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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Preview Revisited – Part Three

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 3rd, 2014

As we continue to revisit our ‘ACC Mega-Preview’, here is the third part of our recap with the bottom five projected teams profiled below. Keep in mind that the teams are ranked here based on the RTC preseason ACC rankings. The analysis of each determines whether each team was ranked too high or low at the start of the season.

To review Part One and Part Two of this feature, click through the links.

11). Florida State Seminoles (9-3)

FSU's defense has given Leonard Hamilton reason to smile again

FSU’s defense has given Leonard Hamilton reason to smile again

  • Signature wins: #10 VCU, #22 UMass
  • Signature losses: #14 Michigan, #15 Florida
  • Reasons for optimism: Florida State has tangled with a very difficult schedule thus far and responded well above its preseason perception. Thanks to their talented trio of Ian Miller, Aaron Thomas and Okaro White, Florida State has outdone expectations through a return to their days of defensive dominance under defensive whiz and head coach Leonard Hamilton. The emergence of massive center Boris Bojanovsky as a formidable interior presence has helped anchor the frontline, and by playing hard-nosed basketball against a very competitive early slate of opponents before conference play begins, FSU has set itself up well to overachieve and claw its way into the crowded ACC picture.
  • Reasons for pessimism: It will be tough for Florida State to keep up its scorching shooting percentages through conference play, and the rhythm it has built may break down over the wear and tear of consistently equivalent and superior teams in the ACC. While the Seminoles rank highly in field goal percentage, they don’t have a long-range threat on the roster who can consistently knock down threes when they are zoned. If one of their big three gets into foul trouble, which has happened to White already this season (he is averaging 3.2 personal fouls per contest), they will struggle to replace a player of his offensive importance.
  • Forecast: Florida State has a bright season ahead, likely beating some solid opponents and losing a few very close games to stronger foes. Without star recruit Xavier Rathan-Mayes and missing out on the Andrew Wiggins sweepstake, most folks thought Hamilton’s team would struggle to keep its head above water this season. It has proved many people wrong with its tenacious defensive principles intact and a solid well-rounded scoring attack. Florida State has firmly leapfrogged several teams projected in front of it and can be expected to challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid by continuing on this trajectory. 

12). Miami Hurricanes (8-5)

  • Signature wins: Arizona State
  • Signature losses: George Washington
  • Reasons for optimism: Not much was expected of this Miami team after losing almost all of its squad from an historic 2012-13 season. Losing the likes of ACC POY Shane Larkin, Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson, and Durand Scott would weigh on any team, but Jim Larranaga’s group has looked more formidable than expected. Behind the strong play of Rion Brown, Garrius Adams and Donnavan Kirk, Miami won’t set the world on fire this season but has a good team that could upset some more talented squads in conference play. They are certainly athletic, physical, and well-coached and will not back down from any challenge. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC Team Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 25th, 2013

It’s difficult to argue that a coach with the eventual Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year on his roster was dealt a difficult hand, but that’s exactly what James Johnson was given in his first season at Virginia Tech last year. Johnson’s team, following the dismissal of long-tenured coach Seth Greenberg, operated most of the season with only eight scholarship players (and at times as few as six), making it difficult for the Hokies to employ his favored full-court pressure and trapping defenses. It also made for a very taxing season on his players overall, with very little depth to turn to and no consistent offense outside of the POY award-winning Erick Green. Green has departed for the greener pastures of the NBA, which leaves the Hokies in a transitional year as Johnson attempts to mold the team in his image in his second term.

