ACC Weekend Review: 03.06.17 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 6th, 2017

The ACC regular season wrapped up on Saturday and things went mostly according to plan with home favorites winning six of the seven contests. The lone road underdog to triumph was Wake Forest boosting its NCAA Tournament hopes with a nice comeback win at Virginia Tech. In one of the season’s most exciting games, North Carolina earned revenge for an earlier loss at Duke defeating the Blue Devils on Saturday night in the Smith Center. In other important action, Louisville and Florida State clinched double-byes in the upcoming ACC Tournament by beating Notre Dame and Miami, respectively. Syracuse also routed Georgia Tech in the Carrier Dome in what was effectively an NCAA Tournament elimination game. Here are the highlights of the weekend around the ACC.

After Saturday night’s win over Duke, Roy Williams celebrated North Carolina’s second consecutive outright ACC regular season title (Getty/Streeter Lecka)

  • Best Win I: Even though North Carolina had already clinched the ACC regular season title, the Tar Heels still had much at stake in its annual season-ending meeting with Duke. In using a late-game spurt to beat the Blue Devils, Roy Williams’ club avenged an earlier loss and moved considerably closer to clinching a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The game was a riveting back-and-forth affair with great individual performances on both sides. Luke Kennard made his case for ACC Player of the Year by leading the Blue Devils with 28 points, but his efforts were not enough to overcome outstanding performances from North Carolina’s Joel Berry (28 points including 5-of-5 on threes) and Isaiah Hicks (21 points, nine rebounds). Another difference this time came in the form of North Carolina’s improved perimeter defense. Duke punished the Tar Heels from beyond the arc with 13 three-pointers several weeks ago; on Saturday, the Blue Devils managed only 7-of-19 from deep.

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Wake Forest Still Looking For Its Signature Win

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 1st, 2017

A couple of Saturdays ago at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Wake Forest gave Duke all it could handle before eventually falling by five points in an exciting ACC shootout. The Demon Deacons followed that disappointment up with a comeback home victory over Pittsburgh, which improved their record to 16-12 overall and 7-9 in the ACC. Going into tonight’s home game against Louisville, Danny Manning‘s third team in Winston-Salem sits among Jerry Palm’s First Four In and Joe Lunardi’s First Four Out. The Deacs pass the eye test with an emerging star in sophomore big man John Collins and a host of additional young players playing beyond their years, but their resume still contains one glaring vacancy that a win over the Cardinals would undoubtedly resolve. With a dismal mark of 0-8 against the RPI top 25, Wake Forest’s best win came over Miami (FL) in mid-January and there are few remaining opportunities to notch an attention-grabbing signature win.

Wake Forest’s John Collins has emerged as the ACC’s best big man. (Brian Westeholt/Wake Sports)

For a program that has not sniffed meaningful postseason basketball since 2010, Manning acutely diagnosed his team’s mental hurdle after the loss at Duke: “We have to continue. We have to find a way. There are no close victories. There are no close feel-goods. There’s none of that. We have to find a way to get it done for the rest of our conference games.” If Wake Forest is to find that elusive quality win tonight against Louisville, it will assuredly be on the merits of an offense that ranks 11th nationally, per KenPom. The Demon Deacons’ defense (131st nationally) is still a work in progress, but with Collins quickly proving to be the ACC’s most talented big man and a number of capable shooters spotting up around him, a defense that bends but doesn’t break may be all they need.

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This Weekend in the ACC: February 4

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 4th, 2017

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

Clemson needs Jaron Blossomgame to come up big if the Tigers want to win in Tallahassee. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

  • Saturday, 12:00 PM: Virginia (17-4, 7-2) at Syracuse (14-9, 6-4). The Cavaliers have been excellent on the road this year, going 4-1 in the ACC with their only loss in overtime at Pittsburgh. In an ACC season where road wins have been tough to come by, that record is an excellent way to win an ACC regular season championship. The Orange are undefeated at home in ACC play, but this game could be decided on the glass. In their last two wins at the Carrier Dome, Syracuse has dominated the offensive glass (33.3% against Wake Forest; 38.7% against Florida State.) Virginia, on the other hand, has been downright dominant at securing defensive rebounds in its last three ACC victories (91.7% against Georgia Tech; 96.4% against Notre Dame; 88.9% against Virginia Tech).
  • Saturday, 3:00 PM: Georgia Tech (13-9, 5-5) at Wake Forest (13-9, 4-6). Coming into this season, this looked like a game you would easily skip over on a busy college hoops weekend. But both Josh Pastner and Danny Manning have gotten their teams into the early February bubble conversation, and this game looms large for either team’s NCAA Tournament hopes. The Yellow Jackets have collected several terrific wins at home but need to show they can win outside of Atlanta. The Demon Deacons’ resume is still short on wins over other Tournament-quality teams, so adding a few victories over fellow bubble teams like Georgia Tech is key. Wake Forest ranks among the top 50 in the country in effective field goal percentage (53.9%) and relies heavily on Bryant Crawford and John Collins to produce. This will come down to whether Georgia Tech’s zone defense can get enough stops against a very efficient offense (12th nationally, per KenPom). The Yellow Jackets have not allowed a team to shoot an eFG over 51.0 percent in their last eight games — if they can make it to nine, they should be able to win this game.

