ATB: A Turkey Ends Holiday Hoops Week

Posted by rtmsf on December 24th, 2010

The Lede.  ‘Twas the night before Christmas Eve (Christmas Adam, so they say), and all through the land, not a creature was shooting.  Well, that’s not completely true.  Actually, it’s not true at all, as the week of Holiday Hoops finished strong tonight.  There were several good games, some excellent performances and even an ugly incident in Oahu for our enjoyment this evening.  The schedule reduces to nearly nothing the next few days — four games in Cancun on Friday, four games in Honolulu on Saturday, two random games on Sunday — and that’s fine.  Christmas is for spending quality time with our friends and families, so as much as we’ll miss it, things will be a bit light around here as well over the weekend.  Of course, if anything major happens, we’ll be there to comment and analyze it.  Short of that, though — from everyone at RTC, have a very Merry Christmas, folks!

What a Ridiculous Incident in Honolulu Tonight

Your Watercooler MomentPlayers Go All Knucklehead in the Stands.  Mississippi State won its game at the Diamond Head Classic yesterday against San Diego, but it was a later incident between teammates Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey that captured all the headlines.  As the two sat in the stands prior to the Utah-Hawaii game, they got into a fracas that was of course caught on tape for the world to see.  Regardless of who was at fault in this incident, is there any doubt that MSU’s recruitment and retention of Sidney has resulted in much more trouble than he’s worth?  This was his second incident in the last week, and the prevailing meme is that there’s no way Rick Stansbury can now keep him on the Bulldog team.  With images still somewhat fresh in mind of the Malice in the Palace where fans and players went after each other, this is reminiscent and disastrous footage for the MSU program.  Heads will roll on this, we’d have to imagine.

Don’t stop, make it pop. DJ, blow my speakers up. Memphis lost the game, but they won the damn highlight reel, that’s for sure.  Hey, Mr. DJ.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Discipline Over Raw Talent.  No disrespect to the excellent players populating the rosters of Georgetown and Washington State, but their opponents tonight (Memphis and Baylor, respectively) have more players on their teams that make the NBA scouts drool uncontrollably.  Klay Thompson and Austin Freeman are considered nice players, but it’s guys like LaceDarius Dunn, Perry Jones, Will Barton and Joe Jackson who have the greater upside.  Score one (actually, two) tonight for the teams that actually know how to play the game, as the Hoyas and Cougars repeatedly used their experience to fool the teams still figuring it out.  Both shot 57% from the field while holding their opponents in the 30% range, and proved to us that Georgetown is every bit as good as its top ten ranking and Wazzu should probably be a co-favorite along with a few others in the Pac-10 this season.
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Set Your Tivo: 12.23.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 23rd, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Not a bad set of games tonight but nothing that jumps out at you as a must watch. The best games of the night may very well be in paradise as opposed to Memphis. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#11 Baylor vs. Washington State (in Honolulu, HI) – 6:30 pm on ESPNU (****)

A Rare Klay Thompson Sighting on National TV Tonight

The theory that good guard play wins in college basketball will be put to the test in this game from the Diamond Head Classic. Washington State’s guard-heavy lineup goes up against Baylor’s powerful front court, though the Bears have a star guard in LaceDarius Dunn. The Cougars have surprised this year and sit at 9-1 with wins over Gonzaga and Mississippi State in addition to a close home loss against Kansas State. Washington State shares one common opponent with Baylor, that’s Gonzaga. Baylor lost to the Bulldogs this past Saturday in Dallas while Washington State rolled the Zags 81-59 at home ten days earlier. Baylor’s offense has struggled a bit against the two decent teams they’ve played, Gonzaga and Arizona State. Combine that with the fact that Washington State defends the three exceptionally well, the Bears should look to use their strength and athleticism inside and pound the ball into the paint. Rebounding is a concern for the Cougars, especially against a Baylor team that averages 41 RPG. Even if the Bears miss some shots inside, they’re sure to get a bunch of put-back chances against the WSU front line. For Washington State, DeAngelo Casto must have a good night on the glass in order to contain Baylor’s front court, led by Perry Jones and Quincy Acy. The Cougars must look to their back court for scoring and they’ll feel comfortable knowing they have Klay Thompson on their team. Thompson had 28 points against Mississippi State on Wednesday and will be in the running for Pac 10 POY honors. In addition to Thompson, Faisal Aden has enjoyed a terrific season so far. Aden and Thompson form a strong guard duo capable of draining three’s with regularity. Washington State is very good inside the arc as well but Baylor’s interior defense poses the toughest challenge the Cougars have faced so far. They need to be clicking from deep or else it could be a long night. Baylor’s back court isn’t too shabby either with Dunn and A.J. Walton, but each player struggles with turnovers. Washington State enjoys a great turnover margin and that’s how they’re going to get extra possessions against the turnover-prone Bears. With the expected rebounding problem, Washington State has to create turnovers to win this game. Expect Baylor to have an edge at the free throw line as well, enjoying a nice free throw rate on both ends of the floor. The Bears also shoot five percent better from the line than Washington State. The Cougars are a good team but Baylor has something to prove after falling to Gonzaga. We’ll take the Bears behind a big game from Acy inside.

#9 Georgetown @ Memphis – 8 pm on ESPN2 (***)

With the departure of Angel Garcia, the injury to Wesley Witherspoon and their struggles on the court, Memphis is going through some adversity. How Josh Pastner gets his young team to overcome that will determine how far he can take his talented group of players. The Tigers have had three close calls against bad teams and are struggling a bit offensively. Memphis averaged 85 PPG in its first seven games but that number has dropped to 69 PPG over the last three contests. Memphis is not a particularly great shooting team but they get to the charity stripe often and do make up some points there. The pregame story is whether or not Witherspoon will play, as Pastner did not rule him out and said he was day-to-day. If he doesn’t play, the guard-laden Tigers will be severely undersized and thin overall. If he does play, they’ll still be undersized but at least will have a scorer capable of pulling the Georgetown big men away from the basket. For the purposes of this preview, we’ll go on the assumption that he doesn’t play and wouldn’t be near 100% even if he does. Memphis already struggles rebounding the basketball and that’ll be a huge problem against a Hoya team with good rebounding guards and two strong post men. Look for Julian Vaughn and Hollis Thompson to own the paint with Witherspoon out. For Memphis, Will Coleman and Tarik Black have to make their presence known, otherwise Georgetown will focus its defense on the Tiger guards all night. A freshman, Black has had a tough time adjusting to a bigger role on this Memphis team. Tonight is a huge opportunity to assert himself and make himself a strong option for his head coach. The story for Georgetown is obviously their terrific trio of guards. They account for 57% of their points and all are great three point shooters. Point guard Chris Wright is also averaging seven assists per game during his senior season in the nation’s capital. Jason Clark is one of the most underrated players in the game today and has the potential to break out at any time. Austin Freeman is their rock. The preseason Big East POY leads the team in scoring and is a lights out three point shooter. When Freeman is hot, Georgetown is incredibly difficult to beat. The Hoyas are third nationally in offensive efficiency, first in effective field goal percentage and fourth in two point percentage, showing they can get it done both inside and out. It’s no surprise Georgetown hoists a lot of three’s, getting a third of their points from the arc. Memphis has to do a good job defensively on the perimeter otherwise Georgetown will shoot them out of the building. The Tigers also have to worry about turnovers, currently averaging 16 per game with Joe Jackson accounting for almost a quarter of those. Jackson is another freshman who’s incredibly talented but a bit undisciplined at this point in his career. He needs to play well and also get Chris Crawford and Charles Carmouche involved from the arc. With almost all of their players being guards, Memphis is going to have to try to match Georgetown’s outside shooting and get to the foul line. The Tigers will be in this game if they can disrupt the flow and score by getting to the stripe but Georgetown is just too experienced and talented for the young Tigers to overcome. Expect the Hoyas to pick up a nice road win at the FedEx Forum tonight after missing an opportunity at Temple a couple weeks ago.

