James Johnson’s Dismissal Highlights the Other Unpleasant Side of March

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 17th, 2014

The month of March is one that brings joy to many college basketball programs across the country, as they now have the chance to chase a national championship via the NCAA Tournament (or to a lesser extent, an NIT title that at least yields a banner). But as many know, March is often a time of despondency across the college basketball landscape. It starts with the teams that had their hopes dashed on Selection Sunday when their names weren’t called, but it also extends to the programs whose seasons are completely over. That’s where the dark days in March occur, and Virginia Tech’s James Johnson experienced such a day today as he was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Hokies after a mere two seasons on the bench.

James Johnson's uninspiring term at Virginia Tech ended after only two years (newsleader.com)

James Johnson’s uninspiring term at Virginia Tech ended after only two years (newsleader.com)

Johnson was considered something of a surprise hire when he replaced the ousted Seth Greenberg two years ago. In fact, he had never been a head coach at all, having recently left Blacksburg to take on a similar assistant coaching role at Clemson. Instead, Greenberg’s messy exit coupled with resounding support from the holdover players convinced the administration to hire Johnson to take over the program, citing in particular his recruiting ability for some of the better teams of the Greenberg era. He inherited a bad team in his first season that only produced 13 wins, even with ACC Player of the Year and eventual pro Erick Green on the roster. His follow-up nine-win campaign, which resulted in a dead-last performance in a 15-team ACC, was due to an extremely underwhelming roster. In the preseason, Johnson made the bizarre decision to name an incoming freshman team captain despite the presence of seniors Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines returning. And it wasn’t a superstar talent like Jabari Parker who was named the leader, either; it was two- or three-star guard Ben Emelogu. Emelogu had a decent start to his first college campaign, but he was far from a star.

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ACC M5: 11.22.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 22nd, 2013


  1. College Basketball Talk: Huge props to Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton. I think we’ll look back on yesterday’s game seeing that Virginia Commonwealth was somewhat overrated, but the Seminoles gave the Rams an old-fashioned woodshed beating in Puerto Rico. Hamilton’s team has gotten back to its defensive principles this season, and the Seminoles dominated the game from a shot selection standpoint. This team plays smart basketball and is undefeated with a road win against a decent Central Florida team and last night’s whipping of a very good VCU squad. Maybe it’ll turn out to be a flash in the pan, but right now Florida State has the best resume in the ACC by a mile.
  2. ESPN: While this article was only published yesterday, I imagine it was written before Boston College got off to a 1-4 start. Now that start includes a really close loss to Connecticut (Olivier Hanlan missed a layup to tie the game with 11 seconds left), but it also includes a puzzling home loss to Toledo. I still like this team’s makeup and think the Eagles will be a tough game for everyone in the conference. I really think the Eagles have struggled learning to play as a front-runner rather than a plucky underdog. But Steve Donahue has to turn things around quickly — it’s very difficult to make the Big Dance after such a slow start.
  3. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Duke athletic director Kevin White is “unabashedly bullish” on an ACC-centric cable channel in the near future (circa 2016). I tend to disagree. While the network may provide a short-term financial boon, I think the cable TV market is moving quickly towards an online a la carte service. This isn’t to say having a talented and devoted production team wouldn’t be beneficial, but everyone points to the Big Ten Network with its high revenues when I believe it may prove to be a hindrance as people begin to purchase television differently. This will be an interesting story to follow over the next few years.
  4. Washington Post: Jarrell Eddie apparently learned a lot as Erick Green‘s roommate last season. And while the advice he got isn’t mind-blowing, it’s interesting to see how businesslike Green was in his approach to the game: “You’ve got to be in the gym all the time.” The Hokies will only go as far this year as Eddie will take them. He has the potential to be a very good scorer, and as one of two seniors on the squad it’s up to him to set the standards for the team. He admits to being complacent last year (citing it as a reason for his inconsistency), but any complacency this year will prove far worse, as Green isn’t around anymore to save the day.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: With struggling attendance, Georgia Tech is trying some creative marketing tactics to get people to come to its games. I don’t understand this at all, but if you buy your ticket through LivingSocial, you get to shoot a free throw after the game (along with a more sensical hot dog and soda). The free throw isn’t for a contest or anything. Presumably you just wait in line with the other people who sat in the upper deck with LivingSocial tickets and then line one up from the charity stripe afterward. I don’t understand it, but might as well give it a shot, right?
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ACC Mega-Preview: Duke Tops Power Rankings