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This Weekend in the ACC: January 28

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 28th, 2017

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

  • Saturday, 12:00 PM: Notre Dame (17-4, 6-2) at Georgia Tech (12-8, 4-4). When North Carolina lost to Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve, the subsequent narrative was that the Tar Heels slept through a forgettable blip on the ACC radar. That thinking looked accurate when the Yellow Jackets were subsequently blitzed by 53 points at Cameron Indoor Stadium in their next game. Four weeks later, Josh Pastner’s bunch is now playing like that early league game against the Tar Heels was a sign of things to come rather than an anomaly. Georgia Tech is 3-2 in its last five, a stretch that includes a heart-breaking one-point loss at Virginia Tech and an absolute demolition of Florida State. Freshman Josh Okogie has been fantastic, averaging 20.2 PPG over that stretch while shooting 50 percent from three. Pastner will need another outstanding performance from his wing this weekend if the Yellow Jackets hope to add another high-level win to their resume. Okogie has averaged eight free throws per game in Georgia Tech’s last five contests, so look for him to force his way to the basket against Note Dame’s VJ Beachem and Steve Vasturia.

Can Bryant Crawford take care of the ball and lead Wake Forest to a big win over Duke? (US Presswire)

  • Saturday, 3:00 PM: Duke (15-5, 3-4) at Wake Forest (12-8, 3-5). There is certainly no bigger circus in college basketball than Duke, but everything going on in Durham has distracted from the notion that today’s game is quite possibly the biggest of the Danny Manning era in Winston-Salem. While Wake Forest is hovering around the bubble with a mediocre record both inside and out of conference play, wins over Miami and at NC State do not really impress anyone. That effectively means that the Deacons could desperately use another big win, and a reeling squad of Blue Devils could nicely do the trick. In Duke’s last three losses, it twice allowed an eFG rate of 56.0 percent or higher. Wake Forest’s high-powered offense, which starts with sophomore point guard Bryant Crawford, should be able to score against the Blue Devils. The key will be if Crawford can take care of the ball well enough to give his offense sufficient chances. The Demon Deacons are 11-3 when he has three or fewer turnovers,with their only losses coming to Virginia, North Carolina and Villanova. When he turns the ball over four or more times, Wake Forest is 1-5.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume II

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 27th, 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, and this week we also analyze the crazy deep-shooting improvement in the league this year. Finally, we forecast how the final ACC standings may look given current efficiency margins, and what that means for teams’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All data is current for games played through Wednesday, January 25.

Current Standings

Louisville leaped to the top of the ACC in efficiency margin thanks to its 106-51 humiliation demolition of Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. The Cardinals now own the league’s best defense, while North Carolina continues to claim the top offensive unit. In what has been a very tough week for top-10 teams around the country, Florida State’s blowout loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday night may have been the most surprising result. At this point in the season, the Yellow Jackets should be taken seriously — sporting a solid 4-4 record against the second-toughest schedule in the nation’s deepest conference. That win probably also thrust Josh Pastner into the pole position in the race for this year’s ACC Coach of the Year award. No one around the league — including Pastner himself — could have predicted that both North Carolina and Florida State would fall in McCamish Pavilion by double figures.

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John Collins Leading Wake Forest’s Resurgence

Posted by Charlie Maikis on December 22nd, 2016

Wake Forest appears to be in the midst of an astounding turnaround. After winning just 11 total games last season, the Demon Deacons are off to an 8-3 start with all three losses coming to teams ranked among KenPom‘s top 50. And for the first time since Dino Gaudio was still the head coach in 2010, Wake is itself ranked among the KenPom top 50. Danny Manning‘s offense this season has been especially improved, moving up over 100 spots in adjusted offensive efficiency (from 132nd last year to 25th). So how has the third-year ACC coach managed to bring out the best of his team this season?

