Drawing Conclusions from Duke’s Columbus Massacre

Posted by mpatton on November 30th, 2011

Duke was overmatched Tuesday night. The Blue Devils “only” lost by 22, but it wasn’t that close. From the opening tip, ignoring two short runs to cut the Buckeye lead to one in the first half, Duke was dominated on both ends of the floor. Like any early loss, it’s important to keep this game in perspective. Duke is still a top-10 team. It’s not, nor has it ever been, a top-three team (despite what some polls may say). This loss doesn’t wipe out Duke’s impressive run at Maui, but it does point to some major questions the Blue Devils need to address before they can be taken seriously as a national title contender.

First and foremost, the Blue Devils have got to find an answer to athletic teams defensively. Ohio State‘s starters, who played the entire game save the last two minutes, went 32-53 (60%) from the field including 8-13 (62%) from beyond the arc. And they weren’t just lucky. Sure, there were some shots that fell because it was “that kind of night” like Aaron Craft’s banked three in the second half. The Buckeyes shot well primarily because they got open. Between exploiting mismatches, especially at the four, and textbook ball movement (think Kansas the last couple of years), Thad Matta‘s squad rarely saw a possession that didn’t end in a good shot.

Mason Plumlee was one of Duke's Bright Spots in a Dark Game at Ohio State.

Former NC State player Julius Hodge tweeted after the game that Duke had embarrassed the ACC. I totally disagree with that, but earlier he made an interesting point coming from a former player:

Watch Duke “pressure” defense fade away early after a few Buckeye buckets. happened in the 1st half already. key to shutting down their D…

A hallmark of Mike Krzyzewski‘s system is overplaying man-to-man defense predicated on deflections, locking down the perimeter, and playing people straight up. Coach K is also known for the effort his players give night in and night out. Needless to say, Hodge’s tweet does not support the latter statement. And he was right. Duke forced two turnovers its first two defensive possessions of the second half, but a couple of open threes put the Blue Devils on their backs (much like against Arizona in second half last year, at St. John’s last year, and at Georgetown two years ago). So far, the formula only applies to true out of conference road games (and Arizona playing the perfect game), but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Night Line: Duke Resembling Its 2010 Championship Team?

Posted by EJacoby on November 25th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. 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.

The Maui Invitational finals played to an instant classic last night, with Duke leaving the island as champions yet again. Coach K and the Blue Devils are now a perfect 15-0 in their five trips to Maui. Duke has won the first seven games of this season, and a team that nearly lost its season-opener at home to Belmont is starting to establish an identity. Upon further review, the 2011-’12 Blue Devils might just begin to resemble the 2009-’10 team that cut down the nets as NCAA Tournament champions. Just to be clear — no, this is not to say that Duke is the title favorite this season — teams like Ohio State, Kentucky, North Carolina, and UConn may be better built for long-term success. But the 2010 Blue Devils were a surprise champion, and this Duke team has a similar make-up.

Duke Doesn't Look Like a National Champ, But It Didn't in 2010 Either (Kemper Lesnik/B. Spurlock)

Duke started five upperclassmen (Smith, Scheyer, Singler, Thomas, Zoubek) in 2010 and turned to their bench for youth and energy. This year’s team starts four upperclassmen (Curry, Dawkins, Kelly, Mason Plumlee) and brings sophomore Tyler Thornton and freshman Quinn Cook off the bench, along with senior Miles Plumlee, to provide a spark. The biggest difference here is that freshman Austin Rivers is starting on the wing where the 2010 team had a junior leader, Kyle Singler, filling that role. But Rivers (14.4 PPG) is so far having a similar scoring impact on the game that Singler (17.7 PPG) did, and the rookie will no doubt continue to improve as the season goes along. While this year’s backcourt of Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins are not the big-name stars or volume scorers that Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer were, the two have seen tremendous improvements from last season and are playing at a very high level. This year’s team makes up for the small backcourt-scoring gap with Mason Plumlee’s offensive contributions down low. Plumlee averages 11.4 points per game so far, while no inside player averaged more than 5.6 PPG for the champions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Live Recap: #6 Duke 74, Michigan State 69

Posted by nvr1983 on November 16th, 2011

We aren’t going to go into some deep analysis of Mike Krzyzewski picking up win #903 of his career because we already did it and there are some pretty cool graphics about it online. Instead, we are going to focus on the actual game, which many people decided to gloss over last night.

