Point Guard Play Still Hindering Virginia’s Offensive Attack

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 13th, 2013

Lathan Wells is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from last night’s Virginia vs. VCU game in Charlottesville.

There were many proven commodities for Virginia coming into this season, with veterans Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell leading many first and second-team All-ACC preseason teams. The Cavs play great defense, and their ability to dictate tempo means that they’re almost always playing at a pace they’re comfortable with. The question mark coming into the season was how Virginia was going to replace its departing starting point guard, Jontel Evans? Or perhaps put more hopefully, how the Cavs were going to upgrade from him. After a 59-56 home loss to VCU on Tuesday night, the reviews on his prospective replacements are thus far less than inspiring.

So far, London Perrantes (left) has done little to help Joe Harris and company. (USA TODAY Sports)

So far, London Perrantes (left) has done little to help Joe Harris and company. (USA TODAY Sports)

Evans was largely known as a defensive specialist with limited offensive abilities. He was even more of a liability at the free throw line. Last season he averaged just four points and shot a paltry 37.5 percent from the charity stripe. This year, sophomore Malcolm Brogdon and freshman London Perrantes hoped to take over the reins of the offense and provide more scoring punch while also understanding their roles as facilitators to the team’s primary scorers, Harris, Mitchell, and Justin Anderson. Through two games now, Brogdon and Perrantes have done little to qualm Cavalier fans’ fears that the position has not improved. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 11th, 2013

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  1. Boston Globe: You can tell that Steve Donahue believes in his team if you just look at how he scheduled this season. Unlike the cream-puff schedules of the past, Donahue decided to take the RPI head on this season. That means five non-conference road games along with four neutral games. But more interesting than his scheduling considerations are a motive beyond making the Big Dance: “I think it’s important that we separate ourselves somehow. […] Why would kids choose us? Why would fans be excited?” It’s very interesting that Donahue is already looking to carve out a niche in a bigger league where it certainly looks possible to get lost among the giants.
  2. Sports Illustrated: Donahue’s RPI experiment got off to an ugly start with an overtime loss at Providence thanks to the new rule changes. 55 fouls in 45 minutes. Six players fouled out. And like Pete Thamel points out, Boston College wasn’t known for committing lots of fouls last season (in fact quite the obvious), though the team certainly played physically. Here’s to hoping coaches and players adjust quickly so we can avoid anymore games like this one.
  3. Testudo Times: Here’s a good tempo-free heavy preview of Maryland this season. I’m most interested in the battle between Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell for minutes. Here’s to hoping Maryland runs a twin towers line-up at least a little this season. This year Mark Turgeon has to get over the hump. I doubt his seat is hot (or even warm), as the athletic department probably wants some continuity going into the Big Ten–especially after the personnel nightmare following Gary Williams`s departure. But if Turgeon can’t get this team to the NCAA Tournament this season, red flags will start going up and he risks losing interest of a fan base that he’ll desperately need fully engaged as the Terrapins move to their new conference.
  4. Run The Floor: Michael Rogner is very high on Duke this season (and he has every right to be if the Blue Devils continue shooting better than 70% from the floor). He`s also very high on Virginia, a team many are snubbing in favor of the gravitas that comes with the North Carolina and Syracuse programs. The only starter Virginia has to replace this season is the offensively challenged Jontel Evans. Sure his on-ball defense will be missed, but opponents will also miss being able to ignore one player as long as he wasn’t at the rim. Sophomores Justin Anderson and Mike Tobey also look ready to make the sophomore leap.
  5. Burlington Times-News: NC State fans should be really happy about newcomer Desmond Lee`s play in its opener. While Cat Barber was getting most of the press this off-season, Lee looked like the second-best player behind TJ Warren (who was very quiet for half the game). If Lee, Barber, and transfer Ralston Turner all pan out, the Wolfpack will be a lot better than many predicted before the season.
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ACC M5: 01.11.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 11th, 2013

