Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2010

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After weeks and weeks of mediocre matchups, we have FINALLY been rewarded with a big week of games to talk about. So let’s get right to it.

(Plus, my prognostication got off to a great start – just call me Joe Lunardi. Wait, I’m not that nerdy.)

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Tuesday, Jan. 12)

1. Duke (13-2, 1-1)

PAST: The Blue Devils stay atop our rankings, despite the “upset” loss at Georgia Tech (if I see one more person call it an upset – I’m looking at you, ESPN, with your “Upset Alert” – I’m gonna scream). Duke lost to a very good team and in a very tough venue. They showed a few chinks in the armor – namely their lack of any sort of depth – but it was not enough to cost them the top spot here.

FUTURE: Two home games this week – Wednesday against Boston College and Saturday against Wake Forest. Guess which one will be the bigger test?

2. North Carolina (12-4, 1-0)

PAST: We didn’t really have time here last week to talk about the loss at Charleston. Is it one that would bother me if I were a UNC fan? Yes. Would I get hung up on it? Absolutely not. Any time a team like UNC takes a non-traditional road trip like that, the home team and its fans prepare for the biggest game ever on campus. With the players and fans amped up, it’s a tough test for even the best teams. As for Sunday’s win over Virginia Tech? It proved just how experienced and talented teams respond to tough losses.

FUTURE: The Heels face the toughest week of anyone in the league, traveling to Clemson on Wednesday and hosting Georgia Tech on Saturday. If UNC and Duke both go 2-0 this week, we might have a close race atop the rankings.

3. Georgia Tech (12-3, 1-1)

PAST: If the Yellow Jackets had not lost at Georgia, they might have leapt over UNC this week. But Saturday’s win over Duke was enough to make Tech fans forget about that in-state loss. Gani Lawal is emerging as an all-around force, not only scoring 21 points, but also dominating the vaunted Duke frontcourt in the second half, as Georgia Tech out-boarded the Devils 26-12.

FUTURE: After a semi-trap game Wednesday at Virginia, Tech heads to Chapel Hill Saturday for what is easily the ACC game of the week.

4. Wake Forest (11-3, 1-1)

PAST: This is where this gets interesting. I debated bumping Wake down after a one-point loss at Miami, but I’ve never been one to overreact too much to one game, and Wake’s three losses are Purdue, William & Mary and now Miami. They’re on shaky ground here, but I still have faith in the Deacons.

FUTURE: Wake hosts Maryland Tuesday and heads to Duke on Sunday.

5. Miami (15-1, 1-1)

PAST: The Miami win over Wake may not have cost the Deacons a spot, but it bumped the Hurricanes up a few places. Yes, their schedule still stinks, but the Hurricanes proved they can share the court with a real Division I team. Dwayne Collins led the way on Saturday, with 23 and 11, as Miami continued its best start in half a century. But as the schedule proves, that’s all relative.

FUTURE: The ’Canes travel through Virginia this week, facing Virginia Tech on Wednesday and Virginia on Saturday. Both will be tough games, but if Miami wants to be taken seriously in the ACC, they need to win both.

6. Clemson (13-3, 1-1)

PAST: The win over Boston College isn’t enough to bump Clemson up one spot – but everyone else at this mid-level faltered this week, so this was really a process of elimination.

FUTURE: Clemson hosts UNC Wednesday and heads to N.C. State on Saturday.

7. Virginia Tech (12-2, 0-1)

PAST: Yes, I know the Hokies didn’t post a win this week – losing their only game, at North Carolina. But compared to the rest of the middle-ground, I still find the most promise in Blacksburg. Last week, I said I wanted to see how the Hokies fared with a healthy Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson in the lineup. The pair combined for 40 points, but the Hokies let things get away from them in the second half against UNC. Nothing to be ashamed about, especially in Chapel Hill.

FUTURE: The Hokies host Miami Wednesday and head to Florida State Saturday.

8. Florida State (13-3, 1-1)

PAST: In their only game this week, Florida State lost at Maryland. So far, it looks like the same old FSU team: one that struggles away from Tallahassee, and loses to mediocre/good teams.

