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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Miami’s Reggie Johnson Out For 6-8 Weeks: What It Means For the Hurricanes

Posted by KCarpenter on December 31st, 2012

Confirming a story first reported by CBS Sports, the Miami has announced that senior center Reggie Johnson will miss the next six to eight weeks due to a broken left thumb. Johnson had missed the past two games against Arizona and Indiana State, games that the Hurricanes lost. Miami had seemed poised for a breakout year after reeling off seven straight wins subsequent to an early season stumble against Florida Gulf Coast, including a marquee win against Michigan State at home.  The loss of the dominant big man and the playing slump of Kenny Kadji have made the formidable Hurricanes front line seem very vulnerable indeed.

Johnson's Absence Puts Miami in a Precarious Situation

Johnson’s Absence Will Put Miami in a Precarious Situation

How badly will head coach Jim Larranaga miss Johnson? When he’s on the court, the 6’10” Johnson bullies opponents with his 290-pound body. He is a fantastic rebounder and one of the nation’s very best on the glass. With a 26.9% defensive rebounding rate, he leads the conference while also posting a respectable 13.6% on the offensive boards. On the defensive end, he is a capable shot blocker (fifth best in the conference by percentage) and an imposing presence beneath the rim. Despite all of this, however, Johnson will be missed the most on offense. When he is on the court, the center uses 28.7% of all of Miami’s possessions, a usage rate that is only surpassed by the one-man team of Erick Green at Virginia Tech. While Johnson has sometimes struggled with his shooting from the field this season, the area where he truly excels is getting to the free throw line. Outside of Mason Plumlee, no one in the conference gets to the stripe more than Johnson, who converts a very respectable 71.4% of his free throw attempts.  Miami has numerous effective scorers, but the loss of Johnson really hurts.

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ACC M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 5th, 2012

  1. Fayetteville Observer: The paper has unveiled a nice collection of articles and stories previewing the coming basketball season in the ACC, but my favorite is this listing of “under the radar” players. The list includes those who may not have the fame or star power (yet) of some of their contemporaries, but will nonetheless make a difference this season. The list is a blend of freshmen and players coming off seasons spent on the bench due to injury (Olivier Hanlan of Boston College is an example of the former and Julian Gamble at Miami illustrates the latter), but also highlights a few players who may be poised to grab your attention, notably Malcolm Brogdon of Virginia and K.J. McDaniels from Clemson.
  2. CBS Sports: No list of coaches on the hot seat would be complete without Jeff Bzdelik, the coach of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. While Bzdelik’s tenure in Winston-Salem has been filled with all sorts of complicating factors and problems, the fact remains that Wake Forest fans ultimately expect their team to win. After two miserable years of life at the bottom of the conference, this is a pivotal year for the program. Though Bzdelik will rely heavily on freshmen this season, Wake’s record needs to improve if the coach wants to keep his job.
  3. Testudo Times: Exhibition games are often fairly meaningless, but that doesn’t stop college basketball fans from trying to see if they can learn something about their team from them. Ben Broman looks at how Maryland performed in an exhibition against Indiana University (PA) and walks away with some interesting observations. Notably, the strong performances by freshmen Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell were unexpected and clear highlights, while mediocre performances by Alex Len and James Padgett offered reasons for concern. Clearly Terrapin fans were hoping for more polished and refined play from their returning frontcourt, but Mitchell’s voraciousness on the glass (15 rebounds in only 18 minutes) and Allen’s poise, ball-handling, and playmaking suggest that the incoming freshman class might make a big difference for Maryland.
  4. Wilmington Star News: Mason Plumlee is once again ready to be a featured part of this year’s Duke team. The ultra-athletic power forward come to Durham as a clear NBA lottery pick filled with talent, yet over the course of a mostly excellent college career he has failed to string together consistent performances, often vanishing at key moments. Now a senior, Plumlee is looking at a final chance to take a leading role on a team that has been largely perimeter-oriented in recent years. While there is some mention of how Duke’s lack of a featured true point guard in recent years has relegated the forward to supporting role status, Plumlee is optimistic about Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook playing a more traditional distribution role.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: Down Tobacco Road, North Carolina has it’s eye on not a senior but a freshman big man. Joel James, however, is not the typical UNC freshman post player. While recent seasons have showcased the acumen of UNC’s strength and training staff in turning post players who look more like “posts” than “players” into more muscular athletes ready to bang down low (see: Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and yes this year’s version, Brice Johnson), James arrived at Chapel Hill as big as any freshman in recent memory.  At 6’10” and somewhere around 265 pounds, James offers true center size and muscle. Though relatively inexperienced as a basketball player, the coaches seem to be bullish on James and it looks like he may start his career as, well, a starter.
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ACC M5: 11.01.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 1st, 2012

