RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Deep South Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2010

It’s October.  The leaves are starting to turn colors.  Halloween candy is already in the stores.  There have been a few nights where you may have even turned on the heat.  Midnight Madness is imminent and RTC is full bore into the 2010-11 Season Preview materials headfirst.  For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Deep South Region (GA, FL, AL, MS, LA)

  • Chris Warren – Sr, G – Ole Miss. Returning from a torn ACL he suffered just 12 games into his sophomore season in 2008-09, Ole Miss’ Chris Warren had some folks concerned after his first game back last season when he played only 27 minutes, scored just nine points, and struggled with a 3-11 shooting night against Arkansas-Little Rock. Six days later, though, he and his fellow Rebels cruised down to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan, where Warren scored 16, 27 and 24 points, respectively, in wins against Indiana and Kansas State and a loss in the final to Villanova. He averaged just under 32 minutes over those three contests and shot a combined 23-45, and, perhaps more importantly, put to bed any remaining fears about the status of that knee. Warren would go on to start all 35 games last year, average 32.9 MPG (tops on his team) and put up only two other single-digit scoring efforts for the whole season. His 17.2 PPG from last season means he’s the second-leading returning scorer in the SEC, trailing only Georgia’s Trey Thompkins by half of a point. When you hear numbers like this, it’s easy to forget that the guy’s doing all this as a 5’10 point guard, another testament to his toughness. Despite his role at the point, ignoring his outside shot isn’t recommended, either; he finished 14th in the nation with 3.4 threes per game, and led the SEC in three-point shooting in league games at 43.8%. Warren’s achievements earned him an all-SEC second team slot last year and we’re certain to see him on the Bob Cousy Award nominee list (again), and wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a finalist. If Mississippi is to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years, head coach Andy Kennedy will need that kind of final season from his floor leader.

You May Not Yet Know Thompkins, But You Will

  • Trey Thompkins – Jr, F – Georgia. After toiling behind Florida and Kentucky for years in the SEC, Mark Fox has the Bulldogs poised for a resurgence. While many Georgia fans are focused on the recruitment of Kentavious Caldwell and Julian Royal this year, Thompkins along with Travis Leslie (below) could lead the Bulldogs back to the NCAA Tournament. After an exceptional sophomore season where he averaged 17.7 PPG and 8.3 RPG and briefly considered leaving Athens to enter the NBA Draft, Thompkins has a legitimate chance at being a 20/10 player this year, which is something that only Artsiom Parakhouski and Omar Samhan did last year and neither Radford nor St. Mary’s play in the SEC. Most NBA Draft experts already had Thompkins pegged as a borderline first round pick after last season and he should only improve on that as he continues to refine his game. With his combination of a solid outside game to match a developing inside game Thompkins has more than made up for his primary weakness—his relative lack of explosiveness—to become one of the top power forwards in the country. Unfortunately that was hidden from most of the country as the Bulldogs were buried on regional coverage as they managed a meager five SEC wins last season. If Leslie learns to translate some of that athleticism into a more complete overall game and Fox is able to get production out of freshman Marcus Thornton and transfer Gerald Robinson, the Bulldogs could be in the second tier of SEC teams this year just being UF and UK, but still in the spotlight enough that we get to see much more of Thompkins. Although you will probably see more of Leslie on ESPN’s highlight reel-laden recaps on television, if you look at the box score you will end up seeing that it is more likely that Thompkins did the majority of the hard work. Now that Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins have left Kentucky, Thompkins should be the top inside player in the SEC (at least until the NCAA figures out what to do with Enes Kanter) and has a chance to contend for SEC Player of the Year.

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20 At The Top: ACC Player Rankings

Posted by zhayes9 on July 9th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

For the entire 20 At The Top series, click here.

Over the next six Fridays this summer, I’ll have the honor of taking you through the top 20 players in each major conference in college basketball. The list is a combination of many factors:  production, expectations, ceiling, skill set, statistics, efficiency, basically anything under the sun that a college basketball fan like myself obsesses over during the dog days of summer. Hopefully healthy debate is opened up in the comments section. Without further ado, here’s my ACC edition:

1) Kyle Singler, Duke — Singler will top many prognosticators’ preseason national player of the year rankings, and his decision to return for a senior campaign at Duke instantly vaulted the Blue Devils to repeat-or-bust expectations. With a more guard-oriented transition attack planned for Duke this season, Singler will only see his scoring opportunities skyrocket and he’ll be the centerpiece of what should be a ferocious offensive attack. He’s a tremendous competitor, can make shots in spurts and will have another full season at the collegiate level to adjust to the small forward position.