FUTURE: The Seminoles host N.C. State Tuesday and Virginia Tech Saturday. At least they’re at home.

9. Virginia (9-4, 1-0)

PAST: The Cavaliers posted a very nice comeback win at N.C. State, thanks largely to 23 points from Sylven Landesberg. Virginia is tough to figure out so far, but we should learn more this week…

FUTURE: …with home games vs. Georgia Tech (Wednesday) and Miami (Saturday). A split would be really nice for the Cavaliers, methinks.

10. Maryland (10-4, 1-0)

PAST: A one-spot jump for Greivis Vasquez and Co. after a strong (how strong is to be debated) win over Florida State at home. Maryland nearly let a big lead slip away in that one, and won’t have much time to recover…

FUTURE: … before a Tuesday trip to Wake Forest. They also play at Boston College on Saturday. The Terps desperately need two wins to move up to where I think they belong in these rankings.

11. N.C. State (11-5, 0-2)

PAST: I really do feel for the Wolf Pack. They seem to have some talent, but they keep losing heartbreakers. Now, with a home loss to Virginia, you can add losses they really shouldn’t suffer at all.

FUTURE: The Pack heads to Florida State Tuesday and hosts Clemson Saturday.

12. Boston College (10-6, 1-1)

PAST: The Eagles were never really in it in a 16-point loss at Clemson.

FUTURE: Wednesday’s game at Duke could be ugly. Saturday’s home game against Maryland shouldn’t be close either, but moody Maryland might play down to its competition again.

WEEK THAT WAS…

GANI TIME, GANI-WHERE: Derrick Favors may have gotten all the preseason hype, but try to watch a Georgia Tech game and tell me that Gani Lawal isn’t the most impressive player on the floor. My DVR flamed out for most of the Duke-Georgia Tech game (blame the wife, I was away for the weekend), but I did catch the last 10 minutes or so. And Lawal seemed to have his way with the Duke frontcourt. Sure, Duke missed 22 of its 28 3-pointers, which didn’t help its cause, but with Lawal dominating like this and Favors growing up with each game, Georgia Tech can only get better.

HOW TO TREAT MIAMI?: The Hurricanes are an impressive 15-1, but nearly all of those 15 wins are against the hyphens and ampersands of the world (UNC-Wilmington, USC-Upstate, North Carolina A&T ). This week’s win over Wake Forest was a good place to start, and players like Dwayne Collins, Malcolm Grant and James Dews are talented enough to keep up in the ACC. But no one will believe in the Hurricanes unless they can win some tough ACC games – and do it on the road.

CRYSTAL BALL TIME…

I went 3-for-5 in my first week, including the Georgia Tech “upset.” From here on in, we’ll keep track of overall win/loss record. And if you want to join in, just add on your predictions to my five games of the week.

LAST WEEK’S CORRECT PICKS

DUKE AT GEORGIA TECH

  • My prediction: Georgia Tech by 2
  • Actual result: Georgia Tech by 4

FLORIDA STATE at MARYLAND

  • My prediction: Maryland by 5
  • Actual result: Maryland by 9

VIRGINIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA

  • My prediction: North Carolina by 10
  • Actual result: North Carolina by 14

LAST WEEK’S INCORRECT PICKS

VIRGINIA at N.C. STATE

  • My prediction: N.C. State by 4.
  • Actual result: Virginia by 8

WAKE FOREST at MIAMI

  • My prediction: Wake Forest by 8
  • Actual result: Miami by 1

THIS WEEK’S PREDICTIONS

MARYLAND at WAKE FOREST (Tuesday, 8 p.m., RAYCOM).  Wake Forest rebounds, and Maryland stays moody: Wake Forest by 9

MIAMI at VIRGINIA TECH (Wednesday, 7 p.m.).  Miami realizes what it’s like to play a tough road game, and falls hard: Virginia Tech by 10

NORTH CAROLINA at CLEMSON (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN).  The toughest game to pick of the week. I see UNC eking one out on the road: UNC by 3

GEORGIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN).  My upset of the week comes as the Heels come home from Clemson: Georgia Tech by 2

WAKE FOREST at DUKE (Sunday, 8 p.m., FSN).  Duke finds its 3-point stroke, and its frontcourt scoring: Duke by 6

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Dynamic Duos in Search of a Third Wheel

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2009

John Stevens is featured columnist for RTC.  His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season. 

