A Look at the ACC in the NIT

Posted by Charlie Maikis on March 14th, 2017

March Madness is now upon us, but let’s take a moment to consider a different postseason tournament as the ACC is sending three teams to the NIT this season. In a year where many observers thought the NCAA Tournament bubble was one of the weakest in years, the Selection Committee was not particularly kind to the conference. Of the three ACC bubble teams, Wake Forest made the field of 68 while Syracuse and Georgia Tech were left at home. Clemson joins the Orange and Yellow Jackets in this year’s NIT, meaning that the 12 of the 15 ACC teams were invited to one of the two prestigious postseason tournaments. Before the NCAA Tournament vacuums all the oxygen in the college basketball universe, let’s discuss the trio of ACC teams playing in the NIT.

Syracuse and Clemson are two of the strongest teams in the NIT field this year and give the ACC a great chance at success. Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse

Syracuse was a curious case as the Orange were left out of the NCAA Tournament presumably because of a lackluster non-conference performance. Teams that go 10-8 in what is widely regarded as the nation’s best conference usually get an invitation to the Big Dance, but that factor alone clearly wasn’t enough this season. The result was Syracuse’s placement as the top overall seed in the NIT bracket, but perhaps in the toughest region of the four. Their region also contains four other power conference teams, and the average Kenpom ranking of of the group is five spots better than the rest of the field. Luckily Syracuse doesn’t have to play the other seven teams but just the ones in front of it, starting on Wednesday night at home against UNC-Greensboro. Remember, after Jim Boeheim blasted the city of Greensboro (site of ACC headquarters and numerous ACC Tournaments) at last week’s ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, the municipality fired back:

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This Weekend in the ACC: February 25

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 25th, 2017

Here are a few things to keep your eye on around the ACC this weekend (all times Eastern):

Saturday, 12:00 PM: Florida State (22-6; 10-5 ACC) at Clemson (14-13; 4-11 ACC) Clemson found yet another heartbreaking way to lose this week, this time thanks to a buzzer-beating three from Virginia Tech’s Seth Allen in Blacksburg. Can the Tigers still make a run at the NCAA Tournament without winning the ACC Tournament? Maybe. The Tigers’ 4-11 ACC record is unquestionably ugly, but if they can win their final three games (a big if, of course) to reach 7-11, a strong non-conference showing might counterbalance their sub-.500 record. They would still likely need a couple wins in Brooklyn, but such a run is certainly not out of the question. The problem is that the last time these two teams played, the Seminoles made 17 threes and shot a blistering 66 percent from the field on their way to a 48-point victory. Florida State, however, has been a different team on the road this year — can the Tigers finally win a close game?

Can Clemson finally win a tight one with the Seminoles in town this weekend? (AP Photo)

Saturday, 4:00 PM: Duke (22-6; 10-5 ACC) at Miami (19-8; 9-6 ACC) Break up the Hurricanes! After an, umm, let’s say unappetizing victory over Virginia on Monday night, Jim Larranaga’s bunch has now won five of their last six games. Miami now appears headed for the NCAA Tournament, a shocking development given a pathetic non-conference schedule that featured losses to the only two decent teams (Florida and Iowa State) it played. The Hurricanes have racked up wins by basically being the anti-Clemson, winning their last five games by single digits. Duke, meanwhile, fresh off a buzzer-beating loss at Syracuse that snapped its seven-game winning streak, needs a victory here to have a shot of catching North Carolina for the ACC regular season championship.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VI

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 24th, 2017

Here is the latest edition of our weekly review of the current ACC standings and team performances where we focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their records indicate. Each week we delve into advanced metrics to reveal a few interesting teams, player statistics and trends. This week we will look at the most extreme example of home court advantage in the ACC. Finally, we forecast how the final ACC standings may look given current efficiency margins, and what that means for each teams’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All data is current for games played through Wednesday, February 22.

Current Standings

Thanks to Wednesday’s home win over Louisville, North Carolina has now taken the lead in efficiency margin to go along with its two-game cushion in the standings. Efficiency margins confirm that the Tar Heels and the Cardinals are the two best teams in the league, so we should not be surprised if they meet again in the ACC Tournament championship game. If neither squad loses until March 11, one of the NCAA’s #1 seeds would probably be on the line that Saturday night. The standings match up well with efficiency at this point, with two notable exceptions – Virginia has played quite a bit better than its record indicates, while Virginia Tech appears to be very fortunate to be 8-7 in league play. Perhaps the hottest team in the league right now is Miami, as the Hurricanes have posted seven victories in their last nine outings.

