ACC Weekend Preview: Opening Weekend

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 10th, 2017

Teams around the ACC tip off their regular seasons this weekend with a host of games that will start the canvas to what will undoubtedly be a competitive and unpredictable conference slate. Here are the key games this weekend that will whet your appetite for the season ahead:

Friday, November 10

  • Northern Iowa (KenPom #129) at North Carolina: The Tar Heels begin the season without star point guard Joel Berry II, but the senior point guard is expected back for the PK80 event in Portland, Oregon, later this month. Until then, games like these are good opportunities for some of the younger guards like Brandon Robinson and Seventh Woods to gain some experience. Keep an eye out for freshman Jalek Felton, especially in Berry’s absence, to leap onto the scene. Northern Iowa is part of a wide-open Missouri Valley landscape that no longer includes Wichita State, but a meticulous style of play and 6’10” senior Bennett Koch (57% eFG last season) could give a young North Carolina front line some issues.

Can Bryant Crawford and a talented but crowded backcourt ease the loss of John Collins? (AP)

  • Elon (KenPom #106) at Duke: Our first chance to see Duke’s highly-touted freshman class comes against an Elon team expected to compete for the CAA championship. How will Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter co-exist in the frontcourt? Is Trevon Duval the point guard Mike Krzyzewski has been searching for since Tyus Jones left campus? Will there be any further Grayson Allen drama? Tonight gives us our first opportunity to overreact wildly. Keep an eye on Elon’s Tyler Siebring, a 6’8” forward who led the Phoenix in scoring a year ago and shot nearly 40 percent from three.

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ACC Non-Conference Games: 10 to Watch

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 9th, 2017

As the opening of the regular season draws near, it’s a good time to closely examine the schedules of all 15 ACC squads and pick out the 10 most interesting non-conference match-ups. The following list excludes any potential games in early season tournaments as well as the ACC/Big Ten Challenge contests — we’ll take a in-depth look at those separately in later posts. This group of 10 games are listed in chronological order (all game times are ET) — mark your calendars now.,

  • November 10 (Friday) – Georgia Tech vs. UCLA (Shanghai, China) – ESPN, 11:30 PM. The Yellow Jackets are traveling over 7,500 miles from Atlanta to tip off Josh Pastner’s second year at the helm. This game shapes up as an interesting battle between one of the nation’s best offenses from a year ago (UCLA – #2 KenPom Offensive Rating) and one of the stingiest defenses (Georgia Tech – #6 KenPom Defensive Rating). A big key to settling this game will be the individual match-up of two excellent returning seniors in the post, with Georgia Tech’s Ben Lammers (9.9% block rate in 2016-17) attempting to stop the smooth mid-range game of UCLA’s Thomas Welsh (132.2 Offensive Rating). Unfortunately for Pastner, he’ll be without two of his starters — Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson have been suspended indefinitely for breaking NCAA rules — while it’s unclear what the game time status will be for UCLA’s LiAngelo Ball and friends after their shoplifting incident at a Hangzhou Louis Vuitton store.

Tom Izzo will be looking for his second win in 12 tries versus Mike Krzyzewski in this year’s Champions Classic. (Chris Trotman)

  • November 14 (Tuesday) – Duke vs Michigan State (Champions Classic – Chicago) – ESPN, 7:00 PM. This could be college basketball’s marquee non-conference match-up of the season, with both squads ranked in virtually everyone’s preseason top four (including the newly released RTC16). Duke may have an edge in raw talent but the Spartans boast National Player of the Year favorite Miles Bridges and a host of other experienced players to surround him. Next week’s game may be Tom Izzo’s best chance in years to beat his friend and rival Mike Krzyzewski. For Coach K to extend his success against Izzo — the Duke head coach holds a 10-1 career advantage — the Blue Devils will need Grayson Allen to end his personal slump in this annual event. Allen has only managed a total of 18 points on 23 percent shooting in Duke’s last two appearances (both losses) in the Champions Classic.

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The 2017-18 RTC16: Preseason Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on November 9th, 2017

And so it begins — that wonderful time of year when we once again see old familiar faces on the television along with our favorite teams playing college basketball. It is a glorious time, indeed. With a sizable slate of games set to commence on Friday, we officially unveil our 2017-18 preseason (and revamped) RTC Top 16. We have decided to trim our poll from 25 to 16 teams this season as a means to provide more thorough analysis and justifications for the best teams in the country. This initial poll will hold for the next 10 days or so, but you can expect our weekly regular season RTC16 to release on every subsequent Monday morning starting November 20. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick and dirty analysis that dives more deeply into how those teams are shaking out from top to bottom. To see how we did last year, check out our 2016-17 preseason poll — sure, we nailed a few (North Carolina, Oregon, Kansas, Gonzaga and Kentucky), and missed on some others (Indiana, Syracuse, Connecticut and Texas). We promise we will try to do better this time around. Here’s the preseason poll. Enjoy opening weekend!