A few other games to monitor:

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • No news on Kyrie Irving or his toe, but Sidney Lowe did pipe in on Tracy Smith’s injury: per Brett Friedlander of Star News Online, Lowe said, “It’s a tough deal… It’s very frustrating, but I think it’s frustrating for Tracy as well.  This was a big year for him, a big year for us.”  Now, I don’t want to read too much into a coach’s postgame interviews following a tough loss to Arizona (who had their way with the Wolfpack inside), but it sounds like Lowe is starting to feel some hot seat pressure.  He continued: “I just think it’s one of those things where Tracy is going to have to decide he can play with a little bit of pain. That’s up to him… Certainly we don’t want him out there limping and everything. I think his biggest thing is getting over the fear of the injury itself…Structurally, everything is okay, but it’s his first real injury, so we have to be patient with him. The doctors say he’s okay, but they can’t feel his pain. So we have to go with what Tracy is saying.”  While I can feel his pain, Lowe really should stand by his players (read: not make it sound like he thinks they’re soft or faking injuries).  His job might be on the line, but Tracy Smith could have declared for the draft last year and never given Lowe the opportunity to complain about his injury.
  • Mike Scott of Virginia, Demontez Stitt of Clemson and Tony Chennault of Wake Forest are all out with injuries.  Scott underwent ankle surgery and his return time is still to be determined; Stitt required arthroscopic knee surgery and should be back before the end of the month; and Chennault is out for another month or so while his foot heals.
  • In other news, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski tied Dean Smith at second on the all-time win list with 879 after Duke soundly beat Elon in Durham Monday.  This is obviously a testament to the job that Coach K has done over his career at Duke, and there are sure to be plenty more wins for the Blue Devils as the season progresses.
  • Team of the Week: Virginia Tech sneaks past Georgia Tech for the award this week.  This is partially because I’ve ripped Virginia Tech the past couple weeks for being totally out to lunch.  But the Hokies got a very impressive (and much needed) win over Mississippi State on a neutral court.  Mississippi State was supposed to be the pride of the SEC West, but has come out with a slow start.  That said, a dominating win is a dominating win, and the Hokies won 88-57 with five players scoring in double figures.  Seth Greenberg should take note: his team is a whole lot better when Jeff Allen, Erick Green, Dorenzo Hudson and Manny Atkins produce on offense.  Malcolm Delaney only took 11 shots.  So when Virginia Tech starts back with losing ways because Delaney is the only one with any interest in trying to score, don’t be surprised.  However, if this team has finally figured out that they have the talent to win real games and they just need to utilize it, look out.  There’s a reason (albeit a somewhat misguided one) that this team had so much hype in the preseason, and they finally lived up to it.
  • Bizarro Team of the Week: Wake Forest – It was actually a fairly good week for the ACC overall.  But Wake Forest continued their epic struggles.  I really do hate choosing them week in and week out, but the only other losses in the conference came against good schools (Central Florida, Arizona and Texas).  Meanwhile Wake, almost lost to UNCG (yes, the 0-9 school out of the Southern Conference that hadn’t lost within double figures of an opponent all season).  Wake followed one almost loss with an actual loss at Xavier, which is much more excusable as the Musketeers are probably a Tournament-bound team.  Wake has to find some answers and find them fast.  Two of their next four games (Richmond and Gonzaga) are going to be very tough.  Wake legitimately has a strong case to be one of the top five worst major conference schools (along with Auburn, Oregon State, DePaul and South Florida).  Tony Chennault may hold the key for Wake to establish some decent guard play, but that remains to be seen.

(ed. note – following the submission of this week’s check-in, Wake dropped a game to a team known as the Presbyterian Blue Hose to continue its nightmare campaign)

A History Lesson: In case you hadn’t heard, the ACC and Raycom Sports teamed up to produce the ACC Vault.  We covered the Vault on its official opening last week, and I highly suggest you spend some time perusing the website.  It’s very easy to use (whether you want to find a specific play or a game).  I’ll be promoting one game a week with a few of my thoughts.  This week, I’m going to stick with the 1997 ACC Championship between North Carolina and North Carolina State.  You can see most of my thoughts on the game in the article on the site’s release, but the game has some historical significance.  It was Dean Smith’s last ACC game, and one of Herb Sendek’s first.  The Tar Heels brought star power with Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter and Shammond Williams, while N.C. State countered with a more deliberate offense that led to far more open looks than one might have expected in such a David vs. Goliath game.  Please feel free to comment if you have any suggestions for great games too!

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (11-0) beat Elon handily in their one game of the week.  Offense still lacks a real flow without Irving, and Coach K might need to investigate switching Nolan Smith back to the two guard.  Seth Curry would take some time but has a point guard build, or he could try running the offense through Kyle Singler.  Not sure either is ideal, but it’s definitely worth trying a couple things out before getting too deep into conference play.
  2. Florida State (9-2, 1-0) beat Stetson and Loyola Marymount this week to continue their winning ways.  They have games at Hawaii and Auburn (go ahead and chalk that one up) before heading to Virginia Tech to continue conference play.
  3. Boston College (9-2, 1-0) beat Bryant 93-77 in their lone game of the week.  Should be interesting to see how this team holds up in conference play.
  4. North Carolina (8-4) gets a boost in the ratings for playing a talented Texas team very close.  After watching the game, I literally have no idea why Roy Williams continues to play Larry Drew II at point instead of Kendall Marshall.  Marshall played much better than Drew II, but still only saw significant playing time when Drew II was sidelined with foul trouble (it’s no coincidence that the Tar Heels lost the lead when Marshall went out).
  5. Georgia Tech (6-4) got a much needed win over Richmond this week.  The Yellow Jackets still look like they’re very much on the wrong side of the bubble, but beating a team that looks like a contender in the A-10 is a quality victory.  Now a win this week against Siena would give Paul Hewitt another good win against decent mid-major competition.
  6. Virginia (8-3, 1-0) soundly beat Oregon and eked out a win over Norfolk State without the aid of Mike Scott who is averaging team best 16.3 points and 10.4 rebounds a game.  For the Cavaliers to be relevant, they desperately need Scott’s production.
  7. Virginia Tech (6-4, 0-1) took care of business in the Bahamas this week.  Now they need to sustain this level of play.
  8. Miami (8-3) lost a tough game against Central Florida this week.  The Hurricanes struggled with foul trouble inside with Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble fouling out in 16 and 25 minutes, respectively.  Central Florida is undefeated so far, but the Hurricane defense was vulnerable with Johnson and Gamble playing very limited minutes.  Keep an eye on their foul trouble in ACC play.
  9. Maryland (7-4, 0-1) didn’t play this week, but they have three cupcakes before continuing conference play at Duke.  The Terrapins really need Sean Mosley to step up and give them a more consistent second option beyond Jordan Williams.  They are still a leaderless team right now, so winning close games (or games on the road) will be pretty difficult.
  10. N.C. State (7-4) missed out on a huge chance to add a resume victory over Arizona this week, and Tracy Smith’s absence in the paint was evident.  The Wolfpack and Sidney Lowe really need Smith’s production and ability to open up the floor for jump shooters.
  11. Clemson (7-4, 0-1) won two creampuff games this week with Demontez Stitt in recovery. Jerai Grant had two excellent games off the bench.
  12. Wake Forest (6-6) continues to struggle.  Here’s to hoping that Tony Chennault has the answers.

