Closing Out the ACC Microsite

Posted by mpatton on April 29th, 2013

Well, it was an up-and-down year in the ACC filled with injuries, March disappointments and one season for the history books. We here at the RTC ACC Microsite loved chronicling every minute of it. We’ll still be providing periodic coverage throughout the summer, looking towards the NBA Draft and next year, but this marks the official end of the 2012-13 season for us. If you start getting nostalgic, here are some good places to start (in chronological order).

  • Preseason ACC Awards: Still riding the highs of my Michael Snaer mancrush after his transcendent performance in the 2012 ACC Tournament, he took the preseason ACC POY nod. We clearly meant Olivier Hanlan, not Rodney Purvis when we picked the consummate scoring frosh, we just didn’t know it yet. At least we finished one for three by picking Jim Larranaga to win COY.
This Miami team will forever be etched in the history book of ACC greats. (Photo: Robert Mayer / USA TODAY Sports)

This Miami team will forever be etched in the history book of ACC greats. (Photo: Robert Mayer / USA TODAY Sports)

  • The Martin Report feels like forever ago, but the academic jokes from North Carolina‘s rivals won’t stop for a long time. And those questions the report danced around are still out there.
  • Akil Mitchell is the best returning frontcourt man in the ACC, and Kellen was all over it last December. Especially without the likes of Mason Plumlee, Devin Booker and Alex Len, it’s fine to pencil him onto your 2013-14 preseason All-ACC teams right now.
  • Speaking of being ahead of the curve, it took us until three days into 2013 to take note of Hanlan and his freshman teammate Joe Rahon. After one of the best rookie performances in ACC Tournament history, it’s safe to say it won’t take that long next year. Also, with Scott Wood and Seth Curry graduating, it’s hard to see much competition for best shooter in the ACC.

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The ACC in the NCAAs: Previewing Marquette vs. Miami

Posted by KCarpenter on March 28th, 2013

It wasn’t always easy for Miami to get to this year’s Sweet Sixteen, but it was certainly never easy for Marquette to make the same journey. Ultra-tight games and impressive comebacks highlighted the Golden Eagles’ close wins over Davidson and Butler, while Miami romped over Pacific and held on against Illinois. Say what you will about Buzz Williams‘ team, but improbably this team has figured out how to handle the big gut-check moments. During the regular season, Marquette played four overtime games and won three of them. I’m honestly uncertain if “clutchness” is a real phenomenon, but the Golden Eagles give my doubts doubts.

Larranaga and Larkin Intend to Take the Hurricanes to the School's First Final Four

Larranaga and Larkin Intend to Take the Hurricanes to the School’s First Final Four

Big news came for Miami when it was announced that Reggie Johnson would not be traveling with the team for tonight’s match-up, but it’s unclear just how significant this news actually is. Johnson missed a huge chunk of the season with an injury and was out of shape and often ineffectual when he finally returned to the court. Against the smallish Golden Eagles, how much would the lumbering Johnson actually have played anyway? In Miami’s statement game in the ACC championship against small ball North Carolina, the center played all of three minutes. His time instead went to Rion Brown and Julian Gamble,  a pair of players who supercharge the Hurricanes’ offense and defense. It feels unlikely that Johnson would have (or should have) played all that much against Marquette. It’s not that this news doesn’t have a big impact on Miami’s title chances, but for the purposes of this match-up, it doesn’t feel particularly significant for those who have watched this team closely.

