NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) & Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 28th, 2014

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Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent, and Brian Otskey (@botskey) is the NCAA Tournament’s East Region correspondent. Make sure to also follow @RTCMidwestRegion and @RTCEastRegion for news and analysis from Indianapolis and New York City throughout the weekend.

#2 Michigan vs. #11 Tennessee – Midwest Region Sweet 16 (from Indianapolis, IN) – at 7:15 PM EST on CBS

Tennessee was not supposed to be in this position. It barely found its way into the NCAA Tournament. In fact, the Volunteers had to travel to Dayton last Wednesday to take on Iowa to even advance to the round of 64. Tennessee got by the Hawkeyes in overtime and that was only the beginning of its winning ways. In Raleigh, Cuonzo Martin’s squad was able to throttle Massachusetts and take advantage of Duke’s stunning loss to Mercer by dismantling Bob Hoffman’s Bears in the round of 32 to advance to the Sweet 16. Leading the way thus far for Tennessee has been the spectacular play of forward Jarnell Stokes. The junior has been nothing short of dominant in the team’s recent run, as he is averaging 20.3 points and 15 rebounds in his last three games. The Volunteers have also received a lift from guard Josh Richardson. The junior, who averaged 10.1 points per game in the regular season, has stepped up his play in the tournament, as he is averaging 19.3 points per contest. As a team, the Volunteers’ performance on the rebounding glass has aided tremendously in taking them to the Sweet 16. Tennessee has been an excellent rebounding team all season and its rebounding prowess was never more on display than in Sunday’s victory over Mercer. The Volunteers had a sensational 41-19 rebounding advantage over the Bears in the winning effort.

Expect plenty of fireworks between these two guys Friday night. (Getty & USA TODAY Sports)

Expect plenty of fireworks between these two guys Friday night. (Getty & USA TODAY Sports)

Michigan will take the court in Indianapolis after a relatively easy first weekend in Milwaukee. The Wolverines cruised to a 17-point victory in the round of 64 over an undermanned Wofford squad before wearing down Texas in a 14-point victory. John Beilein’s team has been an outstanding perimeter shooting offense and that has carried over into the postseason. The Wolverines hit a combined 21 three-pointers in the two victories. Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas hit seven of those 21 triples an was the team’s leading scorer in each victory. Michigan’s frontcourt has been seen as a concern since sophomore big man Mitch McGary was lost to a back injury in late December, but forward Jordan Morgan showed he is a capable post presence with his performances in Milwaukee. The senior averaged 12.5 points and 10 rebounds against Wofford and Texas, while living up to his reputation as a solid interior defender. In Friday’s game, it should be expected that both teams will play to their strengths. Tennessee will try to use its size advantage to the dominate the interior and Michigan will attempt to get its perimeter shooting going early and often. Texas had a great advantage over Michigan in size too, but the Wolverines were able to wear the Longhorn bigs down through a terrific transition effort and solid offensive spacing. It would be wise to expect Michigan to do the same Friday. Tennessee will keep close throughout much of the game, but the shot-making ability of Stauskas, Caris LeVert, and Glenn Robinson III will ultimately be too much for the Volunteers to overcome. Two-seed Michigan will win the game to advance to its second straight Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan

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Bracket Prep: Florida, Virginia, Michigan State

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 17th, 2014

Championship Week has found its close, but here are a few final short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket this week. None of these titans really needed the “automatic bid” portion of their Tournament title gift package, of course, but with each figuring to play a key role in the weeks ahead, here’s what you need to know about a trio of Championship Week’s final victors.

