NCAA Tournament Analysis: Saturday Games

Posted by Bennet Hayes, Brian Otskey, Andrew Murawa & Walker Carey on March 22nd, 2014

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Half of the field is already gone, and as fun as Thursday and Friday were, it’s time to get down to the business of crowning a national champion. Here’s our analysis of all of Saturday’s games.

#1 Florida vs. #9 Pittsburgh — South Region Third Round (at Orlando, FL) — 12:15 PM ET on CBS.

Lamar Patterson And Pittsburgh Had Little Trouble With Colorado In Their Tournament Debut, But A Far Stiffer Challenge Awaits Them In The Tournament's #1 Overall Seed, Florida

Lamar Patterson And Pittsburgh Had Little Trouble With Colorado In Their Tournament Debut, But A Far Stiffer Challenge Now Awaits: The Tournament’s #1 Overall Seed, Florida.

Albany made things interesting for a while against Florida, but the South region’s top seed took control down the stretch to advance to the round of 32. The Gator’s third round opponent, Pittsburgh, made sure that their Tournament advancement was never in doubt, running out to a 13-0 lead on Colorado en route to a 77-48 rout of the Buffs. Impressive performance from the Panthers, but a second round blowout has never entitled anyone to a bye into the Sweet 16; Jamie Dixon’s team will have their work cut out for them on Saturday. Still though, this is a winnable game for Pitt. The Panthers are a #9 seed in the bracket, but Ken Pom’s rankings have them as the 15th best team in the country, and they actually share a lot of the same traits that have made Florida successful this season. Neither squad plays fast (Florida is 314th in adjusted tempo, Pitt 296th), but both teams are in the top-25 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and each collects caroms at a clip that puts them in the top-60 in the country in rebounding percentage on both ends. Neither team boasts an especially glaring weakness, although three-point shooting is not a big part of the game-plan for either side. Looking at the Pittsburgh stats page can be intoxicating; the Panthers really do look like a top-15 team on paper. An inability to close out games has been the largest roadblock for the on-court version of the Panthers to emit the same appearance, but there’s no reason why they can’t finally win one of those close ones on Saturday. Pitt’s Lamar Patterson and Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin will not spend much time directly matching up today, but expect the bulk of the offense to flow through these two players. Patterson hasn’t been fully commended for what’s been a breakout senior season, but he’ll have his shot at some national recognition against the Gators. Outplaying Wilbekin would give Pittsburgh a great chance at moving on, but Wilbekin – and his gritty supporting cast – is where I’ll place my faith. I think Scottie does enough to keep Florida playing basketball next weekend, and in a game that may feel more like a Sweet 16 matchup than a third round game, Florida moves on.

The RTC Certified Pick: Florida

#4 Louisville vs. #5 Saint Louis – Midwest Region Third Round (in Orlando, FL) – at 2:45 PM EST on CBS

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Previewing #8 Colorado vs. #9 Pittsburgh

Posted by Matt Patton & Andrew Murawa on March 20th, 2014

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Pittsburgh will take on Colorado in Orlando at 1:40 PM ET Thursday afternoon on TBS. RTC correspondents Matt Patton and Andrew Murawa sat down and conducted a quick Q&A about the game featuring ACC vs. Pac-12 squads.

Without Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado seems vulnerable especially on offense. (credit: David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

Without Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado seems vulnerable, especially on offense. (David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

Matt: Obviously Colorado took a step backwards when it lost Spencer Dinwiddie in January. How have the Buffaloes replaced his offensive production, and is their seed inflated because of what they did with Dinwiddie earlier in the season?

Andrew: The biggest adjustment that Colorado has made to adjust following the Dinwiddie injury was to slide junior Askia Booker – previously known as an inveterate gunner – over to the point guard slot. Since that time, the number of shots per game out of Booker hasn’t changed much (only twice in the 17 games since the Dinwiddie injury has Booker hoisted fewer than 10 field goal attempts), but the quality of those shots has improved and it has been balanced by an obvious interest in getting his teammates involved. Other guys like Xavier Talton and Jaron Hopkins have seen their minutes and production increase as well, but both have been fairly inconsistent. All of this leads to the fact that while it has been admirable how the Buffaloes have held it together after the loss of their floor general, this team isn’t much of a threat to surprise in the NCAA Tournament, and the #8 seed is a generous appraisal of the team that will take the floor on Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Possible Jeff Bzdelik ACC Swan Song Ends Against Pittsburgh

Posted by Matt Patton on March 13th, 2014

His postgame press conference said it all. Jeff Bzdelik‘s body language and tone, never his strongest attributes as a coach, showed the toll of another Thursday ACC Tournament loss to Pittsburgh.