Ask any college basketball coach what a team needs to succeed in March and you’ll get a variety of answers — solid point guard play, a big inside threat, conditioning, luck, a guarantee that John Stevens will NOT bet on you – all popular answers.  A “go-to” guy is also a popular response, but I think history has shown that simply one standout player will not prove sufficient.  These days you have to have a balanced squad in addition to having at least two players you can call actual “go-to” guys.  A viable third option can have you breathing rarified air, indeed.  This season has proven incredibly interesting in that we have a lot of teams that are being seemingly led — whose very identities are made — by a couple of standout players.  In addition, if these teams that are led by Dynamic Duos see a helpful third option emerge — watch out.  There’s at least one of these teams in each of the major conferences, so let’s take a look at them.


 
ACC — Miami (FL)
 
True, the Hurricanes’ schedule is a little bland, but you can’t ignore a team with tough wins both at Kentucky and at Boston College.  Jack McClinton (16.9/2.8/3.1) and Dwayne Collins (12.1/7.8/1.3) have propelled this Miami team that has eleven guys who average at least 10 minutes a game which means that they have many options in terms of developing that third option.  Cyrus McGowan is an efficient player who provides 7.2/6.1 and he does it averaging 5 minutes less than the other significant scorers on that team, but the most likely candidate here to step up as the third option is James Dews, who averages 9.2/2.7 but upped his game in those big wins above against UK and BC by contributing 18 and 12, respectively.  You gotta give props to a guy who elevates himself in the big games.


 
Big 12 — Missouri
 
On their way to a 13-3 record so far, Missouri hasn’t exactly been sleeping on the job schedule-wise, tallying wins against USC and a surprising California side and losing a tough one to Xavier.  To that end, DeMarre Carroll (16.1/6.6) and Leo Lyons (14.6/6.2) have been a true Dynamic Duo for the Tigers because after that the production falls off to Matt Lawrence (9.6/2.3), especially in terms of rebounding (note: of course, Lyons needs to get this recent traffic thing sorted out).  Along with J.T. Tiller, Lawrence represents the most likely candidate to be the next option; Tiller averages the third most minutes on the team but Lawrence is actually more productive despite playing 4 fewer minutes per game.

I bet Demarre can beat me at curls. (photo credit: kansan.com)

Big East — Notre Dame
 
I know I don’t have to tell you about Luke Harangody; despite the special player he is I personally find more excitement watching Kyle McAlarney (16.6/2.6/3.4) because the man just has locker-room range.  Seriously, he’d shoot from his dorm room if they’d let him.  And even then you better get a guy on him.  ND might not seem like a Dynamic Duo-led team because they have two other starters — Tory Jackson and Ryan Ayers — averaging over 30 minutes a game (Jackson actually plays more than Harangody, by the numbers), but the offensive dropoff is certainly evident after McAlarney and the team is defined by those top two fellows.  Jackson is the obvious third option candidate, here; he puts together a good floor game on the whole (4.6 rpg/5.9 apg/1.5 spg).  It’s not like he doesn’t do enough, but if he became even more of a third scoring option to take even just a little of the heat off of the Harangody/McAlarney exacta, Notre Dame will become an even bigger Final Four threat come March.


 
Big Ten — Michigan State
 
People still seem to be defining the Fighting Izzos by that rectal-exam-with-an-audience that UNC gave them a while back.  This is a mistake.  Raymar Morgan (15.1/7.1) and Kalin Lucas (13.9/5.9 apg) have been the Dynamic Duo for Sparty so far, as everyone knows, but these guys have reeled off nine straight since getting tuned-up by the Tar Heels and they basically have their third option back, now, in the form of Goran Suton, already averaging 9.2/6.8 in only nine games back.  This will likely continue to rise.  It makes Michigan State a team you cannot ignore as we enter the second half of the season.  They’ve obviously put the North Carolina game behind them.  Everyone else should, too.
 
