ACC Conversation: NCAA Tournament Regional Recap

Posted by The ACC Team on April 3rd, 2019

Rush the Court’s ACC microsite team of Brad Jenkins, Matt Auerbach and Mick McDonald chat about the ACC’s lone Final Four participant, as well as the losses suffered by ACC squads in the regionals.

Zion Williamson’s Collegiate Career Ended in Washington, DC, on Sunday (USA Today Images)

Brad Jenkins: Welcome to April, fellas! Although it’s a little disappointing that only one of the ACC’s trio of top seeds made it through regional play, we still have the league’s best team, Virginia, heading to Minneapolis. But before we look ahead, let’s recap the amazing regionals action we just saw. Before we look at the individual ACC squads that perished, what are your overall thoughts on what we witnessed? Was this the best Elite Eight ever?

Mick McDonald: The 2005 NCAA Tournament is the standard bearer for amazing Elite Eights, and I think this year’s crop rates right up there with it. All four games featured two excellent teams playing at high levels in close games. We got two overtime games, a heavyweight battle between two legendary coaches, and one of the best individual performances in the history of the tournament from Purdue’s Carsen Edwards. Top it off with the amazing buzzer-beating scramble by Virginia to lock in an all-time moment, and I think you can make a pretty good argument for it being the best.

Matt Auerbach: All things being equal, the one that could rival this Elite Eight was, as Mick referenced, the one back in 2005. But, given the epic nature of the finish between Virginia and Purdue — with a backdrop of the performance of Edwards and the redemption of the Cavaliers — to highlight a weekend where another game went to overtime, another was decided by a point and another — Texas Tech vs. Gonzaga — was perhaps the best played of them all. It was an exhilarating set of games, and undeniably one of the best set of Elite Eight games ever.

Brad Jenkins: I’ve been watching this tournament since… well, let’s just say for quite a while. I can’t recall a better four games to get to the Final Four. And the Virginia-Purdue classic is on the short list of the best college games I’ve ever watched. Now, let’s talk a little about the ACC teams that bowed out in the Sweet Sixteen, beginning with Florida State and Virginia Tech. Tough losses for both programs, but historic seasons nonetheless.

Matt Auerbach: Yeah, I think Florida State just kind of ran into an off night situation with Gonzaga. It felt as though the Zags kept them at a comfortable distance throughout the contest, and the Seminoles could never get a spark to surge into the lead. As for the Hokies, you can’t get any closer than that!

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Eight Questions For The Elite Eight

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 30th, 2019

The Road to the Final Four has one final stop for the eight remaining teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament. As the weekend advances, here are the eight questions I have for the match-ups ahead.

The Zags Push For Their Second Final Four Appearance in History (USA Today Images)

Gonzaga vs. Texas Tech

Gonzaga: Will Gonzaga’s offense solve a Texas Tech defense that dominated Michigan for 40 minutes? Mark Few’s Bulldogs rank first in the nation in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage and two-point field goal percentage. According to Hoop-Math, Gonzaga also owns the fifth-best shooting percentage on attempts at the rim, an area that could be tested by a Red Raiders defense that blocks a lot of shots inside.

Texas Tech: Do the Red Raiders have enough size to compete against the large Gonzaga front line? Gonzaga’s bigs of Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke and Killian Tillie will be up against a Texas Tech squad that will play just two players 6’8″ or taller in Tarriq Owens and Norense Odiase. Texas Tech’s ability to stay out of foul trouble on its front line will be imperative in attempting to slow the Bulldogs’ interior game.

Virginia vs. Purdue

Virginia: Can the Cavaliers snap out of their shooting woes? Over Virginia’s last four games, the Cavaliers are shooting a woeful 26.9 percent on 104 three-point attempts. In the five games prior to that stretch they converted 54.2 percent on 107 attempts. Kyle Guy has most notably found himself in a staggering slump, having made just five of his last 31 attempts after shooting 42.7 percent on the season.

Purdue: Will Purdue’s recent struggles at the free throw line keep it from reaching the Final Four? While the Boilermakers have shot 71.9 percent from the line on the season, they have made just 63.4 percent from the stripe in seven March games. Purdue survived in its win on Thursday night against Tennessee despite missing 17 of its 33 attempts. And remember, points always come at a premium against Virginia.

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Rushed Reactions: Florida State 69, Virginia 59

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 15th, 2019

Three Key Takeaways.

