ACC Stock Report: Volume I

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on November 14th, 2019

While Duke’s victory over Kansas in the Champions Classic and Cole Anthony’s historic start have garnered much of the ACC attention, there are some stories under the surface that are also worth noting. Here’s this season’s initial stock report.

Stock Rising

A Happy Derryck Thornton Has Landed at Boston College (Boston Herald)

Derryck Thornton Four years after starting his career at one of the ACC’s flagship programs, Thornton has started his final collegiate campaign at a perennial cellar dweller, looking to take advantage of a last chance to alter the narrative of a disappointing career. After reclassifying and getting to Duke a year ahead of schedule, Thornton logged an uninspiring season in Durham before ultimately opting for USC rather than compete for point guard minutes with future one-and-doner Frank Jackson. Things never really materialized as anticipated for him in Los Angeles, and now, as he watches contemporaries like De’Aaron Fox and Lonzo Ball about to sign their second NBA contracts, Thornton is looking to turn it all around in Chestnut Hill. His early returns have been dynamite. Perhaps now maturing into that five-star prospect, Thornton has piloted the Eagles to a trio of early wins, scoring a career-high 23 in the conference-opening win against Wake Forest, following that up with another 22 in a win over a talented South Florida team and handing out five assists in short minutes against High Point. Popular opinion was that this was a make or break year for Jim Christian at the school, and preseason expectations were portending an inevitable break. But a strong start by Thornton has the Eagles feeling a little bit more optimistic.

Stock Holding

Pittsburgh. It’s tough to make sense of an inconsistent 2-1 start by Pittsburgh, but maybe it should be expected given such a youthful roster. After a gritty opening win against a Florida State team that has since authored a dismantling of top-10 Florida in Gainesville, the Panthers dropped a home game to #256 Nicholls State before going back on the road to pull away late from Robert Morris. The central reason for concern regarding a potential leap for Jeff Capel’s club in year two was an inability to stretch the defense. However, in junior college transfer Ryan Murphy, Pittsburgh may have found a perfect fit to complement attack-first guards Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens. Murphy’s energy and marksmanship shot the Panthers back into the opener against the Seminoles, and his 28 points against Nicholls State nearly singlehandedly avoided the upset. The 6’2” junior has now accounted for half of the Panthers’ 18 triples through the team’s first three contests, and after drawing his first start Tuesday night, he looks to be a fixture for Capel’s squad going forward.

Stock Falling

Jim Boeheim is Already Cranky (USA Today Images)

Jim Boeheim’s Act. After his team’s dreadful opening night performance against Virginia — 34 points on 24 percent shooting — Boeheim lashed out at the ACC, which had the gall in his eyes to “grab the money” and start the season with an intra-league slate to promote the rollout of its newly launched television network. Boeheim has been at this long enough, is certainly smart enough, and is undeniably rich enough, to know that this whole thing is a television show, and that’s why his salary has risen presumably about 40 times to $2.5 million dollars a year over the span of his illustrious 44-year career. Typically, Boeheim doesn’t reach his maximum level of ornery until mid-March when he is defending a weak non-conference schedule, but the combination of opening with the reigning National Champion, and then getting spanked in front of his home crowd, really had him in mid-season form. Fortunately, the Orange will once again play a whole bunch of non-league games (all of them) inside the New York State border before really attacking the teeth of the league docket. His team won’t be any worse, because it won’t face a better defensive unit than Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers, and as Boeheim rightly alluded to, the offenses generally trail the defenses in the early part of the season. And as for Bennett, shouldn’t he have been the coach feeling slighted? His team was forced to open the season on the road at Syracuse? Not a word — just another dominant win, with no whining about it.

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ACC Burning Questions, Part IV: Syracuse, Florida State & Louisville

Posted by Matt Auerbach on October 30th, 2019

Syracuse Burning Question: Can Elijah Hughes and the Orange make enough shots to spend a March off of the bubble?

