ACC Tournament Observations: Bzdelik and Johnson Hot Seats Remain Toasty

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 12th, 2014

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

For the first time in its storied history, the ACC Tournament is a five-day event. Of course that was a necessary evil of expanding the conference to 15 schools, but Wednesday afternoon’s action represented the dawn of a new era in tournament history. In the afternoon session, two coaches positioned on the proverbial hot seat led their teams with mixed results. Twelfth-seeded Wake Forest shot a season-high 61 percent on its way to a 81-69 win over #13-seed Notre Dame; while in the second game of the day, #15-seed Virginia Tech hung close but fell 57-53 to #10-seed Miami.

The Upper Level Of The Greensboro Coliseum Was Curtained Out On Wednesday. (Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

The Upper Level Of The Greensboro Coliseum Was Curtained Off On Wednesday
(Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

Knowing that interest for the opening round games was not going to be very high, the ACC decided not to include Wednesday’s games as part of its ACC Tournament ticket package. With most traveling fans reluctant to come to Greensboro that early, the ACC office also knew that attendance would be low. The league therefore decided to curtain off the Coliseum’s upper level for today’s games, like when UNC-Greensboro plays its home games in the building. The result is a more intimate-feeling arena, but the real goal is to avoid the embarrassment of exposing all the empty seats in the vast upper level of the Greensboro Coliseum. Estimating crowd size is an inexact science but there appeared to be around 6,000 to 8,000 fans in attendance for the afternoon games.

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ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

The 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off Wednesday in Greensboro. This should be one of the more entertaining tournaments of recent years, as every team has something to play for from bottom to top. It’s startling that so many are dismissing Virginia, who just won their first outright ACC regular season championship in 33 years. Syracuse has been left for dead after once being projected to be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing four of their last six to close the regular season. Duke and North Carolina need late runs to continue to improve their seeding for the Big Dance. The lone likely bubble team in the conference, Pittsburgh, will seek to bolster its resume. Everyone else seeks to shock the world and win the whole thing to steal a tourney bid. Here is RTC’s ACC Tournament preview, with predicted champion included.

This year's ACC tournament field should be wide open.

This year’s ACC tournament field should be wide open.

The first round kicking off on Wednesday is a new wrinkle for a newly-enlarged conference, and there won’t be any big surprises there. Virginia Tech owns two wins (their only two conference wins) over Miami this year; that will change this time around. It’s very difficult for anyone to beat a team three times in the course of one season, and this isn’t a juggernaut squad by any means. Jim Larranaga’s team tops James Johnson’s. Maryland, fresh off of its stunning win over Virginia in the season’s final game, will keep their momentum rolling in knocking Wake Forest out on the first day. The Demon Deacons don’t win away from home, and that won’t change in Greensboro. Georgia Tech will continue the disastrous year that Boston College has endured by out muscling them inside with Daniel Miller and capping off the win with Trae Golden’s ace free-throw shooting.

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ACC Weekend Preview #10

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

It’s the final weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of March 5, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features some important matchups that will determine seeding in next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Saturday – North Carolina (23-7, 13-4 ACC) @ Duke (23-7, 12-5 ACC) – ESPN (9:00 PM)

Marcus Paige Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina's Winning Streak. (Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Marcus Paige’s Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina’s Winning Streak.
(Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#8) Duke 80-72 (#23) North Carolina

nc-duke

While neither of these teams have played their best basketball lately, North Carolina has managed to keep winning (12 straight) while Duke took a bad loss on Wednesday at Wake Forest. In that one Duke collapsed down the stretch, much like they did in earlier ACC road losses at Clemson and North Carolina. On the other hand, the Tar Heels have made enough plays to win three straight close games against teams with losing conference records. North Carolina’s improved offense has dipped lately, having its two worst offensive efficiency games during the winning streak in the last two contests. But the Tar Heel defense has remained solid, holding four of their last five opponents under 1.00 points per possession. Duke is mired in a team wide shooting slump which continued with a miserable 6-of-27 effort from three on Wednesday night. And unlike many Blue Devil teams of the past, the defense is not elite enough to overcome such shooting woes. Duke has been unbeaten at home since losing at the end of the 2012 season to North Carolina. If they want to stay unbeaten at home this year, the Blue Devils probably need to have a comfortable lead late. If it comes down to team toughness and resiliency, the Tar Heels may have the edge.

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ACC Weekend Preview #9

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 28th, 2014

It’s the next to last weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 26, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features a battle for first place, with the winner likely headed to the ACC Tournament in Greensboro as the top seed.

