ACC Summer Recess: Virginia Tech Hokies

Posted by mpatton on July 17th, 2012

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

Where They Stand Now

Virginia Tech surprised most people last year. The Hokies were picked in the middle of the pack by pretty much everyone. It was supposed to be a “down year” in the sense that people expected Seth Greenberg‘s perennial bubble team to not be one of the last teams out on Selection Sunday. Non-conference play went as expected: the Hokies lost all three games they played against tough competition and won the other 11. Then the ACC slate hit like a dump truck.

Virginia Tech started 1-6 in conference play with losses to league cellar dwellers Boston College and Wake Forest. Until beating Clemson by five in their final regular season match-up, the Hokies’ three wins came by a total of five points. No conference team played opponents as consistently close (Virginia Tech saw all but four of its conference games decided by single figures), but no team saw fewer conference wins either. It was the last straw for the athletic department brass, which waited until April 23 to let Greenberg go.

Erick Green

Erick Green Has First Team All-ACC Potential this Season.

In his stead is last year’s Assistant Head Coach, James Johnson. Johnson is a great choice for the job, though he failed his first assignments. Top recruit Montrezl Harrell de-committed from the program to go to Louisville, and rising star Dorian Finney-Smith transferred to Florida. Still, Johnson knows the Virginia Tech team well and he knows the program.

Who’s Leaving

Long story short: a lot of people. The Hokies lose Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila to graduation; they lose Allan Chaney and Finney-Smith to transfer; and they lost Harrell’s commitment along with their head coach Greenberg.

Hudson and Davila were the team’s second and fourth-leading scorers, respectively. They combined to average 18.4 points and 7.0 rebounds a game. While Finney-Smith was still very raw offensively, he contributed a lot on defense and by crashing the glass. He was highly rated coming out of high school (#18 by ESPN, #27 by Scout and #31 by Rivals), largely thanks to his potential.

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ACC Game On: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on February 2nd, 2012

Wednesday night was a night of valiant efforts, but no surprises. Despite the underdogs’ collective success at keeping games close, Goliath withstood David’s slings and the ACC standings are starting to finally look understandable. Without Glen Rice Jr., Georgia Tech was no match for the still-hot Florida State Seminoles who put the Yellow Jackets in the rear view with a dynamic closing stretch. Boston College, formerly a high-octane scoring attack, tried a more traditional underdog approach with a hideous burn offense that slowed the game with North Carolina State to a crawl. Despite some notable efforts to try to give away the game in the second half, Boston College still faltered in its end-game execution and Mark Gottfried and his crew walked away with the win.

Turgeon Got Run, But Maryland Proved It Has Some Fight

The real excitement of the night was in the Maryland at Miami game. While it looked like it was going to be a by-the-numbers blow out, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon took exception to a referee call late in the second half, kept arguing, and finally got ejected. The Terrapins, rallying behind the guy who stood up for them, suddenly started playing some inspired ball. That combined with the absence of any true post players for Miami (Kenny Kadji was injured while both Reggie Johnson and Raphael Akpejiori fouled out) resulted in a remarkable turnaround that turned a double-digit deficit into a double-overtime thriller. It wasn’t the prettiest game, and before all was said and done, Durand Scott, Sean Mosley, and Nick Faust also fouled out of the game. Scott’s 24 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists would prove to be the deciding line of the night. Though Terrell Stoglin scored an impressive 33 points, he did so only after taking an I-still-can’t-believe-it 20 three-point shots. Though Maryland lost, Stoglin’s will, and the key defensive play of Alex Len means that the Terrapins leave Coral Gables feeling that their team is tough enough to hang in the big games and that their coach believes in them.

The Only Game In Town

  • Duke at Virginia Tech at 7:00 PM on ESPN
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ACC Morning Five: 01.13.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 13th, 2012

Before we get started, how about a pretty amazing stat from last night. Duke shot below 50% from the foul line and 25% from three for the first time in school history in its win against Virginia (to be fair, the Cavaliers went 0-11 from three in the second half in a game they lost by three).

