The ACC’s Soft Middle Tier: Time to Panic Yet?

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 14th, 2013

We are less than one week into the start of the 2013-14 college basketball season and the median of the ACC is nearing panic mode. Maybe not quite yet, but things certainly could have started better for the NCAA’s mightiest conference. To date, N.C. State has lost to Cincinnati by 11, Virginia lost to in-state rival VCU (displaying the power shift between traditional Virginia basketball schools), Miami barely squeaked by Georgia Southern in overtime and posted an inexcusable overtime loss to St. Francis (NY), and Boston College suffered an opening defeat to Providence and followed that up with a 13-point shellacking at the hands of a game Massachusetts squad. What does this all mean for the ‘almighty’ ACC as the nation’s premier basketball conference? Does this, for one, quiet the whispers of the ACC as the greatest basketball conference of all-time?

Boston College

BC has little to celebrate after an 0-2 start (Michael Ivins/US Presswire)

A lot of a conference’s overall reputation and greatness has to be attributed to its depth and the overall quality of teams across the board. Now VCU happens to be a top-25 team that has largely surpassed the Virginia basketball program of late under Shaka Smart, but a team that has ACC title aspirations and is laden with senior leaders needs to win games versus A-10 programs, especially if it doesn’t wish to find itself on the bubble again. N.C. State is in what most people consider a rebuilding year under Mark Gottfried, but Cincinnati is not a powerhouse and the middle of the league must prove formidable for the ACC to solidify its place in history. Last Friday night, Maryland lost to a top-25 Connecticut team boasting one of the best backcourts in the nation by only a single point, but the Terps walked away with a close loss rather than gloating about a big win on their non-conference résumé. Miami wasn’t expected to have a great year after losing Kenny Kadji, Shane Larkin, Reggie Johnson, Durand Scott and the rest of its roster from last season, but losing to a NEC foe is a humbling step backward, to say the least.

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

Posted by WCarey on March 24th, 2013

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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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Miami Hurricanes Make ACC History, Sweep Championships

Posted by mpatton on March 17th, 2013

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from the ACC Tournament championship game between North Carolina and Miami in Greensboro this afternoon.

An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the regular season title outright eight times since 1954 (most recently, Maryland won it in 2002). An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the ACC Tournament 10 times since 1954 (most recently, Florida State won it last year). Miami is the first team to ever do both in the same year. An unbalanced conference schedule has cheapened the regular season title in recent years, but that’s shouldn’t throw any shade on what the Hurricanes accomplished this year. The Miami win along with Florida State’s ACC Championship last season marks the second time in the league’s history that consecutive ACC Tournaments were won by schools outside of North Carolina (the 1984 and 1985 tournaments were won by Maryland and Georgia Tech, respectively).

Miami, your 2013 ACC Tournament champions. (photo: HurricaneSports.com)

Miami, your 2013 ACC Tournament champions. (photo: HurricaneSports.com)

And the Hurricanes won their final two games in front of very hostile crowds. They won because of tremendous coaching from Jim Larranaga – whose lineup changes proved instrumental in games against North Carolina and Boston College. They won because Shane Larkin was the best player in an ACC Tournament full of outstanding performances (Olivier Hanlan, Durand Scott and Dez Wells all went for over 30 points in a game). They won because experience doesn’t get rattled. In short, they won because they were the best team on the floor.

Miami made history in Greensboro. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Miami made history in Greensboro. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Against North Carolina, Miami found itself in a different position than usual. The Tar Heels and their new and improved smaller lineup came out firing. With just over 10 minutes to go in the first half, North Carolina led, 18-13. Miami proceeded to score on its next nine possessions and 13 of 16 of the final possessions of the half (over that time they missed three shots). North Carolina only scored on eight of 15 possessions, but PJ Hairston hit four threes and Marcus Paige added another to keep the game within a possession at the half. It was the best overall 10-minute offensive stretch I’ve seen this year. Both teams moved the ball to find open shots and both teams knocked down nearly every shot available. At one point the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions.

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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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Rushed Reactions: Miami 69, Boston College 58

Posted by mpatton on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from the ACC quarterfinal match-up between Miami (FL) and Boston College this afternoon.

