More Scratches In Florida: Miller, Jones Out For FSU & Miami

Posted by KCarpenter on November 10th, 2011

As the Central Florida finds itself caught up in an NCAA probe and more embarrassing tweets, the two Florida schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference will find themselves shorthanded as they begin play this weekend. At Miami, it was formally announced Thursday that DeQuan Jones will sit out the entire Hurricanes basketball season as the NCAA investigates his involvement with the improper benefits scandal that has enveloped the U’s football program. Jones is the only non-football player to be implicated in the Nevin Shapiro story, and it has been long speculated that Jones probably wouldn’t be playing this season anyway.

Unsurprisingly, DeQuan Jones Won't Be Playing Because Of Miami's NCAA Investigation

In slightly more surprising news, Ian Miller won’t be playing for Florida State during the fall semester either. It appears that the sophomore guard cannot play for the remainder of the fall semester due to academic issues. Miller was one of the backups to Derwin Kitchen for the Seminoles and was expected to compete for the starting point guard role.  Though he played limited, mostly unimpressive minutes in his freshman campaign, he has a good shot from the three-point line (35.8% last season) and could have brought some offensive balance to the post-centered Seminole attack. Miller came to Tallahassee as a big time prospect with a lot of potential, so if he can get his academic house in order by the end of the semester, his return to the lineup could really help Florida State heading into ACC play.

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ACC Team Previews: Florida State

Posted by mpatton on November 1st, 2011

Florida State had a great season last year. The Seminoles dominated opponents defensively and made do on the other end of the floor. Six players were listed 6’7” and up, and the entire roster showcased a wealth of lateral quickness that made them the most effective defensive team in the country. That shouldn’t change this year. The offense, not the other end, will once again define the ceiling for Leonard Hamilton’s squad.

Chris Singleton is Gone, But the Seminoles Will Still Dominate Defensively

Looking back to last year a Sweet Sixteen season ended with a bitter aftertaste. It wasn’t when they lost; it was the way they lost. If you don’t remember, Florida State took on Shaka Smart’s Cinderella from VCU. After Jamie Skeen put the Rams up four with three minutes to go, Florida State locked down on defense. Unfortunately, even after holding VCU scoreless in the final three minutes, it didn’t help with the hideous offensive sets for the Seminoles. They went 1-5 from the field during that stretch (plus a missed free throw), and the hideous final possession, where Derwin Kitchen put up an off-balance three that the whole country knew would send the game to overtime, was indicative of just how poorly the team executes in the half court.

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ACC Morning Five: 10.13.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 13th, 2011

  1. Above the Rim – Charlotte Observer: When you think Duke basketball, you probably think of a star-studded backcourt. Most years the frontcourt feels like a perpetual group of role players. But this year things may be different. Heavy losses to Duke’s perimeter players (Nolan Smith, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Singler) leave much of Duke’s experience up front with the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly. In China during the offseason (against middling competition to be certain) the frontcourt shined with Kelly leading the team in scoring at 15 points per game, Miles Plumlee dominating the boards at nearly ten boards a night and Mason Plumlee shooting a ludicrous 18 for 22 from the field. I don’t want to steal anymore of the article’s thunder, but these three guys–not Austin Rivers–are going to be the key to whether Duke lives up to its Top 10 expectations this season.
  2. SCACChoops.com: This stat-centric ACC hoops blog has started dishing out its team previews, with Boston College and Clemson first on the docket. Make sure to check out their game simulations once real games start, but for now the projections for returning player production should be enough to keep your attention. The Tigers’ Andre Young is projected to be a star, averaging 15 points per game. In addition to the numbers, Theo Jones also adds some qualitative points as well.
  3. The Chopping Block – Orlando Sentinel: Who will step up in the wake of Derwin Kitchen and Chris Singleton’s departure from Florida State? One man may be the graduate student transfer from Arkansas, Jeff Peterson. Peterson originally committed to Princeton but ended up heading from Iowa to Arkansas before utilizing his fifth year to transfer to Tallahassee. His addition makes six seniors (including two graduate students), who should make the Seminoles a tough team yet again this season. The Sporting News checks Florida State in at #27 in their Top 50 for this season.
  4. Duke Hoop Blog: Mitch McGary’s father talks about the path his son took to becoming ESPNU’s second ranked recruit in the 2012 class. The portrait is a different take than one might find from high school scouts because it’s from the inside. McGary is from a small town in Indiana, and has come out of relative anonymity by putting on a show at summer camps and skill academies. One thing to note is it sounds like he still has some work to do academically to make sure he’s eligible to compete (McGary himself is quoted saying, “I could’ve gotten straight As my senior year and I still would have to go to a junior college.”). His current list, despite contrary reports, includes Michigan, Duke, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky and Maryland.
  5. Boston Globe: Boston College Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo is putting his foot in his mouth after giving what seemed like a candid and inflated retelling of the Eagles’ influence over conference realignment. Specifically, he recanted his statement that led to all the weekend speculation about ESPN’s role in the expansion. In some ways this actually makes me raise my eyebrows even more because if he had been misunderstood he wouldn’t have apologized, just clarified. Furthermore, DeFilippo apologized for airing the ACC’s dirty laundry, seemingly making it like he turned the conference against the idea of inclusion of Connecticut.
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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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NCAA Regional Diary From San Antonio

