Morning Five: 06.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2012

  1. We’ve spent too much time on this site in the last five years lamenting a number of initiatives perpetrated against the game of college basketball in the name of dollar-chasing. The shamelessness of college administrators in discussing the welfare of student-athletes in one breath while simultaneously making decisions to further enrich themselves without regard for players and fans who put these folks in their positions of power continues to appall us. Interestingly, others outside our game (and our first cousin, college football) are starting to notice. Two articles published independently over the weekend get at the same point — that those who run college basketball have forgotten what made it so popular in the first place. John Supinie writes that “the integrity and traditions that made the game so great were lost in the money,” while Dick Jerardi says that “when your fans can’t follow what it is you are doing, you are in danger of losing those fans.” Both articles take different tacks but end up in the same place — college hoops cannot thrive if it remains the red-headed stepchild to college football and the NBA, a mere pawn to be tossed around in their pursuit of increasingly greater shares of the pie.
  2. While we’re in the mood for piling on this morning, a recent article about transfers by USA Today informed us that four of every 10 D-I recruits who enter as a freshman will have left that program by the end of his second year. That 40% attrition rate includes only two percent of players who leave halfway through their college careers to the NBA, meaning that fully 38% of incoming players are transferring or simply quitting school altogether by that time. Transfers have been a hot topic this offseason, with over 400 players already moving on to presumably sunnier situations and a couple of public (and thorny) battles between coaches and players over their right to head elsewhere. NCAA president Mark Emmert says that he plans on initiating a task force to study the issue, a step in the right direction, but we’re almost certain that any recommendations will benefit the coaches more than the players.
  3. One of those 400+ transfers is Connecticut’s Michael Bradley, as hard luck a player as you will find. A young man who grew up in an orphanage in Tennessee because he was estranged from his mother never saw action in his two years at UConn. He redshirted his freshman year and suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of Jim Calhoun’s rotation last year. After his grandmother in Chattanooga was recently diagnosed with cancer, Bradley decided to transfer to Western Kentucky to be closer to her, but over the weekend the NCAA denied Bradley’s waiver request to play immediately at WKU. This decision proves once again that the criteria for justified waivers does not appear to be consistently articulable, which would probably cut down on these requests if the NCAA would simply provide clearer guidelines.
  4. Prepare yourselves for three years of Pitino Bowl, as Louisville has agreed to play FIU for the next three seasons (two in Louisville; one in South Florida) now that Richard Pitino has settled in as the new head coach of the Panthers. Father/son matchups are often lopsided because of the superior position within the industry that the elder has over the younger, and this situation should be no different. But it’ll be interesting to see if Richard is more like a Pat Knight (Bob) or Tony Bennett (Dick) in his career, especially given that he’s starting out at a school that not even the coaching phenom Isiah Thomas could make work.
  5. A couple of key ACC players may not lace them up next season, depending on how the rest of the summer shakes out for each. NC State’s Lorenzo Brown, a rising junior who averaged a superb 13/6/5 RPG manning the point guard spot for Mark Gottfried’s surprising Wolfpack team, will have surgery on his right knee this week to determine what is causing him some discomfort. An early report suggested that he had a meniscus problem there, but that has not been confirmed, and there is no timetable for his return to action. On the other side of the Triangle, Duke’s Andre Dawkins appears to be redshirting next year, his senior season as a Blue Devil. Coach K announced that the redshirt was an official decision as of last Friday, but he also added that Dawkins needs time “to step away,” which might leave open the possibility that things could change if he chooses not to take that step. Dawkins contributed 8.4 PPG last season as a key member of Duke’s backcourt, but he disappeared down the stretch as Duke did likewise in the last several games of the season.
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ACC Noon Five: 03.12.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 12th, 2012

Well, it’s all over. After a fantastic ACC Tournament (especially the final two days) the results are in with the conference getting the expected five bids. But before we move on to bracket analysis it’s time to think about the last couple of days.

