ACL Well: Analyzing Six Huge Returnees From ACL Injuries

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 29th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The fickle nature of college hoops owes itself to a number of different factors. Every year there are a handful of teams that underperform or overperform versus expectations for various reasons, from team chemistry to coaching philosophy to collective work ethic. Perhaps the most uncontrollable element of a team’s performance is injury, the sudden and often catastrophic medical ailments that – in the blink of one single cut to the hoop, defensive rotation or hard sprint down the court – dramatically alter teams’ seasons and programs’ trajectories. Last season we saw several injuries to key players, some more impactful than others, fundamentally shift the competitive balance in various leagues. For those players, the situational outlook was bleak: not playing competitively with the team you’ve spent all summer practicing with just plain stinks. But for the most part, their departures faded into the periphery as the season wore on, players began furiously rehabbing their various injuries, teams adapted and college hoops rolled along with minimal fuss.

If Mbakwe can return to form, the Gophers could be poised for an NCAA Tournament berth (Photo credit: Tom Olmscheid/AP Photo)

There was a strikingly large proportion of one particular injury last season, or at least it seemed that way for several of the sport’s most influential medical breakdowns. It’s known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, and it’s one of the most common and oft-repeated of all athletic detriments. A complete recovery normally requires major surgery, between six and nine months worth of substantial rehabilitation and a cautious return to athletic activity. I’ve identified six instrumental players who experienced this very process after tearing their ACLs last season and all of them are expected to return – rehabbed and ready to go – for a redeeming 2012-13 campaign. Each player is rejoining their teams (or in some cases, new teams) under slightly different circumstances from which he left, with situational and rotational specifics dictating the terms of their returns. I’ve tried to dig into some of the circumstantial elements playing into these players’ comeback seasons and how you should expect them to fare this season. Here are the results of my research, a full-fledged breakdown of college hoops’ big-name torn ACL-returnees. Enjoy… and try your best to avoid a similar fate.

Trevor Mbakwe (sixth-year senior, Minnesota)

This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Mbakwe. Way back when he still played for Marquette – the same year (2007-08) Mario Chalmers’ legendary three-point shot KO’d a high-powered Derrick Rose-led Memphis team in the national finals – Mbakwe missed the majority of the season with a knee injury. He recovered, packed his bags and moved on to Miami Dade Community College, where he averaged a modest 16.3 PPG/13.2 RPG double-double while earning Southern Conference Player of the Year Honors. When he eventually made his way to Minnesota, after sitting out the 2009-10 season while awaiting trial for a felony assault charge, Mbakwe unleashed the ferocious rebounding and inside scoring touch he demonstrated in the JuCo ranks on Big Ten forwards. Much to the chagrin of Tubby Smith’s middling program, Mbawke had only played one full season and six full games last year before going down with an ACL tear.

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ACC Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 27th, 2012

  1. ESPN: Despite almost everyone saying Tony Parker will not go to Duke, the Blue Devils seem to always be on his list. This is a pretty interesting article on Parker and his family going through the pros and cons of some of the schools he’s still considering. Parker’s biggest knock on Duke seems to be a concern about developing bigs. While I see the recent evidence, I think it’s also worth pointing out the successful Duke big men (cut directly out of Parker’s mold) like Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer and Shelden Williams. I definitely see where his unease is coming from though.
  2. ACC Sports Journal: This is good stuff from Barry Jacobs on players leaving early for the NBA Draft. Austin Rivers is hiring an agent, but the choices of some other talented underclassmen have yet to come to light. It’s become a fact of life — top talent rarely stays four years (Tyler Zeller is the exception). We’ll definitely have some more draft coverage as players declare.
  3. SBNation: This is a solid article on North Carolina’s disappointing finish with a closer look at Harrison Barnes. It’s still impossible for me to tell about Barnes’ pro prospects: He’s looked great in flashes (he hit four of his five field goals against Kansas in a two-minute stretch), but he disappeared in the second half. His numbers look the same as last year, but his 40-point outbursts and clutch moments are missing.
  4. Hampton Roads Daily Press: JT Thompson is transferring from Virginia Tech. After two straight season-ending knee injuries, he’ll leave the Hokies with a degree “and a lifetime of friends.” Thompson is transferring to be closer to his young daughter in order to become a full-time parent. The move shouldn’t kill the Virginia Tech frontcourt, as it still returns Cadarian Raines, Dorian Finney-Smith and CJ Barksdale in addition to bringing in a couple of freshmen.
  5. Testudo Times: With Terrell Stoglin coming back to College Park, it’s time to look at his season and prognosis. It’s clear Stoglin and Mark Turgeon have to work out their differences; it’s also clear that unless a lot changes over the summer (really I think it would be his senior season before he’d be able to run it effectively, but I’d like to see him get some time at the one). The good news for Maryland fans is Stoglin wants to improve his draft stock, and that should be mostly in line with Turgeon’s vision.
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Checking In On.. The ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2011

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer for RTC.