Krzyzewski Had a Great Night, But His Team Still Needs Some Work

For Duke:

  1. They aren’t very good right now. This game was not as close as the final score indicates, but the lead that Duke had at one point — 20 points with 9:22 left — also does not indicate how well they played. For most of the game the Blue Devils looked lost against a Michigan State team that only returned two players (Keith Appling and Draymond Green) who played more than 20 minutes per game last season. The Blue Devils were bailed out by some phenomenal shooting from Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly, who combined for 40 points on just 18 field goal attempts, and some sloppy play by the Spartans, who had 21 turnovers.
  2. Austin Rivers is not ready for prime time. Every year we hear about some talented perimeter player who is a sure thing and will dominate college basketball from day one. To be fair to Rivers, he never had the expectations that Harrison Barnes had last year, but many people figured that the son of a former NBA star and “current” NBA head coach would be able to adjust to the college game and the pressures that come with it. We saw the first signs of weakness in his game during Duke’s trip to Dubai and China, but figured that he just needed to get used to his new teammates. We will not say he is a bust because as Barnes proved last season some players just take a little while to get going, but the line for Rivers last night — five points on 1-7 shooting, one rebound, one assist, one steal, two turnovers, four fouls, and a seat on the bench late in the game — are not comforting. Rivers will come around eventually, but for right now we don’t see him playing a major role in the rotation late in games.
  3. Duke has some big bodies on the inside. For all of their faults (and there are many) the Plumlees are big. They may drive some of their fans crazy, but they battle on the inside and as tonight showed they can even get chippy as they got physical with one of the more rough teams they will see all season. Ryan Kelly can also be a factor down low, but his real utility is battling a big man under the basket on the defensive end then taking him out to the perimeter on the offensive end. The reality is that the Plumlees need to play better if Duke is going to do Duke things like challenge for a Final Four appearance. At this point every Duke fan has to admit Miles is essentially a big body who will play physical, get rebounds and frequently get confused for his two younger brothers. Mason, on the other hand, has to do much more offensively. We are not expecting him to put up 25 points and 12 rebounds like he did against Marquette last season, but he should be a focal point of the Duke offense and should be able to create good looks for the perimeter players when he kicks the ball out.
Share this story

Set Your TiVo: Marathon of Hoops Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 15th, 2011

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

Twenty-four straight hours of college hoops is the dream scenario for those of us who are diehard fans of the sport.  Fortunately, it’s not a dream as ESPN brings back its Tip-Off Marathon for the fourth consecutive season.  Games got started at 12:01 AM EST this morning and go all the way till approximately 1:00 AM EST later tonight.  If you can’t sit in front of your TV for all twenty-four plus hours, then make sure you at least watch these four games.

Belmont @ #14 Memphis – 12:00 PM EST on ESPN HD (***)

