ACC M5: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 11th, 2013

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  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Andrew Carter’s midseason look at the ACC is a good read, although one phrase stuck out when he described Mason Plumlee. Carter justified Plumlee as the conference player of the year (a reasonable choice) by saying: “Plumlee is the most important player on the conference’s best team.” We’re halfway through the season, Miami owns a dramatic win over the Blue Devils and won (in a great game) at the school responsible for Duke’s other loss. It’s high time Miami was considered the conference’s best team. Plumlee may be the ACC Player of the Year (he’s arguably more important to Duke’s success than any one player on the Hurricanes), and I think Duke has a slight edge at home. But that doesn’t undermine Miami’s success. The Hurricanes are the best team until proven otherwise.
  2. Tar Heel Blog: Speaking of Duke, a bit of controversy popped up around the Cameron Crazies when they allegedly chanted “How’s your grandma?” at NC State’s Tyler Lewis last week (whose grandmother died recently). If the chant happened, it was obviously boorish, unnecessary and cruel. I’m not going to pile on the Cameron Crazies, but I’m not going to defend them either. The Crazies get a lot of polarized publicity from the media, but like most stories the truth isn’t so black and white. The Crazies are passionate fans that make Cameron Indoor Stadium one of the best atmospheres in the country. They’re also college students. They make the same stupid mistakes other student sections around the country do. Theirs are often more visible, as they get more coverage than the average student section, and I’m not sure there’s any more story here.
  3. Hampton Roads Daily Press: A little less than two years ago, arguing the prognosis of Virginia and Virginia Tech hoops teams would’ve been an interesting discussion (and Virginia Commonwealth would be irrelevant). Now, the discussion is hugely one-sided (and the Rams are anything but irrelevant), but the difference is more subtle than it looks. The Hokies lost two major talents, Montrezl Harrell and Dorian Finney-Smith, each of whom would have added a lot of talent and depth to this year’s team. That still wouldn’t make up the difference between the two teams this season, but it’s amazing how much can change in a short period of time.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Alex Len is one of the country’s most improved players this year, but he still lacks the consistency required to be a top-flight performer. Last year, only his athleticism and upside impressed. This season his flashes of brilliance consist of longer stretches, but he won’t finish first team all-ACC nor will he live up to his All-American tools. The biggest issue for Len appears to be physicality. He’s much stronger than last season, but teams have found that they can pop him in the mouth and aggressively force him out of position. If he comes back next season, it’s possible that he’d become one of the top players in the country; it’s also likely that he’d expose his fatal flaw and cost himself a large sum of money come NBA Draft day.
  5. Tallahassee Democrat: It’s weird to read this article. Leonard Hamilton‘s team — the squad led by arguably the most competitive player I’ve ever seen live — lacks effort. Sure it would help if this team had more bangers in the paint and a little more experience running the show, but that’s not this year’s problem. This team, on paper, may be more talented than last year’s ACC championship squad. Those Seminoles were the best of the Hamilton era: effort, experience and toughness defined. This year’s squad doesn’t make you cringe quite as much as Hamilton’s teams of yore (other than their turnovers), but the intensity just isn’t there enough of the time.
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ACC M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 1st, 2013

