ACC Big Men Have Bright Futures: Will Their Teams Follow?

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 22nd, 2014

It is often bandied about that guards win games (along with defense) because they have the ball in their hands most often and thus affect the action more than other positions. While this is certainly a valid viewpoint, interior post players can often mean the difference between a championship team or a bubble team. The popular mindset is that big men take longer to develop in the college ranks because of the learning curve required to manage their combination of power, size and dexterity. Most post players come to the Division I ranks with a limited post game but raw with athleticism and length, prized characteristics that NBA GMs in every professional franchise covet.

Kennedy Meeks is a handful in the paint (USA TODAY Sports)

Kennedy Meeks is a handful in the paint (USA TODAY Sports)

The ACC this season is rich in young frontcourt talent that is likely to stay for more than a year in the collegiate ranks. North Carolina is a great example of the conference’s youthful exuberance in the post, sporting a terrific breadth of versatility in that regard. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson are the tip of the iceberg, both terrific rebounders with vastly different approaches.  At 290 pounds, Meeks is a strong and sturdy freshman who isn’t a terrific leaper but uses his body and angles to score and rebound the offensive glass very well. He also possesses one of the nation’s best outlet passes, a perfect conduit for guards Nate Britt and Marcus Paige to start Roy Williams’ break. Johnson, on the other hand, is a long beanpole of a forward who has had a breakout sophomore year for the Tar Heels, ranking fourth in ACC field goal percentage at 54.5%. UNC’s frontcourt depth doesn’t completely end there, though, as the Heels also have 6’10”, 280-pound sophommore Joel James, who is a load in the paint but hasn’t found consistent playing time this season. Freshman Isaiah Hicks too has a bright future ahead of him at UNC; the McDonald’s All-American recorded seven blocks and pulled down an insane 30 rebounds in his state’s high school championship game last year. But the ACC’s young frontcourt brigade of talent doesn’t end in Chapel Hill.

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ACC M5: 02.18.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 18th, 2014

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  1. Testudo Times: I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about what qualifications earns a coach a spot in the Hall of Fame, but put me down for Gary Williams regardless. Some of the reasons are here, courtesy of Dave Tucker: he won a national championship in the second of back-to-back Final Four appearances; his teams went to 11 straight NCAA Tournaments; and he has the third most ACC wins behind Coach K and Dean Smith. Also of note is how he rebuilt Maryland from the ground up after the school was (arguably unjustly) leveled with NCAA sanctions. Seems like an open-and-shut case to me.
  2. Baltimore Sun: Devin Thomas‘s older sister Alyssa is one of Maryland’s best players ever. She also may have played a role in Devin becoming the interior force we now know by beating him in one-on-one as kids (she was faster, so he had to get physical). More interesting is that Thomas almost joined his sister at Maryland until Gary Williams retired and the coach in charge of his recruitment left. Think about a Charles Mitchell – Devin Thomas frontcourt. Hello 100% rebounding rate.
  3. Blue Devil Lair: Here’s a look at some efficiency stats that suggest Duke is on track for the Final Four. Duke and Creighton sit in elite efficiency territory and are doing it essentially with offense alone. That’s probably the most interesting part of the equation, as while teams with gaudy efficiency differentials tend to make the final weekend, it generally takes a more balanced team than the Bluejays or Blue Devils to get those margins. What’s also worth noting is that efficiency margins are likely to drop as the season progresses (and the teams you play get better), so Duke’s numbers may be inflated compared with what they’ll look like at the end of the season.
  4. Hampton Roads Pilot: Speaking of teams with gaudy efficiency stats, Virginia will almost certainly retain its top spot in Tuesday Truths today. Which begs to question. Just what happened at Tennessee? Was it a wake-up call? An outlier of all outliers (on both ends of the floor)? A horrible match0up? We’ll never know, but that game makes many people very wary of Virginia as a top tier team in the ACC. Beating Syracuse March 1 would go a long way in easing people’s doubts (and could lock up the regular season “title”), but I’m not sure I’ll ever get past that beatdown.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: Interesting interview from Donna Ditota with Jim Boeheim. While he opens by acknowledging Syracuse’s vulnerability, it’s clear Boeheim has very positive feelings about this team. He noted Baye Moussa Keita’s injury might turn out to be a blessing, as it’s helped Rakeem Christmas accept a bigger role. And then he broaches winning a national championship with limited depth, which–while a natural response to a question on depth–bears significance because of Boeheim’s normal self-deprecating tone.

