Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A Look Back

You probably know this by now, but the biggest news of the week was Larry Drew II leaving North Carolina.  He was immediately ripped by fans and experts alike (the word “quit” and phrase “addition by subtraction” probably started trending on Twitter) largely–in my opinion–because he didn’t tell the team his decision, instead letting his father do it for him.  It’s hard to tell if this is a case of “selfish kid” (as most have interpreted the story) or “overreaching parent.”  My guess is it’s a combination of the two, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the latter was the deciding factor.  Everyone from college professors to recruiting analysts will tell you that parents are the hardest to deal with because they have a tendency to only see one side of the story.  The transfer was still very surprising based on timing (he has to sit out a year anyways), and Drew was coming off a career game (in assists) against Boston College. Regardless, Drew’s transfer may show why Roy Williams was so hesitant to start Kendall Marshall in the first place, if he suspected a delicate situation.

On the other side of Tobacco Road, Duke picked up its first commit from the class of 2012 in Alex Murphy, a 6’8 wing player.  The comparison that has been tossed around most frequently is Kyle Singler, though I think that’s a somewhat lazy comparison.  The other name I’ve heard a little is Mike Dunleavy, which seems a little more accurate in terms of skill sets based on the very limited video I’ve seen of Murphy on YouTube.  There are rumblings that Murphy may reclassify and join Duke next year, as he’s in his fourth year of high school, but I don’t think he’d gain a considerable advantage by coming a year earlier based on Duke’s talent-laden 2011 class.

And last but not least, NC State’s CJ Leslie was suspended for violating team rules and missed a romping at the hands of Duke.  He certainly wouldn’t have made an appreciable difference in the outcome (Duke was up by thirty at one point in the first half), but his suspension is just a microcosm of NC State’s disastrous season.  For a fun (but depressing read), I highly suggest checking out Backing the Pack’s Profile of a Possible Savior series on current coaches that might make a good replacement for Sidney Lowe (currently they’ve profiled Old Dominion’s Blaine Taylor, Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin and Richmond’s Chris Mooney, South Carolina’s Darrin Horn, Providence’s Keno Davis, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Dayton’s Brian Gregory).  My favorite “Important Question” by far: “Does he run the Princeton offense?”  Even if you’re not a State fan, I highly suggest checking these out as the Wolfpack probably won’t be the only team on the lookout for a new coach and it’s a nice group of successful, under-the-radar coaches.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alabama’s Anthony Grant gets profiled soon after the season he’s put together this year.

Player of the Week: Kendall Marshall wins after tossing 22 dimes in games at Boston College and against Florida State.  If anything, Drew’s transfer highlighted Marshall’s outstanding play.  Harrison Barnes was also in double figures for the seventh straight game (he is averaging just under 23 points a game in his last three outings), which brings us to our team of the week.

Team of the Week: North Carolina, without a doubt.  I briefly considered pushing the Tar Heels to the top spot in the power rankings, but Duke also had two dominant wins this week, so I held off.  But the Tar Heels are playing their best basketball of the season right now, having reeled off five straight wins (only one in single digits) after the embarrassing loss to Georgia Tech.  Everything is clicking right now: Barnes, Marshall, John Henson, Tyler Zeller and even Reggie Bullock (even if he still hasn’t found consistency).  This is the team that was picked in the top ten before the season.  This team is capable of beating Duke in Durham Wednesday night.  It’s also capable of losing by 20, but I’d put my money on a close game.  So far this season, Carolina has been an elite defensive team (ranked eighth, right behind Duke, in defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy), but in their last two games, they’ve put up unfathomable offensive numbers.  Against Boston College’s admittedly porous defense, the Heels put up a gaudy 139.5 offensive rating (100 is average) on the road.  More impressively, Carolina followed its dismantling of the Eagles with a 122.7 offensive rating against Florida State.  The previous best offensive efficiency mark came against the Seminoles: only one team prior to North Carolina had been able to break a 101 offensive efficiency rating.  Long story short, Wednesday night’s game at Duke just got a lot more interesting.

Bizarro Team of the Week: NC State, though Wake Forest and Georgia Tech also had dogs in this fight.  It’s safe to say that losing seven of your last eight followed by a suspension for your second best player is not really what Sidney Lowe had in mind.

Power Rankings

1.  Duke (21-2, 8-1) barely held on to the top spot in the power rankings after taking it to Maryland in College Park and unsurprisingly cruising to a big win at home over NC State.  Nolan Smith is playing like one of the best guards in the country, but he’s not the one that should scare opponents.  Mason Plumlee put up two double-doubles in Duke’s wins this week, notching 12 and 11 against Maryland and 16 and 12 against NC State (don’t forget Maryland and State have two of the strongest post players in the conference).  Plumlee has quietly become one of the best rebounders in the conference, with double-digit board totals in his last seven conference contests.  Keep an eye out for how the Plumlees handle John Henson and Tyler Zeller this week.

2.  North Carolina (17-5, 7-1) had its best week of basketball of the past two seasons last week and is finally living up to expectations.

3.  Florida State (16-7, 6-3) ran into a buzzsaw in Chapel Hill, but beat up on Wake at home.  Thanks to non-conference struggles and a weak ACC, Florida State could get a fairly bad seed come Selection Sunday.  But away from Tallahassee, the Seminoles have an offensive inconsistency that will make it nearly impossible to succeed in the one and done format of the tournament.

4.  Maryland (15-8, 5-4) lost to an angry Duke team at home before beating up on Wake at home.  Discounting the Duke game, the Terrapins have won four of five and have winnable games (other than at North Carolina) the rest of the way.  They’ll need to win most of those to lock up an at-large position.

5.  Boston College (15-8, 5-4) stopped the bleeding with a huge home win over Virginia Tech.  I was at the game, and the Eagles are very lucky to have come out with the win.  The Hokies could not buy a jump-shot in the first half (they literally had nothing but paint points and free throws) despite getting numerous good looks.  The game was a must-win for Boston College, and it can thank Reggie Jackson’s great final eleven minutes for the win.

