The Devils’ Doldrums: Could Duke Miss The NCAA Tournament?

Posted by Matt Patton on January 26th, 2016

After Duke‘s 11 point loss at Miami, Seth Davis tweeted: “It is time to acknowledge the possibility that Duke will not make the NCAA tournament.” Some context for that tweet: Duke has lost four of its last five, including two games at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Since losing Amile Jefferson to a foot injury, the Blue Devils are 7-5 with exactly one win against the KenPom top 100. That’s not exactly a resume that screams NCAA Tournament. On the other side of the equation: Duke is still 20th in KenPom‘s ratings, its RPI projects to remain in the 20s according to RPI Forecast, and there’s evidence Jefferson’s condition is improving. Perhaps most importantly, losing by 11 to a really good Miami team shouldn’t be a cause for concern, and really it was just a two possession game with less than a minute left.

Duke didn't have the legs to hang with Miami. What does that mean going forward? (photo: Chuck Liddy/News & Observer)

Duke Didn’t Have The Legs To Hang With Miami. What Does That Mean For The Blue Devils Going Forward? (Photo: Chuck Liddy/News & Observer)

Maybe the most amazing factoid about Duke’s current start (courtesy of Patrick Stevens): If the ACC Tournament started tomorrow, Duke and Virginia would face off as the ninth and eighth seeds on Wednesday. So then, the ultimate question: Will Duke miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the infamous Pete Gaudet season? There are three ways this might play out.

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ACC M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 8th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. South Florida Sun-Sentinel: I’m starting to notice a trend with articles written about teams picked to finish in the bottom third of the ACC. Writers and coaches use phrases like “hope to compete” in lieu of buzzwords like “confident” or any mention of the league title. Miami is no different. The most impressive statistic Christy Chirinos drops at the start of this article is that the Hurricanes return one percent of their assists from last season. One percent. That’s insane. Luckily, Manu Lacomte may be the best player on Jim Larranaga’s roster, so assists may be the one area that Miami isn’t in huge trouble.
  2. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney have huge shoes to fill on defense. Jim Boeheim called Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams the best defensive backcourt he’s ever had (though Dion Waiters, Triche and Scoop Jardine wreaked all kinds of havoc on the perimeter too). As they lack the length of Carter-Williams and Triche, this might be another reason to hold back on buying too much Syracuse stock before the season gets going in earnest. Perimeter defense was the biggest reason Syracuse made the Final Four last year, so taking a step back on that front will definitely have a big impact.
  3. Baltimore Sun: While it’s true Mark Turgeon‘s team looked like a headless chicken on offense for much of last season, Maryland improved dramatically down the stretch. The team showed flashes of its potential in two big wins against Duke, though inconsistency still shone through. But it’s weird that people think Turgeon can’t coach. His teams at Texas A&M weren’t stacked with talent and most of them overachieved. Last year’s Maryland team lacked a true point guard, which combined with an inside-out approach for a turnover-prone halfcourt offense. This year should be better, though Seth Allen’s injury doesn’t help the Terps’ turnover problems.
  4. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Jamie Dixon does a good job explaining the struggles of crafting a schedule here. Interestingly he points out that the 18-game conference schedule gives teams less flexibility with the non-conference schedule. Another tidbit he offers is that it’s much less (directly) lucrative to play a big school on national television at a neutral site. That surprised me a lot. Obviously there are exceptions (for instance, Duke makes far more money on its trip to Madison Square Garden than normal home games because the school promotes the event itself), but Dixon estimated neutral games are only worth $100,000 and home games are worth $500,000 in revenue. That’s a huge per-game difference.
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Bret Strelow writes that Duke‘s athleticism this season will bring back memories of the teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. There’s one thing missing though: great bigs. The national championship teams of those years had Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer, two players with plenty of NCAA success between them. They’re also both really big guys. Amile Jefferson may be taller, but he’s at least 20 pounds lighter. However, if Jefferson can hold down the post without getting in foul trouble, Strelow’s comparisons may look very good.
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Duke’s Post Players: Has Reality Caught Up with Perception?

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2011

For the last ten years, fairly or unfairly, Duke has had the perception of being all backcourt all the time. Long gone are the days where Christian Laettner, Elton Brand or Carlos Boozer graced the court in Durham. In describing his recruitment decision to attend Michigan last week, Mitch McGary let it all out: “all [Duke’s] big men do is set screens and rebound and that they don’t get a lot of touches.”