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  1. Orlando Sentinel: Florida State‘s defense isn’t nearly what it has been the last few years. The biggest issues are that opponents are grabbing way too many rebounds and hitting more interior shots. A lot of this is because Kiel Turpin never really developed into a Bernard James or Solomon Alabi. The Seminoles have never been a great rebounding team — largely because the strength of Hamilton’s defensive strategy lies in locking down the paint and blocking shots — but this year’s team is exceptionally bad (apart from Terrance Shannon, who’s injured). That said, Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo are going to be players eventually. Bojanovsky is one of my favorite freshmen in the league this season. He’s got great footwork and decent touch for a seven-footer. Ojo is mammoth. If he can learn to control his body, he’ll be an unstoppable force.
  2. Wilmington Star News: Experience is a funny word. Sometimes it’s easy to spot (or not spot) like with Wake Forest this year or Boston College last year. Other times it’s harder to see. For instance, this year’s Florida State team has a number of years under its belt, but not crunch-time minutes (other than Michael Snaer, who was born for it). This year’s Miami team obviously has it. But depending on who you talk to (and the most recent results), teams like Duke have and don’t have experience. The Blue Devils have three seniors at its core, but right now the team also starts two freshmen and a sophomore. That’s one big difference between Duke with Ryan Kelly and Duke without him — his experience means a lot. Eventually Amile Jefferson will likely become a better basketball player than Kelly, but right now Jefferson commits dumb fouls and lacks much strength. Kelly’s not exactly Hercules himself, but he knows his strengths and forces opponents to play to them. That’s a huge asset.
  3. Washington Post: Here’s another important example of experience. Alex Len is much better this year than last year, but he still disappears far too much for a player of his talent (on a team that struggles just as much). He’s a bit like a smoother and more skilled version of Mason Plumlee in his sophomore season. When Plumlee was fed in a position to score, he did well; when he wasn’t, he didn’t. Plumlee compounded his disappearance with dumb fouls and turnovers (he was, and is in many ways, much more limited offensively than Len), but experience has made him a player who demands the ball. That’s what Turgeon desperately needs from his star center the rest of the way.
  4. Orange and White: KJ McDaniels looks like Brad Brownell’s player of the future. Every year Brownell relies on two very good upperclassmen as he grooms a junior for the role moving forward. First it was Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant; last year it was Andre Young and Tanner Smith; this year it’s Devin Booker and Milton Jennings (sometimes). Unfortunately for Brownell, all six of those players were seniors. McDaniels, a sophomore, may finally give Brownell the breathing room he needs. McDaniels is good for at least one jaw-dropping dunk a game, but he’s slow in finding his place on the perimeter. If he can nail down a consistent jumper, look out.
  5. The ACC: The ACC announced the 2013 basketball ACC Legends. This year’s class was led by Gary Williams (whom the ACC honored just in time). Other administrative figures included Gene Corrigan and former Wake Forest coach Carl Tracy. Corrigan in addition to serving as ACC commissioner for a decade also served as the NCAA’s president for a couple of years. Player highlights from the class include Duke’s Trajan Langdon (the Alaskan Assassin), Georgia Tech’s Mark Price (who was Bobby Cremins’ best player when he turned the Yellow Jackets around in the early 1980s), and Derek Whittenburg (the NC State guard who missed the shot that led to the dunk to win the national championship in 1983).
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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.14.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 14th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Conference season has leveled the playing field as the remaining unbeaten teams have all lost. The Big Ten schedule is proving to be an absolute gauntlet and the Mountain West is nothing to sneeze at. Both leagues have stellar games this week along side a few other notable match-ups from around the nation. Let’s get to the breakdowns:

#1 Louisville at Connecticut – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

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  • The Louisville Cardinals are moved into the top spot in the nation after losses this weekend by Duke and Michigan and a loss by Arizona earlier last week. Their first game as #1 will be no easy contest as they head to Connecticut in a tough Big East road match-up. The Huskies are coming off a significant win at Notre Dame, which rarely loses at home, but it looks like UConn has their number, as they account for ND’s only two losses at home in the last two and a half years. UConn guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier will be the focus of this game, as they face intense pressure from the Louisville defense. Up to this point in the season, both players have protected the ball quite well, particularly Napier who is only giving it up on 11% of his possessions. They must be able to handle the press however in order to give the team a chance to win this game. Also, keep an eye on UConn’s Tyler Olander. He went 8-9 from the field against Notre Dame going for 16 points and 7 rebounds. He will be surrounded by very athletic big men on Louisville. UConn needs him to produce against Gorgui Dieng and company to take some pressure off the guards. The difference in this game may actually be Louisville on the offensive boards. The Huskies rank 298th in defensive rebounding percentage. With the Cardinals throwing Dieng, Chane Behanan, and Wayne Blackshear at the glass on the offensive end, it’s going to be tough for UConn to prevent second chance points. However, if they can limit turnovers, they have a shot to win at home.