“They hit us right between the eyes. We were on our heels the entire game.”

Jeff Bzdelik didn't have the answers against Pittsburgh. (credit: Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer)

Jeff Bzdelik didn’t have the answers against Pittsburgh. (credit: Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer)

While his postseason and conference road records paint a black and white picture of Bzdelik’s tenure at Wake Forest, there are certainly bright spots when you look closer. He recruited a young core of talented players that showed a lot of potential in sweeping Tobacco Road at home this season. He also sat down with the deck stacked against him. People love to cite Dino Gaudio’s record, but there’s no denying Wake Forest was in a tailspin after Skip Prosser died. It’s not Bzdelik’s fault the vaunted 2008 class didn’t pan out. But no one expected the turnaround to move so slowly.

“We just lost some confidence, and we’ve been fragile with that throughout the course of the entire year.”

This game cast a similarly dark shadow. Wake Forest was outclassed at opening tip, unable to slow down the Panthers’ offense. Early, the Demon Deacons couldn’t grab a rebound. Pittsburgh, to its credit, couldn’t miss. While Travis McKie had one of the worst games of his career, Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson executed flawlessly. Every time the lead got to single digits, Pittsburgh responded with a run. Coron Williams had another good game, and Codi Miller-McIntyre showed flashes of his aggressive potential, but there’s no sugarcoating a 29-point loss.

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North Carolina Streaking With Six Wins in a Row

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 16th, 2014

North Carolina continued its climb up the ACC standings, bursting into fourth place with a 75-71 win over Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill. James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige led the way as the Tar Heels held a lead for the entire second half and withstood a furious Panthers’ rally in the closing minutes. For North Carolina, which started ACC play with three straight losses, this wasn’t just its sixth consecutive victory, but it’s probably the best win of the Heels’ recent streak. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, continues to tumble in the opposite direction, losing four of their last six games after starting conference play 6-1.

North Carolina's Marcus Paige Was On Fire - Making 5 Threes Versus Pittsburgh. (Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige Was On Fire, Making 5 Threes Versus Pittsburgh.
(Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

Pittsburgh got off to a good start in the first half, leading 18-11 after nine minutes of play. The Tar Heels began to chip away at the lead, finally catching and passing the Panthers late to take a 35-31 lead into the locker room. North Carolina didn’t shoot well in the first stanza (40.6%) but the Heels collected nine offensive rebounds and attacked the basket well enough to put Pittsburgh in foul trouble. In fact, three Pittsburgh starters including star Lamar Patterson, played fewer than 10 first half minutes due to early foul difficulties, and Jamie Dixon was forced as a result to switch to zone defense for long stretches. North Carolina’s underrated defense forced 10 first half turnovers and held Pittsburgh to only 0.89 points per possession.

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ACC M10: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 12th, 2014

