RTC 2011 NBA Mock Draft: Version 1.0

Posted by zhayes9 on May 19th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an RTC contributor, columnist and bracketologist.  For the next six weeks, he’ll also be our chief draftnik, mocking up the place with his first round selections.  For additional detail, be sure to also check out our 35 draft profiles of the top collegians that we are rolling out over the next five weeks. 

As a college basketball fan, the NBA Draft has always represented a final sendoff to the previous season and for the players we’ve followed religiously over the course of their collegiate careers. Even though some stops (Derrick Rose, John Wall, Greg Oden) have been shorter than others (Tyler Hansbrough, J.J. Redick, Evan Turner), each player has provided a long list of memories while making their individual imprint on the college game. Similar to a parent sending their kids off to school for the first time, the draft in late June serves as one last chance to say goodbye.

It's 2003 All Over Again For the Cavs... Sorta

Now that the lottery order has been unveiled, it’s time to introduce our first ever 2011 NBA Mock Draft here at RTC. As someone who annually follows the happenings surrounding the draft for weeks leading up to the big night, hopefully my mock selections will provide both insight and expectation into what will transpire in around five weeks time, although with this year’s weak draft class we could see more trades than ever with teams looking to exchange picks this year for 2012 selections.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke.  In a point guard heavy league where a gifted court general is essential for any team with championship aspirations, Irving makes the most sense of any single pick in the draft. Irving has tremendous playmaking ability at the position both setting up teammates and generating his own offense.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves- Derrick Williams, SF, Arizona.  The most efficient player in college basketball who possesses phenomenal athleticism and excels in isolation, Williams is the clear cut choice if Minnesota hangs onto this pick. Although Williams is a bit of a tweener, an improved mid-range game will render Williams a matchup nightmare for opposing threes.

3. Utah Jazz- Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky.  This pick could certainly go in a different direction if the Jazz head honchos feel Devin Harris is their point guard for the foreseeable future. Even if Harris sticks around, Knight needs some grooming as a distributor before he’s ready to shine. Knight is already a capable shooter and offensive threat.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers- Enes Kanter, C, Turkey.  After selecting Irving, it only makes sense to grab the best available big man and pick Kanter. A supremely skilled 7-footer with advanced footwork and scoring ability in the post, Kanter’s ceiling is very high. Kanter hasn’t played outside of a Kentucky practice in over a year, so there’s risk in this selection.

5. Toronto Raptors- Jonas Valanciunas, PF, Lithuania.  The Raptors have never been bashful about selecting international players and there’s certainly a need for more athleticism in the low post for Toronto. If the question marks surrounding Valanciunas’ buyout can be resolved, the Raptors are nabbing a projectable low-post threat who can really rebound.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Jordan Williams

Posted by rtmsf on May 18th, 2011

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Jordan Williams

School: Maryland

Height/Weight: 6’10/260 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward/Center

Projected Draft Range: Late first round or second round

Overview: Jordan Williams came to Maryland from Torrington, Connecticut, in 2009 as the 16th-ranked center in the country. Though he wasn’t heavily recruited (only two other power conference schools offered Williams a scholarship), Wiliams made an impact right away, averaging 9.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest (second in the ACC) in 24.8 minutes per outing. Posting eight double-doubles in his freshman year, he was named to the ACC All-Rookie team. After the Terrapins’ top four scorers graduated, Williams’ role increased dramatically last season, and he lived up to the pressure. He shed 25 pounds during the summer and was an absolute force in the paint for Gary Williams last season. Jordan averaged a double-double in 2010-11, and was automatic from the lane. He displayed tremendous efficiency as a big man, with an eFG clip of 53.8% and a 12.5% offensive rebound rate.  Recognized as one of the nation’s most improved players as a sophomore, Williams came up especially big in conference play, and the highlight of his season may have been a late February game against UNC. Matched up against North Carolina’s NBA-caliber frontcourt, Williams plowed his way to 16 points and a career-high 19 boards. Though the Terps would miss the NCAA Tournament, Williams’ sophomore season garnered AP Honorable Mention All-American status.  Williams declared for the draft after the season, but did not immediately hire an agent. However, as the declaration period wore on and many players took the safe route of returning to school amidst NBA labor uncertainty, Williams took the plunge and announced his intention to stay in the pool, hoping to take advantage.

Jordan Williams Provides an NBA-ready Frame and Rebounding Prowess

Will Translate to the NBA: Williams’ best asset at the pro level will be his knack for rebounding, but he should be able to exploit offensive mismatches as they come for easy baskets. He also shows a great motor, and though he won’t play major minutes from the get-go, that style should make him a very good spark from the bench. Williams’ frame at 6’10 and 260 pounds is very close to NBA-ready, though he can stand to lose some baby fat. He can be flat-footed, and as a result will have trouble scoring against comparable and bigger competition down low despite having a solid frame. The knocks are that he’s a touch slow for the next level and is limited in range, though both areas can be improved once he catches on with his new team.

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Mark Turgeon Heads To Maryland

Posted by nvr1983 on May 9th, 2011

After what appeared to be the beginning of a long coaching search Maryland is set to announce that Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon will be its next head coach. This Friday’s announcement that Terrapin legend Gary Williams was retiring shocked the college basketball world and put the program in a tough position of having to fill an opening in one of the premier coaching positions in America after many of the top potential replacements had signed extensions with their schools in the month and a half since the Final Four.

