Morning Five: 05.09.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 9th, 2012

  1. Most national college basketball writers are aware of the sensitivity of Kentucky fans so you would think that a local newspaper would be cognizant of the sensibilities of their readers. Apparently The Lexington Herald-Ledger was not aware of that (or didn’t care) as it published an editorial cartoon making fun of John Calipari and some of the accusation that follow him. Outside of being unoriginal it seems like a rather idiotic decision to alienate your subscriber base (if the paper has a substantial one even before this). We would have expected something like this out of The Indianapolis Star, but for the local newspaper to do it to poke at their always irritable fan base seems to be a poor move all around.
  2. With the NBA Draft a little over seven weeks away, fans of both NBA and college basketball are beginning to focus in one how their favorite teams and players will get paired. By now we know who the top picks will be regardless of what order teams select them in, but the real intrigue is who the “value picks” will be. For that, NBADraft.net takes a look at this year’s NBA Draft and some recent NBA Drafts to find a poor man’s version of more highly rated players. Of course, as the NBA Draft approaches every year you can count on at least one column bemoaning the current age limit. The latest version of this article comes from Steve Kerr and speaks in favor of a 20-year-old age limit. We agree with Kerr on some of the points he makes, but picking 20, which is an arbitrary number seems a little capricious. Personally we would prefer an age limit of 22 years-old out of personal greed (3 more years of Anthony Davis? Sign us up!), but it will be hard to make the case as long as NBA owners and GMs continue to draft talented freshmen. Even if you disagree with Kerr’s premise it is a worthwhile and relatively short read.
  3. As we have seen several times in the barely one month old offseason, coaching changes very often lead to player transfers. The latest such case is Dorian Finney-Smith, who is transferring from Virginia Tech. Finney-Smith did not provide new coach James Johnson with a reason for his decision except to say that it was not due to the firing of Seth Greenberg, which may or may not be the case. Finney-Smith, one of the most highly sought-after recruits that the Hokies ever brought to campus, had a decent if not great freshman year averaging 6.3 points and 7 rebounds per game. The move, which was a shock to Johnson and the Hokie program, is a pretty big blow as they try to regroup under new leadership. Finney-Smith has not announced what schools he is looking at, but there should be no shortage of schools chasing after him.
  4. The North Carolina athletic department has no shortage of scandals recently and now it appears that there is a brewing academic scandal involving classes that are made up of largely basketball and football players. The classes being investigated are in African and Afro-American Studies and are said to involve unauthorized grade changes in classes without the instruction of professors. To be fair to the athletes the investigation has not shown that the players were shown any favoritism in the grade changes although the high percentage of athletes from the two sports in the classes (39%) will lead many to infer that they were put there to maintain their eligibility. Obviously, there are quite a few other potential explanation for the high prevalence of these athletes in these classes like the race of the athletes or that they were often held in summer sessions when athletes are a relatively larger percentage of the student body. While some may think this matter needs further investigation the school does not appear to think so as UNC System President Tom Ross stated that he felt it was “an isolated situation” (the famous words of many administrators before the walls came crumbling down).
  5. We know what you were probably expecting us to lead with the Nerlens Noel piece in The New York Times, but honestly it isn’t even worth mentioning at this point except to say that it is not a story. The NCAA tends to investigate a lot of situations like this and invariably nothing ever comes of it. This only becomes a story now because it is Kentucky and it is Pete Thamel, which will inevitably spiral into another ridiculous Internet feud given the history between the two with Thamel’s penchant for hunting down stories regarding Kentucky. If something is found, then it would be a big story, but for right now our response is “meh”.
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ACC Season Wrap-Up and Tournament Preview