  1. Keeping It Heel: A lot of people recently have been making a big deal out of Kendall Marshall‘s minutes (he’s averaging 36 a game recently). And while it’s true that Roy Williams normally doesn’t like to play his guys more than around 30 minutes, Marshall is an exception for multiple reasons: (1) since Dexter Strickland’s injury there’s a big drop-off from him to his reserve, Stilman White; (2) the speed of his game comes from his passing, not his legs; and (3) he’s not particularly foul-prone. The Tar Heels need Marshall, and while a little more rest might be ideal, he didn’t look gassed at the end of the Florida State game yesterday (his third game in as many days).
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: JP Giglio checks in with his recount of the officiating controversy from Saturday’s North CarolinaNC State matchup, including recounting the brief Twitter exchange between Marshall and Alex Johnson (who tried to draw the charge on Marshall’s game-winning shot). NC State conspiracy fans will blame Brian Dorsey: Dorsey worked the controversial game where Karl Hess tossed Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta; he called four of CJ Leslie’s five fouls; and he had the best angle of Marshall’s go-ahead layup with 10  seconds left.
  3. Shelby Star: Leonard Hamilton and Terry Whisnant (a freshman guard averaging around eight minutes and two points a game) are the first Gaston County natives to win an ACC Tournament since 1987. Almost everyone talks about the big firsts (first time Florida State has ever won, first African-American coach to win, first team not Duke or North Carolina since 2004, etc.), but sometimes it’s cool to get a look at local emphasis. Gaston County started its ACC Tournament play strong behind Phil Ford and North Carolina, winning twice in the late 1970s, but the small North Carolina county’s conference postseason success has been dormant for the last 30+ years.
  4. Orlando Sentinel: Welcome to the Florida State bandwagon everyone (I’m going to pretend I’ve been on it all year, ignoring the short stretch of games between the Clemson beatdown and blowout of North Carolina)! Now the question is can the Seminoles reach their second Final Four (the first came in 1972)… Dick Vitale and Digger Phelps both initially slotted Hamilton’s squad into the final weekend last night.
  5. Independent Weekly: This article is a little dated (it was written after the ACC Tournament semifinals), but I love the author’s prose. I also think Adam Sobsey makes a good point that Duke was missing two key offensive pieces in Ryan Kelly (injured) and Andre Dawkins (AWOL). Dawkins has a history of fading down the stretch of the season, but Duke needs him to find his stroke for the NCAA tournament, or its potent three-point attack will be hurting.

EXTRA: A big congrats to Patrick Stevens of D1SCOURSE, who predicted one of the best brackets of the 115 tallied by The Bracket Project. Stevens’ bracket correctly identified 67 of the 68 members of the field, correctly seeded 38 of the 68 teams and only missed the seed by one of 64 of the teams. That’s incredible (for comparison Joe Lunardi got 67/35/61, Andy Glockner got 65/35/56 and Jerry Palm got 66/36/59).

VIDEO EXTRA: Thanks to @RnR_NCSU for this classic mashup of NC State’s selection reaction with Maury.

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Night Line: Instant Classic a Result of Duke’s Late-Game Execution, UNC’s Lack of It

Posted by EJacoby on February 9th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor to RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Austin Rivers’ three-ball went down for Duke at the buzzer, and Mike Krzyzewski’s team walked away with a stunning road victory in Chapel Hill on Wednesday night. This 85-84 Blue Devils win will always be remembered for the freshman guard’s late-game heroics, but there were plenty of other factors that played into the result. By now, I assume everyone has seen the shot, which will undoubtedly go down as one of the all-time great moments in the 92-year history of the Tobacco Road rivalry. But it cannot be forgotten that this game was actually not a back-and-forth classic between the two teams. North Carolina led the entire second half, including a nine-point advantage at the under-four minute timeout, and gave the game away by failing to make any winning plays down the stretch. Meanwhile, Duke was clinical from the outside and knocked down clutch shot after clutch shot, capped off by the game-winning shot by Rivers as time expired. All that was left from there was a completely silenced Dean Smith Center, an elated Blue Devils sideline, and a moment that will be replayed hundreds of times this season.

Austin Rivers is About to Silence a Crowd of Thousands in this Game-Winning Shot for Duke (Getty Images)

If you want to know why North Carolina blew an 11-point lead at home with 4:09 to play, the answer certainly begins with the clutch play of Duke’s Rivers. But it doesn’t end there. He had a career-high 29 points on 6-10 shooting from three, but one man cannot be solely responsible for erasing a double-figure lead in four minutes. Instead, look at the home team’s attempts to close out the game and what they did wrong, which includes three missed free throws, three offensive rebounds allowed, two turnovers, and a total of one field-goal attempted in the final four-plus minutes. Leading 79-68, UNC allowed Duke to score after a missed three with a second-chance putback. Then came the barrage of mistakes, which were incurred on offense by way of clanked free throws and lost-ball turnovers. On the other end, Duke was 6-8 from the field to close out the game with three huge three-pointers and three other deep jumpers.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.08.12 – Rivalry Week Headline Night

Posted by EJacoby on February 8th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor to RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Here we go, folks. Get ready for one of the very best nights of the college basketball regular season, including two 5-star showdowns. The best rivalry in the sport highlights this slate. We absolutely guarantee some great basketball tonight. Let’s get into the breakdowns:

