ACC Stock Watch – Week One

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 21st, 2014

Each week here at the microsite we’ll take a look at which ACC teams and players are trending up, down, or remaining flat. It’s still very early in the season, but there are some trends to be gleaned from the first week of opening games. Let’s take a look below:

Trending Up

  • Duke. Despite all of the preseason hype placed on Duke’s freshmen (Jahlil Okafor in particular) and speculative questions about overall team chemistry, the Blue Devils have looked the part of a title contender thus far. Their blowouts over Presbyterian and Fairfield may not have convinced anyone, but their wire-to-wire victory over Michigan State showed that Duke is already in top form.
  • Miami. The Hurricanes’ early returns on their big-name transfers have been outstanding. Sheldon McClellan (from Texas) is putting up 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game through two contests, and former Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez is not only averaging a team-high 18.3 points per contest, but he also hit the game-winning three over rival Florida that ended the Gators’ 33-game home winning streak. Pretty solid start for Jim Larranaga’s newcomers.
Angel Rodriguez has brought pleasant early returns for Miami (USA Today Sports)

Angel Rodriguez has produced pleasant early returns for Miami (USA Today Sports)

  • Virginia Tech. Why are the Hokies trending up when they only have wins over Maryland-Eastern Shore and Liberty? Well, go back in time one year ago and Virginia Tech had just lost its season opener to South Carolina Upstate. At a minimum, Buzz Williams has his team beating the teams it should beat, something last year’s group couldn’t boast. Freshman Justin Bibbs’ solid start to the season has been a pleasant surprise as well.

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ACC Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2014

Over the last two weeks, we have previewed each team individually to go with several more articles to get you ready for ACC basketball (first tip: 6:00 PM ET in Durham). Links to the previews can be found in each of the preseason power rankings listed below. Also look for our preseason conference awards which will publish later today.

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (58): Everyone knows about the freshmen, and they are sensational. But are Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon ready to put together a consistent season from start to finish? That answer may determine whether the Blue Devils are Final Four-bound or facing another early departure from the Tourney.
Virginia Cavaliers T2. Virginia (53): Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell didn’t light up the scoreboard in Charlottesville, but their leadership and savvy was key in Virginia’s magical run last year. Can Anthony Gill and Justin Anderson assume larger roles and keep Tony Bennett‘s team in the national limelight?
North Carolina Tar Heels T2. North Carolina (53): Everyone knows about Marcus Paige, and the Tar Heels should be better at the line and from three with the addition of some talented freshmen in the backcourt and on the wing. Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks have to bring it every night in the paint for this team to reach its potential.
LouisvilleLogo 4. Louisville (52): The Cardinals probably have as good a shot as any of the top four. While they will have to learn how to play a new set of conference opponents in unfamiliar arenas, the ACC will have to adjust to Rick Pitino’s style of pressure defense with multiple schemes. Most of the key contributors are now gone from the 2012-13 National Championship squad, but the program brings a culture used to winning at the highest level.
Syracuse Orange 5. Syracuse (42): There are a lot of questions about the Orange after Tyler Ennis’ and Jerami Grant’s early departures. Jim Boeheim has a talented team that won’t be an easy out, but there are a lot of questions about how the offense will run with another freshman, Kaleb Joseph, at the helm.
Florida State Seminoles 6. Florida State (38): The Seminoles haven’t been their usual defensive selves the past two seasons, but this year Leonard Hamilton has three experienced big men along with a cadre of long perimeter players. Aaron Thomas may be the most underrated player in the ACC, which bodes well for things in Tallahassee this year.
Pittsburgh Panthers 7. Pittsburgh (37)Jamie Dixon has a tradition of replacing departed stars with veterans. For Pitt to win games against the ACC’s elite, Cameron Wright and James Robinson must continue that trend and get some help, maybe a year earlier than the norm, from the talented sophomore class. One would think they are due for a healthier year than last, when midseason injuries really set the team back.
NC State Wolfpack 8. NC State (34): T.J. Warren is gone, so this team has to find its offense by committee. Tyler Lewis is too, so Cat Barber will have to be efficient and also seek his own shot. The maturation of a young frontcourt will be key. Mark Gottfried has historically impressed with low expectations.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 9. Notre Dame (32): It won’t be a surprise if Zach Auguste makes a big jump in production as a junior, but beyond that is nothing but unproven post players. With the perimeter filled with talent and experience, keeping Auguste healthy and out of foul trouble may be the key as the Irish try to make a dramatic jump in the standings. Jerian Grant is a contender for ACC Player of the Year.
Miami Hurricanes 10. Miami (25): Arguably the best coaching job in the country last year happened in Coral Gables. If Jim Larranaga gets this team to improve, the Hurricanes will be significantly better than many expect. Manu Lacomte needs to make the leap and lead a young team in a very tough conference.
Clemson Tigers 11. Clemson (18): Brad Brownell showed that even without a ton of obvious roster talent, the Tigers will be competitive — especially on defense. This season he has to prove that again without K.J. McDaniels. It’s unclear who the go-to player will be, so Clemson’s offense could hold this team back.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 12. Wake Forest (17): Wake may be ready for a solid rise in the ACC standings as early as next year. This year will be a challenge, but momentum could be built towards a good 2015-16 season. Juniors Devin Thomas on the inside and Cody Miller-McIntyre in the backcourt will dictate how good this team is.
Boston College 13. Boston College (12): A year and coach removed from last year’s disappointing effort leave a lot of questions in Chestnut Hill. Olivier Hanlan will always be worth the price of admission, but he may not have enough supporting cast to escape the dregs of the ACC unless Dennis Clifford can finally stay healthy.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 14. Georgia Tech (10): It’s really hard to see Brian Gregory surviving as coach here if the Yellow Jackets don’t make the postseason this season. It’s also hard to see this Georgia Tech team finishing in the top half of the ACC, which is what it would probably take to get that NCAA bid — or even a trip to the NIT. The odds of Gregory being in Atlanta after March 2015 are not very good.
Virginia Tech Hokies 15. Virginia Tech (6): Virginia Tech will again be among the cellar-dwellers in the ACC, but at least it has come cachet with the hiring of Buzz Williams. They’ll be serviceable in the backcourt with Devin Wilson returning, but it will be a year or two before we can evaluate the viability of the Hokies as competitive in the conference.