Posted by rtmsf on March 29th, 2011

After another weekend of scintillating and shocking NCAA Tournament results, it’s time to check back in with our various correspondents who were in Anaheim, San Antonio, New Orleans and Newark reporting on the games this weekend.

Location: San Antonio, TX
Round: Regional Final
Teams: VCU, Kansas
Date: 27 March 2011

To read all the diaries throughout the NCAA Tournament, click here.

The San Antonio Riverwalk is Always a Hit.

  • This is the second time in this Tournament that I’ve personally witnessed this happen (Gonzaga vs. St. John’s being the other).  Kansas’ strategy from the opening tip was to get the ball inside early and often to their big men, Marcus and Markieff Morris.  It worked in the beginning as the twins got KU off to a 6-2 start, but VCU started to figure out the entry passes, and before long the Kansas guards were trying to throw the ball into a quadruple-team underneath.  The perimeter players weren’t looking to score at all, and I sometimes wonder if a focused strategy to take advantage of a strength (as here) actually backfires in the sense that the perimeter players don’t have an opportunity to play offensively.  In the Richmond game, as a contrasting example, the KU perimeter players got going early and UR as a result was out of the game by the second television timeout.
  • I love Shaka Smart for many reasons, not least of which is his bulldog mentality of taking on all comers, but watching him get down into a defensive crouch on the sidelines as his players guard the ball on that side of the floor is phenomenal.  He moves his feet very well for his advanced age of all of 33 years old.  With Brad Stevens Lambeau Leap into the team circle after beating #1 Pitt last week, and Smart acting as a sixth defender for the Rams, youth in the coaching ranks is most definitely served.
Shaka Can!
  • Whew, Markieff Morris (eight turnovers) and Tyrel Reed (1-9 FGs) would like to have this game back.  Through the first twelve minutes of action, Markieff had already turned the ball over six times to VCU, including a ridiculous Ewing-step-through travel that he damn well knows better than to do in the college game.  Reed suffered a miserable game, and he never looked less comfortable than when Kansas was in desperate need of someone — anyone — to hit some threes down the stretch, but he was badly off on all of them.  It was pretty clear to me from my vantage point that both of these guys were feeling the pressure of expectations, and they were generally crushed by it.
  • I liked Self’s decision to try to get Josh Selby into the game early to combat the scoring woes of his team on the perimeter.  Other than Selby, none of the KU guards are elite talents capable of scoring on demand.  It didn’t work out today, as Selby went 1-5 for two points and clearly wasn’t feeling it, but it was still worth the gamble.  He couldn’t have done much worse than the pair of Reed and Brady Morningstar (2-16 FGs).
  • Speaking of Selby, has any freshman in America been a bigger disappointment this season?  Hailed as the possible missing piece to a dominant KU team, he looked good in December before tailing off completely the rest of the way to become nearly a late-season afterthought.  It’s not very often that high school players good enough to rate #1 in the nation by at least one scouting service will suffer such a weird diminishment of his playing time and influence.  Yet, had he been akin to a John Wall or even a Brandon Knight, Kansas might still be playing.  The perimeter absolutely killed the Jayhawks today.

