Dwayne Bacon is Florida State’s Difference Maker

Posted by Charlie Maikis on December 6th, 2016

Over the last five years Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton has coaxed a number of highly-rated recruits to Tallahassee, but the Seminoles have struggled to translate those recruiting victories to on-court ones. Sitting at 7-1 so far this season with solid but not spectacular wins over Illinois and Minnesota, Hamilton’s group appears ready to return to prominence. Florida State has long been known for its elite defense, but the difference this season has come on offense where the Seminoles currently rank among the nation’s top 25 units. Per Synergy Sports, they rank 20th nationally in two-point field goal percentage and are producing nearly 0.2 more points per possession on shots around the rim this season. This short-range improvement has come in large part thanks to the offensive improvement of Florida State’s best wing, Dwayne Bacon.

Has Bacon's improved shooting spurred an offensive revolution at FSU? (Geoff Burke- USA Today Sports)

Has Bacon’s improved shooting spurred an offensive revolution at FSU? (Geoff Burke- USA Today Sports)

Bacon’s decision to return to Florida State for his sophomore season was a recruiting victory in itself. His size and athleticism make him a top prospect regardless of class, but he has also significantly improved his three-point jump shot — from 28.1 to 43.2 percent — to become one of the better marksmen in college basketball. The sophomore wing’s astonishing rise in shooting from distance has correspondingly opened things up for his Seminoles’ teammates inside. For example, 83 percent of Bacon’s assists in the half-court have been to big men for dunks or layups as a result of defenders respecting his shooting ability. Those are the easy looks that allow a team like Florida State, which generally doesn’t shoot very well, to run an efficient half-court offense. Even Xavier Rathan-Mayes, the team’s assist leader the last two years, has gotten in on the act by dishing eight percent more of his assists on two-pointers than last year.

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part II Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 21st, 2016

morning5_ACCNote: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings.

  1. Maui Invitational: North Carolina (#5) will be the favorite in the Maui Invitational, the marquee event of this season’s Feast Week. The Tar Heels will face host Chaminade in tonight’s opening round (ESPN2 – 11:30 PM) and followed by either Oklahoma State (#61) or Connecticut (#67) in Tuesday’s semifinals. With that draw, North Carolina should easily advance into Wednesday’s championship game (ESPN2 – 9:30 PM). Oregon (#9) and Wisconsin (#10) — two other top 10 teams — are on the other half of the bracket. North Carolina will look to add to its past success in this event, having won three previous titles in Lahaina in 1999, 2004 and 2008. Roy Williams’ team started its trip to the Hawaiian Islands late last week with an 83-68 win at Hawaii on Friday night.
  2. Legends Classic: The Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be the site of the next two ACC Tournaments so it is no coincidence that the facility is hosting four early season events that feature ACC schools this season. The Legends Classic is the first of those events, with Notre Dame (#33) joining a competitive four-team field. The Irish will meet Colorado (#51) tonight (ESPN2 – 7:00 PM), followed by Texas (#47) taking on Northwestern (#60). The winners will play in Tuesday night’s championship game (ESPN2 – 6:00 PM). With these four teams so evenly matched, expect Notre Dame to compete in two close games with a chance to pick up a pair of quality wins.
  3. Global Sports Shootout: Georgia Tech (#106) is one of two ACC schools that chose not to play in a traditional winners-advance tournament. Instead, the Yellow Jackets’ exempt event — the Global Sports Shootout — consists of four separate home games against mid-level competition. The last of those games will take place on Tuesday night (ACCN – 7:30 PM) when Georgia Tech hosts Sam Houston State (#148). Josh Pastner‘s team is 2-1 in these games after dropping Friday night’s contest to Ohio (#84), but the Jackets handily defeated Tennessee Tech (#268) and Southern (#271). Junior center Ben Lammers has been a standout so far, averaging 16.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and an impressive 6.0 blocks per game.
  4. Battle 4 Atlantis: This will be Louisville‘s (#7) second appearance in the Battle 4 Atlantis event. In November 2012 the Cardinals lost to Duke in the finals of this event, although Rick Pitino‘s squad got its revenge in the Elite Eight by beating the Blue Devils handily on its way to the National Championship. As usual the Bahamas will host a highly competitive field, with all eight teams ranked among the top third of college basketball (per KenPom). Louisville faces the lowest-rated team in its opener against Old Dominion (#108) on Wednesday night (AXS – 9:30 PM). On Thanksgiving Day, the Cardinals will take on the winner of Wichita State (#23) and LSU (#87). On the other side of the bracket, Michigan State (#21), Baylor (#22) and VCU (#34) are all capable of making it to Friday afternoon’s championship game (ESPN/ESPN2 – 3:30 PM).
  5. NIT Season Tip-Off: Another ACC team will be playing in Brooklyn this week, as Florida State (#36) also ventures to the Barclays Center for the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Seminoles will battle Temple (#115) on Thanksgiving Day (ESPNU – 12:30 PM), and if they win that game, they will probably get a shot at West Virginia (#18) in Friday’s championship (ESPN2 – 3:00 PM). Two wins in Brooklyn would be huge for Leonard Hamilton‘s squad, as Florida State needs some impressive victories to put on its pre-conference resume. The Seminoles have not done so well in the non-conference phase of its schedule the last few years, so this represents a great opportunity to change that trend.
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Takeaways From ACC Operation Basketball

