A Look at the ACC in the NIT

Posted by Charlie Maikis on March 14th, 2017

March Madness is now upon us, but let’s take a moment to consider a different postseason tournament as the ACC is sending three teams to the NIT this season. In a year where many observers thought the NCAA Tournament bubble was one of the weakest in years, the Selection Committee was not particularly kind to the conference. Of the three ACC bubble teams, Wake Forest made the field of 68 while Syracuse and Georgia Tech were left at home. Clemson joins the Orange and Yellow Jackets in this year’s NIT, meaning that the 12 of the 15 ACC teams were invited to one of the two prestigious postseason tournaments. Before the NCAA Tournament vacuums all the oxygen in the college basketball universe, let’s discuss the trio of ACC teams playing in the NIT.

Syracuse and Clemson are two of the strongest teams in the NIT field this year and give the ACC a great chance at success. Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse

Syracuse was a curious case as the Orange were left out of the NCAA Tournament presumably because of a lackluster non-conference performance. Teams that go 10-8 in what is widely regarded as the nation’s best conference usually get an invitation to the Big Dance, but that factor alone clearly wasn’t enough this season. The result was Syracuse’s placement as the top overall seed in the NIT bracket, but perhaps in the toughest region of the four. Their region also contains four other power conference teams, and the average Kenpom ranking of of the group is five spots better than the rest of the field. Luckily Syracuse doesn’t have to play the other seven teams but just the ones in front of it, starting on Wednesday night at home against UNC-Greensboro. Remember, after Jim Boeheim blasted the city of Greensboro (site of ACC headquarters and numerous ACC Tournaments) at last week’s ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, the municipality fired back:

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Taking Stock of Jaron Blossomgame’s Senior Season

Posted by Charlie Maikis on March 6th, 2017

Jaron Blossomgame entered this season with sky-high expectations. After winning the ACC Most Improved Player award a year ago, the senior forward was selected to the preseason All-ACC First Team. And while his statistical output was very similar to last season, Clemson’s disappointing performance in a league full of stars assuredly hurt him given an All-ACC Third Team placement in the postseason awards. Was returning to school a good idea for the senior forward? Let’s take a deeper look at Blossomgame’s performance this season to find out.

Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame has been the focus of opposing defenses (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

Across the board, his numbers in scoring, rebounding and assists are slightly down, and his overall efficiency has suffered as a result. The primary reason for this decrease is related to his shooting ability. According to Hoop-Math, Blossomgame’s field goal percentage on shots at the rim improved this season by 6.3 percent. His field goal percentage on other shots inside the arc increased by 2.0 percent. For a player whose game is generally predicated on athleticism and conversions at the rim, those are good signs. The problem area, however, has come on Blossomgame’s perimeter game. Strangely, a player who converted 44.1 percent of his three-point attempts a season ago has regressed to 26.4 percent this year. Perhaps this should be unsurprising given that he was a 24.8 percent long-range shooter during his first two years of college, but for someone who shot so well to drop so precipitously is suggestive that his norm is much closer to the 32.2 percent he has converted in his career.

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This Weekend in the ACC: February 18

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 18th, 2017

Here are a few things to keep your eye on around the ACC this weekend (all times Eastern):

Saturday, 12:00 PM: Clemson (14-11, 4-9) at Miami (17-8, 7-6) — This is an important game between two ACC bubble teams. The Tigers enter the weekend just 4-9 in conference play, but given a strong performance in non-conference action combined with a weak bubble nationally, they can probably sneak into the NCAA Tournament with an 8-10 league record. That means winning two of their three tricky remaining games (they also visit Virginia Tech and host Florida State), starting with Miami this weekend. The Hurricanes will be without starting point guard Ja’Quan Newton for the second straight game as he serves a three-game suspension, but Jim Larranaga‘s club should have enough defensive length to handle Clemson star Jaron Blossomgame. The key in this contest will be how, without the services of Newton, Miami chooses to defend the Tigers’ three-pronged backcourt attack of Shelton Mitchell, Avery Holmes and Marcquise Reed.

