Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, Canadian Imports, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. When the AP Top 25 was released Monday afternoon, Kentucky wound up unranked for the first time in the John Calipari era after a blowout loss to Notre Dame and a home setback to Baylor, UK’s first loss at Rupp Arena under Calipari (UK remains ranked at #20 here at RTC). Kentucky’s drop from #8 to unranked was the largest in AP poll history since the poll expanded to include 25 teams in 1990. Now we all know college basketball polls don’t really matter (unlike a certain other collegiate sport) so this is just something to discuss among basketball junkies. But seriously, do people really believe this isn’t one of the Top 25 teams in the country? I guess it depends on your philosophy when it comes to filling out a ballot. If you’re going purely by record, sure the Wildcats shouldn’t be ranked at 4-3. But a deeper inspection reveals a team with a win over Maryland, one that could turn into a very good win if the Terrapins sustain their early season level of play, and three losses to very good basketball teams (Duke, Notre Dame and Baylor). The Wildcats aren’t anywhere near last year’s juggernaut but until they lose to a bad team or the losses to good teams keep piling up, I’ll continue to rank Kentucky and won’t overreact. What are the issues Calipari faces? Number one, Ryan Harrow has proven not to be the answer at point guard. Archie Goodwin has been forced to be the primary ballhandler and is turning the ball over more than three times per game. Second, Kentucky’s rebounding and defense has taken a dip from last year but who didn’t expect that? Anthony Davis is in New Orleans now, not Lexington. Third, the team is relying exclusively on freshmen, one sophomore (Kyle Wiltjer, who does need to pick his game up) and two transfers. There is no veteran presence who has been through the SEC wars like Doron Lamb and Darius Miller had been last season. While Cal’s teams have had tremendous freshmen talent, the presence of Miller and Lamb pushed the team over the top last year. Without that crucial element, Kentucky will continue to struggle with immature plays and poor decision-making. However, I’m sure that Calipari will find a way to make things work eventually. Let’s not panic in early December because Kentucky lost three games to Top 25 teams.

    Coach Cal’s Team Is Now Unranked, But Don’t Panic Yet

  2. With Kentucky struggling to find its way right now, Florida has emerged as the early favorite in the SEC. The Gators are 6-0 with a pair of blowout wins over Wisconsin and Marquette and a nice “neutral” court win over a good Middle Tennessee team. It’s pretty clear that Florida is for real but the schedule ramps up in a big way this month with tomorrow’s road trip to rival Florida State followed 10 days later by a visit to Arizona and a quasi-road game against Kansas State in Kansas City on December 22. Everyone knows about Florida’s high-powered offensive attack but the most astonishing thing about this team has been its defense. This could very well be Billy Donovan’s best defensive team in Gainesville. Florida leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 48.5 PPG to date. The Gators are fourth in defensive efficiency and have also improved their rebounding from a year ago with Patric Young and Will Yeguete doing most of the work on the boards but even UF’s guards are contributing to that effort as well. Florida is just as efficient on the offensive end of the floor with balanced scoring and depth. Seven Gators are averaging at least seven points per game, led by Kenny Boynton. Donovan has to be thrilled with senior Erik Murphy, someone who is an absolute match-up nightmare for almost every opponent because of his length, versatility and ability to stretch defenses. When Murphy hangs out on the perimeter he can hit shots or open up gaps for his teammates to drive and score, or get to the line as Florida has done so well this year. His numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet at you but he’s such a valuable asset to this team. Murphy has had his share of off-court problems and here’s to hoping he’s learned from that and takes on a leadership role for his team as a senior. He’s off to a great start and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Florida in the top 10 all year long. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC M5: 12.03.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 3rd, 2012