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The Week That Was: From Sixteen To Four

Posted by jstevrtc on March 29th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

What We Learned

Ladies And Gentlemen, Your 2010 CBI Champions! (AP/E. Gay)

Throughout the regular season a lot was made about the lack of an elite team in college basketball. For about a month Duke fit the bill, but then Kyrie Irving hurt his toe and the Blue Devils lost their aura of invincibility. As the season wore on, Ohio State and Kansas emerged as the top two teams in the nation. They had all the elements of an elite squad — size, skill, experience and NBA talent — but no one would have confused the Buckeyes and Jayhawks with, say, 2009 North Carolina, 2007 Florida, or 2001 Duke. This year’s versions of KU and OSU were very good teams, but neither was at that usual level of “great” that at least one team achieves during a season. The NCAA tournament certainly has reinforced the good-but-not-great trend in college hoops this year. For the first time ever, there won’t be a single #1 or #2 seed represented in the Final Four, and the group of #3 Connecticut, #4 Kentucky, #8 Butler and #11 VCU comprises the highest combined seeding of any quartet in Final Four history. The games from the past two weeks show just how little difference there was from #1-20. Kentucky and Arizona looked every bit as talented as Ohio State and Duke, and neither victory felt like an upset. Yes, Butler needed a number of breaks to go its way to advance to the Final Four, but time and time again the Bulldogs made the necessary plays to win, and they never looked overmatched against any one of their higher seeded opponents.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.26.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 26th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

East

  • Kentucky/North Carolina is a power matchup in the Elite Eight. The Tar Heels defeated the Wildcats in their showdown last December. Since then, both teams have matured, thus setting the tone for a battle of epic proportions.
  • Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger said he will return to Columbus for his sophomore season. This is a bit of news that we will not believe until it is set in stone. Ask again in a month or so as the draft entry deadline nears.
  • Against both Princeton and Ohio State, Kentucky guard Brandon Knight struggled mightily with his shot, but came up big when it mattered most. We would imagine that the Wildcats will need a much more consistent performance from Knight if they wish to get past North Carolina.
  • Marquette showed some fight in the second half of Friday’s game against North Carolina. It was too little too late, as the Golden Eagles had a terrible first half in which they scored only 15 points.
  • Despite early season struggles, North Carolina center Tyler Zeller believes that the Tar Heels knew they could get deep into the tournament all along. Zeller and his teammates will need this confidence, as they are slated to face a red-hot Kentucky squad on Sunday.

Southeast

  • When Butler went through a swoon in January, head coach Brad Stevens called good friend Mark Few for advice to get his team through the tough time.
  • This Indianapolis Star columnist is not attributing Butler’s run as “magic,” but merely as the best team winning. The Bulldogs need to be on their game if they want to beat Florida to advance to their second straight Final Four.
  • Hailing from little Connersville, Indiana, Butler forward Matt Howard has been the heart and soul of the Bulldogs throughout this season. Howard has been so unselfish that point guard Ronald Nored has, at times, had to beg the big man to shoot more.
  • Florida guard Erving Walker has put the Gators on his back more than once this season. The junior from New York City stands much taller than his 5’8 frame would suggest.
  • Once an afterthought at Georgetown, forward Vernon Macklin has made a big difference for Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators. It is tough not to root for a kid like Macklin, who has battled adversity throughout his collegiate career.

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BGTD: Friday Night Tourney Sessions

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day. For a recap of the action earlier today, check out our afternoon BGTD post.

