Auburn’s Offense Struggling, But It Will Improve

Posted by Greg Mitchell on December 5th, 2014

There were a few things that you knew you could expect from Bruce Pearl’s first year at Auburn. One was a good recruiting class, and another was an entertaining wardrobe. On both of those counts he has delivered. Based on his history of success, you also thought that he could deliver a pretty good offense. Even without much interior depth, the Tigers seemed to have enough perimeter pieces to score at a decent clip, and Pearl also has a track record of coaching up efficient offenses. Here are how his teams ranked in offensive efficiency at Milwaukee and Tennessee:

Pearl Offense Table

Currently, Auburn sits at 173rd in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and the Tigers’ relative inability to score has already cost them dearly this season. Auburn’s ugly loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday night is a case in point. The Tigers defended well with a mixture of man-to-man, 2/3 zone and 3/2 zone defense, holding the Red Raiders to just 0.79 points per possession. This might have been even more stifling if not for a number of late-in-the-shot-clock fouls, but Texas Tech imploded there (17-of-31). The point is that Auburn defended well enough to win, but could only muster 44 points on 36.2 percent shooting and lost on a late runner by Devaugntah Williams. The Tigers were similarly punchless last week in Las Vegas against Tulsa, where they scored only 35 points in a loss. In all three of their defeats this season, they’ve failed to score better than 0.77 points per possession.

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One on One: An SEC Preview With Chris Dortch

Posted by Walker Carey on November 4th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the SEC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with an SEC expert in Blue Ribbon College Yearbook editor Chris Dortch (@cdortch).

Rush the Court: How good is Kentucky and what makes it that good? The Wildcats begin the season as the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC title. Do you expect them to win both the conference title and the national title?

Chris Dortch: It would not surprise me at all if Kentucky wins both the SEC title and the national title. I think the team is so good that you can rank both its first five and its second five in the Top 25. The team has nine McDonald’s All-Americans and more talent than I can remember any team in the SEC possibly ever having. Having said that, the Wildcats do have a weakness or two. They have to prove that, other than Aaron Harrison, they have someone who can make outside shots. If they cannot do that, teams are going to try to pack it in the lane and negate their size and dribble-drive. I have said this a few times on some radio shows: If Kentucky shoots 35 percent or better from the three-point line for the season, I think the Wildcats will be undefeated going into the Final Four.

It's Gators and Wildcats at the Top of the SEC, Again

It’s Gators and Wildcats at the Top of the SEC, Again

RTC: Florida’s personnel losses are notable with Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete all moving on from Gainesville. However, Billy Donovan’s squad seems primed to have another impressive season. What is it about this year’s Gators that will make them a force to be reckoned with in the conference?

Dortch: I think Florida has some experienced personnel and some young guys who I believe are ready to step. Someone like Kasey Hill, who understudied Wilbekin last season, seems poised to take over the point guard position. I think Michael Frazier is one of the best shooters in the country and he is ready to take the next step in his development. Dorian Finney-Smith, who was eligible last season after transferring from Virginia Tech, is so versatile that he was used at the point a few times. He is going to be a guy who is going to be asked to do a lot more than he was last year. There are also a couple transfers who will help. Jon Horford comes over as a fifth-year eligible from Michigan and Alex Murphy comes over from Duke. I think those two will help fortify the team’s front line.

RTC: Arkansas is still waiting on its breakthrough campaign in the Mike Anderson era. With a talented team featuring star big man Bobby Portis, will this finally be the season that the Razorbacks find a way back to the NCAA Tournament?

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SEC Season Preview: Auburn Tigers

Posted by Greg Mitchell on October 30th, 2014

The SEC microsite will preview each of the league teams over the next few weeks, continuing today with the Auburn Tigers.

