2016-17 ACC Year In Review

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on April 21st, 2017

As with any college basketball season, the ACC experienced its ups and downs during the 2016-17 campaign. The obvious highlight was North Carolina capturing its sixth National Championship — the 14th time an ACC school has won the grand prize. Despite Duke’s late push in the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels were the league’s best and most consistent team for nearly the entire season, winning the regular season conference race by two games in a historically competitive year. The league as a whole put a conference-record nine teams in the NCAA Tournament this season, but spoiled that accomplishment by laying a giant first weekend egg in the Big Dance. After placing 11 teams in the Sweet Sixteen over the previous two years, the Tar Heels were the only ACC representative this time around. Here’s a final look at some of the highs and lows of ACC basketball this season.

Roy Williams became the sixth head coach in NCAA history with three or more National Championships.
(Getty Images)

Best Performance: By capturing this year’s National Championship, North Carolina earned some redemption after losing one year ago on a Villanova buzzer-beater for the ages. The Heels did so with a potent combination of talent and experience, featuring three seniors and three juniors among their top six players. On the talent side, consider that five of the 15 remaining McDonald’s All-Americans from the 2013 and 2014 classes were in North Carolina’s starting lineup this season. This North Carolina team is not one of the greatest teams in school history, but its NCAA Tournament run proved Roy Williams’ club will be regarded as one of the toughest. The Tar Heels twice came back from late five-point deficits during the first two weekends (Arkansas and Kentucky), and both Final Four games against Oregon and Gonzaga were tight until the last few possessions. In keeping with its core strengths, North Carolina used its abilities in offensive rebounding and ball security to to beat the Ducks and Zags. John Gasaway calls the concept shot volume, as the Tar Heels were able to get 10 more shot attempts than Oregon and 14 more than Gonzaga. Williams, with his ninth Final Four appearance (fourth-best ever) and third National Championship, must now be considered one of greatest college coaches of all-time. His critics can no longer claim that he’s just been fortunate to have so much talent on his rosters. If talent is all that is required, then why aren’t Arizona and Kansas making more Final Fours? Why doesn’t John Calipari have three titles? It’s just not that easy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

A Look at the ACC in the NIT

Posted by Charlie Maikis on March 14th, 2017

March Madness is now upon us, but let’s take a moment to consider a different postseason tournament as the ACC is sending three teams to the NIT this season. In a year where many observers thought the NCAA Tournament bubble was one of the weakest in years, the Selection Committee was not particularly kind to the conference. Of the three ACC bubble teams, Wake Forest made the field of 68 while Syracuse and Georgia Tech were left at home. Clemson joins the Orange and Yellow Jackets in this year’s NIT, meaning that the 12 of the 15 ACC teams were invited to one of the two prestigious postseason tournaments. Before the NCAA Tournament vacuums all the oxygen in the college basketball universe, let’s discuss the trio of ACC teams playing in the NIT.

Syracuse and Clemson are two of the strongest teams in the NIT field this year and give the ACC a great chance at success. Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse

Syracuse was a curious case as the Orange were left out of the NCAA Tournament presumably because of a lackluster non-conference performance. Teams that go 10-8 in what is widely regarded as the nation’s best conference usually get an invitation to the Big Dance, but that factor alone clearly wasn’t enough this season. The result was Syracuse’s placement as the top overall seed in the NIT bracket, but perhaps in the toughest region of the four. Their region also contains four other power conference teams, and the average Kenpom ranking of of the group is five spots better than the rest of the field. Luckily Syracuse doesn’t have to play the other seven teams but just the ones in front of it, starting on Wednesday night at home against UNC-Greensboro. Remember, after Jim Boeheim blasted the city of Greensboro (site of ACC headquarters and numerous ACC Tournaments) at last week’s ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, the municipality fired back:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 02.23.17 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 23rd, 2017