Expectations are high for Memphis and Josh Pastner

  • Memphis brings high expectations into the 2011-12 season (Coaches Poll #9).  They return all five starters from last year’s team, several key reserves, and add McDonald’s All-American Adonis ThomasJosh Pastner has put together an incredible amount of talent that is going to get a stiff test in its first game of the season against an experienced Belmont team.  The Tigers need to greatly improve their turnover percentage (21.9% in 2010-11), three point shooting (32.9% in 2010-11), and defensive rebounding percentage (34.3% in 2010-11) in order to live up to those lofty expectations this season.  Pastner’s squad showed promise on the defensive end last year ranking 23rd and 25th in block percentage and steal percentage, respectively.  They need to maintain that defensive toughness while still trying to improve on the offensive end.
  • Belmont gave Duke all it could handle last Friday night in the opener at Cameron Indoor Stadium, losing 77-76.  Turnovers (17), missed threes (6-19), and the Blue Devils’ Mason Plumlee’s great work on the defensive glass (10 defensive rebounds) proved to be the difference.  Still, the Bruins showed excellent offensive balance in the loss with five players scoring in double figures.  Although the FedEx Forum is another difficult place to play, it’s a bit closer to home for Rick Byrd’s team and they have already experienced the ruckus of the Cameron Crazies.  Belmont needs to get off to a better start from the three-point line and limit turnovers to have a chance in this one.
  • This game will hinge on turnovers and second-chance points.  Belmont forced Duke to turn the ball over 19 times in the first game and ranked second in the nation last season in defensive turnover percentage.  As previously mentioned, Memphis turns the ball over a lot.  Memphis guard Joe Jackson in particular turned the ball over on 29.1% of his possessions last season.  Look for the Bruins to put all kinds of pressure on a still-young Tigers team to create easy baskets.  At the same time, Belmont relies heavily on second chance points.  The addition of the 6’7” Thomas to the Memphis lineup should certainly improve their defensive rebounding percentage.  If Thomas and the rest of the team can hit the glass hard in his first game, it will limit Belmont’s chances to pull an upset on the road.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Belmont at Duke: An Upset Special?

Posted by KCarpenter on November 11th, 2011

Belmont is good. This is no secret. In years past, Duke opening it’s season by hosting Belmont wouldn’t be a big deal: just another ceremonial squashing of a mid-major to inaugurate the season. But this year, Belmont seems to be designed explicitly for the sole purpose of shocking the Blue Devils. Duke is a good team and Mike Krzyzewski didn’t become the legendary Coach K by overlooking opponents. Duke will be ready to deal with Belmont trying to leverage their strengths against Duke’s weaknesses. That said, what exactly are Belmont’s strengths?

Does Rick Byrd Have The Ingredients Needed To Cook Up An Upset?

The Bruins squad is deep. Last year, they played eleven men for more than ten minutes a game. None of their players averaged more than twenty-five minutes a game. This depth is a necessary part of the Bruin’s clever, but physically taxing, pressure defensive scheme. This team plays fast (though not faster than Duke did last season) and tries to force turnovers with tough man to man pressure and trapping schemes. Last year, the Bruins were fairly successful, forcing turnovers on a remarkable 27.5% of defensive possessions, good for second best in the entire nation. Kerron Johnson actually managed to lead the nation in steal percentage, taking away the ball on 6.3% of posessions. No one in the nation even really came that close to matching that per-possession mark. Combine that with an old-school protect the paint mentality and the Bruins managed to successfully limit opponents field goal percentage (though admittedly at the expense of fouling a lot). Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency statistics rated the Bruins as the twenty-third best defense in the country, which is not too shabby. With the relatively inexperienced Duke backcourt, it seems very possible that Belmont should be able to have some success in forcing turnovers.

On offense, the Bruins could take down Goliath with the same tactic that countless mid-majors use: shooting a ton of threes. Belmont, last year, has no problem leaning on the three: 42.3% of all of the Bruins field goals came from behind the arc. Only seventeen schools in Division I shot more from three. Not only does the team take a lot of threes, but they make a lot. As a team, they made 37.8% of their three-point attempts, 33rd best in the nation. Surprisingly, the team rated even better on two-pointers, making 52.2%, the 19th best in the nation. While many teams pick their spots when they shoot threes, going to the long ball relatively sparingly, Belmont moves in the opposite direction, picking their spots on inside shots and only shooting high percentage shots created from keen ball movement. While the Bruins will certainly miss senior Jordan Campbell and his insane 45.8% three-point shooting, Belmont is well-positioned to maintain last year’s highly successful attack.

The irony of Belmont’s strengths is that they play into areas that are usually Duke’s strengths. The recent hallmarks of a Blue Devil team are an experienced back court that can apply excellent perimeter pressure and rarely turns the ball over on offense. With this year’s personnel, it’s unclear if Duke will be able to match previous year’s marks in this era. Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, and Austin Rivers are all skilled players, but their ability to play effective perimeter defense is largely unproven. In this year’s exhibitions, Duke had a hard time stopping dribble penetration and often found it’s guards getting beat by opponents. While Curry and Dawkins had relatively low turnover rates this year, it’s unclear if they will be able to maintain these rates when both players will be handling the ball more an expected to create their own shots.