Florida

Billy Donovan And The Gators Are SEC Champions Twice Over, But Florida Has Their Sights Set On A Greater Prize

Billy Donovan And The Gators Are SEC Champions Twice Over, But Florida Has Their Sights Set On A Greater Prize

  • SEC Champion (32-2, 21-0)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #2/#3/#3
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +16.1
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. In the final minutes of basketball before the 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket was unveiled, Florida survived Kentucky to claim the SEC crown, complete their 21-game conference sweep, and keep alive a 26-game win streak. Quite a tidy going away package for the Gators, who will enter the Tournament as a #1 seed and among the two or three favorites to cut down the nets in Dallas. The one-point victory Sunday was only the fifth time this season that the Gators have won by three points or less – a testament to the workmanlike attitude that has extended this win streak time and time again.
  2. The Gators led the SEC in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Defensive weaknesses are hard to spot with the Gators, but despite the high overall level of offensive efficiency, there is a weak spot or two that opponents will seek to exploit. Florida’s free throw shooting is shaky (66.2% as a team, 295th nationally), and even primary ballhandlers Scotty Wilbekin (72%), Casey Prather (68%) and Kasey Hill (63%) are anything but sure things at the charity stripe. Three-point shooting isn’t a concern for Florida at first glance – they shoot 37% as a team, 73rd best in the country – but Wilbekin (58 3PM, 40%) and Michael Frazier (107 3PM, 46%) have combined to make over 70% of the team’s three-point field goals. The rest of the team shot just 27% from distance, so if an opponent can find a way to take away looks from either Wilbekin or Frazier – especially the latter, who is strictly a perimeter shooter – things could get pretty one-dimensional for the Gator offense.
  3. Florida is the perfect example of a team that used the entire season to grow into an elite squad. For much of November and December, Billy Donovan was just trying to keep proverbial head above water with his team, as pieces shifted in and out of the Gator lineup. Wilbekin, Prather, Dorian Finney-Smith, Kasey Hill, and Chris Walker all missed time for various reasons, but save for road losses at Wisconsin and Connecticut (and no shame in those, either), the Gators kept on winning. Prather grew into an unlikely All-American candidate, Wilbekin has staked his claim as the best point guard in America, and Frazier is now second to none when it comes to perimeter shooters. None of these things happen without one of the best coaches in the game pressing all the right buttons from the sideline, but Donovan has spent the last four months constructing a team poised for even greater things in the NCAA Tournament. And after winning 26 games in a row en route to a sweep of the SEC titles, that, my friends, is saying something.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Virginia 72, #7 Duke 63

Posted by Matt Patton & Brad Jenkins on March 16th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways.

Virginia claimed the ACC crown. (credit: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

Virginia claimed the ACC crown. (credit: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

  1. Virginia was the better team. They took all of Duke’s shots and punched right back. They dominated stretches with rebounding and defense. It took a miracle stretch by Jabari Parker to keep Duke in the game. Virginia’s balance and defensive strength (along with winning the regular season and tournament) will make people think of Miami last season. Virginia’s constant off-ball screens on offense kept Duke defenders out of sync the whole game, which led to all of the fouls. Virginia has three lock-down defenders in Joe HarrisMalcolm Brogdon and Akil Mitchell. That’s enough to slow every team down. Also while the Cavaliers only got credit for five blocks, it felt like more than ten (while only committing 15 fouls). Last but not least, Virginia is going to be a nightmare draw in the NCAA Tournament. This is an impossible team to prepare for–especially on short rest. They may go cold and make an early exit, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when they are in Arlington.
  2. Jabari Parker solidified his high lottery status. He had a couple of just ridiculous buckets (a step-back three and a transition dunk to name two), and an unstoppable stretch while Mitchell was on the bench. Don’t be fooled by his inefficient stat line. Parker was the best offensive player on the floor. After the game, Coach K pointed out that Parker has a ways to go: “Part of his development is, when he makes those [NBA] moves, is to finish, get fouled, not get fouled, you know what I mean. [...] His should be a combination.”
  3. This was likely a battle for a spot in the East Regional. This loss may hurt Duke even more soon. I don’t think the Blue Devils ever had a shot at a top seed (take away the loss to Wake Forest and it’s a different story), but they definitely had a shot to play through Raleigh and then New York City. Now? Who knows. It’s still possible, but Virginia definitely put themselves in the driver’s seat for a nice location and a two-seed (likely with a very favorable one to boot).