Quick N’ Dirty Thoughts.

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ACC Burning Questions: Louisville Cardinals

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 7th, 2017

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

Burning Question: Can Louisville get past the FBI investigation to focus on basketball?

You’ve all read about it ad nauseum. Rick Pitino is out. Tom Jurich is out. Is there more to come? That question figures to hang over the Louisville basketball program all season.Former player and current interim head coach David Padgett takes over, and although we don’t yet know much about his coaching style, his practices are reportedly more laid back than his predecessor. That’s not exactly saying much. The good news for the first-time head coach is that Louisville’s roster has the talent of a Final Four contender. The team will be led by senior point guard Quentin Snider, a perfect floor general — with improved assist and turnover rates for three years running — for an inexperienced coach. Padgett will count on him to get the ball to two of the best breakout candidates in college basketball — sophomore V.J. King and junior Deng Adel. King, a former McDonald’s All-American, didn’t receive consistent minutes last year while playing behind NBA First Round pick Donovan Mitchell, but he showed flashes of brilliance in a 24-point outburst at Virginia and shot a stellar 42 percent from three-point range. Don’t be surprised if he makes a Mitchell-like leap to stardom in his second season.

David Padgett talks with former coach Denny Crum during a Red-White scrimmage at the KFC YUM! Center. (Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports)

Adel meanwhile is a smooth wing and terrific defender with the skill set in place to become an all-ACC performer. He will need to improve his jump shot to optimize his offensive attack, but his mechanics are good and it seems as if shot selection is his primary hindrance from success. In the frontcourt, senior Anas Mahmoud anchors the defense. He averaged over two blocks per game last year (12.6% block rate) in becoming one of the best rim protectors in the ACC. He also improved significantly on the offensive end (62.4% eFG) but he could stand to improve his 46 percent shooting at the free throw line. The rangy Ray Spalding is also a defensive nightmare, with a long wingspan and an ability to guard multiple positions. He will be asked to replace Jaylen Johnson, one of the nation’s best offensive rebounders last year. Padgett’s bench features sophomore sharpshooter Ryan McMahon and UNC-Asheville transfer Dwayne Sutton, both of whom should be able to provide instant offense off the bench. Read the rest of this entry »

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Projecting the ACC’s Breakout Sophomores

Posted by Brad Jenkins on November 2nd, 2017

Every preseason we take a hard look at the rosters around the ACC and wonder which returning players will make the leap from role player to key contributor. Lately we have watched many of those returnees come from relative obscurity to full stardom in just one season: players like Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson, 2015-16), Matt Farrell (Notre Dame, 2016-17), and John Collins (Wake Forest 2016-17). In most instances, few outside of the specific program expected such a drastic improvement. For example, raise your hand if you had Collins pegged as one of the ACC’s top three players last October. Thought so. Still, sometimes we can project significant leaps in production by looking at advanced statistics for players who are poised to see an increase in minutes and/or usage this season. For instance, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson surprised many observers by becoming a First Team All-ACC member as a junior. But if you closely examine his sophomore campaign statistics — 122.0 Offensive Rating, 58.7 percent true shooting percentage — it’s easy to see why his contributions shot up with a corresponding increase in playing time. In the second of this two-part series, here’s our list of potential breakout sophomores in the ACC this season.

Sophomore Surges

1) V.J. King – Louisville: 13.5 MPG, 5.5 PPG, 111.3 ORtg, 55.0% true shooting.

V.J. King posted impressive shooting numbers as a rookie which should lead to a major leap in production as a sophomore at Louisville. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

One of many Cardinals with professional-level potential, King posted promising shooting numbers last season from three-point range (42.1%) and at the charity stripe (82.1%). His minutes should double this year and his usage rate (19.6%) figures to increase as well — all meaning that we may be looking at a 14-plus point per game scorer this season in Louisville.

2) Kyle Guy – Virginia: 18.6 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 114.8 ORtg, 49.5% 3FG.

The word is that Guy will perform without his signature man-bun this season, but don’t expect him to slow down without it. Given multiple losses from the Cavaliers’ perimeter attack, Guy should be head coach Tony Bennett’s top guard this year. Guy posted two extremely impressive statistics for a freshman guard — 49.5 percent three-point shooting, and a turnover rate of only 10.6 percent.

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Several Takeaways From ACC Operation Basketball

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 27th, 2017

We attended ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte this week (links to the coaches’ and players’ press conferences can be found here). In addition to hearing from coaches and players from all 15 league schools, ACC commissioner John Swofford delivered his annual state of the league address. In this post we present some of the primary takeaways and interesting quotes we observed and heard over the course of the day. At the bottom of the post we also present the preseason award results as voted on by participating media.

LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS TO COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S PROBLEMS

Wednesday in Charlotte, ACC Commissioner John Swofford discussed the conference’s role in addressing the current issues facing college basketball. (USA Today Images)

Swofford spent much of his 45-minute forum on Wednesday discussing the current state of college basketball in light of the recent FBI probe into the sport. The longtime commissioner has always been cautious and guarded with his words in public venues, and accordingly — instead of offering headline grabbing suggestions to fix the college game — he opted to take the position of gathering more information before taking a stance. Swofford correspondingly announced that the league is forming a five-member task force to be headed by former Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage. The goal of the group will be to make recommendations to the recently formed NCAA commission, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, that is tasked with finding solutions to the myriad problems exposed by the federal investigation.

When asked for his personal opinion on two low-hanging fruits regarding immediate change, Swofford indicated that he would like to see the one-and-done rule disappear and would be interested in exploring something similar to the college baseball model that forces a decision on professional or collegiate tracks coming out of high school. Both proposals would do little to fix the problems facing college basketball right now — if the top 15 high school seniors went straight to the NBA, then the players ranked #16 through #30 would then become the prime targets for rogue shoe company representatives and agents. So, what’s the difference? As for considering the college baseball model, why don’t we instead worry about creating something that works specifically for college basketball? From the monumental amounts of money involved to the way the entire recruiting structure works, there’s very little in common between those two sports.

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Despite Roiling Offseason, Louisville Basketball Will Be Just Fine

Posted by Chris Hatfield on October 26th, 2017

In some respects, the dust has settled. The terminations of Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich have been made. And now Louisville Basketball moves forward in a new world. The program won’t get the “death penalty.” Putting the basketballs away for an entire season (or more) just isn’t going to happen. Forget the fact that the NCAA continues to lose moral high ground (just get some good lawyers then watch morals go out the door), and remember that it hasn’t been used for over 30 years. It ain’t happening now. Eventually, the beat will drum on, maybe sooner then some think.

The Coaches of Louisville Past and Present Commiserate (USA Today Images)

Is there a precedent for what’s occurred within the program over the last two years? Well. A precedent for strippers in dorms, Wells Fargo transfers to pay for those strippers, a National Championship banner likely being stripped, the head man claiming to have zero knowledge of anything, and the cherry on top – a pay-for-play scheme? No, there’s not much precedent for that. It’s easy to forget, but wanna know a secret? Louisville still has a pretty good team this season.

KenPom ranks the Cardinals as the 16th best team in the Country and fourth in the ACC. Valid questions will be asked about interim head coach David Padgett. How much of his style will be implemented? How much even can be? How will he react to actual game pressure? Can he even manage a game? Yet, the team’s’ talent speaks volumes. The frontcourt, led by the length of Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding, was rated the ninth-best in the country by Rob Dauster at NBC Sports. VJ King and Deng Adel on the wings may be one of the most underrated one-two scoring punches in the country. Even without the services of Brian Bowen, there is still a lot of talent on the roster. It’s doubtful that the NCAA will move fast enough to affect the Cards this season, and the university has expressed little interest in self-imposing again (why would it?). Expect Louisville to be a factor in ACC play as well as when March rolls around.

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Morning Five: 10.25.17 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 25th, 2017

