UNC Offense Has No Identity Without Its Suspended Backcourt

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 16th, 2013

North Carolina has the look of a team that is completely unsure of who its offensively. Coming into the year facing uncertainty regarding player suspensions and the role both holdovers and newcomers are going to be asked to play in light of these circumstances, the Tar Heels have struggled mightily in their first two contests of the season. Marcus Paige, a point guard/facilitator by nature, has willed the team to victory twice with his new-found proclivity for seeking his own shot. But it’s very clear, facing a brutal non-conference schedule, that this is a Tar Heel team with a serious identity crisis and in jeopardy of getting off to an extremely poor start to the 2013-14 season.

The Tar Heels are struggling without their perimeter threats (credit: Associated Press)

The Tar Heels are struggling without their perimeter threats (credit: Associated Press)

Having played twice against mediocre but motivated opponents, it’s evident that this team is in trouble. The indefinite suspensions of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald due to separate NCAA compliance issues have left Roy Willaims’ team in flux, both in terms of how to practice and prepare for games as well as the roles that returning and new players alike are being asked to assume. Paige, having played an entire freshman campaign at the point, is now asked to play shooting guard while freshman Nate Britt attempts to orchestrate the offense. He’s had to be North Carolina’s main offensive threat in both of the uneven victories over Oakland and Holy Cross. While Paige’s scoring has escalated (he tallied a career high in points and field goal attempts against Holy Cross, with 23 and 17 respectively) and proved vital in both wins, it’s evident that this team is qutite average without its two absent wing players, and that Paige as the primary offensive weapon is not going to be enough for them to excel over the course of a full season.

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ACC Mega-Preview: Duke Tops Power Rankings

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 8th, 2013

Over the last two weeks, we have previewed each team individually to go with several more articles to get you ready for ACC basketball starting later today. Links to the previews can be found in each of the preseason power rankings listed below. Also look for our preseason conference awards later which will publish later today.

ACC Basketball Twitter Must-Follows (Chris): 

  • Part I (general ACC tweeters)
  • Part II (Maryland, Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh,  and Georgia Tech)
  • Part III (Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Florida State, North Carolina, and NC State)

Early Season Tournaments (Brad):

  • Part I (Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Clemson)
  • Part II (Florida State, North Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse)
  • Part III (Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Miami)

Seven Nonconference Games to Watch (Brad)