A Look Ahead

Finals are over!  That’s good news for everyone–especially college basketball fans.  We still have a couple more uninteresting weeks before conference play really begins.  Probably the best chance for good games comes from Florida State, who will probably take on Butler (or Utah) and then most likely Baylor or Washington State in the Diamond Head Classic, a tournament that should give the Seminoles an opportunity to build their at-large resume.  All three match-ups are very intriguing because each team has shown significant defensive strength so far this season.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.01.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 1st, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

It’s going to be hard to top the game of the year to date, Georgetown’s thrilling overtime win over Missouri last night, but we have some good matchups on the schedule tonight as we head into the second month of the season. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#25 Richmond @ Old Dominion – 7 pm on WSKY4 Hampton Roads, VA (****)

Richmond is coming off a huge win for their program, a 65-54 win over Purdue to take the Chicago Invitational crown. The Spiders star player, Kevin Anderson, led the way with 28 points and Richmond’s defense held the Boilermakers to 30% shooting. Old Dominion is coming off a tournament victory of their own as they defeated Xavier to win the Paradise Jam last week. Richmond is a solid offensive team, eighth in the country in effective field goal percentage. That will be the story of the game as they go up against an Old Dominion defense ranked #16 in efficiency. The one weakness for the Monarchs defensively is their three point defense, #193 in the country. Richmond is an outstanding three point shooting team averaging almost 43% on the season behind Anderson and quite a few other shooters such as Darien Brothers (64% from deep). Richmond is going to get points from the outside so Old Dominion must try to lock them up inside through physical play, rebounding and blocked shots. Key to that effort will be Frank Hassell who averages 13/10 and blocks almost two shots per game. He’ll have to stop 6’10 Justin Harper who has a height advantage on Hassell. However, Hassell outweighs Harper by 20 pounds so he should be able to get position and be physical with the Richmond big man. These are arguably the two best teams in the state of Virginia going at it, although we’re sure Seth Greenberg and the folks from Blacksburg may have something to say about that. If Richmond gets off to a hot start they should win this game as ODU lacks offensive punch and would rather win the game in the 50’s. Expect a hard fought, close game with the winner holding the edge on the glass and in the paint.

#18 Purdue @ Virginia Tech – 7:30 pm on ESPN (****)

Coming off the aforementioned loss to Richmond, Purdue faces a tough road game in the hostile environment of Cassell Coliseum. If there’s any good news for the Boilermakers it’s that Virginia Tech is struggling a bit itself when considering injuries and on-court performance. The Hokies escaped Oklahoma State but lost to UNLV in the 76 Classic, their second loss of the season. Malcolm Delaney has been doing it all offensively for Seth Greenberg but he’s not getting much help elsewhere. Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson are Virginia Tech’s other main scoring threats but Allen has a hard time staying on the floor with foul trouble and Hudson is nursing an injured finger on his shooting hand. After that, Greenberg is having a hard time figuring out a rotation. The Hokies are thin up front and that’s something Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson should exploit this evening. Purdue’s star big man is averaging 17/9 and three blocks but is just 11-29 (38%) shooting in his last two games. He’ll go up against Victor Davila in this game and should be able to break out against the thin Hokie front court. With Allen coming over to help, foul trouble could become a concern yet again for the Virginia Tech forward. Johnson and Purdue do have to get to the line more often, ranking #241 in free throw attempts per field goal attempts. The Boilers don’t shoot it very well from there, either. This should be a low scoring game as both teams are strong defensively and force turnovers. Extra possessions and rebounds will be something to watch as Virginia Tech averages only 34 RPG, giving Purdue second chance opportunities and leading to foul trouble for the Hokies. Virginia Tech is not a strong outside shooting team other than Delaney so they’ll have to get a lot of their scoring inside against a tough Purdue defense that will get in the passing lanes and really disrupt their half court offense. Virginia Tech definitely can win this game but more has to go right for them than for Purdue. Matt Painter’s team has more options plus the matchup advantages are in their favor for the most part. However, playing on the road is always difficult, especially in a nationally televised game such as this. Expect this game to come down to the very end with free throws possibly deciding the outcome.

#6 Michigan State @ #1 Duke – 9:30 pm on ESPN (*****)

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: ESPN’s 24 Hours Of Hoops Marathon 2010

Posted by jstevrtc on November 15th, 2010

PUT. THAT COFFEE. DOWN.

For the third year in a row, ESPN is bringing us what we consider one of the great television events on the sports television calendar, the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon. That means that for the third year in a row, I’ll be live-blogging the whole thing from start to finish — and this year, we’re climbing this hoops blogger’s Everest without supplemental oxygen. That is to say…I’m going caffeine-free. More importantly, here is the schedule of games for this year’s marathon (all times Eastern):

  • 12:00 midnight — Miami (FL) at Memphis (ESPN)
  • 2:00 am — St. John’s at St. Mary’s (ESPN)
  • 4:00 am — Central Michigan at Hawaii (ESPN)
  • 6:00 am — Stony Brook at Monmouth (ESPN)
  • 8:00 am — Robert Morris at Kent State (ESPN)
  • 10:00 am — Northeastern at Southern Illinois (ESPN)
  • 12 noon — Oral Roberts at Tulsa (ESPN)
  • 2:00 pm — La Salle at Baylor (ESPN)
  • 4:00 pm — Virginia Tech at Kansas State (ESPN)
  • 5:30 pm — Marist at Villanova (ESPNU)
  • 6:00 pm — Ohio State at Florida (ESPN)
  • 7:30 pm — Miami (OH) at Duke (ESPNU)
  • 8:00 pm — Butler at Louisville (ESPN)
  • 9:30 pm — Belmont at Tennessee (ESPNU)
  • 10:00 pm — South Carolina at Michigan State (ESPN)
  • 11:00 pm — San Diego State at Gonzaga (ESPN2)
  • 11:30 pm — Pacific at UCLA (ESPNU)

The first attempt at this resulted in some hallucinations and arrhythmias as the hour got late (I had been up for 16 hours before starting the live blog) and I required a few caffeine-laden beverages. Last year, we had a technical glitch that kept us on our toes, but the live blog survived. This time, to raise the standard yet again, I’ll be sans caffeine. I know that without a webcam (we’re not that kind of site) you have no reason to believe that I’m not pounding sodas and cappuccinos and Five Hour Energy drinks by the blender-full. Since I believe RTC is the only site that’s done this all three years, well…you’ll just have to trust me. After two years, I think our relationship is in that kind of place. I hope you’ll join us right here (the live blog will continue in this post) a few minutes before midnight. Now, for my pre-live-blog meal. How’s a little turkey and wine sound?

11:47 PM Monday — Here we go. The high-def at the RTC Southern Compound is rockin’. We’ve checked the router and the internet connection to the building (which bit us in zee buttocks last year), and it appears solid. The football game is all but over (as it has been since halftime). Let’s go.

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RTC Conference Primers: #4 – Atlantic Coast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 3rd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC Correspondent for the ACC.


Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Duke (15-1)
  • 2. Virginia Tech (12-4)
  • T3. North Carolina (10-6)
  • T3. NC State (10-6)
  • 5. Florida State (9-7)
  • 6. Maryland (9-7)
  • 7. Clemson (8-8)
  • 8. Miami (7-9)
  • 9. Boston College (5-11)
  • 10. Wake Forest (4-12)
  • 11. Georgia Tech (4-12)
  • 12. Virginia (3-13)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech (20.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.5 APG)
  • G: Nolan Smith, Duke (17.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.0 APG)
  • F: Kyle Singler (POY), Duke (17.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.4 APG)
  • F: Harrison Barnes, UNC (26.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.1 SPG for Ames High School)
  • C: Tracy Smith, NC State (16.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 APG)

6th Man

Chris Singleton (F), Florida State (10.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.2 APG)

Impact Newcomers

Harrison Barnes (F, UNC) and Kyrie Irving (G, Duke).

Here’s the catch.  Barnes might be the better player statistically, and he should have an unbelievable season, but if Duke’s repeat hopes rest on Irving’s shoulders, I’m not sure how he couldn’t be an impact newcomer. Both have NBA scouts fawning over them.

Kyrie Irving (left) and Harrison Barnes have sky-high potential, but how will they do in their respective coaches' systems? (Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

What You Need To Know

People will probably say the ACC is having a down year again, but statistically, in the ACC’s “down season” last year, it finished as the highest ranked conference by Ken Pomeroy (just above the Big 12).  Even though the conference has won five of the last ten NCAA championships, people will argue it’s in decline after perennial contender UNC had a devastating season and Duke caught a few breaks on the road to the National Championship. That said, the ACC will not be the country’s deepest conference this season, but that doesn’t mean it will be irrelevant beyond the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.  The ACC has five recruiting classes in ESPN’s top 25, which should ease the loss of important conference players like Greivis Vasquez, Jon Scheyer, Sylven Landesberg, Trevor Booker and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Predicted Champion

Duke (NCAA #1 Seed) – Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad should not only be favored to win the conference, they should be favored to win the NCAA Tournament.  Duke returns two Preseason All-Americans in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith from last year’s championship team.  Kyrie Irving is the highest-touted Duke recruit since Jason Williams, who led the Blue Devils to the 2001 title. Irving is also considered by scouts as the best true point guard of this class.  Additionally, the Blue Devils picked up four-star power forward Joshua Hairston and Seth Curry (who averaged 20.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 2.3 APG in his freshman season at Liberty), both of whom should see lots of playing time. Duke loses three starters from last year’s team: Jon Scheyer (18.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.9 APG), Lance Thomas (4.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 0.9 APG), and Brian Zoubek (5.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.0 APG).  Losing three starters would normally lower expectations for a team.  But, if anything, this Duke team should be more talented than last year’s squad.  According to Evan Daniels of Scout.com: three people who have watched Duke recently “are raving about their overall talent and Kyrie Irving.”  If you’re looking for more praise (not likely), Dan Wetzel tweeted: “Keep hearing from NBA scouts who’ve seen Duke practice describe Devils as ‘scary’ ‘complete’ ‘even better.’”  He followed that up rebutting the pro-Coach K media saying “These are NBA scouts raving about Duke, not supposedly pro-Coach K media.”  And last but not least, Luke Winn ranked the Blue Devil backcourt first in the nation and the frontcourt second (after Purdue, whose loss of Robbie Hummel almost certainly drops them a couple of spots). Long story short, Duke is going to be very, very good this year, especially if Mason Plumlee has the breakout season people are expecting. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – South Atlantic Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2010

It’s October.  The leaves are starting to turn colors.  Halloween candy is already in the stores.  There have been a few nights where you may have even turned on the heat.  Midnight Madness is imminent and RTC is full bore into the 2010-11 Season Preview materials.  For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

South Atlantic Region (VA, NC, SC)

  • Kyrie Irving – Fr, G – Duke. To get an idea how highly touted Kyrie Irving is, consider this: coming off a season where Duke won the national title and only lost one key playmaker on offense, most people believe that the Blue Devils will run their offense through the talented freshman from New Jersey who many recruiting experts rank among the best to ever come from the state that has produced so many great college players, including Duke legends Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams. His development during his sophomore year of high school when ESPN analysts stated that he “would be a top 300 player nationally in the 2010 class” and then said a few months later “could be an impact player in the Atlantic 10 or a high-major role player” to his senior year when he was a top five recruit (#1 according to some services) and those same recruiting analysts were stating “it will be shocking if he isn’t an all-conference performer and possible all-american his freshman season” portends the potential for his development into a truly special player. Irving is one of the rare players who arrives on campus with the ability to both score and distribute the ball to his teammates. After all the talk about how Coach K had lost his edge in recruiting, Irving might be his most dynamic recruit since Williams arrived in Durham back in 1999. Despite only being on campus for a few months, his Blue Devil teammates have probably already begun to appreciate his high basketball IQ, competitiveness, and all-around ability.  Even though many will question his inclusion on our Impact Player team over his more proven teammate Nolan Smith, Irving has demonstrated a skill set in high school that goes beyond what Smith has demonstrated even with three additional years of experience under the watchful eye of Coach K. If Irving is able to make a smooth transition from the high school game to the college game (and having Singler, Smith, Seth Curry, and the Plumlees around should help), his game could make the Blue Devils heavy favorites to repeat when March arrives. With Irving’s game we don’t think it will be question of if but rather when he feels truly comfortable at the college level, so all the Duke haters should be preparing for a long season ahead.

Kyrie Irving Could be the Best Duke Guard Since J-Will

  • Malcolm Delaney - Sr, G – Virginia Tech. If you’re a Hokies fan and a Twitter fiend, back on May 8th you were probably just a little surprised but very happy that Malcolm Delaney tweeted that he was going to put off NBA riches for a year and return to school for his senior season. Nobody, however, could have been happier than Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg. We shudder to think at the number of blood pressure medications that man must be taking these days, having seemingly been the victim of more last-second heartbreakers and burst NCAA Tournament bubbles (are we allowed to refer to “the bubble” in October?) than any one man should ever be expected to endure, but the return of Delaney to Blacksburg should have lowered Greenberg’s systolic by about 20 points. It probably went back up over the summer, though, after Greenberg lost two of his forwards for the season — specifically presumptive sixth man J.T. Thompson to a left ACL tear and Allan Chaney to viral myocarditis (a condition slightly less than 0.6% of all people in America have) — and has another one in Cadarian Raines recovering from surgery in March to repair a re-fractured left foot. The importance of Delaney, then, and the impact he’ll have in this geographical region become obvious. VT will have to go small, and that means more touches for Malcolm, who we’re guessing will have no problem taking on more responsibility in terms of both scoring and rebounding, and we’re saying this about the top scorer in the ACC last season (20.2 PPG). He played an average of 35.8 MPG last year (4th ACC, 58th nationally) and we wonder if he’ll even sit at all this season. Most importantly, if the Hokies are going to attempt to return to only their second NCAA Tournament in the last 15 years (and what would be Delaney’s first), Greenberg will be counting on emotional and vocal leadership on the floor and in the locker room from Delaney, his RTC South Atlantic Impact Player and ACC Player of the Year candidate.

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20 At The Top: ACC Player Rankings

Posted by zhayes9 on July 9th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

For the entire 20 At The Top series, click here.

Over the next six Fridays this summer, I’ll have the honor of taking you through the top 20 players in each major conference in college basketball. The list is a combination of many factors:  production, expectations, ceiling, skill set, statistics, efficiency, basically anything under the sun that a college basketball fan like myself obsesses over during the dog days of summer. Hopefully healthy debate is opened up in the comments section. Without further ado, here’s my ACC edition:

1) Kyle Singler, Duke — Singler will top many prognosticators’ preseason national player of the year rankings, and his decision to return for a senior campaign at Duke instantly vaulted the Blue Devils to repeat-or-bust expectations. With a more guard-oriented transition attack planned for Duke this season, Singler will only see his scoring opportunities skyrocket and he’ll be the centerpiece of what should be a ferocious offensive attack. He’s a tremendous competitor, can make shots in spurts and will have another full season at the collegiate level to adjust to the small forward position.