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  1. Fayetteville Observer: Great piece from Bret Strelow with a transcript from a conference call of ACC coaches discussing the Marcus Smart situation. Always good for a quote, Jeff Bzdelik mentioned “Twitter muscle,” noting “there are a lot of unhappy people out there.” Mike Krzyzewski had a lot to say and was the only coach to provide an example of something concrete that’s been done to try and avoid situations like these (in the 1980s, Duke put opposing fans in the 75 seats closest to the bench instead of students). Duke is a special circumstance though because many of its students are right on the court level. It was nice to see Jim Boeheim stick up for Smart (and generally, it feels like people are doing a good job with the post-kneejerk reactions on the incident).
  2. Charlottesville Daily Progress: A lot of disappointed articles have been written about Virginia’s Akil Mitchell this year, as his numbers have dropped significantly from last season. But what hasn’t been getting enough love outside of local media and blogs is attention to his defense. Mitchell consistently draws the opponents’ best large wing/high post players, and he locked down Evan Smotrycz in Virginia’s too-close-for-comfort win against Maryland Monday night.
  3. Macon Telegraph: Even in the slow-tempo ACC, Georgia Tech‘s current offense just isn’t cutting it. The good news is that Robert Carter is back. The bad news is that the team still relies on Chris Bolden (who is making a truly abysmal 28.7 percent of his twos this season) as a scoring option. But the Yellow Jackets need Trae Golden healthy to even be competitive in most conference games.
  4. John Gasaway: Tuesday Truths is back! That means another head-scratching look at the ACC’s tempo and wondering just how Syracuse has averaged 55 possessions per game. That’s ridiculously slow. What’s also becoming clear is that Syracuse is playing with fire right now. The Orange have slipped well below Virginia and Duke in efficiency margin (+0.17 compared with +0.22 and +0.21, respectively), and they still have road games against Pittsburgh, Duke, Virginia and a dangerous Florida State team that may be truly desperate for a resume win. Syracuse could easily go 1-3 in those games, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t lose at least two of them. Long story short: Don’t wrap up the regular season ACC title just yet.
  5. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Speaking of Pittsburgh-Syracuse later tonight, Paul Zeise had a chat about the Panthers. Other than someone calling the Orange uptempo (see above), there’s a lot of good stuff here. Remember, in Pittsburgh’s recent slide, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna have not been playing at 100 percent. It’s also interesting that despite the injuries, Zeise likes Pittsburgh’s match-up with Syracuse. Clearly, the Panthers have to play better than they did against Virginia Tech last weekend, but that game may have been a worst case scenario (unhealthy trap game). Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC M5: 02.10.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 10th, 2014

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  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Great piece from Barry Jacobs on officials who are following in their fathers’ footsteps. After reading the article, I really think officiating might be as much of a cult as coaching and playing are. Jacobs talks to Bryan Kersey, Jeff Nichols and Tim Clougherty (whose father John Clougherty is the ACC Coordinator of Officials). I’ll let Jacobs take it away with the best anecdote from the piece: “Like other officiating chips off the old block, Kersey became a referee while a high school student. The 10th grader’s first game might have discouraged some people. When the middle school contest ended, the losing coach punched the younger Kersey in the head as he left the floor.”
  2. Blogger So Dear: Great longform profile of Travis McKie and his four-year career under Jeff Bzdelik. McKie has a had a great career individually while the program has suffered (getting marginally better each season) around him. He may become the first senior in Wake Forest’s time in the ACC (since its founding over 60 years ago) to not win a postseason game.
  3. Washington Post: Jake Layman should be Maryland’s number one option in the halfcourt (meaning road games and end-of-shot clock clear-outs should run through Dez Wells). He’s a mismatch for nearly any defender. But Layman is involved in less possessions than any other starter. That’s why Mark Turgeon is trying to come up with ways to get Layman more involved. And while Seth Allen stole the show Saturday in the win against Florida State, Layman was more aggressive. What’s weird looking at Layman’s statistics over the season is that he’s putting up a lot fewer field goal attempts in conference play.
  4. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Pittsburgh’s near catastrophic loss against Virginia Tech this weekend confirms that Lamar Patterson may not win ACC Player of the Year this season, but he’s likely going to be my pick. Patterson’s thumb was bothering him and his shot in Blacksburgh. Thankfully for the Panthers, a win is a win in the RPI. The bad news is Pittsburgh still doesn’t have any top-shelf wins, which means there’s still a lot of pressure on Patterson and Talib Zanna (both injured) to guide the team to the Big Dance.
  5. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Malcolm Brogdon has been unbelievable in conference play. He’s currently on Ken Pomeroy’s first team All-ACC team (though personally, I’d probably put him and Joe Harris on the second team). Brogdon was a Peach Jam breakout player who sat last season because of injury. He’s continued improving–literally improving every tempo-free statistic since last season. If you’re looking for a reason Harris’s numbers have dropped this season? Brogdon is a great place to start.
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ACC M5: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 29th, 2014