Three Key Takeaways:

Donahue has Boston College moving towards ACC contention.

Donahue has Boston College moving towards ACC contention.

  1. Zone Read: Around the under-eight media timeout in the first half, Steve Donahue switched to a loose zone. To that point, Miami had been clicking offensively, but the zone bothered the Hurricanes. It helped tremendously that Julian Gamble, Reggie Johnson and Tonye Jekiri all had two fouls, which partially neutralized the Hurricanes’ interior advantage. But Miami settled for jumpers and heavily contested shots, missing nine of its next 10 shots. The Hurricanes also turned it over three times. That allowed Boston College to finish on a 19-4 run and take a lead into halftime.
  2. Going Small: With five minutes left in the game, Jim Larranaga took Julian Gamble out, leaving Rion Brown, Trey McKinney-Jones, Shane Larkin, Durand Scott and Kenny Kadji on the floor. Essentially that’s Kadji with four guards and wings (all under 6’6″). After the game Jim Larranaga talked about the switch extensively:

    “Thank goodness we were able to go small in the last five minutes. We don’t have a lot of perimeter subs so we couldn’t have done it earlier, even though we know that’s probably the best way to guard them. We were able to do that in the last five minutes and pull away and get a nice win and move on to the semifinals. [...] The whole key in guarding Boston College, they do such a great job with ball screens and hitting the role man and hitting or finding another open man. When you’re bigger you’re slower in your rotation so the last five minutes we went to the small lineup and we switched most of them so there is no open man and we trapped with our big guy to be the aggressor at the end of the floor, both ends of the floor and both of those things worked at that time in the game.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.19.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 19th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are in the final stretch before conference tournaments tip off and there are several key match-ups this week that will help to determine not only postseason seeds but regular season titles. Let’s not waste any time and get to the breakdowns!

Indiana at Michigan State – 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (*****)

Tom Izzo's teams get the job done in March

How does Tom Izzo stop Indiana’s Victor Olidipo from lighting up the Spartans again?

  • It doesn’t get any bigger than this game this week, as the Hoosiers and the Spartans battle for sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. Michigan State faces a gauntlet of games as it goes up against Indiana at home, Ohio State and Michigan on the road, and then back home against Wisconsin. It is highly unlikely that they will get through the next four unscathed, so this first game at home is crucial if they want to win a regular season Big Ten crown. In the teams’ previous game this season, IU defeated MSU 75-70 in Bloomington. Tom Izzo’s squad turned the ball over too many times, couldn’t hit their two-point shots, and didn’t get to the free throw line enough. Since then, the Spartans have won five straight and are looking better and better each game. They are being led by point guard Keith Appling. Appling is averaging 16.4 points per game in their current five-game winning streak, since going 1-of-4 with three points in the loss to IU. Appling will once again be a key factor as the Spartans will need his scoring and play-making abilities. Izzo will also need his defense to figure out a way to stop Indiana’s Victor Olidipo. Olidipo torched the Spartans last time out for 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. If Indiana is allowed to go 19-of-32 again from inside the paint, Michigan State will struggle to find a way to win. The Spartans need a better defensive effort on the interior and better rebounding if they are going to overtake the Hoosiers for the Big Ten lead.

  Virginia at Miami (FL) – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPNU (****)

  • While Miami remains undefeated in the ACC and is aiming for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tourney, they face two tough tests the remainder of the season against Virginia at home and against Duke on the road. The Cavaliers have been anything but road warriors in the ACC (2-4), but they present a tough match-up because of their ability to shoot the ball, especially from three. Keep a close on Virginia’s Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. If they are to knock off the Hurricanes, these two players must have very big games. If UVA is still without 6’11” Mike Tobey (mononucleosis), scoring on the interior will be tough against Miami’s 6’11” Kenny Kadji and 6’10” Reggie Johnson. The three-point shot is a significant part of the Cavaliers’ offense, so pay close attention to their effort early from beyond the arc. If they can stay in the game with some made threes, they will have a shot to win it in the end. However, the Hurricanes play lockdown perimeter defense too. This is a tall task for the Cavaliers, but it will still be an interesting match-up nonetheless.