Turgeon has some big shoes to fill

The Terrapins initially went after Sean Miller, Brad Stevens, and Mike Brey, but all three turned them down with Miller and Brey getting contract extensions as a result of Maryland’s pursuit. At that point it appeared like Maryland might be headed for a coaching search that would mirror NC State‘s albeit without the theatrics of a Debbie Yow-like character. In the end, they turned to the state of Texas where they were able to land a solid coach in Mark Turgeon, who might lack the “wow” factor of some other candidates (particularly Stevens), but has managed to compile an impressive resume at Wichita State and Texas A&M. After serving his time as an assistant coach at Kansas and Oregon followed by a short NBA stint, Turgeon’s head coaching career began with an unimpressive start at Jacksonville State, but he quickly recovered to turn Wichita State into one of the best mid-major teams in the country culminating in a Sweet 16 appearance in 2006. Although Turgeon was unable to get the Aggies to a Sweet 16, he did manage to maintain the program at the level that Billy Gillispie brought it to before his ill-fated move to Kentucky and keep it as one of the best in the Big 12.

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Early Entry Winners & Losers

Posted by rtmsf on May 9th, 2011

Now that the NBA Draft early entry withdrawal has passed (Midnight ET on Sunday night), it’s time to take a look at who the winners and losers were from this year’s process.  Of the nearly 70 players who declared as early entrants for this year’s NBA Draft, we count a dozen or so who will return and make their teams significantly better next year.  The biggest impact will be felt at the following places…

The Winners

Jones Fills Out a Ridiculous UK Lineup in 2011-12

  • Kentucky.  How do we figure that a team that ends up losing its best scorer and best perimeter defender is a winner?  Because of who they didn’t lose.  Terrence Jones will team with Kentucky’s fabulous duo of incoming forwards — Michael Gilchrist and Anthony Davis — to produce the most dynamic and talented front line college basketball has seen in some time.  As good as Brandon Knight was in a Kentucky uniform, his loss to the draft also ensures that there’s no question as to who lead this team next year, as incoming superstar Marquis Teague will take over the reins from day one.  The loss of DeAndre Liggins was surprising and will hurt, but on balance, the player UK most needed to return did.
  • The Big East.  With the notable exception of NPOY candidate and Final Four MOP Kemba Walker and the somewhat shocking departures of Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott and Louisville’s Terrence Jennings, the Big East avoided losing three of its better returning players for the 2011-12 season.  Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson, Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones will all return to teams that could not afford to lose them; with so many talented seniors leaving the Big East, it was imperative for the league’s overall health that these talented upperclassmen come back.
  • Missouri.  A very early Christmas came for new Tigers head coach Frank Haith as two of his best returnees, Kim English and Laurence Bowers, made smart decisions to return to Columbia for their senior seasons.  With leading scorer Marcus Denmon already back in the fold, Haith is walking into a situation where his top six players will be back next year.  So long as he can enable his more methodical system with a group that loves to run and press, Mizzou fans should be excited for the possibility of something special in 2011-12.
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Morning Five: Cinco de Mayo Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 5th, 2011

  1. Former UNLV star and NBA veteran Stacey Augmon joined Dave Rice’s brand-new UNLV staff as an assistant coach on Wednesday.  The Plastic Man is the Runnin’ Rebels third-leading all-time scorer with over 2,000 points and is widely regarded as one of the best collegiate defenders of his era (a three-time national defensive player of the year selection).  A popular player both during his playing days and afterward, he, along with other stars Larry Johnson and Greg Anthony, helped compose one of the most fearsome collegiate lineups of all-time; while Augmon was in Vegas, UNLV went 126-20 including back-to-back trips to the Final Four and winning  a national title in 1990.  With his #32 jersey hanging in the rafters of the Thomas & Mack Center, Augmon will certainly have the adequate standing to convince potential recruits of how a few years in Sin City can further a young players’ career.
  2. Wednesday’s NBA Draft news focused on another somewhat questionable decision in that Michigan’s Darius Morris has decided to keep his name in as an early entrant despite projected by most observers as a second round pick.  An interesting byproduct of several elite players staying in school — namely, Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, and Perry Jones — is that the meme of “weak draft” has been repeated to the point that many second- and third-tier players  now think they have a good shot at reaching the first round’s guaranteed money.  Sigh.  Sometimes you can’t win for losing with these guys, right?  In equally relevant news, Maryland’s Jordan Williams has also decided to chase the dollars, having signed with an agent and making his announcement to leave school on Wednesday.  He’s projected as a late first-round or early second-rounder, but remember, folks… it’s a weak draft.
  3. We mentioned yesterday in the M5 that Kentucky’s “pro day” allowed NBA GMs and personnel to watch several Wildcats work out all at once rather than having to travel all over the country in a very short window of time.  We also mentioned that forward Terrence Jones’ decision would end up being “predictably unpredictable,” and if DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony’s tweets today are any indication, you should count on it.  His mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader yesterday that her son would take until ‘the last minute’ to make his decision about whether to leave school.  And if we know anything about this guy, he’ll do whatever he feels will surprise the maximum number of people.
  4. The Shane Battier Rule is finally near enactment at the collegiate level.  The NCAA Rules Committee on Wednesday recommended that all levels of men’s basketball add the semi-circle known as the “restricted arc” to eliminate secondary defenders taking charges directly underneath the opposing basket.   For the last two seasons, the NCAA has utilized an imaginary arc under the basket, but referees often had just as much trouble deciding how far out the restricted area extended away from the basket to apply — this will make things much cleaner and easier on everyone.  As a fan, there’s nothing more infuriating than to watch an excellent offensive move taken away by an off-ball defender perching himself directly underneath the basket well after the ball has left the driving player’s hand, so we’re particulalrly thankful for this legislation.  The rule change will still need to be approved by the Rules Oversight Panel on June 9, but we should expect it to accept the recommendation.  As a brief aside, the committee also recommended that coaches next season have the ability to ask for a monitor review at any time during the game (for example, to contest a two-pointer counted as a three).  The tradeoff is that if the coach’s request for review turns out to be incorrect (keeping with the example, the two-pointer actually was a two), he risks losing a timeout.  Interesting idea.
  5. Set your DVRs now.  Ohio State alumnus Bob Knight will be honored at an OSU-Lamar game on December 20 for his time as a player in Columbus and general contributions to college basketball.  Why Lamar?  Well, his son, Pat, you may recall, took over as the head coach down in Beaumont, Texas, a month ago.  By that point in the season, Coach K (with 900 wins) will likely have surpassed Knight (902) as the all-time wins leader, but it will be interesting to see if Buckeyes fans will think of the longtime Indiana coach as one of their own, or if they’ll still harbor resentment from a number of years of losses at the hands of the General.  We’d imagine it could get interesting on the mic if OSU fans decide to get creative that evening.
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Around The Blogosphere: March 31, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Final Four Notes

