ACC M5: 12.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on December 12th, 2014

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  1. Raleigh News & Observer: In this piece, Andrew Carter talks about North Carolina’s Marcus Paige, who’s trying to regain the shooting form that made him a preseason All-American. With his accuracy numbers (35.5% FG) significantly down compared to last year, you have to wonder if Paige is feeling the pressure of being North Carolina’s only viable perimeter threat this season. He probably needs to regain that touch soon if the Tar Heels want to hang with top-ranked Kentucky in Lexington on Saturday (12 ET – CBS). While Kentucky is a bad match-up for most any team, they are a really bad match-up for teams that score almost exclusively from two-point baskets in the paint. Currently, North Carolina ranks 14th in the country in percentage of its points derived from two-pointers, while Kentucky leads the nation in defending two-point attempts, allowing only 30 percent. It would help the Tar Heels’ cause if forward Brice Johnson played well, but don’t count on it. A look at Johnson’s game-by-game statistics so far this year reveals a disturbing trend. In contests against the team’s four worst opponents, Johnson has solid numbers (16.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 61% FG); but against the team’s four top-40 opponents, his production has basically been cut in half (7.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 32% FG).
  2. South Bend Tribune & Seminoles.com: Notre Dame visits Florida State on Saturday (8pm ET – ESPN2) in an early conference match-up between two teams that appear to be moving in opposite directions. The Irish (9-1) are off to nice start and entered the AP Top 25 earlier this week. The Notre Dame offense has been on a tear, averaging 85.1 points per contest while leading the country in field goal shooting (56.2%). On the other hand, the Seminoles (4-4) have been one of the more disappointing teams in the ACC. But in fairness to Leonard Hamilton’s squad, it has been beset by injuries to their two primary guards. After missing two-and-a-half games, Aaron Thomas returned to action last week and looked back in top form, with 22 points in Florida State’s 96-73 victory over Central Florida. Hamilton hopes to get starting point guard Devon Bookert back for the Notre Dame game, after he missed the previous five games due to a foot injury.
  3. Fox Sports: In a game that didn’t get a lot of attention, Clemson rallied for a big overtime home win over #18 Arkansas this past Sunday evening. With all the hoopla surrounding the new NCAA football playoff selection coupled with a normal NFL Sunday, many didn’t notice that the Tigers gained their second win this season over an SEC squad (the other was LSU). Ironically, Clemson’s next two games are also against SEC members, Auburn and South Carolina. In Sunday’s win, Brad Brownell’s guys showed flashes of the defense we have come to expect from Clemson, holding the potent Razorbacks to a season low in points and points per possession (1.04 PPP). In each of Brownell’s first four years at the helm, the Tigers have ranked among the nation’s top-60 in adjusted defensive efficiency, but even after Sunday’s strong performance, Clemson only ranks 121st this year.
  4. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Jamie Dixon was happy to welcome Cameron Wright back to action last Friday in the Panthers’ 76-62 win over crosstown rival Duquesne. Wright only played a token minute, but after a week of practice the senior wing should be ready for more minutes this weekend when the Panthers host St. Bonaventure on Saturday. Dixon hopes that Wright’s return will have a positive impact on the Pitt defense, normally a program strength but an inconsistent liability so far this year. In each of the Panthers’ three losses, opponents torched the Pitt defense by scoring over 1.2 points per possession, a mark only bested by three Panther opponents during all of last season.
  5. Winston-Salem Journal: In a bit of a surprise on Tuesday, sophomore guard Miles Overton informed Danny Manning that he would be leaving the Wake Forest program, effective immediately. It wouldn’t have been as big of a shock if the announcement had come about a week earlier, as Overton had only logged 49 minutes of playing time in the Deacons’ first six games. But last week, he saw a lot more action, scoring 22 points in 40 minutes combined in his last two games. In any case, by leaving now, Overton can transfer to another school for the spring semester, and be eligible to play again next December.
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ACC Stock Watch: Week Three

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 5th, 2014

After two weeks of some mediocre non-conference competition along with some enlightening Feast Week match-ups, the conference found itself in familiar territory battling its peers in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The games featured there, along with the few that preceded it, continue to shine a light on the teams and players in the conference who are rising, falling, or simply standing still. Here’s the third weekly edition of our ACC Stock Watch.