Josh McRoberts' Relative Lack of Success at Duke Still Haunts the Blue Devils

Duke Hoop Blog looked at this perception, which moves closer to reality as the memory of its last dominant big man, Shelden Williams, fades out of casual fan memory. The author comes to the conclusion that the Williams/Redick era is the answer, and I see his argument. But I don’t think it’s that simple, or even the biggest factor in Duke’s relative decrease in a post presence over the last ten years. I think the real argument is much more complex and is a combination of four main factors:

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FSU Knocks Off #1 Duke Again

Posted by nvr1983 on January 12th, 2011

For the third time in nine years, FSU has knocked off a top-ranked Duke team that came to Tallahassee as the heavy favorites. Unlike 2002 when an undefeated Duke team led by Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Carlos Boozer lost to a Seminole team that had lost to American just a few weeks earlier, or 2006 when a 27-1 Duke team led by J.J. Redick and  Shelden Williams lost to a mediocre Seminole squad, this FSU team has the potential to be a solid team despite what their loss to Auburn last week might indicate.

There Was Nothing Inside for the Devils Tonight (AP/S. Cannon)

While most of the media will point to poor shooting nights by Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith and bemoan the continued absence of Kyrie Irving, when Coach K addresses his team his primary focus should be on the Blue Devils’ complete lack of production on the inside. As Luke Winn astutely pointed out a month ago when Irving first went down, the distribution of the ball would change significantly, but even he failed to predict the precipitous decline in production that we are seeing from Mason Plumlee, who has only scored more than four points once in eight games since Irving was injured. The Blue Devils had so little on the inside tonight that they ended up taking 35 out of their 61 shots (57%) from beyond the arc, which would appear to indicate either a lack of a presence or confidence on the inside. To be fair to Plumlee, he was productive on the glass, grabbing 14 rebounds, and FSU is very tough to play against down low (ask Jared Sullinger who “only” had 11 points and 13 rebounds earlier this year). Still, Duke needs him to step up and become a presence on the inside like he was earlier in the season (25 points and 12 rebounds against Marquette) if they expect to compete with Ohio State with Jared Sullinger or Kansas with Marcus and Markieff Morris while they wait/pray for Irving to come back.

Having said that, we need to congratulate Leonard Hamilton and the Seminoles. Derwin Kitchen was a load on the inside today, putting up 22 points and pulling 10 rebounds while Chris Singleton added 18 points to go along with his usual outstanding defense. We also want to tip our hats to their fans for a solid RTC at the end that was performed safely but effectively and in an appropriate setting. While we wait on video of tonight’s RTC to appear on the Internet we recommend you check out the last 20.5 seconds of FSU’s upset of Duke in 2002.

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Is Calipari’s Three-Year Recruiting Run the Best Ever?

Posted by rtmsf on August 16th, 2010

An interesting question came up among the Twitterati over the weekend when it was learned that Rivals #8 (and rising) recruit in the Class of 2011, Anthony Davishad formally committed to Kentucky.  Davis’ commitment marks the third top ten recruit in that class to have committed to John Calipari’s Wildcats, and the seventh in the 2009-11 recruiting cycles, a ridiculous feat. 

  • John Wall (#2, 2009)
  • DeMarcus Cousins (#3 , 2009)
  • Brandon Knight (#4, 2010)
  • Enes Kanter (#7, 2010)
  • Michael Gilchrist (#1, 2011)
  • Marquis Teague (#5, 2011)
  • Anthony Davis (#8, 2011)

Throw in a few other high-level recruits such as Daniel Orton (#19, 2009), Eric Bledsoe (#52, 2009), Terrence Jones (#11, 2010), Doron Lamb (#26, 2010), and an unnamed superstar or two to be named later (Quincy MillerLeBryan Nash?), and suddenly there is a realization that we could be in the midst of the single greatest run of recruiting prowess since the Wizard of Westwood had every blue-chipper from coast to coast lining up to play for him.

Calipari Continues to Rack Up Blue-Chippers (LHL/M. Cornelison)

This is what Calipari was referring to when he infamously said on draft night in June that having five UK players selected was the greatest night in the program’s history.  It’s all marketing.  As Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue notes when referring to Anthony Davis’ quotes about the commitment, Calipari isn’t selling the Wildcat program of all hoops-all the time as much as the dream; the dream, of course, being a fast-track to the League. 

