ACC Preview: Wake Forest’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on October 26th, 2015

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Is Danny Manning ready to turn this team around a year early?

If you look carefully at Wake Forest, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned with this team. For the second straight season, the Demon Deacons lost several players in the offseason: Madison Jones was dismissed; Darius Leonard graduated; and Aaron Rountree transferred. And among the players still residing in Winston-Salem, the two most talented — Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre — are also wildly inconsistent. But despite these concerns, there are also some prompts for optimism. The Deacs return their top five players in terms of minutes played, and three of those five were only freshman a year ago. Danny Manning, in only his fourth year on the bench, appears to have all the makings of a great head coach. Throw in a sneaky good recruiting class of three talented players (sixth-best in the ACC, according to the 247sports composite ranking), and this year’s team has the potential to take a big step forward.

Danny Manning needs to mold Devin Thomas into a more efficient player this season. (photo: Winston-Salem Journal)

Danny Manning needs to mold Devin Thomas into a more efficient player this season. (photo: Winston-Salem Journal)

Whether Wake does will largely depend on the health and productivity of the veterans. Miller-McIntyre broke his foot last week and will be out through the first couple of games at a minimum. Manning will need him healthy as soon as possible, although giving Mitchell Wilbekin and Bryant Crawford (a consensus four-star point guard) some early time running the show might not be a bad thing. On the other hand, Miller-McIntyre’s untimely injury makes Jones’ dismissal slightly more painful. Wilbekin is more of a short shooting guard than a true point guard, and who knows how quickly Crawford will adjust to the college game? Miller-McIntyre is a proven ACC commodity, and even Thomas, a player capable of creating his own offense from his work on the backboards, could struggle without his old point guard providing him touches. The reality is obvious: If Miller-McIntyre can’t get healthy enough to display what’s become an annual tradition of personal improvement, this Wake Forest team is likely to struggle to climb to the ACC’s middle tier.

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Reviewing ACC Tournament Tuesday

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 11th, 2015

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2015 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

It was a surprisingly exciting pair of games that we witnessed on the first day of the 2015 ACC Tournament. In the opener, 12th-seeded Boston College and All-ACC first teamer Olivier Hanlan rallied late to edge 13th-seeded Georgia Tech, 66-65. After that, 14th-seeded Virginia Tech held off a late charge by Wake Forest to slip past the 11th-seeded Deacons by a score of 81-80. All four teams competed hard, and while there were plenty of airballs, silly fouls, and missed defensive assignments — these squads entered Tuesday at least five games south of .500 on the year — for most of the afternoon, the sparse opening-day crowd certainly left the Greensboro Coliseum entertained. Here are some takeaways on each team:

Virginia Tech freshman Jalen Hudson set a school ACC Tournament scoring record in the Hokies win over Wake Forest. (USA Today Images)

Virginia Tech freshman Jalen Hudson set a school ACC Tournament scoring record in the Hokies win over Wake Forest. (USA Today Images)

Georgia Tech (12-19): Attention in Atlanta will now turn to the coaching status of Brian Gregory with the season now complete. When you look at his four-year win totals (11-16-16-12), it’s tough to make a compelling case for keeping Gregory in charge of the program. While it’s true that Georgia Tech was incredibly unlucky this year — the Jackets were 0-11 in ACC games decided by five points or less, or in overtime — many will view that failure as the head coach’s responsibility. Offense has been bad for his entire tenure, with the team ranking outside the top-200 in adjusted offensive efficiency three out of four years. In fact, it’s fair to say that the only thing Georgia Tech has done well under his direction is to rebound the ball. Per the recent norm for ACC schools when a coach misses the NCAA Tournament in each of his first four years at the helm, look for a change to be made this spring. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 03.05.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 5th, 2015