Trending Up

  • Tyus Jones, Duke. No one had a better week than the Blue Devils’ freshman point guard. After a sizzling 16 points and 10 assists in a win over Army earlier this week, Jones put the team on his back to help Duke defeat the nation’s fourth-ranked team on the road. His 22 points helped to offset an average game from the more-ballyhooed Jahlil Okafor, who posted 13 points while battling underneath with the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky all night. More impressive than his numbers was his poise down the stretch and how efficiently he ran the Duke offense all night long. The first true road test was little test at all for this standout freshman.
  • Wayne Blackshear, Louisville. Terry Rozier hit the big shots at the end of the game in the Cardinals’ win over Ohio State on Tuesday night, but it was Blackshear’s breakout performance that made the biggest impact. Long a player with high upside but inconsistent production, Blackshear’s all-around game against the Buckeyes (22 points, 4-of-8 from three, six rebounds) was the kind of contribution that Rick Pitino and Louisville has been waiting for from the senior.
Wayne Blackshear's big night is hopefully a sign of more good things to come for Louisville (USAToday Sports)

Wayne Blackshear’s big night is hopefully a sign of more good things to come for Louisville fans (USAToday Sports)

  • Duke. What can really be said about the scariest team in the country not located in Lexington? Duke went into a very difficult road environment in Madison, Wisconsin, and merely shot 65 percent from the field and used its talented freshmen trio to overcome the veteran stars of the Badgers. They’re as efficient an offensive team as there is in college basketball right now.
  • Miami. While the buzzer-beater win over Florida has now lost some of its luster, the Hurricanes just keep on winning. After dispatching an overmatched South Alabama team, Miami held Illinois (a team averaging 90 points per game coming in) to only 61 in its win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The transfers are everything Jim Larranaga could have hoped they’d be, and holders Manu Lecomte and Tonye Jekiri are flourishing in complementary roles.

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ACC M5: Who’s Been a Turkey Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 26th, 2014

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Here’s a look at some of the most disappointing performances so far by ACC teams.