6.  Virginia Tech (15-7, 5-4) lost a tough game at Conte Forum, but the Hokies were in less trouble than the Eagles.  That’s no excuse for how Virginia Tech lost the game, though.  First, Malcolm Delaney was sent to the foul line with a chance to tie with under thirty seconds left.  Then the Hokies decided it was a good plan to drop the ball off to slumping Erick Green, who hadn’t hit a single shot all game, for the final hurrah.  Regardless, I don’t think the Hokies’ at-large hopes are crushed by the loss.  They still have a couple of chances for good wins–home against Maryland and Duke–left on the schedule.

7.  Clemson (16-7, 5-4), otherwise known as the fourth team in the conference at five and four, lost a killer at Virginia before flirting with disaster against Georgia Tech.  As much as I like Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant, I’m not sure either is cut out to be the go-to guy on an ACC team.  Unfortunately, I think Clemson is going to be the odd man out (or one of two odd men out from the five and four bunch) unless they can grab two of North Carolina (home), Boston College (home) and Virginia Tech (home).

8.  Miami (14-9, 3-6) turned the tables this week, winning two more excruciatingly close games at home over Georgia Tech and Virginia.  Not that home wins over Georgia Tech and Virginia are that impressive, but this Hurricane team really needed them.  If Reggie Johnson can find a way to commit less fouls, he’s going to be an immovable object in the post.  Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott both have some work to do before becoming primary playmakers for a team in conference contention (also known as not disappearing during important stretches), but this team will only get better next season with nearly everyone coming back.

9.  Virginia (12-11, 3-6) almost blew a huge lead to Clemson, but somehow managed to hold on in the final seconds.  Tony Bennett has done a great job with what’s been available for him and his team the past couple of years, but he’s still decidedly in the “rebuilding” process at Virginia.  Give him two more years and Virginia should be back in the top half of the conference.

10. Georgia Tech (10-12, 3-6) has lost three of their last four, including losses to Miami and Clemson this week.  Things aren’t going to get any easier from here as the Yellow Jackets have to face Florida State (home) and Virginia Tech on the road this week.  In stark contrast to Tony Bennett, Paul Hewitt has struggled mightily getting the most out of his normally quite talented players.  Hewitt seems like a great guy, but he’s just a level too high in coaching.

11. NC State (12-11, 2-7) is discovering how it feels to have the bottom fall out.

12. Wake Forest (8-15, 1-7) already knows how it feels to have the bottom fall out: if having the bottom fall out is losing 11 of your last 13 games.

A Look Ahead

Welcome to Rivalry Week.  The best rivalry in all of college basketball–if not all of sports–opens the first game of the season in Durham Wednesday night at 9:00 PM on ESPN (or the ACC Network depending on your location).  North Carolina seems to be peaking right in time for the big game, while Duke looks like it has bounced back from the ugly loss at St. John’s.  Really, this should be a phenomenal game: the atmosphere and emotions will be off the charts, and these are the two best teams in the ACC (by a very solid margin).

The other two teams with a very big week ahead are Clemson and Boston College–who both look dangerously close to the wrong side of the bubble right now.  The Tigers play at Boston College Tuesday in a must-win for both teams (9:00 PM, ESPNU).  After that, Clemson gets North Carolina at home Saturday in what could be an epic letdown game and a great chance to get revenge for what transpired in Chapel Hill (1:00 PM, ACC Network).  Boston College gets another chance to boost its at-large resume when the Terrapins come to town Saturday (1:00 PM, ACC Network).

Needless to say, this should be one of the more exciting weeks in the ACC.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.02.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 2nd, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Two big rivalries lead the way tonight while a couple of key conference clashes comprise this evening’s undercard. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#19 Syracuse @ #5 Connecticut – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

It’s a matchup of the deans of the Big East as Jim Calhoun faces off yet again with Jim Boeheim. Both teams are coming off of losses on Saturday, but the Orange have lost four straight and are looking dead in the eye of a fifth as they head on the road to face Connecticut. Facing a Connecticut team that shoots the ball at a fairly average clip and has recently thrown up a couple of sub-40% performances, however, may be the prescription needed for a win.

The 2-3 Zone Has Been Porous and Passionless Of Late

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

ACC storylines abound this week.  Duke embarrassed by a bubble-worthy Saint John’s team in the normally friendly Madison Square Garden; North Carolina finally got some hype-worthy play out of Harrison Barnes as they solidify their runner-up status; Maryland won a couple of near must-win conference road games to stay in the hunt for an at-large bid; Florida State showcased the offense that lost to Auburn in a hideous defeat at Clemson; Virginia Tech joined the ranks of ACC squads to lose big in Atlanta; Boston College was forced to play in Cameron Indoor; Georgia Tech sniffed the top half of the conference before Brian Oliver’s untimely injury left them undermanned against the Terps; NC State continued its quest to remind Wolfpack nation why they should have never run off Herb Sendek; Miami upped its resume as the unluckiest team in the conference to notch two more losses by less than five points (their fifth in conference play); Wake Forest booted their potentially historically bad legacy with their first conference win; and Virginia rapidly progressed towards the team we thought they would be to start the season.

As you can see, the ACC–and really college basketball as a whole–creates a wild landscape.  Yes you have your leaders (Duke in the ACC; Ohio State and Texas in their respective conferences), your disappointments (Virginia Tech still qualifies; nationally, Kansas State fits the bill) and your stragglers (Wake Forest joins Auburn and DePaul).  But as last week showed (the top 25 went 22-20), anything can happen.