But notice what is not mentioned — Kentucky tradition, the facilities at UK, playing in front of 24,000 every game, being on TV all the time — none of these things are mentioned.  Recruiting has changed.  Calipari has taken the NBA one-and-done rule and used it like the Pied Piper, tempting players to Kentucky not with cash to families or under-the-table deals, but with a short path to all the riches they desire.

Whether you believe the last sentence or not, the truth remains that players are beelining for Lexington, which brings us to the point of this article.  We have to dig pretty deep in our memory banks to remember a recruiting run that even begins to approach this concentration of elite talent.  Granted, there’s a bit of an apples/oranges confounder here — much of the reason that Calipari can load up on talent every single year is because there’s a reasonable expectation that the previous year’s competition for minutes will be gone (see: Wall begets Knight begets Teague, for example).  Still, we’ve come up with one strong comparison in the modern era (we hope you add your own in the comments below): Duke 1997-99.  As a brief aside, UNC from 1990-93, Michigan from 1991-94 and Duke from 1999-2002 were also very strong periods of recruiting at those schools, but over four recruiting cycles rather than three. 

Duke 1997-99 (recruited by Mike Krzyzewski)

  • Elton Brand (#1, 1997)
  • Chris Burgess (#7, 1997)
  • Shane Battier (#8, 1997)
  • William Avery (#14, 1997)
  • Corey Maggette (#16, 1998)
  • Jason Williams (#3, 1999)
  • Carlos Boozer (#8, 1999)
  • Casey Sanders (#16, 1999)
  • Mike Dunleavy, Jr. (#26, 1999)

The recruiting rankings alone are nasty, but when you consider the actual accomplishments of this group, it takes on a whole new meaning.  Six lottery picks, three NPOYs, two title game appearances and a national championship (2001).  In two of the years where they didn’t cut the nets down, (1999 and 2002), Duke was the prohibitive favorite to win the title (finishing #1 in the final AP poll every year from 1999-2002) in large part because they had more talent than anybody else.  They actually won it all in 2001, but we’re still trying to figure out how Jim Calhoun’s vastly underrated (but also undermanned) Huskies were able to slay the Duke dragon in 1999 (oh, right, Trajan Langdon).  It was an amazing run of talent acquisition, and we haven’t seen anything like it for at least a decade.

Duke Had Three NPOYs in Four Seasons (SI)

Therein lies the rub.  With boatloads of talent comes expectations, and winning the press conference is great for tone-setting, but getting to and winning Final Fours is what matters most in Lexington.  Again, the Duke era was different in that with the exception of Corey Maggette in 1999, Coach K did not lose any players as 1-and-dones; but that won’t deter the vultures from ripping Calipari if he continues to sign elite talent without bringing back the accompanying hardware to support it.  The biggest case in point of this thinking is how Michigan’s Fab Five class of 1991 is often considered a failure for merely going to two straight NCAA championship games and losing.  It remains to be seen how this era of Kentucky basketball will play out (so far, one Elite Eight appearance), but we already know that the level of recruiting enjoyed by Calipari in his first three classes there rivals anything experienced in the modern era.  Coach K’s classes from 1997-99 set the bar very high — it’s now up to the individual players — from Knight/Kanter/Jones to Gilchrist/Teague/Davis — to match or exceed their accomplishments.   

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Cole Aldrich

Posted by nvr1983 on June 21st, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Cole Aldrich

School: Kansas

Height/Weight: 6’10”,  236 lbs

NBA Position: Center

Projected Draft Position: Mid- to Late Lottery

Overview: We have discussed our reservations about Aldrich before namely that although he was productive he never dominated games the way we would have liked him to do during his time at Kansas. We usually say that you should look beyond the numbers, but in Aldrich’s case we think the numbers tell you a lot about his game. As a sophomore Aldrich averaged 14.9 PPG (on 59.8% FG), 11.1 RPG, and 2.7 BPG, but as a junior averaged 11.3 PPG (on 56.2% FG), 9.8 RPG, and 3.5 BPG. Some might argue that is due to more limited touches, but his 40-minute numbers are down across the board except for his BPG. What is even more concerning is the drop in his free throw shooting–down from an extremely solid 79% as a sophomore to a more mediocre 68% last year. Having said that as his BPG and efficiency numbers indicate Aldrich is a player who can contribute even if he will never dominate a game (didn’t have a single game where he scored 20 points or more last year).