Leonard Hamilton will be aiming for his second ACC championship on Saturday night (USA Today Images)
  1. Did we all overlook Florida State? The focus all week in Charlotte has been on the ACC’s three super-elite teams, but the Seminoles were never part of that conversation. With Virginia, Duke and North Carolina soaking up all the attention, Florida State was not considered a serious threat to take the ACC crown despite its double-bye status, but they will get that chance after dispatching top-seeded Virginia in impressive fashion. Leonard Hamilton’s club will head into tomorrow night’s championship tilt having won 14 of their last 15 games, and, lest we forget, this Florida State squad returns a core from a team that reached an Elite Eight a year ago. This group is both talented and experienced.
  2. Florida State made Virginia’s defense looked mortal. Good shots are often hard to come by when playing Virginia, so you’d better knock it down if one presents itself. That’s exactly what the Seminoles did for most of tonight, shooting 56.5 percent from the floor, including an outstanding 20-for-30 performance on two-point tries. And as usual, they used a balanced attack, with six Seminoles scoring at least nine points, including two reserves. Virginia had the pace of the game right where it wanted — under 60 possessions — but the Cavaliers could not match the Seminoles’ shooting prowess in addition to their size and length. Tony Bennett’s club shot just 41.5 percent from the floor and never got going from deep, making just 5-of-24 attempts from beyond the arc. Hamilton’s guys also dominated the glass by a convincing margin (+15).
  3. Virginia’s slow starts finally caught up to them. In three of its last four contests, including both of its games in Charlotte this week, Virginia trailed at the intermission. The margin of those first half deficits has been manageable — Florida State led by four tonight — but that’s certainly not a sustainable way to win as the competition of March improves. Another troubling issue for Bennett is the recent performance of one of his star guards. In this week’s two games in the Queen City, Ty Jerome only scored a total of 12 points on 5-of-24 shooting. As it is, Virginia has probably locked up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but this team won’t be taking great momentum into next week’s Big Dance.

Player of the Game. David Nichols, Florida State. It’s always hard to single out one Seminole but Nichols had a huge impact off the bench tonight. He finished with 14 points — 10 in the second half — in going 6-of-8 from the field.

Quotable.

  • “I think they shot it better. They were so balanced in their scoring” – Virginia coach Tony Bennett, on what was different about Florida State tonight.
  • “Not many people felt that we could even have a chance to win this game.” – Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, when asked about the upset win.
  • “They were just the tougher team tonight. More physical tonight.” – Virginia’s Ty Jerome, on why Virginia lost.

Sights and Sounds. This game felt like the undercard match to a main event bout. Virginia had solid support tonight in the Spectrum Center, but a large portion of the crowd was clearly more focused on the upcoming Tobacco Road showdown between North Carolina and Duke.

What’s Next. With the upset win, Florida State will play for the ACC Tournament title against either North Carolina or Duke on Saturday night. It will be Leonard Hamilton’s third appearance in the ACC championship game — his Seminoles beat North Carolina for the school’s only ACC title in 2012.

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ACC Tournament Takeaways: Thursday Afternoon

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 14th, 2019

RTC’s Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) will be reporting live from Charlotte at the 2019 ACC Tournament through Saturday’s championship game.

Kyle Guy continued his red-hot shooting to lead Virginia over N.C. State. (Getty Images)

Here are a few thoughts on the four teams from today’s afternoon session at the ACC Tournament.

  • Virginia (29-2): The Cavaliers exorcised some demons in the Spectrum Center today. It was in this building nearly 365 days ago that Virginia became the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed in NCAA Tournament history. Perhaps Tony Bennett’s guys were reliving that nightmare in the first half against NC State — Virginia trailed by two at the break — before getting it going after intermission and cruising to a 76-56 win. Kyle Guy kept up his torrid long range marksmanship by shooting 7-of-9 from deep en route to 29 points. Guy has made 26 of his last 41 attempts from beyond the arc for an impressive rate of 63.4 percent. With Ty Jerome having an off day — two points on 1-of-11 shooting — Jack Salt gave Virginia a huge lift by scoring a career high 18 points.
  • NC State (22-11): Kevin Keatts’ club hung tough with the top seed for about 24 minutes today, but ultimately couldn’t overcome a terrible shooting day. The Wolfpack shot just 38.8 percent from the floor, including a frigid 3-of-20 performance from three-point land. Now, NC State will be on bubble watch for the rest of the weekend, hoping that the NCAA Selection Committee weighs their high metric numbers (#32 NET, #32 KenPom) heavier than that ugly non-conference strength of schedule (dead last in college basketball). We think the committee will be inclined to validate its new NET tool this year — which would be to NC State’s benefit — so, we think the Wolfpack will be invited to the Big Dance.
  • Florida State (26-6): In the second quarterfinal of the day, Florida State’s Terance Mann tossed in a runner with two seconds left in overtime as the Seminoles edged Virginia Tech, 65-63. Florida State controlled things for most of the game, but after a late Virginia Tech rally, Leonard Hamilton’s team needed a clutch three from Devin Vassell just to force the extra session. It was not a stellar offensive performance for the Seminoles — 38.6 percent shooting and 17 turnovers — but their defense and work on the glass (+13 rebounding edge) enabled them to overcome their scoring issues. For Florida State to have a chance to knock off top-seeded Virginia in Friday’s semifinals, it will need to be much more efficient offensively than it was today.
  • Virginia Tech (24-8): This was a tough situation for a shorthanded team to deal with — Virginia Tech was playing on back-to-back days and it was up against the deepest team in the league. The Hokies struggled to make shots from deep (4-of-19 three-pointers) but hung around with a strong defensive effort. This is the second overtime loss to Florida State in a nine-day span for Buzz Williams’ group, but it shouldn’t negatively impact their seeding in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. It’s still not known if the Hokies will have the services of star point guard Justin Robinson, as Williams said in the postgame that Robinson — who has missed the last 12 contests — will meet with doctors on Sunday for another evaluation.
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Virginia Shows Resolve in Rallying to Beat North Carolina

