ACC Game On: 02.28.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on February 28th, 2012

We are in the home stretch of the regular season. It would be sad if that didn’t mean that tournament play is in the air. After a high stakes weekend where Miami made its case for the big tournament while Virginia and North Carolina State faltered at a critical moment, this week kicks off with a fairly lopsided matchup.

The Infernal Showdown

  • #7 Duke at Wake Forest at 9:00 PM on ESPNU

The last true road game of the season for Duke, the Blue Devils need to win this game to contend for a #1 seed. Duke should be more than up for the task, but they come into Winston Salem playing a Wake Forest team that has nothing to lose. After last year’s miserable season, the Demon Deacon’s forward progress is admirable, but when push comes to shove, this is a team that has only won four conference games. After a red hot start, Travis McKie has cooled down. Actually, outside of the still-incandescent C. J. Harris, the whole team has cooled off. With their season heading nowhere fast, Wake Forest doesn’t have much to do outside of ruin Duke’s day and make Nikita Mescheriakov and Ty Walker‘s Senior Night memorable. With the worst defense in the league and one of the worst offenses, Wake Forest would need an exceptional game (marked by frequent trips to the line, effective perimeter defense, and a lot of luck) to surprise the Devils. Still, it’s the last week of the regular season and strange things happen when teams play for pride.

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ACC Game On: 2.15.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on February 15th, 2012

Winning on the road in the ACC will always be difficult as Virginia discovered at Clemson last night. It’s tempting to paint this win as a big upset and while it’s certainly a meaningful win for the Tigers, let’s not forget that Clemson was favored heading into the match-up. It’s a good win, but not particularly surprising. So in that same vein, tonight, we have two tough road tests on the schedule.

The Headliners

  • #7 North Carolina at Miami at 8:00 PM on ESPN

Miami, with the big win against Duke and solid in-conference performance, has played its way onto the bubble. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes are still very much a marginal team when it comes to the Big Dance. Miami needs to either win tonight against North Carolina or beat Florida State in the rematch of last weekend’s game, and probably needs to do both to warrant serious tournament consideration. Beating North Carolina is a tall order, but the results of the teams’ last meeting offers some encouragement for the Hurricanes. The 17-point win in the ACC conference opener happened before the integration of Shane Larkin into the Miami starting line up and before North Carolina’s loss of Dexter Strickland. Miami now starts an ultra-quick three guard line-up that includes Larkin, who managed six steals in 24 minutes last meeting, while North Carolina now lacks a speedy perimeter defender. Duke exposed North Carolina’s susceptibility to a well-timed three-point barrage and Miami is better positioned to exploit that than ever. Also worth mentioning is the stellar job that the Hurricanes did in limiting the effectiveness of Harrison Barnes who went 2-of-12 in the previous face-off. Miami has these advantages and the homecourt and have a real chance at upsetting the Tar Heels. Yet, when push comes to shove, North Carolina still has the clear edge. What the Tar Heels lack in perimeter speed they make up for with size and length. While the duo of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji has been tough to defend, Tyler Zeller and John Henson match up well. Henson can be effective against Kadji’s inside-out game and Zeller has the offensive savvy to get Johnson into foul trouble early.

The Opening Act

  • Georgia Tech at Wake Forest at 7:30 PM on

If Boston College didn’t exist, these two teams would each only have a single conference win. Still, one of these teams will leave this game the winner and despite Wake Forest’s home court advantage, I think Georgia Tech has the edge in this game because of their superior rebounding. Wake Forest can offset most of their disadvantages through a big night from Travis McKie and C.J. Harris, but even then, it’s not clear if the Demon Deacons can get enough significant contributions from the rest of the team to walk away with the win. In any case, this game should be closely contested even if aesthetically unpleasant.

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ACC Game On: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on January 31st, 2012

It was a lazy Sunday in the ACC when North Carolina dominated a hapless Georgia Tech team and Miami handled Boston College. I’d like to say today’s slate looks more competitive, but that wouldn’t really be honest. Still, watching two teams that are on a roll and two teams that are trying to figure things out may be instructional. Let’s go with that: tonight’s slate will be instructional.