EXTRA: Duke conspiracy theorists have more ammo, as the conference announced the official did make a mistake in the second half of the eventual 1-point Blue Devil win against Maryland.

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ACC M5: 01.15.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 15th, 2014

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  1. Sports Illustrated: Y’all may not know this, but Maryland wants out of its ACC exit fee (which is admittedly a steep $52.3 million dollars). The Terrapins’ most recent legal strategy? Countersue the ACC for — get this — $157 million dollars! What? Maryland challenges that the ACC sent Wake Forest and Pittsburgh representatives to two Big Ten schools to lure them eastward. In addition Maryland notes that the ACC is “confiscating NCAA monies.” I’m going out on a limb (and agreeing with Martin Rickman) that the ACC isn’t going to pony up nine figures, and Maryland won’t fork over $50 million dollars. But this suit certainly looks like a Hail Mary of sorts. Speaking of looks and Maryland, keep an eye out for these “Maryland Heritage” jerseys tonight against Notre Dame. You’ll have to look really closely though.
  2. Harrisburg Patriot News: Cool story on Devin Thomas, who’s from central Pennsylvania, and his development as an elite rebounder for the Demon Deacons. Apparently Thomas honed his rebounding skills in high school when he wasn’t the first option, meaning that he had to create his own shots. In the long run, Wake Forest needs Thomas to continue his elite rebounding and further develop the rest of his offensive game.
  3. Fox Sports Florida: Ian Miller has really blossomed this year for Florida State. It was easy to predict in retrospect, as many foretold a breakout season for him last year before his injury. What has been a huge surprise is Miller’s knack at sharing the ball. He currently leads Florida State in assists, which is surprising if you watched his first two seasons with the Seminoles. Interestingly enough, Miller also averages the most minutes per game on the team despite coming off the bench.
  4. Miami Herald: Apparently Jim Larranaga and his staff got a “crash course” in playing zone from Bernie Fine and Ralph Willard. Fine was a longtime Syracuse assistant under Jim Boeheim (you may remember him from the ESPN-broken scandal that turned out to be false), and Willard coached under Rick Pitino at Louisville and Kentucky (he also was an assistant at Syracuse back in the mid-1980s). So far the defense has been effective. Miami isn’t fouling while still holding conference opponents to low field goal percentages nearly every time out. The team’s offense still has a long way to go, however.
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Last year Roy Williams turned around North Carolina’s season by going small. A couple of years prior he sat Larry Drew II, opening the door for Kendall Marshall to start. But those decisions both made a lot of sense at the time, and seemed obvious from an outsider’s perspective. This year, I don’t see a common thread for how to “fix” the beleaguered Tar Heels. Is it Leslie McDonald? (Probably not.) Should Marcus Paige play more off the ball? (Eh. Nate Britt still has a long way to go.) Williams has a problem that the Tar Heels are young and can’t shoot the basketball. There’s just too much pressure on Marcus Paige to put up Player of the Year numbers every night. It might not be fixable.
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Is Wake Forest’s Victory Over UNC a Stepping Stone or an Aberration?

