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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Only a Strong ACC Run Can Rescue Virginia

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 31st, 2013

When the year began, the Virginia Cavaliers made it a point to avoid the types of missteps that derailed their season a year ago and relegated them to an NIT bid. There were three main areas the team had to lock down: a solid showing in the non-conference schedule; more offensive production from the point guard position; and avoiding a late-season collapse in ACC play. Conference play is now on the horizon, and the Cavaliers will have to look themselves in the mirror knowing they failed miserably at the first area of emphasis, have more questions than answers about the second, and will absolutely have to reverse the trend of the third to make an NCAA Tournament run. Nothing is as head coach Tony Bennett expected for his team roughly a third of the way into the 2013-14 season.

Joe Harris

It’s been a rough start to a promising year for Joe Harris and UVA (credit: grantland.com)

Virginia had two match-ups against ranked foes prior to conference play. They suffered a heartbreaking loss to VCU at home in November and then bowed out of a horrifically low-scoring affair against Wisconsin in December, again at home. A bad loss to Wisconsin Green-Bay, Bennett’s alma mater, followed, putting the Cavs in a precarious position with only a game at Tennessee left as a possible noteworthy non-conference victory. That evaporated early and often Monday night, as Virginia was overwhelmed by the Volunteers from start to finish in a crushing 35-point loss. The demoralizing score and performance would be devastating enough if it weren’t also serving as a microcosm of their entire season.

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The Emergence of NC State’s T.J. Warren

Posted by Chris Kehoe on December 20th, 2013

N.C. State sophomore forward T.J. Warren had an extremely successful freshman season on a Wolfpack squad that failed to live up to outsized expectations last year. After the departure of stars C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown, the reins were handed to Mr. Warren. Surrounded by a supporting cast of talented freshmen and an undersized yet feisty former Oak Hill point guard (Tyler Lewis), N.C. State was largely expected to coast to a lower/middle-of-the-pack finish in the ACC. However, behind freshman guard Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber’s unexpected scoring output, the emergences of forward/center Jordan Vandenberg and freshman big man Lennard Freeman, and Warren’s ascendence, the outlook is bright for this Wolfpack team.

T.J. Warren skies for an emphatic two points (photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren skies for an emphatic two points
(photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Last season Warren was known for his other-worldly efficiency, pouring in 12.1 PPG on a remarkable 62.2% shooting and cementing his status as a player to keep an eye on. A popular misconception after the departures of the talented triumvirate was that N.C. State and Warren would struggle because of a lack of offensive options and overall experience and cohesion. That has not been the case, as N.C. State has cruised to a 8-2 record, beating Florida Gulf Coast, Northwestern, and most recently, Tennessee in solid wins. While their schedule has not been particularly strong, they look to be a force to be reckoned with in a weaker-than-expected ACC. They are now circled on teams’ calendars as a dangerous foe in ACC play, because when you have an elite scorer such as Warren to defend, there is no telling what kind of damage he can do.

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Winners and Losers from the 15th Annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 5th, 2013

The 2013-14 ACC/Big Ten Challenge had a different look this year thanks to realignment, but for the second consecutive year, the event ended in a 6-6 tie. In the end, the Challenge produced one shocking upset, showcased two Duke players heading in opposite directions, and delivered one game that set basketball back a few decades. Here are several glaring winners and losers from this year’s version:

Winners

1)       North Carolina. The most confusing team in the country went into East Lansing and knocked off the top-ranked Spartans, despite only an average night scoring the basketball by Marcus Paige.  Sure, there were injury issues on the Spartans’ side, but the ability of this UNC team to bounce back from puzzling losses to knock off powerhouses (Louisville after a home loss to Belmont; Michigan State after a road loss to UAB) speaks volumes about Roy Williams’ ability to motivate a roster he didn’t envision leaning on when the season began.

