Breaking Down ACC Weekend #4 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 25th, 2014

It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of January 22, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings.

Saturday: Florida State (13-5, 4-2 ACC) @ Duke (15-4, 4-2 ACC) – ESPN (12:00 PM)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#11) Duke 78-72 (#21) Florida State 

Jabari Parker Has Been More Aggressive Lately For Duke. (Photo: Ethan Hyman)

Jabari Parker Has Been More Aggressive Lately For Duke.
(Photo: Ethan Hyman)

This weekend’s kick-off game should be a great match-up between surging Duke and a Florida State team that has beaten every ACC team it has played not named Virginia. And don’t discount the Seminoles’ chances just because this game is at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Florida State already has two impressive road conference wins over Clemson and Miami, each by double figures. In a bit of a surprise, the Seminoles lead the ACC in three-point shooting (43.8%), with sophomore Devon Bookert leading the way with a league-leading 12-for-19 (63.2%). The Florida State defense is tough on opposing shooters and ranks #16 nationally in adjusted efficiency, but it has not been quite as stingy in league play. They will be facing a hot Duke team that remade its lineup, is using its bench more, and has had success with it — winning three straight. The Blue Devils got their first road win of the season on Wednesday over Miami and have averaged an outstanding 121.7 points per 100 possessions over the last three outings. Jabari Parker appears to be bouncing back from his mini-slump, averaging 20 points per game in the last two outings. As an indication of Parker’s aggressiveness lately, he shot 18 free throws in those two games after only attempting a total of 12 in his first four ACC games.

FSU-Duke

Stat Watch. Florida State has two glaring weaknesses: defensive rebounding and ball-handling. Even though Duke has been weak on the offensive boards for most of the year, they grabbed 15 of them against Miami. And in their last home game, the Devils forced N.C. State into 15 first half turnovers, so the key to the game will probably be how well Florida State takes care of the ball. If they can make the game depend on who shoots better, Florida State has the edge, with their defensive field goal shooting (38.3%) much stronger than Duke’s defense (45.3%).

Saturday – Pittsburgh (17-2, 5-1 ACC) @ Maryland (11-8, 3-3 ACC) – ESPN2 (6:00 PM)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Pittsburgh 73-65 (#66) Maryland

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Miami’s Jim Larranaga Uses a New Defense to Turn Things Around

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 22nd, 2014

It’s often said that the best way to measure a coach is to look at how his teams perform relative to its talent level. Miami head coach Jim Larranaga has always been well-regarded by using that method of evaluation, and not that anyone should be surprised, but Larranaga is doing it again with his 2013-14 Hurricanes. Back in October, the ACC media tabbed Miami as the 12th best team in the conference. After a shaky 5-5 start to the season, the Hurricanes have now won five of their last seven games, including a solid 2-2 league mark in that stretch. In fact, Miami now looks like it is well on its way to topping its preseason ranking, and the Hurricanes now also have legitimate hopes of reaching postseason play. Let’s take a closer look at how Larranaga has managed to turn things around.

Jim Larranaga is Using a Stingy Zone Defense and Slower Pace to Make Miami Very Competitive. (Photo: Steve Mitchell / USA TODAY Sports)

Jim Larranaga is Using a Stingy Zone Defense and Slower Pace to Make Miami Very Competitive.
(Photo: Steve Mitchell / USA TODAY Sports)

It was obvious that this was going to be a rebuilding year after losing five seniors along with ACC Player of the Year Shane Larkin from the greatest Hurricanes team ever. And we also knew that with only four returnees from the 2012-13 ACC champions, it would take them a while to figure out how all the pieces would best fit together. The first 10 games of the season got off to a rocky start with an overtime home loss to St. Francis (NY) and closed with another overtime home loss, this time to league bottom-feeder Virginia Tech. It was at that point when Larranaga decided to try a new defensive game plan in switching to a zone. As a coach who had primarily taught man-to-man defense during his long career, the 64-year old decided to call on a couple of his old coaching buddies for some help. Former Pittsburgh head coach Ralph Willard and Syracuse assistant Bernie Fine each spent a day teaching the details of playing a match-up zone to the Miami coaching staff.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Breaking Down ACC Weekend #3 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 17th, 2014

