ACC M5: 03.24.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 24th, 2014

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  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Where to begin? Since the last morning five, Buzz Williams (and Yahoo! Sports) shocked the world by taking the Virginia Tech job. And while it was clear he was unhappy at Marquette, most people expected him to hold out for a better opportunity. Even more shocking is that the Hokies will pay him less than Marquette when all is said and done. Some more details in this David Teel piece, but if nothing else the hire shows an unprecedented investment in basketball at Virginia Tech. This is a game-changer in the conference going forward.
  2. ESPN: Speaking of the coaching carousel, hall of famer Jim Calhoun (!) is reportedly interested in the Boston College (!!!) job. Now, I’d be shocked if this actually happened. For one, Calhoun will be 72 this summer and has a history of health problems; two, his public relationship with Boston College hasn’t exactly been rosy of late; and three, he had serious APR issues at Connecticut. But I’m on board with Kyle Egan that Gene Difilippo shouldn’t overlook Calhoun’s interest. At a minimum Calhoun would generate both media and fan buzz. Assuming he stayed two or three years (which seems like the maximum), he’d also probably bring a serious upgrade in talent to Chestnut Hill. Boston College needs both of those things and as quickly as possible.
  3. Winston Salem Journal: Dan Collins nails his coverage of the end of the Jeff Bzdelik tenure here (and has a great intro here). But now it’s time to look forward. And Virginia Tech juist raised the bar significantly both in terms of hype and money, which often go hand in hand. Ron Wellman needs to “win the press conference,” so to speak. A candidate who’s gaining (entirely rumored) steam–at least from my perspective — is North Carolina Central’s Levelle Moton. Moton is high energy, young and has success in the area. At a minimum you’re taking a shot on a guy who’s incredibly likable and should be able to recruit well (and might stay for a very long time). I think Wake Forest looks for a safer (more experienced) hire, but with the stakes high Wellman may need to take a risk.
  4. Backing the PackTar Heel Blog, and Duke Basketball Report: Whew boy it was the basketball apocalypse this week in the Triangle. First NC State blows a 99% lead (according to KenPom.com) to Saint Louis because it can’t buy a free throw. Then Duke‘s stars have poor games and Mercer upsets the Blue Devils in Raleigh. Then North Carolina coughs up an eight-point lead in the final four minutes to Iowa State. I’ll take these one at a time in another post, but suffice to say, it was brutal. To rub salt in the wound, North Carolina Central the best team out of the MEAC in years got demolished in the round of 64.
  5. Charlottesville Daily Progress: As expected, Virginia is the last ACC team standing (in the NCAA Tournament, at least). Tony Bennett’s team kept the ACC from missing its first second weekend since the NCAA Tournament expanded. The Cavaliers poleaxed a good Memphis team Sunday night to carry the ACC’s torch to the Sweet Sixteen in what looks to be a fascinating matchup with a very trendy Michigan State team. Truthfully, when Virginia is shooting like they were Sunday, they won’t lose. I like Virginia to go to the Final Four out of the East, but facing Izzo in March (for anyone not named Roy Williams) is nothing to sneeze at.
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Possible Jeff Bzdelik ACC Swan Song Ends Against Pittsburgh

Posted by Matt Patton on March 13th, 2014

His postgame press conference said it all. Jeff Bzdelik‘s body language and tone, never his strongest attributes as a coach, showed the toll of another Thursday ACC Tournament loss to Pittsburgh.

“They hit us right between the eyes. We were on our heels the entire game.”

Jeff Bzdelik didn't have the answers against Pittsburgh. (credit: Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer)

Jeff Bzdelik didn’t have the answers against Pittsburgh. (credit: Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer)

While his postseason and conference road records paint a black and white picture of Bzdelik’s tenure at Wake Forest, there are certainly bright spots when you look closer. He recruited a young core of talented players that showed a lot of potential in sweeping Tobacco Road at home this season. He also sat down with the deck stacked against him. People love to cite Dino Gaudio’s record, but there’s no denying Wake Forest was in a tailspin after Skip Prosser died. It’s not Bzdelik’s fault the vaunted 2008 class didn’t pan out. But no one expected the turnaround to move so slowly.

