Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

Hold onto your seats, Hokie fans, you’re on the right side of the bubble after a statement win against Duke this week.  Virginia Tech’s win was just what the doctor ordered, but the Hokies are far from a lock (for everyone but Dickie V).  The Hokies won despite a very poor night from star Malcolm Delaney, who did hit a huge three late but was otherwise ineffective.  Jeff Allen picked up any slack Delaney left, finishing with 18 points and 15 boards.  But the real credit goes to Virginia Tech’s defense, which held Duke to under 40% from the field.  Kyle Singler helped those numbers a lot with one of the worst 22 and 12 lines you’ll ever see.  Singler has been in a real shooting slump (he’s 8-36 from beyond the arc in his last nine games).  He got plenty of open looks against the Hokies but just couldn’t convert anything from outside 15 feet.  Singler played very well when he was taking shorter jump shots and getting into the lane and drawing contact, but the set jumper just isn’t there.  Duke fans need to hope this is part of his yearly slump because this team is much less dangerous without Singler as an outside threat.  Virginia Tech also stymied Seth Curry, who only played 15 minutes because of foul trouble, but managed to finish with no points and a crucial turnover on Duke’s last possession (where he tried to do too much).  I think Curry was just a little too emotionally wound up before the game: in case you don’t know the back story, Curry’s father, Dell Curry, was one of the best players in Virginia Tech history (the first Hokie to have his jersey retired).  Regardless of shooting slumps and emotional windings, this was a huge win for Virginia Tech, which was starting to drift towards the wrong side of the bubble.

Major indirect benefactor of the upset in Blacksburg: North Carolina.  Now if the Tar Heels can beat Duke in Chapel Hill this weekend, they share the regular season ACC title and grab the top seed in the conference tournament.  Ironically second-seed could be the desired seed depending on how the rest of the field works out because I think any sane coach would rather face Florida State (set to be the three seed currently) without Chris Singleton than Virginia Tech (lined up to be the fourth seed right now).

Team of the Week: Virginia Tech in a runaway.  Not too much more to be said, but the Hokies would probably be looking at an 11-seed if Selection Sunday was today (at least if Andy Glockner or Bracketology101 was seeding the bracket**).  That’s obviously better than not being in the field, but far from “lock” status.  To ensure a bid, I still think Virginia Tech needs to win out the regular season or win one game in the conference tournament (against a decent team).  Still that’s totally doable.  Between a couple of solid wins and a tough nonconference schedule, things should be looking up in Blacksburg.

**By the way, if you don’t follow Andy Glockner (@aglock) on Twitter, you should.  He’s one of the most responsive sports writers in the business and does a tremendous job with Bubble Watch at  In addition to responsive, thoughtful analysis, you should expect a wealth of tweets on Team Bubble Watch (Marquette), Fulham, the Knicks and the New York Giants.  Most of you probably already knew this, but just in case anyone is new to Twitter, I thought I’d pass along the tip.  [ed note. – agreed]

Bizarro Team of the Week: Georgia Tech has lost its last eight conference games.  Next up: Wake Forest.  Looks like the ultimate place for the Demon Deacons to pick up a second conference win to me.  The frustrating thing about the Yellow Jackets is their talent to performance ratio.  Really Iman Shumpert, Glen Rice and Brian Oliver should make a much better team.  Truthfully, Mfon Udofia isn’t bad either, and Daniel Miller is developing.  The team needs a point guard and more consistency in the post.

Player of the Week: John Henson.  He’s been in double digit rebounding eight of his last nine games and double digit scoring in seven of his last nine.  Oh yeah, and he averaged six and a half blocks this week.  Most importantly, Henson hasn’t missed a free throw in three games (six for six).  The free throw stat is probably a mirage, but the rebounding and blocks are very real.  Henson is a huge defensive presence on North Carolina’s front line.  With Chris Singleton injured, I think he’s close to a lock for ACC defensive player of the year (at least he should be).  North Carolina has the second-ranked defense according to Ken Pomeroy, and Henson’s length deserves a lot of credit.

Power Rankings

1.  Duke (26-3, 12-2) barely edges out the Tar Heels this week.  The Blue Devils crushed Temple (a top 25 foe) at home this week before the loss to desperate Virginia Tech.  The game at North Carolina should be great.  I think Duke is marginally better, but the Dean Dome is going to be huge for North Carolina.  Mason Plumlee, especially has looked much better for Duke recently.  He’s quietly shooting almost 60% from the field (albeit on mainly dunks), and nearly averaging double digit rebounds.  He’ll be crucial in dealing with North Carolina’s length Saturday night.

2.  North Carolina (22-6, 12-2) can claim the top seed in the ACC Tournament with a win over Duke Saturday.  This team plays really well in spurts (cliche alert: it’s a game of runs), but there are still problems.  I think Roy Williams needs to trim his lineup down a little bit: the constant substitutions kill offensive flow for the Heels, especially early in a half.  Kendall Marshall still has a tendency to force things sometimes, but he makes the Tar Heels absolutely lethal in transition.  Look for Duke to try and force him to score.

3.  Virginia Tech (19-8, 9-5) isn’t out of the woods yet.  Don’t test the selection committee!

4.  Florida State (20-8, 10-4) is playing surprisingly well without Chris Singleton.  Yes, they got spanked at College Park this week, but really Leonard Hamilton has to be thrilled with the way his squad has adapted without its best defender and primary scoring option.  One possible wrench in the above plan for North Carolina stealing the top spot from under Duke is Florida State knocking off the Tar Heels in Tallahassee.  Without Singleton it will be difficult, but if North Carolina’s offense vaguely resembles what it trotted out against Boston College, Florida State is in the gold.