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  1. Daily Orange: The Syracuse student newspaper is running a tremendous series on Jim Boeheim and the history of his zone. Suffice it to say that the whole series will make the ACC M5. This is the first of the bunch and covers Boeheim’s playing career and his slow adoption of the zone. It has quotes from former players and opposing coaches to go with GIF diagrams of specific plays. Great stuff.
  2. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Ron Cook has what appears to be a popular opinion after Duke’s win at Pittsburgh. Lamar Patterson and the Panthers are overrated (remember, this is coming from someone who named Patterson the favorite for ACC Player of the Year and the Panthers as the top team in the league). I agree with the second part of that statement. Pittsburgh is a challenger for the regular season title, but hasn’t shown itself yet to be the best team in the league. That said, Patterson has been their best player. Duke essentially doubled him every time Pittsburgh tried to set a screen, and his teammates stepped up — for most of the game on offense — knocking down jumpers in his stead. But he’s still my conference player of the year to this point, and it’s not all that close.
  3. Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State did an admirable job contesting Duke’s shots Saturday, but the Blue Devils scored 29 second chance points on 27 (!) offensive rebounds. The chink in the armor of Florida State’s historically great defenses has always been mediocre defensive rebounding. That’s often because Seminole bigs work to seal off the lane, often leaving opponents free to get better position on the glass. The question is whether the poor rebounding stems from a problem with the Seminoles’ eraser in the paint, or the wings who need to crash the boards in his place? My guess is the latter.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: Don’t look now, but if James Michael McAdoo plays like he did against Clemson, you shouldn’t write North Carolina off just yet. Who knows if the historical significance loomed over the Tigers, but regardless, McAdoo lit a fire under the Tar Heels in the blowout win on Sunday. That’s the kind of play Roy Williams desperately needs from his upperclassmen (along with lots of scoring to back up Marcus Paige).
  5. John Gasaway: Tuesday Truths are back! Which means it’s the weekly time to marvel at Virginia for being the most dominant team in conference play thus far (with Duke and Syracuse close behind). Also, the gap between fourth ranked Pittsburgh and fifth ranked Florida State is 0.02 points per possession lower than the gap between Florida State and last ranked Virginia Tech. The most surprising part of the data set is that Maryland is the fastest team in the league by a comfortable margin (69.2 possessions a game, to Syracuse’s 54.2).
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ACC M5: 01.28.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 28th, 2014

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  1. Sporting News: While it isn’t the point of this article, it’s totally ludicrous that Lamar Patterson was left off the Wooden Award watch list. He’s shooting over 55 percent on twos, 40 percent on threes, and 80% from the charity stripe. Oh yeah, he’s also Pittsburgh’s best passer and a capable rebounder. It’s a shame his snub took place right before his worst game of the season, a game in which Mike Krzyzewski set out to shut Patterson down by blitzing him on screens and draping 6’8″ Rodney Hood over him for most of the game.
  2. Tallahassee Democrat: With so many teams in the ACC, unbalanced schedules abound and the rollercoaster of difficulty week-to-week is even wilder than in past years. That means that the same week Duke heads to Pittsburgh and Syracuse for road games, Florida State embarks on a three-week stretch as the probable favorites in every game. The other interesting news from Corey Clark is that Florida State is applying for a medical redshirt (for a sixth year of eligibility) for Kiel Turpin, who’s been injured all year. Even if he wins the argument for a sixth year, Turpin has an uphill battle for playing time ahead of him with Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky progressing every day.
  3. Gobbler Country: For Virginia Tech‘s new athletic director, “fixing the basketball problem” may actually also involve physically renovating Cassell Coliseum, a building that is now nearly 50 years old. There’s still a decade to decide on a course of action (and see how Clemson’s renovation of Littlejohn Coliseum goes), but there’s no denying that a swanky new arena can inject some excitement into an apathetic fan base. Having to bus to a nearby city would almost certainly have the opposite effect for the short-term, however.
  4. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Big news out of Georgia Tech, as Robert Carter is undergoing tests to see whether he will be healthy in time to play this season. Obviously, his return would make the Yellow Jackets an entirely different team, as he was nearly averaging a double-double before hurting his knee. While Brian Gregory may not be popping up in many hot seat articles just yet, his current lack of success will heat that seat up in a hurry.
  5. CBSSports: Jon Rothstein took a look at Virginia and its balanced attack. Last year Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris were two of the statistically most dominant players in the ACC, and this year, at least on the surface (per game stats), they’ve both taken steps forward. But the team is actually a lot better thanks to additional steps forward from Malcolm Brogdon and more minutes for Mike Tobey. It’s much harder to game plan around four or five legitimate options than two.
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Let’s Open the Wooden Watch List’s Doors Just a Bit Wider