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Should Georgia Tech Be Buzzing About Its Start?

Posted by Mick McDonald on December 20th, 2016

The expectations for the first year of the Josh Pastner era at Georgia Tech were about as low as they can get, as the Yellow Jackets were picked to finish 14th of 15 teams — ahead of only lowly Boston College — by the media in October. One national hoops writer even went as far to predict that Georgia Tech would go winless in the ACC this season. While Pastner’s team certainly won’t be an NCAA Tournament contender and will still most likely finish within the bottom tier of the conference standings, it is also clear that the Jackets are better than expected. That feeling was somewhat reinforced when Tech defeated a solid VCU team in Richmond last week, but keep in mind that it has also lost at home to Ohio (a top 100 team) and was demolished on the road by a mediocre Tennessee squad. However, there are several bright spots on this team that should have the fans in Atlanta excited for the future.

Yellow Jackets freshman Josh Okogie has been one of this biggest surprises in the country. (Adam Hagy/USA Today)

Yellow Jackets freshman Josh Okogie has been one of this biggest surprises in the country. (Adam Hagy/USA Today)

The obvious place to start is with junior center Ben Lammers. A three-star recruit, Lammers did not show much more than potential in his initial two years under Brian Gregory. Whether Pastner is simply getting more out of him this season or he is finally showing a progression of skills, he is clearly a different player. Lammers leads the Yellow Jackets in scoring (15.8 PPG), rebounding (10.8 PPG) and blocks (4.6 BPG), and he is currently the second-leading rebounder in the ACC and the nation’s leader in blocks per game. Fellow junior Tadric Jackson is shooting 56.3 percent from three-point range, giving Pastner a much-needed outside threat and a terrific complement for when the defense collapses on Lammers. Senior Quinton Stephens has not shot the ball very well but he has taken on the versatile forward role that was expected of him, averaging 11.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. But it is the rise of an unheralded freshmen who has been the biggest bright spot so far for the Yellow Jackets. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part II Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 21st, 2016

morning5_ACCNote: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings.

  1. Maui Invitational: North Carolina (#5) will be the favorite in the Maui Invitational, the marquee event of this season’s Feast Week. The Tar Heels will face host Chaminade in tonight’s opening round (ESPN2 – 11:30 PM) and followed by either Oklahoma State (#61) or Connecticut (#67) in Tuesday’s semifinals. With that draw, North Carolina should easily advance into Wednesday’s championship game (ESPN2 – 9:30 PM). Oregon (#9) and Wisconsin (#10) — two other top 10 teams — are on the other half of the bracket. North Carolina will look to add to its past success in this event, having won three previous titles in Lahaina in 1999, 2004 and 2008. Roy Williams’ team started its trip to the Hawaiian Islands late last week with an 83-68 win at Hawaii on Friday night.
  2. Legends Classic: The Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be the site of the next two ACC Tournaments so it is no coincidence that the facility is hosting four early season events that feature ACC schools this season. The Legends Classic is the first of those events, with Notre Dame (#33) joining a competitive four-team field. The Irish will meet Colorado (#51) tonight (ESPN2 – 7:00 PM), followed by Texas (#47) taking on Northwestern (#60). The winners will play in Tuesday night’s championship game (ESPN2 – 6:00 PM). With these four teams so evenly matched, expect Notre Dame to compete in two close games with a chance to pick up a pair of quality wins.
  3. Global Sports Shootout: Georgia Tech (#106) is one of two ACC schools that chose not to play in a traditional winners-advance tournament. Instead, the Yellow Jackets’ exempt event — the Global Sports Shootout — consists of four separate home games against mid-level competition. The last of those games will take place on Tuesday night (ACCN – 7:30 PM) when Georgia Tech hosts Sam Houston State (#148). Josh Pastner‘s team is 2-1 in these games after dropping Friday night’s contest to Ohio (#84), but the Jackets handily defeated Tennessee Tech (#268) and Southern (#271). Junior center Ben Lammers has been a standout so far, averaging 16.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and an impressive 6.0 blocks per game.
  4. Battle 4 Atlantis: This will be Louisville‘s (#7) second appearance in the Battle 4 Atlantis event. In November 2012 the Cardinals lost to Duke in the finals of this event, although Rick Pitino‘s squad got its revenge in the Elite Eight by beating the Blue Devils handily on its way to the National Championship. As usual the Bahamas will host a highly competitive field, with all eight teams ranked among the top third of college basketball (per KenPom). Louisville faces the lowest-rated team in its opener against Old Dominion (#108) on Wednesday night (AXS – 9:30 PM). On Thanksgiving Day, the Cardinals will take on the winner of Wichita State (#23) and LSU (#87). On the other side of the bracket, Michigan State (#21), Baylor (#22) and VCU (#34) are all capable of making it to Friday afternoon’s championship game (ESPN/ESPN2 – 3:30 PM).
  5. NIT Season Tip-Off: Another ACC team will be playing in Brooklyn this week, as Florida State (#36) also ventures to the Barclays Center for the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Seminoles will battle Temple (#115) on Thanksgiving Day (ESPNU – 12:30 PM), and if they win that game, they will probably get a shot at West Virginia (#18) in Friday’s championship (ESPN2 – 3:00 PM). Two wins in Brooklyn would be huge for Leonard Hamilton‘s squad, as Florida State needs some impressive victories to put on its pre-conference resume. The Seminoles have not done so well in the non-conference phase of its schedule the last few years, so this represents a great opportunity to change that trend.
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ACC Burning Questions: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 24th, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: How long will it take Josh Pastner to turn around the Georgia Tech program?

