ACC M5: 11.10.14 Exhibition II Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 10th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. North Carolina: North Carolina wrapped up its exhibition season with another rout, this time thrashing Belmont Abbey by a score of 112-34 on Friday night. Once again, it was freshman Justin Jackson who led the way, efficiently scoring 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field. Even against Division II competition, Roy Williams has to be pleased with the pace at which the Tar Heels are scoring and how well they are sharing the ball. In their two exhibition games, the Heels have scored a total of 223 points and tallied 54 assists. Another encouraging sign is that North Carolina has made 73 percent (38-of-52) of its attempts from the stripe in its two preseason contests, after struggling mightily from the foul line last year (62.6%).
  2. Wake Forest: Wake Forest held its only preseason exhibition game in the Joel Coliseum on Friday night,  besting Young Harris by a 96-71 score. New head coach Danny Manning arrived in Winston-Salem with a reputation for developing big men while he was an assistant at Kansas, and he might already be illustrating that impact as junior center/power forward Devin Thomas went for 26 points and 12 boards on perfect 12-for-12 shooting. Two lingering concerns for the Deacs, though, were the 20 turnovers committed and the 25 fouls whistled on them.
  3. Duke: Duke won its second and final exhibition game over the defending NCAA Division II champs, Central Missouri, on Saturday afternoon in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Mules actually took it to the Blue Devils early, grabbing a 13-7 lead before Duke answered with 17 consecutive points to methodically take control of the game. With their size and talent advantage, Duke racked up a huge edge in free throw attempts (+28), and while center Jahlil Okafor has received most of the preseason hype, fellow freshman Justise Winslow has been the team’s leading scorer in each preseason game.
  4. NC State: The Wolfpack played their lone exhibition game of the preseason as well on Saturday, beating Queens by a score of 78-47. NC State only led by two at the half but dominated afterwards, holding Queens to 24 percent shooting from the field in the second half. The Wolfpack also forced 30 turnovers in the game, and even though the competition wasn’t ACC-caliber, anything close to that mark in the regular season would be a pleasant surprise for a program not known for pressure defense. Two freshmen forwards, Caleb Martin and Abdul-Malik Abu, led the scoring column with 16 and 14 points, respectively, making their bids to replace some of the departed T.J. Warren’s offensive firepower.
  5. Clemson: It looks like more of the same for Clemson this year, and that means defense will once again be the Tigers’ calling card. Brad Brownell’s team harassed Anderson into a colder-than-ice 15.7 percent shooting night in a 62-36 victory Saturday in Littlejohn Coliseum. Unfortunately it might be more of the same for the Tigers’ offense as well. Clemson shot a dismal 31.7 percent from the field and only connected on 9-of-31 three-pointers. Let’s hope Clemson’s regular season games won’t all be as ugly as this one. Each team experienced horrendous scoring droughts, with Anderson in one stretch missing 19 straight shots and Clemson misfiring on its first 15 second half attempts. That couldn’t have been very easy on the eyes.
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Notes From Duke’s Closed Practice: Freshmen Shine, Veterans Lethargic

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 22nd, 2014

Duke opened it’s 11th practice of the year to media and guests from the Duke Children’s Hospital yesterday, and based on their performance during the semi-closed practice at Cameron Indoor Stadium, its highly regarded freshmen class may just live up to the hype. While far from finished products, each of Mike Krzyzewski‘s four newcomers showed enough positive play to suggest that they might make up the core of this year’s Blue Devils squad. ACC referees officiated the scrimmage portion of practice, which was broken into four 10-minute segments with limited rest between each session. Some players switched teams after the first two quarters but the last two sessions featured the same lineups. We will use this space to analyze the play of each of the new Blue Devils and make some other general observations about the team, knowing that this represents only a one-day snapshot and the start of the regular season is still three weeks away.

Freshman Jahlil Okafor has Great (Big) Hands (rushthecourt.net)

Freshman Jahlil Okafor has Great (Big) Hands
(rushthecourt.net)

FRESHMEN

  • Jahlil Okafor – Reports of Okafor’s improved body and conditioning appear to be true. His feet were quick; he ran the court well; and he did not noticeably tire during the entire 40 minutes of scrimmage play. The most impressive thing with him, though, is his hands, which he uses in a similar manner to the great Tim Duncan. Passes and rebounds stick to Okafor’s mitts like glue. While at the free throw line, it was especially noticeable that the ball looks like a grapefruit in his hands. He mostly had his way inside, but there were times when he struggled to finish at the rim with Marshall Plumlee bodied up against him.
  • Tyus Jones – The touted young point guard played almost exactly as his reputation indicated — he wasn’t flashy with the ball but he was very efficient in running the team. He will have to adjust to playing hard defense over extended periods of time, and like most youngsters, Jones will need to become more vocal on both ends of the floor. But the greatest measure of a point guard is always the scoreboard, and in that respect Jones was outstanding, with his team winning each 10 minute session by around 10 points.

