ACC Stock Watch: Conference Play Week 1 Edition

Posted by Matt Auerbach on January 8th, 2016

With the first full week of conference play now in the books, results have mostly held to form thus far (Virginia falling in Blacksburg notwithstanding). The presumptive favorites appear to be as good as advertised, and perhaps even a little better in some cases (see: Brice Johnson’s 39-point, 23-rebound exercise in absurdity in Tallahassee). In fact, Johnson doesn’t even make this week’s Stock Watch because that kind of performance can’t be defined by any sort of trajectory — it’s off the graph entirely.

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Buzz Williams continues to clean house as he turns around Virginia Tech's basketball program. (Michael Shrayer - USA TODAY Sports)

In just his second year, Williams has Hokies’ fans buzzing earlier than expected in Blacksburg. (Michael Shrayer/USA TODAY Sports)

Virginia Tech: Even after an 11-22 campaign a season ago, few seemed to doubt that Buzz Williams would eventually build Virginia Tech into a competitive ACC program. After an inauspicious start in this year’s non-conference season (nobody forgets that opening night loss to Alabama State), the Hokies probably shocked even themselves with their opening week of ACC play. An overtime win over struggling NC State is one thing, but following that up with a win over intrastate bully and two-time defending league champion Virginia is quite another. The victory put a halt to the Hokies’ seven-game losing streak to the Cavs and shows that Williams might actually be ahead of schedule in generating some excitement in Blacksburg. With his trademark passion and intensity, it is only a matter of time before Virginia Tech becomes a consistent winner.

Jordan Roper: The senior guard from Clemson proved there is more than one way to skin a cat in leading his team to a pair of impressive victories last week. On Saturday, Roper connected on a career-best seven three-pointers en route to a team-high 23 points, boosting the Tigers to a nine-point win over Florida State. His shots weren’t falling on Wednesday — Roper was unable to manage a single made field goal — but he set a career-high of 10 assists in an impressive overtime victory at Syracuse. Roper is averaging career-bests in points, rebounds and assists for the 2-1 Tigers, which next host Louisville in a game on Sunday where his steadiness will be critical.

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ACC Preview: Clemson’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 27th, 2015

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

Will Clemson’s offense improve enough to make the Tigers an ACC winner?

Near the end of the 2014-15 season, we reviewed the pros and cons of Brad Brownell’s six-season tenure at Clemson. We concluded then that his positives and negatives have pretty much been a wash. The Tigers are usually competitive on the floor – especially on the defensive end — and well-behaved off the court. But a lack of elite-level talent has kept Clemson from being able to join the ACC’s upper tier, and the Tigers’ slow, offensively-challenged style of play has not exactly ignited the fan base. Can the Clemson faithful expect any improvement from a team that only loses a couple of key performers from last year? And if so, will it be enough improvement to keep Brownell off of the coaching hot seat? To search for those answers, let’s begin by looking at Brownell’s coaching profile over 13 years at three different schools.


The above table reveals that Brownell has some consistent historical head coaching traits. First of all, he has been a winner everywhere he’s been, sporting only one overall losing record (13-18 in 2013) during his career. Additionally, he likes to employ a slow tempo, with every one of his 13 squads finishing among the bottom 100 nationally in pace. Another thing that sticks out on Brownell’s resume is how well his teams play defense no matter the personnel. Conversely, a Brownell-coached squad has finished among the nation’s top 120 offenses on only four occasions. In two of those instances, Brownell was in his first year at a school, indicating that he may have inherited some players who could score. And maybe it’s no coincidence that both of those units (2003 UNC-Wilmington & 2011 Clemson) earned NCAA Tournament bids, representing two of the only three trips Brownell has made to the Big Dance. The other takeaway from Brownell’s profile is that by his fourth year at each of his first two head coaching gigs, he was able to develop pretty good offenses after a couple of down years. That kind of turnaround, however, has not yet happened at Clemson.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.16.15 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 16th, 2015

The big story of the weekend was that two middle-of-the-pack ACC teams got huge resume-building wins. Pittsburgh dominated North Carolina at the Petersen Events Center Saturday afternoon, and N.C. State picked up a surprising road win at Louisville later that same day. Conference leader Virginia had to hang on to edge Wake Forest by a single point in Charlottesville, and Duke rallied from a double-figure first half deficit to win at Syracuse. In other weekend action, Clemson easily handled visiting Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech lost yet another heart-breaker, this time at home to Florida State. There was only one game scheduled on Sunday, but Miami’s game at Boston College had to be postponed until today. Here are some of the other highlights from the ACC’s weekend action.