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Night Line, Saturday Edition: Don’t Look Now, But Terps Quietly Taking Care Of Business

Posted by BHayes on January 5th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

It’s January 5 and there is an ACC team boasting a 13-1 record, a deep, talented roster, and a likely top five pick in next June’s draft (should he elect to leave early). No, we aren’t talking about Mason Plumlee and Duke’s sizzling start. Nor are we discussing their Tobacco Road compatriots UNC and NC State – two teams that, despite uneven beginnings, have still found their share of national attention. Instead, we shift our eyes further north, to College Park, Maryland, where at the beginning of 2013 Mark Turgeon has the Terps buzzing along – and ever so quietly.

Alex Len Has Been The Man At The Center Of Maryland's 13-Game Win Streak

Alex Len Has Been The Man At The Center Of Maryland’s 13-Game Win Streak

Maryland kept things rolling today with a 94-71 victory over Virginia Tech, posting its 13th consecutive victory in the process. College basketball fans likely haven’t heard a whole lot about the Maryland surge, as their opening loss to then-#3 Kentucky seemed to have removed the little buzz that surrounded the program in the preseason. But whether it’s being discussed nationally or not, make no mistake about it – behind Duke, Maryland is as likely an ACC runner-up as any team. The 13-game winning streak has not come at the expense of any sort of murderer’s row, but it includes a solid 20-point thrashing of Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan arena (I know, Trey Burke and company might tell you this is no great feat). But still, Maryland has been efficient in ripping through the fluff of their schedule, defeating opponents by an average of 19 points per game during the streak. Let’s also not forget they only fell to Kentucky in that opener by three, and I’m not so sure Kentucky would be a favorite if the two teams played again tomorrow on a neutral court.

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Evaluating the Three Current Favorites for ACC Player of the Year

Posted by EMann on December 31st, 2012

Ethan Mann is a writer for the ACC microsite. He is a senior at Duke University and can be reached at emann970@gmail.com.

Unless something really drastic happens during conference play, the ACC Player of the Year will likely come from this pool of three players: Duke senior forward/center Mason Plumlee, Virginia Tech senior guard Erick Green, and Maryland sophomore forward/center Alex Len.  Let’s take a look at each of the three player’s profiles thus far, a week removed from the start of the conference season.

Mason Plumlee

Before this season, Mason Plumlee had never quite lived up to the extremely high expectations that had surrounded him during his first three years in Durham. While Plumlee had not been a poor player, most people had not expected Plumlee to ever become a four-year player in Durham — he seemingly oozed potential based on his elite athleticism. While Plumlee had made incremental improvements each season — in his junior year averaging 11.1 points and 9.2 rebounds a game — few observers (including his high school coach, who suggested that Plumlee not return to Duke for his senior season) expected the breakout performance that his senior year has yielded so far.

Mason Plumlee is soaring above the competition during a breakout senior season for the top-ranked Blue Devils. (Duke Hoop Blog)

Plumlee is probably the frontrunner for National Player of the Year at this point, and conference player of the year as such. He is shooting 63.8% from the field while averaging 19.5 points (second in the league), 11.6 rebounds (first), and 1.6 blocks per game (sixth) for the nation’s top-ranked team. Much of his improvement has come as a result of major improvements at the free throw line. Plumlee, who shot 52.8% from the stripe his junior season and has hovered at around 50% for his entire career, is currently shooting 69.2% from the line and is going to the line at a much higher rate this season. Plumlee has only had one game where he has shot under 50% from the field, and he has had a double-double in eight of Duke’s 12 games, all of which are staggering statistics.  He also has Duke’s highest usage rate and offensive rating. The big question mark for Plumlee will be at the free throw line, though. While he has improved dramatically this year, he has also struggled over his last five games, reverting back to numbers closer to his career norms (27-of-47, or 57.4%). This is just nitpicking on a truly phenomenal season thus far for Plumlee, though, who should be considered the clear front-runner at this point, especially if Duke wins the ACC.