Strengths. The Tigers should not struggle to put the ball in the basket this year, at least not from the outside. Bruce Pearl’s first team at Auburn will feature not only the SEC’s leading returning scorer, KT Harrell (18.3 points per game), but also the country’s leading returning scorer Antoine Mason (25.6 PPG at Niagara). Only Doug McDermott scored more points per game than Mason did in 2013-14. Whether that translates against tougher competition still remains to be seen, but sophomore Tahj Shamsid-Deen and New Mexico State graduate transfer K.C. Ross-Miller offer support in the backcourt too. Each of these players brings something different to the table: Harrell is a high volume three-point shooter (35.9% 3FG); Mason gets the bulk of his points at the rim or from the free throw line (10.8 free throw attempts per game); Shamsid-Deen has upside (9.5 points per game as a freshman); and Ross-Miller can create for others (3.5 assists per game). Despite the differences, these four should fit well together in Pearl’s up-tempo system, and if nothing else, make for some entertaining games on the Plains.

Tahj Shamsid-Deen could be poised for a breakout sophomore season at Auburn (photo courtesy cbssports.com).

Tahj Shamsid-Deen could be poised for a breakout sophomore season at Auburn (photo courtesy cbssports.com).

Weaknesses.  Rebounding could be a problem for the Tigers this season. From a straight numbers perspective, Auburn lost Asauhn Dixon-Tatum and Allen Payne to graduation, who finished first and second on the team in rebounds per game. These two players weren’t supporting a great rebounding team either, as the Tigers finished 278th in the country in total rebounds last season. It also doesn’t help that Pearl will likely need to give heavy minutes to Mason, Ross-Miller and Shamsid-Deen, all of whom stand at a height under 6’1.’’ The hope for the Tigers is that raw sophomore Matthew Atewe can stay healthy and build on the solid 13.5 percent total rebounding rate he posted last year. JuCo transfer Cinmeon Bowers and freshmen Jack Purchase and T.J. Lang can also help out on the glass.

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SEC M5: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 12th, 2014