“We just lost some confidence, and we’ve been fragile with that throughout the course of the entire year.”

This game cast a similarly dark shadow. Wake Forest was outclassed at opening tip, unable to slow down the Panthers’ offense. Early, the Demon Deacons couldn’t grab a rebound. Pittsburgh, to its credit, couldn’t miss. While Travis McKie had one of the worst games of his career, Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson executed flawlessly. Every time the lead got to single digits, Pittsburgh responded with a run. Coron Williams had another good game, and Codi Miller-McIntyre showed flashes of his aggressive potential, but there’s no sugarcoating a 29-point loss.

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ACC Tournament Observations: Bzdelik and Johnson Hot Seats Remain Toasty

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 12th, 2014

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

For the first time in its storied history, the ACC Tournament is a five-day event. Of course that was a necessary evil of expanding the conference to 15 schools, but Wednesday afternoon’s action represented the dawn of a new era in tournament history. In the afternoon session, two coaches positioned on the proverbial hot seat led their teams with mixed results. Twelfth-seeded Wake Forest shot a season-high 61 percent on its way to a 81-69 win over #13-seed Notre Dame; while in the second game of the day, #15-seed Virginia Tech hung close but fell 57-53 to #10-seed Miami.

The Upper Level Of The Greensboro Coliseum Was Curtained Out On Wednesday. (Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

The Upper Level Of The Greensboro Coliseum Was Curtained Off On Wednesday
(Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

Knowing that interest for the opening round games was not going to be very high, the ACC decided not to include Wednesday’s games as part of its ACC Tournament ticket package. With most traveling fans reluctant to come to Greensboro that early, the ACC office also knew that attendance would be low. The league therefore decided to curtain off the Coliseum’s upper level for today’s games, like when UNC-Greensboro plays its home games in the building. The result is a more intimate-feeling arena, but the real goal is to avoid the embarrassment of exposing all the empty seats in the vast upper level of the Greensboro Coliseum. Estimating crowd size is an inexact science but there appeared to be around 6,000 to 8,000 fans in attendance for the afternoon games.

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Rushed Reaction: #24 North Carolina 105, Wake Forest 72

Posted by nvr1983 on February 22nd, 2014

rushedreactions

Here are our observations after North Carolina crushed Wake Forest, 105-72:

  1. UNC will be an extremely difficult out in March. This shouldn’t be too much a surprise after their early season victories against Michigan State, Louisville, and Kentucky, but for much of the season the Tar Heels were dogged by the perception that they were inconsistent and for good reason. Mixed in with their big early wins the Tar Heels also had some awful losses–at home against Belmont and Miami and on the road against UAB and Wake Forest. Since their loss at Virginia on January 20, the Tar Heels have won nine straight and are starting to display the type of consistency that they will need to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Some of their win streak can be attributed by the current weak state of the ACC, but it also includes wins against Duke and Pittsburgh. Current bracket projections have the Tar Heels being anything between a #5 and #8 seed after this week they should be somewhere near the top of that range.
  2. Jeff Bzdelik needs a real estate agent. I know that the Wake Forest administration showed a lot of faith in Bzdelik by firing Dino Gaudio, who had taken them to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, to hire Bzdelik, who was 36-58 in three seasons at Colorado. With nearly three seasons in the books in Winston-Salem, Bzdelik is approaching 30 games under .500. Ron Wellman talked about culture when he hired Bzdelik, but we doubt that he was thinking of this type of culture at the time. At this point we would be shocked if Bzdelik returned next season so the question really is who will replace him. The two names that get thrown around for every power conference vacancy are Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland, but we cannot see either of them going to Wake Forest with the options they will have in front of them. Perhaps the most interesting potential candidate we have heard is Jeff Capel, who has experience at Oklahoma and knows the ACC well sitting alongside Mike Krzyzewski. We obviously have our reservations about hiring a retread who went 27-36 A.B. (after Blake Griffin departed), but he would be a relatively safe hire and one with some decent credentials.
  3. Roy Williams seems much more relaxed. Early in the season there were rumors that this might be Roy’s last year. Those were obviously premature particularly with what appears to be an outstanding freshman class coming in. Still everybody who followed the Tar Heels could clearly tell that this team and this season was taking a toll on Roy. The turnaround in how the Tar Heels are playing has led to Roy’s mood to improve significantly (shocking). Although Williams is certainly not young at 63 years old, we would be looking at some of his colleagues in the ACC to retire before we would expect Roy to do so.