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 6th, 2014

After Wake Forest’s upset win over North Carolina on Sunday night, it’s easy to conveniently revert to the narrative of the “Jekyll and Hyde” performances of UNC at this point in the season. Lost in the conversation could be how big the win could prove for Jeff Bzdelik’s Demon Deacons, a team that may not have dealt with the roster and eligibility concerns of the Heels but have been a program in flux since he took over three years ago and has struggled to resurrect a disenchanted fan base. The momentum this win could carry would be huge for a basketball program that has unquestionably fallen on hard times since the shocking death of Skip Prosser in 2007. The question is whether last night’s win was the work of a team simply motivated to win its conference home opener against an historic rival, or whether the Deacons are finally turning a corner to better and brighter things.

Devin Thomas

Effort and enthusiasm from players like Devin Thomas could mean a statement year for Coach Bzdelik and Wake Forest (credit: accbasketball.com)

The sustainability of Wake’s winning ways can certainly be debated, just as much as the oft-maligned Bzdelik’s ability to reinvigorate its fan base. Wake is coming off of a relatively weak non-conference slate — the Demon Deacons entered the game at 10-3 — and the atmosphere for its ACC opener at the Joel was somewhat disappointing with a strong UNC presence in the stands. Still, a win over the Tar Heels represents a quality victory — perhaps Wake’s second-best in the Bzdelik era behind a win over Miami last season — but certainly not a shocking one given UNC’s own struggles this season. Early foul trouble on James Michael McAdoo and J.P. Tokoto and an inordinate number of sloppy turnovers doomed UNC’s chances at a second half comeback, putting some of the onus on Carolina for the loss rather than Wake Forest manufacturing the victory.

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ACC Preview Revisited – Part Three

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 3rd, 2014

As we continue to revisit our ‘ACC Mega-Preview’, here is the third part of our recap with the bottom five projected teams profiled below. Keep in mind that the teams are ranked here based on the RTC preseason ACC rankings. The analysis of each determines whether each team was ranked too high or low at the start of the season.

To review Part One and Part Two of this feature, click through the links.

11). Florida State Seminoles (9-3)

FSU's defense has given Leonard Hamilton reason to smile again

FSU’s defense has given Leonard Hamilton reason to smile again

  • Signature wins: #10 VCU, #22 UMass
  • Signature losses: #14 Michigan, #15 Florida
  • Reasons for optimism: Florida State has tangled with a very difficult schedule thus far and responded well above its preseason perception. Thanks to their talented trio of Ian Miller, Aaron Thomas and Okaro White, Florida State has outdone expectations through a return to their days of defensive dominance under defensive whiz and head coach Leonard Hamilton. The emergence of massive center Boris Bojanovsky as a formidable interior presence has helped anchor the frontline, and by playing hard-nosed basketball against a very competitive early slate of opponents before conference play begins, FSU has set itself up well to overachieve and claw its way into the crowded ACC picture.
  • Reasons for pessimism: It will be tough for Florida State to keep up its scorching shooting percentages through conference play, and the rhythm it has built may break down over the wear and tear of consistently equivalent and superior teams in the ACC. While the Seminoles rank highly in field goal percentage, they don’t have a long-range threat on the roster who can consistently knock down threes when they are zoned. If one of their big three gets into foul trouble, which has happened to White already this season (he is averaging 3.2 personal fouls per contest), they will struggle to replace a player of his offensive importance.
  • Forecast: Florida State has a bright season ahead, likely beating some solid opponents and losing a few very close games to stronger foes. Without star recruit Xavier Rathan-Mayes and missing out on the Andrew Wiggins sweepstake, most folks thought Hamilton’s team would struggle to keep its head above water this season. It has proved many people wrong with its tenacious defensive principles intact and a solid well-rounded scoring attack. Florida State has firmly leapfrogged several teams projected in front of it and can be expected to challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid by continuing on this trajectory. 