5.  Clemson (19-9, 8-6) needs a decent run in the ACC Tournament if it wants to make the Big Dance.  Though if Duke is willing to help another bubble team out Wednesday, that would help too.  Clemson’s other game is against Virginia Tech (bubble on bubble brawl), which is a must-win for both teams.  Regardless of what ends up happening, Brad Brownell has done a tremendous job with this team.  Give him a couple of years, and Clemson will be back on the right side of the bubble.  This is a team most people picked much lower in the preseason.

6.  Maryland (18-11, 7-7) is probably out of the bubble picture after its loss to North Carolina, which is really a shame.  The Terps are clearly good enough to be a tournament team, they just couldn’t win games (somewhat of an oxymoron, I know).  Maryland closes out the season with games at Miami and against Virginia.  But Terrell Stoglin has really improved.  He’s averaging over twenty points a game over his last six games (with three games of at least 25 points).  Between him and Jordan Williams (who should come back, as he’s a little slow and undersized for the next level), they’ll be really good.  Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if Maryland gets a decent draw and goes to the finals of the ACC Tournament this year (which would probably draw a bid to the Big Dance in the process, assuming the run included a win over North Carolina or Duke).

7.  Boston College (17-11, 7-7) lost to Miami this week.  That’s no way to sell an already lacking mediocre resume to the committee.  Reggie Jackson is a tremendous player; Joe Trapani makes a great right-hand man; and Corey Raji is one of the most undervalued offensive players in the ACC this year.  But for whatever reason, Boston College struggles to bring a consistent product to the floor.  One thing the Eagles really need to do during the offseason is try and get students excited about the team.  Boston College has good players, a good coach in Steve Donahue, and is probably just on the wrong side of the bubble: how can it not attract students to the games?

8.  Miami (17-12, 5-9) completed its season sweep of Boston College before losing to Florida State.  If Reggie Johnson can stay out of foul trouble, the Hurricanes are a very difficult team to beat.  They still need to make the transition from “tough out” to “favorite”, but I like Johnson, Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott a lot.

9.  Virginia (14-14, 5-9) picked up a win against Georgia Tech on the road before falling to a Boston College team desperate to improve its resume.  This week looks like another split week between a very winnable game against NC State and a tough one at Maryland.

10. NC State (15-13, 5-9) lost to North Carolina before beating Georgia Tech.  State fans still react negatively when Sidney Lowe chooses to play Javier Gonzalez over Ryan Harrow.  Credit the upperclassmen for a great game against Georgia Tech though: Tracy Smith and Scott Wood combined for 38 points on 20 field goals.  That’s efficiency.

11. Georgia Tech (11-17, 3-11) should just count down the days till the end of the season.

12. Wake Forest (8-21, 1-13) shoots free throws pretty well (second in the ACC at 73.6%).  Everything else?  Not so much.  Actually, the youth is promising, so there’s that, too.

A Look Ahead

  • Tuesday Bubble Struggle: Boston College at Virginia Tech (9:00PM, ESPNU) – The Hokies fight to stay on the right side of the bubble while Boston College faces a win-or-go-to-the-NIT (probably) game.  Should be fun to watch.  Keep an eye on Reggie Jackson and Malcolm Delaney.
  • Wednesday Upset Watch: North Carolina at Florida State (7:00PM, ESPN) – Can the Chris Singleton-less Seminoles knock off the streaking Tar Heels?  It’s possible, especially if the Tar Heels are missing shots from the outside.  The question is whether Florida State has any way to keep John Henson and Tyler Zeller off the boards.
  • Primetime Saturday: Virginia Tech at Clemson (12:00PM, ESPN2) – Another battle for the bubble showcasing Virginia Tech.  I’m not sure Clemson is cut out for the Big Dance this year, but a win here keeps them in the conversation.
  • Rivalry Rematch: Duke at North Carolina (Saturday, 8:00PM, CBS) – For the first time in the rivalry’s storied history, it’s coming to primetime.  This really should be a pick ‘em game.  Neither team can afford to get off to a slow start.  UNC needs to keep Duke cold from the perimeter, and Duke needs to not look soft inside.  My pick: Duke in a very close one on the back of Nolan Smith.
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ATB: Marshon Madness

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2011

The Lede.  It’s Wednesday night, so that of course meant a lot of action around the country tonight.  From a new conference scoring record to a ridiculous banked buzzer-beater to an unfortunate injury to a star player, it’s all here tonight.  We have to jump in, though, with a performance by a guy who doesn’t get much in the way of pub, but who has put together an outstanding season for his school in the toughest environment in the country.

Feet Set, Shoulders Square... (ProJo/R. Perez)

Your Watercooler MomentMarshon’s Moment.  It’s been a trying year for Marshon Brooks and his Providence Friars.  In any number of other leagues, PC might have been good enough to finish in the top third and make a legitimate run at the NCAA Tournament.  Not so in the Big East.  The Friars have struggled through a 3-12 conference season after a solid 11-2 non-conference slate which was short on quality wins but long on confidence.  In many ways, tonight’s one-point loss to Notre Dame, 94-93, was a microcosm of a year that has included a number of close losses to good teams.  Senior Marshon Brooks did his best to change that fortune tonight, dropping a historic 52-point night on the Irish, including an absurd 35 points in the second half, to give his team a realistic chance to pull off the upset.  The victory didn’t happen, but Brooks’ performance was one for the ages, representing the best scoring output in a Big East regular season game EVER.  Considering the number and quality of players who have come through this league, it’s fairly amazing that Brooks now owns this record.  His he-man sized performance matches Lamar guard Mike James’ surprising 52-point effort back in early January (remember him? — he’s only scored 131 points since!) for the best scoring night of 2010-11, and without question tonight at the Dunk will be an evening that the fans and players in attendance will never forget.  For a team going nowhere fast this season, sometimes it’s moments of individual glory such as these that give a team something to hang its hat on.

Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. IIJosh Gasser, I-Banker.  Josh Gasser, a freshman guard on the Wisconsin Badgers, ended up with the ball in his hands after his teammate and star player, Jordan Taylor, was double-teamed on the last possession.  Down two, he fired away from long range, banking the ball into the basket and causing a fit of Badger mayhem at center court after the ball fell through the net.  Sometimes it’s just your year, and sometimes it’s not.  The home team, Michigan, has taken much more of the latter than the former, losing multiple close games that have put John Beilein’s Wolverines squarely on the thin side of the bubble.  Bo Ryan’s team, on the other hand, continues to win games to pressure Purdue and Ohio State in the Big Ten race; with the nation’s most efficient offense and the occasional stroke of luck as performed by Gasser tonight, the Badgers are going to be a major headache for teams that face them this postseason.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

A lot has happened the past two weeks, so let’s tackle it in chronological order and we’ll sum things up at the end.

  • Duke and North Carolina lived up to the hype.  Last year just didn’t feel right with the games being lopsided.  Kendall Marshall is probably the best passer from halfcourt I’ve ever seen.  He’s not fast, but he pushes the ball up the court just as fast as Ty Lawson or Raymond Felton but he dishes from halfcourt instead of right around the basket.  Marshall looked terrific in the first half against Duke, killing the Blue Devils on long rebounds which turned into quick points in transition and in halfcourt sets.  Duke finally managed to neutralize him by playing the passing lanes in the second half and forcing him to score first and pass second.  The other Carolina player that impressed me is John Henson.  I’ve never been huge on Henson: he’s always struck me as a soft player that you should just back down.  Why face up against him and allow him to use his length to alter your shot when you can back him down?  But the more games I watch, the more shots I see Henson affect.  The infusion of Kendall Marshall’s lobs has also made Henson much more dangerous on the offensive end.  On Duke’s side of the rivalry, Seth Curry deserves some props for his recent play.  Curry has been outstanding lately, becoming a legitimate third option and giving Nolan Smith some valuable time to work off the ball.  This Duke team definitely has flaws, but if it plays like it did in the second half against Carolina, there aren’t many teams in the country that could keep pace.

Bubble Trouble: With only Duke and North Carolina representing the ACC in the “lock” category–though I’m inclined to put Florida State in assuming it wins two of its remaining four games (11-5 in the ACC with a win over Duke has to be enough, right?)–there are a lot of teams still working towards at-large bids.  Perennial bubbler Virginia Tech leads the way, closely followed by Clemson, Boston College and Maryland.  Only the Seminoles and Hokies managed a winning record during the last two weeks.  Here’s a recap of those on the Bubble:

  • Florida State went 3-0 against arguably the worst teams in the conference.
  • Virginia Tech went 2-1, slaughtering Georgia Tech and beating Maryland at home, allowing Virginia to complete the sweep on the season before dispatching Wake Forest.
  • Clemson beat Boston College (a huge game, bubble-wise), barely lost in Chapel Hill, inexplicably lost at NC State before beating Miami on the road.
  • Boston College lost at Clemson, beat Maryland and barely lost at North Carolina.
  • Maryland slaughtered Longwood in a meaningless nonconference game, lost at Boston College, lost at Virginia Tech and barely beat NC State at home.

Add all of that up and you get Florida State sitting at 9-3 in ACC play, Virginia Tech and Clemson suffering horrible losses, Boston College avoiding marquee wins and Maryland continuing to avoid any wins that might be described as decent.  Ouch.  Not a good week for the ACC bubble.  Past Florida State, I think all of these teams need a significant ACC Tournament run (Maryland and Boston College might need to win the whole thing at this point).  Conceivably, the ACC could have three teams in the tournament if no one steps up down the stretch.  That’s pathetic for a conference that prides itself on basketball greatness (or really any major conference aside from the Pac-10 or SEC).

As for injuries, Chris Singleton hurt his foot in the game against Virginia.  You can’t overstate Singleton’s importance for the Seminoles: he’s one of the best on-ball defenders in the country and he’s their primary scoring option.  His versatility allows him to shut down the opposing team’s best player at the two, three or four.  This gives the selection committee a lot to think about with Florida State.  Without Singleton, this is a very different team.  At the same time, a favorable schedule will mean it probably closes out the season at 11-5 in conference play.  Personally, I think the Seminoles will squeak by barring a collapse of epic proportions, but the injury certainly opens the door for a lot more questions.  Kyrie Irving is back in the news after a couple of optimistic tweets about his injury: from Saturday: “Rehab going really well…I’m getting that feeling back!!! Yessir”; from Monday: “I’m definitely op(toe)mistic!!”.  Jeff Goodman of later tweeted: “Getting mixed reports on whether he [Irving] will return. Tough to say yet.”  Essentially, no one knows anything (largely because Duke has been so quiet in the matter), but things are sounding much more optimistic.