Posted by mpatton on March 8th, 2012

First, here’s a quick preview of the ACC Tournament. You can find the rest of the power rankings after the jump.
The two Thursday games you should keep a close eye on are Clemson – Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest – Maryland. I trust Miami and NC State will have no trouble putting away their opponents, though Georgia Tech has played a couple of very good games this year.
While North Carolina is the prohibitive favorite, I think Florida State probably has the second best chance. Hear me out: Duke is playing without Ryan Kelly, which means the Plumlees and Hairston are it inside; factor in a history of ignoring the conference tournament for North Carolina combined with Kendall Marshall feeling “tired,” and I think you’ve got a recipe for a team not from North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament for the first time since Maryland in 2004.
I also expect strong runs from bubble teamers NC State and Miami, as both try to secure their at-large hopes with another marquee win.
  1. North Carolina (27-4, 14-2) – It’s funny how the difference between a successful season can come down to one game. Had North Carolina lost to Duke at Cameron, people would’ve pointed to the Tar Heels’ lofty preseason expectations and how they came up short. Instead, Roy Williams’ squad finally showed the world just why it was ranked so high early in the season. Kendall Marshall hit shots, the defense clicked and the game felt over by the first media timeout. Now the Tar Heels have the inside track for a one-seed, owning the head-to-head victory with Michigan State that will definitely come in handy. There are still legitimate questions about North Carolina’s intensity, but if that intensity is in the ballpark of Saturday night opponents should be scared. Don’t pencil the Tar Heels into the Final Four before seeing the ACC Tournament. This team’s worst enemy until the final weekend will be itself. One person in particular to keep you eye on is Marshall. He was snubbed from first-team All-ACC (he missed by two votes), so I expect him to come out aggressively Friday. He’s also shows recent offensive improvement, coming up with two of his best performances of the year in rivalry games against NC State and Duke. When he’s taking and hitting open looks, the Tar Heels are impossible to guard.
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The Way Too Early ACC Freshmen Review

Posted by KCarpenter on February 3rd, 2012

It’s been something of a down year for sensational ACC freshmen after last year’s excellent class. Still there have been some real gems, and though the Rookie of the Year Honor was pretty much wrapped up by the time the first conference game was tipped, most spots on the ACC All-Freshman Team are wide open. A lot of highly-touted recruits have flopped or underperformed, a lot of talented guys haven’t won minutes over their more experienced teammates, and in general, the youngsters have played pretty inconsistently. If voting for the All-Freshmen team was held tomorrow, here’s who I would vote for.

  • G Austin Rivers (Duke)

Rivers Was Anointed An All-ACC Freshman a Long Time Ago

Barring a miracle, Rivers has Rookie of the Year wrapped up. Leading a top-flight Duke team, he’s the only freshman whose average has cracked double digits. He leads the balanced and talented Blue Devils with 14.1 PPG. Rivers game isn’t perfect; he struggles to do much beyond scoring and his offensive efficiency leaves something to be desired at 103.2. Still, he’s the leading scorer on the best offense in the ACC and that makes any other deficiency seem somewhat trivial. If highlight reel appearances were a statistical category, Rivers moves would leave all the other rookies in the dust.

  • G Shane Larkin (Miami)

With an expected backcourt of Malcom Grant and Durand Scott leading the talented Hurricanes, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of room for 5’11” freshman like Larkin to get a lot of playing time beyond spells off the bench. Somehow though, Larkin proved so valuable to Jim Larranaga that the Hurricanes went to a three guard lineup starting the energetic guard alongside his more experienced teammates. In his first year, Larkin has already managed to jump to the top of the ACC steals charts, averaging 1.9 SPG alongside Lorenzo Brown and Jontel Evans. In terms of tempo-free statistics, Larkin leads the ACC, getting a steal on 4.8% of opponents posessions (this also happens to be the 14th best mark in the nation). Outside of being an all-round pest on defense, Larkin leads ACC freshmen with 2.5 APG and shoots a very respectable 37.5% from behind the arc. With these skills, Larkin is going to be breaking the hearts of other teams fans for the foreseeable future.