Jayson Tatum has led the Blue Devils turnaround. Can he now lead them back to the Final Four? (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Saturday, 1:00 PM: Wake Forest (15-11, 6-8) at Duke (21-5, 9-4) — Duke’s current six-game winning streak has renewed discussion of the Blue Devils as the ACC favorite. Freshman Jayson Tatum is a big reason why — the versatile forward is averaging 15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from three-point range during those six games. Playing mostly as a small four, Tatum is a match-up nightmare who has shown he can make clutch jump shots when Duke needs them. Look for Tatum to have a monster afternoon, as Wake Forest does not have a good defensive option to counter his quickness on the perimeter. Read the rest of this entry »

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This Weekend in the ACC: February 4

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 4th, 2017

Here are a few things to keep your eye on around the ACC this weekend (all times Eastern).

Clemson needs Jaron Blossomgame to come up big if the Tigers want to win in Tallahassee. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

  • Saturday, 12:00 PM: Virginia (17-4, 7-2) at Syracuse (14-9, 6-4). The Cavaliers have been excellent on the road this year, going 4-1 in the ACC with their only loss in overtime at Pittsburgh. In an ACC season where road wins have been tough to come by, that record is an excellent way to win an ACC regular season championship. The Orange are undefeated at home in ACC play, but this game could be decided on the glass. In their last two wins at the Carrier Dome, Syracuse has dominated the offensive glass (33.3% against Wake Forest; 38.7% against Florida State.) Virginia, on the other hand, has been downright dominant at securing defensive rebounds in its last three ACC victories (91.7% against Georgia Tech; 96.4% against Notre Dame; 88.9% against Virginia Tech).
  • Saturday, 3:00 PM: Georgia Tech (13-9, 5-5) at Wake Forest (13-9, 4-6). Coming into this season, this looked like a game you would easily skip over on a busy college hoops weekend. But both Josh Pastner and Danny Manning have gotten their teams into the early February bubble conversation, and this game looms large for either team’s NCAA Tournament hopes. The Yellow Jackets have collected several terrific wins at home but need to show they can win outside of Atlanta. The Demon Deacons’ resume is still short on wins over other Tournament-quality teams, so adding a few victories over fellow bubble teams like Georgia Tech is key. Wake Forest ranks among the top 50 in the country in effective field goal percentage (53.9%) and relies heavily on Bryant Crawford and John Collins to produce. This will come down to whether Georgia Tech’s zone defense can get enough stops against a very efficient offense (12th nationally, per KenPom). The Yellow Jackets have not allowed a team to shoot an eFG over 51.0 percent in their last eight games — if they can make it to nine, they should be able to win this game.

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Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame Seeking Recognition and Relevance

Posted by Charlie Maikis on November 17th, 2016

Clemson has always been a football school, but don’t tell that to Jaron Blossomgame. Coming off an All-ACC season in which he won the conference’s Most Improved Player Award, the redshirt senior is now looking to lead the Tigers to their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011. Clemson started the campaign with a win over Georgia at the new Littlejohn Coliseum last Friday night, and it will continue with an opening round game later this morning  against Davidson at the Tire Pros Invitational in Kissimmee, Florida. A lack of postseason success has prompted many to overlook Blossomgame as a legitimate candidate for All-America honors, but after averaging 18.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last year, “JB” comes into his final season looking to cement his status as one of the premier players in the nation.

Dec 18, 2015; Greenville, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers forward Jaron Blossomgame (5) celebrates during a timeout in the second half against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The Gamecocks won 65-59. Mandatory Credit: Dawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports

Jaron Blossomgame is poised for a monster season. (USA TODAY Sports)

A legitimate inside-out threat, Blossomgame’s versatility makes him very difficult to stop. Per Synergy Sports, he ranked in the 89th percentile nationally in points per possession on post-ups, but also shot an outstanding 44.6 percent from beyond the arc (on 102 attempts). There is no easy solution for guarding him — an opponent needs a player quick enough to chase him around the perimeter but also big enough to avoid his punishment on the blocks. The dearth of players around the country capable of defending Blossomgame allows him to take advantage of his spots. And yet, as lethal as he can be in the half-court, he may even more potent in transition. Between points and assists, Blossomgame created 1.604 points per possession in 53 transition opportunities last year. In last week’s opener, Blossomgame did just that — he picked his spots en route to 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting with six rebounds and three assists. While he is already an elite offensive threat, there are still areas in which the senior can improve. His three dimes last weekend matched his second-best output ever in that regard, and as assistant coach Steve Smith said about his improving passing ability, “we stress those things to him daily.” Blossomgame’s defense also has room to grow, as he and Donte Grantham inside last year proved incapable of containing opposing bigs to the tune of 1.17 points per possession.