Player of the Week: Nolan Smith has been tremendous in ACC play.  Currently, he’s averaging almost 22 points per game with more than five assists and just under five rebounds.  He’s on pace to be the only player ever to lead the ACC in scoring and assists for a season.  Against North Carolina, he had 34 (22 in the second half), good for his season high.  He also put up 18, 22 and 28 points in wins at Miami, at Virginia and against Georgia Tech.  Smith puts up gaudy tempo-free numbers too, posting the fifth-highest offensive rating among players used in more than 28% of their team’s possessions.  You might recognize a couple of household names right below him: Jimmer Fredette (8) and Kemba Walker (9).  I suspect we won’t see a unanimous national player of the year like last year, but Smith has certainly put himself in that top group (that should probably include Arizona’s Derrick Williams too).

Team of the Week: Duke.  I just can’t give the award to a Florida State team that beat Georgia Tech, Virginia (at home) and Wake, so that leaves the Blue Devils.  Ever since the St. John’s beating (which doesn’t look nearly as bad now), Duke has played at a much higher level–especially on the defensive end.  Duke did get off to a very shaky start against North Carolina, but good teams make adjustments and win games (which Mike Krzyzewski did).  My one concern with this team right now is its consistent struggle stopping penetration.  That’s going to be crucial during the NCAA Tournament.  Mason and Miles Plumlee need to be better at coming to help stop the drive (and I don’t mean by committing stupid reaching fouls).  But other than that, Duke is one of the best teams in the country with the top spot in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings to prove it.  Side note: the Blue Devils also sport top rankings in both polls, though their current resume lags behind Pittsburgh and Ohio State.

Bizarro Team of the Week: Maryland.  Frankly, the Terps are trying to steal the season’s award out from under Wake Forest’s feet.  Watching a Maryland game is one of the most frustrating things you can do: there’s clearly a good deal of talent on the roster, but they fold in the second half of every game.  It’s unbelievable.  Only two of Maryland’s losses have come by double digits (against Virginia Tech and Duke), but the Terps don’t have anything resembling a good win (best two are against Penn State and College of Charleston).  Jordan Williams can’t do everything, but I could’ve sworn Gary Williams would have found a way to win close games by now.

Power Rankings

1.  Duke (25-2, 12-1) is in a real battle for a one-seed with Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Texas, Kansas and the winner of BYU and San Diego State.  With only four to go around, two of these teams are going to make very dangerous two seeds.  I think Duke is in control of its own destiny in that if the Blue Devils win out, I think they’re a lock for the top line (wins against Temple, Virginia Tech and at North Carolina plus whoever they face in the conference tournament would dramatically improver its resume).  I think Duke can probably get away with losing at North Carolina, provided that’s the only slip-up.  Any more than that and Duke will need some major help from the other contenders.

2.  North Carolina (20-6, 10-2) showed it’s not quite all the way back to contender status after coughing up a huge first half lead at Duke.  But I think the Tar Heels have a great shot to get revenge when Duke comes to Chapel Hill if they play with the same tenacity.  The UNC that barely beat Clemson and coasted to a home win over Wake can’t show up, though.

3.  Florida State (19-7, 9-3) needs to keep winning.  I think 2-2 is enough in these last four games, but it definitely couldn’t hurt to steal one either at Maryland or home against North Carolina.  Derwin Kitchen is going to be the key player for the Seminoles moving forward without Singleton.

4.  Virginia Tech (18-8, 8-5) needs to learn to win games it’s supposed to.  The Hokies had no business losing to Virginia to start ACC play, and they had no business losing to them last week.  Those are the games that force Seth Greenberg to sit through sweaty and heartbreaking Selection Sundays.  A win against Duke could help make up for the bad losses.

5.  Clemson (18-9, 7-6) took a feather from Virginia Tech’s cap by losing at NC State last week.  Brad Brownell has done a great job in his first year, but the Tigers will be on the wrong side of the bubble with any more losses like that.  I think the final game against Virginia Tech will be as big as any game for the Tigers this season.  Clemson has a similar problem to other ACC bubble teams: no real marquee wins.  No offense to College of Charleston and Florida State, but the Tigers need to find another one before exiting the ACC Tournament.

6.  Boston College (16-10, 6-6) is close to cooked between too many bad losses and just not that many good wins (Texas A&M can only carry you so far).  This roster looks better on paper than in person right now, although Reggie Jackson is one of the best players in the conference.

7.  Maryland (17-10, 6-6) is a team with tons of potential, but very little execution.  If Jordan Williams doesn’t declare for the draft, though, look out for the Terps next year.

8.  Virginia (13-13, 4-8) would’ve been a much scarier team without Mike Scott’s injury.  This team will never be the most fun to watch, but Tony Bennett looks like he’s got the program moving in the right direction.  And they did sweep Virginia Tech.

9.  NC State (14-12, 4-8) is one of my biggest disappointments of the season.  I thought the Wolfpack had the talent to compete for second in the ACC with Florida State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina.  I still do.  But for whatever reason, Sidney Lowe can’t capitalize.  This team shows flashes of brilliance that make you wonder what might have been.  I don’t blame Lowe entirely, but someone has to be held accountable for his thus far underachieving tenure.

10. Miami (16-11, 4-8) have had all of its conference games decided by seven points or less, except for two double-digit losses to Duke (by ten and eleven points).  Miami’s record looks far worse than it should, which is why I think they could be very dangerous come the ACC tournament and next season.  Durand Scott, Malcolm Grant and Reggie Johnson are only getting better.

11. Georgia Tech (11-15, 3-9) has three conference wins including one against North Carolina and one against Virginia Tech?  The Yellow Jackets have talent, but right now it doesn’t fit together.  The biggest problem is a total inability to win away from home (literally zero road wins this season).

