ACC M5: 11.25.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 25th, 2013

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  1. Sports Illustrated: Marcus Paige has stepped up in a big way, scoring 32 points to lead the Tar Heels to a big upset over Louisville Sunday. Most impressively he was 9-of-14 from three. Should that prove to not be an anomaly, North Carolina may be as good as people originally thought regardless of whether PJ Hairston or Leslie McDonald return. Paige looks like a first-team All-ACC player right now. He’s built off of a strong finish to last season and looks more confident than ever. Only time will tell whether the Tar Heels turn out to be more like the team that lost to Belmont or the one that dethroned the defending champs (which, incidentally hadn’t lost a game since last February 9).
  2. Richmond Times-Dispatch: One of Virginia‘s strengths this year is its depth in the frontcourt. Tony Bennett is taking advantage of that depth by playing around with different combinations. He likes Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins defensively, while Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill are more offensive-minded. Also interesting is that Bennett thinks with the right match-up he might try to play three of the four with Mitchell guarding the three. That’s a tough assignment for Mitchell (watch the smaller Duke wings try to stay in front of a smaller, quicker player).
  3. Hartford Courant: Counterpoint on the Boston College-Connecticut rivalry renewal from the Connecticut point of view. Jeff Jacobs makes a good point: The basketball rivalry benefits Boston College much more than Connecticut. He also points out that the rivalry, while heated and intense, has been fairly lopsided since Jim Calhoun raised the Huskies to national prominence. He also points out that Syracuse would be the ideal team to rekindle a basketball rivalry with — although the Orange certainly aren’t known for their tough non-conference home-and-homes. If I were in Connecticut’s position, I’d agree wholeheartedly with this take. If you agree to play in football (say, every other year at a minimum), we’ll play basketball. I don’t see that happening, but the more I read the quotes that got this story started, the more I don’t see a permanent restoration of the old rivalry anyway.
  4. Washington Post: Say what you want about Lefty Driesell, but the guy clearly loves his players. Maryland great Tom McMillen is being inducted to the Naismith Hall of Fame this year, and he will become the first Maryland player honored. On top of his standout basketball career, McMillen was also a Rhodes Scholar and he currently serves on the Maryland Board of Trustees. Driesell’s first assistant coach George Raveling is also being inducted (albeit mostly for his time serving as the Nike director of international basketball). I love redemption stories and I love a less salty Lefty Driesell.
  5. ESPN Insider: After the early signing period, five ACC teams finished with grades of A-minus or higher according to Paul Biancardi. Most notable of the standouts is Maryland, which Biancardi expects to be Mark Turgeon’s best class thanks to a couple of top 100 players. Overall, the conference as a whole had a terrific recruiting haul. At the top, it is borderline ridiculous (Duke and North Carolina combine for seven top-25 recruits alone). On the other end of the spectrum, Jeff Bzdelik better get his recruiting in order soon or his job may be less secure than many already believe it should be.
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We Need To Talk About Virginia Forward Akil Mitchell…

Posted by KCarpenter on December 31st, 2012

You can be forgiven if you don’t know much about Akil Mitchell other than the fact that he is a forward who plays for Virginia. In his first two years in the ACC, Mitchell was a role player backing up and complementing a veteran frontcourt stacked with the likes of Mike Scott and Assane Sene.  He played 22 MPG last year and averaged 4.1 PPG and 4.4 RPG. Those are decent numbers and all improvements over an even smaller role in his freshman year. However, with the departure of star player Scott, Mitchell has stepped into the limelight and performed magnificently. In 28 MPG this season, the 6’8″ forward is averaging 13.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG with a pair of assists and a steal a game thrown in for good measure. This is a remarkable improvement and currently Mitchell sits at fourth in the ACC in rebounds per game while he is just outside of the top 10 in scoring average. What makes this achievement all the more impressive is the tempo at which Virginia plays.

Akil Mitchell Has Made a Huge Leap This Season

Akil Mitchell Has Made a Huge Leap This Season

As in recent years, Virginia plays at a mind-numbingly slow pace. There are only four teams in Division I that play slower than the Cavaliers, and Tony Bennett‘s team is clearly the tortoise of the conference. So what? This means that Mitchell’s per game production actually underrates how good the forward has been for his team. He’s a top five player in the conference in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage as well as a top five player in offensive efficiency for players who use at least 24% of their team’s possessions. This isn’t an issue of a player who just needed more minutes or a more featured role: Mitchell took a big leap this year, improving in all of his tempo-free metrics even as he took on more responsibility for the offense.

