Two Key Players Off to Promising Starts in Virginia

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 18th, 2016

Virginia and Virginia Tech are both off to 2-0 starts with both teams posting a pair of easy victories. Given the quality of their opponents, these results were neither surprising nor particularly interesting. However, one takeaway from the first week of action is that a pair of players we thought might be key to their success are off to promising starts. The caveat of course is that this is just two games against sub-175 KenPom teams, but fans of both the Cavaliers and Hokies should be optimistic about what they have already seen from Marial Shayok and Ahmed Hill.

Marial Shayok as a consistent scoring threat will be key for Virginia. (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

Shayok has been a source of frustration for Virginia since his arrival two seasons ago. He has regularly mixed snippets of his obvious talent with games where he was a complete non-factor. The Cavaliers could afford to live with his volatility when Malcolm Brogdon was around to provide offensive punch, but the time has come for Shayok to be a more consistent presence. After one week of action: so far, so good. Although Virginia has spread the wealth with nine players averaging between 6.0 and 12.0 points per game, Shayok so far leads the way (11.5 PPG). He has clearly embraced his role as a go-to scorer and his improved mid-range game has resulted in shooting a scorching 64.3 percent from the field. After the victory over St. Francis (Brooklyn) on Tuesday night, Shayok told reporters that plenty of offseason hard work has helped him feel less tired during games. He also noted that he “lost about 20 pounds because I stopped eating Domino’s and cookies.“ While less pizza and cookies is probably a good suggestion for all of us, Tony Bennett has to be pleased that Shayok has gotten serious about his conditioning and is much improved this season.

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ACC Twitter 2016-17 Must-Follows: Virginia, Virginia Tech, & Wake Forest

Posted by nvr1983 on November 10th, 2016

We are rounding out our ACC Must-Follow List for the year with VirginiaVirginia Tech, and Wake Forest in this post. If there are any other Twitter accounts that you think should be included, send us a tweet @rtcACC or leave a message in the comments section below.

For the rest of our Must-Follow List, check out the rest of our posts for this year. Note that these will release throughout the day on Thursday.

Virginia

Tony Bennett doesn't have a Twitter account, but there are some good parodies out there (Credit: Getty Images)

Tony Bennett doesn’t have a Twitter account, but there are some good parodies (Getty Images)

  • @UVAMensHoops – Official Twitter account of Virginia’s men’s basketball team
  • @JeffWhiteUVa – Jeff White, Director of News Content for official Virginia team site
  • @WhiteysWorld365 – Whitelaw Reid, Staff Writer, Virginia Magazine (Official Alumni Magazine)

Players

Bloggers and Beat Writers

  • @TheUVAFool – Streaking the Lawn, independent site covering Virginia athletics
  • @cavalierinsiderCavalier Insider, coverage of Virginia athletics from The Daily Progress
  • @ARamspacherAndrew Ramspacher, Virginia athletics beat writer for The Daily Progress
  • @JerryRatcliffeJerry Ratcliffe, columnist on Virginia athletics and the ACC for The Daily Progress
  • @DoughtySports – Douglas Doughty, Virginia athletics beat writer for The Roanoke Times
  • @RTD_MikeBarberMike Barber, Virginia and Virginia Tech beat writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch
  • @normwoodNorm Wood, Virginia and Virginia Tech beat writer for The Daily Press
  • @DavidTeelatDPDavid Teel, reports on the ACC for The Daily Press
  • @Cavs_CornerCavs Corner, Virginia focused site on the Rivals network
  • @DamonDillmanDamon Dillman, Sports Director at CBS19 Charlottesville

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ACC Burning Questions: Virginia Tech Hokies

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on October 31st, 2016

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

Burning Question: Is the ahead-of-schedule rebuild under Buzz Williams ready to land the Hokies in the NCAA Tournament?