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ACC Morning Five: 01.18.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 18th, 2012

  1. Morganton News Herald: It’s time for the second installment of the “Birth of ACC Hoops” from Roy Waters. This week’s edition looks at basketball success mainly outside the “Big Four” from North Carolina. Lefty Driesell had a lot to do with it. He put Maryland on the map, but things never quite came together with his best team in 1974 being left out of the NCAA Tournament after a 103-100 overtime loss to eventual national champion NC State in the ACC Tournament championship game.
  2. Charlotte Observer: Who wants to talk about Roy Williams and the Tar Heels’ early exit at Florida State again? Well, before passing too much judgment, you should know that Luke DeCock talked with the NCAA’s national officiating coordinator, John Adams, to discuss the end of that game. From the sound of things, Williams and FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton may have tried to call the game, but both lacked the authority to do so. Why that wasn’t abundantly clear (I think an official was nearby both of them during the timeout), I don’t know. I do think the precedent makes sense. For one, a forfeit goes down in the record books as a 2-0 loss, but more importantly, all sporting events should be played till the buzzer. There’s no mercy rule in college athletics; nor should there be one. It’s one thing in a situation like the Cincinnati-Xavier brawl; it’s another because of an impending court rush. I said it yesterday: if you’re worried about your players, have them sit on the bench. The worst thing that could happen is a drunk, belligerent fan could spill beer on someone. Anyway, hopefully this article puts the story to rest for good.
  3. Roanoke Times: Mark Berman thinks Virginia Tech needs a spark plug. I think it needs a win. We’re probably talking about the same thing. This team has talent, but Seth Greenberg attributes its early league struggles to the “absence of a ‘high energy player'” (for the record, I think Dorian Finney-Smith could totally be an energy guy, but the question is whether he can do it his freshman year). I think the team will get some more energy if they put together a win. Unfortunately, the Hokies’ next game is at North Carolina, who is still reeling after the beatdown administered from Leonard Hamilton’s squad. Don’t be surprised if Virginia Tech plays better though (and Erick Green should be back in action).
  4. Fox Sports South: Andrew Jones takes a quick look at the top four point guards in the ACC. The members probably won’t surprise you, but I guarantee the top slot will catch a lot of people off guard. Durand Scott, Erick Green, Kendall Marshall and Lorenzo Brown make up the list in descending order. That’s right, Brown gets the top spot because Jones based his criteria on play-making, scoring and defense. The two matchups I’m most excited about looking forward: Brown vs. Marshall and Dexter Strickland vs. Austin Rivers.
  5. Daily Press: The ACC is in chaos. Florida State seems to have turned things on after a 20-point drubbing from Clemson, but like the rest of the league there’s a lot of variance in the Seminole performances. Same goes for Virginia Tech, Boston College, Clemson, NC State and even North Carolina. The league may not be anywhere close to the best conference in basketball, but it sure is interesting from night to night.
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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 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 Game On: 11.23.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 23rd, 2011

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

Identities are finally coming into focus. Duke and North Carolina each had breakthrough epiphany moments, while Clemson was upset for the second time in a row. Miami also managed to win against Florida Gulf Coast in a performance that I would classify as “okay,” though that’s about all I can say about a game where the ten-point winner shot 32.1% from the field. Back to more intriguing topics.

Duke looked really good against a Michigan team that had just pounded a talented Memphis team the day before. A clever defensive plan (basically smaller guys aggressively fronting) kept Tim Hardaway, Jr., from impacting the game until near the end of the second half. Meanwhile, Austin Rivers, despite putting up impressive scoring numbers in past contests, finally put on a thorough demonstration of the skill he brings to the table, scoring aggressively, efficiently, and with more than a little panache. This performance augurs well for Duke’s future, especially considering how well the team was playing before Rivers’ breakout. For efficiency fans, I’d like to direct you to Ryan Kelly, who scored 17 points on six shots, and Seth Curry who scored 17 points on seven shots. That’s some ridiculously efficient scoring.

Rivers Quieted Some of His Detractors Yesterday

Five time zones away, North Carolina, took a step toward becoming the juggernaut that people whispered about in the offseason. Reggie Bullock led all scorers with 23 points in a performance where he made six out of seven three-pointers and contributed four rebounds, two assists, and a steal in a measly eighteen minutes of play.  He didn’t foul or turn the ball over. It was a sterling performance off the bench and one that promises good things for a Tar Heel team that had struggled to reliably hit three-pointers. Of course, Bullock took a back seat to the other command performance of the game: Kendall Marshall‘s 15-assist night. In the first four games of this season, Marshall has had more 15-assist games than any other Tar Heel in history. On nights like these, when Marshall is in passing-Nirvana, the Carolina offense seems fluid and unstoppable: everyone is open. UNC played so well, that John Henson‘s double-double with six assists and four blocks is the third story of this game.