UNC celebrates huge win over No. 1 Michigan State (credit: goheels.com)

UNC celebrates huge win over No. 1 Michigan State (credit: goheels.com)

2)      Quinn Cook. Everyone knew about Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Most of the questions about the Blue Devils were about the supporting cast. With Rasheed Sulaimon a no-show (more on that later), the inconsistent Cook of a year ago seemed like a different player as he exploited the Michigan backcourt in a solid win Tuesday night. If Cook can consistently hit his outside shot and remain largely turnover-free, a team that appeared to lean heavily on two players suddenly has more versatility at its disposal. Cook’s 24 points and nine turnovers helped keep Duke’s 13-year non-conference home winning streak alive.

3)      Iowa. Fighting off a tougher-than-expected challenge from Notre Dame with 57 percent shooting was impressive, but even more impressive was that this was the Hawkeyes’ fourth game in six days. Fran McCaffery’s bunch was coming off a solid showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, losing only an overtime title game to a very good Villanova squad. Iowa has a solid nucleus in Aaron White, Devyn Marble and Jared Uthoff and has already shown its natural ability to score in bunches. Their resolve in fighting off fatigue and a charging Notre Dame team spoke to their toughness. This is definitely a team worth watching in the Big Ten this season.

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ACC/Big Ten Challenge Presents Giant Opportunity For Michigan

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 2nd, 2013

What to Make of Michigan Heading to Duke in the Headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Nobody ever said life after Trey Burke was going to be easy. Despite entering the season with both a top 10 ranking and preseason All-American (again) to lead the way, John Beilein had to know that this group of Wolverines would be a work in progress. Gone was not only the transcendent Burke, but also backcourt mate Tim Hardaway, Jr., a highly accomplished player in his own right. Also of concern: The fact that this year’s preseason All-American, Mitch McGary, entered the season on the mend. The bruising sophomore is recovering from a back injury, and even with a (relatively) healthy back a season ago, he had averaged only 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as he got acclimated to college basketball. Was he really ready to deliver All-American type production? Every team entered this season with question marks, but Michigan faced as many as any of their preseason top-10 cohabitants.

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

The Wolverines are now seven games into the season, and the top-10 ranking is gone. The same cannot be said for those pesky preseason questions. Michigan is 5-2 on the year, with an overtime victory over Florida State ranking as its lone victory of consequence (seriously, the average Pomeroy rating for the other four Wolverine conquests is 297). The back injury ultimately caused McGary to miss just two games, but his production since returning has hardly been like that of an All-American: 8.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG in 25 minutes per game. I’m not in the habit of judging a guy off of five post-injury games, but the jury remains out on whether McGary can live up to those expansive preseason expectations.

Nor has a verdict been offered on the Michigan point guard situation. Nobody expected Derrick Walton to become Trey Burke, but the freshman has averaged nearly as many turnovers (2.4 per game) as assists (3.3 per game), while also ceding crunch time minutes to backup Spike Albrecht. In the two Michigan losses (to Iowa State and Charlotte), Walton has averaged just 19 minutes a game. Clearly John Beilein is not ready to fully hand over the reins to the talented youngster, but like McGary, there’s still plenty of time for Walton to grow into his expected role.

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ACC M5: 12.02.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 2nd, 2013