How will Aldrich's game translate to the NBA?

Will Translate to the NBA: A solid role player. I haven’t really seen any site/pundit claim that Aldrich will morph into a superstar even at the start of last season when some considered him a top 5 pick. Now with one more year of playing time allowing scouts and opposing coaches to dissect his game more thoroughly he is no longer a potential top 5 pick, but more where you would expect someone who with his limited upside. Before the Kansas fans pile on to the comment section let’s be clear on one thing: Aldrich could become a good NBA player. We just don’t think he has a legitimate chance of becoming someone you can build your franchise around (or even a national title contender as Jayhawk fans are all too aware after the Northern Iowa game). Aldrich is the type of guy who could average 10 PPG, 8 RPG, and 2 BPG in the right situation, but we can’t see him doing much more than that.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Greg Monroe

Posted by nvr1983 on June 15th, 2010

Player Name: Greg Monroe

School: Georgetown

Height/Weight: 6’11”, 247 lbs

NBA Position: Power Forward/Center

Projected Draft Position: Mid-lottery

Overview: After turning down Duke to go to Georgetown, Monroe has mostly lived up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon him as a top 10 recruit coming out of high school. He has proven to be every bit as talented as the high school recruiting experts, but questions remain about whether he has the tenacity or type of game to dominate the way you expect a superstar to. Monroe has shown the capacity to improve his game as demonstrated by his growth as a player between his freshman and sophomore year as the Hoyas often ran sets through Monroe. Although Monroe has the best skill set of any big man in the draft by a wide margin he has a lot to work on if he wants to fulfill his potential as a basketball player.

Monroe Has Shown Flashes of Brilliance

Will Translate to the NBA: Monroe will be a player that his teammates will love playing with. As soon as Monroe signs his first contract he will be one of the top 5 passing big men in the NBA. His game won’t overwhelm opposing teams, but if he is put in the right system he could flourish. In a few years he could very easily be the second or third option on a championship level contender. He isn’t the kind of player that you give the ball to with the clock running down, but he is a player who in the right situation can put you in position to win games (a lot of them). On the other hand, Monroe will frustrate fans because his passive game may be interpreted by many on the periphery as lacking the urgency his team sometimes needs. On defense Monroe will put up decent numbers because of his size and decent mobility even if he lacks the ideal NBA athleticism. He should be a decent defender, but will never make an all-defensive team. The big question will be how his game translates from the Georgetown “Princeton offense” to a more traditional NBA offense depending on where he ends up going.

Needs Work: As we have mentioned (and countless others before us) Monroe could become a little more aggressive on the offense end. While we all know the NBA could use a few more unselfish players Monroe needs to develop that “killer instinct” (a banal term for a not so banal attribute). Monroe could also use a little work in the low post. Even though he is effective with his variety of unorthodox moves inside Monroe would benefit immensely from a summer (or two or more) working with a skilled big man refining his inside game so he can play a little center too.

Comparison Players: The name you will hear thrown around the most when describing Monroe is Lamar Odom. While I can see that particularly with their build and passing ability there are some key differences namely that Monroe lacks the handle or outside shooting range that Odom has and Monroe can actually be an inside force (read: play defense) so the comparison is not a particularly useful one. Another comparison that I actually prefer is Brad Miller, another inside player with a solid passing game but not a dazzling array of other offensive skills. Miller has a nasty streak that Monroe has yet to display and Monroe has a little better handle, but otherwise their skill sets are pretty comparable.

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Team of the 2000s: #4 – Duke

Posted by nvr1983 on August 17th, 2009

teamof2000(2)

Ed. Note: Check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

As we mentioned in our earlier “Team of the 2000s” posts, we felt that the top-tier programs fell into a few clear clusters. There was some debate amongst the RTC braintrust about where certain teams fell within those clusters so we can understand if you disagree with where a team is ranked (that’s what the comment section is for). Teams in the top five either have made it to every NCAA tournament this decade (a sign of at least being respectable every season) or have a 2nd championship to bolster their case.