On the surface, the decision was a rather head-scratching one. In fleeing a program that was humming along – a regular NCAA Tournament participant at a basketball-first university — Buzz Williams’ move to Virginia Tech in 2014 surprised a lot of people. But much like Marquette had done a decade ago, Buzz Williams bet on Buzz Williams. As he now enters year three of his reclamation project in Blacksburg with the team eyeing its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007, the rebuild appears far ahead of schedule.

Williams' rebuilding project is way ahead of schedule, as he enters his third season in Blacksburg.(Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

Williams’ rebuilding project is way ahead of schedule entering his third season in Blacksburg. (Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

With mostly holdovers from the 22-win James Johnson era over two seasons, Williams’ first group of Hokies limped to an 11-22 campaign in 2014-15. After a similarly modest start to last season, Virginia Tech began to slowly take on the hard-nosed, grinding style that Williams’ squads trademarked in the Big East. In ripping off five consecutive victories to close out ACC play, the Hokies finished at 10-8 before giving Miami a run for its money in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. Now rated 39th this preseason by KenPom, Williams’ squad appears to be on the cusp of entry to the Big Dance.

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Takeaways From ACC Operation Basketball

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 28th, 2016

Yesterday we relayed several interesting and funny quotes from ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte (links to the coaches’ and players’ press conferences can be found here). Most of the buzz around the second floor of the Ritz-Carlton was about the condition of Duke freshman forward Jayson Tatum‘s foot — injured in practice the previous day — but we found out that afternoon that the phenom’s injury was relatively minor and he is expected to return to action in a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, there were a few key themes from the day, which we will explore below. We also present the preseason award results as voted on by the participating media in Charlotte.

LOOKING FOR LEADERSHIP

North Carolina's Joel Berry discussed his role as a leader during the 2016 ACC Men’s Operation Basketball in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

North Carolina’s Joel Berry II discussed his role as a leader during the 2016 ACC Men’s Operation Basketball in Charlotte. (Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

A number of ACC programs need to replace their primary leaders from the year before. Here’s how some of the players and coaches from those affected schools see that crucial dynamic working out for their team this season.

  • North Carolina – Even with Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige now departed, Roy Williams still has some veterans to call upon. Among his senior class of Tar Heels, Williams anticipates that Nate Britt is the most likely to step into a primary leadership role. With a smile, Williams commented on his other seniors: “Isaiah [Hicks] hardly talks at all; Kennedy [Meeks] probably talks too much, so they listen to Nate a little bit more than anybody else.” The coach also believes that junior point guard Joel Berry will step up as well after his stellar postseason play last year. For his part, Berry thinks North Carolina needs a collective leadership group, saying, “So I think a lot of people are stepping into that role. If we can get everyone on the team talking and trying to see what’s going on the court, what’s going wrong, what’s going good, I think that will be great for us as a whole.”
  • Virginia – Recently we wrote about what Tony Bennett faces this year without the extraordinary all-around services of Malcolm Brogdon. As London Perrantes quipped, “Yeah, I mean, it felt like Malcolm’s been here for 10 years. So not having him is probably going to be a huge change.” As a senior point guard, much of Virginia’s leadership vacuum will have to be filled by Perrantes, but he won’t be the only player expected to step up. When asked about that issue, Bennett responded, ” I think there’s an eagerness or an excitement for the opportunity for guys like Devon Hall, Darius Thompson, Marial [Shayok]. You know, London has been a key figure to this. Isaiah [Wilkins] has played a lot, but these other guys who have been more in a supplemental role, I think they’re really excited for the opportunity to have it be their team and have a bigger role than they were on in teams past.”

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ACC Tournament Thursday Takeaways

Posted by Matt Patton on March 11th, 2016

Thursday in Washington, DC, featured a terrific afternoon with Notre Dame clawing past Duke in overtime. Unfortunately, the other three games of the day weren’t quite as closely contested. Here are a few takeaways from the quarterfinals action.