Still, despite Belmont’s seeming match-up advantages, Duke still has what might be an effective trump card: size. Ryan Kelly, Miles Plumlee, and Mason Plumlee are big guys that are (usually) talented interior defenders. While Belmont goes inside less than most teams, it’s still an important part of their offensive game plan. If their is one statistic that bodes well for the Blue Devils, it’s that last year Belmont got blocked on 13.0% of all their offensive possessions, the third worst mark in all of college basketball. Mason Plumlee and Kelly both shared a real flair for blocking shots last year and if they get the chance, they have the potential to make things really miserable for Belmont whenever they look to score inside.

Still, it’s easy to see that Belmont has all of the pieces to pull off an upset. Will they? It’s the home opener for Duke. The home opener in a surely loud and rocking Cameron Indoor. If Belmont managed to catch Duke somewhat off-guard, maybe in the middle of the season or after another tough opponent, I’d like their chances better. I don’t think they pull it off tonight, but, at least on paper, the Bruins certainly look capable of shocking Duke.

Share this story

Set Your TiVo: 11.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 11th, 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.

We had a few games earlier in the week to whet our appetite but the main course of college basketball is served tonight. One hundred thirty-one games tip off this evening in what is really the true opening night of the season. Of course, the night is highlighted by the Carrier Classic in San Diego. Let’s get to it.

#1 North Carolina vs. Michigan State (at San Diego, CA) – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

Izzo and Williams Are All Smiles Heading Into the Inaugural Carrier Classic

  • The preseason #1 Tar Heels feature arguably the best front court in the nation with Tyler Zeller, John Henson and freshman James McAdoo. The length of the UNC front line, especially Henson, will make it incredibly difficult for Michigan State to score the basketball in the paint but the Tar Heels should also use their height as an advantage offensively. Michigan State will likely try to make this a half court game in order to limit Carolina’s transition attack. North Carolina did not shoot the ball particularly well last season so maximizing their chances inside could be advantageous if the Spartans successfully turn this into a slower-paced contest. Everyone knows Roy Williams likes to run (we’ll certainly see that) but UNC has the potential to thrive in the half court game with a good floor general in Kendall Marshall and an uber-talented front line that can score, rebound and block shots. They’re a tough matchup for anyone but especially a Michigan State team with an inexperienced and thin big man rotation.
  • For Tom Izzo and Michigan State, Draymond Green may have to do it all. He’s a stat sheet stuffer extraordinaire but we expect Green to have a difficult time getting in the paint against the tall and patient Carolina defense. Green was only a 42.6% shooter from the floor last season, down significantly from his freshman and sophomore campaigns in East Lansing. As a senior, Green has to be the coach on the floor while simultaneously taking control of the game in order for State to have a chance. Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood bolsters Izzo’s back court and he’ll have to be counted on right away to provide a spark from three-point land. Michigan State is not going to beat North Carolina inside or in transition so you have to figure it’ll be up to Green, Wood and Keith Appling to knock down shots from long range.
  • The other aspect to this game, obviously, is the USS Carl Vinson itself. Neither team was a good jump shooting unit last year so the depth perception and sightlines of this unique venue could play a huge role. Even the elements, such as the slightest gust of wind, could be enough to alter a shot. North Carolina will run and look for easy baskets behind Marshall’s exquisite court vision and playmaking ability, a transition attack that may be fueled by Michigan State turnovers. The Spartans turned the ball over at an alarming rate last season, especially in the early months. If that continues, they don’t have a chance tonight. So many things have to go right for Michigan State to pull the upset but there are a lot of intangibles in play from the venue to the weather to the pressure of playing in such a setting and more. North Carolina should win, but regardless, this looks like a terrific way to open up the season.