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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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ACC M5: 02.07.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 7th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Huge ACC media news out of Raleigh as Caulton Tudor announced his retirement after over four decades of work with the News & Observer. For those keeping score at home–as any good sports fan should–that’s over 6,000 columns, 40 conference tournaments and 24 Final Fours for good measure. I didn’t always agree with Tudor (notably after he put the entire North Carolina team on his first-team All-ACC last season), but you always knew what you were getting. Luke DeCock, the other primary sports columnist on staff, had many more anecdotes to share.
  2. CBSSports.com: So the NCAA may be caught in a lie. After Mark Emmert’s self-deprecating presser claiming the NCAA found out about the improper use of Nevin Shapiro’s lawyer when his bill showed up on their doorstep, Dennis Dodd caught onto something different. NCAA vice-president (of enforcement) Jule Lach approved at least $20,000 to pay Shapiro’s lawyer. This isn’t good for the NCAA and doesn’t bode well for Elena Perez, Shapiro’s lawyer, either. It is good for Miami, where Al Golden took to the signing day pulpit to proclaim his program has paid enough for its sins. Smart move, considering it looks like at best the NCAA will have to throw out much of its case against the Hurricanes.
  3. Run the Floor: This article points out several interesting facts about the ACC and college basketball as a whole. First, as I sort of suspected, the ACC is really young (significantly younger than any other major conferences). As an aside, the Mountain West is by far the most experienced league. Which helps explain why the league is outperforming its normal expectations and is competitive top to bottom. In the ACC, Miami and Duke lead both the conference standings and the percentage of minutes played by seniors. It’s no coincidence: barring unbelievable talent (see: Michigan this year or Kentucky last year), experience is extraordinarily valuable in college basketball. Between coming experience and the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the ACC should be back atop the conference power struggle next season.
  4. Charlotte Observer: Speaking of the Blue Devils, what is their plan for the game against NC State? Play better. Specifically, stop the Wolfpack in transition and defend Richard Howell and CJ Leslie. It’s funny, reading Duke talk about these goals reads more like a review of its game against Miami instead of NC State. It’s true the Wolfpack outscored Duke in transition and dominated the frontcourt battle. But that was also the team’s first game without Ryan Kelly–in an incredibly hostile environment. That’s not the game Duke wants revenge for. The Blue Devils want revenge for the game that made everyone question its place as a national title contender. That was the game at Coral Gables.
  5. CBS Atlanta: How about an ACC Player Power Rankings for dessert? Interestingly, no NC State players make the cut. Right now my power rankings would probably look similar (Michael Snaer, Shane Larkin, Erick Green, Kenny Kadji and Mason Plumlee). How can you go against buzzer beaters ad winning? But All-ACC will be a very interesting discussion should prove a very interesting discussion this season.
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ACC M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 6th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. US Basketball Writers Association: The USBWA named Miami’s Shane Larkin the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week after Larkin led the Hurricanes to a couple of road wins to move to 8-0 (they’re now 9-0) in conference play. Larkin’s stats from the two games are impressive across the board as he scored 19 points on over 60% shooting with four assists, four steals, three rebounds, and a block to boot. Not bad numbers for a guy who is probably 5’10” on a good day. The Hurricanes have a very favorable final half of conference play looming. The game at Duke notwithstanding, Miami will likely be favored in the rest of the games.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: For the first time since his injury, Dexter Strickland looked like himself defending Erick Green. It’s hard to really notice changes in defense, but it seemed like Strickland has been a step slower this year. Also offensively, my hypothesis for his struggles are that being slightly less explosive has led to more jump shots and more time for defense to get in position. But something underreported so far this season is a new wrinkle in his game: the assist. Last year Strickland’s assist rate was 13.6. This year it’s 23.6! That’s a huge improvement (and shows he’s nearly as effective a distributor as Marcus Paige).
  3. Shelby Star: Even just halfway through the season, conference awards look like they’re going to be controversial this season. Starting with player of the year, which realistically will go to one of Erick Green, Mason Plumlee or to a player on Miami (right now Larkin has the hot hand, but Kenny Kadji is equally important on both ends of the floor). Rookie of the year should also be interesting, though Olivier Hanlan would get my vote unless Rasheed Sulaimon or TJ Warren goes on a tear. Regardless, individual story-lines are very interesting going into the second half of conference play.
  4. Gobbler Country: Speaking of Green, this is a takedown of his award candidacy from the Virginia Tech faithful. I would actually be a lot more generous to Green. I think he’s a great player with very solid statistics across the board, but it’s impossible to ignore his team’s struggles. His team is so bad that you have to take him out of consideration for national awards. Virginia Tech isn’t deep enough to handle Robert Brown’s slump or Cadarian Raines’ offensive disappearances. No one player can do it alone. That shouldn’t take away from Green’s abilities as a scorer, but one can’t look at stats in a vacuum.
  5. Duke Basketball Report: Continuing the theme of midseason reviews, Al Featherston took a look at the ACC’s NCAA chances with four teams sitting squarely on the bubble: North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Florida State. The Tar Heels are in the best shape and appear to be trending in the right direction. Virginia has good enough wins to make the Big Dance, but its losses are incredibly troubling. Maryland and Florida State need marquee wins and fast. Both–especially the Seminoles–will need to do major work in the ACC Tournament, barring winning out in conference play.