Virginia Tech Preview 2013

Virginia Tech didn’t lose much outside of Green (their only other significant departure was the transfer of guard Robert Brown to UAB), but as stated above, the team certainly stood to gain quite a bit from an influx of new faces. While Johnson’s recruiting class this season is dominated by lightly-regarded players (at least by most scouting services), they will all be thrown into the cauldron early as the Hokies experiment with lineups and combinations. Combo guard Ben Emelogu, recently named captain of the team despite being a freshman, is characterized by Johnson as someone who can slash and jump-start the offense. Guard Adam Smith, a transfer from UNC-Wilmington, sat out the requisite season last year, but posted solid numbers in his freshman campaign in the Colonial Athletic Association (13.7 points per game, the top freshman scorer in the conference). Smith also has the benefit of familiarity with ACC competition, having notched 32 points against Wake Forest and 23 against Maryland in non-conference action two seasons ago. Freshman Devin Wilson also should see some minutes at the point as the Hokies try to rebuild their guard ranks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 03.08.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 8th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. USA Today: This is a phenomenal article from Mike Lopresti on the 30-year anniversary of the shocking NC State national championship over Houston (which, in awesome time consuming news, you can watch in its entirety on Youtube). Two of the three most important pieces to that game are dead–Jim Valvano and Lorenzo Charles (the dunker)–but the legacy lives on through countless ESPN replays. There are very few moments in sports where the ecstasy of winning was so raw and powerful as it was watching Valvano run one direction before sprinting towards the mob by the NC State basket. 
  2. Indy Weekly: Jeff Bzdelik press conferences are worth the price of admission. He often comes across as an odd combination of aloof and irascible. After the Demon Deacons took a beating from CJ Leslie and NC State, Bzdelik offered this sage take on Leslie’s game:

    “When he wants to be, if he really wants to be, he can be”

    That’s actually a pretty fair summation of Leslie’s career. Bzdelik should’ve known he was two syllables away from a haiku, but such is life.

  3. The ACC: The conference released its All-ACC Academic teams Thursday. Four of the 14 players call Duke home, and over half of them are freshmen. Mason Plumlee is the fourth Duke player to ever make the team two years in a row; Jarell Eddie also made the team for a second straight year. All in all nine schools made the cut, but Virginia, NC State and Florida State did not. To qualify you had to have a 3.00 GPA both this year and over the course of your entire career (which explains the high number of freshmen on the team).
  4. Washington Post: It’s not a secret that Mark Turgeon and Roy Williams are close. The interesting part of this article is twofold: (1) with Maryland’s coming departure to the Big Ten, Mark Turgeon won’t have to worry about taking advice from a direct competitor, and (2) the author’s language when talking about Turgeon and Maryland’s departure. “Changing conferences wasn’t part of the deal. Turgeon came to Maryland to be a part of the tradition-rich ACC. […] But there’s only one Tobacco Road.” North Carolina bias aside (Maryland’s not on Tobacco Road and if anything, the reverence surrounding Tobacco Road irritated Gary Williams as much as anything), but Turgeon always speaks in favor of the move publicly.
  5. This doesn’t need any analysis. (But really Tony Bennett, you didn’t want to double team the guy with three game winners this year before he got the ball?) Michael Snaer put the shakes on Joe Harris before getting the old-fashioned three point play to beat Virginia.