John Collins has put Wake Forest on college basketball's radar. (Photo Credit: Bob Hebert)

John Collins has put Wake Forest on college basketball’s radar. (Photo Credit: Bob Hebert)

The resurgence starts with sophomore center John Collins. In a modern era of shooters and slashers, Manning has gone old school in centering his offense around the 6’10” big man. The Deacs play an inside-out game focused on getting Collins touches near the basket. Per Synergy Sports, Wake posts up on 15 percent of its possessions, the eighth-highest figure in the nation. But dumping the ball into the paint only works if you have an effective scorer there, and Collins is among the very best in the nation at doing just that. He ranks seventh in the ACC at 17.5 points per game, shoots a scorching 60 percent on twos and uses over 30 percent of the Deacs’ possessions.

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ACC Burning Questions: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Posted by Matt Patton on October 20th, 2016

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

Burning Question: What sort of “sophomore leap” can we expect from Bryant Crawford, John Collins, and Doral Moore?

Wake Forest is coming off an incredibly disappointing season. Despite having a pair of talented seniors in the lineup, the Demon Deacons managed only two league wins last year, causing fans to suffer flashbacks of the Jeff Bzdelik era. The 2015-16 team was better than its record, though, and that discrepancy largely falls on the shoulders of the team’s most talented (and now graduated) players: Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas. This year the Demon Deacons will lack their senior leadership but that may finally provide Danny Manning the distance he needs to fully reshape the basketball environment in Winston-Salem. First, I’m an admitted Manning apologist. His results have so far been inconsistent, but Bzdelik passed along a culture so toxic that no one could have reasonably expected a quick fix. This, however, is the year Manning must start to show real progress (with next year being the year to make a leap in the conference standings). The road will be tough and the win total may not reflect significant improvement, but Wake Forest needs to beat the worst teams in the league (here’s looking at you, Boston College and Georgia Tech), while playing competitively against the better teams (hey, Virginia).

John Collins is an analytics darling, but can he make the leap the statistics say? (Photo Credit: Bob Hebert)

John Collins is an analytics darling, but can he make the leap the statistics suggest? (Bob Hebert/Getty)

To replace Miller-McIntyre and Thomas, look no further than sophomores Bryant CrawfordJohn Collins and Doral Moore. Collins in particular carries the Luke Winn-endorsed high usage and efficiency hallmark of breakout sophomores, and Crawford effectively replaced Miller-McIntyre’s role for much of last season. How competitive Wake Forest will be, though, depends mostly on the team’s ceiling (the ACC is stacked) and I’ll be surprised if Crawford and Collins aren’t the keys to the Deacs’ highest performance. Crawford will need to cut down on his turnovers while Collins needs to prove efficient in increased minutes, but those are achievable goals. Moore, on the other hand, showed flashes of brilliance last season. You can’t teach tall, but Manning appears capable of coaching up his bigs. If that holds true, Moore could become a real star in the ACC by the time he’s done there. Joining the trio of star sophomores are graduate transfer Austin Arians from Milwaukee, who should provide some immediate help on the wing. Don’t look for Arians to become a volume scorer in Winston-Salem, but he can keep opponents honest with his shot and he never turns the ball over. It’s also possible we’ll see a quantum jump from Mitchell Wilbekin this season. His brother Scottie Wilbekin made a big step forward at Florida between his sophomore and junior years. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 02.17.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 17th, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. Sports Channel 8: One of the best rivalries in sports is here! And, weirdly, it feels much less hyped than usual. Maybe that’s because of Duke‘s skid a bit earlier this season or because the Carolina Panthers held local media’s attention much longer than usual. Either way, I think tonight’s game will shape up poorly for Duke. There are three scenarios at play in my mind. 1) Duke keeps the game close but runs out of gas the last six minutes (most likely); 2) North Carolina blitzes Duke out of the gate, shredding the zone and back-dooring the overplay man-to-man; 3) Duke makes a lot of threes and Mike Krzyzewski throws a bunch of junk defenses at the Tar Heel guards to get the win (least likely). The Blue Devils are really talented, but North Carolina should be able to run them into the ground on the offensive end of the floor.
  2. Orlando Sentinel: Devon Bookert and Boris Bojanovsky have been playing much better lately. Their improved play unfortunately wasn’t enough to get past Miami on Sunday, but the Seminoles are still clinging to a spot in the at-large field. From my perspective, taking care of business against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech plus another win against either Syracuse or Notre Dame is enough to get Leonard Hamilton back into the Big Dance. What would make a world of difference is if Xavier Rathan-Mayes found himself over the next few weeks. His efficiency hasn’t dropped from last year but he’s using a lot fewer possessions so maybe there’s some slack there.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: This is great context from Dan Collins about Bryant Crawford‘s turnover woes (Bobby Hurley, Ed Cota and Chris Corchiani all finished with more than 400 turnovers for their careers and are the top three assisters in NCAA history). Lots of turnovers means the team relies on you to make lots of plays, so in the long run, this season should do Crawford a lot of good. Assuming he can eventually get the game to slow down, it will pay off handsomely. On an unrelated note, the Demon Deacons suffered another gut-wrenching road loss to Pittsburgh last night despite a great game from Codi Miller-McIntyre (Pitt’s James Robinson also gave a herculean effort).
  4. U Sports: Speaking of which, Pittsburgh is in serious trouble. The Panthers have only three wins over likely NCAA Tournament teams this season, and one of those was against Syracuse without Jim Boeheim. Ken Pomeroy doesn’t favor the Panthers in any of their remaining games (although he predicts that they win two), but needing two overtimes to beat Wake Forest at home doesn’t bode well for upcoming games against Louisville and Duke (much less a road trip to the Carrier Dome). Barring an unlikely turnaround or a serious ACC Tournament run, Jamie Dixon’s squad looks like an NIT team.
  5. Streaking the Lawn: This is a good look at what Virginia needs to do to earn a double-bye in Washington, DC, in a few weeks. The top of the ACC is very crowded and will become even more so if Duke manages to beat North Carolina tonight. Six teams hold four losses or fewer, although Louisville no longer counts for ACC Tournament consideration. And thanks to unbalanced scheduling, there are six games left featuring teams vying for the double-bye. Hold on to your butts!

