ACC Season Wrap-Up and Tournament Preview

Posted by mpatton on March 8th, 2012

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

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 7th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….pureness. Some would argue that there’s nothing better than a last-second buzzer-beater. FALSE. There’s nothing better than a last-second buzzer beater that also touches zero iron on the way down. Ohio State’s William Buford gave us one of those on Sunday against Michigan State for a huge win, and for me the swish adds even a little bit more to the drama. I’m thinking back to Isaiah Thomas’ Pac-10 conference tourney walk-off last year, and some others, too – maybe I’m just an absurdly picky fan, but nothing beats the twine tickler with the clock ticking down.

I LOVED…..Buford. The senior has had some subpar games during this conference season, and he’s the main reason why I’ve started to sour a bit on the Buckeyes. But if he plays like he can, he can take this OSU team to a different level on both ends of the floor. They need his long-range shooting to diversify their O, and his freakish athleticism on the defensive side, too. If he’s that guy in March, the Buckeyes could be there at the end.

If William Buford Can Play Like He Can, Ohio State Becomes That Much Better (USA Today)

I LOVED….the tables being turned. My UNC loyalty has been mentioned before, and I’ve truly never been as heartbroken as when Austin Rivers’ three dropped into the Dean Dome net back in February as time expired. I wondered if anything could make up for that painful disappointment, and I have to say, this might have done it. Absolutely demolishing, obliterating, dominating, embarrassing, and – oh yeah – BEATING Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Senior Night was heavenly (and I can’t say that watching Mason Plumlee cry didn’t give me some sick sort of pleasure). You make the pick though – comparing the two outcomes, which would you prefer?

I LOVED….Florida State following through. The 33-point win over Carolina, the buzzer-beater at Duke, it would been easy for these overachieving Seminoles to be happy with what they did and settle for another ho-hum conference season. But Leonard Hamilton kept FSU focused, and they’re fully deserving of their impressive 12-4 conference record and a guaranteed NCAA tourney berth. Well done down in Tallahassee.

I LOVED….Murray State both keeping pace and getting some cred in the rankings, even after that one loss. With their clutch tourney title finish, the Racers head into March Madness at 30-1 and have to start drawing some comparisons to last year’s San Diego State squad.

Five Things I Hated This Week

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ACC Afternoon Five: 03.07.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 7th, 2012

Technical difficulties kept us from getting this up this morning. So here goes… an Afternoon Five.

