ACC Taking Stock: Volume I

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on November 22nd, 2017

While it’s natural to focus on the upper echelon of a league when evaluating non-conference play, it’s instructive to keep a watchful eye on the under the radar squads as well. These are the units that ultimately could act as stumbling blocks for the heavyweights down the road while providing the depth and balance that generally makes the ACC the ACC. For this season’s initial iteration of our weekly stock report, we will ignore that Duke already looks unspeakably robust even by its lofty standards and that defending champion North Carolina looks far better than expected, in favor of reviewing a few teams projected to finish in the league’s bottom half.

Stock Rising

The talented Battle has been mighty impressive to start the year. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

Tyus Battle, Syracuse: It is no secret that for Syracuse to exceed expectations this season that the sophomore guard would have to carry the offensive load, and through four games, he has done just that. Efficiently tallying 92 points on 59 percent shooting from two-point range and 43 percent from three-point range, defensive attention on Battle is making the game easier for backcourt mate Frank Howard, who notched a career-high 18 points in Syracuse’s Monday night victory over Oakland. Maryland and Kansas loom after Wednesday’s home date with Toledo, so it will be interesting to track how better competition affects his production.

Stock Overperformance

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ACC Burning Questions: Boston College Eagles

Posted by Matt Patton on October 20th, 2017

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

Burning Question: Can Boston College cobble together a winning season?

We’re nearing put up or shut up time for Boston College head coach Jim Christian. Last year’s Eagles lacked both talent and experience, a deadly combination. They stifled any possible early momentum with an atrocious loss at home to Nicholls State right out of the gate, but a 4-1 December stretch that included wins over Auburn, Providence and Syracuse built hope for a breakthrough after the new year. Alas, the whole team hit a freshman wall in ACC play, finishing the year on a 15-game losing streak.

Ky Bowman needs to make a sophomore leap for Boston College to sniff .500. (Photo: Keith Carroll / BC Heights)

What’s the upside? First, nearly all of Boston College’s talent is back. Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman were Christian’s best players last season, and it wasn’t really close. Nik Popovic is an intriguing player who could make a big leap during his sophomore season (admittedly, his best games last year were against poor competition), and throw in Illinois State graduate transfer Deontae Hawkins along with four consensus three-star freshmen. That’s a much better team — at least on paper — than what the Eagles brought to bear last season. They should be one of the better perimeter shooting teams in the ACC, and more experienced teammates should relieve some of the pressure from Robinson, possibly further boosting his efficiency. Despite shooting very well from the floor last season, Boston College’s poor offensive efficiency was because of a high number of turnovers, poor rebounding and an inability to get to the charity stripe. The last two pieces are related and unlikely to improve dramatically if the team ends up spreading the floor as much as anticipated. Minimizing turnovers should be a very high priority this season (along with loads of practice in team rebounding).

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Where Did Boston College Go Wrong?

Posted by Charlie Maikis on December 14th, 2016

Despite earning a surprising win against Auburn on Monday night, Boston College sits at just 5-5 on the season with losses to Harvard, Hartford and Nicholls State already on its resume. It’s no stretch to note that the Eagles are off to another tough start for what seems like the 100th season in a row. Still, it wasn’t that long ago that the program was riding high. Despite finishing over .500 just once since 2010-11 and enduring a sustained funk over the last five years that few major conference programs have endured, the Eagles under former head coach Al Skinner notched seven NCAA Tournament appearances in nine seasons during the 2000s.

What Has Happened to Steve Donahue's Defense? (Boston College Athletics)

Steve Donahue couldn’t maintain Al Skinner’s standards at Boston College. (Boston College Athletics)

As the sixth year of disappointment quickly moves toward conference play, the overarching question is where did Boston College go wrong? Skinner’s final season ended with a record of 15-16 (6-10 ACC), but the hiatus of talent that left with him had an immediate effect. Former ESPN 100 recruit Rakim Sanders decided to transfer to Fairfield, and incoming recruit Brady Heslip, who went on to become a major contributor for several successful Baylor teams, was released from his letter of intent. After Skinner had brought in two ESPN 100 recruits in his first two classes of that recruiting service’s era, the combination of Steve Donahue from 2010-14 and current head coach Jim Christian (2014-present) have combined to bring in just one — Ryan Anderson, who also transferred out, incidentally — in the seven classes since.

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ACC Burning Questions: Boston College Eagles

Posted by Matt Patton (@mpatton0) on October 19th, 2016

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

Burning Question: Can Boston College show enough improvement to buy Jim Christian some time?

