ACC M5: 03.28.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 28th, 2013

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  1. Blogger So Dear: Wake Forest improved markedly this season under Jeff Bzdelik. But this isn’t a good sign going forward, as Bzdelik’s first recruit — Chase Fischer – is reportedly planning to transfer. That’s a bad look on a very young team that lacks perimeter depth (much less outside shooting). Throw in this six-part interview with Ron Wellman from Dan Collins of the Winston-Salem Journal and Gary Parrish’s blackjack metaphor looks more and more fitting. Lacking tangible results (i.e., wins) Wellman’s only defenses for keeping Bzdelik on board are that he inherited an impossible situation to turn around quickly (true), and that he’s building a strong foundation of players who love the program. This latest news calls the latter into question.
  2. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Speaking of transfers from programs that look to be in a rough spot going into next season, Robert Brown has decided to transfer closer to home (likely somewhere in Florida) following his roller coaster sophomore season. His transfer puts the Hokies in a tough spot, as James Johnson likely would have looked for Brown to carry an increased load next year, especially in the scoring column. Johnson has a couple of wings coming in this year, but who knows if they’re ready to compete at the ACC level night in and night out.
  3. WRAL: Mark Gottfried ended his 48-hour Twitter hiatus by seemingly quashing any UCLA rumors saying, “#WPN I am committed to being at @NCState for a long time [sic] Still as dedicated to rebuilding the program as I was 2 yrs ago when I arrived.” But coaches often do these sorts of vague non-denials. The truth is that if UCLA wants Gottfried, the school will have to shell out a ton of money for him (notably, it will have to cover his $3.5 million buyout). That said, I think this is a “dream job” trump card if Gottfried is offered the job. Basically, despite Gottfried’s tweet, this is still something to watch.
  4. CBSSports.com: Jeff Goodman has a nice piece on the resurgence (or “surgence”?) of Miami‘s basketball program. The real challenge lies ahead, both for this year’s team and going forward. Miami’s ACC championship means a lot to many fan bases, but a deep run in the NCAA Tournament would solidify the program’s status in what looks to be a rebuilding year next season. But if Jim Larranaga can keep the excitement going, Miami could very well be on its way to a consistently relevant program. Think about it… It’s in Miami — how hard can it be to get college kids to come live by the beach for four years?
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: Chris Collins took the Northwestern job, which he will start as soon as Duke’s season is complete. Rumors are that he’ll be hiring Greg Paulus to join his staff (Paulus has been working as a video coordinator for Ohio State, so he knows the Big Ten well). Coach K sounded thrilled for Collins, who’s coached as K’s right hand man at Duke since 2000. The immediate impact for the Blue Devils is that Nate James will move back into his previous position as an assistant coach.
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Rushed Reactions: Miami 81, NC State 71

Posted by mpatton on March 16th, 2013

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Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after Miami’s win over NC State in the ACC semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

Three Key Takeaways:

Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Brown have a team to watch this month.

Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Brown have a team to watch this month.

  1. NC State is Dangerous: Don’t count NC State out after this loss. The Wolfpack were tired and beat up. They ran into a buzzsaw Miami backcourt and couldn’t overcome a slow start and bad free throw shooting. But they didn’t give up down the stretch. Richard Howell was playing with a deep bruise on his thigh, visibly hurting, but he hit the floor trying for loose balls just like always. One thing you know about NC State is that it will put points on the board (and a lot of them). Especially with Rodney Purvis acting as a defensive spark plug (coming into the season, who would’ve thought that?), there’s a lot to like about NC State’s chances in the Big Dance.
  2. Larkin and Scott Show: Durand Scott and Shane Larkin put on a clinic for Miami. They accounted for 68% of Miami’s points and also dished out a combined eight assists. When NC State tried to make a game of it, Larkin iced the game with free throws. One area Larkin has really improved this season is his decision-making. He still gets up in the air without knowing what he’ll do, and definitely makes high risk plays from time to time. But Larkin’s strength is his ability to play near the edge. Where last season his high risk plays ended in turnovers, his maturity is really showing this year by dropping his turnover percentage five points despite increased possessions.
  3. Miami’s Weapons: Here’s the scary thing with Miami. Larkin and Scott ruled the day, but Miami’s true strength is inside. Kenny Kadji had an off day–despite being a real mismatch for NC State — and Julian Gamble was relatively quiet despite being effective. It’s high time people realized Reggie Johnson isn’t going to be as efficient as in the past, but he still can be a very effective offensive player. Gamble is the most improved player in the ACC, maybe even the country. He’s incredibly light on his feet for his size and plays within himself.