Player of the game: Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia. Still snubbed. Yeah, he was named all-tournament, but he made a really strong case to complete Wally Walker snub to most valuable player transition. Brogdon locked down Rodney Hood for much of the game. He also stepped up when Virginia needed a bucket, be it a field goal or a free throw. Lamar Patterson started the year imitating Oscar Robertson, but it was Brogdon who finished as the most versatile offensive player. The difference was even more obvious when you take defense into account.

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ACC Championship Preview: #6 Virginia vs. #7 Duke

Posted by Brad Jenkins & Matt Patton on March 16th, 2014

It’s the game that we all expected when the ACC Tournament brackets came out last weekend. Duke vs. Virginia. Let’s preview the ACC Championship game by answering the key questions headed into this one in Greensboro.

Joe Harris gets a second shot against Duke this season with an ACC title on the line (credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today).

Joe Harris gets a second shot against Duke this season with an ACC title on the line (credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today).

1. Can Virginia’s balanced scoring offset the star power of Duke’s Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood?

Yes and no. The Cavaliers can’t get in a shootout, but I don’t think they’ll try. Virginia is an experienced team that plays to its strengths. I’ll be very surprised if Duke can push them out of their comfort zone. That said, if Hood and Parker are both firing on all cylinders, I’m not sure how Virginia will put up enough points to win. Look for them to try to make Parker into a jump shooter or to force things against multiple defenders since he’s struggled passing out of double teams when he gets head full of steam. Hood is a little more difficult to contain (since he’s really a second option), but I expect to see a lot of Justin Anderson hounding him. Neither of these teams will quite be at 100 percent, playing their third game in three days, but I think that favors the more balanced team.

2. Duke hasn’t been hitting as many threes lately. Who do you expect to help keep the offense going if shots aren’t falling?

If the outside jumpers aren’t falling — and by playing the third straight grueling game in as many days, there’s a good chance they don’t — then Duke will have to rely on its two future NBA forwards to make plays. Jabari Parker makes plays that are almost unstoppable, even by great defenses like Virginia’s, so he figures to be the best candidate. Rodney Hood’s conditioning will be tested after chasing T.J. Warren all over the court yesterday. Rasheed Sulaimon has had success in the tournament with his penetration, so he may also try to create scoring chances that way.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Virginia 51 – Pittsburgh 48

Posted by Matt Patton on March 15th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways:

Justin Anderson is Virginia's spark plug. (credit: Scott Muthersbaugh / Burlington Times-News)

Justin Anderson is Virginia’s spark plug. (credit: Scott Muthersbaugh / Burlington Times-News)

  1. Virginia has officially arrived. While the Cavaliers didn’t put away Pittsburgh until the very end, they made the championship game looking for the school’s second ACC title since joining the conference, and first in nearly 40 years. This team is Tony Bennett’s baby: They are one of the only teams in the country to improve their win total in each of the last five years. His team doesn’t always run attractive offense (though it’s certainly better than the final score would indicate), but its defense is spectacular. Down the stretch it was clear that Malcolm Brogdon has taken on the go-to role. He committed a costly turnover that led to James Robinson’s layup with 10 seconds left, but look for Virginia to put the ball in his hands down the stretch. Part of the reason for that is because Joe Harris excels off the ball, but it’s also a testament to Brogdon’s growth.
  2. Retro officiating fit the teams. With two physical defenses on the court, the refs opted to swallow their whistles by only calling 20 fouls in the first 38 minutes (there were seven in the last minute for obvious reasons). There weren’t any easy rebounds to be found. And while Pittsburgh likely benefited from the style most of the game, there was a lot of contact on James Robinson’s layup that cut the Virginia lead to one with 10 seconds left. When asked about contact on a layup late, Akil Mitchell said he was “a little bit” surprised that there wasn’t a whistle. Jamie Dixon wasn’t impressed: “We just saw it on video. What can you do? What can you do? Just watched it. Everybody saw it.”
  3. Pittsburgh needs to get to the rim more. Down the stretch Jamie Dixon opted to spread the floor and attack the basket. It was very effective. Especially when Lamar Patterson isn’t hitting jumpers, Pittsburgh is best attacking inside. Patterson, Robinson and Cameron Wright are all very good finishers, and that doesn’t even take into account that teams can only help off Talib Zanna if they want him to get a putback. The Panthers still need to shoot enough jumpers to keep people honest (though I’m not sure Jamel Artis should take any threes the rest of the year).