2) Harrison Barnes, North Carolina — Barnes seemingly has no flaws on the basketball court and has the potential to make the type of impact Evan Turner had on Ohio State during what will be Barnes’ one and only season in Chapel Hill. He’s the favorite to go #1 overall in the 2011 Draft — a silky smooth shooter with a confident mid-range game and a fantastic attitude/basketball IQ to boot. Barnes will have to deal with the unparalleled expectations of resurrecting one of the premier programs in the sport.

3) Nolan Smith, Duke — Smith has come a long way since being demoted to the bench in favor of Elliot Williams midway through his sophomore season. If anything, Smith will prove even more lethal this season playing alongside Kyrie Irving in a transition attack and Kyle Singler on the wing. He could top 40% with his three-point shooting and is also the type of poised floor leader that Coach K adores. He’s an undersized 2-guard at 6’2, but played the position last year when Jon Scheyer ran the offense and it didn’t seem to deter Duke come March.

4) Kyrie Irving, Duke — Irving is the truest and most refined point guard at his age that scouts have seen in years. The biggest Duke recruit since the Paulus/McRoberts combo entered Durham, Irving immediately has the responsibility of running the offense of the defending national champs. Blessed with innate court vision and basketball IQ, Irving can also score in bunches, thrives in transition and is especially productive in a pick-and-roll game. Think a reincarnation of Jay Williams, although Irving will only be around for one season.

5) Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech — Delaney enters the season as the hands down favorite to win the ACC scoring title. The combo guard is comfortable both slashing to the basket and shooting threes, although we’ve seen his outside shooting numbers plummet the last two seasons in Blacksburg. The main reason Delaney went off for 12 25+ point performances during his junior year is an incredible ability to get to the free throw line (32nd in nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes) where he knocks down 85% of his freebies.

6) C.J. Leslie, NC State — Leslie surprised the college basketball world when he spurned John Calipari and decided to save Sidney Lowe’s job in Raleigh. He instantly becomes the best player on an intriguing Wolfpack squad that will look to climb out of the ACC cellar. Leslie is insanely skilled and loves to run where he can show off his athleticism. The perimeter shot needs work and Leslie tends to lose focus, but Lowe reeled in a special talent with a very high ceiling.

7) Chris Singleton, Florida State — Singleton has all of the physical gifts and athletic ability to dominate and should transition to the next level as a 6’8 small forward with the wingspan to defend power forwards. As for the college game, it remains boom-or-bust for Leonard Hamilton’s most talented and most frustrating player. As a prime example, Singleton sandwiched 22 and 23 point performances with a two point showing during ACC play last season. Free throw shooting and a mid-range game also need improvement.

8) Mason Plumlee, Duke — With Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas moving on, the younger Plumlee brother should have more room to shine as the primary option in a somewhat thin Duke frontcourt. The jury’s out on whether he can match the rebounding and toughness that Zoubek provided, but the athletic spurts that Plumlee showed last season lead me to believe he can become deadly on the boards. He does have considerable development in terms of a low-post offensive game.

9) Tracy Smith, NC State — Smith flew way under the radar last season on a downtrodden NC State team, but should see more publicity this winter with an improved supporting cast. Smith scored in double figures in all but two games during his breakout junior campaign in which he averaged 17/7 as the centerpiece of any opposition’s game plan. Now aided by C.J. Leslie, Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown, Smith has the chance to enter the vernacular of more casual college basketball fans.

10) Tyler Zeller, North Carolina — A near-seven footer with a smooth mid-range jumper, Zeller just needs to stay healthy for a full season to maximize his potential. Extend Zeller’s stats from last season per 35 minutes and he was a near double-double performer. Zeller and incoming frosh Barnes could create some serious matchup problems for ACC competition.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2010

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After weeks and weeks of mediocre matchups, we have FINALLY been rewarded with a big week of games to talk about. So let’s get right to it.

(Plus, my prognostication got off to a great start – just call me Joe Lunardi. Wait, I’m not that nerdy.)

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Tuesday, Jan. 12)

1. Duke (13-2, 1-1)

PAST: The Blue Devils stay atop our rankings, despite the “upset” loss at Georgia Tech (if I see one more person call it an upset – I’m looking at you, ESPN, with your “Upset Alert” – I’m gonna scream). Duke lost to a very good team and in a very tough venue. They showed a few chinks in the armor – namely their lack of any sort of depth – but it was not enough to cost them the top spot here.

FUTURE: Two home games this week – Wednesday against Boston College and Saturday against Wake Forest. Guess which one will be the bigger test?

2. North Carolina (12-4, 1-0)

PAST: We didn’t really have time here last week to talk about the loss at Charleston. Is it one that would bother me if I were a UNC fan? Yes. Would I get hung up on it? Absolutely not. Any time a team like UNC takes a non-traditional road trip like that, the home team and its fans prepare for the biggest game ever on campus. With the players and fans amped up, it’s a tough test for even the best teams. As for Sunday’s win over Virginia Tech? It proved just how experienced and talented teams respond to tough losses.

FUTURE: The Heels face the toughest week of anyone in the league, traveling to Clemson on Wednesday and hosting Georgia Tech on Saturday. If UNC and Duke both go 2-0 this week, we might have a close race atop the rankings.

3. Georgia Tech (12-3, 1-1)

PAST: If the Yellow Jackets had not lost at Georgia, they might have leapt over UNC this week. But Saturday’s win over Duke was enough to make Tech fans forget about that in-state loss. Gani Lawal is emerging as an all-around force, not only scoring 21 points, but also dominating the vaunted Duke frontcourt in the second half, as Georgia Tech out-boarded the Devils 26-12.

FUTURE: After a semi-trap game Wednesday at Virginia, Tech heads to Chapel Hill Saturday for what is easily the ACC game of the week.

4. Wake Forest (11-3, 1-1)

PAST: This is where this gets interesting. I debated bumping Wake down after a one-point loss at Miami, but I’ve never been one to overreact too much to one game, and Wake’s three losses are Purdue, William & Mary and now Miami. They’re on shaky ground here, but I still have faith in the Deacons.

FUTURE: Wake hosts Maryland Tuesday and heads to Duke on Sunday.

5. Miami (15-1, 1-1)

PAST: The Miami win over Wake may not have cost the Deacons a spot, but it bumped the Hurricanes up a few places. Yes, their schedule still stinks, but the Hurricanes proved they can share the court with a real Division I team. Dwayne Collins led the way on Saturday, with 23 and 11, as Miami continued its best start in half a century. But as the schedule proves, that’s all relative.

FUTURE: The ’Canes travel through Virginia this week, facing Virginia Tech on Wednesday and Virginia on Saturday. Both will be tough games, but if Miami wants to be taken seriously in the ACC, they need to win both.

6. Clemson (13-3, 1-1)

PAST: The win over Boston College isn’t enough to bump Clemson up one spot – but everyone else at this mid-level faltered this week, so this was really a process of elimination.

FUTURE: Clemson hosts UNC Wednesday and heads to N.C. State on Saturday.