Player of the Week: Nolan Smith’s team may have left their defense and three-point shooting in Durham, but he played like a star.  Kyle Singler came into this season with all of the POY hype, but people should have looked at Nolan Smith.  Yes, Smith is still behind Kemba Walker (he’s closing that gap), Jimmer Fredette and probably Jared Sullinger (who, no offense, is starting to feel like the Mark Ingram “best player on the best team” Heisman).  But he’s at least gaining on Walker and Sullinger.  The ugly loss at St. John’s didn’t do Smith any favors, but to his credit, he was outstanding.  This week, Smith averaged 30 points and six assists between the two games (and probably should have had more assists in the Saint John’s game, but as Tim Brando would say “the iron was unkind” to his teammates).  Smith has really picked up as much slack left by Kyrie Irving as anyone could have hoped, forced to move into an on the ball position.  He currently leads the ACC in both points and assists per game, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  No, Smith isn’t the most athletic player on the court.  But he’s still a very good shooter with the ability to create his own shot while remaining the primary facilitator.  To really have a chance at the award Smith needs Fredette to cool off, Walker to stay in his slump, and run the table in conference play.  Likely?  No, but it’s possible.

Team of the Week: Maryland finally may be living up to its statistical hype, after two very strong road wins over Virginia (66-42) and Georgia Tech (74-63).  Those wins won’t go a long way in making a resume much better, but they keep it from getting worse.  I’m still not entirely sure why this team hasn’t gotten into a groove: it has plenty of talent and a great coach.  I know the guard play leaves a little to be desired, but between Terrell Stoglin, Adrian Bowie and Pe’Shon Howard, Gary Williams should find someone who can effectively run the offense.  To say that Wednesday’s game at home against Duke will be a big game will be an understatement.  Duke looks like it’s skidding, and Maryland looks like it may be getting things together.  While it’s not a must-win for either team, everyone knows how much Maryland hates to lose to Duke.

Bizarro Team of the Week: Virginia came down to earth this week with ugly losses to Maryland and at Wake Forest.  Yes, the Cavaliers gave the Demon Deacons their first conference win and for that alone deserve this week’s award.  The Cavaliers allowed Wake its second most potent offensive performance of the season, largely because Wake hit nine of 19 from beyond the arc and got offensive production out of almost everyone with six players in double figures.  I don’t think this is a sign that Wake is turning things around (though hopefully it’s steadily improving) so much as Virginia falling into its place near the bottom of the conference without Mike Scott.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (19-2, 6-1) took one on the chin at Madison Square Garden, but don’t overreact.  St. John’s played its best game of the season and Duke played its worst.  Going into the game, Duke as a team was shooting 40% from three.  They started the St. John’s game 1-22.  Some were forced, but no more than usual.  This team (like most Duke teams) relies very heavily on jump shots, and some nights, they just won’t fall.  Duke’s defense left much more cause for concern.  The Blue Devils couldn’t find a way to stop St. John’s penetration and backdoor cuts to save their lives.  Mike Krzyzewski cited effort (and St. John’s playing a beautiful game) afterwards, but giving up more than 90 points is always cause for concern.
  2. North Carolina (15-5, 5-1) has quietly moved into second with wins over Miami (on the road) and NC State.  And look out, because Roy Williams has started playing Kendall Marshall at point, and Harrison Barnes is starting to live up to his potential (at least some of it).  Barnes has scored in double figures in five of six conference games and hit huge shots along the way.  In the Miami win, Barnes scored the last five points for UNC in the final minute and change to tie the game and then take the lead for good.
  3. Maryland (14-7, 4-3) looks like they may be getting things together.  Duke’s trip to College Park Wednesday should tell us a lot more. See this week’s “Team of the Week” section above for an in-depth update on the Terps.
  4. Florida State (15-6, 5-2) is one of the most frustrating teams in the country.  When Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen are playing well, the Seminoles are very tough to beat.  Unfortunately, they don’t run any real offensive sets.  So when Kitchen and Singleton are not creating their own shots, this team struggles to put up fifty.  Leonard Hamilton’s teams are notoriously good on defense, but they’re looking worse and worse on offense.  I’m not sure if that’s because of player personnel or coaching personnel, but I’d definitely start thinking about trying to pick up an offensive minded coach during the offseason.
  5. Clemson (15-6, 4-3) beat NC State and Florida State convincingly at home.  You can’t overstate what a great job Brad Brownell has done with this team.  While they may end up on the wrong side of Selection Sunday, the Tigers have really impressed me at times this season.  By the way, Clemson has impressed Ken Pomeroy too: they’re 29th in his ratings.
  6. Virginia Tech (14-6, 4-3) seemed to be on the right track before going and losing to Georgia Tech.  This team is still puzzling.  They’ve had a ton of injuries, but that’s not it.  When the Hokies are effective offensively, they win (12-0 when they score more than a point per possession).  When they’re not, they lose (2-6 when they don’t).  That might not be all that surprising, but you would think a team with that many veterans would be a little more consistent offensively.  Despite their inconsistency, Ken Pomeroy has the Hokies ranked 31st.
  7. Boston College (14-7, 4-3) can’t really take too much heat for losing in Durham.  They need Reggie Jackson to be a factor to beat good teams.  But they’ve lost three out of four, so they’ll really need to at least split with Virginia Tech and North Carolina.  Unfortunately for the Eagles, they’re projected to lose their next five games.
  8. Georgia Tech (10-10, 3-4) is a puzzling team to me.  They don’t get to the free throw line (despite very aggressive guards) and they can’t shoot.  There’s no reason Iman Shumpert, Glen Rice, Brian Oliver and Mfon Udofia shouldn’t be able to get to the line at will.  They’re all tall (at least 6’5 except Udofia) and athletic, which creates huge mismatches for most teams.  Why even settle for threes?
  9. NC State (12-9, 2-5) has lost five of their last six only sporting wins over Wake and Miami in conference play.  To say this team has underachieved would be sugar-coating it.  There is no reason this squad shouldn’t have made the NCAA Tournament.  None.  They have good guards (albeit young) and great post presence.  I don’t see any way State hangs on to Sidney Lowe after this disaster.
  10. Miami (12-9, 1-6) may be the unluckiest team in basketball.  If not for a one point win over Boston College, it would be defeated in conference play.  The last five Hurricane games have been decided by a total of 12 points.  Miami lost four of those games.  Hopefully Frank Haith can turn things around with home games against Virginia and Georgia Tech this week.
  11. Wake Forest (8-13, 1-5) is out of the cellar for the week!  Offensive balance and good shooting ruled the day in Winston-Salem.  I’m not sure I see any more great shots at a win left on the schedule (though you should never bet on NC State or Georgia Tech on the road), so it’s good that the Demon Deacons got a win when they did.  Things can only go up from here.
  12. Virginia (11-10, 2-5) fell to a desperate Wake Forest team looking for its first conference win to fall to one and five in their last six games.