  1. Tomahawk Nation:  It may be getting closer to panic time in Tallahassee. One day after the football team claimed an ACC title to match the basketball team’s from last season, Leonard Hamilton’s team’s performance indicated that the chances of it returning the favor are growing quite slim. Florida State fell at home to Mercer yesterday, 61-56, marking Mercer’s first victory over the Seminoles since 1954. For the Seminoles, a preseason top 25 team, it was their second incredibly inexcusable home defeat that may have lasting implications come March. The defense returned to levels more typical of recent Florida State teams (it has been a major culprit this season), but the offense, despite Leonard Hamilton going 11 deep, failed to get anything productive going, and mustered just one point down the stretch in their final three possessions. Going into a match-up Wednesday with intrastate rival Florida, who has dominated its opponents this season, the prognosis is certainly troubling for FSU.
  2. A much more positive surprise in the ACC this season has been the strong play of Virginia Tech, who remained undefeated after upsetting 15th-ranked Oklahoma State this weekend. Playing no small role in this surprising start is senior guard Erick Green. In this fantastic Jeff Goodman article, Green acknowledges that he would have left Blacksburg if not for the hiring of new coach James Johnson, who had played a major role in recruiting Green to Virginia Tech. Green is having a huge senior season, averaging about 25 points per game and catalyzing the Hokies’ new up-tempo offense, which Green credits as a large part of their success. While Virginia Tech may not be able to sustain this run of play indefinitely, they will definitely be a much larger factor than expected in the conference this season.
  3. Charlotte Observer:  Following their blowout loss to top-ranked Indiana, North Carolina hoped to respond positively in their Saturday match-up with UAB. While the Tar Heels were extremely impressive offensively, with Dexter Strickland moving to point guard and Leslie McDonald entering the starting lineup in the wake of Marcus Paige’s injury, their defense left much to be desired according to head coach Roy Williams. During a timeout early in the second half, Williams implored his team to step up their defensive intensity during a tirade that got the team’s attention. With UNC’s highly inconsistent performance so far this season, Williams certainly hopes that the Tar Heels can provide offense similar to that of Saturday’s game (102 points) while also heightening their defensive intensity.
  4. Devils in Durham:  As everyone surely knows, second-ranked Duke is off to a phenomenal start this season. But one player that has likely been overlooked in the wake of the excellent performances of Mason Plumlee, Quinn Cook, and Rasheed Sulaimon, among others, is junior point guard Tyler Thornton. Inserted into the starting lineup to replace the injured Seth Curry on Saturday against Delaware, Thornton stuffed the stat sheet in spots other than the points column-providing 10 assists and three steals. Coach K appreciates Thornton’s defensive intensity and has lauded his acceptance of a generally reduced role in the wake of Cook’s improving play. Thornton’s contributions are typically not of the flashy variety, but since he is “such an easy guy to play with,” according to Krzyzewski, he will definitely play a pivotal role in Duke’s team success this season, particularly with his devotion to tenacious defense.
  5. In what could be Maryland‘s last appearance in the BB&T Classic played in the nation’s capital, the Terrapins, in their penultimate season in the ACC, are quietly making a case to be mentioned amongst the conference’s elite teams this season. While Maryland struggled offensively in a 69-62 victory over suburban rival George Mason, their defense was able to put together a strong performance. Dez Wells continued his phenomenal play, scoring 25 points, while also reaffirming a commitment to defense inspired by watching films of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Wells insisted that he wants to guard the best player every game, since a great player is also great on defense as well. If Wells and Maryland can continue this defensive commitment, they will be an extremely scary squad during ACC play, particularly if their offense can improve.
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 30th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Many of the power conference teams hit the road for the very first time this weekend, so we should start to get a real sense of where teams stand early in the season. With a little less college football going on this weekend, you should make some time to catch a few games. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Tennessee at #16 Georgetown – 6:30 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Exceeding Expectations (Getty)

  • Tennessee heads to Georgetown for its first true road game of the season. Like many of the games this past week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and now the Big East/SEC Challenge, we are going to get a true indication of where a lot of teams stand. While the Vols are 4-1, they lost their toughest test against Oklahoma State. They face a Geogetown team that is extremely long. The Hoyas start four players who are at least 6’8”, while the “shortest” player, 6’2” guard Michael Starks, is their leading scorer. Look for the Hoyas to take advantage of their size and shoot a lot within the paint. Georgetown currently shoots 56% from inside the arc while the Vols rank 106th in the country in two-point defense. Also, keep a close eye on free throws. With this game looking like it’s going to take place inside the arc, free throws will be a key to victory. The Hoyas are struggling to get to the line and it caught up with them in their recent overtime loss to Indiana. On the other hand, Tennessee is ranked in the top 25 nationally in free throw rate. The team that gets to the line more and sinks its free throws should be the winner in this contest.