2) Harrison Barnes, North Carolina — Barnes seemingly has no flaws on the basketball court and has the potential to make the type of impact Evan Turner had on Ohio State during what will be Barnes’ one and only season in Chapel Hill. He’s the favorite to go #1 overall in the 2011 Draft — a silky smooth shooter with a confident mid-range game and a fantastic attitude/basketball IQ to boot. Barnes will have to deal with the unparalleled expectations of resurrecting one of the premier programs in the sport.

3) Nolan Smith, Duke — Smith has come a long way since being demoted to the bench in favor of Elliot Williams midway through his sophomore season. If anything, Smith will prove even more lethal this season playing alongside Kyrie Irving in a transition attack and Kyle Singler on the wing. He could top 40% with his three-point shooting and is also the type of poised floor leader that Coach K adores. He’s an undersized 2-guard at 6’2, but played the position last year when Jon Scheyer ran the offense and it didn’t seem to deter Duke come March.

4) Kyrie Irving, Duke — Irving is the truest and most refined point guard at his age that scouts have seen in years. The biggest Duke recruit since the Paulus/McRoberts combo entered Durham, Irving immediately has the responsibility of running the offense of the defending national champs. Blessed with innate court vision and basketball IQ, Irving can also score in bunches, thrives in transition and is especially productive in a pick-and-roll game. Think a reincarnation of Jay Williams, although Irving will only be around for one season.

5) Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech — Delaney enters the season as the hands down favorite to win the ACC scoring title. The combo guard is comfortable both slashing to the basket and shooting threes, although we’ve seen his outside shooting numbers plummet the last two seasons in Blacksburg. The main reason Delaney went off for 12 25+ point performances during his junior year is an incredible ability to get to the free throw line (32nd in nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes) where he knocks down 85% of his freebies.

6) C.J. Leslie, NC State — Leslie surprised the college basketball world when he spurned John Calipari and decided to save Sidney Lowe’s job in Raleigh. He instantly becomes the best player on an intriguing Wolfpack squad that will look to climb out of the ACC cellar. Leslie is insanely skilled and loves to run where he can show off his athleticism. The perimeter shot needs work and Leslie tends to lose focus, but Lowe reeled in a special talent with a very high ceiling.

7) Chris Singleton, Florida State — Singleton has all of the physical gifts and athletic ability to dominate and should transition to the next level as a 6’8 small forward with the wingspan to defend power forwards. As for the college game, it remains boom-or-bust for Leonard Hamilton’s most talented and most frustrating player. As a prime example, Singleton sandwiched 22 and 23 point performances with a two point showing during ACC play last season. Free throw shooting and a mid-range game also need improvement.

8) Mason Plumlee, Duke — With Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas moving on, the younger Plumlee brother should have more room to shine as the primary option in a somewhat thin Duke frontcourt. The jury’s out on whether he can match the rebounding and toughness that Zoubek provided, but the athletic spurts that Plumlee showed last season lead me to believe he can become deadly on the boards. He does have considerable development in terms of a low-post offensive game.

9) Tracy Smith, NC State — Smith flew way under the radar last season on a downtrodden NC State team, but should see more publicity this winter with an improved supporting cast. Smith scored in double figures in all but two games during his breakout junior campaign in which he averaged 17/7 as the centerpiece of any opposition’s game plan. Now aided by C.J. Leslie, Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown, Smith has the chance to enter the vernacular of more casual college basketball fans.

10) Tyler Zeller, North Carolina — A near-seven footer with a smooth mid-range jumper, Zeller just needs to stay healthy for a full season to maximize his potential. Extend Zeller’s stats from last season per 35 minutes and he was a near double-double performer. Zeller and incoming frosh Barnes could create some serious matchup problems for ACC competition.

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Daily Diaries: ACC and Atlantic 10 Tournament Finals

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC covered several of the conference tournaments from the sites over the weekend. We had RTC correspondents at the ACC and Atlantic 10 Tournament finals on Sunday; each of them wrapped up the day’s action in these diary submissions.