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (75): Unanimous selection for the top spot, Coach K hopes this year’s more athletic group of players can thrive at a faster pace of play. Duke is a national contender this season.
Syracuse Orange 2. Syracuse (67): Their loaded front court and a legendary coach will help make seamless transition to the ACC, bringing their length and vaunted 2-3 zone along with them. Frosh point guard Tyler Ennis is the difference between a very good team and a great one.
North Carolina Tar Heels T3. North Carolina (64): The development of the young frontcourt will be key for a team with plenty of upside, but a daunting non-conference schedule and the suspensions of PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald loom early.
Virginia Cavaliers T3. Virginia (64): ACC stars Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are back in Charlottesville. If the point guard position has more offensive output than last season, this team has all the pieces to be an ACC contender.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 5. Notre Dame (52)Mike Brey has to find a way to replace Jack Cooley‘s production in the post, but the Fighting Irish bring back one of the best backcourts in the ACC. The Fighting Irish look like a border-line top-25 team heading into the season.
Maryland Terrapins 6. Maryland (48): Losing Seth Allen for a spell and Alex Len to the lottery will hurt, but Dez Wells‘ brilliance and Maryland’s overall athleticism should propel them to new heights under Mark Turgeon assuming they can cut out some of their turnovers.
Boston College 7. Boston College (43): A veteran core and a bona fide star could take Boston College to the next level, provided Steve Donahue does something about the team’s dreadful defense. If Dennis Clifford is healthy, this team has a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Pittsburgh Panthers 8. Pittsburgh (41): The Panthers have three solid returning starters to build around, but will need their new big men to make an immediate impact after Steven Adams’ surprising decision to bolt for the NBA Draft. Also how will the new officiating rules affect Jamie Dixon‘s style?
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 9. Georgia Tech (31): The tandem of sophomores Robert Carter, Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt will prove even more effective as the Yellow Jackets look to make strides, but their young core is a few years away from making noise. Tennessee transfer Trae Golden should be an upgrade over Mfon Udofia at point guard.
NC State Wolfpack 10. NC State (29): TJ Warren could be one of the most talented players in the conference, but there is an enormous amount of departed experience to replace in Raleigh. Mark Gottfried‘s talented group of freshmen will be expected to contribute early and often.
Florida State Seminoles 11. Florida State (27): The Seminoles need last year’s newcomers to all make a big leap this year even to stay in the upper middle of the ACC. The key is getting back to elite team defense, though Okaro White is one of the better returning offensive wings in the ACC.
Miami Hurricanes 12. Miami (23): The best thing returning for the Hurricanes is head coach Jim Larranaga, an expert at putting pieces together to form a solid team. Unfortunately, the pieces leave a lot to be desired. Belgian star Manu Lacomte may surprise ACC fans, though.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 13. Wake Forest (19): For the first time since coming to Winston-Salem Jeff Bzdelik has experience, but do the Demon Deacons have the talent to finish above .500 and save his job? Conference expansion didn’t help.
Clemson Tigers 14. Clemson (11): A bad team is going to get worse as the program takes what is probably charitably going to be called “a rebuilding year.” Tune in for KJ McDaniels, whose shot-blocking makes him a good pick for ACC defensive player of the year.
Virginia Tech Hokies 15. Virginia Tech (6): Erick Green is gone, and there isn’t anyone stepping up to replace him on a team destined to rest in the ACC cellar this year. Things could be ugly for James Johnson‘s second season in Blacksburg.

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ACC Team Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 7th, 2013

Fans of the storied North Carolina Tar Heels basketball program always anxiously await the arrival of the coming season. This year, however, after a string of off-the-court incidents, fans and the team itself probably have more reason to cheer the first minute of game action than in recent seasons. Guard P.J. Hairston’s legal woes stemming from an infamous traffic stop in Durham and speeding tickets thereafter, coupled with wing guard Leslie McDonald’s strange licensed mouthpiece storyline and forward J.P. Tokoto’s unauthorized summer league participation, left UNC fans reading about their beloved college basketball season all summer and into the fall for all the wrong reasons. Luckily, the season is right around the corner, and not a moment too soon.

North Carolina Preview 2013

Last year’s Tar Heels found themselves in a position head coach Roy Williams rarely finds himself having to acclimate to: an unsettling lineup situation. The team played uneven basketball over the first half of the year, struggling most glaringly with ineffective post play. James Michael McAdoo had returned for a sophomore season hoping to become a star and catapult into the NBA Draft’s upper tier; instead, massive expectations and having to guide a young group of frontcourt players overwhelmed him and left him playing out of position. The team’s switch to a four-guard lineup in February helped accentuate the strength of the team on the perimeter, and helped spark the Heels to wins in their final six ACC games and a run to the championship game of the ACC Tournament. But upon entering the NCAA Tournament, the team ran into a team with too much size in Kansas in the second round and realized their small lineup’s limitations in defeat.