#4 – Duke

team2000sduke

Overview. This will be the most controversial selection on the list because it is Duke. Love them or hate them (and I’m pretty sure that most college basketball fans hate them), the Blue Devils remain the standard that other programs are judged against. That is not to say that they are the best program of the decade (there are still three teams ahead of them), but much like the New York Yankees, who are experiencing a similar title “drought,” every fanbase judges their success against what the guys in Durham are doing. To be completely honest, I ranked Duke lower than any of the other voters, but in the end their consistency (particularly during the regular season) won out and put them ahead of some of the other elite programs. The case for Duke being ranked above the teams below it in our countdown: 82.6% (regular season winning percentage–Gonzaga is the only other team to crack 80% and they don’t play in the ACC); 7 post-season and 4 regular season ACC titles (just an absurd number when you are competing against UNC although UNC’s inconsistency helped inflate this); 10 NCAA tournament trips (look at the above summary to see how often many excellent programs have missed the NCAA tournament this decade); 8 Sweet 16 appearances (maybe Duke hasn’t been that successful during the 2nd weekend, but they have gotten there more than anybody else); and 1 national title (more on this in a bit). The case against the Blue Devils? I alluded to it earlier, as Coach K’s teams have struggled mightily in the NCAA second weekend making it to the Final 4 “just” two out of the eight times they made it to the Sweet 16. In addition, Duke’s absence of a 2nd title prevents it from claiming a spot in the top 3. Out of the team’s below it, Tom Izzo‘s Michigan State Spartans have the best argument, but Duke’s vastly superior winning percentage (82.6% vs. 72.1%) and huge edge in conference titles combined with playing in a better conference (the ACC may be down, but you never see an abomination like this come out of the ACC) and NCAA-best 8 trips to the Sweet 16 (versus 6 for the Spartans) are just enough to make up for Michigan State’s edge in Final 4 appearances (4-2 although both teams were only able to seal the deal once).

battier j-will duhon

Pinnacle. As it is with any team that won a single title this decade, the choice here is simple: the 2001 title. After coming up just short with one of the most talented teams in recent history in 1999, Coach K reloaded with a class featuring Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Carlos Boozer. Although not quite as dominant as the group that left just before they came in (Elton Brand, William Avery, and Corey Maggette – I know he was a year after the other two, but I wasn’t going to include Chris Burgess in there), the former was able to do something the latter failed to do – win a title.  Together with Shane Battier, who led the Blue Devils emotionally and in taking flops, this group made it to the Sweet 16 in 2000 before being upset by Florida. The following year the Blue Devils were able to give Coach K his 3rd title, but not before surviving three marginally tough games (vs. USC in the Elite 8, vs. Maryland in the national semifinals, and vs. Arizona in the championship game) to claim the title. The defining moment of that title game was Dunleavy Jr.’s 3-point barrage (three 3-pointers during an 11-2 run) that re-established Duke’s control of the game. One thing that will stick with Blue Devil fans forever though is their four games against Maryland, which were some of the best college basketball games you will ever see, the most memorable being the 10-point comeback in the last minute at College Park (although we are willing to debate with someone who argues that the 22-point comeback in the national semifinals might be better).

[Warning: Maryland fans may want to avoid this video.]

Tailspin. Other than the two UNC titles? The 2006-07 season. A rather mediocre Duke team went 22-11 in a season that included two separate four-game losing streaks. The latter of those losing streaks came to finish the season with the final insult coming courtesy of Eric Maynor and VCU. Much has been made on this site and others about the lack of elite talent in Durham lately, but fielding a team whose four best players were DeMarcus Nelson (junior),  Josh McRoberts (sophomore), Greg Paulus (sophomore), and Jon Scheyer (freshman)… you are in big trouble. The primary explanation for this was that outside of Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick, the Blue Devils had a long string of McDonald’s All-American busts from 2002 on, with Shavlik Randolph, who left prior to that, being the most famous example.