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 8th, 2013

Over the last two weeks, we have previewed each team individually to go with several more articles to get you ready for ACC basketball starting later today. Links to the previews can be found in each of the preseason power rankings listed below. Also look for our preseason conference awards later which will publish later today.

ACC Basketball Twitter Must-Follows (Chris): 

  • Part I (general ACC tweeters)
  • Part II (Maryland, Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh,  and Georgia Tech)
  • Part III (Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Florida State, North Carolina, and NC State)

Early Season Tournaments (Brad):

  • Part I (Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Clemson)
  • Part II (Florida State, North Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse)
  • Part III (Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Miami)

Seven Nonconference Games to Watch (Brad)


Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (75): Unanimous selection for the top spot, Coach K hopes this year’s more athletic group of players can thrive at a faster pace of play. Duke is a national contender this season.
Syracuse Orange 2. Syracuse (67): Their loaded front court and a legendary coach will help make seamless transition to the ACC, bringing their length and vaunted 2-3 zone along with them. Frosh point guard Tyler Ennis is the difference between a very good team and a great one.
North Carolina Tar Heels T3. North Carolina (64): The development of the young frontcourt will be key for a team with plenty of upside, but a daunting non-conference schedule and the suspensions of PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald loom early.
Virginia Cavaliers T3. Virginia (64): ACC stars Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are back in Charlottesville. If the point guard position has more offensive output than last season, this team has all the pieces to be an ACC contender.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 5. Notre Dame (52)Mike Brey has to find a way to replace Jack Cooley‘s production in the post, but the Fighting Irish bring back one of the best backcourts in the ACC. The Fighting Irish look like a border-line top-25 team heading into the season.
Maryland Terrapins 6. Maryland (48): Losing Seth Allen for a spell and Alex Len to the lottery will hurt, but Dez Wells‘ brilliance and Maryland’s overall athleticism should propel them to new heights under Mark Turgeon assuming they can cut out some of their turnovers.
Boston College 7. Boston College (43): A veteran core and a bona fide star could take Boston College to the next level, provided Steve Donahue does something about the team’s dreadful defense. If Dennis Clifford is healthy, this team has a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Pittsburgh Panthers 8. Pittsburgh (41): The Panthers have three solid returning starters to build around, but will need their new big men to make an immediate impact after Steven Adams’ surprising decision to bolt for the NBA Draft. Also how will the new officiating rules affect Jamie Dixon‘s style?
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 9. Georgia Tech (31): The tandem of sophomores Robert Carter, Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt will prove even more effective as the Yellow Jackets look to make strides, but their young core is a few years away from making noise. Tennessee transfer Trae Golden should be an upgrade over Mfon Udofia at point guard.
NC State Wolfpack 10. NC State (29): TJ Warren could be one of the most talented players in the conference, but there is an enormous amount of departed experience to replace in Raleigh. Mark Gottfried‘s talented group of freshmen will be expected to contribute early and often.
Florida State Seminoles 11. Florida State (27): The Seminoles need last year’s newcomers to all make a big leap this year even to stay in the upper middle of the ACC. The key is getting back to elite team defense, though Okaro White is one of the better returning offensive wings in the ACC.
Miami Hurricanes 12. Miami (23): The best thing returning for the Hurricanes is head coach Jim Larranaga, an expert at putting pieces together to form a solid team. Unfortunately, the pieces leave a lot to be desired. Belgian star Manu Lacomte may surprise ACC fans, though.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 13. Wake Forest (19): For the first time since coming to Winston-Salem Jeff Bzdelik has experience, but do the Demon Deacons have the talent to finish above .500 and save his job? Conference expansion didn’t help.
Clemson Tigers 14. Clemson (11): A bad team is going to get worse as the program takes what is probably charitably going to be called “a rebuilding year.” Tune in for KJ McDaniels, whose shot-blocking makes him a good pick for ACC defensive player of the year.
Virginia Tech Hokies 15. Virginia Tech (6): Erick Green is gone, and there isn’t anyone stepping up to replace him on a team destined to rest in the ACC cellar this year. Things could be ugly for James Johnson‘s second season in Blacksburg.