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 28th, 2016

Yesterday we relayed several interesting and funny quotes from ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte (links to the coaches’ and players’ press conferences can be found here). Most of the buzz around the second floor of the Ritz-Carlton was about the condition of Duke freshman forward Jayson Tatum‘s foot — injured in practice the previous day — but we found out that afternoon that the phenom’s injury was relatively minor and he is expected to return to action in a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, there were a few key themes from the day, which we will explore below. We also present the preseason award results as voted on by the participating media in Charlotte.

LOOKING FOR LEADERSHIP

North Carolina's Joel Berry discussed his role as a leader during the 2016 ACC Men’s Operation Basketball in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

North Carolina’s Joel Berry II discussed his role as a leader during the 2016 ACC Men’s Operation Basketball in Charlotte. (Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

A number of ACC programs need to replace their primary leaders from the year before. Here’s how some of the players and coaches from those affected schools see that crucial dynamic working out for their team this season.

  • North Carolina – Even with Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige now departed, Roy Williams still has some veterans to call upon. Among his senior class of Tar Heels, Williams anticipates that Nate Britt is the most likely to step into a primary leadership role. With a smile, Williams commented on his other seniors: “Isaiah [Hicks] hardly talks at all; Kennedy [Meeks] probably talks too much, so they listen to Nate a little bit more than anybody else.” The coach also believes that junior point guard Joel Berry will step up as well after his stellar postseason play last year. For his part, Berry thinks North Carolina needs a collective leadership group, saying, “So I think a lot of people are stepping into that role. If we can get everyone on the team talking and trying to see what’s going on the court, what’s going wrong, what’s going good, I think that will be great for us as a whole.”
  • Virginia – Recently we wrote about what Tony Bennett faces this year without the extraordinary all-around services of Malcolm Brogdon. As London Perrantes quipped, “Yeah, I mean, it felt like Malcolm’s been here for 10 years. So not having him is probably going to be a huge change.” As a senior point guard, much of Virginia’s leadership vacuum will have to be filled by Perrantes, but he won’t be the only player expected to step up. When asked about that issue, Bennett responded, ” I think there’s an eagerness or an excitement for the opportunity for guys like Devon Hall, Darius Thompson, Marial [Shayok]. You know, London has been a key figure to this. Isaiah [Wilkins] has played a lot, but these other guys who have been more in a supplemental role, I think they’re really excited for the opportunity to have it be their team and have a bigger role than they were on in teams past.”

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ACC Burning Questions: Florida State Seminoles

Posted by Matt Auerbach on October 25th, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Will the stable of talent Leonard Hamilton has assembled in Tallahassee finally manifest into an NCAA bid?

The preseason hype swirling around the Florida State basketball program has seemingly become a summer rite of passage. But sure as we are to be inundated with grand proclamations of Leonard Hamilton‘s crew becoming a factor in this season’s ACC title race, it is almost as certain that results will fall significantly short of expectations. Heading into his15th campaign at the helm, Hamilton once again has a roster that appears capable of earning the Seminoles’ first NCAA Tournament berth since 2012. In light of recent disappointments, however, it would be prudent to exercise a cautious approach with this bunch.