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ACC M5: 03.26.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 26th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Solid remembrance of Dean Smith here. The thing that’s so sad about Smith’s mental deterioration over the past few years is just how smart he was. He reportedly had an almost photographic memory (the same sort of memory successful politicians call upon to remember the countless people they meet); he was first and foremost an innovator (touching everything from “four corners” to tempo-free stats — though if you run four corners often, it makes sense you’d look past per game statistics); and he apparently was an avid reader of philosophy. While John Drescher’s piece was about Smith, he sets it up in contrast with Jeff Bzdelik’s recent quote: “I don’t read the newspapers or the Internet, and that’s the truth.” 
  2. SBNation: One thing that stands out about North Carolina is the “family” concept. You hear that word thrown around a lot in sports just because of the massive amount of time players spend together. But there is a closeness to North Carolina’s graduates that you don’t see at a lot of other places. Maybe it’s just the fact many of them are good enough to continue playing professionally, but listening to Kendall Marshall talk about it, there’s definitely a special bond there. Interestingly, the other school where I hear “family” thrown around frequently is Kansas (whose unofficial team motto, which is inked in the middle of Travis Releford’s chest, was Family Over Everything a couple of years ago).
  3. FSUnews.com: Michael Snaer is a living legend at Florida State. This is a tremendous article on his tough senior season. It was a season that really signifies how dedicated to the Florida State program Snaer was. Sure the Seminoles didn’t get to cut down the nets again this year, but he pushed a group of very young players to get better. In the process, Snaer probably learned more about his leadership than all three previous seasons combined. He was the go-to guy and backcourt defensive stopper his junior year, but that team didn’t need him to carry it — it wasn’t riddled by injury or loaded with youth. This year was his test. We won’t know until we see the next few years unfold, but it looks like Snaer has made a significant culture change within the Seminole program. That should mean something going forward.
  4. ACC Sports Journal: Barry Jacobs does a great job recounting NC State‘s “missed opportunity” this season. The Wolfpack went from preseason ACC champions to right where they finished last season. Part of this was due to oversight from the media, who expected the Wolfpack to pick up right where they left off last season. But anyone who watched NC State against Duke (at home) or the woodshed beating of Virginia in the ACC Tournament had to wonder: “What if this team played with that kind of intensity every night?” More representative were the incredible highs and lows throughout games (see the Wolfpack almost beating the brakes off North Carolina before letting the Tar Heels come back, or falling behind 18 to Temple before cutting the deficit to a single possession in the last few minutes). The consistency was never there this season.
  5. Blogger So Dear: This ode to Florida Gulf Coast was only missing the acknowledgement of why the Eagles’ run resonates so strongly with Wake Forest fans (or at least my theory). It’s not because Demon Deacon fans dream of being that Cinderella team (though they may). It’s because the loose basketball opined for reaches back to the run-and-gun Wake Forest days under Skip Prosser. Don’t let that take away from Prosser’s ability to coach: he was an offensive genius. But his system had similar space for improvisation. And it was fun to watch.

Reasons to pull for Miami:

  1. Julian Gamble only photobombs after wins.
  2. More Jim Larranaga dancing?
Julian Gamble photobombs Shane Larkin's interview. (gif: The Big Lead)

Julian Gamble photobombs Shane Larkin’s interview. (gif: The Big Lead)

larranaga-dance

Jim Larranaga goes straight from a boxing impression into a jig. (gif: College Basketball Talk)

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Miami 63, #7 Illinois 59

Posted by WCarey on March 24th, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game between #2 Miami and #7 Illinois in Austin.

Three Key Takeaways.

