ACC M5: 03.18.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 18th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Boston Globe: Great story from Bob Hohler on Boston College‘s worst sports scandal, which is being made into a 30 for 30 (which, assuming they got everyone to talk, could be awesome). Basically, mobsters — some of the ones who would later inspire the movie Goodfellas — decided that they could make money on the Eagles fading games. So they recruited three players (really coerced two after recruiting one) to help shave points in a few of their games. They weren’t really successful, but the story came to light when one of the mobsters was trying to make a deal with the feds a few years later. Fascinating stuff.
  2. ESPN: As had been rumored, James Johnson is gone at Virginia Tech. He certainly struggled during his two years in Blacksburg, but athletic director Jim Weaver put him in an almost impossible situation (especially for a coach with no previous head coaching experience). Gobbler Country does a good job running down why many of the team’s struggles weren’t his fault, but when it came down to it, new athletic director Whit Babcock decided Johnson wasn’t the man for the job. It’s not going to be easy to find a home run replacement, though (read: one better than Seth Greenberg).
  3. Bluefield Daily Telegraph: Speaking of replacements, you can check out some “when hell freezes over” possibilities elsewhere, but Brian Woodson nails at least one candidate who I think is closer to where the Hokies will end up (unless Babcock is ready to shell out some serious money). Woodson points to Mike Young, the current head coach at Wofford. That said, I think it’s really dangerous to mention Gregg Marshall’s name around any long-tenured coach at a small conference school (he’s definitely the exception, not the rule). Tim Thomas also does a good job throwing out a little higher-profile (but still mostly reasonable) possibilities for Jones’ replacement too.
  4. College Chalk Talk: Here’s some insight from Leonard Hamilton’s right hand man Stan Jones on five things Florida State looks to develop in players over their career. This reads a little like a speech from a coaching camp, but it’s still interesting to get a feel for the big picture goals that top programs have for their players. Also, I’m a big fan of starting off paragraphs with quotes. Jones shows a remarkable amount of breadth in his quoting, pulling everyone from Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst to George Bernard Shaw. Bravo.
  5. Engadget: Cool news as the ACC released an Apple TV channel dedicated solely to the league. I am on board with the idea that we’re moving to an a la carte television model where more people will use Apple TV or other streaming services to engage with content. Props to the conference for trying to be on the forefront of that shift with this move. Essentially, it sounds like the channel will offer similar things to the ACC Digital Network, but having it all in one place is great.
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Morning Five: 03.18.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 18th, 2014

morning5

  1. The coaching carousel has continued to turn with two spots opening up yesterday. The big opening was at Virginia Tech where they fired James Johnson after he won just 22 games in two seasons. Johnson was hired to replace current ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg after serving as an assistant under Greenberg. We will not try to make excuses for the Hokies’ performance under Johnson, but he was not helped by Dorian Finney-Smith and Montrezl Harrell leaving the school after Greenberg was fired. On a much smaller level, Southeastern Louisiana fired Jim Yarbrough after nine seasons in which Yarbrough went 133-135. Being two games under .500 might not be that bad, but most of Yarbrough’s success was early as he was over .500 in five of his first six seasons.
  2. One of the interesting things with gambling scandals in sports is that they largely tend to be forgotten (Pete Rose being the obvious exception). This issue has made headlines recently at several schools where players may have been involved with point-shaving. The most famous case in college basketball history involved City College of New York between 1949 and 1951, but the one involving Boston College would probably be a close second. The Boston Globe has a phenomenal story on the background and aftermath of the scandal. The most amusing thing about this scandal was how poorly it worked for the people trying to fix the games.
  3. Most of you are aware of how obsessed with basketball some members of Big Blue Nation are, but the level that some of them go to is beyond what you might imagine. To be fair this could happen with any fan group. Former Kentucky legend Rex Chapman recently told the story of one such fan, who befriended Chapman’s mother, and became friends with Chapman. This was fine until Chapman gave the fan his number and the fan has been harassing him ever since. The fan appears to be good-natured about it and is bugging Chapman the way that a teenage girl would probably bother Justin Bieber is they got his number, but Chapman has decided to put the fan “on blast” as a means to get him to stop. Somehow we don’t think it will work.
  4. The Selection Committee may not put much value in Louisville, but Forbes certainly does. According to Forbes the Cardinals are the most valuable college basketball team at a valuation of $39.5 million. While the Cardinals being the most valuable team in the country might surprise some the others on the list are not a surprise (the Cardinals being on list is not a surprise just their place a top the list is). What we find more interesting is how far off the valuation is from that of pro sports teams and how close some coaching contracts come to the reported value of the teams (obviously we would need to discount the value of salaries for future years).
  5. Indiana might not be a top-tier team this year, but don’t tell that to tell. After missing out on the NCAA and NIT Tournament, the Hoosiers were offered a spot in the CBI and not so politely declined the offer. Indiana’s AD issued a statement saying, “We’re Indiana. We don’t play in the CBI.” When programs pull power plays like this we often wonder about the repercussions including players having their career ending early and coaches missing out on bonuses. One interesting aspect of this decision was that it may have been influenced by Kentucky’s opening round NIT loss to Robert Morris last year.
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James Johnson’s Dismissal Highlights the Other Unpleasant Side of March