EXTRA: This is a good podcast featuring Jerry Stackhouse talking about his recruitment to North Carolina.

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Wake Forest Enters ACC Play Firmly Ahead of Schedule

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on January 3rd, 2016

As the calendar flipped to 2016, even the most pessimistic Wake Forest fan would have to admit that second-year head coach Danny Manning is a full year ahead of schedule in his rebuild of the once proud Tobacco Road program. After winning nine of their 12 contests in this year’s non-conference slate, the Demon Deacons enter league play at Louisville tonight with a realistic, if not likely, opportunity to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010.

The senior Thomas, has led an otherwise young Demon Deacons' squad to a surprisingly strong start

The senior Thomas has led an otherwise young Demon Deacons’ squad to a surprisingly strong start

Patience was the buzzword in Winston-Salem after Manning, the 1988 National Player of the Year at Kansas, took over the program at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. After winning just 13 games a season ago, Manning welcomed a highly regarded recruiting class headlined by Bryant Crawford, but it was widely assumed that this season’s youthful roster would act as a bridge to a brighter future. Someone, however, forgot to relay those plans to Devin Thomas. The senior forward, who has started all but one game in his Wake Forest career, has led the way in building a resume which includes four KenPom top 100 wins, highlighted by victories over Indiana and UCLA, at the Maui Invitational.

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ACC Preview: Wake Forest’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on October 26th, 2015

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

Burning Question: Is Danny Manning ready to turn this team around a year early?

If you look carefully at Wake Forest, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned with this team. For the second straight season, the Demon Deacons lost several players in the offseason: Madison Jones was dismissed; Darius Leonard graduated; and Aaron Rountree transferred. And among the players still residing in Winston-Salem, the two most talented — Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre — are also wildly inconsistent. But despite these concerns, there are also some prompts for optimism. The Deacs return their top five players in terms of minutes played, and three of those five were only freshman a year ago. Danny Manning, in only his fourth year on the bench, appears to have all the makings of a great head coach. Throw in a sneaky good recruiting class of three talented players (sixth-best in the ACC, according to the 247sports composite ranking), and this year’s team has the potential to take a big step forward.

Danny Manning needs to mold Devin Thomas into a more efficient player this season. (photo: Winston-Salem Journal)

Danny Manning needs to mold Devin Thomas into a more efficient player this season. (photo: Winston-Salem Journal)

Whether Wake does will largely depend on the health and productivity of the veterans. Miller-McIntyre broke his foot last week and will be out through the first couple of games at a minimum. Manning will need him healthy as soon as possible, although giving Mitchell Wilbekin and Bryant Crawford (a consensus four-star point guard) some early time running the show might not be a bad thing. On the other hand, Miller-McIntyre’s untimely injury makes Jones’ dismissal slightly more painful. Wilbekin is more of a short shooting guard than a true point guard, and who knows how quickly Crawford will adjust to the college game? Miller-McIntyre is a proven ACC commodity, and even Thomas, a player capable of creating his own offense from his work on the backboards, could struggle without his old point guard providing him touches. The reality is obvious: If Miller-McIntyre can’t get healthy enough to display what’s become an annual tradition of personal improvement, this Wake Forest team is likely to struggle to climb to the ACC’s middle tier.

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