ACC Stock Watch – Week One

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 21st, 2014

Each week here at the microsite we’ll take a look at which ACC teams and players are trending up, down, or remaining flat. It’s still very early in the season, but there are some trends to be gleaned from the first week of opening games. Let’s take a look below:

Trending Up

  • Duke. Despite all of the preseason hype placed on Duke’s freshmen (Jahlil Okafor in particular) and speculative questions about overall team chemistry, the Blue Devils have looked the part of a title contender thus far. Their blowouts over Presbyterian and Fairfield may not have convinced anyone, but their wire-to-wire victory over Michigan State showed that Duke is already in top form.
  • Miami. The Hurricanes’ early returns on their big-name transfers have been outstanding. Sheldon McClellan (from Texas) is putting up 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game through two contests, and former Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez is not only averaging a team-high 18.3 points per contest, but he also hit the game-winning three over rival Florida that ended the Gators’ 33-game home winning streak. Pretty solid start for Jim Larranaga’s newcomers.
Angel Rodriguez has brought pleasant early returns for Miami (USA Today Sports)

Angel Rodriguez has produced pleasant early returns for Miami (USA Today Sports)

  • Virginia Tech. Why are the Hokies trending up when they only have wins over Maryland-Eastern Shore and Liberty? Well, go back in time one year ago and Virginia Tech had just lost its season opener to South Carolina Upstate. At a minimum, Buzz Williams has his team beating the teams it should beat, something last year’s group couldn’t boast. Freshman Justin Bibbs’ solid start to the season has been a pleasant surprise as well.

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments Part I Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 21st, 2014

morning5_ACC Note: To gauge relative team strength, we are using current Kenpom ratings.

  1. Charleston Classic: Fresh off Monday’s big upset over Florida, Jim Larrañaga‘s squad is looking to make some more noise in the Gildan Charleston Classic. On Thursday afternoon, Miami (#40) topped Drexel (#161), 66-46, with its defense, holding the Dragons to 31.4 percent shooting from the field. Next up for the Hurricanes will be this afternoon’s semifinal game (2:30 ET – ESPN2) with Akron (#181), a team that beat USC (#169) yesterday in a mild surprise. It looks like Miami’s only chance for a quality win here would be in Sunday night’s championship game (9:00 ET – ESPN2) against a team from the more competitive side of the bracket. The tourney’s pseudo-host, South Carolina (#81), will meet Charlotte (#87) in today’s other semifinal, so either way Miami will face its toughest opponent in the event on Sunday, with another pretty good opportunity for a resume-building win.
  2. Puerto Rico Tip-Off: Boston College (#147) rebounded from its first loss of the year with a somewhat surprising opening round win on Thursday over New Mexico (#55), 69-65, in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Olivier Hanlan came up big down the stretch with 10 points in the last 7:03 to clinch the win. A look at the bracket shows a tough road ahead for the Eagles with today’s semifinal matchup (5:00 ET – ESPN2) against West Virginia (#47) followed by a game with either Dayton (#50) or defending national champion Connecticut (#18). If Boston College wins one or two more games here, it will be good news for the ACC. Last year, after a terrible non-conference performance, the Eagles became a drag on the entire ACC’s RPI, but this year they may actually be helpful in that regard.
  3. 2K Sports Classic: California (#63) shocked Syracuse (#12) by a score of 73-59 on Thursday night in Madison Square Garden to advance to tonight’s championship game of the 2K Sports Classic, where they will take on Texas (#15). Syracuse, who will face Iowa (#24) in the consolation game (5:00 ET – ESPN2) trailed by 12 at the half and never threatened the Bears the rest of the way. California got a measure of revenge, though, as the Orange beat the Bears in last year’s Maui Invitational on the way to that event’s championship. Jim Boeheim’s Orange saw their hot streak in these type of early tournaments come to a halt, after winning five such events in a row over a six-year period. The last time Syracuse came up short was back in the 2007 NIT Tipoff, also held at the same New York venue, where they settled for third place.
  4. Paradise Jam: This afternoon, Clemson (#91) will kick off the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands with a matchup (1:30 ET) against Gardner-Webb (#191). Here’s a look at the bracket for this event, and it’s clearly not full of top-notch programs compared to many of the other early tournaments. Still, if Clemson were to win this tournament — the championship game is Monday night (9:00 – CBS Sports Network) — beating Seton Hall (#75) and LSU (#77) along the way, it would be a slight boost to the Tigers’ resume and the ACC’s conference RPI. Of course, the opposite is true as well. With a bad home loss to Winthrop (#188) already on its ledger, Clemson can ill afford to drop another game to an opponent outside of the top 100.
  5. Coaches vs. Cancer Classic: Coming off its Champions Classic victory over Michigan State on Tuesday, Duke (#2) is in Brooklyn tonight (9:30 ET – TruTv) to take on Temple (#109) in the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Former Blue Devils player and assistant coach Johnny Dawkins leads Stanford (#52) against UNLV (#98) in the other semifinal game. As a player, Dawkins is widely regarded as the most important recruit in Mike Krzyzewski’s illustrious career in Durham, and later he spent 11 years as an assistant coach at his alma mater. If the two meet on Saturday night (Finals: 9:30 ET – TruTv), it would be the first time Dawkins would get to match coaching wits with his mentor. Now in his seventh year at Stanford, Dawkins needs another solid season to stay off the hot seat. He finally got his team to the NCAA Tournament last March, when the Cardinal upset Kansas before losing to Dayton in the Sweet Sixteen.
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ACC M5: 11.19.14 Edition