The Pitt band plays during the quarterfinals of the 2016 New York Life ACC Tournament in Washington, DC, Thursday, March 10, 2016. (Photo by Liz Condo, theACC.com)

The Pitt band plays during the quarterfinals of the 2016 New York Life ACC Tournament in Washington, DC (Photo by Liz Condo, theACC.com)

North Carolina (26-6): The Tar Heels got a huge lift from Joel Berry in the first half as he carried their often-stagnant offense. In the second half, North Carolina’s depth was on full display while Brice Johnson was his normal all-ACC self. However, the highlight of the day may have been head coach Roy Williams failing to censor himself in the following exchange:

Q: Coach, the unbalanced schedule this year. It benefited you guys having the easiest strength of schedule in the ACC this year. Do you think it benefited you at all getting the No. 1 seed going into this tournament?

A: Depends on how you evaluate that. You know what we didn’t have the benefit of, to make somebody say we didn’t have the easy schedule, we didn’t get to play North Carolina. All that is a bunch of horse ****.

Well said, coach. We all want the round-robin back, but that’s not realistic with 15 teams. Even then, we don’t think you’d be able to play North Carolina.

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Handing Out ACC Awards and Superlatives

Posted by Matt Patton on March 8th, 2016

The chips have fallen where they did, so it’s time to take a look back at the best the ACC had to offer this season.

First Team All-ACC

Malcolm Brogdon Has Helped the Cavs Turn the Corner (Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty)

Malcolm Brogdon gets the slight nod for conference player of the year honors. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia (POY)
  • Brice Johnson, North Carolina
  • Grayson Allen, Duke
  • Cat Barber, NC State
  • Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame

With 15 ACC teams from which to choose, the normal difficulty of selecting a first team was mitigated by Brogdon, Johnson, Allen and Barber being virtual locks. Brogdon gets the nod for ACC Player of the Year over Johnson for his outstanding defense, but it was a close race. The senior is the best player to suit up for Tony Bennett’s team in recent memory thanks to his incredible efficiency and on-ball defense. It’s certainly possible that these four players end up on several All-American teams, although Barber will lose some votes because of NC State’s lack of success this year. The wild card is Notre Dame’s Jackson. I went back and forth here. The media and coaches chose Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, but Jackson won the eye test for me. He was a tremendous pure point guard for the Irish this year, and Mike Brey’s team would have likely ended up in the bottom third of the conference without him.

Second Team All-ACC

  • Michael Gbinije, Syracuse
  • Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
  • Anthony Gill, Virginia
  • Michael Young, Pittsburgh
  • Damion Lee, Louisville

Gbinije, Blossomgame and Gill were head and shoulders above Young and Lee. The first two took on greatly augmented roles this season, playing as deluxe Swiss Army Knives for teams that overachieved.

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ACC M5: 01.20.16 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 20th, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Everyone put your hands together for NC State! That’s right, the Wolfpack got their first conference win at Pittsburgh. The Panthers’ league record is a little shinier than their non-conference play merited (they only beat one top-100 team according to Ken Pomeroy), but going to Pittsburgh and coming out with a win says a lot about Mark Gottfried‘s team. At least for tonight NC State was a good shooting team, led by Cat Barber‘s 31 points on 18 shots (he went 14-14 from the charity stripe). But even more promising was holding a good offensive team at bay on the road.
  2. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Buzz Williams knows that his team’s record is likely a mirage. But he knows that it’s progress that the Hokies find themselves in situations where games can go their way. And he talks about exploiting small things–out of bounds plays and drawing fouls–to make his team more competitive. Both also are of utmost importance in close games when each possession matters a little more.
  3. USA Today: This is a good story from Nicole Auerbach on Malik Beasley (and Dwayne Bacon, but he’s really just mentioned as Beasley’s friend and the other freshman star). Beasley’s parents are both actors, but his father also played basketball at a high level. The preparation he put in over the summer getting to know Leonard Hamilton’s system and his future teammates while taking summer courses is a little like learning lines.
  4. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Tech is a better team than a lot of people know. While the team’s conference record looks like Wake Forest and Boston College, the Yellow Jackets are much more efficient (62 according to Ken Pomeroy; 59 according to Jeff Sagarin). That should pay dividends at some point, though it may be too late to save Brian Gregory’s job. Gregory will have plenty of time to plan for this Saturday when Louisville comes to town, and that’s the kind of win that could start turning heads.
  5. Syracuse Post Standard: So Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t happy about the no-call on a rebound at the end of Duke‘s third straight loss (though possibly it was karmic justice for another controversial no-call). But the real reason to bring up this article is to touch on Coach K snubbing a few Syracuse players in the handshake line. Handshake lines are stupid, but this controversy may be even stupider (or Boeheim could be sticking up for a friend).
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ACC Stock Watch: Conference Play Week 1 Edition