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse Post-Standard: Before I get started, I hope you caught that SyracuseDuke game last night. The big home win probably puts the Orange on the right side of the bubble for now (although this is far from assured), and John Gillon‘s contested three that banked through was the team’s second game-winner of the month. Duke only has its second half defense to blame for the loss. The Blue Devils played plenty well enough on offense, but allowing Syracuse to go a blistering 18-of-26 from the field in the second half was more than a good night on the glass could overcome. But back to the story at hand: Apparently an upset Syracuse fan called Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner to complain about fans chanting “air ball” at Gillon. Thankfully, Gillon’s 26-point, six-assist performance last night shows he wasn’t too impacted by the vitriol.
  2. Roanoke Times: Clemson may have sold its soul for a football championship (and its fans are likely at peace with that). After Tuesday night’s loss to Virginia Tech, the Tigers are now 1-7 in games decided by five p0ints or fewer in ACC play (they lost another game by six points). That gives Brad Brownell’s club a slight edge over Wake Forest in ranking lowest in ACC “Luck,” according to Ken Pomeroy (the Demon Deacons, by contrast, are 3-4 in ACC games decided by five points or fewer). If in fact Clemson still has its soul, that would imply some regression (or progression) to the mean, which could mean an exciting week in Brooklyn for the Tigers.
  3. Sports Illustrated: This is your annual reminder that the ACC will likely be replacing four Hall of Fame coaches in coming years, not to mention Miami’s Jim Larranaga. The only obvious choice is Jeff Capel almost certainly getting the chance to succeed Mike Krzyzweski at Duke (although given enough time, Chris Collins may have too much success at Northwestern to ignore). It remains to be seen whether North Carolina learned its lesson from hiring Matt Doherty, or whether the Tar Heel Way will take precedence over a surer pick. I don’t see the Tar Heels hiring Texas’ Shaka Smart, but Arizona’s Sean Miller would have a tough time saying no. Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin makes perfect sense at Louisville (and he’s criminally underrated nationally). Replacing Jim Boeheim at Syracuse looks simultaneously the easiest and most challenging. There’s a successor already in place (Mike Hopkins), but there’s been no evidence of any momentum to hand over the keys.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Try to avoid the unnecessary aside about North Carolina’s academic scandal (the Raleigh News & Observer covered it better than any paper in the country and was relentless in uncovering new facets of the case). Other than that, I agree wholeheartedly with Al Featherston’s description of the NC State job. It’s a good but not elite job. Hiring Sidney Lowe (and the media narrative following Herb Sendek’s ousting) put the program in a really tough long-term spot. Mark Gottfried dug out of the hole but his team looked totally lost this year. Featherston’s best point is that a lot of luck goes into hiring a basketball coach. NC State could make a great hire (and that includes many people other than Archie Miller — UNC Wilmington’s Kevin Keatts and North Carolina Central’s Levelle Moton both come to mind). They could also make another hire that’s a band-aid, or worse.
  5. WRAL Sports Fan: Props to the ACC for ending the asinine process where anyone who contributed $15 could vote for postseason awards. That led to a huge advantage for North Carolina schools. Now each team will be represented by an equal number of people. In a league the size (both in terms of number of teams and geographic area) of the ACC, this makes the most sense.
Share this story

ACC M5: 02.14.17 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 14th, 2017

morning5_ACC

  1. WTVD (ABC 11): Mark Armstrong dropped quite a bombshell on NC State fans yesterday. Per his sources, Debbie Yow has decided to fire head coach Mark Gottfried at the end of the season and the school has already reached out to Archie Miller. Reaching out to the Dayton head coach is the only part of the report that NC State denies, which makes sense (the school would reach out to Miller’s agent, not him directly). Joe Giglio does a good job breaking down Gottfried’s resume and it appears that such a move could be the right decision so long as the school makes the right hire.
  2. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia Tech announced forward Chris Clarke has torn his ACL and is done for the season. This is a huge blow to the Hokies’ NCAA Tournament hopes, as their rotation isn’t very deep and Clarke is the team’s best defensive rebounder. Even considering last weekend’s big win over Virginia, the loss of the sophomore likely means Virginia Tech’s postseason rests on a strong showing in the ACC Tournament (wins over Duke and Virginia probably do not make up for such a lackluster non-conference schedule).
  3. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Is the honeymoon era over for Pittsburgh and the ACC? Was this a form of destiny or a simply a clash of basketball styles? Maybe some of both. While Mike DeCourcy is right when he points out Pittsburgh’s lack of homegrown talent, plenty of schools with abundant local products also regularly struggle (see: Georgia Tech). Occam’s Razor suggests that Jamie Dixon didn’t like the change of administration and knew he’d be paid handsomely with correspondingly less pressure at TCU. However, Decourcy’s point does mean that the Pittsburgh program cannot afford to float into anonymity. That being said, if the last couple of seasons have taught us anything in ACC basketball, the right hire (hello, Buzz Williams) can make all the difference.
  4. Sporting News: I hate this storyline. Yes, the ACC could set a new record for number of entrants to the Big Dance, but that’s a product of expansion rather than depth. The same was true of the Big East in 2011, which placed 11 teams into the NCAA Tournament. There’s a simple reason neither the Big East nor the ACC was rated as the best conference by Ken Pomeroy in 2011 or this year. Our perception of depth (highly impacted by media coverage and one-off results) differs from reality. It’s true that there’s a ton of parity at the top of this league, but highest number is dumber than non-possession adjusted stats (in 1996 and 1997, for example, the ACC placed six of its nine teams into the Big Dance).
  5. Technique: In happier news, Georgia Tech still has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. That’s astounding considering what this program looked like coming into the season. It still looks like an uphill climb thanks to a pretty uninspiring non-conference schedule, but a strong finish could make up for some of those early season struggles.
Share this story