Baylor at #8 Kentucky – 12:30 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (****)

  • Kentucky and Baylor are two teams in desperate need of a good win. Kentucky is coming off a beating on the road at the hands of Notre Dame. As coach John Calipari discussed in many of his preseason press conferences, the Wildcats are not consistent on offense or defense. As soon as you think they are coming together, they lay an egg and shoot 40% against ND. Baylor is also struggling to find an identity outside of “The Pierre Jackson Show.” While Jackson’s play has been mostly excellent, it does not seem to be working particularly well with recent losses to Colorado and College of Charleston. Kentucky will be tough to beat at home but they need better consistency on both ends of the court. They should be able to shoot the ball against a struggling Baylor defense, particularly from downtown. If the Wildcats can get back in the long-ball groove, they should win at home for the 56th straight time under Calipari.

#18 Oklahoma State at Virginia Tech – 2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN3 (****)

  • While Oklahoma State lost to Virginia Tech last year in a close contest and will play a true road game for the first time this year, the Cowboys have not been tested so far this season. More importantly, they have responded with drubbings of Tennessee and North Carolina State. For the Hokies, OSU is by far their toughest opponent to date. The Cowboys have been winning with solid defense. Opponents have been held to 36.3% from two and an overall eFG% of 39.8%. Typically, you may take these stats with a grain of salt given the competition, but Travis Ford’s team has played a strong schedule thus far. The match-up you should keep a close eye on is the Cowboy defense versus Virginia Tech guard Erick Green. The 6’3” Green is averaging 24.3 points per game thus far, and Ford will counter with a trio of big guards in 6’7” LeBryan Nash, 6’4” Marcus Smart, and 6’3” Markel Brown. Do not expect Green to hit for two dozen against the Pokes. If he does, Virginia Tech will be in good shape. Finally, watch the Hokies on the offensive glass. They currently rank 314th in the country in offensive rebounding rate against a fairly soft schedule. It’s not going to be easy for coach James Johnson’s squad to hit their shots, so he needs them to grab offensive boards desperately. If they don’t, look for the Cowboys to win in Blacksburg.

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ACC Week 1 Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 16th, 2012

We’ve got a full week of game action as evidence to start evaluting these teams a bit better, so here goes…

Disclaimer: Power Rankings don’t imply which teams are best. They’re all about who has momentum right now. 

