ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

The 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off Wednesday in Greensboro. This should be one of the more entertaining tournaments of recent years, as every team has something to play for from bottom to top. It’s startling that so many are dismissing Virginia, who just won their first outright ACC regular season championship in 33 years. Syracuse has been left for dead after once being projected to be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing four of their last six to close the regular season. Duke and North Carolina need late runs to continue to improve their seeding for the Big Dance. The lone likely bubble team in the conference, Pittsburgh, will seek to bolster its resume. Everyone else seeks to shock the world and win the whole thing to steal a tourney bid. Here is RTC’s ACC Tournament preview, with predicted champion included.

This year's ACC tournament field should be wide open.

This year’s ACC tournament field should be wide open.

The first round kicking off on Wednesday is a new wrinkle for a newly-enlarged conference, and there won’t be any big surprises there. Virginia Tech owns two wins (their only two conference wins) over Miami this year; that will change this time around. It’s very difficult for anyone to beat a team three times in the course of one season, and this isn’t a juggernaut squad by any means. Jim Larranaga’s team tops James Johnson’s. Maryland, fresh off of its stunning win over Virginia in the season’s final game, will keep their momentum rolling in knocking Wake Forest out on the first day. The Demon Deacons don’t win away from home, and that won’t change in Greensboro. Georgia Tech will continue the disastrous year that Boston College has endured by out muscling them inside with Daniel Miller and capping off the win with Trae Golden’s ace free-throw shooting.

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The ACC’s Unknown Superstars: TJ Warren & KJ McDaniels

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 28th, 2014

T.J. Warren and K.J. McDaniels are two of the best wings in college basketball and you’d never know it. Most of their lack of attention has to do with their respective teams’ success — N.C. State (17-11, 7-8 ACC) and Clemson (17-10, 8-7 ACC) — and the fact that the Wolfpack and the Tigers are on the outside of the bubble looking in. Both players have assumed huge responsibilities and increased roles this season, a necessary component for N.C. State after losing a huge contingent of talent and for a Clemson squad lacking star power.

Will he stay or will he go? Warren's season has Wolfpack fans hoping for more T.J.(Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Will he stay or will he go? Warren’s season has Wolfpack fans hoping for more T.J. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren has risen to the occasion, solidifying himself as a legitimate all-ACC candidate in leading the league in scoring at 23.8 PPG, five points per game higher than Duke’s Jabari Parker. While it was unreasonable to expect Warren to continue his otherworldly efficiency of last season when he shot 62.2 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from behind the line, he still is shooting very well from the field (52.3 percent from the field, 29.5 percent from three). He clearly is a massive piece to the Wolfpack offense and quite possibly the only thing keeping them afloat. While he is known for his scoring credentials, he is no slouch in the rebounding department either, collecting 7.0 caroms per contest for the Pack. Warren’s superb play has helped the Wolfpack outdo preseason expectations and explains why N.C. State has a great shot at a top-half conference finish.

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The Streak Continues: An Energized North Carolina Dismantles Clemson

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 27th, 2014

North Carolina played its best game in weeks on Sunday night in handily beating Clemson, 80-61. The final margin of victory was quite deceptive, though, as the Tar Heels led by more than 25 points for most of the second half. This means, of course, that Clemson is still winless all-time in Chapel Hill, dropping to 0-57 after the latest loss, but the story from the game centered around a revitalized unit that showed some hustle and fight for the first time in a long while. North Carolina dominated the shooting at both ends, hitting 55.4 percent of its field goals, while holding Clemson below 30 percent for most of the contest. But even more importantly, the Tar Heels played with an intensity that’s been missing, frequently diving for loose balls and making hustle plays throughout the game.

An Intense James Michael McAdoo Leads North Carolina to Dominant Win. (THE HERALD-SUN, BERNARD THOMAS — AP Photo)

An Intense James Michael McAdoo Leads North Carolina to Dominant Win.
(THE HERALD-SUN, BERNARD THOMAS — AP Photo)

The Tigers started out cold and turned downright frigid quickly thereafter. Clemson only hit six of its first 20 shots and found itself down by eight with 6:27 left in the first half, but the Tigers then proceeded to miss 14 consecutive field goals over the next 13:21 of play. During that stretch, North Carolina outscored Clemson 30-7 and the outcome was already decided. In the postgame press conferences, both coaches singled out the play of Tar Heels’ forward, James Michael McAdoo, and rightfully so. McAdoo was in attack mode throughout the contest and finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. While many have considered the junior a disappointment this season, he has been playing at a higher level for the past month. After 12 games, McAdoo was averaging 12.8 points per game and shooting a chilly 41.4 percent from the field. However, in his last eight outings, he has averaged a highly-efficient 15.9 points per game while converting an outstanding 59.1 percent of his field goals. For Clemson, K.J. McDaniels played well with 13 points and nine rebounds but got little support from the rest of his team. Here are some key takeaways for each team after Sunday night’s game.

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Clemson’s Season Will be Defined in the Next Two Weeks

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 22nd, 2014

Clemson was on quite the roll, coming into Tuesday night at 13-4 overall (4-1 in conference play) and widely regarded as having one of the best defenses in the nation. The Tigers looked poised to make major waves, but then Pittsburgh happened. With its incredibly efficient play on both ends of the court and Jamie Dixon’s tough-minded, physical brand of old school Big East basketball, Pittsburgh handed it to Clemson with a 76-43 thrashing at the Petersen Events Center. This certainly takes some of the wind out of Clemson’s sails after a three-game ACC winning streak, but there are still a number of positives to draw from this group of feisty Tigers that appear to have finally made the turn in Brad Brownell‘s fourth season on campus.

K.J. McDaniels and Coach Brad Brownell (Photo: clemsontigers.com)

K.J. McDaniels and head coach Brad Brownell (Photo: clemsontigers.com)

This Clemson group was projected by most experts to finish in the bottom three of the ACC standings, but has instead ridden a wave of momentum behind its tenacious and stingy defense to a level of play not seen in the basketball program in quite some time. Offensively, Clemson has been led by its undisputed star and athletic highlight reel machine, K.J. McDaniels, to the tune of 16.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 2.7 BPG. Those well-rounded numbers are first team all-ACC caliber, but he will be facing stiff competition from several of the other elite forwards in the conference (Jabari Parker, CJ Fair, etc.). The real question surrounding Clemson from here on out is if the Tigers can seize the positive momentum it has developed to play with the consistency required to win away from Littlejohn Coliseum? It is easy enough to get hyped up for a sold-out crowd at home versus a program like Duke, but can Brownell’s squad shake off the natural letdown that comes afterward to mentally prepare for those road trips? Coming into this season, Clemson was 5-18 in ACC road games under his direction — the Tigers are 2-1 this season.

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