ACC Stock Watch: Week Three

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 5th, 2014

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

Trending Up

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

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

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

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Assessing a Disastrous Opening Night for the SEC

Posted by David Changas on November 15th, 2014

We hear the term “SEC Bias” thrown around a lot in the context of college football, and with good reason — the league has won seven of the sport’s last eight national championships, and dominates the headlines on a weekly basis. Based upon how the conference fared on opening night of the 2014-15 college basketball season, however, there is no reason to worry that concept will bleed over into the world of hoops anytime soon. As Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports points out, the league lost more non-conference games in basketball Friday than it has lost non-conference football games through the first 11 weeks of the season. We set out to examine what happened.

VCU 85, Tennessee 69

Tennessee Fought Hard But Never Put Together a Run Against VCU (USA Today)

Tennessee Fought Hard But Never Put Together a Run Against VCU (USA Today)

This was the least surprising of Friday’s results. The Volunteers have eight new scholarship players and were facing a top-15 Rams squad in Annapolis at the Veterans Classic. While Donnie Tyndall‘s team showed heart by not throwing in the towel after falling behind by 18 at the half, it was apparent that this team has not been playing together for long. Although Tennessee appears to have some athletes, and got an encouraging 17 points from freshman find Detrick Mostella, the Volunteers were outrebounded and a woeful 4-for-17 from three-point range. They also turned the ball over 19 times, and clearly have a long way to go on the offensive end. Their lack of a true point guard – Josh Richardson, who is a natural wing, handled those duties before fouling out late – will be a problem for Tyndall’s squad all season, and the Volunteers will have trouble putting points on the board as a result.

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One on One: An ACC Preview With Bret Strelow

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the ACC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with an ACC expert in Bret Strelow (@bretstrelow), the ACC basketball reporter for The Fayetteville Observer.

Rush the Court: Duke was an extremely talented unit last season, but it was ultimately done in by its defensive deficiencies in its stunning NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer. The Blue Devils once again have a talented roster and are widely projected to win the league. Will this season be any different than last when it comes to the defensive end of the floor?

Bret Strelow: It would be hard to get much worse. The Blue Devils ranked in the 100s in defensive efficiency, which is a far cry from what a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team usually is. With Jabari Parker, defense was not his calling card. Rodney Hood took on some tough assignments and struggled at times. The current thought around the Duke camp is that Jahlil Okafor at 6’11” and 270 pounds is a legitimate rim-protector. Duke can clean up some of its mistakes and pressure the ball a little bit more with Okafor back there. I think Duke should ultimately be a better defensive team, but we will see how much of a difference that will make.

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

RTC: Marcus Paige alone can probably keep North Carolina competitive in the ACC, but if the Tar Heels want to compete for the league crown, they are going to need a supporting cast to step forward. What Tar Heels can you see breaking out this season?

Strelow: It really might be a little bit of everybody. If Marcus Paige has to carry the load like he did for much of last season, North Carolina is probably not going to reach the goal that it has of contending for a Final Four and a national title. I think you can expect a little bit from everybody. Brice Johnson was extremely efficient last season in a secondary role behind James Michael McAdoo. If Johnson can stay out of foul trouble and guard well enough, I think his offense will be there. Kennedy Meeks has slimmed down. His offense has never been a problem. With Johnson and Meeks, you have two solid front line guys. When you look at the North Carolina freshmen class, Justin Jackson is a guy who has the uncanny ability to score. He has a way of scoring quickly and scoring in a way that does not require a lot of dribbles. I think he can really have a big year. He is probably more of an offensive threat than fellow freshmen Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II. I think outside shooting might still be an issue for North Carolina outside of Paige and if Jackson can hit a few. When you look at a guy like J.P. Tokoto, outside shooting is not his game. I think the Tar Heels have enough inside and with Jackson coming along, they are going to have enough to help Paige carry the load this season.

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ACC Preview: Georgia Tech’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 29th, 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 Brian Gregory survive another losing ACC season?

During the offseason, one of the favorite media activities is formulation of the preseason “Coaches on the Hot Seat” list. Going into this season, Georgia Tech’s Brian Gregory is the one ACC coach who seems to show up on all of those lists. On this list put out by Athlon Sports, it’s interesting to see that Gregory is joined in the fire pit with a few former ACC head coaches like Oliver Purnell and Mark Turgeon. So what kind of year will it take for Gregory to avoid joining that group of former ACC head coaches?

Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory lost out on one, maybe two important prospects recently. (Icon Sports Media)

Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory may not survive another losing ACC season. (Icon Sports Media)

While no two situations are exactly the same, the best way to examine this issue is to review recent ACC coaches who were in similar circumstances going into their fourth year at the helm of their particular school. By similar circumstance we mean a coach who has a losing record in ACC games in each of his first three years on the job. Below we show four coaches who entered their fourth year at the helm under those conditions.

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Reviewing Five Notable ACC Offseason Headlines

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 16th, 2014

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

Coach K dismisses idea that coaching Team USA helps with recruiting

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

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

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

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Morning Five: 05.01.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 1st, 2014

morning5

  1. Yesterday was a surprisingly busy day on the coaching carousel. The big news came out late last night when Southern Mississippi filled its coaching vacancy by hiring Doc Sadler. The Southern Miss spot opened up when Donnie Tyndall moved to Tennessee, but he did leave a fairly good program for Sadler as the team went 56-17 in the past two seasons although they did not make the NCAA Tournament either season. Sadler compiled a 149-107 record at UTEP and Nebraska, but was fired in 2012 at Nebraska after going 12-18. It was just yesterday that the job was reportedly offered to Brad Underwood, who “decided” to stay at Stephen F. Austin just a few hours before the Sadler hiring was announced so we suspect that his decision may have been impacted by Southern Mississippi’s decision. The other announcement was that Tom Izzo intends to stay at Michigan State rather than pursuing a NBA job. In our opinion, this really isn’t particularly newsworthy although with coaches of Izzo’s caliber we always assume that some NBA team will have interest in Izzo. While Izzo stated that he plans on staying at Michigan State he noted that if the right offer comes up he might reconsider and he did mention the Lakers as such a job. And Mike D’Antoni did resign yesterday…
  2. It wasn’t that long ago that Rick Barnes was on the “hot seat”. After a surprisingly good season last season, Barnes appeared to be in good shape heading into next season with most of last year’s team returning. On top of that, he added Myles Turner, who committed to Texas yesterday essentially ending this recruiting season (at least for high school recruits). Turner, the consensus #2 recruit in the class of 2014, announced that he was heading to Texas in a press conference that was televised on ESPNU. For a more thorough breakdown of what Turner’s commitment means, check out Jeff Borzello’s excellent breakdown.
  3. We aren’t sure if one coach needs to replace another on the hot seat, but if he does then we would nominate Mark Turgeon. He already lost three players to transfer this off-season (more on one below) and now according to some reports both Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell have both asked for their release from the program. Maryland is denying these reports, but if true we cannot imagine how much longer Turgeon can stay on board. It is too late in the coaching carousel cycle for the school to get rid of him and look for a new coach and with their upcoming move to the Big Ten they need some stability, but they need to be looking in another direction. Last season, Allen averaged 13.4 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds per game while Mitchell averaged 6.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. If they do leave, Maryland will have lost five of its top eight players from last season to transfer.
  4. With most of his production from last year leaving and an undistinguished freshman class coming in we knew that Craig Robinson needed to do something significant if he wanted to keep his job. It appears that he has in the transfer market. Yesterday, Maryland transfer Nick Faust announced that he would be headed to Oregon State. Faust, who averaged 9.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2 assists per game, will have to sit out this season and has one more year of eligibility left. According to reports, Oregon State is also active in reaching out to several other prominent transfers. This method probably isn’t what Oregon State needs for long-term success, but it might be enough to let Robinson keep his job for a few more years.
  5. Danny Manning hasn’t had his first practice at Wake Forest, but his tenure is already off to a rough start. Yesterday, Shelton Mitchell, the team’s top incoming recruit, received his release from Wake Forest. Mitchell, a four-star point guard, is recovering from an ACL tear is reportedly still considering Wake Forest, but is keeping his options open now that Jeff Bzdelik, the coach who recruited him, is no longer there. At this point, the only class of 2014 commit that Manning has is two-star shooting guard Rondale Watson. Manning might turn out to be a better coach than Bzdelik, but with that recruiting class it will be very hard to prove it in the ACC.