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  1. Keeping It Heel: Ben Williams wrote this article before North Carolina‘s loss to Miami, but essentially he argues that the Tar Heels’ lack of veteran talent means there’s no “fix” to the team’s problems. I agree that there’s no fix, but it’s not about veteran talent. This team has talent (that admittedly isn’t used to being the first or second options on the floor). The problem is that the players don’t fit together quite right. Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo aren’t wired to be the most aggressive guys on the floor, there’s no true post presence, and the freshmen can’t fill in the holes. But it is very true that this team has a much lower ceiling than its predecessor.
  2. Hampton Roads Daily Progress: Whitey Reid evaluated Virginia after its letdown loss at Wake Forest earlier this week. He praised freshmen Mike Tobey and Justin Anderson for their play, but he should have called out upperclassman Joe Harris in addition to Jontel Evans. Both finished with a team-high four turnovers, and Harris shot abysmally from the floor. The turnovers were the difference in the game, though. It was the Cavaliers’ worst job protecting the ball all season, and they paid for it.
  3. Soaring To Glory: This is a really good glass-half-full look at Boston College. One huge thing mentioned that many people may not know is that Boston College didn’t win any road games last season. This year’s team has already won two (at Virginia Tech and at Penn State). That shows some mental toughness and grit that simply wasn’t there last season. The roster is also slowly beginning to resemble an ACC-quality roster, as there’s talent through most of the starters this year. I’m not sure Steve Donahue will ever recruit a roster 10 deep with ACC talent, but he’s moving in the right direction.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State and North Carolina had disappointing non-conference campaigns. Both finished with one good win, though the Seminoles’ losses look a lot worse than those of the Tar Heels. But the two teams appear to be diverging in conference play. Florida State has bounced back with two road wins to start off conference action — including an impressive double-figure comeback to win at Maryland. North Carolina is 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 2008-09, and it doesn’t look like a focus issue. However the conference divergence only makes the Tar Heels’ trip to Tallahassee tomorrow more interesting. If North Carolina hopes to come away with a win, its bigs have to match up well with the Seminoles.
  5. Washington Post: Speaking of the Terrapins’ loss to Florida State, Mark Turgeon thinks his team (and coaching staff) panicked down the stretch. Over a three-minute period, Maryland made seven substitutions to try to stop the bleeding. It’s safe to say a weak non-conference schedule definitely hurt along with so much youth in leadership roles. Suddenly Maryland has gone from the trendy runner-up pick in the ACC to a complete unknown.
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ACC M5: 01.04.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 4th, 2013

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  1. CSNChicago.com: Duke commitment Jabari Parker reached out to a couple of pros for advice on his budding career. On recruiting, he talked to fellow Chicago Simeon HS graduate Derrick Rose, who pointed Parker toward the coach who would most push him instead of coddling him. For injury advice, he sought out Duke alumnus Grant Hill, who stressed the importance of patience. Their advice certainly isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s cool to see someone use those connections to make these kinds of life decisions. It also probably didn’t hurt Duke to have a guy like Hill indirectly (and unofficially of course) representing the school.
  2. Run The Floor: In case Ken Pomeroy’s numbers didn’t give you a full clue into how much better Duke has been than the rest of the ACC, Michael Rogner made up an ACC “Power Rankings” based on efficiency margins. Visually, it’s stunning just how much more impressive Duke has been in the early goings and explains why Pomeroy’s simulations have Duke winning nearly 90% of the time. Duke has the best offense and the best defense in the league by fairly significant margins. And the other schools with an elite offense (really only NC State) or defense (Georgia Tech and Virginia) are very one-dimensional.
  3. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Speaking of the Yellow Jackets, Georgia Tech is off to an impressive 10-2 start this season. But while their record should come with a grain of salt, it’s not like Brian Gregory played a schedule of world-beaters in non-conference play last season when his team started 7-7. Georgia Tech’s improvement is mostly on the defensive end, where they’re shutting opponents down and doing a solid job covering the defensive glass. Last year the Yellow Jackets needed a miracle game out of Glen Rice, Jr., to have a chance. This year they might be able to surprise a few teams along the way.
  4. CBSSports.com: Florida State‘s recent “disappoint in the non-conference but force the Selection Committee’s hand with a couple of great conference wins” MO may fall somewhat short this season. In large part, the Seminoles can blame the second item on this list, as there just aren’t that many great wins within the ACC to get this season. Sure, beating Duke in Tallahassee would go a long way, but apart from their one shot at the Blue Devils the Seminoles don’t have any real margin for error. The team just hasn’t gelled defensively, and it shows.
  5. Washington Post: Jontel Evans is out of his boot and may return against North Carolina on Sunday. Assuming Evans fits back into the team seamlessly (and there’s no reason to assume he won’t), Virginia may very well be the second best team in the ACC. Their loss to Old Dominion notwithstanding, the Cavaliers play very tough defense that will only get better when Evans returns to the lineup. Don’t expect too many minutes against the Tar Heels though, as the Cavaliers don’t want to re-aggravate Evans’ foot injury.

EXTRA: Former North Carolina governor Jim Martin wrote a letter to the editor of the Raleigh News & Observer to comment on the criticisms of his recent report about the UNC academic scandal. Long story short, he did everything that was in his power to illuminate the scandal and reported his findings. Unfortunately, without subpoena power at his disposal, though, he couldn’t force anyone to cooperate on the record, a major limitation.

