Hurricane Angel: Rodriguez Buys a Big Resume Win

Posted by Matt Patton on November 18th, 2014

Down fifteen in the second half on the road against a top-10 team, Miami looked finished last night. But Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez had different ideas. Rodriguez dominated the last nine minutes, scoring 22 points including the Hurricanes’ final 11 of the game. His heavily contested triple with 18 seconds remaining won the game, and in so doing gave a lot of credence to those of us who were already bullish on Miami during the preseason (ahem). The win comes with an asterisk: Florida’s frontcourt was in awful shape. Devon Walker and Dorian Finney-Smith were injured, and fellow ACC-departure Alex Murphy won’t become eligible until January. Sophomore forward Chris Walker was also still suspended. This left Billy Donovan with no depth to speak of, so he started walk-on Jake Kurtz alongside Jon Horford underneath. But this was still a huge win for Miami, showing that Rodriguez has emerged as a bona fide leader. And most importantly, no one will remember all of Florida’s injuries in four months. This is the kind of win that looks great on a March resume and gets a middling ACC team into the Big Dance.

Miami's season is looking up thanks to Angel Rodriguez's hot second half. (photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY)

Miami’s season is looking up thanks to Angel Rodriguez’s hot second half. (photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY)

In retrospect, it should have been obvious that Rodriguez would take over this year. He was a prolific scorer who managed to have strong efficiency numbers despite poor field goal percentages at Kansas State. And he’s exactly the piece Miami was missing last season (no offense to Rion Brown). Manu Lacomte has a lot of potential, but he’s not the focal point of an offense. That said, Rodriguez is a mercurial player. It’s easy to forget that he started 1-of-6 for two points in the first 31 minutes of the game (he finished with a 6-of-8 run, including five made threes). He will have some nights where the shots just aren’t falling, and the only other player on the team who looks capable of lighting up the scoreboard is Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan. McLellan had a quiet game last night, but he scored 19 points in the Hurricanes’ season opener on Friday against Howard. Like Rodriguez, he’s not an efficient shooter, but he makes his money at the foul line. He also does a much better job in holding onto the ball.

When it’s all said and done, Jim Larranaga needs to find some balance or Miami will be a roller coaster team this season. The squad is still very young across the roster and it relies heavily on two players who haven’t shot the ball consistently over the course of their careers. This win over Florida, though, shows that Miami has major heart. It also shows that there’s legitimately good reason to be excited about the middle of the ACC pack this season. Most importantly, thought, it gives Miami what should be a great win to present to the Selection Committee in March. And that’s what everybody is playing for.

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ACC Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2014

Over the last two weeks, we have previewed each team individually to go with several more articles to get you ready for ACC basketball (first tip: 6:00 PM ET in Durham). Links to the previews can be found in each of the preseason power rankings listed below. Also look for our preseason conference awards which will publish later today.


Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (58): Everyone knows about the freshmen, and they are sensational. But are Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon ready to put together a consistent season from start to finish? That answer may determine whether the Blue Devils are Final Four-bound or facing another early departure from the Tourney.
Virginia Cavaliers T2. Virginia (53): Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell didn’t light up the scoreboard in Charlottesville, but their leadership and savvy was key in Virginia’s magical run last year. Can Anthony Gill and Justin Anderson assume larger roles and keep Tony Bennett‘s team in the national limelight?
North Carolina Tar Heels T2. North Carolina (53): Everyone knows about Marcus Paige, and the Tar Heels should be better at the line and from three with the addition of some talented freshmen in the backcourt and on the wing. Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks have to bring it every night in the paint for this team to reach its potential.
LouisvilleLogo 4. Louisville (52): The Cardinals probably have as good a shot as any of the top four. While they will have to learn how to play a new set of conference opponents in unfamiliar arenas, the ACC will have to adjust to Rick Pitino’s style of pressure defense with multiple schemes. Most of the key contributors are now gone from the 2012-13 National Championship squad, but the program brings a culture used to winning at the highest level.
Syracuse Orange 5. Syracuse (42): There are a lot of questions about the Orange after Tyler Ennis’ and Jerami Grant’s early departures. Jim Boeheim has a talented team that won’t be an easy out, but there are a lot of questions about how the offense will run with another freshman, Kaleb Joseph, at the helm.
Florida State Seminoles 6. Florida State (38): The Seminoles haven’t been their usual defensive selves the past two seasons, but this year Leonard Hamilton has three experienced big men along with a cadre of long perimeter players. Aaron Thomas may be the most underrated player in the ACC, which bodes well for things in Tallahassee this year.
Pittsburgh Panthers 7. Pittsburgh (37)Jamie Dixon has a tradition of replacing departed stars with veterans. For Pitt to win games against the ACC’s elite, Cameron Wright and James Robinson must continue that trend and get some help, maybe a year earlier than the norm, from the talented sophomore class. One would think they are due for a healthier year than last, when midseason injuries really set the team back.
NC State Wolfpack 8. NC State (34): T.J. Warren is gone, so this team has to find its offense by committee. Tyler Lewis is too, so Cat Barber will have to be efficient and also seek his own shot. The maturation of a young frontcourt will be key. Mark Gottfried has historically impressed with low expectations.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 9. Notre Dame (32): It won’t be a surprise if Zach Auguste makes a big jump in production as a junior, but beyond that is nothing but unproven post players. With the perimeter filled with talent and experience, keeping Auguste healthy and out of foul trouble may be the key as the Irish try to make a dramatic jump in the standings. Jerian Grant is a contender for ACC Player of the Year.
Miami Hurricanes 10. Miami (25): Arguably the best coaching job in the country last year happened in Coral Gables. If Jim Larranaga gets this team to improve, the Hurricanes will be significantly better than many expect. Manu Lacomte needs to make the leap and lead a young team in a very tough conference.
Clemson Tigers 11. Clemson (18): Brad Brownell showed that even without a ton of obvious roster talent, the Tigers will be competitive — especially on defense. This season he has to prove that again without K.J. McDaniels. It’s unclear who the go-to player will be, so Clemson’s offense could hold this team back.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 12. Wake Forest (17): Wake may be ready for a solid rise in the ACC standings as early as next year. This year will be a challenge, but momentum could be built towards a good 2015-16 season. Juniors Devin Thomas on the inside and Cody Miller-McIntyre in the backcourt will dictate how good this team is.
Boston College 13. Boston College (12): A year and coach removed from last year’s disappointing effort leave a lot of questions in Chestnut Hill. Olivier Hanlan will always be worth the price of admission, but he may not have enough supporting cast to escape the dregs of the ACC unless Dennis Clifford can finally stay healthy.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 14. Georgia Tech (10): It’s really hard to see Brian Gregory surviving as coach here if the Yellow Jackets don’t make the postseason this season. It’s also hard to see this Georgia Tech team finishing in the top half of the ACC, which is what it would probably take to get that NCAA bid — or even a trip to the NIT. The odds of Gregory being in Atlanta after March 2015 are not very good.
Virginia Tech Hokies 15. Virginia Tech (6): Virginia Tech will again be among the cellar-dwellers in the ACC, but at least it has come cachet with the hiring of Buzz Williams. They’ll be serviceable in the backcourt with Devin Wilson returning, but it will be a year or two before we can evaluate the viability of the Hokies as competitive in the conference.

Miscellaneous Power Rankings Notes:

  • Coach K reloadsDuke was the top choice again this year with another one-and-done big man, but the Blue Devils weren’t the unanimous pick. Virginia and Louisville both got a first place vote.
  • Clear Contenders: North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia (in some order) rounded out everyone’s top four, marking a distinct upper tier in the conference.
  • Media/Microsite solidarity: For the second season in a row, no teams differed from the preseason media poll by more than two spots.
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ACC Preview: Miami’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on October 30th, 2014

How quickly can Jim Larranaga rebuild at the ACC level?

There’s no denying Jim Larranaga is a great coach. He won at George Mason and he won when he got to Miami. But the question is whether he can put together a program in Coral Gables like Leonard Hamilton or Tony Bennett have in Tallahassee and Charlottesville? There are two parts of coaching at any level: player development and game coaching. Two seasons ago, Larranaga showed he was a master at both. But at the college level, there’s a third equally important factor in play: recruiting.