Michael Gbinjie had a career-high 27 points against his former team. (Dennis Nett/

Michael Gbinjie had a career-high 27 points against his former team.
(Dennis Nett/

  • Best Win: It’s hard to say for sure, but N.C. State’s win over Louisville in the KFC Yum! Center could be more important than its earlier home win over rival Duke. While its fans obviously wouldn’t trade the two wins, this victory filled a major hole in N.C. State’s postseason resume. The victory proved that the Wolfpack can win on the road against high level competition, and they did it with a solid all-around performance: outscoring Louisville in the paint (32-16), only committing eight turnovers and holding stars Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier to a combined 14 points and 3-of-15 shooting. Anthony Barber led the way for the Pack with 21 points, his third 20-plus scoring game in the team’s last four outings.
  • Worst Loss: It’s been an emotional seven days for North Carolina’s basketball program, starting with last weekend’s passing of legendary former head coach Dean Smith. With all the attention that came with that situation it’s certainly understandable that the Tar Heels were a little flat on Saturday. But some of the problems on display at Pittsburgh over the weekend are not one-game issues. North Carolina’s defensive points per possession mark in ACC play is now up to 1.06, which is surprising considering that the Tar Heels returned much of last year’s group that finished at a very good 1.01 PPP. Even more disturbing is that opponents have scored at an way-too-easy 1.15 PPP rate over the last five games.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.02.15 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 2nd, 2015

Once again the ACC enjoyed a highly entertaining weekend full of buzzer-beaters and furious comebacks. Much like last year when Syracuse beat Duke in an ESPN Gameday event on the night before the Super Bowl, the ACC grabbed the national spotlight again with a pair of high-level Saturday games. They both lived up to their billing, as Louisville capped off a big comeback to beat North Carolina in overtime before Duke closed its game with a stunning offensive flurry to hand Virginia its first loss of the season. In a few other Saturday nail-biters, Notre Dame lost a surprising final-possession game at Pittsburgh; N.C. State’s Trevor Lacey nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to knock off Georgia Tech; and Wake Forest held off Virginia Tech for its second conference win. Also on Saturday, Clemson won its third in a row by beating Boston College handily in Littlejohn Coliseum. In the only Sunday ACC action, Miami missed a shot at the buzzer to fall to rival Florida State in a game where the Hurricanes blew a big first half lead. Here are some of the other highlights from over the weekend in the ACC.

Montrezl Harrell grabs one his game-high 15 rebounds in Louisville's big comeback win. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Montrezl Harrell grabs one of his game-high 15 rebounds in Louisville’s big comeback win.
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

  • Most Outstanding Player: In a weekend full of superb performances we will give the nod to Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, the driving force behind the Cards’ comeback from an 18-point second half deficit to North Carolina. Harrell finished the game with 22 points and 15 rebounds, including eight offensive boards after the half, but it was more than his stellar numbers that merit praise for the junior forward. He played 44 ferocious minutes and his energy on both ends of the floor was responsible for turning the game around. He was so utterly dominant inside that both of North Carolina’s power forwards — Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks — fouled out of the game trying to keep up with him. Behind Harrell’s man-sized effort, Louisville was able to overcomes its cold shooting and beat the Tar Heels at their own game, utilizing a 28-to-24 edge in points from the paint.

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ACC Preview: Clemson’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on November 11th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Will Brad Brownell keep surprising or will KJ McDaniels’ departure spell doom in the upstate?

Let’s be clear, Clemson was a lot better than most people gave it credit for last season. The Tigers made it to the semifinals of the NIT and went 4-8 against Ken Pomeroy’s top 50, with wins coming against Duke, Maryland, Illinois and Florida State. But they also had KJ McDaniels, and just like Clemson was underrated last season, so was he. He was one of the country’s best defenders, using more than 28 percent of Clemson’s possessions while remaining the most efficient player on the team. Now it’s a new year and McDaniels is getting paid to play for the 76ers. There aren’t any returning players in the ACC who could replace him, much less anybody on Brad Brownell’s current roster.