  • Jimmer goes off. For most of the past week we have focused on who BYU doesn’t have (Brandon Davies) while seemingly ignoring the who they do have (Jimmer Fredette) and Jimmer reminded us how good he can be thanks to a ridiculous 52-point performance to knock off New Mexico, a team that had beaten the Cougars the two previous times they played this season. We aren’t saying that the Cougars are still a contender without Davies because we think they lack the depth to make it past the second weekend without him, but with Fredette and a decent supporting cast we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Cougars in the Sweet 16. As for Fredette, this should basically be the stamp on his national player of the year campaign. There are plenty of excellent players this year (more on a few in a bit), but nobody has been as dominant throughout the entire seen as Fredette.
  • OT at MSG. The Big East seminfinals provided us with a pair of excellent games that required an extra session. In the first semifinal Kemba Walker finally played like the phenomenal player we saw in Maui, but UConn still required an extra 5 minutes to knock off Syracuse after a pair of huge threes by Scoop Jardine late in regulation. In the end, Walker (33 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 steals) and Alex Oriakhi (15 points and 11 rebounds) were too much for the Orange. In the nightcap, Louisville overcame a 14-point halftime deficit against Notre Dame to force overtime and join the Huskies in the Big East finals. The key for the Cardinals was forcing Ben Hansborough into numerous poor shots as he ended the day 3 for 16 from the field. The Cardinals comeback victory sets up an intriguing Big East final match-up involving two of the league’s most controversial coaches who each have dealt with major issues in the past year (Rick Pitino‘s being personal and Jim Calhoun‘s being professional). One thing to watch for is the Huskies legs as they are attempting to become the first team in Big East Tournament history to win 5 games in 5 days. You might also want to watch for how the Huskies respond when they get to the NCAA Tournament as all these miles might begin to take a toll on them.
  • Toe Problems at Duke. Normally we would brush off Nolan Smith‘s toe injury against Maryland in a game that the Blue Devils won handily, but given how innoucous another toe injury to another Duke guard (Kyrie Irving) seemed at the time we think the Blue Devils will be a little more cautious heading into their game against Virginia Tech.

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ACC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC. With conference tournament action set to tip from Greensboro on Thursday, get set for March Madness with RTC’s regular season wrap-up and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

North Carolina is hot.  It took almost all of the regular season, but the Tar Heels are finally living up to preseason hype.  UNC  should definitely be favored to win the ACC Tournament, but I wouldn’t bet on them.  I think the Heels are due for one more hiccup before the Big Dance.  They’ve flirted with disaster a couple of times and are coming off a huge win against Duke.  It’s tough to keep a young team focused, and this team starts two freshmen and two sophomores.  I also expect Duke to be playing with real purpose after the beatdown in Chapel Hill as it fights for a top seed.

As far as the bubble is concerned, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Boston College all need wins.  I don’t think any of them are safe at this point (which is the unfortunate part of Clemson clinching the bye).  Unfortunately, Clemson and Boston College will probably meet in the second round in a de facto “win and in” game.

Besides interesting bubble match-ups, look out for Duke and Maryland in the second round.  Maryland has been down this year, but the Terps never back down from a fight (especially one with Duke).  Also keep an eye on the semifinals when Boston College or Clemson will probably meet North Carolina.  The Tigers and Eagles both played North Carolina incredibly close in Chapel Hill, and both would really benefit from the resume boost.

The most exciting conference tourney prospect is a rubber match between Duke and North Carolina in the tournament finals.  These two teams are far and away the best teams in the conference, and both are in the conversation for a number one seed.  Oh yeah, and who wouldn’t want a third game of one of the best rivalries in sports.

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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 FoxSports.com 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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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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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

Things are starting to take shape for the conference with a few games under our belts, so this will be a Power Rankings combined with A Look Ahead that includes NCAA Tournament projections.

The biggest news out of this week probably comes out of Chapel Hill, where Roy Williams finally decided to heed the analysis of countless fans and writers by starting Kendall Marshall over Larry Drew II.  Marshall had seen a steady increase in playing time (even if Williams did blame Drew’s fatigue) over the last few weeks, and after the drubbing at Georgia Tech, Williams finally decided to make the change.  Ironically, Drew responded well with his third-highest point total of the season.  Kendall Marshall may be a little slower laterally, but he’s a much better facilitator, which is what Williams’ offense requires.  Not to be outdone, Sidney Lowe made a very similar move to start Ryan Harrow against Miami.  Harrow had a tough day offensively, but he sealed a Wolfpack victory with his clutch steal in the final 30 seconds.  In other point guard news, Tony Chennault is finally suiting up for Wake Forest and played some valuable minutes in the loss at Duke.  I don’t think his presence makes Wake’s season outlook any better, but he’ll be a big part in rebuilding this program.