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 19th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse.com: It is well-known that the Syracuse basketball and football programs have been under NCAA scrutiny for a while now. Other than eligibility concerns surrounding Fab Melo, though, there hasn’t been much information about what the alleged transgressions were. Recent news of a link between a YMCA in Oneida and Orange athletes has brought to light some of the other issues the school is contending with. Questions are being asked about internship programs that athletes supposedly completed at the Y, administered by graduate students. Additionally, a former supervisor at this YMCA was sued for siphoning money from the organization into a private account. That supervisor, Jeff Cornish, had no previous ties to Syracuse but has been seen with former stars Carmelo Anthony and Hakim Warrick, among others, at various times over past years. If nothing else, this helps to clarify some of what Syracuse is experiencing, and the possible issue with the internships draws some resemblance to the paper classes scandal at North Carolina, although on a much smaller scale.
  2. ESPN: Angel Rodriguez‘s name was everywhere in the past 24 hours, thanks to the game-winning three pointer he nailed that ended Florida’s 33-game home winning streak. Miami is largely dependent on Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, both transfers, to make this a much-improved Hurricanes team. Rodriguez’s heroics led ESPN.com‘s Myron Medcalf to delve into whether transfers like those two are a good thing for college hoops. Medcalf notes that some players transfer, even multiple times, for purely selfish reasons, but said that he regarded Rodriguez and N.C. State’s Trevor Lacey as examples of players who had good reasons to move on to a new school. Clearly some of the best transfer talent in college basketball can be found in the ACC this season.
  3. Fayetteville Observer: One of the key takeaways from N.C. State’s win over Hofstra on Monday night was the offensive production of Lennard Freeman. The Wolfpack’s frontcourt was always going to be a focal point this year due to its relative youth, and, so far, early results are mixed. Kyle Washington and BeeJay Anya, the two frontcourt players most projected to make the biggest impact, performed poorly in that contest. If Freeman can have more nights like he did against Hofstra (nine points, 13 rebounds) it would go a long way towards helping head coach Mark Gottfried develop the impact frontcourt he’s desires. Overall, though, all three of his big men need to play integral roles each and every night for the Wolfpack to have a successful season.
  4. The Courier-Journal: In short, Montrezl Harrell is a beast. His 30-point, seven-rebound performance in Louisville‘s opener over Minnesota was jaw-dropping not so much because of his production but how he produced it. Harrell, always a monster around the rim, displayed a newfound ability to hit jump shots from deep (3-of-4 from three-point range) that he did not have last season. As Gary Parrish from CBSSports.com noted, “Suddenly, it appears this physical specimen and unique athlete is now also capable of scoring 20-feet from the basket. That, I think, makes him nearly impossible to guard…” Harrell’s opening-night salvo earned him the ACC Player of the Week award and placed him atop the first Player of the Year rankings from ESPN.com, CBSSports.com, and CollegeSportsMadness.com. Oh, and he followed that great game up with 15/7 in game number two against Jacksonville State.
  5. Richmond Times-Dispatch: As noted before here on RTC, there are low expectations for Virginia Tech this season. When a win over Maryland-Eastern Shore in the season opener is a relief, it really hits home from a reality perspective. As the author writes, the standout from that game was freshman Justin Bibbs. Bibbs’ 15 points and two assists were a welcome sight for Hokies fans unsure of what all of these newcomers would mean for the team this year (four true freshmen played in the team’s opener). Devin Wilson was really the only sure thing on the roster returning, but if the Hokies have some under-the-radar talent among their newcomers, perhaps Buzz Williams’ reclamation project in Blacksburg won’t take as long as most thought. Bibbs certainly gave everyone a reason to get excited over the weekend.
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Hurricane Angel: Rodriguez Buys a Big Resume Win