The Dynamic Duo vs. The Legion of Doom

  • #5 North Carolina at Wake Forest at 9:00 PM

It’s becoming more than abundantly clear that with the possible exception of Ty Walker, Wake Forest has no offense outside of Travis McKie and C.J. Harris. It’s a shame, because McKie and Harris are seriously good players, but the rest of the team’s inability to provide much of any support has doomed this year’s Wake Forest team. Yes, this year is definitely better than last year and I suspect Wake Forest has at least one big upset they will pull off before the end of the season, but barring a break-out from some other player on the team, Wake Forest is just not very good. Meanwhile, Reggie Bullock is working out all too well in a starting line-up that is just starting to get scary. Consider this: at the beginning of the season, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall were all legitimate All-ACC players. Reggie Bullock, in terms of offensive efficiency as well as defensive efficiency, is beating all four. Meanwhile Stilman White seems to be adjusting well to his limited extra minutes, P.J. Hairston‘s shooting slump seems to be over and Desmond Hubert is picking up any slack in James Michael McAdoo’s game. I’m still thoroughly skeptical of the “Justin Watts as point guard” experiment, but I certainly prefer it to the minutes he was playing at power forward. In short, North Carolina looks really good right now and Wake Forest may have already hit its ceiling which didn’t seem very high in the first place.

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ACC Game On: 01.11.12

Posted by KCarpenter on January 11th, 2012

Some semblance of order prevailed Tuesday night as Florida State managed a close win against Virginia Tech and North Carolina lodged a quietly scary win against Miami. Bernard James, the old man of the ACC, posted an 18-point, 15-rebound game (nine offensive rebounds) and Ian Miller offered the sufficient guard scoring (15 points) that the Seminoles had lacked in the early going. Virginia Tech simply couldn’t score at a strong enough clip against the defensive-minded Seminoles, managing a field goal percentage of only 30.5%. This is how we expected Florida State would win games, and it’s fun to see a team pull off a victory like this while still turning the ball over 19 times in a relatively slow-paced game. Did I say fun? I meant weird, but oddly gratifying.

Old Man Bernard James Had A Monster Game In The Victory Over Virginia Tech

Meanwhile, North Carolina’s convincing victory against Miami was scarier than you might expect. The Tar Heels draw a lot of offensive firepower from their triumvirate of big, athletic, sharp-shooting wings. Last night, Harrison Barnes went 2-of-12, Reggie Bullock went 2-of-6, and P.J. Hairston went 1-of-6. It was a 17-point win for UNC and the Hurricanes shot 41.8%. The ability to accomplish a high margin win without shut-down defense, hot shooting, or scoring from three of your best offensive players is what makes North Carolina such a dangerous team. Totally crushing an opponent in every facet of the game will always be impressive, but soundly beating a team despite lots of things going wrong? Just as remarkable.

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Wake Forest Beats Virginia Tech, Matches Last Season’s ACC Win Total Already

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2012

Wake Forest has already matched its conference win total (one) from last season thanks to a 58-53 win over Virginia Tech (who was 11-3 coming into the game). The win is the Demon Deacons’ best in the last two seasons, as the only two power conference opponents they defeated last year was Big 10 doormat Iowa and a short-handed Virginia team. Last year, CJ Harris scored six points in the final two minutes to seal the deal as the Cavaliers went ice cold from the floor. This year Harris again proved the late-game hero against a different commonwealth squad, knocking down two huge threes to answer Virginia Tech’s first lead with just over a minute to play and the go-ahead bucket on the Demon Deacons’ final possession.

CJ Harris Shows Wake Might Have a Future After All (AP/C. Burton)

This game showed just how far Wake Forest has come since last season. Other than 15 seconds late in the second half, the Deacons never trailed. Every Virginia Tech run was answered by a big bucket from Travis McKie (in the first half), Tony Chennault (in the second half) or Harris (at the end of the game). The team certainly won’t stay at the top of the ACC for long; it struggles taking care of the ball, forcing turnovers and with shot selection. But the win shows just how far Jeff Bzdelik’s players have come since last year.

McKie, once the most consistent scorer on an awful team, now has the ability to control significant portions of the game with scoring and, at least against the Hokies, on the glass. Especially in the first half McKie scored in a variety of ways, excelling at getting to the basket in the halfcourt and transition. He also managed to pull down eight rebounds despite questionable rebounding for much of the season (he struggles to get in position on defense in particular). The ten pounds McKie reportedly gained over the summer also shows up in his greater confidence to take contact at the rim.