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Morning Five: 11.22.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 22nd, 2013

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  1. It did not take long for the latest John Calipari to the NBA rumors to start this season and this time they involve the New York Knicks. Of course, this rumor is based on one writer’s belief that Calipari’s CAA ties and the team’s early season struggles will lead the two together. He does provide quotes from anonymous NBA executives who offer vague comments that seem to reflect more about the current state of the Knicks rather than about the likelihood of Calipari actually leaving Lexington for New York City. Obviously the money would be great and at some level Calipari almost certainly wants to have chance to rewrite his record as a NBA coach, but we cannot imagine that the Knicks with their high-profile job with a demanding media, atrocious salary cap situation, and even worse draft situation would be the ideal landing spot for Calipari if he wants to succeed at the NBA level.
  2. It seems crazy that just a few years ago people were wondering if Mike Krzyzewski was starting to slip as he was coaching the US National Team and routinely missing out on big-name recruits. Less than a week after landing two top-five recruits in Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, Krzyzewski secured the #1 recruiting class this year when Justice Winslow committed to play at Duke yesterday. The announcement was not unexpected as Duke was the clear favorite coming into the announcement. With Winslow the Blue Devils now have four five-star players (Okafor, Jones, Winslow, and Grayson Allen) who have already committed to play for them next year. We will leave the issues surrounding Krzyzewski’s moves to adjust to the one-and-done era for another post, but will just say that they are interesting.
  3. It has not taken long for Rutgers and Julie Hermann to get back in the news. The school, which defended its decision to keep Hermann even after allegations of past abuse came out before she took over as the school’s athletic director, will now have to look into allegations that Hermann’s discussions with the father of a football player who was reportedly abused never actually happened. The entire thing is so ridiculous that although the parents of the football player apparently believe it we have to think that the athletic department and possibly the school will have to do something about it. Firing her might seem harsh to some, but the school has already dealt with so much negative publicity with its previous abuse incident that when combined with the questions surrounding Hermann’s hiring and this latest incident it would not be outside the realm of possibility.
  4. As usual Luke Winn’s Power Rankings are filled with useful and interesting information even if he is holding off on bringing back the Aaron Craft and Russ Smith Turnometers (to his credit, he created a VCU Turnometer although he picked the wrong day to unveil it). The two statistics that jump out at us this week are the ridiculous percentage of minutes that Kentucky‘s freshmen are playing this season (75.3%), which far exceeds what the 1991-92 Michigan or 2006-07 Texas freshmen did, and Jabari Parker‘s ridiculous usage rate (34.1%), that exceeds even that of Michael Beasley (33.5%) and Kevin Durant (31.6%). We expect Parker’s number to come back down as he gets more used to his teammates and Duke’s players adapt to playing with him. We cannot say the same for Kentucky’s freshman as we would suspect that their minutes would actually go up as the season goes on particularly for the freshmen who will be role players as they take minutes from their more experienced teammates as the season progresses.
  5. Some of you may remember the horrifying case involving Devonta Pollard‘s mother, who kidnapped a six-year-old relative in a dispute over land and a storage shed. Yesterday, a jury took less than an hour to convict her on all three counts: conspiracy, kidnapping, and obstruction. Devonta assisted the prosecution in the case against his mother and claimed that he was unaware of the involvement of his mother and other relatives until after the kidnapping. Prosecutors are recommending deferred prosecution for Devonta for his role in the case. His mother is not as fortunate as she will be sentenced on February 18 and is looking at 20 years to life in prison.
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Morning Five: 11.21.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 21st, 2013

