Top Recruit Julius Randle Praises Wolfpack

Posted by mpatton on February 1st, 2013

Julius Randle is currently being pursued by NC State. He’s a 6’9″ power forward ranked second by Rivals, fourth by ESPN.com and fifth by Scout. With Richard Howell departing after this season (and CJ Leslie potentially joining him), Randle would be a huge get for head coach Mark Gottfried. Randle took his official visit to Raleigh to watch NC State knock off rival North Carolina for ESPN Gameday last weekend, and by his account it was a huge success.

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Julius Randle loved his trip to Raleigh. (photo credit: Kye R. Lee / Dallas Morning News)

Right off the bat, Randle went and saw a nearly life-sized wall mural a Wolfpack fan had painted for him. He got a chance to hang with students Friday night and then absorbed the PNC Arena atmosphere for the big game. He used the word “loud” (or “loudest”) five times describing the fans. But then comes the part Wolfpack fans will love:

I think the biggest thing I learned over the weekend was that if I came there they wouldn’t have to change anything about their system for me. It just fits me. Other coaches talk about what they’ll change for me, but with State they don’t have to do that. That’s big. All in all, I’d have to say that this was my best visit so far. I had a ball at Kentucky, and yeah they had Drake and everything, but this visit just had a lot more going on.

When you go toe-to-toe with John Calipari in recruiting and come out with an advantage, you’ve done something right. NC State’s visit reduced Randle’s Kentucky visit to “yeah they had Drake and everything.” It definitely helped that there was a real game to attend and a rivalry one at that, but that’s still impressive. Now you definitely have to take blogs like these with a grain of salt: What high school kid wouldn’t love an official visit with the VIP treatment? That said, it sounds like Randle really bought into Gottfried’s system and the environment in Raleigh.

We won’t know anything for sure until Randle makes a final decision, but his blog certainly gives some first-hand insight into how Gottfried has succeeded so quickly on the recruiting trail.

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Night Line: Schizophrenic Wolfpack Fail to Keep Momentum… Again

Posted by BHayes on January 30th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

For NC State fans that thought the rollercoaster may have finally been headed for level ground, Tuesday’s nights’ 58-55 loss to Virginia was yet another reminder that the seat belts should never come off when riding with this Wolfpack team. Consistency has eluded Mark Gottfried’s club all season but especially of late, as the Pack have now alternated wins and losses over their past six contests. Included in the trio of wins were seismic victories over Tobacco Road rivals Duke and UNC; but like many a college student after a momentous Saturday night, the Pack watched as each high subsided into a full-blown hangover. Little seems to have been learned by either coach or team along the way, and State fans have to be wondering whether the inconsistency might ultimately derail a season that has quite frequently felt immensely promising.

Much Like His Team All Season, CJ Leslie's Performance Tuesday Night Included Both Good And Bad: 20 Points and 14 Rebounds For The Pack Star, But He Also Turned The Ball Over Seven Times

Much Like His Team All Season, CJ Leslie’s Performance Tuesday Night Included Both Good And Bad: 20 Points and 14 Rebounds For The Pack Star, But Also Seven Turnovers

Nobody can deny that the talent and capability to be not just good but great are there for this team. We knew about the collection of talent all the way back in the preseason, when the paper version of the Wolfpack was impressive enough to net the team a top-five preseason national ranking and the grandiose title of ACC favorite. Unfortunately, we have seen that talent mesh and deliver on all its potential far too infrequently for the Pack to maintain those lofty preseason standards, but is there time yet to bounce back? Are we silly for believing that it isn’t too late, for thinking that Mark Gottfried can find a way to get his team to sustain that energy and emotion ALL the time, and not just when they take the floor with college hoops titans like Duke, UNC, and Michigan?

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Bad Loss Leads to Twitter Regret for NC State

Posted by mpatton on January 23rd, 2013

NC State took a really tough loss at Wake Forest last night. Fans are frustrated, players are frustrated and coaches are frustrated. Former third-string center Thomas DeThaey took to Twitter to vent his frustration: “That’s what happens when you’re a great recruiter but a terrible coach!” Now comes the juicy part. Current freshman TJ Warren retweeted DeThaey. Was it a slip of the thumb? Was he just passively retweeting the comment?

TJ Warren may want this retweet back.

TJ Warren may want this retweet back.

