After Lackluster Season, ACC Must Improve Depth to Have the “Best Ever” Conversation Again

Posted by Lathan Wells on April 4th, 2014

Prior to the beginning of the college basketball season, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski infamously proclaimed that the ACC had the potential to be the greatest college basketball conference of all-time. That was a bold proclamation at the time, as we covered here, and with the 2013-14 season now drawing to a close, it’s become painfully apparent that the conference this year did nothing to stake such a claim. So the question then becomes, what does the ACC need to do in coming years to proudly proclaim itself the best basketball conference ever assembled? Here’s a road map for the league’s coaches and administrators.

Virginia's ascendance will only help the ACC's argument that it's the premier basketball conference (USA Today Sports)

Virginia’s ascendance will only help the ACC’s argument that it’s the premier basketball conference. (USA Today Sports)

The conference’s elite have to dominate the non-conference slate and enjoy copious postseason success. While there were a handful of marquee wins spread around prior to ACC play (North Carolina’s defeats of Michigan State, Kentucky, and Louisville; Duke’s defeat of Michigan; Syracuse handling Villanova), the league’s postseason results were anything but stellar. The conference managed to get six teams into the NCAA Tournament, but the upper tier didn’t produce much success when they got there. Duke lost in the opening round; North Carolina and Syracuse fell in the round of 32. Virginia, the regular-season and ACC Tournament champion, may have drawn a rough match-up in the Sweet Sixteen with Michigan State, but it could not advance (and UConn was able to handle the Spartans in the nexts round). The embarrassing result was that there was no ACC teams in the Elite Eight. These teams have to produce in postseason play in addition to their non-conference victories to help the perception of the conference return to an elite level.

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Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by Walker Carey on March 17th, 2014

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmwregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Walker breaking down the Midwest Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

Midwest Region

Louisville dominated UConn on Saturday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Louisville dominated UConn on Saturday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Favorite: #4 Louisville (29-5, 15-3 AAC). Not to take anything away from the fantastic seasons completed by #1 seed Wichita State, #2 seed Michigan and #3 seed Duke, but Louisville is one of the hottest teams in the country entering the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals were likely dropped to a #4 seed due to their weak non-conference schedule and the fact that some of their wins in AAC play were over vastly inferior competition. However, when you have the talent and winning experience that Louisville possesses, seeding does not really matter all that much. Guard Russ Smith is one the nation’s elite scorers and he has shown throughout his collegiate career that he can go off for a monster night in any game against any team. Forward Montrezl Harrell has taken a huge step forward during his sophomore season and his 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game give the Cards an outstanding post presence. Toss in the fact that Louisville’s defense only allows 61 points per game and averages 10.1 steals per game and it should be clear why Rick Pitino’s squad is the favorite to return to the Final Four to defend its national title.

Should They Falter: #1 Wichita State (34-0, 18-0 MVC). If favorite Louisville is to stumble before reaching the Final Four, the undefeated Shockers are the team that is most equipped to do the job. While Wichita State has caught a ton of unnecessary criticism for its “easy” schedule, it is impossible to discount the fact that the team completed the nearly impossible task of finishing the regular season and conference tournament with an unscathed record. Throughout all the monotonous discussion about Wichita State’s merit as a top seed, it was often forgotten that Gregg Marshall’s squad has a solid nucleus that was on the team that advanced to the Final Four last April. Guards Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, and Tekele Cotton, along with forward Cleanthony Early, played big minutes for the team last season and all four have experienced even more success in greater roles this season. Not only is Wichita State talented enough to return to the Final Four, it is also talented enough to cut down the nets at Cowboys Stadium on the first Monday in April.

Grossly Overseeded: #6 Massachusetts (24-8, 10-6 A-10). Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen had a fine season, but their résumé does not suggest that they were worthy of a #6 seed. After winning 16 of its first 17 games, Massachusetts went 8-7 over its final 15. Those seven losses included setbacks to non-Tournament teams Richmond, Saint Bonaventure and George Mason. The Minutemen were a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 team as a result, and that was evident by the fact that they were the #6 seed in their conference tournament. What really makes the placement here a headscratcher is that George Washington and Saint Joseph’s finished ahead of them in the conference and they were given a #8 and a #10 seed, respectively.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Duke 75, N.C. State 67

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 15th, 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 in Duke’s ACC Semi-Final win.