Jaron Blossomgame should help make up some of KJ McDaniels production this season. (AP)

Jaron Blossomgame (5) should help make up some of KJ McDaniels’ lost production this season. (AP)

This year we know one thing: Clemson will play defense. The Tigers return most of their team other than McDaniels and Brownell’s teams always play defense. Seniors Rod Hall and Demarcus Harrison will be joined by Jaron Blossomgame, Jordan Roper and Landry Nnoko. Only Blossomgame was a freshman last year, so that’s a lot of available experience available to Brownell (albeit that experience would make for a short lineup). Blossomgame will likely find himself getting the majority of McDaniels’ old minutes. More interestingly — at least in the long-term — is Brownell bringing in consensus top-100 forward Donte Grantham and Gabe Devoe. Grantham is projected to start right away, and although Devoe wasn’t as highly touted, he lit up the scoreboard in high school (34.0 PPG), and he shot over 40 percent from deep with over 100 makes. Between Grantham’s size and Devoe’s scoring ability, look for these two freshmen to get immediate time. Brownell has struggled in recruiting ACC-caliber talent during his first four seasons, but these two players could mark a turning point in his acquisition of talent.

Having to rely on freshmen to carry an offense that was buoyed to mediocrity by a strong free throw percentage (74.4%) and solid offensive rebounding (33.8%) isn’t a recipe for consistency. And none of the current core has any experience in being a go-to player at this level, an issue that will manifest on nights when the jumpers aren’t falling. With such a strong top of the conference this season, this is probably a year when Clemson slips into the bottom third of the league. Whether that is enough to save Brownell’s job is anybody’s guess, but the future looks bright for the Tigers even if this one feels like a roller coaster.

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ACC in the NIT: Florida State and Clemson Advancing With Solid Backcourt Play

Posted by Brad Jenkins on April 1st, 2014

The 2013-14 NCAA Tournament will not be something that ACC fans will remember fondly, with only Virginia among the 16 teams playing during the second weekend, and no ACC team advancing to the Elite Eight or beyond. But at least the league has two teams in the NIT Final Four, right? OK, that’s not something that the historically great ACC would normally celebrate, but sometimes you just need to take what you can get. Tonight at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Clemson (23-13) will take on SMU (27-9) at 7:00 PM ET, followed by Florida State (23-13) vs. Minnesota (23-14). The winners will meet for the NIT Championship on Thursday night, giving the ACC a pretty good chance to bring home at least one postseason trophy this season.

Clemson is getting solid backcourt play from Damarcus Harrison. (Photo: Rex Brown/IPTAY Media)

Clemson is getting improved backcourt play from Damarcus Harrison.
(Photo: Rex Brown/IPTAY Media)

Outside of first team all-ACC player K.J. McDaniels, Clemson has struggled offensively for much of this season. It’s no secret that Brad Brownell has been looking for some consistent scoring from just about anybody, but particularly from the perimeter. The good news is that the Tigers are finally getting some help for McDaniels in the form of their two wings. Junior Damarcus Harrison and sophomore Jordan Roper have stepped up their scoring during Clemson’s three-game NIT run. The two have combined to average 24 points per game on their way to New York, after collectively averaging only 14 points per game in the team’s previous 32 games this season. That 10-points per game improvement may not sound dramatic, but to a team that struggles scoring, it’s a huge boost. Harrison was the key to Clemson’s NIT quarterfinal win over Belmont last week, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the second half as the Tigers rallied from a late five-point deficit to win the game. Including Clemson’s one-point loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament, Roper has now scored in double figures in four straight games, and has been perfect on all 11 of his free throw attempts during that span.

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ACC M5: 12.19.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 19th, 2013