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ACC M5: 12.28.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 28th, 2012

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  1. Keeping it Heel: Matt Hamm thinks that UNC, now unranked and at 9-3 with no victories against notable opponents, needs to tighten its rotation with time lacking for further “experimentation.” He advocates solutions that enhance the offense, including giving freshman Brice Johnson the lion’s share of the minutes at center. He also insists that UNC must play PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald more to maximize UNC’s perimeter effectiveness. All of these moves have offense in mind, although the defense, which gave up 85 points to a struggling Texas team and 61 in the second half to East Carolina, has not always been a strong suit. Regardless, UNC needs to get things figured out as conference play is around the corner. One area that UNC could definitely improve in is getting to the free throw line — this season, the Tar Heels rank 335th in FTA/FGA, with Brice Johnson interestingly enough among the worst at getting to the free throw line.
  2. Virginia has been one of the most enigmatic teams in the ACC this season — the Cavaliers soundly defeated Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, but are also 0-3 against the CAA, its only three losses of the season. Its latest loss, to previously 1-10 Old Dominion, has raised many of the lingering questions that Virginia has had all season. Tony Bennett’s normally stout defense was poor against ODU, surrendering 63 points, one shy of its maximum all season, in a game with few possessions. The absence and/or limited effectiveness of Jontel Evans has really plagued the Cavaliers, and their undersized front line came back to haunt them against the Monarchs, as UVA posted one of its worst rebounding efforts of the season. Virginia must avoid losses like these if it wants to be considered a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender.
  3. Miami’s Reggie Johnson is an essential cog for the Hurricanes. Without Johnson in the lineup, Miami dropped two games in this week’s Diamond Head Classic. While he has not been particularly efficient this season — shooting only around 43% from the floor, a stark decline from previous seasons — he is the best on the team at getting to the free throw line, and is a good foul shooter for a big man (just over 70%). The effects of Johnson’s absence were most notably seen at the other positions where teams could focus more of their defensive attention as Miami lacked its skilled big man. Kenny Kadji bore the brunt of this attention, as he was just 5-of-16 in the Indiana State game. Miami needs Johnson to get back to action, not only because he is likely to improve to a performance in line with seasons past, but also because his presence opens up opportunities for Miami’s potentially lethal perimeter attack.
  4. With Dez Wells and Alex Len getting a majority of the ink for 10-1 Maryland, an under-appreciated part of the Terrapins’ attack has been junior point guard PeShon Howard. Howard has quite a bipolar season stat line — he is 38th in the country in assist rate , but his turnover rate is nearly as high and is the worst on the team. Howard has also been an anemic shooter this season (just 8-of-31 overall), but adding to his strange profile, he is an incredibly good free thrower, albeit in a low sample size as well (15-of-17). Howard, in order to improve his overall profile, must keep teams a bit more honest when calling his own number, but Mark Turgeon has generally been pleased with his improved shot selection, as he has been known as a bit of a chucker in previous seasons. Regardless of his odd statistical profile, Howard will play a very important role in Maryland’s overall success this season, and he was nominated for the Bob Cousy Award, which honors the top point guard in the country..
  5. State of the U: This article presents a detailed if slightly off-color look at some interesting statistics in the ACC this season. Some highlights include: Mason Plumlee is second in the ACC in scoring and first in rebounding, averaging over a double-double per game. NC State has three of the top four players in the conference in offensive efficiency. North Carolina, while ranked third in the country in scoring, has largely done it against poor competition — their upcoming game with UNLV will likely be the most accurate litmus test for the Tar Heels this season. Boston College’s woes can be at least partially explained by the fact that their second and third leading scorers are both shooting under 40% from the floor. There’s more than this in the article – make sure to check it out.
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ACC M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 14th, 2012