Pac-10 — Arizona State
 
We all know James Harden (23.1/5.8/4.7) and we’re getting to know Jeff Pendergraph (13.6/7.1).  After that, the offensive production and glasswork drops off a little to Richard Kuksiks (10.9/3.6), the apparent choice for presumed third option, here.  He’s up to playing even more minutes than Pendergraph on the average, and he’s shooting a pretty tasty 53% from 3-point range.  I am, however, going to anoint Derek Glasser as the best option for third-man-in; he’s only contributing 6.4 points (fifth on the team) but he’s a great distributor of the ball (5.3 apg, leads team), has shown a tendency to come up with a timely pilfer, and is darn reliable at the line (81.1%, second on team) — all important qualities during tournament time.  Even the slightest increase in his point production would make ASU even more dangerous than they already are.
 
SEC — Kentucky
 
The textbook Dynamic Duo team.  Probably not a better example in all of college basketball this season.  We’re not even going to talk about Jodie Meeks’ (24.2/3.4, 90.1% FT) legendary performance last night and Patrick Patterson (18.9/9.3) is creeping up every online NBA mock draft, a bittersweet fact for Wildcat fans.  After that, the offensive production falls all the way down to Perry Stevenson at 7.1ppg.  Heck, Patterson is actually third on the team in assists (2.6).  As far as possibilities for third-option status, with this team that’s a tough question.  They are absolutely loaded with pure, talented athletes, but UK followers have waited all year for a third player to assert himself.  Still hasn’t happened.  It has to for this team, because Meeks can’t score 54 every night and there will probably be more than one night where Meeks goes cold and Patterson is well-defended (or vice-versa).  My choice for third option for this team is DeAndre Liggins, the team’s assist leader at only 3.6 apg.  If he can cut down on freshman mistakes and provide even a small increase in his point production, Kentucky will be formidable — and that means this year, not next year.  Without a third option, Selection Sunday might get a little tense for this Kentucky team.


 
It will be especially interesting to see if Miami (FL), Missouri, and Kentucky eventually see a third player emerge for them, since they’re…well, it’s too early to use the “b-word,” but let’s just say they’re fighting for tournament entry right now.  Even if it isn’t the player I’ve predicted, if any of these squads see a third person elevate his game in hopes of providing more assistance to the Dynamic Duo already leading them, you best keep an eye out for them.  These teams are close to making the jump, even now.  Adding a good third option to their particular Dynamic Duo will improve them exponentially, and I wouldn’t want to see any of them in my sub-bracket.

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ATB: Only 3 More Ls for Gavin Grant

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2007

ATB v.4

11.18.07

Story of the Day. New Orleans 65, NC State 63. When a bank-three from 25 feet wins a game (note: we looked all over for video evidence of this three but couldn’t find it online yet – if anyone has it, link us…) for a mid-major over a ranked team, that’s gotta be the story of the day. We’ve been vocal in our critique of whether NC State should be a ranked team this year, but we take nothing away from UNO tonight as they defeated their first ranked team in fourteen years. The Privateers scored eight straight points to take a 62-61 lead with 15 seconds remaining; after NC State’s Gavin Grant made a layup with eight seconds remaining to give the Wolfpack the lead again, a broken play ensued which ultimately led to UNO’s TJ Worley throwing up the prayer that was answered. Despite NC State converting at a higher rate (eFG% of 50% v. 38%), the Privateers took advantage of 14 NCSU turnovers and poor foul shooting (10-19) to stay in the game. Bo McCalebb, one of the best one-bid conference players in the nation, had a poor shooting night (5-19), but he still managed to hit 20 pts. NC State’s JJ Hickson (another stud frosh) went for a dub-dub (22/13) in a losing effort. The pollsters in the MSM and the blogworld all think NCSU is going to finish in the top three in the ACC this year – maybe they should start listening to us! (oh, and memo to Gavin Grant, you only get three more…)