Miami Outlasted the Surging Illini Sunday (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Miami Outlasted the Surging Illini Sunday (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  1. The way Miami won this game was important. The Hurricanes have received a great deal of national attention due to the fact that their roster had zero NCAA Tournament experience before this year’s event. Miami coasted to an easy win over Pacific in its first game, but as a two-seed, that type of win is expected. Needing a test to prove its NCAA Tournament toughness, the Hurricanes definitely received one from Illinois. The Illini took a 55-54 lead with 1:24 to play and Miami kept its collective cool and was able to come back and grab the victory. On the possession after Illinois took the lead, Miami sophomore guard Shane Larkin nailed a ridiculously difficult step back three-pointer at the 1:04 mark to give the Hurricanes a two-point lead. Miami was able to maintain that lead and earn the victory by calmly going 6-of-6 from the free throw line down the stretch and not allowing Illinois to get anything easy on the offensive end of the court.
  2. Illinois deserves a lot of credit for the way it played. The Illini did not shoot the ball very well all night – just 37.7% from the field and 25.9% from three – but it fought hard all game and pushed Miami to the brink. In his postgame remarks, Illini coach John Groce spoke of how his team has battled hard all season and that they have gotten contributions from everyone all season. That was definitely the case against Miami, as different guys stepped up in different spots to make an impact. On a night where the usually solid D.J. Richardson was just 1-of-11 from the field, senior forward Tyler Griffey stepped up for the Illini with 12 huge points on a 4-of-6 performance from deep. Sophomore forward Nnanna Egwu was a force inside all night, as he finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds while playing very rugged defense against the Miami frontline. Senior guard Brandon Paul struggled at-times with his shot, but he certainly showcased his ability to take over a game with his performance Sunday night. The Illini might not have been victorious, but their effort and the way they played was certainly admirable.
  3. A blown call definitely had an impact on the game. When Richardson missed a three-point attempt with 43 seconds to play in what was a 57-55 game at the time, it clearly looked like the ball last touched the hand of Miami forward Kenny Kadji before going out-of-bounds. The ball was incorrectly rewarded to Miami, which resulted in guard Durand Scott nailing two clutch free throws to give the Hurricanes a four-point lead. While the Illini were able to trim the lead down to two again with 22 seconds to play, they never again had the chance to tie. There were many other reasons why Miami won and Illinois lost, but this call certainly had an impact on the last 43 seconds of what was a thrilling game.

Star(s) of the Game. Rion Brown and Shane Larkin, Miami. The junior Brown was outstanding for the Hurricanes off the bench. He finished with 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 5-of-10 shooting from deep. In a game where every shot was crucial, it seemed like every one Brown made was of great importance to the outcome of the game. Larkin turned in a normal stellar performance – 17 points and five assists – but the reason he makes this category is due to the ridiculous step back three-pointer he nailed to give his team a lead it would never relinquish with one minute to play.

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ACC M5: 03.22.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 22nd, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. ACC Sports JournalACC Sports Journal‘s Wake Forest Insider wrote the most comprehensive article on Ron Wellman and Jeff Bzdelik‘s tenure at Wake Forest that I’ve ever read. It also might be the best article I’ve read all year. The depth and knowledge the author shows is remarkable. It’s the remarkable long read where the structure of the article furthers the reader’s understanding. Before reading the article I had a totally different (and ignorant) perspective on Bzdelik’s future. There couldn’t be a better advertisement for ACC Sports Journal‘s  premium coverage. Bravo.
  2. Miami Herald: Ignoring every instinct to post the above article four more times, this article from Michelle Kaufman adds some depth to Miami‘s most surprising contributor this year–Julian Gamble. After Miami’s victory over North Carolina, Gamble charged for the stands to meet his mother and nephew. Gamble’s story is a unique one: his mother quit her job when to take care of her college-aged daughter’s newborn child (who had not one but two devastating conditions), pride be damned. Gamble grew up the father figure for his sick nephew, who helps drive him to succeed.
  3. Wilmington Star News: Marcus Paige‘s recent development is a big part of why North Carolina is a hot upset pick in its potential Round of 32 game against Kansas. Paige, one of the best interviews in the ACC, told Brett Friedlander that he expected the comparisons to Kendall Marshall to come because he and Marshall are both left-handed point guards. He also noted, “I’m sure me picking his number didn’t help stop them.” Paige is a totally different player than Marshall. He’s more of an offensive threat and the new smaller line-up leaves more space in the lane for him to attack and kick the ball out to shooters or dump it in to James Michael McAdoo. Regardless of the Tar Heels’s NCAA Tournament success this year, Paige looks to be a very solid point guard for years to come in Chapel Hill.
  4. Chicago Tribune: It looks like the two favorites for the open Northwestern job are Chris Collins and Bryce Drew, but both have obvious holes in their resumes. Collins, obviously, has never held a head coaching position (though he certainly holds a very involved role as an assistant at Duke). Drew only has two years of experience on him, and that experience is in the Horizon League. The big question isn’t whether Northwestern is interested: it’s whether Collins and/or Drew are. The benefits of Northwestern are obvious. It’s a head coaching gig in the Big Ten. The cons are that no one has had success there. That means a low bar, but it also means tough sledding.
  5. Orlando Sun-Sentinel: Speaking of players really improving this year for Miami, don’t overlook Durand Scott. He was uber-talented as a freshman but something was missing. Apparently, Scott slept through an entire day–missing everything from class to practice–which led his teammates to name him “shutter island”. Now his effort defines his play, as he’s become the Hurricanes’s go-to defensive stopper. It’s a pretty remarkable change from the past couple of seasons.