  • Feinstein On The Brink … Of Encephalic Detonation: “One definition of insanity is said to be doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Whether you agree with that or not, it is commonly used to display the logical flaws in not making changes to a given process when the process doesn’t work. John Feinstein wants to give us yet another common example of how one’s sanity can be questioned: ‘Ignore reality and maybe it will go away.'” (A Sea of Blue)
  • Enes Kanter: For Love of Wildcat-Not: “The tragedy that is Enes Kanter’s Kentucky Wildcats basketball career has gone mostly unnoticed since the NCAA declared, for the final time, that Kanter would never be able to play college basketball in the United States. I say this is a tragedy not because the outcome ruined a promising young career — it didn’t. Kanter will be fine. He will be drafted to play in the NBA in this year’s draft, and he’ll be making millions next year.  He could have already been making millions playing for Fenerbahçe Ülker in Turkey. So I use the term “tragedy” advisedly. It is really a tragedy for Wildcat fans that we didn’t get to see Kanter on the court.” (A Sea of Blue)
  • Before we go forward, a look back: Reflecting on the Huskies historic upset of Duke in 1999. (The UConn Blog)
  • Are we witnessing the final days of Jim Calhoun’s career?: “Up until the time UConn was finishing its five-day March to the Big East championship, I thought there was no chance in hell the Huskies would make a Final Four this year, let alone win the national championship. But then the run through Madison Square Garden happened and it became clear that, with a little luck, this UConn team actually did have a shot at the title. And once I started thinking about that, my mind jumped to the next logical place: What does that mean for Jim Calhoun?” (The UConn Blog)
  • As Huskies rise, Lamb emerges as UConn’s future: “The signs have been there, long before the national hype or the unparalleled postseason success. He hinted at as much early on in the season, his efficiency serving as a glimmer of hope amidst a once-successful season in a downward spiral. And he’s proven as much this March, averaging 16 points over an almost unheard of nine-game run spanning the two toughest tournaments in the nation. Now, it’s a fact: Jeremy Lamb is the next star of the UConn Huskies.” (The UConn Blog)

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Morning Five: 03.30.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 30th, 2011

  1. For most of the past two weeks we have seen Seth Davis manning a CBS/TNT/TBS/TruTV NCAA Tournament desk, but in between covering games for the four networks he has also had some time to write his regular “Hoops Thoughts” column. In this week’s column he delves into two rather controversial topics–further expansion of the NCAA Tournament and whether VCU deserved an at-large bid. There are plenty of other good things in there, but we assume that these two topics will generate the most debate.
  2. Jalen Rose has been in the news quite a bit over the past month as the result of the “Fab 5″ documentary he helped produce and the comments he made about how he felt about the Duke team that they lost to their freshman year. The first prominent Blue Devil to respond was Grant Hill in a New York Times op-ed piece and now Mike Krzyzewski has chimed in calling the remarks insulting to all African-American students while taking a shot at the Fab 5’s  “legacy”. We are sure that Rose is probably ignoring these comments now, but what he cannot ignore is the DUI charges against him stemming from an incident on March 11th (the day before the documentary was released). We are surprised that this didn’t come out earlier and that Rose didn’t tone down his rhetoric after this happened as it was bound to become public at some point.
  3. Jordan Williams has decided to test the NBA waters by entering his name, but not signing with an agent. The Maryland sophomore does not appear to be a lock to even be drafted so we expect that he will be back with Gary Williams next season joining an intriguing incoming freshman class that should help put the Terrapins back in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, this isn’t a certainty as we have seen college players make worse decisions.
  4. While most of the rumors about coaching moves have been false alarms (including the idiotic Bob Knight-to-Purdue rumor started by Jason Whitlock) one that has been gaining quite a bit of momentum is current Boilermaker coach Matt Painter heading to Missouri. The two sides reportedly met yesterday in Orlando where Painter was on vacation and Painter will reportedly announce his decision by noon today. Based on the figures that have been reported Painter would get a slight pay raise (the $1.3 M to $2 M per year that has been reported ignores the fact that Painter got $1.9 M this year after factoring in performance-based incentives) so we are not exactly sure what would compel Painter to leave Purdue in the fertile recruiting territory of Indiana for Missouri, which is quite frankly a decent sized step down in terms of basketball prestige. Unless the difference in salary is more significant than has been indicated we don’t see a great reason for Painter to leave Missouri.
  5. Finally, we prefer not to link to “pay” articles, but sometimes we feel compelled to do so. In this case, John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus takes a look at Butler and attempts to answer the question of whether they are good or just lucky as they are on the verge of returning to the national championship game for a second consecutive year.
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ACC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC. With conference tournament action set to tip from Greensboro on Thursday, get set for March Madness with RTC’s regular season wrap-up and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