As we and others predicted would occur, last year was an unmitigated, winless disaster for the Eagles. With only one starter returning, Boston College didn’t field a team that had any chance of realistically competing in the ACC (the Eagles’ final KenPom ranking (#226) was nearly twice as bad as next worst Wake Forest). It was a rebuilding year in every sense of the phrase. This year might turn out better in Chestnut Hill, but Jim Christian‘s squad must drastically improve its offense while still lacking the necessary talent to compete and win regularly in conference play. Eli Carter and Dennis Clifford, the team’s most used and important players last season, are both gone. Sammy Barnes-Thompkins, Matt Milon and Idy Diallo also transferred away, although none were systemically very important. These departures present an opportunity for the remaining players to quickly improve, but they are also another steep hurdle in Christian’s efforts to rebuild the program.

Jerome USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Robinson was a lone bright spot for the Eagles last season. (USA TODAY Sports)

A lone bright spot last season was the play of Jerome Robinson. He was a crucial part of the offense and a very efficient shooter. The two big questions surrounding Robinson are whether he is ready to be the center of Boston College’s offense and if he can improve on his atrocious turnover rate. Unfortunately, the responsibility of carrying more of the offense makes keeping his turnover rate down an impossibility, but a second year of conditioning and experience should only help in most other areas. Christian will also need leadership and improvement from sophomore AJ Turner, senior Garland Owens, and redshirt freshman John Carlos Reyes (who is tasked with replacing Clifford). Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 02.24.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 24th, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. The ACC: Rejoice, ACC fans, because the bracket for this year’s conference tournament is out (including approximate tipoff times that will inevitably be pushed back since they still use the assumption that every game will end in under two hours). Unfortunately, in the league’s promotion of the event, a graphic designer failed to use a stock photo of the US Capitol. Alas, #goacc.
  2. BC Interruption: Speaking of that bracket, you can go ahead and sharpie Boston College in for the #14 seed. Is it statistically possible that the Eagles can catch Wake Forest? Yes. But after getting stomped by Virginia Tech at home last night, don’t hold your breath for that result. More seriously, Boston College has major issues with its men’s basketball program. The athletic department just announced a $200 million investment in sports, but it won’t directly affect the basketball team. An improved football team would help (Boston College is on pace to become the first team in ACC history to lose all of its conference men’s basketball and football games in the same school year), but there’s a lot of general apathy among the Eagles’ fan base. Even during the Al Skinner era, the basketball program found it difficult to compete with hockey for winter attendance. Firing Jim Christian after one season would be overly reactionary, but for each year the program continues to struggle, the more energy it will take to rebuild it. Just a guess, but it would seem that most of the remaining fans wouldn’t mind another change at the helm.
  3. Hampton Roads Daily Press: This piece is a good rebuttal to the chorus of whining ACC coaches. David Teel was right to focus on Miami head coach Jim Larranaga, who knows the benefits to both coffers and recruiting alike that asymmetric schedules can bring. Television revenue has become increasingly important to athletic departments (since unlike most other revenue, there’s no cost to the school when ESPN shows up to a game that would be played regardless). Then again, Larranaga may have just been in a good mood after Miami eked by Virginia to stay in the hunt for the top seed at next month’s ACC Tournament.
  4. Syracuse Post Standard: Jim Boeheim caught some recent flak for his comments about junior Tyler Roberson. Boeheim said, “If I had anyone else he wouldn’t play a minute,” in response to a question about his big man. As he’s prone to do, Boeheim immediately doubled down on the comments. Whether this public shaming will help Roberson play with more effort is unclear, but what should be clear is that Roberson isn’t paid enough to be publicly ridiculed for something as subjective as effort. Shame on Boeheim.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: Duke named former Blue Devil guard Nolan Smith a special assistant to the basketball program. Many people had wondered as he struggled to rehabilitate from repeat injuries whether Smith might eventually turn to coaching. He now has, but what remains to be seen is when he can join the staff as a full assistant. Is this a sign that assistant coach Jeff Capel might be thinking about taking over another program after this year? Or will a mid-major school take a shot at Nate James after Duke’s recent string of recruiting success? Both important questions, but the biggest current source of confusion facing most Duke fans is what Grayson Allen meant with this Instagram post.
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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part III Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 25th, 2015

morning5_ACC

Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings.