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ACC M5: 02.17.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 17th, 2014

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  1. Atlantic Coast Confidential: So first, about the Syracuse-NC State game. Neither team deserved to win. You can’t claim you deserve to win if you turn the ball over twice in the last 30 seconds. Nor can you stake much on getting bailed out on a foul call. I want to spend a few words talking about Trevor Cooney’s foul on TJ Warren. It may have been the right call. Good arguments have been made that it was (notably, he traveled after the foul but before shooting). But that doesn’t mean the rule is dumb. Reasonable minds disagree, but Warren had an open layup and Cooney just threw his arm at the ball with no angle to make a play. The contact changed Warren’s timing (resulting in the aforementioned theoretical travel). The clear-path rule should be adopted to some degree at the college level because it’s ridiculous to reward a desperation play like Cooney’s. Moving forward, I’m a little concerned that Syracuse’s regression may come at the wrong time (see the 2010 team for another example). That’s not to say it will, just that I hope people aren’t just paying lip service to the Orange because they’re undefeated. This is a really good team, maybe the best Jim Boeheim has ever coached.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: In moral-boosting NC State stories, good stuff from Joe Giglio on David Thompson (in honor of the 1974 national championship team). Thompson probably tops the list of players I’d like to get a time machine to both go back to see them play and bring back to see them play in today’s game (runner up is probably Wilt Chamberlain). Thompson is one of those athletes (Bo Jackson is the paradigm) who’s reached an almost mythical status where I’d believe nearly any fabled athletic feat (at least related to leaping ability in Thompson’s case) someone told me.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: With Wake Forest continuing its quest to play on the first Wednesday in ACC Tournament history Dan Collins has seen enough of the Jeff Bzdelik era. Had Bzdelik arrived a couple of years later, he might have been able to usurp Les Robinson’s honorary nickname of shame for the conference tournament’s opening day, but I’d be surprised if Wake Forest keeps Bzdelik after this season. Bzdelik’s players may have too, as they’re still talking the talk, but the losses appear to be weighing them down as a group.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State kept its NCAA hopes alive by winning at Wake Forest. But there’s still a lot of work left to do, and the team knows it. I think Florida State is in if it wins four of its last five games. Two are gimmes (home against Georgia Tech and at Boston College). But there’s a surging North Carolina team and a trip to increasingly desperate Pittsburgh, not to mention undefeated Syracuse all on the horizon.
  5. BC Heights: Legendary Boston College basketball SID Dick Kelley died last week from ALS. Austin Tedesco–sports editor of the student newspaper–penned a few stories about how Kelley continued to mentor him, even into the later stages of his illness. Anytime you hang around Conte Forum long enough you start hearing stories like these. as Kelley’s manner was just infectious. As a side note, Kelley was the first SID to credential this website as a legitimate entity. He will be missed.
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ACC M10: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 12th, 2014