  1. Bleacher Report: Good profile of Quinn Cook from Jason King. Cook’s offense took a small step back as he saw a big increase in minutes last season, but this year, he’s having his best season yet from both the lenses of efficiency and per game statistics. He’s also the emotional leader of Duke’s team, and sets the tone on offense and defense. While he’s trying to keep the negative emotions at bay during games, you can always tell when he’s fired up. Cook still has areas that need improvement (mostly defensively), but this is likely his only year to really run Duke’s offense. The word on Tyus Jones is that he’s good enough to immediately take the reins upon arrival, and Cook is a good enough shooter to play off the ball (but he needs NBA scouts to see him running the offense).
  2. Greenville News: Jordan Roper had a stroke last spring. While leaning over to pick up a phone, he realized he couldn’t feel his hand. Assuming the numbness was just due to fatigue, Roper continued his daily business until strength and conditioning coach Darric Honnold (which is an awesome name for strength coach) sent him to get checked out by the training staff. Amazingly, he recovered and was back with Clemson in a matter of weeks, but the experience has given him a new appreciation for his health.
  3. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Jason Murray produced a number of shot charts for the Syracuse rotation. Two of the three main findings weren’t surprising: “Trevor Cooney is extremely efficient in his shot selection,” and “The big men should get the ball more.” But he also found that Michael Gbinije is much better from three than the paint. A lot of that has to do with shot selection (and small sample size), but for a team that struggles from behind the arc, maybe more plays looking for Gbinije spotting up from deep would help the spacing for the bigs. The other definitive thing is that BJ Johnson should probably avoid threes for a little while.
  4. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Solid piece from Norm Wood on London Perrantes, Virginia’s freshman starting point guard. That said, the questions comparing Perrantes to Magic Johnson feel a little forced, but there’s some good tidbits from Tony Bennett on what he’s looking from Jontel Evans’ replacement. Mostly Bennett wants Perrantes to keep defenses honest while valuing the basketball, but he’s at least planted the seed of growing into a “dual threat” guard.
  5. Pulsefeedz: Not our normal fare, but Maryland‘s statue of Testudo (the Terrapin mascot) somehow caught fire recently. It has since been deemed an accident, but that seems like a pretty serious fire. No one (including the statue) was injured in the event.

VIDEO EXTRA: Roy Williams wasn’t happy after North Carolina’s home loss to Texas.

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ACC M5: 11.06.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 6th, 2013


  1. Bleacher Report: This article is only peripherally related to the ACC, but it’s a fascinating read on how Synergy Sports Technology has changed the game. On the obvious scale, Synergy allows well-financed writers to cite statistics normally hard to come by (like offensive efficiency on pick and rolls). More importantly, it allows coaches to prepare more efficiently than ever before. It’s not that coaches stop watching film, now they can back up their informed observations with the help of tons of data that’s never existed before. The example CJ Moore provides is in Duke‘s preparation for the 2010 national championship:

    [Gordon] Hayward is right-handed, and the natural inclination for any defender would be to try to force a right-hander to go left. But when Duke went through the scouting report on Butler, it was clear you did not want to let Hayward go left. The numbers provided by Synergy Sports Technology had revealed that Hayward went left nearly 70 percent of the time.

    Singler ended up forcing Hayward right and he missed the shot.

  2. Baltimore Sun: I know Mark Turgeon is framing his argument about how his team has matured, but when he says “Last year we had too many young guys who were worried about themselves,” it immediately makes me think about Alex Len. Len never had playing time issues, but his presence forced the team to play inside-out, which did not fit most of the roster. Again Turgeon was talking about his younger players, who are now a year wiser. It will be interesting to see if the improved chemistry helps with Maryland’s turnover epidemic.
  3. The State: Here’s a good article on Clemson’s Jordan Roper, Brad Brownell’s undersized scoring point guard from nearby Irmo, South Carolina. Roper is the kind of player Brownell needs to blossom if he’s going to maintain success at Clemson. Not one to dominate the recruiting trail, cultivating local talent is one way to ensure there are always quality players on the roster. Roper still has a long way to go, but I think he has the chance to blossom into a player like Tyrese Rice at Boston College (assuming he can pack on a couple of pounds).
  4. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh will likely continue its streak of sold out home games this season, as the Panthers sold out their season ticket allotment twelfth straight year (which unsurprisingly coincides with the first year they played at the Pete). While on the whole college attendance has fallen the last few years, it will be interesting to see if the bigger ACC–and the improving bottom of the league–boosts ticket sales around the league.
  5. Pack Pride: Normally we stay away from message boards, but this investigation by Wufwuf1 is truly something else. The user has drawn intricate alleged connections from North Carolina boosters to agents and back to players. Everything from company websites to social network pages were combed for possible links that might bring the NCAA’s wrath down on North Carolina. I can’t speak to the validity of the work, but there’s plenty of it. Don’t let people tell you this isn’t a rivalry.
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ACC Team Preview: Clemson Tigers