Miscellaneous Power Rankings Notes:

  • Coach K reloadsDuke was the top choice again this year with another one-and-done big man, but the Blue Devils weren’t the unanimous pick. Virginia and Louisville both got a first place vote.
  • Clear Contenders: North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia (in some order) rounded out everyone’s top four, marking a distinct upper tier in the conference.
  • Media/Microsite solidarity: For the second season in a row, no teams differed from the preseason media poll by more than two spots.
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RTC’s ACC Preseason Awards

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 11th, 2014

With the 2014-15 ACC season just about to tip off, our esteemed panel of micrositers has come together to release our preseason individual superlatives. It was a close race for most of these positions, but those who were close to making the cut will earn honorable mention below. Feel free to comment on where we went horribly awry or how accurately you think we’ve nailed it.

Player of the Year: Marcus Paige, PG, North Carolina. It might be a good thing if Paige’s scoring numbers drop this year, as that would probably mean more offensive production from his peers. North Carolina has a promising group of freshmen in the backcourt and on the wing, but a more mature and seasoned frontcourt could help Paige excel as the team’s primary ball-handler. Jahlil Okafor and Montrezl Harrell are two others who could easily claim this award by season’s end.

Marcus Paige is RTC's pre-season ACC Player of the Year (newsobserver.com)

Marcus Paige is RTC’s preseason ACC Player of the Year (newsobserver.com)

Freshman of the Year: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke. We didn’t stray far from public opinion on this one. Okafor gives Duke its most formidable post player in many years, and his exhibition performances have done little to dampen the enthusiasm for his talent in Durham. Justin Jackson (North Carolina), Shaqquan Aaron (Louisville) and Kaleb Joseph (Syracuse) are dark horse candidates worth keeping an eye on.

Coach of the Year: Leonard Hamilton, Florida State. Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Virginia’s Tony Bennett and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski were the others we considered, but the potential for Florida State to make some noise in the ACC race this year means Hamilton is the preseason choice. Florida State will continue to play its trademark smothering defense, but we think that the offense will be vastly improved. It says here that the Seminoles will improve on their 9-9 ACC record and return to the Big Dance after an NIT semifinals appearance a year ago.