SEC_morning5

  1. Florida may have sealed its last two wins as much at the beginning of those two games than at the end of them. Against Tennessee, an early 10-0 run by the Gators allowed them to stabilize an otherwise lackluster first half (36.4% FG) and only trail a hot-shooting Vols team by one at halftime. To be sure, a couple of late threes from Michael Frazier and Scottie Wilbekin put the game out of reach, but the Gators might not have been in that position if not for that early turnover-fueled surge. The same can be said for their game last Saturday against Alabama. The Gators had an 8-0 lead before the Tide had even gotten the ball across midcourt. This early surge similarly allowed them to withstand some frustration with Alabama’s zone and 16 first half points from Trevor Releford. Sometimes it’s not only about how you finish, but also how you start. Where does Tennessee go from here? The Vols are out of chances for a sparkling Florida/Kentucky resume-enhancing win, but their NCAA Tournament situation is far from dire. They should be favored in all of their remaining SEC games other than next weekend’s contest at Missouri, and currently at 6-5, they could be in good position to rack up an impressive conference record. Pair this with their solid overall RPI and a win or two in the SEC Tournament, and Cuonzo Martin may get his first invitation to March Madness while living in Knoxville.
  2. Momentum was there for Ole Miss to grab. The Rebels had beaten a fellow bubble buddy in Missouri, and then faced manageable road games against Alabama and Georgia before massive back-to-back home dates with Kentucky and Florida. A three-game winning streak followed by a statement win would surely have been what the resume doctor ordered. But it wasn’t meant to be, as the Tide upended Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa last night. Trevor Releford (26 points on 8-of-16 shooting) refused to let another game slip away for the Tide when the Rebels regained the lead with just under 10 minutes left. The senior went on to score 14 of the Tide’s last 16 points, including a game-winning three with under a second left. He won’t be playing in the NCAA Tournament (or NIT, barring a minor miracle) in his final amateur season, but he can contribute to Anthony Grant’s program in a big way by playing hard and showing leadership despite the team’s struggles. There aren’t many young players on Alabama’s roster (just two freshmen and a sophomore), but he has set a great example nonetheless. The Rebels, for their part, essentially face a must-win game in Athens on Saturday. If they were to lose that one they could conceivably be stuck with a 7-7 record after the Kentucky/Florida gauntlet. That’s not a good look for a team that appears to be on the outside looking in right now. It’ll help if Jarvis Summers, who has had an excellent season, breaks out of his mini-road slump. In the Rebels’ last two losses at Kentucky and Alabama, he’s only 6-of-22 from the field and 1-of-6 from three despite shooting 50 percent (and that’s not a typo) from distance on the season. Marshall Henderson may be the Ole Miss wildcard, but Summers has been the steady hand that Andy Kennedy needs to return sooner than later.
  3. Johnny Jones has to plug a hole in his rotation after losing Malik Morgan for the rest of the season. The sophomore injured his knee during LSU’s weekend win over Auburn, and had surgery Monday evening. “It’s certainly a blow to us,” Jones said. “That’s an area we are certainly going to have to look at and find out exactly how we will dispatch those minutes. He was able to give us positive minutes.” Jones indicated that freshmen Tim Quarterman (12.5 MPG) and Shane Hammink (6.3 MPG) will be counted on to replace Morgan’s 15.5 minutes per game. This isn’t a crushing blow to LSU since Morgan wasn’t relied on heavily on either end of the floor. But it does limit Jones’ options, and takes away a high energy player and occasional starter. Morgan’s length (6’4’’) and energy was valuable when the Tigers went to a zone look. Quarterman and Hammink do both have length, which is good for Jones. The other angle to this injury is how it’ll affect Morgan’s development. Andre Stringer and Shavon Coleman are seniors so there will be an openings on the perimeter next season, and a full season of games would’ve been ideal for Morgan and LSU.
  4. Kentucky has won three straight games. Up next is an Auburn team against which the Wildcats own a 15-game winning streak. And after them? The third-ranked team in the country and the SEC’s biggest game to date. That game would lose a tiny bit of luster if the Wildcats are caught overlooking Auburn and suffer a letdown. “There’s no risk in overlooking Auburn. We all know that Auburn can beat us. We know that we’re going to get their best game. We know that they’re a very, very good team who has two guards who are really playing well,” said Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne. Count tonight as an unexpected measuring stick in the great experiment that is the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats. It’d be hard not to be excited for the upcoming game against Florida at home, and how hard the Wildcats play against Auburn will reveal a lot about their team maturity and development. It’s an easy game to look past, but Kentucky has already been burned on the road by a tandem of high-scoring guards. KT Harrell and Chris Denson average more combined points per game (39.6) than Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown, who went for 61 against the Wildcats. This also might be another good chance for John Calipari to work on the zone defense he’s flashed recently. Harrell has been effective from deep this season (39.1 3P%) but that’s been it for the Tigers. As a team they’ve shot 31.9% from three, and two of the three players that dominate the ball (Denson and Tahj Shamsid-Deen) shoot under 30.7%. A final interesting angle to a game that looks mundane on the surface is the relationship between Calipari and Tony Barbee, who got his coaching start as a graduate assistant under Calipari at UMass, and was on his Memphis staff for six years. Since Barbee is sitting on the hot seat, this could be the last time the two face off in the SEC.
  5. There were some upgrades for the SEC this season after Mike Slive mandated tougher scheduling outside conference play. For one, despite not actually winning any of its tough games, Alabama did jump from the 69th toughest nonconference schedule in 2012-13 to the ninth toughest this season. They weren’t the only teams to upgrade. According to the Associated Press, “Kentucky (59th to 14th), Mississippi (271st to 103rd) and LSU (234th to 137th) are also among the teams who made big leaps in strength of nonconference schedule.” This still wasn’t enough, as the SEC nonconferene RPI on the whole was bad, and only Kentucky and Florida have tournament spots seemingly locked up. Slive’s policy should start to see greater returns over the next few years when coaches have greater flexibility to add more name-brand opponents. It’s unlikely anyone schedules like the Tide this year: they played Wichita State, Duke, UCLA, Oklahoma and Xavier. But their fate shouldn’t be a cautionary tale that scares off other SEC coaches. Had the Tide won even one of those difficult games (and they were close) their season could’ve taken on a different feel RPI- and momentum-wise. The SEC doesn’t currently have the cache to get their teams in based on conference play alone. Risks like Anthony Grant’s aggressive nonconference schedule need to be taken to build national respect.
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SEC M5: 01.06.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 6th, 2014

