ACC M5: Who’s Been a Turkey Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 26th, 2014

morning5_ACC

Here’s a look at some of the most disappointing performances so far by ACC teams.

  1. Clemson: The Tigers already have two bad losses on their resume. First came a 77-74 home loss to Winthrop on Monday, November 17, and then Clemson suffered an unimpressive 72-70 defeat at the hands of Gardner Webb, this past Friday in the opening round of the Paradise Jam Tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The shocking thing about both losses is that we expected Brad Brownell’s Tigers to struggle on offense and be stingy as always on the defensive end, but that was not the case in either game. In fact, Clemson shot over 48 percent from the field in both contests but surprisingly allowed over 70 points to two offenses that kenpom currently has ranked #194 (Gardner Webb) and #244 (Winthrop). In the two games combined, Clemson gave up 20 made three-point baskets, allowed 24 offensive rebounds, and only forced 14 turnovers. It should be noted that the Tigers did respond to these losses with back-to-back wins over Nevada and LSU in the Paradise Jam, but those bad losses will stick with them (and the ACC) all season long.
  2. Florida State: Picked by most to finish in the upper-middle part of the ACC, Leonard Hamilton’s squad has been a huge disappointment so far by dropping three of its first four games. All of the defeats are to teams ranked in kenpom’s top-75, so looked upon individually, no loss is considered terrible, but in two of them the circumstances are troubling. First of all, a mid-level ACC team should not lose at home to any team from the Colonial Athletic Conference, but that’s exactly what happened as Northeastern edged the Seminoles, 76-73 in Tallahassee last Tuesday. Then Florida State dropped back-to-back games over the weekend at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in Uncasville, Connecticut. Providence destroyed them, 80-54 on Saturday by scoring at will (1.26 points per possession) on the normally stout Seminoles’ defense. That’s the second worst defensive performance by Florida State since the 2007-08 season. Sunday’s 75-69 loss to Massachusetts was much more competitive, especially considering that star guard Aaron Thomas missed the second half after being rushed to the hospital for apparent dehydration due to an illness. This isn’t the first time that Florida State has struggled during the early nonconference part of the season, and often they are able to turn things around in conference play and contend for a bid to the NCAA tournament. However if the Seminoles drop many more games before January, they may be in too big a hole to dig out of in the newly improved ACC.
  3. Pittsburgh: In a game that went largely unnoticed, Pittsburgh took a tough 74-70 loss at Hawaii, last Friday night. It was the first of four games in Maui for the Panthers as they are now competing in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Perhaps due to jet lag, Pitt allowed the Rainbow Warriors to connect on 53 percent of their field goals. The defense didn’t get much better though in Monday’s 81-68 win over Chaminade, as the Division II Silverswords also topped the 50 percent mark from the field. The Panthers won because they were able to dominate the glass by a huge +34 rebound margin, which included 27 offensive boards for Pitt. Even before this trip, Pittsburgh was not very impressive in a seven point win over Samford, currently ranked #306 in kenpom. Jaime Dixon’s squad still has a chance to right the ship before returning stateside, but at least thus far, Pittsburgh’s reputation as a tough team to score against looks to be in jeopardy this season.
  4. Virginia Tech: We hesitate to include the Hokies here, since Buzz Williams’ team was not expected to be very good, especially early in the season. But when an ACC school loses on it’s home floor to the 312th ranked team in the country, they don’t deserve a pass. Appalachian State went in to Blacksburg this past Saturday afternoon and beat Virginia Tech, 65-63. The Hokies shot better than Appalachian State from the field and held a +4 edge in turnovers, but couldn’t overcome a shocking rebound deficit of -15. The Mountaineers turned 19 offensive boards into 23 second chance points, while Virginia Tech only scored five from its eight offensive rebounds. Certainly that does not bode well for the Hokies, when stronger ACC frontlines come to town.
  5. Wake Forest: The Deacons have two early losses that are pretty bad, but for different reasons. Last Wednesday, Wake Forest got hammered at Arkansas, 83-53 and followed that by falling at home to Iona on Friday night, by a score of 85-81. While no one expected the Deacons to roll into Fayetteville, Arkansas, and beat a team expected to finish near the top of the SEC, the 30-point margin was disappointing. Even though Iona is a good team and the preseason favorite in the MAAC, and Wake Forest had a quick turnaround following the trip to Arkansas, Danny Manning wasn’t happy with how his team responded in terms of early effort. The new Deacon head coach also wasn’t pleased with himself for calling a timeout that he didn’t have, with Iona up by two and 23.1 seconds left. The Gaels made 2-of-4 subsequent free throws to ice the game. In a recent blog, longtime Wake Forest beat writer Dan Collins discussed how Manning is drawing a line in the sand, regarding the effort level of all his players, including supposed stars Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre. We will soon see if that message is getting results, as the Deacons get an early ACC road game, at N.C. State next Saturday, December 6.
Share this story