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on February 12th, 2019

It is difficult to dream up a more daunting back-to-back scenario than playing host to #2 Duke on Saturday followed by visiting the #8 team on its home floor 48 hours later. And after the disappointment of losing the front end in a season sweep to the Blue Devils, Virginia faced a must-win situation at North Carolina on Monday night if it had any designs on repeating as the ACC regular season champion.

Virginia Came Through in the Clutch in Chapel Hill Last Night (USA Today Images)

In staking itself a seven-point halftime lead, the Cavaliers controlled pace while managing to keep the Tar Heels from getting anything going in transition. The second half was a different story, however, as North Carolina dictated tempo early and opened up a seven-point advantage of its own with fewer than eight minutes remaining. Tony Bennett‘s team could have easily collapsed under the weight of the physical and mental pressure at that point, but that’s not what happened.

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ACC Stock Report: Volume IV

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on February 1st, 2019

Virginia played perhaps its worst game in conference play on Tuesday night — an uncharacteristically sloppy, and mistake-riddled effort — and still managed a road win against a top-30 team. Duke, despite devolving somewhat into a two-man show, is still running roughshod through its opposition. And while there is a four-way tie in the loss column at the top of the standings — Louisville and North Carolina are maintaining contact with the top two — it is looking increasingly likely that the teams perched #1/#2 on the KenPom ratings will ultimately separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

Stock Rising

Virginia Survived NC State Earlier This Week (USA Today Images)

Virginia Offense: While not on display in Tuesday’s victory in Raleigh, these Cavaliers are arguably the best offensive group Tony Bennett has coached in Charlottesville. Virginia now ranks as the fifth most efficient offense in college basketball — up from 30th a year ago, a season in which it earned the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers have already exceeded 80 points six times this year, which is more than they have in their two previous campaigns combined. Bennett’s club ranks 12th nationally in making 39.6 percent of its three-pointers, led by the ACC’s best long-range shooter, Kyle Guy (45% 3FG). Combined with the versatile Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter, who currently rank ninth and 10th, respectively, in the KenPom Player of the Year standings, the Cavaliers own a trio of versatile shot creators and makers that it hasn’t had before. Its lockdown defense (second nationally in defensive efficiency) and stinginess with the ball (third in turnover percentage) haven’t gone anywhere, so the traditional ingredients of Bennett’s success still remain. But now, with a pinch of offensive explosiveness thrown into the mix, Virginia is an absolute nightmare to play.

Stock Holding

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ACC Weekend Preview: January 12

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 11th, 2019

ACC play is in full swing and Rush the Court’s ACC microsite writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) is here to get you set for a busy Saturday of hoops. (All rankings via KenPom)