12). Miami Hurricanes (8-5)

  • Signature wins: Arizona State
  • Signature losses: George Washington
  • Reasons for optimism: Not much was expected of this Miami team after losing almost all of its squad from an historic 2012-13 season. Losing the likes of ACC POY Shane Larkin, Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson, and Durand Scott would weigh on any team, but Jim Larranaga’s group has looked more formidable than expected. Behind the strong play of Rion Brown, Garrius Adams and Donnavan Kirk, Miami won’t set the world on fire this season but has a good team that could upset some more talented squads in conference play. They are certainly athletic, physical, and well-coached and will not back down from any challenge. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC M10: 12.10.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 10th, 2013

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Author’s note: As technical difficulties prevented yesterday’s M5, please accept 10 blurbs as repayment.

  1. Boston Globe and BC Interruption: Both of these stories were written following Boston College‘s loss to USC. The former stressed Steve Donahue’s point of view: “The bottom line is we have a group of kids who are not playing with confidence.” The latter was from a fan, calling for Donahue’s job. Strangely enough the two aren’t that far off from each other. This was Donahue’s year to show he could make the leap, and he scheduled accordingly. Unfortunately his team didn’t play like the group that almost played spoiler in the ACC Tournament last season. They played like the athletically overmatched group that they are on paper. The team’s performance last March shows its potential (as do countless previews coming into this season), but Brian Favat is right about the season effectively being over barring a miraculous conference run. What exactly has been the problem?
  2. BC Interruption: Defense! The fine bloggers over at BC Interruption are breaking down the Eagles and their technical difficulties so far this season, starting with transition defense. Luckily, Boston College doesn’t turn the ball over that often, but the second GIF example certainly points to a team running at half-speed. That’s what Steve Donahue has to fix before the end of the season to keep fans in his corner. Everyone knows he won’t beat anyone as an elite recruiter (although he is a good evaluator of talent), but he’s got to show that his X’s and O’s can create a competitive team if he wants to stick around Chestnut Hill a lot longer. The one thing people forget about the Eagles this season is that they’re still pretty young — not nearly as young as the last two seasons, but well below average nevertheless. That’s the main reason I’d probably lean towards giving Donahue another season after this one.
  3. Streaking the Lawn: Speaking of ACC teams with rough starts, Virginia appears to have taken a step backwards since last season. The big reason for that is the Cavaliers’ sudden propensity to turn the ball over. Weirdly enough, this is a spot Jontel Evans isn’t missed (at least on paper), but all of Virginia’s players are turning it over at a higher rate than last season. That combined with stop-and-go offense certainly points to point guard issues (something many forecasted as the team’s Achilles heel). Whatever the underlying reason, Tony Bennett needs to get more offensively from Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Filling out our trio of below mediocrity is Maryland. Mark Turgeon held true on his promise to start Varun Ram against George Washington, although the redshirt junior played fewer minutes than he had in the blowout loss to Ohio State. But Ram isn’t the answer, and I expect Turgeon knows this. Seth Allen isn’t the answer either, which is why Turgeon has to find another way to curb the team’s rampant turnovers. As Dez Wells and Allen mature, I expect both to get better at valuing the basketball, but expecting any changes overnight is naive.
  5. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: According to Ken Pomeroy’s statistics, Pittsburgh has the 12th-ranked defense in the country, but Jamie Dixon still isn’t happy with it. Specifically, his team’s rebounding against Loyola Marymount appeared to get under his skin, despite winning the game by 17 points. This certainly sounds like a coach trying to keep his team focused heading into conference play. If you haven’t watched the Panthers play already, Lamar Patterson is worth the price of admission. He’s the quiet leader (who admittedly hasn’t played much real competition) for ACC Player of the Year at this point.
  6. Syracuse Post-Standard: Dajuan Coleman came to Syracuse loaded with potential but has still yet to earn a significant spot in the team’s rotation. But before you’re too quick to write him off as a bust, remember that it took three and a half years for Brian Zoubek to find his role on Duke’s 2010 national championship team. Like Zoubek, Coleman is an elite offensive rebounder but that’s where the comparisons should end. Big men generally take longer to adjust to the college game, and Jim Boeheim’s system is probably nothing like what Coleman saw in high school. His breakout season might not be this year, but expect progressively more good games as the season unfolds for the sophomore.
  7. South Bend Tribune: Jerian Grant is really blossoming this season. He’s on par with North Carolina’s Marcus Paige right now as far as best guards in the league as conference play trickles to a start. Grant is shouldering a similar load — strictly speaking about possessions here — but he’s much more efficient. The big difference between this year and the last couple has been Grant’s consistency. His two-point field goal percentage is up over 15 points and his three-point field goal percentage is up nearly 10 points. That’s outrageous. Also notable is that Notre Dame is 1-2 this season when Grant scores fewer than 19 points.
  8. Greensboro News-Record: Nate Britt is finally starting to look a like he’s ready to play significant minutes this season, which is very good news for a North Carolina team that’s not very deep at the two. Playing Britt allows JP Tokoto to move to his more natural small forward position. Marcus Paige will continue to be the star of this team unless PJ Hairston eventually comes back into the fold, but meaningful minutes for Britt can only help Roy Williams’ squad.
  9. Winston-Salem Journal: Devin Thomas is a big part of why Wake Forest is so much improved over last year. He’s arguably the best rebounder in the league, which evidences his high-level motor. His intensity has gotten him in trouble at times (see: Wake Forest’s game against Kansas), but it also gives him a bit of an edge. Also, what sort of odds would you have gotten at the beginning of the season on Wake Forest at 8-2 and Boston College at 3-6 at this point in the season?
  10. Fayetteville Observer: While its offense has taken a few steps back towards earth, Duke’s defense is finally coming around. A lot of the change is from an effort and focus standpoint. Mike Krzyzewski even slapped the floor a couple of times against Michigan to help fire up his team. What remains to be seen is if and how Duke can put it all together. If Marshall Plumlee can give Coach K productive minutes like he did against the Wolverines, Duke may retake its lofty ranking yet. If not, the team will be highly dependent on the match-ups before them.
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ACC M5: 11.29.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 29th, 2013