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  1. Fayetteville Observer: Great piece from Bret Strelow with a transcript from a conference call of ACC coaches discussing the Marcus Smart situation. Always good for a quote, Jeff Bzdelik mentioned “Twitter muscle,” noting “there are a lot of unhappy people out there.” Mike Krzyzewski had a lot to say and was the only coach to provide an example of something concrete that’s been done to try and avoid situations like these (in the 1980s, Duke put opposing fans in the 75 seats closest to the bench instead of students). Duke is a special circumstance though because many of its students are right on the court level. It was nice to see Jim Boeheim stick up for Smart (and generally, it feels like people are doing a good job with the post-kneejerk reactions on the incident).
  2. Charlottesville Daily Progress: A lot of disappointed articles have been written about Virginia’s Akil Mitchell this year, as his numbers have dropped significantly from last season. But what hasn’t been getting enough love outside of local media and blogs is attention to his defense. Mitchell consistently draws the opponents’ best large wing/high post players, and he locked down Evan Smotrycz in Virginia’s too-close-for-comfort win against Maryland Monday night.
  3. Macon Telegraph: Even in the slow-tempo ACC, Georgia Tech‘s current offense just isn’t cutting it. The good news is that Robert Carter is back. The bad news is that the team still relies on Chris Bolden (who is making a truly abysmal 28.7 percent of his twos this season) as a scoring option. But the Yellow Jackets need Trae Golden healthy to even be competitive in most conference games.
  4. John Gasaway: Tuesday Truths is back! That means another head-scratching look at the ACC’s tempo and wondering just how Syracuse has averaged 55 possessions per game. That’s ridiculously slow. What’s also becoming clear is that Syracuse is playing with fire right now. The Orange have slipped well below Virginia and Duke in efficiency margin (+0.17 compared with +0.22 and +0.21, respectively), and they still have road games against Pittsburgh, Duke, Virginia and a dangerous Florida State team that may be truly desperate for a resume win. Syracuse could easily go 1-3 in those games, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t lose at least two of them. Long story short: Don’t wrap up the regular season ACC title just yet.
  5. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Speaking of Pittsburgh-Syracuse later tonight, Paul Zeise had a chat about the Panthers. Other than someone calling the Orange uptempo (see above), there’s a lot of good stuff here. Remember, in Pittsburgh’s recent slide, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna have not been playing at 100 percent. It’s also interesting that despite the injuries, Zeise likes Pittsburgh’s match-up with Syracuse. Clearly, the Panthers have to play better than they did against Virginia Tech last weekend, but that game may have been a worst case scenario (unhealthy trap game). Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC M5: 02.03.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 3rd, 2014

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  1. Sports On Earth: College basketball stole the show this weekend. The ACC alone was home to two incredible finishes, this being the first (the second is at the bottom of the post). Duke-Syracuse lived up to all of the hype — it was a fun game to watch with both teams exerting dominance from different areas of the floor (Syracuse in the paint, Duke beyond the arc), and Tyler Thornton managing three threes in under two minutes to get Duke back in the game. It proved what we knew about Syracuse and what we thought we knew about Duke. Go ahead and circle two weeks from Saturday on your calendars because the rematch in Durham is sure to be terrific.
  2. Tomahawk Nation: In much worse news, Ian Miller is hurt again for Florida State, a team that is now squarely on the wrong side of the bubble at 4-5 in ACC play (albeit against a brutal schedule). Without Miller in the lineup, the Seminoles are likely to look much more like last year’s disappointing version of the team. In addition to being a team leader, he was probably the Seminoles’ most important scoring option and there’s little to no margin for error with Florida State’s current losses. The only good news is that the team has four upcoming games against non-NCAA Tournament caliber opponents. And with games with North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Syracuse still looming, winning all four of those is the best path for Florida State to have a positive Selection Sunday experience.
  3. Draft Express: Good interview with PJ Hairston about his transition from North Carolina to the NBA D-League. Thanks to online classes, Hairston is on track to get his degree next year and is still close with the guys in Chapel Hill (although he didn’t answer when he was asked if he was treated fairly by the university). Hairston cited the frequency of games as one of the biggest challenges with the transition, although his scoring numbers so far have been terrific. Another interesting nugget is his philosophy: If he’s chosen fifth in the upcoming NBA Draft, he would feel that “four people […] worked harder than” him. That fire should come in handy and explains his no-fear personality on the court.
  4. Winston-Salem Journal: What was an optimistic start for Wake Forest is sliding into a concerning but well-known rut. The Demon Deacons lost at home to Georgia Tech (missing Trae Golden in addition to Robert Carter for most of the game) over the weekend. This is the same Georgia Tech that was 2-6 going into the game and yet still came out and took control of things in the second half. The bad news is that the Demon Deacons are only favored in one of their remaining nine games (according to KenPom). Suffice it to say that if they finish 5-13 in conference play, Jeff Bzdelik is probably done.
  5. Washington Post: Seth Allen showed exactly what Maryland needs him to do going forward in its weekend beatdown of Virginia Tech. Before getting too excited, though, remember this was a win over Virginia Tech. Still, Allen appears to be getting healthier as conference play progresses and he’s quietly morphing into the true point guard Maryland desperately needs.