7. Virginia Tech (12-2, 0-1)

PAST: Yes, I know the Hokies didn’t post a win this week – losing their only game, at North Carolina. But compared to the rest of the middle-ground, I still find the most promise in Blacksburg. Last week, I said I wanted to see how the Hokies fared with a healthy Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson in the lineup. The pair combined for 40 points, but the Hokies let things get away from them in the second half against UNC. Nothing to be ashamed about, especially in Chapel Hill.

FUTURE: The Hokies host Miami Wednesday and head to Florida State Saturday.

8. Florida State (13-3, 1-1)

PAST: In their only game this week, Florida State lost at Maryland. So far, it looks like the same old FSU team: one that struggles away from Tallahassee, and loses to mediocre/good teams.

FUTURE: The Seminoles host N.C. State Tuesday and Virginia Tech Saturday. At least they’re at home.

9. Virginia (9-4, 1-0)

PAST: The Cavaliers posted a very nice comeback win at N.C. State, thanks largely to 23 points from Sylven Landesberg. Virginia is tough to figure out so far, but we should learn more this week…

FUTURE: …with home games vs. Georgia Tech (Wednesday) and Miami (Saturday). A split would be really nice for the Cavaliers, methinks.

10. Maryland (10-4, 1-0)

PAST: A one-spot jump for Greivis Vasquez and Co. after a strong (how strong is to be debated) win over Florida State at home. Maryland nearly let a big lead slip away in that one, and won’t have much time to recover…

FUTURE: … before a Tuesday trip to Wake Forest. They also play at Boston College on Saturday. The Terps desperately need two wins to move up to where I think they belong in these rankings.

11. N.C. State (11-5, 0-2)

PAST: I really do feel for the Wolf Pack. They seem to have some talent, but they keep losing heartbreakers. Now, with a home loss to Virginia, you can add losses they really shouldn’t suffer at all.

FUTURE: The Pack heads to Florida State Tuesday and hosts Clemson Saturday.

12. Boston College (10-6, 1-1)

PAST: The Eagles were never really in it in a 16-point loss at Clemson.

FUTURE: Wednesday’s game at Duke could be ugly. Saturday’s home game against Maryland shouldn’t be close either, but moody Maryland might play down to its competition again.

WEEK THAT WAS…

GANI TIME, GANI-WHERE: Derrick Favors may have gotten all the preseason hype, but try to watch a Georgia Tech game and tell me that Gani Lawal isn’t the most impressive player on the floor. My DVR flamed out for most of the Duke-Georgia Tech game (blame the wife, I was away for the weekend), but I did catch the last 10 minutes or so. And Lawal seemed to have his way with the Duke frontcourt. Sure, Duke missed 22 of its 28 3-pointers, which didn’t help its cause, but with Lawal dominating like this and Favors growing up with each game, Georgia Tech can only get better.

HOW TO TREAT MIAMI?: The Hurricanes are an impressive 15-1, but nearly all of those 15 wins are against the hyphens and ampersands of the world (UNC-Wilmington, USC-Upstate, North Carolina A&T ). This week’s win over Wake Forest was a good place to start, and players like Dwayne Collins, Malcolm Grant and James Dews are talented enough to keep up in the ACC. But no one will believe in the Hurricanes unless they can win some tough ACC games – and do it on the road.

CRYSTAL BALL TIME…

I went 3-for-5 in my first week, including the Georgia Tech “upset.” From here on in, we’ll keep track of overall win/loss record. And if you want to join in, just add on your predictions to my five games of the week.

LAST WEEK’S CORRECT PICKS

DUKE AT GEORGIA TECH

  • My prediction: Georgia Tech by 2
  • Actual result: Georgia Tech by 4

FLORIDA STATE at MARYLAND

  • My prediction: Maryland by 5
  • Actual result: Maryland by 9

VIRGINIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA

  • My prediction: North Carolina by 10
  • Actual result: North Carolina by 14

LAST WEEK’S INCORRECT PICKS

VIRGINIA at N.C. STATE

  • My prediction: N.C. State by 4.
  • Actual result: Virginia by 8

WAKE FOREST at MIAMI

  • My prediction: Wake Forest by 8
  • Actual result: Miami by 1

THIS WEEK’S PREDICTIONS

MARYLAND at WAKE FOREST (Tuesday, 8 p.m., RAYCOM).  Wake Forest rebounds, and Maryland stays moody: Wake Forest by 9

MIAMI at VIRGINIA TECH (Wednesday, 7 p.m.).  Miami realizes what it’s like to play a tough road game, and falls hard: Virginia Tech by 10

NORTH CAROLINA at CLEMSON (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN).  The toughest game to pick of the week. I see UNC eking one out on the road: UNC by 3

GEORGIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN).  My upset of the week comes as the Heels come home from Clemson: Georgia Tech by 2

WAKE FOREST at DUKE (Sunday, 8 p.m., FSN).  Duke finds its 3-point stroke, and its frontcourt scoring: Duke by 6

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2010

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

There may not have been a ton of games this week in the ACC, especially games that looked good on paper heading in. But there were more than a few interesting results and developments. So let’s get on with it. Be sure to scroll to the end and see if you can beat my predictions for this week’s biggest games.

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Tuesday, Jan. 5)

1. Duke (12-1, 1-0)

PAST:  After splitting the top spot last week with rival UNC, the Blue Devils sit atop this week’s rankings all by themselves. No, it wasn’t the win over Long Beach State or the 59-point demolition of Penn. Duke pretty much dismantled highly regarded Clemson Sunday night, posting a 21-point win that was never even remotely that close. Jon Scheyer is scoring more than enough for Duke, and Kyle Singler and the Devils’ frontcourt proved it could handle a seasoned big man like Trevor Booker. An impressive win, to say the very least.

FUTURE: The Blue Devils face two interesting road tests this week — something they’re not really used to this season. They face Iowa State in Chicago on Wednesday, then head to Georgia Tech for a big date on Saturday. A win there would keep Duke on top of these rankings for another week.

2. North Carolina (11-4, 0-0)

PAST:  Well, there was that Charleston thing on Monday night, but that’s not enough for us to drop them this week. 

FUTURE:  The Heels host Virginia Tech this weekend, leading up to next week’s trip to Clemson and home game against Georgia Tech.

3. Wake Forest (11-2, 1-0)

PAST:  The Deacons take the award for most basketball played this week — and they have two impressive wins to show for it. Wake needed overtime to shake off a very, very good Richmond team on New Year’s Eve (a game I predicted to be a dogfight last week in this space), then went two overtimes to beat Xavier on Sunday in a game I am sad I couldn’t see. More on this game later.

FUTURE:  Fortunately for the tired Deacons, just one game is on the slate this week — a trip to sunny Coral Gables to face Miami on Saturday.

4. Georgia Tech (11-2, 0-1)

PAST:  I won’t waste anyone’s time with details of Tech’s rout of Winston-Salem State, but the 9-point road win at Charlotte is worth mentioning, if only because it was a near disaster. Tech held a 15-point lead in the second half, and needed some big free throws from do-everything-star Gani Lawal to ice it late. Lawal scored 29 points in the win over a good Charlotte team that entered the night with 10 wins.

FUTURE:  A short trip to rival Georgia tonight, then a huge home date with Duke on Saturday afternoon.

5. Florida State (13-2, 1-0)

PAST:  The Seminoles thumped Alabama A&M by 47 points, and followed that up with a 40-point pasting of Texas A&M – Corpus Christi.

FUTURE:   The Seminoles head to Maryland on Sunday.

6. Miami (14-1, 0-1)

PAST:  I almost bumped the Hurricanes up a spot after two more wins this week — except they were against Bethune-Cookman and Pepperdine. No matter the schedule, 14 wins is nothing to laugh at, so beware the ‘Canes as ACC play kicks into gear.

