ACC Preview: Duke’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 10th, 2015

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Can Mike Krzyzewski lead another freshmen-heavy team to the Final Four?

Talk about a tough act to follow. After a season that saw Mike Krzyzewski win his 1,000th career game and capture his fifth NCAA title at Duke, it’s hard to imagine a coach ever having a better year. More than that, after spending years and years as the most hated program in the sport, it seems that Duke has achieved a measure of “coolness” lately, especially in the recruiting world. Perhaps it’s a result of Coach K’s decade-long tenure as coach of the USA senior national team and the success of coaching NBA stars to gold medals. Maybe it’s the perception (and reality) that Krzyzewski has embraced the one-and-done era of college basketball. Either way, it’s interesting to see the Duke coach get praise for adapting to the new way of winning in college hoops, yet the inventor of the model, Kentucky’s John Calipari, has been regarded in a much more negative light (as a system manipulator) over the last six years. Each coach has now won a national championship with a starting lineup of mostly freshmen. There were productive veterans around to guide the young stars in both programs’ title runs, and the three main freshmen on both squads were unusually mature — mentally and physically. That’s why it would be unfair to expect Duke’s latest highly acclaimed group of newcomers to match the success of their predecessors. It’s just not ‘normal’ to do what Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow accomplished in their first year, just as it wasn’t for the 2012 Wildcats’ super-frosh — Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague.

Mike Krzyzewski hopes this year's vaunted freshmen class at Duke can approach last season's frosh accomplishments. (Jim Dedmon-USA Today Sports)

Mike Krzyzewski hopes this year’s vaunted freshmen class at Duke can approach the exploits of last season’s group of Blue Devil newcomers. (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for last year’s Blue Devils, especially on the defensive end. The low point of the year came when Duke suffered back-to-back double digit losses to unranked teams, N.C. State and Miami. They were so bad defensively at that point that Krzyzewski, in a desperate and out-of-character decision, implemented a zone defense that Duke would go on to use more often than ever before in the Coach K era. Eventually, the freshmen learned to execute the man-to-man principles that the great Blue Devils of the past were known for, and the result was one of the best defensive performances we’ve seen in recent NCAA tournaments — Duke’s six opponents only managed to score .93 points per possession, and four of those teams boasted top-21 offenses according to Ken Pomeroy. The experience of last year’s team reminds us of a couple of things when considering the future defensive prowess of this year’s squad. For one, don’t expect the Blue Devils’ freshmen to immediately grasp Duke’s man-to-man principles, which may result in another year of a decent diet of zone mixed in;. Secondly, the possible early struggles of the freshmen on the defensive end don’t mean that dramatic improvement over the course of the year can’t happen again.

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Quotes and Quips From ACC Operation Basketball

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 29th, 2015

The ACC’s annual Media Day, otherwise known as “ACC Operation Basketball,” took place in Charlotte on Wednesday. There was plenty of the normal coachspeak and playerspeak in effect, as every player at every school has apparently been “working hard,” and every newcomer is “very talented” and “learning fast.” Aside from all of that, there were several parts of yesterday’s press conferences that were very entertaining, so here is a list of some of the more interesting quotes and quips of the day.

No Pitino, No Problem. ACC Media Day Must Go On! (WDRB.com)

No Pitino, No Problem. ACC Media Day Must Go On! (WDRB.com)

Finding Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

We start with a few examples of putting a positive spin on a difficult situation… because what else can you do?

  • When discussing how his broken foot will affect Wake Forest, Codi Miller-McIntyre said it would help his team because of the experience that the younger guards will gain in his absence. He also said that his goal is to be back for the Demon Deacons’ trip to Maui in late November.
  • While talking about all of those close ACC losses suffered by Georgia Tech last season, Brian Gregory said, “We were able to compete. The next step is to be able to finish those games.”
  • And even though he has one of least experienced rosters in the country, Boston College head coach Jim Christian pointed out that his team has great experience at the two most crucial positions of center and point guard in fifth-year seniors Dennis Clifford and Eli Carter.

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Where 2015-16 Happens: Reason #19 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2015

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2015-16 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Friday, November 13. We’ve captured what we believe were the 30 most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#19 – Where #1K Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-14 and 2014-15 preseasons.