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (2-0) stays on top of the rankings after taking care of business against Georgia State at home before knocking off the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats in the Georgia Dome. This team still has a long way to go, but they showed poise holding off a talented, albeit young, Kentucky team. While Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee owned the box score, Quinn Cook rose to the challenge and put in his bid for the starting spot. Minnesota is the next NCAA tournament-quality team on Thursday.
NC State Wolfpack 2. NC State (2-0) absolutely blitzkrieged its first two opponents, Miami (OH) and Penn State. Putting too much stock in beating the Redhawks by 38 is unwise. But that 17-point win over the Nittany Lions–despite Lorenzo Brown finishing an icy 1-12 from the field–is worth noting. Specifically, Tyler Warren was phenomenal going for 22 points (on 12 shots) and eight rebounds. The game tonight against Massachusetts should be a fun one.
North Carolina Tar Heels 3. North Carolina (2-0) looked lost on offense at times against Gardner-Webb, which is just a young team trying to learn to play together. James Michael McAdoo has been phenomenal through the first two games (he’s averaging over 20 points and 12 rebounds), and Reggie Bullock asserted himself against Florida Atlantic. This team should keep improving, but in time for the trip to Bloomington in a week and a half? That’s ambitious.
Maryland Terrapins 4. Maryland (1-1) looks a lot better than expected. Alex Len is going to be a top-10 pick. He absolutely ravaged Kentucky, which Maryland kept close to the bitter end before making mincemeat of Morehead State. Nick Faust still can’t shoot, but Seth Allen will be really fun to watch the next few years. The Terrapins need to work on consistent offense, but as Dez Wells gets more and more used to Mark Turgeon’s system, good things will happen.
Boston College 5. Boston College (1-1) played with a stacked Baylor team for 35 minutes after beating a bad Florida International team by double figures (still, that’s huge improvement over last year). This team will still struggle to win a ton of games, but Ryan Anderson‘s development into an All-ACC caliber player is accelerating the rebuilding process (he’s averaging 27 points and 12 boards a game). Dennis Clifford also got off to a solid start. The Eagles’ games against Dayton and Auburn should both be winnable this week.
Clemson Tigers 6. Clemson (1-0) beat down Presbyterian this week, which isn’t worth much on its own. But Devin Booker and Milton Jennings both played very well (combined to go 11-14 from the field for 26 points) and look like they’re ready to step into bigger roles for Brad Brownell this season. A near impossible test awaits this week in the form of Gonzaga.
Virginia Tech Hokies 7. Virginia Tech (3-0) scarfed three cupcakes this week, winning all three games by double figures. The “meat” of the nonconference schedule is still a ways off (and “meat” is used loosely to describe BCS-conference teams), but so far James Johnson‘s tenure is a success. He’ll need Robert Brown to continue producing offensively to relieve some of Erick Green‘s perimeter burden.
Florida State Seminoles 8. Florida State (1-1) is much better than its home loss to the South Alabama, but those are the kind of losses that will motivate this team to keep getting better. Michael Snaer is also in an early season slump, having only hit a third of the shots he’s taken. But the Seminoles’ 27-point beatdown of Buffalo (where they scored 95 points!) may right the ship. The next six games showcase three against possible NCAA tournament teams: BYU (today), Minnesota and Florida.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 9. Wake Forest (1-0) played decently against Radford. The game was never free from doubt, but the Demon Deacons didn’t let the Big South Highlanders get the best of them this year. CJ Harris got to the charity stripe like a pro, but Travis McKie‘s 11 points left a little to be desired–especially against a team of this caliber. Turnovers are going to kill Wake Forest in at least two conference games this year.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 10. Georgia Tech (2-0) has balance, but can’t shoot. The Yellow Jackets need someone to step up from the perimeter to keep other teams honest (right now they make a smooth 17.6% of their shots from downtown. Two of Mfon Udofia, Daniel Miller and Kam Holsey need to become go-to guys on offense. Miller doesn’t appear to want that role.
Miami Hurricanes 11. Miami (1-1) needs to be careful not to become a dumpster fire. The team lost its exhibition against St. Leo and now lost to Florida Gulf Coast to ice the cake. This team looks phenomenal on paper, but sometimes things just don’t translate the way we expect. The same Reggie Johnson who made Mason Plumlee look like a child at Cameron Indoor Stadium last year has only hit one third of his shots against middling competition. There’s still time for Larranaga to turn this car around, but time is running out.
Virginia Cavaliers 12. Virginia (1-2), if Miami has to be careful, Virginia fans may already smell that trash burning. So far the Cavaliers lost to George Mason and Delaware. These wins (or struggles) could be statistical aberrations (if your style keeps opponents within striking distance, you’re bound to lose some unfortunate games), and Jontel Evans is out.Things aren’t off to a great start in Charlottesville.
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ACC M5: 11.12.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 12th, 2012