FUTURE:  Saturday’s home game with Wake Forest is one the Hurricanes have to have to be taken seriously as ACC contenders. And I’m gonna predict a win for my new ACC darkhorse (after preseason pick Maryland let me down — big time).

7. Clemson (12-3, 0-0)

PAST:  I really can’t bump Clemson down more than one spot for a loss at Cameron Indoor. But Booker and Co. better find a way to hang around with the ACC’s best if they want to be taken seriously.

FUTURE:  Clemson hosts the ACC’s trainwreck of the year — Boston College — on Saturday. Lose there, and I will find a way to bump the Tigers down more than one spot.

8. Virginia Tech (12-1, 0-0)

PAST:  On the surface, Saturday’s overtime win over Seton Hall in Cancun was nothing exciting. But when you realize that ACC leading scorer Malcolm Delaney missed the game, and Dorenzo Hudson dropped in 41 points, you realize how big a win it was. So far this season, the Hokies have been a one-man show, with Delaney carrying the load. Maybe one or two games without Delaney might be just what Virginia Tech needed with ACC play coming up.

FUTURE:  ACC play couldn’t open in a much tougher fashion for the Hokies, as they head to North Carolina on Sunday. Fortunately, the week-long layoff should be enough time for Delaney’s ankle to heal.

9. N.C. State (10-4, 0-1)

PAST:  Just when you thought last week’s heartbreaker at Arizona was a punch in the gut, N.C. State falls victim to Chandler Parsons’ 75-foot 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer to lose to Florida Sunday night. If you want to be optimistic in the new year, NC State fans, just think that you’ve used up all your bad breaks so far this year, and you’re still 10-4.

FUTURE: The Wolfpack host Holy Cross on Wednesday.

10. Virginia (7-4, 0-0)

PAST: Last week, I said a win for Virginia over UAB would get them out of the cellar. In fact, the 9-point win bumped them up two spots (nearly three, but I just couldn’t pile onto the poor N.C. State fans). The win was easily the biggest ever for coach Tony Bennett in his short career in Charlottesville, with Sylven Landesberg leading the way with 19 points. UAB didn’t help its own cause though, missing 10 of its 15 free throws.

FUTURE: Virginia hosts Texas-Pan American on Tuesday night.

11. Maryland (8-4, 0-0)

PAST:  Maryland, you disappoint me. I piled on the praise in my preview, and thought you were the darlings of the ACC. Then you go out and lose at home to William & Mary. Now I know the Tribe are one of the nation’s top mid-majors this season, but you can’t drop that game at home. Your other three losses (Villanova, Wisconsin, Cincinnati) are nothing to be ashamed of, but this is one the Terps needed to have. Not even a rout of ACC whipping boy UNC-Greensboro on Sunday was enough to help you.

FUTURE:  Maryland hosts Florida State on Sunday.

12. Boston College (9-5, 1-0)

PAST: Just when you thought home losses to Harvard and Rhode Island were bad, the Eagles go and lose — AT HOME — to the University of Maine. This is a team that is not even in the upper echelon of the America East, but the Black Bears still found a way to beat the Eagles at Conte Forum. It’s bad enough for BC fans that the biggest one I know (who also happens to share lots of my DNA) is calling for Al Skinner’s head. Skinner is one of those guys that everyone seems to love, and he has gotten plenty of great years out of teams that no one expected to be great. But it’s hard to ignore these three simple names: Harvard, Rhode Island, and MAINE.

FUTURE: I’ve made this joke before in this space, as BC continues to host what should be easy cupcake opponents in Chestnut Hill. But the Eagles better watch out for NJIT this week. The same NJIT that set the standard for Division I futility. Sorry Eagles fans, but I think you should get comfortable at the bottom of these here rankings.

WEEK THAT WAS…

ACC-TUAL ACC GAMES: Duke’s anticipated date with Clemson turned out to be a real dud on Sunday. The Blue Devils man-handled the Tigers, and proved that their seemingly easy early-season schedule was nothing to laugh at. The frontcourt-heavy Dookies are proving that they can change their style on the fly. Sadly for ACC fans, we have to wait another month for the first Duke-North Carolina game of the season (February 10 in Chapel Hill).

WAKE UP WAKE: The Demon Deacons might be dragging around campus a little bit this week after playing a season’s worth of overtimes in just a few days time. The win over Richmond is nothing to laugh at, especially considering the Spiders are a likely Tournament team. The double-OT shootout with Xavier would have easily been the ACC game of the week, if not for N.C. State’s stunning loss to Florida. Ishmael Smith took over for the Deacons in extra time, dropping nine of his 28 points to cap a 10-for-14 day from the floor. Not only was it a big win for Wake, but it came in the inaugural Skip Prosser Classic, as two programs with direct ties to the late coach got together for a whale of a game.

HOKIE, HOKIE, HIGH: Sadly, because of my paying job (blogging just isn’t profitable), I was only able to watch pieces of a few ACC games this week. One that I did catch most of happened to be Virginia Tech-Seton Hall. At first, I was disappointed not to get a chance to watch Malcolm Delaney play, but Dorenzo Hudson made me forget about that in a heartbeat. Hudson made shots from all over the floor, and literally strapped the Hokies to his back in the second half and overtime. His 41 points was the best scoring effort at Virginia Tech since Bimbo Coles in 1990 – now there’s a name from my childhood. This kid could be a true ACC star in the coming years, and if he can find a way to be a complement to a healthy Delaney, the Hokies could be trouble for the rest of the league.

CRYSTAL BALL TIME…

With conference play really getting under way, we’ll highlight a few (hopefully five each week) specific games in this space (in chronological order), and have a little fun with predictions. Predicting final scores is crazy, but I’ll try to give you the winner and a margin of victory. Each week we’ll keep track of my overall record, and the +/- on my scoring margins. Feel free to play along in the comments and pick the same games as I do. The winner will get the greatest prize in the world: my undying respect

VIRGINIA at N.C. STATE – Saturday, Noon (RAYCOM): Lady Luck has gotta side with the Wolfpack at some point, right? Unfortunately, they get to open up the year of conference play with a tough game against a surprising Virginia team that just posted a top-25 win over UAB. I see the Pack rising to the challenge, and posting an important home win over the Cavaliers.

PREDICTION: N.C. State by 4

DUKE at GEORGIA TECH — Saturday, 2 p.m. (ESPN): After Sunday’s Duke/Clemson showdown turned into a rout, here’s hoping the Yellow Jackets can put up a fight. The frontcourt matchup should be fun to watch, as Singler, Scheyer and the big men try to figure out Lawal, Derrick Favors and Georgia Tech. I’m going with the Yellow Jackets in a semi-surprise.

PREDICTION: Georgia Tech by 2

WAKE FOREST at MIAMI – Saturday, 6 p.m. (ESPNU): The Hurricanes will finally get to see what a real opponent looks like, but they get to do it at home. Unlike some, I won’t completely disregard the Hurricanes’ 14-1 record on account of their joke schedule, but I don’t expect the Deacons to play their third-straight close game. Wake wins this one relatively easily.

PREDICTION: Wake Forest by 8

FLORIDA STATE at MARYLAND – Sunday, 5:30 p.m. (FSN): The Terrapins’ pre-conference slate has been one to forget, and they need this win much more than the Seminoles. I expect Maryland to find its stride and pick up a critical victory.

PREDICTION: Maryland by 5

VIRGINIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA – Sunday, 7:45 p.m. (FSN): If Delaney’s ankle heals, and Hudson continues his strong play, the Hokies could make this interesting. But I see the Heels running away with it at the end.