12. Wake Forest (8-20, 1-12) is officially the worst major conference team, according to Ken Pomeroy (number 249 as I write this).  The good news is things can only go up from here.  The big problem with the Deacs right now is defense.  When they hold opponents under a point per possession, they generally win (only one loss comes with a defensive efficiency rating of less than 100, and that’s a 99.1 against Gonzaga).  This team is still very young.

A Look Ahead

Wednesday, February 23:

  • Temple at Duke (7:00 PM, ESPN2) – Duke gets a shot at another top 25 opponent when the Owls come to Cameron Wednesday night in Coach K’s annual “strong mid-major we could see in the NCAA’s” game.  Look out for Lavoy Allen and Ramone Moore, who are both outstanding players in the A-10.
  • Florida State at Maryland (9:00 PM, ACC Network) – This game features the country’s fourth and 11th best defenses according to Ken Pomeroy in what is probably Maryland’s last gasp for an at-large (interestingly enough the ACC has defenses ranked 2, 3, 4, 11 and 18 in Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Maryland and Clemson).

Saturday, February 26:

  • Duke at Virginia Tech (9:00 PM, ESPN) – This is a huge chance for the Hokies to pick up a marquee win and close to seal their trip to the Big Dance.  Jeff Allen will be key, as he should be able to have his way with Duke’s often soft interior.  The best match-up will definitely be Nolan Smith and Malcolm Delaney (who is right behind Smith in scoring and assists).

Sunday, February 27:

  • Maryland at North Carolina (7:45 PM, FSN) – In another match-up featuring excellent defense, Maryland takes on North Carolina.  The most interesting part of this game will be to watch Jordan Williams take on Tyler Zeller and John Henson.  North Carolina’s bigs have looked soft, and Williams is liable to put up a monster night.
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The Week That Was: Feb. 8-14

Posted by jstevrtc on February 15th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.


What a weekend. We’re still reeling from the Saturday’s chaos in Madison. It’s always a bittersweet day when the final undefeated team in the nation suffers its first loss. Do you think the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers pop champagne and toast themselves every year once that game clock hits 0:00 and their legacy is preserved for one more year? Sure, they aren’t the ’72 Dolphins, but we easily could picture Bobby Knight smirking to himself and lighting a cigar after Ohio State’s loss at Wisconsin. 

What We Learned

Taylor May Be the Most Talk-About Player In America Right Now

Ohio State wasn’t an invincible juggernaut and we already knew that. OSU endured close calls earlier the season against Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State, Illinois and Northwestern. It wasn’t a matter of if Ohio State would suffer its first loss, it was a matter of when some team would rise up and topple the Buckeyes. Cue the Wisconsin Badgers. Jordan Taylor exploded in the second half scoring 21 of his 27 points to lead Wisconsin to a come from behind win and an all-time RTC. But here at TWTW, we’re not as interested in single game scenarios; we focus on the big picture. So in their win, did the Badgers show the nation a blueprint for beating the Buckeyes? The main quality a team needs in order to emulate what the Badgers did against OSU is offensive efficiency. Ohio State is the #12 team in the nation at forcing turnovers, causing them on 25% of opponents’ possessions. Wisconsin values the ball more than any other team in the NCAA, turning it over on just 13.6% of its possessions, and on Saturday the Badgers had just eight turnovers. Of course it doesn’t take a genius to point out that fewer turnovers increases your win probability. But what’s harder to duplicate is the Badgers’ enigmatic guard. Taylor pretty much single-handedly propelled Wisconsin to the upset. Few clubs have a guard capable of putting up that many points that quickly. So while opposing coaches can point to Saturday’s outcome merely as proof that OSU is beatable, it’s difficult to emulate the Badgers’ winning formula. Here’s the best recipe for beating a highly ranked Ohio State squad: schedule the game in Madison. Neither the OSU football nor basketball teams are invulnerable to the powers of Bucky Badger.

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ATB: Wisconsin — Center of the Sporting Universe?

Posted by rtmsf on February 14th, 2011

The Lede.  Who knew that a medium-sized flyover state known more for its brats and cheese could become the center of the American sports universe, even if just for a bit?  But with the top ten seasons of both the Wisconsin Badger football and basketball teams (now including victories over #1 Ohio State in both sports), plus a little Super Bowl-winning team a couple hours to the northeast in Green Bay, a fair argument could be made, couldn’t it?  This too shall pass, but what will not is that Bo Ryan is an unbelievable coach and we should just go ahead and slot his teams into the top twenty every season regardless of the personnel he has returning.  Honestly, it’s getting a little ridiculous just how successful this guy is year after year.

Jordan Taylor: King of Madison, Wisconsin (Cap Times/A. Mertz)

Your Watercooler MomentUnbeaten Ohio State Goes Down.  When the nation’s #1 team dunks, bombs and outmuscles you in your house on its way to a fifteen-point lead in the second half, most teams wilt as quickly as those flowers you bought for your girlfriend surely will about 48 hours from now.  Wisconsin does not wilt.  In fact, the Badgers don’t even bend much, at least not in their Big 10 House of Horrors known as the Kohl Center.  Matching like with like, Bo Ryan’s team simply upped its resolve, made some stops and ripped off a 15-0 run of its own (ten points by Jordan Taylor) to tie the game at the 9:49 mark.  The last ten minutes of this game represented some of the most exciting basketball of the season, with each team taking turns showing how to score until Taylor (and his 24/4/7 assts) created some separation with his fifth three-pointer of the game at the 5:34 mark.  From that point on, it was clear that the Badgers were going to win the game and put an end to the Buckeyes’ unbeaten season, in much the same way that their football counterparts had last October 16 at Camp Randall Stadium.  When OSU cut the lead to two with just under a minute to go, it was the floppy-haired Mike Bruesewitz direct from central casting who shot-faked and nailed a ginormous three to effectively salt the game away and set the Kohl Center on fire.  At the end of the game, there was the obligatory RTC, as it was only the second time in history that the Badgers had knocked off a #1 team, and this particular OSU team was also the last remaining unbeaten.  Full and complete coverage of the court was achieved, as viewed in the video below.  Well done, Badgers.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

