ACC M5: 01.26.16 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 26th, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. The Dagger: I agree wholeheartedly with the headline of this article. Duke shouldn’t be ranked next week. But the reason Miami didn’t rush the court against Duke says as much about the Miami program under Jim Larranaga as it does about the undermanned Blue Devils. More on Duke’s recent struggles and their NCAA Tournament hopes later, but don’t let that distract from the fact that the Hurricanes are great this season. They’re experienced, well-coached, and a little inconsistent.
  2. Tomahawk Nation: Exhaustive review from Michael Rogner of Florida State‘s rebounding struggles against Pittsburgh. He classified each offensive board as lucky, good offense, or good defense. My first takeaway reading this was that I wish we had similar numbers for all teams. Florida State’s much smaller than expected because of injuries, so they’ll need to start rebounding by committee.
  3. Chicago Tribune: Speaking of important injuries, Demetrius Jackson will be out in Notre Dame’s game Thursday at Syracuse. Jackson’s absence (assuming reports are correct and the team is just being cautious) may prove a blessing. The reason is freshman Rex Pflueger has played very well in the last three games after only playing more than ten minutes once earlier in the season. It also gives Steve Vasturia valuable time at point guard, which could be important if Jackson ever gets in foul trouble.
  4. Syracuse Post Standard: If the Orange want to safely make the NCAA Tournament, the next five games are all close to must-wins. The first four are at home and the Orange should be favored in all four. At 3-5 in ACC play, Syracuse has to claw it’s way into the top half of the conference. They do have two very strong non-conference wins (Connecticut and Texas A&M), but the St. John’s loss looks awful.
  5. Louisville Courier-Journal: Louisville is an enigma. Statistically, they’re a great team. But they have no “great” wins (the last three are the only ones even worth mentioning). We should find out more  starting Saturday. Eight of the teams last 11 games are against likely NCAA Tournament teams (not even counting Pittsburgh as one), including at Duke, Virginia, and Miami. Rick Pitino, mildly trolling, noted: “It reminds me so much of the Big East in its prime.”

EXTRA: The NCAA made a good decision pushing back the date college players have to declare for the NBA Draft until after the combine. That gives kids a lot more time to get accurate information on where they might be picked. And while coaches might privately complain about the uncertainty (publicly doing so in the current climate would be out of touch), they may see more borderline guys come back and this should prevent the draft from becoming a distraction during the NCAA Tournament.

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ACC Weekend Review: 01.25.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 25th, 2016

Once again, it wasn’t exactly a weekend of mega-matchups in the ACC. Going into Saturday’s action, the league had seven teams rated in KenPom’s top 38, yet none of them faced each other over the weekend. Some of the games were affected by winter storm Jonas, which caused the rescheduling of two games. On Sunday afternoon, North Carolina continued its undefeated ways in the ACC by holding off a feisty Virginia Tech squad in a game that was moved from Sunday night due to travel concerns in Blacksburg. Syracuse probably faced the toughest travel adversity, finally arriving in Charlottesville less than seven hours before Sunday night’s tipoff. In a game that had been originally scheduled for Saturday night, Virginia pulled away in the closing seconds to hang on against an Orange team that is suddenly playing well. Saturday, three road teams were successful in tight contests; Duke snapped its three game losing streak by beating N.C. State in Raleigh; Louisville gave Georgia Tech another tough home loss; and Pittsburgh rallied from a big halftime deficit to overtake Florida State. In other Saturday action, Miami broke open a tight game late to defeat Wake Forest, and Notre Dame blasted Boston College even though the Irish lost point guard Demetrius Jackson to injury just minutes into the game. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend in the ACC.