#7 Kansas at #6 Baylor – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (*****)

Who's Going to Stop Thomas Robinson Tonight for Baylor? (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

  • Kansas has lost their last two road games at Iowa State and Missouri despite putting up a great fight in both efforts. Tonight is another opportunity to win a crucial conference road game against a team who they will be competing with for the Big 12 title. They will be looking for the season sweep of Baylor after already thrashing the Bears at home back on January 16. In order to do so, the play of Tyshawn Taylor might be the key. He’s been terrific recently at 18.5 points and 6.5 assists in those two road environments, but late-game turnovers continue to be his bugaboo. Eliminating a mistake or two at the end of the game can be the difference between a win and a loss, especially in this one with such physical front lines that may cancel each other out and leave the guards to decide this one. Along those lines, Thomas Robinson will be defended by any number of physical forwards, but that didn’t stop him from going for 27/14 in the first meeting. Nobody can shut him down when he is on. For Kansas to have an advantage, someone else needs to step up and make big shots, whether it is Conner Teahan, Travis Releford, or Elijah Johnson. They have lacked that unsung hero in road games thus far.
  • It doesn’t feel like Baylor is playing very well right now, yet their talent and depth has continued to carry them through the Big 12 slate with just two losses to top competition. Tonight is a must-win at home to avenge the earlier loss to Kansas and to keep themselves alive in the regular season title hunt. The Bears allow just 39.6% field-goal shooting on the season and will do everything in their power to contain Robinson from going off. Quincy Acy, a stellar defender (2.3 BPG), must have a great game in order to do that. Baylor has more overall scoring talent and will have the advantage if Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III just play to their abilities. At 1.12 points per possession during Big 12 play, Baylor leads the conference in offensive efficiency, but the Kansas defense is the best that they will face. Just like Kansas needs Taylor to step up late, pay attention to how Pierre Jackson performs in this game, the guard who has made nearly all of their big shots this season.
  • This game will be televised on the Deuce, but it’s just as spectacular of a matchup as the one being played simultaneously on ESPN. Baylor is just a two-point favorite at home, as we just don’t know exactly which Bears players will show up in big games. It seems like Kansas can be trusted to play well in this game, but do they have enough impact players to get the road win? I’m predicting a Baylor win by about four to six points as their pieces overwhelm Kansas by the end of the night.

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ACC Morning Five: 01.30.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 30th, 2012

  1. CBSSports.com: Gregg Doyel hits the nail on the head in this column (by the way, Doyel covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer before going to CBSSports.com and wasn’t exactly close with Mike Krzyzewski over the years) on Duke‘s Cameron Crazies. The one caveat is that he didn’t really offer a solution to the boredom and lack of ownership. For comparison’s sake Coach K offered his thoughts (courtesy of Duke Hoop Blog):

    “Our crowd sometimes becomes fans instead of part of the game. Overall, our crowd has been part of what we’ve done. They haven’t come there to watch us play. They’ve come there to compete with us. I think this year it’s more of watching us play and cheering us on. When you do that you don’t really understand the game situations as well. You don’t have a feel for the game. You can’t be as on point. That doesn’t mean we don’t love them. But, this team needs it more and would benefit from that support.”

    I think both Doyel and Krzyzewski are probably right. The Cameron atmosphere was developed as Duke got more talented. It gradually became more and more controlled in the 1990s and eventually morphed to its present state. Other than big games (I’m thinking of Maryland and North Carolina recently) and big-time players, the Crazies don’t seem as connected with the game as in the past. It has started to feel like more of a show. Basically, I think Coach K describes the current issue that led to the problem brought up by Doyel.
    Author’s Note: As a side note, Coach K gave a pretty scathing press conference after Duke beat St. John’s at home. It’s worth a watch.