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ACC Game On: 11.14.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 14th, 2011

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

Every team in the Atlantic Coast Conference has played at least one game so far, except for Boston College which makes it’s debut tonight. Before we get to breaking down Monday night’s slate of games, let’s spend a little time taking a look at this past weekend and the first few games played by ACC teams. While most everyone stuck pretty closely to the script, there were a few pleasant surprises for ACC fans.

Unsurprisingly, the star of the Carrier Classic was the aircraft carrier itself. The USS Carl Vinson was an incredibly cool setting for a basketball game. So cool, in fact, that the basketball game seemed like an afterthought. While North Carolina beat Michigan State, and John Henson was able to show off his shot-blocking ability by getting nine of them, it was his increased offensive arsenal (which he continued to demonstrate on Sunday against UNC Asheville) that should excite Tar Heel fans. But the real MVP of the event was probably the San Diego sky.

Neither Team Was As Good As The Setting

Belmont lived up to its reputation as a dangerous team and came within one point of upsetting Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke held the line and eked out a victory against the pesky and talented Bruins. This, combined with a blowout over Presbyterian confirms very little about this year’s Blue Devils. Rather, viewers learned a great deal more about Belmont and Presbyterian (one’s quite good and the other’s quite bad) than they did about the as-yet-enigmatic and still-emerging Blue Devils. Wins are wins though, and now Mike Krzyzewski has as many of them (902) as any men’s college basketball coach in Division I history.

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ACC Preseason All-Conference Teams

Posted by mpatton on November 8th, 2011

Now that our individual team previews are done, it’s time to look at individual players. With only five all-ACC selections from last season returning there are plenty of open spots to fill, so here are our Preseason all-ACC Teams for the 2011-12 season.

2011-12 Preseason All-ACC Teams

Looking at our projections, North Carolina, Miami and Duke lead the way with eight, six and five selections, respectively. No surprise with Harrison Barnes checking in as the consensus ACC Player of the Year, or Austin Rivers as the ACC Rookie of the Year (though Kellen wants to keep an eye on Maryland’s Nick Faust for the ROY award).

My personal honorable mentions are Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, Maryland’s Sean Mosley and NC State’s Richard Howell. I’m especially surprised Mosley didn’t show up on any of the teams, but his middling campaign last season probably did him in. Green appears to be in the right place to take over for departing Hokies Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, but he’s got a ways to go based on the Virginia Tech games I went to last season. Finally, Howell had a sneaky good season last year for the Wolfpack and could be a great frontcourt presence alongside CJ Leslie.

My biggest reach was putting Terrell Stoglin on the first team. He was a decent player last year (who averaged over 20 points per game pro-rated at 40 minutes), but he’ll really need to make some waves if he wants to crack the first team this season. Malcolm Grant and Kendall Marshall are the safer choices for that final guard spot. My reasoning is that Marshall will be hidden statistically behind Zeller and Barnes. In general, Roy Williams point guards are under-appreciated because they don’t put up sick numbers, but with Marshall the case is a little different. He’s a very polished player, but I see him as the perfect complimentary player. North Carolina wouldn’t be nearly as good as a team without him, but by himself he’s not spectacular. Thus, I voted him onto the second team in favor of Maryland’s ascendent sophomore.

On the second team Kellen and I differed on power forwards: he chose Mason Plumlee; I chose Travis McKie. Again for me the key was relative importance. Mason Plumlee may be more talented than McKie, but I’ll be shocked if he’s as important for Duke as McKie is for Wake Forest (and really I’m not sold that McKie isn’t more talented). Duke’s bigs are certainly going to be critical this year, but I think the mere fact that there are three of them (Mason, Miles and Ryan Kelly) will dilute each one’s share of the limelight. I did include Miles on my third team because reports from Durham laud him as Duke’s backbone.