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  1. Syracuse Post-Standard: Whatever the Post-Standard is paying Patrick Stevens, it isn’t enough because here’s his exhaustive list of ACC Tournament seeding scenarios. Some of those are simple (notably, the bottom four teams). Pittsburgh has the most to prove in its last two games with a possibility of a seed anywhere from sixth to tenth depending on what happens around the league. The most important battle, though, is for the last double-bye. Notre Dame, Duke and Virginia are already locked in, but Louisville and North Carolina are battling for the final spot. The Cardinals control their own destiny (North Carolina’s only remaining game is home against Duke), but they also have to beat Virginia this weekend or get some help from around the league.
  2. Fox Sports: Of course I ran an article on Wake Forest’s Danny Manning yesterday and a better one shows up today. Assistant coach Randolph Childress gives Lauren Brownlow some gems for quotes on Manning’s move to a folding chair if he doesn’t like the effort he’s seeing from his team. Childress is the side of the story that Brownlow really brings to her profile. Manning wanted to keep the Deacon legend on staff because of his connections to the school and the area. None of the Wake Forest players or Childress have anything bad to say about Jeff Bzdelik, which suggests that the biggest problem with Bzdelik was his ability to associate with fans. This is worth a read.
  3. Boston Herald: Olivier Hanlan has been really flying under the radar this season, and of course it helps that Boston College is abysmal. Through eight games in February he averaged over 27 points per game and he’s at the top of the league in minutes per game as well (tied with Jerian Grant). Hanlan hasn’t quite put up Erick Green’s efficiency from Virginia Tech a couple of years ago, and I think Green’s recency will bias voters against the Eagles’ star. But Hanlan has to be first team All-ACC and he really should be in the conversation for ACC Player of the Year too. I think it’s reasonable to say that Grant’s and Jahlil Okafor’s raw totals were held back by being surrounded by so many weapons (give me Grant right now just because he’s so versatile), but not considering Hanlan shows that the voter didn’t watch him play at all this season.
  4. Syracuse Post-Standard: In light of Syracuse‘s self-imposed postseason ban, Derrick Coleman won’t be going to Greensboro to be a part of this year’s ACC Legends class. This just highlights how dumb postseason bans are because they punish the current team for issues with former players. It’s weird that we haven’t heard anything from the NCAA on Syracuse yet, but hopefully it gets resolved quickly and it doesn’t also hold next year’s team accountable for past grievances.
  5. Miami Herald: Jim Larranaga is optimistic about Miami‘s chances at making the NCAA Tournament, but it’s clear the Hurricanes still have a lot of work to do. They’ve got a great win (at Duke) and took Virginia to double-overtime (that’s the game that may end up hurting them more than their losses). In addition to a strong finish to the regular season (the game at Pittsburgh was probably an elimination game), Miami is going to need at least one upset in the ACC Tournament to have a shot at celebrating Selection Sunday. And who knows, if Angel Rodriguez gets hot for a few games, maybe Miami walks away with a trophy in Greensboro.

EXTRA (via Washington Post): It wasn’t much of a mystery anyway, but apparently Duke’s Jahlil Okafor is the only player listed on the ballot the ACC media were sent for rookie of the year.