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 22nd, 2014

Earlier today, the Los Angeles Athletic Club released its Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list, a veritable collection of this season’s top performers who are in the running for the sport’s highest individual honor. While the organization got most of the list right, this is sports coverage in 2014, so the proper response to the released list is to immediately poke holes in it and state cases for those who were overlooked. Of course, the way the season is shaping up, this might just serve as a list of Doug McDermott and the players he soundly beat on the way to taking Wooden Award honors in “The Year Of The Freshman.” But if the purpose of the list is to acknowledge players based on their performance thus far this season, there are five who deserve more consideration than they were granted by the LAAC.

Lamar Patterson has led Pitt all season and his Panthers are in first place. That isn't enough for Wooden Watch List spot? (Charles LeClaire/USA Today)

Lamar Patterson has led Pitt all season and his Panthers are in first place in the ACC. That isn’t enough for a Wooden Watch List spot? (Charles LeClaire/USA Today)

  • Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh: 17.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 122.8 ORtg, 59.8% eFG, 44.3% 3FG – It seems like everything about the Panthers this season has been criminally underrated, including its star forward. The senior has had just one bad game all season long (November 12 against Fresno State), and on the rare occasion when he isn’t an efficient scorer, he still finds ways to help Jamie Dixon’s offense.
  • Joel Embiid, Kansas: 11.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 67.9% FG, 115.3 ORtg, 68.4% eFG, 12.7% BLK – The Cameroonian freshman exploded onto the scene early in the season, and depending on whom you ask (as well as what time it is), is the leading prospect to be selected with the top pick in this June’s NBA Draft. With Tarik Black combating foul trouble and Perry Ellis fighting inconsistency on a regular basis, it’s tough to picture where the Jayhawks would be if not for its stud rookie center.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Syracuse 59, #22 Pittsburgh 54

Posted by mpatton on January 18th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Pittsburgh is worthy of a higher ranking. With no great non-conference wins and that horribly slow loss to Cincinnati, there was good reason to question whether the Panthers deserved their advanced statistical love. But they played Syracuse even on the road, even owning a lead in the final three minutes. But even more impressive was that the Panthers took the lead after trailing by double figures in the second half. It’s not a secret at this point: Lamar Patterson is a special player and may be frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year if he keeps up the pace.

    Tyler Ennis got to the rim to seal Syracuse's victory. (credit: Dick Blume / Syracuse Post-Standard)

    Tyler Ennis got to the rim to seal Syracuse’s victory. (credit: Dick Blume / Syracuse Post-Standard)

  2. Syracuse isn’t going undefeated in the ACC. The Orange might be perfect at home when it’s all said and done, but their late game rebounding is a huge concern. Pittsburgh missed a lot of foul shots and layups, and still almost won the game at the Carrier Dome. Someone will get hot from beyond the arc and torch Syracuse on the offensive glass. Even more importantly, the Orange only played seven players, and every starter logged more than 29 minutes. Jerami Grant, CJ Fair and Tyler Ennis each played the entire 40 minutes, which could cause problems if the Orange get in foul trouble.
  3. Syracuse’s interior length bothered Pittsburgh on offense. Part of the problem is that the Panthers’ front line doesn’t have a lot of height. But multiple times Pittsburgh ended up having to force a jumper late in the shot clock because a guard was met by Rakeem Christmas or Baye Keita in the paint. That said, Talib Zanna had a couple of really good offensive possessions operating near the elbow, and finished with an efficient double-double.