  1. Gobbler Country: The Virginia Tech blog takes a look at the Hokies and hands out grades for the starters. Erick Green leads the way with an A followed by Jarell Eddie with a B+. Eddie, in particular, came out of nowhere for me especially. I personally thought the C- for Dorenzo Hudson was generous. True, his numbers aren’t terrible, but I sort of expected him to excel as the second option for Green. The best news from this post is that they still believe in true grades, giving a C to Dorian Finney-Smith despite the fact that “he has nearly met them and exceeded them on the boards”. Take that grade inflation.
  2. Shakin’ The Southland: While we take a jaunt around the blogosphere, this wins the lede of the night: “We just lost to Clifford the Big Red Dog and his merry band of freshmen.” Boston College gets its first conference win! The Eagles pulled off the upset over Clemson exactly how I imagined, knocking down eight threes in a slow game while their opponent went ice cold down the stretch. It’s a great win for the Eagles and a horrendous loss for Clemson coming off an exciting conference opener.
  3. Baltimore Sun: Mark Turgeon needs more out of Ashton Pankey, Terrell Stoglin, and Alex Len. Pankey played some solid games when Len was on the bench, but losing his starting spot has killed his productivity. Turgeon’s criticism of Stoglin seems harsh, but I think–like the other players–it’s really a compliment. As for Len, Turgeon just wants him to get in game shape.
  4. The Sporting News: Sorry to be recap heavy, but it was an important night in conference play. Duke pulled out the victory in the end, but give Virginia a lot of credit. It played Duke too close for comfort all night. Mike Scott showed he’s almost certainly the most valuable player thus far in the conference. On Duke’s side, Mason Plumlee would be en route to a first-team All-Conference season if not for unbelievably bad free throw shooting. Against the Cavaliers, Plumlee finished 2-10 from the charity stripe.
  5. South Florida Sun-Sentinel: About the lone bright spot from Miami’s beatdown at North Carolina was the continuing solid play from Kenny Kadji. Kadji, once a top recruit at IMG Academy, is finally starting to reach his potential. He’s developed a solid jumper in addition to solid post skills (that will certainly be improved with some more weight). Keep an eye on the Miami little-big man going forward.

Speaking of North Carolina and Miami, I failed to notice something about the game. Fred Black, a contributor at Chapelboro, thought the North Carolina crowd has been “boorish” the last couple of games. I was at one of those games and the last thing I would’ve described the crowd as is “boorish.” Also, I love the vague “school up the road” (coughDUKEcough) with a reputation for “boorish” fans [Author's Note: For the record, some people think he's referring to NC State, which could be true and would be equally funny.].

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ACC Afternoon Five: 12.28.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 28th, 2011