Star of the Game: Durand Scott played like a man possessed. He played the best game of his career, bringing back memories of his dominant performance against Duke his freshman year (the 21-point performance in the ACC Tournament that caused many to rank Miami highly the next two years). After hitting a big three in the second to half — quieting the NC State run — Scott held his follow-through for a good five or six seconds.

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T.J. Warren is the Right Answer to the Wrong Question

Posted by KCarpenter on February 22nd, 2013

Poor defensive rebounding is a well-known weakness of the North Carolina State Wolfpack. As gifted as this team is offensively, shoddy interior defense and an inability to snag defensive rebounds have been a thorn in the side of Mark Gottfried all season. So in an attempt to supercharge his lineup’s skills on the boards, Gottfried went big and started 6’8″ T.J. Warren at small forward and benched fellow freshman Rodney Purvis. The move paid off big time in a game that saw near-total board dominance against the overmatched Florida State Seminoles. At least, that’s the narrative that we were treated to here.

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Warren’s Inclusion in the Starting Lineup Paid Off; Or Did It? (credit: newobserver.com)

Starting Warren over Purvis is a move that makes a lot of sense, but there are a few things about this story that don’t add up. First, was it the lineup change that led to such a great game? I doubt it. Florida State is the worst rebounding team in the conference — everyone kills them on the boards. They are ranked 242nd in the nation on the offensive glass. They are even worse on the defensive boards. Out of 347 Division I schools, there are only 27 that are worse on the defensive boards than the Seminoles.  If the test for successful rebounding was being able to handle FSU, the bar was set incredibly low.

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ACC M5: 02.05.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 5th, 2013

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  1. Tar Heel Blog: Here are a few things you’ll learn from looking at an in-depth breakdown of ACC tempo-free stats halfway through the conference season. First and foremost, Miami is really good at defense (as T.H. points out, the Hurricanes are holding opponents to a worse field goal percentage than any of Duke’s teams since 2000 and are rebounding opponents’ misses at a rate higher than any of Roy Williams’ teams the last 10 years). Second, there are three and a half good offensive teams in the ACC (Boston College gets a half because it’s markedly below the top three). Third, NC State is hitting an insane 41.4% of its three point attempts, but shooting fewer threes than anyone in the league!
  2. Charlotte Observer: Want to read an article written from the Big 12 perspective on the ominous future some see behind the reported Big 12 – ACC “alliance?” It’s amazing how different perspectives are on conference realignment depending on where you’re living. The ACC media has essentially called realignment dead, hoping Louisville’s addition saves enough face with the football schools to keep everyone happy. But this article paints a picture of a Big 12 itching to get a hold of Florida State and another school (Jimmy Burch mentions Miami, which seems dumb; I’d guess Clemson or Louisville) in order to host a conference championship game. I still think both conferences like where they’re currently at, but Burch is right that the playoff could put pressure on the Big 12 to add members, which would certainly make things more interesting.
  3. Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State, despite the class years listed on the team’s roster, is still a very young team. Specifically, the team misses two players from last year. Luke Loucks never got enough credit for his leadership (or high level of play) last season. Michael Snaer hit all the big shots, but Loucks made everything go. Bernard James is the other player, just as a consistent defensive and rebounding presence. This year’s team still needs that cohesion. The talent is there (though it may not be developed yet), but Brendan Bures hits the nail on the head in saying that the Seminoles still need to find an identity or “a calling card.”
  4. Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: Georgia Tech’s front line isn’t getting enough press this season. Daniel Miller deserves any and all “most improved” accolades this season (sorry Richard Howell, last year was your big leap), as the junior looks like a totally different player. He’s much more aggressive and appears to be more athletic, albeit slightly; Robert Carter Jr. will eventually be a premier big man in the ACC (once he cuts out the baby fat); and Kammeon Holsey – despite his horrendously hatched post-game — is aggressive and effective off the bench.
  5. NC State Technician: Before getting to the point of the article, is Herb Sendek a much more successful Jeff Bzdelik? Probably not, but there’s a similarity in how both failed miserably in handling themselves publicly (both appear detached and robotic). But Mark Gottfried is in an interesting situation. I don’t necessarily think he’s walking a fine line between hating losing or maintaining excitement (those run hand-in-hand). It’s more that he’s got a young team (with its experience with success), and he needs to make sure the team doesn’t get overwhelmed by negativity or its ego. If NC State dips below .500 in conference play (i.e., the Wolfpack lose to Duke and Clemson), it’s going to be very difficult to keep the team’s motivation up the rest of the season.
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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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