ACC Stock Watch – Week Two

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 28th, 2014

We here at RTC hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday. Of course, we kept on our eye on ACC hoops for you while you were eating and possibly dabbling in the football-viewing arena. It’s only week two in the season, but there continue to be teams and players who are continuing to excel or providing disappointing early returns. Below is this week’s ACC Stock Watch:

Trending Up

  • Duke. Sure, they’re obliterating lesser competition, but their win over Stanford in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic was a great sign because Jahlil Okafor was not dominant and yet the team was composed and beat a good Cardinal team. Tyus Jones (roughly five-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio through six games) and Justise Winslow (14 points per game on 45% shooting thus far) continue to show that they are beyond their years as freshmen and can help cover for a game where Okafor doesn’t play up to his standards.
Trevor Lacey had a sensational second week to keep the Wolfpack undefeated on the year (APPhoto)

Trevor Lacey had a sensational second week to keep the Wolfpack undefeated on the year (APPhoto)

  • Trevor Lacey, NC State. Lacey was billed as an impact freshman, and he certainly had an impactful week for the Wolfpack. Lacey averaged 23.5 points per game in NC State’s two wins over South Florida and Richmond this week, and even spent a large portion of the time handling the ball in lieu of Cat Barber. Lacey has hit the ground running, and has presented a great second option for Mark Gottfried at the point if Barber is playing erratically.
  • Justin Anderson, Virginia. As discussed here after last Friday’s win over George Washington, Anderson has tied for or been the lead man in scoring for this team in every game this season. Last year’s Sixth Man of the Year followed up a solid start to the season last week with a perfect shooting night against Tennessee State (7-7 from the field, 5-5 from three) to notch 20 points. Anderson might be the hottest player in the conference right now not playing in Durham.

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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: NC State’s Burning Question

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 3rd, 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.

Can Cat Barber run this team effectively?

NC State made its third NCAA Tournament appearance in a row last season as head coach Mark Gottfried cajoled his team to a surprising 22-14 record. The Wolfpack were immensely reliant on ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren to get there, as he accounted for 34 percent of the team’s scoring and 32 percent of its shot attempts. Warren has since departed as a lottery pick of the Phoenix Suns, so NC State will put its hopes on a balanced scoring effort this season to make up for his lost production. That will start with sophomore point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber. His ability to protect the basketball and facilitate the offense while also looking for his own shot will largely determine his team’s fate this season.

Barber needs to utilize his speed but keep turnovers low to help move NC State along (credit: wralsportsfan.com)

Barber (#2) needs to utilize his speed but keep turnovers low to help move NC State along. (AP)