Posted by Matt Patton on November 18th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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ACC Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2014

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

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

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

Miscellaneous Power Rankings Notes:

  • Coach K reloadsDuke was the top choice again this year with another one-and-done big man, but the Blue Devils weren’t the unanimous pick. Virginia and Louisville both got a first place vote.
  • Clear Contenders: North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia (in some order) rounded out everyone’s top four, marking a distinct upper tier in the conference.
  • Media/Microsite solidarity: For the second season in a row, no teams differed from the preseason media poll by more than two spots.
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ACC M5: 11.12.14 Edition

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

morning5_ACC

  1. A Dime Back: This UConn fan site executed a classic troll on the Huskies’ old Big East rival, Syracuse, by buying the domain http://syracuse.nyc/ and flaunting Connecticut’s success in the Big Apple at the Orange. Of course, the irony of this story is that if UConn considers itself the champ of New York it will soon have to give up that belt due to inactivity. The Huskies don’t have a single game this season scheduled in the Big Apple while the Orange will play twice in Madison Square Garden in November as part of the 2K Classic. Syracuse will ultimately get the last laugh when the ACC starts playing its ACC Tournament in Brooklyn in 2017 while Connecticut, left behind in the last major conference realignment, travels to less prestigious campus sites/cities for the American Athletic Conference’s postseason tourney. Good job, good effort.
  2. CBSSports: Virginia will be without two of its key returnees when the Cavaliers tip off the season on Friday night at James Madison. The school announced one-game suspensions for starting point guard London Perrantes and reserve forward Evan Nolte for violating team rules over the summer. This hasn’t been the best start to the season for the sophomore Perrantes, who, after a preseason injury delayed his availability to practice, now finds himself sitting out for a game. Both players are supposed to return to action for Virginia’s home game with Norfolk State on Sunday.
  3. Boston College Exhibition: On November 6, Boston College played its only preseason exhibition game, defeating American International, 92-53, in Conte Forum. Graduate student transfer Aaron Brown led the Eagles in the scoring column with 21 points. Brown comes to Boston College from Southern Miss, where he averaged 9.9 points per game and shot 39 percent from three-point distance as a junior. Perhaps he can be the versatile and athletic wing player that was noticeably absent from the program under the watch of former coach Steve Donahue. Boston College kicks off the 2014-15 season for real on Friday when it hosts New Hampshire.
  4. Miami Exhibition: Jim Larranaga’s Hurricanes trailed at halftime before rallying to beat Eckerd, 74-58, at the BankUnited Center last Thursday. This was the only preseason contest for Miami before it hosts Howard in the season’s official opener on Friday. Sophomore guard Manu Lecomte was the lone returning player from last year to see minutes, as eight Hurricanes made their public debut. The most impressive was former Texas wing Sheldon McClellan, who led the team’s scoring with 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting from both the field and the foul line. His fellow Big 12 transfer, former Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez, also shined with six assists and five steals. Of course, Larranaga excels at putting together different pieces in a productive manner, so don’t underestimate this team just because it hasn’t played together much at all before this preseason.
  5. Georgia Tech Exhibition: Last Saturday at McCamish Pavilion, Georgia Tech topped Clayton State, 74-41, in this preseason’s lone exhibition contest for the Yellow Jackets. Tech used its size advantage to dominate the boards (+32 total rebounds) but did nothing to dispel the concern we expressed in our team preview related to poor free throw shooting of the incoming transfer big men — Charles Mitchell and Demarco Cox combined to go 2-of-10 from the stripe. Brian Gregory’s team hosts a good Georgia squad in Friday’s regular season opener, and a win against such high-major competition would be huge for the embattled Georgia Tech coach as he begins a crucial season in Atlanta.
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Back and Forth: Eight Memorable Exhibition Upsets

Posted by Judson Harten on November 4th, 2014

Each week, RTC columnist Judson Harten will profile some of the week’s biggest upcoming games by taking a look back at some relevant history relating to the match-ups. This is Back And Forth.