It's Dwayne Bacon's team now that classmate Malik Beasley left early for the NBA. (Greg Oyster, 247Sports)

It’s Dwayne Bacon’s team now that classmate Malik Beasley left early for the NBA. (Greg Oyster/ 247Sports)

Upon his arrival on campus last year, the popular belief was that McDonald’s All-American Dwayne Bacon was a one-and done player. And while classmate Malik Beasley parlayed his immediate success into a first-round NBA Draft selection, Bacon opted for another year of seasoning. From a physical standpoint, Bacon’s size and strength are commensurate with that of typical NBA wings – the issue is with refining his skill set. The freshman led the team in scoring and rebounding, crossing the 20-point threshold an impressive 12 times despite only shooting 28 percent from behind the arc. He will be relied upon to make the leap from productive freshman to an all-ACC performer this season. He has the talent and pedigree to do just that.

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ACC M5: 10.17.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 17th, 2016

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  1. North Carolina on Friday night held its annual ‘Late Night With Roy’ event to tip off the new season. After the usual light-hearted fare featuring various dance, skits and skills contests, the Tar Heels conducted a scrimmage that needed overtime to settle the outcome. Earlier last week, Roy Williams hosted a preseason media day where the main topic of interest was how the team will adjust to the losses of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. Williams described the situation as such: “Because it’s not two out of eight. It’s your two best. Markedly, maybe you could say your two best in every part of the game. It’s not just a numbers game.” The good news is that there is plenty of experienced talent still on hand with three seniors and three juniors comprising the expected top six players in Williams’ rotation. In fact, there are only 16 McDonald’s All Americans from the 2013 and 2014 classes still playing college basketball, and five of those will be suiting up in Carolina blue and white this season.
  2. Louisville also recently conducted its preseason media day and Rick Pitino seems to be very excited about his group this year. He’s expecting a lot of improvement from his sophomore class and is also happy with his team’s depth — particularly along a front line where as many as seven players may see regular minutes. We found it interesting that Pitino said the Cardinals may need to stray from their typical defensive zone trapping pressure game. Rather, he claims that this year’s team will play about 95 percent man-to-man defense because of their relative inexperience. What we find odd is that last year’s group — which finished second in  KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings — had relatively the same level of experience and were able to execute Pitino’s multiple defensive looks just fine. Considering his track record in teaching defense, we will naturally trust the head coach to make the right call. After all, he has coached eight top-five defenses in the last nine years.
  3. It was throwback night in Tallahassee last weekend when Florida State held its annual tip-off event known as ‘Jam with Ham’ on October 7. The festivities were conducted in Tully Gym on campus, the Seminoles’ home court until 1981. Leonard Hamilton hopes some of the residual magic from that building — the 1972 NCAA runner-up Seminoles called it home — rubs off on this year’s version. Highly-touted freshman Jonathan Isaac flashed his talent and versatility in the scrimmage, and this may be Hamilton’s deepest team in years. The Seminoles are expected to return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2012.
  4. Most of the talk during N.C. State’s recent media day concerned the Wolfpack’s two most highly-rated newcomers, point guard Dennis Smith and Turkish center Omer Yurtseven. Mark Gottfried is plenty impressed with Smith, calling him “the best guard in the country, period, hands down.” As for Yurtseven, there’s no timetable for when the NCAA will rule on the big man’s eligibility but his availability may be more crucial than first contemplated because of the status of the Wolfpack’s two senior big guys. Gottfried said that he plans to redshirt Lennard Freeman so that he can fully recover from a lower leg injury. The coach also said that Beejay Anya weighed 344 pounds just a few short weeks ago, making it unlikely that he would be in condition for major minutes from the outset.
  5. On October 1 we learned that Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear was not going to be ready when the Hokies started practice because of offseason foot surgery. Last week, head coach Buzz Williams announced that the sophomore big man may in fact miss the entire season. This development would be a big blow to the Hokies’ frontcourt, leaving them short on depth and height in the paint. Williams often played small-ball last season as Virginia Tech closed strong in conference play (winning its last five ACC games), using 6’7″ Zach LeDay and 6’6″ Chris Clarke in the post. But the 6’10” Blackshear also got plenty of minutes when the Hokies needed a tall body on the floor to combat the ACC’s top post men. If he can’t play, then Williams will need 6’10” freshman Khadim Sy to grow up fast.
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ACC M5: 02.17.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 17th, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. Sports Channel 8: One of the best rivalries in sports is here! And, weirdly, it feels much less hyped than usual. Maybe that’s because of Duke‘s skid a bit earlier this season or because the Carolina Panthers held local media’s attention much longer than usual. Either way, I think tonight’s game will shape up poorly for Duke. There are three scenarios at play in my mind. 1) Duke keeps the game close but runs out of gas the last six minutes (most likely); 2) North Carolina blitzes Duke out of the gate, shredding the zone and back-dooring the overplay man-to-man; 3) Duke makes a lot of threes and Mike Krzyzewski throws a bunch of junk defenses at the Tar Heel guards to get the win (least likely). The Blue Devils are really talented, but North Carolina should be able to run them into the ground on the offensive end of the floor.
  2. Orlando Sentinel: Devon Bookert and Boris Bojanovsky have been playing much better lately. Their improved play unfortunately wasn’t enough to get past Miami on Sunday, but the Seminoles are still clinging to a spot in the at-large field. From my perspective, taking care of business against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech plus another win against either Syracuse or Notre Dame is enough to get Leonard Hamilton back into the Big Dance. What would make a world of difference is if Xavier Rathan-Mayes found himself over the next few weeks. His efficiency hasn’t dropped from last year but he’s using a lot fewer possessions so maybe there’s some slack there.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: This is great context from Dan Collins about Bryant Crawford‘s turnover woes (Bobby Hurley, Ed Cota and Chris Corchiani all finished with more than 400 turnovers for their careers and are the top three assisters in NCAA history). Lots of turnovers means the team relies on you to make lots of plays, so in the long run, this season should do Crawford a lot of good. Assuming he can eventually get the game to slow down, it will pay off handsomely. On an unrelated note, the Demon Deacons suffered another gut-wrenching road loss to Pittsburgh last night despite a great game from Codi Miller-McIntyre (Pitt’s James Robinson also gave a herculean effort).
  4. U Sports: Speaking of which, Pittsburgh is in serious trouble. The Panthers have only three wins over likely NCAA Tournament teams this season, and one of those was against Syracuse without Jim Boeheim. Ken Pomeroy doesn’t favor the Panthers in any of their remaining games (although he predicts that they win two), but needing two overtimes to beat Wake Forest at home doesn’t bode well for upcoming games against Louisville and Duke (much less a road trip to the Carrier Dome). Barring an unlikely turnaround or a serious ACC Tournament run, Jamie Dixon’s squad looks like an NIT team.
  5. Streaking the Lawn: This is a good look at what Virginia needs to do to earn a double-bye in Washington, DC, in a few weeks. The top of the ACC is very crowded and will become even more so if Duke manages to beat North Carolina tonight. Six teams hold four losses or fewer, although Louisville no longer counts for ACC Tournament consideration. And thanks to unbalanced scheduling, there are six games left featuring teams vying for the double-bye. Hold on to your butts!