EXTRA: Roy Williams left Kansas fans with a bad taste in their mouths when he left for North Carolina (though it shouldn’t have been too bad, considering they turned around and hired Bill Self). But his love for the Jayhawks is still very real. They gave him his shot and he put in 15 years taking that program to the penultimate level. Who knows what his reception will be this year in Kansas City, but time heals all wounds (last year’s Elite Eight victory probably helps too).

An aside: This is real satire. Take note Yes! Weekly.

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Rushed Reactions: Miami 81, NC State 71

Posted by mpatton on March 16th, 2013

rushedreactions

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after Miami’s win over NC State in the ACC semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

Three Key Takeaways:

Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Brown have a team to watch this month.

Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Brown have a team to watch this month.

  1. NC State is Dangerous: Don’t count NC State out after this loss. The Wolfpack were tired and beat up. They ran into a buzzsaw Miami backcourt and couldn’t overcome a slow start and bad free throw shooting. But they didn’t give up down the stretch. Richard Howell was playing with a deep bruise on his thigh, visibly hurting, but he hit the floor trying for loose balls just like always. One thing you know about NC State is that it will put points on the board (and a lot of them). Especially with Rodney Purvis acting as a defensive spark plug (coming into the season, who would’ve thought that?), there’s a lot to like about NC State’s chances in the Big Dance.
  2. Larkin and Scott Show: Durand Scott and Shane Larkin put on a clinic for Miami. They accounted for 68% of Miami’s points and also dished out a combined eight assists. When NC State tried to make a game of it, Larkin iced the game with free throws. One area Larkin has really improved this season is his decision-making. He still gets up in the air without knowing what he’ll do, and definitely makes high risk plays from time to time. But Larkin’s strength is his ability to play near the edge. Where last season his high risk plays ended in turnovers, his maturity is really showing this year by dropping his turnover percentage five points despite increased possessions.
  3. Miami’s Weapons: Here’s the scary thing with Miami. Larkin and Scott ruled the day, but Miami’s true strength is inside. Kenny Kadji had an off day–despite being a real mismatch for NC State — and Julian Gamble was relatively quiet despite being effective. It’s high time people realized Reggie Johnson isn’t going to be as efficient as in the past, but he still can be a very effective offensive player. Gamble is the most improved player in the ACC, maybe even the country. He’s incredibly light on his feet for his size and plays within himself.

Star of the Game: Durand Scott played like a man possessed. He played the best game of his career, bringing back memories of his dominant performance against Duke his freshman year (the 21-point performance in the ACC Tournament that caused many to rank Miami highly the next two years). After hitting a big three in the second to half — quieting the NC State run — Scott held his follow-through for a good five or six seconds.

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All-ACC Microsite Teams and Postseason Awards

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on March 12th, 2013

Another great season in the ACC is in the books and it’s time to recognize those who had outstanding seasons with our postseason awards. We here at Rush the Court’s ACC Microsite have decided to hand out our own awards based on what we believe is a unique set of criteria and, while it may not differ wildly from what the actual outcome of the award races is, just know we all voted prior to their release. Here are this year’s All-ACC Microsite Teams and ACC Postseason Awards.