It’s the third weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. With every team except North Carolina having played at least four ACC games, we will now be using conference games only statistics along with team rankings in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of January 15, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Saturday – Pittsburgh (16-1, 4-0 ACC) @ Syracuse (17-0, 4-0 ACC) – ESPN (4:00 PM)

Syracuse's C.J. Fair and Pittsburgh's James Robinson Renew Their Rivalry in a New Conference. (Photo: bigstory.ap.org)

Syracuse’s C.J. Fair and Pittsburgh’s James Robinson Renew Their Rivalry in a New Conference.
(Photo: bigstory.ap.org)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Syracuse 66-61 (#8) Pittsburgh

Pitt-Syr2The best match-up of the weekend is ironically between these two ACC newcomers. Something has to give as Pittsburgh is leading the conference with 78.5 points per game in ACC play, while the Orange have the stingiest defense, allowing only 50.0 points per game. As he has all season, senior Lamar Patterson leads the way for the Panthers, averaging 20.0 PPG in ACC games. He will probably match up frequently with Syracuse’s All-America candidate C.J. Fair (17.1 PPG) in Pitt’s man-to-man defense. The battle at point guard may decide the game as Syracuse’s freshman sensation Tyler Ennis faces off with Pitt sophomore James Robinson. In conference games only, Ennis leads the league in assists (6.5 APG) and steals (3.0 SPG), while Robinson has the ACC’s best assist/turnover ratio (16/2).

Stat Watch. Pittsburgh leads the ACC by a huge margin in field goal percentage in conference games at 51.6 percent, while Syracuse is 10th at 40.9. Ball-handling will be important as these are the top two teams in the ACC in steals. It will also be interesting to see how many three-point shots Pittsburgh tries against the Orange zone, as they are last in the league in attempts, while Syracuse allows more than any other team.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 01.06.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 6th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Winston-Salem Journal and Raleigh News & Observer: In honor of Wake Forest‘s best win of the Jeff Bzdelik era, here are a couple of posts on the Demon Deacons. Dan Collins gives some context to the Wake Forest-North Carolina rivalry (and a good reminder of how awesome Randolph Childress was). Speaking of Childress, I can’t help thinking he’s played a role in Codi Miller-McIntyre‘s leap this season. He also should prove an asset recruiting, as he seems to have the charisma Bzdelik is missing.
  2. State of the U: Good catch-up with Miami assistant coach Michael Huger on where the Hurricanes are and where they need to improve in conference play. Huger pointed to the team’s need for a leader to step up, also saying “Davon Reed is trying to emerge as that guy.” The fact is this team has a ceiling because of its youth and its talent (though I–and Syracuse–underestimated them coming into conference play). But if Jim Larranaga and his staff can get this group to start gelling, this will be a strong core to build around going forward.
  3. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Bad news out of Atlanta as Robert Carter Jr. is sitting out indefinitely to undergo knee surgery. Brian Gregory noted the time table could be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on the severity of the tear. The news is a particularly big blow because Carter obviously worked hard in the off-season to improve his conditioning, which will suffer with an extended time away from the team. Carter’s absence will most affect the team’s proficiency on the boards and protecting the rim as his likely replacement Kammeon Holsey is a significantly worse shot-blocker.
  4. Charlottesville Daily Progress: North Carolina isn’t the ACC’s only puzzling team: Virginia is also a total enigma. The Cavaliers don’t have any really good wins (well, at least they didn’t until dismantling Florida State in Tallahassee), but they’re statistically solid (35-point beatdown to Tennessee notwithstanding). While I had no idea what to think of the Tar Heels coming into the season (or now), I felt positive that Virginia would be a contender in the ACC. The team’s non-conference schedule all but emptied its bandwagon, but the win against the Seminoles has me with one foot back in.
  5. Durham Herald-Sun and CBS Sports: Good story from Steve Wiseman on Andre Dawkins, who’s earned his spot in Duke’s rotation not just with his lights out three-point shooting but also an improved presence on the defensive end of the floor. Dawkins still isn’t a good defender, but his effort and execution are vastly improved over previous seasons. Also while on the subject of the Blue Devils, I think Coach K made the right call benching Jabari Parker. Yes, Parker was the best player on the floor, but he had been forcing things all night, and it’s important for him to understand when to take a step back. That said, in the future (especially more important games), I think Parker should stay in because he’s the best player on the floor and opposing teams will have to guard him as such.
Share this story