Video Extra: Malcolm Brogdon drilled this game-winning three to win at Pittsburgh, pushing Virginia to 8-1 in ACC play. Oh, and the Cavaliers will be favored in every one of its games going forward. The only two frightening games are a trip to Clemson and when Syracuse comes to Charlottesville. Beat Syracuse (or truthfully, just split those two games), and Virginia has a great shot at the ACC regular season title.

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Wake Forest’s Jeff Bzdelik: Make Sure to Leave Home Without Him

Posted by JPriz on January 12th, 2014

From growing up playing basketball through college to observing many coaches over the last few years, it is my contention that a coach never strays too far from his roots, and you can look to one’s history to get a sense of the present. One coaching profile I read recently was on Alabama football head coach, Nick Saban, who gained his attention to detail from washing cars at his father’s dealership. If the car wasn’t completely streak-free, he had to wash the entire car again.

Jeff Bzdelik Simply Cannot Win Games on the Road (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Jeff Bzdelik Simply Cannot Win Games on the Road (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The same can be said for Wake Forest’s head coach Jeff Bzdelik. The guy simply can’t win on the road, and hasn’t been able to win on the road for the past several years, tracing back to his time at Colorado. He is quite literally 2-50 in conference road games during that stretch. OK, so the facts are out there, the guy clearly can’t win on the road. But why can’t he win on the road? I think the answer lies in Bzdelik’s history, one that has plenty of twists and turns. Here is a man who has been near greatness, and has taken credit for it. When he isn’t near greatness, he has been completely unable to win games, with the exception of his anomalous tenure at Air Force.

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ACC M5: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 10th, 2014

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  1. ESPN and One Foot Down: Major team swag news as Darren Rovell reports that Notre Dame will be moving from Adidas to Under Armour after this year. In a weird way the move shows just how self involved the Fighting Irish are when it comes to these sorts of things. There was a minor uproar when Michigan became Adidas’s “flagship” deal a few years back, so it appears Notre Dame headed towards a smaller pond. Seriously, if this deal isn’t massive, I don’t understand it. But hey, this means the ACC will maintain two Under Armour schools (Boston College is the only other once Maryland leaves) to go with two Adidas schools once Louisville joins.
  2. Blogger So Dear: A statistical breakdown of Winston-Salem’s very own Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? That’s right, Wake Forest has outscored its last ten conference opponents by 49 points at home, going 7-3 in the process. Ken Pomeroy expected that the Demon Deacons would be outscored by 40, meaning the team overachieved by a whopping 89 points (8.9 points a game). Meanwhile on the road the team is 0-10 in its last such games on the road. Opponents have outscored Jeff Bzdelik‘s squad by 161 points (16.1 a game) over the stretch which 46 points worse than Ken Pomeroy predicted. So Wake Forest’s current home-road differential is a 13.5 points a game more than what would be predicted by statistical models. That’s insane.
  3. Greensboro News-Record: Good stuff breaking down North Carolina‘s struggles to start conference play, but I can’t help but wonder whether the skid has more to do with Marcus Paige returning to earth. Paige literally carried this team through non-conference play. Every time they needed a bucket he was there. But at Wake Forest and against Miami Paige had two of his worst games of the season. Also if you’re looking for another good take on Roy Williams’ struggles this season, Brian Barbour has you covered.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: Good work by Luke DeCock who agrees that Jabari Parker‘s mini-slump is nothing to be concerned with going forward. But wait. Did he notice that Parker and Paige had their two worst games at the same points? In all seriousness, Parker will be just fine once his jump shots start falling again. One (unrelated) thing I’m interested to see is how more teams playing more zone will affect the game in the long run. I think Syracuse’s zone is partially effective because opponents don’t play it very often. But with nearly everyone playing at least a little zone this season, I wonder if that will hurt the Orange against teams like Duke and North Carolina (though the Tar Heels haven’t exactly lit up the zones they’ve played).
  5. Tomahawk Nation: With focus turned back to basketball, Florida State rebounded from its home beat down from Virginia with a win at Littlejohn Coliseum. Their defense was suffocating, exposing a Clemson offense gorged on non-conference cupcakes. Even more impressive is the Seminoles were only 1-11 from three. My only other takeaway is there’s a huge drop-off for Brad Brownell’s team after KJ McDaniels. He was the only player who had any offensive success.