It’s No Coincidence the Orange Man Resembles a Bubble (USA Today Images)

For a school with pedigree and a track record of sustained basketball excellence, the last half-decade has been somewhat of a slog for Syracuse. Almost perennially the power school at the heart of the bubble conversation, the Orange have lost 13 or more games in each of the last five campaigns. And with four starters gone from a 20-14 squad, Jim Boeheim‘s roster would suggest another March where his disposition is wrought with anxiety.

To avoid that fate, Syracuse will need to make more shots from all over the court. The Orange rated 229th nationally in effective field goal percentage a season ago, and were objectively poor from beyond the arc (229th), in two-point range (213th) and from the charity stripe (260th). The loss of its most accomplished scorer and offensive initiator, Tyus Battle, isn’t a great start on improving that ineptitude, but perhaps a more featured role for Elijah Hughes would pay dividends. Hughes led the team with 87 threes a year ago, and was the most efficient scorer the Orange had by a comfortable margin. However, he often times deferrred to Battle, Oshae Brissett and even Frank Howard, relegated to a catch-and-shoot man. This year, Hughes will undeniably be the alpha dog, and how he handles that elevation will likely tell the story of Syracuse’s season.

Florida State Burning Question: Is this the new normal at Florida State?

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Three #1 Seeds Still a Possibility as ACC Finishes League Play

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on March 7th, 2019

On the strength of a second-half long-range assault, Virginia bludgeoned Syracuse at the Carrier Dome Monday and all but ensured that the Cavaliers will repeat as regular season ACC champions. They are set to host Louisville this weekend to close the regular season, while co-leader North Carolina, which Virginia defeated in its lone meeting this year, will host a third-place Duke team likely to be without Zion Williamson for a fifth straight game.

These three teams were expected to carry the ACC flag heading into the campaign, and they collectively have done nothing to dispel those preseason expectations. All three remain very much alive for #1 seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, with Virginia closest to lock territory. Duke, assuming Williamson suits up and acquits himself well in the ACC Tournament, seems comfortably entrenched on the top line too, while North Carolina has put itself in very good position to move up if it can complete the season sweep of Duke on Saturday.

The two outfits trailing the conference elite played an overtime thriller on Tuesday night, as Florida State protected its home floor in squeaking by a Justin Robinson-less Virginia Tech, and clinched the coveted double-bye at next week’s ACC Tournament in the process. The Seminoles and Hokies are both viable sleepers to make a run to Minneapolis this April, while the top three could each be considered favorites to do so when the brackets are revealed a week from Sunday.

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What’s Trending: Threes, Dunks, and Matthew McConaughey

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 21st, 2019

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Last week began with Syracuse defeating top-ranked Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The upset included the Orange’s Tyus Battle scoring 32 points and East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes adding 20 points of his own. Not all of his buckets were created equally, though, as this shot in the final seconds of the first half came from well beyond the three-point line…

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1084979497110253568

After beating Duke, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was asked about Blue Devils’ superstar Zion Williamson. Boeheim found it very difficult to describe the precocious freshman, but had a very colorful way to link him to Charles Barkley

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1085016649571450881

After beating Virginia Tech last week, Matt Norlander gave his take on Virginia basketball….

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ACC Stock Report: Volume 1

Posted by Matt Auerbach on January 8th, 2019

With the non-conference portion of the season now in the rearview and the ACC schedule tipping in earnest last weekend, it feels like the appropriate time to assess a few programs and players in this year’s initial stock report.

Stock Up

Elijah Hughes: When considering Syracuse’s chances to contend at the top of the league, the preseason focus was on the returns of Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett. And while both have been good, it is perhaps Hughes, the transfer from East Carolina, who has been the most consistent player for the Orange. Coming off Saturday’s 22-point, 10-rebound game in a victory at Notre Dame — both career highs — Hughes is now second on the team in scoring, third in rebounding, and is by far the team’s best threat from long range with 36 made triples. Notching double-figures in all but two games, the 6’6” swingman has been a pleasant surprise for Jim Boeheim during a season that has been a bit more uneven than some (guilty as charged) presumed before it started.