Tony Bennett and Virginia earned a hard fought win over Syracuse on Sunday night. (Stephen D. Cannerelli/syracuse.com)

Tony Bennett and Virginia earned a hard fought win over Syracuse on Sunday night.
(Stephen D. Cannerelli/syracuse.com)

  • Best Win: Since we didn’t have any blockbuster matchups or big upsets this weekend, we will declare Virginia‘s home 73-65 victory over Syracuse as the best ACC win of the weekend. The Cavaliers came into the contest with a disappointing 3-3 ACC record and were facing one of the hottest teams in the league. After dropping their first four league games, the Orange had ripped off three straight wins, including two on the road. The Syracuse surge looks to be directly related to the return of Jim Boeheim, who had to serve a NCAA mandated nine-game suspension that included the school’s first three ACC games. The Cavaliers led most of the way but couldn’t shake the Orange, who made 13 three-pointers, until the end. Tony Bennett‘s big three led the way as usual; Malcolm Brogdon scored 21 points; Anthony Gill had 16 points and eight rebounds; and London Perrantes finished with 16 points and seven assists.
  • Worst Loss: After 20 minutes of play, Florida State was looking good against Pittsburgh. The Seminoles were at home, leading by 10, and playing a team coming off a confidence killing home loss to NC State earlier in the week. But two weaknesses from the past came back to haunt Leonard Hamilton‘s team, who let the Panthers come back to take an important 74-72 win in a matchup of NCAA Tournament hopefuls. Somehow, Florida State managed to lose despite outshooting Pitt from the field by a wide margin (53.7 percent to 39.3 percent). Pitt won as a result of having more chances to score, thanks to a +6 edge in both offensive rebounds and turnovers. Those two areas have long been an issue for the Seminoles during Hamilton’s tenure, but hadn’t this year until conference play began. Currently, Florida State ranks 13th in the league in turnover margin and last in defensive rebounding percentage in ACC games.
Grayson Allen had a strong all-around game to help Duke end its losing streak. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer)

Grayson Allen had a strong all-around game to help Duke end its losing streak.
(Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer)

  • Most Outstanding Player: Few Duke teams have needed a regular season win as desperately as this team needed this win on Saturday against rival N.C. State. The Blue Devils had lost three consecutive ACC games coming into the day, all of which had been winnable in the final minute of play. Grayson Allen made sure the Blue Devils’ losing streak came to an end with an excellent all-around performance. The sophomore guard led all scorers with 28 points, shooting 11-17 from the floor and 5-5 from the line. Allen also dished out seven assists and helped out on the glass, finishing with seven rebounds – six of them on the defensive end. Allen is making a strong case for first team All-ACC honors, as he currently ranks second in the ACC in scoring. He’s also fifth in both field goal percentage and assists in ACC games.
  • Unsung Heroes: The most obvious choice here is sophomore big man Anas Mahmoud of Louiville. The native of Cairo, Egypt more than doubled his previous career high, finishing with 15 points in the Cardinals’ road win over Georgia Tech. Mahmoud has been gaining more confidence and playing time from Rick Pitino lately, averaging close to eight points and six boards in his last four outings. Pitt’s Jamie Dixon was glad to see Sterling Smith snap out of his slump, as the graduate transfer tied his season-high with 16 points, including four three-pointers. Smith was much more aggressive than he was in his three prior contests, when he only attempted a total of four shots in 56 minutes of play. Finally, Miami’s Ja’Quan Newton deserves recognition. Newton helped break open a tight game with Wake Forest by scoring 13 of his 18 points in the second half. The aggressive sophomore has been solid off the bench all year for the Hurricanes – he’s second on the team in both scoring and assists, and leads the team in free throw attempts despite playing less than 22 minutes per game.
  • Most Efficient Offense/Least Efficient Defense: At half-time of Saturday’s game in Raleigh, Duke trailed by seven, which was due in great part to a soft Blue Devil zone defense that allowed N.C. State to shoot 56.7 percent from the field. But according to Mike Krzyzewski after the game, despite the deficit and defensive struggles, the zone at least allowed his thin Duke team to be much fresher for the second half than they had been in their previous three losses. The strategy worked (at least for one game) as Duke scored 52 points on 31 second half possessions. For the game, the Blue Devils averaged 1.33 points per possession. Duke shot the ball well in all areas: 65 percent on two-pointers, 40 percent on threes, and 78 percent from the foul line.
  • Most Efficient Defense/Least Efficient Offense: We don’t expect to see Notre Dame’s defense win this honor very often, but when the opponent is Boston College, even the Irish’s normally generous defense can look good. The Eagles managed only 0.74 points per possession on Saturday in South Bend and rank 338th in the country in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. You can safely expect to see them in this category a few more times this season. The biggest issue for BC in this game was two-point shooting, as the Eagles made just eight of their 38 two-point attempts.
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ACC Weekend Review: 01.18.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 18th, 2016