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ACC M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 14th, 2012

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  1. Tallahassee Democrat: Yesterday, Michael Rogner suggested Okaro White becoming more aggressive would help the Seminoles. Another thing to consider is that Florida State did very well in transition against Maine. Part of its success was Maine’s strategy, but the Seminoles reportedly wanted “to establish ourselves in transition,” according to head coach Leonard Hamilton. This year’s team isn’t quite the beast defensively inside the arc as the past few Seminole teams, so it makes sense to try to get more turnovers (on paper the team should be lethal in transition). Definitely keep an eye on this as we get closer to conference play.
  2. Winston-Salem Journal: Things are getting uglier and uglier at Wake Forest. Jeff Bzdelik will not be taking any more live calls on his radio show. Apparently the move isn’t to “deflect criticism,” but it definitely looks that way. The show’s producers are trying to cut down on long-winded callers wanting to vent instead of ask questions. Host Stan Cotten and some colleagues at IMG College made the call to move to a format of all pre-recorded questions.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Whitey Reid took a look at ranking the “pleasant surprises” for Virginia, but may have forgotten to point out the forest through the trees. It’s true Teven Jones, Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins have all surprised people, but what about the team as a whole? If you told me Virginia would be 8-2 with wins over Wisconsin and Tennessee at this point in the season and were missing Jontel Evans for most of it, I would have laughed at you. This team has really outperformed my expectations and Jones, Mitchell, Atkins and Tony Bennett all deserve credit.
  4. Keeping It Heel: I think Rich Martin really underrates Ty Lawson (who I think everyone underrates because he played with Tyler Hansbrough) and Kendall Marshall in this article when he compares the two former Tar Heels with Marcus Paige. It’s true they had more cohesive pieces surrounding them when they showed up in Chapel Hill, but they were two of the best point guards in college basketball of the last decade. Paige shows flashes of brilliance — much like Quinn Cook last season for Duke — but he really feels a year or two away from being an ACC-caliber frontman. It will be really interesting to see over the next month how Roy Williams trims his rotation. Paige is probably the best offensive option and he (again, like Cook) has to be the guy for this team to be great, but he’s not starting from the same place as Marshall or Lawson.
  5. The Examiner: Miami is a team we could learn a lot about over the next couple of weeks. The Hurricanes picked up an ugly loss early (without Durand Scott), but looked great in their ACC/Big Ten Challenge win over Michigan State. They have a good chance to find themselves ranked if they beat undefeated Charlotte, coming out of a 13-day hiatus for exams. Especially with North Carolina and NC State looking vulnerable early, Miami could find itself in a good position to challenge for the runner-up position in the league. Also Garrius Adams and Bishop Daniels should be rejoining the team sometime next semester, which will help with depth.

EXTRA: Luke Winn’s Power Rankings are always worth the time, though they’re a little light on ACC meat as of late. This week he looked at Mason Plumlee‘s progression from much-maligned contributor to Player of the Year contender. Essentially, Plumlee’s stats are identical to his sophomore season with a few exceptions: He’s drawing fouls like a mad man, he’s hitting his free throws and he’s not turning the ball over. He’s also involved in a lot more possessions. Regardless, it’s really interesting how something as trivial as free throw shooting can affect the overall perception of a player.

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ACC M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 7th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: The big question coming into the season for Virginia was how the Cavaliers could replace Mike Scott, especially on offense. When Tony Bennett said “by committee” during the preseason, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Replace arguably the best offensive player in the conference by a committee of whom exactly? But Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins have really stepped up and proven me wrong. Mitchell is playing very well offensively, averaging nearly 13 points and 10 rebounds a game. Together they’re making the transition as smooth as possible, though the team’s reliance on freshmen will still hurt at spots during the season.
  2. Fox Sports Carolinas: Expect to see a lot more articles in this vein if Mason Plumlee‘s production keeps up. He’s absolutely having a first-team All-America season — maybe even a national player of the year season. He took plenty of criticism over his first three years, so it’s only fair he gets credit now. The thing that remains to be seen is how his brother joining Duke’s rotation (which will likely happen soon) will affect the team. It should quash some of the “Duke doesn’t have depth inside” talk and may also help with Duke’s rebounding struggles.
  3. Virginia Tech Collegiate Times: Virginia Tech is renewing its long-standing rivalry with West Virginia this season, but James Johnson isn’t making a big deal about it. Part of his reasoning is because the rivalry has been dormant since his players were in middle school. Another part is likely West Virginia’s recent success since hiring Bob Huggins having eclipsed the Hokies on the national scene. Regardless, this is the kind of series that can’t hurt if the Hokies want to be in contention for an at-large bid come Selection Sunday.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: Well Florida State certainly didn’t impress the country’s top recruit Andrew Wiggins on the basketball floor Wednesday. But the school and its fans certainly let Wiggins know he’d be welcome. The Seminoles honored both of Wiggins’ parents at halftime with highlights from their Florida State careers. The fans stood for much of a blowout trying to emphasize their commitment to a sport that normally takes the backseat in Tallahassee. A coed’s tweet to Wiggins went viral. However, the game just emphasized the tough choice Wiggins has to make: Be a part of a Kentucky team that should be among the favorites to win it all, or help take his parents alma mater to a place it’s never been before. Wiggins gets compared — fairly or unfairly– to LeBron James and his decision is analogous to the decision LeBron faced in free agency. If he does choose Florida State, Leonard Hamilton’s team will instantly become a conference contender.
  5. WRAL: Longtime producer and photographer Rick Armstrong remembered back to his early days in journalism three decades ago when NC State won its most recent national championship under Jim Valvano. Some stories read like they’ve been told over and over, at parties, over dinner and in the office. These are some of them. Armstrong still pines for the days when Jimmy V and the Cardiac Pack fought their way to an unlikely national title. Nostalgia makes for a great muse.
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ACC Team Previews: Virginia Cavaliers