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Introducing the RTC Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on November 10th, 2016

With the season tipping off on Friday, there’s no better time to roll out our the RTC Preseason All-America Teams. More than anything, these three groups of outstanding players are here to foster and encourage discussion over the next four months. Our crack panel of seven national columnists provided ballots over the last week and this is where we ended up.

First Team All-Americans

1stteam

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ACC Burning Questions: Clemson Tigers

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 1st, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Is this the year that Clemson returns to the NCAA Tournament?

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell has a swanky remodeled home arena, a returning All-America candidate and three talented transfers ready to join a group that finished last season at 10-8 in ACC play. After five consecutive seasons without an NCAA Tournament appearance, the Tigers may finally be poised to crash the Big Dance once again. Brownell’s job security may or may not depend on an invitation to the NCAA Tournament this year, but history shows that it is an extremely rare situation for an ACC coach to remain in his post after six straight years of missing the games premier event.

Brad Brownell hopes this is the year that Clemson makes it back to the NCAA Tournament. (sportstalksc.com)

Brad Brownell hopes that Clemson makes it back to the NCAA Tournament after a five-year hiatus. (sportstalksc.com)

In his six seasons at the helm, Brownell has developed a deserving reputation as a coach who maximizes his available talent. With a six-year 50-54 conference record, the Tigers have become a consistent middle-of-the-pack ACC program. Early in Brownell’s tenure, road wins were scarce — he logged only five such victories during his first three years at the school. But lately, the Tigers have improved in that regard by claiming 10 road wins over the past three seasons. Last year Clemson was very competitive in most of its away losses, dropping three games by three points or fewer and winning three others. Speaking of playing on the road, the Tigers also return to a remodeled Littlejohn Coliseum this season after spending 2015-16 at Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena — a 45-minute trip from campus. Capacity at the new Littlejohn is slightly lower now, but 9,000 wild fans should be plenty to recreate the electric home court atmosphere that students at Clemson have historically provided. Read the rest of this entry »

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Handing Out ACC Awards and Superlatives

Posted by Matt Patton on March 8th, 2016

The chips have fallen where they did, so it’s time to take a look back at the best the ACC had to offer this season.

First Team All-ACC

Malcolm Brogdon Has Helped the Cavs Turn the Corner (Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty)

Malcolm Brogdon gets the slight nod for conference player of the year honors. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia (POY)
  • Brice Johnson, North Carolina
  • Grayson Allen, Duke
  • Cat Barber, NC State
  • Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame

With 15 ACC teams from which to choose, the normal difficulty of selecting a first team was mitigated by Brogdon, Johnson, Allen and Barber being virtual locks. Brogdon gets the nod for ACC Player of the Year over Johnson for his outstanding defense, but it was a close race. The senior is the best player to suit up for Tony Bennett’s team in recent memory thanks to his incredible efficiency and on-ball defense. It’s certainly possible that these four players end up on several All-American teams, although Barber will lose some votes because of NC State’s lack of success this year. The wild card is Notre Dame’s Jackson. I went back and forth here. The media and coaches chose Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, but Jackson won the eye test for me. He was a tremendous pure point guard for the Irish this year, and Mike Brey’s team would have likely ended up in the bottom third of the conference without him.

Second Team All-ACC

  • Michael Gbinije, Syracuse
  • Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
  • Anthony Gill, Virginia
  • Michael Young, Pittsburgh
  • Damion Lee, Louisville

Gbinije, Blossomgame and Gill were head and shoulders above Young and Lee. The first two took on greatly augmented roles this season, playing as deluxe Swiss Army Knives for teams that overachieved.