Note: Jimmy Kelley, Ethan Mann, Kellen Carpenter and Matt Patton all voted for first-, second-, and third-teams as well as their top three for each of the individual awards. A first place/team vote was worth three points, second worth two and a third place/team vote was worth one. In the event of a tie, the tiebreaker was high-quality votes (i.e., more second-team votes).

ACC Microsite Player of the Year

Erick Green, Virginia Tech: Green nearly swept the voting, grabbing three of four first-place votes. The nation’s leading scorer, Green was the lone highlight for a Virginia Tech team that went 4-14 in ACC play, finishing dead last. Mason Plumlee and Shane Larkin garnered a co-Player of the Year vote on the other ballot.

Erick Green, Virginia Tech

Erick Green of Virginia Tech garnered the ACC Microsite’s highest honor.

 

All-ACC Microsite First Team

  • Mason Plumlee, Duke
  • Erick Green, Virginia Tech
  • Joe Harris, Virginia
  • Richard Howell, NC State
  • Shane Larkin, Miami

Notes: Plumlee, Green and Harris were unanimous selections for the first team. Howell and Larkin received one second-team vote apiece.

Second Team

  • Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
  • Seth Curry, Duke
  • Michael Snaer, Florida State
  • Kenny Kadji, Miami
  • Ryan Anderson, Boston College

Notes: Bullock and Curry each received a first-team vote. Anderson holds on to final spot due to having more second-team votes than Alex Len.

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Lessons Learned: ACC Weekend Wrap-Up

Posted by KCarpenter on February 18th, 2013

It was a good weekend for basketball fans in the ACC though fans of individual teams may be feeling more ambivalent. Of the six games this weekend, all but one of them had a final margin of four points or less. In fact, if North Carolina State hadn’t managed a four-point overtime win, all but one of the games this weekend would have had a final score where the outcome was within one possession.  Even the single game that wasn’t close had its own fascinating subplot and March ramifications. It was a good weekend for close games, but did we learn anything?

  1. Duke Is Fouling Too Much. On the season, Duke has been fouling opponents at a nice and low rate, posting and opponent free throw attempted to field goal attempted ratio of 30.5%. In conference, however, Duke has jumped in this metric to 36.4%. Amazingly, like many of Duke’s problems, this rise can probably be accredited to the injury of Ryan Kelly. Kelly’s replacements foul at a very high rate while still allowing a conference-worst 49.5% shooting from inside the arc. Physical defense that prevents easy buckets can sometimes be used to excuse high fouling rates, but Duke’s interior is offering up the worst of both worlds. On Saturday, Duke forced 26 turnovers against Maryland and shot nearly 50% and the Terrapins still won.
  2. Marcus Georges-Hunt Belongs On The ACC All-Freshmen Team. There are probably three sure-fire picks on the ACC All-Freshman Team: TJ Warren, Olivier Hanlan, and Rasheed Sulaimon. Those three have all proven to be valuable contributors to their respective teams. With apologies to Daniel Miller, Georges-Hunt often looks like the best player on his Georgia Tech team. Against Wake Forest,  Georges-Hunt scored a game-high 16 points including many critical buckets down the stretch to lead the Yellow Jackets to victory. With the exception of Hanlan, few freshmen are as critical to their team’s success as he is to Georgia Tech. Read the rest of this entry »
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Make No Mistake, Miami is The Best Team in the ACC

Posted by KCarpenter on January 24th, 2013

It may be tempting to add caveats, but make no mistake: The Miami Hurricanes really are the best team in the ACC. Sure, they haven’t played North Carolina State yet and, yes, Ryan Kelly makes Duke a significantly better team. There is a strong chance that both of these teams could beat the Hurricanes when they face them on their home courts later this season. On the other hand, Miami took the number one team in the country and administered the third biggest thrashing that the highest-ranked team in the country has suffered in the history of college basketball. Kelly and home court are important factors, but does anyone think that those two things are honestly worth 27 points?  If so, I’d like to present you with this honorary plaque commemorating your dedication to the Ryan Kelly Fan Club.