Share this story

ACC M5: 02.13.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 13th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Tech Hoops: I stumbled across an ACC fan site I somehow hadn’t seen before — good stuff here on Virginia Tech‘s beatdown at the hands of Virginia. Jarell Eddie in particular was just horrific. He only played 14 minutes, but managed to have a plus/minus of -19. Eddie’s problem unfortunately appears to be that he’s totally checked out. He’s turning the ball over and has stopped hitting shots, which is really bad for a team that already struggles offensively without its second option mailing it in. Interestingly, Virginia Tech went 0-of-6 from the charity stripe if you discard Erick Green’s efforts. More damningly, the Hokies only have two ACC games with a positive assist to turnover margin, while their opponents only have one game with a negative assist to turnover margin. That’s an issue.
  2. Hampton Roads Daily Press: In more positive news, Miami‘s 10-0 start in ACC play looks very good for the postseason. Sixteen ACC teams previously started 10-0 in league play — half of those won the ACC Tournament, half went to the Final Four (Miami’s only made it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament once ever), and two won it all. That’s not bad company. Only one team (2007-08 Duke) didn’t at least share the regular season crown for the league. The previous runners of the opening 10-game gauntlet are six North Carolina teams, six Duke teams, three NC State teams, and yes, one Virginia team.
  3. ACC Sports Journal: The ACC’s freshmen are an interesting bunch. There’s a lot of really intriguing talent out there but no real superstars. Olivier Hanlan is the closest thing to a dominant freshman this year, and he shines especially bright because of the lack of athleticism and talent surrounding him (which isn’t a knock on his athleticism — Duke didn’t have anyone who could stay in front of him). My only qualm with this list is Devin Thomas‘ ranking. He’s been a bright spot for Wake Forest this season largely because of his effort. He’s not the most polished player around, but he often is the most impactful player on the floor for the Demon Deacons.
  4. Tomahawk Nation: Florida State is still theoretically in contention for an at-large bid to the Big Dance. The key will be to not blow any of its remaining winnable games and stealing a couple of marquee games down the stretch (a win over Duke or Miami would help dramatically). As far as Michael Rogner’s power rankings, it’s interesting how stable the top of the conference is when compared to the ever-morphing top of the national polls. Miami, Duke, Virginia, NC State and North Carolina all sit in the same spots. It’s also time to start asking if the Hurricanes can run the table this year. Their final game at Duke will be the ultimate test, but so far they haven’t shown many vulnerabilities.
  5. US Basketball Writers Association: For the second straight week, the USBWA named an ACC player its Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week. This time it’s Mason Plumlee‘s turn, after he averaged 24.5 points, 9.5 boards and 2.0 blocks per game in wins over Boston College and NC State. After a quiet stretch following his early NPOY candidacy, Plumlee is back on track in the ACC Player of the Year race. His free throw shooting has improved and overall he’s just being more aggressive without Ryan Kelly on the floor.
Share this story

ACC M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 30th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Basketball Prospectus: So how good has Miami been? So far this season, the Hurricanes are an average 0.21 points per possession (PPP) better than their conference opponents (the Duke game helped a lot on this front). For those of you not mathematically inclined, that’s equivalent to a point lead in every five possessions.  That’s the third best mark for a power-conference team behind Florida’s gaudy 0.43 (which will come down) and Michigan’s 0.24 PPP. Miami has the best defense in the league by a decent margin to go with a serviceable offense. The Hurricanes’ secret? Insanely good field goal percentage numbers and good rebounding.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: It’s pretty obvious Duke is a different team without Ryan Kelly, but his injury may have some positive side effects. For one, Amile Jefferson is really starting to develop, which probably wouldn’t have happened until next season without the recent extra playing time. Also Duke is changing its offense, namely running more set plays to get people open. Both should prove very useful when Kelly returns. Duke would be able to throw very different offensive looks at opponents and won’t have to settle for Josh Hairston’s limited offensive repertoire (though don’t look for his minutes to disappear completely).
  3. Fayetteville Observer: For pretty much everyone but Miami, the road has been tough on ACC teams. Take out the Hurricanes and the league is 8-30 in road games (with Duke still searching for its first win). Duke‘s biggest issue is that it played its hardest two road games first. I don’t agree that it’s an experience thing, unless Coach K means experience playing without Ryan Kelly. The Blue Devils don’t have Miami’s aggregate age across the lineup, but they do start two seniors and this mostly shows that the ACC is very competitive. There’s just not a lot separating the teams in the middle of the pack or even at the top of the league right now (discounting the Hurricanes, of course).
  4. NBC Sports: Virginia Tech’s Erick Green is shining this season, but unfortunately his teammates in Blacksburg aren’t. He’s leading the country in scoring right now, but Green isn’t a new Terrell Stoglin. He’s surrounded by competent but passive players who can’t seem to find the bottom of the net. Cadarian Raines and Jarrell Eddie, especially Eddie, should make a decent scoring backcourt. But Raines has only added half a point to his average from last season in a much bigger role, and Eddie can only do so much. Add in zero depth, and there’s good reason for Green to take as many shots as he does. For Virginia Tech to win, he needs his teammates to join the offensive cause. Green knows it and wants to win more than anything, but if his supporting cast keeps up its current pace, he’ll have to settle for scoring.
  5. Maryland Diamondback: It’s too bad Charles Mitchell will be leaving the ACC with the Terrapins because he’s incredible to watch. He’s a more in-shape Reggie Johnson with plenty of opportunity to condition himself next offseason. If there’s a shot missed, it’s a good bet Mitchell will come down with it. He combines a massive frame, good instincts and superb hustle to rack up boards like no one’s business. He also showed some pretty strong post moves against Duke. Assuming Mark Turgeon can convince him to stay around College Park for four years, Maryland has a real asset for the future in the post.
Share this story