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ACC M5: 12.19.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 19th, 2012

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  1. Wilmington Star News: North Carolina State entered this season as the favorite to win the ACC, but a few shaky games and some tough losses gave fans reason to doubt if this team could live up to its lofty expectations. Now, dodging the question of whether or not these expectations were ever reasonable, the Wolfpack is starting to look like a real contender. In a victory Tuesday night over Stanford, the team’s four core veteran starters all scored over 15 points and looked cohesive. Though NCSU’s vaunted freshman class was mostly quiet while the veterans did their thing, the signs are clear that this squad could be very good by the time March rolls around.
  2. Fayetteville Observer:  Mark Gottfried has given his team quite a bit of UCLA flavor, drawing upon his experience as an assistant coach for the Bruins for nearly 10 years, but the rest of the staff brings over some of that same culture. Director of Operations Jeff Dunlap played for UCLA, as did the Director of Player Development Larry Farmer. Of course, while Dunlap played during Gottfried’s time in Los Angeles, Farmer represents a different era. His teams went 89-1 and won three NCAA titles as a player on the legendary John Wooden squads that featured Bill Walton and Sidney Wicks. Farmer would later coach at UCLA for a few seasons in the 1980s, but those seasons naturally pale before his place as a player on the greatest dynasty in men’s college basketball. I can’t speak for how effective Farmer is or will be at developing NC State players, but if his talent is anywhere close to his acumen in telling stories about partying with Bill Walton, then he will definitely be a substantial resource.
  3. Washington Post: Very quietly, the Maryland Terrapins have put together a nice 9-1 record, blemished only by a surprisingly close season-opening loss to Kentucky. Now, granted, since that game, the caliber of competition that Maryland has been playing has been somewhat lacking, yet a win over a George Mason team that beat Virginia, a blowout victory over Northwestern, and a collection of convincing landslide wins over the likes of Monmouth and South Carolina State paint the picture of a team that could be very good. Alex Len has gone from unknown foreign prospect to one of the top prospects in the NBA draft, yet, somehow, Maryland remains unranked. It’s a small thing, and something that doesn’t really concern the team that much, but don’t be surprised when Maryland starts popping up in the polls sooner rather than later.
  4. ESPN: Dexter Strickland was never a point guard. In high school he played at the wing and, in his own mind, he was always a combo guard. Yet in his college career at North Carolina, Strickland has often been used at the point, spelling Larry Drew II, Kendall Marshall, and now Marcus Paige as needed. Somehow, the defense-and-dribble-drive focused guard became a true point guard, and so far this season, Strickland ranks fourth in the ACC in assists per game. Though he still plays the bulk of his minutes at shooting guard, a combination of experience and a more cerebral  approach to the game have made him one of the better distributors in the conference, and an asset to the Tar Heels as a second ball-handler and playmaker alongside the freshman Paige.
  5. Syracuse Online: Michael Gbinije had a very brief career at Duke before transferring to Syracuse. Yet, because of the strange alignment of this particular historical moment, namely both Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim passing the 900-win threshold and the weirdness of conference realignment, means that Gbinije will have managed to play under the two winningest coaches in college basketball history as soon as Boeheim passes Bob Knight. He is also notable (or he will be notable) as being the only player in history to play on two separate ACC teams once Syracuse arrives in the league next season. I wouldn’t say this really means anything in particular, but it’s a nice weird footnote.
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ACC M5: 12.13.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 13th, 2012