New Year’s Resolution For Power Conference Teams? No More Cupcakes – Conference Play Is Here

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 4th, 2014

With conference play arriving almost everywhere this weekend (it’s about time!), let’s take a peek at some of the major Saturday (and a few Sunday) games and storylines in college basketball’s seven major conferences.

Say What You Want About The AAC, But The New League Will Pose A New Challenge For Memphis: Real Tests In January And February. The First Of Those Examinations Comes Today Against Cincinnati.

Say What You Want About The AAC, But The Recently-Birthed League Will Pose A New Challenge For Memphis: Real Tests In January And February. The First Of Those Examinations Comes Today Against Cincinnati.

AAC. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first-ever weekend of American Athletic Conference basketball! OK, so maybe it isn’t that exciting, but an old Conference USA matchup does offer the league a headlining game on 2014’s first Saturday. Cincinnati visits Memphis (12:00 ET, ESPN2) in an early match-up of presumed upper-echelon AAC teams, but look elsewhere if you seek a battle of stylistic comrades; the deliberate, defensively stout Bearcats (286th nationally in tempo, eighth in defensive efficiency) will look to put the clamps on an explosive Memphis squad that rarely presses the pause button (39th nationally in tempo, 19th in offensive efficiency). UConn and SMU, both 0-1 in league play, offer an alternate viewing option (2:00 ET, ESPNU), and with a visit to Louisville coming next, Larry Brown’s SMU team would be well served to get a win Saturday to avoid staring down the barrel of an 0-3 league start.

ACC. Will there be life after Jerian Grant for Notre Dame? If yes, then a visit from Duke (4:00 ET, CBS) will offer the Irish the chance to provide a more convincing affirmation than they offered in their first game without Grant – a gut-check overtime victory over Canisius. Garrick Sherman should have a chance to exploit the smallish Duke interior, no matter what Doug Gottlieb thinks about his beard. Elsewhere, Pitt and Syracuse join Notre Dame in making their ACC debuts. The Panthers visit NC State (12:00 ET, ESPN3), while the Orange play host to Miami (2:00 ET, ESPN3). And if you like defense, two of the nation’s 10 most efficient defensive units are set to meet in Tallahassee; Virginia and Florida State (5:00 ET, ESPN2) will tussle in a race to 50 between ACC sleepers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Breaking Down ACC Weekend #1 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 3rd, 2014

It’s the first weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcome of the game. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of January 1, 2014. The games are presented in the order that they will be played this weekend (all times EST).

Saturday – Pittsburgh (12-1) @ N.C. State (10-3) – ACC Network (12:00 PM)

Jamie Dixon Has His Panthers Back to Playing Pittsburgh Basketball (US Presswire)

Jamie Dixon And Pittsburgh Kick Off the First Weekend of ACC Conference Play vs N.C. State in Raleigh (US Presswire)

  • Pittsburgh Offensive Efficiency – 114.1 (#24 in the NCAA)
  •         N.C. State Defensive Efficiency – 100.4 (#110)
  •         N.C. State Offensive Efficiency – 109.5 (#66)
  •         Pittsburgh Defensive Efficiency – 92.5 (#11)

What to Watch For: In its first ACC conference game ever, Pitt looks to have a strong edge on the offensive end of the court. In particular, look for the Panthers to try to exploit the Wolfpack on the boards. Pitt comes in 11th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, while N.C. State is 237th in defensive rebounding percentage. Another area to watch is the mismatch in free throw attempts. N.C. State ranks near the bottom of the NCAA in free throw attempts, while Pitt rarely fouls. In fact, the Panthers actually had a game earlier this year against Cal Poly in which Pitt did not commit a single first half foul.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Best Of 2013 In College Basketball

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 31st, 2013

With 2013 winding to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was in college basketball. There were too many memorable moments to recount ‘em all, but here’s our honor roll for the last calendar year — a list laced with games, plays, and performances that will long struggle to escape our memory banks.