  1. Redshirt freshman forward Alex Murphy of Duke was an interesting DNP: Coach’s Decision during the opener against Georgia State on Friday. After starting both of Duke’s exhibition games, Murphy strangely did not appear in a game where the forward surely expected to receive minutes (Krzyzewski instead started three guards). Mike Krzyzewski said, “We did not get to the point where Alex could play,” and insinuated that he was not injured. This may be of concern to Blue Devil fans — while Murphy’s offensive game is unpolished, his quickness and size seem to make him an ideal player to utilize in Tuesday’s matchup against Kentucky. But if he can’t get off the bench against Georgia State, why would Kentucky be any different? In theory at least, Murphy would offer the size at the small forward position that Duke seemed to lack all of last season, so it could be a big picture concern down the road if he does not get some burn in early games.
  2. Washington Post: The Maryland Terrapins have plenty to build on following their 72-69 loss to third-ranked Kentucky in their season opener at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn Friday night. Sophomore forward Alex Len outplayed Kentucky’s top-ranked recruit Nerlens Noel to the tune of 23 points and 12 rebounds, and often looked like the best player on the court. Mark Turgeon was especially proud of his team coming back from a 13-point deficit while they fed on the crowd’s energy. While this very young Maryland team was ultimately disappointed to come up a little short in their upset bid, this game definitely showed that Maryland will be a force to be reckoned with in the upper echelons in the conference this season.
  3. The defending conference champions have a lot of work ahead of them. #25 Florida State dropped a stunner at home Friday to South Alabama, 78-73 in one of the biggest upsets in the first weekend of college basketball. Some of the most shocking numbers in the upset related to Florida State’s ineptitude on defense, which has typically been their linchpin in the Leonard Hamilton era. South Alabama shot 60% from behind the three-point arc (9-15), whereas last year Florida State only allowed opponents to shoot 30.9% from beyond the arc, and star Florida State guard Michael Snaer struggled with just 2-of-11 shooting and five turnovers. Don’t look for both a bad game from Snaer and the perimeter defense too often, but when it happens, the Seminoles are going to have a very hard time winning games.
  4. Lynchburg News and Advance: New Virginia Tech head coach James Johnson won his debut against East Tennessee State on Saturday, but cautioned that the season “was a grind,” and also noted that his players (especially senior guard Erick Green) were far more excited about the victory than he was. More importantly, Virginia Tech premiered some form of its intended up-tempo offense this season, and while the team started slowly, the Hokies eventually got things clicking from the perimeter, where they hit 10-25 from three-point territory. While we don’t want to read too much into just one victory, if Virginia Tech can continue to improve its up-tempo offense, Johnson’s team may sneak up on some people in the conference this year.
  5. Boston College and forward Ryan Anderson may have some newfound toughness and leadership this year. The sophomore, who led all rookies in the league in double-doubles last year, put up an impressive 29 points and 17 rebounds in the team’s 84-70 victory over FIU on Sunday. But it was a flagrant foul that probably illustrated the difference between last year’s team and this year’s, according to head coach Steve Donahue, who wants his team to be “nasty” on the court, something he felt did not happen enough last year. After FIU had rallied to tie the game in the second half, Anderson responded with a jumper, and then soon after was flagrantly fouled on a breakaway. After the play, his teammates rallied around him, and they only surrendered two more baskets during the rest of the game, which Anderson even said was a huge change from what would have happened last year. Any little bit helps for a team that struggled mightily last year, and a tougher Boston College squad can only help the conference.
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ACC M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 8th, 2012

  1. Inside Carolina: In the Roy Williams era, it hasn’t been too difficult for North Carolina to score. The combination of a brisk tempo and a humming offense has meant that Chapel Hill residents have gotten used to gaudy scores and the discounted biscuits that come when UNC scores over 100 during a home game. This year, however, it seems more likely that the team will derive more of its identity from defense. While John Henson and Tyler Zeller were great interior defenders, the perimeter defense of the Tar Heels was inconsistent at best last season. This year, with speedy Marcus Paige at the point and gifted defenders Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock on the wings, it seems likely that UNC could have one of the better perimeter defenses in the Roy Williams era.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Down the road in Raleigh, North Carolina State is thinking about defense as well. Despite the lofty expectations that have been placed upon the Wolfpack, one of the easily spotted weaknesses for this team is defense. In Mark Gottfried’s first year, NCSU had a middling defense, and with the departure of paint protector DeShawn Painter and the ball-hawking tandem of C.J. Williams and Alex Johnson, there is concern that the defense could get worse. Still, the Wolfpack has been focusing on defense in practice, striving to improve in areas where the team fell short. C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell were often the cornerstones of NCSU’s interior defense last season, but both struggled to stay on the court due to foul trouble. Each is working on defending without fouling while maintaining the same intensity that served the team so well last year. Increased time on the court for either will do nothing but help North Carolina State become the elite team that many pundits are expecting.
  3. Washington Post: The immediate eligibility of Dez Wells is a story with a lot of big time basketball implications for the Maryland Terrapins. On a human level it’s a big story for Wells, his family, his mentor, his teammates, and the Maryland basketball family as they all stood by him and hoped for the best when things looked bleakest for Wells. Sexual assault is a heinous offense that is psychologically damaging to its victims in a way that few other crimes are. To be wrongfully accused of committing this crime and to lose your place at school and on your basketball team is a heavy load for a young man to carry. It’s hard not to be happy for Wells who seems to have found a new and supportive home in College Park. His newfound eligibility is really just the cherry on top.
  4. The Virginian-Pilot: James Johnson is the only rookie coach in the ACC this year, and his road will be far from easy as he tries to rebuild a Virginia Tech program that seemed permanently stuck just outside the NCAA Tournament under Seth Greenberg. The departure of Greenberg made things seem even more difficult as players transferred and recruits like Montrezl Harrell de-committed. The scary thing is that it could have been much worse. Erick Green, the senior star point guard of the Hokies, considered transferring away from Blacksburg as well but Johnson’s appointment (previously an assistant under Greenberg) to the head spot tipped the scales in favor of VT. Now the Hokies are going to try to enjoy a rebirth as an up-tempo team that complements a blistering, frantic attack with the determined inside presence of a now-healthy Cadarian Raines. Little is expected of Virginia Tech this season, but it sounds like Johnson and Green hope to surprise the rest of the ACC.
  5. Washington Times: Last year, Virginia had a watershed moment with coach Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers were respected as one of the toughest defenses in the nation and Mike Scott was garnering praise as a potential All-American. When Bennett left Washington State to take on the project of rebuilding Virginia, it was clear that this wouldn’t be an easy job with a quick solution. It’s somewhat surprising then that Bennett was able to talk Washington native Joe Harris into following him to the other side of the country to play for a rebuilding team. Entering his third year, however, Harris is poised to take a starring role on a team that is expected to again make plenty of noise in the conference. Harris has NBA size and skills and, in a featured role for Cavaliers (including some time at the point with Jontel Evans out), the sharpshooting guard will hopefully see some more of  the seeds of his and Bennett’s hard work blossom.
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ACC Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 6th, 2012