  1. Tallahassee Democrat: Deividas Dulkys got a pretty special family night surprise when his family from Lithuania surprised him the day before the game by showing up at his girlfriend’s apartment. Dulkys had quite the showing at the game including aunts from Chicago and his host family from Nevada, but no one told him that his parents and sisters were going to make the trip across the globe to see him play at Florida State for the first time. Stepping back a little, the Seminoles are also looking at their best chance to win the ACC Championship in program history.
  2. Wilmington Star News: Speaking of special senior nights, Ty Walker‘s was supposed to be one of redemption. After three years of falling short of expectations and an indefinite suspension that kept him out for the first semester, his senior night was supposed to represent the new leaf he turned over this year. On the basketball court he was more active than ever, blocking shots with reckless abandon and fitting in surprisingly well for his first few games back. “I know people aren’t always going to be satisfied […] but at least I gave them something,” Walker noted. His mom even surprised him by flying across the country for his senior night last week. This article from Brett Friedlander gets at Walker’s side of the story.
  3. Culpepper Star-Exponent: On the heels of the New York Times look at one of college basketball’s vaguest advantages, Whitelaw Reid finds a specific case. Now without seeing more data, I’m a little skeptical. The variable is what brand of basketball teams use. The home teams choose the ball. Virginia uses Nike basketballs; Sammy Zeglinski likes Wilson. The evidence (besides Zeglinski saying it has a “spongy feel”) is that two of the senior’s best games came against Maryland, a team that uses Wilson balls. As Reid points out, the NCAA Tournament also uses Wilson balls, so we should get at least one more data point to evaluate Zeglinski’s claim.
  4. Raleigh New & Observer: It’s a speculation time of year: March Madness, the NFL Draft and that sports purgatory before the NBA Playoffs and baseball season’s starts. It’s also about time to start talking about who is leaving college for the NBA. As Caulton Tudor points out, 13 of 15 All-ACC selections were underclassmen. I don’t really agree with Tudor’s rankings. Maybe I’m naive, but I think Terrell Stoglin will stick it out at least one more year in College Park. He’s far from a sure bet, and needs to show a wider range of skills to attract first round eyes. The same would apply for Glen Rice, Jr., but his indefinite suspension will definitely be a factor. I think the sure-fire departures are Harrison Barnes, John Henson and CJ Leslie. Who knows with Austin Rivers? If he gets a lottery promise, I expect him to leave (which seems likely considering the dearth of good guards this year). Still, this is something that will become very important in a few weeks.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Congratulations Brian Gregory, Mark Turgeon, Jim Larranaga and Mark Gottfried. You finished your rookie year in the ACC. For many coaches, the second year is the toughest, but Turgeon and Gregory were trying to build up programs left in disarray after Gary Williams and Paul Hewitt’s respective departures. Larranaga has plenty of talent, but he only should lose DeQuan Jones and Malcolm Grant from an already talented team; Gottfried’s team will return plenty of firepower and boasts the top recruiting class in the conference. Factor in an extra year of experience against the league titans, and we should expect more success from the conference as a whole next year.
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ACC Game On: 03.03.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on March 3rd, 2012

A Totally Underhyped Game

  • North Carolina at Duke at 7:00 PM on ESPN

Thte Last Meeting Ended With a Magical Shot ((AP/Jim R. Bounds)

I wish more people knew about this game. Despite the obscurity of each school’s basketball program, these two teams have quietly cultivated a solid if yet underexposed rivalry. When these teams met earlier this season, this hidden gem of a rivalry resulted in an amazing comeback and an impressive buzzer-beater by freshman Austin Rivers. It was quite a highlight, and I only wish that the game had been televised so you would have had the opportunity to glimpse this rare, unseen footage (we found a long forgotten image above). Playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium, North Carolina will have a chance to avenge the shocking loss and win the regular season conference title.

For Duke, replicating its earlier success against North Carolina may be a challenge. The Blue Devils shot 36 three-pointers and connected on 14 of them. Despite the stunning volume of treys, North Carolina’s perimeter defense still remains suspect, and this might be an easier feat to achieve than getting to the line 26 times. Over the last four years only three team-seasons have matched UNC’s opponent free throw rate of 21.1%. Duke will be hard-pressed to replicate the 41.9% mark they managed in Chapel Hill. If Duke is going to win the rematch, I think the Devils will have to find other ways to win. I expect this game to be very close, and at home, it’s hard to pick against Duke. On the other hand, Tyler Zeller has been cutting a swath of destruction across the ACC to close out his final college campaign. Zeller has never won in Cameron (he was injured in 2009) and after his embarrassing role in the loss in Chapel Hill (an inadvertent tip-in and a late contest on Rivers’ shot), I’d be afraid to stand in his way.

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Set Your TiVo: 03.02.12 – 03.04.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 2nd, 2012

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 are going to mix it up a bit for the final three days of the season. There are so many good games on the schedule that it wouldn’t do them justice to leave them unmentioned, not to mention the games with an impact for bubble teams. Here are some quick hitters on all the games you need to be following.

Top games:

West Virginia @ South Florida – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ (****)

The Bulls notched a huge win over Louisville earlier this week, but many feel they still have to win this game to ensure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers are hanging on by a thread but could really enhance their chances with a nice road victory in Tampa. This game has Big East Tournament implications as well, but both teams need it more for their NCAA chances. As a member of the Big East, South Florida has beaten 14 of the 15 other teams in the league. West Virginia is the only team they have yet to knock off. This would be one heck of a time to grab that win in West Virginia’s last regular season game as a member of the Big East. Pretty much everything is on the line in this game.