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Ranking the AAC Non-Conference Schedules: Part I

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 10th, 2014

It might seem that ranking non-conference schedules at this early juncture is a fruitless endeavor, and we understand that sentiment. Smart college basketball fans think they know who will be good and who won’t, but it’s all just educated guesswork until the season starts. That doesn’t mean evaluating non-conference schedules is foolish. Some teams will surprise and others disappoint, but the variance between preseason expectations and season-long success isn’t usually big enough to make schedule analysis worthless. In fact, given the weighty importance the Selection Committee places on non-conference scheduling when it determines the field of 68, analyzing schedules now may lead to clues about which AAC bubble teams could actually get in. We ranked all 11 team’s non-conference schedules from worst to first below, with the first installment featuring teams ranked #11-#6 today. All preseason rankings are courtesy of KenPom.com.

11. Houston Cougars

Sampson's Rebuild Took a Hit With the Loss of LJ Rose to Injury

Kelvin Sampson is Likely Smiling Because Of All The Bad Teams The Cougars Play.

The sky is blue, the sun rises in the east, and the Houston Cougars play an aggressively terrible non-conference schedule – those are the only three things anyone can truly count on. After three seasons in a row of playing one of the worst such schedules in the country, nothing has changed in that regard. The Cougars play six opponents ranked #294 and lower, including such luminaries as Abilene Christian and Houston Baptist. Early games against Murray State and Harvard present important opportunities to notch good wins, but it’s a good thing the Cougars aren’t expected to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth because the committee might laugh this non-conference resume out of the building.

10. East Carolina. Aside from the unlikely chance that the Pirates walk into Chapel Hill and upset North Carolina, there are few opportunities for the team to get any other wins worth noting. East Carolina will ease into its new conference playing an inspired non-conference schedule that includes perennial powerhouses like North Carolina Wesleyan and Virginia-Lynchburg. They will play in the Gulf Coast Showcase, pitting them against a tough Green Bay team and perhaps Fresno State if they win, but the rest of this schedule is littered with opponents that won’t be relevant by the middle of December.

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ACC M5: 11.07.14 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 7th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Seminoles.com: On Monday night, Florida State won its first exhibition game over Embry Riddle, 95-73. The Seminoles trailed by six with about seven minutes left in the first half before ending the period with a 22-7 run to take control. Even though it’s only an exhibition contest, perhaps this will be a better Florida State team on the offensive end than they have been recently. Not only did they tally 95 points but they did so while shooting 59 percent from the field. Of course the traditional problems with ball-handling may once again be a trait of Leonard Hamilton‘s squad this season, as the Seminoles gave it away 19 times in this one.
  2. Sports Illustrated: Duke‘s Jahlil Okafor continues to get preseason love from the national media. This week, the big freshman is featured on one of SI’s College Basketball Preview regional covers. Last year the same magazine followed Jabari Parker around much of the year during his stellar one-and-done season for the Blue Devils. Like Parker, Okafor is a Chicago native that no one, including Mike Krzyzewski thinks will be around in college beyond this season.
  3. NBC Sports: The preseason watch list for the Bob Cousy Award came out on Tuesday. The ACC landed seven guards on the 36-man list, the most of any conference. Interestingly, only four of those have actually played in the league prior to this season: Duke’s Quinn Cook, Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige, and London Perrantes of Virginia. League newcomers on the watch list include Terry Rozier of new ACC-member Louisville, Miami transfer Angel Rodriguez, and Duke freshman Tyus Jones. Cook and Jones are one of two teammate pairings to make the list, joining Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis.
  4. SCACCHoops: Each year it seems more and more coaches, including some in the ACC, are opting to play other comparable schools in a so-called “secret scrimmage” before real games begin. The NCAA allows each program to have two preseason meetings with other college teams. Those games can be traditional exhibitions, played in front of the public and under regular game conditions (against non Division I schools), or they can be scrimmages against Division I programs. Note that it’s no longer allowable for NCAA DI teams to play touring national teams or AAU squads. The scrimmages must be non-publicly attended and can be conducted in any format agreeable to both coaching staffs. Since practically every head coach will take advantage of the chance to use both available meetings with other opponents, if your team is only playing one exhibition game, they probably are having a scrimmage with some DI school somewhere. Virginia‘s Tony Bennett obviously likes the scrimmage format better for preparation, as his Cavaliers don’t play any exhibitions. Instead they will tangle with Marquette and Georgetown in closed scrimmages.
  5. Yahoo Sports: In this era of college basketball, there’s no doubt that player transfers have become much more prevalent. Some schools, such as Iowa State have made a habit of bringing in significant transfers seemingly every year. In the ACC, N.C. State has become a popular landing place for perimeter players who leave other schools. Last year, former LSU Tiger Ralston Turner was a solid contributor for the Wolfpack and this year, Trevor Lacey is expected to have a huge impact. According to this list put together by Yahoo Sports last month, Lacey is the #1 rated eligible transfer in the country. Mark Gottfried already has another in the pipeline with Terry Henderson sitting out this season after leaving West Virginia. It’s worth noting that N.C. State has also been losing significant players via the transfer route, including a couple of 2012 McDonald’s High School All-Americans in Rodney Purvis  and Tyler Lewis.
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One on One: An ACC Preview With Bret Strelow