Saturday – Syracuse (26-2, 13-2 ACC) @ Virginia (24-5, 15-1 ACC) – ESPN (4:00 PM)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title. (Photo: VirginiaSports.com)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title.
(VirginiaSports.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#4) Virginia 58-53 (#10) Syracuse

Syr-Va

This match-up will probably decide the ACC regular season title. Virginia could be the least publicized 15-1 major conference team ever. With Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina getting most of the national attention, the Cavaliers have methodically taken care of business and rolled through conference play. They also seem to be on the upswing, winning their last two games by over 20 points after three straight single-digit victories. Malcolm Brogdon continues to be a model of consistency. It’s almost unreal to look at his game-by-game scoring totals. Not only has he scored in double figures in every ACC game, but he has scored in the 12- to 17-point range in 14 of the 16 games. And in the other two contests, he had 11 once and — you guessed it — 18 in the other. The good news for Syracuse is that Jerami Grant is expected to play in the game. The sophomore missed the entire second half of Monday’s contest at Maryland with a lower back issue. In that game, the Orange won another nail-biter, bringing their record in close games (decided by five points or less) to a rather fortunate 6-1. For Syracuse to get Virginia in a close one, it better shoot much better than the team has lately. In the last four games, the Orange have averaged an extremely low effective field goal percentage (39.0). That doesn’t match up well with Virginia’s league-best defense.

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ACC Weekend Preview #8

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 21st, 2014

It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 19, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Saturday – Syracuse (25-1, 12-1 ACC) @ Duke (21-6, 10-4 ACC) – ESPN (7:00 PM)

Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski's Teams Played a Classic Three Weeks Ago. (Photo: Raleigh News & Observer / Getty Images)

Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski’s Teams Played a Classic Three Weeks Ago.
(Photo: Raleigh News & Observer / Getty Images)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#5) Duke 70-65 (#9) Syracuse

Syr-Du

A little of the shine came off this weekend’s national spotlight game, when Syracuse suffered its first defeat of the season Wednesday night, and then Duke stumbled Thursday night in Chapel Hill. It wasn’t surprising that the Orange finally lost one, given all the narrow victories they’ve had lately, but it is shocking that the culprit was Boston College, and also that the loss happened in the Carrier Dome. The fact that average teams keep taking Syracuse to the wire is probably of bigger concern right now. It’s quite possible that this depth-shy Syracuse team is starting to wear down a bit. Even though they play a zone defense which uses less energy than man-to-man, the heavy minutes played may be affecting the Orange’s starters. In ACC play, Syracuse has four players logging over 35 minutes per game. Duke also looked like a tired team Thursday. The Blue Devils’ normally high powered offense had no juice in the second half of that game, going a stretch of almost nine minutes without a field goal. Much of the credit should go to North Carolina’s defense and the outstanding Smith Center crowd, but when Duke did get an open look, they usually came up short -probably due to tired legs. So, we should not expect either team to repeat the offensive display from the first meeting, when each scored at an astounding rate – both over 1.30 points per possession. With their fourth game in eight days, the Blue Devils may have to depend on the Cameron Crazies and a bunch of minutes from the bench, to get over the energy hump.

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ACC Weekend Preview #7

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 14th, 2014

It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 12, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features four games that involve the top eight teams in the standings.

Saturday – Pittsburgh (20-5, 8-4 ACC) @ North Carolina (16-7, 6-4 ACC) – CBS (1:00 PM)

Roy Williams Has The Tar Heels Pointed In The Right Direction. (Photo: USAToday.com)

Roy Williams Has The Tar Heels Pointed In The Right Direction.
(Photo: USAToday.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#27) North Carolina 69-68 (#15) Pittsburgh

Pit-NC

Pittsburgh is coming off that emotionally crushing last second loss to Syracuse on Tyler Ennis’s 35 footer Wednesday night, making the Panthers o-for-4 in games against the top three teams in the league. With no more opportunities for a huge signature win, this game on the road against the red-hot Tar Heels looks like Pittsburgh’s last chance for a regular season win that may impress the NCAA Selection Committee. The Syracuse game was the second time the Panthers lost at home on a last second three pointer, with the other delivered by Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon. But don’t feel too sorry for Pittsburgh – they also have two overtime wins over ACC bottom dwellers Miami and Virginia Tech. Not only has North Caroliona won five straight conference games, but they have been impressive doing so, winning all by double digits. The Tar Heels have even begun to show improvement from the free throw line. They have only bested the 73 percent mark in four games all season, but three of those have been in their last four outings. With Wednesday’s weather related cancellation of the Duke game, North Carolina should be the fresher team physically for sure. But the current mental state of the Pittsburgh team is what may swing the game in the direction of the Tar Heels. After Wednesday’s major disappointment, the toughness and resiliency of the Panthers will be tested.