With all of the ACC previews behind us, it’s time to put everything together in our first ACC Power Rankings of the season.

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke has all of the pieces to be a much better team than last year’s team. While the recruiting class is small, don’t forget redshirt freshmen Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee. Mason Plumlee may be the focal point of the Blue Devil offense. But the big question is how improved will Quinn Cook be?
NC State Wolfpack 2. NC State has the most complete team on paper. Add three top-shelf recruits to a talented returning group that includes two potential conference players of the year, and there’s bound to be plenty of hype. But will the Wolfpack be able to overcome their defensive woes (and the historical defensive woes of Mark Gottfried) and play like the end of last season, or will they play like the rest of the year?
North Carolina Tar Heels 3. North Carolina (tied) lost a lot from last year’s team with the four leading contributors with Reggie Bullock as the sole returning starter. But Roy Williams reloads instead of rebuilds. James Michael McAdoo may be the best player in the league, and Bullock looks ready to step up production. Freshman point Marcus Paige has big shoes (or at least a lot of shoes) to fill, but he’ll have help from backcourt veterans Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald.
Florida State Seminoles 3. Florida State (tied) may fall on its face, but Leonard Hamilton and Michael Snaer have earned the right to be taken seriously after knocking Duke and North Carolina off en route to the conference championship. Keep an eye on Okaro White and Terrance Shannon this season. You can trust Hamilton’s team to bring it defensively, but can they stop turning the ball over?
Miami Hurricanes 3. Miami (tied) looked rough in its exhibition loss, but there’s no denying the talent on this roster. The Hurricane frontcourt of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji is the best in the league; Durand Scott and Shane Larkin make an exciting backcourt duo; and there’s no shortage of athletic wings to help fill out the lineup. But can Jim Larranaga realize his team’s talent?
Maryland Terrapins 6. Maryland also has a lot of talent on its roster, but the Terrapins were abysmal offensively last season. To make matters worse (though potentially better in the long run), Terrell Stoglin is no longer with the team. Nick Faust and Alex Len need to make big improvements for Maryland to finish in the top half of the conference. Keep an eye on Maryland’s freshmen.
Virginia Cavaliers 7. Virginia has some interesting pieces, and Tony Bennett‘s system appears very effective. But the Cavaliers don’t have Mike Scott and his mid-range game to bail mediocre offensive possessions out anymore. This team will rely on its tenacious defense because it’s hard to see the offense being consistently effective.
Virginia Tech Hokies 8. Virginia Tech hired James Johnson to replace Seth Greenberg, and Greenberg left Johnson with some real talent. The Hokies are a sleeper to finish in the top half of the conference if Erick Green, Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines mesh well. Depth will be an issue, but those three are very good players. Johnson also has established relationships with the players, which should make his transition smoother.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 9. Wake Forest is really young. But a strong freshman class joining two of the best scorers in the league should make the team marginally more competitive than the last two years. Don’t sleep on Travis McKie. McKie is a match-up nightmare for every team, and shouldn’t surprise anyone when he averages close to 20 points a night.
Clemson Tigers 10. Clemson probably should be ranked higher than this. Certainly based on roster talent and previous results, the Tigers look better than tenth in the league. That said, Milton Jennings and Devin Booker haven’t shown the consistency to take over primary roles. If Jennings lives up to his McDonald’s All-American billing and Booker gets more aggressive, this team could finish much closer to the middle of the pack.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 11. Georgia Tech (tied) looks OK on paper, but didn’t add anything significant from last season’s 4-12 campaign. This points to another rough season in Atlanta, though Glen Rice Jr.’s sudden departure may prove more of a blessing than a curse.
Boston College 11. Boston College (tied) will be a significantly more watchable team this season. The team is still young, and still low on ACC-caliber talent. But the sophomore trio of Ryan Anderson, Patrick Heckmann and Dennis Clifford are the real deal. They also all improved a lot just over the course of last season (except Heckmann, who went down with mono).
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Our Robot Overlords Like Duke More Than Their Humanoid Counterparts