Best Game: Michigan vs. Kansas, NCAA Tournament, Sweet Sixteen

Trey Burke's Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013's Prevailing Memories

Trey Burke’s Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013’s Prevailing Memories

Gonzaga-Butler may have given us the best final seconds of regulation (see below), and Louisville-Notre Dame definitely donated the most riveting 25 minutes of action after regulation, but when talking games of the year, Michigan vs. Kansas was simply unmatched when it came to elevated stakes and elite talent. We won’t soon forget Trey Burke’s comeback-capping, game-tying three to force overtime, but it would be a shame if that’s all that lived on from this classic. Sweet Sixteen match-ups between national title contenders don’t come around every March; would you have bet against Kansas to get to Championship Monday if Burke’s three hadn’t found the bottom of the net on that Friday night?

Honorable Mention: Gonzaga at Butler, Louisville at Notre Dame.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Playing Secret Santa With All 15 ACC Teams

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 24th, 2013

Let’s have some fun with a traditional office activity going into the Christmas Holiday. We’ll pretend each of this season’s ACC teams are in the drawing hat, and give our best advice to anyone picking out gifts for each, based on current needs. So here goes the list for each ACC team in alphabetical order.

presents

  • Boston College (4-8) – Probably the easiest team to shop for because they need so much. In fact anything defensively would be much appreciated. There isn’t one thing that the Eagles do well on the defensive end of the court, as proven by their current rank of #340 out of 351 teams in raw defensive efficiency. So they won’t be picky – they could use somebody to force turnovers, someone to grab a defensive rebound, or anyone who can make somebody on the other team miss a shot more than just occasionally.
  • Clemson (8-3) – The Tigers are all set on the defensive end but could use some help on offense. While better shooters are the obvious gift, a more meaningful option may be to find a way to get Clemson to the free throw line more often. They are wasting their 77 percent foul shooting average by ranking only #285 in the nation in free throw rate. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC M5: 12.11.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 11th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. The Dagger: Is it good to have the two most disappointing teams in college basketball? I mean, at least there were expectations for those teams coming into the season, right? Well that’s where Jeff Eisenberg has Boston College and Maryland, respectively. Here are some troubling stats: “In all but two of Boston College’s nine games this season, its opponent has scored 78 or more points and averaged more than 1.1 points per possession.” Yikes. Speaking of interestingly morbid statistics, Maryland owns a ridiculous 18 more turnovers than assists so far this season. That’s two more turnovers than assists per game, which gives some more context to the team’s poor offense so far.
  2. Fox Sports Carolinas: Lauren Brownlow’s weekly ACC roundup is full of more good (depressing) statistics to tell your friends. Apparently Virginia turned it over 14 times each in its two losses last week. Right now, miscues are the big issue in Charlottesville, as the Cavaliers currently rank #293 out of 351 teams in turnover percentage. Olivier Hanlan didn’t escape unscathed either, as Brownlow pointed out that he recently played his worst two games of the season. He didn’t quite pass the more shots than points barrier, but he came pretty close (his offensive ratings were 91.0 and 65.0 in the two losses). Long story short, there’s no dearth of mediocrity in the ACC so far this season.
  3. Testudo Times: Yes! GIF-filled ACC power rankings. In terms of ordering, I think Brendan Darr and I agree fairly well (other than he appears to value bad losses over close wins), but I’d probably rank Notre Dame a couple of spots lower. The other thing in seeing these rankings (with team records) indirectly points out is that Boston College fans would trade places with Wake Forest fans in a second. The odds of that being the case going into the season were astronomical, but the optimistic tone following Boston College’s strong showing at the ACC Tournament last season is now long gone. Meanwhile Jeff Bzdelik is fielding a team that just might be good enough for him to keep his job.
  4. ESPN: For all those who live and die by the “Roy Williams doesn’t adapt his system to his personnel” narrative, this season looks like one to ignore. It’s not that he’s stopped running or eschewed the secondary break; it’s just that this year’s team is making people pay on defense, where it’s only allowing opponents to shoot a little over 37 percent from the floor. That’s a full five percent below the team’s percentage from last season. Despite only having one reliable perimeter shooter, Williams is fielding a more than capable offense and an outstanding defense as far as Ken Pomeroy’s data goes.
  5. Duke Basketball Report: There have been a lot of overtimes this year, already matching last year’s eight overtime games all season. Strangely enough Virginia Tech and Miami are particularly fond of giving fans free basketball, as they’ve each finished tops (or tied) in overtime sessions in four of their nine years in the ACC (although they tied each other for two years). The reason for this phenomenon? Your guess is as good as mine, but I would guess it has more to do with bad teams playing slightly better than average than playing in multiple trap games (from the other side of the coin).
Share this story