  1. Washington Post: Alex Len, the 7’1″ Ukranian freshman is set to debut tonight as Maryland takes on Albany. Len was serving an NCAA suspension for violating amateurism policies while playing for a Ukranian club. The addition of Len to the lineup along with the recent re-entry of Pe’Shon Howard into Mark Turgeon’s rotation bodes well for a Maryland team that has under performed in the first season of the post-Gary Williams era.
  2. Richmond Times-Dispatch: After the loss of two players to transfer, Virginia probably felt like it had something to prove against the over-matched Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks. The Cavaliers stomped their opponents as they waltzed to the team’s best start in over a decade. As expected, Paul Jesperson burned his redshirt and made his debut in this game, spelling the starters admirably. The Wahoos look pumped and primed for conference play to begin.
  3. Roanoke Times: The gradually unfolding story of the Virginia Tech placekicker robbing the home of Virginia Tech shooting guard Dorenzo Hudson is getting stranger and stranger. After the kicker and his friends allegedly invaded Hudson’s home, looking for marijuana that Hudson’s roommate had taken, the two roommates later went out to find the three invaders and got into a physical conflict. If this is news to you, you aren’t alone, considering that the Hokies athletics director Jim Weaver stated that he had no knowledge of this second confrontation. He was also quick to shoot down the idea that the basketball team had a “marijuana problem,” an idea that has apparently been floating around since forward Jarrell Eddie was charged with marijuana posession in the spring.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs takes some time to look at the free throw dominance of Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the past decade. Very few teams have managed to make more free throws than their opponent attempted, but currently North Carolina, Virginia, Duke, and Maryland all belong to this rare club. Though Jacobs acknowledges that all four are unlikely to maintain this status until the end of the season, teams that have managed free throw dominance over the course of a whole season have been wildly successful in the NCAA Tournament.
  5. ESPN: Robbi Pickerall profiles Denzel Robinson, a member of North Carolina‘s junior varsity team and son of assistant coach Steve Robinson. Since he was twelve, Denzel Robinson has watched his father and Roy Williams coach from the end of the bench, first at Kansas and now at North Carolina. Robinson has had a closer view of the players and coaches than just about anyone, and now, playing his second year of JV basketball, he seems poised to try out for a varsity roster spot next year, potentially earning a spot back on the bench where he sat for so many years.
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ACC Morning Five: 12.23.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 23rd, 2011

  1. Washington Post: Virginia Tech‘s kicker was arrested and charged with breaking and entering into an on-campus residence before pulling a gun on those living there (also known as the far more serious crime of “home invasion”). How does that relate to the basketball team? Well… the resident was Dorenzo Hudson. Allegedly, Hudson’s roommate stole “a large amount” of marijuana from the defendants. Regardless, this is the type of story that decidedly does not go away or end well. We’ll certainly keep you posted on any forthcoming details.
  2. Wilmington Star News and Charlotte Observer: Continuing with the bad news, Torian Graham de-committed for the second time (only hours after re-committing) to NC State yesterday. Graham, a consensus top-50 recruit from Durham, said “something came up” but did not elaborate on the story. It should be noted that Graham has a history of transfers (he’s also on his third high school), which certainly points to potential academic eligibility issues. From comments Pack Pride got from Graham later in the day, it sounds like he still wants to play for the Wolfpack (which certainly supports the academic theory).
  3. Five-Star Basketball: For some more positive NC State hoops news, Adam Zagoria and Harrison Sanford are both very impressed with Mark Gottfried‘s first recruiting haul. Even without Torian Graham, the class is shaping up to be one of the best NCSU classes in years — especially if the coaching staff can land Amile Jefferson or Ricardo Gathers. Specifically, Jefferson was very positive in his review of the Wolfpack. Gottfried’s staff is also trying to expand its scope to the national level and is looking at a very talented group of 2013 targets from all over the country.
  4. Wenatchee World: Tony Bennett took over for his father, Dick Bennett, at Washington State and was very successful. But Virginia is his first time building a program from scratch, which takes more effort from the coach as well as the players: “There’s no substitute for experience. It was that way with those guys at Washington State — [Virginia players] took their lumps their first two years. And the previous group before that just had to scrap and claw for any bit of respectability.” Well after a hot start, the Cavaliers are back in the Top 25 for the first time in four years.
  5. Hampton Daily Press: David Teel takes a crack at the 18-game conference schedule once Pittsburgh and Syracuse arrive by looking at Mike Krzyzewski‘s model. Coach K wants the conference to move to one permanent rival with four “rotating” home-and-homes and the eight remaining teams played only once. While I agree with Tell that Duke and North Carolina are obvious (and essential) permanent rivals, but Wake Forest and NC State? That’s not to say the two schools don’t have a rivalry, but I’m not sure it’s at the “duh” level of the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils (in fact, NC State’s rivalry with North Carolina is much more heated). While I like the added diversity of Coach K’s proposition, I think it’d be a shame to lose games like North Carolina-NC State or Duke-Maryland (seriously, can you imagine if Duke didn’t have to play in College Park every year and vice versa). I vote for keeping the number of permanent partners the same.
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ACC Evening Five: 12.19.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 19th, 2011

He’s not in the ACC anymore, but Frank Haith is making a name for himself at Missouri. He certainly walked into a roster loaded with talent, but the players are thriving under his system. Vahe Gregorian of StlToday.com has a terrific profile of Haith’s seamless transition to the Big 12 as well as a look back at his past. It’s worth a read.