Regardless, this doesn’t look good. Just to add insult to injury, Rick Lewis — NC State frosh Tyler Lewis‘ father — favorited the tweet. My guess is there’s going to be a penalty — whether “internal” (i.e., suicide sprints), or even a one-game suspension. The latter would really hurt the Wolfpack and Mark Gottfried, as their rotation isn’t deep especially if CJ Leslie or Richard Howell get into foul trouble.

What remains to be seen is how the team will react to a bad loss. NC State flirted with disaster against Boston College and Clemson, tasting a little at Maryland and against Oklahoma State. But this is the team’s first bad loss. This is the first time it’s totally collapsed, losing a 16-point lead to a truly inferior opponent. It’s the rare team that can turn a bad loss into a wake-up call (see: Duke’s loss to Georgetown in 2010, or Florida State’s beatdown at Clemson last season) instead of reason to panic. Usually teams that live and learn from bad losses are well-coached and experienced. This NC State team has experience, but it also has a lot of youth.

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Rebounding From Tobacco Road Wins: How the ACC Performs After Beating Duke/UNC

Posted by mpatton on January 15th, 2013

Joe Giglio dug up an interesting statistic about NC State after it beats one of its Tobacco Road rivals. The Wolfpack are an abysmal 1-12 in conference games immediately following a win over Duke or North Carolina during the last two decades. With NC State’s game at Maryland looming Wednesday night, history seems very ominous for the Wolfpack (interestingly, the Terrapins are responsible for five of the 12 losses).

Is Mark Gottfried's squad headed for a loss at Maryland? History says yes.

Is Mark Gottfried’s squad headed for a loss at Maryland? History says yes.

But does the trend hold up for other ACC schools or is it limited to NC State? I looked back through the last 10 years (through the 2002-03 season), and teams have an overall 41-30 record after beating Duke or North Carolina. NC State’s 1-5 mark is by far the worst, and Miami is still an unblemished 4-0. Every other team has beaten the powerhouses at least four times. Maryland’s 13 wins is the most, followed by Wake Forest’s 11 and Georgia Tech’s nine. Now this doesn’t mean NC State is destined for a loss tomorrow night. The Wolfpack have a much better team than in years past. Their poor record may point more to tough games following the wins, but my guess is there is a pretty sizable letdown after a big win like that, especially right over in Raleigh. Regardless of the effect’s statistical significance, NC State should be a lot more worried about the facts that Maryland is the best offensive rebounding team in the conference and is desperate for a good win after limping to a 1-2 start in conference play.

The records of teams and a year-by-year breakdown after beating Duke or North Carolina after the jump.

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On NC State and Gambling: Why the Wolfpack Defense Has to Improve, Or Else

Posted by mpatton on January 10th, 2013

Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) is an RTC correspondent and an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after NC State’s win over Georgia Tech last night in Raleigh.

NC State is probably the second best team in the ACC. The Wolfpack are experienced and talented. But they’re also a mixed bag thanks to their less than stellar defensive efficiency. The Wolfpack is a team of runs on both ends of the floor. These aren’t the normal runs of basketball cliche, they’re the runs of a degenerate gambler. On defense the gambler is often Rodney Purvis leaking out before NC State secures the rebound. Nearly two-thirds of the time, it’s a good gamble because the Wolfpack corrals the rebound. Otherwise NC State’s defense struggles to get reset, and the opponent gets a second chance with the odds in its favor. On offense the gambler is generally Lorenzo Brown or CJ Leslie looking for the home run play but instead turning the ball over.

Rodney Purvis is already an emotional leader for NC State. (Photo: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Rodney Purvis is already an emotional leader for NC State. (Photo: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Those runs outlasted Boston College and Georgia Tech in the final minutes. Experience, talent and conditioning helped too. Those runs almost brought the Wolfpack back from what looked like a blowout against Michigan. Those runs never made an appearance in Oklahoma State’s rout of the Wolfpack. The runs come at a defensive cost, but NC State’s offense is elite because of its defensive gambles. It is unstoppable in transition for four reasons: the Purvis leak, Brown is a terror leading the break, Leslie runs the floor as anyone without the last name “Zeller,” and the icing on the cake is Wood trailing after that. Long story short, everyone but Richard Howell (one of the best defensive rebounders in the ACC) is a great option. Lots of options with a capable floor general leads to transition success better or comparable to any team in the country.