North Carolina is hot.  It took almost all of the regular season, but the Tar Heels are finally living up to preseason hype.  UNC  should definitely be favored to win the ACC Tournament, but I wouldn’t bet on them.  I think the Heels are due for one more hiccup before the Big Dance.  They’ve flirted with disaster a couple of times and are coming off a huge win against Duke.  It’s tough to keep a young team focused, and this team starts two freshmen and two sophomores.  I also expect Duke to be playing with real purpose after the beatdown in Chapel Hill as it fights for a top seed.

As far as the bubble is concerned, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Boston College all need wins.  I don’t think any of them are safe at this point (which is the unfortunate part of Clemson clinching the bye).  Unfortunately, Clemson and Boston College will probably meet in the second round in a de facto “win and in” game.

Besides interesting bubble match-ups, look out for Duke and Maryland in the second round.  Maryland has been down this year, but the Terps never back down from a fight (especially one with Duke).  Also keep an eye on the semifinals when Boston College or Clemson will probably meet North Carolina.  The Tigers and Eagles both played North Carolina incredibly close in Chapel Hill, and both would really benefit from the resume boost.

The most exciting conference tourney prospect is a rubber match between Duke and North Carolina in the tournament finals.  These two teams are far and away the best teams in the conference, and both are in the conversation for a number one seed.  Oh yeah, and who wouldn’t want a third game of one of the best rivalries in sports.

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Around The Blogosphere: March 10, 2011 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 10th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #15 St. John’s 65, Rutgers 63: “St. John’s rode a controversial end to move into the next round of the Big East Tournament, defeating Rutgers 65-63 in a game filled with poor shooting. But the game will be marked by its controversial ending.” (Rumble in the Garden)
  • #18 UConn 79, Georgetown 62: “What is left to say? Georgetown fans knew this team was heavily reliant on Chris Wright, media members and statisticians knew it as well. Clearly, after our fourth straight defeat without Wright, both the Georgetown players and coaches know it even better than the rest of us. Connecticut beat the Hoyas 79-62 in a game that was never really in question. Kemba Walker scored 28 points to lead the Huskies, who also got plenty of help from Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier and Jamaal Coombs-McDaniel. Jason Clark and Austin Freeman led the Hoyas with 23 and 20 points respectively, but it wasn’t nearly enough, as the Hoyas were outhustled, outmanned, and outclassed in Madison Square Garden.” (Casual Hoya)

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ATB: Panic in Provo?

Posted by nvr1983 on March 3rd, 2011


The Lede. The obvious story here is BYU falling apart at home against New Mexico in the aftermath of the suspension of Brandon Davies for the season. While most of the Twitter-verse if flipping out over the game and many are questioning the wisdom of BYU in suspending Davies for violating the Honor Code for what appears to be consensual premarital sex with his girlfriend, there are two things worth pointing out from this game: (1) It wasn’t just that the Cougars got dominated on the inside. They got dominated everywhere on the court. (2) The Lobos appear to be the perfect foil for the Cougars as BYU is 0-4 against them in the past two seasons and 26-1 against the rest of the Mountain West Conference. While the loss of Davies obviously hurts the Cougars — who were paper thin on the inside before his suspension — their play tonight revealed a team that was sloppy and distracted rather than one that was just short-handed. The loss may drop the Cougars out of contention for a #1 seed, but if they can regain their focus, which will be difficult with the coming media circus, they should be in good shape for the NCAA Tournament.

Jimmer needs to rally the troops

UNC and Duke win to set up the biggest game ever! Ok. Not really, but we all know that ESPN and CBS will be hyping up Saturday’s prime time match-up as if it was. To be fair, it is for the ACC regular season title, which nobody thought would be up for grabs at the start of December. Since that time, a lot has changed. Duke lost Kyrie Irving, the heart and soul of its team, no matter what Coach K tries to tell you. UNC has seen the emergence of Harrison Barnes, who might not be quite the player that he was expected to be when he was named the first AP Preseason freshman All-American ever, but in the past month he has played solid basketball and you would be hard-pressed to another player who has hit as many clutch shots this season, freshman or otherwise. His latest addition to the resume was a cold-blooded three in the closing moments against FSU in Tallahassee that proved to be the game-winner when the Seminoles were unable to get off a shot at the end. While neither team was particularly impressive today –particularly the Blue Devils, who struggled to wake up against Clemson after the traditional Senior Night festivities honoring Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler – it’s an intriguing match-up, as UNC will hold an edge on the inside, particularly with the recent solid play of John Henson (double-doubles in seven of the last 10 games) and the continued development of Kendall Marshall (eight assists tonight), while the Blue Devils have the stars (Smith and Singler) and the experience.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