Atlantic 10 Championship

Temple 56, Richmond 52

  • “It is tough to win both the regular season title and the conference tournament. I have to congratulate Temple on their achievement” said Richmond Coach Chris Mooney to start his last press conference at the 2010 A10 Tournament. His Richmond team had lost to Temple, 56-52, in front of 10,000+ fans at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. The cheers from the arena floor could he heard in the background as the reporters asked Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper to analyze their team’s performance. Richmond came out cold in the first half, missing their first four shots. A dunk by center Darrius Garrett put Richmond on the board, but Temple had already converted three times. Three minutes into the game it was 7-2 Temple, just like the day before, different day and opponent perhaps, but the same start. That was the story of the A10 Championship game. Like their semifinal game with Rhode Island, the Temple Owls scored first and never relinquished the lead. Richmond however was not Rhode Island and the Spiders did not go quietly. The crowd was Temple’s by a 60-40 margin, and when the Spiders came close cutting Temple’s lead to one with 39 seconds left in the game, the Spider faithful came to their feet and gave their team a loud cheer.
  • “Threepeat!” shouted the fans as the Temple team cut down the nets. “It’s the beginning of a dynasty!” a fellow member of the media said as he packed his bags, “They bring back Fernandez, Allen, Eirc and Jefferson. They will own the A10 for at least two more years.” Dynasty talk will have to wait for next season’s previews however, because the talk along press row was whether the game would help Temple’s argument for a #3 (or better) seed.  There is another month to this season, and the growing expectation that this Temple team (and most probably the two other A10 teams who will participate in the NCAAs next week) will play through the first weekend, and possibly into the second weekend.
  • Weather and a leaky roof aside, the A10 Conference Tournament was everything an eastern basketball fan could ask for. Three days of terrific basketball, ten games in all. Throw in an overtime game and two of the last three games decided by six or fewer points and play after play by athletic and skilled basketball players. The work of Kevin Anderson and Juan Fernandez in particular stand out. Anderson put the Richmond team on his back and brought them back against Xavier in the semifinal game. Anderson scored the last four points in regulation to tie the game, and hit the first points in overtime that put Richmond in the lead. Fernandez is a oddity for American audiences. Temple fans remember Pepe Sanchez, an Argentine guard brought over by John Chaney very fondly. Fernandez is about six inches taller and very skilled. In the championship game he called for the ball again and again, taking to the lane or hitting a pull-up jumper, a small lapse at the midpoint of the second half aside, he was composed throughout, chewing on gum, as if to set his internal clock. In the championship game Anderson played 38 minutes and scored 14 points. Fernandez played 38 minutes and scored 18 points: the margin of the game.


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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 1.16.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on January 16th, 2010

WOW.  284 of the 345 Division I college basketball teams are in action on Saturday, and an inordinate number of those games are being broadcast on TV somewhere.  We all know what happened last week — an upset-lover’s dream, with a wave of surprising results that started about halfway through the day and kept rolling through Sunday night.  And then we had the equally compelling performances by Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds on Monday night and the Robbie Hummel/Evan Turner show on Tuesday.  What will this weekend bring?  If you check the schedule, many of these match-ups are pretty intriguing, with quite a few highly-ranked teams heading into the home lairs of some squads that really need wins (Purdue at Northwestern comes to mind, where we’ll be courtside with RTC Live).  There are some excellent early games of which we’ll be keeping track, starting off with an incredible (not to mention VITAL for both teams) A-10 game involving Dayton at Xavier at 11 AM ET.  How about a little bit of #5 Syracuse visiting #9 West Virginia at noon?  Maybe you’d prefer a couple of angry ACC teams coming off of losses with #18 Georgia Tech traveling to Chapel Hill to say howdy to #13 North Carolina at 2 PM ET?  Well, whatever hoops we can find (and as I say, it is everywhere this weekend), we’ll be live-blogging it here for most of the day, not to mention we have two OTHER RTC Lives we have in store in addition to the aforementioned Purdue/Northwestern: Arizona at Oregon at 4:30 PM ET, and Portland at Saint Mary’s at 10 PM ET.  We’ll be here starting at about 11 AM for the first game, so get that refresh-button finger warmed up and join us — and better yet, let us know what you’re watching and what’s on your mind.  See you in a bit!

11:00: So here we go with Dayton at Xavier.  What a rivalry, and what a way to start the day!  This is something like the 4,286th meeting between these two schools (OK, actually 115th, I think).  Both teams are currently undefeated in the A-10, and this one would REALLY look good on the ol’ NCAA Tournament resume’.