A Look Ahead

  • Tuesday Blizzard Warning: North Carolina at Boston College (9:00 PM, ACC Network)
  • Wednesday Upset Watch: Duke at Maryland (9:00 PM, ESPN)
  • Sunday Ticket: Florida State at North Carolina (2:00 PM, FSN)
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ATB: Wild Weekend Across the Hoops Universe

Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2011

The Lede.  What a weekend.  Unless you care about the Pro Bowl (and really, other than gamblers, who does?), we here in the college hoops universe had the sports world to ourselves, and the weekend gods in charge made sure that we had a wild and woolly preview of March even though the calendar still said otherwise.  Fully half of the ranked teams in the RTC Top 25 lost over the weekend, and quite a few others including two of the top three teams in America hung on by the skin of their teeth.  What this shows us once again is that there are no dominant teams in basketball this year; even though Ohio State remains undefeated, they’ve had numerous close encounters and it’s clear that the Buckeyes are merely one of a dozen teams with the goods to win six straight this spring.  It should be a wild ride through the remaining five weeks of the regular season; if this weekend’s results are any indication, we should all down a few anti-vertigo meds and strap ourselves in.

St. John's Made the Garden Rock Again Today (Getty/N. Laham)

Your Watercooler MomentDuke Destroyed in the Garden.  The last time we saw the Duke Blue Devils so thoroughly undressed as they were in today’s matchup with St. John’s at the Garden, many observers at the time believed that Coach K had lost some of his touch on the recruiting trail and his teams simply could not compete at the highest level of college basketball anymore.  On that day, Villanova used a dominant second half to rattle the Devils with its superior quickness and athleticism, forcing Duke to fire off 22 bricks from beyond the arc (versus five makes) in the game and generally embarrassing a team that had been ranked as high as #1 at one point that season.  Today’s game against Steve Lavin’s fun group of Johnnies was not entirely dissimilar.  Duke looked generally slow, uninterested and incapable of making an outside shot (shooting 5-26 from deep after starting out 1-19) while SJU had all the energy and emotion of a home crowd desperate for a winning program again.  Whether this is emblematic of a bad day for Duke or indicative of a deeper set of problems, we’ll have to see how February goes before making that decision.  Make no mistake, though, today’s result was a major red flag for the defending national champs.  Teams that win titles don’t find themselves down 50-25 to anybody, much less unranked teams.

We have much more on this destruction of Duke from our correspondent’s report from the game here.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

  • Ashton Gibbs and Jared Sullinger.  A couple of big-time players making big-time shots in the clutch with their teams on the verge of defeat.  #1 Ohio State appeared to be in serious trouble when David Lighty got the ball into Sullinger deep in the post off a steal.  He was fouled and subsequently hit 1-of-2 free throws with three seconds remaining and all the noise and pressure of the Northwestern students weighing on him at the time.  Just another day at the office (21/8) for the impressive freshman.  At Rutgers, it was the junior Gibbs (24/4) who played the role of Mr. Clutch, drilling a 25-footer as the shot clock wound down and the Panthers clinging to a precarious one-point lead.  His three gave Pitt just enough breathing room to keep Rutgers on the fouling strategy, ultimately unsuccessful as Pitt hit twelve down the stretch to salt away another win.
  • The Texas Defense.  It’s starting to scare us.  We know that the Longhorn defense is already the most efficient in America, but to put the clamps on an offensive juggernaut like Missouri in holding the Tigers to 58 points (25 below their season average) is ridiculous.  In six Big 12 games, they’re holding teams to 54 points per game, a statistic that is particularly amazing when you consider that three of those wins were against teams in the top 15.  If Rick Barnes can coax a little more offense from his young team, the Horns might end up as the best team in America by March.
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The Perfect Storm Leads to St. John’s Rout of Duke and Raises Questions About the Blue Devils

Posted by nvr1983 on January 31st, 2011

It was a game with a result that was shocking not so much for the fact that St. John’s beat Duke, but the manner in which they did so. Coming into the game on Sunday afternoon, the Red Storm had lost five of six after raising expectations with a win over Georgetown at the beginning of an unprecedented stretch of eight consecutive games against top 25 teams. That skid had threatened to put a damper on all the hype that had accompanied Steve Lavin‘s arrival in New York City and his much-ballyhooed incoming freshman class, but for one afternoon all of that was forgotten as the Red Storm put on as dominant of a performance against such a high caliber opponent as any St. John’s team has had since the days when they were still called the politically incorrect Redmen, Lou Carnesecca roamed the sidelines, and Walter Berry and Chris Mullin donned the uniform. Today, the newest generation of St. John’s players turned in a performance that certainly made Carnesecca and Berry (both in attendance today) proud.

St. John's Brought Back Ancient Memories This Afternoon

Behind a full court press than left Duke looking sloppy and some hot shooting, the Red Storm ran away with a 93-78 victory that was not as close as the 15-point final margin indicates. In front of a sellout crowd of 19,353 at Madison Square Garden that was nearly 50-50 in terms of allegiance to Duke or St. John’s, the Red Storm played their best basketball of the season and took advantage of the Blue Devils playing their worst. Even though Mike Krzyzewski seemed to imply in his post-game press conference that this game was an isolated incident, it does raise questions about the defending champions. On one hand we can probably discount Duke’s 5-for-26 shooting from 3-point range (and 1-for-19 before a late hot streak after the game was out of reach made the final numbers more respectable) as an aberration, but there were several other aspects of the game that should not be dismissed as easily.