ACC Stock Watch: February 7

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 7th, 2017

Each week during the ACC season, RTC will review the last seven days to discuss the teams, players and anything else trending across the league.

STOCK UP

Syracuse. The Orange have won seven of their past 10 games, including victories over Florida State and Virginia during a current four-game winning streak. A key for an improving Syracuse team has been that this collection of transfers and freshmen are finally starting to understand how to play Jim Boeheim’s zone defense. On Saturday, Syracuse clearly flustered Virginia in the second half, forcing the Cavaliers into a 22.3 percent turnover rate, their highest of the season. Another factor has been the emergence of Andrew White III as the team’s go-to scorer. White has now scored 20 or more points in four straight games, all Orange victories. Over that stretch, the senior is shooting 50 percent from the field, 40.5 percent from three-point range and 88.5 percent from the free throw line. White’s newfound role as the primary scoring option, along with other capable offensive players like John Gillon, Tyus Battle and Tyler Lydon, make Syracuse a dangerous team down the stretch. The Orange should have no trouble piling up enough wins to make the NCAA Tournament.

Jim Boeheim celebrates Syracuse’s big win, the 1,000th victory of his career.
(Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

John Collins, Wake Forest. As the Demon Deacons continue their quest to return to the NCAA Tournament following a seven-year drought, the play of sophomore center John Collins is without question the reason for their success. He has quickly become the best big man in the ACC this season, and has turned it up a notch recently over his last six outings — averaging 22.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game while shooting 68.1 percent from the field. Head coach Danny Manning knows a little something about a big man carrying a team deep in to March. He’ll need Collins to perform a few miracles of his own to get Wake Forest back into the NCAA Tournament with an opportunity to advance. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

This Weekend in the ACC: February 4

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 4th, 2017

Here are a few things to keep your eye on around the ACC this weekend (all times Eastern).

Clemson needs Jaron Blossomgame to come up big if the Tigers want to win in Tallahassee. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

  • Saturday, 12:00 PM: Virginia (17-4, 7-2) at Syracuse (14-9, 6-4). The Cavaliers have been excellent on the road this year, going 4-1 in the ACC with their only loss in overtime at Pittsburgh. In an ACC season where road wins have been tough to come by, that record is an excellent way to win an ACC regular season championship. The Orange are undefeated at home in ACC play, but this game could be decided on the glass. In their last two wins at the Carrier Dome, Syracuse has dominated the offensive glass (33.3% against Wake Forest; 38.7% against Florida State.) Virginia, on the other hand, has been downright dominant at securing defensive rebounds in its last three ACC victories (91.7% against Georgia Tech; 96.4% against Notre Dame; 88.9% against Virginia Tech).
  • Saturday, 3:00 PM: Georgia Tech (13-9, 5-5) at Wake Forest (13-9, 4-6). Coming into this season, this looked like a game you would easily skip over on a busy college hoops weekend. But both Josh Pastner and Danny Manning have gotten their teams into the early February bubble conversation, and this game looms large for either team’s NCAA Tournament hopes. The Yellow Jackets have collected several terrific wins at home but need to show they can win outside of Atlanta. The Demon Deacons’ resume is still short on wins over other Tournament-quality teams, so adding a few victories over fellow bubble teams like Georgia Tech is key. Wake Forest ranks among the top 50 in the country in effective field goal percentage (53.9%) and relies heavily on Bryant Crawford and John Collins to produce. This will come down to whether Georgia Tech’s zone defense can get enough stops against a very efficient offense (12th nationally, per KenPom). The Yellow Jackets have not allowed a team to shoot an eFG over 51.0 percent in their last eight games — if they can make it to nine, they should be able to win this game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Stock Watch: January 31