11:10: I’m sitting here wondering what sort of high-flying exploits Dayton’s Chris Wright will have on display.  It’s also fun to watch Dayton coach Brian Gregory on the sideline; he’s a high-energy guy, not that Chris Mack’s not.  Gregory is one of those coaches where, if you’re just talking basketball with him, you want to ask him, “Hey, are there some lines I can run for you?  Could I do a couple of miles out on the track?”  In other words, he’s a good motivator.

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ATB: Life On the Road Ain’t Easy

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2010

Playing Away From Home is Tough, Eh?

  • Georgia 73, #17 Georgia Tech 66.  This is why we can’t get on board with this Georgia Tech team just yet.  There’s no excusable reason for a team with Gani Lawal, Derrick Favors, Iman Shumpert and others to lose to a team like Georgia, even in a rivalry game.  Yet the Jackets walked out of Athens with yet another loss, and questions about Paul Hewitt’s coaching abilities continue to be raised.  Georgia got a balanced scoring effort from its starters, with four of its players going for double figures and led by Trey Thompkins’ 20/6, while Tech only had two players reach that mark — Lawal with 21/6 and Zachery Peacock with 16/5.  Thompkins, a sophomore forward who averages 16/8 who almost nobody outside of the SEC has heard of, took over the game with under-four minutes remaining, finishing a three-point play and knocking down a couple more FTs to secure the win.  This is a great win for Mark Fox’s Bulldog program, who won this one in front of a half-empty arena, and signals the rest of the SEC that a trip to Athens isn’t going to be an auto-win this year.  As for Tech, we’re still not sure about this team in the ACC race — they just seem emotionally fragile to us.  Anytime a team punches them in the mouth, as Florida State and Georgia did, they appear all too ready to fold.  They play Duke in Atlanta on Saturday; that’ll be a very interesting test.
  • San Diego State 74, #14 New Mexico 64.  Just another night in the wacky Mountain West.  It’s hard to believe that the same SDSU team that we saw St. Mary’s destroy by about 25 points earlier this year could knock off a top 15 team, but it happened tonight.  Malcolm Thomas had 18/15 to light up the Lobo frontline to help compensate for Bill White’s ankle injury suffered in the first half that knocked him out of the game after only nine minutes of action.  The Aztec defense accounted for itself well also, holding New Mexico to 35% shooting and their two stars (Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez) to 7-26 from the field.  There are arguably four MWC teams that are in the running for an NCAA bid this year, and it wouldn’t be out of the question that all four make it, as their conference profile is trending as the top mid-major league this season.

No Cause For Alarm? #2 Texas 96, Arkansas 85. This was a much closer game than the score indicates, but should it be cause for alarm that Texas seems to be struggling with inferior teams lately (they only beat TAMU-CC by six on Saturday)?  It’s certainly not the offense, as the Longhorns shot 59% from the field tonight and seemingly got whatever they wanted all night long (especially with Dexter Pittman and his 21/10 inside).  But, if anything, the defense has been a little lacking, especially compared to where it was earlier this season.  Two of the team’s worst defensive performances came in the last two games, and you start to wonder if a little complacency is setting in with how easy it was for the Horns earlier this season.  Tonight Pittman was the story.  His monstrous dunk and-one to begin the second half set the tone, and UT thereafter went on a 20-9 run to give themselves some breathing room and hold on to the lead down the stretch when Arkansas made its expected run.  Arkansas’ Rotnei Clarke had 24/3 and Courtney Fortson made his first appearance of the year with 19/3/7 assts, but the Hawgs have the look of a sinking ship this season and we’re not sure that John Pelphrey can do anything to prevent it.  Damion James also added 20/9 for the Longhorns.