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ACC M5: Midnight Madness Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 23rd, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. Since only four ACC schools are hosting a preseason celebration that could be considered a Midnight Madness event, we need a fifth to truly make this an M5. So we begin with Louisville, a program that appears to have been conducting its own version of late-night ‘Madness’ in recent years, at least according to “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” co-authored by Katina Powell and Pulitzer Prize winner Dick Cady. The resulting scandal has become the preseason’s biggest story in college basketball and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Earlier this week, Powell was interviewed as part of an ESPN Outside The Lines episode, and she came across as a credible source in addition to what has been confirmed by other eyewitnesses, including former Louisville players and recruits. Rick Pitino claims to have no knowledge of any of these allegations and has called on former player and staff member, Andre McGee – the supposed organizer of the whole mess — to come forward and tell the truth. But many feel that the NCAA won’t be able to force McGee — currently on leave from his assistant coaching job with UMKC — to speak with them. While it’s true that current players and staff of NCAA member schools are obligated to speak with investigators, McGee, with little to gain by sharing, is likely to choose not to cooperate. He is of course not immune from talking with criminal investigators, so we may eventually found out what he knows via leaks and/or public records, but that doesn’t help the NCAA make any decisions about what do with Pitino and the Louisville program. All of which makes it hard to speculate on whether Pitino will ultimately survive as the Cardinals’ head coach.
  2. North Carolina will try to put aside worries about its own ongoing NCAA investigation with its annual “Late Night With Roy” celebration tonight at the Smith Center. The evening’s festivities will be hosted by former Tar Heels’ star Kenny Smith of TNT, and includes dance routines, comedy skits, and a team scrimmage as well as a special tribute to longtime “Late Night” host, Stuart Scott. UNC, recently named as co-#1 with Kentucky in the USA Today preseason coaches’ poll, will also be entertaining some top high school prospects. Recently Roy Williams has been struggling to recruit at the same level as other top national programs such as Duke, Kentucky and Kansas, so North Carolina fans hope a positive impression will be made on the players in attendance.
  3. Just down the road, Duke hosted its “Countdown to Craziness” last Saturday night in Cameron indoor Stadium. Among the highlights were the unveiling of the school’s fifth national championship banner and a team scrimmage that indicated that Duke’s defense is ahead of its offense at this stage of the preseason. As usual, the Blue Devils also used the event as a showcase for many high-level recruits from several different classes. In other Duke-related news, Mike Krzyzewski confirmed that next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be his last as head coach of the USA’s mens’ national team. That news alone is not surprising, but it does reignite the conversation of who will take over the job and whether that coach will come from the NBA.
  4. Last Friday night, Syracuse held its annual “Orange Madness” event in the Carrier Dome. Much like at North Carolina, Orange players, coaches and fans probably enjoyed getting away from some of the recent negativity surrounding their program and are looking forward to some closure to its situation. With all the recent publicity about the Louisville debacle and the continuing talk concerning North Carolina’s NCAA investigation, it’s easy to forget that Syracuse will be without Jim Boeheim for the first half of ACC play this season and will have to manage smaller rosters for a while. It says here, though, that Louisville patrons would still gladly swap places with Orange fans at the moment.
  5. The first ACC school to host a Midnight Madness event this season was Pittsburgh, with an event called #ZooAfterHours that was held in the Petersen Events Center on October 9. It looks like Jamie Dixon pulled a page out of the John Calipari playbook by featuring rap star and Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa as the main attraction. Dixon commented afterward that the night worked out as well as expected or maybe even better. He also was quoted as saying that the Panthers were ready to get back to “toughness, hard work and playing defense”after a disappointing 2014-15 season, and that “we plan to push the ball at every opportunity as we have good guards.” While the first part of that quote is appropriate for what has made the Pitt program successful in the Dixon era, we’ll believe the second part when we see it — the Panthers have been among the nation’s slowest-paced teams for many years.
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Reviewing Several ACC Offseason Storylines

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 19th, 2015

With the start of the college basketball season now fewer than four weeks away, it’s time to ramp up our preseason coverage here on the ACC microsite. Over the next few weeks we will preview the fortunes of all 15 ACC schools by asking and answering One Burning Question for each, projecting how each squad will fosters its strengths and mitigate its weaknesses this season. We will also be attending and reporting from ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte on October 28, which should provide a great number of interesting bits of information. But first, let’s tip off the relaunch of the microsite by getting caught up on several of the important offseason storylines that have emerged since Duke cut down the nets in Indianapolis last April.