  • Pitt Without Ashton Gibbs.  It was one thing to win the Backyard Brawl without Ashton Gibbs on the floor last Monday night; but to waltz into the Pavilion on ESPN Gameday and beat the Wildcats in their on-campus building where they had not lost in four years?  Very impressive work, Panthers.  We realize that Villanova played with Corey Stokes as well, but on this night it was Jamie Dixon’s team who was simply tougher than Jay Wright’s.  The physical play and three technical fouls as a result are characteristic of Pitt’s wheelhouse, and when push came to shove, it was the Panthers showing that they are indeed the Big East’s best team and a possible #1 seed next month.  Their toughest remaining game is a trip to Louisville, but would it surprise anyone if the Panthers ran the table the rest of the way to 17-1?
  • Norris Cole’s He-Man Game.  20/10 nights are damn impressive in the college game, but try doubling it.  Norris Cole became just the second player in the last fifteen seasons to drop a 40/20 in a single game — and the other was an athletic specimen you might have heard of named Blake Griffin (40/23 against Texas Tech in 2009).  Cole went for an absurd 41/20/9 assts against Youngstown State on Saturday, leaving us to wonder if he also ran the sound system, operated the scoring table and mopped up the soda residue and popcorn stains afterward.  Sheesh…  We know that Cole has had a handful (three, to be exact) of double-figure rebounding games this season, but how a 6’2, 170-pounder can pull down twenty makes no sense to us — he’s up for the Cousy Award as the best point guard in America, and with Cleveland State near the top of the Horizon League standings, let’s all hope that we get to see this kid play on the biggest stage this March.
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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

ACC storylines abound this week.  Duke embarrassed by a bubble-worthy Saint John’s team in the normally friendly Madison Square Garden; North Carolina finally got some hype-worthy play out of Harrison Barnes as they solidify their runner-up status; Maryland won a couple of near must-win conference road games to stay in the hunt for an at-large bid; Florida State showcased the offense that lost to Auburn in a hideous defeat at Clemson; Virginia Tech joined the ranks of ACC squads to lose big in Atlanta; Boston College was forced to play in Cameron Indoor; Georgia Tech sniffed the top half of the conference before Brian Oliver’s untimely injury left them undermanned against the Terps; NC State continued its quest to remind Wolfpack nation why they should have never run off Herb Sendek; Miami upped its resume as the unluckiest team in the conference to notch two more losses by less than five points (their fifth in conference play); Wake Forest booted their potentially historically bad legacy with their first conference win; and Virginia rapidly progressed towards the team we thought they would be to start the season.

As you can see, the ACC–and really college basketball as a whole–creates a wild landscape.  Yes you have your leaders (Duke in the ACC; Ohio State and Texas in their respective conferences), your disappointments (Virginia Tech still qualifies; nationally, Kansas State fits the bill) and your stragglers (Wake Forest joins Auburn and DePaul).  But as last week showed (the top 25 went 22-20), anything can happen.

Player of the Week: Nolan Smith’s team may have left their defense and three-point shooting in Durham, but he played like a star.  Kyle Singler came into this season with all of the POY hype, but people should have looked at Nolan Smith.  Yes, Smith is still behind Kemba Walker (he’s closing that gap), Jimmer Fredette and probably Jared Sullinger (who, no offense, is starting to feel like the Mark Ingram “best player on the best team” Heisman).  But he’s at least gaining on Walker and Sullinger.  The ugly loss at St. John’s didn’t do Smith any favors, but to his credit, he was outstanding.  This week, Smith averaged 30 points and six assists between the two games (and probably should have had more assists in the Saint John’s game, but as Tim Brando would say “the iron was unkind” to his teammates).  Smith has really picked up as much slack left by Kyrie Irving as anyone could have hoped, forced to move into an on the ball position.  He currently leads the ACC in both points and assists per game, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  No, Smith isn’t the most athletic player on the court.  But he’s still a very good shooter with the ability to create his own shot while remaining the primary facilitator.  To really have a chance at the award Smith needs Fredette to cool off, Walker to stay in his slump, and run the table in conference play.  Likely?  No, but it’s possible.

Team of the Week: Maryland finally may be living up to its statistical hype, after two very strong road wins over Virginia (66-42) and Georgia Tech (74-63).  Those wins won’t go a long way in making a resume much better, but they keep it from getting worse.  I’m still not entirely sure why this team hasn’t gotten into a groove: it has plenty of talent and a great coach.  I know the guard play leaves a little to be desired, but between Terrell Stoglin, Adrian Bowie and Pe’Shon Howard, Gary Williams should find someone who can effectively run the offense.  To say that Wednesday’s game at home against Duke will be a big game will be an understatement.  Duke looks like it’s skidding, and Maryland looks like it may be getting things together.  While it’s not a must-win for either team, everyone knows how much Maryland hates to lose to Duke.