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  1. Tallahassee Democrat: Yesterday, Michael Rogner suggested Okaro White becoming more aggressive would help the Seminoles. Another thing to consider is that Florida State did very well in transition against Maine. Part of its success was Maine’s strategy, but the Seminoles reportedly wanted “to establish ourselves in transition,” according to head coach Leonard Hamilton. This year’s team isn’t quite the beast defensively inside the arc as the past few Seminole teams, so it makes sense to try to get more turnovers (on paper the team should be lethal in transition). Definitely keep an eye on this as we get closer to conference play.
  2. Winston-Salem Journal: Things are getting uglier and uglier at Wake Forest. Jeff Bzdelik will not be taking any more live calls on his radio show. Apparently the move isn’t to “deflect criticism,” but it definitely looks that way. The show’s producers are trying to cut down on long-winded callers wanting to vent instead of ask questions. Host Stan Cotten and some colleagues at IMG College made the call to move to a format of all pre-recorded questions.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Whitey Reid took a look at ranking the “pleasant surprises” for Virginia, but may have forgotten to point out the forest through the trees. It’s true Teven Jones, Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins have all surprised people, but what about the team as a whole? If you told me Virginia would be 8-2 with wins over Wisconsin and Tennessee at this point in the season and were missing Jontel Evans for most of it, I would have laughed at you. This team has really outperformed my expectations and Jones, Mitchell, Atkins and Tony Bennett all deserve credit.
  4. Keeping It Heel: I think Rich Martin really underrates Ty Lawson (who I think everyone underrates because he played with Tyler Hansbrough) and Kendall Marshall in this article when he compares the two former Tar Heels with Marcus Paige. It’s true they had more cohesive pieces surrounding them when they showed up in Chapel Hill, but they were two of the best point guards in college basketball of the last decade. Paige shows flashes of brilliance — much like Quinn Cook last season for Duke — but he really feels a year or two away from being an ACC-caliber frontman. It will be really interesting to see over the next month how Roy Williams trims his rotation. Paige is probably the best offensive option and he (again, like Cook) has to be the guy for this team to be great, but he’s not starting from the same place as Marshall or Lawson.
  5. The Examiner: Miami is a team we could learn a lot about over the next couple of weeks. The Hurricanes picked up an ugly loss early (without Durand Scott), but looked great in their ACC/Big Ten Challenge win over Michigan State. They have a good chance to find themselves ranked if they beat undefeated Charlotte, coming out of a 13-day hiatus for exams. Especially with North Carolina and NC State looking vulnerable early, Miami could find itself in a good position to challenge for the runner-up position in the league. Also Garrius Adams and Bishop Daniels should be rejoining the team sometime next semester, which will help with depth.

EXTRA: Luke Winn’s Power Rankings are always worth the time, though they’re a little light on ACC meat as of late. This week he looked at Mason Plumlee‘s progression from much-maligned contributor to Player of the Year contender. Essentially, Plumlee’s stats are identical to his sophomore season with a few exceptions: He’s drawing fouls like a mad man, he’s hitting his free throws and he’s not turning the ball over. He’s also involved in a lot more possessions. Regardless, it’s really interesting how something as trivial as free throw shooting can affect the overall perception of a player.

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ACC M5: 12.13.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 13th, 2012

