ACC Weekend Preview: December 8-10 Edition

Posted by Mick McDonald on December 8th, 2017

It is expected to be a relatively quiet weekend in the ACC, but don’t miss the first conference game of the season and a couple more sneaky good matchups (all ratings are via KenPom and statistics are through the games of December 7).

Saturday, December 9

Duke is All Smiles Entering ACC Play at #1 (USA Today Images)

  • Duke (#5) at Boston College (#95). Look, a real live ACC game in early December! Boston College figures to finish near the bottom of the ACC once again this season, but that should not take away from the fact that the Eagles are much improved. A big part of the reason for that improvement was Illinois State graduate transfer Deontae Hawkins, who had gotten off to a terrific start prior to an untimely right knee injury that ended his season. That, once again, leaves the Eagles dangerously thin in the frontcourt and therefore exceptionally vulnerable against all the size of Duke. Speaking of which, Marvin Bagley III has been sensational but not enough has been said about his fellow freshman Wendell Carter. Carter has been nearly as efficient in scoring as Bagley (63.5% eFG to Bagley’s 63.8%) and is a slightly better rebounder (23.6% to 23.5% DRB; 14.4% to 13.9% ORB) to this point. Having two big men playing at such a high level of productivity gives Mike Krzyzewski several options and helps protect Duke if either gets into foul trouble. Without Hawkins available, Jim Christian’s team simply may not have enough bodies up front to pull off what would be a season-defining upset.

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Maturity, Resilience & Strong Start Has Seton Hall Poised for a Special Season

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 5th, 2017

Picture this: It is March 11, 2015, and Marquette, with a conference record of 4-14, has just laid a 22-point beatdown on Kevin Willard’s Seton Hall team in the #8 vs. #9 game of the Big East Tournament. Marquette would go on to lose to Villanova by 35 points the following afternoon and Seton Hall fans are not happy. Local media and message boards are calling for the head coach’s ouster after five seasons at the helm (without any NCAA Tournament appearances), and Willard even experienced some in-person heckling from Pirate fans the night before. After all, the fans have just witnessed a once promising season that began with a top 15 recruiting class and a 13-3 record crumble to bits in epic fashion as locker room tension destroyed a young and immature team. What would become of that dysfunctional group of freshmen that lost nine of their last 10 games to end the 2014-15 season?

Seton Hall Has Risen From the Ashes of 2015 (USA Today Images)

Exactly 1,000 days later (yes, really), Willard is in the midst of his eighth season in South Orange and those freshmen (minus Isaiah Whitehead, now plying his trade with the Brooklyn Nets) have blossomed into talented seniors. Three of those seniors — Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington — form the only active trio of 1,000-point scorers in college basketball. The Pirates are coming off two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and a 2016 Big East Tournament championship run (two feats not seen since the P.J. Carlesimo era of the early 1990s) that included consecutive wins over top-five opponents for the first time in the program’s 114-year history. Willard’s experienced Pirates stand at 7-1 and are ranked 19th nationally following a week in which they won at No. 17 Louisville and defeated No. 22 Texas Tech at the very arena where the program hit rock bottom nearly three years ago. The win at Louisville was Seton Hall’s second true road win against a ranked ACC team in program history, and to date this season, the Pirates are one of only two teams to have recorded four non-conference wins against power conference teams (with three of those coming away from the Prudential Center). The other team? That would be No. 1 Duke.

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ACC M5: 12.04.17 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 4th, 2017