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  1. CBS Sports and NBC Sports: After Duke lost another game to a very good team after leading most of the game, the popular question is whether or not the Kansas and Arizona losses are reasons to toss Duke out as a national contender. There’s no doubt, the losses bring up some concerns (though my question was “Why did Mike Krzyzewski randomly start playing zone?”). But not many teams are as big and athletic as Kansas and Arizona. Those are tough match-ups for Duke, which is still a young team. It’s not a surprise they struggled. The other story that didn’t get a ton of publicity after the game is how quiet Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon were in the second half for Duke. The backcourt holds the key.
  2. NBC Sports and Tar Heel Blog: Speaking of raising questions, North Carolina didn’t exactly silence its doubters by losing a close game at Roy Williams protege Jerod Haase’s UAB Blazers. The Tar Heels got killed on the boards, and the Blazers concentrated on stopping Marcus Paige with considerable success. Look for Michigan State to key on Paige again this week. Until someone else shows the ability to be the man in his place, there’s no downside. That said, I personally wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tar Heels pull out the win because (1) I have no idea what to think about this team and (2) Roy Williams is Tom Izzo’s kryptonite.
  3. Burlington Times-News: NC State looked significantly better against Eastern Kentucky and showed the ability to score against a zone–albeit a shorter, less athletic one than Syracuse will trot out in ACC play. Promising signs came from Jordan Vandenberg, who set a career high, and TJ Warren, who managed 26 points in the second half. This team is already improving, which is a good sign. To keep up his success on the recruiting trail, Mark Gottfried needs to keep showing player and program development.
  4. Tomahawk Nation: If you haven’t watched Florida State, you should know that Leonard Hamilton’s team looks for real. The Seminoles came a touch-foul away from taking Florida to overtime on the road. Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky looked terrific. The twin sophomore towers kept the game within reach. Ojo in particular is a completely new player. Hamilton is the best coach in the league at developing big men. Last year Ojo looked completely lost. This year, he still has his moments, but is much more confident with the ball and is a terror on the boards. This team is good (much better than anyone predicted), but the next couple years could really be special.
  5. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs took a look at the hottest ACC teams historically from downtown. Number one? Virginia Tech. Yep, this year’s Hokie team is shooting an unbelievable 45.5% from deep. This year’s Duke team is third on the list. Notre Dame and Pittsburgh also check in at over 40%. Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, that percentage is likely to drop, which will hurt its already mediocre offensive efficiency.

EXTRA: Joe Harris has ups.

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ACC M5: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 18th, 2013

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  1. Pitt News: Great article from a couple of weeks ago from Pittsburgh student Jasper Wilson, who spent some time with Panther alumnus Ricardo Greer. Greer was a star (though he took a backseat role to All-American Brandin Knight his senior season), who graduated in 2001. Now Greer plays basketball in France, where he’s played the majority of his professional career. Wilson does a great job illuminating Greer’s life with the boons and challenges that come with playing basketball in Europe. Really great work.
  2. Run the Floor: Suffice to say Boston College‘s season hasn’t opened the way Steve Donahue planned. The Eagles are 1-4. Their one win came by three, at home against a bad Florida Atlantic team (the same team Duke beat by more than thirty points). Their losses are all to decent teams (Providence, Massachusetts, and Toledo), but decent losses don’t help your RPI–especially home losses against Toledo. Donahue’s team may just be taking some time to come together, but their performances are starting to look eerily consistent.
  3. CBSSports.com: Gary Parrish thinks that Lebron’s Decision influenced consensus top-five recruits Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor in their decision to pick a school together. It’s an interesting idea, and I think it also applies to the super-classes that John Calipari has strung together. Jones and Okafor chose Duke, giving the Blue Devils the top class in the country for next season. Consensus top-ranked prospect Okafor, a back to the basket center, will give Mike Krzyzewski his most skilled big since at least Carlos Boozer (and possibly Elton Brand). 
  4. Tar Heel Blog and One Foot Down: A couple of ranked teams got embarrassed this weekend. Lathan’s article from Friday looks especially prescient after North Carolina lost to Belmont at home. The Tar Heels went a shocking 22-48 from the free throw line, which certainly contributed to their loss. But they also choked up a six-point lead in the final minutes thanks to some hot shooting from Belmont. Notre Dame also lost at home to Indiana State (the first November loss of Mike Brey’s tenure) thanks to putrid offense and absolutely nothing from its backcourt. [side note: Syracuse also produced an abhorrent free throw line this weekend, putting up the old 12-28 from the charity stripe]
  5. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Virginia‘s loss to VCU raised a lot of questions about the team’s ability to close games. Yes, Tony Bennett is playing an inexperienced point guard, but that’s no excuse for letting any game close on a 10-1 run. After the game, Bennett noted that his team needed to be mentally stronger (quoting Bob Knight in the process). Unfortunately, mental strength won’t cause a shot-creator to appear. Joe Harris is one of the best players in the ACC, but he’s not a guy that will break you down at the end of the shot clock. He has to find a way to be more effective (probably drawing a foul on a drive into the lane) because Virginia won’t come close to it’s potential if it continues playing like it did against the Rams.
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ACC M5: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 15th, 2013

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Before we get to the news, someone may want to help find Steve Donahue find Boston College’s wheels.