Stat Watch. Tempo will be very important in this one, with Pittsburgh (61 possessions per game) preferring a slower pace and North Carolina (67 PPG) wanting to speed things up. North Carolina hopes that being the fresher team shows up on the boards, where both teams normally excel. If Pittsburgh loses that battle, it will be awfully hard to see them winning, unless they have an unusually good shooting performance against the stout Tar Heel defense.

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ACC M5: 02.14.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 14th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. BC Interruption: Man this post has a lot of typos… oh, they’re actually a metaphor? I see. In case you missed it, Boston College showed the world why it only has six wins this season by blowing a very winnable game in Atlanta last night. The end of the game was terrific with Olivier Hanlan delivering a filthy step-back jumper to take the lead with 3.4 seconds remaining. Despite the overcoaching failure we saw last night in Pittsburgh, Steve Donahue then elected to call a timeout and let the Yellow Jackets set up an offensive play. The Eagles of course proceeded to do their best toreador impression, and I’ll let Marcus Georges-Hunt take it away… Side note: Boston College gave up 74 points on 58 possessions. That gives Georgia Tech an offensive efficiency just shy of 128 points per 100 possessions., which was its best offensive performance of the year, edging out the team’s home opener against Presbyterian. Yikes.
  2. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Give Syracuse credit. The Orange hit some tough shots to beat Pittsburgh, while the Panthers started alternating between passes in traffic and around the perimeter before launching ill-advised threes. Time-wasting and (in my opinion) concerns of running offense through Talib Zanna doomed the Panthers on Wednesday night. There were also some shots fired from Joe Starkey, who says that Jamie Dixon’s team doesn’t have another chance for a quality win. North Carolina may not light up the resume like it once did, but beating the Heels is still a quality win.
  3. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Jim Weaver wants Whit Babcock to be patient with Virginia Tech head coach James Johnson. That’s a lot to ask with Johnson looking at another season in the ACC cellar — and this time possibly losing 20 games. The cynic in me wonders how much that has to do with Weaver trying to preserve his legacy. However, the more likely scenario is that Weaver truly believes a patient program will be more stable and successful in the long run. There’s certainly some truth there. I also think you don’t want a fan base to expect instant success (or immediate termination), but Johnson needs to start showing improvement quickly or there won’t be much of a basketball fan base to worry about.
  4. Chicago Tribune: Demetrius Jackson – Notre Dame’s homegrown McDonald’s All-American — missed the Fighting Irish’s game Tuesday because of “academic issues.” That’s not good. Nor is the fact that either the school or Mike Brey has put out an update on his status. Jackson is of peripheral importance to this year’s team, but he is expected to be a star in the coming years in South Bend.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: Syracuse opted not to join Mayor Stephanie Miner’s task force, pointing out that a new stadium doesn’t look like it will be taxpayer-funded. Basically, it sounds like Chancellor Kent Syverud doesn’t want the city to have a say in the new arena, although his office will continue to cooperate (i.e., share information) with the committee, but will remain autonomous in its decision-making. This seems like a recipe for disaster.

EXTRA: More Duke-Maryland nostalgia.