morning5_ACC

  1. Washington Post: Friday night in Atlanta, Georgia Tech suffered the league’s worst non-conference loss in years — a 64-63 defeat to Grambling State — in ultra-embarrassing fashion by tipping the game-winning shot into its own basket. College basketball’s 338th ranked team (per KenPom) had lost 63 straight contests against teams from the six basketball power conferences, but led by 16 points midway through the second half and was able to hang on for the shocking upset. Granted, Ben Lammers was playing hurt (four points) and the Yellow Jackets were still without the services of star guard Josh Okogie (serving a six-game NCAA suspension), but that doesn’t excuse such a terrible loss. Georgia Tech lost again at home on Sunday night to Tennessee, and Okogie — dealing with complications involving a finger injury — may not be back until ACC play begins at the end of the month.
  2. Card Chronicle: Louisville dropped its second game in a row as well, falling to Seton Hall by a basket in a back-and-forth affair on Sunday afternoon. There’s no shame in losing games at Purdue and against a veteran Big East squad, but new head coach David Padgett is already facing some tough lineup decisions. His two best interior defenders — Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding — are giving him almost nothing on the offensive end of the floor — a combined two points and five turnovers in 37 minutes against the Pirates. However, the Cardinals’ defense becomes vulnerable when Padgett turns to freshmen forwards Jordan Nwora and Malik Williams looking for offense. It would certainly help matters considerably if Quentin Snider would break out of his shooting slump — the senior guard went 1-of-7 on threes Sunday and is shooting a frosty 21.9 percent from deep for the season.
  3. Roanoke Times: Virginia Tech got a nice road win in coming from behind to edge Ole Miss in overtime on Saturday afternoon. The Hokies trailed by 18 points early in the second half but recovered nicely in using a 16-3 run to get back into the game. It’s a good sign for Buzz Williams that his team won a tough road game while having a mediocre shooting performance (7-of-22 on threes), and one reason it can withstand such a night is because Virginia Tech does a great job in getting to free throw line (third nationally in FTA/FGA) — the Hokies outscored the Rebels by 13 points from the charity stripe. Last year, Williams typically brought his best player (Zach LeDay) off the bench, and he is using the same approach with Chris Clarke so far this season. Clarke led the Hokies with 16 points, 12 boards and four assists on Saturday.
  4. Syracuse.com: The Orange took their first loss of the season on Saturday, falling to Kansas on a neutral court in the Miami Hoophall Invitational — a south Florida double-header featuring two ACC schools (Miami). Syracuse has clearly struggled from behind the three-point line this year (27.7%), and did so again over the weekend, making only 6-of-27 from distance. On the bright side, Jim Boeheim‘s zone defense forced 16 turnovers against an experienced Kansas backcourt, but the Orange couldn’t keep Devonte’ Graham (35 points) under control. Syracuse is now down to eight scholarship players following Friday’s announcement that graduate transfer Geno Thorpe has left the program for personal reasons.
  5. Fox Sports: Miami finished off an impressive week by cruising past Princeton in the second Saturday game at American Airlines Arena. A big surprise for Jim Larranaga‘s squad has been sophomore guard Dejan Vasiljevic. A native of Australia, Vasiljevic has started all seven games of the season and ranks third on the team in scoring (11.3 PPG). On Saturday, he notched a game-high 20 points on 5-of-7 shooting from deep. Another good sign for the Hurricanes is the improved ball handling of senior Ja’Quan Newton (23.0 TO% last season). In the past two games, Newton contributed 14 assists while committing only one turnover. Attendance for Saturday’s game was down because of an unforeseen scheduling issue — tip-off came at the same time as the kickoff of the Hurricanes’ ACC football championship game in Charlotte. Considering the beatdown that Clemson gave them en route to another College Football Playoff appearance, Miami fans should have stayed home.
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Ten Questions to Consider: First Weekend of December

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 1st, 2017

The first weekend of games in December is upon us. Here are 10 things to consider throughout the weekend.

Xavier (USA Today Images)

  1. Will Cincinnati get a win at Xavier? Cincinnati has lost their last six true road games at Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout, and this will be the first true road game of the season for the Bearcats. Xavier will be the second Cincinnati opponent with a top 100 KenPom rating and the first within the top 50.
  2. Will Wichita State make a statement against the Big 12? A weekend trip to Baylor starts a stretch for Wichita State in which three of their next four opponents come from the Big 12. The Shockers demolished Savannah State last week, but several consistency questions arose while they were in Hawaii. Wichita State needed a second-half rally to beat California, but just days later sleptwalk through a second-half collapse against Notre Dame.
  3. Who will control the pace in SMU vs. USC? Last year’s matchup between these two teams had 73 possessions, 9.5 more than the SMU season average and its highest total of the season. Coming into this year’s match-up, SMU ranks among the bottom 50 nationally in pace, while USC ranks in the top 75 overall (and top 20 in offensive pace).
  4. Which Arizona team shows up in Las Vegas? Arizona has had no problems winning at the McKale Center this season (4-0) but its recent trip to the Bahamas resulted in three straight disappointing losses. The Wildcats have a marquee game upcoming against top-10 Texas A&M, but will they avoid looking past an interesting UNLV team? The match-up to watch will be down low between freshman bigs DeAndre Ayton of Arizona and Brandon McCoy of UNLV. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Weekend Preview: December 1-3

Posted by Mick McDonald on December 1st, 2017

After overwhelming the Big Ten this week by a final tally of 11-3, the ACC now moves into a weekend that features a handful of very interesting non-conference tilts. (All ratings are via KenPom and statistics are through games of November 30)