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ACC M5: 12.19.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 19th, 2012

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  1. Wilmington Star News: North Carolina State entered this season as the favorite to win the ACC, but a few shaky games and some tough losses gave fans reason to doubt if this team could live up to its lofty expectations. Now, dodging the question of whether or not these expectations were ever reasonable, the Wolfpack is starting to look like a real contender. In a victory Tuesday night over Stanford, the team’s four core veteran starters all scored over 15 points and looked cohesive. Though NCSU’s vaunted freshman class was mostly quiet while the veterans did their thing, the signs are clear that this squad could be very good by the time March rolls around.
  2. Fayetteville Observer:  Mark Gottfried has given his team quite a bit of UCLA flavor, drawing upon his experience as an assistant coach for the Bruins for nearly 10 years, but the rest of the staff brings over some of that same culture. Director of Operations Jeff Dunlap played for UCLA, as did the Director of Player Development Larry Farmer. Of course, while Dunlap played during Gottfried’s time in Los Angeles, Farmer represents a different era. His teams went 89-1 and won three NCAA titles as a player on the legendary John Wooden squads that featured Bill Walton and Sidney Wicks. Farmer would later coach at UCLA for a few seasons in the 1980s, but those seasons naturally pale before his place as a player on the greatest dynasty in men’s college basketball. I can’t speak for how effective Farmer is or will be at developing NC State players, but if his talent is anywhere close to his acumen in telling stories about partying with Bill Walton, then he will definitely be a substantial resource.
  3. Washington Post: Very quietly, the Maryland Terrapins have put together a nice 9-1 record, blemished only by a surprisingly close season-opening loss to Kentucky. Now, granted, since that game, the caliber of competition that Maryland has been playing has been somewhat lacking, yet a win over a George Mason team that beat Virginia, a blowout victory over Northwestern, and a collection of convincing landslide wins over the likes of Monmouth and South Carolina State paint the picture of a team that could be very good. Alex Len has gone from unknown foreign prospect to one of the top prospects in the NBA draft, yet, somehow, Maryland remains unranked. It’s a small thing, and something that doesn’t really concern the team that much, but don’t be surprised when Maryland starts popping up in the polls sooner rather than later.
  4. ESPN: Dexter Strickland was never a point guard. In high school he played at the wing and, in his own mind, he was always a combo guard. Yet in his college career at North Carolina, Strickland has often been used at the point, spelling Larry Drew II, Kendall Marshall, and now Marcus Paige as needed. Somehow, the defense-and-dribble-drive focused guard became a true point guard, and so far this season, Strickland ranks fourth in the ACC in assists per game. Though he still plays the bulk of his minutes at shooting guard, a combination of experience and a more cerebral  approach to the game have made him one of the better distributors in the conference, and an asset to the Tar Heels as a second ball-handler and playmaker alongside the freshman Paige.
  5. Syracuse Online: Michael Gbinije had a very brief career at Duke before transferring to Syracuse. Yet, because of the strange alignment of this particular historical moment, namely both Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim passing the 900-win threshold and the weirdness of conference realignment, means that Gbinije will have managed to play under the two winningest coaches in college basketball history as soon as Boeheim passes Bob Knight. He is also notable (or he will be notable) as being the only player in history to play on two separate ACC teams once Syracuse arrives in the league next season. I wouldn’t say this really means anything in particular, but it’s a nice weird footnote.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Illinois, Undefeated Teams, A Blown Call Nobody Noticed, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 11th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

  1. Illinois fans, here is my mea culpa. I was wrong not to rank your team. On Saturday night, the Fighting Illini ventured up to Spokane and walked out of the Kennel with the best win of any team to date. Yes, better than Duke’s wins over Louisville and Ohio State. Why? There has not been a road win of this magnitude by any team through this early point in the season. The Illini proved they’re for real with a dominant second half against a very strong Gonzaga team. After taking the opening punch and falling behind 8-0 right out of the gate, John Groce’s team didn’t panic and made fantastic adjustments. Gonzaga’s game plan was clearly to feed the ball inside and try to dominate a less than imposing Illinois front line. Illinois’ defense suddenly picked up later in the first half, swarming the Gonzaga big men and forcing the Bulldogs into an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers. Illinois was able to speed the game up a bit and prevent Gonzaga from setting up its half court offense effectively. The Zags attempted 18 threes which is right about their season average but a lot of them were rushed and not something the game plan should have called for against an Illinois team without a significant inside presence. Brandon Paul looked like an All-America candidate with his performance not just on the offensive end but defensively against Pangos and the Gonzaga guards as well. Can Illinois keep this level of play up? I’m not sure but I know one thing: The Illini are way better than I thought. This team’s over-reliance on the three-point shot is concerning and is bound to catch up with them at some point, but Illinois has already proved it will be a factor in the loaded Big Ten.