  1. Wilmington Star News: Brett Friedlander is putting out some good stuff in previewing the ACC season. Today his Maryland preview came online. Sophomore Nick Faust describes why people should expect improvement from the Terrapins despite losing their only offensive option in Terrell Stoglin: “When I first got in last year, I definitely felt as though the team was separated — not separated, but we definitely weren’t as close as we are now. All of us bond together, even the new guys that came in. We’re just more together; we’re one.” If Faust makes the improvement most are forecasting, this is a team that could feasibly make a run for the NCAA Tournament (regardless of computer rankings). They’ve definitely got an uphill road ahead, but it’s a legitimate possibility.
  2. Rome News-Tribune: Georgia Tech needs its frontcourt to step up this season if the Yellow Jackets are going to make the leap to middle of the pack in the conference. Juniors Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey both improved significantly as last year went along — Miller scored in double figures in eight of his last 10 games. But Georgia Tech desperately needs more offense this season, and that frontcourt duo should be able to help senior Mfon Udofia carry the scoring load.
  3. Greensboro News-Record: The NC State hype is real. At least fans are buying into it, quite literally. With their highest preseason ranking since ranking first in 1974, the Wolfpack have already sold 1,900 more season tickets than last year, which is the highest season ticket sales have been in five years. If Mark Gottfried and his team can deliver on the hype, expect ticket sales to keep climbing. Fans should get their money’s worth, even if the Wolfpack don’t finish as the sixth ranked team in the country. This team will be fun to watch, especially on the offensive end.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: People often point to freshmen when talking about why young teams struggle, but it’s the veterans who also have to accept new roles. Last season, Ian Miller and Okaro White were two incredibly important reserves for Florida State: Miller’s job was to come in and put up quick points; White’s job was to give Bernard James a breather. This year both will have to be leaders by helping integrate the new freshmen to Leonard Hamilton’s system. If they succeed, the freshmen will find their roles much faster and this team could win the conference. If they don’t, the team could find itself sneaking into the NCAA tournament.
  5. ACCSports.com: David Glenn cleaned up at the ACC’s “Operation Basketball” this season, recording interviews with most of the conference’s top players. The best news? Most of them are compiled in the same place, so you can listen to Michael Snaer talk Florida State, Julian Gamble talk Miami, or Jarell Eddie talk Virginia Tech. Probably good to get a little listening in, as ACC basketball season starts just over a week from today.

VIDEO UPDATE: Uncle Drew (aka Kyrie Irving) is back.

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ACC M5: 10.31.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 31st, 2012

  1. The Dagger: Someone get Luke Loucks a job as a broadcaster. ACC Network, I’m looking at you. Jeff Eisenberg recently sat down with Loucks, who played point guard last season for ACC champion Florida State, and he absolutely kills it with his ACC preview — if this was off the cuff that’s even more impressive. He predicted a big leap out of James Michael McAdoo, though stuck with his own Florida State to win the conference. Loucks also said he would play for Coach K if he could play under any coach (other than Leonard Hamilton of course).
  2. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: It’s safe to say Mark Bradley is not impressed by the current state of Georgia Tech‘s athletic program. Bradley points out that the biggest problem facing Georgia Tech right now is generating excitement around the program, so athletic director Dan Radakovich’s successor should really focus on selling the program instead of just being a “money man.” While Bradley criticizes the Yellow Jacket program as a whole, he clearly places significant blame on Radakovich for his role in the growing irrelevance of its athletics. Who Georgia Tech picks to replace Radakovich will be very important going forward if Brian Gregory wants to get his basketball program back on track.
  3. BC Interruption: Boston College named sophomore Dennis Clifford the captain of the basketball team. The Eagles don’t have very much of an upperclassman presence (with only Danny Rubin and senior-transfer Andrew Van Nest), so it makes sense the team elected a sophomore. The Eagles’ choice should plant a seed in people’s minds that the 7’0″ center may take a big step forward his second season. Unrelatedly, Boston College still had practice despite Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy blowing through Chestnut Hill.
  4. State of the UState of the U caught up with Kenny Kadji, one of the the surprising Hurricane performers from last season. Kadji has apparently lost 20 pounds, which he hopes will help him become more of an athlete. This is especially important considering his frontcourt-mate Reggie Johnson may be many things (including a great back-to-the-basket guy), but he cannot run the floor well. Kadji pointed to Johnson and Julian Gamble as the two most impressive Hurricanes so far in practice.
  5. GoDuke.com: Duke is going modern with its stat-keeping, as now all their player stats will be kept and updated in real time on their respective iPads. The automation allows managers and assistant coaches to keep track of Duke’s player efficiency rating (PER) and update it live so that players get instant feedback after practice and the coaching and support staff can focus on the other parts of their jobs. Sports is one place people generally don’t think much about technology (well, apart from the production of events), but technology is making things like Duke’s PER easier to monitor, and arguably, gives the players better information on how to improve.
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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 Team Previews: Miami

Posted by mpatton on October 21st, 2011

Remember when we said Wake Forest had a rough season last year? I’m pretty sure Miami would be willing to trade. Compared to a few losses and off-the-court struggles for the Demon Deacons, the Hurricanes etched their names on Tablet Historical of NCAA Infractions after former booster (and current Ponzi scheme felon) Nevin Shapiro unleashed a barrage of NCAA violations that made Butch Davis and Jim Tressel cringe.

I’m not sure “impermissible” is a strong enough word to cover cash payments, hookers, and everything in-between. Now factor in the disappointment of an underachieving (and extremely unlucky) basketball team, the departure of the basketball coach, and a star player going down for the first half of this season with an injury, and you’re on a level to empathize with Hurricane fans.