  2. ACC Sports: Adrian Atkinson (normally our North Carolina defensive-charting connoisseur) took a look at Duke’s most used lineups this season. Remember, he’s only using Duke’s conference games so the sample size is fairly small, meaning you should take the efficiencies with a grain of salt. That said, I think his overall conclusions are fairly interesting. Duke’s most effective lineup is Tyler Thornton, Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. It’s a little surprising to me that this lineup isn’t used more often given the fact that its defensive efficiency is so outrageous. It’s also worth noting that Duke’s defense drops off dramatically by just replacing Thornton with Andre Dawkins. Even worse than that (shockingly) is replacing Ryan Kelly with Miles Plumlee (which leads me to believe that both Plumlees are good defenders at the five, but horrid defenders at the four). Anyways, these numbers are fascinating and worth a look.
  3. Fox Sports South: Apparently, Harrison Barnes isn’t a fan of pink shoes. At halftime against Georgia Tech Sunday, Barnes switched from the team’s pink kicks to the normal ones. Andrew Jones makes it sound like Barnes really struggled in the pink footwear, but Barnes was 4-8 from the field with 11 points at the half. More interestingly, Barnes shared his pregame soundtrack and meal. Tunes: John Legend. Food: “I always eat mashed potatoes, rice, spaghetti, chicken and steak […] Two pieces of chicken, one piece of steak, [and the] steak’s cooked medium.”
  4. Palm Beach Post: If you told me one ACC coach would get a midseason contract extension I wouldn’t have been surprised. Pretty much all but two coaches appear to be doing strong jobs; Jeff Bzdelik and Jim Larranaga are the outliers (I also would probably hold my horses on Steve Donahue and Brian Gregory until I see them recruit, but that’s different). But it was Larranaga who got himself a three-year extension through 2019. Larranaga looks older than many of his coaching brethren, but he’s only 62. My guess is that the extension came (at least in some part) indirectly associated with the current NCAA investigation of Miami athletics.
  5. Charleston Post and Courier: It’s not directly related to the ACC, but former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins is taking a short medical leave that will probably last until the end of the season. Cremins did a terrific job putting College of Charleston on the map the last few years, though his trip to the Final Four at Georgia Tech stands as his career’s crowning achievement. Assistant coach Mark Byington will take over in his stead. The details of Cremins’ medical issues weren’t announced, though it’s reportedly not life-threatening and may be sleep-related.

EXTRA: Dan Wolken thinks college basketball should push its season back to January (moving March Madness to May) in order to shirk college football and the NFL, attempting to keep casual sports fans from ignoring the regular season. It may be in the NCAA’s best monetary interest, but I can’t see something this drastic happening without a big push. Still it’s an interesting piece.

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ACC Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 27th, 2012

  1. Virginian-Pilot: Lefty Driesell wasn’t the only one annoyed by Maryland naming its court after Gary Williams. Apparently, some boosters also came forward to express their dismay and there are rumors “that somebody with very deep pockets might have influenced the decision.” Some of the complaints seemed focused on the Driesell being overlooked (and ultimately, I think that’s the reason for almost all of the complaints), but others focus on Williams’ abysmal graduation rate (barely 1/5 of his players graduated his last 15 years). In my opinion (regardless of deep pockets), Maryland made the right move naming the court after Williams.
  2. Charlotte Observer: Karl Hicks is the man behind the ACC scheduling. His job is to make sure the unbalanced schedules are as balanced as possible. Basically, he is supposed to tell the future and try to keep teams from getting front- or rear-loaded schedules. Currently, the extreme could be seen with NC State, who played cellar-dwellers until running into a buzz saw in Chapel Hill. Florida State had the opposite issue, as it played a nasty early conference schedule with only a home game against Duke and two games against Virginia looking like real challenges after a brutal early stretch.
  3. Grantland: First, for the record, there are some years I would agree with Shane Ryan that Duke’s game at Maryland was the most emotional of the season. In general, those years left with Greivis Vasquez. This year I think home against North Carolina will be Duke’s biggest emotional game though their game at Florida State will be another big one. This isn’t to understate Duke-Maryland as a rivalry (which happens most of the time), but it’s not turned up to eleven like in years past. The most valuable tidbit from the article is the YouTube video, which breaks down Andre Dawkins‘ defensive struggles.
  4. Virginia Tech Collegiate Times: The Hokie student newspaper checks in on the recent debate over Seth Greenberg‘s job stability with a piece looking at the major arguments for and against him. Unfortunately, the pro-Greenberg slant left off the most important stat: before Greenberg showed up, Virginia Tech had faced six out of seven losing seasons and won six games in two years in the Big East. Greenberg brought the program to a level its never been to. He also just landed a top-25 recruiting class last year that should prove its worth over the next few years. I understand it’s frustrating to perennially be on the bubble, but don’t let that wipe out past struggles.
  5. ESPN: The Worldwide Leader checks in on how to fix Duke‘s attendance issue point-by-point. I’m pretty sure this article is supposed to be ironic, but the suggestions aren’t very witty. To the first point (about conflicting with rush events), I’ll also point out that Wake Forest is not good this year. Is that an excuse for a top-10 team not filling its stands? No, but it’s a lot harder to get fraternities and sororities out for what’s expected to be a blowout. I’ll let you read the rest.

