Three Takeaways from Weekend #1 in the ACC

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 13th, 2017

The ACC fared well on the opening weekend of college basketball, with only one school suffering a surprising loss as Wake Forest fell to Georgia Southern in Winston-Salem on Friday night. As is usually the case, most of the other league teams opened the season by beating inferior opponents. Here are three takeaways from the league’s first weekend of action.

1) North Carolina: No Joel Berry. No Problem.

Luke Maye was the star in North Carolina’s convincing season opening win over Northern Iowa.
(Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

Despite not having All-America point guard Joel Berry II (broken hand) and another starter — transfer Cameron Johnson (sprained neck) — in the lineup, North Carolina didn’t miss a beat in its 86-69 win over Northern Iowa on Friday night at the Smith Center. Freshman Jalek Felton and Seventh Woods combined for 14 points and three assists while splitting time running the team, but the Tar Heels’ primary playmaking came from the wing as Theo Pinson and Kenny Williams each logged five assists. As long as Berry is out — and maybe even when he returns — Pinson will often initiate the offense.

The most encouraging thing from the Tar Heels’ opener was the surprising performance of their untested frontline. Junior Luke Maye showed that he’s ready for a breakout season after posting 26 points and 10 rebounds on 11-of-16 shooting. Maybe even more important than Maye’s unforeseen outburst was the play of two relatively unheralded freshman big men, Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley. The post duo combined for 23 points and 14 rebounds in 32 minutes of action. If Roy Williams can get that kind of production from his frontcourt, he can afford to maintain his preferred style of inside-out play this season.

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ACC Burning Questions: Louisville Cardinals

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 7th, 2017

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

Burning Question: Can Louisville get past the FBI investigation to focus on basketball?

You’ve all read about it ad nauseum. Rick Pitino is out. Tom Jurich is out. Is there more to come? That question figures to hang over the Louisville basketball program all season.Former player and current interim head coach David Padgett takes over, and although we don’t yet know much about his coaching style, his practices are reportedly more laid back than his predecessor. That’s not exactly saying much. The good news for the first-time head coach is that Louisville’s roster has the talent of a Final Four contender. The team will be led by senior point guard Quentin Snider, a perfect floor general — with improved assist and turnover rates for three years running — for an inexperienced coach. Padgett will count on him to get the ball to two of the best breakout candidates in college basketball — sophomore V.J. King and junior Deng Adel. King, a former McDonald’s All-American, didn’t receive consistent minutes last year while playing behind NBA First Round pick Donovan Mitchell, but he showed flashes of brilliance in a 24-point outburst at Virginia and shot a stellar 42 percent from three-point range. Don’t be surprised if he makes a Mitchell-like leap to stardom in his second season.

David Padgett talks with former coach Denny Crum during a Red-White scrimmage at the KFC YUM! Center. (Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports)

Adel meanwhile is a smooth wing and terrific defender with the skill set in place to become an all-ACC performer. He will need to improve his jump shot to optimize his offensive attack, but his mechanics are good and it seems as if shot selection is his primary hindrance from success. In the frontcourt, senior Anas Mahmoud anchors the defense. He averaged over two blocks per game last year (12.6% block rate) in becoming one of the best rim protectors in the ACC. He also improved significantly on the offensive end (62.4% eFG) but he could stand to improve his 46 percent shooting at the free throw line. The rangy Ray Spalding is also a defensive nightmare, with a long wingspan and an ability to guard multiple positions. He will be asked to replace Jaylen Johnson, one of the nation’s best offensive rebounders last year. Padgett’s bench features sophomore sharpshooter Ryan McMahon and UNC-Asheville transfer Dwayne Sutton, both of whom should be able to provide instant offense off the bench. Read the rest of this entry »

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