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ACC M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on October 28th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Mike Waters does a good job reporting on CJ Fair’s decision to come back to Syracuse for his senior season. Fair was right on the edge of declaring for the draft. But between very mixed feedback from the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee along with his father and coaches pushing for him to return, Fair ended up coming back. Fair’s inconsistent draft stock may have a lot to do with his previous role for Syracuse; while he was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder last year, Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche really ran the team. This year, with a freshman point guard in place, Jim Boeheim will need Fair to step into that first option role.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs took a look at the worst three-point shooters in the ACC. The only two players who took over 100 threes but still finished in the bottom 10 were Rion Brown (29.2%) — Miami’s streaky, bright shoe shod, lone returning wing — and rising Syracuse sophomore Trevor Cooney (26.7%). Miami desperately needs Brown to become an efficient scoring option, as he’s essentially the only returning scoring option. Another player who made the list is Florida State senior Ian Miller, whose offense will also be in high demand this season.
  3. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: The latest in the “adjusting to the less physical ACC” articles out of Pittsburgh, Kevin Gorman’s takeaway will be a little more interesting to follow. He points to Jamie Dixon’s recent recruiting of stretch fours instead of the bruising power forwards of old as a sign of changing times. While it’s true many ACC schools have a forward capable of stretching the floor, it’s also true that many have a bigger lineup better off staying near the paint. However, the new rules also put a value on spreading the floor, which could also influence future recruiting.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: PJ Hairston may be in trouble with the NCAA but North Carolina fans understand how important he is for this team’s success. Despite (or because?) of his summer troubles, Hairston received the biggest ovation at Late Night with Roy last Friday before he went on to be the leading scorer in the scrimmage. But it’s still unclear for how long Hairston will be suspended. In other concerning news for the Tar Heel faithful, Roy Williams mentioned that the athletic department is also talking with the NCAA about Leslie McDonald‘s eligibility. If you recall, McDonald was shown on a website for a custom mouthguard company, leading to questions about his connection with that organization.
  5. KenPom.com: Ken Pomeroy’s preseason rankings are out. His methodology is pretty simple, although ACC fans may be upset with being the third-ranked conference in the country. Duke leads the way for the conference at sixth, followed closely by Syracuse (#9) and North Carolina (#10). Like myself, Pomeroy is bullish on Boston College (#37) this season. Virginia Tech (#154)? Not so much. I have a feeling Duke and Syracuse have pretty high Pomeroy-ian ceilings, as both lost a lot from last season, where I imagine Miami (#62) has a low cellar because of its stellar finish last season.
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Truth or Myth: Reviewing Roy Williams’ Key Lineup Decision Last Year

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 17th, 2013

On February 13, 2013, North Carolina’s season was in limbo. That evening the Tar Heels would take a 6-4 ACC record into Durham against a highly favored Duke team, while coming off their worst performance of the conference season, a 26-point blowout loss at Miami. But for Roy Williams’ team, that UNC-Duke game was the debut of a new smaller lineup featuring P.J. Hairston starting in place of big man Desmond Hubert. Although UNC would lose that game by five points, 73-68, the new lineup had bigger Duke looking slow and confused for much of the night. From that point, the Tar Heels ran off  six straight conference wins, finished third in the league with a 12-6 record, and went on to make the ACC Tournament championship game before losing to top-seed Miami for the third time. National media types lauded the lineup change as a brilliant coaching move by Williams, while many local media and Tar Heel fans were left asking what took so long for the head coach to make the move in the first place. Before we turn our full attention to the upcoming season, let’s look back at some of the truths and myths concerning that North Carolina lineup decision as well as address some reasons as to why the move wasn’t made sooner.

PJ Hairston and Friends Survived the Villanova Comeback

Inserting PJ Hairston Was The Key Lineup Change Last Season

Truth or Myth #1 – The Lineup Change Had a Tremendous Positive Impact

This would be a big affirmative. UNC’s record improved from 6-4 in the ACC before the switch to 8-3 afterward, including the games in the ACC Tourney. But more than that, North Carolina just looked like a much better team and the stats back that up. Basically the net effect of the lineup change was to remove 20 minutes from post players Hubert, Joel James, and Brice Johnson and redistribute them among the perimeter players, with Hairston picking up more than half of what was left. As expected from a decision to take away significant minutes from big players, defensive efficiency was most negatively impacted.

In comparing the Tar Heels’ last 11 ACC games with the first 10, defensive two-point field goal percentage rose three percent and opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage rose seven percent. But the new and much quicker lineup forced more turnovers and defended the three much better. The net result was that the defense got slightly worse, allowing 1.02 points per possession (PPP) compared with 0.98 PPP in the first 10 ACC games, but the flip side is that the Carolina offense really took off. The smaller unit cut turnover percentage down by three percent, improved their effective field goal percentage by three percent, and raised the team’s overall PPP from 1.02 to 1.12.  They clearly were a much better overall team after the switch — even more than the improved record indicates — especially when you consider that the only three ACC losses after the switch were to either Duke or Miami, two of the top 10 teams in the country last season.