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ACC M10: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 12th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Fayetteville Observer: Great piece from Bret Strelow with a transcript from a conference call of ACC coaches discussing the Marcus Smart situation. Always good for a quote, Jeff Bzdelik mentioned “Twitter muscle,” noting “there are a lot of unhappy people out there.” Mike Krzyzewski had a lot to say and was the only coach to provide an example of something concrete that’s been done to try and avoid situations like these (in the 1980s, Duke put opposing fans in the 75 seats closest to the bench instead of students). Duke is a special circumstance though because many of its students are right on the court level. It was nice to see Jim Boeheim stick up for Smart (and generally, it feels like people are doing a good job with the post-kneejerk reactions on the incident).
  2. Charlottesville Daily Progress: A lot of disappointed articles have been written about Virginia’s Akil Mitchell this year, as his numbers have dropped significantly from last season. But what hasn’t been getting enough love outside of local media and blogs is attention to his defense. Mitchell consistently draws the opponents’ best large wing/high post players, and he locked down Evan Smotrycz in Virginia’s too-close-for-comfort win against Maryland Monday night.
  3. Macon Telegraph: Even in the slow-tempo ACC, Georgia Tech‘s current offense just isn’t cutting it. The good news is that Robert Carter is back. The bad news is that the team still relies on Chris Bolden (who is making a truly abysmal 28.7 percent of his twos this season) as a scoring option. But the Yellow Jackets need Trae Golden healthy to even be competitive in most conference games.
  4. John Gasaway: Tuesday Truths is back! That means another head-scratching look at the ACC’s tempo and wondering just how Syracuse has averaged 55 possessions per game. That’s ridiculously slow. What’s also becoming clear is that Syracuse is playing with fire right now. The Orange have slipped well below Virginia and Duke in efficiency margin (+0.17 compared with +0.22 and +0.21, respectively), and they still have road games against Pittsburgh, Duke, Virginia and a dangerous Florida State team that may be truly desperate for a resume win. Syracuse could easily go 1-3 in those games, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t lose at least two of them. Long story short: Don’t wrap up the regular season ACC title just yet.
  5. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Speaking of Pittsburgh-Syracuse later tonight, Paul Zeise had a chat about the Panthers. Other than someone calling the Orange uptempo (see above), there’s a lot of good stuff here. Remember, in Pittsburgh’s recent slide, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna have not been playing at 100 percent. It’s also interesting that despite the injuries, Zeise likes Pittsburgh’s match-up with Syracuse. Clearly, the Panthers have to play better than they did against Virginia Tech last weekend, but that game may have been a worst case scenario (unhealthy trap game). Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Weekend Preview #6

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

It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 5, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Sunday – Clemson (15-6, 6-3 ACC) @ Syracuse (22-0, 9-0 ACC) – ESPNU (6:00 PM)

Freshman Point Guard Tyler Ennis Leads Top Ranked Syracuse. (Photo: Mark Konezny - USA TODAY)

Freshman Point Guard Tyler Ennis Leads Top Ranked Syracuse.
(Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#4) Syracuse 59-49 (#47) Clemson

Clem-SyrSyracuse continues to win in different ways which is really the mark of a true winner. The Orange win on off-shooting nights, when they fall behind like they did against Miami, or when they blow a late leads like they did last Saturday versus Duke. Trevor Cooney carried them on Monday night against Notre Dame, which is a good sign, as Cooney is the only scary three-point shooter on the roster. With Tyler Ennis running the show, and the front line featuring C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant playing well on both ends of the court, the Orange are still undefeated and now ranked #1 in the country. If Cooney has regained his touch, this becomes a team that is really tough to guard. On the other hand, Clemson is a team of extremes when the Tigers take to the road in the ACC. They have won three of their five conference road contests but lost the other two in non-competitive blowout losses to Pittsburgh and North Carolina. This looks like another tough road trip for Clemson where its offensive struggles will be magnified against Syracuse. To beat the Orange, you need some shooters to come through and the Tigers are only making 31.2 percent of their threes. Even worse for Clemson may be the disparity in turnovers in this game, as the Tigers are (statistically) the worst ball-handling team in the ACC.

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ACC M5: 02.04.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 4th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. SBNation: Interesting post-mortem on the Duke-Syracuse instant classic and how the Orange zone forced Jabari Parker into some bad shots. But part of the issue was Duke’s offense, which often gives Parker the ball in a position where he’s forced to isolate. That isn’t to say that Parker shouldn’t learn to pass out of a double-team or recognize the long help-side defender, but Duke needs him — even against a zone — to remain aggressive because it opens up the floor for the rest of the team. Tyler Ennis was a different story — he lived at the free throw line (where he and Jerami Grant were really the difference in the game).
  2. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Speaking of Syracuse, the Orange were bailed out by Trevor Cooney in a big way last night. The sharpshooter went unconscious, knocking down 9-of-12 threes against Notre Dame in a game Syracuse only won by six points. CJ Fair regressed in the most painful kind of way, going 2-of-13 from the field en route to six points. The Orange need to get these performances out of their system now because they still have games at Pittsburgh, at Duke, at Virginia and at Florida State left to play. Seriously, those are arguably teams #2 through #5 in the ACC right now.
  3. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Bad news out of Atlanta as Georgia Tech’s Solomon Poole has been dismissed from the team. That’s not to say he was a very important piece of the squad — he hadn’t played since early January — but his older brother Stacey is still on the team and he was the most obvious backup for Trae Golden, a player who had to sit out much of the game at Wake Forest with a groin injury.
  4. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Here’s a midseason evaluation of Virginia that could probably be more generous. I mean, this team is 8-1 in ACC play with a very legitimate shot to grab the top seed in the ACC Tournament (and is a mortal lock for a double-bye). Malcolm Brogdon has been tremendous in conference play, and a grade of a B seems really low for Joe Harris (though I suppose that depends on your expectations coming into the season).
  5. Baltimore Sun: Sure, you can get another nostalgic “I still think of Maryland as an ACC school and I’ll always think that way” quote from Roy Williams, but the real reason to read this article is the elite-level trolling that Seth Allen does at the bottom of the article: “North Carolina, without question, because it’s louder than Duke,” Allen said. “Duke is small — they’ve got the [Cameron] Crazies over there sticking their hands out. But North Carolina is just really loud.” Your move, Duke fans.
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Breaking Down ACC Weekend #5 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 1st, 2014