Belmont @ #6 Duke – 9:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Morning Five: 11.09.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 9th, 2011

  1. Washington Post: Mike Scott will be very important for Virginia, and in more ways than filling up the stat sheets. Sure his double-figure scoring and double-figure rebounding should help a middling offense and horrendous offensive rebounding squad improve in those areas this season. But more importantly, he’ll draw defenders and allow Joe Harris to move back to small forward. That’s fairly significant, as Harris (a 6’6″ sophomore) was forced to play the power forward spot despite being the team’s most consistent outside shooter last year. Scott should also keep defenses honest in the paint, which should allow an already very good perimeter shooting team more openings. Basically, Mike Scott is the only reason it’s not laughable for the media to rank Tony Bennett’s squad fourth in the conference, as the WaPo observes.
  2. Charlotte Observer: A hallmark of Mike Krzyzewski-coached teams is gritty, overplaying man-to-man defense that’s especially effective in keeping opponents from getting open perimeter looks. However, a quick glance at Duke‘s backcourt (Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Austin Rivers) doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The questions proved legitimate in Duke’s preseason scrimmage, as D-II Bellarmine managed to knock down eight outside buckets. Duke doesn’t have much time though, as Belmont made over nine threes a game last season (at a 38% clip). Oh, and the Bruins won 30 games last year and bring back nearly all of their talent. Do I hear a non-conference upset special brewing in Cameron Indoor this Friday?
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Speaking of Duke generalizations, Bret Strelow breaks down the importance of big men for the Blue Devils’ upcoming season. And if you look at the roster, it makes sense. How many teams have two athletic 6’10″ players and a 6’11″ guy who gets buckets? Not many. But Duke’s current frontcourt has had limited success so far, even if Miles Plumlee, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly all seem capable of breakout seasons. They’re also fighting against the stereotype that Duke big men struggle. Exhibition play tends to overrate frontcourts mightily (if you ask the above question about a D-II school, no matter what caliber, the answer will be an emphatic “no”), but the Plumlee brothers have looked especially good. To live up to its top-five potential Duke needs one of its forwards to have a star campaign.
  4. Charlotte Observer: Mark Gottfried didn’t hear a lot of compliments about his team when he first took the job. The trouble seems as much coach-related as talent-related, though — in a recent interview, Scott Wood “basically admits practice used to be ‘just throwing the ball out there and shooting it.’ Now practices have a lot more drills.” That’s the sort of culture Gottfried was facing when he moved to Raleigh. From player quotes such as these, it sounds like Gottfried has the team buying into his style; and if he wins there, players will keep buying it.
  5.  Richmond Times-Dispatch: Potential breakout candidate Erick Green may miss Virginia Tech‘s season opener against East Tennessee State with an “Achilles’ strain”. The Hokies have already lost JT Thompson to a season-ending injury, and definitely can’t afford to lose Green too. Green is expected to be the star, both on offense and defense, for Seth Greenberg’s team in its latest pursuit of an invitation to the Big Dance. Here’s to hoping the rash of preseason injuries doesn’t carry over into the regular season because it feels like there have been way more injuries than usual this year.

In honor of the opening of college basketball season, Sports Illustrated has a slideshow of college basketball previews going back as far as the early 1960s. The most interesting (with borderline-racist undertones) image is probably the 1967 cover calling for a 12-foot basket, but I’ll leave you with NC State legend David Thompson. Thompson led the 1972-73 Wolfpack to an undefeated season averaging nearly 25 points a game (ironically his least dominant statistical season).

NC State's David Thompson Led the Wolfpack to an Undefeated Season in 1973

Share this story

ACC Morning Five: 11.07.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 7th, 2011