Saturday was a day for upsets in the ACC as four underdogs were victorious. Notre Dame won a shootout over Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium in the marquee matchup of the weekend; the Clemson Tigers continued their amazing run with a home rally over Miami; Virginia Tech overcame a large late deficit to beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta; and Syracuse got its second ACC win by blasting Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. The other two games on the day ended as expected – Pittsburgh handled Boston College at home and North Carolina, the ACC’s only undefeated team in conference play, overcame a slow start to finish off North Carolina State in Chapel Hill. In the only ACC action on Sunday, Virginia‘s road woes continued in a loss to Florida State in Tallahassee. Here are some of the other highlights from the weekend in the ACC.

Brad Brownell and Jaron Blossomgame have had plenty to celebrate during Clemson's five straight ACC upset wins. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

Brad Brownell and Jaron Blossomgame have had plenty to celebrate during Clemson’s five straight ACC upset wins. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

  • Best Win: In one of the most improbable occurrences in college basketball this year, Clemson has overcome one of the ACC’s toughest early league schedules by winning five straight games as an underdog. The latest victim was Miami by a score of 76-65 on Saturday afternoon in Greenville. With seven minutes to go and Miami holding a six point lead, it looked like the Tigers’ streak was near its end. But Clemson closed out the game with a 25-8 run and has now won five straight ACC games for the first time since Rick Barnes was coaching the Tigers in 1997. Jaron Blossomgame led the way with 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting. During the Brad Brownell era, the Tigers have always played good defense, but the difference this year is the Tigers’ offense. After finishing among the bottom three in ACC offensive efficiency the last three years (and never above 1.00 points per possession), Clemson is currently sixth in the league at a much improved 1.12 points per possession. A huge part of that success is the Tigers’ ability to punish teams from the foul line – they rank second in the ACC in free throw rate (45.1%) and first in accuracy (79.6%).
  • Worst Loss: Even though Wake Forest’s dismal effort in a home blowout to Syracuse technically may be the worst performance, we instead will go with the squad that suffered the most heartbreaking defeat, mainly because of what it may mean for that team’s confidence going forward. The team in question is Georgia Tech, who suffered a total meltdown at home against Virginia Tech. In our last weekend recap, we lauded Brian Gregory’s team for finally getting over the hump in winning a close league game. Well, the praise may have been a bit premature. The end of Saturday’s game in Atlanta played out exactly like many of the Yellow Jackets’ league games did a year ago, as the Jackets blew a 10-point lead over the last 4:14 of the game. In its final 12 possessions, Georgia Tech had more turnovers (4) than points (3). It certainly didn’t help that Adam Smith, the Jackets’ main outside threat, only made one three-pointer in seven tries from deep.
Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson punished Duke with 31 points in the Irish's big road win. (Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports)

Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson punished Duke with 31 points in the Irish’s big road win.
(Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Most Outstanding Player: Notre Dame’s Mike Brey has many weapons at his disposal, and that includes sophomore Bonzie Colson, who apparently loves to play against Duke. Colson helped the Irish defeat the Blue Devils in last season’s ACC Tournament semifinals with a then career-best 17 points. He nearly doubled that output on Saturday afternoon, finishing with 31 points and 11 rebounds (eight offensive) to lead the Irish to their fourth win over Duke in five meetings as ACC members. Colson scored in a variety of ways: post moves, putbacks, free throws (5-5) and even from deep (2-3 on threes). Afterwards, Brey commented on his play, “He gets pretty fired up when he does play them. Bonzie’s a big game guy. He loves a big game, and I thought he helped his teammates get confident.” Colson did not start the contest but logged 33 minutes as Brey recognized early on that the burly forward was a huge matchup problem for the Blue Devils’ thin frontcourt.
  • Unsung Heroes: With North Carolina’s top three scorers struggling against NC State, Roy Williams needed someone else to step up. That someone turned out to be Kennedy Meeks, who scored 25 points, grabbed six boards and blocked three shots to help the Tar Heels pull away from their rival. In only his second game back from a knee injury, Meeks had his highest point total since he tallied 25 in the season opener. Syracuse has not been a balanced team this year, having been carried by its backcourt to this point. But in Saturday’s rout of Wake Forest, junior forward Tyler Roberson delivered a dose of frontcourt production with 16 points and 13 rebounds. That makes four consecutive double figure scoring games for Roberson, who also helped the Orange’s defense Saturday with three steals. Pittsburgh’s Cameron Johnson only played 15 minutes in the Panthers’ win over Boston College, but he maximized that time with 20 points on an efficient seven of ten shooting performance. The redshirt freshman wing flashed a nice touch from deep, making four of his seven long-range attempts. He is now shooting 42.4 percent for the season from three-point range.
  • Most Efficient Offense/Least Efficient Defense: With Notre Dame visiting Duke in a game featuring two of the top four offenses in the country, we expected a shootout. Boy did we ever get one. Rare are games in which both teams score at a rate higher than 1.30 points per possession, but that’s what happened in Cameron Indoor on Saturday. The Irish prevailed with an offense that posted 1.36 points per possession in the exciting 95-91 win. That’s the most points per possession allowed by Duke to an ACC foe at home in the 15-year KenPom era. As one might expect in a performance that efficient, Notre Dame was outstanding in multiple offensive areas. They made 51.8 percent of their two-point attempts; hit 43.8 percent from three-point range; converted 80 percent from the foul line; grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, and only gave the ball away six times. It took every bit of that efficiency to hold off a Duke team that made half of their 24 three-point attempts.
  • Most Efficient Defense/Least Efficient Offense: In the weekend’s most lopsided game, Wake Forest managed only 0.77 points per possession in its 83-55 home loss to Syracuse. The Deacons had a tough time figuring out how to attack the Orange’s 2-3 zone from the outset and finished with 18 turnovers. When the Demon Deacons did get shot opportunities, they failed miserably, making just two of 20 from deep and missing 17 of 42 free throw attempts. Coming into the game, Wake figured to take advantage of Syracuse’s normally weak defensive rebounding, but things played out differently, as the Deacons only grabbed 25 percent of their misses. That percentage is well below Wake’s season average (35.1%) and that of Syracuse’s opponents (also 35.1%). Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim said, “This was the best defensive game we’ve had all year. We just were tremendously active. We had been doing a good job at the three-point line, but not so much inside. We were much better inside tonight.”

 

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ACC M5: 01.18.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 18th, 2016

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  1. The State: All hail our Clemson overlords (and Ken Pomeroy). First, the Tigers. Clemson is on a five-game ACC win streak, which includes wins over presumed contenders Louisville, Duke, and Miami. If the Tigers can find a way to win two of their next three (at Virginia, vs. Pittsburgh, and at Florida State), the schedule looks very favorable going forward. One caveat: Clemson has been incredibly lucky in close games, but don’t spend time hating. And why is Ken Pomeroy a wizard? His ratings had Clemson 55th in the country to start the season; after a rough patch pushed the Tigers over 100, they’re now back to 56.
  2. Newport News Daily Press: On the other end of the spectrum, Virginia is reeling. The Cavaliers have lost three of their last four (and four of five true road games on the season). David Teel does a great job exhausting perspectives on Tony Bennett’s team. The most important thing to remember is that road wins are nearly impossible to come by in the ACC. This Virginia team whipped a very good West Virginia team on a neutral court. The difference between last year’s team and this one is how well teams are shooting against Virginia (maybe Darion Atkins was just that good?). This year, the Cavaliers are pedestrian when it comes to field goal percentage defense; last year they were top five in the country.
  3. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Syracuse likely won’t make the NCAA Tournament this year for the second season in a row. This is the second “rebuilding cycle” in the last ten years. Michael Burke does a good job looking at the causes behind both dance droughts. Relatedly, this team’s poor performance has led to awful (relatively speaking) attendance this season. The poor attendance is unlikely to improve much with a mediocre slate of conference home games on the schedule this year (notably no North Carolina or Duke, but also no Miami or Virginia). Look for Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to still be big draws, though.
  4. Orlando Sentinel: Don’t look now, but Florida State may be righting the ship. Malik Beasley has been tremendous the last two games (39 points on 22 shots). If Dwayne Bacon can improve his efficiency some, this team should be able to make a run at a bid to the Big Dance. The only home loss the Seminoles have is to a great North Carolina team (in a game that was close until the last couple of minutes), and the only “bad” loss is a neutral-site loss to Hofstra. There’s still work to be done, but things are looking up.
  5. Duke Basketball Report: This year is just nuts. We’ve talked about Clemson, but Virginia Tech is also tied for second in the ACC in the loss column. Duke (admittedly without Amile Jefferson) and Miami have each lost its last two games. The only teams that are performing as expected bracket the conference: North Carolina is undefeated and Boston College looks like a dumpster fire. The Tar Heels will lose eventually (a mediocre defense makes that a certainty), but picking a Boston College win is harder to do. Home against Virginia Tech is the only one that looks remotely feasible. But alas, if there’s one thing ACC play should have taught us, it’s to keep predictions to ourselves.
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ACC Weekend Review: 01.11.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 11th, 2016