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the ACC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with an ACC expert in Bret Strelow (@bretstrelow), the ACC basketball reporter for The Fayetteville Observer.

Rush the Court: Duke was an extremely talented unit last season, but it was ultimately done in by its defensive deficiencies in its stunning NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer. The Blue Devils once again have a talented roster and are widely projected to win the league. Will this season be any different than last when it comes to the defensive end of the floor?

Bret Strelow: It would be hard to get much worse. The Blue Devils ranked in the 100s in defensive efficiency, which is a far cry from what a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team usually is. With Jabari Parker, defense was not his calling card. Rodney Hood took on some tough assignments and struggled at times. The current thought around the Duke camp is that Jahlil Okafor at 6’11” and 270 pounds is a legitimate rim-protector. Duke can clean up some of its mistakes and pressure the ball a little bit more with Okafor back there. I think Duke should ultimately be a better defensive team, but we will see how much of a difference that will make.

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

RTC: Marcus Paige alone can probably keep North Carolina competitive in the ACC, but if the Tar Heels want to compete for the league crown, they are going to need a supporting cast to step forward. What Tar Heels can you see breaking out this season?

Strelow: It really might be a little bit of everybody. If Marcus Paige has to carry the load like he did for much of last season, North Carolina is probably not going to reach the goal that it has of contending for a Final Four and a national title. I think you can expect a little bit from everybody. Brice Johnson was extremely efficient last season in a secondary role behind James Michael McAdoo. If Johnson can stay out of foul trouble and guard well enough, I think his offense will be there. Kennedy Meeks has slimmed down. His offense has never been a problem. With Johnson and Meeks, you have two solid front line guys. When you look at the North Carolina freshmen class, Justin Jackson is a guy who has the uncanny ability to score. He has a way of scoring quickly and scoring in a way that does not require a lot of dribbles. I think he can really have a big year. He is probably more of an offensive threat than fellow freshmen Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II. I think outside shooting might still be an issue for North Carolina outside of Paige and if Jackson can hit a few. When you look at a guy like J.P. Tokoto, outside shooting is not his game. I think the Tar Heels have enough inside and with Jackson coming along, they are going to have enough to help Paige carry the load this season.

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ACC Preview: Florida State’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on November 4th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Can Leonard Hamilton’s squad finish in the top five of the ACC?

On the surface this question may seem ridiculous. Most previews have Florida State picked to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, and you have to expect that Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia will all be very good teams. And that doesn’t even mention perennial powerhouses Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The Seminoles also lost Okaro White and Ian Miller, but hear me out.

I'm betting we'll see more smiles from Leonard Hamilton this year (Photo Credit: Glenn Beil / Democrat).

I’m betting we’ll see more smiles from Leonard Hamilton this year (Glenn Beil/Democrat).

Florida State has a favorable schedule: All four of the opponents it sees twice (Clemson, Pittsburgh, Miami and Virginia Tech) are beatable. They get Duke and Louisville in Tallahassee. Also the former Big East powers are due for down years after both the Orange — Tyler Ennis, CJ Fair and Jerami Grant — and the Panthers — Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna — lost major productivity from their rosters. That potentially leaves a vacuum just below the elite tier where a school like Florida State could finish. There are also dueling x-factors here: Will Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo continue making strides; and can the offense limit its turnovers? Neither question is a new one for this team, but there’s reason to believe the first will come true. The second may be less important: Hamilton has never coached a team in the top-100 in turnover percentage, according to KenPom, but he’s coached plenty of good teams over the years to earn the benefit of the doubt.