Bizarro Team of the Week: Virginia came down to earth this week with ugly losses to Maryland and at Wake Forest.  Yes, the Cavaliers gave the Demon Deacons their first conference win and for that alone deserve this week’s award.  The Cavaliers allowed Wake its second most potent offensive performance of the season, largely because Wake hit nine of 19 from beyond the arc and got offensive production out of almost everyone with six players in double figures.  I don’t think this is a sign that Wake is turning things around (though hopefully it’s steadily improving) so much as Virginia falling into its place near the bottom of the conference without Mike Scott.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (19-2, 6-1) took one on the chin at Madison Square Garden, but don’t overreact.  St. John’s played its best game of the season and Duke played its worst.  Going into the game, Duke as a team was shooting 40% from three.  They started the St. John’s game 1-22.  Some were forced, but no more than usual.  This team (like most Duke teams) relies very heavily on jump shots, and some nights, they just won’t fall.  Duke’s defense left much more cause for concern.  The Blue Devils couldn’t find a way to stop St. John’s penetration and backdoor cuts to save their lives.  Mike Krzyzewski cited effort (and St. John’s playing a beautiful game) afterwards, but giving up more than 90 points is always cause for concern.
  2. North Carolina (15-5, 5-1) has quietly moved into second with wins over Miami (on the road) and NC State.  And look out, because Roy Williams has started playing Kendall Marshall at point, and Harrison Barnes is starting to live up to his potential (at least some of it).  Barnes has scored in double figures in five of six conference games and hit huge shots along the way.  In the Miami win, Barnes scored the last five points for UNC in the final minute and change to tie the game and then take the lead for good.
  3. Maryland (14-7, 4-3) looks like they may be getting things together.  Duke’s trip to College Park Wednesday should tell us a lot more. See this week’s “Team of the Week” section above for an in-depth update on the Terps.
  4. Florida State (15-6, 5-2) is one of the most frustrating teams in the country.  When Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen are playing well, the Seminoles are very tough to beat.  Unfortunately, they don’t run any real offensive sets.  So when Kitchen and Singleton are not creating their own shots, this team struggles to put up fifty.  Leonard Hamilton’s teams are notoriously good on defense, but they’re looking worse and worse on offense.  I’m not sure if that’s because of player personnel or coaching personnel, but I’d definitely start thinking about trying to pick up an offensive minded coach during the offseason.
  5. Clemson (15-6, 4-3) beat NC State and Florida State convincingly at home.  You can’t overstate what a great job Brad Brownell has done with this team.  While they may end up on the wrong side of Selection Sunday, the Tigers have really impressed me at times this season.  By the way, Clemson has impressed Ken Pomeroy too: they’re 29th in his ratings.
  6. Virginia Tech (14-6, 4-3) seemed to be on the right track before going and losing to Georgia Tech.  This team is still puzzling.  They’ve had a ton of injuries, but that’s not it.  When the Hokies are effective offensively, they win (12-0 when they score more than a point per possession).  When they’re not, they lose (2-6 when they don’t).  That might not be all that surprising, but you would think a team with that many veterans would be a little more consistent offensively.  Despite their inconsistency, Ken Pomeroy has the Hokies ranked 31st.
  7. Boston College (14-7, 4-3) can’t really take too much heat for losing in Durham.  They need Reggie Jackson to be a factor to beat good teams.  But they’ve lost three out of four, so they’ll really need to at least split with Virginia Tech and North Carolina.  Unfortunately for the Eagles, they’re projected to lose their next five games.
  8. Georgia Tech (10-10, 3-4) is a puzzling team to me.  They don’t get to the free throw line (despite very aggressive guards) and they can’t shoot.  There’s no reason Iman Shumpert, Glen Rice, Brian Oliver and Mfon Udofia shouldn’t be able to get to the line at will.  They’re all tall (at least 6’5 except Udofia) and athletic, which creates huge mismatches for most teams.  Why even settle for threes?
  9. NC State (12-9, 2-5) has lost five of their last six only sporting wins over Wake and Miami in conference play.  To say this team has underachieved would be sugar-coating it.  There is no reason this squad shouldn’t have made the NCAA Tournament.  None.  They have good guards (albeit young) and great post presence.  I don’t see any way State hangs on to Sidney Lowe after this disaster.
  10. Miami (12-9, 1-6) may be the unluckiest team in basketball.  If not for a one point win over Boston College, it would be defeated in conference play.  The last five Hurricane games have been decided by a total of 12 points.  Miami lost four of those games.  Hopefully Frank Haith can turn things around with home games against Virginia and Georgia Tech this week.
  11. Wake Forest (8-13, 1-5) is out of the cellar for the week!  Offensive balance and good shooting ruled the day in Winston-Salem.  I’m not sure I see any more great shots at a win left on the schedule (though you should never bet on NC State or Georgia Tech on the road), so it’s good that the Demon Deacons got a win when they did.  Things can only go up from here.
  12. Virginia (11-10, 2-5) fell to a desperate Wake Forest team looking for its first conference win to fall to one and five in their last six games.