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Morning Five: 12.07.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2009


  1. In case you missed it amidst all the football over the weekend, leading NPOY candidate Evan Turner broke two vertebrae in his back when he fell on a dunk attempt and will miss up to eight weeks as he recovers from this injury.  This is unquestionably a huge blow to Ohio State’s Big Ten and national chances this season, as it’s always uncertain how someone will respond both physically and mentally to such a blow.
  2. Georgia Tech sophomore guard Iman Shumpert will miss 3-6 weeks because of surgery on his right knee related to a meniscus tear.  Tech, at 6-1 is off to its best start since 2006, and Shumpert’s 8/5 APG is a big part of that.  Other than a home date against Florida State on 12/20, the schedule is fairly light for the Jackets until after the new year, when road trips to Charlotte, Georgia and a home game against Duke await.   Hopefully Shumpert will be back in action before then.
  3. Did you catch John Wall over the weekend?  Two plays in particular in the first half seemed to represent just how sicknasty this guy can be.  One resulted in a crossover step-through for a full-speed dunk; the other resulted in a ridiculous reverse layup on the break that only he knows how he got to roll in.  Mike DeCourcy called it the collegiate version of the famous Dr. J dunk, while Jeff Goodman believes that the only reason the second half was close was because Wall cramped up for a while.  Fair points, both.  We’d still like to know the real reason(s) why Roy Williams never offered Wall a scholly, though.
  4. Southern Miss head coach Larry Eustachy, not a fan of Rick Stansbury, eh?
  5. South Florida reported to the St. Petersburg Times on Friday that they have no record of inquiry from the NCAA, which disputes a previous report by Fanhouse that the NCAA has opened an investigation into the school based on illegal benefits given to Gus Gilchrist and open practices run by assistant coach Terrelle Woody.
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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: February/March (Part Two)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 27th, 2009


The final two-part edition of our Top 65 games delves into the exciting stretch run of the final five weeks. These highlighted games should have tremendous implications on seeding and conference standings with heated rivals doing battle in the final push towards March Madness. Here’s a preview of what’s guaranteed to be the best slate of games 2009-10 has to offer (top games of November/December, January and the first part of February/March in case you missed them):

February 16- North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (#36 overall)– Many believe Georgia Tech has assembled the talent to play with the supposedly rebuilding reigning champs. Still, UNC should be the favorite to win the ACC and Tech may be right on their heels (no pun intended). Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors make up a frontcourt composed of two possible lottery picks. Iman Shumpert (5.0 APG) returns to bolster the backcourt at the 1 or 2 position while Zach Peacock and Mo Miller provide depth for a Tech squad looking for a late-season impact win.


February 22- West Virginia @ Connecticut (#20 overall)– Whether Stanley Robinson is assigned Da’Sean Butler on the perimeter or Devin Ebanks in the post, Stix is the key for Connecticut this season and in this specific Big East battle. Robinson averaged 14.0 PPG and 9.0 RPG in his final ten contests last year and the UConn coaching staff strongly believes their athletic forward can replicate that success the entire season. He won’t be spending the first half in a sheet metal plant this time around, either.

February 23- Tennessee @ Florida (#62 overall)– The Gators could linger around the bubble this season in a difficult SEC East. Knocking off likely high seed Tennessee at home would send a message to the committee at this late date in the season. It’s imperative Kenny Boynton have an electric shooting game against Tennessee’s shaky defense for the Gators to have a shot. They’ll also need Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons to contain the Tennessee bigs inside and out.

February 24- Purdue @ Minnesota (#32 overall)– A difficult road contest for a Purdue team looking to capture the Big Ten title. Minnesota always plays at a different level defensively at the Barn, meaning this could be a battle of wills in the 50s that sends Big Ten haters screaming in the streets. How Minnesota’s youth, whether it be sophomores Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson or their freshmen Royce White and Rodney Williams, develops into late February should reveal whether the Gophers can pull off this upset.

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Statistical Proof Iman Shumpert is a Gunner

Posted by rtmsf on February 27th, 2009

What really gets us all juiced and lathered up are statistics that appear self-evident only after someone shows you how to figure them.  You know, the kind of thing where we say, “wow, that makes a lot of sense,” and yet, we never thought of it ourselves.  Forest for the trees and all that.

So it was with particular interest that we were alerted to a post made earlier this week by our friends at the Virginia athletics blog, Dear Old UVa.  This post attempted to get to the bottom of the question about whether UVa coach Dave Leitao was properly utilizing his players on the offensive end of the court.  So how would you measure such a thing?  With the help of KenPom’s statistical treasure trove, they were able to cross-tab players’ offensive efficiencies with their percentage of team’s possessions used.  This produced a relatively simple graphical representation of every player in the ACC which quickly shows which players are being utilized properly or improperly (see below).