Exhibitions are a tease, really. College basketball fans wait with great anticipation for the first practices of the season, sure, but what they really want are games. Live game action… that’s what counts. Exhibitions don’t really provide the same juice. But as we wait for games that count to get started, two things are almost certain:

  1. Your team is “coming along well” this season, per every team’s coach.
  2. Exhibition games are all we have to go on until the season actually tips off in about 10 days.
Even the great Jim Boeheim isn't immune to the curious upset from time-to-time. (Getty)

Even the great Jim Boeheim isn’t immune to the curious upset from time to time. (Getty)

Most of the time, the games aren’t even close. The completely outmatched D-II/D-III/NAIA team that took the big paycheck to come get its whoopin’ is just a preseason sacrificial lamb for most of the elite programs. Sometimes the games are a bit closer than anticipated because it obvious that the coaching staff wants to test some new wrinkles in their game plan — strategies, lineups, etc. Rarely do these teams suffer losses, but they do pop up from time to time. This week Back And Forth takes a look at some of the few exhibition upsets in recent years, and what, if anything, they meant for the season ahead.

1. November 3, 2009: LeMoyne 82, #25 Syracuse 79

THE SKINNY: When I set out to find some of the better exhibition upsets of recent years, this was the first one that I found in the search engines and websites I checked. Christopher Johnson’s three-pointer with 8.3 seconds left pushed the Division II Dolphins past the Orange. A newly-eligible Wes Johnson – in his lone season playing for coach Jim Boeheim – finished with a game-high 34 points in the loss. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Preview: Miami’s Burning Question

Posted by Matt Patton on October 30th, 2014

How quickly can Jim Larranaga rebuild at the ACC level?

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

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

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

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

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ACC M5: 10.27.14 Edition

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

morning5_ACC

  1. ESPN: North Carolina played an exhibition game Friday night — a 111-58 rout over Fayetteville State — but the headline continues to be all the fallout from the Wainstein Report released last week. In the postgame press conference, Roy Williams made his first public comments since the release of the damaging report. An emotional Williams acknowledged the pain he’s felt over the scandal at his beloved school, but his comment that “I feel strongly, strongly that we did things the right way” makes you wonder who the “we” is, exactly. As for the game itself, a peek at the box score reveals that Justin Jackson continues to impress, leading the team with 18 points in 22 minutes of action, including a 3-of-4 performance from three-point land.
  2. Durham Herald Sun: Saturday night Duke held it’s annual “Countdown to Craziness” event, and freshman center Jahlil Okafor stole the show during the scrimmage, scoring 27 points and grabbing eight boards in 24 minutes. The drinking word of the article is definitely “dominant” and its other forms – dominates and domination – that are used to describe Mike Krzyzewski’s latest Chicago prodigy. The scarier thing is that, according to the Duke coach, Marshall Plumlee did a pretty good job defending Okafor. Perhaps that is just coachspeak for trying to keep up the confidence level of a reserve, but expect most opponents to have their hands full with a Duke post player for one of the few times in recent memory.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: Wake Forest‘s latest recruit has a familiar last name to Deacons fans. Current assistant coach and legendary Deacon player Randolph Childress’ son Brandon has pledged to join the program in two seasons. Danny Manning now has three commitments in the Class of 2015 and hopes that Childress, his first commitment from the current junior class, is just the start of great things. Not only is Wake getting a good player and the good legacy feeling of bringing in a legend’s son, Manning also hopes to now improve the Deacs’ position with a certain teammate of young Childress at Wesleyan Christian Academy in nearby High Point.
  4. Louisville Courier-Journal: It appears that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is happy with the progress being made by his young center Mangok Mathiang. The wiry sophomore appears to be following a similar career path of former center Gorgui Dieng, a key member on the Cardinals’ 2013 National Championship team. Like Mathiang, Dieng came to school as an unknown and was expected to take a long time to become a high-level college player, but he became a poster child for Pitino’s well-respected player development system, and ready for the NBA after only three years in the program. While no one is saying Mathiang will progress at the same rate, he certainly has a great role model to follow.
  5. Hurricanes Sports: This is a very good read on Miami‘s new point guard Angel Rodriguez. It tracks his path from his native Puerto Rico to Miami for high school, Manhattan, Kansas, to play for Kansas State, and finally back to Miami as a transfer. It seems that Rodriguez has made the best of his redshirt year, immersing himself into practice. Jim Larranaga is counting on the junior point guard to be the prime leader for the young Hurricanes even though he’s yet to play a game yet in a Hurricanes uniform.
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What’s on the Mind of the 15 ACC Programs Right Now

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 17th, 2014

With the start of the ACC college basketball season rapidly approaching, allow us to put on our psychoanalyst’s hat to determine what’s on the mind of each of its 15 member programs right now. Some are of the optimistic variety, while others are fearful at what they see lying ahead. All of them, though, are hoping to contribute to discussions lauding the ACC as the nation’s preeminent college basketball conference this year. Let’s jump into each program alphabetically.