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ACC M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 6th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. ESPN: If you don’t read anything else today, read this Tommy Tomlinson piece on Dean Smith. It’s well-written and heartbreaking.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: In more upbeat news, Wake Forest knocked off Duke at the Joel last night. This was the first time since 2009 that the Demon Deacons have beaten Duke, North Carolina and NC State at home. It shouldn’t be enough to save Jeff Bzdelik’s job, but it does give Travis McKie some return on his four-year investment in the program. Duke’s offense sputtered against Wake Forest’s zone down the stretch, allowing the Demon Deacons to effectively close out the game on a late 17-0 run. Another side note is that Coach K experienced some dizziness during the game and opted for Steve Wojciechowski to take his place at the press conference podium after the loss.
  3. Syracuse Post-Standard: If you ever wonder why Patrick Stevens gets paid the big bucks, it’s because he’s a saint for breaking out all the possible iterations of the ACC Tournament heading into the final weekend. While the scenarios are complex, they’re slowly narrowing. The top of the league is much more set than the bottom (at this point, all of the byes and double-byes are clinched). But Notre Dame and Georgia Tech are a complete mess.
  4. Washington Post: Drama in College Park. as Charles Mitchell got into a heated discussion with assistant Scott Spinelli. The explosion feels out of character, as Mitchell normally appears to be an easy-going guy on the bench. Suffice to say that it will be handled in house.
  5. USA Today: Man, a lot of people who had Syracuse as an overall #1 seed last week are singing a different tune this week. I won’t get on board that train, although the Orange are certainly not doing themselves seeding favors or otherwise by losing to Georgia Tech.
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ACC M5: 11.12.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 12th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Pitt News: Cool story from the Pittsburgh student newspaper about the Panthers changing their defense as the game changed. Jamie Dixon thinks that one reason more teams are playing zone defense is because of the deeper three-point line. Likewise, he thinks the new fouling rules incentivize zone defenses–which would mean the bizarro effect from the NCAA’s perspective (slower games). In Pittsburgh‘s opener, the Panthers used different defenses (three quarter court press, zone for out of bounds plays and selective trapping) to try and gain an upper hand. Assuming his team can master the different systems, I like this strategy a lot going forward.
  2. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Going somewhat against Dixon’s theory–though it’s still very early–is research from KPI Analytics, which says points per game are up 4.50 across the country as compared to last season. Fouls and free throw attempts are also up. Looking at Ken Pomeroy’s data from this season, the median adjusted tempo is also up almost 1.5 possessions a game (most likely thanks to fouls ending possessions). The question is once coaches and players adjust to the new rules–likely lowering free throw attempts–whether the higher scoring will continue.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: London Perrantes has earned the back-up point guard spot in Tony Bennett’s rotation. Assuming his first game was representative, Perrantes won’t light up the stat sheet. But he already plays with poise and takes care of the ball. The fact that Perrantes failed to make a field goal in 25 minutes of play is somewhat unsettling–and reminiscent of Jontel Evans–but as long as he can keep opposing teams honest, Virginia has plenty of weapons.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Maryland‘s frontcourt is loaded with potential, but Shaquille Cleare really struggled in the Terrapins’s close loss against Connecticut. His close friend and backup Charles Mitchell was much more effective offensively (Mitchell is one of the best rebounders in the country), but in the end I think the player who plays the best defense will keep the starting spot. Mitchell has the chance to develop into a truly special offensive player over the next couple of years as he develops more post moves. But currently he’s a liability on defense (who takes a hint from Charles Barkley and crashes the boards to make up for it). Cleare has a ton of potential, but hasn’t backed up his recruiting ranking just yet.
  5. Soaring to Glory: I don’t normally post angry post-loss recaps, but I’m upset with Boston College‘s bad start. Massachusetts was underrated coming in, but the Eagles are starting to look vastly overrated. It doesn’t help that Dennis Clifford is still injured, but Steve Donahue‘s team got manhandled on the interior. The Eagles gave up 21 (yes, you read that right) offensive boards. 21! The Minutemen rebounded 53.8% of their misses. That can’t happen ever and it definitely can’t happen against an A-10 team. I totally disagree that Donahue’s team needs some rougher guys to give it an edge, but it does need someone to get after a rebound.
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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: Maryland Terrapins