 

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Coach K Gets 903: Mike Krzyzewski made basketball history by passing his mentor Bob Knight on the all-time wins list. The record is a testament to Krzyzewski’s consistent excellence over the last three decades. It was an incredible accomplishment and dictated the better part of a week’s coverage.
  • Eligibility and Injuries Plague ACC: The ACC has five players out with eligibility issues, seven are out with significant injuries, and one is out after violating team rules. Alex Len (Maryland) may have his eligibility after he sits out ten games (he’ll be back in late December), but DeQuan Jones (Miami) is out indefinitely because of the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into allegations of the Nevin Shapiro scandal; Shane Larkin (Miami) is awaiting word on his eligibility after transferring from DePaul; Thomas de Thaey (NC State) is waiting for his amateur status to be reviewed; and Ian Miller (Florida State) will miss at least first semester due to eligibility issues. On the injury front, JT Thompson and Marquis Rankin (Virginia Tech) are out for the season while Pe’Shon Howard (Maryland), Antwan Space (Florida State), Julian Gamble and Reggie Johnson (Miami), and Leslie McDonald (North Carolina) are out indefinitely with various injuries. Wake Forest’s Ty Walker is suspended for violating the team’s honor code but is expected back against Seton Hall. Yikes.
  • Virginia Hype Came Too Soon?: Kellen Carpenter hit the nail on the head in his preview of the Cavaliers. He pointed out lack of offensive balance and inability to make twos as the two biggest questions facing Tony Bennett’s squad. The team has had success from inside the arc in its wins, bu looking at the boxscore from their loss to TCU reveals the Cavaliers shot less than 40% on two-point attempts. Mike Scott was still solid, but the rest of the team struggled a lot. The other problem is Virginia’s crawling tempo makes it very difficult to come back from deficits.
  • Mark Gottfied Can Recruit (and possibly coach, too): Mark Gottfried came into Raleigh with high expectations from the Wolfpack fanbase. So far, he has lived up to all of them. Gottfried has a top-five recruiting class sealed up thanks to signing TJ Warren, Rodney Purvis, and Tyler Lewis in the early period; he has another potential star possibly joining the ranks in Amile Jefferson. He also managed to get NC State its best non-conference win in quite a while with a huge comeback against Texas. One of the biggest problems with last year’s team was it could not come from behind. I generally chalked it up to effort or general pessimism that comes with frequent losses. Gottfried seems to have turned things around at least a little. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Morning Five: 11.09.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 9th, 2011

  1. Washington Post: Mike Scott will be very important for Virginia, and in more ways than filling up the stat sheets. Sure his double-figure scoring and double-figure rebounding should help a middling offense and horrendous offensive rebounding squad improve in those areas this season. But more importantly, he’ll draw defenders and allow Joe Harris to move back to small forward. That’s fairly significant, as Harris (a 6’6″ sophomore) was forced to play the power forward spot despite being the team’s most consistent outside shooter last year. Scott should also keep defenses honest in the paint, which should allow an already very good perimeter shooting team more openings. Basically, Mike Scott is the only reason it’s not laughable for the media to rank Tony Bennett’s squad fourth in the conference, as the WaPo observes.
  2. Charlotte Observer: A hallmark of Mike Krzyzewski-coached teams is gritty, overplaying man-to-man defense that’s especially effective in keeping opponents from getting open perimeter looks. However, a quick glance at Duke‘s backcourt (Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Austin Rivers) doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The questions proved legitimate in Duke’s preseason scrimmage, as D-II Bellarmine managed to knock down eight outside buckets. Duke doesn’t have much time though, as Belmont made over nine threes a game last season (at a 38% clip). Oh, and the Bruins won 30 games last year and bring back nearly all of their talent. Do I hear a non-conference upset special brewing in Cameron Indoor this Friday?
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Speaking of Duke generalizations, Bret Strelow breaks down the importance of big men for the Blue Devils’ upcoming season. And if you look at the roster, it makes sense. How many teams have two athletic 6’10” players and a 6’11” guy who gets buckets? Not many. But Duke’s current frontcourt has had limited success so far, even if Miles Plumlee, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly all seem capable of breakout seasons. They’re also fighting against the stereotype that Duke big men struggle. Exhibition play tends to overrate frontcourts mightily (if you ask the above question about a D-II school, no matter what caliber, the answer will be an emphatic “no”), but the Plumlee brothers have looked especially good. To live up to its top-five potential Duke needs one of its forwards to have a star campaign.
  4. Charlotte Observer: Mark Gottfried didn’t hear a lot of compliments about his team when he first took the job. The trouble seems as much coach-related as talent-related, though — in a recent interview, Scott Wood “basically admits practice used to be ‘just throwing the ball out there and shooting it.’ Now practices have a lot more drills.” That’s the sort of culture Gottfried was facing when he moved to Raleigh. From player quotes such as these, it sounds like Gottfried has the team buying into his style; and if he wins there, players will keep buying it.
  5.  Richmond Times-Dispatch: Potential breakout candidate Erick Green may miss Virginia Tech‘s season opener against East Tennessee State with an “Achilles’ strain”. The Hokies have already lost JT Thompson to a season-ending injury, and definitely can’t afford to lose Green too. Green is expected to be the star, both on offense and defense, for Seth Greenberg’s team in its latest pursuit of an invitation to the Big Dance. Here’s to hoping the rash of preseason injuries doesn’t carry over into the regular season because it feels like there have been way more injuries than usual this year.