  1. Clemson: The Tigers already have two bad losses on their resume. First came a 77-74 home loss to Winthrop on Monday, November 17, and then Clemson suffered an unimpressive 72-70 defeat at the hands of Gardner Webb, this past Friday in the opening round of the Paradise Jam Tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The shocking thing about both losses is that we expected Brad Brownell’s Tigers to struggle on offense and be stingy as always on the defensive end, but that was not the case in either game. In fact, Clemson shot over 48 percent from the field in both contests but surprisingly allowed over 70 points to two offenses that kenpom currently has ranked #194 (Gardner Webb) and #244 (Winthrop). In the two games combined, Clemson gave up 20 made three-point baskets, allowed 24 offensive rebounds, and only forced 14 turnovers. It should be noted that the Tigers did respond to these losses with back-to-back wins over Nevada and LSU in the Paradise Jam, but those bad losses will stick with them (and the ACC) all season long.
  2. Florida State: Picked by most to finish in the upper-middle part of the ACC, Leonard Hamilton’s squad has been a huge disappointment so far by dropping three of its first four games. All of the defeats are to teams ranked in kenpom’s top-75, so looked upon individually, no loss is considered terrible, but in two of them the circumstances are troubling. First of all, a mid-level ACC team should not lose at home to any team from the Colonial Athletic Conference, but that’s exactly what happened as Northeastern edged the Seminoles, 76-73 in Tallahassee last Tuesday. Then Florida State dropped back-to-back games over the weekend at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in Uncasville, Connecticut. Providence destroyed them, 80-54 on Saturday by scoring at will (1.26 points per possession) on the normally stout Seminoles’ defense. That’s the second worst defensive performance by Florida State since the 2007-08 season. Sunday’s 75-69 loss to Massachusetts was much more competitive, especially considering that star guard Aaron Thomas missed the second half after being rushed to the hospital for apparent dehydration due to an illness. This isn’t the first time that Florida State has struggled during the early nonconference part of the season, and often they are able to turn things around in conference play and contend for a bid to the NCAA tournament. However if the Seminoles drop many more games before January, they may be in too big a hole to dig out of in the newly improved ACC.
  3. Pittsburgh: In a game that went largely unnoticed, Pittsburgh took a tough 74-70 loss at Hawaii, last Friday night. It was the first of four games in Maui for the Panthers as they are now competing in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Perhaps due to jet lag, Pitt allowed the Rainbow Warriors to connect on 53 percent of their field goals. The defense didn’t get much better though in Monday’s 81-68 win over Chaminade, as the Division II Silverswords also topped the 50 percent mark from the field. The Panthers won because they were able to dominate the glass by a huge +34 rebound margin, which included 27 offensive boards for Pitt. Even before this trip, Pittsburgh was not very impressive in a seven point win over Samford, currently ranked #306 in kenpom. Jaime Dixon’s squad still has a chance to right the ship before returning stateside, but at least thus far, Pittsburgh’s reputation as a tough team to score against looks to be in jeopardy this season.
  4. Virginia Tech: We hesitate to include the Hokies here, since Buzz Williams’ team was not expected to be very good, especially early in the season. But when an ACC school loses on it’s home floor to the 312th ranked team in the country, they don’t deserve a pass. Appalachian State went in to Blacksburg this past Saturday afternoon and beat Virginia Tech, 65-63. The Hokies shot better than Appalachian State from the field and held a +4 edge in turnovers, but couldn’t overcome a shocking rebound deficit of -15. The Mountaineers turned 19 offensive boards into 23 second chance points, while Virginia Tech only scored five from its eight offensive rebounds. Certainly that does not bode well for the Hokies, when stronger ACC frontlines come to town.
  5. Wake Forest: The Deacons have two early losses that are pretty bad, but for different reasons. Last Wednesday, Wake Forest got hammered at Arkansas, 83-53 and followed that by falling at home to Iona on Friday night, by a score of 85-81. While no one expected the Deacons to roll into Fayetteville, Arkansas, and beat a team expected to finish near the top of the SEC, the 30-point margin was disappointing. Even though Iona is a good team and the preseason favorite in the MAAC, and Wake Forest had a quick turnaround following the trip to Arkansas, Danny Manning wasn’t happy with how his team responded in terms of early effort. The new Deacon head coach also wasn’t pleased with himself for calling a timeout that he didn’t have, with Iona up by two and 23.1 seconds left. The Gaels made 2-of-4 subsequent free throws to ice the game. In a recent blog, longtime Wake Forest beat writer Dan Collins discussed how Manning is drawing a line in the sand, regarding the effort level of all his players, including supposed stars Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre. We will soon see if that message is getting results, as the Deacons get an early ACC road game, at N.C. State next Saturday, December 6.
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ACC Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2014

Over the last two weeks, we have previewed each team individually to go with several more articles to get you ready for ACC basketball (first tip: 6:00 PM ET in Durham). Links to the previews can be found in each of the preseason power rankings listed below. Also look for our preseason conference awards which will publish later today.