  1. Tar Heel Fan Blog: John Feinstein has a new book, One on One, which hit the shelves in time to pick it up for the holidays. The book was originally supposed to be a biography of Dean Smith, but Smith’s declining health forced Feinstein to change topics. The book is a collection of anecdotes from his years covering sports. Tar Heel Fan Blog posted a great anecdote about Feinstein’s interview with the legendary North Carolina coach. “You should never be proud of doing the right thing,” [Smith] said. “You should just do it.”
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Rodney Purvis is focusing on more than basketball. He is also trying to be a strong student despite his learning disability. Being an elite athlete is like a full-time job, but Purvis’ mother claims they spend just as much, if not more, time working on academics. In addition to raising his SAT scores, this preparation should prove invaluable for Purvis once he gets to NC State.
  3. Wilmington Star News: Speaking of Christmas gifts for ACC fans, Brett Friedlander suggests Bethany Bradsher’s The Classic: How Everett Case and His Tournament Brought Big-Time Basketball to the South, which ”chronicles the 12-year history of the late, great Dixie Classic. It’s a well-written, painstakingly researched account of a time during which basketball became an obsession in North Carolina, and an event whose importance went far beyond the games on the court.”
  4. Roanoke Times: Virginia Tech has a lot of young talent like Erick Green and Dorian Finney-Smith, but if the Hokies are going to reach their potential, they need seniors like Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila to step up. Against Campbell, both of the seniors–at least temporarily–snapped their slumps. Both led the team with 15 points. That’s the kind of production Seth Greenberg needs (and truthfully, maybe even more from Hudson) going forward from his leaders.
  5. Aiken Standard: Four Clemson freshmen got major playing time in the Tigers’ win over Winthrop. KJ McDaniels, Bernard Sullivan, TJ Sapp, and Rod Hall all saw major playing time in the 20-point victory. Brad Brownell claimed the increased playing time was a combination of improvement and trying to get some more experience for the freshmen. The experience probably won’t pay off much this year, but next year Brownell will need the young guys to step into the shoes of Andre Young and Tanner Smith, the team’s top scorers so far this season.

EXTRA: Syracuse‘s game against NC State was a reminder of two things. One, the Orange are really good and deserving of that #1 ranking (though I personally think they’re the fourth-best team in the country). Two, it was a reminder of the Bernie Fine scandal and the shadows surrounding college athletics. But the team hasn’t let the alleged crimes distract it. Mark Gottfried was impressed enough to think the Orange could make it to Louisiana this year.

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ACC Morning Five: 11.23.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 23rd, 2011

  1. SBNation DC: Gary Williams was back on the radio waves yesterday. This time he was defending his recruiting, even if his quotes only confirm his critics’ arguments. Williams pointed out that Maryland had plenty of players play in the NBA, which really trivializes the player development that was the hallmark of his successful teams.

    The toughest thing was always when you’d call a kid the first day of his senior year and he already narrowed his schools down to the five schools he wanted to visit. They basically say, ‘Where have you been? Why haven’t you already called?’

    As the sport has become more televised, recruiting has moved earlier and earlier. It’s unfortunate you have to start recruiting kids when they’re freshmen in high school, but that’s part of the process. Williams was also notorious for not wanting to deal with AAU coaches at all.