However, both of our teams (mine especially) did a lot of projecting for this season. The only locks feel like Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott (and it’s conceivable Zeller falls to the second team depending on his role). Player and coach turnover left the ACC relatively unknown this season, but Friday players start earning their spots.

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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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RTC Summer Updates: Atlantic Coast Conference

Posted by jstevrtc on July 21st, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our ACC correspondent, Matt Patton.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • New Faces: That’s right, the ACC will be totally different conference this season. Only five of the fifteen players selected as to the all-conference teams will be running the floor this season, namely four of North Carolina’s five starters (with Miami’s Malcolm Grant keeping the group from being only Tar Heels). Somewhat surprisingly, all of the ACC all-freshman squad will be back in action. Duke’s Kyrie Irving was a prominent frosh, but he didn’t play a single conference game before leaving school and UNC’s Harrison Barnes opted to return for his sophomore campaign. Keep an eye on Wake Forest’s Travis McKie and Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin especially. Both should be the stars on their respective teams.
  • However, the strength of the conference will rely heavily on the incoming players and coaches. Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State all bring in consensus top 25 classes according to ESPN, Rivals and Scout. To make a long story short, the rich get richer. Duke’s Austin Rivers (ranked 1st by Rivals, 2nd by Scout and ESPNU) will be expected to contribute immediately, while North Carolina’s James McAdoo (8th by Rivals, 4th by Scout and 5th by ESPNU) and PJ Hairston (13th by Rivals, 20th by Scout and 12th by ESPNU) should be given ample time to find roles on an already stacked team.
  • Arguably more important, at least in the long term, are the new coaches: NC State welcomes Mark Gottfried, Miami welcomes Jim Larranaga, Maryland welcomes Mark Turgeon, and Georgia Tech welcomes Brian Gregory to the conference. The only coach I think is a surefire “upgrade” is Larranaga, who comes with some disadvantages (namely, age). While Gottfried experienced some success at Alabama, the Crimson Tide isn’t known as a basketball powerhouse and he didn’t leave the school on great terms. I also don’t think it’s a great sign that Ryan Harrow left for the bluer pastures of Kentucky. Gregory, though, sticks out as the strangest hire of the four. He had a fairly nondescript tenure at Dayton with many Flyer fans happy to see him leave. I know a tight budget hamstrung by Paul Hewitt’s hefty buyout deal probably kept the Yellow Jackets from going after the sexiest candidates, but the choice still surprised me. Gregory’s biggest disadvantage is his ugly, grind-it-out style of play that will eventually make it difficult to attract top recruits and could possibly alienate the entire GT fanbase (see: Herb Sendek).
  • North Carolina Navigates Investigation Waters: Finally, it may not be basketball-related, but it’s impossible to mention this offseason without discussing North Carolina’s impending date with the NCAA Committee of Infractions. The story has dominated ACC sports news. To briefly sum things up, the Tar Heels had an assistant coach, John Blake, on the payroll of an agent. If that wasn’t enough, the NCAA investigation unveiled thousands (I’m not kidding) of dollars in unpaid parking tickets and even several cases of academic fraud. The university has come out very firmly saying these infractions only involved the football team** but the scandal has gained national notoriety. (**Author’s note: the one connection with the basketball team is that Greg Little was one of UNC’s ineligible football players. Little was also a walk-on for the basketball team during the 2007-08 season, playing in ten games. North Carolina has said that his infractions occurred after his year with the basketball team, so no win vacations are in the basketball team’s future.)
  • Somehow, despite academic fraud, ineligible benefits and an agent runner on staff, the Tar Heels failed to get the NCAA’s most serious “lack of institutional control” violation for what appeared to be nothing less thana lack of institutional control. Again, this scandal is confined to football, but it’s one of the many recent scandals that have come to light in big time college athletics in the last couple of years (Connecticut, USC, Ohio State, Oregon, etc). These scandals could force the NCAA to augment its rules somewhat, and even though they may not directly relate to basketball, they may have a very real impact of college sports as we know it over the next few years.

    Freshman phenom Austin Rivers is ready for Duke, but how quickly will 2011's top high school point guard perform on the big stage? (Orlando Sentinel)

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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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