Jabari Parker Slams Home Two of His 20 Points in Duke's Win over N.C. State. (Photo: Robert willett/newsobserver.com).

Jabari Parker Slams Home Two of His 20 Points in Duke’s Win over N.C. State.
(Photo: Robert willett/newsobserver.com).

  1. Duke’s offense is good enough to carry the Blue Devils to the Final Four – and it will have to. When Duke is clicking like it was on Saturday, they are tough for even good defenses to handle. In scoring an impressive 1.36 points per possession, the balanced Blue Devils were too much for a weary N.C. State team to overcome. Not only did Jabari Parker (20 points) and Rodney Hood (14) score well, but Duke also got 16 points from Rasheed Sulaimon and 14 more from Quinn Cook off the bench. But the Blue Devils’ defense kept the Wolfpack close in the first half, allowing a sizzling 66.7 percent shooting and only forcing four turnovers. The second half was a different story, as N.C. State only shot 35.5 percent, but a lot of that has got to be attributed to the Wolfpack having weary legs after playing their third game in three days.
  2. N.C. State ran out of gas. This is no surprise but still must be pointed out. The second half of the third tough game in a row is usually when you start to see the legs go, and that was the case today. Not only did the Wolfpack hang with Duke in the first half, but they could have easily had a nice lead at the break. At one point close to halftime, N.C. State was shooting over 70 percent from the field, only had one turnover, and the team fouls were in there favor (+4), but the score was tied. That probably was a little demoralizing to the young N.C. State team, and when Duke spurted ahead by double figures in the second half, the tired Wolfpack shooters couldn’t keep up, going 1-of-10 on second half three pointers.
  3. Two stars are better than one. T.J. Warren was sensational again, making contested shots time and again on the way to 21 points and eight rebounds for the game. But Duke’s star forward duo of Parker and Hood was enough to more than offset Warren’s effort. Hood made Warren work hard for everything, holding the ACC Player of the Year to under 50 percent shooting, 10-of-22. On the other end, N.C. State had its hands full trying to focus on the two Duke stars. That attention created openings for the Blue Devils guards which were exploited by Sulaimon on the drive, and Cook from long range (3-of-4 on threes). N.C. State got nice contributions from some surprising sources early, including eight first half points each from Anthony Barber and Lennard Freeman off the bench. But the Wolfpack needed a better shooting game from Ralston Turner (2-of-10), the team’s second leading scorer, to support their star.

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Rushed Reactions: N.C. State 66, #11 Syracuse 63

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

rushedreactions

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 in the Wolfpack’s upset win.

N.C. State's Star T.J. Warren Celebrates Upset Over Syracuse. (Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

N.C. State’s Star T.J. Warren Celebrates Upset Over Syracuse.
(Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

  1. N.C. State finally got that elusive quality win its been hunting all season. After last second losses to Syracuse and North Carolina in the ACC regular season, the third time was the charm for the Wolfpack. While the win may not put N.C. State into the NCAA field just yet, at least it keeps that dream alive. And with many other bubble teams falling all over the country, the Pack may be in great shape for a bid if they can at least get to the championship game. This game was following the same script as those previous two heartbreaking losses, with the Wolfpack building a nice second half lead only to see the opponent come back and take the game down to the wire. But this time, N.C. State rewrote the disappointing ending. It was instead the Wolfpack that made more winning plays down the stretch. Two of the biggest were on the defensive end, as N.C. State drew offensive fouls on C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis in the last three minutes of play.
  2. Syracuse is in a serious shooting slump. The main reason that the Orange lost four of six games after starting the year with 25 straight wins was that they shot under 40 percent from the field in all six games. After closing the regular season with a solid performance (48%) at Florida State, Jim Boeheim was hoping that was the start of a turnaround. Now, that game just looks like an outlier. Against an N.C. State defense that ranked 11th in the ACC in opponents’ shooting (42.2%), Syracuse struggled all night, shooting just 32.7 percent for the game. The last scattered Syracuse possession was a perfect example as the Orange missed six straight shots, many badly. In particular, its stars are no longer making shots like they did earlier in the season. C. J. Fair was a woeful 3-of-16 in the game and guards Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis combined to go 7-of-24 themselves. Perhaps the major minutes those players logged all year have finally gotten into their legs. And with this year’s Syracuse team not nearly as stingy defensively as last season’s Final Four squad, things are not looking good for a deep NCAA Tournament run for the Orange this year. Read the rest of this entry »
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Channeling His Childress: TJ Warren Leads NC State into Rematch with Syracuse