Posted by KCarpenter on October 30th, 2012

In the past couple days, the wizards of college basketball statistics have waved their wands and conjured up some preseason predictions for ACC teams. Of course, describing the process as magic is a great dis-service to these fine folks. Instead of engaging in arcane processes only explained in a cryptic language, these bold souls have happily popped open the hood on their future predicting machines and offered to show us what exactly they did. Ken Pomeroy gladly explains his methodology on his website, while Dan Hanner lays out the logic and mechanisms behind his predictive system at Basketball Prospectus. So, with a theoretical understanding of what these two are doing, we can now look at the predictive rankings from Pomeroy and Hanner and see how these predictions differ from the results predicted by the ACC’s coaches and the ACC media.

Messrs. Pomeroy and Hanner in the Lab…

The calculated predictions do differ from the polls in some significant ways, notably both Hanner and Pomeroy’s system favor Duke to be the best team in the conference, while the coaches and media favor NC State. The reasons for this are fairly obvious and have everything to do with how excited people get over highly-touted freshmen.  While both of the calculated systems take into consideration new players, both systems take a fairly reasoned and cautious view of their impact. So while the conference’s coaches and reporters might be swept up in Rodney Purvis Mania,  the computers are more measured in their optimism. With that taken into consideration, it’s easy to see how such systems would favor Duke, a team that was very good last year and lost relatively little compared to other league contenders like North Carolina and Florida State.

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ACC M5: 10.24.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on October 24th, 2012