Other Games Today. Villanova 70, Bucknell 64. We had our eyes on this one along the bottom line this afternoon, and for a while, we thought Bucknell was going to get its first win at Nova since WW2. The Bison were simply on fire from three, hitting 15 of 31 shots, which means that only 19 of their points came from elsewhere on the court. Despite leading by eight at halftime and for nearly 75% of the game, Villanova took the lead for good with 3:25 remaining on a Scottie Reynolds three. Bucknell should be a good team again this year – Villanova, we’re still unsure about. #17 Arkansas 70, VCU 60. We watched this game and we couldn’t be more disappointed in VCU so far this season. We ranked them as the top mid-major to watch this season, and they’re just not playing with the same zeal we saw from them (and Eric Maynor in particular) last season. Arkansas struggled with VCU’s pressure (17 TOs, but nowhere near the 32 v. Providence the night before), but VCU could never get a run going to really threaten the balanced Hawgs. We like John Pelphrey and his athletes, but Arkansas will be limited by its sloppiness with the ball and lack of an inside game this season.

Tough Day for the ACC. Last night we talked up the ACC for having lost only two non-conference games thus far – today the ACC lost three more. Winthrop 79, Georgia Tech 73. This was one of our upset alerts last night, and it went as predicted. Georgia Tech went ice-cold in the second half (35%) after being hot in the first (58%), and the steady Tigers took advantage to give Tech its second loss to a low major conference in the first two weeks of the season (SoCon and Big South). Winthrop will meet Baylor (who defeated Notre Dame 68-64) in the finals of the Paradise Jam tomorrow. South Florida 68, Florida St. 67. Florida St. is doing its part to qualify as the crappiest team in the ACC by losing for the second consecutive night to a questionable opponent. Jason Rich takes home our award for worst game of the night with his 2 pt performance on 1-12 shooting. USF stud Kentrell Gransberry put up 21/8. Miami (FL) 64, Providence 58. Ok, so it wasn’t all bad for the ACC tonight. In an ugly game (both teams had ppp’s under 1.0) for the title of the PR Shootout, Miami persevered and outlasted the Friars thanks to James Dews, who led the Hurricanes with 17 pts. We have trouble believing that Miami is legit this year, but this is a nice win for their resume come March.

Ranked Teams.

#2 UNC 107, Iona 72. Psycho-T with 27/9 as UNC destroyed Iona. Should 21 TOs worry Roy?
#7 Louisville 84, Jackson St. 53.
We’re starting to wonder if this is Pitino’s best team at UL.

#10 Indiana 100, Longwood 49.
E-Giddy relaxes for only 21 tonight as IU rolls.

#14 Texas 100, Ark-Monticello 52.
Ark-Monticello had 11 pts at halftime
.

On Tap Today (all times EST). The Maui gets under way along with the finals of the Paradise Jam.

  • Marquette (NL) v. Chaminade (ESPN2) 2:30pm – our first look at the Marquette guards.
  • LSU (-1.5) v. Oklahoma St. (ESPN2) 5pm - two teams that might be in the College BB Invtl. in spring 08.
  • Georgia Tech (NL) v. Notre Dame 6pm – the ‘supposed-to-be’ finals of the Paradise Jam.
  • UCLA (-10) v. Maryland (ESPN2) 7pm – more Maui – have a bad feeling for the Terps here.
  • Alabama (NL) v. Belmont (CSS) 7pm – Belmont with another shot at distinguishing itself.
  • Baylor (NL) v. Winthrop (FCSP) 8:30pm – how cool would it be if Winthrop wins this tourney?
  • Duke (-22) v. Princeton (ESPN2) 9pm – this is not Pete Carril’s Princeton.
  • Michigan St. (-4) v. Missouri (ESPNU) 9:30pm - another good Maui matchup.
  • Illinois (-2.5) v. Arizona St. (ESPN2) 11:30pm – how will Sendek’s guys look in Y2?
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