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Morning Five: 07.22.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 22nd, 2013

morning5

  1. After initially reconsidering Kyle Wiltjer has decided to leave Kentucky and will transfer to Gonzaga. The rising junior came to Lexington as a top-25 recruit and played well at times, but was largely overshadowed by his teammates and was relegated to a role coming off the bench. Despite his limited playing time Wiltjer has shown flashes of brilliance and with his 6’10” frame and ability to shoot from the outside (36.7% from 3-point last season) he should become a featured part of the Gonzaga offense during his two remaining years of eligibility. Although we are sure that many in Big Blue Nation (like any fan base) will be quick to criticize Wiltjer for leaving it is probably the right decision for him as it will allow him to showcase his ability instead of being stuck behind a revolving lineup of lottery picks.
  2. We have seen a lot of awkward transfers over the years, but the way Trae Golden left Tennessee is one of the more unique ones (check Google if you want the background). The two-year starter, who averaged 12.1 points and 3.9 assists per game last season, is headed to Georgia Tech where he could make the Yellow Jackets a potential NCAA Tournament team if he is granted a family hardship waiver to play next season. The basis of Golden’s waiver is that his father, who is in Georgia, is “severely ill”. Although the Yellow Jackets finished 16-15 last season they return their top two players and if Golden is eligible to play this season the addition of Golden should do a lot to stabilize their backcourt, which was their biggest weakness headed into this season.
  3. They often say that the cover-up is worse than the crime and if that’s the case North Carolina should be very concerned with the latest need to come out over the weekend. Dan Kane of The News & Observer has continued his pursuit of the truth in this case even if neither UNC nor the NCAA seem particularly interested. The latest bombshell to come out is that Faculty Council Chairman Jan Boxil sent a series of emails advising the authors of the investigation to rewrite their findings to try to prevent the NCAA from investing further. We are not sure what they were told to rewrite, but the optics of this look horrible for the school. Perhaps the only amusing aspect of this case is that Boxill actually wrote a book on sports ethics. At this point if the NCAA does not step in to punish UNC for its actions we will assume it never will because you won’t find many more clear smoking guns than this.
  4. The battle between the NCAA and athletes of various generations has been stealing most of the headlines, but apparently there are also smaller battles being waged. One of those battles involves Leslie McDonald (actually North Carolina) and Iceberg Guards, which had been using McDonald’s image on its website to promote its designer mouth guards. In response the school has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company asking it to take McDonald’s image off its website. The company appears to have taken McDonald’s image off its website so we would assume that the matter is settled for now and although we are sure that some people will use this as another knock against a Tar Heel program that has much bigger issues this appears to be a simply a company acting on its own to utilize someone’s image that they had no right to.
  5. Starting your career at a new school being suspended is never a good thing, but that is the situation Nebraska guard Deverell Biggs finds himself in after he was suspended for three games to start next season as the result of his arrest for driving under the influence last December. Biggs, who redshirted last season pleaded no contest to the DUI charge, will miss the team’s two exhibition games and the season opener against Florida Gulf Coast. For his part, Biggs has apologized for his actions, which may not mean much because almost everybody does, but we are guessing that Biggs will be watched very closely by the Nebraska staff with his career starting this way.
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North Carolina’s Lineup Issues Demand a Change: Here’s a Solution

Posted by KCarpenter on February 13th, 2013

Andrew Jones makes a compelling case describing the problems that North Carolina has faced this season — the short story is that the Tar Heels haven’t been getting very effective play out of the post or at the point guard position. The slightly longer story is that a lot of North Carolina’s lineups are deeply flawed, most notably the starting version. Up to the first official timeout, North Carolina has been outscored 48-17 in the past five games. This jaw-dropping number tells a simple story: UNC’s starters don’t make for a very effective offensive unit. This point has been most effectively tracked by the incomparable Adrian Atkinson, whose Twitter feed is a treasure trove of North Carolina lineup data. Still, if I had to pick a single telling fact, it would be this one: In conference play, North Carolina’s starters have posted an offensive efficiency of 76.1 while EVERY OTHER LINEUP has an average offensive efficiency of 107.2. North Carolina’s starting lineup is a problem. But, how does Roy Williams solve it?