On the injury front, big news coming from Kyrie Irving’s father.  Per Jeff Goodman, Irving will not have surgery, which would have ended his season.  Irving’s father also asserts that the cast will come off February 4, so look for news around then about his prognosis.

And say hello to the newly-ranked Florida State Seminoles, who joined the AP top 25 at number 22 this week!

  • Player of the Week: This week, I’m going with role players.  Ryan Kelly will get the spotlight, but Erick Green and Richard Howell are getting shout-outs, too.  Last week, Ryan Kelly went a perfect 10-10 from the field including 6-6 from beyond the arc.  He also collected 14 boards over the two games.  He’s been criticized for being soft, but when he’s scoring in double figures, Duke is awfully tough to beat.  Erick Green got the job done for Virginia Tech at Maryland.  The sophomore has steadily seen his playing time increase with injuries, and he paid his dues with 24 points and four steals (on an efficient 12-16 from the field).  Finally, Richard Howell led all scorers for NC State with 17 in their win over Miami.
  • Team of the Week: Virginia Tech jumped back into relevance this week with a commanding win at Maryland and a less impressive home win over Longwood.  The Hokies stumbled a bit early this season, but they’ve found their groove of late: Seth Greenberg’s squad has won nine of their last ten (barely losing to North Carolina on the road) despite major injury issues.  They’re still not out of woods (read: off the bubble) yet, but things are definitely looking up.  I still think they’ll need to win 11 or 12 games in conference play or have a strong showing in the conference tournament, but they’re off to a solid start.  As to why, credit Seth Greenberg for playing Malcolm Delaney off the ball where he excels, and really getting the most out of his entire roster.  They may lack depth, but they make up for it with scrappy play.
  • Bizarro Team of the Week: Miami lost two games by a total of four points–and yes, things are looking up when the Bizarro Team of the Week only sports close losses.  First they lost to “bad Florida State” (the team that lost to Auburn) after holding the Seminoles to no field goals in the first 9:49.  It should be noted that Florida State only managed one jumper; the rest of their points came from the free throw line, layups and dunks for a vast majority of the first half.  However, after Miami hit a three to extend their lead to ten early in the second half, it was all Florida State.  Miami attempted to right the ship at NC State when they chewed up a 17-point second half deficit and drew within one in the final minute.  Unfortunately, fate stood strong and left the Hurricanes just short.  With the losses Miami falls to one and four in conference play but appears to be a much better team on paper (with three playmakers).  They could deal some brutal losses to teams looking for an at-large bid as the season progresses.

Power Rankings and Bracket Projections:

Lock It Down

Duke (18-1, 5-1) could totally tank from here on out and still expect to make the field (see Texas last year).  That said, they’re looking like they finally may have found their sea legs after the loss at Florida State.  Different players have been stepping up (this week, Kyle Singler and Ryan Kelly).  The Blue Devils will need some consistency from their interior to really be a complete team, and if Kelly can remain a scoring threat and Mason Plumlee keeps up his rebounding and defense they’ll have it covered.

Projected seed: 1-2

Should Be In

Florida State (15-5, 5-1) still has major offensive issues, but ten conference wins looks like a lock given their schedule (which I think would get them a decent seed).  Derwin Kitchen needs to continue being a factor on offense, and every win from here on out will make Auburn look like more and more of an anomaly.

Projected seed: 4-5, although they’re drawing very close to the 2010 Maryland resume for a three-seed if they can finish with three or less conference losses.

Need To Keep Winning To Go Dancing

Virginia Tech (13-5, 3-2) looked dead just a couple of weeks ago.  But Jeff Allen and Malcolm Delaney have really stepped up to the plate recently.  A win against Duke would seal the deal, but the real key is to keep winning and don’t look back (also known as don’t repeat losses like home to Virginia).