EXTRA: This is a good podcast featuring Jerry Stackhouse talking about his recruitment to North Carolina.

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Florida State Newcomers Making Huge Impact

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 13th, 2015

In the 2014-15 season, Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State squad was severely hampered by a lack of depth on the perimeter. But, what was a weakness last year is now a strength of this year’s Seminoles. Led by a pair of explosive freshmen, Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley, Florida State (5-2) not only is more talented this season, but it may be one of the most balanced teams of Hamilton’s 14 years at the helm in Tallahassee.

Florida State's Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley are the nation's leading freshmen scoring duo. (youtube/Nation Hoops)

Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley are the nation’s leading freshmen scoring duo.
(youtube/Nation Hoops)

With no real quality depth last season, Florida State’s three primary perimeter players all averaged about 35 minutes per contest. Certainly that made it almost impossible for the Seminoles to play the way Hamilton usually likes his teams to play — using waves of athletes to pressure opponents. So far this year, only sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes is logging over 28 minutes per game and his time on the floor (30.4) is almost five minutes less than it was a season ago. Bacon and Beasley are each playing around 27.5 minutes per contest as starters and fellow frosh Terance Mann is coming off the bench for about 15 minutes of action each game. It’s fair to say that Florida State’s freshmen class has performed above expectations so far. Compared to the consensus top two rookie classes in the country (see table below), the Seminoles newcomers are outperforming Duke’s rookies and are statistically close to Kentucky’s.