Williams is Grasping For Answers, So Here's One - Change the Starting Lineup

Williams is Grasping For Answers, So Here’s One – Change the Starting Lineup

Jones makes the argument that a lot of the difficulty hinges on the fact that the starting lineup includes two non-scorers: Desmond Hubert at center and Dexter Strickland at shooting guard. Combine this with Marcus Paige‘s inability to find the bottom of the net on most outings, and you end up with a lineup that can basically only count on Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo to score. Both Jones and Atkinson have an easy fix for the Tar Heels’ offensive woes: just add P.J. Hairston to the mix. It makes sense: According to Atkinson, with Bullock, Hairston, and McAdoo in the lineup at the same time, North Carolina has a net efficiency of +21.1 while posting a net efficiency of +0.2 when the trio aren’t playing together. On paper, the change seems clear — these three guys need to play together more often.

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Wake Forest Sticks to the Script and Loses Badly on the Road

Posted by KCarpenter on February 6th, 2013

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after last night’s game between UNC and Wake Forest in Chapel Hill.

So far in conference play, Wake Forest has shown that it can’t make or defend shots. This isn’t a slight against the hardworking Demon Deacons, but just what the numbers have revealed. Since the beginning of conference play, Wake Forest has been the worst team on both ends of the floor in terms of effective field goal percentage. The team averages a meager 43.9% on offense while allowing opponents to shoot 53.9%. They have yet to win a conference road game. After a blowout loss against North Carolina last night, very few of these facts have changed.

Wake Found Familiar Territory in Chapel Hill

Wake Found Familiar Territory (and Result) in Chapel Hill

In the 87-62 rout, North Carolina managed an eFG% of 58.9% while Wake Forest managed only 45.4%. Things like offensive rebounds and turnovers can change some of the conditions of the game, but one essential truth stands: You have to be able to put up more points than your opponent, and right now, Wake Forest can’t do that. Sure, the Demon Deacons have a pair of good home wins against NC State and Virginia (good-ish, I should probably say), but those look more and more like aberrations. After the game, Wake head coach Jeff Bzdelik said, “We always lose our confidence quickly… you can see it in [the players'] eyes.” In a frank discussion with the media he admitted that his team wasn’t mentally tough enough, and as head coach, that responsibility lay with him.  Bzdelik looked grim and almost too ready to explain all the things he and his team did poorly, seemingly at a loss to figure out how to fix the team’s problems, explaining how much of a focus cutting down on turnovers was in the lead-up to this game. “The emphasis was not turning the ball over and obviously we didn’t do a good job.”