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).
Share this story

ACC M5: 11.01.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 1st, 2012

  1. Wilmington Star News: Brett Friedlander is putting out some good stuff in previewing the ACC season. Today his Maryland preview came online. Sophomore Nick Faust describes why people should expect improvement from the Terrapins despite losing their only offensive option in Terrell Stoglin: “When I first got in last year, I definitely felt as though the team was separated — not separated, but we definitely weren’t as close as we are now. All of us bond together, even the new guys that came in. We’re just more together; we’re one.” If Faust makes the improvement most are forecasting, this is a team that could feasibly make a run for the NCAA Tournament (regardless of computer rankings). They’ve definitely got an uphill road ahead, but it’s a legitimate possibility.
  2. Rome News-Tribune: Georgia Tech needs its frontcourt to step up this season if the Yellow Jackets are going to make the leap to middle of the pack in the conference. Juniors Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey both improved significantly as last year went along — Miller scored in double figures in eight of his last 10 games. But Georgia Tech desperately needs more offense this season, and that frontcourt duo should be able to help senior Mfon Udofia carry the scoring load.
  3. Greensboro News-Record: The NC State hype is real. At least fans are buying into it, quite literally. With their highest preseason ranking since ranking first in 1974, the Wolfpack have already sold 1,900 more season tickets than last year, which is the highest season ticket sales have been in five years. If Mark Gottfried and his team can deliver on the hype, expect ticket sales to keep climbing. Fans should get their money’s worth, even if the Wolfpack don’t finish as the sixth ranked team in the country. This team will be fun to watch, especially on the offensive end.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: People often point to freshmen when talking about why young teams struggle, but it’s the veterans who also have to accept new roles. Last season, Ian Miller and Okaro White were two incredibly important reserves for Florida State: Miller’s job was to come in and put up quick points; White’s job was to give Bernard James a breather. This year both will have to be leaders by helping integrate the new freshmen to Leonard Hamilton’s system. If they succeed, the freshmen will find their roles much faster and this team could win the conference. If they don’t, the team could find itself sneaking into the NCAA tournament.
  5. ACCSports.com: David Glenn cleaned up at the ACC’s “Operation Basketball” this season, recording interviews with most of the conference’s top players. The best news? Most of them are compiled in the same place, so you can listen to Michael Snaer talk Florida State, Julian Gamble talk Miami, or Jarell Eddie talk Virginia Tech. Probably good to get a little listening in, as ACC basketball season starts just over a week from today.

VIDEO UPDATE: Uncle Drew (aka Kyrie Irving) is back.