Video of the Day: Props to Michael Snaer who continued his string of clutch shots with a buzzer beating lay-up at Georgia Tech.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUK9ip58nM

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 1st, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The biggest game of the season thus far is upon us, as the top two teams in the Big Ten collide in what could be an epic battle of offensive efficiency. There are some important match-ups in the other conferences as well that should keep your Super Bowl weekend packed with great sports. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#1 Michigan at #4 Indiana – 6:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Darius Morris may be gone, but Tim Hardaway Jr. is primed for big things in 2011-12. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s defense could be the key to a Michigan win. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

  • Michigan versus Indiana should be one of the best offensive duels we see in college hoops this season. Both teams have scoring options all over the floor, shoot the lights out from two and three, and have proven to be incredibly efficient all season long. There is very little that separates these two teams on paper. One factor that could play huge role even before the game starts is the availability of Michigan forward Jordan Morgan. Morgan rolled his ankle early in the game against Illinois and sat out against Northwestern on Wednesday. Morgan gives the Wolverines another sneaky offensive threat and size on the inside. He is a key player on the defensive glass, which will be very important for the Wolverines. If Indiana gets too many second chance points, it will be a long night for John Beilein and company. You will also want to keep an eye on the potential match-up between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Victor Oladipo. Oladipo is clearly the Hoosiers most valuable player at this point and is filling up the stat sheet recently. Michigan must find a way to lock down Oladipo. Additionally for Michigan, keep an eye on Jon Horford. Horford has been very solid in the last two games making up for the loss of Morgan. The Wolverines will need Horford to be at the top of his game, if they want to win. Finally, keep a close eye on Michigan’s demeanor early in the game. If you recall, the Wolverines came out rattled and uninspired against Ohio State on the road. Early mistakes put them behind big. If that happens in Bloomington, it’s unlikely Michigan can bounce back against an offense as good as Indiana’s. If Indiana gets off to a fast start, you won’t see the Wolverines panic.  However, if the fast start is due to mistakes and uninspired play, it’s curtains. While the offenses will be at center stage in this game, the winner will be the team that plays better defense. Watch perimeter defense closely as both teams are excellent from distance. Whoever is able to defend the perimeter better will win the game.

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Rushed Reactions: Miami 90, #2 Duke 63

Posted by nvr1983 on January 23rd, 2013

rushedreactions

RTC’s East Coast Boss was courtside for Miami’s dominating 90-63 win over #2 Duke on Wednesday night.

Five Key Takeaways.

  1. Before the season all of the talk in the ACC was about North Carolina State, but that quickly evaporated as we saw that their run last March was nothing more than a hot streak. Duke stepped in to fill the void as the dominant team in the ACC and appeared for a while to be the best team in the country, but with Ryan Kelly’s injury which we will get to in a bit, the door to win the ACC is wide open and Miami has stepped in. After tonight the Hurricanes are two games up in the ACC with only three truly challenging games remaining — at home against North Carolina and on the road at North Carolina and Duke. While they can certainly slip up in conference road games, they are successfully positioning themselves to be in contention for the ACC regular season title. I’m still not sure how good this Hurricane team is, but they have wins over a Duke and Michigan State at home and North Carolina on the road. All of those teams have their weaknesses, but Miami is looking like it could be a very dangerous team in March.