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 17th, 2014

The month of March is one that brings joy to many college basketball programs across the country, as they now have the chance to chase a national championship via the NCAA Tournament (or to a lesser extent, an NIT title that at least yields a banner). But as many know, March is often a time of despondency across the college basketball landscape. It starts with the teams that had their hopes dashed on Selection Sunday when their names weren’t called, but it also extends to the programs whose seasons are completely over. That’s where the dark days in March occur, and Virginia Tech’s James Johnson experienced such a day today as he was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Hokies after a mere two seasons on the bench.

James Johnson's uninspiring term at Virginia Tech ended after only two years (newsleader.com)

James Johnson’s uninspiring term at Virginia Tech ended after only two years (newsleader.com)

Johnson was considered something of a surprise hire when he replaced the ousted Seth Greenberg two years ago. In fact, he had never been a head coach at all, having recently left Blacksburg to take on a similar assistant coaching role at Clemson. Instead, Greenberg’s messy exit coupled with resounding support from the holdover players convinced the administration to hire Johnson to take over the program, citing in particular his recruiting ability for some of the better teams of the Greenberg era. He inherited a bad team in his first season that only produced 13 wins, even with ACC Player of the Year and eventual pro Erick Green on the roster. His follow-up nine-win campaign, which resulted in a dead-last performance in a 15-team ACC, was due to an extremely underwhelming roster. In the preseason, Johnson made the bizarre decision to name an incoming freshman team captain despite the presence of seniors Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines returning. And it wasn’t a superstar talent like Jabari Parker who was named the leader, either; it was two- or three-star guard Ben Emelogu. Emelogu had a decent start to his first college campaign, but he was far from a star.