ACC Preview: Pittsburgh’s Burning Question

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

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

Can Pittsburgh overcome key personnel losses and injuries to compete with the ACC’s big boys?

Last year was Pittsburgh’s first season in the ACC, and the Panthers came out of the gate like gangbusters, winning 18 of their first 20 games and starting conference play with a 6-1 record. Then things headed south as Jamie Dixon’s squad limped home, finishing fifth in the league with an 11-7 mark. There was even some talk that Pittsburgh was on the bubble before they won two games in the ACC Tournament to secure an NCAA bid. Now the Panthers are ready for a second go-round in an improved ACC, but without the services of last year’s two best players, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna.

Jamie Dixon's Team Was Beyond Impressive on Thursday Afternoon (US Presswire)

Jamie Dixon’s Team Has Already Suffered Some Key Injuries in the Preseason (US Presswire)

The explanation for last year’s dropoff midway through the ACC season was twofold. The primary reason was a series of injuries that ran through the squad like a mini-epidemic. Durand Johnson was Pitt’s third-leading scorer when he tore his ACL in a January win over Wake Forest, immediately ending his season. While his was the only major injury, the team was soon beset by nagging ailments that seemed to hit at the same time. Patterson was mentioned as a possible ACC Player of the Year candidate before a hand injury caused the senior to lose his shooting touch. Zanna played through a severe ankle sprain, but the injury zapped him of his explosiveness and caused the Panthers staples — interior defense and rebounding — to suffer immensely. Others that played hurt were freshmen Michael Young (back) and Chris Jones (thumb). The second problem was that the schedule got tougher after that excellent ACC start, and the Panthers subsequently went 0-5 against the ACC’s top four teams. That issue, combined with an extremely weak non-conference slate (278th nationally), is what put Pitt in the position of needing quality wins in Greensboro to ensure a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers got that cherished victory when they barely held off North Carolina in the ACC quarterfinals. Can Dixon’s squad avoid the same scenario this season?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 11.05.14 Exhibition Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 5th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Pittsburgh: On Halloween night, Pittsburgh tipped off its preseason with a 72-58 exhibition win over Division II Indiana (PA) at the Petersen Events Center, and sophomore forward Michael Young looks like he may be ready for a breakout year. Most people don’t know that Young played through pain for much of the latter part of his freshman campaign after suffering a small stress fracture in his back. In his postgame comments, Jamie Dixon seemed optimistic about the potential of a healthy Young and his other big men, assuming they improve their defense.
  2. Louisville: Louisville relied on its pressure defense to top Barry, 91-71, on Saturday afternoon in the KFC Yum! Center, and afterward Rick Pitino discussed his team’s progress in this postgame video. Specifically, he credited the Division II Buccaneers with exposing a major rebounding problem on his squad, as the Cardinals gave up an astounding 29 offensive boards. Of course, part of the reason there were so many second chance opportunities for Barry was that Louisville held Barry to 33.3 percent field-goal shooting. Still, in order to get out in transition the way Pitino wants his team to run, the Cards must shore up that clear flaw on the defensive boards.
  3. Notre Dame: In another Saturday exhibition, Notre Dame used a balanced attack to best Minnesota-Duluth, 88-71, at the Joyce Center. Mike Brey was encouraged by the performances of his point guard, Demetrius Jackson, and big man, Zach Auguste. With established senior leaders Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton manning the wing, the play of Jackson and Auguste could be the difference as the Irish try to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully, Auguste will shoot better from the foul line than the 3-for-9 performance he delivered in this contest, but based on last year’s foul shooting mark (48%), this may not be a solvable problem for the junior.
  4. Syracuse: Coming off a rough week dealing with the NCAA Infractions Committee, Syracuse almost had an equally alarming start this week. The Orange needed to rally from a 15-point deficit to overtake traditional Canadian college basketball power, Carleton, by a score of 76-68. Freshman Kaleb Joseph will be in the spotlight this year, taking over the point guard job from Tyler Ennis. The good news is that the rookie showed gerat promise, leading the team to the win with 19 points. A couple of concerns for the Orange, though, were their huge deficit in total rebounds (45-31) and poor shooting (0-6 FG) by Trevor Cooney.
  5. Duke: On Tuesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke rolled Livingstone in its first exhibition game of the year, 115-58. The much ballyhooed freshmen class performed well, with three of the group scoring in double-figures and the fourth, Tyus Jones, handing out 11 assists. A surprise starter this year apparently will be Matt Jones. Most pundits expected either senior Quinn Cook or junior Rasheed Sulaimon, or perhaps even both, to be starters when this season got under way, but the veteran guards came off the bench in this contest. On the other hand, the sophomore Jones helped his cause, burying 5-of-8 three-point attempts after only making 3-of-21 during his entire freshman year. The Blue Devils should face a tougher test in Saturday’s second and final exhibition game, when they take on defending NCAA Division II national champion Central Missouri.
Share this story

