

Three Key Takeaways:

Miami Wins Its First ACC Championship

Miami Wins Its First ACC Championship

  1. Shootout: Despite both teams coming in known for their defense, the 2013 ACC Tournament championship game will be remembered for its offensive showing. Specifically, the last 10 minutes of the first half was a shooting clinic for the ages. The two teams (led by PJ Hairston, Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney-Jones) combined for 10 threes in the 10 minutes. As a result, North Carolina cut the Miami lead to three with just over two minutes to play, until a shot clock violation gave the Hurricanes the space they needed to go for the throat.
  2. Miami’s Versatility: The Hurricanes showed a versatility that should terrify opponents who find themselves in Miami’s regional. Miami went small two separate times, at the end of its win against Boston College and the end of the first half of the championship game. Both times Miami’s offense flourished. It’s no secret the Hurricanes’ defense is elite. Miami has the experience to win close games. The postgame press conference made one thing very clear: Jim Larranaga has this team in a great place. The leaders trust him and trust themselves no matter what the opponent is doing.
  3. North Carolina’s Turnaround: Just a little over two months ago, the Tar Heels looked like outside shots to make the Big Dance. They were sitting 0-2 in ACC play facing a road game against Florida State. A month after that the Tar Heels took a beating in Coral Gables before Roy Williams moved PJ Hairston into the starting lineup. The move worked out, as North Carolina’s only two losses the rest of the season came against Duke. While Hairston’s addition was the obvious change, Marcus Paige‘s improvement is just as important, if not more so. Paige played 30 minutes or more in every game except for North Carolina’s win over Maryland when he got into foul trouble. Over the 11 games in the smaller lineup, Paige averaged more than five assists per game on top of nine and a half points per outing. He cut down on turnovers dramatically — the win at Maryland notwithstanding. It’s no secret Roy Williams’ offense runs a lot smoother with a good point guard.

Star of the Game: Shane Larkin proved to be the best player on the floor. He finished with 28 points, five rebounds, seven assists and two steals. He shot 8-of-15 from the floor, 4-of-7 from three and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. Whenever Miami needed to make a play, he delivered either a bucket or a dime on command. He also played the full 40 minutes, meaning he missed a total of four of the possible 120 minutes over the course of his three days in Greensboro.

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Miami Hurricanes Make ACC History, Sweep Championships

Posted by mpatton on March 17th, 2013

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from the ACC Tournament championship game between North Carolina and Miami in Greensboro this afternoon.

An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the regular season title outright eight times since 1954 (most recently, Maryland won it in 2002). An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the ACC Tournament 10 times since 1954 (most recently, Florida State won it last year). Miami is the first team to ever do both in the same year. An unbalanced conference schedule has cheapened the regular season title in recent years, but that’s shouldn’t throw any shade on what the Hurricanes accomplished this year. The Miami win along with Florida State’s ACC Championship last season marks the second time in the league’s history that consecutive ACC Tournaments were won by schools outside of North Carolina (the 1984 and 1985 tournaments were won by Maryland and Georgia Tech, respectively).

Miami, your 2013 ACC Tournament champions. (photo: HurricaneSports.com)

Miami, your 2013 ACC Tournament champions. (photo: HurricaneSports.com)

And the Hurricanes won their final two games in front of very hostile crowds. They won because of tremendous coaching from Jim Larranaga – whose lineup changes proved instrumental in games against North Carolina and Boston College. They won because Shane Larkin was the best player in an ACC Tournament full of outstanding performances (Olivier Hanlan, Durand Scott and Dez Wells all went for over 30 points in a game). They won because experience doesn’t get rattled. In short, they won because they were the best team on the floor.

Miami made history in Greensboro. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Miami made history in Greensboro. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Against North Carolina, Miami found itself in a different position than usual. The Tar Heels and their new and improved smaller lineup came out firing. With just over 10 minutes to go in the first half, North Carolina led, 18-13. Miami proceeded to score on its next nine possessions and 13 of 16 of the final possessions of the half (over that time they missed three shots). North Carolina only scored on eight of 15 possessions, but PJ Hairston hit four threes and Marcus Paige added another to keep the game within a possession at the half. It was the best overall 10-minute offensive stretch I’ve seen this year. Both teams moved the ball to find open shots and both teams knocked down nearly every shot available. At one point the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions.

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