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  1. Tomahawk Nation: Michael Rogner kills this article on Florida State’s Okaro White. He delves into the advanced stats (namely true shooting percentage) and draws his conclusions based on watching the games. This is the way all stats should be used. Regardless, White is one of Florida State’s best scorers; he just needs to shoot more. Right now, he’s shooting nearly 50% from three over the last year, he’s effective on the block, and he’s great in the high post. He absolutely needs to take charge of this offense. Assuming his efficiency scales up well, White may be the key to the most efficient offense Leonard Hamilton has had in Tallahassee (an honor currently held by the 2006-07 team starring Al Thornton and Toney Douglas). Read this.
  2. Tar Heel Blog: North Carolina has started three players at the five this season. None average 20 minutes a game, but freshmen Brice Johnson and Joel James seem to so far be getting the edge over Desmond Hubert. Johnson is an offensive star, but his slight frame could be a fatal flaw come conference play. James has the body of an elite five, but he has a lot of work to become more than a rebounder and physical presence. Long story short, look for Hubert’s minutes to continue their downward trajectory and for Johnson and James to keep sharing most available minutes for Roy Williams’ squad.
  3. Baltimore Sun: In the news surprising no one category, I present this article: “Maryland sharing the ball better this season.” Seriously though, the Terrapins are averaging eight more assists a game this year, taking them from the worst team in the ACC to one of the best teams in the country in terms of distributing the basketball. The obvious differences between this year and last year are the loss of Terrell Stoglin (a literal black hole) and the improvement of Alex Len. Add a healthy Pe’Shon Howard and new freshman Seth Allen… and there’s your improvement.
  4. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Virginia looks good. They’re surprisingly strong on offense and the freshmen have adapted to Tony Bennett’s defensive schemes well. Unfortunately, Jontel Evans re-injured his foot in the game against Tennessee last Wednesday. Unlike last year when the Cavaliers lost two players in December to transfer, Bennett should have a deeper roster when Evans returns for conference play. Evans’ injury may be a blessing in disguise, as the team has had to learn to score without its point guard on the floor.
  5. SBNation: Jabari Parker, the consensus second-best player in the class of 2013, will announce his college decision next Thursday. According to recruitniks and his dad, Duke and Michigan State remain the clear frontrunners. Parker is a 6’8″ and athletic scoring machine. If he does choose Duke, the Blue Devils may be the team to beat next season. Tentatively, they’d start Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Rodney Hood, Parker and Marshall Plumlee with Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson coming off the bench. That’s a really long, athletic team with four great scoring options.
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ACC M5: 12.04.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 4th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: Maryland’s Alex Len has had a breakout sophomore campaign, averaging nearly 15 points and nine rebounds per game so far this season. The Ukrainian has been so impressive that many are now speculating about his draft stock. While it is far from certain that Len will leave school after this year, he is currently seventh on NBADraft.net‘s mock draft for next season and looks likely as a lottery pick if he elects to declare for the pros. Even if Len only stays in college a few more months, if he continues to play this well, Maryland is going to be a very tough out in March. While Len may not eclipse Mason Plumlee’s on-court numbers this year, if he decides to declare next spring he may very well end up going higher in the draft than the early NPOY candidate.
  2. Point guard Jontel Evans is slowly working his way back into suddenly surging Virginia‘s lineup. After struggling (largely without Evans) in losses to George Mason and Delaware earlier this season, Virginia emerged victorious from Wisconsin’s Kohl Center in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which is always a feather in the cap even if the Badgers are a little bit down this year. Evans played a season-high 23 minutes in last weekend’s victory over Wisconsin-Green Bay where he tallied seven assists. Both Evans and head coach Tony Bennett are excited at how quickly Evans has recovered from his foot surgery, and the team’s fortunes should only improve as Evans becomes even more ingrained in the Virginia rotation.
  3. Georgia Tech finally returns back to the renovated McCamish Pavilion after a long road trip, which featured a third-place finish at the DirecTV Classic in Anaheim and a competitive loss to Maui Invitational champions Illinois at Assembly Hall.  The Yellow Jackets will begin a seven-game home stand by hosting in-state rival Georgia tonight, a Bulldogs team that was highly competitive with both Indiana and UCLA earlier this season but is still only 2-5 overall. This game should be a litmus test to evaluate just where the Yellow Jackets are at this point in the season; a win certainly shows that the team is going in the right direction, whereas a loss would definitely be cause for great concern in Atlanta.
  4. Duke Chronicle: Tom Gieryn’s article discusses how Duke basketball’s focus on “Togetherness” thus far this season has definitely paid dividends for the Blue Devils. Last season, Coach Mike Krzyzewski talked of his team, saying, “It’s like a surprise gift. You open it up, and for the most part, it’s been a nice surprise, but I never have any idea what’s in there.” This year, the legendary coach said about his team, “They’re good guys—like, they hang together,” Krzyzewski said after Duke’s championship victory in the Battle 4 Atlantis. “They laugh at each other’s jokes. I don’t laugh at most of them. I don’t get most of them. The bottom line is they’re good guys and they like one another.” This sentiment was definitely not always apparent on last year’s squad. Even if Duke slips a bit from its extremely high level of play thus far, the team’s chemistry should help it recover a lot more quickly than last season where the slightest bit of adversity seemed to negatively impact a more fragile team. Also, Duke’s defense has benefited, at least in part, to this improved chemistry (though replacing Austin Rivers with Rasheed Sulaimon and Ryan Kelly’s defensive improvement have also played a huge role).
  5. Keeping it Heel: Matt Hamm suggests that head coach Roy Williams may not be managing his rotation in the most efficient way. Hamm’s major issue is that Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons are playing too much, at the expense of freshman Brice Johnson, and that PJ Hairston, who seems like the player most capable of creating his own shot, is averaging less than 20 minutes a game. This year has presented a bit of a challenge for the Tar Heels, as they lack a truly elite point guard or pure post player, both of which have been emblematic of Williams’ best teams at North Carolina. While making these changes may help, North Carolina will still need to continue to adjust its offense and be more flexible with lineups, something that Roy Williams has not exactly been known for in his tenure in Chapel Hill.
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ACC Week 1 Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 16th, 2012

We’ve got a full week of game action as evidence to start evaluting these teams a bit better, so here goes…

Disclaimer: Power Rankings don’t imply which teams are best. They’re all about who has momentum right now. 