On the above graph, you can easily see that Jeff Teague and Ish Smith, for example, are being properly used by Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio.  Teague has a very high percentage of possessions used and his offensive efficiency is relatively high.  Smith has a low efficiency and therefore is being used more sparingly on the offensive end.  The graph can also tell you when a player might be over- or under-used.  As an example, Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert has an efficiency in the same ballpark as Ish Smith, yet he uses significantly more possessions for the Jackets – an example of a player who is overused given his skill set at this time.  The converse of course is true for players with high efficiencies but low possession utilization.

We love this stuff, so we’ll try to find some more of this kind of thing as we get closer and closer to the NCAA Tournament.  The data is as rich as it will get this season, so hopefully we’ll be able to do so.

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ATB: Can Anyone Stop Carolina?

Posted by rtmsf on December 4th, 2008


ACC Wins Again. Well, it was closer this year than it has been since 2005, but the ACC won the event for the tenth year in a row, 6-5.  The league of atlantic coast schools are now 62-35 (.639) against its midwestern counterparts in this challenge – can we go back to the ACC/Big East version now?  Oh, and we really couldn’t have made worse picks today if we had tried – we went 1-4, and Wake was our only winner – picking that game correctly was akin to picking the sun to come up tomorrow.  Maybe we’ll stay out of this prediction business for a while.  What we found really interesting was that home court in the two leagues with the most advantageous home environments didn’t seem to matter much – home teams were 5-6 in the Challenge (see below).


Carolina Looks Unstoppable. UNC 98, Michigan St. 63. We hesitate to move into the realm of hyperbole in early December, preferring to leave that to the likes of Vitale with his offerings of UNC “competing with” the Clippers, T-Wolves and Grizzlies (which is patently absurd, btw).  But at least at this point in the 2007-08 season, UNC is well ahead of everyone else in college basketball.  What the Heels did to Michigan St. tonight in its home state could appropriately be described as an absolute dismantling.  Frankly, we’re not sure how the Spartans show their faces in E. Lansing tomorrow, considering the Heels only defeated UCSB by 15 in Santa Barbara and Kentucky by 19 in Chapel Hill.  As good as Carolina was, MSU was utterly moribund.  UNC held the Spartans to 35% shooting from the field, 24% from three, and forced 21 turnovers, many of which directly led to Carolina layups or threes.  Speaking of which, if Ty Lawson is going to play as well as he did tonight – ripping balls out of passing lanes (7 steals) and dropping 25-footers with consistency (twice), then we really can go ahead and pass the championship trophy over to Roy Williams.  And the question of whether Tyler Hansbrough is healthy was put to rest with another workmanlike 25/11 where he was pretty much able to do whatever he wanted inside the lane.  Danny Green was his typical stat-stuffer self (6/5/5 assts), and Ed Davis continues to impress off the bench (10/7 in 17 mins).  As for MSU, the only player that seemed ready to play was Chris Allen, who singlehandedly kept MSU in the game with his long-range shooting in the first half.  The others – Kalin Lucas, Delvon Roe, Marquise Gray – all horrible.  Looking at the schedule, the next  even remote possibility of a team staying within 15 pts of Carolina will be at Wake on January 11th.  As for MSU, this supposed top ten team hasn’t looked anywhere near it thus far this season – can Izzo get it together?

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #3 – ACC

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2008

Zach Smith of Old Gold & Blog and DeaconsIllustrated is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). 

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. North Carolina (28-2, 14-2)
  2. Duke (27-5, 13-3)
  3. Wake Forest (21-8, 11-5)
  4. Miami (20-9, 10-6)
  5. Clemson (20-10, 8-8)
  6. Virginia Tech (18-12, 8-8)
  7. Georgia Tech (17-12, 7-9)
  8. Maryland (17-13, 7-9)
  9. NC State (15-14, 5-11)
  10. Boston College (15-15, 4-12)
  11. Florida State (13-16, 4-12)
  12. Virginia (11-16, 4-12)