Can West Virginia Win A Big One On The Road?

#11 Georgetown @ #8 Marquette – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ (****)

Both teams are obviously in the NCAA Tournament so this game is about seeding more than anything. A win over the Golden Eagles would be Georgetown’s ninth against the RPI top 50 and fifth against the top 25. Marquette has just one RPI top 25 win (Wisconsin) so adding another could really help Marquette’s seeding when the NCAA committee debates next Sunday in Indianapolis. The winner of this game will grab the #2 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament. The contrast of styles in this game will be fascinating as Marquette looks to run at home against a disciplined Georgetown defensive unit.

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The Best Scoring Wings in the ACC

Posted by KCarpenter on March 2nd, 2012

When we talk about the All-ACC First Team, conventional wisdom holds that a few things are certain. Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott are iron-clad locks. To a lesser extent, John Henson seems fairly likely to make the team as well. That leaves two guard spots. On some level, it seems insane that Kendall Marshall‘s probable third place finish in the conference books for the single-season assist record, but his lack of dominant scoring, defense, and a general unwillingness to place so many Tar Heels on the first team probably hurts Marshall’s chances. The worst thing about this is that the negatives against Marshall probably hurt most of the other point guards in the league as well. As good as Lorenzo Brown has been, if Marshall isn’t going to make the first team, Brown’s chances aren’t looking so great either. For now, let’s set aside true point guards.

How Many of This UNC Trio Will End up as ACC First Teamers? (News-Record)

So, for better or worse, the two guard spots on this team are probably going to go to a pair of dominant wing scorers. Among the candidates, listed in order by points per game, we have Terrell Stoglin, Harrison Barnes, C.J. Harris, Travis McKie, Erick Green, Austin Rivers, Michael Snaer, and Seth Curry. So how do we pick two? These are individual awards, so I don’t feel particularly obligated to award team success, though I know that typically the voters for these honors use that criterion rather heavily. For now though, let’s pretend that Stoglin, Harris, McKie, and Green all have an equal shot.

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ACC Morning Five: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 27th, 2012

  1. Streaking The Lawn: Virginia lost a brutal game to North Carolina on Saturday. Mike Scott played poorly, going 3-of-13 from the field, but he never got into the flow of the game because of foul trouble. What didn’t impress Brian Schwartz (or most Cavalier fans) was the acting from John Henson on two of the calls against Scott. I fall somewhere in between Schwartz and Roy Williams’ opinion: I think Scott got hosed by the officials, but that’s not what cost them the game. You could just as easily argue that not having Assane Sene because of injury cost them the game. The deciding factor was Virginia missing shots down the stretch. Calls would’ve helped, but it’s all for naught if you don’t knock down those shots.
  2. Baltimore Sun: James Padgett is too nice. He’s developing into one of Maryland’s better players, but he just isn’t aggressive enough to become the Terrapins’ second option this season. There’s also the question of why his defensive rebounding lags so far behind his offensive rebounding. The obvious reason is that Alex Len and Ashton Pankey clean up the glass for the Terps, but with Len often going for blocks you’d assume Padgett would have plenty of defensive rebounding opportunities.
  3. Charleston Post and Courier: Milton Jennings woke up after Brad Brownell suspended him for a couple of games in early February. The former McDonald’s All-American is proving to be a (somewhat inconsistent) creator, averaging just under 12 points a game in the Tigers’ last five contests. But Brownell wanted to be clear that the Tigers’ recent success wouldn’t affect Jennings’ off the court struggles: “He knows he’s walking on thin ice with me.” At least for now the suspension seems to be effective. Obviously, we can’t see Jennings life outside of games, but his improved production is certainly a good sign.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: NC State‘s bubble burst after falling to Clemson over the weekend. The Wolfpack are heading back to the NIT barring a very strong run to the ACC Tournament finals (beating Duke or North Carolina on the way). The team showed spurts of promise, playing with the best teams in the conference, but even a 20-point second half lead against Duke resulted in the loss column. More than anything, Mark Gottfried’s talented recruiting class should give his team critical depth for competing against top schools in conference play.
  5. ACC Sports Journal: I found this breakdown of the DukeFlorida State game very interesting, mainly because it points to why Duke was so effective shooting threes, even against elite defenses like Florida State. The Seminoles smothered Duke inside, but the Blue Devils knocked down perimeter jumpers to answer every Florida State run. Denny Kuiper points to help defense leaving Duke shooters wide open, which certainly created plenty of open looks for Andre Dawkins against Florida State. But Austin Rivers and (to a lesser extent) Seth Curry have both shown the ability to score at the rim this year. Not helping to stop Rivers seems like a recipe for disaster, though I can almost guarantee you that would be the strategy that Mike Krzyzewski would employ if he had to craft a game plan to guard his uber-freshman.
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ACC Game On: 2.16.12