In honor of the opening of college basketball season, Sports Illustrated has a slideshow of college basketball previews going back as far as the early 1960s. The most interesting (with borderline-racist undertones) image is probably the 1967 cover calling for a 12-foot basket, but I’ll leave you with NC State legend David Thompson. Thompson led the 1972-73 Wolfpack to an undefeated season averaging nearly 25 points a game (ironically his least dominant statistical season).

NC State's David Thompson Led the Wolfpack to an Undefeated Season in 1973

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ACC Morning Five: 11.04.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 4th, 2011

  1. USA Today: Another year and another season-crippling injury for Seth Greenberg and the Hokies. Last year it was Dorenzo Hudson and JT Thompson. This year Thompson tore his other ACL and will miss his second straight season. You have to feel for Thompson, but Greenberg pointed out the silver lining: “Our main focus right now is his health and preparing him for his graduation this December. […] Now is not the time to discuss a sixth year.” Thompson’s injury is a big blow for Virginia Tech, where Thompson was expected to be a major leader and contributor this season. In 2009-10 he averaged 7.3 PPG and 4.6 RPG in just over 20 minutes a game.
  2. Miami Herald: Jim Larranaga got his first official (exhibition) win on the Miami sideline last night against Florida Southern, 88-78, but it wasn’t easy. The Hurricanes trailed by five at the half and by ten halfway through the second half. Garrius Adams caught fire late, aiding a late 28-6 run with three treys in two minutes. Malcolm Grant led the way for Miami with 26 points on a fantastic 8-12 shooting performance, but Durand Scott wasn’t far behind with 23 points and seven rebounds (that rebounding will be crucial while Reggie Johnson is out). The bad news was the Hurricanes finished with significantly more turnovers (17) than assists (10).
  3. United States Navy: The host of the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic, the USS Carl Vinson, is getting ready for the Veterans’ Day game. Construction crews started building the court on Tuesday that is expected to seat 7,000 people. It should be finished by November 9 to allow both teams to practice on the new court the day before the game. In the case of inclement weather (quite unlikely in San Diego), the crew is also constructing a smaller court in the ship’s hangar bay though it has far less seating for spectators.
  4. Detroit Free Press: Duke target Mitch McGary has opted for John Beilein and Michigan over Duke and Florida. McGary will be the Wolverines’ first McDonalds All-American in ten years (the last was Daniel Horton in 2002). My guess is this means that Duke will really turn up the heat on Tony Parker, another incredibly talented class of 2012 power forward. It is starting to look like NC State may sport the best 2012 recruiting class in the conference.
  5. ACCSports.com: Ryan Davis caught up with new Maryland coach Mark Turgeon to talk about the upcoming season. It sounds like Nick Faust will be called on from day one, and Turgeon expects Sean Mosley to live up to the expectations people set for him last year. One interesting question was comparing this year’s Maryland team to last year’s Boston College team. I’d tend to agree with Turgeon that the teams are very different (namely, the Eagles were lights out from beyond the arc, while Maryland should make its money on defense), but I hadn’t thought about the other comparisons (very shallow benches, new coaches, and solid returners). Although I don’t think the comparison is apples to apples, I think it should be heartening for Terrapin fans that Boston College saw the success it did facing similar problems.
Finally, it is NC StateNorth Carolina week (in football)! For those readers not familiar with ACC football (I don’t blame you), this is the nationally-irrelevant Tobacco Road rivalry of the gridiron. The two coaches celebrated the occasion by swapping insults before the schools’ chancellors ended the feud by calling each other to apologize.
  • Everett Withers (UNC): “I think the kids in this state need to know, you know, the flagship school in this state. […] They need to know it academically. I think if you look at our graduation rates as opposed to our opponent’s this week graduation rates for academics or football, I think you’ll see a difference. I think if you look at the educational environment here, I think you’ll see a difference.”
  • Tom O’Brien (NC State): “As far as the flagship, here is a guy that’s on a football staff that ends up in Indianapolis. If you take three things you can’t do in college football, you have an agent on your staff, you’re paying your players and you have academic fraud. I mean, that’s a triple play as far as the NCAA goes. […] Our guys go to school, they’re not given grades and they graduate […] It’s a little tougher here if you have to go to school and you’re expected to have a syllabus and go to class. I think our guys earn everything they get here. And certainly all our graduates earn everything they get at this university.”
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Morning Five: 11.04.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 4th, 2011