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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 M5: 03.12.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 12th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Winston-Salem Journal: This may seem like a weird article to lead things off, but I think the biggest impact of the recent Greensboro Coliseum renovation is going to be AT&T’s investment that should theoretically end the dreaded poor cellular service at packed sporting events. They wired up the Greensboro Coliseum to help deal with the massive volume of data being used in such a small area. I’m hoping the wireless Internet got an upgrade too, but this will have much more impact on the fan experience.
  2. Richmond Times-Dispatch: James Johnson‘s future at Virginia Tech won’t be decided until after the ACC Tournament. It’s tough to judge Johnson’s body of work because his first season was essentially a throwaway since he was hired so late. Judging this season as his first makes me much more willing to give him another year to show significant improvement. That said, Virginia Tech has been really bad over those two seasons. And say what you want about Seth Greenberg, but he kept the Hokies competitive during his tenure in Blacksburg. Throwing in the new athletic director leads me to think this is probably Johnson’s last gasp, but Whit Babcock needs to make the decision promptly, whatever it turns out to be.
  3. Duke Basketball Report: Sticking with coaching hires for a minute, this is an interesting look at how some ACC schools might have missed their shot with Gregg Marshall. I don’t have a good read on Marshall at all, but something is off in that he didn’t get plucked from Winthrop sooner. So I don’t blame ACC schools. But I do agree with the general premise that it will be significantly more difficult to woo Marshall away from Wichita State to turn around Wake Forest. I think he’s biding his time until the next really big opening.
  4. Syracuse Post-Standard: Jim Boeheim has found out for the millionth time that the Internet can’t handle sarcasm very well. Reporters continue to ask him about playing in Greensboro. I’m not sure if that’s to bait him into another funny comment, or because they didn’t understand in the first place. But he spelled it out: “All [his disparaging comments] is just a Northern, not-funny guy trying to make some humorous remarks that people tend to want to take the wrong way. [....] Obviously for us, we’re in New York. We’d like to go to New York. It’s right there.”
  5. Backing the Pack: TJ Warren won ACC Player of the Year, and he deserved it. His conference scoring numbers were ridiculous both from a per-game view and an efficiency vantage. Now the bigger question: how far can Warren carry the Wolfpack?
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Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Michael James (@mrjames2006) on February 21st, 2014

Michael James is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League. You can also find his musings on Twitter at @mrjames2006 and @ivybball.

Looking Back

  • Ivy Race Reset – While 31 automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament will be doled out following the sometimes wild and often thrilling conference tournaments, the remaining one gets decided during the two-month grind known as The 14-Game Tournament. The upside of the Ivy’s unique structure is that (usually) the best team represents the league. The downside is that many teams are effectively eliminated by the middle of February. While Cornell is the only Ivy squad that has been mathematically eliminated from the title chase, four more teams sitting on four or more league losses (Columbia, Penn, Princeton and Dartmouth) would essentially need too much help to fathom. That leaves the co-leaders Harvard and Yale, both at 7-1, and third-place Brown (5-3) as the remaining contenders for the Ivy auto bid. The Crimson remains the odds-on favorite with a +0.22 points per possession margin in league play, well ahead of both Yale (+0.08) and Brown (+0.07). If the Ivy season were 140 games long, that efficiency differential might slowly allow Harvard to separate itself from the pack, but with just six games remaining in The 14-Game Tournament, not nearly enough time remains to assume that the Bulldogs will regress to the mean.

    Tommy Amaker and Harvard are still the favorites to earn the Ivy League auto bid. (AP)

    Tommy Amaker and Harvard are still the favorites to earn the Ivy League auto bid. (AP)