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 2nd, 2013

Last year, Maryland had an impressive 13-game winning streak after an opening-night three point loss to the defending champions, Kentucky. Most of that run can be attributed to soft scheduling by head coach Mark Turgeon, but nonetheless it showed promise. Maryland finished out the regular season with a solid record of 20-11 and was rewarded with an NIT bid for its troubles. In addition to a run to the NIT semifinals (losing to Iowa), the Terps had a couple of signature wins on their résumé over #2 Duke late in the season. After the season was finished, they lost Ukrainian center Alex Len to the NBA Draft, but he struggled with inconsistency under Turgeon and never quite lived up to his potential.

Maryland Preview 2013

This season the Terps will be bolstered on the interior by Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, a versatile 6’8” junior who can play as a stretch-four for this athletic Maryland team. They also have a powerful 260-pound tandem of interior sophomores in Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell, who are expected to shoulder the majority of the rebounding and post defense responsibilities this season. How they are able to perform as two of the biggest players on the Maryland roster will go a long way in determining this team’s ultimate success. This may also speak to Maryland’s lack of frontcourt height, seeing as Cleare is 6’9” and Mitchell is only 6’8”. Going against larger ACC frontcourts, some with legitimate seven-footers, may prove to be a problem for this relatively inexperienced duo. Another particularly relevant story surrounding this year’s Terps will be their pending move to the Big Ten, which will show up in press conference quotes and in the form of cheers (and jeers) from opposing fan bases. Maryland will want to leave the ACC on a positive note, and this team certainly has the requisite talent to make an NCAA run in its ACC finale. If last season proves as any indicator, Maryland’s fate is inextricably tied with Dez Wells‘ output and performance.

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ACC M5: 10.24.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 24th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Run the Floor: Michael Rogner brings a fresh look at the NCAA punishments for Miami by comparing the school’s case and response directly with that of Saint Mary’s. As you might expect, the violations are not comparable in the least. The punishments? I’ll let Rogner’s piece speak for itself. For a little more context that likely led to these discrepancies, we have you covered. Not a great look for the NCAA.
  2. Daily Orange: The bigger TV money apparently wasn’t everything. Syracuse has already reportedly exceeded the basketball tickets sold last year (or any year in the past two decades, for that matter). Football and other sports have also seen a boost. Part of this may be the novelty of it all, and some stars certainly aligned with the Orange being very good this year and hosting Duke. Maybe the increased excitement among fans is what has Jim Boeheim warming up to the ACC, although he still stresses holding the ACC Tournament in either New York or Washington, DC.
  3. Washington Post: Maryland freshman Damonte Dodd sounds like a piece of what looks to be an incredible Big Ten frontcourt at Maryland in a year or two. Mark Turgeon touted him as an “energy guy,” but his athleticism should turn that energy into great skill. With Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell also showing lots of promise in the post, Turgeon may have an embarrassment of riches should all three stay in College Park for a while and continue developing.
  4. ESPN: Eamonn Brennan wants everyone to get ready for the new-look Duke team this year. Unlike many coaches, Coach K adapts his teams to fit his personnel. Combine his flexibility with his recruiting and you understand why Duke has been so consistently good the last 30 years. This year’s Blue Devil team is a very different one from last year: It’s younger, more athletic, and perimeter-oriented. I’m guessing (hoping) that means a high-tempo, in-your-face defense, though we won’t know until the season starts. While you’re over at the Worldwide Leader, check out John Gasaway’s ACC team previews. (Clemson is free!)
  5. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Speaking of those ESPN previews, Gasaway picked Virginia second in the league behind Duke. It’s easy to forget how good Tony Bennett’s team was last season, although the Cavaliers were offensively limited outside of Joe Harris. This year Harris expects the team to be much more balanced, which is bad news for opponents if it is true. A healthy Mike Tobey would add another potent, hard-to-guard offensive weapon. The biggest challenge facing the Cavaliers is finding someone to run the offense without turning the ball over this season.
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The ACC in the NIT: Previewing Maryland vs. Iowa

Posted by KCarpenter on April 2nd, 2013

Raise your hand if you had Maryland as the last ACC team still playing basketball in April. Sure, the Terrapins are only playing in the NIT, but for Mark Turgeon’s crew that means something. In Maryland’s most recent win against Alabama, the team showed flashes of the talent that many had predicted for it headed into the season. Specifically, Alex Len, who has disappeared for long stretches during the season, dominated the Crimson Tide on his way to a 15-point, 13-rebound and five-block performance to lead his team to a one-point win. The inconsistent Maryland that muddled its way through the conference schedule seems to have mostly disappeared. It’s a good thing too, because Iowa, the Terps’ next foe tonight in Madison Square Garden, is a bit of a ringer.

Alex Len, Maryland

Alex Len is Playing Good Basketball Again (AP Photo)

According to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, the Hawkeyes currently rate as the 21st best team in the country, largely on the basis of its 19th-ranked defense (Maryland ranks 48th and 33rd, respectively). By these measures, Iowa is head and shoulders above its NIT fellows, and easily the best team to not make the NCAA Tournament this season.  Like Maryland, Iowa sometimes struggles to shoot the ball consistently, but it plays such tough defense and rebounds so tenaciously that poor shooting is unlikely to sink the Hawkeyes. Unfortunately for the Terps, one of their greatest strengths is vulnerable to Iowa.

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