    Brandon Paul Looked Like An All-American Candidate On Saturday Night In Spokane. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

  2. Another impressive performance played out in a different fashion on Saturday night in Clemson, South Carolina. Trailing Clemson by six points midway through the second half, Arizona absorbed the hit and put the pedal down in impressive fashion with a 26-5 run down the stretch to come out of rowdy Littlejohn Coliseum with a sneaky good road win. It was an impressive showing because this Arizona team had been highly touted but untested coming into the game. The Wildcats passed that test with flying colors as they head into a Saturday showdown with Florida in Tucson. Mark Lyons took control in the final minutes for Arizona but contributions from Nick Johnson (13 points, five steals) and Solomon Hill (10 rebounds despite an awful shooting night) illustrate the talent and depth of Sean Miller’s team. Although he didn’t have a great game, I was thoroughly impressed with the physique of freshman Kaleb Tarczewski. It was the first time I’ve seen him play and his body appears mature beyond his age. He’ll be a load for any opponent in the post. Arizona is clearly the best team in the Pac-12 and has the pieces to make a deep run in March. With the gritty Miller at the helm and a boatload of talent, this team will keep getting better as the year moves along. Make sure you watch the Wildcats take on Florida this Saturday night in what could prove to be the best non-conference game of the season.
  3. Another week, another confounding loss for Baylor. Just when you thought the Bears were turning the corner after winning at Kentucky, they put together an absolute stinker of a loss at home to a mediocre Northwestern team that had just suffered back-to-back home losses to Maryland and Illinois-Chicago. Baylor was dominated on the glass by a Northwestern lineup that isn’t all that physically imposing and allowed the Wildcats to shoot 51% for the game. It is inexcusable for a team with Baylor’s talent to have three losses at this point in the season but you know what I like to say, nobody does less with more than Scott Drew. When you look at the statistics, Baylor appears to be a pretty good team. But the chemistry and focus clearly is lacking, otherwise this team wouldn’t have lost to Charleston and Northwestern on its home court. Baylor is a highly talented team and has actually improved its turnover numbers significantly from previous years. Pierre Jackson is playing like one of the best point guards in America and Drew has seen junior forward Cory Jefferson take a huge step forward. Baylor has two more non-conference challenges before Big 12 play begins, against BYU in Waco and a tough trip to Gonzaga in back to back games at the end of this month. Even if the Bears enter Big 12 play at 8-4, I still believe this team is good enough to eventually earn a Top 25 ranking and fit solidly in the NCAA Tournament. At this point however, Baylor just isn’t there yet. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: NC State 69, Connecticut 65

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC correspondent. He filed these thoughts from NC State’s victory over Connecticut in game two of the Jimmy V Classic. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

  1. NC State made the winning plays. Give Connecticut a lot of credit for its tenacity and scrappy style of play but NC State made the plays you need to make down the stretch in order to win big games. Whether it was huge offensive rebounds or Scott Wood’s pick-and-roll, the Wolfpack did what they had to do in order to come out on top. That’s a sign of a good basketball team and this is a win that should boost NC State’s confidence after a shaky start to the season.
  2. Connecticut just didn’t shoot the ball well enough to win. The Huskies made a bunch of threes early in the first half but that proved to be fool’s gold, as hot three-point shooting out of the gate usually does. Connecticut wound up shooting only 40.3% for the game while NC State finished seven percentage points higher. Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier took the most shots for the Huskies as usual but they were not efficient (14-34 combined). This overreliance on two players is going to win Connecticut some games this season but also cost them, especially against top notch competition like NC State. The Huskies can be good but they need to share the ball more.
  3. NC State’s rebounding helped it win this game. When you look at the rebounding numbers you see NC State was only +4 overall on the glass. However, a lot of the rebounds pulled down by the Wolfpack were on the offensive end and/or at key points in the game. Richard Howell in particular did a great job working for position on the offensive glass and earned his team a bunch of extra possessions. Connecticut had not been a good rebounding team coming into the game and, while it held its own, NC State took advantage of that at critical points in the game.