  1. The biggest news of Thursday related to a player who is still a year away from actual collegiate game action. Mitch McGary, a 6’10” power forward who has been desscribed as “Tyler Hansbrough on Red Bull,” committed to Michigan on Thursday. RSCI has him rated as the #3 overall prospect in the Class of 2012, and his range is between #2 and #5, so it’s not like there’s much disagreement on the ridiculous talent of this guy. An Indiana native, he’s certainly someone that not only his other two finalists — Duke and Florida — would have liked to have nailed down, but the fact that John Beilein’s Michigan program was capable of invading Hoosier territory to grab an elite talent like McGary is demonstrative. IU won’t be truly ‘back’ until prep players like McGary are theirs to lose, and at least one national writer is sold on UM as a program on the verge of greatness again.
  2. Tough news on Thursday from Virginia Tech, as hard-luck case JT Thompson reportedly tore his ACL for a second time in two seasons this week. Granted, last year it was his right ACL and this year it was his left, but the point remains the same: Instead of a comeback recovery season for Thompson as a fifth-year senior, he’s faced with another long year of rehabilitation and recovery as we head into the season. Thompson’s injury doesn’t necessarily put the Hokies into a precarious position with respect to the bubble, but as usual for the team from Blacksburg, it doesn’t help either. Then again, it wouldn’t be a Seth Greenberg team unless it was 18-12 and sitting on the bubble on Selection Sunday, so although we wish Thompson all the best on his recovery, we can’t say that we’re surprised.
  3. One week after announcing an optional initiative that will allow major conferences an opportunity to provide $2,000 per student-athlete to ‘fill the gap’ between the cost of a full scholarship and its incidentals, NCAA president Mark Emmert was quick to say on Thursday that such a stipend was not “pay for play.” No matter where you fall on this issue, we think that everyone can agree that opening up this Pandora’s box is equitable in name only — the power conferences are those who ultimately stand to benefit. Imagine if everyone in America were offered a fantastic deal of a brand new Maserati well below list price of only $50,000! Well… you see the point.
  4. Speaking of Emmert’s organization, it wouldn’t be the NCAA without preseason suspensions and Mississippi State is once again on the wrong end of a major delay in one of its key players actually suiting up. The good news for Rick Stansbury is that MSU appears to have Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie ready to hit the floor this season, but they will do so without the backup support of Kristers Zeidaks, a Latvian forward whom he would have liked to have had on his bench. Zeidaks will essentially suffer the Deniz Kilicli rule in that he must sit out a substantial number of games before the NCAA will deem him eligible. In this case, Zeidaks will miss the entire upcoming season and the first 11 games of the 2012-13 season if he ever desires to play college basketball. The issue is that he competed against a professional club team in Europe and must apparently pay his penance with the NCAA for doing so.
  5. Truth. Spoken. Alexander Wolff’s article this week on the complete irrelevance of college basketball on decision-making among the taskmasters of collegiate sports is both sickening and enlightening at the same time. Nearly twenty years ago, Wolff followed up the greatest college basketball game ever played with perhaps the greatest college basketball article ever written, “The Shot Heard Round the World.” What the piece lacked in titular form — much like the game itself (most people do not realize that Duke was a HEAVY favorite over Rick Pitino’s Wildcats that evening in Philadelphia) — it made up for in tone and reverence. There is no such reverence in an era where regal programs such as Kansas, St. John’s and Georgetown are thrown to the wolves for the sake of football dollars. While Wolff clearly reminisces about a bygone era where Jayhawks, Johnnies and Hoyas mattered, he also recognizes that, in some ways, the college hoops overlords brought this on themselves. Read it for yourselves.
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ACC Team Previews: Virginia Tech