SEC_morning5

  1. Alabama enters SEC play at a disappointing 6-7 after slogging through the third toughest non-conference schedule in the country. “In the SEC, no game’s going to be easy,” Trevor Releford said. “It’s going to be a fight every night. I think it helped the young guys a lot to prepare them for what’s ahead. I think they’re ready for it and I think everybody on our team as well will be.” One of the young players who will be worth watching is guard Retin Obasohan. He was in a massive slump before getting somewhat back on track against Robert Morris. He had a combined 16 points in the three previous games, and got to the line only 8 times. While he didn’t get to the line much on Saturday, he did convert two of three three-point attempts, and his development from deep will be key. The sophomore takes 50% of his shots at the rim and things will become wide open for him if he improves on his 25% 3-point shooting.
  2. Unlike most of Missouri‘s games this season, Jordan Clarkson did not play a starring role Saturday. Instead, he had a ho-hum 11 points and got to the line only 3 times in the Tigers’ win against Long Beach State. But Missouri was able to survive a sluggish start against the 49ers because of an efficient 22 points from Jabari Brown (8 of 12) and 18 from Earnest Ross. Each of Frank Haith’s “Big Three” enter conference play with usage rates above 23% and scoring at least 14 points per game. Haith has been able to give each player enough touches because there frankly isn’t anyone else that demands the ball. Ryan Rosburg did pick up 11 rebounds against Long Beach State, and he’ll need to continue to crash the boards and improve on his 12.3% rebounding percentage as SEC play begins.
  3. Here’s your players/minutes watch for Arkansas33-point against UT-San Antonio: Mike Anderson got 12 players in for at least 12 minutes. That’s five wins for the Razorbacks by at least 29 points since December 3, all obviously coming in the friendly confines of Bud Walton Arena. As Brian pointed out yesterday, Arkansas needs to show it can win more than one game on the road before they can be taken seriously. Alandise Harris made the most of his 14 minutes with seven points, three rebounds, three assists, and a steal. The Houston transfer was the Razorbacks’ leading scorer in their first few games, but has slid back to third on the team (10.5). Still he’s been a valuable, balanced piece for Anderson as he leads in the SEC in defensive rating (85.3).
  4. Don’t look now but Auburn is on a four-game winning streak heading into conference play. Their list of victims doesn’t include any eye-grabbers, but included are two power conference teams (Clemson and Boston College). And after the dreadful loss to Northwestern State earlier in the year, no win can be discounted. Tony Barbee’s team avoided another embarrassing loss and has a one-two punch in Chris Denson and KT Harrell that will be difficult to deal with. Each guard knows what he does well and plays to it. Denson isn’t a good three-point shooter so he takes a remarkable 66% of his shots at the rim. Harrell is the opposite, and takes 45% percent of his shots from deep and connects on 42% of them.
  5. SEC play will be great fun for Commodores fans if Vanderbilt shoots the way they did Saturday against Northeastern. Kevin Stallings squad shot 62.5% overall and 66.7% from three. “You never expect to shoot the ball like that,” [Stallings] said. “I thought our guys did a really good job this week in preparation for their defenses. They play a zone that has given a lot of people trouble, and they went to it in the first half and we knew they would if we had any success against their man. We were very prepared, and our guys executed extremely well on their shots.” Every Commodore besides Dai-Jon Parker shot better than 50% for the game. While this is impressive, it did come against 270th best field goal defense in the country, and Vanderbilt won’t see a unit that bad the rest of the way. The more sustainable (and realistic) path to victory for the Commodores is the excellent field goal defense they’ve played this season. Vanderbilt has the 40th best effective field goal defense (allowing opponents to shoot just 44.8%) and 8th best three-point defense (27.2%).
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Early SEC Trends: Kentucky’s Rebounding & Auburn’s Three-Point Shooting

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 19th, 2013

The 2013-14 season has two weekends under its belt and we have a small sample size of SEC basketball to consider. Still, we’ve identified a couple of trends that have emerged in the young season, and what they could mean going forward.

Kentucky is in even better shape if Alex Poythress keeps rebounding the way he has in his first four games (photo courtesy vaughtsviews.com).

Kentucky is in even better shape if Alex Poythress keeps rebounding the way he has in his first four games (Credit: vaughtsviews.com).