  1. USA Today:  Miami Heat forward and former Duke star Shane Battier, recently offered some very high praise for his teammate, LeBron James. Battier said, “LeBron could have played at Duke, and I don’t say that about a lot of guys.” What Battier means is that few NBA players, particularly those of James’ caliber, would have been mentally tough enough to play for Coach K. Even though LeBron would likely have played at Ohio State if the one-and-done rule had been in effect when he was entering the professional ranks, it certainly can’t hurt Duke that one of its all-time greats is considering the game’s best player an honorary Blue Devil.  Additionally, James and Krzyzewski have enjoyed a great relationship during Coach K’s seven-year stint as the head coach of Team USA.
  2. Washington Post:  Despite Virginia Tech only having eight scholarship players this season, first year-head coach James Johnson is still intent on running an up-tempo offense. This would be a massive change from the Seth Greenberg era, when Virginia Tech regularly played one of the slowest paces in the ACC (aside from Tony Bennett’s glacial Virginia squads). During the team’s opening scrimmage, a larger percentage of the offense came in transition than from half-court sets. While it may be difficult for Virginia Tech to have success with this style in this season, Johnson wants to make this a long-term staple of his system. With some success this year, this could become a great recruiting tool up in Blacksburg.
  3. ESPN:  From the world of the bizarre: While on their overseas trip to Paris this offseason, most of Virginia’s basketball team managed to get trapped in a hotel elevator. In something that seems ripped from a bad movie or a claustrophobic person’s worst nightmare, head coach Tony Bennett narrates a video that describes this ordeal. It appears as though the players didn’t realize that the elevator capacity needed to be taken seriously, while also failing to adjust for the fact that basketball players are generally quite a bit larger than the average human. At the very least, it should have been a bonding experience for the team.
  4. Raleigh N&O:  The saga involving Tyler Hansbrough’s mother, Tami, continues. The university’s audit of Hansbrough (the former gifts officer) and her boyfriend and former boss, Matt Kupec, who was the head of UNC’s fundraising department before his resignation, has been completed. North Carolina determined that Kupec misspent $17,000 on a total of 13 trips under investigation, with much of it used on trips that he took with Hansbrough. Some of these trips were to go see the Tyler’s younger brother, Ben, play at Notre Dame, and several involved the use of UNC Medical Air planes. Kupec could potentially face criminal charges for his misconduct, and this scandal was just one of many likely responsible for UNC chancellor Holden Thorp’s recent resignation.
  5. Sports Illustrated: SI ran an interesting piece about the most influential college basketball teams of all-time.  Following the usual suspects (Texas Western in 1966, and the 1979 Michigan State and Indiana State teams led by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, respectively), only one ACC team made the cut:  the 1974 NC State national champions. This team, led by David Thompson — the player who introduced otherworldly athleticism to college basketball — Tommy Burleson, and Monte Towe, broke UCLA’s streak at the time of seven straight national titles. NC State hopes to rekindle some of its past glory with this year’s squad.  Even if they can make a run, they will obviously not hold a candle to the unbelievable team that brought the Wolfpack its first national title.
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ACC Team Previews: Virginia Tech Hokies

Posted by EMann on October 18th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams. Today’s victim: the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Virginia Tech finally escaped the the wrong side of the bubble last year… by coming nowhere near the bubble. The Hokies’ 2011-12 season was a massive disappointment, as the squad finished below .500 and 4-12 in the ACC. However, Virginia Tech was probably a better team than their record indicated. In ACC play (including the ACC Tournament), the team was 5-9 in games decided by five points or less, so it was clear that luck was not on their side. This season, more importantly, was the final nail in the coffin for Seth Greenberg, one of the ACC’s most vocal coaches. Greenberg was fired in April, not just due to his team’s inability to make the NCAA Tournament (only once in his tenure), but also due to his inability to retain assistant coaches and retain continuity in the program.

Johnson faces many challenges in his first year as a Division I head coach. (USA Today)

Before his firing, two members of Greenberg’s staff left during this offseason, and it was the second time in three years he had to replace multiple members of his coaching staff. Greenberg’s firing, which shocked the man himself, also made it very difficult for Virginia Tech to hire the best coach available in the coaching carousel and also drastically hurt their player retention/recruiting due to the strange timing of the move. New coach James Johnson was an assistant under Greenberg for five years before taking an assistant coaching job at Clemson. Johnson had held the position at Clemson for all of 2 1/2 weeks before the Virginia Tech job became vacant. Virginia Tech hopes that Johnson can help provide the continuity (and the urge for a more difficult non-conference schedule) that eluded Greenberg, while also building on Greenberg’s positive moves towards making Virginia Tech a viable threat to perennially contend towards Tournament bids, a difficult task for a coach at a school where football is certainly prioritized.


This is where Virginia Tech’s suddenly thin roster is apparent. Three-star forward Marcus Wood is the only scholarship freshman on the team, following the de-commitment of Montrezl Harrell (who later chose Louisville) in the wake of Greenberg’s firing. Wood should see immediate playing time as an athletic forward who can hopefully replace the role of the transferring Dorian Finney-Smith (they have nearly the same build, 6’8” and just under 200 lbs.). Virginia Tech also added a walk-on guard, Marcus Patrick, a high school teammate of Wood, who could compete for some bench minutes on this scant roster. Adam Smith, who transferred from UNC Wilmington, will sit out the 2012-13 season. Read the rest of this entry »

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