A Look Ahead

  • Tuesday Blizzard Warning: North Carolina at Boston College (9:00 PM, ACC Network)
  • Wednesday Upset Watch: Duke at Maryland (9:00 PM, ESPN)
  • Sunday Ticket: Florida State at North Carolina (2:00 PM, FSN)
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Morning Five: 01.27.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 27th, 2011

  1. If you watched the TexasOklahoma State game you probably heard the Tom Friend article about the Oklahoms State plane crash that happened 10 years ago today mentioned approximately a million times, and if you paid attention during the broadcast, you probably know what the article says, but we still highly recommend that you check it out if you haven’t already.
  2. In light of last night’s Jimmer-fest on Twitter, it is worth taking a look at Michael Rothstein’s Player of the Year straw poll that was conducted before last night’s game. Kemba Walker is the runaway winner when these “ballots” were sent in. We are interested in seeing what happens with the voting after Jimmer Fredette‘s performance last night, but we are more interested in knowing which 4, 5, and 8 voters left Walker, Fredette, and Jared Sullinger out of the top three respectively. I think this might merit a Gary Parrish “Poll Attack,” particularly if someone left two or — gasp! — all three of them out of the top three.
  3. Some of you may remember our recent post about Roy Williams criticizing callers on his radio show for questioning what the team was doing. We figured the entire thing would blow over in a few days and that the UNC administration would try to pretend that the incident never happened, based on the fact that they wouldn’t comment on it, and said they wouldn’t even contact Williams for a comment on it. It turns out that we were wrong, because apparently someone of enough importance was upset enough with the comments that Williams issued an apology. [Ed. Note: We really doubt that Williams did this without a significant push from someone higher up, and, at a school like UNC, there aren’t too many people with that kind of power.]
  4. Even though most of the country has been focused on the Ohio States and Dukes of the world (ok, and the Jimmers), one of the most interesting developments this season has been Gonzaga‘s precipitous decline. Even though they have plenty of talent, Mark Few‘s squad hasn’t managed to put it together and now it looks like St. Mary’s might be the team to finally knock Gonzaga off, and, as Ann Killion points out, the next few games are going to be huge for the Gaels. If they win those games, the WCC crown might be moving down the Pacific Coast for at least one season.
  5. Finally, we try not to link to ESPN Insider articles if possible because we know many of you don’t have access, but we enjoy some of these Conference Voices columns that they are putting out. Sometimes the execution doesn’t match the idea, but the recent column by Chris Singleton about how FSU views being ranked and whether or not they consider it important. His assertion that beating Duke was a bigger deal than losing to Auburn is interesting and worth reading.
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The Week That Was: Jan. 17-Jan. 24

Posted by jstevrtc on January 25th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Get ready college hoops fanatics. Get ready for the stampede of casual fans that are about to crash the sports bars once the NFL season comes to a close. They’ll have to find something for their sports fix and they’ll turn to college basketball. So be prepared for people asking things like, “Who’s that big guy for Ohio State? He looks pretty good.” Or “San Diego State’s in the top five? Really?!?” Just try to smile and nod at those fools. No need to let them ruin the season’s stretch run.

What We Learned

TWTW Loves Jimmer and Kawhi, But Prefers E'Twaun and the Boilers Traveling to Columbus This Week

Even with SDSU and BYU squaring off on Wednesday, TWTW feels that if there’s only one game you watch this week, make sure it’s Purdue at Ohio State, tonight at 9pm ET. Matt Painter’s squad is one of our favorites and TWTW thinks they’re a good bet to pull off the upset. Purdue rebounded from back-to-back losses at Minnesota and West Virginia to grind out a win over a plucky Penn State squad and then took care of business against reeling Michigan State. It would have been easy for the Boilermakers to fold at the first sign of trouble this season. They have the built-in excuse of Robbie Hummel’s injury, and no one really believed they could sustain their early-season success once they hit the meat of their schedule, but seniors JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore wouldn’t let that two-game losing streak turn into a prolonged swoon. Johnson scored 25 points in the win over PSU, while Moore poured in 26 against the Spartans.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.21-01.23

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Almost all of the action is on Saturday but what a day it will be. A couple of huge games start us off right away at noon but the rest of the day will not disappoint. It’s very unfortunate but #21 St. Mary’s @ #23 Vanderbilt is not on television and neither is Belmont at East Tennessee State on Sunday, a battle for first in the Atlantic Sun. You obviously won’t be able to watch those games unless you’re attending but definitely check and see how they play out. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#1 Ohio State @ #18 Illinois – 12 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

Sylvester and the Buckeyes Had the Last Laugh When Illinois Was #1 in 2005

It should be a crazy environment in Champaign on Saturday when the #1 team in the land pays a visit. Illinois is having a good year but probably not as good as some of the more optimistic Illini fans would have hoped. That can change in a big way with a marquee win over the Buckeyes. You’ll recall what happened almost six years ago in Columbus. Illinois was #1 at 29-0 on the last day of the regular season and lost on a Matt Sylvester three with five seconds to play as the unranked Buckeyes knocked off the eventual national runner up. By the way: Gus Johnson was working that one in 2005 and he’ll be in Champaign on Saturday if you even needed another reason to tune in.

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The Week That Was: Jan. 11-Jan. 17

Posted by jstevrtc on January 18th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Only three undefeated teams are left in the nation after Duke and Syracuse suffered their first losses of the season within the past week. Who will be the next team to go down? Ohio State travels to Illinois on Saturday and Kansas hosts Texas. TWTW wouldn’t be shocked if San Diego State is the only unbeaten team remaining in this space next week.

What We Learned

Kemba Walker Is The Governor: He Always Saves You At the Last Moment (J. Woike/Hartford Courant)

When ESPN uses its full arsenal, it can put on a great day of college basketball. Monday (in honor of MLK Day) ESPN had a 24 Hours of Hoops Lite. They gave us four great games, three of which pitted two teams in the top 25 against each other, while the other featured a nice matchup in Kansas-Baylor.

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