morning5

  1. After Friday’s recruiting coup, Duke fans have to be feeling pretty good about next season even if some of the flaws of this year’s team are starting to become apparent. Today the hopes for next season could be ratcheted up another level as Justice Winslow, a five-star small forward, makes his college announcement and based on what many recruiting analysts are saying Duke is expected to be his choice although he is also considering Arizona, Florida, Stanford, UCLA, and Texas A&M. Winslow is reportedly being recruited by Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, the two top-five recruits who committed to Duke last Friday and played with Winslow on the US National Team. If Winslow opts to head to Durham, the Blue Devils should have the #1 class wrapped up and most likely will be your preseason #1 next season.
  2. The fortunes of Duke Mondy and Dante Williams have taken quite a turn in the past week. During their trip to play at Cal last week the two players were accused of rape charges that were quickly dropped, but were suspended indefinitely from the team for their actions although they had already been cleared of the rape charges. Yesterday, Oakland announced that the two players were back on the team after a two-game suspension. We won’t get into the moral issues of the suspension and what they did since this is not really the place to discuss that, but we will note our amusement at the school’s internal review of the incident. What investigation could the school, which has no power out in California (the school is based in Michigan), have conducted in such a short period of time? We have no problem with them letting the two play again, but the idea of a legitimate internal review seems ridiculous.
  3. There is a tendency to overstate the historical importance of sports figures and we have seen it with plenty of individuals. One individual who we feel deserves all of the praise that he has received for his social work is North Carolina legend Dean Smith. Yesterday, Smith was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey were among the other individuals honored at the ceremony. The only other men’s basketball coach who has been bestowed the honor is John Wooden. The last few years have been difficulty for Smith and his family due to health-related issues so we hope that they were able to enjoy the day and the honor.
  4. On the other side of the spectrum for North Carolina is the ongoing case of P.J. Hairston. The North Carolina junior who was last seen recreating Grand Theft Auto in the Research Triangle has been left in eligibility limbo while the school looks into his case. Yesterday, after weeks of inactivity in the case (at least publicly), Haydn Patrick “Fats” Thomas, the man linked to the rental cars that Hairston was driving, pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a firearm by a felon, drug possession with intent to distribute, and possession of drug paraphernalia from a December 2012 arrest. Thomas will be sentenced to 36 months of supervised probation, receive a suspended sentence of 23 to 47 months in jail, and must complete 100 hours of community service in the next 12 months. This case appears to have nothing to do with Hairston, but the charges that Thomas pleaded guilty to will not help his cause with UNC administrators looking at his case although the team’s poor play so far this season might.
  5. We would have loved to have been in East Lansing to witness the scene at the local Taco Bells when Michigan State students showed up expecting free tacos, but were turned away as the school had decided not to continue its promotion with the company of giving away free tacos when the team scored 70 points or more. In a move that may have prevented chaos on the Michigan State campus Taco Bell has decided to reestablish the tradition although it will be company-sponsored and not school-sponsored. We suspect with the faster pace that the Spartans appear to be playing at this season Michigan State students will be claiming quite a few free tacos this winter.
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Duke Trying to Strike a Balance With Its Perimeter Defense

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 15th, 2013

Everyone knew Duke would be a very different team this season compared to 2012-13. Last year’s team was built around three seniors — Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry. Plumlee was an athletic big man, but the other two relied on a high skill level to make up for a lack of elite athleticism. That team was clearly better offensively than defensively and had a very good year with a run to the Elite Eight and a loss to eventual national champion, Louisville. With the addition of some quicker and more athletic players, the expectation for this season was that Duke would get back to the effective pressure defense that Blue Devil championship teams of the past had shown. That was clearly not the case in Tuesday’s Champions Classic loss to Kansas. The offense was good, scoring 83 points in a 75-possession game, but the defense was not, allowing Kansas 1.25 points per possession and matching the worst performance Duke’s defense had in any game last year.

Duke could not stop Kansas down the stretch. (Photo: Getty images)

Duke could not stop Kansas down the stretch. (Photo: Getty images)

So what went wrong? There could be multiple reasons. but they may not all be fixable this season. The first explanation is that this is still a young and developing Duke team and it was only the second game of the year. Perhaps the ease with which the red-hot shooting Blue Devils dispatched Davidson in their opener gave the Blue Devils a false sense of where they really were as a team. That mentality seemed to be at issue down the stretch against Kansas. In his postgame interview, Mike Krzyzewski lamented the fact that his team just couldn’t get stops when they needed to, as if they were in a mindset that they could just outscore Kansas.

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Kentucky’s Unusual Position: How to Build a #1 Class After Recent Misses

Posted by nvr1983 on October 10th, 2013

While Jayhawk fans celebrated Kelly Oubre’s commitment to Kansas on Tuesday, the announcement left Kentucky and its fans in a situation they are not accustomed to — one in which they are left wondering which recruits are still available. It also comes as the third consecutive major commitment — Andrew Wiggins and Emmanuel Mudiay were the other two — that Kentucky has missed out on, which is a highly unusual development in the Calipari era. Now this is not to say that the Big Blue Nation should go into panic mode and their first glimpses of Julius Randle and the Harrison twins next week will certainly help to alleviate any pending anxiety. Still, for the first time since John Calipari rolled into Lexington in 2009, Kentucky is now in danger of not having the top recruiting class in the country.

Calipari is All Smiles About This Year's Group. What About Next Year? (AP)

Calipari is All Smiles About This Year’s Group. What About Next Year? (AP)

Of course, Kentucky will be getting its share of incoming stars, but it probably will not be the type of ridiculous haul that Wildcat fans have enjoyed over the past four seasons. Calipari already has received commitments from 7’1″ Karl Towns, Jr., a top-10 recruit according to nearly every major recruiting service, and Tyler Ulis, a strong point guard prospect despite his 5’9″, 150-pound frame. The Wildcats are still in the running for eight more five-star recruits in the class of 2014 — big men Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner and Trey Lyles, and perimeter prospects Tyus Jones, Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, Devin Booker and James Blackmon, Jr. — but a closer look suggests that their prospects of landing each are less promising than they might first appear.

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