Posted by KCarpenter on February 16th, 2012

Miami blew a chance to cement their place in the tournament when it lost at home to North Carolina. The Tar Heels managed to put together another win on a mediocre shooting night (and an awful shooting first-half). Dominance on the boards continues to keep North Carolina winning and improved and more frequent three-point shooting have to be heartening signs for Tar Heel fans.

In the other game, Wake Forest beat Georgia Tech while shooting 32.7%. Yikes.

Get Off The Edge

  • North Carolina State at #8 Duke at 9:00 PM on ACC Network or

While Miami failed to solidify their tournament standing, NC State will take a shot at it tonight when the team goes to Cameron Indoor to take on the Duke Blue Devils. The Wolfpack has a good record, but few good wins outside of beating Texas. Is NC State good enough to hang with Duke? They can be. Solid offense and a defense that has only improved through conference play make the Wolfpack a fairly tough team. With a big and versatile frontcourt and effective guards, there aren’t any glaring mismatches, though NC State’s short rotation could encounter some difficulties if a key player gets injured or in foul trouble early. The Blue Devils, for their part can build on their win against Maryland and build some confidence by handling this game with poise. Barring a bad shooting night by Austin Rivers, Duke should be able to handle this. If the shots don’t fall, NC State is more than capable of stealing this one.

Bad Teams on the Road

  • Virginia Tech at #17 Florida State at 7:00 PM on ESPN2
  • Boston College at Maryland at 9:00 PM on ACC Network or

Boston College beating Florida State is probably the most surprising single result of the ACC season. It’s an odd thing when a team can surpass preseason expectations with three conference wins, but that’s the situation in Chestnut Hill. Those three wins and a few more close games can be counted as nothing less than a success for a rebuilding Eagles teams. Still, when push comes to shove, Boston College has yet to win a true road game this season. The best performance by this team outside of their home court is an overtime win against UC Riverside on a neutral court early in the year. Though Maryland has lost Pe’Shon Howard and continues to struggle to find ways to win, They should be able to handle Boston College in College Park.

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech goes to Tallahassee to take on a Florida State team that hasn’t lost a conference game on their home court this year.  Florida State is a legitimately good and dangerous team, but none of that can hide the fact that the Seminoles lost to Boston College. Florida State should easily be able to win this game easily, but then again they should have been able to handle Boston College easily too.