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Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2011

  1. In a recent interview with a local radio station, Purdue coach Matt Painter had some interesting things to say about last weekend’s Xavier-Cincinnati brawl. He laid a considerable amount of blame on the officials working the game for allowing things to escalate to the point of on-court mayhem (“experienced officials and guys who have control of games, they handle it, take care of it early and it’s not an issue […] to me, it was avoidable.”), but he also took some candid shots at XU’s players for their physical style of play and running mouths. “Right away, from watching film, they talk. They talk a lot. That was one of the first things we talked about in the scouting report (to our players) was don’t get caught up in that. In the game, I’m talking to officials about their guys coming running on the court and (bumping into, pushing) our guys coming off a time out and the referees look at me like I’m crazy. I go back and watch the film, and it’s easy to see and they just ignored it.” Cincinnati has rightfully taken the brunt of this week’s criticism for its role in the brawl, and much of the associated vitriol with UC well predates the Mick Cronin era, but if you listen to Painter, maybe fans and media should take a closer look at how the Musketeers are composing themselves on the court too.
  2. Well, at least he didn’t shove a guy to the ground, instigate a full-on brawl between two teams, and subsequently refer to his squad as a bunch of ‘gangstas’ and talk about ‘zip[ping] ’em up” when discussing the other team. No, New Mexico State guard Christian Kabongo (cousin of more-heralded Myck, at Texas), is guilty of grabbing his crotch area twice during a recent game against UTEP and has been suspended indefinitely as a result of his transgression. Kabongo is a significant loss to the Aggies, even in the short term, as he brings averages of 16/4/4 APG to the table for Marvin Menzies’ team. Just imagine how long he’d have to sit out if he was any better.
  3. With news Wednesday that the Hamilton County (OH) prosecutor will not pursue criminal charges stemming from last weekend’s brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier, it appears that we’re finally putting this ugly incident behind us. Had charges been filed, they would have most likely come against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj for their respective punch and stomp to the face/head of Xavier center Kenny Frease. But prosecutor Joe Deters (a law enforcement name if ever there was one) said that he was satisfied that Frease’s recent outreach to Gates was met with a subsequent apology and, among other factors, his mea culpa contributed to Deters’ decision to not pursue the case. Historically speaking, US criminal law as a general rule has shied away from imposing jurisdiction on athletes during the bounds of competition, but there have been some precedents, particularly in the NHL, where that is not the case.
  4. While on the subject of legality, the NCAA‘s new rule allowing conferences to offer $2,000 stipends to next year’s recruits is in jeopardy after 97 of the 345 Division I institutions have signed a petition that will force the organization into a reconsideration of the measure at its upcoming January meetings. If 28 more schools sign the petition in the next 11 days to get to 125 institutions, then the legislation will be automatically suspended until further review or modification. Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the support for rescission is reportedly coming from the non-BCS football schools whose budgets are far below its peers who can better afford up to a $2 million annual price tag for its scholarship athletes. As we wrote a couple of months ago when this news first came out, “this policy initiative could be another step toward the permanent stratification of college basketball between the haves and have-nots.” This petition to the NCAA from the have-nots clearly bears this out. If you’re interested in more analysis on this topic, USA Today‘s Christine Brennan skewers the idea in her commentary published Wednesday.
  5. SI writers Seth Davis and Luke Winn are going a little crazy with the “breakout” players angle this month. Recall that last week Davis published his list of 10 breakout sophomores; this week he’s decided to give us his list of eight breakout juniors (plus a mailbag). Not to be outdone, Winn comes correct with his list of five breakout seniors! If we see an article on breakout graduate students next week, we’re coming to the Sports Illustrated offices and with a sole intent of burning the place down. All kidding aside, we might have added juniors CJ Harris (Wake Forest), Chase Tapley (San Diego State) and Isaiah Canaan (Murray State) to Davis’ list, and Jae Crowder (Marquette) and Noah Hartsock (BYU) to the Winn’s. Give both pieces a read and see what you think.
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Checking In On… the ACC

Posted by mpatton on December 14th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference. You can follow him on Twitter @rise_and_fire.