Posted by Matt Patton on March 13th, 2014

The ACC Tournament finally came to life Thursday night when NC State took the floor against Miami. The Raleigh contingent was boosted by departing Maryland fans, as Wolfpack red bled into nearly every section at the Greensboro Coliseum. NC State still held on to the NCAA Tournament bubble, but desperately needed at least one marquee win to have a chance. Miami looked to play spoiler. Durham native TJ Warren had other ideas.

TJ Warren gets a chance for history and revenge Friday against Syracuse. (photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

TJ Warren gets a chance for history and revenge Friday against Syracuse.
(photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Warren is the best scorer in the ACC. Good luck finding someone to play devil’s advocate. He scores off the dribble, in the post, spotting up, you name it. Watching the Wolfpack grind out a win over Miami tonight, it was clear how Warren held his efficiency despite taking on nearly twice as many possessions. He picks his spots really well and has a great handle. Miami threw the book at NC State to stop him. Surprisingly, Jim Larranaga opened the game in man-to-man, switching to a zone before opting for a triangle-and-two as Ralston Turner found his groove. None worked. In the first half Miami did a good job playing Warren physically and switching on everything, but between Warren’s constant off-the-ball movement and Turner’s threes, the Hurricanes eventually wore down.

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ACC M5: 03.03.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 3rd, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress: First things first, Virginia showed the world it was ready for the bright lights with a doubter-silencing beatdown of Syracuse to clinch the ACC regular season title (its first since Ralph Sampson). Sure, you can still bag on the unbalanced schedule and the ugly non-conference games all you want, but this Virginia team isn’t playing games. The Cavaliers were the first team this year to beat Syracuse in convincing fashion, the fans stormed the floor, and the nets were cut down. Tony Bennett compared the noise at the game to a Taylor Swift concert. With the win, three ACC teams have a shot for the final one seed (assuming one wins out).
  2. Backing the Pack: Virginia wasn’t the only team to reach emotional extremes this week. NC State also finds itself on new ground under Mark Gottfried. For the first time since he was hired, the NCAA Tournament is effectively off the table (barring a miraculous ACC Tournament run) after getting blitzed by Miami at home. This team had really over-performed most people’s (including my own) expectations, so the loss wasn’t that surprising. Though it was icing on the cake after the brutal loss to North Carolina earlier last week. Now Gottfried has to show that he can motivate a team with new goals.
  3. Orlando Sentinel: Leonard Hamilton relies heavily on a mercurial sophomore class. Four play over 20 minutes a game, and Michael Ojo gets significant time off the bench. Unsurprisingly, the season has been somewhat of a roller coaster, dismantling a very good Virginia Commonwealth team early in the year and losing to Miami at home three weeks ago. The Seminoles hold a decent position on the bubble. They still have work to do, but a home finish against a reeling Syracuse team might be just what the bracketologist ordered.
  4. Washington Post: John Feinstein touches on a great point. Last week was the first big ACC game (from a national perspective) not involving Duke and North Carolina in a very long time. The last time Duke or North Carolina didn’t finish at least second in the regular season was 2003 when Wake Forest finished first and Maryland was second. Also a good point from Brian Gregory on the side effects of expansion: “I feel like I started out trying to construct a building,” Gregory said. “Just when I got the foundation built, I found out that someone has already built three new penthouse units on top of me.”
  5. Washington Post: Keeping things with Feinstein to close things out. It was Dean Smith‘s 83rd birthday Friday, so it’s worth reading a couple of anecdotes about him.

EXTRA: Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski went on Dan LeBatard’s radio show together and gave an amusing interview — especially the first few minutes. Suffice to say five years ago, no one and I mean no one would have expected Coach K to do an interview like this one.