The ACC currently has five teams that rank among KenPom’s top 10, but two of that group fell on the road in the second weekend of conference play. On Saturday afternoon, Georgia Tech finally won a close ACC game by knocking off Virginia in Atlanta. Clemson also pulled off a solid upset by beating Louisville in the Tigers’ makeshift home gym this year – Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Syracuse put up a good fight in Jim Boeheim’s return on Saturday before wilting down the stretch at home against North Carolina. In other action, Duke blew out Virginia Tech in Cameron Indoor Stadium; Miami cruised at home over Florida State; and red-hot Pittsburgh won a shootout over Notre Dame in South Bend. Wake Forest got its first conference win last night by holding off N.C. State in Winston-Salem. Here are some of the other highlights from the weekend in the ACC.

Brian Gregory finally got over the hump with Georgia Tech's big win over Louisville. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Brian Gregory finally got over the hump with Georgia Tech’s big win over UVA. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

  • Best Win: It’s been a long time coming for Georgia Tech fans, but Brian Gregory’s team was able to close out a tough conference opponent for the first time in a long while. After suffering through a brutal stretch of tight ACC defeats last season, the Yellow Jackets started this year in similar fashion, dropping their first two games on the road. But those demons were exorcised Saturday in McCamish Pavilion as Georgia Tech outplayed two-time defending ACC regular season champion Virginia. The Jackets flashed their newfound long-range marksmanship by making 8-of-15 three-point tries, including three straight during a crucial 11-0 spurt when the score was tied with six minutes to play. Georgia Tech also owned the glass, finishing +12 in rebounding margin for the game. For Virginia, this loss, coming just days after a shocking defeat at Virginia Tech, completes the Cavaliers’ roughest week of ACC play in a very long time.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on January 6th, 2016

Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Three Things We Learned in the First Weekend

  1. Davidson won’t repeat as the regular season champion. The Wildcats are 1-4 away from the Belk Arena so far, including their 97-85 loss to St. Bonaventure on Saturday. With away games still to come versus Dayton, George Washington, VCU, Richmond and Fordham, along with tough home games against VCU, Saint Joseph’s and George Washington, Davidson could lose as many as eight conference games over the next two months.

    Despite his elite coaching prowess, it doesn't look like Bob McKillop and Davidson will repeat at conference champs this time around. (Tim Cowie/DavidsonPhotos.com)

    Despite his elite coaching prowess, it doesn’t look like Bob McKillop’s team will repeat at conference champs this time around. (Tim Cowie/DavidsonPhotos.com)

  2. A strong defense, some unanticipated player development and a favorable conference schedule means Saint Joseph’s should follow its 6-1 December with a 7-2 January. The players appear to be “getting it” — meaning head coach Phil Martelli’s approach to the game — and it shows in the Hawks’ defense and team-oriented approach to offense. St. Joseph’s field goal shooting still needs to improve, but the team is already showing up in a number of midseason brackets. If all goes well this month, February’s schedule features a handful of more difficult games that will ultimately determine whether the team is a legitimate contender for the conference title.
  3. It was a 69-63 loss, but Fordham’s players and fans are optimistic. The road venue was the Smith Center in Washington, D.C., and the Rams, down 15 at the half, managed to climb back in and stay within three possessions of the Colonials through the remainder of the game. The players are buying into what first year coach Jeff Neubauer is selling, as Fordham carried a 9-2 record into conference play and is on track to win between six to eight Atlantic 10 games. If the Rams hit inside that window, they will post their first winning season since 2006-07. A winning program in the New York City metropolitan area provides a huge boost to the conference’s overall profile, and correspondingly, Neubauer’s recruiting. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC M5: 01.06.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 6th, 2016