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (2-0) stays on top of the rankings after taking care of business against Georgia State at home before knocking off the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats in the Georgia Dome. This team still has a long way to go, but they showed poise holding off a talented, albeit young, Kentucky team. While Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee owned the box score, Quinn Cook rose to the challenge and put in his bid for the starting spot. Minnesota is the next NCAA tournament-quality team on Thursday.
NC State Wolfpack 2. NC State (2-0) absolutely blitzkrieged its first two opponents, Miami (OH) and Penn State. Putting too much stock in beating the Redhawks by 38 is unwise. But that 17-point win over the Nittany Lions–despite Lorenzo Brown finishing an icy 1-12 from the field–is worth noting. Specifically, Tyler Warren was phenomenal going for 22 points (on 12 shots) and eight rebounds. The game tonight against Massachusetts should be a fun one.
North Carolina Tar Heels 3. North Carolina (2-0) looked lost on offense at times against Gardner-Webb, which is just a young team trying to learn to play together. James Michael McAdoo has been phenomenal through the first two games (he’s averaging over 20 points and 12 rebounds), and Reggie Bullock asserted himself against Florida Atlantic. This team should keep improving, but in time for the trip to Bloomington in a week and a half? That’s ambitious.
Maryland Terrapins 4. Maryland (1-1) looks a lot better than expected. Alex Len is going to be a top-10 pick. He absolutely ravaged Kentucky, which Maryland kept close to the bitter end before making mincemeat of Morehead State. Nick Faust still can’t shoot, but Seth Allen will be really fun to watch the next few years. The Terrapins need to work on consistent offense, but as Dez Wells gets more and more used to Mark Turgeon’s system, good things will happen.
Boston College 5. Boston College (1-1) played with a stacked Baylor team for 35 minutes after beating a bad Florida International team by double figures (still, that’s huge improvement over last year). This team will still struggle to win a ton of games, but Ryan Anderson‘s development into an All-ACC caliber player is accelerating the rebuilding process (he’s averaging 27 points and 12 boards a game). Dennis Clifford also got off to a solid start. The Eagles’ games against Dayton and Auburn should both be winnable this week.
Clemson Tigers 6. Clemson (1-0) beat down Presbyterian this week, which isn’t worth much on its own. But Devin Booker and Milton Jennings both played very well (combined to go 11-14 from the field for 26 points) and look like they’re ready to step into bigger roles for Brad Brownell this season. A near impossible test awaits this week in the form of Gonzaga.
Virginia Tech Hokies 7. Virginia Tech (3-0) scarfed three cupcakes this week, winning all three games by double figures. The “meat” of the nonconference schedule is still a ways off (and “meat” is used loosely to describe BCS-conference teams), but so far James Johnson‘s tenure is a success. He’ll need Robert Brown to continue producing offensively to relieve some of Erick Green‘s perimeter burden.
Florida State Seminoles 8. Florida State (1-1) is much better than its home loss to the South Alabama, but those are the kind of losses that will motivate this team to keep getting better. Michael Snaer is also in an early season slump, having only hit a third of the shots he’s taken. But the Seminoles’ 27-point beatdown of Buffalo (where they scored 95 points!) may right the ship. The next six games showcase three against possible NCAA tournament teams: BYU (today), Minnesota and Florida.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 9. Wake Forest (1-0) played decently against Radford. The game was never free from doubt, but the Demon Deacons didn’t let the Big South Highlanders get the best of them this year. CJ Harris got to the charity stripe like a pro, but Travis McKie‘s 11 points left a little to be desired–especially against a team of this caliber. Turnovers are going to kill Wake Forest in at least two conference games this year.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 10. Georgia Tech (2-0) has balance, but can’t shoot. The Yellow Jackets need someone to step up from the perimeter to keep other teams honest (right now they make a smooth 17.6% of their shots from downtown. Two of Mfon Udofia, Daniel Miller and Kam Holsey need to become go-to guys on offense. Miller doesn’t appear to want that role.
Miami Hurricanes 11. Miami (1-1) needs to be careful not to become a dumpster fire. The team lost its exhibition against St. Leo and now lost to Florida Gulf Coast to ice the cake. This team looks phenomenal on paper, but sometimes things just don’t translate the way we expect. The same Reggie Johnson who made Mason Plumlee look like a child at Cameron Indoor Stadium last year has only hit one third of his shots against middling competition. There’s still time for Larranaga to turn this car around, but time is running out.
Virginia Cavaliers 12. Virginia (1-2), if Miami has to be careful, Virginia fans may already smell that trash burning. So far the Cavaliers lost to George Mason and Delaware. These wins (or struggles) could be statistical aberrations (if your style keeps opponents within striking distance, you’re bound to lose some unfortunate games), and Jontel Evans is out.Things aren’t off to a great start in Charlottesville.
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Should I Be Worried That My ACC Team Lost?

Posted by KCarpenter on November 16th, 2012

After about a week of college basketball, it’s time to start panicking. You are an ACC fan and your team lost one of these first few games. In this, the cupcakiest time of the year, is often an ominous sign. So, of the teams that have already lost a game, who should be worried?