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ACC M5: 03.04.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 4th, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. BC Interruption: I’m hoping we get the full breakdown of possibilities from Patrick Stevens later this week, but Brian Favat does a good job projecting the ACC Tournament bracket (along with a look at where things stood on Tuesday night). Virginia is locked into the top line and Duke has clinched a double-bye. Tuesday’s games are already set with Wake Forest, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech squaring off. The middle is a little more interesting, but where the drama will play out over the next four days is with the last team to get the coveted double-bye to Thursday. One of Notre Dame, North Carolina or Louisville will lose the double-bye and have to play on Wednesday. Currently the Fighting Irish are in the safest position, but they still have two games to play.
  2. Greenville News: A couple of weeks ago, Clemson trustees approved a $63.5 million renovation to Littlejohn Coliseum. It needed to happen, as the depths of the old arena are aging poorly. New and improved practice facilities and locker rooms are sure to be hits with recruits, and I’m sure Clemson hopes the reduced seating attracts more fans. Personally, Littlejohn is one of the diamonds in the rough in terms of collegiate atmosphere. Even with modest attendance, it is one of the louder arenas in the league. Hopefully these renovations don’t change that (or put the student section farther from the floor).
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: Danny Manning is setting examples in the hope that it will change the culture at Wake Forest. In the Deacs’ recent ugly game against Virginia, he sat the starters early in the second half. He didn’t offer much of an explanation other than “they weren’t doing anything,” but his other comments make it clear these maneuvers are about remaking the program. The Demon Deacons have a long way to go, of course, but assuming they have a couple more strong performances to finish out the year, they should crack the top-100 in Ken Pomeroy’s final rankings. That would best anything during Jeff Bzdelik’s tenure and Austin Johnson points out that the situation is analogous to what Mark Gottfried was able to do at NC State his first year (although with less talent on the roster than when he arrived in Raleigh).
  4. Backing the Pack: Stat nerds rejoice! Now there’s a little circular logic to the “total impact” stat (since Ken Pomeroy’s data is adjusted for strength of schedule, it should be built into the numbers already). I would probably have used Basketball Prospectus‘ raw numbers for team output and Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted numbers for opponent expectations, but that’s a trivial difference. What’s interesting is that Duke and Virginia are so close when John Gasaway’s conference efficiency ratings have them at such different levels. NC State also appears to be underperforming based on its record, so the Wolfpack might be a team to watch closely next week.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: We got a little more comment from the Duke athletic department on the Monday allegations from the Duke Chronicle. Athletic Director Kevin White emphasized that the Duke coaching staff satisfied their legal responsibilities and followed university protocol, implying that their information about the case was reported immediately to the proper administrators. That’s not the reading a lot of people took with the original article, so it was smart for White to come out and clarify that position (even if we won’t ever get a detailed timeline). This article won’t satisfy everyone, so here are a couple of alternatives:
    1. If you’re looking for a candidate for hot take of the year, look no further than Art Chansky’s piece on the situation at Chapleboro.com.
    2. If you’re already sick of the story, the Los Angeles Times did a piece on Jahlil Okafor (the Lakers will be in the running for the first overall pick in the NBA Draft this year).
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Danny Manning is Making Progress at Wake Forest

Posted by Walker Carey on February 18th, 2015

During Sunday’s NBA All-Star game, there was a stretch of the game when Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, and San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan were all on the court at the same time. This was notable because the three All-Stars — tied for the most of any single school — played their college basketball at Wake Forest. If you have just started following college hoops sometime in the last few seasons, that fact may seem strange to you, as from 2010-14, the Demon Deacons compiled an anemic 51-76 overall record with a ghastly 17-51 mark in ACC play. But once upon a time, Wake Forest was one of the premier programs in the ACC. Former head coaches Dave Odom followed by the late Skip Prosser routinely directed the Demon Deacons to the NCAA Tournament, and elite talent flocked to the tiny school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to suit up in the old gold and black.

Danny Manning (USA Today Images)

Danny Manning’s Team Appears to Be Heading in the Right Direction (USA Today Images)

Following last year’s 17-16 season, athletic director Ron Wellman decided to make a coaching change. Jeff Bzdelik was out and former Kansas legend and Tulsa head coach Danny Manning was pegged to take over. Manning was an intriguing choice for the job given his terrific track record as an assistant coach to Bill Self at Kansas and two years as the head coach of the Golden Hurricane. During his nine-year stint at his alma mater, Manning oversaw the development of a star-studded pack of Jayhawks’ big men, including future pros Darrell Arthur, Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson. He carried that success over to Tulsa, where he led his squad to a successful second season, winning both the regular season and Conference USA Tournament titles on its way to the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003.