Share this story

ACC M5: 10.29.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 29th, 2012

  1. Baltimore Sun: Maryland transfer Dez Wells‘ story is complicated. He was suspended four games after contributing to the Xavier-Cincinnati brawl last season; then he was expelled from Xavier after being accused with sexual assault. An Ohio grand jury refused to indict him on those allegations and the prosecutor assigned to the case called the school’s action against Wells “an injustice,” presumably because the university jumped to conclusions of improper behavior. The NCAA has denied Maryland’s appeal for Wells immediate eligibility, and good arguments can be made for both sides of the debate. However, the author’s allusion that Maryland is in the NCAA crosshairs while high profile schools like Kentucky skate by seems farfetched.
  2. State of the UState of the U caught up with Miami junior Rion Brown, who showed major improvements last season. Brown calls for Miami fans to take a more active role cheering on the team this season. He noted that Jim Larranaga no longer spends his time teaching philosophy, instead focusing on basketball; he also thinks the Hurricanes will be a faster team than last year. Brown is an under-the-radar guy Miami will really need to perform well if this season is going to live up to the hype.
  3. Washington Post: Virginia Tech took a couple of steps back last season, finishing a disappointing 4-12 in conference play. The Hokies have a bona fide star in Erick Green, but he will need his teammates to step up their offensive production if Virginia Tech hopes to improve significantly this season. Mark Giannotto points to Robert Brown and Jarell Eddie on the perimeter as two players who need to take big steps forward this season. Eddie largely works as a set-shooter, reaping the rewards of Green’s penetration. Brown has the athleticism to take the ball inside, but he needs to improve his halfcourt offensive efficiency.
  4. theACC.com: The ACC got some very good news recently as the NCAA released its graduation success rates (GSR) at the end of last week. The conference is tops of the six power conferences in GSR for football, men’s basketball, and baseball. While it’s not a perfect metric by any means, the GSR is better than the federal graduation rate, which ignores transfers altogether (while the GSR conversely holds schools accountable for transfers leaving in poor academic standing).
  5. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Virginia’s backcourt got a little thinner for the beginning of the season, as freshman Teven Jones has been suspended for the team’s season opener. The Cavaliers have already lost defensive specialist Jontel Evans for a while as he recovers from surgery to heal a stress fracture in his foot. This leaves freshman Taylor Barnette and two-guard Joe Harris to run the point to start the year. Tony Bennett desperately needs someone to take the reins until Evans returns.
Share this story

ACC Morning Five: 01.13.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 13th, 2012

Before we get started, how about a pretty amazing stat from last night. Duke shot below 50% from the foul line and 25% from three for the first time in school history in its win against Virginia (to be fair, the Cavaliers went 0-11 from three in the second half in a game they lost by three).

  1. Gobbler Country: The Virginia Tech blog takes a look at the Hokies and hands out grades for the starters. Erick Green leads the way with an A followed by Jarell Eddie with a B+. Eddie, in particular, came out of nowhere for me especially. I personally thought the C- for Dorenzo Hudson was generous. True, his numbers aren’t terrible, but I sort of expected him to excel as the second option for Green. The best news from this post is that they still believe in true grades, giving a C to Dorian Finney-Smith despite the fact that “he has nearly met them and exceeded them on the boards”. Take that grade inflation.
  2. Shakin’ The Southland: While we take a jaunt around the blogosphere, this wins the lede of the night: “We just lost to Clifford the Big Red Dog and his merry band of freshmen.” Boston College gets its first conference win! The Eagles pulled off the upset over Clemson exactly how I imagined, knocking down eight threes in a slow game while their opponent went ice cold down the stretch. It’s a great win for the Eagles and a horrendous loss for Clemson coming off an exciting conference opener.
  3. Baltimore Sun: Mark Turgeon needs more out of Ashton Pankey, Terrell Stoglin, and Alex Len. Pankey played some solid games when Len was on the bench, but losing his starting spot has killed his productivity. Turgeon’s criticism of Stoglin seems harsh, but I think–like the other players–it’s really a compliment. As for Len, Turgeon just wants him to get in game shape.
  4. The Sporting News: Sorry to be recap heavy, but it was an important night in conference play. Duke pulled out the victory in the end, but give Virginia a lot of credit. It played Duke too close for comfort all night. Mike Scott showed he’s almost certainly the most valuable player thus far in the conference. On Duke’s side, Mason Plumlee would be en route to a first-team All-Conference season if not for unbelievably bad free throw shooting. Against the Cavaliers, Plumlee finished 2-10 from the charity stripe.
  5. South Florida Sun-Sentinel: About the lone bright spot from Miami’s beatdown at North Carolina was the continuing solid play from Kenny Kadji. Kadji, once a top recruit at IMG Academy, is finally starting to reach his potential. He’s developed a solid jumper in addition to solid post skills (that will certainly be improved with some more weight). Keep an eye on the Miami little-big man going forward.

Speaking of North Carolina and Miami, I failed to notice something about the game. Fred Black, a contributor at Chapelboro, thought the North Carolina crowd has been “boorish” the last couple of games. I was at one of those games and the last thing I would’ve described the crowd as is “boorish.” Also, I love the vague “school up the road” (coughDUKEcough) with a reputation for “boorish” fans [Author’s Note: For the record, some people think he’s referring to NC State, which could be true and would be equally funny.].