Kentucky’s rebounding, Alex Poythress included. The Wildcats have flashed elite rebounding potential thus far. Kentucky has three rotation players with total rebounding percentages greater than 20 percent: Julius Randle (24.3%), Alex Poythress (22.6%), and Willie Cauley-Stein (20.7%). As a team they have outrebounded their four opponents by a combined total of 80 boards (199 to 119). This includes beating Michigan State on the boards by 12, and it’s not easy to do that to Tom Izzo’s Spartans. Poythress’ rebounding is especially worth keeping an eye on because he’s made marked improvement over last season’s rate (13.2%). It was a safe assumption that Randle and Cauley-Stein would be elite rebounders, and it’s only been four games, but adding Poythress to this category creates an even bigger advantage for the Wildcats since all three can feasibly play in the same lineup. Kentucky will likely have times where it struggles to execute its offense given the team’s relative inexperience, as in the first half against the Spartans. But their ability to limit second chances for their opponent and create some for themselves will help Kentucky weather these rough patches and avoid big deficits.

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ACC Summer Recess: Virginia Cavaliers

Posted by KCarpenter on July 30th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Virginia.

Where They Stand Now

Bennett Will Need to Find Some Replacements Next Season

Heading down the stretch, it looked like Virginia was poised to have a moment. Mike Scott was easily one of the two best players in the conference and there was an instant where it looked like the Cavaliers might have the juice to win the ACC. A team that played insanely tough defense just couldn’t find enough offense, though, losing two of its last three games, dropping one to North Carolina State in the first game of the ACC Tournament and getting totally obliterated by Florida in its NCAA Tournament opener. It was a crushingly disappointing end to one of the best seasons of Virginia basketball in years.

Who’s Leaving

In terms of seniors, Virginia is losing its bedrock in Scott, who was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the early second round after a storied career in Charlottesville. Also hurting their frontcourt depth, seven-footer Assane Sene, was injured and then left the team at the very end of the season, though he would have otherwise presumably graduated and moved on anyway. Finally, the Cavaliers lose Sammy Zeglinski, a reliable veteran guard. During last season, the transfer plague that has dogged Virginia struck again, sending K.T. Harrell to Auburn and James Johnson to San Diego State.

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ACC Game On: 12.27.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 27th, 2011

After a basketball hiatus, the ACC comes roaring back with a full slate of highly competitive games for us to watch! Wait, what’s that? There’s only one game? And it’s not supposed to be that competitive? Well, fine. Basketball is basketball and for Atlantic Coast Conference fans, this is all we have for tonight.

The Only Game

  • Maryland Eastern Shore at Virginia at 7 PM

Virginia remains ranked as they keep taking care of business against lesser opponents. Last week, Mike Scott walked away with the ACC Player of the Week award as he continues his spectacular final campaign with the Cavaliers. While Tony Bennett‘s team is still dealing with the departure of sophomore K.T. Harrell and redshirt freshman James Johnson, the Wahoos easily have the players to handle a Maryland Eastern Shore team that has struggled all season. The Hawks have yet to win a game on the road and struggle to shoot the ball. Against Virginia’s stifling pack-line defense in Charlottesville, Maryland Eastern Shore is going to have a hard time scoring. Expect the Cavaliers to win this game in a romp.

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ACC Morning Five: 12.27.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 27th, 2011