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 31st, 2017

Each week during the ACC season, RTC will review the last seven days to discuss the teams, players and anything else trending across the league.

STOCK UP

Georgia Tech. Now THAT is how you get the attention of the NCAA Tournament selection committee! The Yellow Jackets blasted Florida State at home last week before winning on Saturday on the rare but delightful “fast break lay-up buzzer beater” against Notre Dame. Georgia Tech is now 4-2 in its last six games and has absolutely moved into the discussion for an NCAA Tournament bid. The key has been the Yellow Jackets’ improved defense, as head coach Josh Pastner is employing a tricky zone that has forced opponents into a slew of bad shots, particularly from three-point range. Georgia Tech held the Seminoles to their lowest Offensive Rating (75.7) of the season and the Irish to their second-lowest (92.3).These big wins at home are no doubt important, but Pastner also needs to show that his team can win on the road. The Jackets will get the chance this week with trips to Clemson and Wake Forest.

Is freshman Ty Jerome the secret weapon for Tony Bennett to get Virginia deep into the tournament? (AP)

Virginia. The Cavaliers were *this* close to putting together one of the most impressive weeks of the entire college basketball season. Already carrying a dominant road victory over Notre Dame into Sunday’s match-up with top-ranked Villanova, the Cavaliers led for most of the way before a buzzer-beating tip-in gave them the loss. Perhaps even more surprising than Virginia’s success last week was the play of freshman Ty Jerome. Normally relegated to just a few minutes per game in giving senior point guard London Perrantes a breather, head coach Tony Bennett gave him a huge opportunity to deliver. Not only did he score a career-best 15 points in 24 minutes against the Wildcats, but he ran the offense well enough to allow Perrantes to play off the ball. Furthermore, he was not afraid to take the big shots, hitting several including a game-tying runner in the lane. Was this a temporary mirage, or is Jerome now a key cog to a Virginia team that appears to be putting it all together as we approach the home stretch?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 01.31.17 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 31st, 2017

morning5_ACC

  1. The Heights: Cool piece from the Boston College student paper doing a deep dive (with GIFs) into the Eagles’ close loss over the weekend at Virginia Tech.
  2. USA Today: Georgia Tech is the ACC’s Cinderella this season — remember, the Yellow Jackets were a favorite to dethrone Boston College from the league’s cellar. Now Josh Pastner‘s team looks very much like it will earn a trip to the Big Dance. USA Today‘s Dan Wolken is more qualified to write on Pastner than most — he spent a number of years on the Memphis beat. While Pastner’s hire was initially greeted with great skepticism, the Memphis job may have just been a poor fit (i.e., no one was going to fill John Calipari’s large shoes there). Georgia Tech’s good start in ACC play may turn out to be a flash in the pan or it could be evidence that Pastner can coach a team to a certain ceiling but struggles with expectations. But now’s hardly the time for negativity.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: If you’re trying to catch up on the ACC — well, mostly the North Carolina teams — Andrew Carter’s piece is a great place to start. I question the notion that the Tar Heels are the obvious best team — especially since they still have five games against Duke, Virginia and Louisville left on the schedule. Duke may ultimately prove to be smoke and mirrors, but the Cavaliers and Cardinals are every bit as good as North Carolina. The most interesting fact from the piece is that ACC road teams were 21-42 going into Sunday (Duke tallied a win in South Bend, but Louisville and Virginia Tech both protected their home courts after the piece was posted).
  4. WDRB: Is Louisville the best team in the ACC? Maybe (but give me Virginia, which should have beaten Villanova in Philadelphia). The Cardinals’ Donovan Mitchell has been tremendous, but Eric Crawford is right to note that Louisville’s gaudy efficiency numbers are partially the result of poleaxing the bottom of the league. There’s certainly no doubt that the Cardinals are a Final Four caliber team with a bona fide all-ACC star. But if they knock off the Cavaliers in Charlottesville? Then we’re talking.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: I probably don’t have to tell you the source, but apparently “some people […] behind the scenes” liken Tyler Lydon to Tom Brady. But fun oral history aside, Tyus Battle‘s recovery of Lydon’s pass on Saturday probably saved Syracuse from a crushing collapse against Florida State. It’s obviously impossible to know, but a turnover there gives Leonard Hamilton‘s team a chance to settle down and cut the deficit to one possession. Don’t worry about the Seminole, though: ACC road games are hard.