Saturday, January 12

Kyle Guy Leads Virginia into Clemson (USA Today Images)
  • #2 Virginia (14-0, 2-0) at #40 Clemson (10-5, 0-2). First to 50 wins? Expect a defensive struggle at Littlejohn Coliseum tomorrow afternoon, as two of the best defensive teams in the country get together (Virginia ranks third, Clemson 24th, per KenPom). The good news for anyone hoping for some offense? Each team has a dynamic guard who comes into this game on fire. Virginia’s Kyle Guy is averaging more than 19 points per game over his last four outings while shooting 61.5 percent from long-distance and 62 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Clemson’s Marcquise Reed is also putting up just over 19 PPG in the same span while making 46.7 percent of his threes and adding 5.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. This is a monster opportunity for Brad Brownell’s Tigers, which otherwise look headed for the bubble. The key for his squad may be turnovers. Clemson has given the ball away 16 or more times in five straight contests after doing so just once in their first 10 games. Given how few possessions there will be tomorrow, Clemson cannot afford to squander any opportunities to score against Tony Bennett’s defense.
  • #39 Louisville (10-5, 1-1) at #6 North Carolina (12-3, 2-0). The two leading scorers for Louisville and North Carolina may be two of the most underappreciated players in the entire ACC. Cameron Johnson gave every Tar Heel fan a scare when he left Tuesday’s game against NC State with what initially looked like a serious knee injury. Luckily it was cramping instead, because he’s been the best player on Roy Williams’ squad this season. The seniior leads the team with 16.2 points per game but is also backing it up with excellent efficiency numbers (24.5 PER, 127.5 ORtg). His flexibility allows the Tar Heels to play big or small, and his size makes him a tough cover for opposing defenders. For the Cardinals, Jordan Nwora (17.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG) is having the breakout season Louisville fans have been waiting on from V.J. King since he stepped on campus. There are still lots of questions about Chris Mack’s inaugural team in Louisville, but Nwora (27.6 usage rate) has answered the call as a go-to-scorer.
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Ten Questions To Consider: Early Conference Play Action

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 11th, 2019

While teams are now just a couple of games into conference play, this weekend features a number of opportunities for some to stay perfect, for others to bounce back from tough loses, and for several resume statements to be made. Here are 10 questions I have in advance of this weekend’s action.

Ethan Happ is Playing like an All-American
  1. Will Ethan Happ’s hot start to conference play continue? (Purdue @ Wisconsin, Friday 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ is averaging a career high 19.3 points per game and is coming off of a 22-point outing against Penn State in which he took 24 shots from the field.
  2. Can Indiana find a way to win on the road? (Indiana @ Maryland, Friday 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Indiana is 1-3 in true road games this season, with its only win being by two points at Penn State. In the Hoosiers’ recent road loss at Michigan, they fell behind 32-19 midway through the first half.
  3. Will Tennessee start SEC play 3-0 for just the second time in the last decade? (Tennessee @ Florida, Saturday 6 PM EST, ESPN) The Volunteers are currently the only SEC team with both an adjusted offensive and deficiency ranking among the top 25 nationally. Tennessee has dropped three games in a row at Florida, however, having lost each game by 13 or more points.
  4. Can the inconsistent Texas offense show up against the elite defense of Texas Tech? (Texas Tech @ Texas, Saturday 2 PM EST, Longhorn Network) Shaka Smart’s Longhorns have been wildly inconsistent on the offensive end this season. In their last six games, Texas has scored at a clip of 1.1 points per possession or better four times but twice have failed to score at least 0.9 points per possession.
  5. How can Florida State find a way to beat Duke (Duke @ Florida State, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPN) Florida State has won its last two home match-ups when both the Seminoles and Blue Devils were ranked. Led by Christ Koumadje, Florida State has had tremendous success grabbing misses on the offensive end all season — keep in mind that the Blue Devils surrendered 19 offensive rebounds to Wake Forest in their last outing.
  6. Can San Francisco compete with the King of the WCC? (Gonzaga @ San Francisco, Saturday 10 PM EST, ESPN2) San Francisco entered the week with a NET ranking of #37, even though the Dons currently feature just two wins against top 100 KenPom opponents. In order to enter the discussion of an eventual at-large bid, USF must perform well against Gonzaga this weekend. The Dons need to find a way to slow down a Zags’ attack that made 61.8 percent of its two-point attempts against the Dons a season ago.
  7. Is Virginia’s offense not getting enough attention this season? (Virginia @ Clemson, Noon EST, ACC Network) Virginia is coming off of a game on Wednesday night in which it scored 83 points in regulation against Boston College. It was the first time a Cavaliers’ team had scored 80 or more points in regulation of an ACC game since February 24, 2013. After shooting 39.2 percent from behind the arc as a sophomore, Kyle Guy is making 47.3 percent of his three-point attempts this season.
  8. How does Louisville respond to its loss against Pittsburgh against North Carolina? (Louisville @ North Carolina, Saturday Noon EST, ESPN) In Louisville’s loss against Pittsburgh this week, the Panthers shot 56.1 percent from inside the arc. The Cardinals are now 3-4 when their opponents shoot above 50 percent from inside the line. Louisville also needs to see Jordan Nwora respond positively after a miserable 2-of-14 game from the field.
  9. Who will come out on top in a match-up of strengths between the TCU offense and the Oklahoma defense? (TCU @ Oklahoma, Saturday 2 PM EST) Jamie Dixon’s TCU squad heads to Norman with one of the best two-point shooting teams in the nation. On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma’s two-point field goal defense is among the best in the nation. The Sooners have the 10th best field-goal defense at the rim, according to Hoop-Math, holding opponents to 50.5 percent in those attempts, nearly nine points better than the national average.
  10. Will Syracuse’s Frank Howard turn a corner and return to his old self this weekend? (Georgia Tech @ Syracuse, Saturday 6 PM EST, ESPN2) After missing the first four games with a leg injury, Syracuse’s Frank Howard has scored in single-digits in 9 of his 11 games this season. This comes just a season removed from Howard scoring in fewer than 10 points in just five games last year.