EXTRA: Georgia Tech has decided to bribe students for showing up to men’s and women’s basketball games this year with a point system where students will be awarded prizes ranging from t-shirts and gift cards to the grand prize of a PlayStation 4.

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ACC M5: 01.07.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 7th, 2014

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  1. Associated Press and ESPN: The new AP Top 25 poll isn’t kind to the ACC. Only Syracuse (#2) and Duke (#16) remain in the poll after North Carolina tumbled into the land of “others receiving votes” following its road loss to Wake Forest. That loss puts the Tar Heels at 7-4 against unranked opponents and an unbelievable 3-0 against ranked foes. Duke’s drop was historic, ending the Blue Devils’ ludicrous 122-week stint in the top 10. That’s the second longest streak ever (to UCLA, who managed to stick around for nearly a decade). The last time Duke wasn’t in the top 10 was November 2007. The new longest-tenured team? Michigan State at 16 weeks.
  2. Streaking the Lawn: Virginia has three players battling injury following a win that finally seemed to live up to the team’s lofty expectations to open ACC play. The damage? Joe Harris is day-to-day with concussion symptoms and is still awaiting clearance to practice; Evan Nolte dislocated his finger; and Mike Tobey rolled his ankle. The last two are the kind of injuries that could become nagging snowballs as the conference season wears on, but Harris is obviously the player to watch. He can’t miss significant time, as the team has already dug itself a really deep hole in terms of its at-large resume.
  3. Syracuse Post-Standard: We’re witnessing history this season! Tyler Ennis and Olivier Hanlan are already two of the top five Canadian ACC scorers of all-time. Hanlan will almost certainly pass Duke’s Greg Newton in Boston College’s next game (he only needs six points), and he should do it in fewer than half the games it took Newton. Ennis still has a ways to go to start climbing up that list, but he should get to fourth before the end of the season. He’ll have to stick around three years to make a run at the top spot though.
  4. Winston-Salem Journal: Everyone — especially Ron Wellman and any relatives of Jeff Bzdelik – bookmark this article immediately. Dan Collins thinks Bzdelik’s game plan and play-calling played a significant role in the Demon Deacons’ Sunday upset over North Carolina. Joking aside, Wake Forest executed most of the game incredibly well. The Deacs didn’t fade down the stretch (apart from a bizarre couple of minutes where they let the Tar Heels cut the lead to a single possession), and they kept their heads cool in the face of pressure. I personally would credit Codi Miller-McIntyre as the reason Wake Forest looks like a new team this season, but Bzdelik may actually deserve some credit too.
  5. Real GM: Cool look from Dan Hanner on how the top 100 RSCI freshmen are faring this season. Obviously Jabari Parker is fine (outside of South Bend). There’s a pretty significant drop after the top 10 (all of whom are scoring in double figures except for Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson). But there are some serious diamonds in the rough (if you can call “not top-20″ rough). Tyler Ennis and Cat Barber stick out from the ACC, while Duke’s Semi Ojeleye and Matt Jones along with North Carolina’s Isaiah Hicks are seeing low production so far.
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Is Wake Forest’s Victory Over UNC a Stepping Stone or an Aberration?

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 6th, 2014

After Wake Forest’s upset win over North Carolina on Sunday night, it’s easy to conveniently revert to the narrative of the “Jekyll and Hyde” performances of UNC at this point in the season. Lost in the conversation could be how big the win could prove for Jeff Bzdelik’s Demon Deacons, a team that may not have dealt with the roster and eligibility concerns of the Heels but have been a program in flux since he took over three years ago and has struggled to resurrect a disenchanted fan base. The momentum this win could carry would be huge for a basketball program that has unquestionably fallen on hard times since the shocking death of Skip Prosser in 2007. The question is whether last night’s win was the work of a team simply motivated to win its conference home opener against an historic rival, or whether the Deacons are finally turning a corner to better and brighter things.