Louisville Under Investigation

Rick Pitino clashes with in-state rival Kentucky and its coach, John Calipari yet again (AP).

Rick Pitino’s Louisville program is facing serious allegations (AP).

The latest offseason story is easily the biggest as well. In early October we learned about the upcoming release of a book called Breaking Cardinal Rules by someone named Katina Powell that contained serious allegations about the way Louisville has been entertaining its basketball recruits over the last several years (i.e., using paid escorts to dance and provide sex at on-campus parties on recruiting visits). Both the NCAA and the university have since launched investigations into the matter to determine all the facts. As of now, there’s a lot of hearsay in lieu of hard evidence, but it’s a bad look for Rick Pitino‘s program no matter how this all unfolds. As for the Cardinals’ head coach, he claims to have had no knowledge or any involvement in these allegations and can only speculate as to why it may have occurred under his watch. Ultimately, if the school’s internal investigation confirms any violations, it would probably be in its best interest to go the same route that Syracuse did a season ago. The Orange — some would argue while conveniently mired in a down season that wasn’t going anywhere in March — voluntarily chose to ban themselves from postseason play. Many expect Pitino’s upcoming Louisville team to find itself in a similar situation, struggling to put together a squad that is NCAA Tournament caliber.

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2014-15: ACC Year in Review

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on April 17th, 2015

The 2014-15 season will go down as one of the most successful campaigns in the ACC’s long and illustrious history. It was the kind of year that commissioner John Swofford must have envisioned when the conference completed its last round of expansion. It was also important for the league to have this kind of performance after an extremely disappointing run last season, its first as a giant 15- team group featuring some of the biggest names in the sport. Before we put a bow on the season, let’s take a quick look at how the season played out with a review of some of the highlights and lowlights.

Highlights

Notre Dame celebrates its first ever conference tournament championship. (Evan Pike/USA TODAY Sports)

Notre Dame celebrates its first ever conference tournament championship.
(Evan Pike/USA TODAY Sports)

Regular Season Excellence. The ACC began the year with four schools ranked in the preseason AP top 10 and the league maintained a strong presence at the top of the rankings all season long, finishing with five of the final poll’s top 17 teams. In addition to Duke’s fine year – which included Mike Krzyzewski’s 1,000th career win, Virginia was also a mainstay at the top of the rankings, getting off to a 19-0 start on the way to the Cavaliers’ second straight ACC regular season title. Perhaps the Cavaliers would have joined Duke in Indianapolis at the Final Four if not for an untimely late season injury to Justin Anderson. The ACC’s surprise team was clearly Notre Dame, as Mike Brey’s program won its first conference tournament in school history in only its second year as an ACC member. The Irish’s near-upset of undefeated Kentucky in the Elite Eight may have been the best game of the entire NCAA Tournament. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mike Krzyzewski Keeps Up With the Times (and Titles)

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on April 10th, 2015

With Monday night’s fifth career NCAA Championship, Mike Krzyzewski’s legacy took another long stride into the history books of the college game. In what he has called the most enjoyable season of his 40-year coaching career, Kryzyzewski showed his versatility as a head coach by leading Duke to the greatest of heights by utilizing a makeup unlike any of his previous champions. The 68-year old deserves all the credit he has received for his prolonged success, winning in three completely different eras of the sport by adapting to the standards of the times. His first two title teams (1991 & 1992) were won when programs could be built around long-term stars like Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill. When his 2001 team, led by Shane Battier, Jason Williams and Mike Dunleavy, Jr., won Krzyzewski’s third championship, the lure of the NBA had gutted much of the young talent from the college game. The last decade has brought the one-and-done rule to college basketball, and at least initially, Duke did not seem to be an interested party — Krzyzewski’s 2010 national champs featured five upperclassmen starters.