EXTRA: The legendary NC State player David “Skywalker” Thompson who led NC State to an undefeated season in 1973 and a national championship in 1974 is helping his community as a motivational speaker. College basketball robbed its fans of seeing his 48-inch vertical (five inches higher than Vince Carter) in all its majesty because of a dunk ban at the time. Thompson himself struggled with substance abuse during his professional career, robbing himself and the fans of what should have been one of the top careers ever. Thompson’s goal is to share his mistakes, so kids today don’t make the same ones.

“But he did make one dunk in his college career — a thunderous jam in his final regular-season home game that showed fans what they had been missing.

‘They gave me a technical (foul), and I got a standing ovation,’ he said, laughing. ‘You don’t usually have your coach (Norman Sloan) smiling and your fans cheering when you get a T.'”

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Set Your TiVo: 01.25.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 25th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are no Top 25 matchups or truly ‘great’ games on tonight’s schedule, but it is another packed Wednesday of important conference battles so there will be plenty of action worth monitoring.

Villanova at Louisville – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)

Peyton Siva Looks to Get Louisville Back on Track Tonight Against Another Top Point Guard (Getty Images/A. Lyons)

  • In what would have been billed as a big-time matchup at the beginning of the season, this game now features two unranked teams (Louisville is still #25 in one poll) with a combined 6-9 record in the Big East. But this will still be a fun game to watch, and the away team is playing its best basketball of the season. Nova has won two straight games and lost by only four points at Cincinnati in the game before, as Maalik Wayns has finally taken his game to the next level. His averages over the past three games are an insane 30.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. He’s also gone 30-33 from the free throw line in that stretch. He’s second in the conference in scoring (18.7 PPG) and leads the Big East in free throws made. Nova needs other players to be strong with the ball against Louisville’s high-pressure defense, as the Wildcats average a terrible 17 turnovers in conference games, worst in the Big East. If Jay Wright’s team can take care of the ball and get to the rim instead of settling for outside shots, they have a chance in this game. Jayvaughn Pinkston will play a key role as an emerging threat (18 points, 11.5 rebounds in his last two) at the forward position that can attack the rim.
  • If Louisville wants to get back into consideration as a ranked team, they must win this game at home. The Cardinals continue to deal with injuries but have all of their key cogs healthy in this one, as leading-scorer Kyle Kuric (13.4 PPG) returned from an ankle injury to score 21 points against Pittsburgh in their last game. Louisville has the advantage on the wings with Kuric, Russ Smith (12.5 PPG), and Chris Smith (10.1 PPG) and they will try to swarm Villanova defensively, who only has one true ballhandler in its lineup. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng have tough matchups with Maalik Wayns and Mouphtaou Yarou, respectively, that are worth watching to see who has the edge on the perimeter and in the paint. Overall, Louisville’s depth and defensive pressure should prove too much for the Wildcats.
  • Louisville is a nine-point favorite at home in the KFC Yum! Center and cannot lose this game if it wants to be taken seriously in the Big East. The 10-10 Wildcats come in with some confidence and will look to play the role of spoiler as Wayns tries to prove he’s the best point guard in the conference. Expect the Cardinals to wear out Villlanova in the second half and come out with the win.

#8 Duke at Maryland- 9:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)

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ACC Morning Five: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 19th, 2012