It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of January 29, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features two heavyweight matchups featuring the four teams that are clearly the class of the conference thus far.

Saturday – Duke (17-4, 6-2 ACC) @ Syracuse (20-0, 7-0 ACC) – ESPN (6:30 PM)

Record Carrier Dome Crowd Awaits Duke. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Record Carrier Dome Crowd Awaits Duke.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Syracuse 72-68 (#3) Duke
Duke-Syr

A record Carrier Dome crowd is expected for Duke’s much-anticipated first trip to Syracuse. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be there as well, adding to the hoopla. Duke hopes it can continue to play as well as it has in the last five games. During that stretch, the Blue Devils’ much maligned defense has held opponents to an excellent 93 points per 100 possessions. Their most impressive win came Monday night on the road over Pittsburgh, whose only other conference loss came at the Carrier Dome in a close game. An unsung hero lately has been Duke’s Amile Jefferson, who is the only player in the ACC’s top three in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Syracuse just keeps rolling along, rarely blowing teams out but always executing extremely well down the stretch of games. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis has been amazing all season, but has even been more impressive in ACC play. Despite playing so many minutes, including going the full 40 in three of the last four games, Ennis seems to be at his best in the last five minutes of games. He does whatever the Orange needs him to do, and has become a more consistent scorer with double figure points in all seven ACC games. There will be a lot of talent on the floor, particularly at the forward spot, with each team having two versatile 6’8″ frontcourt players, C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant for Syracuse and Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood for Duke. Another key could be if either team’s sharp shooter, Trevor Cooney of the Orange or Andre Dawkins for the Blue Devils, gets free and knocks down multiple threes. Naturally, whenever a team plays Syracuse we have to look at how they will try and deal with that famously active zone defense. Duke has done pretty well against other zones but nobody plays it quite like the Orange. The Blue Devils will probably try and slide their forwards in and around the lane to use their quickness, but they will have to adjust to how well Syracuse reacts to the ball. Tempo will also play a big role, with Duke wanting to force the pace defensively, hoping to wear down the Orange and make them use their weaker bench. But other teams have tried to do that and found out that Ennis is hard to speed up.

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Kennedy Meeks Needs the Majority Of Minutes for UNC Down Low

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 31st, 2014

Even with all the uncertainty swirling around the North Carolina roster through the first half of the season, the consensus among most was that interior depth would not be a problem. And sure enough, Williams has shown that he will play his surplus of big bodies in nearly every game. Each Tar Heel post player has a unique skill set that lends itself to different moments and match-ups, but the center position has been an area that UNC has not been able to count on for consistent production. Recent ACC wins against Boston College, Clemson and Georgia Tech have indicated, perhaps, that this may be a concern of the past.

More minutes has meant more production from Kennedy Meeks and North Carolina. (USA TODAY Sports)

More minutes has meant more production from Kennedy Meeks and North Carolina. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

One reason for the up-and-down production over the course of the year can be tied to the fact that the individual manning the post at the opening tip-off has not gotten starter’s minutes. Sophomore Joel James started the first 10 games of the year before getting injured versus Texas, and he’s started two games since, averaging just shy of 11 minutes per game. James started all three games against Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky, and yet played fewer minutes than Kennedy Meeks versus the Cardinals (11 minutes to 24) and Spartans (16 to 18), and fewer than both Brice Johnson and Meeks in the victory over Kentucky (13 minutes compared to Johnson’s 24 and Meeks’ 19). Surely Williams saw something in James to name him the starter for those contests, but if he was going to play so sparingly, why not let someone else man the post to get in an early rhythm?

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