Reggie Johnson is Out with a Knee Injury: Can Miami still Reach Its Potential?

Moving the focus back to basketball, last year was a disaster for the Hurricanes. No, they weren’t totally non-competitive, but in some ways that just makes things worse. The team was primed for success with a down conference and returning star power, but a hideous 1-6 start to conference play saw preseason expectations evaporate quickly. Looking back at the roster and season they had, I have to wonder if Frank Haith wasn’t on the hot seat anyway: he had only made the NCAA Tournament once in the last seven years despite several talented teams. His last four seasons were better, with Miami averaging over 20 wins and I’d be remiss not to mention the relative apathy for basketball south Florida has, but still.

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Already An ACC Win For Miami’s Jim Larranaga

Posted by KCarpenter on October 11th, 2011

The Washington Post published a very nice, but somewhat dispiriting profile of Miami head coach, Jim Larranaga yesterday. I should probably rephrase that: the situation in Miami doesn’t seem great, but Larranaga seems up for the challenge. When the architect of George Mason’s miraculous Cinderella run accepted the job in Miami, he didn’t know the setbacks he was in for: a soon to explode NCAA bomb,  a knee injury to Reggie Johnson, and a torn ACL for Julian Gamble are just the highlights of what looks to be possibly the toughest head coaching gig in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Miami opted to go the safe route with Larranaga (Credit: Nick Wass/Associated Press)

That said, Amy Shipley’s take has more than a few whiffs of optimism, mentioning the busy schedule of the coaching staff, the appeals to self-help culture (apparently, Miami will be living by The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People this season), and the somewhat mind-boggling revelation that the coaching staff was sending out a thousand emails a day, three to four days a week. Obviously, the profile is fairly interesting, painting Larranaga as a hard-working guy who is doing his best to help the Miami program turn the corner. The piece ends on an ambiguous note, suggesting that while Larranaga will persevere, it might not be enough to overcome all of Miami’s troubles.

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Morning Five: 08.24.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 24th, 2011

  1. Although we focus primarily (OK, solely) on men’s basketball, we would be remiss if we did not talk about Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt, who disclosed yesterday that she was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition to announcing the news, Summitt also stated she intended to continue coaching her basketball team next season and for the foreseeable future. We are sure that many members of our audience have either had loved ones or interacted with individuals who suffered from this progressively debilitating condition. Like the rest of the college basketball community, we wish Summitt the best of luck in her battle with Alzheimer’s. Also if you are going to read just one column about Summitt today, we suggest this piece by Sally Jenkins in The Washington Post.
  2. The day’s other big college basketball news also came out of Tennessee, but this time it came from the men’s program where it appears that recently-fired head coach Bruce Pearl will receive a three-year show cause penalty while three of his assistants will receive one-year show cause penalties. Outside of the penalties against these four coaches and the school’s previous self-imposed ones, the school got off with relatively little damage, including the football program and former coach Lane Kiffin. For new coach Cuonzo Martin this means that he has an opportunity to rebuild the program without having to deal with a significant amount of fallout from Pearl’s prior indiscretions. As for Pearl and his assistants, this means that they will have to be away from the game of basketball for a little while. Oh wait, the NBA…
  3. It seems like the athletic department at Miami just can’t seem to catch a break. First there was Reggie Johnson‘s knee injury that will sideline him until at least the start of ACC play. Then there was the small matter of the ongoing Nevin Shapiro debacle. Now there is news that senior Julian Gamble may be lost for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. Gamble’s junior year numbers (3.8 PPG and 4.0 RPG) might not make this seem like a big loss, but in the context of losing Johnson’s huge inside presence, the injury to Gamble will make life even more difficult for new coach Jim Larranaga. The way things are going, Frank Martin must be feeling pretty good about being passed over for the Miami job.
  4. If any coach in men’s college basketball is having a worse summer than Larranaga it may be new Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie. After being caught up in not one, but two high-profile Ponzi schemes, the former Kentucky coach finds himself in the news again after Sports by Brooks reported that he was already causing havoc within the basketball program in Lubbock. In addition to having several members of the staff leave the program, Gillispie was reportedly in “multiple, heated altercations” with an assistant, who eventually left. It is possible that Gillispie might just be the unluckiest guy in college basketball, but at this rate he may develop a reputation bad enough to make him untouchable, even with his stellar resume prior to his arrival in Lexington.
  5. A number of big-time recruits in the class of 2012 announced that their “lists” had shrunk yesterday, but only one — Kris Dunn — is set to make a verbal commitment. According to Adam Zagoria, Dunn, one of the top point guards in this year’s senior class, is set to commit to Providence at a conference at 1 PM today. While this would be a huge pick-up for new coach Ed Cooley it is worth pointing out that the Friars also had a verbal commitment from Ricardo Ledo earlier this year, but he later backed out of the commitment, although Ledo is still considering the Friars in his new final five. The lesson here is that while you should be happy when a recruit commits to your school, don’t get too excited until he signs a letter or, even better, sets foot on campus.
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