Posted by KCarpenter on October 31st, 2011

For what it’s worth, I think Virginia Tech should have made the NCAA Tournament last season. I have a hard time believing that this team was worse than Villanova, Marquette, or Missouri, to name a few of the other power conference teams that got the bubble nod while Virginia Tech was overlooked once again. I understand the case for those teams, but believe me when I say that last year’s Hokies were a tough, resilient team stocked with great players. Malcolm Delaney was a great basketball talent and his fellow seniors, Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell were all excellent starters for Seth Greenberg.  Despite all the injuries that this team suffered, his core held strong and led Virginia Tech to repeatedly strong conference showings. These guys are now gone and a new era of basketball in Blacksburg begins.

Seth Greenberg Will Have To Rebuild The Hokies Now That The Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen Era Has Ended

A few holdovers remain, though, and that continuity will be important for what promises to be a relatively inexperienced team. Starters Erick Green, along with seniors Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila will have to be strong leaders on a team that is in transition. Despite the graduation of the legendary senior class, the transfer of the surprising Hokies’ leader in offensive efficiency, Manny Atkins, and the loss of Alan Chaney because of concerns about the promising big man’s heart condition, there is a real case to be made that Virginia Tech is gaining more than it’s losing. With contributors like Hudson and J. T. Thompson returning from injury, VT is regaining a guy who averaged 15.2 points per game and once scored 41 against a hapless Seton Hall team as their sixth man. As big as that will be for the Hokies in 2011-12, the real story for this team is its freshman class.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • The ACC looks rough early.  I think I was a little optimistic coming into the season, especially with Virginia Tech.  I definitely underrated Florida State and Maryland marginally (at least so far), but as a whole, play has been underwhelming in the early going.
  • Unfortunately, the ACC wasn’t helped when N.C. State’s Tracy Smith went down with a knee injury.  I really think Smith would have been a major factor in the Georgetown game.  State was absolutely picked apart inside, and Smith’s talent and experience would have been invaluable — especially as things started getting out of hand in the second half.  I’m not sure Smith would have been the difference, but he certainly would have helped significantly.  Smith is expected to be back in around three weeks.  The injuries don’t stop there: Virginia Tech is having major injury issues with J.T. Thompson and Allan Chaney out for the season.  Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski is out for the first couple of months recovering from knee surgery.  Wake Forest is fighting injuries to Melvin Tabb (mono), Tony Chenault (foot, 8-10 weeks) and Nikita Mescheriakov’s eligibility (not to mention anyone who has suffered through watching them play).
  • In recruiting news, the ACC had a huge signing day.  Duke looks ready to reload with three LOI’s from 5-star recruits Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers and Michael Gbinje (not to mention 4-star Marshall Plumlee).  North Carolina inked two 5-stars in James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston.  Virginia Tech also has a sneaky-good class coming in with four-star recruits Dorian Finney-Smith, Marquis Rankin and C.J. Barksdale.