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part I Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 19th, 2015

morning5_ACC

Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings.

  1. Puerto Rico Tip-Off: Miami (#23) tips off the ACC’s early season tournament action later today, taking on Ben Howland’s rebuilding Mississippi State (#133) squad in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (ESPN2 – 5:00). With an otherwise less than challenging non-conference schedule, Jim Larranaga’s team could pick up some quality wins here, with potential meetings against Utah (#20) in the second round and Butler (#31) in Sunday’s finals (ESPN2 – 7:30). This trip was arranged in no small part to give senior guard Angel Rodriquez a homecoming. A native of Cupey, Puerto Rico, the senior will be highly motivated to lead the Hurricanes to the tournament title on his home island.
  2. Charleston Classic: Tony Bennett will try to get Virginia (#4) back on track after Monday’s upset loss at George Washington. The 73 points that the Cavaliers gave up were the most they have allowed in regulation since an 87-52 blowout loss to Tennessee in December 2013. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of problems ahead for Bennett’s vaunted defense, which was whistled for 24 fouls against the Colonials. The competition at the Charleston Classic this weekend is not of the highest caliber, however, as the Cavs open with Bradley (#272) tonight (ESPN2 – 9:30) and could face a couple of the three non-top 50 major conference schools also in the event — Oklahoma State (#56), Mississippi (#64) and Seton Hall (#73). This tournament’s championship game will be played on Sunday night (ESPN2 – 9:30).
  3. Paradise Jam: If the first two games of the year for Florida State (#35) are any indication, Leonard Hamilton will have his highest scoring team in years. The Seminoles are averaging 103.5 points per game after registering two beatdowns over weak competition and freshman Dwayne Bacon has been a star, scoring 23 and 27 points in back-to-back games. Florida State is the co-favorite in the Paradise Jam along with a Tulsa (#41) squad which upset Wichita State earlier this week. If the two favorites meet in the finals, it will be on Monday night (Nov. 23 – CBSSN – 10:00). The Seminoles will face Hofstra (#95) in Friday’s opening day of play (CBSSN – 4:30) and could meet up with an interesting South Carolina (#47) team in the next round.
  4. 2K Sports Classic: Another team looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss earlier this week is Duke, which travels to Madison Square Garden for the 2K Sports Classic this weekend. Mike Krzyzewski’s perimeter corps had a difficult time finding good looks against the quicker Kentucky backcourt in Tuesday’s loss at the Champions Classic, and the Blue Devils’ transition defense was carved up to the tune of 14-point deficit in fast break points. Individually, sophomore Grayson Allen will look to bounce back after a miserable 2-of-11 shooting performance and just six points against Kentucky. The opponents in New York will not be of Kentucky’s ilk, but they will still be a challenge for this young Duke squad. Friday’s (ESPN2 – 7:30) opponent will be VCU (#51) and Sunday will bring either Georgetown (#44) or last year’s NCAA title game opponent, Wisconsin (#24).
  5. Brooklyn Hoops Holiday InvitationalLouisville (#22) has already begun play in this event, which is not a traditional tournament in any form. Every game has predetermined matchups and Louisville gets to host the first three games, including Tuesday’s 87-52 win over Hartford (#312). Also visiting the KFC Yum! Center as an exempted game will be North Florida (#100) on Saturday (November 21) and St. Francis (NY) (#239) next Tuesday (November 24). In the Cardinals’ only game of the event away from home, they will meet St. Louis (#152) in Brooklyn on Saturday, November 28. Collectively, these games will not be much of a boost to an already weak non-conference schedule that Rick Pitino has lined up for his inexperienced squad this season.
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2015 ACC Basketball Power Rankings

Posted by Matt Patton on November 16th, 2015

Over the last two weeks, we previewed each of the 15 ACC teams individually to get you ready for the season. Links to those previews can be found within each of the preseason power rankings listed below, which were voted on by our crack microsite staff of three. Also look for our preseason conference awards, which will publish a bit later today.