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 11.16.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 16th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Tonight’s slate is loaded with quality games, mostly from the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

#21 Virginia Tech @ #3 Kansas State – 4 pm on ESPN (*****)

Seth Greenberg decided to beef up his non-conference schedule this year after being left out of the last few NCAA Tournaments and this may be his team’s toughest test. The Hokies enter the Octagon of Doom looking to make a statement and ease any NCAA bubble worries, at least temporarily. Most prognosticators say Virginia Tech will be a lot better than the bubble but that thought has to creep into the back of some fans’ minds at times. Led by Malcolm Delaney, four seniors return and all are starters. Kansas State has had some problems early on as coach Frank Martin benched senior Curtis Kelly against James Madison on Friday for not practicing with energy and needing to be a better teammate. His status for today’s game is unknown. Point guard is also a question for the Wildcats as Denis Clemente has moved on. All-American candidate Jacob Pullen can play the point but is better off the ball. K-State seemed to play point guard by committee in their first game as Pullen, Nick Russell, Rodney McGruder and Martavious Irving combined for all 14 of the team’s assists. Kansas State shot only 53% from the free throw line, a problem that plagued them all of last season. Both teams like to play fast but also can get after it defensively as each finished in the top 20 in defensive efficiency last season. Virginia Tech is not a particularly good shooting team so that could play right into the hands of an active Wildcat defense encouraged by their energized crowd. The Hokies may have an issue with depth, especially early in the season when they’re trying to establish a rotation. With J.T. Thompson lost for the season and Cadarian Raines still out with a foot injury, Greenberg is down to seven major contributors. He’ll need freshman Jarell Eddie and Erick Green to step up and become threats off the bench. Kansas State needs to protect the ball and defend well in order to win. Va Tech was fifth nationally in steals and 36th in turnover percentage last year so they’ll be ready to exploit the uncertain K-State point guard situation. Virginia Tech may not have enough shooting to win this one but if Kelly is out, the door will be open for the Hokies to grab an important road victory.

#3 Ohio State @ #8 Florida – 6 pm on ESPN (*****)

ESPN wants to open Louisville’s new arena in prime time but this is really the marquee game of the Tip-Off Marathon. It features a Florida team that returns all five starters and is the trendy pick to win the SEC East and possibly make the final four. Ohio State, a final four favorite, returns four starters of its own and adds super impact freshman Jared Sullinger in the paint. Thad Matta’s Buckeyes have a good blend of youth and experience and are incredibly deep as a result of their terrific recruiting class. If you like three pointers then this is your game. Florida loves to shoot the three and so does the Ohio State backcourt led by Jon Diebler. The Gators struggled a bit in their opening win over UNC-Wilmington as they allowed the Seahawks to shoot 48% from the floor. Florida only shot 32% from behind the arc and they’ll need to do better than that if they hope to beat Ohio State. They’re also going to need players to contribute off the bench because as good as their starters are, you can’t rely on five players to carry your team. Erik Murphy should be the best bet, though a talented group of freshman should see their minutes increase as they settle into their roles in Billy Donovan’s system. Donovan, a Rick Pitino disciple, plays an up-tempo system that emphasizes pressing and three point shooting. For Florida to execute the press properly, they need a fresh stream of bodies coming in and out of the game. While that’s not as important in a single game, depth issues will take their toll as the season moves along. Ohio State is absolutely loaded with a powerful backcourt, frontcourt and bench. Diebler can flat out stroke it from deep and guys like Dallas Lauderdale and David Lighty add toughness and experience to their rotation. Florida needs a good game from senior leader Chandler Parsons and they just can’t afford to have Kenny Boynton go without a three again as he did against UNCW. The Buckeyes throttled North Carolina A&T in their opener behind 24/8 from freshman DeShaun Thomas. Another solid game from him or another OSU freshman could push them to an impressive road victory in the hostile O-Dome. This will be an unbelievably competitive and hard fought game but Ohio State’s depth and talent advantage gives them a great shot to earn a road win that will help build their resume for a possible #1 seed.

#12 Butler @ Louisville – 8pm on ESPN (****)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story