  • Historic Postseason Eligibility – During the 2011-2012 season, the Ivy League sent four teams to the postseason and nearly had a fifth until Columbia lost six out of its last seven games. It was viewed as another watershed moment for a league which had just two years earlier sent its first representative to the Sweet 16 in the 64-team era. While the league continues to play competitively at the top, as shown by Harvard’s win over New Mexico in the NCAA Tournament last season, the depth of the Ivies has been the most surprising development. Princeton and Columbia sit just one win away from clinching postseason eligibility, while Yale and Brown need just two victories to join the party as well. Assuming those four clear that modest hurdle, they will join the Crimson to give the league five postseason-eligible teams for the first time in the modern era. Read the rest of this entry »
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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 M5: 01.27.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 27th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Good stuff on Duke’s Jabari Parker from Laura Keeley, as she also followed up with his bishop and mother to talk about the possibility of him doing a Mormon mission next year. It’s interesting that Duke and Parker already have a plan in place for him to graduate even if he leaves after this season. The article also has a good interview with Matt Jones, Parker’s roommate, about the future top-five pick.
  2. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Tony Bennett busted out some Robert Frost this week, and it was awesome. “The hero is not fed on sweets” may help fire his team up, but they’re sure playing a sweet schedule. With only two remaining games against the top ACC teams (at Pittsburgh Sunday, and at home against Syracuse in March), the Cavaliers need to let teams come back to them. They’re already leading the conference in efficiency margin, and I expect that trend to continue. With Virginia’s talent and experience, don’t be surprised if the Cavaliers end conference play with a top-two seed in the ACC Tournament.
  3. Duke Basketball Report: With the league down as a whole, it’s time to start thinking about another new round of coaches. I think Georgia Tech will give Brian Gregory at least another year or two (emphasis on think); I have no clue about Virginia Tech (more on this later); and, Jeff Bzdelik and Steve Donahue are squarely on hot seats. The Boston College search could be the most interesting, as the school has ties to two coaches with solid resumes if it is willing to roll the dice (Bruce Pearl and Ed Cooley).
  4. Washington Post: While I have no idea what Virginia Tech is planning to do with James Johnson, this quote should definitely serve as notice to him: “One of the first decisions for Babcock will be determining how to ‘fix the basketball problem’ [according to John Ballein, an internal candidate for the athletic director].” And to be clear, that quote isn’t from the school’s new athletic director, Whit Babcock, but it does make clear that at least part of the department is already concerned with the second-year head coach. For his part, Brad Brownell, who may have landed Johnson the job by initially hiring him to Clemson, is calling for Johnson to get more time to right the ship.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Very cool story, albeit football-centric, on Georgia Tech‘s decision to leave the SEC some 50 years ago. You have to be a subscriber to get the whole piece, but the excerpt is worth reading nevertheless. The Yellow Jackets’ decision ultimately came down to the practice of oversigning recruits (at least on the surface).
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VCU Seeks to Make Claim as Virginia’s Best Program Saturday

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 21st, 2013

The VCU Rams entered the 2013-14 season with the school’s highest preseason rankings in school history (#14 in the Associated Press poll, #15 in the USA Today/Coaches poll) and arguably coach Shaka Smart’s best team since he took over the program in 2009. The Rams have hit some early stumbling blocks with losses to Florida State, Georgetown and Northern Iowa, putting them outside of the rankings altogether at this point. The team is adjusting to new foul rules that often hamper it’s ability to run its vaunted Havoc defense, and they have not been consistently effective from long range. But this weekend’s upcoming Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic in Richmond gives VCU an opportunity to firmly stake its claim to a title they arguably have yet to formally hold — the best basketball school in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

vcushaka-4_3

A win over VT would continue Shaka Smart’s team’s ascension in the state hoops pantheon (credit: USA Today)

Since Smart took over, the Rams have been the main school in the headlines when it comes to Virginia college basketball. The magical run to the Final Four in 2011, considered one of the greatest Cinderella runs of all-time in the NCAA Tournament, pushed them to the forefront of the basketball scene. But staying power is the only way to hold the title of the state’s best hoops school, and it’s that consistent success Smart and the Rams have enjoyed in the years following that makes it clear they are Virginia’s foremost basketball program. NCAA bids were achieved again in 2011-12 and 2012-13, where each year VCU had the misfortune of meeting one of the best teams in the country and getting knocked out in the third round (a rising Indiana displaced them in 2011-12; eventual national runner-up Michigan did so last year). To then come into this year with the enormous expectations that were placed upon it shows that the VCU program is now a major player on the national scene.