  • Duke’s lack of athleticism: Last season Doug Gottlieb caught some heat from Coach K for calling the Blue Devils “alarmingly unathletic.” While it may not have been the politically correct thing to say, there was some truth to the statement. Outside of perhaps Mason Plumlee, none of the current Blue Devils will amaze any NBA scout with their athleticism. This doesn’t mean that Duke isn’t athletic enough to win the title (their biggest losses from last year’s championship team are Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek, who were probably the two least athletic players in last year’s starting line-up), but it does mean that this Duke team isn’t going to blow any elite team off the court with their athletes, and, in certain situations like today when their shots are not falling, they are vulnerable to inferior teams.
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RTC Live: Duke @ St. John’s

Posted by nvr1983 on January 30th, 2011

Game #121. RTC heads to Madison Square Garden (aka “The World’s Most Famous Arena”) as the defending champs invade The Big Apple.

The Red Storm head into today’s game having finished what is likely the hardest seven-game stretch that any team has faced this season and things won’t get any easier as Coach K and the Blue Devils come to town. After initially raising expectations in New York City after a 3-point will over Georgetown on January 3rd Steve Lavin and the Red Storm have fallen on hard times losing 5 of their last 6 games. If the Red Storm are to reverse their fortunes today they will need big games out of Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee and try to find a way to contain Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler while defending the 3-point line against a Blue Devil team that is loaded with excellent shooters, but has struggled from 3-point range since starting ACC play.
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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

Things are starting to take shape for the conference with a few games under our belts, so this will be a Power Rankings combined with A Look Ahead that includes NCAA Tournament projections.

The biggest news out of this week probably comes out of Chapel Hill, where Roy Williams finally decided to heed the analysis of countless fans and writers by starting Kendall Marshall over Larry Drew II.  Marshall had seen a steady increase in playing time (even if Williams did blame Drew’s fatigue) over the last few weeks, and after the drubbing at Georgia Tech, Williams finally decided to make the change.  Ironically, Drew responded well with his third-highest point total of the season.  Kendall Marshall may be a little slower laterally, but he’s a much better facilitator, which is what Williams’ offense requires.  Not to be outdone, Sidney Lowe made a very similar move to start Ryan Harrow against Miami.  Harrow had a tough day offensively, but he sealed a Wolfpack victory with his clutch steal in the final 30 seconds.  In other point guard news, Tony Chennault is finally suiting up for Wake Forest and played some valuable minutes in the loss at Duke.  I don’t think his presence makes Wake’s season outlook any better, but he’ll be a big part in rebuilding this program.

On the injury front, big news coming from Kyrie Irving’s father.  Per Jeff Goodman, Irving will not have surgery, which would have ended his season.  Irving’s father also asserts that the cast will come off February 4, so look for news around then about his prognosis.

And say hello to the newly-ranked Florida State Seminoles, who joined the AP top 25 at number 22 this week!

  • Player of the Week: This week, I’m going with role players.  Ryan Kelly will get the spotlight, but Erick Green and Richard Howell are getting shout-outs, too.  Last week, Ryan Kelly went a perfect 10-10 from the field including 6-6 from beyond the arc.  He also collected 14 boards over the two games.  He’s been criticized for being soft, but when he’s scoring in double figures, Duke is awfully tough to beat.  Erick Green got the job done for Virginia Tech at Maryland.  The sophomore has steadily seen his playing time increase with injuries, and he paid his dues with 24 points and four steals (on an efficient 12-16 from the field).  Finally, Richard Howell led all scorers for NC State with 17 in their win over Miami.
  • Team of the Week: Virginia Tech jumped back into relevance this week with a commanding win at Maryland and a less impressive home win over Longwood.  The Hokies stumbled a bit early this season, but they’ve found their groove of late: Seth Greenberg’s squad has won nine of their last ten (barely losing to North Carolina on the road) despite major injury issues.  They’re still not out of woods (read: off the bubble) yet, but things are definitely looking up.  I still think they’ll need to win 11 or 12 games in conference play or have a strong showing in the conference tournament, but they’re off to a solid start.  As to why, credit Seth Greenberg for playing Malcolm Delaney off the ball where he excels, and really getting the most out of his entire roster.  They may lack depth, but they make up for it with scrappy play.
  • Bizarro Team of the Week: Miami lost two games by a total of four points–and yes, things are looking up when the Bizarro Team of the Week only sports close losses.  First they lost to “bad Florida State” (the team that lost to Auburn) after holding the Seminoles to no field goals in the first 9:49.  It should be noted that Florida State only managed one jumper; the rest of their points came from the free throw line, layups and dunks for a vast majority of the first half.  However, after Miami hit a three to extend their lead to ten early in the second half, it was all Florida State.  Miami attempted to right the ship at NC State when they chewed up a 17-point second half deficit and drew within one in the final minute.  Unfortunately, fate stood strong and left the Hurricanes just short.  With the losses Miami falls to one and four in conference play but appears to be a much better team on paper (with three playmakers).  They could deal some brutal losses to teams looking for an at-large bid as the season progresses.

Power Rankings and Bracket Projections:

Lock It Down

Duke (18-1, 5-1) could totally tank from here on out and still expect to make the field (see Texas last year).  That said, they’re looking like they finally may have found their sea legs after the loss at Florida State.  Different players have been stepping up (this week, Kyle Singler and Ryan Kelly).  The Blue Devils will need some consistency from their interior to really be a complete team, and if Kelly can remain a scoring threat and Mason Plumlee keeps up his rebounding and defense they’ll have it covered.

Projected seed: 1-2

Should Be In

Florida State (15-5, 5-1) still has major offensive issues, but ten conference wins looks like a lock given their schedule (which I think would get them a decent seed).  Derwin Kitchen needs to continue being a factor on offense, and every win from here on out will make Auburn look like more and more of an anomaly.

Projected seed: 4-5, although they’re drawing very close to the 2010 Maryland resume for a three-seed if they can finish with three or less conference losses.