WYN2K. The ACC is still the ACC. I know many still long for the return of the days of nine teams (or even eight), but for better or worse a 12-team ACC is here to say, and it’s still plenty enjoyable. It may not be the absolute best conference in 2008-2009, but it’s dang good, and I have a feeling the majority of college basketball fans would still rather watch Duke play North Carolina play than Louisville play UConn. Everyone agrees UNC is the best team in the country (assuming they’ll have Tyler Hansbrough back sooner rather than later) and Duke is right there in the top five with them. With high expectations and lots of potential, Wake Forest is also making appearances in preseason top 25 rankings, and Miami also came in at #17 in the preseason AP poll. Clemson doesn’t appear to be far behind. I expect all five of those teams to make the NCAA Tournament this season, and I will not be surprised if Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Maryland compete for berths as well. If he comes back healthy, Hansbrough (22.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg) is likely to once again be the national player of the year, while Boston College’s Tyrese Rice (21 ppg, 4.9 apg), Miami’s Jack McClinton (17.7 pgg), North Carolina’s Ty Lawson (12.7 ppg, 5.16 apg), and Duke’s Gerald Henderson (12.7 ppg, 31 blocks) are all players to keep an eye on this season. Wake Forest boasts this year’s best recruiting class, led by forward Al-Farouq Aminu, and people will definitely want to keep an eye on Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert as well.

Predicted Champion. This isn’t a difficult choice to make this season. There’s little doubt the North Carolina Tar Heels (NCAA #1) are the best team in the ACC this season, and I think just about everyone will be surprised if they don’t win both the regular season and the tournament. Roy Williams has done an excellent job in his time at Carolina, and with both Tyler Hansborough and Ty Lawson deciding to return for another season, the Tar Heels have all five starters from last season back on the floor. No team in the ACC can match the talent, depth, and experience on this Carolina roster. They play fast and score quickly (88.6 ppg, .488 from the field last season) beat teams by the widest margins in the ACC (+16.1), and have an absurdly high rebounding margin (+11 – the closest team was +5). They also led the ACC in assists per game (16.8) and assist/turnover ratio (1.17). They don’t always play the best defense in the conference, but with their offense they don’t need to. It’s going to take an excellent performance for anyone in the ACC to beat them this season.

Others Considered.  I’d be lying if I said I seriously considered anyone else. North Carolina is just that good. I’m not saying Duke (NCAA #3) isn’t a great team—they are—but I don’t think they’re quite there with Carolina this season. Duke is a pretty clear favorite to be runner-up this season, and for good reason. They return a talented base, including point guard Greg Paulus (11.4 ppg, 3.2 apg), shooting guard Jon Scheyer (11.7 ppg), forward Gerald Henderson, and center Kyle Singler (13.3 pgg, 5.8 rpg). They will also count on strong performances from new starter Lance Thomas, as well as bench contributions from Nolan Smith and freshman Miles Plumlee. They score almost as much as UNC (83.2 ppg), play even better defense (allowing only 69.4 ppg) and lead the conference in turnover margin (+4.8). The Wake Forest (NCAA #5) Demon Deacons get in this discussion based primarily on potential. They didn’t graduate a single impact player, return two of last season’s most talented freshmen in forward James Johnson (14.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and guard Jeff Teague (13.9 ppg, 1.83 steals), and bring in the ACC’s best recruiting class of forward Al-Farouq Aminu and centers Tony Woods and Ty Walker. If Coach Dino Gaudio can maximize the potential in this team then they could really make some noise this season.

Other Likely NCAA Bids.  Miami (NCAA #6) and Clemson (NCAA #12) should both be good enough to make the tournament this year. Jack McClinton (17.7 ppg) is the clear leader of the Miami team – a great shooter who has improved his entire game. Miami relies on a strong defense (second in scoring defense last season at 67.9 ppg) and will do so again this season, hoping to ride that into the NCAA Tournament. Clemson hopes to join them, led by Trevor Brooker who is both a great scorer and rebounder. In the past the Tigers have relied on a speedy trapping defense that creates lots of turnovers, but much of the talent that made that style of play work in the past is gone this season. They’ll need Brooker and KC Rivers to step up and put points on the board this season. Virginia Tech (NIT) and Georgia Tech (NIT) are likely bubble teams this season. VT only lost one starter from last year’s squad and returns lots of young talent, including AD Vasallo and Jeff Allen. Georgia Tech lost a lot from last year’s team but brings back some young talent in a good recruiting class. Maryland (NIT) lost a great frontcourt and will rely on Greivis Vasquez to lead them to a potential NIT birth.

The Rest.  NC State, Boston College, Florida State and Virginia are all likely to be staying home in March, although it is certainly possible for one or two to surprise and make some kind of noise this season and maybe grab an NIT birth. NC State lost its top three players from a season ago and will need lots of guys to step up this year. Boston College boasts a great player in Tyrese Rice, but lacks anyone to support him and I don’t see who could step up and really fill that role. Florida State loses as much as NC State did, if not more, and probably has even less talent that could step up. Virginia, like these other teams, lost its top three players from last season and another to injury. For now, everything is on Mamadi Diane’s shoulders and the prospects for this season are grim.