Friday, December 1

  • North Carolina (#12) vs. Davidson (#77). Two of the highest-scoring teams in the country (both coming in at over 85.0 PPG) will face off tonight in Charlotte in what promises to be a very fast-paced affair. Tar Heels point guard Joel Berry II has improved his scoring (career-high 20.0 PPG) thanks to tempo and opportunity, but he is clearly still shaking off some rust from an early-season hand injury — logging career lows in shooting (34.1 FG% and 35.9% from three-point range). While his shooting should improve over time, he has been terrific in taking care of the ball (career-low 6.9% turnover rate) and will have an opportunity to find his touch against a Davidson team that is allowing opponents to shoot 38.4% from from behind the three-point line.

Saturday, December 2

Ahmed Hill has led a prolific Hokies offense early on. Can it continue as the competition picks up? (Hokie Sports)

  • Virginia Tech (#37) at Mississippi (#60).  A road contest at Ole Miss will represent the biggest challenge faced by Buzz Williams’ team so far this season. Both teams are guard-oriented and love to shoot the three, with the Hokies’ scorching 46.8 percent mark good for fourth nationally. With the caveat that Virginia Tech’s competition this far has been bad, not enough has been said about the play of Ahmed Hill this season. The junior wing is shooting the lights out, with marks of 63.9% FG, 54.3% 3FG and an insane 73.8% eFG. His elite offensive performance alongside guards Justin Bibbs and Nickeil Alexander-Walker has made Williams’ offense especially dangerous. Those three will need to outperform a loaded Rebels’ backcourt that features Terence Davis (61.8% eFG) and Deandre Burnett (45.2% 3FG).

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Preaching Patience With Louisville and David Padgett

Posted by Chris Hatfield on November 30th, 2017

In the blink of an eye — 48 hours, can be a long blink, right?– David Padgett went from the “tall guy” on the coaching staff to the head coach of one of the premier jobs in all of college basketball. The quickness with which Padgett was thrown into the role perhaps became most apparent on Tuesday night this week, when Louisville lost at Purdue, 66-57, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It was apparent in the sense that Louisville was bound to fail in the defining moments of the game — or maybe Padgett was. It represented the first time he was forced to make decisions in a hostile road environment. It was the first time he had to deal with significant foul trouble from his players. It was the first time he had to truly own the role of the head coach at the University of Louisville. He handled it all very well. There were things that could have gone differently, too. Still, an opportunity to learn on the fly needed to happen and a scenario where that learning ended in victory seemed impossible. This is life for the Louisville program after Rick Pitino: plenty of talent to make some noise this season with an equal number of reasons to fail to capitalize on it.

Louisville Fought Hard at Purdue But Came Up Just Short (USA Today Images)

Full disclosure: I walked into Mackey Arena expecting Louisville to get blown off the floor. That feeling was compounded when Padgett played a host of disoriented-looking freshmen during critical stretches. Instead, a few different bounces could have put the Cards in position to win the game. Still, the notion that Louisville is an above-average team with a sky-high ceiling wouldn’t dissipate. Its schedule to date has been weak (254th nationally), and Padgett’s team has failed to put together a full 40 minutes in all but one game (Southern Illinois). Luckily there is enough talent for the Cardinals to make expansive strides from now to March. Their performance at Purdue has already shown that they will be prepared in hostile environments, but the next step in that process will be about execution. Forthcoming match-ups against Seton Hall, Memphis and Kentucky in December will provide further evidence on how far Louisville has to go. Padgett welcomes the pressure and thinks those strides will be made. “It’s going to hurt. It should hurt. But I told our guys if you give me that kind of intensity and effort every night, we have a chance to be a special team.”

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Morning Five: 11.29.17 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 29th, 2017