PREDICTION: North Carolina by 10

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 5th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. More than the countless Big East tournament runs at the Garden, or the contention for conference regular season titles on a yearly basis, or reaching upper-echelon status in college basketball playing with no flashy All-American recruits, Jamie Dixon is proving his worth as a coach this year more than ever. Few teams lost as much talent, leadership, and production as senior point guard Levance Fields, dominating big man DeJuan Blair and outside threat Sam Young. The departure of these three mainstays plus two projected starters for 2009-10, Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown, beginning the year MIA prompted many preseason prognosticators (including myself) to deem Pittsburgh a non-contender in the rugged Big East. My mistake, Jamie. The Panthers just finished one of their most difficult Big East road stretches of the year with two statement victories at previously undefeated Syracuse and at fringe-ranked Cincinnati. Sophomore Ashton Gibbs is taking his experience from playing under Dixon at the U19 Games to good use, running the Pitt offense with superb efficiency, shooting the ball lights out from deep and breaking the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made in the process. Brown has his academics in order and used his athleticism to make a few back-breaking baskets against Cincy last night. Dixon provides stellar defense and outside shooting. It remains to be seen whether Pitt can stay at the top of the Big East with less talent than the other squads, but we do know that Dixon’s team will play smarter and tougher than any opponent. And that always gives them a fighting chance.

2. The most significant win this New Year’s week had to be Purdue running away from West Virginia to remain unblemished and surpass the Mountaineers as a projected #1 seed at this stage of the season. Purdue and coach Matt Painter have constructed their program unlike many of their other counterparts atop the rankings on a weekly basis. There’s no Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Devin Ebanks or John Wall walking through the doors of Mackey Arena to play for the Boilers for one or two years; instead, their 2009-10 highly ranked squad features a group of players that have been together for three straight seasons, such a rarity in the age of one-and-done players and the glorification of NBA riches. This specific group of players- Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant- have practiced and played together for three straight years now, stepping up the ladder slowly but surely in the college hoops landscape. They took the Big Ten by surprise in 2007-08 before falling in the second round to Xavier and climbed up another step by reaching the Sweet 16 a season ago. This year they hope to reach the top and cut down the nets in nearby Indianapolis with a group of kids that have been through the ups and downs of a college basketball season together more than once- a group of lightly-recruited but tough-minded individuals that will utilize defensive intensity and offensive efficiency to reach the ultimate goal Hummel, Johnson, Moore and others been striving for since arriving in West Lafayette.

3. Think about this for a second: Despite losing three four-year starters that all played 30+ MPG and notched 10+ PPG, Marquette coach Buzz Williams would probably tell you that his Golden Eagles should be staring at a 12-2 (2-0) record with wins over top-ten Villanova and West Virginia and another top-25 team in Florida State. Typical of young, inexperienced squads, Marquette has simply been unable to close games this season against stellar competition. If Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler don’t miss two front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities, Da’Sean Butler’s game-winning shot never happens and Marquette has the second most impressive road win in the country this season (just behind Pitt stunning Syracuse). Up two Saturday against Villanova, Johnson-Odom again stepped to the line up two points and 2:35 left on the clock. Both of those attempts bricked, and, couple that with a bunny missed by Butler at the buzzer, the Golden Eagles again fell just short. Rewind back to November in the Old Spice Classic where Marquette held a 30-18 lead at half against FSU and a 10-point cushion midway through the second half, but squandered the lead. I haven’t even included the NC State game where Marquette lead by 11 at the intermission. Closing out games has been a devastating problem for Buzz Williams’ squad this season, and these close losses could very well cost Marquette a spot in the field come March if they’re sitting on the bubble.

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ATB: New Year’s Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2010

New Year’s Football? Coulda fooled us, as there were nearly 200 basketball games over the last four days in every corner of America.  And here’s the rub — a couple dozen of those games held more value than all those meaningless bowls over the same time period.  The bowls are fun for the players and the fans of the teams involved (another reason to tailgate), but they have absolutely no (as in zero; as in 0.00%) bearing on the national title picture in football.  At least games like West Virginia @ Purdue and Louisville @ Kentucky and William & Mary @ Hofstra have implications toward invitation and seeding in the NCAA Tournament in March.  These games matter.  The bowls (save Thursday night) do not.  Let’s see what some of the highlights of the long weekend were.

Unbeaten No More.  Two of the remaining six undefeated teams lost over the weekend — one expected, one unexpected.  On Friday afternoon, a New Year’s Day tilt between the #4 (Purdue) and #6 (West Virginia) teams in America resulted in the Boilermakers running away with the game 77-62.  JaJuan Johnson was awesome on the interior (25/10), completely outplaying the WVU big men Da’Sean Butler (17/7) and Devin Ebanks (11/6) and showing that when he, Robbie Hummel (18/2) and E’Twaun Moore (15/3 assts) are clicking, the Boilermakers can play with anybody in America.  Oddly, WVU shot the ball ok enough to win, and was absolutely scorching from deep (9-12 3FG), but it was the 17 turnovers that did them in.  Time and time again a poor possession on the WVU end (in large part because of their lack of a true PG) led to Purdue points on the other end.  This game was arguably the ‘biggest’ game of the preconference schedule, and Purdue made a real statement as to its legitimacy in this one.

The unexpected loss was #5 Syracuse, who has looked so fantastic this season, dropping a game to rebuilding Pittsburgh on Saturday.  There were quite a few people in the preseason who were writing off Pitt after what was admittedly huge personnel losses from last season, but those people obviously don’t know or care to know that Jamie Dixon is a phenomenal coach (same as Bo Ryan at Wisconsin).  He always figures out how to win with the team he’s got.  His guards attacked the Syracuse zone to the tune of ten threes while holding their own on the boards and forcing Syracuse to miss most of theirs (1-13 from deep).  A 55-point second half behind Ashton Gibbs’ 24 /8 and Jermaine Dixon’s 21/5/4 assts/5 stls for the game gave Pitt its defining win for the season, and it was clear throughout the second twenty minutes that the Panthers were the more aggressive team.  Syracuse’s Wes Johnson (19/6) didn’t have his usual double-double, but the Cuse players are going to have to remember that Big East foes know how to play against their zone and will need to adjust accordingly.

There are four unbeatens remaining. You may have heard of them.  #1 Kansas, #2 Texas, #3 Kentucky, #4 Purdue.

Bluegrass Bloody Brawl#3 Kentucky 71, Louisville 62. This was an ugly, ugly game, and the tone was set from the first eight seconds when it was clear that one of Rick Pitino’s primary strategies was going to be to rough up the young Wildcats in an attempt to get in their heads.  It worked with Louisville’s first target, Eric Bledsoe, as he was sent to the bench almost immediately, but it never fazed DeMarcus Cousins (18/18/3 assts) or John Wall (17/4), who were subject to repeated hacks and hard fouls throughout.  This game was a turnover-filled foulfest that included five techs, but when Louisville came back to take a one-point lead at 42-41, it was Wall (who later said he’s not even close to fulfilling his potential) who once again took over the game and made several key plays to give the Wildcats breathing room.  This put UK at 15-0 and at its best start in forty years, making the Wildcat faithful apoplectic over the possibility of what lies ahead.  UK will most certainly lose a game or several in the SEC, but what’s even more amazing to us is that John Calipari is now 86-6 over the last two-plus seasons.  Those are John Wooden/Coach K in their prime type of numbers (before you get all crazy, we’re not saying Calipari is as good as those guys… yet).

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