The Vaunted FSU Defense Didn’t Perform to Standards Last Week

Florida State lost to South Alabama last Friday, a shocking loss for the defending ACC Tournament champions. Should the Seminoles be worried about losing to what appears to be a middle-of-the-pack Sun Belt Team? Not really. Florida State suffered from the classic college basketball upset: the threes fell for USA while there was an extended drought for FSU. While South Alabama shot a scorching 60% from deep, the Seminoles managed only 23.8%. This performance, on both ends, feels like a fluke. In USA’s next game against the hapless William Carey Crusaders, the team made threes at a reasonable 33.3% clip, while Florida State shot 55.6% from the perimeter against Buffalo. Sometimes a team gets hot when their opponent goes cold, so outside of demonstrating that even Michael Snaer can have good days and bad days, there appears to be no fundamental problem with the Seminoles.

Miami lost to Florida Gulf Coast University on Tuesday, a surprising but not-so-shocking loss for a Miami team that stumbled and lost to Division II St. Leo’s in the exhibition season. Florida Gulf Coast University has a decent team and the game was the home opener for the Eagles. This was never a gimme for the Hurricanes, though it was a game that they were expected to win. Still, Miami lost handily to the Eagles and the culprit was easily located: interior scoring. Miami shot a respectable though not spectacular 30.8% from three, yet managed to shoot only 27.5% from two. This is a troubling sign, considering that Miami boasts a big and impressive frontcourt in Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson. These two working in tandem should be able to score inside with near impunity. Yet Johnson in particular struggled, shooting only 2-of-8 and tallying five turnovers.  In the season opener, a home game against Stetson, Johnson went 6-of-16 from the field also, a staggeringly low total. Sure, Johnson ended up scoring a lot at the free throw line of that game, but when your center is shooting such a low percentage it is cause for concern.  Perhaps things will run a little smoother when Durand Scott, the team’s senior point guard, returns to the lineup, but Johnson’s surprising inefficiency is worth keeping an eye on. Miami isn’t in trouble yet, but considering the difference that Johnson can make for this team, it’s worth watching how the big man performs going forward.

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ACC M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 16th, 2012

  1. Scout:  Clemson freshman forward Jaron Blossomgame has decided to redshirt this season following a compound leg fracture he suffered in April. Blossomgame had worked very hard to recover from his injury, but since he did not want to return during the middle of the season when the rest of the team was already familiar with its preferred style of play, he and Brad Brownell came to this mutual agreement. While Blossomgame is disappointed he won’t get to start his Clemson career until the 2013-14 season, he thinks that redshirting will be positive for his development. His contributions will be missed, as he would be able to provide some scoring ability and depth for the frontcourt, but ultimately both coach and player think that redshirting is the best pathway forward.
  2. Fox Sports Florida: The Coaches vs. Cancer Classic takes on special meaning for Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton and his program. Hamilton has lost four family members to cancer: his grandmother, father, and two brothers, one of whom lost his battle with the disease shortly following Florida State’s maiden ACC tournament championship in March. Another one of Florida State’s family, former assistant Kenny Williamson, who was on Pat Kennedy’s staff in the early 1990s, also recently passed away due to cancer. Expect Florida State to play with a special chip on their shoulder in this event, which has raised over $85 million since its inception in 1993. The Seminoles are fortunate that this tournament enabled them an automatic berth to the semifinals, as they lost in their first game in the event earlier in the week. The Seminoles will face BYU on Friday night, with a matchup between Notre Dame and St Joseph’s determining the other finalist.
  3. Hampton Roads:  With Jontel Evans slowly recovering from his injury (he played only three minutes in Virginia’s loss to Delaware on Tuesday, and doctors have not cleared him to play more than 10 minutes a game), Tony Bennett’s team has looked for answers at point guard. Unfortunately, Evans’ backup, Malcolm Brogdon, does not appear to be returning from his injury either anytime soon. Brogdon had surgery on his foot on March 7, and Bennett is confident that doctors will clear Brogdon to play at some point this season. But he has not played or practiced this season, which leads to the question of whether there is any point in rushing him back. If Brogdon cannot return and Evans remains limited by his own injury, this would leave only Joe Harris as a reliable creator, and Virginia’s offense would likely struggle as they have for most of the season thus far.
  4. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: It took all of one game following Georgia Tech’s opener for the excitement surrounding the new McCamish Pavilion to wear off. Georgia Tech’s struggle to get by Presbyterian had far fewer fans in attendance than the sold-out opener, and the Yellow Jackets’ play possibly was a consequence of the sparser crowd.  Georgia Tech needed a large second half run to put away their overmatched opposition, which led Coach Brian Gregory to comment that “For us to be who we want to be eventually, that stuff can’t matter [referring to the crowd size]… and we’re not there yet.” Georgia Tech will probably need to score more than 52 points and make more than a third of its shots to get the Atlanta crowds excited to see them play.
  5. Thursday was a much better day for the ACC. Conference favorite NC State had a relatively easy victory in Puerto Rico over Penn State, with strong performances from freshmen TJ Warren and Rodney Purvis. Virginia Tech, who has recently committed to a more up-tempo offense, outplayed VMI, who regularly plays one of the fastest tempos in the country, showing that it has at least mastered some parts of this new approach. And Boston College was competitive in a 10-point defeat against a much more athletic Baylor team in Charleston (predicted to finish near or at the top in the Big 12), indicating that they will not be the “guaranteed” victory they so often appeared to be last year. The ACC will need more nights like this in order to show that the conference has legitimate depth, rather than what some of the other ACC teams (looking at the Florida schools and a certain one in Charlottesville) have shown thus far.
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ACC M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 15th, 2012