morning5

  1. It could be argued that Brian Bowen will go down as the most significant recruit in Louisville basketball history (FBI investigation, NCAA sanctions, and Pitino/Jurich being fired) even though he will never play for the school according to a statement that the school released last week. Bowen, a top-20 recruit who is widely believed to be the player who the FBI says received $100,000, has reportedly enrolled in classes for the spring semester at Louisville, which has allowed him to remain on scholarship. We are assuming that this is a way to maintain his academic eligibility given his stated intent to transfer, but the idea of him transferring to play at another school seems ridiculous as we cannot imagine another NCAA school agreeing to take him with both a NCAA investigation and FBI investigation hanging over him.
  2. When did Vanderbilt become a destination for five-star recruits? Maybe it’s Nashville because it certainly isn’t the program’s history or its elevated court that is drawing in top-notch recruits. Whatever the case, Vanderbilt received its second commitment from a five-star prospect in two weeks as Simi Shittu, a 6’9″ power forward from Vermont, committed to play for Vanderbilt. Shittu follows Darius Garland, a 6’1″ point guard from Tennessee, as the first top-25 recruits the school has had since 2009. We aren’t sure what Bryce Drew is getting these recruits to come play for him at Vanderbilt, but they should make the SEC even more interesting next season.
  3. Some coaching extensions confuse us primarily because of the timing, but we cannot think of any that were as baffling as Wake Forest giving Danny Manning a six-year extension following his 2-4 start. The extension means that Manning is under contract through the end of the 2024-25 season although the school has not released details (apparently the extension itself was embarrassing enough). Manning, 45-57 overall at Wake Forest after last night’s win over Illinois, is a big name and last season did lead the school to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010, but we don’t understand why the school would complete the extension after what we would kindly refer to as a rough start to this season. Of course, we also don’t understand in general why schools give many coaches, who are far from superstars, such favorable contracts, but then again we actually have to pay for the contracts we sign to while these schools/administrators just make someone else pay for it (usually taxpayers, students, or boosters).
  4. We normally try not to get too involved with legal issues (well, at least outside of that whole FBI investigation), but we were interested in Michael McCann’s analysis of the lawsuit filed against DraftExpress that claims the highlight videos on the site constitute copyright infringement. The actual case is quite nuanced (how else do lawyers get their billable hours?), but essentially the plaintiff in this case (Wazee Digital) licenses video content for the NCAA and claims that the DraftExpress videos, which use that content without paying licensing fees, devalue those rights and Wazee should be compensated for that. We won’t go into too much detail about “fair use” and other legal details, but encourage you to read McCann’s analysis because the outcome could affect the way that nearly all online sports video content is consumed.
  5. The strange coaching career of Tim Floyd came to an end on Monday night as he announced his retirement following a loss to Lamar. Floyd, probably best known as the coach to of the Chicago Bulls after Phil Jackson left and as the coach involved in the OJ Mayo scandal, had toiled in relative obscurity the past seven-plus seasons at UTEP, but before that compiled an impressive coaching resume that included 444 career wins (taking away 21 wins that were vacated from his season with Mayo). Floyd’s college journey included stops at Idaho, New Orleans, Iowa State, and USC before finishing at UTEP and made it to the NCAA Tournament at every stop outside of Idaho and UTEP making it to the Sweet Sixteen twice (Iowa State and USC).
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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part III Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 23rd, 2017

morning5_ACC

Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings. All times are Eastern.