ACC Teams Struggling to Adapt to Styles of New Programs

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on January 16th, 2014

Much was made of the three former Big East teams entering the league this season and having to adapt to the ACC’s style of play. This notion was supported by the simple fact of sheer numbers; the returning ACC teams would number 12 teams while the Big East was sending over only three units. What did not get enough preseason attention was how the ACC as a whole would adapt to the very different styles of play of the three incoming teams, all quite successful programs in their own rights. Notre Dame under head coach Mike Brey is known for its selfless team basketball, execution, cutting and the extra pass, while developing a litany of elite low post big men like Luke Harangody, Jack Cooley, and now Garrick Sherman. While the Irish lost its best player in Jerian Grant for the year, their style of play was on display and ultimately decided the outcome in a statement win against Duke.

Pitt's James Robinson is a large reason they are 16-1 (Photo: pittsburghpanthers.com)

Pitt’s James Robinson is a large reason the Panthers are 16-1 (Photo: pittsburghpanthers.com)

Syracuse’s famous 2-3 zone has helped in establishing itself as one of the best teams in the nation and has put the Orange among a group of three unbeaten teams remaining. Their defense has flummoxed ACC opponents to the tune of allowing only 50.0 PPG to ACC foes through their first four games. They clearly have taken charge and dominated the tempo in their outings, most recently holding UNC a full 30 points below its season average of 75.6 PPG. While it remains early in the ACC race, so far it seems obvious that both Syracuse and Pittsburgh have been forcing their own tempo and style of play on their opponents and not vice versa. Jamie Dixon’s Panthers are known for their toughness and gritty play, both of which were evident in their recent 12-point road victory over N.C. State. Famed ESPN analyst Dick Vitale confirmed this theory and perception when he noted: “There are certain programs that get certain labels that help them big-time psychologically… the mindset is where you’re at a negative before you ever start playing, and I think Pittsburgh has that, that label of being tough.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pittsburgh’s Toughness Leads To Big Comeback Win Over N.C. State

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 4th, 2014

Back in October at ACC Operation Basketball, Pittsburgh Head Coach Jaime Dixon sounded as though he had something of a chip on his shoulder. It was as if he wanted the ACC media to know that moving from the Big East to the ACC was not a move up in competition for Pittsburgh. He had good reason to think that way, with the Big East rated higher than the ACC in nearly ever conference metric over the last several seasons, and with Pitt the winningest team in the Big East over the last dozen years. Plus, all the talk about this year’s ACC being the greatest basketball conference ever was based on the power of the schools it was bringing in from the old Big East.