  1. Fox Sports Carolinas: Fox Sports‘ Andrew Jones offers a throwback list of the top ten players “capable of significantly enhancing their team’s fortunes.” I only call the list throwback because Jones ignores the two extreme geographic points of the ACC (Boston College and Miami) when constructing his list. In general I agree with all of his selections, though I possibly would’ve substituted Miles Plumlee for Ryan Kelly based on recent reports. For Boston College, I would’ve chosen Danny Rubin (the most productive of the Eagles’ only three returning players), and I would choose sophomore Rion Brown for Miami.
  2. Boston Globe: Speaking of Boston College, Patrick Heckmann is hoping to make an impact on the Eagles this year, coming by way of Germany. This Globe piece gives a little insight into the recruiting world for international prospects, and Heckmann is a frosh out of Germany with a pretty unique story. He’s also a 6’6″ slasher who will get plenty of playing time for a young team. The story offers an especially interesting look at Heckmann’s decision in choosing Boston College over playing for a club team in Germany.
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Looking for more lists? Bret Strelow and Sammy Batten compiled a pretty interesting list of superlatives for ACC basketball that will definitelybe good for starting debates. Sure, Milton Jennings is a great breakout candidate and Staats Battle definitely has the coolest name in the conference, but is Andre Dawkins really the most underrated dunker? He dunks almost rarely, which makes each time feel special, but we need to see more frequency in order to garner a superlative. Also, I wonder why they chose to ask a freshman (Wake Forest’s Travis McKie) about the toughest arena. For the record he chose Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum, though this coming year will be McKie’s first trip to the unfriendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
  4. TarHeelBlue.com: North Carolina and NBA legend James Worthy will be elected into the college hoops hall of fame alongside of Virginia’s Ralph Sampson. Worthy was the first overall pick of the 1982 NBA Draft, led the Tar Heels to Dean Smith’s first NCAA Championship that same year (scoring 28 points on 13-17 shooting in the championship game), and is already a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
  5. Searching For Billy Edelin and Fayetteville Observer: A couple of ACC previews and predictions with more “controversial” picks. For Nick Fasulo at Searching For Billy Edelin, the conference is down. Fasulo’s most interesting predictions come in his individual accolades, where he picked Jim Larranaga as Coach of the Year and Tyler Zeller as Player of the Year. Personally, I see Zeller as more of a complement (as he was at the end of last season), but “everything is in place for this guy. Assuming he stays healthy, there should be no [...] unexpected things to limit his production,” Fasulo tweeted. The Fayetteville Observer‘s contrary nature shows up in its projected finish: Unlike the media, the newspaper projects Virginia to finish eighth in the conference (NIT-bound), while Miami takes the fourth place spot and earns an eight-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Around the greater world of college sports, one of the most sickening alleged scandals in the history of college athletics came to light over the weekend. In a story that will turn your stomach, former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been accused of 40 crimes (21 felonies and 19 misdemeanors) involving eight sexual abuse victims who were minors at the time. The worst part is that the PSU athletic department reportedly knew about some of the crimes and never reported them to the proper authorities despite extensive discussions internally. While the article is tough to read, Sara Ganim of The Patriot News does a great job breaking down the details of the case. As of today, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave and Senior Vice President for business and finance Gary Schultz has stepped down (both have been accused of perjury), but I’d be surprised if the punishments end here based on the heinous nature of these allegations.

Picture of the Day:

Len Bias Posts Up Michael Jordan in 1984. (Manny Millan/SI) h/t SI Photo Blog

Share this story

ACC Team Preview: Duke

Posted by mpatton on November 2nd, 2011

And then there were two.

Duke is a very tough team to project this season. The Blue Devils lost their top three players (Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving) from last season, but there’s still plenty of talent and a Hall of Fame coach on the sideline in Durham. Thoughtful preseason rankings slot Duke anywhere from fourth to ninth nationally, which seem very reasonable for where Duke could finish the season — not necessarily where it should start.

The team’s two major questions are, “who will run the offense?” and “will any of the frontcourt players finally live up to his potential?” Duke’s relative success depends almost solely on these questions. Of course, one thing we forget is that both questions also faced the Blue Devils when Kyrie Irving went down after the Butler game last year. To that point Nolan Smith had not played much point guard since the first half of the 2009-10 season. During Duke’s National Championship year Mike Krzyzewski moved Smith to the off-ball position, ceding the point guard spot to Jon Scheyer. If not for Brian Zoubek’s miraculous ascension from unproductive bench-warmer to one of Duke’s most important pieces, the guard switch would have garnered much more attention. Smith excelled while working off the ball and Scheyer limited Duke’s turnovers to the absolute minimum.