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  1. Washington Post: Huge news out of College Park this week, as Dalonte Hill has resigned from Maryland’s staff. That opened up a spot for Dustin Clark to be promoted and Juan Dixon to be hired as a special assistant (after he completes his degree). According to Dixon, he’s always wanted to be a college coach, so he’s been in Mark Turgeon’s ear about getting onto the staff during the past few months. If Dixon is half the coach as he was a college basketball player, this will be a great move. He should be an invaluable tool in recruiting local guys (although he can’t go on the road).
  2. Orlando Sentinel: Ian Miller is a big part of Florida State’s dramatic turnaround. Montay Brandon definitely deserves some credit, but Miller’s offensive prowess and experience make him a key cog in Leonard Hamilton’s machine. Last year Miller was injured and unable to practice, but he dropped 25 pounds and is back to being the exciting player people predicted he would be when he transferred. It’s clear from his comments that his injury caused Miller to rededicate himself to the game.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: This Dan Collins interview with Devin Thomas seems especially prescient considering how closely Wake Forest played Kansas. However, Thomas needs to learn when to walk away, as shown by his two technical fouls over the course of two minutes. Watching the game it was unclear exactly why he got the techs, but he can’t put himself in that position to begin with. Still, after the Demon Deacons played Kansas competitively (even spotting them free throws from three technical fouls while missing boatloads of their own), it’s clear that Wake Forest’s record wasn’t just a fluke.
  4. CBS Sports: Jabari Parker is something else. Matt Norlander does a pretty good job putting his uniqueness into words with this ode after Duke’s win over Alabama. There’s still room for improvement (especially on defense), but Parker is a force rarely seen at the college level. He has range, a post game and an unbelievable array of moves all over the court. One concern for Duke has to be Rodney Hood’s no-show on Wednesday night. The Blue Devils need him to be a factor (and to stay out of foul trouble), but another amazing stat is that Parker has scored 20 in every game thus far.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: The News & Observer ran a special section on Dean Smith in honor of his recent Presidential Medal of Freedom award. While you’re reading Andrew Carter’s article, don’t forget to check out the timeline of Smith’s career or his record. Smith’s mentored everyone from Eric Montross to Roy Williams to John Swofford.
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ACC Team Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Posted by Matt Patton on October 31st, 2013