Outlook for the 2010s: Grade: B+. Duke is still Duke and can land 5-star recruits, but it’s not like it was at the end of the last decade when Duke had its choice of McDonald’s All-Americans. Back then, one of the big controversies was if Coach K made the right choice taking Mike Dunleavy Jr. instead of Casey Jacobsen (for the younger generation of readers trust us when we say they were both actually very good college basketball players). Now it is a big deal when Duke lands the #3 shooting guard in next year’s class instead of John Wall. Duke will still be able to get a couple of top-notch recruits every year because of their tradition (it goes back to before Coach K, youngsters), Notre Dame-like TV deal with ESPN, Coach K’s stature, and the fact that it’s one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country (mothers like to brag about the Duke degree even if it is for the infamous Sociology major). However, the Blue Devils have fallen a notch below UNC in the hearts and minds of elite recruits and that will only get worse when Coach K retires (gasp!) as their is no clear successor in line for his throne.

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Coach K to Coach Team USA in the 2012 Olympics

Posted by nvr1983 on July 21st, 2009

We have already laid out our thoughts on the possibility of this occurring earlier, but it’s worth bringing up again because USA Basketball made it official today that Mike Krzyzewski was returning to lead Team USA in the 2012 Olympics in London. For as much hate as he gets as the coach of Duke, we have to say that he has done a great job of rebuilding USA Basketball with Jerry Colangelo although that it can be argued that his best attribute was that he didn’t bench his best player (see George Karl in 2002) or select a squad that was horribly put together/too young and act like an insufferable jerk while coach that team (see Larry Brown in 2004). Perhaps the biggest impact Coach K’s return will have is convincing the team’s stars (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade) to return for another run at the gold medal. Team USA version 2012 could potentially field a team that is legitimately as dominant as The Dream Team (none of this ridiculous “Redeem Team” junk from this year) as the  2008 team’s core players will be entering their primes with the exception of Kobe. Here’s a quick look at a potential roster for London:

PG = Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, and Derrick Rose

SG =  Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and Brandon Roy

SF = LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant

PF/C = Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson, and Chris Bosh

Obviously that’s more people than could suit up, but they would probably lose at least one guy to age/injuries (candidates: Kobe, Wade, and Jefferson) or might drop one of the potential PGs (likely Rondo or Williams). Griffin is also the other wild-card here since we’re forecasting his success in the NBA, but Team USA’s weakness is inside and it seems like he would be perfect in the international setting with the up-tempo pace that Team USA would likely employ even if Malcolm Gladwell thinks that style of play is a recipe for an upset. In any case, this team would be enormous favorites in London and would highlight a talent–recruiting–that was once considered Coach K’s greatest asset back when he used to simply coach Duke.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 02.15.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 15th, 2009

dynamite

Welcome back to another edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. I’m back as your semi-regular host after a day off with John Stevens covering for me. Today is a kind of weird day of basketball with the best games later in the day going head-to-head against the NBA All-Star game. So hopefully everyone will be sticking with us throughout the day and the real basketball fans (the ones who actually like defense and competition) will stay with us into the night.

1:00 PM: Our early games today are Illinois at  Indiana on CBS and Clemson at Virginia on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com. We’ll be updating you with highlights of those games throughout the day, but like always if there is something going on that we are missing or we make a mistake leave us a message in the comment section.

1:10 PM: Illinois is up 10-7 early. Bruce Weber‘s club must be riding high after their amazing comeback at Northwestern in their last game. Clemson is tied 3-3 in Charlottesville with 15:54 left in the first half. I’m guessing today is Sean Singletary day at UVA today based on the parts of the pre-game that I caught. Singletary, a 3-time 1st team All-ACC player, is one of three players in ACC history (Danny Ferry and Johnny Dawkins being the others) to have 2,000 career points, 500 career assists, and 400 career rebounds.

1:25 PM: Illinois is up 15-7 as we go to a TV timeout. CBS just showed a graphic about Indiana’s tough losses this year by featuring the games they led, but lost. You know the Hooisers are having a bad year when having a lead of 2 points at some point during the game is highlighted as a tough loss. Meanwhile, UVA is up 16-7 with 11:54 as they head into a timeout as well.

1:30 PM: I just noticed the electronic board on the side of the court at Assembly Hall. I guess it’s a nice fan friendly feature and probably generates some revenue through ads, but I think it looks horrendous in this famous arena. I haven’t noticed it at Cameron Indoor, but I think they should avoid it in the historic arenas.

1:40 PM: Jeff Jordan just hit a jumper for Illinois. As we noted before, he was recently was given a scholarship at Illinois. For those of you who haven’t seen him play, we think you might have missed his only big play of the day if his performance this season is any indication of what we can expect today. He’ll probably be out there quite a bit since Indiana is awful so watch for #13 on Illinois.