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Rushed Reactions: Virginia 64, Florida State 51

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 14th, 2014

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ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

Three Key Takeaways from Virginia’s ACC quarterfinal win over Florida State.

Virginia's Anthony Gill Slams Home Two of His 16 Points Off The Bench. (Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Virginia’s Anthony Gill Slams Home Two of His 16 Points Off The Bench.
(Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

  1. Virginia got back to being Virginia. After allowing Maryland to score 1.14 points per possession in the last game of the regular season, the Cavaliers got back to doing what they do best – stifling opposing offenses. Florida State only managed 51 points in 59 possessions, which is much more in line with how Virginia played in the 17 ACC games prior to its season-ending loss at Maryland. The Cavaliers were particular stingy in the first 10 minutes of the second half, while extending a five-point halftime lead to a fifteen-point spread. For the game, Virginia forced 15 turnovers and limited Florida State to only three three-point baskets and 11 free throw attempts.
  2. Florida State appears headed to the NIT. The Seminoles are probably on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble. Most experts had them as one of the last four out of the bracket before today’s game, so this loss pretty much seals the deal. One of Florida State’s season-long problems, ball-handling, showed up again in this one, as the Seminoles committed seven turnovers in the game’s first 10 minutes. The early miscues kept Florida State from building an early lead. The Seminoles started the game aggressively and held a 5-0 edge in offensive rebounds early before Virginia methodically took control of the game. Senior Okaro White led the Seminoles with 17 points but only four came after half-time.
  3. Virginia is a deep and versatile basketball team. Another key to the game was Virginia’s bench led by Anthony Gill, who finished with 16 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes. Gill really came through in the first half, providing inside points and energy that was sorely needed with starting big men Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey combining for only two first-half points. And with Malcolm Brogdon having his worst scoring game since ACC play began, senior Joe Harris responded with an aggressive offensive game. All this indicates the depth and versatility of this Virginia squad, making it hard on opposing teams to focus on any one or two players.

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Virginia’s Offense Leads to ACC Crown and Optimism for What Comes Next

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 2nd, 2014

Virginia’s first outright ACC title in 33 years came about in somewhat stunning fashion, blowing out #4 Syracuse by 19 points at John Paul Jones Arena Saturday evening. Anyone who has watched Tony Bennett’s team since the calendar flipped to 2014, though, saw much of what they’ve come to expect from this squad. Their stifling defense may be the Cavaliers’ calling card, but their ultra-efficient offense is the reason they had the ability to defeat one of the nation’s best in Syracuse and are poised to make major noise in March.

Mike Tobey

Offensive production from players like Mike Tobey lifted Virginia to its first outright ACC regular season title in 33 years (Mike Ingalls)

Bennett’s club gets most of its accolades thanks to his trademark “Pack Line Defense,” a stout man-to-man philosophy that stagnates opposing sets and leads to low offensive output. But the way Virginia has been scoring the basketball in ACC play is why it’s boasting an astounding 16-1 ACC record with only a road match-up at Maryland left to close out the year. Twelve of the Cavaliers’ conference wins have come by double figures, a remarkable feat on its own right, and coming into Saturday’s game they were second only to Duke in points per possession. While their defense often translates to opportunities on the offensive end, their demonstrated ability to initiate back-breaking runs (a 20-1 run to close out Georgia Tech; a 30-5 stretch to blow out Notre Dame; a 19-7 streak to pull away from Miami in the second half) shows they have sufficient offensive punch to couple with their effort on the defensive end. On Saturday, they closed out the Orange with a 35-16 blitz over the final 15 minutes of the game, showing that they’re no longer satisfied playing methodical, plodding games in the 50’s. Virginia can now outscore you too, which has to be a frightening proposition for the teams matched up with them over the next few weeks.