Some members of the Wake Forest faithful put together money to fly a banner proclaiming “Fire Ron Wellman around BB&T Field at the beginning of October. Alas, at the last minute the air-advertisement company backed out, leaving the disgruntled fan sentiment grounded in a metaphor that seems perfect to describe Demon Deacon athletics as a whole. The hunt for Wellman’s job originally started because of his vocal support for head basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik. Bzdelik’s tenure in Winston-Salem has been abysmal (like, 1-24 on the road in conference play abysmal), but Wellman still supports him.

Wake Forest Preview 2013

Luckily, Bzdelik oozes charisma and makes great PR moves. Well maybe not. He did announce that Wake Forest won’t have a team captain this year despite having a four-year senior who has been one of the best players on the team since his freshman year. More than most jobs in the ACC, Wake Forest requires a coach that’s either willing to take a lot of risks or has that one in a million charm (put the two together, and you get the late Skip Prosser). Otherwise it’s too easy to get overshadowed by North Carolina, Duke and NC State just down the road. Bzdelik possesses none of these traits. Now it should be clear why a large portion of the fan base wants Bzdelik and Wellman gone.

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Closing Out the ACC Microsite

Posted by mpatton on April 29th, 2013

Well, it was an up-and-down year in the ACC filled with injuries, March disappointments and one season for the history books. We here at the RTC ACC Microsite loved chronicling every minute of it. We’ll still be providing periodic coverage throughout the summer, looking towards the NBA Draft and next year, but this marks the official end of the 2012-13 season for us. If you start getting nostalgic, here are some good places to start (in chronological order).

  • Preseason ACC Awards: Still riding the highs of my Michael Snaer mancrush after his transcendent performance in the 2012 ACC Tournament, he took the preseason ACC POY nod. We clearly meant Olivier Hanlan, not Rodney Purvis when we picked the consummate scoring frosh, we just didn’t know it yet. At least we finished one for three by picking Jim Larranaga to win COY.
This Miami team will forever be etched in the history book of ACC greats. (Photo: Robert Mayer / USA TODAY Sports)

This Miami team will forever be etched in the history book of ACC greats. (Photo: Robert Mayer / USA TODAY Sports)

  • The Martin Report feels like forever ago, but the academic jokes from North Carolina‘s rivals won’t stop for a long time. And those questions the report danced around are still out there.
  • Akil Mitchell is the best returning frontcourt man in the ACC, and Kellen was all over it last December. Especially without the likes of Mason Plumlee, Devin Booker and Alex Len, it’s fine to pencil him onto your 2013-14 preseason All-ACC teams right now.
  • Speaking of being ahead of the curve, it took us until three days into 2013 to take note of Hanlan and his freshman teammate Joe Rahon. After one of the best rookie performances in ACC Tournament history, it’s safe to say it won’t take that long next year. Also, with Scott Wood and Seth Curry graduating, it’s hard to see much competition for best shooter in the ACC.