    Miami Fans Might Be Rushing The Court A Lot This Year

    Miami Fans Might Be Rushing The Court A Lot This Year

  2. Duke really needs Ryan Kelly to come back. I am not sure I can emphasize that enough. Kelly won’t win any Player of the Year awards and he might not even be First Team All-ACC, but the way this Duke team is constructed they might need his presence more than any other player on the team. Mason Plumlee is by far the best all-around player on the squad, but he lacks Kelly’s versatility, which is key when your bench is as short as Duke’s. Having said all of that, Duke needs to weather this stretch without Kelly which should theoretically be close to ending based on earlier reports from the school. Of course, that says nothing of how Kelly is actually healing. If he returns at 100% Duke should be fine, but their performances thus far following his injury demonstrates just how fragile this team is.
  3. Reggie Johnson could be an asset to Miami down the line, but he isn’t there yet. Before the game there had been rumors that Johnson might play tonight, but it wasn’t until just before tipoff that it was apparent that he would play (he was in the lay-up line without any protection on his broken left thumb). Johnson contributed in spots primarily with his girth filling space against a small Duke front line, but his impact was largely minimal (fill in your ground-shaking jokes). Johnson was only out of the lineup for about a month, but his conditioning looks horrible. He will never run up and down the court with the Cody Zellers of the college basketball world, but Jim Larranaga should have put Johnson on the treadmill for the past month. If Johnson can regain his previous form in the next few weeks, he could insert another dimension to this team although his return could affect the obvious chemistry the Hurricanes developed without him. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.21.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 21st, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We just had one of the most memorable weekends in recent memory in college hoops. Every game seems to be up for grabs and it’s making for an exciting season. This week should be no different as each conference has its share of important match-ups. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Cincinnati at #3 Syracuse – 3:30 PM PM EST, Monday on ESPN (***)

boeheim

Jim Boeheim’s Team Looks Great After This Weekend

  • Cincinnati barely snapped a three-game home losing streak on Saturday with an overtime win against Marquette. The Bearcats were without star guard Cashmere Wright as he continues to heal up from a knee injury. Wright is day-to-day so we don’t know quite yet if he will be available against Syracuse, though. If he is unable to play, his three-point shooting will be missed greatly against the Orange’s match-up zone defense. Although, even if he plays, the size of the Orange backcourt will surely create issues for the 6’0″ guard. In its huge win at Louisville over the weekend, Syracuse proved its size and length on defense makes Jim Boeheim’s team a clear title contender. Both of these teams excel on the offensive glass, so keep a close eye on which team is getting more second-chance opportunities and making the most of them — this could be another place where the Syracuse size makes a difference. More than likely this game will be won on the defensive end.  However, if the Bearcats don’t find a better shooting stroke quickly, this game will not be close regardless of their defensive effort. They shot 41.4% eFG against Marquette, so a shooting number like that won’t cut it against Syracuse.

#12 Michigan State at Wisconsin – 7:00 PM PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • It felt like Iowa was due for a big win at home and it happened to come against Wisconsin on Saturday. After the Badgers’ huge win against Indiana last week, the weekend loss to Iowa brought the team back to reality, but they don’t get much rest with the Spartans coming to town. In order for the Badgers to beat the Spartans, they must play their typically great defense. Bo Ryan‘s squad is 1-4 against teams that shoot over 50% eFG against them so it’s clear that they do not have the offense to go back and forth with teams. Luckily, the Spartans are not a great shooting team with nine games under 50% eFG themselves on the season. This should make for a very close defensive-oriented contest in Madison. Keep an eye on free throws, as they will be a major factor in determining the outcome. Wisconsin must play good defense without fouling; if they are sending Michigan State to the line early in each half, they could very easily drop two games in a row. Look for Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix to be all over Wisconsin forward Jared Berggren, forcing someone else on the Badgers to beat them. This should be another slugfest in the Big Ten.

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