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ACC M5: 02.10.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 10th, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. Grantland and Daily Tar Heel: Here are the last two Dean Smith tributes (for now). Grantland‘s Charles Pierce discusses his personal memory of Smith, putting it in the context of his own life and Smith’s career. The North Carolina student newspaper also did a great job eulogizing the longtime head coach.
  2. Bleacher Report: This is a terrific profile of Wake Forest’s Danny Manning from B/R’s Jason King. My favorite part is the anecdote about how he’s been trying to get Devin Thomas to be less volatile. According to Thomas, Manning has the team hack Thomas in practice every time he gets the ball and makes him run laps if he loses his cool. Manning also likes to keep things low key, going to extreme lengths to keep his team focused. I worry that this strategy will get old quickly for boosters if Wake Forest doesn’t improve quickly enough, but if Manning gets super-recruit Harry Giles on campus, I’m not sure anyone in Winston-Salem will care that he expects the bus to be quiet. And I also expect that the Demon Deacons will improve.
  3. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: This is a really interesting idea: Instead of banning the Syracuse team from the postseason, ban Jim Boeheim. After all, the incidents in question didn’t occur this year nor did they involve any of the players currently on the roster. But they did happen under Boeheim’s watch. I hate postseason bans (except in the most extreme circumstances, not for infractions that happened seven years ago), but banning Boeheim from the program without pay it would hit him where it hurts. It would also send a clear message that the NCAA isn’t blaming the players for these transgressions; rather, the coaches who were responsible. Many people would no doubt welcome such a penalty.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: Jahlil Okafor‘s hands are bigger than Elton Brand’s (at least as measured from the palm to the tip of the middle finger). That’s crazy. There are only six players in the DraftExpress database of the last six years who can match his hand-width, which explains why Duke lets him survey the floor while holding the ball in one hand. Well, that and he’s also one of the front-runners for National Player of the Year.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: This is a cool story on Georgia Tech assistant Tom Herrion and his work with Autism Speaks. Herrion and his friend Pat Skerry are the ones behind the puzzle piece pins you’ve been seeing on coaches throughout the country recently. Good on them for bringing awareness.
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ACC Stock Watch: 02.06.15 Edition

Posted by Lathan Wells on February 6th, 2015

Another week, another slate of terrific basketball from the ACC. While some teams seemingly riding high got a dose of reality this week (hello Virginia and Notre Dame), others showed their ability to overcome adversity (Duke), while others flew under the radar entirely (Clemson). This is this week’s ACC Stock Watch:

Trending Up

  • Duke. The Blue Devils showed the dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon was not going to be a distraction for them, as they went into John Paul Jones Arena Saturday and knocked off previously unbeaten Virginia. Avoiding a letdown after that big win in knocking off Georgia Tech at home was nice to see from such a young squad, too.
  • Louisville. The Cardinals had an impressive week, exacting revenge on North Carolina in an impressive comeback fashion at home and emerging victorious from a road trip at Miami. The offense is coming around, making Rick Pitino’s team look as if it may be peaking at the right time.
  • Clemson. How many casual ACC fans realize that the Tigers have reeled off four straight wins? Their demolition of NC State in Raleigh was particularly impressive on January 28th, but taking care of two teams they should defeat in Boston College and Florida State this week showed the team is still battling for a ticket to the Dance for Brad Brownell.
Sidy Djitte and Clemson smothered NC State on their way to another solid week (AP Sports)

Sidy Djitte and Clemson are riding a four-game winning streak in the ACC. (AP)

  • Wake Forest. Danny Manning’s team, so close in so many defeats this year, had a nice week in dispatching of Virginia Tech and defeating a talented (but hard-to-figure out) NC State team. More importantly than that is that the Demon Deacons may be regaining some of the home-court edge they lost during Jeff Bzdelik’s tenure.
  • Terry Rozier, Louisville. Rozier has four straight 20-point games, but his matching 22-point performances this week were huge for Louisville in overcoming the Tar Heels in overtime and winning the tough road test against the Hurricanes. He and Chris Jones continue to make life easier for Montrezl Harrell down low, and some argue Rozier is the Cardinals’ most dangerous offensive threat.
  • Justise Winslow, Duke. Whether or not it was accurate that Winslow was hitting the “freshman wall,” he broke out of it in fine fashion this week. With Jahlil Okafor hounded by Virginia’s double teams, Winslow willed the Blue Devils to victory with a 15-point, 11-rebound performance. He matched that effort with another stat-stuffer against the Yellow Jackets: 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, two steals. Some believe he’s the key cog in the Duke machine going forward.