Hold onto your seats, Hokie fans, you’re on the right side of the bubble after a statement win against Duke this week.  Virginia Tech’s win was just what the doctor ordered, but the Hokies are far from a lock (for everyone but Dickie V).  The Hokies won despite a very poor night from star Malcolm Delaney, who did hit a huge three late but was otherwise ineffective.  Jeff Allen picked up any slack Delaney left, finishing with 18 points and 15 boards.  But the real credit goes to Virginia Tech’s defense, which held Duke to under 40% from the field.  Kyle Singler helped those numbers a lot with one of the worst 22 and 12 lines you’ll ever see.  Singler has been in a real shooting slump (he’s 8-36 from beyond the arc in his last nine games).  He got plenty of open looks against the Hokies but just couldn’t convert anything from outside 15 feet.  Singler played very well when he was taking shorter jump shots and getting into the lane and drawing contact, but the set jumper just isn’t there.  Duke fans need to hope this is part of his yearly slump because this team is much less dangerous without Singler as an outside threat.  Virginia Tech also stymied Seth Curry, who only played 15 minutes because of foul trouble, but managed to finish with no points and a crucial turnover on Duke’s last possession (where he tried to do too much).  I think Curry was just a little too emotionally wound up before the game: in case you don’t know the back story, Curry’s father, Dell Curry, was one of the best players in Virginia Tech history (the first Hokie to have his jersey retired).  Regardless of shooting slumps and emotional windings, this was a huge win for Virginia Tech, which was starting to drift towards the wrong side of the bubble.

Major indirect benefactor of the upset in Blacksburg: North Carolina.  Now if the Tar Heels can beat Duke in Chapel Hill this weekend, they share the regular season ACC title and grab the top seed in the conference tournament.  Ironically second-seed could be the desired seed depending on how the rest of the field works out because I think any sane coach would rather face Florida State (set to be the three seed currently) without Chris Singleton than Virginia Tech (lined up to be the fourth seed right now).

Team of the Week: Virginia Tech in a runaway.  Not too much more to be said, but the Hokies would probably be looking at an 11-seed if Selection Sunday was today (at least if Andy Glockner or Bracketology101 was seeding the bracket**).  That’s obviously better than not being in the field, but far from “lock” status.  To ensure a bid, I still think Virginia Tech needs to win out the regular season or win one game in the conference tournament (against a decent team).  Still that’s totally doable.  Between a couple of solid wins and a tough nonconference schedule, things should be looking up in Blacksburg.

**By the way, if you don’t follow Andy Glockner (@aglock) on Twitter, you should.  He’s one of the most responsive sports writers in the business and does a tremendous job with Bubble Watch at SI.com.  In addition to responsive, thoughtful analysis, you should expect a wealth of tweets on Team Bubble Watch (Marquette), Fulham, the Knicks and the New York Giants.  Most of you probably already knew this, but just in case anyone is new to Twitter, I thought I’d pass along the tip.  [ed note. - agreed]

Bizarro Team of the Week: Georgia Tech has lost its last eight conference games.  Next up: Wake Forest.  Looks like the ultimate place for the Demon Deacons to pick up a second conference win to me.  The frustrating thing about the Yellow Jackets is their talent to performance ratio.  Really Iman Shumpert, Glen Rice and Brian Oliver should make a much better team.  Truthfully, Mfon Udofia isn’t bad either, and Daniel Miller is developing.  The team needs a point guard and more consistency in the post.

Player of the Week: John Henson.  He’s been in double digit rebounding eight of his last nine games and double digit scoring in seven of his last nine.  Oh yeah, and he averaged six and a half blocks this week.  Most importantly, Henson hasn’t missed a free throw in three games (six for six).  The free throw stat is probably a mirage, but the rebounding and blocks are very real.  Henson is a huge defensive presence on North Carolina’s front line.  With Chris Singleton injured, I think he’s close to a lock for ACC defensive player of the year (at least he should be).  North Carolina has the second-ranked defense according to Ken Pomeroy, and Henson’s length deserves a lot of credit.

Power Rankings

1.  Duke (26-3, 12-2) barely edges out the Tar Heels this week.  The Blue Devils crushed Temple (a top 25 foe) at home this week before the loss to desperate Virginia Tech.  The game at North Carolina should be great.  I think Duke is marginally better, but the Dean Dome is going to be huge for North Carolina.  Mason Plumlee, especially has looked much better for Duke recently.  He’s quietly shooting almost 60% from the field (albeit on mainly dunks), and nearly averaging double digit rebounds.  He’ll be crucial in dealing with North Carolina’s length Saturday night.

2.  North Carolina (22-6, 12-2) can claim the top seed in the ACC Tournament with a win over Duke Saturday.  This team plays really well in spurts (cliche alert: it’s a game of runs), but there are still problems.  I think Roy Williams needs to trim his lineup down a little bit: the constant substitutions kill offensive flow for the Heels, especially early in a half.  Kendall Marshall still has a tendency to force things sometimes, but he makes the Tar Heels absolutely lethal in transition.  Look for Duke to try and force him to score.