It’s been a long time since the Georgia Tech basketball program has been a consistent winner. If fact, the Yellow Jackets have only put together one winning ACC season in the past two decades. When Brian Gregory was fired soon after the end of last year’s 20-win campaign, that opened the door for Josh Pastner to bolt from his sputtering Memphis program to take over the reins in Atlanta. With a depleted roster awaiting him, Pastner will not be expected to do much in Year One. But given the high level of competitive balance within the ACC, can Georgia Tech hope for progress anytime soon?

Josh Pastner faces an uphill climb to turn around the Georgia Tech program. (Photo: ramblinwreck.com)

Josh Pastner faces an uphill battle to turn around the Georgia Tech program. (ramblinwreck.com)

The cupboard in Atlanta is not completely bare, but there is not a lot of talent left on the shelves. College basketball insider Jon Rothstein recently noted on Twitter that “Georgia Tech may have the worst power-five roster I’ve ever seen. Yellow Jackets won’t win a game in ACC play this season. Book it.” Considering the fact that Boston College is still in the league after going 0-18 in ACC play a season ago, that statement, while somewhat exaggerated, may not be too far off the mark. Gregory never could seem to get over the recruiting hump in Atlanta, so he frequently used upperclassmen transfers to keep the roster competitive. That Band-Aid approach resulted in a nice 21-15 season with an NIT appearance last year, but five seniors have since departed and Pastner has inherited the mess. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Preview: Georgia Tech’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 21st, 2015

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Can Brian Gregory survive another losing ACC season?

For those keeping track at home, yes: this was the exact same Burning Question we used before last season, and we got a somewhat surprising answer in March. By retaining Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech became the first ACC school in recent memory to return a head coach with losing ACC records in each of his first four seasons at the helm. In his fifth campaign in Atlanta, Gregory will at least have an experienced squad of eight upperclassmen looking to figure in the rotation. However, it should be noted that three of those eight players are senior transfers, so team chemistry isn’t necessarily a given.

Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory lost out on one, maybe two important prospects recently. (Icon Sports Media)

Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory is still looking for his first winning ACC season. (Photo: Icon Sports Media)

The biggest story for the Yellow Jackets last year was their incredibly poor performance in close ACC games. Twelve of their 15 conference losses were by only seven points or fewer. Even more amazing was Georgia Tech’s 0-9 mark in one-possession games, a record which included three excruciating overtime losses. Some of this has to be attributed to just plain bad luck, but another factor in those struggles could have been Gregory’s difficulty in finding a solution at point guard. Could that improve this season? The good news (in theory) is that the team returns three point guards. Maybe one of Travis Jorgenson and Josh Heath will see dramatic improvements in their second years in the program, and junior Corey Heyward still has a chance to develop his offense. But unless one of those three players emerges, point guard play will continue to be a decisive disadvantage for Georgia Tech when compared with the rest of the ACC.

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