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ACC Team Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 25th, 2013

It’s difficult to argue that a coach with the eventual Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year on his roster was dealt a difficult hand, but that’s exactly what James Johnson was given in his first season at Virginia Tech last year. Johnson’s team, following the dismissal of long-tenured coach Seth Greenberg, operated most of the season with only eight scholarship players (and at times as few as six), making it difficult for the Hokies to employ his favored full-court pressure and trapping defenses. It also made for a very taxing season on his players overall, with very little depth to turn to and no consistent offense outside of the POY award-winning Erick Green. Green has departed for the greener pastures of the NBA, which leaves the Hokies in a transitional year as Johnson attempts to mold the team in his image in his second term.

Virginia Tech Preview 2013

Virginia Tech didn’t lose much outside of Green (their only other significant departure was the transfer of guard Robert Brown to UAB), but as stated above, the team certainly stood to gain quite a bit from an influx of new faces. While Johnson’s recruiting class this season is dominated by lightly-regarded players (at least by most scouting services), they will all be thrown into the cauldron early as the Hokies experiment with lineups and combinations. Combo guard Ben Emelogu, recently named captain of the team despite being a freshman, is characterized by Johnson as someone who can slash and jump-start the offense. Guard Adam Smith, a transfer from UNC-Wilmington, sat out the requisite season last year, but posted solid numbers in his freshman campaign in the Colonial Athletic Association (13.7 points per game, the top freshman scorer in the conference). Smith also has the benefit of familiarity with ACC competition, having notched 32 points against Wake Forest and 23 against Maryland in non-conference action two seasons ago. Freshman Devin Wilson also should see some minutes at the point as the Hokies try to rebuild their guard ranks.

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Reflections on Erick Green’s Great Season on a Terrible Team

Posted by KCarpenter on April 23rd, 2013

Virginia Tech was not very good this past year in the same way that Michael Jordan was kind of competitive. During ACC play, the Hokies went 4-14 in the conference and 13-19 overall. This team once lost at home to Georgia Southern, a team with a putrid 7-11 record in the Southern Conference. They were easily the worst team in the league defensively and could generously be called mediocre on offense. As a team, this season was a disaster. But for its senior captain, Erick Green, 2012-13 was a season of individual brilliance.

Erick Green

Erick Green Blew Up the ACC This Year, Even if the Hokies Didn’t

Basketball is a team sport, and it’s understandable that some people have a problem praising a player on a team that was, by all accounts, wildly unsuccessful. It’s a reasonable way of thinking, but it overshadows real talent and brilliance. Yes, Green didn’t transform his squad into a championship contender, but if that’s the bar, it’s set impossibly high. The truth is that Green put together one of the most sensational seasons in college basketball.

Let’s talk all-around offensive prowess first. Of players who used more than 28% of their team’s possessions, Green was ranked fifth in offensive efficiency in all of Division I basketball. The national leader was cult hero Nate Wolters of South Dakota State. The three players between Wolters and Green? Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, and Michigan’s Trey Burke. You may have heard of them, as they were all named First Team All-Americans this season. It’s easy to scoff at the idea that Green belongs in this group’s company, but the senior compares very well to these other big-name high-volume and high-efficiency scorers.

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Rushed Reactions: NC State 80, Virginia Tech 63

Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2013


Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) is an RTC correspondent and an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from the NC State vs. Virginia Tech game this afternoon at the ACC Tournament. 