Player of the Week: Chris Singleton, Florida State: Singleton has been absolutely unbelievable for the Seminoles so far.  Through four games, he’s averaging 19.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 3.8 steals per contest.  The performance that sealed the deal was his unconventional triple-double against UNC Greensboro (22 points, 11 rebounds, 10 steals, 6 assists and 4 blocks).  If he can keep his scoring up this season, the Seminoles could be a dark horse in the ACC runner-up race.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (4-0): Through four games, the Blue Devils have been incredible.  Kyrie Irving introduced himself to the college basketball world with nine assists and one turnover against Princeton.  Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have looked good, not great, but Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry can shoot.  If the Blue Devils catch fire from downtown (and with five players who could shoot 40% from beyond the arc in Singler, Smith, Curry, Dawkins and Irving, that should happen plenty) they’ll be close to unbeatable.  It’s still early, but so far the Blue Devils lead both adjusted offense and adjusted defense in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. Duke’s ability to get past Marquette in the second half Monday without much from Kyle Singler speaks to their depth across the starting lineup. How will Mason Plumlee build on his big game in Kansas City?
  2. Virginia Tech (2-1): I’m leaving the Hokies here mainly out of respect for Kansas State.  The Hokies have come out flat: they rely too much on Malcolm Delaney and are easily drawn into sloppy play.  There’s a reason Seth Greenberg’s squad didn’t make the tournament last year: they weren’t that good.  I expect Virginia Tech to get better (though losing J.T. Thompson really hurts), but I expected a team that returns all five starters to be ready to go right away.
  3. Florida State (4-0): The Seminoles have a very good defense: color me not surprised.  It’ll be interesting to see how Florida State’s defense evolves as the season progresses, but they’ll get a big test next Sunday against Florida.  If the Seminoles can muster up some solid offense, they’ll be a very tough team to beat this year.  Definitely a tournament-level team, and arguably a top-25 team so far.
  4. N.C. State (3-1): Getting blown out in the second half by Georgetown wasn’t good, but it wasn’t terrible.  N.C. State is a very young team with Tracy Smith, and it’s no surprise they struggled against a veteran Georgetown team with one of the country’s best backcourts (especially if you consider Georgetown’s biggest weakness in the post).  Hopefully, for Sidney Lowe’s sake, the Wolfpack get Smith back before their showdowns with top-25 teams Wisconsin and Syracuse.  In the meantime I expect them to manhandle Fairleigh Dickinson.
  5. Clemson (4-1): The Tigers’ lone loss comes against Old Dominion (one of the top mid-majors in the country), and Clemson made a game of it, only losing by one after an ugly first half.  There’s no doubt they miss Trevor Booker, but Demontez Stitt looks like he’s ready to take on a much bigger offensive role this season.  Consistency will be the biggest question for the Tigers going forward.
  6. Maryland (3-2): I thought Maryland would be totally lost without Greivis Vasquez, but the Terps played Pitt and Illinois down to the last minute.  Gary Williams has done a great job getting this team to such a competitive level very quickly.  Unfortunately, Maryland still turns the ball over a lot, and they haven’t shown an ability to close out big games.  That said, I’m still very impressed with the showing they put up at the 2k Classic against two of the country’s top teams. The Terps would be better served to feed Jordan Williams the ball more than they have.
  7. North Carolina (2-2): This team is having some major growing pains.  Two straight losses to Minnesota and Vanderbilt are not what Tar Heel Nation was expecting out of Harrison Barnes’ debut.  Before you’re too quick to judge Barnes, remember: he’s a freshman (with colossal expectations), and the Heels do not have a legitimate point guard.  If I were Roy Williams, I’d bench Larry Drew II immediately to get some quality time in for frosh Kendall Marshall.  Marshall is the future of the program, and can he really play that much worse than Drew?
  8. Miami (2-2): Miami can deal with losing at Memphis.  And they made a very close game of it.  But getting blown out at Rutgers?  That’s totally unacceptable.  Reggie Johnson (12 points and 14 boards) was the only Hurricane in double figures.  I’m not sure where Durand Scott was, but he needs to step up his game if the Hurricanes don’t want to join the lowest tier of the conference.  Right now, I’m pegging Miami as a horrendous road team that could prove a tough out at home.  They just as easily could be a terribly inconsistent team.  Frank Haith’s seat started warming up this week.
  9. Virginia (2-2): The Cavaliers are the best of the worst this week.  While they notched wins over William and Mary and U.S.C. Upstate, they got blown out by the Pac 10 – first by Stanford, then by #11 Washington.  If it’s possible to have a bad time during a November trip to Hawaii, Virginia has found the way. They’ll try to salvage things against Oklahoma on Tuesday.
  10. Georgia Tech (3-1): 3-1 isn’t that bad, right?  Georgia Tech has looked awful so far-most notably in their blowout loss at Kennesaw State.  The most important question is what was Paul Hewitt doing playing at Kennesaw State in the first place?  What good comes out of that game?  The Yellow Jackets get a chance to prove the doubters (which should be nearly everyone at this point) partially wrong this week with a game against UTEP.
  11. Boston College (2-1): Boston College has got to stop losing to Ivy League teams.  They lost to Yale last week.  Yale isn’t even supposed to be a real competitor in the Ivy League, much less the ACC.  Steve Donahue runs a very different style than Al Skinner, and I’m not sure he or his players have totally adjusted.  It’ll take a few years to get everything optimized to his style of play, but in the meantime he should be avoiding the easy losses. To keep the bad loss from dwelling, the Eagles beat Holy Cross rather soundly.
  12. Wake Forest (2-3): Wake Forest has major issues.  So far they’ve lost to Stetson, been blown out by Virginia Commonwealth, and couldn’t keep up at Winthrop. They check in at a smooth 159th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, lowest among any of the “Power Six” conference teams, save DePaul and Auburn.  So far the Demon Deacons miss Ish Smith more than anything: currently they sport a ghastly 25.5% turnover percentage…  That means they turn it over more than once every four possessions.  If Wake can’t improve their offensive execution by conference play, the ACC will have a new conference doormat.