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Morning Five: 01.24.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. With many observers expecting the NCAA to hand down its notice of allegations soon to Miami, the NCAA instead revealed that it was essentially putting its investigation from the Nevin Shapiro scandal on hold while it hires an external agency to look into a charge of improperly obtaining information for its investigation. The NCAA has retained the services of Kenneth Wainstein, who has previously served in the roles of Homeland Security Advisor, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and FBI General Counsel. It is a rather sudden turn of events and means that both Miami and other involved parties (see: Missouri’s Frank Haith) can breathe easy for a little while. It remains to be determined whether this will affect any punishments that are ultimately handed down or if in fact the NCAA will have to abandon the entire case, but if the latter is true, it’s safe to say that it will probably be the most embarrassing moment in the NCAA’s long history of rules enforcement.
  2. Leslie McDonald, who missed North Carolina‘s last three games with an injury to his right knee, will be out for another three games, but not because of his knee. Instead, he will miss the additional games because he did not take care of his “responsibilities as a student-athlete.” While this could mean a variety of things, we are assuming that the “student-athlete” bit means scholastic problems. In any event, the Tar Heels will need to overcome McDonald’s extended absence as they appear to have turned a corner (for now) but have games at home against Georgia Tech and on the road at North Carolina State and Boston College. With the weakness of the top teams in the power conferences so far this year, North Carolina would still be in the NCAA Tournament as of today, but they cannot afford too many more mistakes.
  3. After quite a bit of drama and instability in the first couple months of the season, UCLA has seemed to put the pieces back together in recent weeks but there are still some loose ends to tie up. Enigmatic former center Josh Smith has resurfaced at Georgetown, but until yesterday, it was still undetermined where former guard Tyler Lamb would end up. While Smith looked to get as far away from Westwood as possible, Lamb is simply moving about 30 miles southwest to the LBC. He will suit up for Dan Monson’s Long Beach State squad beginning in 2013-14, bringing a solid scoring punch and ability to distribute the ball to a team that appears to be following the Missouri template for adding talented high-major transfers in bulk (Keala King, Dan Jennings, and Tony Freeland). Lamb chose LBSU over San Diego State and began practicing with the team yesterday.
  4. Luke Winn‘s weekly Power Rankings came out prior to Wednesday night’s games, but as we all know, the real value in his column comes from the unique statistical analysis and sartorial commentary that Winn provides each week. Perhaps portending Duke’s struggles at Miami (FL) last night, Winn examines the Blue Devils without Ryan Kelly in the lineup while also making time to evaluate a disturbing trend in Nike uniforms adding a logo to the team’s chest (we completely agree, by the way). As always, you’ll learn more reading this column in 10 minutes that you will reviewing 95% of the college basketball coverage on the web, so get on over there and give it a try if it’s not part of your weekly routine.
  5. A final note about a quirky scheduling anomaly where the nation’s highest scoring team, Northwestern State (85.0 PPG), will face the nation’s lowest scoring defense, Stephen F. Austin (allowing 49.4 PPG), in a battle of contrasting Southland Conference tempos this coming weekend. According to a press release put out by the league on Wednesday, this is the first time that anyone can remember in college basketball history that such a game will occur. We can’t say that we’re going to set aside two hours to watch this one at 4:00 PM ET on Saturday, but we will keep an curious eye on the result to determine whether the old coaching adage is true that great defense is preferred over great offense.
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ACC M5: 12.28.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 28th, 2012