Posted by Matt Auerbach on January 8th, 2016

With the first full week of conference play now in the books, results have mostly held to form thus far (Virginia falling in Blacksburg notwithstanding). The presumptive favorites appear to be as good as advertised, and perhaps even a little better in some cases (see: Brice Johnson’s 39-point, 23-rebound exercise in absurdity in Tallahassee). In fact, Johnson doesn’t even make this week’s Stock Watch because that kind of performance can’t be defined by any sort of trajectory — it’s off the graph entirely.

Trending Up

Buzz Williams continues to clean house as he turns around Virginia Tech's basketball program. (Michael Shrayer - USA TODAY Sports)

In just his second year, Williams has Hokies’ fans buzzing earlier than expected in Blacksburg. (Michael Shrayer/USA TODAY Sports)

Virginia Tech: Even after an 11-22 campaign a season ago, few seemed to doubt that Buzz Williams would eventually build Virginia Tech into a competitive ACC program. After an inauspicious start in this year’s non-conference season (nobody forgets that opening night loss to Alabama State), the Hokies probably shocked even themselves with their opening week of ACC play. An overtime win over struggling NC State is one thing, but following that up with a win over intrastate bully and two-time defending league champion Virginia is quite another. The victory put a halt to the Hokies’ seven-game losing streak to the Cavs and shows that Williams might actually be ahead of schedule in generating some excitement in Blacksburg. With his trademark passion and intensity, it is only a matter of time before Virginia Tech becomes a consistent winner.

Jordan Roper: The senior guard from Clemson proved there is more than one way to skin a cat in leading his team to a pair of impressive victories last week. On Saturday, Roper connected on a career-best seven three-pointers en route to a team-high 23 points, boosting the Tigers to a nine-point win over Florida State. His shots weren’t falling on Wednesday — Roper was unable to manage a single made field goal — but he set a career-high of 10 assists in an impressive overtime victory at Syracuse. Roper is averaging career-bests in points, rebounds and assists for the 2-1 Tigers, which next host Louisville in a game on Sunday where his steadiness will be critical.

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ACC Stock Watch: Feast Week Edition

Posted by Matt Auerbach on December 1st, 2015

As the the majority of the league transitions from Feast Week into the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, now is as good a time as any to make some initial evaluations. Based on what we’ve seen through two-plus weeks of the young season, let’s take stock in each of the 15 ACC clubs, reviewing what has transpired so far, and considering in what direction we surmise each to be trending.

Trending Up

Jim Boeheim has his Orange playing at an extremely high level right out the gates. (Getty)

Jim Boeheim has plenty to be thankful for after his club’s performance in winning the Battle 4 Atlantis (syracuse.com)

  • Syracuse: Not many teams are feeling better about itself than Syracuse is at the moment. Picked to finish ninth in the ACC standings, the Orange probably surprised even themselves in taking home the title at the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis. Seamlessly intertwining veterans Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney with rookies Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon, Jim Boeheim looks to have a team capable of reinvigorating his spirits during his 40th year at the helm. Banned from the postseason a year ago and forced to miss the first nine conference games this season, Boeheim appeared worn down last March as tumult swirled around his program. His current team, however, showed considerable resolve in coming from behind to beat both Connecticut and Texas A&M in the Bahamas, appearing eerily similar to some of his special clubs of the past and proving that there is still some juice left in the Hall of Famer’s tank. The Orange entertain Wisconsin on Wednesday before a weekend trip to the nation’s capital to visit old friend Georgetown.