CJ Leslie’s Late Dunk Helped NC State Finish Off the Game (E. Hyman/RNO)

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ACC M5: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 27th, 2012

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: With the ACC/Big Ten Challenge about to tip off tonight and North Carolina preparing to take on top-ranked Indiana, the Tar Heels got some bad news before flying to Bloomington — P.J. Hairston is suffering from a knee sprain and will not travel with the team. Hairston has emerged as the most dangerous man off the bench, playing an athletic inside-out game. Additionally, according to Roy Williams, Hairston has been the only effective small power forward in the experimental small line-up that North Carolina used to surprising effect in Maui. With a road victory against Indiana already a long shot, the absence of Hairston from the lineup will only grow the odds even longer.
  2. Fayetteville Observer: Speaking of missing players, North Carolina State will no longer have the services of Belgian big man Thomas de Thaey when the Wolfpack faces Michigan tonight. The sophomore is returning home to be closer to his father, who has been battling cancer. Considering Mark Gottfried’s apparent fondness for short rotations, it was likely that de Thaey wouldn’t have seen too much playing time on the court at any rate. Given his father’s illness, returning home seems like an easy decision and one that I’m sure the Wolfpack program, fans, and, well, everyone, will readily and gladly support.
  3. Washington Post: Of course, the subplot of Maryland effectively getting a practice conference game against Big Ten foe Northwestern is a juicy story in the context of the big story of realignment, but this game offers up another intriguing storyline: Maryland’s performance on the road. Under Mark Turgeon, the Terps have won only a single true road game, eking out a two-point win at Clemson last February. This match-up against Northwestern is the team’s only true road game before the beginning of conference play, and if Maryland can get the win, it will be a nice symbolic victory that should help give the team confidence before the beginning of ACC play.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: While Florida State versus Minnesota doesn’t exactly have the glitzy names of some of the other match-ups going on tonight, this game is a big opportunity for two very good teams. The Golden Gophers and Trevor Mbakwe will look to punish the Seminoles on the glass, but Leonard Hamilton has his team ready and excited to take down another higher-ranked foe. Though Minnesota expects to have a marked advantage in rebounding, the turnover trouble that has plagued the Gophers is likely an enticing opening for a Florida State team that thrives on applying defensive pressure.
  5. Real GM: Dan Hanner does it again, this time putting together some interesting historical data to see which coaches thrive during different parts of the season. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is the headliner with a penchant for early season dominance that impresses year after year, but a number of other ACC coaches show up in his numbers. Virginia’s Tony Bennett also has his team ready to play in the early part of the season, but Hanner’s research also points to a few ACC coaches whose teams are consistently better at the end of the season rather than the beginning. This list includes Roy Williams (UNC), Mark Gottfried (NCSU), and Leonard Hamilton (FSU).
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ACC M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 15th, 2012