  1. South Florida Sun-Sentinel: This is a great story from Steve Gorten on Malcolm Grant‘s relationship with Jim Larranaga. Grant’s brother died at the end of December from a heart attack, which has put a lot of pressure on him this season. Since his brother’s death, Grant’s basketball game has struggled. But his relationship with his coach seems to be getting stronger, and, oh yeah, Grant led the team in scoring with 16 points in its win over Clemson.
  2. Washington Times: Alex Len jumped out to a torrid start after finally getting his eligibility, but ACC play has seen his production drop off sharply. First, he’s playing better teams that are bigger and more physical. Secon, he’s probably struggling with the pace. The good news is that Florida State is probably Len’s worst possible matchup. The Seminoles are long, strong and athletic. You saw them body up North Carolina’s frontcourt, so it’s no surprise that the freshman center struggled. But Maryland needs Len to produce more, both offensively and defensively, for the Terrapins to fulfill the role of “spoilers” this year.
  3. Fox Sports South: Florida State’s recent offensive explosion is just the most recent conference event to overshadow the two-loss Virginia Cavaliers. But don’t forget about Tony Bennett’s squad, which still has the third-best resume in the conference. Like his team, Joe Harris has gone under the radar for the Cavaliers this season. He’s not flashy, but the 6’6″ shooter is averaging over 12 points a game for a very slow team. His three-point percentages are slightly down from last season, but he’s significantly improved his game inside the arc, knocking down more shots and not turning the ball over. Mike Scott deservedly draws most of the attention, but don’t overlook his supporting cast.
  4. Durham Herald-Sun: The last two years he’s been at Duke, Andre Dawkins has started fast and faded in January. This year, the slump struck early. However, coming off of strong games against Virginia and Clemson, Dawkins may be surging at the right time this season. The one question I have is about Dawkins’ defense. There’s no doubt he can jump (he doesn’t dunk much, but his jams are highlight-reel worthy) and his size makes him an asset on the perimeter. But Dawkins has been a suspect defender from the get-go at Duke. I’m not sure if it’s lateral quickness or slow acceleration, but he always feels a step behind the play. If he can bolster his defense, there’s no doubt his minutes will improve as well.
  5. Carolina March: I’m not sure anyone looked at North Carolina‘s game at Virginia Tech as anything more than a potential road test before the season started. Now? There are major questions about both teams: One is reeling after losing its first three conference games against one of the weakest schedules; the other is coming off a 33-point woodshedding. The bottom line is that both teams are desperate for the win. Normally, I’d say “North Carolina is more talented and will be coming out swinging after reading about its ‘mental toughness’ and ‘intensity’ the last couple of days,” but the Hokies may be even more desperate for the win. This should actually be a very good gauge of North Carolina’s toughness, as I expect Greenberg’s squad to really battle the Tar Heels.

EXTRA: This is the first I’ve ever heard of it, but there’s apparently a national championship for student sections. The weird thing is, I don’t see any real reasoning behind the schools vying for the title. In the ACC, Duke, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia and Wake Forest are the representatives. I’m not sure if you’ve taken the time to watch Miami play this year, but the Hurricanes are lucky to put 200 students in the stands. Georgia Tech is also struggling with attendance in large part because of the team’s expectations and not having a stadium in which to play. Clemson is notoriously loud, but how did Maryland and NC State not make the conference cut? Consider me baffled.

That Looks Like a National Championship Student Section if I've Ever Seen One (Stadium Journey)

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Night Line: Duke Looks Vulnerable Heading Into ACC Play

Posted by EJacoby on January 5th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Over the past month, Duke had won five straight games and quietly risen to #3 in the AP Poll and #2 in the RPI without skipping a beat. But home victories over the likes of Western Michigan and UNC Greensboro won’t make fans forget about the Devils’ embarrassing 22-point loss at Ohio State earlier in the year, and it would take a strong road performance to erase those memories. Wednesday night showed the Blue Devils get thoroughly outplayed by unranked Temple in downtown Philadelphia, confirming the suspicion that Mike Krzyzewski’s team could be vulnerable both defensively and on the road heading into conference play. Coach K will need to refine his rotation and strengthen his team’s defensive intensity if they want to realistically compete with North Carolina for another ACC title.

Duke Had Major Trouble Defending Temple on Wednesday Night (AP/T. Mihalek)

Perhaps no team played as difficult a non-conference schedule as Duke, which would suggest that they are well prepared for their old familiar foes when conference play begins this weekend. The Blue Devils played Michigan State, Ohio State, Belmont, Michigan, Kansas, Davidson, Tennessee, and Washington as part of one of the most challenging schedules in the country. But Wednesday’s game against Temple was just their second road game (although it was played on one of Villanova’s two home courts, not Temple’s), and they were dominated in both. At Ohio State on November 29, Duke allowed the Buckeyes to shoot 60% on two-pointers and 57% on threes, amounting to a horrendous 130.8 efficiency rating for the Buckeyes. On Wednesday night, Temple shot 58% on twos and 50% on threes for a 114.7 efficiency. Considering that Missouri’s 126.5 offensive efficiency is the best in the country, it goes without saying that Duke is allowing its opponents to score way too easily in hostile environments.

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Set Your TiVo: 01.04.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 4th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Huge games in the Big East and Big 12 highlight tonight’s action, along with Duke’s final non-conference test. Here’s your schedule for tonight:

#8 Duke at Temple – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (***)

Will Dunphy Have His Owls Ready To Upset K's Devils? (Getty)