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part III Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 25th, 2015

morning5_ACC

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

  1. Preseason NIT: Three ACC schools will begin play in a tournament on Thanksgiving Day, with the first being Georgia Tech (#87) as the Yellow Jackets look to bounce back from Sunday’s terrible buzzer-beating home loss to East Tennessee State. Brian Gregory’s already-warm seat is surely hotter now, so he desperately needs a good performance from his squad in Brooklyn this week. The best way to make up for a bad loss is to pull off a huge win. That possibility exists for Georgia Tech if it can get by Arkansas (#102) on Thursday (ESPNU – 2:00 ET), and if highly regarded Villanova (#2) takes care of Stanford (#119) as expected in the other semifinal. The championship game will be on Friday afternoon (ESPN2/U – 3:00 ET).
  2. Advocare Invitational: Defending ACC Champion Notre Dame (#20) also begins tournament action Thursday (ESPNU – 6:30 ET), taking on Monmouth (#134). At first glance this looks like a mismatch, but keep in mind that the Hawks pulled off one of the season’s first upsets, stunning UCLA on opening night in Pauley Pavilion. On Friday, Mike Brey’s guys will get a solid second round opponent in either Iowa (#19) or Dayton (#44). This Orlando event has one of the strongest fields of Feast Week, with seven of the eight schools in the top 100. On the opposite side of the bracket are Wichita State (#23), Xavier (#25), USC (#45) and Alabama (#94). If everything goes as planned for the Fighting Irish, they can pick up a couple of wins that will probably look great on their resume all year long.
  3. Wooden Legacy: Boston College (#118) faces a stiff challenge in Anaheim, as the Eagles meet Michigan State (#13) in an opening round game on Thursday (ESPN2 – 6:30 ET). Jim Christian’s team may not be as bad as we thought in the preseason – the Eagles are 3-0 for the first time in seven years. That includes Sunday’s win over crosstown rival Harvard, Christian’s second in a row over the Crimson after Boston College had lost the previous six meetings. The Spartans are heavy favorites to meet Arizona (#8) in the finals on Sunday (ESPN2 – 10:00 ET). Looking to play spoiler will be Boise State (#60), Providence (#62) and Evansville (#66).
  4. Emerald Coast Classic: Another ACC team that will be a heavy underdog in its opening tournament game is Virginia Tech (#148), who goes against Iowa State (#16) on Friday (CBSSN – 7:00 ET). Things should be somewhat easier for Buzz Williams and company on Saturday, as the Hokies will get either UAB (#93) or Illinois (#101) in the two-day event. But based on their shaky 2-1 start versus weak competition, Virginia Tech has not looked like a squad that’s ready to compete with top-100 teams on a neutral court. So far, Maryland transfer Seth Allen (sat out last year) has been unable to shake off the rust, shooting a frigid 31.0% from the field and committing a total of 13 turnovers in the three games.
  5. Gotham Classic: Like Louisville, Pittsburgh is not participating in a traditional tournament. Beginning in mid-December, the Panthers will play four straight exempt games as part of the Gotham Classic. The only time that Jamie Dixon’s squad will face an opponent away from home is when they take on Davidson (#64) on December 20 (ESPNU – Noon ET) in New York’s Madison Square Garden. The other three games will be in the Petersen Events Center over a two week period; December 11 – Eastern Washington (#200); December 13 – Morehead State (#179); and December 23 – Western Carolina (#203). Those all look a lot like the schools that tend to show up on Pittsburgh’s non-conference schedule during the Dixon era. Of course, Dixon was counting on an opening day meeting with Gonzaga to boost this season’s schedule rating. And with that game cancelled, Pitt will have one of the poorer non-conference slates among power league schools.
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