  • Boston College: Blind optimism. The reality is that the Eagles, even with an all-ACC caliber star in Olivier Hanlan, are likely one of the three worst teams in the conference. But there’s a new coach around in Jim Christian, and thanks to the usual roster turnover, few remaining pieces to recall the 8-24 debacle of a year ago. Buying in to a new coach and system may not be a problem, but production on the court will continue to be.
  • Clemson: Loss. That loss is a huge one, in the departure of NBA draft pick K.J. McDaniels, who was their best player on both sides of the ball last year and led the team in four statistical categories. A 10-win improvement from the year before earned Brad Brownell a six-year contract extension, but how will this team score enough to win even if it replicates its defensive success of a year ago?
Jim Christian's hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC's fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

Jim Christian hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC’s fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

  • Duke: Motivation. Not just because of a stellar recruiting class that includes their first dominant center in some time in Jahlil Okafor and the overall potential to be in the mix for a championship. There’s also the internal motivation for Quinn Cook to keep a hold on the starting point guard role in light of the arrival of stud freshman Tyus Jones, and Rasheed Sulaimon’s motivation to show that an early-season slump last year (temporarily earning him a place in Coach K’s doghouse) was an aberration. Oh, and that first round NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer could light a fire of some sort, too.

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2013-14 ACC Season Review – Part II

Posted by Brad Jenkins on April 10th, 2014

Now that the 2013-14 season is all over, let’s take a look back at how each ACC team performed. We will do so in three parts, dividing the league into groups of five teams based on ACC Tournament seeding. For each school, we’ll compare its actual season results with preseason expectations, and point out the surprises in each case — both the pleasant and unpleasant. Finally, we will take a quick peak at the short- and long-term prospects for each program. In Part II today, we’ll look at the middle-of-the-pack, teams that finished #6 through #10 in the league standings. This includes the team that overachieved the most compared to expectations, and one that was disappointing in its last season in the league.

6) Clemson (23-13, 10-8 ACC) – NIT (L: Semi-Finals)

Clemson is Off to Surprising ACC Start Led by K.J. McDaniels. (Photo: Ken Ruinard)

If Clemson’s K.J. McDaniels returns next year, the Tigers may contend for an upper level ACC finish.
(Photo: Ken Ruinard)

Clemson came in to this season with low expectations, picked to finish #14 in the ACC media’s preseason poll. But led by all-ACC first teamer K.J. McDaniels, the Tigers’ came within a whisker of making the NCAA Tournament. Only an extremely weak non-conference schedule tarnished their resume. Of course when Brad Brownell set that schedule up, he was probably more concerned with building a young team’s confidence heading into a stronger ACC with the additions of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame.

  • They were who we thought they were. During his four years at Clemson, Brownell’s squads have been much better defensively than offensively. This year was a perfect example with the Tigers finishing fifth in the league in defensive efficiency and #13 in offensive efficiency.
  • We didn’t see this coming. In his junior year, McDaniels exploded into a star on both ends of the court. He accomplished the rare feat of dramatically improving his offensive efficiency (ORtg – 111.4) while also increasing his usage (28.6%). As a sophomore, those numbers were 102.4 and 23.0, respectively. In addition, McDaniels was voted the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
  • What the future holds. If McDaniels returns for his senior year, the Tigers will return basically intact and be expected to compete for a high finish in the ACC. If McDaniels enters the NBA Draft instead, Clemson will have even a harder time scoring than they usually do. For long-term success, Clemson must recruit more talented offensive players. It will also be interesting to see if Brownell will look to toughen up that non-conference slate next year. Perhaps McDaniels’ decision will impact that too.

7-Tied) N.C. State (22-14, 9-9 ACC) – NCAA (L: 2nd Round)

As often happens with Mark Gottfried teams, N.C. State played better than expected after losing five of their top six players from the prior year. Of course, that one returnee, T.J. Warren, turned out to be pretty darn good. Actually, Warren had a tremendous season and carried the Wolfpack all the way to a surprising NCAA Tournament bid. After a First Four win over Xavier in Dayton, N.C. State was looking good against #5 seed St. Louis before a monumental collapse brought the Wolfpack’s season to a screeching halt.

  • They were who we thought they were. With a team as young as this year’s Wolfpack, ups and downs were going to be expected. That was reflected in some extreme performances. N.C. State lost six home games during the season, but posted four ACC road wins and also beat a good Tennessee squad in Knoxville. Sometimes, the inconsistent play showed up within the span of a single game, such as blown late leads at Syracuse, versus North Carolina at home, and of course against St. Louis. 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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