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Rushed Reactions: North Carolina 85, N.C. State 84 (OT)

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 27th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

North Carolina's Marcus Paige Outdueled N.C. State's T.J. Warren. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige Outdueled N.C. State’s T.J. Warren.
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  1. North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and N.C. State’s T.J. Warren put on a show for the ages. The two stars seemingly traded baskets for the entire second half and overtime of this one. After being held to four points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first half, Paige exploded for 31 more after the break, the last two coming on a game-winning driving layup with less than a second to go. Warren was equally unstoppable, finishing with a game-high 36 points that included two free throws that tied the game and forced the extra session with two seconds left in regulation. To put these performances in perspective, the previous scoring high in an ACC game this year was the 34 put up by Warren in a home game with Wake Forest, so this one game now has the top two individual scoring totals of the season. Paige was red-hot from the perimeter, hitting 7-of-10 from three after halftime. Most of the bombs seemed to come just when North Carolina looked to be in trouble, with perhaps the biggest coming in overtime to cut a six-point Wolfpack lead in half with 2:40 to go. The Tar Heels tried multiple defenders and three different zone defenses to corral Warren down the stretch, but nothing seemed to slow down the ACC’s leading scorer as he scored 19 of N.C. State’s last 27 points in the final nine minutes of action.
  2. N.C. State Looks Headed To The NIT. The Wolfpack lost another chance to get an eye-popping win much like they did at Syracuse 15 days earlier. Not only do they lack a marquee win, but N.C. State is now winless in eight games against the RPI top 50. Even if the Wolfpack wins out to go 10-8 in the ACC regular season, their best win will have been over Pittsburgh, which is currently #45 in the RPI. With that resume it would likely take at least a run to the ACC Tournament finals for N.C. State to get any consideration from the NCAA Selection Committee. But considering the Wolfpack’s modest preseason expectations, even an NIT bid would be a positive thing for such a young team. Read the rest of this entry »
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NC State Surges in ACC Standings, Possible Bubble Talk?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 12th, 2014

After starting conference play with an uninspiring 1-4 record, N.C. State has quietly climbed back up the standings. After dispatching Wake Forest 82-67 on Tuesday night in Raleigh, the Wolfpack have now jumped into a tie for sixth place in the ACC with a 6-5 mark. By winning five of its last six games, Mark Gottfried’s team is again starting to get some attention as a possible NCAA Tournament candidate, and that alone is a nice accomplishment in what was viewed as a major rebuilding year in Raleigh. While the surge is certainly great news for Wolfpack fans, there’s still a lot of work to be done for N.C. State to move itself on to the right side of the bubble.

ACC Leading Scorer T.J. Warren Leads N.C. State. (Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

ACC Leading Scorer T.J. Warren Leads N.C. State.
(Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Back on January 5, Wake Forest edged the Wolfpack on a late driving layup by Codi Miller-McIntyre, but last night N.C. State made sure the latest contest between the old Tobacco Road rivals did not come down to a similar situation. Behind T.J. Warren’s 34 points and 10 rebounds, the Wolfpack broke open the game late in the first half. Warren led the surge with 23 first half points on 10-on-14 shooting, marking the fourth time this year that the sophomore has topped 20 points in a half. When asked about his star player in the postgame press conference, Gottfried noted, “He’s got a knack to score in such a variety of ways. I think it’s unique.” That was certainly true on Tuesday as he scored on mid-range jumpers, offensive putbacks, and even connecting on 3-of-5 threes, matching his best long-range performance of the season.

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North Carolina Trending Upward With Three Wins in a Row

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 2nd, 2014

North Carolina continued its home dominance over N.C. State with an 84-70 win Saturday in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have now won 11 consecutive meetings with the Wolfpack in the Smith Center, coinciding with Roy Williams’ tenure as UNC’s head coach. The last win for the Wolfpack in Chapel Hill was back in 2003, which was Matt Doherty’s last season at the helm. More importantly, the Tar Heels’ victory was their third straight ACC win, raising them to 4-4 in league play. For N.C. State, this loss ended a three-game winning streak, albeit with all the wins in Raleigh, and drops the Wolfpack to 4-5 in the ACC standings.