Barber was erratic in the early going last year, largely because he had been a score-first point guard in high school who was suddenly asked to find good shots for his teammates (primarily, Warren). Those struggles to run the offense led to Tyler Lewis earning a large share of the available minutes at the point, with the team often looking significantly more fluid with him running the show. That won’t be an option this year, as Lewis has since transferred to Butler. Barber’s improvement during conference play, where his assist-to-turnover ratio was just a tick above 2-to-1, could be a precursor for the floor leader’s 2014-15 campaign. If the sophomore can cut down on turnovers while improving his overall scoring (8.5 PPG) and three-point shooting (26.1%), he’ll be able to keep defenses honest and make the game much easier for his supporting cast. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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ACC M5: 01.07.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 7th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Associated Press and ESPN: The new AP Top 25 poll isn’t kind to the ACC. Only Syracuse (#2) and Duke (#16) remain in the poll after North Carolina tumbled into the land of “others receiving votes” following its road loss to Wake Forest. That loss puts the Tar Heels at 7-4 against unranked opponents and an unbelievable 3-0 against ranked foes. Duke’s drop was historic, ending the Blue Devils’ ludicrous 122-week stint in the top 10. That’s the second longest streak ever (to UCLA, who managed to stick around for nearly a decade). The last time Duke wasn’t in the top 10 was November 2007. The new longest-tenured team? Michigan State at 16 weeks.
  2. Streaking the Lawn: Virginia has three players battling injury following a win that finally seemed to live up to the team’s lofty expectations to open ACC play. The damage? Joe Harris is day-to-day with concussion symptoms and is still awaiting clearance to practice; Evan Nolte dislocated his finger; and Mike Tobey rolled his ankle. The last two are the kind of injuries that could become nagging snowballs as the conference season wears on, but Harris is obviously the player to watch. He can’t miss significant time, as the team has already dug itself a really deep hole in terms of its at-large resume.
  3. Syracuse Post-Standard: We’re witnessing history this season! Tyler Ennis and Olivier Hanlan are already two of the top five Canadian ACC scorers of all-time. Hanlan will almost certainly pass Duke’s Greg Newton in Boston College’s next game (he only needs six points), and he should do it in fewer than half the games it took Newton. Ennis still has a ways to go to start climbing up that list, but he should get to fourth before the end of the season. He’ll have to stick around three years to make a run at the top spot though.
  4. Winston-Salem Journal: Everyone — especially Ron Wellman and any relatives of Jeff Bzdelik – bookmark this article immediately. Dan Collins thinks Bzdelik’s game plan and play-calling played a significant role in the Demon Deacons’ Sunday upset over North Carolina. Joking aside, Wake Forest executed most of the game incredibly well. The Deacs didn’t fade down the stretch (apart from a bizarre couple of minutes where they let the Tar Heels cut the lead to a single possession), and they kept their heads cool in the face of pressure. I personally would credit Codi Miller-McIntyre as the reason Wake Forest looks like a new team this season, but Bzdelik may actually deserve some credit too.
  5. Real GM: Cool look from Dan Hanner on how the top 100 RSCI freshmen are faring this season. Obviously Jabari Parker is fine (outside of South Bend). There’s a pretty significant drop after the top 10 (all of whom are scoring in double figures except for Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson). But there are some serious diamonds in the rough (if you can call “not top-20″ rough). Tyler Ennis and Cat Barber stick out from the ACC, while Duke’s Semi Ojeleye and Matt Jones along with North Carolina’s Isaiah Hicks are seeing low production so far.
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ACC M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 11th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Boston Globe: You can tell that Steve Donahue believes in his team if you just look at how he scheduled this season. Unlike the cream-puff schedules of the past, Donahue decided to take the RPI head on this season. That means five non-conference road games along with four neutral games. But more interesting than his scheduling considerations are a motive beyond making the Big Dance: “I think it’s important that we separate ourselves somehow. […] Why would kids choose us? Why would fans be excited?” It’s very interesting that Donahue is already looking to carve out a niche in a bigger league where it certainly looks possible to get lost among the giants.
  2. Sports Illustrated: Donahue’s RPI experiment got off to an ugly start with an overtime loss at Providence thanks to the new rule changes. 55 fouls in 45 minutes. Six players fouled out. And like Pete Thamel points out, Boston College wasn’t known for committing lots of fouls last season (in fact quite the obvious), though the team certainly played physically. Here’s to hoping coaches and players adjust quickly so we can avoid anymore games like this one.
  3. Testudo Times: Here’s a good tempo-free heavy preview of Maryland this season. I’m most interested in the battle between Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell for minutes. Here’s to hoping Maryland runs a twin towers line-up at least a little this season. This year Mark Turgeon has to get over the hump. I doubt his seat is hot (or even warm), as the athletic department probably wants some continuity going into the Big Ten–especially after the personnel nightmare following Gary Williams`s departure. But if Turgeon can’t get this team to the NCAA Tournament this season, red flags will start going up and he risks losing interest of a fan base that he’ll desperately need fully engaged as the Terrapins move to their new conference.
  4. Run The Floor: Michael Rogner is very high on Duke this season (and he has every right to be if the Blue Devils continue shooting better than 70% from the floor). He`s also very high on Virginia, a team many are snubbing in favor of the gravitas that comes with the North Carolina and Syracuse programs. The only starter Virginia has to replace this season is the offensively challenged Jontel Evans. Sure his on-ball defense will be missed, but opponents will also miss being able to ignore one player as long as he wasn’t at the rim. Sophomores Justin Anderson and Mike Tobey also look ready to make the sophomore leap.
  5. Burlington Times-News: NC State fans should be really happy about newcomer Desmond Lee`s play in its opener. While Cat Barber was getting most of the press this off-season, Lee looked like the second-best player behind TJ Warren (who was very quiet for half the game). If Lee, Barber, and transfer Ralston Turner all pan out, the Wolfpack will be a lot better than many predicted before the season.
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ACC Team Preview: North Carolina State Wolfpack

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 6th, 2013

North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried’s squad entered last season with the loftiest expectations the program had seen in some time. His Wolfpack was ranked as high as #6 in preseason national polls and was chosen as the odds-on favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. Instead, immaturity and inconsistency from a team loaded with talent landed the team in a fourth-place tie after the conference regular season.  NC State finished 24-11 and bowed out of its first-round NCAA Tournament match-up with Temple.

NC State Preview 2013

This year, expectations are drastically lower for Gottfried’s squad. Significant departures decimated his roster and left him with a very young team entering his third season in Raleigh. Gone are starters Richard Howell  and Scott Wood to graduation and C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown to early entry. Add to that the transfer to Connecticut of highly-touted freshman Rodney Purvis, who had an up-and-down first season at NC State, and the Wolfpack find themselves down all five starters from a year ago. Gottfried has assembled an impressive recruiting class for 2013-14 (though it may pale in comparison to the one he’ll have next year), but replacing all of that scoring and experience will be a mighty task for this year’s team. Gottfried’s returnees this year have experience, but much of it was in reserve situations and in spare minutes giving the aforementioned starters a breather.

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