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

Virginia Cavaliers 1. Virginia (304): Can the Cavaliers win the ACC regular season for a third straight year? With a veteran cast led by Malcolm BrogdonAnthony Gill and maybe the nation’s stingiest defense, Tony Bennett probably has the squad to do it. This season, Virginia should take the next step and make a deep run in March.
North Carolina Tar Heels 2. North Carolina (290): Marcus Paige‘s injury could prove to be a setback, but Justin Jackson is poised to become one of the top players in the country. The team returns nearly all its production from last season, and assuming Joel Berry makes the leap we all expect, this group of Tar Heels should absolutely be one of the national favorites come March.
Duke Blue Devils 3. Duke (213): It’s not fair to expect this highly-touted class of Blue Devils’ freshmen to live up to the exploits of last year’s superstar class. Expect this team to take a while to find its stride, with a lot of ups and downs along the way. But if the youngsters grow up in time, Mike Krzyzewski should find himself with another tough out come March.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4. Notre Dame (202): The Irish will lean heavily on the production of three returning starters and a successful offensive philosophy that led to the second best efficiency in the country last season. It will need to make up for the loss of departed leaders Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, but Demetrius Jackson looks like one of the best point guards in the country.
Miami Hurricanes 5. Miami (157): The last time Jim Larranaga had a squad this experienced was in 2013, when Miami won both the ACC regular season and tourney titles. The conference appears to be much stronger at the top than it was three years ago, but this veteran group of Hurricanes could still be a sleeper contender, led by three all-ACC caliber seniors.
Syracuse Orange 6. Syracuse (132): Dajuan Coleman holds the keys to Syracuse’s success this season even if senior Michael Gbinije looks to be the team’s star. After a lackluster finish a year ago, this team could become one of the best in the conference if the pieces fit together well. If the NCAA’s nine-conference game suspension stands for Jim Boeheim, though, it could be tough for the Orange to find their stride.
Florida State Seminoles 7. Florida State (105): The Seminoles are a trendy darkhorse candidate this year thanks to superstar freshman Dwayne Bacon joining Xavier Rathan-Mayes in Tallahassee. Leonard Hamilton will have to find a defensive stopper in the frontcourt, however, if this team wants to crack the top of the league.
LouisvilleLogo 8. Louisville (104): With considerable turmoil surrounding the program off the court, the Cardinals will rely on two graduate transfers and a Hall of Fame coach to navigate the loss of its top four scorers. Never count out Rick Pitino, but he’s facing an uphill climb to succeed in the ACC this season.
NC State Wolfpack 9. NC State (81): This team has a lot of good pieces, but how will Cat Barber handle being the alpha dog without big shot Trevor Lacey around? A trim Beejay Anya should terrify ACC players hoping to score in the paint. This team oozes potential, but will need time for everyone to adjust to life without Lacey and Ralston Turner.
Pittsburgh Panthers 10. Pittsburgh (62): Last year’s Panthers were the worst defensive team and among the weakest rebounding units in Jamie Dixon’s long career. As a result, mproving those two areas has been a major topic of discussion for Pittsburgh’s head coach this preseason. Dixon hopes that a pair of graduate transfers are good enough to toughen up the front line, where last year’s problems originated.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 11. Wake Forest (29): Look for Danny Manning‘s winning ways to creep into Winston-Salem this year, although a move up the standings will be tough because the ACC is much stronger top-to-bottom than in previous years. Devin Thomas needs to have a first team All-ACC caliber season for the Demon Deacons to approach the top half of the league.
Clemson Tigers 12. Clemson (16): Once again, we expect the Tigers to defend like crazy while struggling to score – just as they have throughout Brad Brownell’s tenure. Can Brownell survive another year of not making the Big Dance? It won’t help that Clemson has to play all of its home games in Greenville this season, 30 miles from campus, while Littlejohn Coliseum gets a needed facelift.
Virginia Tech Hokies 13. Virginia Tech (15): It’s only taken Buzz Williams two years to almost completely turn over this roster, with junior Devin Wilson currently the only scholarship holdover from the past regime. The Hokies’ talent level is improved, but his youngters are probably another year or two away from getting close to the upper half of the league.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 14. Georgia Tech (12): It’s another year on the hot seat for Brian Gregory, who has yet to post a winning ACC record in his four previous campaigns in Atlanta. Pathetic outside shooting has been a constant problem during the Gregory era, and the Yellow Jackets desperately need senior transfer Adam Smith to help turn that around to give a decent frontcourt room to operate.
Boston College 15. Boston College (3): This team is one of the younger teams in the country, but Jim Christian brought in Florida transfer Eli Carter to beef up the team’s experience. If one of the freshmen turns out to be a diamond in the rough, this team might find a way to escape the ACC cellar.
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ACC M5: Exhibition Edition 1