Projected seed: 6-9

Boston College (14-6, 4-2) has a historically large gap between their offense and defense.  Unfortunately, the Eagles have some tough losses on their resume, and they definitely haven’t looked infallible.  That said, they’ve already played Florida State and only have one game against Duke, so most of their games are winnable.  There’s not a whole lot of margin for error with the perceived (rightly) dearth of talent in the conference though, so the Eagles probably need to split their series with North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

Projected seed: 8-9

North Carolina (13-5, 3-1) has a brutal conference schedule the rest of the way: two games against Duke, Florida State and Boston College, with a little Maryland (home) on the side.  This team has struggled on the road (and at home for that matter), but I think they’ll get better with Kendall Marshall running the show.  Their strong non-conference win over Kentucky (and close loss against Texas for that matter) give the Tar Heels a little more wiggle room than the rest of their ACC brethren, but they’ve got to win some road games.  A win over Duke would be nice too.

Projected seed: 6-11

Fighting To Survive

Maryland (12-7, 2-3) should almost be in panic mode.  The Terrapins have zero good wins, two conference home losses and seven total losses.  There’s no room for error, and Gary Williams is going to have to find a way to basically win out (i.e. beat Duke and Florida State at home, and win two of three from UNC, Boston College and Virginia Tech on the road).  There’s still a very slim chance for the Terps, but they’re looking more and more NIT-worthy by the day.

Projected seed: 11-NIT

NIT-Picking

  • Clemson (13-6, 2-3) is off to a strong start under Brad Brownell, but I can’t see this team heading to the Big Dance.  They lost a couple of brutal games this week (at North Carolina and at Maryland) that would have put them right in the mix, but both times the Tigers went cold down the stretch after being in a good place to win.  Still, the NIT is not a bad destination after losing Trevor Booker and Oliver Purnell.
  • Virginia (11-8, 2-3) will always be a “what might have been” story after losing Mike Scott to a season-ending foot surgery.  I was a huge doubter coming into the season, but the Cavaliers have a couple of very good wins and play almost everyone tough (this week they lost a close one at Boston College and beat Georgia Tech).  With Scott, they could definitely have finished in the top half of the conference.  Without him I think they’re looking at a trip to the NIT.
  • NC State (12-7, 2-3) should have made the tournament this year.  There is no denying they have the talent.  You can argue Tracy Smith’s poorly timed injury was the problem, but truthfully they just haven’t gotten it done.  There’s no doubt in my mind that Sidney Lowe loves the NC State program, but it’s time to part ways.  He’s just not cut out for coaching at this level.  Unless the Wolfpack put on a spectacular finish, I don’t see Lowe keeping his job.  This week they got beat badly at home by Duke and eked out a home win over Miami.

Rebuild For Next Season

  • Georgia Tech (9-9, 2-3) absolutely blitzkrieged Wake Forest in Atlanta this week.  The Yellow Jackets would have won by forty if not for a scoring drought in the final minutes.  This team really misses the inside void left by Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal, and struggles with inconsistent play out of the backcourt.  The good news is everyone important is coming back.  The bad news is that probably includes Paul Hewitt.
  • Miami (12-7, 1-4) at one point looked like a contender for second in the conference.  On paper, the Hurricanes still do.  Malcolm Grant, Durand Scott and Reggie Johnson are all great players.  Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to put it together yet.  The great news is they’re all coming back, and I can’t imagine they won’t be in the top half of the conference.  In the meantime, Johnson should really practice not fouling so he can stay on the court for longer.  Truthfully, they should be much higher than this (and probably have a good shot at the NIT), but one and four is too much to overlook right now.
  • Wake Forest (7-13, 0-5) needs to keep looking ahead.  Tony Chennault showed some positive things (beyond the box score) against Duke.  Hopefully he’ll be able to cut down on the team’s turnovers as the season progresses, and maybe run a little bit of offense.  Right now the Demon Deacons should really just shoot for winning a couple of conference games (and hope to fill some roster holes with new recruits).  The good news is there’s nowhere to go but up.

A Look Ahead

Keep an eye on the teams in the mix for the NCAAs, as Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Maryland, Boston College and Florida State all start the week on the road.  Duke also has an interesting nonconference matchup against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on January 30 (1:00 PM, CBS).

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