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress:  Virginia has limped out of the gates to a 1-2 start, including an embarrassing home loss to Delaware in the NIT Season Tip-Off. But the bigger story at play may be their injury issues. Senior point guard Jontel Evans, who was limited to just three minutes in the game against Delaware, has been struggling to recover from surgery to his right foot to repair a stress fracture. While Evans is not known for being an electrifying scorer or shooter, his steadying presence defensively (he made the ACC All-Defensive team last year), including leading the team in steals over the past two years, and offensively (leading the team in assists) would definitely help provide structure to an offense that has sorely struggled without him. With backup Malcolm Brogdon injured, Virginia has employed a myriad of options at the point, including leading returning scorer Joe Harris and a walk-on, among others, with a clear dropoff from Evans’ typical play. Virginia will certainly be patient with Evans’ return to an increased amount of minutes, but they surely must hope he can return in a fuller, healthier capacity soon before the team potentially has more crippling out of conference losses.
  2. If the ACC wants to gain more respect as a conference on the national scale (at least relative to the Big Ten and the presently constructed Big East), it cannot afford for teams thought of as likely to make the NCAA Tournament to have potentially resume-crushing losses before Thanksgiving. Virginia is 0-2 against the CAA, having lost to George Mason on the road (somewhat acceptable) and Delaware at home (not good). Preseason #25 Florida State dropped its opener at home to South Alabama, and Miami, projected fifth in the ACC, lost to Florida Gulf Coast, who is in just their second year with NCAA Tournament eligibility, though they were without starting guard Durand Scott (suspended) and forward Garrius Adams (injury). Regardless, these teams will likely be a bit more antsy on Selection Sunday than the pundits thought in the preseason.
  3. Charlotte Observer:  NC State has recently been the third wheel in the Triangle basketball scene, but that certainly has started to change under Mark Gottfried. In this Observer piece, Joe Giglio details Gottfried’s recruiting strategy, which is already starting to pay dividends. With NC State’s Sweet Sixteen run last year, Gottfried has already “earned street cred with the best players in the country,” according to recruiting expert Dave Telep. Along with their initial success in the coach’s first year, in addition with Gottfried’s tireless recruiting, his comfort with the media, and his commitment to a “system,” according to Giglio, Gottfried has enhanced NC State’s perception greatly — which is a huge aspect of the recruiting world. With six top 50 recruits signed or committed from the classes of 2012, 2013, and 2014, the Wolfpack has more top 50 recruits in those classes than either Duke or North Carolina. Gottfried will definitely be a force to be reckoned with for a long time, especially considering that he will likely outlast both of the Triangle’s other coaching giants (Gottfried is only 48 years old), barring a major surprise.
  4. A lot of ink has already been given to Seth Curry’s phenomenal game against Kentucky, especially in light of his nagging shin injury which has limited his practice time. But a story to continue to watch for at Duke this season is the play of sophomore point guard Quinn Cook, and Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News added his perspective to the situation. Cook, who started both of Duke’s exhibition games, has been benched in favor of Tyler Thornton in each of Duke’s regular season games. This is not to say that Cook has been terrible, as he played 30 decent minutes against Kentucky. By placing Thornton in the starting lineup in these two games, Coach K has signaled to Cook that nothing is guaranteed, and even Cook realized this about his early season performances, saying, “I played sub-par. I was thinking too much.” Cook has not been spectacular in Duke’s first two games, but it seems like he is definitely taking steps in the right direction. Duke will need him to continue to progress if they are going to be a serious title contender next spring.
  5. There was only one game involving ACC teams last night, as Georgia Tech prevailed in a slog over Presbyterian, 52-38. The Yellow Jackets actually trailed at halftime before overwhelming the Blue Hose with their size in the second half. The Yellow Jackets won despite shooting only 33.3% for the game. While Georgia Tech certainly avoided joining the club of ACC teams posting embarrassing early non-conference losses, coach Brian Gregory will certainly see room for improvement as the season goes on. This game was played as a result of negotiations which involved Georgia Tech’s football team opening against Presbyterian this season, interestingly enough.
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