  1. PK80 – Victory: In a unique affair this Thanksgiving weekend, Portland is hosting the PK80–Phil Knight Invitational, a 16-team, two-bracket event in honor of the Nike co-founder’s 80th birthday (the actual milestone birthday is February 24, 2018). All of the participating schools have a business relationship with the footwear company, including North Carolina (#10), slotted into the Victory Bracket. The Tar Heels, fresh off an impressive 96-72 road thumping of Stanford on Monday night, will face co-host Portland (#302) today (ESPN – 2:30 PM) in the opening round. Assuming they win, Roy Williams‘ team would then take on the winner of Oklahoma (#22) and Arkansas (#38) in Friday’s semifinals (ESPN – 3:30 PM). The Victory Bracket championship will be decided on Sunday (ESPN – 8:30 PM). Lurking on the other side of the bracket are Michigan State (#12) and Oregon (#33), so the Tar Heels will have a chance to claim some impressive early season scalps this weekend in Portland.
  2. PK80 – Motion: Each Power Five conference + Big East has two schools in the PK80 event, with teams from the same league slotted in separate brackets to avoid meeting each other. Duke (#5) is the ACC’s other representative and will be part of the Motion Bracket. It appears that tournament officials along with ESPN have set the schedule to maximize the national drawing power of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry. As long as both teams win, the Blue Devils’ games this weekend will always directly follow the Tar Heels’ contests in a wrinkle of savvy marketing. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad meets Portland State (#217) in today’s opener (ESPN – 4:30 PM) and will see either Texas (#31) or Butler (#49) on Friday. If it reaches the Motion Bracket title game on Sunday (ESPN – 10:30 PM), Duke would likely get either Florida (#9) or Gonzaga (#23) in what would be a compelling tournament finale.
  3. Hoophall Miami Invitational:  This is a non-traditional event in which the games are all pre-scheduled. Syracuse (#58) hosted and already won three games as part of the event, beating Texas Southern (#259), Oakland (#110) and Toledo (#156) in the last five days. To wrap up the event, the Orange will travel to Miami to face Kansas (#3) on Saturday, December 2 (ESPN – 5:30 PM). This is Jim Boeheim’s least experienced squad in years but it has performed well so far against some decent mid-major teams. The Jayhawks will obviously present a much different level of competition, but if Syracuse can keep it close, it may indicate that the Orange won’t have the very down year many have projected.
  4. Gotham ClassicLouisville (#27) is also not participating in a traditional winner-advance tournament this season, instead opting for four pre-scheduled games in December as part of the Gotham Classic. They will host Siena (#273) on December 6, Bryant (#321) on December 11, and Albany (#102) on December 20. The main event will take place in Madison Square Garden, where Louisville will meet Memphis (#138) on Saturday, December 16 (ESPN2 – Noon). Rookie head coach David Padgett’s team did not exactly storm out of the gate this season, struggling to beat George Mason and Nebraska-Omaha in its first two outings. But the Cardinals looked much better on Tuesday night in destroying Southern Illinois by 42 points at the KFC Yum! Center.
  5. Diamond Head ClassicMiami (#19) will be the last ACC school to see holiday tournament action this year with a late December trip to Hawaii. The Hurricanes will take on the host school, Hawaii (#205), in the wee hours on Saturday, December 23 (ESPNU – 1:00 AM), and later that night, that they will face either Davidson (#68) or New Mexico State (#103) in the second round of action. The favorite on the other side of the bracket will be USC (#15), which means we could get a heavyweight matchup in the championship game on Christmas Day (ESPN2 – 6:00 PM). A victory over the Trojans would propel Jim Larranaga’s squad into ACC play on a high note.
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Three Takeaways from Weekend #1 in the ACC

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 13th, 2017

The ACC fared well on the opening weekend of college basketball, with only one school suffering a surprising loss as Wake Forest fell to Georgia Southern in Winston-Salem on Friday night. As is usually the case, most of the other league teams opened the season by beating inferior opponents. Here are three takeaways from the league’s first weekend of action.

1) North Carolina: No Joel Berry. No Problem.

Luke Maye was the star in North Carolina’s convincing season opening win over Northern Iowa.
(Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

Despite not having All-America point guard Joel Berry II (broken hand) and another starter — transfer Cameron Johnson (sprained neck) — in the lineup, North Carolina didn’t miss a beat in its 86-69 win over Northern Iowa on Friday night at the Smith Center. Freshman Jalek Felton and Seventh Woods combined for 14 points and three assists while splitting time running the team, but the Tar Heels’ primary playmaking came from the wing as Theo Pinson and Kenny Williams each logged five assists. As long as Berry is out — and maybe even when he returns — Pinson will often initiate the offense.

The most encouraging thing from the Tar Heels’ opener was the surprising performance of their untested frontline. Junior Luke Maye showed that he’s ready for a breakout season after posting 26 points and 10 rebounds on 11-of-16 shooting. Maybe even more important than Maye’s unforeseen outburst was the play of two relatively unheralded freshman big men, Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley. The post duo combined for 23 points and 14 rebounds in 32 minutes of action. If Roy Williams can get that kind of production from his frontcourt, he can afford to maintain his preferred style of inside-out play this season.

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Ten Questions to Consider: Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 10th, 2017

As the regular season tips off a little later today, here are 10 things worth asking about this weekend and beyond.

  1. Who takes a step forward for North Carolina? With Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley all gone — not to mention Joel Berry injured — North Carolina will be looking to replace a total of 64.4 points per game. The Tar Heels begin the season against a Northern Iowa team that likes to slow the pace and limit possessions. North Carolina cannot afford to be careless with the ball tonight.

    All eyes will be on Michael Porter Jr. this season. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

  2. What will Gonzaga be this season? The ‘Zags have won at least a share of the WCC regular season title in each of the past five seasons, yet they received only one of the 10 first place votes in the WCC preseason coaches poll. Three of its four double-figure scorers from last season are now gone — who will step up?
  3. How far can Michael Porter Jr. carry Missouri?: Missouri finished last season 3-20 against teams ranked in the KenPom top 100. The Tigers get an immediate chance to reverse that trend against Iowa State tonight with freshman sensation Michael Porter, Jr., who recently became only the fifth true freshman voted on to the preseason AP All-American team. Read the rest of this entry »
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