morning5

  1. The news that North Carolina senior point guard Joel Berry is expected to miss four weeks recovering from a broken bone in his right hand after he punched a door following a video game loss has widely been viewed as a major hit to the defending champions. While we won’t argue that it will adversely affect them in the short-term, we tend to agree with Andrew Carter who argues that it offers the Tar Heels with the ability to develop other players such as freshman Talek Felton (Raymond’s cousin) and sophomore Seventh Woods rather than relying on Berry early in the season. Berry’s presence would have been invaluable to a team filled with players trying to replace departed stars early in the season, but his absence early in the season might be more valuable to them down the road.
  2. We haven’t heard much discussion about Virginia hiring Carla Williams to be its new director of athletics. Typically these announcements do not merit much attention, but it does seem newsworthy to us because Williams is the first African-American woman to be named an athletic director at a Power 5 school. Some might argue that these distinctions are nothing more than winning the press conference, but having more diversity in the field or at least a broader pool of candidates to pick from seems like a good thing. Hopefully, this will encourage other schools to look beyond the typical retreads we usually see hired and instead pursue more promising candidates.
  3. Most of the media’s attention on the FBI investigation has been focused on another ACC school (more on that in a bit), but it appears that Miami may have its own issues as Jim Larranaga has stated that he believes that he is “Coach-3” in the FBI investigation. According to the FBI report, that coach was involved in trying to get Adidas to give $150,000 to convince a recruit (widely believed to be Nassir Little, who later signed with UNC) to commit to that school. For his part, Larranaga denies any wrongdoing and the school appears to be standing behind him for now, which is more than we can say for other schools.
  4. Speaking of other schools, the fight between Louisville and Rick Pitino/Tom Jurich does not appear to be lightening up as Jurich’s attorneys are claiming that the board of trustees failed to explain the cause of Jurich’s firing and are trying to “smear him.”  Without going into too much detail the school basically accused Jurich of not maintaining proper oversight of the department while Jurich’s team says that he kept a close eye on everything and the men’s basketball team was the only part of the athletic department that has had any issues. Our guess is that similar to most cases like this the only people who will end up winning are the lawyers and their bloated billable hours.
  5. The NCAA is an easy target for people particularly lately with the FBI investigation and the never-ending debate about financial compensation for student-athletes. As Sam Mellinger points out, the one thing that the NCAA should not have any problem doing is using its platform to give to the less fortunate (and generate some positive publicity for itself), but it seems to have a hard time doing that. Most people will point to concerns that schools will use charity events as a way to promote themselves (like Houston was supposedly going to do by giving out apparel for different schools to Hurricane Harvey victims), but it seems like inertia is the biggest obstacle. The powers that be are just too comfortable sitting back and waiting for individual schools to make the case to them rather than being proactive.
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ACC Offseason Storylines: FBI Brings the Hammer to Louisville and Miami

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 17th, 2017

We are now a little over three weeks away from opening night in college basketball, so it’s time to start our preseason coverage here at the ACC microsite. Over the next several weeks we will preview the fortunes of all 15 ACC schools by projecting how each squad will maximize its strengths and mitigate its weaknesses, and we will also be reporting from ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte later this month. But first, let’s catch up on a few of the most important storylines in the ACC since North Carolina captured its sixth NCAA Championship in Glendale last April.

FBI Case Rocks the College Basketball World

Louisville’s Rick Pitino became the first major casualty of the FBI Investigation into College Hoops Recruiting. (Getty Images)

On September 26, we learned in a dramatic morning announcement that even the NCAA was not aware of that the FBI has been investigating the college basketball recruiting scene. Four NCAA assistant coaches were charged with accepting bribes to steer players to pro agents and/or financial advisors, while six other individuals were also arrested, including several Adidas employees who were accused of arranging cash payouts for recruits and their families as incentives to join their sponsored college programs. Two of the schools involved are ACC members Louisville and Miami.

As soon as the FBI news broke and the Louisville program was implicated in the report, pressure immediately began mounting on head coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich. By the next morning, we knew that neither luminary would survive this scandal, the latest in a string of sordid revelations involving the program. Pitino was officially fired yesterday. Understandably, the university could not tolerate further violations and embarrassments in the midst of a probation currently being served for 2015’s stripper scandal. Even more damning for Pitino is news that his voice is allegedly on an FBI tape as a direct participant in the pay-for-play scheme. Two Cardinals’ assistants have also been placed on administrative leave, leaving former Louisville player David Padgett to pick up the pieces this season as the school’s interim head coach. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the school try to get out in front of the NCAA’s inevitable return to campus with another round of self-imposed penalties that includes a postseason ban.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Michigan 73, #2 Louisville 69

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2017

Rush the Court will be covering the NCAA Tournament from start to finish over the next three weeks.

Michigan’s Wild Ride Continues to the Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Michigan shot lights out in the second half. Michigan had a difficult first half and ended up at 36% from the field. They came out of the locker room to start the second half hot and shot 63%. Moritz Wagner had 17 points in the half and seemed to have an answer to silence the Cardinals each time they started to make a run. When it mattered most down the stretch, Wagner and team answered each time Louisville mounted a charge.
  2. Michigan can win the Midwest. Louisville was a fantastic team all season and Michigan played a solid game to knock them out. They were out-rebounded 37-30 and only shot 36% in the first half, but roared back to erase an eight point deficit to win by 4. Derrick Walton Jr. had a decent game but was only 3-13 from the field. He played the part of the  emotional leader on the court, but will need to step it up to get Michigan past Rhode Island or Oregon next week.
  3. When you’re 7 feet tall and can’t dunk… Anas Mahmoud missed two dunks in a close game. I wouldn’t go as far to say that his failure to put the ball down – twice – lost the game, but those 4 points sure would have helped the Cardinals cause in the four point loss. Louisville didn’t show up in the second half until it was too late. They ended up 1-10 from 3 point range in the second half and Quentin Snider ended with no points shooting 0-7 from behind the arc. You can’t win when your second leading scorer, averaging 12.9 PPG, is a non-factor.

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