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  1. Tomahawk Nation: Michael Rogner kills this article on Florida State’s Okaro White. He delves into the advanced stats (namely true shooting percentage) and draws his conclusions based on watching the games. This is the way all stats should be used. Regardless, White is one of Florida State’s best scorers; he just needs to shoot more. Right now, he’s shooting nearly 50% from three over the last year, he’s effective on the block, and he’s great in the high post. He absolutely needs to take charge of this offense. Assuming his efficiency scales up well, White may be the key to the most efficient offense Leonard Hamilton has had in Tallahassee (an honor currently held by the 2006-07 team starring Al Thornton and Toney Douglas). Read this.
  2. Tar Heel Blog: North Carolina has started three players at the five this season. None average 20 minutes a game, but freshmen Brice Johnson and Joel James seem to so far be getting the edge over Desmond Hubert. Johnson is an offensive star, but his slight frame could be a fatal flaw come conference play. James has the body of an elite five, but he has a lot of work to become more than a rebounder and physical presence. Long story short, look for Hubert’s minutes to continue their downward trajectory and for Johnson and James to keep sharing most available minutes for Roy Williams’ squad.
  3. Baltimore Sun: In the news surprising no one category, I present this article: “Maryland sharing the ball better this season.” Seriously though, the Terrapins are averaging eight more assists a game this year, taking them from the worst team in the ACC to one of the best teams in the country in terms of distributing the basketball. The obvious differences between this year and last year are the loss of Terrell Stoglin (a literal black hole) and the improvement of Alex Len. Add a healthy Pe’Shon Howard and new freshman Seth Allen… and there’s your improvement.
  4. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Virginia looks good. They’re surprisingly strong on offense and the freshmen have adapted to Tony Bennett’s defensive schemes well. Unfortunately, Jontel Evans re-injured his foot in the game against Tennessee last Wednesday. Unlike last year when the Cavaliers lost two players in December to transfer, Bennett should have a deeper roster when Evans returns for conference play. Evans’ injury may be a blessing in disguise, as the team has had to learn to score without its point guard on the floor.
  5. SBNation: Jabari Parker, the consensus second-best player in the class of 2013, will announce his college decision next Thursday. According to recruitniks and his dad, Duke and Michigan State remain the clear frontrunners. Parker is a 6’8″ and athletic scoring machine. If he does choose Duke, the Blue Devils may be the team to beat next season. Tentatively, they’d start Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Rodney Hood, Parker and Marshall Plumlee with Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson coming off the bench. That’s a really long, athletic team with four great scoring options.
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ACC M5: 12.06.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 6th, 2012

  1. ESPN: North Carolina guard/forward PJ Hairston has been playing a new position this year, the power forward spot. Robbi Pickeral discusses how in North Carolina’s small lineup (three guards plus Hairston with James Michael McAdoo), Hairston enjoys his new role because it creates mismatches and allows him to stretch the floor with his outside shooting ability, something atypical from a player at his position. Roy Williams expects to use this lineup often in the future, as it was successful against UAB last weekend. Hairston also plans to take the ball to the basket more to take advantage of his handling skills instead of settling for threes, and he has also gained some additional confidence because of this move. His numbers are so far much improved from last year, and if UNC continues to use this smaller lineup, they can stretch the floor with several three-point shooting options, something a bit out of the norm for a Roy Williams lineup.
  2. Washington Post: Maryland has a renewed focus on defense this season, as typical scouting sessions are focused on closely observing opponents’ offensive tendencies on film. Head coach Mark Turgeon said that the Terps’ victory over George Mason last weekend was the first time he has been happy with his team’s defense all season. One of the most important tasks Turgeon has undertaken is getting his freshmen on board with the team’s defensive focus. Alex Len and Dez Wells have especially bought into the defensive schemes that Turgeon hopes will become contagious amongst his younger players. At the moment, Maryland is ranked 78th in Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency ratings largely due to their opponents very rarely turning over the ball, so that is one area where the Terrapins will need to improve.
  3. While maybe not as important to the average Seminole fan as the triumph over the Seminoles on the gridiron two weeks ago, Florida’s evisceration of Florida State in Tallahassee last night was a sure sign that the Seminoles have a long way to go this season. Yes, Florida is one of the very best teams in the country but FSU was nowhere even near competitive with the Gators, something that they were even in 2006 and 2007 when Florida won their consecutive national championships. In the 25-point defeat (and it didn’t even seem that close), Florida State shot only 35% from the field and committed 22 turnovers, while Florida shot 49% and ran out on the Seminoles from the opening tip. Michael Snaer was the only Seminole in double figures, so if this game does not serve as a wakeup call for Leonard Hamilton’s team after the home embarrassments to South Alabama and Mercer, nothing will.
  4. Local radio voice Mark Thomas was inspired by NC State’s effort in its victory over Connecticut in the Jimmy V Classic two nights ago. The most important takeaway, according to Thomas, is that Mark Gottfried and his team appear to have realized that while they are a very talented, they are not good enough to just roll the basketball out there and out-talent the other team. The game against UConn showed the importance of topping that talent with strong effort, and NC State’s performance in the second half was certainly indicative of that. While it may be tough for NCSU to match Duke in the ACC this season, performances like this one will definitely remind observers as to why they predicted NC State to win the conference in the preseason after all.
  5. Duke extended the contract of athletic director Dr. Kevin White through the end of June 2019. White, since coming from Notre Dame in 2008, has overseen three national titles (including the 2010 men’s basketball title) and 12 ACC titles. Duke’s athletic teams have also been exceptional in the classroom, with only one team earning a GPA below 3.0 last semester. Duke’s athletics have also placed in the top 2o in the Director’s Cup (which measures performances in all sports) in each year during White’s tenure. While no one knows when head coach Mike Krzyzewski will step down, with White seemingly in place for much of the next decade, he may be the one officially making the extremely difficult call on who will replace the sport’s all-time leader in victories, a very difficult call indeed for even an AD with White’s pedigree.
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After Redemptive Week, Dez Wells is “Happiest I’ve Been My Whole Life”