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ACC Regular Season Crown at Stake: Previewing Syracuse vs. Virginia

Posted by Lathan Wells & Chris Kehoe on February 28th, 2014

Saturday’s game between Virginia and Syracuse will crown this season’s ACC champion, but it’s also a showcase of two teams coming in with very different levels of confidence. While Virginia is riding a hot 12-game winning streak, Syracuse is entering the contest having lost two of its last three games. Both of these teams play notoriously slow, but the likelihood of this one becoming a runaway in either team’s favor is also highly unlikely. While Syracuse is quite literally one of the slowest teams in the nation, Virginia is only one spot ahead of the Orange, ranking 344th in adjusted tempo out of 351 total teams.

A rejuvenated Tyler Ennis is paramount to Syracuse securing a regular-season title in its first ACC season (apsports.com)

A rejuvenated Tyler Ennis is paramount to Syracuse securing a regular season title in its first ACC season. (apsports.com)

Over the last few weeks, Syracuse has eked by in numerous close victories with controversial finishes before managing to drop its first two games of the season in both embarrassing (Boston College) and enraging (Duke) fashion. Tyler Ennis’ seeming invincibility has worn off somewhat as he has cooled off offensively, showing a human side to his unshakably calm demeanor. Part of Syracuse’s weakened state can be attributed to one of head coach Jim Boeheim’s major criticisms: an unbalanced and back-loaded schedule that has Syracuse finishing its inaugural ACC season with four of its last five games on the road. Syracuse’s play of late even has some ESPN analysts like John Gasaway indirectly stating that it may be the first #1 seed to ever fall to a #16, showing just how far the national perception of the Orange has fallen over the recent bumpy stretch.

On the flip side of the coin, Tony Bennett’s Virginia squad is riding an epic wave of momentum that is well on its way to carrying his team to its first sole claim on the ACC regular season title in over three decades. Virginia has won a school record 17 straight games at home and is sitting in sole possession of first place in the ACC at 15-1. Since a brutal 35-point road loss to Tennessee before the new year, Virginia appears the part of a conference champion, winning numerous low-scoring affairs with stifling defense (no ACC opponent has score more than 70 points). Unlike Syracuse’s schedule, the Cavaliers have the boon of three of their last four ACC contests occurring at home in John Paul Jones Arena. While Virginia may not have a single elite scoring option like the Orange’s C.J. Fair, leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon is more than capable of taking over a game and the Cavaliers boast three players who average between 7.9 and 11.5 PPG. So while Syracuse comes into Charlottesville with their pride wounded after a scorching start, Virginia’s confidence has never been higher in its attempt to prevent a newcomer from claiming the conference title in its first season.

ACC Microwriters Chris Kehoe and Lathan Wells will focus in on the key questions surrounding this marquee ACC match-up, tipping off at 4:00 PM ET on Saturday (ESPN).

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Virginia: The Quiet and Legitimate Title Contender

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 20th, 2014

Kansas, Syracuse, Duke, Wichita State, Arizona, Michigan State: These are some of the teams typically first mentioned when discussing this season’s NCAA championship contenders. While Virginia is laden with senior leadership, elite defense, and loved by the advanced metrics, the Cavaliers are rarely mentioned as a contender along with the others. At 22-5 and 13-1 in the ACC, however, the Cavaliers are well on their way to a top-two finish in one of the country’s best conferences. With Syracuse’s surprising loss last night versus Boston College and a tough pair of road games upcoming, Tony Bennett’s team appears to be well on its way to capturing the ACC throne for the first time since a 2007 tie, and their first sole ACC regular season title since 1981. 

UVA's Joe Harris has a lot to celebrate with Virginia's winning ways. (USA Today).

UVA’s Joe Harris has a lot to celebrate with Virginia’s winning ways. (USA Today).