3.  Virginia Tech (19-8, 9-5) isn’t out of the woods yet.  Don’t test the selection committee!

4.  Florida State (20-8, 10-4) is playing surprisingly well without Chris Singleton.  Yes, they got spanked at College Park this week, but really Leonard Hamilton has to be thrilled with the way his squad has adapted without its best defender and primary scoring option.  One possible wrench in the above plan for North Carolina stealing the top spot from under Duke is Florida State knocking off the Tar Heels in Tallahassee.  Without Singleton it will be difficult, but if North Carolina’s offense vaguely resembles what it trotted out against Boston College, Florida State is in the gold.

5.  Clemson (19-9, 8-6) needs a decent run in the ACC Tournament if it wants to make the Big Dance.  Though if Duke is willing to help another bubble team out Wednesday, that would help too.  Clemson’s other game is against Virginia Tech (bubble on bubble brawl), which is a must-win for both teams.  Regardless of what ends up happening, Brad Brownell has done a tremendous job with this team.  Give him a couple of years, and Clemson will be back on the right side of the bubble.  This is a team most people picked much lower in the preseason.

6.  Maryland (18-11, 7-7) is probably out of the bubble picture after its loss to North Carolina, which is really a shame.  The Terps are clearly good enough to be a tournament team, they just couldn’t win games (somewhat of an oxymoron, I know).  Maryland closes out the season with games at Miami and against Virginia.  But Terrell Stoglin has really improved.  He’s averaging over twenty points a game over his last six games (with three games of at least 25 points).  Between him and Jordan Williams (who should come back, as he’s a little slow and undersized for the next level), they’ll be really good.  Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if Maryland gets a decent draw and goes to the finals of the ACC Tournament this year (which would probably draw a bid to the Big Dance in the process, assuming the run included a win over North Carolina or Duke).

7.  Boston College (17-11, 7-7) lost to Miami this week.  That’s no way to sell an already lacking mediocre resume to the committee.  Reggie Jackson is a tremendous player; Joe Trapani makes a great right-hand man; and Corey Raji is one of the most undervalued offensive players in the ACC this year.  But for whatever reason, Boston College struggles to bring a consistent product to the floor.  One thing the Eagles really need to do during the offseason is try and get students excited about the team.  Boston College has good players, a good coach in Steve Donahue, and is probably just on the wrong side of the bubble: how can it not attract students to the games?

8.  Miami (17-12, 5-9) completed its season sweep of Boston College before losing to Florida State.  If Reggie Johnson can stay out of foul trouble, the Hurricanes are a very difficult team to beat.  They still need to make the transition from “tough out” to “favorite”, but I like Johnson, Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott a lot.

9.  Virginia (14-14, 5-9) picked up a win against Georgia Tech on the road before falling to a Boston College team desperate to improve its resume.  This week looks like another split week between a very winnable game against NC State and a tough one at Maryland.

10. NC State (15-13, 5-9) lost to North Carolina before beating Georgia Tech.  State fans still react negatively when Sidney Lowe chooses to play Javier Gonzalez over Ryan Harrow.  Credit the upperclassmen for a great game against Georgia Tech though: Tracy Smith and Scott Wood combined for 38 points on 20 field goals.  That’s efficiency.

11. Georgia Tech (11-17, 3-11) should just count down the days till the end of the season.

12. Wake Forest (8-21, 1-13) shoots free throws pretty well (second in the ACC at 73.6%).  Everything else?  Not so much.  Actually, the youth is promising, so there’s that, too.

A Look Ahead

  • Tuesday Bubble Struggle: Boston College at Virginia Tech (9:00PM, ESPNU) – The Hokies fight to stay on the right side of the bubble while Boston College faces a win-or-go-to-the-NIT (probably) game.  Should be fun to watch.  Keep an eye on Reggie Jackson and Malcolm Delaney.
  • Wednesday Upset Watch: North Carolina at Florida State (7:00PM, ESPN) – Can the Chris Singleton-less Seminoles knock off the streaking Tar Heels?  It’s possible, especially if the Tar Heels are missing shots from the outside.  The question is whether Florida State has any way to keep John Henson and Tyler Zeller off the boards.
  • Primetime Saturday: Virginia Tech at Clemson (12:00PM, ESPN2) – Another battle for the bubble showcasing Virginia Tech.  I’m not sure Clemson is cut out for the Big Dance this year, but a win here keeps them in the conversation.
  • Rivalry Rematch: Duke at North Carolina (Saturday, 8:00PM, CBS) – For the first time in the rivalry’s storied history, it’s coming to primetime.  This really should be a pick ‘em game.  Neither team can afford to get off to a slow start.  UNC needs to keep Duke cold from the perimeter, and Duke needs to not look soft inside.  My pick: Duke in a very close one on the back of Nolan Smith.
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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

A lot has happened the past two weeks, so let’s tackle it in chronological order and we’ll sum things up at the end.

  • Duke and North Carolina lived up to the hype.  Last year just didn’t feel right with the games being lopsided.  Kendall Marshall is probably the best passer from halfcourt I’ve ever seen.  He’s not fast, but he pushes the ball up the court just as fast as Ty Lawson or Raymond Felton but he dishes from halfcourt instead of right around the basket.  Marshall looked terrific in the first half against Duke, killing the Blue Devils on long rebounds which turned into quick points in transition and in halfcourt sets.  Duke finally managed to neutralize him by playing the passing lanes in the second half and forcing him to score first and pass second.  The other Carolina player that impressed me is John Henson.  I’ve never been huge on Henson: he’s always struck me as a soft player that you should just back down.  Why face up against him and allow him to use his length to alter your shot when you can back him down?  But the more games I watch, the more shots I see Henson affect.  The infusion of Kendall Marshall’s lobs has also made Henson much more dangerous on the offensive end.  On Duke’s side of the rivalry, Seth Curry deserves some props for his recent play.  Curry has been outstanding lately, becoming a legitimate third option and giving Nolan Smith some valuable time to work off the ball.  This Duke team definitely has flaws, but if it plays like it did in the second half against Carolina, there aren’t many teams in the country that could keep pace.