Kyle Guy: Unlike Hughes, big things were expected from the 6’3” Virginia marksman who was coming off a sophomore campaign where he earned All-ACC first team honors and a third team All-America nod. As a junior, Guy is leading the undefeated Cavaliers in scoring just as he did a year ago, but the improvements in his game have been obvious both visually and statistically. Guy’s shot creativity and ability to elevate quickly over bigger defenders off the bounce is an addition to his always lethal shooting coming off curl screens in set plays. His offensive rating is up from 105.2 to 126.4, while his true shooting percentage has similarly seen a 12 percent spike, thanks to a career best 48.3 percent mark from inside of the arc. The Virginia star’s money is made from beyond the arc, however, and after blistering Florida State in the league opener by making five of six attempts, Guy now ranks 42nd in the nation, making 41 of his 85 three attempts.  

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ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Wednesday Preview

Posted by Matt Auerbach on November 28th, 2018

An extremely competitive ACC-Big Ten Challenge, one in which six games have already been decided by four points or fewer, comes to a close tonight. Locked at 4-4 going into tonight’s games, let’s take a look at what’s in store for this evening.

Jim Boeheim is Pleading for a Win (USA Today Images)

  •  #20 Syracuse (3-2) at #23 Ohio State (6-0). On the strength of two true road wins against top 40 teams, Ohio State was the top-rated team in the initial NET ratings that were released on Monday. The talented Orange have been disappointing in the early going, as Syracuse visits Columbus tonight with losses to Connecticut and Oregon weighing down its non-conference slate. Jim Boeheim‘s vaunted zone ranks as the nation’s sixth most efficient defense, but poor shooting has carried over to the tune of a 31.4 percent clip from beyond the arc. Oshae Brissett, the team’s best prospect, and Tyus Battle, the team’s leading returning scorer, are shooting 18.2 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively from deep. Point guard Frank Howard’s return to action will certainly provide a boost, but Syracuse will undoubtedly need to be a lot crisper on the offensive end to slow down a versatile set of Buckeyes.
  • #115 Rutgers (4-1) at  #22 Miami (5-1). Despite its most talented player, Dewan Hernandez, being withheld from competition amid a review of eligibility, the Hurricanes have been impressive in winning five of their first six games. Diminutive spark plug point guard Chris Lykes leads five Hurricanes averaging more than 11 points per contest, while Dejan Vasiljevic is making 52.5 percent of his threes, good for 77th in the country. Steve Pikiell’s Scarlet Knights have been stingy on the defensive end this season, turning teams over on 24.3 percent of their possessions. However, Rutgers has been especially brutal on the other end of the floor, checking in as the 263rd most efficient offense while turning the ball over  at an alarming 22.6 percent rate (312th nationally).

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Reviewing the ACC’s Five Early Losses

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 16th, 2018

We’re just over a week into the season and the ACC has suffered a total of five losses. Two of those defeats came from teams that were expected to struggle, two others were from teams that were hoping to be on the fringe of the NCAA Tournament, and one came from a potential contender. RTC ACC writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) breaks each of those early losses down. (All rankings via KenPom as of November 15.)

Syracuse Struggled Against Old Enemy UConn Last Night (USA Today Images)