Need To Keep Winning To Go Dancing

Virginia Tech (13-5, 3-2) looked dead just a couple of weeks ago.  But Jeff Allen and Malcolm Delaney have really stepped up to the plate recently.  A win against Duke would seal the deal, but the real key is to keep winning and don’t look back (also known as don’t repeat losses like home to Virginia).

Projected seed: 6-9

Boston College (14-6, 4-2) has a historically large gap between their offense and defense.  Unfortunately, the Eagles have some tough losses on their resume, and they definitely haven’t looked infallible.  That said, they’ve already played Florida State and only have one game against Duke, so most of their games are winnable.  There’s not a whole lot of margin for error with the perceived (rightly) dearth of talent in the conference though, so the Eagles probably need to split their series with North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

Projected seed: 8-9

North Carolina (13-5, 3-1) has a brutal conference schedule the rest of the way: two games against Duke, Florida State and Boston College, with a little Maryland (home) on the side.  This team has struggled on the road (and at home for that matter), but I think they’ll get better with Kendall Marshall running the show.  Their strong non-conference win over Kentucky (and close loss against Texas for that matter) give the Tar Heels a little more wiggle room than the rest of their ACC brethren, but they’ve got to win some road games.  A win over Duke would be nice too.

Projected seed: 6-11

Fighting To Survive

Maryland (12-7, 2-3) should almost be in panic mode.  The Terrapins have zero good wins, two conference home losses and seven total losses.  There’s no room for error, and Gary Williams is going to have to find a way to basically win out (i.e. beat Duke and Florida State at home, and win two of three from UNC, Boston College and Virginia Tech on the road).  There’s still a very slim chance for the Terps, but they’re looking more and more NIT-worthy by the day.

Projected seed: 11-NIT


  • Clemson (13-6, 2-3) is off to a strong start under Brad Brownell, but I can’t see this team heading to the Big Dance.  They lost a couple of brutal games this week (at North Carolina and at Maryland) that would have put them right in the mix, but both times the Tigers went cold down the stretch after being in a good place to win.  Still, the NIT is not a bad destination after losing Trevor Booker and Oliver Purnell.
  • Virginia (11-8, 2-3) will always be a “what might have been” story after losing Mike Scott to a season-ending foot surgery.  I was a huge doubter coming into the season, but the Cavaliers have a couple of very good wins and play almost everyone tough (this week they lost a close one at Boston College and beat Georgia Tech).  With Scott, they could definitely have finished in the top half of the conference.  Without him I think they’re looking at a trip to the NIT.
  • NC State (12-7, 2-3) should have made the tournament this year.  There is no denying they have the talent.  You can argue Tracy Smith’s poorly timed injury was the problem, but truthfully they just haven’t gotten it done.  There’s no doubt in my mind that Sidney Lowe loves the NC State program, but it’s time to part ways.  He’s just not cut out for coaching at this level.  Unless the Wolfpack put on a spectacular finish, I don’t see Lowe keeping his job.  This week they got beat badly at home by Duke and eked out a home win over Miami.

Rebuild For Next Season

  • Georgia Tech (9-9, 2-3) absolutely blitzkrieged Wake Forest in Atlanta this week.  The Yellow Jackets would have won by forty if not for a scoring drought in the final minutes.  This team really misses the inside void left by Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal, and struggles with inconsistent play out of the backcourt.  The good news is everyone important is coming back.  The bad news is that probably includes Paul Hewitt.
  • Miami (12-7, 1-4) at one point looked like a contender for second in the conference.  On paper, the Hurricanes still do.  Malcolm Grant, Durand Scott and Reggie Johnson are all great players.  Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to put it together yet.  The great news is they’re all coming back, and I can’t imagine they won’t be in the top half of the conference.  In the meantime, Johnson should really practice not fouling so he can stay on the court for longer.  Truthfully, they should be much higher than this (and probably have a good shot at the NIT), but one and four is too much to overlook right now.
  • Wake Forest (7-13, 0-5) needs to keep looking ahead.  Tony Chennault showed some positive things (beyond the box score) against Duke.  Hopefully he’ll be able to cut down on the team’s turnovers as the season progresses, and maybe run a little bit of offense.  Right now the Demon Deacons should really just shoot for winning a couple of conference games (and hope to fill some roster holes with new recruits).  The good news is there’s nowhere to go but up.

A Look Ahead

Keep an eye on the teams in the mix for the NCAAs, as Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Maryland, Boston College and Florida State all start the week on the road.  Duke also has an interesting nonconference matchup against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on January 30 (1:00 PM, CBS).

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BCS 2011: Week of January 17, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on January 18th, 2011

A few weeks ago we reintroduced out BCS rankings that tried to figure out what college basketball would look like if it adopted a system similar to what college football presently has. We also listened to our readers and incorporated many of their suggestions for potential computer rankings to reconfigure our rankings. We now have five computer polls included and were able to throw out the highest and lowest computer rankings for each team. We wanted to go to six computer polls to mirror the BCS, but neither Colley nor the Bradley-Terry rankings were out by noon and frankly by the time they were updated another set of games would probably have been played. The human polls are all from Monday and the computer polls are all from today. For the human polls were used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. For the computer polls we used the following polls:

We used the same basic rules as we had listed in our reintroduction post with the exception of adding more computers allowing us to drop the highest and lowest scores.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back:

And then there were none.  The biggest conference news of the week was Duke losing at Florida State (as called by yours truly in last week’s Look Ahead).  All the speculation to whether Duke could finish ACC play (and the regular season) undefeated was squashed thanks to a fantastic effort from the Seminoles.  They popped Duke right in the mouth from the get-go, playing physical defense that negated any potential presence inside and forced the Blue Devils to take low percentage contested jumpers.  I would say this is the formula to beat Duke, but I’m not sure how many teams in the country are super-tall, super-athletic and defensive-minded.  The Seminoles were helped by a career effort from Derwin Kitchen (or a runner-up career effort: he had 29 in a game against Maryland last season) who led the way with 22 points on nine of 13 shooting with ten rebounds to boot.  His contributions went beyond the box score, as Kitchen took over the game when Chris Singleton was forced to leave with four fouls.  The question about Florida State this season has always been “can they score?” and they answered with a resounding yes.  Singleton also deserves much of the credit: he played lock-down defense on Kyle Singler the entire first half and seemed to come up with a basket whenever the Seminoles needed one.  Hats off to the Seminoles, who looked absolutely abysmal the past couple of weeks.  It looks like the ACC may finally have a runner-up candidate.