  1. Virginian Pilot: Bob Molinaro focuses on Virginia Tech‘s football program when talking about the challenges that will face the new Hokies athletic director, but the basketball program may prove just as challenging. James Johnson may very well be the man for the job in Blacksburg, but Virginia Tech has to invest more in its basketball program to overcome its geographical challenges. I liked the James Johnson hire then (though the timing was atrocious), and like it now. But it was a risk and new athletic directors aren’t always the most patient of bosses.
  2. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Good reporting from Donna Ditota on player views about getting paid. While most acknowledged that getting paid would be “complicated,” all but Baye Keita (and Joe Harris) thought players should be paid. Harris is particularly interesting, as he would likely benefit from a rule allowing him to make money off of his likeness. Here’s the thing: No one in their right mind should argue against full cost of attendance scholarships. And I have a lot of trouble arguing against athletes being allowed to make money on the side. Yes, it has to be regulated, but having a complex problem to solve doesn’t mean you should just ignore it.
  3. Grantland: I’ll sum up Mark Titus’s ACC preview. He likes Duke; he likes CJ Fair, Jabari Parker and TJ Warren (though I think he underestimates the number of people who know about Warren); and he loves Wake Forest‘s fan meltdown. Titus doesn’t love Virginia, which is surprising, although he may be right after the Cavaliers choked their game against VCU away. But all of Fair’s love and questions about Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis have obscured another big part of Syracuse’s future success: Jerami Grant. Grant’s brother has gotten plenty of love at Notre Dame, but this Grant will be much more important to Syracuse this season than in the past.
  4. Greensboro News & Record: Want to see a newspaper for a decent-sized city use an outdated Excel graph format that looks like it belongs in a paper from 2005? Today’s your lucky day! But Mark Thompson’s article is actually pretty interesting. Thompson looked at ACC fouls last season compared to this season and found that league fouls are up 3.8 fouls per game so far. It would be interesting to see the numbers for every team, although the sample size (and schedule variance) would be an issue. Also interesting is that other conferences have seen a more substantial increase in whistles. All I know is that there was a hideous stretch in the second half of Duke vs. Kansas where neither team could play 12 seconds without picking up a dumb foul. Let’s hope that stops.
  5. Blogger So Dear: In a bizarre last-minute signing day drama, Isaac Haas didn’t sign a letter of intent as expected to play at Wake Forest. All experts now point toward the 7’2″ center signing with UAB. What’s odd is that Haas’ uncle sent an inspirational tweet, prompting fans to wonder whether his scholarship offer was rescinded (according to Dan Collins at the Winston-Salem Journal, it wasn’t). Can’t blame a teenager for changing his mind, but it feels like we’re missing some facts from this story.
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Preseason ACC Microsite Awards: Joe Harris Preseason POY

Posted by Matt Patton on November 9th, 2013

The ACC microsite is happy to announce our preseason Player of the Year and all-ACC teams, as selected by the five writers contributing this season.

Preseason All-ACC

Some Notes:

  • Seven of 15 teams had at least one selection to the teams. Virginia and North Carolina led the way with two selections each.
  • Virginia’s Joe Harris received three of five votes for preseason ACC Player of the Year. Jabari Parker and CJ Fair received one vote each.
  • Harris and Fair were unanimous selections for the first team.
  • Duke’s Rodney Hood actually tied Virginia’s Akil Mitchell for votes, but Mitchell’s one first-team vote put him over the top in a tie-breaker.
  • Ryan Anderson, Quinn Cook, Travis McKie, Rasheed Sulaimon and Okaro White each received one second-team vote.
  • The first team has two seniors (Harris and Fair), two sophomores (Olivier Hanlan and TJ Warren) and one freshman (Parker).
  • The second team has more experience than the first team with three juniors and two seniors.
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ACC Mega-Preview: Duke Tops Power Rankings

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 8th, 2013

Over the last two weeks, we have previewed each team individually to go with several more articles to get you ready for ACC basketball starting later today. Links to the previews can be found in each of the preseason power rankings listed below. Also look for our preseason conference awards later which will publish later today.