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (58): Everyone knows about the freshmen, and they are sensational. But are Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon ready to put together a consistent season from start to finish? That answer may determine whether the Blue Devils are Final Four-bound or facing another early departure from the Tourney.
Virginia Cavaliers T2. Virginia (53): Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell didn’t light up the scoreboard in Charlottesville, but their leadership and savvy was key in Virginia’s magical run last year. Can Anthony Gill and Justin Anderson assume larger roles and keep Tony Bennett‘s team in the national limelight?
North Carolina Tar Heels T2. North Carolina (53): Everyone knows about Marcus Paige, and the Tar Heels should be better at the line and from three with the addition of some talented freshmen in the backcourt and on the wing. Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks have to bring it every night in the paint for this team to reach its potential.
LouisvilleLogo 4. Louisville (52): The Cardinals probably have as good a shot as any of the top four. While they will have to learn how to play a new set of conference opponents in unfamiliar arenas, the ACC will have to adjust to Rick Pitino’s style of pressure defense with multiple schemes. Most of the key contributors are now gone from the 2012-13 National Championship squad, but the program brings a culture used to winning at the highest level.
Syracuse Orange 5. Syracuse (42): There are a lot of questions about the Orange after Tyler Ennis’ and Jerami Grant’s early departures. Jim Boeheim has a talented team that won’t be an easy out, but there are a lot of questions about how the offense will run with another freshman, Kaleb Joseph, at the helm.
Florida State Seminoles 6. Florida State (38): The Seminoles haven’t been their usual defensive selves the past two seasons, but this year Leonard Hamilton has three experienced big men along with a cadre of long perimeter players. Aaron Thomas may be the most underrated player in the ACC, which bodes well for things in Tallahassee this year.
Pittsburgh Panthers 7. Pittsburgh (37)Jamie Dixon has a tradition of replacing departed stars with veterans. For Pitt to win games against the ACC’s elite, Cameron Wright and James Robinson must continue that trend and get some help, maybe a year earlier than the norm, from the talented sophomore class. One would think they are due for a healthier year than last, when midseason injuries really set the team back.
NC State Wolfpack 8. NC State (34): T.J. Warren is gone, so this team has to find its offense by committee. Tyler Lewis is too, so Cat Barber will have to be efficient and also seek his own shot. The maturation of a young frontcourt will be key. Mark Gottfried has historically impressed with low expectations.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 9. Notre Dame (32): It won’t be a surprise if Zach Auguste makes a big jump in production as a junior, but beyond that is nothing but unproven post players. With the perimeter filled with talent and experience, keeping Auguste healthy and out of foul trouble may be the key as the Irish try to make a dramatic jump in the standings. Jerian Grant is a contender for ACC Player of the Year.
Miami Hurricanes 10. Miami (25): Arguably the best coaching job in the country last year happened in Coral Gables. If Jim Larranaga gets this team to improve, the Hurricanes will be significantly better than many expect. Manu Lacomte needs to make the leap and lead a young team in a very tough conference.
Clemson Tigers 11. Clemson (18): Brad Brownell showed that even without a ton of obvious roster talent, the Tigers will be competitive — especially on defense. This season he has to prove that again without K.J. McDaniels. It’s unclear who the go-to player will be, so Clemson’s offense could hold this team back.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 12. Wake Forest (17): Wake may be ready for a solid rise in the ACC standings as early as next year. This year will be a challenge, but momentum could be built towards a good 2015-16 season. Juniors Devin Thomas on the inside and Cody Miller-McIntyre in the backcourt will dictate how good this team is.
Boston College 13. Boston College (12): A year and coach removed from last year’s disappointing effort leave a lot of questions in Chestnut Hill. Olivier Hanlan will always be worth the price of admission, but he may not have enough supporting cast to escape the dregs of the ACC unless Dennis Clifford can finally stay healthy.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 14. Georgia Tech (10): It’s really hard to see Brian Gregory surviving as coach here if the Yellow Jackets don’t make the postseason this season. It’s also hard to see this Georgia Tech team finishing in the top half of the ACC, which is what it would probably take to get that NCAA bid — or even a trip to the NIT. The odds of Gregory being in Atlanta after March 2015 are not very good.
Virginia Tech Hokies 15. Virginia Tech (6): Virginia Tech will again be among the cellar-dwellers in the ACC, but at least it has come cachet with the hiring of Buzz Williams. They’ll be serviceable in the backcourt with Devin Wilson returning, but it will be a year or two before we can evaluate the viability of the Hokies as competitive in the conference.

Miscellaneous Power Rankings Notes:

  • Coach K reloadsDuke was the top choice again this year with another one-and-done big man, but the Blue Devils weren’t the unanimous pick. Virginia and Louisville both got a first place vote.
  • Clear Contenders: North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia (in some order) rounded out everyone’s top four, marking a distinct upper tier in the conference.
  • Media/Microsite solidarity: For the second season in a row, no teams differed from the preseason media poll by more than two spots.
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ACC Preview: Clemson’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on November 11th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Will Brad Brownell keep surprising or will KJ McDaniels’ departure spell doom in the upstate?

Let’s be clear, Clemson was a lot better than most people gave it credit for last season. The Tigers made it to the semifinals of the NIT and went 4-8 against Ken Pomeroy’s top 50, with wins coming against Duke, Maryland, Illinois and Florida State. But they also had KJ McDaniels, and just like Clemson was underrated last season, so was he. He was one of the country’s best defenders, using more than 28 percent of Clemson’s possessions while remaining the most efficient player on the team. Now it’s a new year and McDaniels is getting paid to play for the 76ers. There aren’t any returning players in the ACC who could replace him, much less anybody on Brad Brownell’s current roster.