  2. ESPN: Almost on cue (ahem), Austin Rivers and Seth Curry are starting to show signs of clicking in Duke’s backcourt. Early games caused critics to question the duo, especially Rivers, and their effectiveness together. But a strong game against Michigan has gotten conversations changing a little. Duke hasn’t been dominant so far this season, but the Blue Devils keep winning against very solid talent. They’ll get another test against Thomas Robinson and Kansas in tonight’s Maui Invitational championship game.
  3. Stadium Journey: Martin Rickman (of Blogger So Dear) reviewed Wake Forest‘s Lawrence Joel Coliseum. Hopefully the team’s solid start will bring life back to the Joel, which was at one time one of the toughest places to play in the ACC. This site is a pretty cool idea and has reviews of many of college basketball and college football’s best stadiums. My one complaint is the reviews seem to have a very tight range (at least the overall reviews seem to rarely drop below three out of five stars and rarely go above four).
  4. The Sporting News: Dorenzo Hudson is ready to dance. Despite Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen’s departures from Blacksburg, Hudson is convinced this is the Hokies’ year (for the record, I think Virginia Tech was a lock for the NCAA Tournament had Hudson not been injured last year). I totally forgot that he averaged over 15 points a game two years ago. Hudson is the real deal, but he’s going to need help — possibly from Erick Green and Dorian Finney-Smith — to lead the Hokies to their first NCAA Tournament since 2007.
  5. ESPN and Winston Salem Journal: Ever heard someone complain that there’s too much coverage of North Carolina on ESPN? Well, I wouldn’t expect that to change as the Worldwide Leader promoted a Tar Heel to replace George Bodenheimer as the multi-billion dollar corporation’s president. John Skipper graduated from North Carolina with a degree in English Literature, Class of 1978.
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ACC Game On: 11.16.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 16th, 2011

ACC Game On will periodically review recent games involving ACC teams and take a look forward at key upcoming matchups.

Mike Krzyzewski has surpassed Bob Knight’s record of all-time wins. He did so on the appropriately grand stage of Madison Square Garden, defeating Michigan State. It’s a great accomplishment for the man and for Duke University. What’s not so great? The job that Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly did to prove Mitch McGary wrong.  Combined the three were responsible for seven recorded field goal attempts. This total ties Seth Curry and Austin Rivers, who individually each took more shots. This total is also less than half of the total shots taken by Andre Dawkins, who made six three-pointers in the game. The team won, so there’s no sense in raising a fuss, but box scores like that make it hard to disagree with the diagnosis that “all their big men do is set screens and rebound and that they don’t get a lot of touches.”

Mr. 903

The rest of the ACC was rather dull last evening as Virginia Tech, Miami, and Virginia all walked away with relatively easy wins. Unsurprisingly, All-ACC candidates Mike Scott, Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant put up good but not incredible numbers to lead their teams to easy wins.

Things were a little more interesting in Blacksburg, however, as Dorenzo Hudson went off for 31 points on only thirteen shots. He got to the line twelve times, and didn’t miss from the charity stripe. It was a bravura performance against an overmatched Florida International team. Meanwhile, Dorian Finley-Smith continues his campaign as the ACC’s most intriguing freshman, leading his team in rebounding, assists, and steals while scoring fifteen points. If Seth Greenberg can adapt his team to the style and talents of this point-power-forward, the Hokies have a real chance to shake things up in the ACC.