Three Key Takeaways:

Erick Green's career ended with a dud, as Lorenzo Brown locked him down. (Icon SMI)

Erick Green’s career ended with a dud, as Lorenzo Brown locked him down. (Icon SMI)

  1. NC State can’t D up, but Lorenzo Brown can: Brown locked down ACC Player of the Year Erick Green. He fought through every screen and didn’t give Green an inch once he crossed half-court. The aggressive defense clearly got to Green, who finished with 15 points on 19 shots (and just watching the game, it was surprising he even got to that many). The individual effort was exactly what NC State needed more of this season, though it may prove to be a double-edged sword. Brown looked exhausted down the stretch, and it’s likely Mark Gottfried will call on him again tomorrow to guard Joe Harris. Two first-team All-ACC players in as many days is a tough assignment. I expect Gottfried to spell Brown at least a little with Rodney Purvis or Scott Wood, but Purvis gives up at least two inches and Wood can’t stay in front of anyone. 
  2. Erick Green gassed: Green only had one conference performance where he finished with a below average offensive efficiency. Now he’s got two. The only other time he shot so poorly, he made up for it with an 11-of-13 performance at the charity stripe. But possibly the most impressive part of Brown’s harassing defense was that he didn’t send Green to the line at all (Tyler Lewis fouled Green for his only two free throw attempts). Green looked a step slow, which is reasonable considering the 1,128 minutes he’s put in for the Hokies this season. But don’t fall for the trap that this means that Green didn’t deserve ACC Player of the Year. There’s a good argument to be made for other players, but one bad performance doesn’t discount Green’s truly outstanding season (see: Mason Plumlee’s four points against Maryland or Shane Larkin’s seven points against Clemson).
  3. NC State has a lot to prove: A win against the league’s cellar-dweller is going to do little to quite NC State’s critics, but the team looked better — especially the way it closed the game — than it has since beating Boston College last month. The real tests for the Wolfpack lie ahead with Virginia looming tomorrow. Also before going overboard on the Wolfpack’s team defense against Virginia Tech, they only held the Hokies to 0.04 points per possession (around 2.5 points) worse than their conference average (hat tip to John Gasaway). That’s not dominant team defense. Also a win against the ACC’s worst team isn’t going to help your seed very much.

Star of the Game: Richard Howell did what he pleased against Virginia Tech, going 11-of-13 from the field for 22 points and 12 rebounds. He doesn’t have the most talent on the floor, but he’s got the perfect combination of strength, toughness and an elite motor to be dominant. The other big stat is that Howell played 38 minutes. That could have never happened in past years just because of his tendency to get in foul trouble. His improvement (and ability to scale up his rebounding with minutes) over the past four years is remarkable.

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ACC M5: 03.13.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 13th, 2013


  1. Raleigh News & Observer: This is a phenomenal profile of Reggie Bullock and his hometown of Kinston, North Carolina from Andrew Carter. Bullock is the best player to come out of the small town since Jerry Stackhouse, whose presence is still felt throughout the local area. Carter looks at Bullock’s life, describing the impoverished town and the “it takes a village” mentality that town took to help him get to the University of North Carolina.
  2. Independent Weekly: I agree with Neil Morris in principle that the “hype” needs to be restored to conference tournaments — especially as the top conferences get more and more spread out. But I totally disagree with his solution, which is to make the conference tournament winner the only team available for a spot on the top seed line. All this does is make one seeds weaker and further cheapens the 30 games prior for a team good enough to earn a top seed despite losing in its conference tournament. The key for the ACC is picking its sites wisely (and having more competitive teams). 
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Coming into this season, I was very skeptical Virginia would be able to replace Mike Scott. Last year Joe Harris was a decent second option and Akil Mitchell might have been an afterthought. This year Harris is as good a scorer as anyone in the league, becoming more efficient (specifically from beyond the arc), and Mitchell is a terror inside. He went from very good rebounder to arguably the conference’s best. The two together more than make up for the loss of Scott.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: This is a storyline that should be getting more play (although I hesitate to write that about a prominent Duke story that deserves more attention). We know Duke is much better on both ends of the court with Ryan Kelly, but neither he nor Seth Curry is healthy. More specifically, neither has practiced much this season thanks to nagging injuries. That could lead to a major conditioning issue in the rapid-fire postseason (the NCAA tournament is more forgiving than conference tournament, though). Mike Krzyzewski needs to be wary of how he uses those two guys in particular to make sure that neither runs out of gas.
  5. Washington Post: Erick Green became the first player since Len Bias to win the ACC Player of the Year for a team finishing under .500 in conference play. It was the right call, so props to the ACC media for recognizing his amazing season: Green was the first ACC player since 1957 to lead the country in scoring, and was the first major conference player to do so in nearly 20 years (Glenn Robinson, Purdue). Now Green just needs an encore to finish the season right.
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All-ACC Microsite Teams and Postseason Awards