The Pitt Panthers Surround N.C. State's Anthony Barber During 74-62 Pitt Win. (Photo: Ethan Hyman, www.newsobserver.com)

The Pitt Panthers Surround N.C. State’s Anthony Barber During 74-62 Pitt Win.
(Photo: Ethan Hyman, www.newsobserver.com)

Dixon must have been wondering if perhaps he had been mistaken when he witnessed his team down 17-2 after the first six minutes against N.C. State in Raleigh Saturday afternoon. But the veteran Panthers came roaring back, cutting the deficit to eight at halftime before dominating the second half on the way to a 74-62 win. Leading the way were seniors Lamar Patterson (22/8) and Talib Zanna (15/9). In particular, Patterson had an outstanding second half, with 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists after the intermission. Here are some takeaways for each team after their first game of ACC play.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 10.09.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 9th, 2012

  1. CBS Sports rolled out a few major parts of its college basketball season preview yesterday, including the “expert” picks for this season and Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish’s picks for preseason All-American honors. Goodman, Parrish, and Jeff Borzello picked Louisville to win the Big East this year, with Matt Norlander and newcomer Doug Gottlieb choosing Syracuse. The Cardinals also proved to be a popular Final Four pick, with Goodman choosing the Cards as his preseason national champion.  Bob Huggins also makes a cameo as Goodman’s coach of the year pick. The All-American picks were less Big East-friendly; only Georgetown forward Otto Porter cracked the four teams listed, with a fourth team selection alongside Kansas block artist Jeff Withey and Lehigh’s Duke-killer C.J. McCollum.  Pittsburgh freshman Steven Adams cracked the All-Freshman second team. The Kiwi center is expected to man the middle for the Panthers, and help prevent a second straight disappointing season for Pittsburgh in its final Big East campaign.  These lists include a number of incoming blue-chip freshmen and mid-major superstars, while the Big East has a number of consistent contributors aiming for breakout seasons.  It will be interesting to see if the conference is better represented on these lists come March.
  2. Hopefully for Pitt, Adams’ signing turns out to be worth the effort, because it put a lot of stress on head coach Jamie Dixon. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dixon suffered a pulmonary embolism after one of the 16-hour flights from Wellington, New Zealand, and was hospitalized after he discovered he was having difficulty breathing.  The article goes on to describe Adams’ unique story, one that I’m sure will spread quickly if the seven-footer helps the Panthers make it back to the top of the Big East and into the NCAA Tournament in 2013.
  3. In yesterday’s ‘5’, we told you about Georgetown’s new athletic training facility, which is set to break ground in the “very near future.” Well, Connecticut is following suit in upgrading their facilities… the school just doesn’t want people to know how it’s doing it.  According to Boston.comHusky sponsor Webster Bank will be footing some of the bill for these new facilities, but the university declines to disclose various other financial agreements, like the one with Webster, as well as the identities of many private donors. The legal matters involved in situations like this are not nearly as fun as the basketball implications (unless you’re into that sort of thing), so my biggest takeaway from this situation is that UConn is moving swiftly to stabilize its program as a national contender in the post-Calhoun era. We’ve seen other Big East programs get major boosts from upgraded facilities recently, like Syracuse with it’s Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center and Louisville with the Yum! Center, as well as Kentucky who just opened some ritzy new basketball-focused dorms. Nailing down the coaching situation, whether that’s Kevin Ollie or someone else, is important, but new practice facilities should definitely help UConn sell itself on the recruiting trail going forward.
  4. Those of you in the Mid-Atlantic region will be able to catch quite a few Georgetown (and Big East) basketball games on MASN this season.  The Big East slate here includes the Hoyas’ trips to Marquette, South Florida, and Rutgers, as well as home games against Providence, Seton Hall, and DePaul. In my experience, there are few things worse than trying to find a way to watch your team’s less marquee match-ups on television, so I fully support any agreement that will get more league basketball on TV. If we’re being honest, the real winners here are the DMV-area Western Carolina fans who will be able to catch their December 10 bout with the Hoyas.
  5. Former St. John’s guard Nurideen Lindsey‘s hardship waiver was granted by the NCAA this weekend, and the feisty guard will be able to open the season with his new team Rider this season.   The 6’3″ Lindsey was very impressive in his short, nine-game St. John’s career, during which he averaged 12.4 and 2.8 assists per game. In his debut against William and Mary, for example, Lindsey scored a season high 19 points and added four assists. Later in the year, he added 18 points and two assists in an 81-72 loss to then-#16 Arizona. Lindsey and the Broncos open their season at home against Robert Morris on November 9.
Share this story