Duke Needs Seth Curry to Take Over as Floor General This Year.

But once Kyrie Irving’s foot problem arose last season, Duke was again left without a quarterback. The best choice was to move Smith back to the point, although Krzyzewski experimented with Tyler Thornton and Seth Curry there briefly as well. The result was Smith leading the ACC in scoring and nearly leading the conference in assists. Of course Smith was a special player. His career arc only answers the question that it’s possible for Seth Curry to step up and lead Duke. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Summer Updates: Atlantic Coast Conference

Posted by jstevrtc on July 21st, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our ACC correspondent, Matt Patton.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • New Faces: That’s right, the ACC will be totally different conference this season. Only five of the fifteen players selected as to the all-conference teams will be running the floor this season, namely four of North Carolina’s five starters (with Miami’s Malcolm Grant keeping the group from being only Tar Heels). Somewhat surprisingly, all of the ACC all-freshman squad will be back in action. Duke’s Kyrie Irving was a prominent frosh, but he didn’t play a single conference game before leaving school and UNC’s Harrison Barnes opted to return for his sophomore campaign. Keep an eye on Wake Forest’s Travis McKie and Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin especially. Both should be the stars on their respective teams.
  • However, the strength of the conference will rely heavily on the incoming players and coaches. Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State all bring in consensus top 25 classes according to ESPN, Rivals and Scout. To make a long story short, the rich get richer. Duke’s Austin Rivers (ranked 1st by Rivals, 2nd by Scout and ESPNU) will be expected to contribute immediately, while North Carolina’s James McAdoo (8th by Rivals, 4th by Scout and 5th by ESPNU) and PJ Hairston (13th by Rivals, 20th by Scout and 12th by ESPNU) should be given ample time to find roles on an already stacked team.
  • Arguably more important, at least in the long term, are the new coaches: NC State welcomes Mark Gottfried, Miami welcomes Jim Larranaga, Maryland welcomes Mark Turgeon, and Georgia Tech welcomes Brian Gregory to the conference. The only coach I think is a surefire “upgrade” is Larranaga, who comes with some disadvantages (namely, age). While Gottfried experienced some success at Alabama, the Crimson Tide isn’t known as a basketball powerhouse and he didn’t leave the school on great terms. I also don’t think it’s a great sign that Ryan Harrow left for the bluer pastures of Kentucky. Gregory, though, sticks out as the strangest hire of the four. He had a fairly nondescript tenure at Dayton with many Flyer fans happy to see him leave. I know a tight budget hamstrung by Paul Hewitt’s hefty buyout deal probably kept the Yellow Jackets from going after the sexiest candidates, but the choice still surprised me. Gregory’s biggest disadvantage is his ugly, grind-it-out style of play that will eventually make it difficult to attract top recruits and could possibly alienate the entire GT fanbase (see: Herb Sendek).
  • North Carolina Navigates Investigation Waters: Finally, it may not be basketball-related, but it’s impossible to mention this offseason without discussing North Carolina’s impending date with the NCAA Committee of Infractions. The story has dominated ACC sports news. To briefly sum things up, the Tar Heels had an assistant coach, John Blake, on the payroll of an agent. If that wasn’t enough, the NCAA investigation unveiled thousands (I’m not kidding) of dollars in unpaid parking tickets and even several cases of academic fraud. The university has come out very firmly saying these infractions only involved the football team** but the scandal has gained national notoriety. (**Author’s note: the one connection with the basketball team is that Greg Little was one of UNC’s ineligible football players. Little was also a walk-on for the basketball team during the 2007-08 season, playing in ten games. North Carolina has said that his infractions occurred after his year with the basketball team, so no win vacations are in the basketball team’s future.)
  • Somehow, despite academic fraud, ineligible benefits and an agent runner on staff, the Tar Heels failed to get the NCAA’s most serious “lack of institutional control” violation for what appeared to be nothing less thana lack of institutional control. Again, this scandal is confined to football, but it’s one of the many recent scandals that have come to light in big time college athletics in the last couple of years (Connecticut, USC, Ohio State, Oregon, etc). These scandals could force the NCAA to augment its rules somewhat, and even though they may not directly relate to basketball, they may have a very real impact of college sports as we know it over the next few years.