Posted by IRenko on December 4th, 2012

I. Renko is a DC-based correspondent for Rush the Court. You can follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops. He filed this report after Sunday’s game between Maryland and George Mason in the BB&T Classic.

It was almost one year ago when Dez Wells, then a freshman at Xavier, had a starring role in one of college basketball’s ugliest scenes. Wells precipitated the now infamous brawl between Xavier and Cincinnati with a two-handed push of Cincy’s Ge’Lawn Guyn. He would promptly compound his mistake by charging the Cincinnati bench to throw some punches. The ensuing four-game suspension was a black mark on Wells’ promising freshman year, but actually paled in comparison to what followed after the season. In August, Xavier expelled Wells from the university for an alleged sexual assault. While a grand jury would later decline to indict him, by any stretch, the past year was a trying period for the 6’5″ swingman from Raleigh.

Dez Wells Led Maryland Over Northwestern and George Mason With His Physical, Attacking Game (Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback)

Yet on Sunday afternoon after leading his new school, Maryland, to a 69-62 win over George Mason in the BB&T Classic, Wells declared that he is “probably the happiest I’ve been my life.” After the week he’s had, perhaps it’s not hard to see why. Over the past week, Wells set his career high in points not once, but twice, first scoring 23 points in a win at Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, then 24 points in the win over Mason. Over the two games, Wells shot 20-of-28 from the field and scored 1.7 points per shot.  And as his coach Mark Turgeon emphasized after the game in praising Wells’ “great week,” it isn’t just his offense that’s been clicking:  “More importantly, I thought he defended well and rebounded better than he had.”