Devin Thomas

Effort and enthusiasm from players like Devin Thomas could mean a statement year for Coach Bzdelik and Wake Forest (credit: accbasketball.com)

The sustainability of Wake’s winning ways can certainly be debated, just as much as the oft-maligned Bzdelik’s ability to reinvigorate its fan base. Wake is coming off of a relatively weak non-conference slate — the Demon Deacons entered the game at 10-3 — and the atmosphere for its ACC opener at the Joel was somewhat disappointing with a strong UNC presence in the stands. Still, a win over the Tar Heels represents a quality victory — perhaps Wake’s second-best in the Bzdelik era behind a win over Miami last season — but certainly not a shocking one given UNC’s own struggles this season. Early foul trouble on James Michael McAdoo and J.P. Tokoto and an inordinate number of sloppy turnovers doomed UNC’s chances at a second half comeback, putting some of the onus on Carolina for the loss rather than Wake Forest manufacturing the victory.

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ACC M5: 11.25.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 25th, 2013

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  1. Sports Illustrated: Marcus Paige has stepped up in a big way, scoring 32 points to lead the Tar Heels to a big upset over Louisville Sunday. Most impressively he was 9-of-14 from three. Should that prove to not be an anomaly, North Carolina may be as good as people originally thought regardless of whether PJ Hairston or Leslie McDonald return. Paige looks like a first-team All-ACC player right now. He’s built off of a strong finish to last season and looks more confident than ever. Only time will tell whether the Tar Heels turn out to be more like the team that lost to Belmont or the one that dethroned the defending champs (which, incidentally hadn’t lost a game since last February 9).
  2. Richmond Times-Dispatch: One of Virginia‘s strengths this year is its depth in the frontcourt. Tony Bennett is taking advantage of that depth by playing around with different combinations. He likes Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins defensively, while Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill are more offensive-minded. Also interesting is that Bennett thinks with the right match-up he might try to play three of the four with Mitchell guarding the three. That’s a tough assignment for Mitchell (watch the smaller Duke wings try to stay in front of a smaller, quicker player).
  3. Hartford Courant: Counterpoint on the Boston College-Connecticut rivalry renewal from the Connecticut point of view. Jeff Jacobs makes a good point: The basketball rivalry benefits Boston College much more than Connecticut. He also points out that the rivalry, while heated and intense, has been fairly lopsided since Jim Calhoun raised the Huskies to national prominence. He also points out that Syracuse would be the ideal team to rekindle a basketball rivalry with — although the Orange certainly aren’t known for their tough non-conference home-and-homes. If I were in Connecticut’s position, I’d agree wholeheartedly with this take. If you agree to play in football (say, every other year at a minimum), we’ll play basketball. I don’t see that happening, but the more I read the quotes that got this story started, the more I don’t see a permanent restoration of the old rivalry anyway.
  4. Washington Post: Say what you want about Lefty Driesell, but the guy clearly loves his players. Maryland great Tom McMillen is being inducted to the Naismith Hall of Fame this year, and he will become the first Maryland player honored. On top of his standout basketball career, McMillen was also a Rhodes Scholar and he currently serves on the Maryland Board of Trustees. Driesell’s first assistant coach George Raveling is also being inducted (albeit mostly for his time serving as the Nike director of international basketball). I love redemption stories and I love a less salty Lefty Driesell.
  5. ESPN Insider: After the early signing period, five ACC teams finished with grades of A-minus or higher according to Paul Biancardi. Most notable of the standouts is Maryland, which Biancardi expects to be Mark Turgeon’s best class thanks to a couple of top 100 players. Overall, the conference as a whole had a terrific recruiting haul. At the top, it is borderline ridiculous (Duke and North Carolina combine for seven top-25 recruits alone). On the other end of the spectrum, Jeff Bzdelik better get his recruiting in order soon or his job may be less secure than many already believe it should be.
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