Roy Williams' Still Perfect Against N.C. State in Chapel Hill. (Photo: Robert Willett / newsobserver.com)

Roy Williams’ Still Perfect Against N.C. State in Chapel Hill.
(Photo: Robert Willett / newsobserver.com)

The story of the first half was the dominant performance of the North Carolina defense versus the N.C. State offense. The Tar Heels held the Wolfpack to 25 percent shooting on its way to a 40-23 halftime lead. N.C. State struggled to get open shots and failed to convert from anywhere on the court. At the rim, North Carolina blocked six first half shots, and the Wolfpack made only 1-of-7 from three. Even the foul line was a source of misery for N.C. State in the opening stanza, shooting a dismal 2-of-7.

In the second half, N.C. State played much better offensively, more than doubling its first half point total by outscoring North Carolina 47-44 after the break. Mark Gottfried switched to a smaller lineup, using point guards Anthony Barber and Tyler Lewis together, and went with a spread offense. The move enabled the Wolfpack to attack the Tar Heels off the dribble and get much easier shots, making an impressive 65.4 percent of their second half field goals. JuCo transfer Desmond Lee was particularly effective, repeatedly beating a bigger Tar Heel defender off the bounce on the way to 18 second half points. But while the small lineup ignited the Wolfpack, the Tar Heels took advantage of their size advantage on the other end. In the second half, North Carolina grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and converted those into 13 points. In a game in which overall shooting and turnovers were virtually even, the difference in the outcome can be traced to the Tar Heels’ 52-36 overall rebounding advantage. Here are some key takeaways for each team after Saturday’s game.

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ACC M5: 01.22.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 22nd, 2014

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  1. Sports Illustrated: Good stuff on CJ Fair here, whose two sporting idols are Carmelo Anthony and Michael Jordan. Anthony makes sense for a multitude of reasons: Fair is also from Baltimore, has the same Syracuse pedigree, and Anthony has one of the best mid-range games in the world. Jordan? More of a stretch. Here I’ll turn to Kelli Anderson: “A few years ago Fair read an interview in which Jordan was asked how he stayed motivated to give his best effort every single game, even against lesser competition. Jordan’s response: There might be a family out there seeing him for the first time, and he wanted to make a good impression.”
  2. Tallahassee Democrat: The end of Florida State’s recent game at Virginia got ugly. After an admittedly unnecessary alley-oop with 18 seconds left, Justin Anderson was called for a technical foul. During the stoppage in play, some players started jawing. As the officials were separating the teams, London Perrantes and Okaro White continued talking and Perrantes appears to have shoved White. White shoved him back, whereupon two Virginia players then left the bench and were ejected. After a lengthy review from the officials, a double-technical was assessed to White (his fifth personal) and Perrantes. After the game in the handshake line, there was a second scuffle catalyzed by more contact between the two. Long story short: White was “publicly reprimanded” by the ACC, but the league won’t take further action.
  3. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Syracuse starting forward Dujuan Coleman is out for the year. To be clear, Coleman starts over Jerami Grant, but Grant plays a far larger role in the Syracuse rotation. Coleman only averaged 13 minutes per game this season, but without him Jim Boeheim effectively plays seven players (and Michael Gbinije has only played between four and 11 minutes in any of the team’s five conference games). That’s not a lot of depth available, which means that four guys are likely to suit up for 30-plus minutes per game from here on out. Depth is overrated — especially on teams that mostly play zone — but the Orange lose much of their wiggle room if a player gets sick, injured, or in foul trouble.
  4. Washington Post: Glad to see Mike Wilbon take up for tradition here. Wilbon once worked the Maryland beat and currently serves on the board at Northwestern. He didn’t mince words when talking about Maryland’s move to the Big Ten: “Because if it’s not [a windfall], it just destroys the tradition and the history of rivalries, and the competition, and just says, ‘Okay, let’s pimp ourselves out, we’re going to go for the money.’” What sparked the commentary was NC State fans chanting “A-C-C” in the closing seconds of their win over the Terrapins on Monday night.
  5. Tar Heel Blog: Great piece on why Roy Williams didn’t recruit any wing players for this season. The obvious answer is that he didn’t expect to need any with Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston expected to be available. But the issue is more complex than that, and Brian Barbour does a good job looking at a lot of different angles here. Recruiting issues tend to play out a couple of years later (except at Kentucky), but right now, I tend to agree with the theory that North Carolina is suffering because of early defections (both transfers and departures for the NBA) along with a couple of players who haven’t developed like Williams hoped.