Jim Larranaga needs this team to improve on last year's. (photo credit: AP)

Jim Larranaga needs this team to improve on last year’s. (photo credit: AP)

Leonard Hamilton is the better comparison because Miami doesn’t have nearly the investment in basketball as Virginia, but both Hamilton and Bennett run sustainable programs. He also turned Miami into a strong Big East program before moving on to Tallahassee. Hamilton’s team has had its ups and downs, but Florida State is always competitive and will be a contender every few seasons. It’s important to remember that building a program takes time, but this year should say a lot about Miami’s momentum. Last season, Larranaga established his floor: close to .500 overall, bottom of the middle tier of the ACC, and a win in Chapel Hill. The team was competitive. Rion Brown stepped up as the only important returnee from the 2013 conference champions. Now he’s gone, leaving junior Tonye Jekiri and sophomore Manu Lacomte to take the reins here.

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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)


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: Miami Hurricanes

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 6th, 2013

Last season was a historic one for Miami basketball. The Hurricanes became the first school from outside the state of North Carolina to win the ACC regular season title outright and the ACC Tournament in the same year. Along the way came two home blowout wins over perennial league powers Duke and North Carolina, and a level of local support never seen before at Miami. They even had LeBron James and Dwayne Wade attend a game! Unfortunately, the top six players from that squad are now gone, so this will clearly be a rebuilding year for the Jim Larranaga’s squad.

Miami Preview 2013

The good news is that the man in charge is still Jim Larranaga. The 29-year head coaching veteran swept conference and national Coach of the Year awards last season, but he is best known for leading George Mason to the 2006 Final Four. Larranaga excels at putting pieces together to form a cohesive team and, despite his age, is known as a progressive thinking coach. He’s constantly looking for new teaching and motivational techniques, and has also embraced the new advanced statistics now available. To prepare for this season’s rules changes limiting contact, Larranaga has put a greater emphasis on defending without fouling. As he explained to the media at the recent ACC Operation Basketball, the Hurricanes’ goal each game is to limit opponents to less than one point per possession. If you put someone on the free throw line, all they have to do is hit one out of two to beat their goal. To combat that tendency, Miami preseason practices are stopped when the defense fouls and everybody runs sprints. Although the Hurricanes will have a dropoff this season, the program is in good shape moving forward. Next year, two transfers from Big 12 schools will be eligible, when Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas) will form a solid junior backcourt.

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ACC M5: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 30th, 2013


  1. Miami Herald: The first line of this Miami preview says it all: “UM is the only Atlantic Coast Conference team with no returning starters.” It’s going to be a rough year in Coral Gables if you compare the team to last season. But there are some intriguing players on this team. Notably Manu Lecomte and Tonye Jekiri. Lecomte is a talented freshman point guard, who played for several Belgian national teams. Jekiri is a little more raw, as he just picked up basketball at a later age, but his physical tools make him an exciting post prospect.
  2. ESPN: Joel James switched to wear number 42 this season. That’s right, the same 42 that Sean May, Jerry Stackhouse, and Brad Daugherty wore at North Carolina before him. That’s quite the trio to live up to (side note: May is one of the most consistently underrated college players because of his lack of NBA success, but he was ludicrously dominant for the 2005 postseason)–especially for someone who didn’t produce much last year. But James seems eager for the challenge, and the buzz out of Chapel Hill this offseason certainly points to a much improved year for him.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: When you think Virginia, you probably don’t think NBA. Nothing about the Cavalier program (its history, its current style, etc.) immediately makes you think of the NBA Draft. But Tony Bennett has a deceptively talented team that could see as many as four or five players getting their names called. A lot has to go right, but certainly Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell will play professionally somewhere should they choose to do so. Mike Tobey is still a bit of an unknown, but the NBA has proven time and time again that being seven feet tall goes a long way (just ask Kwame Brown). And that’s not to mention Justin Anderson, whose athletic defense may pave the way to the bright lights.
  4. AP (via Washington Post): This year is Mark Turgeon‘s chance to prove he’s the man for the job at Maryland (I think he is). He got two rebuilding seasons at Maryland, as Gary Williams didn’t leave much in the cupboard. But now he has a deep roster of guys he recruited. No one expects the Terrapins to contend for the national championship this year, but Turgeon needs to make the NCAA Tournament. That shouldn’t be a problem if a point guard can limit the team’s turnovers.
  5. Georgia Tech: Brian Gregory had a press conference yesterday where he talked some about transitioning from high school to college. It’s easy for people to forget just how different the college game is from the high school game (or the difference between the NBA and college). Players have to adjust on the court and academically to a totally new environment. Most of Gregory’s interview is pretty run of the mill, but it’s cool to get a little chalk talk about areas that freshmen often are lacking coming from high school.
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