Jaron Blossomgame should help make up some of KJ McDaniels production this season. (AP)

Jaron Blossomgame (5) should help make up some of KJ McDaniels’ lost production this season. (AP)

This year we know one thing: Clemson will play defense. The Tigers return most of their team other than McDaniels and Brownell’s teams always play defense. Seniors Rod Hall and Demarcus Harrison will be joined by Jaron Blossomgame, Jordan Roper and Landry Nnoko. Only Blossomgame was a freshman last year, so that’s a lot of available experience available to Brownell (albeit that experience would make for a short lineup). Blossomgame will likely find himself getting the majority of McDaniels’ old minutes. More interestingly — at least in the long-term — is Brownell bringing in consensus top-100 forward Donte Grantham and Gabe Devoe. Grantham is projected to start right away, and although Devoe wasn’t as highly touted, he lit up the scoreboard in high school (34.0 PPG), and he shot over 40 percent from deep with over 100 makes. Between Grantham’s size and Devoe’s scoring ability, look for these two freshmen to get immediate time. Brownell has struggled in recruiting ACC-caliber talent during his first four seasons, but these two players could mark a turning point in his acquisition of talent.

Having to rely on freshmen to carry an offense that was buoyed to mediocrity by a strong free throw percentage (74.4%) and solid offensive rebounding (33.8%) isn’t a recipe for consistency. And none of the current core has any experience in being a go-to player at this level, an issue that will manifest on nights when the jumpers aren’t falling. With such a strong top of the conference this season, this is probably a year when Clemson slips into the bottom third of the league. Whether that is enough to save Brownell’s job is anybody’s guess, but the future looks bright for the Tigers even if this one feels like a roller coaster.

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What’s on the Mind of the 15 ACC Programs Right Now

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 17th, 2014

With the start of the ACC college basketball season rapidly approaching, allow us to put on our psychoanalyst’s hat to determine what’s on the mind of each of its 15 member programs right now. Some are of the optimistic variety, while others are fearful at what they see lying ahead. All of them, though, are hoping to contribute to discussions lauding the ACC as the nation’s preeminent college basketball conference this year. Let’s jump into each program alphabetically.

  • Boston College: Blind optimism. The reality is that the Eagles, even with an all-ACC caliber star in Olivier Hanlan, are likely one of the three worst teams in the conference. But there’s a new coach around in Jim Christian, and thanks to the usual roster turnover, few remaining pieces to recall the 8-24 debacle of a year ago. Buying in to a new coach and system may not be a problem, but production on the court will continue to be.
  • Clemson: Loss. That loss is a huge one, in the departure of NBA draft pick K.J. McDaniels, who was their best player on both sides of the ball last year and led the team in four statistical categories. A 10-win improvement from the year before earned Brad Brownell a six-year contract extension, but how will this team score enough to win even if it replicates its defensive success of a year ago?
Jim Christian's hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC's fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

Jim Christian hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC’s fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

  • Duke: Motivation. Not just because of a stellar recruiting class that includes their first dominant center in some time in Jahlil Okafor and the overall potential to be in the mix for a championship. There’s also the internal motivation for Quinn Cook to keep a hold on the starting point guard role in light of the arrival of stud freshman Tyus Jones, and Rasheed Sulaimon’s motivation to show that an early-season slump last year (temporarily earning him a place in Coach K’s doghouse) was an aberration. Oh, and that first round NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer could light a fire of some sort, too.

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Reviewing Five Notable ACC Offseason Headlines

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 16th, 2014

The 2014-15 ACC college basketball season is roughly a month away, which means Midnight Madnesses, secret scrimmages and overseas exhibitions are either on the near horizon or recently concluded. With Louisville’s replacement of Maryland in the league this year, it should be another dynamic season of ACC basketball. To further elicit excitement for the upcoming year, here are a few of the offseason storylines that bear revisiting as we build up to the start of games in the middle of November.