Miami Fans RTC'd the Blue Devils After Last Night's Destruction (credit: WaPo)

Miami Fans RTC’d the Blue Devils After Last Night’s Destruction (credit: WaPo)

The caveats don’t stand up against scrutiny. Miami sits at the top of the standings without a single conference loss because of the Hurricanes’ incredible commitment to defense under Jim Larranaga. Outside of Rasheed Sulaimon, the entire complement of Duke’s normally excellent guard corps combined to shoot 1-of-29 from the field. This wasn’t just luck on Miami’s part (though it helped).  Before last night, Miami had the eighth best defensive efficiency mark in the country, achieved by consistently excellent interior defense, limiting three-point attempts, contesting the ones that were put up, and a deliberate and marked effort to avoid putting their opponents at the line. With this team, Larranaga has opted for a cautious and conservative style of play: Miami mostly eschews the offensive glass in order to set its defense and limit transition buckets. They don’t try to force turnovers by risking fouling. The defense gets set, chases shooters off the three-point line, and funnels the offense to shot blockers who force opponents to attempt contested mid-range buckets (the worst shot in basketball). The defensive concept is simple: Make your opponent take difficult shots and then focus (as a team) on securing the defensive rebound. It’s how the San Antonio Spurs won four NBA championships and Larranaga has demonstrated that these concepts work well in college basketball as well. The Miami Hurricanes simply play phenomenal team defense and that goes a long way towards winning games.

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ACC M5: 01.22.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 22nd, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Greenville News: Devin Booker had a career game at NC State over the weekend, but it wasn’t enough. While he was an outstanding 8-of-11 from the field, the rest of the team started 2-of-20. The team was slightly better in the second half, but the damage was done. Booker is for real, though. He dominated Florida State’s front line at Clemson, he dominated Richard Howell at NC State, and he dominated Mason Plumlee head-to-head at Duke. His consistency isn’t what it could be, and he doesn’t have the same range as his brother, Trevor, but he’s been the best post player in the ACC through the first few games.
  2. South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Speaking of post players who are really overachieving this season, Miami’s Julian Gamble has filled in for Reggie Johnson perfectly. Gamble, a sixth-year senior, isn’t the most skilled or athletic guy on the court, but he’s got a Richard Howell-like motor and knows some tricks of the trade. He shows flashes of brilliance in the post (see: his beautiful lefty baby hook against North Carolina), but most of what he does well isn’t pretty. In some ways, Miami may be better with him in the game than Johnson (who had a tendency to check out of some games), a thought that seemed absurd just a couple of short weeks ago.
  3. Washington Post: I’m going to go ahead and disagree with Roy Williams a lot. In Monday’s teleconference with ACC coaches, Williams said, “I do think, top to bottom, the league is probably the best in the 10 years I’ve been back. If you take somebody lightly in this league right now, you’re going to lose. I don’t care who you are or who you’re playing.” I’d direct him to his first season in the league (2003-04) when six of the conference’s nine teams made the NCAA Tournament with seeds of #1, #3, #3, #4, #4 and #6. Only one team was ranked below #56 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings (Clemson at #97)–and three were in the top 10. But Williams does have a point: The league is full of mediocrity and road wins are going to be nearly impossible to come by this year.
  4. Streaking the Lawn: Speaking of road wins, Virginia is in some serious RPI trouble, as the Cavaliers currently sit at #139. No team has ever made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large with an RPI below #70. The biggest issues are home losses and a horrid strength of schedule. On paper, Virginia’s schedule was never full of world-beaters, but an untimely home loss to Delaware (which caused the Cavaliers to play Lamar and North Texas instead of a couple of stronger power-conference teams) and major under-performance (here’s looking at you Old Dominion) have sabotaged Virginia’s RPI to an alarming extent. It will come up, but the Cavaliers are going to need to steal some ACC road wins and avoid any home losses at all costs going forward.
  5. Orlando Sentinel: Well so much for the “Roy Williams can’t recruit anymore” narrative. It was always a reactionary storyline, but Williams put it to bed for the time-being with a commitment from consensus Class of 2014 top-15 prospect Joel Berry. Berry, one of the top point guards in that class, should quiet worried fans as well as help attract other top players to Chapel Hill going forward.
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Lessons Learned: ACC Weekend Wrap-Up