ACC Basketball Twitter Must-Follows (Chris): 

  • Part I (general ACC tweeters)
  • Part II (Maryland, Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh,  and Georgia Tech)
  • Part III (Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Florida State, North Carolina, and NC State)

Early Season Tournaments (Brad):

  • Part I (Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Clemson)
  • Part II (Florida State, North Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse)
  • Part III (Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Miami)

Seven Nonconference Games to Watch (Brad)

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (75): Unanimous selection for the top spot, Coach K hopes this year’s more athletic group of players can thrive at a faster pace of play. Duke is a national contender this season.
Syracuse Orange 2. Syracuse (67): Their loaded front court and a legendary coach will help make seamless transition to the ACC, bringing their length and vaunted 2-3 zone along with them. Frosh point guard Tyler Ennis is the difference between a very good team and a great one.
North Carolina Tar Heels T3. North Carolina (64): The development of the young frontcourt will be key for a team with plenty of upside, but a daunting non-conference schedule and the suspensions of PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald loom early.
Virginia Cavaliers T3. Virginia (64): ACC stars Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are back in Charlottesville. If the point guard position has more offensive output than last season, this team has all the pieces to be an ACC contender.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 5. Notre Dame (52)Mike Brey has to find a way to replace Jack Cooley‘s production in the post, but the Fighting Irish bring back one of the best backcourts in the ACC. The Fighting Irish look like a border-line top-25 team heading into the season.
Maryland Terrapins 6. Maryland (48): Losing Seth Allen for a spell and Alex Len to the lottery will hurt, but Dez Wells‘ brilliance and Maryland’s overall athleticism should propel them to new heights under Mark Turgeon assuming they can cut out some of their turnovers.
Boston College 7. Boston College (43): A veteran core and a bona fide star could take Boston College to the next level, provided Steve Donahue does something about the team’s dreadful defense. If Dennis Clifford is healthy, this team has a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Pittsburgh Panthers 8. Pittsburgh (41): The Panthers have three solid returning starters to build around, but will need their new big men to make an immediate impact after Steven Adams’ surprising decision to bolt for the NBA Draft. Also how will the new officiating rules affect Jamie Dixon‘s style?
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 9. Georgia Tech (31): The tandem of sophomores Robert Carter, Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt will prove even more effective as the Yellow Jackets look to make strides, but their young core is a few years away from making noise. Tennessee transfer Trae Golden should be an upgrade over Mfon Udofia at point guard.
NC State Wolfpack 10. NC State (29): TJ Warren could be one of the most talented players in the conference, but there is an enormous amount of departed experience to replace in Raleigh. Mark Gottfried‘s talented group of freshmen will be expected to contribute early and often.
Florida State Seminoles 11. Florida State (27): The Seminoles need last year’s newcomers to all make a big leap this year even to stay in the upper middle of the ACC. The key is getting back to elite team defense, though Okaro White is one of the better returning offensive wings in the ACC.
Miami Hurricanes 12. Miami (23): The best thing returning for the Hurricanes is head coach Jim Larranaga, an expert at putting pieces together to form a solid team. Unfortunately, the pieces leave a lot to be desired. Belgian star Manu Lacomte may surprise ACC fans, though.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 13. Wake Forest (19): For the first time since coming to Winston-Salem Jeff Bzdelik has experience, but do the Demon Deacons have the talent to finish above .500 and save his job? Conference expansion didn’t help.
Clemson Tigers 14. Clemson (11): A bad team is going to get worse as the program takes what is probably charitably going to be called “a rebuilding year.” Tune in for KJ McDaniels, whose shot-blocking makes him a good pick for ACC defensive player of the year.
Virginia Tech Hokies 15. Virginia Tech (6): Erick Green is gone, and there isn’t anyone stepping up to replace him on a team destined to rest in the ACC cellar this year. Things could be ugly for James Johnson‘s second season in Blacksburg.