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 4th, 2015

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  1. Duke opened its exhibition season last Friday by beating Florida Southern, 112-68, in a match-up of the 2015 Division I and Division II national champions. This is the seventh consecutive year that the Blue Devils have played the defending Division II champion, a tradition that Moccasins’ head coach Mike Donnelly greatly appreciated. He said, after the game: “This game was a lot of fun for us. It is terrific for college basketball at our level, and for the kids it is a great experience. I hope that they [Duke] keep doing it because it is great for everyone involved.” As for Duke’s high-profile group of incoming freshmen, they were led by Derryck Thornton, who notched 22 points and shot 4-of-7 on threes. The Blue Devils’ veteran bigs also had their way with the smaller Mocs, as Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson combined for 27 points (on 11-of-13 shooting) and 21 rebounds in 39 total minutes.
  2. Defending ACC champion Notre Dame also tipped off its preseason schedule with an 87-56 victory over the NAIA’s Saint Francis (IL) last Friday. Twelve different players saw at least 10 minutes of action for the Irish, which dominated the boards (+22 rebound edge) in this game. Mike Brey was particularly happy with the way his team defended, saying, “Yeah we should be able to guard, we got more wingspan in there in the starting group and ball pressure. It’s unbelievable what it does and we’ve got guys who can get out in the passing lanes and do things.” The Irish forced 18 turnovers and held the Fighting Saints to 36.5 percent field goal shooting.
  3. It’s been a rough preseason off the floor for Louisville, so Rick Pitino probably enjoyed having a chance to concentrate solely on basketball for a change, as his Cardinals defeated Bellarmine (KY), 71-55, on Saturday afternoon. The Knights, ranked No. 4 in the preseason Division II NABC Poll, only trailed Louisville by six at the half and drew high praise from Pitino after the game. Louisville’s defense was a pleasant surprise, leading Pitino to comment that he “learned we are further along defensively than I thought. Holding a great shooting and passing team to 32 percent from the field and 22 percent on three-point shooting is excellent for the initial outing.” Sophomore point guard Quentin Snider came off the bench and was impressive with eight assists versus only one turnover in 27 minutes of action.
  4. Syracuse fans can’t be criticized for holding their breath whenever the Orange takes on Division II Le Moyne in an exhibition game. It was just six years ago that the Dolphins pulled the stunner, knocking off a preseason ranked Syracuse squad in the Carrier Dome. There were no such worries on Monday evening, as the Orange took care of business against the small crosstown school in a convincing 97-58 win. Michael Gbinije, who got the start at point guard over Kaleb Joseph, led the way for Jim Boeheim’s team with 21 points and four assists. All eyes in the building were on returning center Dajuan Coleman, suiting up for his first game since January 2014. The big guy delivered an encouraging performance, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
  5. Florida State was also in action on Monday night and looked rather impressive in its 114-68 blowout of Lynn University, a good Florida-based Division II program. Seven Seminoles scored in double figures, led by senior guard Devon Bookert, who tallied 19 points and made three of his five attempts from three-point range. The four newcomers on the perimeter — JuCo transfer Benji Bell and freshmen Dwayne Bacon, Terance Mann and Malik Beasley — combined for 49 points on 20-of-30 shooting from the floor. This could be Leonard Hamilton’s deepest and most athletic team in many years, which may translate into a group that plays the kind of stingy defense that Florida State was known for during its four-year stretch of NCAA appearances from 2009-12. The Seminoles held Lynn to a frigid 29.3 percent shooting from the field.
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