It was a year of milestones for Coach K - 1000th win and fifth national title. (AP Photo)

It was a year of milestones for Coach K — his 1,000th win and fifth national title.
(AP Photo)

Since that fourth national title, the Blue Devils had crashed and burned with their last two high-profile freshmen — Austin Rivers (2012) and Jabari Parker (2014) were unwilling participants in huge NCAA Tournament upsets of Duke by Lehigh and Mercer, respectively. Theirs were the reference points going into a campaign when Coach K welcomed the nation’s top recruiting class of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen by signaling that he was all-in with the modern recruiting strategy focusing on one-and-dones. Krzyzewski masterfully molded the young Blue Devils around an elite offense and a gradually improving defense all the way to another championship run.

We attended a private scrimmage session in Cameron Indoor Stadium back in October and shared our observations on what we witnessed here. While the freshmen’s raw talent was obvious, we came away from the practice session concerned with how the two Blue Devils’ veterans would handle the robust attention and acclaim that the newcomers were already getting. Quinn Cook was one of the players who didn’t play well that day, but he soon morphed into exactly what the Duke coaching staff wanted him to be — a big brother, supporter and go-to teammate for the four rookies. As a result of Cook’s deference, Krzyzewski called the senior “as good a leader as I’ve had in my 35 years at Duke.” Think about what that means from a guy who has coached the likes of Laettner, Ferry, Hurley, Battier and Dawkins. Rasheed Sulaimon, the other veteran who struggled in that October scrimmage, was ultimately kicked off the team, an event that seemed to bring the eight remaining players together down the stretch of the season. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Column of Enchantment: Offseason Blues, Man

Posted by Joseph Nardone on April 9th, 2015

That was fun. We got to experience college basketball in its best form during the NCAA Tournament. We had upsets, fun stories, and a slew of hyperbole (my personal favorite). The season even ended with the vampire known to the public as Coach K winning his fifth national title. It couldn’t have gone better, really. I mean that. The ratings were good; people used those ratings to blindly ignore glaring issues within the sport; and the world is a better place for it… or something — likely something, but whatever.

This man scoffs at your criticism. (AP)

This man scoffs at your criticism. (AP)

It is over, though. Sad days are upon us. Grab a box of tissues if you will, but (spoiler alert) the college basketball season is over. Dead. Murdered by the final buzzer going off in the championship game. The 2014-15 season is history. Ancient history if you hate Duke and just a rumor of a season that will join other urban legends if you are a Kentucky fan. Regardless, it is over and it isn’t coming back unless George Carlin shows up at your doorstep with a gosh slam phone booth (under 28 year-olds, Google it). If my mom taught me anything — well, anything other than knowing I am the greatest, ever — it is the past is in the past for a reason. It is time to move on. I mean, we gave the Duke fan base a full three days to relish in their victory. Time is up now. Seriously, Duke, what have you done for me lately? Not to mention that Coach K’s acceptance (all the sarcasm) of the one-and-done philosophy being used as a way to further elevate his standing is as laughable as it is to look in the mirror. What, just me?

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: Championship Edition, Part Two

Posted by Griffin Wong on April 8th, 2015

RTC_NCAA15

March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

Duke

Coach K Addressed the Home Fans on Tuesday in Durham (USA Today Images)

Coach K Addressed the Home Fans on Tuesday in Durham (USA Today Images)