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ACC M5: 11.03.14 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 3rd, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse.com: This article dissects the statement released by Syracuse following the school’s hearing in front of the NCAA Committee of Infractions last Thursday and Friday. The school makes sure to say that the NCAA only came around after Syracuse self-reported some violations back in 2007; what’s unclear, though, is whether the organization found some other violations after digging around. We should know the answer to that question sometime in December, which is when the NCAA findings are supposed to be released to the school and the media. According to the statement, no current athletes are involved in this investigation, so although school sanctions are still a very real possibility, at least no player suspensions will come from this.
  2. CBS College Basketball Podcast: In their latest podcast on CBS, Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander discuss the ACC media day drama from Charlotte last week. It’s interesting to listen to them discuss the difference in how Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim handled talking about their respective school’s offcourt issues. Williams appeared genuinely concerned and willing to talk about North Carolina’s problems, while Boeheim wouldn’t comment about Syracuse’s at all, causing Norlander to compare the Syracuse coach to another coach who didn’t mind if the media thought he was being a jerk — Bob Knight. With respect to North Carolina, Parrish also shares some off-record comments from some of the other ACC coaches, one of whom raised the question of a real recruiting advantage that the Tar Heels may have had during the bogus class era. Since recruits spend a lot of time with current team members during their campus visits, it’s logical to assume that some may have been tipped off to the easier path to eligibility that many of those North Carolina players were using at that time.
  3. AP Top 25: Late last week the Associated Press released its preseason Top 25, which includes five ACC teams, four of which are among the top nine in the rankings. The league hopes it does a better job this season with respect to the final AP poll, however. Last year the ACC put five teams in the preseason rankings, but only four teams made the final Top 25 list at year-end. It was even worse the year before, as four ACC squads were in the 2012-13 preseason rankings, but only two actually ended the season included in the final poll.
  4. CollegiateTimes.com: Buzz Williams appears to have a realistic view of the Virginia Tech program that is now under his guidance. His first order of business is to improve the talent deficiency that currently exists in Blacksburg. This year does not look promising from a wins/losses standpoint, but at least a weak non-conference slate could enable his young Hokies to gain some confidence and experience before the rugged ACC schedule begins. Williams will undoubtedly demand great effort and toughness from his players, regardless of how overmatched his squad is in conference play. That may lead to some unexpected wins and the opportunity to build some momentum until the talent level improves.
  5. Tallahassee Democrat: Mostly a forgotten man, 7’0″ Kiel Turpin will return to the Florida State active roster after being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA because of injuries suffered over his career. Turpin just turned 25 years old, giving the Seminoles a true veteran presence up front, and head coach Leonard Hamilton hopes his big man has the same kind of impact as he got from another older player in recent years. Three years ago, 26 year-old U.S. military veteran Bernard James patrolled the paint as the Seminoles enjoyed their best season under Hamilton, winning the school’s first-ever ACC Tournament.
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15 Takeaways From ACC Operation Basketball

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 29th, 2014

The ACC’s Operation Basketball on Wednesday experienced the prevailing theme of putting last season in the rearview mirror and starting anew. This included the teams with successful campaigns just as much as those who had disappointing ones. It was clear after speaking with and listening to players and coaches that everyone is eager to make the 2014-15 ACC a more powerful entity than its predecessor of a year ago. Here are some takes on each team, in no particular order, gleaned from the Westin in Charlotte.

Duke: Much of the discussion centered on the Blue Devils’ newcomers, especially Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones. Both Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson were quick to point out that no rotation is set and that there is a ton of competition and talent in practice. Cook said as much when asked about practice: ” Yeah, we don’t have a starting lineup yet.  Different guys, we have like a white and blue team; different guys are put on the white team, different guys are put on the blue team.  So we’ll know soon, but whatever coach wants us to do, I think everybody will buy in because he obviously knows what he’s doing.  We all have to buy in and just put personal sacrifices aside.”

ACC Op BB

Wake Forest: Even when discussing their new coach, it was easy to tell that the Demon Deacons’ players still see him as a former National Player of the Year who enjoyed a long professional career. Manning, however, spoke mostly about his expectations for the team, which he put simply as “win every game.” The Demon Deacons, coming off the uninspiring Jeff Bzdelik era, better not spend their time in awe of their new coach, as they have a lot of ground to make up in order to compete in the ACC.