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ACC M5: 12.20.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 20th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Chicago Tribune: The biggest difference for Notre Dame’s Garrick Sherman this season? He’s playing twice as many minutes! He’s also one of the better rebounders in the ACC, getting to the line more, and blocking more shots. Not bad for a guy who averaged 15 minutes per game last season. The former Michigan State transfer is one of Notre Dame’s most important players (arguably the Irish’s most important if you consider the void left by Jack Cooley’s graduation), and although Sherman’s numbers are nowhere near Cooley’s, he’s proved to be more than capable of anchoring Mike Brey’s system.The guy to watch against Ohio State, though, is Demetrius Jackson. He’s been getting more minutes as the season progresses, and appears primed for a breakout game soon.
  2. CBS Sports: Rasheed Sulaimon broke out of his early season slump last night against UCLA. He didn’t have a gaudy stat line or game — just eight points, six rebounds and five assists. But in 18 minutes of action, Sulaimon looked a lot like the player who started for the Blue Devils last year. This game was a good reminder of why he’s so important for Duke going forward, because it’s safe to say Sulaimon will get minutes if he continues to play with that intensity. What remains unclear is how much Sulaimon’s resurgence will affect Matt Jones’ minutes. Andre Dawkins will obviously see consistent (but limited) time as a potential offensive spark plug off the bench, and don’t expect Tyler Thornton to fall out of the rotation anytime soon. But that may leave Jones as the odd wing out unless Duke elects to go small occasionally.
  3. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Don’t tease me with these awesome potential series if you don’t really mean it! I’m looking at you, James Johnson. Here’s to hoping Johnson follows through and inks a long-term deal with Virginia Commonwealth sooner than later. In-state rivalries are the best, and while most people wouldn’t lose sleep over Virginia Tech not playing the Rams every year, both programs would be better off for it.
  4. Washington Post: This is a good piece looking at the questions facing Tony Bennett as Virginia takes a break for finals and the holidays. Notably, should he sub differently? What should his rotation look like? Why can’t his team hit free throws? (Crazy stat from the article: Joe Harris is hitting less than 55 percent of his free throws this year. How is that even possible?!) How does he fix the team’s abysmal assist to turnover ratio? I’m not sure all of those questions have answers, but I think finding ways to make London Perrantes more comfortable will help. And Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell have to step up and play at or near the level people expected them to coming into the season.
  5. Washington Post: Throwback! This oral history of the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry is tremendous. It’s also long, but totally worth it whether you’re trying to brush up on a little history of the ACC newcomer or you’re just nostalgic for the retro-Big East. Check it out.

VIDEO EXTRA: Missed this when this first hit, but this Seth Davis interview with Rick Barnes on his tense relationship with Dean Smith is really worth the time (h/t Laura Keeley).

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Jarell Eddie Assuming Early Leadership Mantle For Virginia Tech

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 11th, 2013

When Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball team had one of its players named the ACC Player of the Week on Monday, it’d be fair for most fans to wonder who could have possibly garnered that honor with Erick Green now playing in the pros. The Hokies were a team that relied almost exclusively on Green a year ago, and he put up continually stellar individual performances during a dreary overall season for the team. With Green now gone, many wondered who could possibly take over the reins offensively and help this team avoid a season in the conference cellar. Ten games into the year, that player has been Jarell Eddie.

Jarell Eddie Miami

Jarell Eddie’s big week spoke volumes about his positive impact on a young Hokies team (credit: miamiherald.com)

Coming into the year, the squad from Blacksburg looked to be in complete rebuilding mode. A freshman, Ben Emelogu, was named its captain, a sign that the returnees weren’t seen as leaders or surefire contributors. Most probably looked at Virginia Tech’s opening loss to South Carolina Upstate as further validation that, minus Green, this would be a team that would struggle to beat anybody. But the team has shown its resiliency with solid victories over West Virginia and Winthrop in the non-conference schedule and an overtime win over Miami that left them as the conference’s lone unbeaten team (yes, that’s the only ACC game played thus far, but some may not have predicted a single conference win for this roster). The Hokies’ 7-3 record won’t blow anyone away, but it is a good start to a year that many thought could be completely disastrous.

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ACC Mega-Preview: Duke Tops Power Rankings

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 8th, 2013

Over the last two weeks, we have previewed each team individually to go with several more articles to get you ready for ACC basketball starting later today. Links to the previews can be found in each of the preseason power rankings listed below. Also look for our preseason conference awards later which will publish later today.