Three Takeaways from Nebraska’s Win Over Miami

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on December 5th, 2013

Heading into the late set of games on Wednesday night, the B1G was down 5-4 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and had to win at least two out of the three remaining games to force a tie. Even though Nebraska was favored by 4.5 points at home against Miami (FL), few expected the Cornhuskers to dominate the game – which ultimately resulted in a 60-49 win that, given Michigan State’s upset loss, saved the conference’s fate. At the end of the day, Nebraska beat a team that’s only 5-3 on the young season, but it is an important win in the Tim Miles’ era. Expectations within the program, albeit still fairly low, need to be met in order for players to gain confidence heading into the conference season. The fact that the Cornhuskers showed that they belong against a team that is a potential mid-pack ACC team is a big deal for Miles and Nebraska basketball. This win won’t put the Huskers on the map, so to speak, but Miles and his squad are making small statements that they will compete on both ends of the floor, and especially at home.

The following are three takeaways from this game and what they mean for Nebraska going forward:

Tim Miles' Huskers make a solid statement by beating Miami at home. (Getty)

Tim Miles’ Huskers make a solid statement by beating Miami at home. (Getty)

  1. It doesn’t hurt to have four players on the court who can handle the ball. Almost every team in college hoops plays a three-guard lineup with a forward who is a “stretch four” and a true big man. But only a few teams have four guys who can handle the ball effectively in the half-court and Nebraska is one of them. Any of the Huskers’ three guards – Tai Webster, Deverell Biggs, and Ray Gallegos – can handle the ball and set up the offense. Terran Petteway at the forward position is just as comfortable moving the ball horizontally in the half-court. Miami played zone for most of last night’s game but Miles’ team was perfectly comfortable running its motion offense because they had at least four guys who could put the ball on the floor and penetrate the gaps. Consistent dribble penetration and kick-out passes forced the Hurricanes’ defense to fall apart, resulting in numerous mismatches. Playing four guards could hurt this team down the road in terms of rebounding, but it’ll keep the offense active and prevent them from getting into major scoring slumps. The offense also doesn’t appear to be too complex, which enables the players to focus on moving the ball around consistently and attacking the basket. A simple but active offense helps a young team gain some confidence against good competition. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Key Questions in the Wednesday Big Ten/ACC Challenge Late Games

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 4th, 2013

The first day of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is over with the ACC up 4-2. Now, we’re on to day two. With that in mind, Matt Patton and Lathan Wells from the ACC microsite and Jonathan Batuello and Brendan Brody from the B1G microsite got together to answer some key questions concerning this year’s Challenge. This post will preview the three late Wednesday night games, but be sure to read the earlier post previewing today’s early games. Also be sure to check out both microsites over the next few days for further reaction and analysis as the Challenge finishes up.