Miami: Transfers Sheldan McClellan and Angel Rodriguez representing the Hurricanes at this event was emblematic of a new Miami team that has put last year’s lackluster season behind it. Reverence for Jim Larranaga’s paternal style was obvious in listening to the two players discuss their coach. Larranaga immediately referenced them in his comments as well, showing that while the Hurricanes return some holdovers from last year, they will go as far as his two Big 12 transfers take them.

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What’s on the Mind of the 15 ACC Programs Right Now

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 17th, 2014

With the start of the ACC college basketball season rapidly approaching, allow us to put on our psychoanalyst’s hat to determine what’s on the mind of each of its 15 member programs right now. Some are of the optimistic variety, while others are fearful at what they see lying ahead. All of them, though, are hoping to contribute to discussions lauding the ACC as the nation’s preeminent college basketball conference this year. Let’s jump into each program alphabetically.

  • Boston College: Blind optimism. The reality is that the Eagles, even with an all-ACC caliber star in Olivier Hanlan, are likely one of the three worst teams in the conference. But there’s a new coach around in Jim Christian, and thanks to the usual roster turnover, few remaining pieces to recall the 8-24 debacle of a year ago. Buying in to a new coach and system may not be a problem, but production on the court will continue to be.
  • Clemson: Loss. That loss is a huge one, in the departure of NBA draft pick K.J. McDaniels, who was their best player on both sides of the ball last year and led the team in four statistical categories. A 10-win improvement from the year before earned Brad Brownell a six-year contract extension, but how will this team score enough to win even if it replicates its defensive success of a year ago?
Jim Christian's hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC's fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

Jim Christian hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC’s fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

  • Duke: Motivation. Not just because of a stellar recruiting class that includes their first dominant center in some time in Jahlil Okafor and the overall potential to be in the mix for a championship. There’s also the internal motivation for Quinn Cook to keep a hold on the starting point guard role in light of the arrival of stud freshman Tyus Jones, and Rasheed Sulaimon’s motivation to show that an early-season slump last year (temporarily earning him a place in Coach K’s doghouse) was an aberration. Oh, and that first round NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer could light a fire of some sort, too.

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Morning Five: 09.12.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 12th, 2014

morning5

  1. Villanova picked up a big commitment yesterday from five-star point guard Jalen Brunson bringing their 2015 class to three as he joins shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo and power forward Tim Delaney. As Jeff Borzello notes, Brunson’s recruitment was complex and probably wasn’t decided until after Brunson’s father, who was expected to be part of a package deal as an assistant coach, was arrested for alleged sexual assault. Brunson is from Illinois so this is another tough loss for Illini fans, but it still early in the recruiting season so there are still plenty of big names available.
  2. Josh Pastner’s decision to hire Keelon Lawson is paying dividends more quickly than many anticipated. In addition to having a pipeline to Lawson’s kids, who are all highly recruited, Pastner will also get Dedric Lawson, who was the #7 overall recruit in the class of 2016, a year early as Dedric announced that he will reclassify to the class of 2015. By doing so, Dedric will join his brother K.J., ranked #38 in this class, at Memphis next year. The move should not come as too much of a surprise because Dedric’s birth date would make him eligible for the 2016 NBA Draft.
  3. The season hasn’t even started yet, but we already have a pair of significant ACL injuries to report. The most significant one will probably be at Illinois where they appear to have lost Tracy Abrams for the season due to an ACL tear. Abrams, a senior who started all 35 games last season, averaged 10.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game last season. Fortunately for Illinois, they appear to have an adequate and seasoned replacement in Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks. Valparaiso might not be so lucky in terms of finding a replacement for starting point guard Lexus Williams who will also be undergoing surgery for a torn ACL. Williams averaged 6.5 points and 2.3 assists while starting 23 games as a freshman last season. Unlike Illinois, Valparaiso has not set a time table for Williams’ return after his surgery, which is expected to be performed today.
  4. Outside of the Brunson and Lawson news there were also several other significant announcements. The first comes from four-star forward Mickey Mitchell, who recommitted to Ohio State. Mitchell had initially committed to Ohio State, but reopened his recruitment over the summer before finally deciding (we think) that Columbus was the right place for him. Four-star shooting guard Rex Pflueger committed to Notre Dame giving the Irish more options to help with scoring after Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton leave following this season. On the other end of the spectrum is Kedar Edwards, who reopened his recruitment after having previously committed to Florida State. Edwards was previously expected to play for the Seminoles this season, but for reasons that aren’t clear to us did not enroll. With Florida State picking up several top-tier recruits last week, perhaps Edwards realized that Tallahassee might not be the ideal location for him even for the upcoming years.
  5. We are not sure how many of you have been watching the FIBA Basketball World Cup (judging by the online response we have seen not too many of you), but with the Finals coming up this weekend we were wondering how long the pro experiment will go on. We are young enough (well at least one of us) to not remember what it was like to have amateurs represent us at championship level events against professionals from other countries. It seems like every time there is another international competition the cries for going back to the old format grow louder. While at some level we enjoy seeing the US beat up on the rest of the world, which is something we would expect to do regularly if all of the best NBA players participated, we wonder if it wouldn’t be better just to have a group of players who were really committed to the program although with the brief stops in college for many top players that might not be realistic.
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Morning Five: 09.08.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 8th, 2014