Posted by KCarpenter on October 26th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams. Today’s victim: the Virginia Cavaliers.

The past season was excellent for the Virginia Cavaliers. Sure, the team only went 9-7 in the conference and exited the NCAA Tournament in a spectacular flame-out against Florida in its first game. Still, last season was a success for Tony Bennett. The team nearly ran the table in their non-conference slate except for a strange flukish loss to TCU. This impressive run included victories against Michigan, Drexel, Oregon, George Mason, and LSU. In conference play, Virginia was less consistent (though admittedly they played one of the tougher league schedules), with their two best wins coming against North Carolina State and Miami. Mike Scott‘s career year and Bennett’s pack line defensive scheme powered the Cavaliers to one of Virginia’s best seasons in the past few seasons. With Mike Scott now gone, can the Cavaliers match or better their high-water mark?

Tony Bennett Appears to Have the Cavaliers on the Upswing

Newcomers

The Cavaliers are bringing in a small army to bolster their depleted ranks. Teven Jones, Justin Miller and Taylor Barnette represent the incoming guard rotation. All three initially figured to see only back-up and spot minutes with incumbent senior point guard Jontel Evans taking up most of the time at point guard. Unfortunately for Evans, a stress fracture in his foot has the feisty defender and playmaker sidelined for the beginning part of the season. Unless Bennett elects to hand the keys to his team to senior walk-on, Doug Browman, these three freshmen will likely undergo a sudden baptism by fire.

At the wing, the freshman class brings in some potential future starters. Justin Anderson and Evan Nolte both have a nice array of skills, athleticism, and size at the small forward slot, where Virginia had only Paul Jesperson and converted shooting guards before the arrival of these two. If these guys can play defense to the coaching staff’s satisfaction, it’s likely that they will see plenty of minutes, and indeed, potentially a spot in the starting rotation.

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ACC Summer Recess: Virginia Cavaliers

Posted by KCarpenter on July 30th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Virginia.

Where They Stand Now

Bennett Will Need to Find Some Replacements Next Season

Heading down the stretch, it looked like Virginia was poised to have a moment. Mike Scott was easily one of the two best players in the conference and there was an instant where it looked like the Cavaliers might have the juice to win the ACC. A team that played insanely tough defense just couldn’t find enough offense, though, losing two of its last three games, dropping one to North Carolina State in the first game of the ACC Tournament and getting totally obliterated by Florida in its NCAA Tournament opener. It was a crushingly disappointing end to one of the best seasons of Virginia basketball in years.

Who’s Leaving

In terms of seniors, Virginia is losing its bedrock in Scott, who was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the early second round after a storied career in Charlottesville. Also hurting their frontcourt depth, seven-footer Assane Sene, was injured and then left the team at the very end of the season, though he would have otherwise presumably graduated and moved on anyway. Finally, the Cavaliers lose Sammy Zeglinski, a reliable veteran guard. During last season, the transfer plague that has dogged Virginia struck again, sending K.T. Harrell to Auburn and James Johnson to San Diego State.

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ACC Morning Five: 03.13.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 13th, 2012