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  1. Charlotte Observer: Saying Florida State didn’t have an answer for Brice Johnson on Monday night would be quite an understatement. Johnson’s ridiculous stat line was immediately overshadowed by the prime time Big Monday game between Kansas and Oklahoma, but it truly was a performance for the ages. Patrick Stevens puts the performance in perspective by noting that an ACC player has only put up as many as 39 points and 23 boards on four previous occasions. And none of those instances came after 1964. The Tar Heels’ defense will give themselves a lot of teams chances to stick around games, but when their two-point jump shots are falling (which happens at a higher clip than any team in the country), they’re nearly impossible to beat.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: Syracuse‘s first two losses were easy to write off, as Miami may wind up as the best team in the ACC and the Oakland Zoo makes Pittsburgh a brutal place to play. But a home loss against Clemson? That’s a bad look. Part of the problem was that the game featured the smallest Carrier Dome conference crowd for a conference game in the last 15 years. The Orange could easily wind up 1-8 in ACC play if they’re not careful (the trip to Winston-Salem won’t be a cake walk), but it was also the last game without the services of Jim Boeheim, so maybe his return will right the ship. Syracuse looks all out of sorts right now.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: The ACC is going to be absolute mayhem this year. A few teams may end up rising above the fray, but Virginia Tech knocking off Virginia on Monday night seems like a sure sign of things to come. This was Buzz Williams’ first big win since taking the helm in Blacksburg, but it definitely won’t be his last (relatedly, the last two games mentioned in this M5 definitively establish that Boston College is at the bottom of the league). The top teams all have flaws and there are five of them. Don’t write off any team besides the Eagles at home this season.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: Before the season you could count me among the vocal skeptics who thought that the 30-second shot clock would not produce much change in college basketball. So far, though, both scoring and possessions are up (a renewed interest in calling the games tighter has helped too). As Andrew Carter points out in his article, 11 of 15 ACC teams last year failed to average 70 points per game. Thirteen teams are doing so this year. It doesn’t hurt that the league also sports four of the five most efficient offenses in the country (North Carolina, Duke, Virginia and Notre Dame), according to KenPom.
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Bad news for NC State‘s Terry Henderson, as head coach Mark Gottfried said he won’t be back in action for at least two to three weeks. Normally a player like him would redshirt after missing so much time, but since Henderson is a transfer who has already sat out a year (a sixth year of eligibility is generally only granted when two seasons are missed for injury), it’s unlikely that his request would be granted. If healthy, Henderson would provide some much-needed outside shooting on the wing for the Wolfpack.
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ACC Weekend Review: 01.04.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 4th, 2016

The ACC tipped off the New Year’s first weekend of conference play without many high profile match-ups. The league currently has eight teams rated in KenPom’s top-40, but only one game this weekend matched two of them together. In that game, Virginia cruised past Notre Dame in Charlottesville, leading by double digits the entire second half. Three of Saturday’s contests featured second half comebacks – North Carolina trailed by three at the half before passing Georgia Tech late; Miami needed a huge second half to overcome Syracuse; and in the most exciting game of the day, Virginia Tech rallied from a big second half deficit to defeat North Carolina State in overtime. Also on Saturday, Clemson knocked off Florida State, and Duke beat hapless Boston College. In the only Sunday ACC action, Louisville held off Wake Forest at the KFC Yum! Center. Note that so far this season, home court matters in the ACC – visitors have only won once (Duke at Boston College) in the first nine league games. Here are some of the other highlights from over the weekend in the ACC:

Jordan Roper was red-hot - making 7 threes in Clemson's win over Florida State. (Dawson Powers/USA TODAY Sports)