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on March 12th, 2013

Another great season in the ACC is in the books and it’s time to recognize those who had outstanding seasons with our postseason awards. We here at Rush the Court’s ACC Microsite have decided to hand out our own awards based on what we believe is a unique set of criteria and, while it may not differ wildly from what the actual outcome of the award races is, just know we all voted prior to their release. Here are this year’s All-ACC Microsite Teams and ACC Postseason Awards.

Note: Jimmy Kelley, Ethan Mann, Kellen Carpenter and Matt Patton all voted for first-, second-, and third-teams as well as their top three for each of the individual awards. A first place/team vote was worth three points, second worth two and a third place/team vote was worth one. In the event of a tie, the tiebreaker was high-quality votes (i.e., more second-team votes).

ACC Microsite Player of the Year

Erick Green, Virginia Tech: Green nearly swept the voting, grabbing three of four first-place votes. The nation’s leading scorer, Green was the lone highlight for a Virginia Tech team that went 4-14 in ACC play, finishing dead last. Mason Plumlee and Shane Larkin garnered a co-Player of the Year vote on the other ballot.

Erick Green, Virginia Tech

Erick Green of Virginia Tech garnered the ACC Microsite’s highest honor.


All-ACC Microsite First Team

  • Mason Plumlee, Duke
  • Erick Green, Virginia Tech
  • Joe Harris, Virginia
  • Richard Howell, NC State
  • Shane Larkin, Miami

Notes: Plumlee, Green and Harris were unanimous selections for the first team. Howell and Larkin received one second-team vote apiece.

Second Team

  • Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
  • Seth Curry, Duke
  • Michael Snaer, Florida State
  • Kenny Kadji, Miami
  • Ryan Anderson, Boston College

Notes: Bullock and Curry each received a first-team vote. Anderson holds on to final spot due to having more second-team votes than Alex Len.

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Lessons Learned: ACC Weekend Wrap-Up

Posted by KCarpenter on March 11th, 2013

The end of the regular season has arrived. After the six final games, we have a body of work for each team and, we can with some degree of confidence begin to look to the postseason. Many questions linger, but we were given no shortage of answers. It was an instructive final weekend for teams in the conference, and the ACC Tournament will offer a final test for at least six of these teams. What lessons will they carry through next weekend?

  1. Duke Is Beginning To Peak At The Right Time. Too often, the Blue Devils have looked dominant in the early part of the season only to wilt at the end of the regular season or far too early in tournament play. This year, the dip came early, with the loss of Ryan Kelly for a big chunk of the conference slate and a disappearing act by Mason Plumlee who seemed to vanish when his team needed him. Yet the early dip may have worked to Duke’s advantage. The team has rallied and on Saturday, against a solid North Carolina team playing at home,  demonstrated the terrifyingly potent form that the Blue Devils have started to slip into. Duke has had the misfortune of playing their best basketball too early in the past couple of seasons, but right now, everything looks like it is coming together at just the right time.