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ACC Morning Five: 02.16.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 16th, 2012

  1. NBA Draft Blog: Ed Isaacson took a look at Austin Rivers and his draft prospects. Isaacson sides with a plurality of experts who think Rivers should stick around for another year of school. He also compliments Rivers’ defense. The one thing that he (and I) think is a current issue for Rivers is his turnovers. He still doesn’t have the court vision or the handle to use a similar number of possessions in the NBA. It’s still unclear to me about Rivers’ draft prospects. He’s one of the few guys who has an NBA-ready skill, and I’m not sure he slips out of the lottery. That said, I think another year would help him move to a top-5 level pick. But I’m no draft expert.
  2. Wilmington Star News: Speaking of Rivers, he’s been named ACC freshman of the week seven times (a record). Now he’s been named one of five finalists by the USBWA for the Wayman Tisdale Award. Rivers dominates Duke’s offense and has shown the ability to take over games. In the last 10 years only Luol Deng (2004), Marvin Williams (2005) and Tyler Hansbrough (2006) have won the award from the ACC. I’d still put my money on Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.
  3. ACC Sports Journal: Mark Gottfried is distancing himself from the past at NC State. Not the two national championships, but the school’s recent bout with mediocrity. He rarely talks about last year’s team, opting to call his team of mostly the same players “new” and “different” instead. Gottfried’s tone is serious. He has a job to do. A year of modest improvement doesn’t say much about his future successes, but it’s certainly a start.
  4. Washington Post: Bad news from College Park. Pe’Shon Howard is done for the season. That leaves Mark Turgeon back where he was to start the year. That’s to say he has a hungry Stoglin who struggles to get teammates involved when he plays off the ball, much less on it, or Nick Faust who struggles offensively and with his decision-making. One of them has to play point guard. There aren’t many other options. You know Turgeon can’t wait to get his hands on a recruiting class to deepen that bench that was left bare after Gary Williams departed last season.
  5. Washington Post: You may remember that Jacob Pullen “won’t play basketball in the NIT” (one of the most awesome quotes and follow-throughs since Babe Ruth called his home run). Well Virginia Tech has a slightly different version: the Hokies won’t play basketball in the CBI or CIT. Yeah! Take that! “We don’t need no stinkin’ postseason!” All joking aside, the CBI actually charges teams money to play in it. If the Hokies aren’t selling tickets against conference foes, there’s not much hope for third-tier postseason tournaments. Athletic director Jim Weaver was still optimistic about the team’s chances for the NIT, though I think the Hokies still need a strong run to close out the year.
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XI

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 15th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….objectively realizing that you just saw one of the more dramatic shots in college basketball over the last 10 years. Factor in everything – a freshman, playing on the road, time expiring, a three-point shot when you’re down two, UNC/Duke – and I’ll put Austin Rivers’ three up against anything I’ve seen. Cold-blooded doesn’t do it justice – that rainbow was sub-Arctic. The only mark against the buzzer-beater is that it came in the regular season, but for the silent (and I mean drop-a-pin silent) Carolina fans on Wednesday, that was little consolation as they watched Duke pile on their Baby Blue home floor in celebration.

As A College Basketball Fan, Austin Rivers' Three Was As Dramatic As They Come. As a UNC Grad...Well, You Get The Picture (AP)

I LOVED….Michigan State stoning Ohio State on the road. For me, it both validates this Spartans team as a contender and cements the Big Ten as one of the most balanced and competitive conferences this season (five teams currently in the Top 25). Last season might have been a big disappointment, but you can’t say enough about the coaching job that Tom Izzo has done this year.

I LOVED….Michigan State’s Draymond Green getting some love and validation this season. Not to make this a Spartan-happy column, but Green has really stepped up as a senior after maybe getting overshadowed a bit by the talent around him in previous years. He’s one of the most well-rounded players in the nation (15 PPG/10.5 RPG/3.5 APG/1.0 BPG/36% 3FG), and he kept this group focused after a bit of a rough start. Now MSU is looking more legit with each passing week.

I LOVED….Gonzaga reminding Saint Mary’s exactly which program has dominated the West Coast Conference for the last decade-plus. It’s easy to take the Zags for granted or root for more parity in the conference (I often do both), but don’t forget that Mark Few’s Bulldogs thrashed Notre Dame, Butler and Arizona, lost a close game to Michigan State and beat Xavier on the road. Don’t sleep on ‘em.

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