Jordan Roper was on fire Saturday – making 7 threes in Clemson’s win over Florida State. (Dawson Powers/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Best Win: Even though Virginia beat a higher rated team in Notre Dame (KenPom #31), we will go with Clemson and it’s win over a good Florida State (#40) squad. Brad Brownell’s team was desperate for a win after dropping three straight, and losing all six of its previous meetings with teams rated in KenPom’s top-220. Surprisingly, the Tigers did it with offense, scoring 1.25 points per possession against a Seminoles’ defense that had previously not allowed better than 1.07. Senior guard Jordan Roper led the way with 23 points and made a sizzling 7-of-10 from deep. Five other Tigers scored at least nine points, and Clemson controlled the boards by a +11 margin. Brownell hopes this performance can give his team confidence, because the Tigers will be underdogs in its next five games – at Syracuse on Tuesday, followed by four straight games against top-25 ACC teams.

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Playing ACC Secret Santa: Part I

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 24th, 2015

In offices all across the nation this week, people are playing the Secret Santa game. So let’s pretend that our company is made up of the ACC’s 15 men’s basketball teams, and we drew every head coach’s name out of the hat. As tempting as it may be to hand out traditional gifts like cheese logs and fruitcakes (yuck!), we instead will look at the specific needs for each squad right now and try and make each team better with our gifts. In the first of two installments of this piece (check back on Christmas Day for Part II), let’s look at the eight ACC teams that need Santa’s help the most.

presents

It’s Secret Santa Time in the ACC!

Here are our gifts of choice for the eight ACC schools that need them most (in alphabetical order):

  • Boston College (Jim Christian) – This is the easiest coach of all to shop for. When you already don’t have anything, there is no such thing as a bad present. The Eagles desperately need quality players. Among the 65 power-five conference programs, only hapless Rutgers is lower in the current KenPom rankings than the Eagles are. So we would give Christian what he needs the most – a recruiting budget that is comparable with the upper level schools in the ACC. The only way this program is going to improve is for his staff to evaluate and talk with as many high school players as possible, all over the country. That takes money.
  • Clemson (Brad Brownell) – What Brownell needs more than anything right now is a quality win. Actually, just a halfway respectable win would do right now. So far, the Tigers’ best victory this season is over Wofford (KenPom #234). Against teams rated higher than that, Clemson is 0-5 after being blown out by Georgia on Tuesday night. The next opportunity will come next Wednesday at North Carolina, but asking Santa Claus to help Brownell and company break their famous winless streak in Chapel Hill feels very greedy.

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Florida State Newcomers Making Huge Impact

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 13th, 2015

In the 2014-15 season, Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State squad was severely hampered by a lack of depth on the perimeter. But, what was a weakness last year is now a strength of this year’s Seminoles. Led by a pair of explosive freshmen, Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley, Florida State (5-2) not only is more talented this season, but it may be one of the most balanced teams of Hamilton’s 14 years at the helm in Tallahassee.

Florida State's Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley are the nation's leading freshmen scoring duo. (youtube/Nation Hoops)

Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley are the nation’s leading freshmen scoring duo.
(youtube/Nation Hoops)

With no real quality depth last season, Florida State’s three primary perimeter players all averaged about 35 minutes per contest. Certainly that made it almost impossible for the Seminoles to play the way Hamilton usually likes his teams to play — using waves of athletes to pressure opponents. So far this year, only sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes is logging over 28 minutes per game and his time on the floor (30.4) is almost five minutes less than it was a season ago. Bacon and Beasley are each playing around 27.5 minutes per contest as starters and fellow frosh Terance Mann is coming off the bench for about 15 minutes of action each game. It’s fair to say that Florida State’s freshmen class has performed above expectations so far. Compared to the consensus top two rookie classes in the country (see table below), the Seminoles newcomers are outperforming Duke’s rookies and are statistically close to Kentucky’s.

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Ten Takeaways From the Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Posted by Andy Gripshover on December 3rd, 2015

Another year down, another tally in the win column for the Big Ten in what is the top challenge series that college basketball has to offer. Per the norm, the teams that have traditionally dominated this series continued to do so, but there were some surprises along the way. Here are 10 key takeaways from this season’s event.