Film Session:

Unfortunately, the ACC Vault does have limits.  This isn’t the first time Florida State has knocked off #1 Duke in Tallahassee.  It’s the third.  Duke fans will have to forgive me for rubbing salt in the wound, but the Blue Devils won’t be short of any praise this season.  Unfortunately, the Vault doesn’t carry either of the past two big time upsets out of the panhandle, but YouTube provides a decent recount.

  • 2002: Duke had a 22-game winning streak.  They had Carlos Boozer, Jason Williams and Mike Dunleavy.  Florida State somehow forces Williams to go 0-6 from the free throw line (including two that would have put Duke up three in the final 20 seconds).  Monte Cummings then took the ball straight at Williams (I’ll let you debate whether it was a charge or a flop; I think it was a fine no-call) and over Mike Dunleavy to put the Seminoles up one.
  • 2006: Duke was led by JJ Redick and Shelden Williams.  Duke entered the game 27-1, and even with 50 points from Redick and Williams, the Blue Devils couldn’t withstand the dominant game from Al Thornton who finished with 26 (including a ludicrous 15-16 from the line).  You might remember this as the game with the “controversy” about rushing the court.  Coach Mike Krzyzewski expressed his concern that his players would get injured (largely because I think in the 2002 game Dunleavy and Williams almost got trampled as you can see they’re lying on the ground when the students come sprinting onto the court).  Rushing the court is still a huge part of college basketball upsets, but I’d stress not running over 6’4 elite athletes for your safety as well as theirs.

Bizarro Team of the WeekNorth Carolina wins the award after playing four of the ugliest halves of basketball lucky enough to be televised this season.  To be fair the Tar Heels beat Virginia Tech, but it wasn’t pretty.  As Jay Bilas put it during the broadcast: “this is the kind of game you put the film in a time capsule and lose the map.”  Little did anyone know that the Heels would come out with an even worse performance at Georgia Tech Sunday.  UNC’s starters went a smooth 9-33 from the field, while Iman Shumpert finished with 13 field goals himself.  The team did no better, finishing a nauseating 16 of 58 from the floor (good for 27.6%) in a drubbing at the hands of a mediocre Yellow Jacket team.  In addition to shooting woes, North Carolina turned the ball over 18 times.  The silver lining was John Henson went five of eight from the free throw line, his second best performance on the season (well above his season average of 36.8%).  But really Roy Williams summed it up in the post game presser (I suggest reading everything): “No. We just didn’t come in frickin’ ready to play. Overconfident? How the crap … I’m mad at the world. We stunk. My coaching stunk and we stunk. I’m tired of saying we’ve got to build confidence. It’s easy to build confidence, by God, play better, then you will get some confidence. We’re not overconfident, we just weren’t as intense as we needed to be to start the basketball game.”  Sounds like echoes from last year, which isn’t good for Carolina fans.

Team of the Week: Florida State. In addition to the huge upset over Duke, the Seminoles handily took care of NC State 84-71.  If not for the inexcusable loss at Auburn a couple weeks ago, I think the Seminoles would’ve earned a spot in the top 25.  That game just shows how inconsistent this team is from night to night.  Hopefully Leonard Hamilton has everything together now.  It would be nice to see the ACC with at least two decent seeds come March…

Player of the Week: A tie between Derwin Kitchen and Iman Shumpert, who both led their teams to home wins over Tobacco Road this week.  Both are very talented yet inconsistent upperclassmen who need to do well for their respective teams to succeed.

Power Rankings:

  1. Duke (16-1, 3-1) remains atop the power rankings despite the loss at Florida State.  Duke flirted with falling in their home win against Virginia. The Blue Devils trailed by seven at the half and looked totally out of sync.  This team is a long way from being dominant without Kyrie Irving.  Until they find a facilitator, that’s how it will stay.  I still think they’re the best team (by a long shot) in the ACC, but whether they’re a true championship contender is still up in the air.  For now, Blue Devil fans (and the Plumlees) should hope for either rapid development of Tyler Thornton or Irving’s toe, so Nolan Smith can go back to his natural two guard position.
  2. Florida State (13-5, 3-1) skyrockets after a great week.  Now if they can only show some consistency.
  3. Maryland (11-6, 1-2) still can’t close.  They had Villanova on the ropes with a lead in the second half, but a few missed shots and turnovers later and the Wildcats were back on top for good.  Jordan Williams is still a year away from being a shut the game down type of player (and he may never be one if his free throw shooting doesn’t improve).  Someone in the Terrapin backcourt needs to step up soon, or the team will find itself looking at a nasty ticket to the NIT.  The good news is that Jordan Williams hit some pretty nice 15-footers, which would make him truly impossible to guard.  Right now, he’s playing like the best big man (and probably the best player in the conference).  Now if Gary Williams can just find a suitable sidekick (my personal guess is Terrell Stoglin).
  4. Clemson (14-4, 2-1) dominated Georgia Tech at home 87-62.  Jerai Grant led the way with a career-high 20 points and eight rebounds.  Grant is one of the most overlooked players in the conference, largely because he plays at Clemson.  He’ll be the key if Clemson wants to stay out of the conference cellar this season (well, not the cellar because Wake Forest has it booked for the season, but you know what I mean).
  5. Boston College (13-5, 3-1) got a good win against NC State before losing a heartbreaker to Miami on the road.  This team is better than I expected, but that’s not a very high bar.  Reggie Jackson is quietly averaging nearly 20 points a game, but they’re racking up some losses that look bad on an at-large resume (Yale, Harvard and Miami to name three).
  6. Miami (12-5, 1-2) edged Boston College out at home.  This team feels on the brink of being decent, but they just can’t quite make the leap.  Frank Haith certainly has the personnel to field a strong team, but something seems to be missing.  This week they’ll get a shot at Florida State at home and NC State on the road for two solid wins.
  7. Virginia (10-7, 1-2) almost shocked the world by almost beating Duke in Durham.  Unfortunately the Cavaliers couldn’t sustain the defensive effort after holding Duke to only 25 points at the half.  Duke went on to put up 51 in the second half.  Losing Mike Scott really took an entire dimension out of this team, but they’ve made the best of it so far (even if they’ve come up just short).
  8. Georgia Tech (8-8, 1-2) got pummeled at Clemson before handing out a beating of their own against Carolina.  It’s pretty simple: when Iman Shumpert and Glen Rice Jr. are playing to their abilities Georgia Tech is a tough team to beat.  When they aren’t, the Yellow Jackets are subpar.  I’m not sure Shumpert is capable of going off for 30 any given night, so I feel pretty safe in saying that the Yellow Jackets are still looking at the bottom fourth of the ACC come the end of the year.
  9. Virginia Tech (11-5, 2-2) barely lost at Carolina after just dominating Wake Forest 94-65 at home.  The Wake result says far more about the Demon Deacons than it does Seth Greenberg’s squad.  They’re going to need to win close games like the one at Carolina if they want to finally have a happy Selection Sunday.  Right now they still rely far too much on Malcolm Delaney (though playing him off the ball has helped tremendously), and they’re just too shallow to perform night in and night out.  Injuries have really lowered the potential for this team.
  10. North Carolina (12-5, 2-1) fell apart this week.  See above.  This team is looking more and more similar to last year’s NIT squad.  Too soft; not enough effort; dumb turnovers; no leadership.  They show flashes of brilliance accompanied by halves of ineptitude.  It’s slowly killing Williams, who was just beginning to sound like he enjoyed coaching again until this week.  At this point (though it has always been my stance), it’s time to hand Kendall Marshall the reins.  If he loses a few along the way, so be it.  He’s the future of this program.
  11. NC State (11-6, 1-2) lost a couple of road games this week.  I think it’s safe to say the Wolfpack are a major disappointment.  Tracy Smith is still the man, but they have a similar point guard crisis to Carolina.  Sidney Lowe still insists on playing Javier Gonzalez despite Ryan Harrow’s talent.  I know Harrow is small and a little bit of a defensive liability.  But let’s face it: State’s defense isn’t that good with or without Gonzalez.  Lowe needs to make some major changes and get this program moving back in the right direction.
  12. Wake Forest (7-11, 0-3) had a rough week, losing to Maryland by 19 at home and 29 to Virginia Tech on the road.  Yikes.  Not much positive to say here.

A Look Ahead:

The ACC prognosis is very weak.  Unfortunately only Duke and Florida State (when they come to play) stand out as even consistently “good” teams.  That means spreading the conference losses around a lot (as seen by the fact that no team has played five games and no team is unbeaten).  This is going to make getting at-large bids really difficult.  Maryland is definitely good enough to deserve a ticket, but they still don’t have any marquee wins (unless they can beat Duke).  UNC has a pretty strong resume, but it won’t matter if they keep getting blown out by the likes of Georgia Tech.

This week’s important games:

  • Tuesday Tiger History (8:00 PM, ACC Network): Can Clemson get that elusive win in Chapel Hill on the 55th try?  No joke, as founding members of the ACC Clemson has never won a game in Chapel Hill.  This looks like the perfect time to give it a run, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
  • Thursday: Virginia Tech at Maryland (9:00 PM, ESPN2)
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Set Your Tivo: 01.12.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 12th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

We’re going to mix it up today with this feature. With so many good games tonight (one of the best nights of the season thus far) here are some quick hitters on 10 important games you should be following this evening, including the top five teams in the land all playing on the road. Additionally, key conference battles are on tap throughout the night. Enjoy it, folks. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#2 Ohio State @ Michigan – 6:30 pm on Big Ten Network (***)

The Wolverines nearly knocked off Kansas on Sunday and they’ll get another crack at a top three team tonight when their rivals visit Ann Arbor. Michigan has to shoot the three well to win but that’ll be difficult against an Ohio State defense ranked in the top five in efficiency. Though Darius Morris (15.0 PPG, 7.0 APG) will try his best, Ohio State has too much talent and offensive firepower for Michigan to handle. Michigan needs their best defensive effort of the year combined with an off night for the Buckeyes in order to have a chance. John Beliein can rotate plenty of bodies on Jared Sullinger but that may be a futile effort against the uber-talented big man.

Sullinger, Lighty, and Co. Have Bucknuts Already Looking Forward to March (and April)

#5 Pittsburgh @ #19 Georgetown – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

The Hoyas are in serious danger of dropping to 1-4 in conference play as Pitt comes to DC. Georgetown hasn’t shot the ball well recently and has lost three of four as a result. The inconsistent play of point guard Chris Wright can certainly be blamed, but take a deeper look at the numbers. Georgetown’s defense is rated #61 in efficiency; not terrible, but it’s the lowest-rated Hoyas defense in six years (#66 in the ’04-’05 season). The Hoyas have given up 66.6 PPG, not a good number when your adjusted tempo is only 66.5 possessions and rated #228 in the country, indicating a slower pace. Georgetown’s dynamic guard trio has certainly struggled, a key reason why they’ve lost three of four, but the defense has also played a part and must get better. It’ll be put to the test against a Pitt offense rated the best in the land. The Panthers can punish you inside and out as well as on the glass. Yours truly has maintained for a while that this Pitt team is the best interior passing group in America and I see no reason to back off that statement. What Jamie Dixon has built in Pittsburgh year after year is quite remarkable but this may be his best offensive squad ever. The Panthers have played just one true road game all year (at Providence) but they’re experienced and so well-coached that it doesn’t figure to affect them all that much. Expect a desperate Georgetown team to come out ready to play, but we’ll take the Panthers here in a close one.

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