Coach K dismisses idea that coaching Team USA helps with recruiting

Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski Teamed Up to Win Another Gold Medal This Summer (Photo: Raleigh News & Observer / Getty Images)

Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski Teamed Up to Win Another Gold Medal This Summer
(Photo: Raleigh News & Observer / Getty Images)

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a piece last month suggesting Coach K’s Duke teams benefit heavily from his status as the coach of Team USA, comprised of the best professional players in America. Krzyzewski dismissed this idea, pointing to all the great players he recruited before assuming the mantle of America’s team and citing the measured success he’s had in the college ranks since. His friend, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, came to his defense, pointedly remarking that the main dissenter of Krzyzewski’s side gig was Kentucky’s John Calipari. There’s no need to state how humorous a complaint about recruiting that comes from a guy running an NBA combine at his practices happens to be, but this idea is ludicrous to begin with. Duke is going to be good every year because they have a great coach and a program with great tradition, and if Krzyzewski’s coaching the U.S. Men’s National Team also provides him more face time in high school stars’ living rooms? Well, deservedly so.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Duke 63, Clemson 62

Posted by Matt Patton on March 15th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

  1. Don’t trust Duke in the NCAA Tournament. This is admittedly a harsh assessment, and the Blue Devils certainly deserve to be listed among the contenders for the title. When they’re hot, they’re borderline unbeatable. And they have a deep rotation of skilled offensive players. But their defense has serious issues. Duke gave up points on nine straight possessions after going up by 13 points in the second half. They scored some too, so it didn’t look like a dominant Clemson run by any means, but what should have been the time Duke put the Tigers away became the time Clemson held on to challenge for the game. Clemson’s offense is mediocre. Those kinds of runs can’t happen, but they’re beginning to seem like standard second half occurrences with this Duke team.
  2. On the other hand, Duke rebounded really, really well. Unlike defense, many concerns people have with Duke don’t make a lot of sense. This is a very good rebounding team, especially when shots aren’t falling like on Friday night. Amile Jefferson is both a capable offensive player — benefitting from not being the focal point of opposing defenses — and a force on the glass. His and Jabari Parker‘s post games mean Duke has no trouble scoring down low. Jefferson has grown a lot over the course of this season. Remember, during the first half of this season, Josh Hairston was playing comparable minutes to Jefferson (and Marshall Plumlee wasn’t playing at all). As a side note, Quinn Cook’s development has flat-lined — for whatever reason he can’t find much consistency. Offensively, I think point guard play is Duke’s biggest concern going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Streak Continues: An Energized North Carolina Dismantles Clemson

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 27th, 2014

North Carolina played its best game in weeks on Sunday night in handily beating Clemson, 80-61. The final margin of victory was quite deceptive, though, as the Tar Heels led by more than 25 points for most of the second half. This means, of course, that Clemson is still winless all-time in Chapel Hill, dropping to 0-57 after the latest loss, but the story from the game centered around a revitalized unit that showed some hustle and fight for the first time in a long while. North Carolina dominated the shooting at both ends, hitting 55.4 percent of its field goals, while holding Clemson below 30 percent for most of the contest. But even more importantly, the Tar Heels played with an intensity that’s been missing, frequently diving for loose balls and making hustle plays throughout the game.

An Intense James Michael McAdoo Leads North Carolina to Dominant Win. (THE HERALD-SUN, BERNARD THOMAS — AP Photo)

An Intense James Michael McAdoo Leads North Carolina to Dominant Win.
(THE HERALD-SUN, BERNARD THOMAS — AP Photo)

The Tigers started out cold and turned downright frigid quickly thereafter. Clemson only hit six of its first 20 shots and found itself down by eight with 6:27 left in the first half, but the Tigers then proceeded to miss 14 consecutive field goals over the next 13:21 of play. During that stretch, North Carolina outscored Clemson 30-7 and the outcome was already decided. In the postgame press conferences, both coaches singled out the play of Tar Heels’ forward, James Michael McAdoo, and rightfully so. McAdoo was in attack mode throughout the contest and finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. While many have considered the junior a disappointment this season, he has been playing at a higher level for the past month. After 12 games, McAdoo was averaging 12.8 points per game and shooting a chilly 41.4 percent from the field. However, in his last eight outings, he has averaged a highly-efficient 15.9 points per game while converting an outstanding 59.1 percent of his field goals. For Clemson, K.J. McDaniels played well with 13 points and nine rebounds but got little support from the rest of his team. Here are some key takeaways for each team after Sunday night’s game.