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ACC M5: 04.05.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 5th, 2013

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  1. State of the U: Miami filed a 45-page motion for the NCAA to dismiss all charges against the university due to the NCAA’s questionable actions during the investigation (which have already resulted in multiple firings at several levels of the NCAA enforcement staff). Miami is officially not going away, no matter how much the NCAA wants it to. Between USA Today‘s recent blitzkrieg of Mark Emmert, the Miami fiasco and what I expect to be substantial fallout from any NCAA reaction to Miami, look for the NCAA to have a new person at its head in the near future.
  2. San Jose Mercury News: Filed away under “fun historical ACC coaching factoids” is this gem from Jeff Faraudo. Apparently NC State legend Everett Case popularized cutting down the nets in college basketball, bringing the tradition from Indiana high schools. That leads me to believe that one of the colleges in Indiana probably did it first (and helps explain the Hoosiers’ zealous behavior for cutting down the nets this season), but Case made it big — especially once he led the way for the ACC Tournament, which would’ve given Case the platform to spread his tradition.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: Dan Collins does a great job previewing Wake Forest’s basketball team for next season player by player before coming to the conclusion that Codi Miller-McIntyre holds the key to the Demon Deacons’ success. I have a couple of thoughts on his take: I agree wholeheartedly that next year’s Wake Forest team will only be as good as Miller-McIntyre, but I think the most valuable players will be Devin Thomas and Travis McKie. Despite the fan base’s dismay over keeping Jeff Bzdelik on board, there’s a lot more talent on this roster than people give it credit for (and a lot more talent than Clemson or Virginia Tech will have next season). That said, Bzdelik needs his rising sophomore point guard to break out.
  4. Run the Floor: Miami has had a rough go at the NBA Draft recently. The school boasts three current NBA players amongst its alumni ranks, but John Salmons was the last player to be drafted in the first round in 2002 (James Jones was drafted in the second round and DeQuan Jones wasn’t drafted at all). This year that could change if Shane Larkin decides to go pro. He probably played himself into the first round this season, despite his size (although he looks taller than his listing). Kenny Kadji has the second-best chance, but his age will hurt him significantly (though whatever NBA team gets him in the second round should be thrilled).
  5. Blogger So Dear: Another player who will look to help Wake Forest next year is Daniel Green, the freshman starting center who tore his ACL before last season. It’s unclear exactly what Green will mean, other than added size and strength, but he could be another big piece of Wake Forest’s turnaround. The biggest issue for Jeff Bzdelik is playing Green and Thomas at the same time forces Travis McKie to play more on the perimeter against quicker defenders. Regardless, Green should help shore up the boards in Winston-Salem.

EXTRA: Shane Ryan did an awesomely esoteric piece on the history of basic basketball statistics — mostly focused on the “dead ball rebound” (the statistic that balances the rebound/missed shots books without rewarding teams or individuals). It’s worth a read.

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ACC M5: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 7th, 2013

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  1. Winston-Salem Journal: The freshman of the year race will say a lot about the voters involved. There are four plausible winners: Olivier Hanlan, Rasheed SulaimonDevin Thomas and TJ Warren. Each one says something about the voter: Hanlan is the most important to his team’s scoring (high usage); Sulaimon is a key piece for a top team on both ends of the floor; Warren is the efficiency guru’s dream; but Thomas has intangibles. I don’t know whether he’s a leader, but he’s often the only spark Wake Forest has on a given night. Thomas crashes the boards and plays with effort regardless of the score. In the end, Hanlan deserves the award, though it’s true he has more opportunities to shine than Sulaimon or Warren. If Sulaimon has a monster game against North Carolina, he could take the award just by overcoming his recency bias.
  2. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Speaking of awards, Daniel Miller won’t win Most Improved Player, but he should be in contention. Last season Miller was a bumbling liability everywhere but in rebounding. This year, he’s much more efficient offensively. He’s still not looking for his own shot, but he’s cut down on turnovers and increased his field goal percentage. If he improves along the Richard Howell trajectory (still a big if), Miller could be a very important piece next season.
  3. South Florida Sun Sentinel: Miami started ACC play in dominant fashion. It’s ending the year looking mediocre. A lot of people are quick to point the finger at Reggie Johnson, who hasn’t been on top of his game. But Miami could just be regressing. The Hurricanes won plenty of close games (especially through the middle of conference play) and lost none. Now, some of those games are going the other way. There are two ways of looking at this phenomenon: (1) close games are coin flips; or (2) Miami doesn’t have the same swagger it had earlier in conference play. The first isn’t cause for concern; the second is.
  4. Washington Post: North Carolina’s smaller lineup gave Maryland fits. But the Terrapins struggle to find their flow offensively. The real test for the Tar Heel’s wing-heavy lineup is this Saturday against Duke. The Blue Devils are an elite offense with an elite big man (and a stretch four to help with double-teams). But win or lose, the Tar Heels will be in the Big Dance. Maryland, however, isn’t in nearly as good shape. The Terrapins need to do some work in the conference tournament.
  5. ESPN: Well, we may be getting a taste of conference realignment  a little early, as Notre Dame may join the ACC as soon as this summer, according to Brett McMurphy. That’s good news for the ACC, as it will lock Notre Dame into an agreement instead of just waiting for a better offer to come hit you in the face.
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ACC M5: 02.13.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 13th, 2013