morning5_ACC

  1. Keeping it Heel: Matt Hamm thinks that UNC, now unranked and at 9-3 with no victories against notable opponents, needs to tighten its rotation with time lacking for further “experimentation.” He advocates solutions that enhance the offense, including giving freshman Brice Johnson the lion’s share of the minutes at center. He also insists that UNC must play PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald more to maximize UNC’s perimeter effectiveness. All of these moves have offense in mind, although the defense, which gave up 85 points to a struggling Texas team and 61 in the second half to East Carolina, has not always been a strong suit. Regardless, UNC needs to get things figured out as conference play is around the corner. One area that UNC could definitely improve in is getting to the free throw line — this season, the Tar Heels rank 335th in FTA/FGA, with Brice Johnson interestingly enough among the worst at getting to the free throw line.
  2. Virginia has been one of the most enigmatic teams in the ACC this season — the Cavaliers soundly defeated Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, but are also 0-3 against the CAA, its only three losses of the season. Its latest loss, to previously 1-10 Old Dominion, has raised many of the lingering questions that Virginia has had all season. Tony Bennett’s normally stout defense was poor against ODU, surrendering 63 points, one shy of its maximum all season, in a game with few possessions. The absence and/or limited effectiveness of Jontel Evans has really plagued the Cavaliers, and their undersized front line came back to haunt them against the Monarchs, as UVA posted one of its worst rebounding efforts of the season. Virginia must avoid losses like these if it wants to be considered a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender.
  3. Miami’s Reggie Johnson is an essential cog for the Hurricanes. Without Johnson in the lineup, Miami dropped two games in this week’s Diamond Head Classic. While he has not been particularly efficient this season — shooting only around 43% from the floor, a stark decline from previous seasons — he is the best on the team at getting to the free throw line, and is a good foul shooter for a big man (just over 70%). The effects of Johnson’s absence were most notably seen at the other positions where teams could focus more of their defensive attention as Miami lacked its skilled big man. Kenny Kadji bore the brunt of this attention, as he was just 5-of-16 in the Indiana State game. Miami needs Johnson to get back to action, not only because he is likely to improve to a performance in line with seasons past, but also because his presence opens up opportunities for Miami’s potentially lethal perimeter attack.
  4. With Dez Wells and Alex Len getting a majority of the ink for 10-1 Maryland, an under-appreciated part of the Terrapins’ attack has been junior point guard PeShon Howard. Howard has quite a bipolar season stat line — he is 38th in the country in assist rate , but his turnover rate is nearly as high and is the worst on the team. Howard has also been an anemic shooter this season (just 8-of-31 overall), but adding to his strange profile, he is an incredibly good free thrower, albeit in a low sample size as well (15-of-17). Howard, in order to improve his overall profile, must keep teams a bit more honest when calling his own number, but Mark Turgeon has generally been pleased with his improved shot selection, as he has been known as a bit of a chucker in previous seasons. Regardless of his odd statistical profile, Howard will play a very important role in Maryland’s overall success this season, and he was nominated for the Bob Cousy Award, which honors the top point guard in the country..
  5. State of the U: This article presents a detailed if slightly off-color look at some interesting statistics in the ACC this season. Some highlights include: Mason Plumlee is second in the ACC in scoring and first in rebounding, averaging over a double-double per game. NC State has three of the top four players in the conference in offensive efficiency. North Carolina, while ranked third in the country in scoring, has largely done it against poor competition — their upcoming game with UNLV will likely be the most accurate litmus test for the Tar Heels this season. Boston College’s woes can be at least partially explained by the fact that their second and third leading scorers are both shooting under 40% from the floor. There’s more than this in the article – make sure to check it out.
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Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: #11 UNC 95, Mississippi State 49

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

rushedreactions

Some quick thoughts from today’s Maui Invitational quarterfinal game between UNC and Mississippi State…

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The UNC Guards Are Big, Deep and Talented. This is a completely different type of North Carolina team from the last couple of seasons, and frankly, given a Roy Williams’ system that looks to get into transition at every available opportunity, it may work a little better. With all the size along the Tar Heel front line last year, it sometimes felt like the Heels got bogged down in the half court, but this year’s group doesn’t seem to have that same problem. At least not today, when a Mississippi State defense gave them every opening they wanted — to the tune of 15 threes (the fourth most in school history) and 21 assists — Roy Williams found a reason to be upset with his defense in the postgame (UNC held MSU to 27% shooting), but the fortunes of his team are going to ride on PJ Hairston, Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock, and Dexter Strickland (combined for 65 points today).
  2. Carolina’s Young Size is Raw But Promising. It won’t show up on the stat sheet as very impressive, but the trio of Joel James, Brice Johnson, Desmond Hubert and JP Tokoto is a collection of raw talent whose size, springiness and hustle are going to win Carolina some games this season. The seven-foot James is somewhat reminiscent of a young Brendan Haywood, while the beauty of the others is that they aren’t expected to score in favor of hustling and protecting the rim. Williams’ teams are at their best with featured guard and wing play, so this team’s interior corps, already seeming to already understand its role in the scheme, will serve the Heels well going into the heart of the season.
  3. Mississippi State Has a Long Way to Get Back to Respectability. Rick Ray seemed rather disappointed after this game, and why wouldn’t he be? The realization that his team is roughly 40 to 50 points worse than a top 10 opponent is humbling to say the least. His group of inexperienced players were clearly shaken by the match-up at the opening tip, finding themselves down 9-0, 29-6, and 40-15 at various parts of the first half. They were never able to figure out how to find a good shot in the UNC defensive creases, and turnovers (21) were a major problem. The one bright spot was the hustle and play of Gavin Ware off the bench — he contributed eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks against a much bigger front line.