    Plumlee and Friends Eviscerated the Heels Saturday Night

    Plumlee and Friends Eviscerated the Heels Saturday Night

  2. Clemson Looks Terrible. Virginia Tech may have clinched the bottom seed for the ACC Tournament, but make no mistake: Clemson looks like the worst team in the conference. After going 4-4 over the first eight conference games, the Tigers would only win one more the rest of the way. While the team’s defense would remain somewhat effective, the offense fell off a cliff. Sure, the Tigers managed to tie Miami at the half, but that speaks more to Miami’s penchant for offensive droughts than anything about Clemson. It’s possible that Brad Brownell’s squad might round into form this week, but it honestly looks like this team gave up on trying to do much of anything more than a month ago.
  3. Boston College Finished Strong. The Eagles eked out a narrow win over Georgia Tech that capped off a three-game winning streak to close out the season. As a team that spent most of the season competing for the worst record in the league, that makes these wins feel like a sign of momentum. In terms of teams that almost certainly won’t make the NCAA Tournament, Boston College is at the top of the ACC losers’ heap. The team will get to celebrate its accomplishments and its Saturday victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday when BC gets to face… Georgia Tech.  Despite the hard-earned higher seed, the Eagles’ two-point home victory against the Yellow Jackets doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence for the rematch. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC M5: 03.11.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 11th, 2013


  1. ACC: The ACC Tournament (#ACCTourney) bracket is set.

    The official 2013 ACC Tournament bracket (credit: The ACC).

    Some juicy match-ups to look forward to: Erick Green’s potential last hurrah against a beatable NC State team, Maryland’s potential rubber match with Duke in the quarterfinals, Miami’s likely game against desperate (but good) bubble teams in the semis. It’s looking like a very interesting tournament from all sides. No less than three teams are desperate for marquee wins, Miami still has a very outside shot at a top seed if it beats Duke in the finals, and Duke can gun for the top overall seed.

  2. Raleigh News & Observer: This may be the most thorough argument for putting Mason Plumlee ahead of  Shane Larkin for ACC Player of the Year. Laura Keeley uses tempo free statistics to justify voting for Plumlee over Larkin, but overemphasizes team performance when brushing off Erick Green. She has a point that Green plays for the worst team in the league, but without context (and probably a lot of game tape), it’s impossible to know if Green’s numbers are from teams daring him to beat them by shutting down his teammates or whether they’re in spite of opponents looking to shut him down. Without definitive evidence for teams shutting down his teammates and letting him go off, Green has to be this year’s ACC Player of the Year. His volume and efficiency numbers bring to mind JJ Redick.
  3. Bear Down Stats: Steven Jung did some interesting research into the last 10 national champions and found some interesting tidbits. Since 2003 no champion has had a defensive efficiency of over 90 points per 100 possessions. More surprisingly, no group has managed to win everything with a tempo below 65.4 possessions a game (slightly below average). On the whole, champions have elite offenses, elite defenses and play with some pace. Only Connecticut in 2011 and Syracuse in 2003 managed to win it all with an efficiency margin of under 30 points per 100 possessions (and both of those teams had elite guys to create shots down the stretch). What does this mean? It means Duke, Indiana and Gonzaga are the only three teams to fit the profile of the last 10 champions (Louisville fits as well if you ignore offense and just look at net efficiency margin).
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Al Featherston makes a good case for the ACC Tournament (which does crown the official ACC Champion) based on lopsided scheduling. If you look at Duke and Miami‘s records against common opponents (they played 12 of their 18 games against the same teams on the same floors), Duke actually holds an 11-1 record compared to Miami’s 10-2 mark. The difference between the schools was the games that didn’t fall against the same opponents: Duke lost both its road games (at Maryland and at Virginia, who went undefeated in conference home games), while Miami won both of its road games (at Clemson and at Georgia Tech). All this does is illustrate the problem with comparing small samples of records with unbalanced schedules.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: ACC historian Samuel Walker wrote a gloom-and-doom piece for the News & Observer Friday with some interesting historical nuggets that show the esteem for academics within the ACC. The ACC led the way with minimum academic standards, which actually kept Joe Namath and Pete Maravich from playing at Maryland and NC State, respectively. At the end of the day, Walker’s bone to pick is with conference realignment. He has a very good point that the long term financial gains are still an unknown.
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