Bubble Trouble: With only Duke and North Carolina representing the ACC in the “lock” category–though I’m inclined to put Florida State in assuming it wins two of its remaining four games (11-5 in the ACC with a win over Duke has to be enough, right?)–there are a lot of teams still working towards at-large bids.  Perennial bubbler Virginia Tech leads the way, closely followed by Clemson, Boston College and Maryland.  Only the Seminoles and Hokies managed a winning record during the last two weeks.  Here’s a recap of those on the Bubble:

  • Florida State went 3-0 against arguably the worst teams in the conference.
  • Virginia Tech went 2-1, slaughtering Georgia Tech and beating Maryland at home, allowing Virginia to complete the sweep on the season before dispatching Wake Forest.
  • Clemson beat Boston College (a huge game, bubble-wise), barely lost in Chapel Hill, inexplicably lost at NC State before beating Miami on the road.
  • Boston College lost at Clemson, beat Maryland and barely lost at North Carolina.
  • Maryland slaughtered Longwood in a meaningless nonconference game, lost at Boston College, lost at Virginia Tech and barely beat NC State at home.

Add all of that up and you get Florida State sitting at 9-3 in ACC play, Virginia Tech and Clemson suffering horrible losses, Boston College avoiding marquee wins and Maryland continuing to avoid any wins that might be described as decent.  Ouch.  Not a good week for the ACC bubble.  Past Florida State, I think all of these teams need a significant ACC Tournament run (Maryland and Boston College might need to win the whole thing at this point).  Conceivably, the ACC could have three teams in the tournament if no one steps up down the stretch.  That’s pathetic for a conference that prides itself on basketball greatness (or really any major conference aside from the Pac-10 or SEC).

As for injuries, Chris Singleton hurt his foot in the game against Virginia.  You can’t overstate Singleton’s importance for the Seminoles: he’s one of the best on-ball defenders in the country and he’s their primary scoring option.  His versatility allows him to shut down the opposing team’s best player at the two, three or four.  This gives the selection committee a lot to think about with Florida State.  Without Singleton, this is a very different team.  At the same time, a favorable schedule will mean it probably closes out the season at 11-5 in conference play.  Personally, I think the Seminoles will squeak by barring a collapse of epic proportions, but the injury certainly opens the door for a lot more questions.  Kyrie Irving is back in the news after a couple of optimistic tweets about his injury: from Saturday: “Rehab going really well…I’m getting that feeling back!!! Yessir”; from Monday: “I’m definitely op(toe)mistic!!”.  Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com later tweeted: “Getting mixed reports on whether he [Irving] will return. Tough to say yet.”  Essentially, no one knows anything (largely because Duke has been so quiet in the matter), but things are sounding much more optimistic.

Player of the Week: Nolan Smith has been tremendous in ACC play.  Currently, he’s averaging almost 22 points per game with more than five assists and just under five rebounds.  He’s on pace to be the only player ever to lead the ACC in scoring and assists for a season.  Against North Carolina, he had 34 (22 in the second half), good for his season high.  He also put up 18, 22 and 28 points in wins at Miami, at Virginia and against Georgia Tech.  Smith puts up gaudy tempo-free numbers too, posting the fifth-highest offensive rating among players used in more than 28% of their team’s possessions.  You might recognize a couple of household names right below him: Jimmer Fredette (8) and Kemba Walker (9).  I suspect we won’t see a unanimous national player of the year like last year, but Smith has certainly put himself in that top group (that should probably include Arizona’s Derrick Williams too).

Team of the Week: Duke.  I just can’t give the award to a Florida State team that beat Georgia Tech, Virginia (at home) and Wake, so that leaves the Blue Devils.  Ever since the St. John’s beating (which doesn’t look nearly as bad now), Duke has played at a much higher level–especially on the defensive end.  Duke did get off to a very shaky start against North Carolina, but good teams make adjustments and win games (which Mike Krzyzewski did).  My one concern with this team right now is its consistent struggle stopping penetration.  That’s going to be crucial during the NCAA Tournament.  Mason and Miles Plumlee need to be better at coming to help stop the drive (and I don’t mean by committing stupid reaching fouls).  But other than that, Duke is one of the best teams in the country with the top spot in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings to prove it.  Side note: the Blue Devils also sport top rankings in both polls, though their current resume lags behind Pittsburgh and Ohio State.

Bizarro Team of the Week: Maryland.  Frankly, the Terps are trying to steal the season’s award out from under Wake Forest’s feet.  Watching a Maryland game is one of the most frustrating things you can do: there’s clearly a good deal of talent on the roster, but they fold in the second half of every game.  It’s unbelievable.  Only two of Maryland’s losses have come by double digits (against Virginia Tech and Duke), but the Terps don’t have anything resembling a good win (best two are against Penn State and College of Charleston).  Jordan Williams can’t do everything, but I could’ve sworn Gary Williams would have found a way to win close games by now.