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ACC M5: 12.04.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 4th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: Maryland’s Alex Len has had a breakout sophomore campaign, averaging nearly 15 points and nine rebounds per game so far this season. The Ukrainian has been so impressive that many are now speculating about his draft stock. While it is far from certain that Len will leave school after this year, he is currently seventh on NBADraft.net‘s mock draft for next season and looks likely as a lottery pick if he elects to declare for the pros. Even if Len only stays in college a few more months, if he continues to play this well, Maryland is going to be a very tough out in March. While Len may not eclipse Mason Plumlee’s on-court numbers this year, if he decides to declare next spring he may very well end up going higher in the draft than the early NPOY candidate.
  2. Point guard Jontel Evans is slowly working his way back into suddenly surging Virginia‘s lineup. After struggling (largely without Evans) in losses to George Mason and Delaware earlier this season, Virginia emerged victorious from Wisconsin’s Kohl Center in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which is always a feather in the cap even if the Badgers are a little bit down this year. Evans played a season-high 23 minutes in last weekend’s victory over Wisconsin-Green Bay where he tallied seven assists. Both Evans and head coach Tony Bennett are excited at how quickly Evans has recovered from his foot surgery, and the team’s fortunes should only improve as Evans becomes even more ingrained in the Virginia rotation.
  3. Georgia Tech finally returns back to the renovated McCamish Pavilion after a long road trip, which featured a third-place finish at the DirecTV Classic in Anaheim and a competitive loss to Maui Invitational champions Illinois at Assembly Hall.  The Yellow Jackets will begin a seven-game home stand by hosting in-state rival Georgia tonight, a Bulldogs team that was highly competitive with both Indiana and UCLA earlier this season but is still only 2-5 overall. This game should be a litmus test to evaluate just where the Yellow Jackets are at this point in the season; a win certainly shows that the team is going in the right direction, whereas a loss would definitely be cause for great concern in Atlanta.
  4. Duke Chronicle: Tom Gieryn’s article discusses how Duke basketball’s focus on “Togetherness” thus far this season has definitely paid dividends for the Blue Devils. Last season, Coach Mike Krzyzewski talked of his team, saying, “It’s like a surprise gift. You open it up, and for the most part, it’s been a nice surprise, but I never have any idea what’s in there.” This year, the legendary coach said about his team, “They’re good guys—like, they hang together,” Krzyzewski said after Duke’s championship victory in the Battle 4 Atlantis. “They laugh at each other’s jokes. I don’t laugh at most of them. I don’t get most of them. The bottom line is they’re good guys and they like one another.” This sentiment was definitely not always apparent on last year’s squad. Even if Duke slips a bit from its extremely high level of play thus far, the team’s chemistry should help it recover a lot more quickly than last season where the slightest bit of adversity seemed to negatively impact a more fragile team. Also, Duke’s defense has benefited, at least in part, to this improved chemistry (though replacing Austin Rivers with Rasheed Sulaimon and Ryan Kelly’s defensive improvement have also played a huge role).
  5. Keeping it Heel: Matt Hamm suggests that head coach Roy Williams may not be managing his rotation in the most efficient way. Hamm’s major issue is that Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons are playing too much, at the expense of freshman Brice Johnson, and that PJ Hairston, who seems like the player most capable of creating his own shot, is averaging less than 20 minutes a game. This year has presented a bit of a challenge for the Tar Heels, as they lack a truly elite point guard or pure post player, both of which have been emblematic of Williams’ best teams at North Carolina. While making these changes may help, North Carolina will still need to continue to adjust its offense and be more flexible with lineups, something that Roy Williams has not exactly been known for in his tenure in Chapel Hill.
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Northwestern’s Loss To Maryland Won’t Help Its Case In March

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 28th, 2012

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

A loss in November should not be a huge factor when determining a team’s destiny for an NCAA bid in March, especially if it is to another team from a power conference like ACC. But for Northwestern, it is a big deal. The Maryland Terrapins are talented and they have two potential first round NBA picks in Alex Len and Dez Wells. Mark Turgeon is one of the better coaches in the business and barring a breakdown defensively, they will be in the hunt for an NCAA bid in March. So, why is this loss bad for the Wildcats? Because they could have had a chance to pull away in the first half and potentially boost their resume with a solid win for the selection committee as they make their case for the postseason. The Wildcats may not win more than nine games during the Big Ten season, so they need to bank on beating other “good but not great” teams at home before January. It is very likely that Maryland won’t run away with the ACC and they will be on the bubble too in March, but the Wildcats will be right up there in the conversation about resumes and RPI rankings. The selection committee will look at these kinds of inter-conference match-ups to determine which team took advantage on its home court and Bill Carmody could have helped his case with at least a strong showing on Tuesday night. Let’s examine how the Wildcats could have kept the game closer than a 20-point blowout loss.

Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire (ball) was ineffective against Maryland. (Chicago Tribune)

  • Alex Len Didn’t Get Enough Touches in the First Half: The game was much closer during the first 20 minutes because the Terps could not figure out how to take advantage of the Wildcats in the paint. Len was guarded by Alex Olah for most of the first half until he caught an elbow in the head which forced him to come out of the game. Olah did a good job of holding his ground against Len and the Terps’ wings – Dez Wells and Pe’Shon Howard – had a tough time feeding the post. Len got the ball a couple of times and got around Olah but he was fairly quiet until the second half. Even after Olah left the game, Wells and Nick Faust could not find a way to get Len the ball, making him very ineffective. With Len out of the equation, Drew Crawford and Dave Sobolewski should have taken advantage of their backdoor cuts and secured a lead, but instead, they were mostly flat-footed and lethargic on the offensive end. Crawford in particular settled for jumpers rather than driving to the hoop. Overall, the Wildcats shot just 24% from beyond the arc for the game and most of those shots went in during the second half. Carmody’s team had its chance to pad a little bit of a lead in the first half but once Turgeon made adjustments to get Len more touches, the game was out of their hands. Setting the tone in the first half against a younger Maryland team was extremely crucial for the Wildcats, but they did not fully utilize the Terps’ early mistakes. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Edition M5: 11.19.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 19th, 2012

  1. Conference realignment is a hot topic again, but this time the focus is squarely on the Big Ten. The conference reportedly is interested in expanding to the east coast markets, specifically targeting Maryland and Rutgers to become a 14-team league. University officials at Maryland may make a decision as early as early this week on whether to apply for admission in the B1G. Maryland will have to pay approximately $50 Million if it chooses to leave the ACC, and if Maryland leaves its conference, it is likely that Rutgers will follow suit from the Big East. From a basketball perspective, the Terps would make an excellent addition to the Big Ten.
  2. ESPN is putting Bobby Knight in some tough situations during this year’s broadcasting schedule. First, he called a Kentucky game, and now he is scheduled to call an Indiana game. Knight will call the IU game against Georgia with Dan Shulman on Monday’s ESPN telecast . It is well settled that Knight has not associated himself with the Hoosiers since he was fired over a decade ago but he will have to cross paths with the university now. The broadcast will likely be oriented around the game as usual and there might not be much else to this event except for Knight being around thousands of vocal Hoosiers fans during the game.
  3. Coming into this season, Illinois head coach John Groce has expressed his concerns about the guard play on the Illini roster. Despite depth at the guard position, he was not sure if there was a true point guard fit to run his up-tempo offense without turning the ball over. After three games, Tracy Abrams is doing a great job at that position but Groce has bigger issues with his big men. The Illini were outrebounded by 20 by Hawaii on the road on Friday night, and it took a buzzer beater by D.J. Richardson to win the game. Nnanna Egwu and Sam McLaurin will continue to be a focal point as opponents will try to dominate the Illini in the paint and this could be a concern for Groce as the season goes on.
  4. Speaking of big men, Michigan State freshman forward Matt Costello played for about 11 minutes against Texas Southern and that was enough to impress coach Tom Izzo. Costello injured his back during an exhibition game and had not seen any playing time until Michigan State’s home opener over the weekend. Freshman guards Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine have already shown their abilities but Costello may provide some valuable minute for Izzo off the bench to complement Derrick Nix. He averaged 25.1 PPG and 19.1 RPG in high school but understands that he needs to be patient throughout this year and hopes to constantly improve his game to earn more minutes on the floor.
  5. Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas is doing everything he promised so far this season. He scored a career high 31 points against Washington as the Buckeyes beat the Huskies 77-66 on Sunday. But Thad Matta knows that his team needs a “third guy” on offense in addition to Thomas and Aaron Craft who can consistently contribute. Lenzelle Smith Jr. was supposed to be that third option but he did not score a single point on Sunday. Matta understands that there will be certain days when Craft or Smith won’t be effective so he needs a couple of the sophomores to step up in order to achieve their long-term goals. Amir Williams and Laquinton Ross may be able to provide that spark over time — Williams is more effective defensively but Ross has the offensive skills to contribute 8-10 PPG for the Buckeyes.
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