Star of the Game. PJ Hairston, North Carolina. Hairston had the shot of the game (not the week, thanks to Rotnei Clarke) when his 60-footer at the buzzer of the first half found net. But his all-around game set the pace for the Tar Heels with 18 points (on 7-11 shooting), four rebounds, and three blocks this afternoon.

Quotable. We asked Roy Williams what he thought about Maryland leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, and this was his response:

  • “Stunned, shocked… Didn’t see it coming… Strange what’s going on with college athletics… Hate to see them go, but if they don’t want to be there… [hand motion waving goodbye].”

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ACC M5: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on October 23rd, 2012

  1. CBSSports.com:  N.C. State has drawn a lot of attention due to its preseason top 10 ranking and position as a strong conference favorite. Jeff Goodman took in a Wolfpack practice on Saturday and is very high on Mark Gottfried’s squad. A few quick takeaways from Goodman’s 10 points from Raleigh: Lorenzo Brown is N.C. State’s best player… Goodman thinks he is by far the best point guard in the ACC and possibly the best in the country (and that N.C. State ultimately benefited from Ryan Harrow’s transfer to Kentucky), Rodney Purvis is much further along than should be expected considering that he was only recently declared eligible, and this team has more talent than Raleigh has seen in a long time. With the abundance of talent suiting up in Raleigh, the question remains: Can this team shoulder the burden of such lofty expectations?  That may be the only thing that can stop the Wolfpack.
  2. BC Interruption:  Boston College has its first commitment for 2013-14: 6’5” guard Garland Owens, who chose the Eagles over Seton Hall and UTEP. Owens has the potential to be the most athletic player of the Steve Donahue era in Chestnut Hill. Owens selected Boston College in order to improve his shooting skills, calling Donahue “a great shooting teacher” and also citing the similarities of his high school’s offense to BC’s as another reason why he picked the school. Regardless of whether Owens becomes an elite shooter, he will surely provide a different wrinkle for Boston College going forward.
  3. Keeping it Heel: Matt Hamm has an interesting take on two important cogs in the North Carolina lineup this year, Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland, who both missed considerable time last season with torn ACLs (McDonald the whole season, while Strickland only appeared in 16 games). With freshman Marcus Paige seemingly given the reins at point guard to start the season, both players will likely be competing for minutes (Strickland more so at PG and McDonald more so at SG) and potentially, in McDonald’s case, a starting spot. More importantly, it is unlikely that either player will be at 100% until at least a month into the season. With so many unknown variables, whether these two players can return to the levels they showed before their injuries will play a huge role in how far the Tar Heels can go this season.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has only determined one of his starters for this season: Ukrainian center Alex Len.  The 7’1” center and Xavier transfer Dez Wells have been by far the most impressive players in Maryland’s opening practices and scrimmages. Wells’ eligibility for the season is still up in the air, as he has requested a waiver that would allow him to play; the outcome of this request should be determined in the next couple of weeks. The fact that Len has been guaranteed a starting spot must mean that the sophomore, who was ineligible until midway through last season, has improved greatly during the offseason. Len is reportedly showing off an improved mid-range jumper and may even attempt some three-pointers this season. While Maryland does have many question marks heading into Turgeon’s second season, at least one piece of the puzzle appears to have been solved.
  5. Duke Basketball Report: Al Featherston touches on many different topics in this piece, which primarily deals with a potential resurgence of the ACC and analyzes the preseason polls. One interesting finding in this article: Florida State and Boston College have been the teams must underrated by the ACC writers in the preseason polls in the past five years, whereas Georgia Tech and North Carolina have been the most overrated during this same span, with Florida State unsurprisingly following this trend and getting more respect this preseason from the national pundits rather than the ACC media. Featherston also delineates a top five and bottom seven of the ACC with the Triangle schools, Florida State, and Miami make up the top five.
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