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress:  Virginia has limped out of the gates to a 1-2 start, including an embarrassing home loss to Delaware in the NIT Season Tip-Off. But the bigger story at play may be their injury issues. Senior point guard Jontel Evans, who was limited to just three minutes in the game against Delaware, has been struggling to recover from surgery to his right foot to repair a stress fracture. While Evans is not known for being an electrifying scorer or shooter, his steadying presence defensively (he made the ACC All-Defensive team last year), including leading the team in steals over the past two years, and offensively (leading the team in assists) would definitely help provide structure to an offense that has sorely struggled without him. With backup Malcolm Brogdon injured, Virginia has employed a myriad of options at the point, including leading returning scorer Joe Harris and a walk-on, among others, with a clear dropoff from Evans’ typical play. Virginia will certainly be patient with Evans’ return to an increased amount of minutes, but they surely must hope he can return in a fuller, healthier capacity soon before the team potentially has more crippling out of conference losses.
  2. If the ACC wants to gain more respect as a conference on the national scale (at least relative to the Big Ten and the presently constructed Big East), it cannot afford for teams thought of as likely to make the NCAA Tournament to have potentially resume-crushing losses before Thanksgiving. Virginia is 0-2 against the CAA, having lost to George Mason on the road (somewhat acceptable) and Delaware at home (not good). Preseason #25 Florida State dropped its opener at home to South Alabama, and Miami, projected fifth in the ACC, lost to Florida Gulf Coast, who is in just their second year with NCAA Tournament eligibility, though they were without starting guard Durand Scott (suspended) and forward Garrius Adams (injury). Regardless, these teams will likely be a bit more antsy on Selection Sunday than the pundits thought in the preseason.
  3. Charlotte Observer:  NC State has recently been the third wheel in the Triangle basketball scene, but that certainly has started to change under Mark Gottfried. In this Observer piece, Joe Giglio details Gottfried’s recruiting strategy, which is already starting to pay dividends. With NC State’s Sweet Sixteen run last year, Gottfried has already “earned street cred with the best players in the country,” according to recruiting expert Dave Telep. Along with their initial success in the coach’s first year, in addition with Gottfried’s tireless recruiting, his comfort with the media, and his commitment to a “system,” according to Giglio, Gottfried has enhanced NC State’s perception greatly — which is a huge aspect of the recruiting world. With six top 50 recruits signed or committed from the classes of 2012, 2013, and 2014, the Wolfpack has more top 50 recruits in those classes than either Duke or North Carolina. Gottfried will definitely be a force to be reckoned with for a long time, especially considering that he will likely outlast both of the Triangle’s other coaching giants (Gottfried is only 48 years old), barring a major surprise.
  4. A lot of ink has already been given to Seth Curry’s phenomenal game against Kentucky, especially in light of his nagging shin injury which has limited his practice time. But a story to continue to watch for at Duke this season is the play of sophomore point guard Quinn Cook, and Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News added his perspective to the situation. Cook, who started both of Duke’s exhibition games, has been benched in favor of Tyler Thornton in each of Duke’s regular season games. This is not to say that Cook has been terrible, as he played 30 decent minutes against Kentucky. By placing Thornton in the starting lineup in these two games, Coach K has signaled to Cook that nothing is guaranteed, and even Cook realized this about his early season performances, saying, “I played sub-par. I was thinking too much.” Cook has not been spectacular in Duke’s first two games, but it seems like he is definitely taking steps in the right direction. Duke will need him to continue to progress if they are going to be a serious title contender next spring.
  5. There was only one game involving ACC teams last night, as Georgia Tech prevailed in a slog over Presbyterian, 52-38. The Yellow Jackets actually trailed at halftime before overwhelming the Blue Hose with their size in the second half. The Yellow Jackets won despite shooting only 33.3% for the game. While Georgia Tech certainly avoided joining the club of ACC teams posting embarrassing early non-conference losses, coach Brian Gregory will certainly see room for improvement as the season goes on. This game was played as a result of negotiations which involved Georgia Tech’s football team opening against Presbyterian this season, interestingly enough.
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ACC M5: 11.14.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 14th, 2012