  1. Washington Post: The big news this weekend comes from Virginia as K.T. Harrell and James Johnson have both decided to transfer.  Johnson was a redshirt freshman who saw very little playing time, but Harrell was a key rotation player who waged a fairly successful freshman campaign, routinely knocking down big shots from beyond the arc and starting 15 games. Harrell, however, has struggled on offense this season and has seen his minutes drop. Both players cited a lack of playing time as the reason for transferring. Coach Tony Bennett doesn’t seem very concerned with these decisions, noting that transfers are becoming more common and that he’s had at least one player leave his program every year that he’s been a head coach. While Bennett might be unworried, at least one player transferring every year probably seems too high for Virginia’s fans.
  2. Fayetteville Observer: Bret Strelow has some interesting speculation about the rapid fire re-commitment and then de-commitment of Torian Graham. Apparently, while Graham definitely wants to play for North Carolina State, someone else is preventing him from doing so. He brings up the oft-discussed possibility that the Wolfpack is waiting to make sure that Graham meets the necessary academic qualifications to play college basketball, but he also brings up a more insidious theory where a relative, hanger-on, or handler is pushing Graham to sign with a more high-profile program. While this theory doesn’t yet have any hard confirmation, it’s an intriguing story. Hopefully, it’s not true.
  3. Washington Times: On Friday, Pe’Shon Howard made his season debut for Maryland. Howard has been out with a broken foot,  but played 30 minutes against Radford. The return of the talented guard is a huge boost for the Terrapins who haven’t yet seen the kind of stellar play they had been expecting of freshman guard Nick Faust. The Saturday reinstatement of freshman big man Alex Len is expected to be another significant gain for Maryland. Len has been serving an NCAA suspension related to his time playing with a professional club in the Ukraine.
  4. Soaring to Glory: It’s been a rough year for Boston College fans, and it doesn’t look like things are going to get any easier. Soaring to Glory breaks down the remaining Eagles schedule and tries to predict how may games this team can actually win. Spoiler Alert: Not many.
  5. Tobacco Road Blues: Chanukkah is nearly over, but it’s not too late to acknowledge the proud tradition of Jewish basketball at Duke and North Carolina. While Jon Scheyer gets the first spot on this list, the great Lennie Rosenbluth is probably the greatest son of David to play in the rivalry: In case you’re unfamiliar with the name, Rosenbluth averaged 28 PPG during the Tar Heels’ undefeated 1957 season, capped off by a triple-overtime victory over Wilt Chamberlain’s Kansas team.
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Morning Five: Day After Christmas Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 26th, 2011

  1. We hope all of you had a Merry Christmas or are enjoying whatever holiday celebration you partake in and if you don’t celebrate any we hope you had a good weekend anyways. If you were one of those attempting to get a last-minute holiday gift over the weekend, we hope you were not trying to get the Air Jordan Retro 11 Concords because apparently they were a very hot ticket item over the weekend with hundreds of people and in some cases over a thousand people lining up at some stores to buy the shoes. Unfortunately, demand appeared to exceed supply as some consumers ended up fighting leading to a handful of arrests across the country. Some readers, who may remember reports of violence associated with the shoes in the 1990s, may have heard about a reported murder with this release of the shoes, which fortunately appears to be false. The shoes, which sold for $180 at stores, appear to be going for 2-3 times as much as that on eBay today. While they are more expensive to purchase online you get to avoid the potential violence. Or you could just wait a week for the next shipment of the shoes to come in.
  2. While Virginia is off to its best start since the 2000-01 season at 10-1, it appears that not everyone on the team was happy as redshirt freshman James Johnson and sophomore KT Harrell have both decided to transfer. The school has not released any information as to why the players are leaving or where they are looking at going, but it is interesting to see that two more members of Tony Bennett‘s first class at Virginia leaving. To date, four of the six members of his inaugural class have left the program. We are not sure if this is a reflection on Bennett’s style of coaching or on the players in that class, but it is something worth watching going forward for the program.
  3. Former Seton Hall player Robert Mitchell sentenced to five years of probation for his role in robbing eight students at gunpoint on March 15, 2010. Mitchell, who has already served a seven-month jail sentence, claimed that he was unaware of the initial intentions of Kelly Whitney, another former Seton Hall player, when the incident took place. Mitchell testified against Whitney earlier this year and although the victims recounted both former players as active participants it was Whitney who was sentenced to a three-year prison term, which he is currently serving, while Mitchell was given the seven months in jail and the aforementioned probation. Whitney, who eventually pleaded guilty, is eligible for parole next fall.
  4. Coming into the season the Big 12 was considered as wide open as it had been in years particularly with seemingly perennial champion Kansas having a down year, but one team that nearly every analyst left out of the conversation was Kansas State. While we are not ready to call them the favorites or even legitimate contenders yet, the Wildcats certainly appear to be better than the sixth best team in the Big 12 as they were rated in the conference’s preseason poll. The Wildcats may not be ready to contend with the big boys (Baylor, Missouri, and Kansas) in the conference yet, but we wouldn’t be surprised if they stay in the top 4 and maybe a bit higher if one of the aforementioned three teams slip a little. In any case, after winning the Diamond Head Classic the Wildcats should be getting serious consideration in top 25 polls.
  5. Xavier put a temporary halt to their post-brawl freefall when they beat Southern Illinois in the 7th place game of the Diamond Head Classic. The fact that Xavier went from being #8 team in the country a few weeks ago to finishing 7th in a very mediocre tournament should tell you plenty about how hard they have fallen. While some of their recent struggles can be attributed to the immediate loss of Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons, and Dezmine Wells (for varying time frames) it also appears like they may be struggling to find their identity and edge after being ripped apart by the media and the public following their fight with Cincinnati and more specifically the post-game comments of Holloway and Lyons. Fortunately, they have plenty of time to right the ship before their season is lost and with Gonzaga coming to town on New Year’s Eve they will have a chance very shortly to reestablish themselves with their entire team back from suspension for the first time since the fight.
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Checking In On… the ACC