  • Coach K had a response for Bo Ryan’s “rent-a-player” remark that the Wisconsin head coach made after his team’s loss to Duke on Monday. “Duke doesn’t rent a player,” Krzyzewski said. “We have one of the great schools in the world, and when we recruit a young man, we recruit a young man because of three things: One, he has the academic potential to do well at Duke; two, he has the talent to do well; and three, he has great character. All the guys on my team fit that description 100 percent.”
  • Duke‘s freshmen led the Blue Devils to this season’s National Title, but things may not be looking so bright in Durham next season if they all — particularly Tyus Jones, considering Duke’s lack of a point guard option behind him — head to the NBA.
  • Announced as a package deal when the duo committed to Duke as high school seniors, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones share a friendship that “goes beyond basketball.” After the final buzzer sounded on Monday night, the two were found embracing at half-court. “We told each other we loved each other,” Okafor said. “This is what we dreamed of.”
  • Jahlil Okafor may be the consensus All-American, but is teammate Justise Winslow the better NBA prospect?
  • Though Mike Krzyzewski is an old school coach, his ability to adapt was in large part responsible for Duke’s fifth National Championship. From starting three freshmen to playing zone defense to winning the finale without major contributions from Okafor or Winslow, this season was arguably the greatest coaching job of the Duke legend’s illustrious career.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin's Bo Ryan Has Gotten Progressively Closer to the Ring (USA Today Images)

Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan Has Gotten Progressively Closer to the Ring (USA Today Images)

  • Wisconsin will be expected to fall in the Big Ten pecking order next season but the Badgers may end up better than most expect. With the emergence of point guard Bronson Koenig, the Badgers actually look to be in “good hands.”
  • Though he was never expected to leave for the NBA, power forward Nigel Hayes officially confirmed that he will be back next season. “I’m nowhere near good enough to do anything else besides come back,” Hayes said.
  • Many are pressing Sam Dekker for a decision on whether he’ll turn pro this spring, but Dekker first wants to get the bad taste of Monday’s game out of his mouth. “I can’t really worry about it. I’m going to get home, cool down with the guys, do what I need to do, talk to who I need to talk to make an educated decision,” he said.
  • Frank Kaminsky‘s ride in college hoops is over, but the National Player of the Year has a new challenge on his hands with the NBA.
  • Lost among Kaminsky and Dekker’s excellent seasons was the equally outstanding play of senior Josh Gasser. Although he didn’t put up the same numbers as his counterparts, his defense and leadership will be sorely missed.
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Rushed Reactions: #1 Duke 68, #1 Wisconsin 63

Posted by Naveen Reddy on April 6th, 2015

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

Once again, Duke is on top of the college basketball world. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Once again, Duke is on top of the college basketball world. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  1. Who needs Kentucky? This isn’t meant to play down what the Wildcats accomplished, which was spectacular, but coming into the final there seemed to be a feeling that the story of the Final Four would be about Kentucky not going undefeated. It is hard to judge these type of things in the moment, but after tonight’s incredible final we doubt that will be the case. The overnight CBS ratings might argue otherwise in the morning, but we cannot imagine how this game could have been any better with the Wildcats in it. You can argue all you want about the historical significance of having an undefeated season on the line, but at the end of the day tonight would have been about a national championship game. What these two teams delivered tonight was the sport played at its highest level. Now if we could only find a way to fix this sport.
  2. Duke’s freshmen came up huge tonight just not the ones you expected. Most of the season the media lavished its praises on Jahlil Okafor and Justice Winslow, but it was a pair of freshmen who got them to the finish line. Okay, maybe we could have seen Tyus Jones doing this, but there is no way anybody could have foreseen Grayson Allen dominating stretches of a national title game. Plenty of people will point out that he was a McDonald’s All-American, but there are different forms of McDonald’s All-American–those that are going to be immediate stars and those that take a while to develop–and Allen was definitely the latter. Okafor (10 points) and Winslow (11 points and 9 rebounds) both contributed, but were limited by foul trouble. Instead Jones (23 points and 5 rebounds) and Allen (16 points in 21 minutes) led the way. Overall the freshmen scored 60 of the team’s 68 points including all 37 points in the second half.
  3. Wisconsin was a phenomenal team. Let’s be clear about one thing: Its win over Kentucky on Saturday night was no fluke. This was a phenomenal team that outside of two losses to Duke only lost two games all season (one a loss at Rutgers that we are going to write off as an aberration with Kaminsky out since we can’t comprehend it otherwise) and had an incredible run nearly being the first team to beat 16-8-4-2-1-1 seeds (the toughest possible route for a #1 seed) en route to a title. It was a remarkable team with Frank Kaminsky being absolutely deserving of his multiple player of the year awards and Sam Dekker finally putting together the complete game we all had been waiting for since he set foot on the Wisconsin campus.

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