ACC Basketball Twitter Must-Follows (Chris): 

  • Part I (general ACC tweeters)
  • Part II (Maryland, Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh,  and Georgia Tech)
  • Part III (Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Florida State, North Carolina, and NC State)

Early Season Tournaments (Brad):

  • Part I (Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Clemson)
  • Part II (Florida State, North Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse)
  • Part III (Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Miami)

Seven Nonconference Games to Watch (Brad)

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (75): Unanimous selection for the top spot, Coach K hopes this year’s more athletic group of players can thrive at a faster pace of play. Duke is a national contender this season.
Syracuse Orange 2. Syracuse (67): Their loaded front court and a legendary coach will help make seamless transition to the ACC, bringing their length and vaunted 2-3 zone along with them. Frosh point guard Tyler Ennis is the difference between a very good team and a great one.
North Carolina Tar Heels T3. North Carolina (64): The development of the young frontcourt will be key for a team with plenty of upside, but a daunting non-conference schedule and the suspensions of PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald loom early.
Virginia Cavaliers T3. Virginia (64): ACC stars Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are back in Charlottesville. If the point guard position has more offensive output than last season, this team has all the pieces to be an ACC contender.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 5. Notre Dame (52)Mike Brey has to find a way to replace Jack Cooley‘s production in the post, but the Fighting Irish bring back one of the best backcourts in the ACC. The Fighting Irish look like a border-line top-25 team heading into the season.
Maryland Terrapins 6. Maryland (48): Losing Seth Allen for a spell and Alex Len to the lottery will hurt, but Dez Wells‘ brilliance and Maryland’s overall athleticism should propel them to new heights under Mark Turgeon assuming they can cut out some of their turnovers.
Boston College 7. Boston College (43): A veteran core and a bona fide star could take Boston College to the next level, provided Steve Donahue does something about the team’s dreadful defense. If Dennis Clifford is healthy, this team has a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Pittsburgh Panthers 8. Pittsburgh (41): The Panthers have three solid returning starters to build around, but will need their new big men to make an immediate impact after Steven Adams’ surprising decision to bolt for the NBA Draft. Also how will the new officiating rules affect Jamie Dixon‘s style?
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 9. Georgia Tech (31): The tandem of sophomores Robert Carter, Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt will prove even more effective as the Yellow Jackets look to make strides, but their young core is a few years away from making noise. Tennessee transfer Trae Golden should be an upgrade over Mfon Udofia at point guard.
NC State Wolfpack 10. NC State (29): TJ Warren could be one of the most talented players in the conference, but there is an enormous amount of departed experience to replace in Raleigh. Mark Gottfried‘s talented group of freshmen will be expected to contribute early and often.
Florida State Seminoles 11. Florida State (27): The Seminoles need last year’s newcomers to all make a big leap this year even to stay in the upper middle of the ACC. The key is getting back to elite team defense, though Okaro White is one of the better returning offensive wings in the ACC.
Miami Hurricanes 12. Miami (23): The best thing returning for the Hurricanes is head coach Jim Larranaga, an expert at putting pieces together to form a solid team. Unfortunately, the pieces leave a lot to be desired. Belgian star Manu Lacomte may surprise ACC fans, though.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 13. Wake Forest (19): For the first time since coming to Winston-Salem Jeff Bzdelik has experience, but do the Demon Deacons have the talent to finish above .500 and save his job? Conference expansion didn’t help.
Clemson Tigers 14. Clemson (11): A bad team is going to get worse as the program takes what is probably charitably going to be called “a rebuilding year.” Tune in for KJ McDaniels, whose shot-blocking makes him a good pick for ACC defensive player of the year.
Virginia Tech Hokies 15. Virginia Tech (6): Erick Green is gone, and there isn’t anyone stepping up to replace him on a team destined to rest in the ACC cellar this year. Things could be ugly for James Johnson‘s second season in Blacksburg.

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