Posted by mpatton on December 14th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference. You can follow him on Twitter @rise_and_fire.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • Wake Forest’s Dynamic Duo: The Demon Deacons may not be the prettiest team to watch, but CJ Harris and Travis McKie are lighting up the box score. We knew (even if I, in a gaffe of all gaffes, left him off my All-Freshman team last year for Ryan Harrow) Mckie was going to be one of the ACC’s top players this year, but Harris has been a very pleasant surprise. The pair are efficiently combining for nearly 57% of Wake Forest’s points through the first 10 games of the year. Harris has already made as many threes as he made all last season on 18 less attempts, and he’s significantly more effective inside the arc. It remains to be seen how Harris will adapt to the defenses of ACC play, but so far he has to be leading the “surprise of the year” category.
  • Duke’s Post Presence: That’s right: after two solid years of berating the Plumlees as overrated and generally poor basketball players, it’s time to give credit where it’s due. Mason Plumlee has developed into a very good big man. No, he can’t make a free throw to save his life, but he’s much better offensively everywhere except the boards than he’s been the last few years. He developed a couple of solid post moves, stopped turning the ball over as much and learned to hold his ground on defense. If he can either learn to crash the offensive glass or hit 60% of his free throws, I’m confident in saying he’ll be one of the top three or four bigs in the ACC this season.
  • That’s right, the ACC Digital Network launched this season. Check out JR Reid break down North Carolina‘s softness and the conference power rankings. So far the coverage is fairly limited, but as it expands this could become one of the better sources of information for ACC fans.

Power Rankings

  1. North Carolina (8-2) stays atop the rankings with a hard-fought win over Long Beach State, which better get rewarded by the Selection Committee in March for playing such a tough non-conference schedule. The Tar Heels dominated on the inside with John Henson and Harrison Barnes leading the scoring, but it is worth noting that this is  another game where four Tar Heel starters played more than 30 minutes. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Team Previews: Virginia

Posted by KCarpenter on October 24th, 2011

Virginia had a run of bad luck last season. In the early part of the season, there were flashes of promise. An upset against a Minnesota team that had shellacked North Carolina in Puerto Rico and the incredible play of Mike Scott offered hope for the Cavaliers. But then, Scott, who was averaging a double-double with a ridiculous 15.9 PPG and 10.2 RPG, got hurt. The magic that led to an upset against Minnesota never returned as UVA simply failed to make much noise in ACC play. The team finished the season with a paltry 16-14 record and a meager seven wins in the conference. A season that started with promise ended in a first round conference tournament overtime loss to Miami.

Bennett Has an Interesting Team Returning to Charlottesville This Season

This season, much like last season, Virginia looks like it has a lot of potential. Mustapha Farrakhan (graduation) is the only major contributor that Tony Bennett lost over the summer.  Scott was granted a medical hardship waiver and will return for a fifth year with the Cavaliers. A talented freshman class includes four-star shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon as well as solid forwards in Paul Jesperson and Darion Atkins. After taking a redshirt, the 6’9″, 240-pound James Johnson will add even greater depth to a frontcourt that was depleted after Scott’s injury. That’s five significant pieces added to a nucleus that only lost Farrakhan.

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