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Evaluating All-ACC Candidates Heading Into the Home Stretch

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 10th, 2016

With four weeks to go in the regular season, it’s a good time to start thinking about potential all-ACC players. Below we list 10 players whose play to this point deserve highest consideration for conference honors. With nearly four weeks of action remaining, there’s plenty of time for movement within and perhaps into or out of the group.

Note: all statistics and (ACC Rank) are for conference games only through Sunday, February 7.

1) Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber, N.C. State   JR

PPG – 24.1 (1), APG – 4.1 (6), FT% – 91.0 (1), 3FG% – 43.1 (6), MPG – 39.1 (1)

Mike Krzyzewski lavished praise on Anthony Barber after Duke's latest game with N.C. State. (newsobserver.com)

Mike Krzyzewski lavished praise on Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber after Duke’s latest game with N.C. State. (newsobserver.com)

The debate has already begun concerning Barber as an ACC Player of the Year candidate. There is a school of thought that says he must be on a team that finishes highly in the league standings – and that’s normally the case. But the ultra-quick guard is also getting support from at least one of the league’s most prominent coaches. Here’s what Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski said about Barber just last weekend after the Blue Devils’ win over N.C. State:

That kid is really good. I’m not NC State’s sports promotion here, but don’t judge just how good a guy is by the record of his team, because they’re close to winning five more games. He gives them a chance to win every game. He’s the toughest out in the league because in trying to get him, he spoon feeds some of those guys too. He’s responsible for a lot of points for that basketball team and you can figure it out mathematically with assists, but also spacing and this and [Maverick] Rowan might get open a little more because of it, big time. He’s very good.

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ACC M5: 02.03.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 3rd, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. RickPitino.net: Wait, Rick Pitino is the newest ACC basketball blogger (h/t to Card Chronicle)? Pitino hits us with some great Alfred Pennyworth-esque coachspeak in his latest post: “Many get knocked down; you judge character by how they get up.” Beyond the very bloggy writing, you actually get a pretty cool PDF of the team’s “MVP” metrics for Monday night’s game against North Carolina. It turns out that the Louisville coaching staff tracks everything from hockey assists to poor shot selection.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: This is a great look at the ACC through the first half of the season from Al Featherston. The league is really competitive this season, which has led to some peculiar oddities: for example, Georgia Tech is a lot better than its 2-7 conference record (people called last night’s game a “must-win” for Duke, but that Yellow Jackets team isn’t bad). My only real disagreement with the article concerns Pittsburgh‘s inclusion in the “contender” category. The Panthers have only two impressive wins so far: at Florida State and at Notre Dame. Both of those wins were really close calls, but their three losses weren’t. Maybe this Pittsburgh team is good, but I haven’t seen it.
  3. Anderson Independent Mail: Jaron Blossomgame is earning his name this season, as he’s become a much more efficient player than last year. An amazing factoid from Dan Hope’s piece on the junior’s emergence is that he’s the first Clemson player since Terrell McIntyre in 1999 to score at least 20 points in four straight games against ACC opponents. He then made the streak five in row in last night’s win over Wake Forest. Blossomgame has an inspiring story, recovering from a grisly high school injury to become a quiet ACC star.
  4. Winston-Salem Journal: Wake Forest is officially reeling, having lost nine of their last 10 games including a 56-point second half to Clemson on the way to a blowout loss. That makes Dan Collins’ column on Dave Odom‘s improvement as a color commentator a welcome distraction. Odom will be Wake Forest’s basketball “legend” this year at the ACC Tournament.
  5. Miami Herald: What to make of Miami? The Hurricanes looked like a juggernaut against Duke; then they turned around and were blown out by NC State. Maybe the games are related or maybe they looked past an underachieving Wolfpack team. Or maybe, like Angel Rodriguez mentioned, there was a tighter whistle in Raleigh. Either way, Miami’s ups and downs mesh with the whole league outside of Chapel Hill (although with Monday’s loss, maybe the Tar Heels are regressing to the league randomness).

EXTRA: Coach K was “under the weather” (reportedly treated for high blood pressure at Duke Hospital) and missed Duke’s win last night at Georgia Tech. Jeff Capel took the helm, possibly foreshadowing the future in Durham. Krzyzewski is expected to be back on Saturday for Duke’s game against NC State.

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