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ACC M5: 01.29.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 29th, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. BballBreakdown.com: Josh Riddell does a great job reviewing the strengths and flaws of Duke‘s defense. Long story short (but read the article, it has lots of great GIFs to go with the analysis): Duke has the players to be a good defensive team but they’re still figuring things out. This team misses rotations (like the one that left Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia wide open for the dagger three last night) and doesn’t mask its weaknesses very well, but the Blue Devils need to find their mojo. A lot of things went into Wednesday’s loss in South Bend: Jerian Grant playing unconscious; missed layups and free throws; bricking three straight long jumpers after taking a 10-point lead. Duke’s defense is OK when it gets set, but where its youth shows the most is how different it looks after a missed shot versus a made one.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Speaking of developing, NC State’s young players are starting to show some of their promise. Joe Giglio focuses on Abdul-Malik Abu here in this article, but other young players are starting to come out of their shells too (such as the Martin twins). Unfortunately, NC State’s recent heartbreak loss to Notre Dame messed with the Wolfpack’s psyche as the team looked abysmal in a subsequent home loss last night against Clemson. Now Mark Gottfried needs to do something to turn things around, as the team’s best win is weakening (Duke) and its losses are piling up.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: I like Danny Manning a lot. This isn’t exactly a hot take, but I think he’s going to get Wake Forest relevant again very quickly (assuming he’s not poached). Manning is up front with who he is and he believes in his system. After last night’s close defeat to Florida State, three of the Demon Deacons’ last four games have come down to the wire (a double-overtime loss, a single-overtime loss, and a loss by two points). Manning clearly needs some better players on his roster, but he has a reputation as a very serious recruiter, so I don’t expect that upgrade to take long.
  4. Pitt News: This is awesome. We’ve long heard about the manager games before big rivalries like DukeNorth Carolina, but with more teams getting to game locations a day early manager games are starting to proliferate. The Pittsburgh managers think it has something to do with the ACC, which might be true, but a lot of current ACC teams are from the Big East. The games sound tremendous. There’s no shot clock and no officiating (no reviews!).
  5. College Basketball Talk: We know who is going to take part in this year’s McDonald’s All-American game, but we don’t know who a lot of these prep stars will play for yet. This year only Duke and LSU (what?) have two players in the game, although expect that to change as we get closer to the summer. Unless something changes in the near-future (I’m certain it will), North Carolina will be without a Burger Boy for the first time in the game’s long and illustrious history.
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ACC M5: 01.23.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 23rd, 2015