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Clemson’s Season Will be Defined in the Next Two Weeks

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 22nd, 2014

Clemson was on quite the roll, coming into Tuesday night at 13-4 overall (4-1 in conference play) and widely regarded as having one of the best defenses in the nation. The Tigers looked poised to make major waves, but then Pittsburgh happened. With its incredibly efficient play on both ends of the court and Jamie Dixon’s tough-minded, physical brand of old school Big East basketball, Pittsburgh handed it to Clemson with a 76-43 thrashing at the Petersen Events Center. This certainly takes some of the wind out of Clemson’s sails after a three-game ACC winning streak, but there are still a number of positives to draw from this group of feisty Tigers that appear to have finally made the turn in Brad Brownell‘s fourth season on campus.

K.J. McDaniels and Coach Brad Brownell (Photo: clemsontigers.com)

K.J. McDaniels and head coach Brad Brownell (Photo: clemsontigers.com)

This Clemson group was projected by most experts to finish in the bottom three of the ACC standings, but has instead ridden a wave of momentum behind its tenacious and stingy defense to a level of play not seen in the basketball program in quite some time. Offensively, Clemson has been led by its undisputed star and athletic highlight reel machine, K.J. McDaniels, to the tune of 16.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 2.7 BPG. Those well-rounded numbers are first team all-ACC caliber, but he will be facing stiff competition from several of the other elite forwards in the conference (Jabari Parker, CJ Fair, etc.). The real question surrounding Clemson from here on out is if the Tigers can seize the positive momentum it has developed to play with the consistency required to win away from Littlejohn Coliseum? It is easy enough to get hyped up for a sold-out crowd at home versus a program like Duke, but can Brownell’s squad shake off the natural letdown that comes afterward to mentally prepare for those road trips? Coming into this season, Clemson was 5-18 in ACC road games under his direction — the Tigers are 2-1 this season.

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ACC M5: 11.26.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 26th, 2013

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  1. Raleigh News & Observer: So remember when everyone said Duke is the clear front-runner to win the ACC? Yeah, me neither. Coach K definitely doesn’t based on his postgame quotes from its Sunday night victory over Vermont. I don’t know if Duke’s problems are fixable (without someone stepping up on the front line, this team may just be a bad defensive team). The good news is that everyone was right that the Blue Devils can score like nobody’s business. Krzyzewski mentioned effort or mindset, which certainly may have played a role, but the other questions are whether this team can either stay in front of fast perimeter players and whether they can effectively rebound out of the current defense. Krzyzewski needs this year’s Brian Zoubek to materialize (along with a lockdown on-ball defender not named Tyler Thornton) because giving up 1.41 points per possession to a bad Vermont team at home is nowhere near the sign of a contender.
  2. Rant Sports: Florida State looks like a whole new team this year, and you should pay attention to Montay Brandon. He has undergone an unbelievable sophomore leap, upping his possession percentage a full three percent while improving his offensive rating an unfathomable 42 points per 100 possessions. Now the sample size is small and has partially come against cupcakes, but that’s a dramatic improvement. He has cut his turnover percentage by more than half, and marginally increased his field goal percentage (although shooting threes is still a struggle). He has also doubled his rebounding percentage on both ends of the floor. So far this has been nothing short of an unbelievable turnaround.
  3. CBS Sports: With Duke falling precipitously through Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Pittsburgh has assumed the top spot in the ACC (I fully admit I never saw this coming and still don’t really believe it). Jeff Borzello does a good job reporting on the team’s defense from a player perspective (which interestingly focuses on the physicality of the team’s defense). Surprisingly, Jamie Dixon’s defense is so good in part because it isn’t called for excessive numbers of fouls. The big question going forward is whether the Panthers will have the same success they’ve had in crashing the offensive boards against more talented teams. Speaking of their offensive rebounding prowess, now is probably a good time to remind you that the Panthers only play Duke once at home this season. That game could get ugly if the Blue Devils don’t figure things out some defensive tenets in short order.
  4. Beach Carolina Magazine: Clemson is a pleasant surprise this year. The Tigers aren’t world-beaters, but Brad Brownell‘s team looked very good in the Charleston Classic. Most notably, they absolutely manhandled a decent Davidson team. The team’s defense is tremendous but things look somewhat streaky on the offensive end. Clemson’s backcourt needs to work on drawing fouls when shots aren’t falling, which is likely to be regularly. There are still plenty of reasons to question whether Brownell can recruit enough talent to keep Clemson competitive in the ACC, but this start makes me think his teams will never be awful. He’s sort of the bizarro-Steve Donahue with his always elite defense and equally forgettable offense.
  5. Gobbler Country: Small sample size alert! Apparently Virginia Tech struggles in close non-conference games. And with some creative accounting, they struggle in close ACC games too! Part of this is because the better team generally wins close games (as it also wins the majority of games, but that’s beside the point), but I wouldn’t be too quick to draw inferences from small, biased data sets. One thing I do agree with is that Cadarian Raines needs more touches, but he’s part of the problem. It’s not like Raines is wide open on the block all of the time standing solo while Jarell Eddie fires off a long two. Raines needs to focus on getting position, and James Johnson needs to make him more of a focal point of the offense. The Hokies’ three-point shooting should open the paint up for him to work, but, then again, his high turnover rate is terrifying.
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ACC M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 4th, 2013