  1. Preseason NIT: Three ACC schools will begin play in a tournament on Thanksgiving Day, with the first being Georgia Tech (#87) as the Yellow Jackets look to bounce back from Sunday’s terrible buzzer-beating home loss to East Tennessee State. Brian Gregory’s already-warm seat is surely hotter now, so he desperately needs a good performance from his squad in Brooklyn this week. The best way to make up for a bad loss is to pull off a huge win. That possibility exists for Georgia Tech if it can get by Arkansas (#102) on Thursday (ESPNU – 2:00 ET), and if highly regarded Villanova (#2) takes care of Stanford (#119) as expected in the other semifinal. The championship game will be on Friday afternoon (ESPN2/U – 3:00 ET).
  2. Advocare Invitational: Defending ACC Champion Notre Dame (#20) also begins tournament action Thursday (ESPNU – 6:30 ET), taking on Monmouth (#134). At first glance this looks like a mismatch, but keep in mind that the Hawks pulled off one of the season’s first upsets, stunning UCLA on opening night in Pauley Pavilion. On Friday, Mike Brey’s guys will get a solid second round opponent in either Iowa (#19) or Dayton (#44). This Orlando event has one of the strongest fields of Feast Week, with seven of the eight schools in the top 100. On the opposite side of the bracket are Wichita State (#23), Xavier (#25), USC (#45) and Alabama (#94). If everything goes as planned for the Fighting Irish, they can pick up a couple of wins that will probably look great on their resume all year long.
  3. Wooden Legacy: Boston College (#118) faces a stiff challenge in Anaheim, as the Eagles meet Michigan State (#13) in an opening round game on Thursday (ESPN2 – 6:30 ET). Jim Christian’s team may not be as bad as we thought in the preseason – the Eagles are 3-0 for the first time in seven years. That includes Sunday’s win over crosstown rival Harvard, Christian’s second in a row over the Crimson after Boston College had lost the previous six meetings. The Spartans are heavy favorites to meet Arizona (#8) in the finals on Sunday (ESPN2 – 10:00 ET). Looking to play spoiler will be Boise State (#60), Providence (#62) and Evansville (#66).
  4. Emerald Coast Classic: Another ACC team that will be a heavy underdog in its opening tournament game is Virginia Tech (#148), who goes against Iowa State (#16) on Friday (CBSSN – 7:00 ET). Things should be somewhat easier for Buzz Williams and company on Saturday, as the Hokies will get either UAB (#93) or Illinois (#101) in the two-day event. But based on their shaky 2-1 start versus weak competition, Virginia Tech has not looked like a squad that’s ready to compete with top-100 teams on a neutral court. So far, Maryland transfer Seth Allen (sat out last year) has been unable to shake off the rust, shooting a frigid 31.0% from the field and committing a total of 13 turnovers in the three games.
  5. Gotham Classic: Like Louisville, Pittsburgh is not participating in a traditional tournament. Beginning in mid-December, the Panthers will play four straight exempt games as part of the Gotham Classic. The only time that Jamie Dixon’s squad will face an opponent away from home is when they take on Davidson (#64) on December 20 (ESPNU – Noon ET) in New York’s Madison Square Garden. The other three games will be in the Petersen Events Center over a two week period; December 11 – Eastern Washington (#200); December 13 – Morehead State (#179); and December 23 – Western Carolina (#203). Those all look a lot like the schools that tend to show up on Pittsburgh’s non-conference schedule during the Dixon era. Of course, Dixon was counting on an opening day meeting with Gonzaga to boost this season’s schedule rating. And with that game cancelled, Pitt will have one of the poorer non-conference slates among power league schools.
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2015 ACC Basketball Power Rankings

Posted by Matt Patton on November 16th, 2015

Over the last two weeks, we previewed each of the 15 ACC teams individually to get you ready for the season. Links to those previews can be found within each of the preseason power rankings listed below, which were voted on by our crack microsite staff of three. Also look for our preseason conference awards, which will publish a bit later today.