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ACC Morning Five: 11.04.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 4th, 2011

  1. USA Today: Another year and another season-crippling injury for Seth Greenberg and the Hokies. Last year it was Dorenzo Hudson and JT Thompson. This year Thompson tore his other ACL and will miss his second straight season. You have to feel for Thompson, but Greenberg pointed out the silver lining: “Our main focus right now is his health and preparing him for his graduation this December. [...] Now is not the time to discuss a sixth year.” Thompson’s injury is a big blow for Virginia Tech, where Thompson was expected to be a major leader and contributor this season. In 2009-10 he averaged 7.3 PPG and 4.6 RPG in just over 20 minutes a game.
  2. Miami Herald: Jim Larranaga got his first official (exhibition) win on the Miami sideline last night against Florida Southern, 88-78, but it wasn’t easy. The Hurricanes trailed by five at the half and by ten halfway through the second half. Garrius Adams caught fire late, aiding a late 28-6 run with three treys in two minutes. Malcolm Grant led the way for Miami with 26 points on a fantastic 8-12 shooting performance, but Durand Scott wasn’t far behind with 23 points and seven rebounds (that rebounding will be crucial while Reggie Johnson is out). The bad news was the Hurricanes finished with significantly more turnovers (17) than assists (10).
  3. United States Navy: The host of the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic, the USS Carl Vinson, is getting ready for the Veterans’ Day game. Construction crews started building the court on Tuesday that is expected to seat 7,000 people. It should be finished by November 9 to allow both teams to practice on the new court the day before the game. In the case of inclement weather (quite unlikely in San Diego), the crew is also constructing a smaller court in the ship’s hangar bay though it has far less seating for spectators.
  4. Detroit Free Press: Duke target Mitch McGary has opted for John Beilein and Michigan over Duke and Florida. McGary will be the Wolverines’ first McDonalds All-American in ten years (the last was Daniel Horton in 2002). My guess is this means that Duke will really turn up the heat on Tony Parker, another incredibly talented class of 2012 power forward. It is starting to look like NC State may sport the best 2012 recruiting class in the conference.
  5. ACCSports.com: Ryan Davis caught up with new Maryland coach Mark Turgeon to talk about the upcoming season. It sounds like Nick Faust will be called on from day one, and Turgeon expects Sean Mosley to live up to the expectations people set for him last year. One interesting question was comparing this year’s Maryland team to last year’s Boston College team. I’d tend to agree with Turgeon that the teams are very different (namely, the Eagles were lights out from beyond the arc, while Maryland should make its money on defense), but I hadn’t thought about the other comparisons (very shallow benches, new coaches, and solid returners). Although I don’t think the comparison is apples to apples, I think it should be heartening for Terrapin fans that Boston College saw the success it did facing similar problems.
Finally, it is NC StateNorth Carolina week (in football)! For those readers not familiar with ACC football (I don’t blame you), this is the nationally-irrelevant Tobacco Road rivalry of the gridiron. The two coaches celebrated the occasion by swapping insults before the schools’ chancellors ended the feud by calling each other to apologize.
  • Everett Withers (UNC): ”I think the kids in this state need to know, you know, the flagship school in this state. [...] They need to know it academically. I think if you look at our graduation rates as opposed to our opponent’s this week graduation rates for academics or football, I think you’ll see a difference. I think if you look at the educational environment here, I think you’ll see a difference.”
  • Tom O’Brien (NC State): “As far as the flagship, here is a guy that’s on a football staff that ends up in Indianapolis. If you take three things you can’t do in college football, you have an agent on your staff, you’re paying your players and you have academic fraud. I mean, that’s a triple play as far as the NCAA goes. [...] Our guys go to school, they’re not given grades and they graduate [...] It’s a little tougher here if you have to go to school and you’re expected to have a syllabus and go to class. I think our guys earn everything they get here. And certainly all our graduates earn everything they get at this university.”
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ACC Team Previews: Virginia Tech

Posted by KCarpenter on October 31st, 2011

For what it’s worth, I think Virginia Tech should have made the NCAA Tournament last season. I have a hard time believing that this team was worse than Villanova, Marquette, or Missouri, to name a few of the other power conference teams that got the bubble nod while Virginia Tech was overlooked once again. I understand the case for those teams, but believe me when I say that last year’s Hokies were a tough, resilient team stocked with great players. Malcolm Delaney was a great basketball talent and his fellow seniors, Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell were all excellent starters for Seth Greenberg.  Despite all the injuries that this team suffered, his core held strong and led Virginia Tech to repeatedly strong conference showings. These guys are now gone and a new era of basketball in Blacksburg begins.