So why is a projected ACC regular season champion — one that will likely carry 25+ wins into the NCAA Tournament — not getting enough buzz? For starters, the nation is enamored with superstar culture, and Virginia doesn’t have a transcendent individual who is destined for NBA greatness and seated atop all the mock drafts. While this team has several really good players who mesh very well together, they do not have a Julius Randle, Doug McDermott, or Jabari Parker — someone who generates mass publicity and draws droves of NBA front office personnel at their games.

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ACC M5: 02.10.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 10th, 2014

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  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Great piece from Barry Jacobs on officials who are following in their fathers’ footsteps. After reading the article, I really think officiating might be as much of a cult as coaching and playing are. Jacobs talks to Bryan Kersey, Jeff Nichols and Tim Clougherty (whose father John Clougherty is the ACC Coordinator of Officials). I’ll let Jacobs take it away with the best anecdote from the piece: ”Like other officiating chips off the old block, Kersey became a referee while a high school student. The 10th grader’s first game might have discouraged some people. When the middle school contest ended, the losing coach punched the younger Kersey in the head as he left the floor.”
  2. Blogger So Dear: Great longform profile of Travis McKie and his four-year career under Jeff Bzdelik. McKie has a had a great career individually while the program has suffered (getting marginally better each season) around him. He may become the first senior in Wake Forest’s time in the ACC (since its founding over 60 years ago) to not win a postseason game.
  3. Washington Post: Jake Layman should be Maryland’s number one option in the halfcourt (meaning road games and end-of-shot clock clear-outs should run through Dez Wells). He’s a mismatch for nearly any defender. But Layman is involved in less possessions than any other starter. That’s why Mark Turgeon is trying to come up with ways to get Layman more involved. And while Seth Allen stole the show Saturday in the win against Florida State, Layman was more aggressive. What’s weird looking at Layman’s statistics over the season is that he’s putting up a lot fewer field goal attempts in conference play.
  4. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Pittsburgh’s near catastrophic loss against Virginia Tech this weekend confirms that Lamar Patterson may not win ACC Player of the Year this season, but he’s likely going to be my pick. Patterson’s thumb was bothering him and his shot in Blacksburgh. Thankfully for the Panthers, a win is a win in the RPI. The bad news is Pittsburgh still doesn’t have any top-shelf wins, which means there’s still a lot of pressure on Patterson and Talib Zanna (both injured) to guide the team to the Big Dance.
  5. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Malcolm Brogdon has been unbelievable in conference play. He’s currently on Ken Pomeroy’s first team All-ACC team (though personally, I’d probably put him and Joe Harris on the second team). Brogdon was a Peach Jam breakout player who sat last season because of injury. He’s continued improving–literally improving every tempo-free statistic since last season. If you’re looking for a reason Harris’s numbers have dropped this season? Brogdon is a great place to start.
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ACC M5: 02.04.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 4th, 2014

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  1. SBNation: Interesting post-mortem on the Duke-Syracuse instant classic and how the Orange zone forced Jabari Parker into some bad shots. But part of the issue was Duke’s offense, which often gives Parker the ball in a position where he’s forced to isolate. That isn’t to say that Parker shouldn’t learn to pass out of a double-team or recognize the long help-side defender, but Duke needs him — even against a zone — to remain aggressive because it opens up the floor for the rest of the team. Tyler Ennis was a different story — he lived at the free throw line (where he and Jerami Grant were really the difference in the game).
  2. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Speaking of Syracuse, the Orange were bailed out by Trevor Cooney in a big way last night. The sharpshooter went unconscious, knocking down 9-of-12 threes against Notre Dame in a game Syracuse only won by six points. CJ Fair regressed in the most painful kind of way, going 2-of-13 from the field en route to six points. The Orange need to get these performances out of their system now because they still have games at Pittsburgh, at Duke, at Virginia and at Florida State left to play. Seriously, those are arguably teams #2 through #5 in the ACC right now.
  3. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Bad news out of Atlanta as Georgia Tech’s Solomon Poole has been dismissed from the team. That’s not to say he was a very important piece of the squad — he hadn’t played since early January — but his older brother Stacey is still on the team and he was the most obvious backup for Trae Golden, a player who had to sit out much of the game at Wake Forest with a groin injury.
  4. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Here’s a midseason evaluation of Virginia that could probably be more generous. I mean, this team is 8-1 in ACC play with a very legitimate shot to grab the top seed in the ACC Tournament (and is a mortal lock for a double-bye). Malcolm Brogdon has been tremendous in conference play, and a grade of a B seems really low for Joe Harris (though I suppose that depends on your expectations coming into the season).
  5. Baltimore Sun: Sure, you can get another nostalgic “I still think of Maryland as an ACC school and I’ll always think that way” quote from Roy Williams, but the real reason to read this article is the elite-level trolling that Seth Allen does at the bottom of the article: ”North Carolina, without question, because it’s louder than Duke,” Allen said. “Duke is small — they’ve got the [Cameron] Crazies over there sticking their hands out. But North Carolina is just really loud.” Your move, Duke fans.
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ACC M5: 02.03.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 3rd, 2014