    Freshman phenom Austin Rivers is ready for Duke, but how quickly will 2011's top high school point guard perform on the big stage? (Orlando Sentinel)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Conference Report Card: ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 28th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

Conference Recap

The ACC had a down year though North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall-led resurgence and Florida State’s Sweet Sixteen appearance helped a little bit. Before and during the season, Duke was the runaway favorite in the conference: Kyrie Irving’s toe injury obviously was the pivotal point that brought Duke back down to earth. Equally pivotal (in the reverse direction) was Marshall’s move to starting point guard for North Carolina. With Larry Drew II at the helm, there is no way the Tar Heels could have come close to surpassing Duke for the regular season title. The down year did not really surprise most people, and despite lofty preseason expectations (read: people forgot how highly rated North Carolina was to start the season) I think the perception is that the league at least lived up to preseason expectations with a couple of notable exceptions: NC State, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. NC State had NCAA Tournament talent, but did not come anywhere close to sniffing the Big Dance; Wake was arguably the worst major conference team in the country; and Virginia Tech once again found itself very highly seeded in the NIT. On the flip side, Clemson and Florida State both exceeded expectations.

Roy Williams and Kendall Marshall led a mid-season resurgence that resulted in a trip the Elite Eight. (News Observer/Robert Willitt)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.22.2011

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 22nd, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

East

  • On Sunday, Ohio State blew out a very solid George Mason squad. Because of this, many are wondering if anyone will be able to stop the Buckeyes. It will be almost impossible if they keep putting up performances like Sunday.
  • Former Tennessee point guard Bobby Maze believes that current Ohio State guard Aaron Craft is responsible for turning Bruce Pearl into the NCAA for Pearl’s illegal recruitment barbecue. Maze’s reasoning is that Craft grew upset when the Vols beat the Buckeyes in last season’s Sweet 16. Is Maze simply defending the man who brought him in or is there some truth to his allegations?
  • Kentucky has a storied history of impact freshmen. One publication believes that it must be asked if Brandon Knight is the best freshman in Wildcat history. It may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the article is definitely worth a read.
  • Everyone knows North Carolina can score points in transition. Just about every team led by Roy Williams, whether it was his teams at Kansas or those at Chapel Hill since he took over in 2003,  lives and dies by its ability to get up and down the court in a hurry. Marquette head coach Buzz Williams believes the key to his squad’s Sweet 16 matchup with the Tar Heels will be stopping transition opportunities.
  • ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson has some attributes other teams cannot prepare for: timing, instincts, and an 88-inch wingspan. Henson has been a stalwart defending the interior all season and it will be hard for Marquette to drive to the bucket with him standing in the way.

Southeast

  • Butler head coach Brad Stevens is only 34 years old, yet he has already coached in a national championship, won his league title four straight years, beaten Bob Knight, and reached two straight regional rounds. For most coaches, that would be a fairly impressive career, but Stevens is just getting started.
  • The key player for Wisconsin against Butler may be big man Keaton Nankivil. Butler’s big men have the ability to float around the perimeter and Badgers such as Nankivil and Jon Leuer will be tasked with the job of preventing them from getting hot.
  • Less than two years ago, Brigham Young head coach Dave Rose was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The cancer was so severe that he was given a five-in-one million chance of surviving. Rose survived and now he has his Cougars in the Sweet 16.
  • Florida guard Kenny Boynton is not practicing due to a right ankle injury. While there is pain and discomfort, Boynton is fully expected to play against BYU on Thursday. Boynton will be a huge factor in that game, as the Cougars are obviously a guard-oriented team.
  • Last week at this time, many media outlets were picking Belmont to upset Wisconsin in the first round. Presently, Wisconsin is being picked by many of the same outlets to reach the Final Four. It sure is crazy how March Madness works sometimes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story