Seth Greenberg Will Have To Rebuild The Hokies Now That The Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen Era Has Ended

A few holdovers remain, though, and that continuity will be important for what promises to be a relatively inexperienced team. Starters Erick Green, along with seniors Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila will have to be strong leaders on a team that is in transition. Despite the graduation of the legendary senior class, the transfer of the surprising Hokies’ leader in offensive efficiency, Manny Atkins, and the loss of Alan Chaney because of concerns about the promising big man’s heart condition, there is a real case to be made that Virginia Tech is gaining more than it’s losing. With contributors like Hudson and J. T. Thompson returning from injury, VT is regaining a guy who averaged 15.2 points per game and once scored 41 against a hapless Seton Hall team as their sixth man. As big as that will be for the Hokies in 2011-12, the real story for this team is its freshman class.

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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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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 28th, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A Look Back

Happy holidays. In honor of the holiday season, this post is going to be short and sweet. ACC basketball had another slow week. Only Florida State played games of note in the Diamond Head Classic. As the conference only played 15 games this week, I’ll try and give season summaries for each team, as we get ready to really kick off conference play.

  • Bizarro Team of the Week: Virginia took the prize this week with a loss to Seattle. At home. I understand Mike Scott is still out, but one player shouldn’t be the difference between a decent team and one ranked near the bottom of D-I. Especially when the Cavaliers were playing at home. No excuses.
  • Team of the Week: Florida State - The Seminoles came up big at the Diamond Head Classic this week, notching wins against Baylor and Hawaii. Even though they lost to eventual champion Butler, the Seminoles showed that you can win with some shutdown defense. Baylor was probably overrated to start the season, but they have about as much talent as any team in the nation (excluding the point guard position). Florida State definitely won’t win any offensive beauty pageants, but they finally showed they can really hurt opponents by keeping them out of an offensive flow.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (11-0): Coach K’s team sat idle last week. The Blue Devils are clearly tops in the ACC with or without Kyrie Irving. However, they haven’t shown the same smooth offense that I think will be necessary in March to take the national championship. There’s still a whole lot of time for either Mike Krzyzewski to figure out a viable alternative to Irving at point, or let Irving’s toe heal. I think one (or both) are pretty likely, but until we hear more news from Durham we can only speculate.
  2. Florida State (11-3, 1-0): FSU had their most productive week of the year. I think the Seminoles are going to be most dangerous against teams with shaky point guard play (think North Carolina, Wake Forest and to a much smaller extent Duke). I think their game in January against the Blue Devils may be Duke’s best chance to lose in ACC play, since Florida State plays an elite defense that could really fluster Duke’s offensive weapons. That said, Florida State runs one of the ugliest offenses in the country. Essentially, they don’t run an offense. This means I doubt they will be able to win many games that reach the 70s.
  3. Boston College (10-2, 1-0): BC eked out a win over Bucknell. The Eagles have one of the most efficient offenses in the country, and I think they’ll be much better than expected during ACC play (given much of that credit goes to the ACC’s lack of depth). That said, barely beating Bucknell is probably not a great sign for future success. Regardless, Steve Donahue’s team looks like they’ve really bought into his program, which has helped reduce the new coach growing pains.
  4. North Carolina (8-4): UNC has only “good losses” but only one “good win” (Kentucky). Not really something to brag about. That said the Heels do look better on offense (though they struggle with offensive consistency), and they’re the second ranked ACC team according to Ken Pomeroy (after Duke). But Tar Heel fans won’t take “moral victories.” The Tar Heels probably should finish second in conference play, but they need to show the ability to win on the road (their only true road game, at Illinois, was very ugly).