  • #96 Connecticut 83, #7 Syracuse 76. As the old saying goes, throw out the KenPom rankings when two old rivals get together. Syracuse had to scratch and claw to make the NCAA Tournament last year despite an elite defense because the Orange simply couldn’t score (135th nationally). Last night against Connecticut in Madison Square Garden, they were up to their old tricks again. The Orange shot just 39.4 percent from the field and made just six threes while allowing Connecticut to nail 12-of-21 from three-point range. Most teams won’t shoot nearly that well against Syracuse’s length this year, but its lack of consistent offense leaves the Orange vulnerable when a team gets hot.
  • #259 IUPUI 76, #90 Boston College 69. Whatever dreams Boston College had at making a run at an at-large bid this year may already be over with its bad loss earlier this week to IUPUI. Jim Christian’s team simply isn’t making enough shots, hitting only 29.5 percent of its three-pointers so far this season and getting limited production from its frontcourt of Steffon Mitchell (46.4% eFG) and Nik Popovic (47.4% eFG). Most importantly, Boston College needs to find some depth — through only three games, the Eagles’ five starters are averaging at least 28 minutes per contest. Freshman Jairus Hamilton is playing just over 18 minutes per game off the bench. Nobody else is seeing more than five minutes per contest. If Christian can’t find anyone else he trusts to give the occasional spell to Ky Bowman and Jordan Chatman, Boston College is in major trouble in the ACC.

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ACC Conversation: Preseason Projections – Part 1

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 5th, 2018

Rush the Court’s ACC microsite writers Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24) and Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) recently got together to chat about the upcoming 2018-19 season and share their thoughts on all 15 ACC schools. Here’s Part 1 of that conversation.

Danny Manning needs his young stars to come through for Wake Forest to move up the ACC standings. (Walt Unks/Winston-Salem Journal)

  • Brad Jenkins: Happy New Year, gentlemen! Let’s start with a look at the projected bottom of the league. Matt, you did our preview piece on Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Can any of these teams surprise us and contend for an NCAA bid like the Yellow Jackets did two years ago?
  • Matt Auerbach: Great to be back, guys! The short answer to that, Brad, is no. I just can’t see it. The best-case scenario for the first two, particularly Pittsburgh, is that they are competitive and playing a more exciting brand of basketball than they have the last two years. Jeff Capel was a home run hire that will ultimately steer the Panthers back to relevance. Josh Pastner built up some equity with his run to the NIT finals two years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be much to be excited about in Atlanta. As for Wake, if Jaylen Hoard could have a Trae Young or Deandre Ayton type of impact, sure. While extremely talented, I think the odds of that occurring, however, are near nil, and the pressure will be mounting on Danny Manning if another disappointing season ensues.
  • Mick McDonald: Great point on Capel, Matt. Pitt basketball at least feels interesting again. They’ll be bad this year but I’ll be interested to see how guys like Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens begin their careers. I think they may actually be better than Georgia Tech. Pastner’s team looks rough.
  • Matt Auerbach: Without a doubt, of the three, I’d be least surprised if Pittsburgh won four or five games.
  • Mick McDonald: I know Manning keeps pulling good recruits but it feels like he needs to have a team make some noise sometime soon.
  • Brad Jenkins: I think there’s a chance for Capel to do something like what Pastner did in his first year in Atlanta based on the new energy he has in the Pitt program, but the ACC schedule rotation did him no favors — they have zero home games against the predicted bottom four in the league. Is Manning the ACC coach on the Hot Seat this year?
  • Mick McDonald: I guess, but given how his recruiting is going, I’d bet Manning gets at least one more year.

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ACC Burning Questions Part 4: Virginia Tech, Syracuse & Florida State

Posted by Matt Auerbach on November 1st, 2018

As we head into another exciting ACC season, we will be reviewing the key question for each of the league’s 15 squads. Today Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24) works into the upper tier, with Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Florida State

Virginia Tech Burning Question: We know they’ll fill it up, but can the Hokies improve enough defensively to fulfill their potential?

Buzz Williams Needs to Improve His Defense to Contend This Year (USA Today Images)

Virginia Tech came out of the gates blazing a year ago, scoring more than 90 points in five of its first six affairs. And while the numbers understandably dipped as the competition toughened, the Hokies’ up-tempo, let-it-fly mentality, led to season marks of 28th nationally in offensive efficiency and sixth in effective field goal percentage. Lead guard Justin Robinson, the engine behind the high-powered unit, is back for his senior season, and pairs with sophomore sharpshooter Nickeil Alexander-Walker, as perhaps the most explosive backcourt in the ACC.