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ACC M5: 11.07.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 7th, 2013

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  1. Baltimore Sun: According to Jeff Barker’s Public Information Act request, Maryland “sought to influence the debate [over the school’s move to the Big Ten] with a plan to lobby media pundits and plant positive comments into fan message boards.” Specifically, the department targeted ESPN‘s Scott Van Pelt, as “It would be in our best interest to let Van Pelt break the story and talk about all of the positives.” That’s not a great look for Maryland or Van Pelt, who was in fact a positive voice soon after the decision went public.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Luke DeCock has a good look at the three Triangle basketball teams through one important question that needs to be answered. Duke‘s question is probably the most interesting, as it’s the most recent to appear: How will Rasheed Sulaimon adapt to his new role? On the surface, there’s not a lot here. But consider that Sulaimon played poorly in Duke’s first exhibition and didn’t play at all in the Blue Devils’s second (reportedly because he was recovering from illness). Now factor in that when Coach K announced the likely starters for this year he only listed four, and Sulaimon — who started most of last season — didn’t make the list. It should be interesting to keep an eye on this going forward.
  3. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Jim Boeheim is warming up his saltiness for the season with a mini-rant on graduation rates. Last month the NCAA released its annual graduation statistics and Syracuse‘s number wasn’t great (47%). This wasn’t news to Boeheim, who lost two scholarships due to the APR a couple of years back, but that didn’t keep him from touching on the subject in a postgame presser recently. His argument is that Syracuse shouldn’t be punished for players choosing to leave the program. While the take certainly makes sense, other schools that have many early departures (ahem, Kentucky) don’t struggle with the APR because they force students departing for the NBA Draft to remain academically eligible through their spring semesters. It’s really not that hard to figure out.
  4. Blogger So Dear: The gentlemen over at Blogger So Dear sat down and wrote a short prediction for the upcoming season. They chose Wake Forest at #11, hot on the heels of NC State’s young team (though one writer had the Demon Deacons as high as #9). The only two unanimous votes for All-ACC went to Joe Harris and CJ Fair. They also make a good argument for Tony Bennett winning Coach of the Year, as his team looks poised to comfortably make the NCAAs this season and normally a big jump earns attention in that award category (regardless of the actual coaching job done).
  5. Orlando Sentinel: The ACC’s newest potential star from Alaska is Florida State’s Devon Bookert. He is definitely the player to watch on Florida State this year, as he had a very promising finish to last season. There are still plenty of reasons to question the Seminoles otherwise, but Bookert will likely surprise many ACC fans just as he apparently has surprised his teammates. He’s likely the difference between an average Florida State team this year and a horrible one.
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ACC Team Preview: Virginia Cavaliers

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 5th, 2013

Typically, a rash of transfers is a major indictment of a college basketball program. It can signify instability, a coach who has lost control of his locker room and/or the faith of the young men he coaches, or a program that no longer offers the just desserts most college athletes seek. At the University of Virginia, where head coach Tony Bennett is now in his fourth season at the helm, the opposite appears to be the case. Though Bennett has lost six scholarship players to transfer since 2011, none of the departed left on acrimonious terms. This offseason, Paul Jesperson (who started 33 games last year at guard) and Taylor Barnette left the program for greener pastures, but it wasn’t because of a problem within the confines of the Cavaliers’ program. It was because Bennett finally has the depth and talent he’s been building toward since he arrived in Charlottesville, and there just wasn’t enough playing time to go around. Bennett has indicated his understanding of the depth “quandary“:  “Guys being the ninth, 10th or 11th guy and being patient and waiting are harder to come by. It’s not just here. It’s everywhere. It’s more of the immediate gratification of society nowadays. You hate that. […] You want guys to dream of playing professionally, but sometimes that’s not the way it’s going be.”

Virginia Preview 2013

Last year’s Cavaliers turned in a solid if unspectacular year, winning 23 games and going 11-7 in the ACC. Unfortunately, the team’s lack of a solid non-conference schedule and a poorly-timed late-season swoon in league play cost them a shot at an NCAA Tournament bid. Virginia lost its last three ACC games, the last of which was an unceremonious blowout at the hands of NC State in the ACC Tournament’s first round, and with an RPI bordering on the bubble, they were relegated to participating in the NIT. This year’s team, with the return of proven starters like Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell and an influx of newcomers with promise at the biggest position of need for this team (point guard), has the expectations of exceeding last year’s successes. This is a team bent on gaining entry to, and making noise in, the Big Dance.

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