  5. Miami (10-3): won three games in as many days against Oral Roberts, Rice and Akron. Durand Scott, Malcolm Grant and Reggie Johnson are real playmakers, but Johnson especially needs to learn to stay out of foul trouble (currently he’s averaging six fouls in 40 minutes). Scott and Grant have been lights out from downtown, and that will need to continue in conference play. I think the real key for the Hurricanes is defense. Although the Hurricanes are also question marks on the road: they’re only truly ugly loss came at Rutgers (and their only road win came against a horrendous Florida Gulf Coast squad).
  6. Maryland (8-4, 0-1): nothing too impressive out of Gary Williams and company. They beat up on New Jersey Institute of Technology as they should have. Not to come off sounding like a broken record, the Terrapins still need a leader. They need that player who can take over the game with two minutes to play, even if it’s only from the foul line. So far Sean Mosley has been a total flop, and Jordan Williams is at least another year from being that kind of player.
  7. Clemson (9-4, 0-1): beat a decent College of Charleston team on the road and dominated Delaware State (who almost beat N.C. State earlier in the week). Demontez Stitt’s return is good news for Tiger fans.
  8. Virginia Tech (7-4, 0-1): beat Saint Bonaventure in overtime. But the big news came when Dorenzo Hudson required surgery for a foot injury and will be out the rest of the season. To put it another way: the Hokies are done. If there was ever any hope that they could put it back together and live up to expectations, this erased it. The Hokies are hobbled (and just not all that talented). Expect them to drop from here on out. They could pull a Tennessee and beat Duke… but Seth Greenberg is no Bruce Pearl, so don’t count on it.
  9. Georgia Tech (6-5): didn’t do themselves any favors by losing to Siena this week. Admittedly, Siena is a solid mid-major squad (and the game was on the road). I’m worried about leadership here. No offense to Iman Shumpert intended, but he’s not the player I want running my offense on the road. He’s very streaky and can singlehandedly win games and singlehandedly lose games. Additionally, Georgia Tech shoots an abysmal 26.1% from three (only two of their players on the entire roster break 30%).
  10. Virginia (8-4, 0-1) took one on the chin this week from Seattle. This is a totally different team without Mike Scott, who has proved to be a real player. He’s the key to a successful ACC season. I’d still be surprised if this team can finish in the top half of the ACC (barring a totally superhuman season out of Scott).
  11. N.C. State (7-4): looked really bad against Delaware State. That’s not a game the Wolfpack can afford to win on a putback with 2.1 seconds to play. Tracy Smith still isn’t back, and he should add a totally new dimension to this team in a low post threat. The Wolfpack will need to finish solidly in the top half of the conference and might have to win a game in the NCAA Tournament to save Sidney Lowe’s job though. That looks like a long shot from where we’re standing now.
  12. Wake Forest (6-6): continued the nightmarish start by dropping a game to Presbyterian, a team still making the transition into D-I, at home this week. The Demon Deacons are looking like they’re going to go into conference play under .500, and they’re not going to be favored in any conference games this season. They’ve also got a couple of tough games (Richmond and Gonzaga) before they start conference play, and they’ve already shown they can lose to a Big South team. I’m not sure this season could end faster for Jeff Bzdelik unless Tony Chennault turns out to be a top-notch point guard.

Looking Ahead

In case you can’t tell, the ACC has major leadership issues. Most teams have point guard questions, and I’m not confident any of these teams (outside of Duke) are ready to win in hostile environments. The conference is marred by underachieving squads (N.C. State and Virginia Tech), inconsistent squads (North Carolina and Florida State) and just plain bad squads (Wake Forest and Georgia Tech). The only pleasant surprises have been Boston College and Miami. I’m seeing a lot of high seeds come Selection Sunday unless someone drastically improves (Florida State and North Carolina are in the best shape). But the season is still less than halfway done, and there’s still a lot of basketball to play. Here’s to a better 2011. Happy holidays.

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