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  1. Sports On Earth: College basketball stole the show this weekend. The ACC alone was home to two incredible finishes, this being the first (the second is at the bottom of the post). Duke-Syracuse lived up to all of the hype — it was a fun game to watch with both teams exerting dominance from different areas of the floor (Syracuse in the paint, Duke beyond the arc), and Tyler Thornton managing three threes in under two minutes to get Duke back in the game. It proved what we knew about Syracuse and what we thought we knew about Duke. Go ahead and circle two weeks from Saturday on your calendars because the rematch in Durham is sure to be terrific.
  2. Tomahawk Nation: In much worse news, Ian Miller is hurt again for Florida State, a team that is now squarely on the wrong side of the bubble at 4-5 in ACC play (albeit against a brutal schedule). Without Miller in the lineup, the Seminoles are likely to look much more like last year’s disappointing version of the team. In addition to being a team leader, he was probably the Seminoles’ most important scoring option and there’s little to no margin for error with Florida State’s current losses. The only good news is that the team has four upcoming games against non-NCAA Tournament caliber opponents. And with games with North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Syracuse still looming, winning all four of those is the best path for Florida State to have a positive Selection Sunday experience.
  3. Draft Express: Good interview with PJ Hairston about his transition from North Carolina to the NBA D-League. Thanks to online classes, Hairston is on track to get his degree next year and is still close with the guys in Chapel Hill (although he didn’t answer when he was asked if he was treated fairly by the university). Hairston cited the frequency of games as one of the biggest challenges with the transition, although his scoring numbers so far have been terrific. Another interesting nugget is his philosophy: If he’s chosen fifth in the upcoming NBA Draft, he would feel that “four people [...] worked harder than” him. That fire should come in handy and explains his no-fear personality on the court.
  4. Winston-Salem Journal: What was an optimistic start for Wake Forest is sliding into a concerning but well-known rut. The Demon Deacons lost at home to Georgia Tech (missing Trae Golden in addition to Robert Carter for most of the game) over the weekend. This is the same Georgia Tech that was 2-6 going into the game and yet still came out and took control of things in the second half. The bad news is that the Demon Deacons are only favored in one of their remaining nine games (according to KenPom). Suffice it to say that if they finish 5-13 in conference play, Jeff Bzdelik is probably done.
  5. Washington Post: Seth Allen showed exactly what Maryland needs him to do going forward in its weekend beatdown of Virginia Tech. Before getting too excited, though, remember this was a win over Virginia Tech. Still, Allen appears to be getting healthier as conference play progresses and he’s quietly morphing into the true point guard Maryland desperately needs.

Video Extra: Malcolm Brogdon drilled this game-winning three to win at Pittsburgh, pushing Virginia to 8-1 in ACC play. Oh, and the Cavaliers will be favored in every one of its games going forward. The only two frightening games are a trip to Clemson and when Syracuse comes to Charlottesville. Beat Syracuse (or truthfully, just split those two games), and Virginia has a great shot at the ACC regular season title.

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