  • The Blue Devils have shockingly stayed out of the spotlight for the past few weeks, quietly handling their business in the non-conference. Perhaps the shellacking that Mike Krzyzewski’s team took in Ohio State in November was the wake-up call that this team needed, as Duke has won five straight in impressive fashion since that game. Coach K’s team is ranked 4th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive rankings, boasting the nation’s third-best true shooting percentage (60.6%) and eighth-best points per possession statistic (1.16 PPP), amongst many other impressive offensive numbers. As Austin Rivers continues to improve his decision-making and efficiency offensively, Duke gets harder to defend. The freshman is now up to a team-leading 15.4 points per game while shooting 46% from the field and 41% from three. If Rivers can penetrate the Owls’ defense to create good looks for the other Duke guards and himself, Duke will be in good shape.
  • Temple is an elite perimeter defensive team, where the Owls hold opponents to shoot 25.6% from three-point range, the fourth-best percentage in the country. Against a Duke team that loves to shoot the three, guarding the perimeter will again be priority number one in this game. In addition, Temple is strong with the ball and their 1.28 assist-to-turnover ratio is a top-30 national number, far better than Duke’s 1.02 ratio. By limiting their opponent’s long-range makes and winning the turnover battle, Temple will seek to gain an advantage at home. Their trio of guards Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez, and Khalif Wyatt, all at 13.3 PPG or better, will look to neutralize Duke’s own trio in the scoring department. However, their best big man Michael Eric remains out with a knee injury, which could spell trouble against Duke’s 6’10” Plumlee brothers.
  • Duke is a seven-point favorite in this game and will be well-prepared in their final non-conference game. But the Blue Devils haven’t played a road game since their blowout loss at OSU, and Temple has the guards to match Duke. With Eric missing down low, Temple is without a key defensive cog, but they’ve been playing without him for over a month. Expect a hard fought game in Philly.

#17 Marquette at #9 Georgetown- 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (****)

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Set Your TiVo: 12.09.11 to 12.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 9th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It is road test Saturday as Kentucky and Ohio State face strong tests in Bloomington and Lawrence while a fierce intra-city rivalry plays out on the hardwood in Cincinnati. Also, Duke faces a challenge from Washington at MSG while Wisconsin and Gonzaga look to get back on the right track on their home floors. [Editor’s Note: There will be no Set Your TiVo on Monday due to the barren nature of that night’s schedule as most schools transition into finals week. We will resume on Tuesday.]

#6 Duke vs. Washington (at New York, NY) – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (***)

Duke is Back at MSG For Another Great Game (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

  • Duke returns to Madison Square Garden for the second time this year to take on a Washington team that also will be playing its second game in the building after a thrilling game against Marquette on Tuesday night. This game will be up-tempo and you can expect guard-heavy Duke to try to take advantage of Washington’s inability to defend the three-point shot. Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly can all knock down the triple at a high rate and they’re the reasons why the Blue Devils rank #19 in that department. They’ll be shooting against a Huskies defense that ranks a paltry #262 (37.1%) against the trifecta. The Huskies used a zone at times against Marquette earlier this week. That may be effective at stopping Duke inside, but the Blue Devil guards can shoot right over it. If Lorenzo Romar goes man-to-man, his team will have to fight its way through the tremendous screening action that is a huge part of Duke’s offense, allowing shooters to get open with ease. If Duke knocks down its threes, it’ll be a long early afternoon for Washington.
  • The defensive matchups don’t look good for Washington, so you would have to think the Huskies will need to put up a lot of points in order to win. They certainly can do that against Duke’s perimeter defense, but the key will be Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox making a bunch of threes to offset the barrage that may come from the Duke shooters. Washington has the height and athleticism necessary to neutralize and even take advantage of Duke in the paint with Aziz N’Diaye and Darnell Gant which will force the Blue Devils to make shots. Offensively, UW’s guards have to be able to penetrate to open up some outside shots while getting N’Diaye and Gant some easy buckets around the rim. That means Abdul Gaddy and (especially) Tony Wroten can’t turn the ball over. The freshman is certainly talented but he turns it over more than four times per game.
  • This is a big chance for Washington (4-3) to snag a crucial victory with hardly anything of note left on its non-conference schedule. Washington must rebound the basketball and push the pace as much as possible. The Huskies do a very good job on the boards, outrebounding Duke by an average of 10 RPG coming into the game. The Huskies need to be tough around the basket on both ends of the floor and should not be afraid to foul Mason Plumlee when he receives the ball in the post. Plumlee is a 42.3% foul shooter and should be in for a battle around the basket. While Washington may not be able to defend the three-ball straight up, the Huskies’ length and athleticism has the potential to bother Duke’s guards. Rivers can break down a defense at will but Curry is susceptible to shaky ballhanding and turnovers. If Washington can rattle Curry and put points on the board, they’ll be in the game for the long haul. We’re looking for a closer than expected game but still have to favor the Blue Devils because of their three-point shooting and the partisan crowd sure to fill Madison Square Garden.