morning5

  1. This weekend might have marked the start of the NFL season for some, but it was also a big one for college basketball recruiting. Florida State was the big winner picking up a pair of top-50 recruits in Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley. Both announcements, which were made separately, came on Friday night and gives the Seminoles one of the top classes in the country early in the recruiting season. Louisville also added to its already strong class with the addition of five-star guard Antonio Blakeney. That announcement probably puts the Cardinals in the #1 or 2 spot in the recruiting standing this year with Arizona being the other top choice. We would have considered Oregon State‘s ability to add two top-tier recruits–Trey Tinkle and Stephen Thompson Jr.–last week to be particularly noteworthy except the recruits were the sons of the team’s coaches. Still the addition of those two plus Derrick Bruce is a potential game-changer for the program that has been mired in mediocrity (at best) for quite a while. Texas A&M also picked up a big piece on Sunday night when D.J. Hogg, a five-star small foward, committed to play for the Aggies. While they have not struggled for quite as long as the Beavers, the Aggies haven’t really been relevant since the 2010-11 season.
  2. We have seen a lot of strange movement with top recruits over the years, but Thon Maker‘s international movements appear to be unique. Maker, who is widely considered the top recruit in the class of 2016, came to the United States from Australia (via Sudan) and now is being moved to Canada along with his younger brother Matur, also a top prospect. Maker could conceivably end up reclassifying to the class of 2015, but with all of this movement we don’t know how realistic that is. The decision to move was made by Maker’s guardian, who will also serve as an assistant coach at his new school. We can only hope that this is being made in Maker’s best interest even if we disagree with the general idea behind all of this movement.
  3. After nearly a month Charleston finally found a replacement for Doug Wojcik as it announced its decision to hire Earl Grant. Wojcik was fired in the wake of allegations of abuse against his players, an issue that has become increasingly common. The process to replace Wojcik took longer than expected and likely drove off many of the potential hires that the school looked at. Grant has spent the past four seasons as an assistant at Clemson and at the age of  37 could serve as a potential long-term coach the school needs (or it could be just a stepping stone for him). We normally don’t like to bring race into the discussion of hiring/firing, but as Gary Parrish points out in his background on the situation at Charleston it likely played a role.
  4. We would expect Miami to be a better team with the addition of several key transfers, but they might have lost a big piece last week when Davon Reed underwent surgery after tearing the meniscus in his left knee during an offseason workout that could  keep him out for four to six months. As a freshman last season, Reed started 10 games while averaging 6.6 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists in a little over 20 minutes per game and scored 11.5 points per game in two ACC Tournament games while coming off the bench. The school has not officially announced whether Reed would redshirt so there is a chance we could see him around the second half of conference play.
  5. We are not sure if the decision by certain Georgia Tech coaches to make impermissible calls just three days after their NCAA hearing was brazen or idiotic, but it helped to get the school two more years of probation. The school’s current probation now extends to June 13, 2017 after its coaches, who were already on probation, made hundreds of impermissible calls and texts. We have gotten to the point where we are not really sure what to make of all of these probation announcements. On one hand, the school was already on probation so you would figure that if they mess up again they should get more than a slap on the wrist. On the other hand, these violations are completely unrelated to the other violations and might not even be violations any more.
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