  1. In the much-hyped Champions Classic -between Duke and Kentucky, their first game against each other since December 2001 for the blue-blood rivals, Duke pulled out the victory, 75-68. Duke’s three seniors, Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly all excelled in the game against the Wildcats. Curry had perhaps his best game in a Duke uniform, with 23 points and acting clearly as Duke’s go-to player in the second half. Plumlee had 18 points despite second half foul trouble, only missing one shot (including making 4-4 free throws), keeping Duke in the game early when their shots were not going down, and Kelly played excellent defense on Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer. Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon also had a solid game despite a woeful shooting performance in the first half, burying three clutch second half treys while also leading Duke in rebounds (six) and assists (five). This was a huge confidence builder for a Duke team that had perhaps been a little overlooked this season, and although Kentucky in November is likely nowhere near the ceiling it will eventually reach this season, Duke will be happy to have this feather in their cap come Selection Sunday.
  2. If not for Duke’s victory tonight, the ACC’s anemic performance in Tuesday’s other games would have gotten a lot more attention, as it was not such a banner night for the rest of the conference. Miami, who struggled to beat Stetson in its opener and lost to St. Leo in the exhibition season, lost to Florida Gulf Coast, 63-51, and shot only 29% from the field. Virginia, meanwhile, dropped its second game out of three, failing to advance in the NIT Season Tip-Off by losing at home to Delaware in yet another punchless offensive effort (Virginia has yet to reach 60 points this season). For two teams expected to contend for NCAA Tournament berths this season, these are extremely clear signs that something will have to change for each of these programs to reach their potential.
  3. Tallahassee Democrat:  Leonard Hamilton definitely has a much different Florida State team this year. It is a team with the potential to be much more explosive offensively, but it also seems to lack the defensive chops of years past. After allowing South Alabama to shoot over 60% from three in FSU’s opening game defeat, their next opponent, Buffalo, shot 50% from the field. The difference was that Florida State was much better offensively against Buffalo, as the team hit nearly 60% from the field on its end of the court. Hamilton is definitely excited about the potential for offensive fireworks, but cautions that there will be some growing pains as this young team continues to meld and that they need to bring the energy that they showed against Buffalo.
  4. Scout:  NC State had a convincing win against Miami (Ohio) in their opener, but the ACC preseason favorites still can get a lot better, according to coach Mark Gottfried. Gottfried insinuated that his team still needs to learn their individual roles, particularly on defense. At the same time, he lauded the play of forwards CJ Leslie and Richard Howell, especially in how the two communicate with each other on the court. Gottfried believes that his team has great defensive potential, especially from freshman Rodney Purvis, but he realizes that it will definitely take some time for everyone to get on the same page. At the very least, Gottfried sees the upcoming Puerto Rico Tipoff as a great opportunity for his team, and it is refreshing to see the coach having an upbeat attitude with the pressure of heightened expectations this season.
  5. In exciting news for fans in ACC country, the NCAA announced that the PNC Arena in Raleigh would host second and third round NCAA Tournament games in 2014 and that Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte would do the same in 2015. The NCAA Tournament was most recently played in Raleigh in 2008, where North Carolina started its Final Four run that year and Stephen Curry keyed Davidson’s Elite Eight Cinderella story. Charlotte hosted second and third round games in 2011, where both Duke and North Carolina advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, and also the regionals in 2008, when North Carolina advanced to the Final Four. With the continuing popularity of college basketball on Tobacco Road, it is not surprising that the NCAA continues to select sites in the Tar Heel State for tournament play.
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ACC M5: Opening Night Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 9th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: While most of the ACC is starting out their season (tonight!) with some overmatched competition (with apologies to Virginia who will take on George Mason), Maryland is opening their season with a real challenge. Though this year’s Kentucky team is totally different from the beast that dominated college basketball last year, the Wildcats are still stacked with top recruits and still led by John Calipari. Maryland plans to put up a fight however, and the sudden eligibility of sensational wing Dez Wells puts a little muscle behind that hope. Though Calipari is making his traditional noise about how he feels his team is overrated and how he is concerned about the Terrapins, there is no doubt that Maryland is the underdog in this fight.
  2. Backing the Pack: Meanwhile in Raleigh, there remains at least one question: who will be the North Carolina State‘s fifth starter?Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and Scott Wood are no-brainer starters for Mark Gottfried, but the final starting slot has not yet been named. Gottfried said that he isn’t sure who will start, while adding the caveat that he doesn’t think it matters too much. The most probable choice is that the coach will go with highly-touted freshman guard Rodney Purvis, though there is an outside chance that the spot will be earned by T.J. Warren. Of course, it could always be some wild card option, but these two are the most logical choices.
  3. ESPN: In Chapel Hill, Roy Williams is dealing with a similar issue. Freshman Marcus Paige has been named a starter along with veterans Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock, and James Michael McAdoo. This leaves one open spot for North Carolina, and considering the named starters, the spot belongs to a big man. In the exhibition game, Desmond Hubert got the start, but freshman center Joel James shined when he got his turn. Williams suggests that little used sophomore Jackson Simmons and spindly freshman Brice Johnson could also get the start, but Hubert and James are the clear frontrunners for the spot with James holding an edge.
  4. Fox Sports: After a year spent playing home games in other peoples’ gyms, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets finally have a home court. Tonight the first game tips off at McCamish Pavillion, the new name for the renovated Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The building connects the Yellow Jackets to their storied past while also showcasing a dramatic environment for home games. While certainly new video and sound equipment are clear upgrades, the coolest addition to this court has got to be GT’s embrace of theater-style lighting, the effect of lighting the court while keeping the stands relatively dark, an unabashedly neat effect that evokes Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center when the Los Angeles Lakers are playing (the Clippers use a different, more traditional lighting scheme). It’s a neat idea and one that will hopefully add some extra atmosphere to the rechristened Thrillerdome.
  5. Wilmington Star News: The preseason Wooden Award Watch List has been released and six ACC players have been unsurprisingly tapped for the list. North Carolina State’s C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown, Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo, and Florida State’s Michael Snaer represent the conference on the list. Considering that this list fairly closely mirrors most folks’ All-ACC First Team, there isn’t too much to complain about, though C.J. Harris and a couple players from Miami may have a reason to grouse. As always, this list doesn’t include any of the impact freshmen who are expected to make their mark upon the conference, though they will surely be added once they show what they can do in the college game.
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