Robinson, a preseason all-ACC second team selection, is the model of consistency, and the type of point guard head coach Buzz Williams can trust to spearhead his attacking offense. An old-school point guard at his core, Robinson has developed in an old-school manner, as his three-point percentage, points, assists and steals per game have all steadily increased over his three years in Blacksburg. Another leap is a tall order for him after averaging 14.0 PPG, 5.6 APG and shooting nearly 40 percent from long-distance last season, but one that he may need to make given that senior Chris Clarke has been suspended from the team indefinitely. Clarke, the runner-up for ACC Sixth Man of the Year, was in line to start and become a major contributor. In his absence, the Hokies will need a healthy and productive Kerry Blackshear Jr. to replicate upon his excellent sophomore season. Coming off a redshirt year, the 6’10” Blackshear averaged just under 13 points per game on the back of a 63.4 percent true shooting rate. Without Clarke around to bolster the interior, he becomes the Hokies’ leading returning rebounder and will be relied upon to protect the rim.

In his first four years at Virginia Tech, Williams’ teams have never finished within the top 60 nationally in defensive efficiency. If this is to be the year that the Hokies break through and make a run in the NCAA Tournament, improvement on that end is absolutely necessary. There’s no doubt that this team’s offense will pressure opposing defenses, but seeking to outscore the opposition will only get a team so far.

Syracuse Burning Question: Can Syracuse make enough shots?

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Several Takeaways From ACC Operation Basketball

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 26th, 2018

Charlotte’s Spectrum Center was the site of this year’s ACC Operation Basketball and we were in the Queen City earlier this week to cover the annual event. In this post we present some of the primary takeaways we observed and interesting quotes we heard over the course of the day (links to the coaches’ and players’ press conferences can be found here), and at the bottom we also present the preseason award results as voted on by participating media.

STILL LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS TO COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S PROBLEMS

Notre Dame’s Mike Brey had a lot to say about the current state of college basketball as well as the ACC’s new scheduling changes at ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte.
(dailypress.com)

A major topic of discussion at ACC Operation Basketball once again this year was the fallout from the ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting. At last year’s event, the FBI probe had just revealed incriminating allegations involving two ACC schools, Louisville and MiamiN.C. State was later added to the naughty list. Coincidentally, the first criminal trial of individuals involved in some of these pay-for-play schemes wrapped up on Wednesday with guilty verdicts for all three defendants. But the big fallout has yet to come, possibly in the form of NCAA sanctions against the schools (“victims”) complicit in those nefarious recruiting activities. In his morning address, ACC’s commissioner  John Swofford was very supportive of the NCAA reforms based on last spring’s Rice Commission recommendations, while acknowledging that “I don’t think it’s going to be perfect. I think we’re going to have to test some of the things that are being changed, tweak them as we go along.”

Given the timeliness of the verdicts, many ACC coaches were asked to chime in on the topic. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina head coach Roy Williams had been highly criticized for comments they had previously made on the matter, so both Hall of Fame coaches spent time on Wednesday clarifying their points of view. Kryzyzewski repeated the explanation he gave following Duke’s exhibition game on Tuesday night, claiming that his use of the term “blip” to characterize the revelations was not meant to be dismissive on their importance. Likewise, Williams explained what he meant when he claimed to be “dumbfounded” by the new information: “A very intelligent person one time told me there’s a difference between being indifferent or having a lack of knowledge. And my problem is I have a lack of knowledge about those things. I’m not very indifferent about it at all.” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey showed that he was willing to go deeper with his comments in saying, “But certainly there’s some NCAA issues here. There’s no question about that. […] We’ve got some guys that aren’t amateurs, let’s handle that.”

CHANGES COMING FOR CONFERENCE SCHEDULES

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