VIDEO EXTRA: Mark Gottfried was psyched after NC State’s win without TJ Warren.

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After Slow Start, Virginia Now Looks Like a Legitimate ACC Contender

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 15th, 2014

Even after Monday night’s 69-65 loss to Duke, Virginia looks like it is built to stay near the top of the ACC for the rest of the season. On a night when Duke played inspired basketball and had the famous Cameron Indoor Stadium home court edge, it took a fortunate bounce on a Rasheed Sulaimon three-pointer to keep Virginia from starting the ACC season with a 4-0 record. In winning their first three games, including Saturday’s 76-45 stomping of N.C. State, the Cavaliers have been winning impressively, with a 22-point average margin of victory. Even in their closest win, a 62-50 victory at Florida State, Virginia held a 22-point lead with 11 minutes left in the game. Undefeated Syracuse is now the perceived ACC favorite, but Virginia is certainly playing at such a high level now that it too must be considered a serious contender as well.

Virginia's Justin Anderson Blocks Ralston Turner of N.C. State In Cavalier Rout. (Photo: Ethan Hyman/AP)

Virginia’s Justin Anderson Blocks Ralston Turner of N.C. State In Cavalier Rout. (Ethan Hyman/AP)

Virginia has clearly turned its season around after a less than impressive December (2-3 record). The Cavaliers hit rock bottom in a 87-52 blowout loss at Tennessee on December 30. After using seven different starting lineups, head coach Tony Bennett has finally found stability with his current starting unit. Virginia is now 8-1 with a group featuring Mike Tobey and Akil Mitchell up front, with Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogden and London Perrantes on the perimeter. After a puzzling lack of production from Harris and Mitchell in the pre-conference part of the schedule, the two senior all-ACC performers have turned things around on and off the court. According to Bennett, “The Tennessee game was a wake up call [for Harris and Mitchell].” He was referring to the fact that the duo has recently taken responsibility for being better team leaders. Tobey has shown signs of fulfilling his potential as a low post scorer (16 points vs. N.C. State), and the versatile Brogdon has been more consistent, scoring in double figures in all four ACC games. The freshman Perrantes’ maturation at the point guard spot has also been a key to the Cavaliers’ recent success, with 16 assists against only five turnovers in conference play. Justin Anderson gives Virginia great energy and athleticism off the bench, and he can defend almost any position. Further quality depth comes from Anthony Gill and Darion Atkins on the inside, and Evan Nolte and Teven Jones on the perimeter. All in all, it’s a nice rotation that has jelled just in time.

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Pittsburgh’s Toughness Leads To Big Comeback Win Over N.C. State

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 4th, 2014

Back in October at ACC Operation Basketball, Pittsburgh Head Coach Jaime Dixon sounded as though he had something of a chip on his shoulder. It was as if he wanted the ACC media to know that moving from the Big East to the ACC was not a move up in competition for Pittsburgh. He had good reason to think that way, with the Big East rated higher than the ACC in nearly ever conference metric over the last several seasons, and with Pitt the winningest team in the Big East over the last dozen years. Plus, all the talk about this year’s ACC being the greatest basketball conference ever was based on the power of the schools it was bringing in from the old Big East.

The Pitt Panthers Surround N.C. State's Anthony Barber During 74-62 Pitt Win. (Photo: Ethan Hyman, www.newsobserver.com)

The Pitt Panthers Surround N.C. State’s Anthony Barber During 74-62 Pitt Win.
(Photo: Ethan Hyman, www.newsobserver.com)

Dixon must have been wondering if perhaps he had been mistaken when he witnessed his team down 17-2 after the first six minutes against N.C. State in Raleigh Saturday afternoon. But the veteran Panthers came roaring back, cutting the deficit to eight at halftime before dominating the second half on the way to a 74-62 win. Leading the way were seniors Lamar Patterson (22/8) and Talib Zanna (15/9). In particular, Patterson had an outstanding second half, with 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists after the intermission. Here are some takeaways for each team after their first game of ACC play.

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