A Look Ahead

The non-con tournaments continue!  Duke will look to make a major statement this week at the CBE Classic in Kansas City with a big game against #4 Kansas State Tuesday. It may as well be a true road game with the Wildcats’ campus just two hours away.  Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech also participate in early-season tournaments throughout the week.  Most importantly, the Big 10-ACC Challenge is right around the corner (starting November 29).  While the Big 10 looks like a far superior conference on paper, the basketball gods were very kind in placing games (Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke all play at home) and somehow Wake Forest drew Iowa and Boston College drew Indiana.  Even if the ACC doesn’t win, there are a ton of great games, so make sure to get it on your calendar early.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.16.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 16th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Tonight’s slate is loaded with quality games, mostly from the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

#21 Virginia Tech @ #3 Kansas State – 4 pm on ESPN (*****)

Seth Greenberg decided to beef up his non-conference schedule this year after being left out of the last few NCAA Tournaments and this may be his team’s toughest test. The Hokies enter the Octagon of Doom looking to make a statement and ease any NCAA bubble worries, at least temporarily. Most prognosticators say Virginia Tech will be a lot better than the bubble but that thought has to creep into the back of some fans’ minds at times. Led by Malcolm Delaney, four seniors return and all are starters. Kansas State has had some problems early on as coach Frank Martin benched senior Curtis Kelly against James Madison on Friday for not practicing with energy and needing to be a better teammate. His status for today’s game is unknown. Point guard is also a question for the Wildcats as Denis Clemente has moved on. All-American candidate Jacob Pullen can play the point but is better off the ball. K-State seemed to play point guard by committee in their first game as Pullen, Nick Russell, Rodney McGruder and Martavious Irving combined for all 14 of the team’s assists. Kansas State shot only 53% from the free throw line, a problem that plagued them all of last season. Both teams like to play fast but also can get after it defensively as each finished in the top 20 in defensive efficiency last season. Virginia Tech is not a particularly good shooting team so that could play right into the hands of an active Wildcat defense encouraged by their energized crowd. The Hokies may have an issue with depth, especially early in the season when they’re trying to establish a rotation. With J.T. Thompson lost for the season and Cadarian Raines still out with a foot injury, Greenberg is down to seven major contributors. He’ll need freshman Jarell Eddie and Erick Green to step up and become threats off the bench. Kansas State needs to protect the ball and defend well in order to win. Va Tech was fifth nationally in steals and 36th in turnover percentage last year so they’ll be ready to exploit the uncertain K-State point guard situation. Virginia Tech may not have enough shooting to win this one but if Kelly is out, the door will be open for the Hokies to grab an important road victory.

#3 Ohio State @ #8 Florida – 6 pm on ESPN (*****)

ESPN wants to open Louisville’s new arena in prime time but this is really the marquee game of the Tip-Off Marathon. It features a Florida team that returns all five starters and is the trendy pick to win the SEC East and possibly make the final four. Ohio State, a final four favorite, returns four starters of its own and adds super impact freshman Jared Sullinger in the paint. Thad Matta’s Buckeyes have a good blend of youth and experience and are incredibly deep as a result of their terrific recruiting class. If you like three pointers then this is your game. Florida loves to shoot the three and so does the Ohio State backcourt led by Jon Diebler. The Gators struggled a bit in their opening win over UNC-Wilmington as they allowed the Seahawks to shoot 48% from the floor. Florida only shot 32% from behind the arc and they’ll need to do better than that if they hope to beat Ohio State. They’re also going to need players to contribute off the bench because as good as their starters are, you can’t rely on five players to carry your team. Erik Murphy should be the best bet, though a talented group of freshman should see their minutes increase as they settle into their roles in Billy Donovan’s system. Donovan, a Rick Pitino disciple, plays an up-tempo system that emphasizes pressing and three point shooting. For Florida to execute the press properly, they need a fresh stream of bodies coming in and out of the game. While that’s not as important in a single game, depth issues will take their toll as the season moves along. Ohio State is absolutely loaded with a powerful backcourt, frontcourt and bench. Diebler can flat out stroke it from deep and guys like Dallas Lauderdale and David Lighty add toughness and experience to their rotation. Florida needs a good game from senior leader Chandler Parsons and they just can’t afford to have Kenny Boynton go without a three again as he did against UNCW. The Buckeyes throttled North Carolina A&T in their opener behind 24/8 from freshman DeShaun Thomas. Another solid game from him or another OSU freshman could push them to an impressive road victory in the hostile O-Dome. This will be an unbelievably competitive and hard fought game but Ohio State’s depth and talent advantage gives them a great shot to earn a road win that will help build their resume for a possible #1 seed.