Power Rankings

1.  Duke (25-2, 12-1) is in a real battle for a one-seed with Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Texas, Kansas and the winner of BYU and San Diego State.  With only four to go around, two of these teams are going to make very dangerous two seeds.  I think Duke is in control of its own destiny in that if the Blue Devils win out, I think they’re a lock for the top line (wins against Temple, Virginia Tech and at North Carolina plus whoever they face in the conference tournament would dramatically improver its resume).  I think Duke can probably get away with losing at North Carolina, provided that’s the only slip-up.  Any more than that and Duke will need some major help from the other contenders.

2.  North Carolina (20-6, 10-2) showed it’s not quite all the way back to contender status after coughing up a huge first half lead at Duke.  But I think the Tar Heels have a great shot to get revenge when Duke comes to Chapel Hill if they play with the same tenacity.  The UNC that barely beat Clemson and coasted to a home win over Wake can’t show up, though.

3.  Florida State (19-7, 9-3) needs to keep winning.  I think 2-2 is enough in these last four games, but it definitely couldn’t hurt to steal one either at Maryland or home against North Carolina.  Derwin Kitchen is going to be the key player for the Seminoles moving forward without Singleton.

4.  Virginia Tech (18-8, 8-5) needs to learn to win games it’s supposed to.  The Hokies had no business losing to Virginia to start ACC play, and they had no business losing to them last week.  Those are the games that force Seth Greenberg to sit through sweaty and heartbreaking Selection Sundays.  A win against Duke could help make up for the bad losses.

5.  Clemson (18-9, 7-6) took a feather from Virginia Tech’s cap by losing at NC State last week.  Brad Brownell has done a great job in his first year, but the Tigers will be on the wrong side of the bubble with any more losses like that.  I think the final game against Virginia Tech will be as big as any game for the Tigers this season.  Clemson has a similar problem to other ACC bubble teams: no real marquee wins.  No offense to College of Charleston and Florida State, but the Tigers need to find another one before exiting the ACC Tournament.

6.  Boston College (16-10, 6-6) is close to cooked between too many bad losses and just not that many good wins (Texas A&M can only carry you so far).  This roster looks better on paper than in person right now, although Reggie Jackson is one of the best players in the conference.

7.  Maryland (17-10, 6-6) is a team with tons of potential, but very little execution.  If Jordan Williams doesn’t declare for the draft, though, look out for the Terps next year.

8.  Virginia (13-13, 4-8) would’ve been a much scarier team without Mike Scott’s injury.  This team will never be the most fun to watch, but Tony Bennett looks like he’s got the program moving in the right direction.  And they did sweep Virginia Tech.

9.  NC State (14-12, 4-8) is one of my biggest disappointments of the season.  I thought the Wolfpack had the talent to compete for second in the ACC with Florida State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina.  I still do.  But for whatever reason, Sidney Lowe can’t capitalize.  This team shows flashes of brilliance that make you wonder what might have been.  I don’t blame Lowe entirely, but someone has to be held accountable for his thus far underachieving tenure.

10. Miami (16-11, 4-8) have had all of its conference games decided by seven points or less, except for two double-digit losses to Duke (by ten and eleven points).  Miami’s record looks far worse than it should, which is why I think they could be very dangerous come the ACC tournament and next season.  Durand Scott, Malcolm Grant and Reggie Johnson are only getting better.

11. Georgia Tech (11-15, 3-9) has three conference wins including one against North Carolina and one against Virginia Tech?  The Yellow Jackets have talent, but right now it doesn’t fit together.  The biggest problem is a total inability to win away from home (literally zero road wins this season).

12. Wake Forest (8-20, 1-12) is officially the worst major conference team, according to Ken Pomeroy (number 249 as I write this).  The good news is things can only go up from here.  The big problem with the Deacs right now is defense.  When they hold opponents under a point per possession, they generally win (only one loss comes with a defensive efficiency rating of less than 100, and that’s a 99.1 against Gonzaga).  This team is still very young.

A Look Ahead

Wednesday, February 23:

  • Temple at Duke (7:00 PM, ESPN2) – Duke gets a shot at another top 25 opponent when the Owls come to Cameron Wednesday night in Coach K’s annual “strong mid-major we could see in the NCAA’s” game.  Look out for Lavoy Allen and Ramone Moore, who are both outstanding players in the A-10.
  • Florida State at Maryland (9:00 PM, ACC Network) – This game features the country’s fourth and 11th best defenses according to Ken Pomeroy in what is probably Maryland’s last gasp for an at-large (interestingly enough the ACC has defenses ranked 2, 3, 4, 11 and 18 in Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Maryland and Clemson).

Saturday, February 26:

  • Duke at Virginia Tech (9:00 PM, ESPN) – This is a huge chance for the Hokies to pick up a marquee win and close to seal their trip to the Big Dance.  Jeff Allen will be key, as he should be able to have his way with Duke’s often soft interior.  The best match-up will definitely be Nolan Smith and Malcolm Delaney (who is right behind Smith in scoring and assists).

Sunday, February 27:

  • Maryland at North Carolina (7:45 PM, FSN) – In another match-up featuring excellent defense, Maryland takes on North Carolina.  The most interesting part of this game will be to watch Jordan Williams take on Tyler Zeller and John Henson.  North Carolina’s bigs have looked soft, and Williams is liable to put up a monster night.
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