Reader’s Take


Top Storylines

  • Wake Forest’s Dynamic Duo: The Demon Deacons may not be the prettiest team to watch, but CJ Harris and Travis McKie are lighting up the box score. We knew (even if I, in a gaffe of all gaffes, left him off my All-Freshman team last year for Ryan Harrow) Mckie was going to be one of the ACC’s top players this year, but Harris has been a very pleasant surprise. The pair are efficiently combining for nearly 57% of Wake Forest’s points through the first 10 games of the year. Harris has already made as many threes as he made all last season on 18 less attempts, and he’s significantly more effective inside the arc. It remains to be seen how Harris will adapt to the defenses of ACC play, but so far he has to be leading the “surprise of the year” category.
  • Duke’s Post Presence: That’s right: after two solid years of berating the Plumlees as overrated and generally poor basketball players, it’s time to give credit where it’s due. Mason Plumlee has developed into a very good big man. No, he can’t make a free throw to save his life, but he’s much better offensively everywhere except the boards than he’s been the last few years. He developed a couple of solid post moves, stopped turning the ball over as much and learned to hold his ground on defense. If he can either learn to crash the offensive glass or hit 60% of his free throws, I’m confident in saying he’ll be one of the top three or four bigs in the ACC this season.
  • That’s right, the ACC Digital Network launched this season. Check out JR Reid break down North Carolina‘s softness and the conference power rankings. So far the coverage is fairly limited, but as it expands this could become one of the better sources of information for ACC fans.

Power Rankings

  1. North Carolina (8-2) stays atop the rankings with a hard-fought win over Long Beach State, which better get rewarded by the Selection Committee in March for playing such a tough non-conference schedule. The Tar Heels dominated on the inside with John Henson and Harrison Barnes leading the scoring, but it is worth noting that this is  another game where four Tar Heel starters played more than 30 minutes. Read the rest of this entry »
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The ACC’s Unlikely Dynamic Duo: Wake Forest’s Travis McKie and CJ Harris

Posted by KCarpenter on December 12th, 2011

Currently, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons are sitting on a 6-4 record. It’s not a great 6-4, but it’s not terrible either. Wins against Nebraska and Loyola (Maryland) are nice, and losses against Arizona State and Richmond aren’t impressive, but they aren’t damning. By December 15 of last year, Wake Forest had a 6-4 record, albeit with some ugly losses to the likes of Stetson and Winthrop. After that date, the squad managed only two more wins. Considering the ugliness of last season, it’s understandable if fans feel a bit queasy about the sense of déjà vu. Still, despite the similarity of record and the familiar names on the roster, the Demon Deacons are progressing by leaps and bounds.

Travis McKie And C.J. Harris Are Handling The Offensive Load For Wake

Sophomore Travis McKie’s performance was the highlight of last year’s bleak campaign and the good news is that he has picked up right where he left off. Despite handling a heavier portion of the offensive load, McKie has been able to maintain production at a very high level. I should clairfy what I mean when I say that McKie is handling “a heavier portion of the offensive load.”  No one in the ACC is on the floor as much as this guy. McKie leads the conference by averaging 35 minutes per game. He is on the floor 86.9% of the time. The guy is an iron man, and yet he manages to produce. McKie is second in the league with 18.6 PPG, only beaten by the insane production of Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin, who is averaging 22.5 PPG. McKie is doing it fairly efficiently too with a 59.9 true shooting percentage. Aside from Stoglin and Mike Scott, the sophomore is perhaps the best primary offensive option in the league.

Still, McKie’s role as a first-rate scoring option isn’t what makes Wake Forest so deadly. That distinction belongs to C. J. Harris, a player who has really blossomed this year. Last year, according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Harris posted a 93.6 offensive efficiency rating while taking 15.6% of the team’s shots. This year? Harris has an offensive efficiency rating of 117.7 while taking 25.1% of his teams shots. That’s an insane improvement. So now, not only does Wake Forest have the conference’s second-leading scorer, but it also has the conference’s third leading scorer (17.9 PPG). It might have sounded crazy this time last year, or even two months ago, but Wake Forest easily has the most productive scoring tandem in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

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Checking In On… the ACC

Posted by mpatton on December 6th, 2011

Matt Patton is the ACC correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter @rise_and_fire.