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  1. Tech Hoops: I stumbled across an ACC fan site I somehow hadn’t seen before — good stuff here on Virginia Tech‘s beatdown at the hands of Virginia. Jarell Eddie in particular was just horrific. He only played 14 minutes, but managed to have a plus/minus of -19. Eddie’s problem unfortunately appears to be that he’s totally checked out. He’s turning the ball over and has stopped hitting shots, which is really bad for a team that already struggles offensively without its second option mailing it in. Interestingly, Virginia Tech went 0-of-6 from the charity stripe if you discard Erick Green’s efforts. More damningly, the Hokies only have two ACC games with a positive assist to turnover margin, while their opponents only have one game with a negative assist to turnover margin. That’s an issue.
  2. Hampton Roads Daily Press: In more positive news, Miami‘s 10-0 start in ACC play looks very good for the postseason. Sixteen ACC teams previously started 10-0 in league play — half of those won the ACC Tournament, half went to the Final Four (Miami’s only made it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament once ever), and two won it all. That’s not bad company. Only one team (2007-08 Duke) didn’t at least share the regular season crown for the league. The previous runners of the opening 10-game gauntlet are six North Carolina teams, six Duke teams, three NC State teams, and yes, one Virginia team.
  3. ACC Sports Journal: The ACC’s freshmen are an interesting bunch. There’s a lot of really intriguing talent out there but no real superstars. Olivier Hanlan is the closest thing to a dominant freshman this year, and he shines especially bright because of the lack of athleticism and talent surrounding him (which isn’t a knock on his athleticism — Duke didn’t have anyone who could stay in front of him). My only qualm with this list is Devin Thomas‘ ranking. He’s been a bright spot for Wake Forest this season largely because of his effort. He’s not the most polished player around, but he often is the most impactful player on the floor for the Demon Deacons.
  4. Tomahawk Nation: Florida State is still theoretically in contention for an at-large bid to the Big Dance. The key will be to not blow any of its remaining winnable games and stealing a couple of marquee games down the stretch (a win over Duke or Miami would help dramatically). As far as Michael Rogner’s power rankings, it’s interesting how stable the top of the conference is when compared to the ever-morphing top of the national polls. Miami, Duke, Virginia, NC State and North Carolina all sit in the same spots. It’s also time to start asking if the Hurricanes can run the table this year. Their final game at Duke will be the ultimate test, but so far they haven’t shown many vulnerabilities.
  5. US Basketball Writers Association: For the second straight week, the USBWA named an ACC player its Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week. This time it’s Mason Plumlee‘s turn, after he averaged 24.5 points, 9.5 boards and 2.0 blocks per game in wins over Boston College and NC State. After a quiet stretch following his early NPOY candidacy, Plumlee is back on track in the ACC Player of the Year race. His free throw shooting has improved and overall he’s just being more aggressive without Ryan Kelly on the floor.
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