Star of the Game: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse. Ennis scored six of Syracuse’s last eight points to close the game, including the big shot to retake the lead. He finished with 16 points (a team high) on eight shots with three assists and one turnover in just shy of 40 minutes. Jim Boeheim made it clear after the game that they opened the floor (keeping CJ Fair and Trevor Cooney on the wing) to let Ennis work. That’s a lot of responsibility for a freshman, but you never felt like Ennis was rattled. Even when Pittsburgh deflected his pass late in the second half, he stayed calm and got it back.

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Five Key Questions as Pittsburgh Heads to the Carrier Dome with Something to Prove

Posted by Matt Patton & Lathan Wells on January 18th, 2014

In anticipation of the new marquee ACC match-up this afternoon at 4:00 PM EST, microsite columnists Matt Patton and Lathan Wells ask each other the tough questions. Somehow, we only mention CJ Fair once.

Can anyone disrupt Syracuse's diaper dandy? (credit: Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports)

Can anyone disrupt Syracuse’s diaper dandy? (credit: Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports)

LathanTyler Ennis has proven to be a freshman beyond his years at the point, with a demeanor that belies his class. Can anyone disrupt him defensively and thus help stymie what Syracuse wants to do on offense?

Matt: Calling Ennis a surprise is disingenuous because everyone expected him to be really good. People just didn’t him to be this good this quickly. He’s made the offense more efficient by replacing Michael Carter-Williams, the current NBA Rookie of the Year front-runner. But Pittsburgh will likely try to make the freshman uncomfortable by sealing off the lane with face-guarding on the perimeter.

Pittsburgh has some of the best ball movement in the country (seventh nationally in assists per field goal made). How will Syracuse’s zone combat it?

Lathan: In short, the zone makes ball movement the key to staying in the game. Syracuse’s length across its lineup forces teams to keep throwing the ball around the perimeter and causing teams to hurry late in the shot clock to get a good shot. Establishing a solid high-low option is probably the key to having some sort of success on offense.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott Strengthens Grip on POY

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 17th, 2014

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Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

As usual, there are many candidates knocking on the door of the Player of the Year race. Florida’s Casey Prather dropped out temporarily after missing the last two games with an injury. He’ll likely be back in the rankings at some point as he’s Julius Randle’s top competition for SEC Player of the Year. After a few rough games, UMass’ Chaz Williams is back on track thanks to a 26-point, eight-assist performance in the Minutemen’s thrilling win against George Mason. Andrew Wiggins is inching closer to the rankings after a monster double-double game against Iowa State, with 17 points and 19 rebounds against the Cyclones. Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Keith Appling have also picked up the slack for the injured Adreian Payne as Sparty continues to roll on.

It's a safe bet that these three guys will be in the mix for POY honors.

It’s a safe bet that these three guys will be in the mix for POY honors.

Player of the Year

10. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 10
2013-14 stats: 18.1 PPG, 4.9 APG, 113.4 oRTG

Russ Smith hasn’t put together a complete game in a while and that trend continued Thursday night against Houston. He hasn’t scored fewer than 18 points since December 17, but his turnovers are out of control. He has committed 19 miscues in his last four games including five more against the Cougars. He’s logged at least four turnovers in seven of Louisville’s last eight games after doing so well with just three times in the Cardinals’ first 10 games. With Chane Behanan’s dismissal and Chris Jones’ recent struggles (10+ points in just one of Louisville’s last nine games), Smith’s production has to remain elite WITHOUT turnovers for Louisville to be considered a national title threat.

9. Lamar Patterson – Pittsburgh. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats:  17.6 PPG, 4.6 APG, 123.4 oRTG

It’s a gamble to add Lamar Patterson to the Player of the Year rankings considering Pitt basically hasn’t played anyone all season. The Panthers’ first major challenge comes Saturday in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse. This weekend will be Patterson’s chance to show he has in fact emerged as one of the best players in the country. He’s currently tearing it up in Oakland to the tune of 58 percent from two, 43 percent from three, and a studly 123.4 offensive rating on a 27.5 percent usage rate. He’s the main reason Jamie Dixon’s squad is the second best team in the ACC.

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