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  1. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: I’m no expert, but it certainly sounds like Jamie Dixon spends some time on KenPom.com. That may also explain his ability to crack the offensive efficiency code. The one constant among Dixon’s teams at Pittsburgh the last 10 seasons is that of good offensive rebounding. The Panthers always crash the glass hard, which makes up for less-than-stellar three-point shooting and an occasionally porous defense. Interestingly, Dixon’s teams have generally scored over 70 points per game. Three of the last four haven’t, but there are plenty of examples of high scoring Panther teams in the last decade of basketball.
  2. The State: Clemson isn’t an easy job to begin with — just ask Rick Barnes — and ACC expansion didn’t make it any easier. Clemson has a storied football program, and basketball has always taken a backseat to the gridiron. Luckily for Brad Brownell, the Clemson athletic department appears to be moving forward with its plans to renovate Littlejohn Coliseum. Unfortunately, that infrastructure commitment doesn’t add experience or talent to his young roster. Brownell is a very good Xs-and-Os coach, and I think he’s gotten the most out of his teams during his tenure, but if he doesn’t start attracting more talent, his seat on a renovated sideline bench will start getting warm.
  3. Washington Post: I’m betting James Johnson knows Brownell’s pain. Thanks to a late personnel decision by the Virginia Tech athletic department, Johnson started well behind his ACC coaching brethren. Johnson lifts weights, runs and plays (concussion-inducing) games of racquetball to keep himself focused. Virginia Tech is going to be bad again this season, and to make matters worse, Johnson will have to watch budding star and former commitment Montrezl Harrell at Louisville and former player Dorian Finney-Smith at Florida. When all is said and done, both of those guys will play in the NCAA Tournament while Virginia Tech and Johnson will not. But rebuilding takes time.
  4. Fox Sports: North Carolina’s NCAA issues forced the Tar Heels to play some bizarre lineups in its exhibition against UNC-Pembroke last week. However, my guess is that Roy Williams isn’t too upset, as it’s still very clear that he’s trying to figure out who to put at the five spot. With frosh Kennedy Meeks joining sophomores Joel James and Brice Johnson, it’s not a matter of a lack of height or manpower. Those three all have a long way to go. They aren’t the polished Sean Mays, Tyler Hansbroughs or even Tyler Zellers of old North Carolina teams. Williams needs at least one of the group to step up to avoid having to play “small ball” again this season with James Michael McAdoo playing away from his natural position.
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Here is one player per team who probably isn’t a household name but hold’s the key to his team’s success. The two I’ll plug the hardest here are Devon Bookert – the sophomore point guard from Florida State — and Mike Tobey – Virginia’s skilled sophomore big man. Bookert had a sneaky good freshman campaign last year that got lost in his team’s mediocre finish and Michael Snaer’s heroics. Tobey also flew under the radar thanks to Akil Mitchell’s breakout season and Joe Harris transforming into one of the best players in the league. Here’s the difference: Bookert gives Florida State the chance to be OK; Tobey gives the Cavaliers the chance to be great.
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