EXTRA: In defense of Syracuse‘s court-rushing from a participant. My fiery take is if something is fun and reasonably safe for players, go for it. “Act like you’ve been there before” is for fun-haters.

Share this story

This Weekend in the ACC: January 28

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 28th, 2017

Here are a few things to keep your eye on around the ACC this weekend (all times Eastern).

  • Saturday, 12:00 PM: Notre Dame (17-4, 6-2) at Georgia Tech (12-8, 4-4). When North Carolina lost to Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve, the subsequent narrative was that the Tar Heels slept through a forgettable blip on the ACC radar. That thinking looked accurate when the Yellow Jackets were subsequently blitzed by 53 points at Cameron Indoor Stadium in their next game. Four weeks later, Josh Pastner’s bunch is now playing like that early league game against the Tar Heels was a sign of things to come rather than an anomaly. Georgia Tech is 3-2 in its last five, a stretch that includes a heart-breaking one-point loss at Virginia Tech and an absolute demolition of Florida State. Freshman Josh Okogie has been fantastic, averaging 20.2 PPG over that stretch while shooting 50 percent from three. Pastner will need another outstanding performance from his wing this weekend if the Yellow Jackets hope to add another high-level win to their resume. Okogie has averaged eight free throws per game in Georgia Tech’s last five contests, so look for him to force his way to the basket against Note Dame’s VJ Beachem and Steve Vasturia.

Can Bryant Crawford take care of the ball and lead Wake Forest to a big win over Duke? (US Presswire)

  • Saturday, 3:00 PM: Duke (15-5, 3-4) at Wake Forest (12-8, 3-5). There is certainly no bigger circus in college basketball than Duke, but everything going on in Durham has distracted from the notion that today’s game is quite possibly the biggest of the Danny Manning era in Winston-Salem. While Wake Forest is hovering around the bubble with a mediocre record both inside and out of conference play, wins over Miami and at NC State do not really impress anyone. That effectively means that the Deacons could desperately use another big win, and a reeling squad of Blue Devils could nicely do the trick. In Duke’s last three losses, it twice allowed an eFG rate of 56.0 percent or higher. Wake Forest’s high-powered offense, which starts with sophomore point guard Bryant Crawford, should be able to score against the Blue Devils. The key will be if Crawford can take care of the ball well enough to give his offense sufficient chances. The Demon Deacons are 11-3 when he has three or fewer turnovers,with their only losses coming to Virginia, North Carolina and Villanova. When he turns the ball over four or more times, Wake Forest is 1-5.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume II

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 27th, 2017

Here is the latest edition of our weekly review of the current ACC standings and team performances, where we focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their records indicate. Each week we delve into advanced metrics to reveal a few interesting teams, player statistics and trends, and this week we also analyze the crazy deep-shooting improvement in the league this year. Finally, we forecast how the final ACC standings may look given current efficiency margins, and what that means for teams’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All data is current for games played through Wednesday, January 25.

Current Standings

Louisville leaped to the top of the ACC in efficiency margin thanks to its 106-51 humiliation demolition of Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. The Cardinals now own the league’s best defense, while North Carolina continues to claim the top offensive unit. In what has been a very tough week for top-10 teams around the country, Florida State’s blowout loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday night may have been the most surprising result. At this point in the season, the Yellow Jackets should be taken seriously — sporting a solid 4-4 record against the second-toughest schedule in the nation’s deepest conference. That win probably also thrust Josh Pastner into the pole position in the race for this year’s ACC Coach of the Year award. No one around the league — including Pastner himself — could have predicted that both North Carolina and Florida State would fall in McCamish Pavilion by double figures.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story