1:45 PM: UVA is up 22-16 coming out of a timeout with 5:11 left in the first half. Illinois is up 27-13 with a little less than 5 minutes left in the first half. I’ll be focusing on the UVA-Clemson game for now unless the Illinois-Indiana game gets interesting.

1:55 PM: UVA is up 33-25 at half. That 3 by Terrence Oglesby with a little over a minute left in the first half was Clemson’s first of the day after the Tigers missed their first 10 straight. The Cavaliers might have a chance if the Tigers continue to have difficulty hitting from the outside. Trevor Booker has had a big first half with 10 of Clemson’s 25 points, but it wasn’t enough as none of the other Tigers are playing well today. Illinois is up 38-21 at half.

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Checking in on the… WCC

Posted by nvr1983 on January 20th, 2009

Michael Chin is the RTC correspondent for the WCC.

Stronger Conference Next Year?
Most mock draft sites still have Patty Mills and Austin Daye leaving early for the NBA. They must be watching different games than I have because I don’t believe either player will leave early. While both possess talent and have great star potential neither player is close to a finished product. In fact, one could argue that each player has actually regressed this season.

For example, if one were to get past the Patty Mills highlight real, which is quite extensive, they would see a guard with below average shot selection. He will need another year to develop those things. In fact, I see Randy Bennett moving Mills to the two guard spot next year, like Stephen Curry last year, after point guard Mickey McConnell gets a full year of play under his belt.

While Austin Daye has better shot selection, his other skills have yet to develop. More importantly, he can’t rebound against bigger defenders or play defense in the post. I compare him a bit to Marvin Williams of the Atlanta Hawks when he came out early. Comparable skill set with Daye having a little more height. Williams in his first three years in the NBA struggled in all facets of the game even forcing the front office to question their decision to draft him #2 overall. If Daye exits early, he will face similar criticism. At 6-11 Daye will be required to play some power forward, even if he will primarily be used at the small forward position. Based on his current body, he isn’t ready for that. Could you imagine him going up against the likes of Carlos Boozer or Chris Bosh? It would over really early. If both make the right decision and stay for at least another season, I see two potential lottery picks.

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UNC: Let’s Not Go Sucking Each Other’s [redacted] Just Yet

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2008

Yeah, like most everyone else, we’re equally in awe of what Carolina has been able to do thus far in the season.  We are on record saying that the Heels wouldn’t be able to get through a pretty tough first month of the season without taking an L due to the loss of Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Hansbrough to injuries, and we couldn’t have been more wrong.  The Heels have been nothing short of awesome through the first quarter of the regular season, beating eight opponents (two of which were in the preseason top 10) by an average of 30.4 points per game.

Their offensive and defensive stats are through the roof thus far.  They average nearly 100 pts per game (97.0), shooting 51% from the field and 41% from three.  They are #2 nationally in points per possession (1.207) and percentage of trips where they score at least a point (59.7%).   They share the ball amazingly well (#2 nationally in assists – 21.7) and have a preposterous nearly 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (1.87).  The Heels also rebound with the best of the country (#8 nationally) and play defense with abandon (holding opponents to 37.3% shooting and forcing 19 turnovers per game – 14th nationally).   Put simply, this team is playing GREAT basketball.

The Heels are Posterizing Everyone in Their Path

The Heels are Posterizing Everyone in Their Path

photo credit:  Jim Hawkins/AP

So the question is begged – why do we need to finish out the season if we know that Carolina is far-and-away the best team?  Well… because it’s still early.  December 5th is a light year away from April 6th in college basketball time, and  a lot can and will happen in the interim.  Other teams will improve, and UNC, while looking indomitable at this point, could eventually suffer from the fatigue of increasing pressure to win every game and/or simply a rough night in March.  That’s the beauty of our game.  Short of a major injury, we can rest assured that the Lakers and Celtics will more than likely be back in the NBA Finals due to the sport’s seven-game series playoff format.  But in a one-game situation in the NCAA Tournament, much like the World Cup and NFL Playoffs, an inspired underdog can accomplish the unthinkable and take down the seemingly unbeatable favorite (witness last year’s Super Bowl for just such a recent example).