Posted by KCarpenter on October 30th, 2013

Last season, Clemson went 5-13 in the ACC and 13-17 overall on the way to a first round ACC Tournament exit to Florida State. This season, Clemson will try to do the same thing while losing program cornerstones Devin Booker and Milton Jennings. While Booker was a steady if unspectacular presence and Jennings a maddeningly inconsistent riddle, both were senior veterans who held down the Clemson frontcourt. This didn’t translate to many wins last year, but the Seminoles’ strong interior defense did show up in the numbers: Clemson was third in the conference in opponent two-point percentage (45.3%) and block percentage (12.6%). It’s a slim silver lining, but it was a small comfort last season. This season? There are lots of clouds on the horizon. A team that failed to do much of anything else effectively has its last strength taken away from it. What’s left for the Tigers?



K.J. McDaniels is a still-underrated swingman with offensive and defensive savvy. His ability to block shots is freakish. At 6’6”, he had the second highest block percentage in the conference (8.32%), surpassed only by the 6’10” Julian Gamble. His shooting remains unspectacular, but he had the second highest offensive efficiency on the team while taking the greatest proportion of shots. He might not be a perfect-world first choice on offense, but he is capable of handling the role while also playing stout defense.

Beyond McDaniels, however, the Clemson frontcourt has few proven options. Sophomores Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith averaged 6.6 and 5.6 minutes per game, respectively, and in that limited time didn’t do much to earn themselves more run. Though Nnoko has some intriguing potential on the glass (12.8% offensive rebounding!), his super-small sample size can’t be overstated. The newcomers to the team offer a little depth and some promise, but it’s unclear whether they are ready to contribute immediately. Jaron Blossomgame was touted as a guy with a lot of potential before injuries derailed his Clemson debut. If he is healthy he might make a big difference for the Tigers. Likewise, junior college transfer Ibrahim Djambo and freshman Sidy Mohamed Djitte. Djitte, in particular, may be a big help to Clemson down the road, but early reports suggests that he is still very raw. As he develops, however, he will provide a strong cornerstone for the Tigers for years to come.

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ACC M5: 02.26.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 26th, 2013


  1. Blogger So Dear: John Mundy is back at the keyboard, so his story is back on top of the Morning Five. This time he (and a photographer) visited two of the great arenas of ACC lore, Carmichael Auditorium (the current home to North Carolina’s women’s team) and Cameron Indoor. He went to see the Wake Forest women compete, but his real purpose was to soak up the ambiance of the two venerable old gyms. Interestingly, he came away with two very different reactions: At Carmichael, he found a reflection of North Carolina, but “at no point in my trip to Duke did I think one second about Duke University,” Mundy recalled. He only thought about basketball.
  2. Fayetteville Observer: Speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils have a tough week ahead of them with games at Virginia and against Miami over the stretch of three days. It will be a good test for both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, where talented opponents will be waiting around every corner. Duke’s ACC schedule was backloaded (both in talent and frequency), as it took the Blue Devils 34 days to play the first half of ACC play and will take only 28 for the last half.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: For at least the second straight year, an important ACC freshman has gone down with mononucleosis. Mike Tobey will be back for Virginia after missing five games with the long, strength-sapping illness, which is much less time than Patrick Heckmann missed for Boston College last season. That bodes well for Tobey, who may be able to avoid losing the amount of ground Heckmann did (when he came back, he was a shadow of his former self). Tobey came back for Virginia’s beat-down of Georgia Tech, which should be a warm-up for Duke later this week.
  4. Spartanburg Herald-Journal: Freshman Jordan Roper has been seeing his role grow in importance since day one at Clemson. The South Carolina native has played more than 30 minutes in the Tigers’ last four games. He’s scored in double figures in three of those four games, including a career high 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting against Miami. Roper is a good shooter, a rarity on this year’s Clemson team, but he needs to work on facilitating more when he’s in the game.
  5. ESPN: Dean Smith is the godfather of tempo-free statistics. He started charting points per possession way before it was cool. Tempo-free stats still haven’t taken off like advanced baseball statistics (which are terrific predictors), but they’re picking up force. More and more you hear announcers talk about “efficiency” or “effective field goal percentage”. Myron Medcalf talked to Jim Larranaga, who quoted Sun Tzu to emphasize the importance of stats (Miami charts points per possession on a special scoreboard during its practices).
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