Cincinnati @ #7 Xavier – 12:30 PM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (****)

  • The Crosstown Shootout is one of the perennially underrated rivalries in the game. While the teams aren’t always great, the basketball is intense between two schools that don’t particularly care for one another. Xavier is the better team but can’t afford to take the Bearcats lightly. The Musketeers needed second half rallies to defeat Vanderbilt and Purdue before going on the road and winning at Butler this past Wednesday. Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons do most of the work for this team but the X-men will need an interior presence against Cincinnati big man Yancy Gates. Gates is a load inside but Kenny Frease should be able to match up with him, at least on the defensive end. If Chris Mack’s squad can limit Gates, who is struggling with only 15 total points scored in his last two games, Xavier will be well on its way to a win at the Cintas Center.
  • Cincinnati plays terrific defense but Mick Cronin’s team really struggles to score. The Bearcats have a stunning lack of depth for a team that is supposed to contend for an upper tier finish in the Big East. Since it is putting up only 64 PPG, Cincinnati has to win games with its defense. The good news is Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon can hit from deep with some level of consistency but they’ll face their toughest test to date against a Xavier defense allowing only 25.5% shooting from the three-point line. If the shots don’t fall, Cincinnati doesn’t stand much of a chance, especially if Gates continues his lackluster play of late. To win, the Bearcats must shoot well but they also have to control the glass and the pace of the game. Holloway loves to push the ball, penetrate and get to the line where he’s an 86.2% shooter. He averages nearly ten free throw attempts per game and it’s vital that Cincinnati keep him off the charity stripe if it is to win.
  • These teams are similar with regards to their defense and toughness but Xavier is a more talented and deeper version of Cincinnati. Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, it’s hard to see the Musketeers dropping this game. For the Bearcats to have a chance to pull it out, Gates has to be the player he was towards the end of last season when he was putting up 20+ points a night. In addition, Cashmere Wright can’t be turning the ball over at the rate (3.3 per game) he has so far this season. We may be making a mistake since it is a rivalry game, but Xavier by 10-15 points seems like a good bet.
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Duke Continues To Search For An Answer At Point Guard

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011

Will Rothschild is an RTC correspondent and can be found on Twitter @warothschild. He filed this report from the Duke-Colorado State game Wednesday night in Durham.

After eight games, the Seth Curry Point Guard Experiment is over at Duke.

While running through a trio of good-but-flawed teams that lacked both the defensive physicality and the experience to expose their flaws at the Maui Invitational, that’s exactly what happened to the Blue Devils in their 22-point beating at Ohio State last week. And among the most glaring truths that game revealed was just how far Curry has to go in his development as a point guard.

There is a long tradition of combo guards running the show at Duke under Coach K. From Johnny Dawkins to Jeff Capel to Daniel Ewing to Scheyer to Nolan Smith, Krzyzewski has never hesitated to rely on players who weren’t natural points to initiate the offense. While Roy Williams says he prefers to have three “true” point guards on the roster at all times and was known at Kansas to play two at the same time, Coach K has gotten it done at times with none.

Duke Is Still Searching For A Point Guard

So it wasn’t particularly surprising in November to see Duke’s starting five include three natural shooting guards – Curry, Austin Rivers and Andre’ Dawkins – and two forwards – Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee – while highly recruited true point guards Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook watched from the bench.

“But,” Kryzewski said after Wednesday night’s defeat of Colorado State, “getting beat by (22) points will lead to a lot of things.” It appears the point guard rotation may be one of those things. Though he certainly wasn’t the only Blue Devil who struggled against the Buckeyes – Dawkins was scoreless in 19 minutes – Curry’s performance was troubling. He made just one of six three-point attempts with no assists and three turnovers. So there was Thornton, a sophomore who played just 9.9 minutes per game last year after picking Duke over Georgetown and Villanova among others, trotting out for his first career start Wednesday night, a move that sent Dawkins to the bench.

In an 87-64 victory, Thornton proceeded to tie his career-high with 28 minutes and four assists. He did not commit a turnover. Meanwhile, Cook, after playing just 13 total minutes in the three games in Maui, followed up a promising 14-minute appearance in Columbus with 16 more minutes against Colorado State, finishing with a pair of assists and, like Thornton, zero turnovers. More importantly, the Duke offense looked more cohesive as everyone seemed to pick up on Thornton and Cook’s passing mentality. Duke finished with 21 assists on 31 made field goals, and even Curry looked more comfortable as a distributor, setting a career-high with eight assists even as his shooting struggles continued (he’s now made just two of his last 11 3-point attempts). Clearly, some of this may attributable to the level of the opponent, but it was a remarkable change for the Blue Devils.

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