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  1. ESPN: Dana O’Neil penned a must-read profile of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski by talking with many of his longtime friends and family. It’s a long but great read. With Coach K getting a shot at 1,000 wins this weekend, there are plenty of profiles to go around. Pat Forde took a look back at Coach K’s first win, and in more normal M5 fare, Marshall Plumlee will be sworn in to the US Army today.
  2. Winston-Salem Journal: Tributes to Coach K are everywhere, including Winston-Salem, as Danny Manning told Dan Collins that the Demon Deacons aren’t a zone team and would stick to man-to-man even if they struggle with it. But the real reason Collins’ article is worth the click is for all the Wake Forest historical nuggets he hides inside it. I’ll side with Manning on his defensive trademark, though. Assuming a style of play that isn’t totally ludicrous, it’s good to work on molding your players into the type of team you want to coach. If he chose to play all zone, Manning might get a different type of player at Wake in the future (NBA teams often complain about prospects that play too much zone defense in college).
  3. Syracuse Post-Standard: Were we just talking about zone? Well, Syracuse plays a lot of zone. And is under NCAA investigation. If (and only if) the NCAA hands down or the Orange self-impose a postseason ban, they wouldn’t be allowed to compete in the ACC Tournament. That seems like a remote possibility at this point, but you’ll have better luck winning six-figure scratch-off prizes than predicting NCAA punishments. The other wrinkle is what a 14-team ACC Tournament would look like. If such a serious a punishment is coming, I’d expect more details to leak out first.
  4. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia looks like it will run away with the ACC this season. You don’t want to put too much stock in games against Georgia Tech, but the Cavaliers held Brian Gregory’s squad to a ridiculous output of 28 points, while the Cavaliers scored at least 28 points in both halves. Accompanying Virginia’s rise is something of a bandwagon effect. Apparently Cavaliers fans showed up in force at Boston College (which is common for Duke and North Carolina, but both programs have national followings). Tony Bennett has done something really special in Charlottesville. The questions now are: How far can this team go? And can it beat the 76ers hold on to its head coach when the next really big job opens?
  5. Card Chronicle: More details on the Montrezl Harrell situation. Apparently Harrell pulled himself out of the position after Rick Pitino rode him about being more positive. This is plausible and is probably the best-case scenario from a chemistry perspective, but I wouldn’t start celebrating just yet. In more tangible analysis, North Carolina’s Brice Johnson gave an honest and somewhat critical scouting report on Harrell to Lauren Brownlow.

EXTRA: He’s not in the ACC anymore, but Chris Collins joined the tribute to Coach K and absolutely lost it after a questionable no-call from the officials at last night’s Northwestern-Ohio State game.

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ACC Stock Watch: Conference Play Edition

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 16th, 2015

Conference play got under way for the ACC roughly two weeks ago, and the early games have lived up to their lofty billing in providing us with valuable insights. Some teams are clearly playing up to their potential and possibly even beyond it, while several others are already searching for answers for disturbing trends. Welcome to this week’s ACC Stock Watch, the first since the ACC’s teams started beating up on each other.

Trending Up

  • Virginia. It would be hard to imagine that a team entering ACC play at 12-0 could be trending up after just two weeks of action, but the Cavaliers have the look of a serious national title contender. The only team boasting both a defense and an offense among the top 10 in efficiency metrics, the Cavaliers have shown a keen ability to win games in a myriad of ways. It’s not just an elite defense carrying Tony Bennett’s team, as it showed in its awesome 89-80 double-overtime win over Miami two weeks ago. Virginia has already toppled the Hurricanes and Notre Dame and have shown no signs of slowing down.
  • North Carolina. With the best of the Tar Heels’ non-conference wins losing some luster (Ohio State, Florida), North Carolina badly needed a marquee win in conference play. Last weekend’s victory over Louisville qualified as such, and holding on to beat NC State in Raleigh on Wednesday night showed the team may have regained some of the toughness that was so sorely lacking. Could a 3-1 ACC start propel North Carolina to bigger things?
Marcus Paige and North Carolina are off to a very promising ACC start (newsobserver.com)

Marcus Paige and North Carolina are off to a very promising ACC start (newsobserver.com)

  • NC State. A 3-2 start in the ACC may not blow anyone away, but the Wolfpack’s demolition of Duke and their near-win over a surging North Carolina team shows Mark Gottfried’s group is capable of making some noise this year. Add in a blowout win over Pittsburgh an is there a reasonable argument that NC State belongs with the heavyweights?
  • Miami. There were plenty of questions about the direction in which the Hurricanes were heading when they closed the non-conference schedule by losing three of four. But Angel Rodriguez and company have answered the bell in the ACC, pushing Virginia to double-overtime and handling Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. With Notre Dame and NC State up next, we’ll know even more about Miami by this time next week.

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