For proof of this, let’s take a walk down memory lane for a brief history lesson.  Below are a handful of teams who, like this year’s Tarheels, were seemingly invincible for the entire season.  That is, until they ran into a plucky team who had enough heart and made just enough plays in the right moments to block the favorite’s manifest destiny.

  • 1984 UNC (28-3, 15-1 ACC) – We can start with a former version of the Heels.  Bob Knight’s Indiana team shot 65% from the field (69% in the second half) to take down Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins’ Heels in the second round of the NCAAs.  To this day, old-time Heels fans lament an injury to Kenny Smith’s wrist that limited his effectiveness in the postseason.  UNC had only a 1-pt loss at Arkansas and a 2-pt loss to Duke in the ACC Tourney prior to the NCAAs.  Of the 28 victories, only four were by single-digit margins.  This team was nasty.
  • 1985 Georgetown (35-3, 17-2 Big East) – We still can’t fathom how this absolute beast of a defending national champion with Patrick Ewing and Reggie Williams lost to Villanova in the greatest upset in NCAA Tournament history.  Still, they did, as Villanova hit a ridiculous 79% from the field against a defensive dynamo that regularly held teams well under 40%.
  • 1987 UNC (32-4, 16-1 ACC) – UNC, led by all-american Kenny Smith and super-frosh JR Reid, lost in the regional finals to Syracuse by 4 pts, in a game where Derrick Coleman and Rony Seikaly destroyed the Heels on the boards to eke out the victory.  Their only other losses were at UCLA (5 pts), at Notre Dame (2 pts) and in the finals of the ACC Tourney vs. NC State (1 pt).  While not as dominant as the 1984 version, this team was everyone’s choice to win the national title.
  • 1991 UNLV (34-1, 20-0 Big West) – The best team we’ve ever seen that didn’t win the national title.  Simply an astonishing combination of talent and experience on the cusp of the early-entry era.  Duke, who had lost by 30 in the NCAA Final to this same team one year prior, became Duke on this night – roaring back behind Mr. March, Christian Laettner, to win the game in the final minutes 79-77.  UNLV, who placed all five starters on the all-Big West team (four 1st teamers), had beaten its opponents by an average of 27.5 pts per game coming into the national semis, including a whipping of #2  Arkansas at the old Barnhill Arena by a score of 112-105 (the final was much closer than the game actually was).
  • 1997 Kansas (34-2, 18-1 Big 12) – We still contend that this was Roy Williams’ best team (even better than the 2005 UNC national champions).  A two-pt double-OT loss at Missouri was the only blemish on a near-perfect season until upstart and eventual national champion Arizona, led by Mike Bibby and Miles Simon, pulled off an 85-82 upset in the regional semifinals of the NCAAs.  Raef Lafrentz, Paul Pierce and Jacque Vaughn led a balanced attack that absolutely devastated most of its oppenents, many of whom were ranked (9-1).
  • 1999 Duke (37-2, 19-0 ACC) – With the possible exception of 2006 UConn (who we find overrated), this was the last college team that was absolutely loaded with A-grade NBA talent. The lineup featured two NPOYs (Elton Brand, Shane Battier) in addition to draftees Will Avery, Trajan Langdon and Chris Carrawell.   Future all-star Corey Maggette came off the bench.  Only four teams all season were able to stay within 10 pts of the Devils, who crushed teams by an average of 24.6 points per game.  Had this team won the title game against UConn, it would have been on the short list of greatest teams in the modern era.
  • 2002 Duke (31-4, 16-3 ACC) – This team didn’t have the outrageous statistical profile of its predecessor three years prior, but it was the defending national champs and boasted Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Carlos Boozer in a balanced attack that seemed destined for back-to-back titles.  That is, until this team’s only bugaboo, FT shooting (68.9%) popped up to bite them in the Sweet 16 against Indiana.  Two one-pt losses, a three-pt loss and a 14-pt loss to national champion Maryland were the only blemishes on this team’s resume.

So there you have it.  Our memories don’t go back further than the 80s, but we’re sure there are probably some other great historical examples of this phenomenon.  Leave them in the comments if you wish.  Of course, there are just as many (if not more) dominant teams that actually got it done and won the national title – which one will the 2008-09 Tarheels become?  To answer that question is why we will continue to watch.

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