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ACC Stock Report: Volume 1

Posted by Matt Auerbach on January 8th, 2019

With the non-conference portion of the season now in the rearview and the ACC schedule tipping in earnest last weekend, it feels like the appropriate time to assess a few programs and players in this year’s initial stock report.

Stock Up

Elijah Hughes: When considering Syracuse’s chances to contend at the top of the league, the preseason focus was on the returns of Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett. And while both have been good, it is perhaps Hughes, the transfer from East Carolina, who has been the most consistent player for the Orange. Coming off Saturday’s 22-point, 10-rebound game in a victory at Notre Dame — both career highs — Hughes is now second on the team in scoring, third in rebounding, and is by far the team’s best threat from long range with 36 made triples. Notching double-figures in all but two games, the 6’6” swingman has been a pleasant surprise for Jim Boeheim during a season that has been a bit more uneven than some (guilty as charged) presumed before it started.

Kyle Guy: Unlike Hughes, big things were expected from the 6’3” Virginia marksman who was coming off a sophomore campaign where he earned All-ACC first team honors and a third team All-America nod. As a junior, Guy is leading the undefeated Cavaliers in scoring just as he did a year ago, but the improvements in his game have been obvious both visually and statistically. Guy’s shot creativity and ability to elevate quickly over bigger defenders off the bounce is an addition to his always lethal shooting coming off curl screens in set plays. His offensive rating is up from 105.2 to 126.4, while his true shooting percentage has similarly seen a 12 percent spike, thanks to a career best 48.3 percent mark from inside of the arc. The Virginia star’s money is made from beyond the arc, however, and after blistering Florida State in the league opener by making five of six attempts, Guy now ranks 42nd in the nation, making 41 of his 85 three attempts.  

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ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Wednesday Preview

Posted by Matt Auerbach on November 28th, 2018

An extremely competitive ACC-Big Ten Challenge, one in which six games have already been decided by four points or fewer, comes to a close tonight. Locked at 4-4 going into tonight’s games, let’s take a look at what’s in store for this evening.

Jim Boeheim is Pleading for a Win (USA Today Images)

  •  #20 Syracuse (3-2) at #23 Ohio State (6-0). On the strength of two true road wins against top 40 teams, Ohio State was the top-rated team in the initial NET ratings that were released on Monday. The talented Orange have been disappointing in the early going, as Syracuse visits Columbus tonight with losses to Connecticut and Oregon weighing down its non-conference slate. Jim Boeheim‘s vaunted zone ranks as the nation’s sixth most efficient defense, but poor shooting has carried over to the tune of a 31.4 percent clip from beyond the arc. Oshae Brissett, the team’s best prospect, and Tyus Battle, the team’s leading returning scorer, are shooting 18.2 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively from deep. Point guard Frank Howard’s return to action will certainly provide a boost, but Syracuse will undoubtedly need to be a lot crisper on the offensive end to slow down a versatile set of Buckeyes.
  • #115 Rutgers (4-1) at  #22 Miami (5-1). Despite its most talented player, Dewan Hernandez, being withheld from competition amid a review of eligibility, the Hurricanes have been impressive in winning five of their first six games. Diminutive spark plug point guard Chris Lykes leads five Hurricanes averaging more than 11 points per contest, while Dejan Vasiljevic is making 52.5 percent of his threes, good for 77th in the country. Steve Pikiell’s Scarlet Knights have been stingy on the defensive end this season, turning teams over on 24.3 percent of their possessions. However, Rutgers has been especially brutal on the other end of the floor, checking in as the 263rd most efficient offense while turning the ball over  at an alarming 22.6 percent rate (312th nationally).

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