#12 Butler @ Louisville – 8pm on ESPN (****)

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Morning Five: 09.17.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 17th, 2010

  1. Andy Katz reported that Tennessee has its hands somewhat constricted by the clauses in Bruce Pearl’s contract that protects him from termination short of an NCAA “finding” that he had committed a “significant” violation.  Given that the NCAA is currently in the early stages of its investigation of the UT basketball program, any such finding would not likely come until well into 2011; and even then, there would have to be a finding involving a “significant” violation.  It’s unclear whether hosting recruits at his home and later lying about it rises to that standard of significance, but the key point here is that even if UT wanted to get rid of Pearl, they would have a difficult time doing so presently.  Interesting wrinkle unearthed by Katz, there.
  2. Seth Greenberg’s Virginia Tech Hokies are prepping for what could possibly their best season in his tenure there, but they received bad news yesterday when it was learned that sixth man JT Thompson had torn his ACL and will miss the entire season with that injury.  The senior forward averaged 7/5 last season as the first player off the bench, and he was expected to provide strong front court depth again this year.  With Malcolm Delaney, Dorenzo Hudson and Jeff Allen returning, Tech still has plenty of talent, but Thompson will surely be missed in the wars of the ACC this winter.
  3. Luke Winn checks in with a piece examining the twelve BCS conference coaching changes during the offseason, evaluating which coaches are stepping into the most favorable and least favorable situations.  We couldn’t agree more with his assessment that Oliver Purnell is walking into a nightmarish scene at DePaul (other than the hefty paycheck, of course).  We seriously doubt that will ever work out for anyone involved.
  4. Is John Calipari a good thing for college basketball in general?  Dan Wiederer writes that he’s not, essentially arguing that there’s too much nonsense, if not outright cheating, associated with the man.  And, the response.
  5. The Big East Conference and ESPN simultaneously announced the Big Monday matchups for the 2010-11 season, which means that we’re that much closer to actually watching some meaningful games again.  Officially, the first three games on the list below are not “Big Monday” games, but they’re Big East matchups on ESPN on Monday nights, so… whatever.  It’s difficult to say which teams will step up in the always-brutal Big East, but the Syracuse-Villanova game on February 21 looks mighty tasty.  Here’s the lineup:

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11.13.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2008

This is long overdue…

  • Injury bug.  Va Tech forward JT Thompson will be out 4-6 weeks with a herniaTyler Hansbrough appears “extremely doubtful” for UNC’s opener against Penn on Saturday.  Ole Miss guard Trevor Gaskins tore his ACL and will miss the entire season.   
  • Nevada’s sticky-fingered trio of Brandon Fields, London Giles and Ahyaro Phillips will be held out of the season opener against Montana St. on Saturday.  Not sure why Fields is still suspended, his charges were dropped.
  • UCLA’s Nikola Dragovic got into a dispute with his girlfriend last week and was arrested for misdemeanor battery.  He did not dress during last night’s game against Priarie View A&M. 
  • Tennessee freshman PG Daniel West was ruled academically ineligible to play for the Vols this season, leaving juco transfer Bobby Maze and junior JP Prince as the only two legitimate ballhandlers to run Bruce Pearl’s attack this season.
  • Georgia Tech senior guard Lewis Clinch is also academically ineligible, but he can earn his spot back on the team after the semester ends.  He’ll miss a minimum of seven games though. 
  • Don’t expect any slicing or dicing of the current 16-team Big East arrangement on his watch, says newly voted Commish John Marinatto, who will begin next July 1.  He takes over for uber-successful commisioner Mike Tranghese.
  • More meaningless exhibitions.  Stephen Curry (41 pts on 15-19 FGs) appeared rusty in an 84-54 Davidson win over Lenoir-Rhyne.  The defending champs, led by Sherron Collins (22 pts) and Cole Aldrich (17/10), handily defeated Emporia St.   Wisconsin plowed through a slogfest to win 64-47 over UW-WhitewaterUConn’s Jerome Dyson and his 18 pts led the Huskies past UMass-Lowell 82-63.  Luke Harongody’s 21/10 helped Notre Dame to an easy win over Stonehenge Stonehill 79-47 last weekendPitt’s Sam Young filled the stat sheet with 18/7/4 blks in an 82-30 mauling of La Roche as well on Sunday.
  • Jeff Goodman gives his version of preseason bracketology, and he also went with the upset over UNC in the finals (Michigan St.).  We see ya with your #15 Belmont (over Tennessee) and #14 Portland St. (over Purdue). 
  • RTC correspondent Baker (he covers the A-Sun and the SoCon) has launched his new site, Mid Major Review, which got off with a bang this week with his podcast interview of Belmont head coach, Rick Byrd, and we expect will provide great substance and analysis of the mid-major world throughout the season.  Welcome to the blogosphere, MMR.   
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