Reader’s Take


Top Storylines

  • Kentucky and North Carolina: College basketball’s “Game of the Century” lived up to the hype coming down to the last possession (even if it ended bizarrely) and was fun from start to finish (well, almost finish for Tar Heel fans). The game was a reminder that North Carolina can be the team people thought it would be coming into this season. The Tar Heels were aggressive, knocked down perimeter shots, and controlled a little over half of the game. Harrison Barnes was outplayed by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but Kendall Marshall was passable on defense [Author’s Note: That wasn’t meant to be a bad pun. He actually played solid defense on Teague most of the game.] and his usual self on offense (though I was very surprised he saw as much time guarding Marquis Teague as he did, considering Teague’s turnover woes). I’m not sure any college basketball fan would mind seeing a rematch this spring.
  • Terrell Stoglin Can Score: Unfortunately, his teammates are struggling to keep up their end. Only three BCS-conference teams (Penn State, Washington, and Utah) have players with higher usages, and none have players more likely to take a shot (shot percentage). Stoglin is the only player on the team averaging over 20 points a game with 22.4. His field goal percentage could be a little higher, but right now he’s the best scorer in the conference. For more on Stoglin, check out our post from yesterday on his scoring ability.
  • Sportsman of the Year: Mike Krzyzewski and Pat Summitt joined the prestigious ranks of Sports Illustrated‘s “Sportsman of the Year” winners and are only the third and fourth college basketball coaches to be chosen for the honor (Dean Smith and John Wooden are the other two). Both are worthy choices, as they both signify excellence over the course of 73 combined years of coaching.

Terrell Stoglin is Maryland's Offense.

Power Rankings

1) North Carolina (6-2) lost to the #1 team in the country on the road by one point. But it was the second straight game that the Tar Heels were unable to control the tempo. Is this a problem going forward, or is the defense good enough to win ugly?
Ken Pomeroy Fun Fact: The only player in Roy Williams’ rotation that is not averaging over a point per possession? James Michael McAdoo (fellow frosh PJ Hairston leads the team with a 129.0 offensive rating).

2) Duke (7-1) hasn’t played since last week. My guess is this means a lot of quality time watching film on Ohio State.
Ken Pomeroy Fun Fact: Duke has the third worst free throw defense in the country, as opponents are shooting a whopping 80.6% from the charity stripe against the Blue Devils this year.

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Checking In On.. The ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2011

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer for RTC.


Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Coach K Gets 903: Mike Krzyzewski made basketball history by passing his mentor Bob Knight on the all-time wins list. The record is a testament to Krzyzewski’s consistent excellence over the last three decades. It was an incredible accomplishment and dictated the better part of a week’s coverage.
  • Eligibility and Injuries Plague ACC: The ACC has five players out with eligibility issues, seven are out with significant injuries, and one is out after violating team rules. Alex Len (Maryland) may have his eligibility after he sits out ten games (he’ll be back in late December), but DeQuan Jones (Miami) is out indefinitely because of the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into allegations of the Nevin Shapiro scandal; Shane Larkin (Miami) is awaiting word on his eligibility after transferring from DePaul; Thomas de Thaey (NC State) is waiting for his amateur status to be reviewed; and Ian Miller (Florida State) will miss at least first semester due to eligibility issues. On the injury front, JT Thompson and Marquis Rankin (Virginia Tech) are out for the season while Pe’Shon Howard (Maryland), Antwan Space (Florida State), Julian Gamble and Reggie Johnson (Miami), and Leslie McDonald (North Carolina) are out indefinitely with various injuries. Wake Forest’s Ty Walker is suspended for violating the team’s honor code but is expected back against Seton Hall. Yikes.
  • Virginia Hype Came Too Soon?: Kellen Carpenter hit the nail on the head in his preview of the Cavaliers. He pointed out lack of offensive balance and inability to make twos as the two biggest questions facing Tony Bennett’s squad. The team has had success from inside the arc in its wins, bu looking at the boxscore from their loss to TCU reveals the Cavaliers shot less than 40% on two-point attempts. Mike Scott was still solid, but the rest of the team struggled a lot. The other problem is Virginia’s crawling tempo makes it very difficult to come back from deficits.
  • Mark Gottfied Can Recruit (and possibly coach, too): Mark Gottfried came into Raleigh with high expectations from the Wolfpack fanbase. So far, he has lived up to all of them. Gottfried has a top-five recruiting class sealed up thanks to signing TJ Warren, Rodney Purvis, and Tyler Lewis in the early period; he has another potential star possibly joining the ranks in Amile Jefferson. He also managed to get NC State its best non-conference win in quite a while with a huge comeback against Texas. One of the biggest problems with last year’s team was it could not come from behind. I generally chalked it up to effort or general pessimism that comes with frequent losses. Gottfried seems to have turned things around at least a little. Read the rest of this entry »
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