  1. Greensboro News-Record and Pulse of the Pack: I don’t like posting message board fodder here, but this appears to have some legs (that said, the letter has been pulled down from State Fans Nation). Reportedly, Debbie Yow wrote an email to several disgruntled fans about the actions being taken in regards to the ACC Tournament controversy. Basically (assuming the letter is true), it sounds like Yow is keeping fans overly informed with the inner workings of a high-major conference. Most of it is also unnecessary: Roy Williams’ “BB gun” comment is what it is, as is the Karl Hess situation. I expect this to disappear completely during the NCAA Tournament, but there’s a slim chance it resurfaces this summer.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Speaking of NC State, there are two things San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher complimented his upcoming opponent on during a recent news conference. First, the team is filthy in transition; and second, it’s very strong down low. Vegas also took note of NC State’s strong ACC Tournament, making the Wolfpack a one-point favorite over the sixth-seeded Aztecs. It should be a great game, and both teams have a very good chance of advancing fairly far in the Tournament.
  3. Miami Herald: As you probably already know by now, Miami missed the NCAA Tournament. It’s not totally clear by how much, but it’s a safe bet that the Hurricanes were at least past the last four out, as they only managed a two-seed in the NIT (the NCAA now owns the NIT too, so you’d think the seeds would be semi-continuous). It was the school’s first winning season in the ACC. I think the Hurricanes could make a run at the NIT title, as Tennessee is the top seed in their region and appears on paper to be a very favorable matchup for Jim Larranaga’s team.
  4. Washington Post: I don’t know if I agree with this post from Steve Yanda, who claims Virginia needs more production out of its bench. I think Virginia needs production out of the players who get playing time: If there’s an extended bench being used, it needs to be productive; if not, then why should it be? The two players in question are the replacements for Malcolm Brogdon (who broke his foot): Darion Atkins and Paul Jasperson. The two freshmen are going to get chances, as the Cavaliers only have seven available scholarship players.
  5. The Chronicle: Mike Krzyzewski has a history of taking issue with an article from The Chronicle from time to time. If he reads this one, I expect him to take issue with it. I certainly did. Let’s start with the second paragraph: I agree completely that Ohio State punched Duke in the mouth, and the Blue Devils didn’t respond well. I totally disagree that Temple beat Duke because “talent doesn’t make up for not being physical.” The Plumlees are incredibly physical, often to a fault. Temple has one of the best backcourt trios in the country and exploited Duke’s perimeter defense and a strong home crowd. Duke also hasn’t been just “at the center of positive media attention” all year: How many articles have you read panning Duke’s postseason chances, perimeter defense or reliance on three-point shooting? Next up was this paragraph:

    Despite talent, impressive victories, a strong record and No. 2 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament, there seems to be a staggering lack of urgency within this year’s team. Because they have edged by with close wins all season and have only managed to lose six games, maybe this team did not fully understand that losing has serious consequences.

    Duke has talent, but not the talent people are accustomed to seeing. I’m not sure where the team’s “lack of urgency” comes into play, though. Sure, Duke’s second halves are often better than its first halves (especially against the first game against NC State, Miami and Ohio State), but don’t forget the games where Duke has jumped out to an early lead (the first game against North Carolina, Virginia Tech, or at Georgia Tech). Consistency is the problem, which at least in part comes down to whether the threes are falling.

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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 Team Previews: Virginia

Posted by KCarpenter on October 24th, 2011

Virginia had a run of bad luck last season. In the early part of the season, there were flashes of promise. An upset against a Minnesota team that had shellacked North Carolina in Puerto Rico and the incredible play of Mike Scott offered hope for the Cavaliers. But then, Scott, who was averaging a double-double with a ridiculous 15.9 PPG and 10.2 RPG, got hurt. The magic that led to an upset against Minnesota never returned as UVA simply failed to make much noise in ACC play. The team finished the season with a paltry 16-14 record and a meager seven wins in the conference. A season that started with promise ended in a first round conference tournament overtime loss to Miami.

Bennett Has an Interesting Team Returning to Charlottesville This Season

This season, much like last season, Virginia looks like it has a lot of potential. Mustapha Farrakhan (graduation) is the only major contributor that Tony Bennett lost over the summer.  Scott was granted a medical hardship waiver and will return for a fifth year with the Cavaliers. A talented freshman class includes four-star shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon as well as solid forwards in Paul Jesperson and Darion Atkins. After taking a redshirt, the 6’9″, 240-pound James Johnson will add even greater depth to a frontcourt that was depleted after Scott’s injury. That’s five significant pieces added to a nucleus that only lost Farrakhan.

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Conference Report Card: ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 28th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

Conference Recap

The ACC had a down year though North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall-led resurgence and Florida State’s Sweet Sixteen appearance helped a little bit. Before and during the season, Duke was the runaway favorite in the conference: Kyrie Irving’s toe injury obviously was the pivotal point that brought Duke back down to earth. Equally pivotal (in the reverse direction) was Marshall’s move to starting point guard for North Carolina. With Larry Drew II at the helm, there is no way the Tar Heels could have come close to surpassing Duke for the regular season title. The down year did not really surprise most people, and despite lofty preseason expectations (read: people forgot how highly rated North Carolina was to start the season) I think the perception is that the league at least lived up to preseason expectations with a couple of notable exceptions: NC State, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. NC State had NCAA Tournament talent, but did not come anywhere close to sniffing the Big Dance; Wake was arguably the worst major conference team in the country; and Virginia Tech once again found itself very highly seeded in the NIT. On the flip side, Clemson and Florida State both exceeded expectations.

Roy Williams and Kendall Marshall led a mid-season resurgence that resulted in a trip the Elite Eight. (News Observer/Robert Willitt)

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