North Carolina at Michigan State, 9:00 PM, ESPN

Gary Harris and Michigan State are heavy favorites in the match-up against North Carolina (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Gary Harris and Michigan State are heavy favorites in the match-up against North Carolina (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

B1G: What was billed as one of the biggest games in the Challenge doesn’t appear like it will be close considering UNC’s early struggles. Still, it did beat Louisville so the potential for an upset is there. For UNC to win in East Lansing tonight, it has to find a way to guard Adreian Payne. Should the Tar Heels put Brice Johnson on him or go with a committee approach with the other bigs they have on the roster?

ACC: Payne’s ability to go outside probably precludes UNC from just putting one player on him. James Michael McAdoo may be the most versatile big man they have, but the Heels can’t afford for him to fall into foul trouble chasing Payne around all over the place. This will likely be a by-committee approach with Johnson, McAdoo and several other big men splitting duties throughout. For North Carolina, there’s no question that they have been most successful when Marcus Paige is scoring from all over the floor. How does Michigan State make sure that Paige doesn’t beat them, something a team such as the defending national champion was unable to do?

B1G: Paige has most definitely been on a roll to start the season, but aside from some flashes from James Michael McAdoo and Brice Johnson, he has proven to be UNC’s only real offensive weapon. Tom Izzo wouldn’t do anything as drastic as playing a box-and-one against him, but it makes sense to put Branden Dawson on him. He is Michigan State’s best defender and can defend four positions reasonably well. Another option would be to play Travis Trice more minutes on the floor at the same time as Keith Appling, with Appling handling the play-making duties and Trice concentrating more on the other end. Either way, defending Paige has to be priority number one for MSU. If Izzo focuses his defense on shutting down Paige, then Roy Williams will have to look to McAdoo. How can he be most effective offensively against Michigan State? Do they try to get him going down low or have him use his quickness on the wing?

ACC: McAdoo has been the biggest enigma on this team so far and it appears he’s struggling in bouncing between playing the three and four positions. The team will need to get him involved more often on the blocks, but it may come down to his aggressiveness and and restored confidence more so than any designed offensive schemes. He’s best when he can turn and face the basket or get out in transition; the latter would be helped by a solid rebounding effort from the Tar Heels. Michigan State doesn’t give many opportunities, though, as by most metrics it is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation.  But is there one player who would be tasked with taking over the game if the team unexpectedly goes cold from the floor for an extended stretch?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Reviewing the Performance of ACC Teams in Feast Week: Part II

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 3rd, 2013

Today we will review the final six early season tournaments involving ACC teams. To see the recap we did covering the first seven such events, click here. The ACC completed a successful Feast Week with two more championships giving the conference a total of five titles in 13 tournaments. This performance should give the ACC some momentum going into this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. With another good week, perhaps the conference will overcome the negative impact from some of those bad early non-conference losses.

Syracuse Wins EA Maui Invitational for the Third Time. (Photo: mauiinvitational.com)

Syracuse Wins the EA Maui Invitational for the Third Time.
(Photo: mauiinvitational.com)

Syracuse became the second ACC newcomer to win an early-season tournament by beating #18 Baylor 74-67 in the finals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational on Wednesday night. That followed wins over Minnesota, 75-67, and California, 92-81. Senior C.J. Fair was named the tournament MVP while averaging 18 points for the three games and tallying 24 in the finals. Also impressive was freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who scored 28 in the semifinals over Cal, and had an outstanding 18 to two assist-to-turnover ratio for the tournament. With the Orange’s third Maui championship along with Pittsburgh’s title in the Progressive Legends Classic, the new ACC schools are serving notice that they are ready to compete at the top of their new conference.

Duke did not fare as well in the other marquee Feast Week event, the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York’s Madison Square Garden. After beating Alabama 74-64 in Wednesday’s semifinals, the Blue Devils fell to #4 Arizona, 72-66, in Friday’s championship game. Coming into the week Duke’s defense had been struggling mightily and was the focus for improvement by Mike Kzyzewski. The Devils did look much better on that end of the court against good competition, but another glaring issue has not been resolved. Duke is still searching for production from its primary big man position – Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson combined for only two points in a total of 69 minutes over the two games.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story