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

Virginia Cavaliers 1. Virginia (304): Can the Cavaliers win the ACC regular season for a third straight year? With a veteran cast led by Malcolm BrogdonAnthony Gill and maybe the nation’s stingiest defense, Tony Bennett probably has the squad to do it. This season, Virginia should take the next step and make a deep run in March.
North Carolina Tar Heels 2. North Carolina (290): Marcus Paige‘s injury could prove to be a setback, but Justin Jackson is poised to become one of the top players in the country. The team returns nearly all its production from last season, and assuming Joel Berry makes the leap we all expect, this group of Tar Heels should absolutely be one of the national favorites come March.
Duke Blue Devils 3. Duke (213): It’s not fair to expect this highly-touted class of Blue Devils’ freshmen to live up to the exploits of last year’s superstar class. Expect this team to take a while to find its stride, with a lot of ups and downs along the way. But if the youngsters grow up in time, Mike Krzyzewski should find himself with another tough out come March.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4. Notre Dame (202): The Irish will lean heavily on the production of three returning starters and a successful offensive philosophy that led to the second best efficiency in the country last season. It will need to make up for the loss of departed leaders Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, but Demetrius Jackson looks like one of the best point guards in the country.
Miami Hurricanes 5. Miami (157): The last time Jim Larranaga had a squad this experienced was in 2013, when Miami won both the ACC regular season and tourney titles. The conference appears to be much stronger at the top than it was three years ago, but this veteran group of Hurricanes could still be a sleeper contender, led by three all-ACC caliber seniors.
Syracuse Orange 6. Syracuse (132): Dajuan Coleman holds the keys to Syracuse’s success this season even if senior Michael Gbinije looks to be the team’s star. After a lackluster finish a year ago, this team could become one of the best in the conference if the pieces fit together well. If the NCAA’s nine-conference game suspension stands for Jim Boeheim, though, it could be tough for the Orange to find their stride.
Florida State Seminoles 7. Florida State (105): The Seminoles are a trendy darkhorse candidate this year thanks to superstar freshman Dwayne Bacon joining Xavier Rathan-Mayes in Tallahassee. Leonard Hamilton will have to find a defensive stopper in the frontcourt, however, if this team wants to crack the top of the league.
LouisvilleLogo 8. Louisville (104): With considerable turmoil surrounding the program off the court, the Cardinals will rely on two graduate transfers and a Hall of Fame coach to navigate the loss of its top four scorers. Never count out Rick Pitino, but he’s facing an uphill climb to succeed in the ACC this season.
NC State Wolfpack 9. NC State (81): This team has a lot of good pieces, but how will Cat Barber handle being the alpha dog without big shot Trevor Lacey around? A trim Beejay Anya should terrify ACC players hoping to score in the paint. This team oozes potential, but will need time for everyone to adjust to life without Lacey and Ralston Turner.
Pittsburgh Panthers 10. Pittsburgh (62): Last year’s Panthers were the worst defensive team and among the weakest rebounding units in Jamie Dixon’s long career. As a result, mproving those two areas has been a major topic of discussion for Pittsburgh’s head coach this preseason. Dixon hopes that a pair of graduate transfers are good enough to toughen up the front line, where last year’s problems originated.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 11. Wake Forest (29): Look for Danny Manning‘s winning ways to creep into Winston-Salem this year, although a move up the standings will be tough because the ACC is much stronger top-to-bottom than in previous years. Devin Thomas needs to have a first team All-ACC caliber season for the Demon Deacons to approach the top half of the league.
Clemson Tigers 12. Clemson (16): Once again, we expect the Tigers to defend like crazy while struggling to score – just as they have throughout Brad Brownell’s tenure. Can Brownell survive another year of not making the Big Dance? It won’t help that Clemson has to play all of its home games in Greenville this season, 30 miles from campus, while Littlejohn Coliseum gets a needed facelift.
Virginia Tech Hokies 13. Virginia Tech (15): It’s only taken Buzz Williams two years to almost completely turn over this roster, with junior Devin Wilson currently the only scholarship holdover from the past regime. The Hokies’ talent level is improved, but his youngters are probably another year or two away from getting close to the upper half of the league.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 14. Georgia Tech (12): It’s another year on the hot seat for Brian Gregory, who has yet to post a winning ACC record in his four previous campaigns in Atlanta. Pathetic outside shooting has been a constant problem during the Gregory era, and the Yellow Jackets desperately need senior transfer Adam Smith to help turn that around to give a decent frontcourt room to operate.
Boston College 15. Boston College (3): This team is one of the younger teams in the country, but Jim Christian brought in Florida transfer Eli Carter to beef up the team’s experience. If one of the freshmen turns out to be a diamond in the rough, this team might find a way to escape the ACC cellar.
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Quotes and Quips From ACC Operation Basketball

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 29th, 2015

The ACC’s annual Media Day, otherwise known as “ACC Operation Basketball,” took place in Charlotte on Wednesday. There was plenty of the normal coachspeak and playerspeak in effect, as every player at every school has apparently been “working hard,” and every newcomer is “very talented” and “learning fast.” Aside from all of that, there were several parts of yesterday’s press conferences that were very entertaining, so here is a list of some of the more interesting quotes and quips of the day.