RPI Boosters.

  • Kentucky @ North Carolina – ESPN 9:00  (11.18.09)
  • Ohio State @ Miami – ESPN 7:00 ACC/B10 Challenge  (12.02.08)
  • Duke @ Purdue – ESPN 9:15  ACC/B10 Challenge  (12.02.08)
  • Indiana @ Wake Forest – ESPN 7:00  ACC/B10 Challenge  (12.03.08)
  • North Carolina @ Michigan State – ESPN 9:15  ACC/B10 Challenge  (12.03.08)
  • NC State @ Davidson – FSN 12:00  (12.06.08)
  • Miami @ Kentucky – ESPN 5:30  (12.06.08)
  • Duke @ Xavier – CBS 2:00  (12.20.08)
  • Davidson @ Duke – ESPN 7:00  (01.07.09)
  • Georgetown @ Duke – CBS 1:30  (01.16.09)

Preseason Tourneys.

  • North Carolina – Maui Invitational
  • Duke – Coaches Versus Cancer
  • Boston College – Preseason NIT
  • Virginia Tech – Puerto Rico Tip Off
  • Miami – Paradise Jam
  • Wake Forest – 76 Classic
  • Maryland – Old Spice Classic
  • Florida State – Las Vegas Invitational

The preseason/Thanksgiving tournaments should provide some good early challenges for these ACC teams, and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge usually provides some entertainment as well. Just about everyone has a couple of significant OOC games, and for some of the bubble teams these could be the RPI boosters they need to make a push into the NCAA Tournament.

Key Games.  I’ve heard it said that every game is a big game in the ACC, and in many ways this is true. Obviously, though, some are bigger than others so let’s take a look:

  • Clemson @ Miami – FSN 7:45  (12.21.08)
  • North Carolina @ Wake Forest – FSN 8:00  (01.11.09)
  • Duke @ Georgia Tech – ESPN 7:00  (01.14.09)
  • Miami @ North Carolina – ESPN 9:00  (01.17.09)
  • Virginia Tech @ Wake Forest – ESPN2 7:00  (01.21.09)
  • Duke @ Clemson – ESPN 9:00  (02.03.09)
  • North Carolina @ Virginia Tech – ESPN 7:00  (03.04.09)
  • Duke @ North Carolina – CBS 4:00  (03.11.09)

As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s really difficult to just pick a handful of important ACC games, but these represent a smattering of some of the best teams and contenders playing each other. I promise, there will plenty of important and exciting games in the ACC all season long.

Did You Know. Tyler Hansbrough is the first AP National Player of the Year to return for another season since Shaquille O’Neal did it at LSU after winning the award in 1991. Pretty impressive, but maybe more surprising is that O’Neal returned – I’d be curious to know why he did. Also interesting, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski actually led a team to a gold medal for the second time over the summer. He had also been an assistant coach on the 1992 Dream Team. Unfortunately for him, coaches aren’t actually awarded medals, only players.

65 Team Era.  By nearly every objective measure, the ACC has been the best league of the last quarter-century: the best overall NCAA record (234-116, .669), the most #1 seeds (21), the most titles (6), the most F4s (22) and the most S16s (63).  These numbers are all driven by the fact that UNC and Duke have arguably been two of the top several programs in the nation during this time period.  What if we removed these two from consideration – how would the ACC compare?  After removing 130 wins, 19 #1 seeds, 5 titles, 18 F4s and 33 S16s, you’re left with a conference that would look a lot like the Atlantic 10 or CUSA in its best years.  It’s pretty amazing just how dominant those two programs have been over the years, and will continue to be. 

Final Thoughts.  It’s going to be another fun year in the ACC this season. I grew up outside ACC country, but having been here for several years now I can honestly say there’s nothing quite like it. I was skeptical at first, but I’ve been convinced. I’m looking forward to another great season. The top tier of teams is excellent, and the conference has enough depth to be exciting from nearly top to bottom. Despite North Carolina’s unanimity at the top, I don’t believe it is impossible for someone else to knock them off. Duke could certainly do it, as could anyone else in that next tier of teams. It will also be interesting to see how Tyler Hansbrough’s injury affects the Tar Heels and the ACC as a whole.

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