Posted by KCarpenter on January 14th, 2013

We are now three games into conference play and after a tremendous weekend that saw some of the best teams squaring off, the number one team go down, and a session of overtime, the hierarchy of the conference is coming into focus. Or maybe it is getting more muddled. In any case, even if it is still not clear which teams (besides Duke) are actually good, we did learn some other things this weekend:

  1. Duke Isn’t Invincible. No one seriously thought this, but the occasional loose talk of the Blue Devils going undefeated turned out to be, unsurprisingly, a bit premature. Obviously, a road loss to North Carolina State with Duke’s most efficient scorer, Ryan Kelly, sitting on the bench is not bad. Still, it is hard to win games when your opponent shoots over 50% from the field, 50% from three, and makes 20 free throws. Duke’s defense has been solid this year on the whole, this was Duke’s first true road game, and the Wolfpack is one of the better offensive teams in the whole country, yet none of these excuses changes the fact that NC State handled the Blue Devils’ on the inside and Duke had no answer for Richard Howell.

    Duke Clearly Is Not The Same Team Without Ryan Kelly

  2. Miami Doesn’t Miss Reggie Johnson Yet. It seemed like the Hurricanes would miss the formidable big man after a two-game losing streak that not so coincidentally began when Johnson was injured. Since those two games, however, Miami has played very well, with veteran Julian Gamble filling Johnson’s shoes convincingly. The Hurricanes share a spot with the Wolfpack on top of the ACC standings, currently undefeated in conference play. Gamble’s production has looked great on the offensive end, and Miami’s defense has looked impressive. Still, the tempo-free percentages tell a story: Gamble just doesn’t match the rebounding prowess of Johnson. It hasn’t cost the Hurricanes yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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Miami Has Arrived: Two Conference Road Wins Show Hurricanes Experience

Posted by mpatton on January 11th, 2013

Miami is finally here. The past two years the Hurricanes’ roster was better on paper than it ever performed on the court. This year it looks like they’re finally reaching that potential, despite Reggie Johnson‘s current absence from the lineup with a broken thumb. The Hurricanes will also contend with NC State for the ACC runner-up slot come March. Their success isn’t thanks to a flashy offense, which you might expect from a team with Shane Larkin at the helm — rather, it’s thanks to their physical defense.

Durand Scott's toughness adds a lot to Miami's backcourt. (Photo: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

Durand Scott’s toughness adds a lot to Miami’s backcourt. (Photo: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

This is the first year the team has been in the top 50 in defensive efficiency since 2009, and it’s making a big difference. Statistically, the secret is two-fold: The Hurricanes shut down the interior (opponents are only 41% from inside the arc this season), and they don’t commit fouls. Visually, their experience plays a big role. Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble are very good shot-blockers and their guards are athletic enough to stay in front of people. Experience combined with Jim Larranaga’s system allow the Hurricanes to play physically and avoid fouling. Offense is still a factor in Miami’s success. Miami runs Larkin or Durand Scott through at least one (often two) high ball screens per possession. Against North Carolina the Hurricanes’ offense looked bad most of the game. They shot too many threes, and there was no flow. After the game, Jim Larranaga made it sound like this was at least in part intentional: “When we play a team that pressures us and is going to be trapping the ball-handler, we share the ball and spread them out. And if you get an open three, you have the green light to shoot it.”

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