No Pitino, No Problem. ACC Media Day Must Go On! (WDRB.com)

No Pitino, No Problem. ACC Media Day Must Go On! (WDRB.com)

Finding Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

We start with a few examples of putting a positive spin on a difficult situation… because what else can you do?

  • When discussing how his broken foot will affect Wake Forest, Codi Miller-McIntyre said it would help his team because of the experience that the younger guards will gain in his absence. He also said that his goal is to be back for the Demon Deacons’ trip to Maui in late November.
  • While talking about all of those close ACC losses suffered by Georgia Tech last season, Brian Gregory said, “We were able to compete. The next step is to be able to finish those games.”
  • And even though he has one of least experienced rosters in the country, Boston College head coach Jim Christian pointed out that his team has great experience at the two most crucial positions of center and point guard in fifth-year seniors Dennis Clifford and Eli Carter.

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ACC Preview: Boston College’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on October 22nd, 2015

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

Burning Question: How can Jim Christian mitigate the loss of Olivier Hanlan?

We thought this question might come up 12 months ago, but Hanlan ended up staying the extra year. In a strange way, head coach Jim Christian might have been better off trying to adjust to life without Hanlan last year. Instead, he faces his second straight season of losing his best players. Last year Boston College lost Ryan Anderson, Joe Rahon and Lonnie Jackson, but the cumulative loss is probably more severe this season. Gone are four of five starters: Hanlan, Aaron Brown, Patrick Heckmann and Dmitri Batten, a quartet that combined to score over 76 percent of the Eagles’ points a season ago. And there’s more — fan favorite Eddie Odio graduated, and oft-injured Will McGarity transferred to Davidson.

Jim Christian will need a lot of patience this season, especially during ACC play. (credit: AP)

Jim Christian will need a lot of patience this season, especially during ACC play. (credit: AP)

The only returning starter is Dennis Clifford, who has rarely managed a heavy minute-load as a result of nagging injuries. Clifford showed flashes of promise — especially early in his career — but those injuries, a lack of lateral quickness and turnover issues have always prevented him from developing into a major contributor. That said, the senior has flashed offensive promise ever since his freshman season. Some of the disappointment of the past couple of campaigns could be a function of injuries never allowing him play at 100 percent, but projecting a fourth-year player to make a major leap is a stretch, regardless of circumstance.

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Can Jim Christian Return Boston College to Relevance?

Posted by Walker Carey on February 5th, 2015

Throughout the first decade of this century, Boston College was among the most consistent programs in the Big East (and later, the ACC). The Eagles earned six NCAA Tournament bids between 2001 and 2007, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2006. Head coach Al Skinner enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for taking unknown prospects and turning them into marquee players. For example, Skinner plucked former Eagles point guard Troy Bell out of Richfield, Minnesota, before he became a three-time First Team All-Big East performer (2001-03) and two-time Big East Player of the Year (2001, 2003). Things were definitely going well on the hardwood for the program, but things took an unexpected downturn in the late 2000s, which resulted in Skinner’s termination following the 2009-10 season (his second losing year in three). Little did the school’s administration know at the time that disappointment experienced at the end of Skinner’s tenure was a sign of more to come.

Boston College (USA Today Images)

Boston College Head Coach Jim Christian Gets Great Effort From His Players (USA Today Images)

Tasked with replacing Skinner was Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, who was fresh off leading the Big Red to the Sweet Sixteen. While his tenure in Chestnut Hill got off to a fairly promising start with a 21-13 record and a resultant NIT appearance, things only went down from there. In the next three seasons, Boston College amassed a combined 33-63 overall record with a 15-37 mark in ACC play. Donahue was dismissed following last season.

After Donahue’s termination, it was widely speculated that Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker would become Boston College’s next coach. Amaker said thanks, but no thanks, however, and chose to remain at in Cambridge. Shortly after that rejection, the Eagles found their man in Ohio head coach Jim Christian. In his introductory news conference, athletic director Brad Bates noted “three remarkable traits” that he believed set Christian apart from other candidates: 1) his ability to recruit and develop players; 2) his energy and enthusiasm; and 3) his proven track record as a head coach. And yet, before Christian could even preside over a single practice, his roster took a significant hit when incumbent starters Ryan Anderson and Joe Rahon both transferred out of the program.

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