1. The Big Ten won again. Iowa’s thrilling 78-75 overtime victory over Florida State in Iowa City clinched back-to-back Challenge victories for the conference, with five of the last seven events going to the Big Ten. With the other two ties (2012 and 2013), it remains true that the ACC hasn’t won the challenge since George W. Bush was still President back in December 2008. That’s a really long time. It’s even longer when you consider that the ACC won every challenge during his presidency as well as the final two years of Bill Clinton.

Iowa guard Peter Jok, left, celebrates with teammates after an NCAA college basketball game against Florida State, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in Iowa City, Iowa. Jok scored 24 points as Iowa won 78-75 in overtime. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Peter Jok (left), who notched 24 points in Iowa’s 78-75 victory in overtime over Florida State, was one of the shining stars of the challenge. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

2. Duke won again. The Blue Devils are a staggering 15-2 lifetime in the challenge and are undefeated at Cameron Indoor Stadium (7-0) during that time. This is even more impressive when you consider that Duke almost always draws one of the Big Ten’s best teams. You have to go back to 2011 Michigan State (19-15) to find a Duke opponent that didn’t win at least 28 games that season, and before that, 2006 Indiana (19-12) is the other one that didn’t win at least 20. Granted, this year’s Indiana squad is looking like it will slot in nicely with those couple of outliers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Drawing Battle Lines, Day Three: Making a Case for Wednesday’s Games

Posted by Brendan Brody and Matt Patton on December 2nd, 2015

After two days worth of games, the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge is deadlocked at four games apiece with six games left tonight. Michigan, Purdue, and Northwestern picked up wins for the Big Ten last night, while North Carolina, Virginia, and Miami notched wins for the ACC. To prepare for the final night of play, the ACC and Big Ten microsites are once again here to defend the leagues they cover. Brendan Brody (Big Ten) and Matt Patton (ACC) make the case for each team in their respective leagues for all six contests that will take place tonight on the ESPN family of networks.

acc big ten schedule

Penn State at Boston College (7:15 PM, ESPNU)

  • Matt: The Eagles are coming off a disastrous trip to California which they ended getting pummeled by Santa Clara. How the team responds is the x-factor. On paper this looks like a fairly even matchup, which should give the advantage to the home team. Additionally, Jim Christian’s team has the pieces to be a better offensive team than they’ve shown thus far.Expect Christian to throw a few different defensive looks at Brandon Taylor to try to keep him uncomfortable, but the Eagles will win or lose this on the offensive end. Boston College has to make shots, and will need a strong performance out of freshman Jerome Robinson and transfer Eli Carter.
  • Brendan: When they’ve won, Penn State has only given up 56.7 ppg. When they’ve lost, it’s because they’ve given up an obscene amount of three-pointers. Boston College has some shooters, but their two leaders in three-point attempts (Carter, and AJ Turner) are both shooting below 30 percent from deep. Look for the Nittany Lions to make sure they guard on the perimeter, and look for them to squeak out a close win in a low scoring game.

Wisconsin at Syracuse (7:15 PM, ESPN2)

Jim Boeheim (US Presswire)

Jim Boeheim Will Stay in New York For Another Game Tonight (US Presswire)

  • Brendan: Syracuse has been one of the biggest surprises nationally after starting the season 6-0. Wisconsin has struggled to a 4-3 mark, but have showed some flashes of getting things together despite playing a tough schedule. The key aspect that they can exploit in this game is in getting extra possessions on the glass. They rebound 41.0 percent of their misses, while the Orange struggle to close out possessions by snagging a defensive rebound (308th nationally in defensive rebounding rate). Look for the Badgers to take advantage of these extra possessions to get the road win here.
  • Matt: Raise your hand if through six games you thought Trevor Cooney would be the least efficient Orange player. Syracuse has totally reinvented itself, and it hasn’t needed Dajuan Coleman to do so. Michael Gbinije has been outstanding running the offense (with Cooney’s help). If the Orange can keep their starting five on the floor most of the game, they’ll be in good shape. Neither team will be interested in running the floor, so that’s an achievable goal. Tyler Roberson and Tyler Lydon can’t let Wisconsin’s ball movement hurt the Orange inside, though the Badgers have not had a banner year offensively to date.

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