With Davidson Gone, Upstart Wofford is SoCon’s King of the Hill

Posted by Ray Curren on November 29th, 2014

Davidson has become synonymous with the Southern Conference over the last decade, and with good reason. Bob McKillop has built a mini mid-major power at the tiny, private, North Carolina liberal arts school, posting 13 straight winning records in the SoCon, most famously, of course, becoming a national name by going all the way to the Elite Eight in 2008, led by some kid named Stephen Curry. Whatever happened to that kid? Davidson used its success to parlay a move to the “greener” pastures of the Atlantic-10 before this season, but did you know the team that beat out Davidson for the SoCon’s NCAA bid in three of the last five seasons is still there? And that’s its coach has been on campus just as long as McKillop?

As noted by Forbes Magazine, Wofford coach Mike Young is one of the biggest bargains (salary wise) in Division I basketball. (Getty)

As noted by Forbes Magazine, Wofford coach Mike Young is one of the biggest bargains (salary wise) in Division I basketball. (Getty)

Mike Young came to then-Division II Wofford, another tiny, private liberal arts school in the Carolinas (Spartanburg, S.C.) in 1989 as an assistant and never left, spending 13 years as an assistant to Richard Johnson (who is currently athletics director at Wofford), before moving up to the head chair in 2002. It took a while — Wofford didn’t post a winning mark (overall or in the SoCon) until his seventh season — but the Terriers have now gone to the NCAA tournament three times in five years, and return a veteran team that was picked to make it four in six. With expectations come a little pressure for Wofford, but Young and his team have waited a long time for it, so it’s much better than the alternative. “I’ve been here 26 years now. It’s the most unique situation in the world. The only pressure I’ve ever felt is internal pressure,” Young said. “It’s an unbelievable situation because I have an opportunity to coach our team and do it the way I think the program should be run. That certainly gives you good peace of mind. There’s nothing wrong with a little expectation, I think it’s justified. I think it’s well earned. We have great depth.”

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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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ACC M5: 03.18.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 18th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Boston Globe: Great story from Bob Hohler on Boston College‘s worst sports scandal, which is being made into a 30 for 30 (which, assuming they got everyone to talk, could be awesome). Basically, mobsters — some of the ones who would later inspire the movie Goodfellas — decided that they could make money on the Eagles fading games. So they recruited three players (really coerced two after recruiting one) to help shave points in a few of their games. They weren’t really successful, but the story came to light when one of the mobsters was trying to make a deal with the feds a few years later. Fascinating stuff.
  2. ESPN: As had been rumored, James Johnson is gone at Virginia Tech. He certainly struggled during his two years in Blacksburg, but athletic director Jim Weaver put him in an almost impossible situation (especially for a coach with no previous head coaching experience). Gobbler Country does a good job running down why many of the team’s struggles weren’t his fault, but when it came down to it, new athletic director Whit Babcock decided Johnson wasn’t the man for the job. It’s not going to be easy to find a home run replacement, though (read: one better than Seth Greenberg).
  3. Bluefield Daily Telegraph: Speaking of replacements, you can check out some “when hell freezes over” possibilities elsewhere, but Brian Woodson nails at least one candidate who I think is closer to where the Hokies will end up (unless Babcock is ready to shell out some serious money). Woodson points to Mike Young, the current head coach at Wofford. That said, I think it’s really dangerous to mention Gregg Marshall’s name around any long-tenured coach at a small conference school (he’s definitely the exception, not the rule). Tim Thomas also does a good job throwing out a little higher-profile (but still mostly reasonable) possibilities for Jones’ replacement too.
  4. College Chalk Talk: Here’s some insight from Leonard Hamilton’s right hand man Stan Jones on five things Florida State looks to develop in players over their career. This reads a little like a speech from a coaching camp, but it’s still interesting to get a feel for the big picture goals that top programs have for their players. Also, I’m a big fan of starting off paragraphs with quotes. Jones shows a remarkable amount of breadth in his quoting, pulling everyone from Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst to George Bernard Shaw. Bravo.
  5. Engadget: Cool news as the ACC released an Apple TV channel dedicated solely to the league. I am on board with the idea that we’re moving to an a la carte television model where more people will use Apple TV or other streaming services to engage with content. Props to the conference for trying to be on the forefront of that shift with this move. Essentially, it sounds like the channel will offer similar things to the ACC Digital Network, but having it all in one place is great.
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Bracket Prep: Delaware, Manhattan, Wofford

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 11th, 2014

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As we move through Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. None of the bids handed out Monday night were easily earned, but Delaware, Manhattan and Wofford all ended up on the right side of close margins to punch their tickets to the Big Dance.  Here’s what you need to know about the most recent bid winners.

Delaware

Delaware Capped A Dominant Season In The Colonial With A Tournament Title. Welcome To The Field Of 68, Blue Hens.

Delaware Capped A Dominant Season In The Colonial With A Tournament Title. Welcome To The Field Of 68, Blue Hens.

  • Colonial Champion (25-9, 17-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #74/#107/#111
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +4.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #13

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. Another dangerous mid-major earned a Tournament bid on Monday night when Delaware eluded William and Mary to earn the Colonial’s auto-bid. The Blue Hens profile is heavily deficient in good wins – their most notable victory is a home conquest of Towson (Ken Pom rank of 130) – but take a closer look at their nine losses. Six of them came to top-100 teams, including a four point defeat at possible #1 seed Villanova, a two-point loss at Richmond, and a 12-point loss at Ohio State. Delaware has proven they can hang with some of the nation’s best teams, but can they finally put one in the win column next week?
  2. The Blue Hens are not especially stingy defensively, but they show little mercy on the other end of the floor. Coach Monte Ross’ team loves to get out and run (8th nationally in possessions/game), but at little expense to efficiency (55th nationally in offensive efficiency). Delaware is the only team in the country with three players averaging at least 18 PPG – Devon Saddler (19.8), Davon Usher (19.7), and Jarvis Threatt (18.1) – and all five starters average double figures. Delaware opponents will struggle to target any one Blue Hen in particular, but keep a special eye on Jarvis Threatt. The junior missed eight February games after being suspended for a violation of athletic department policies, but the Blue Hens were undefeated in the CAA when their floor general – and his eye-popping stat line (18.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.6 APG, 2.6 SPG) was in the lineup.
  3. That indifferent defensive effort (196th nationally in defensive efficiency) could prove problematic as Delaware seeks the first Tournament win in program history, but a lack of depth should also be a concern for Blue Hen believers. Few coaches used their bench less frequently than Ross did (17, to be exact) this season, which is an odd trait considering the up-tempo assault that Delaware prefers to employ. The margin for error will always be slim for the higher-seeds looking to craft the next great March upset, which means a bit of Blue Hen foul trouble could easily steer a well-intentioned upset bid off course. Read the rest of this entry »
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Season In Review: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by mlemaire on May 15th, 2013

If you are one of those glass half-full type of people, then you could easily point out that a season which saw Pittsburgh finish 24-9 and 12-6 in the Big East is a giant step forward from the year before when the Panthers went just 22-17 and 5-13 in the conference. But chances are that if you are a Pittsburgh basketball fan, you aren’t one of those glass half-full type of people and that is because all of Pitt’s regular season success has never translated into anything more than a single trip to the Elite Eight and a few Sweet Sixteen appearances. The Panthers were good enough to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, which likely saved coach Jamie Dixon from a wave of criticism this offseason, but it wasn’t exactly a triumphant return to the Big Dance. Advanced metrics loved the Panthers because of the team’s exceptional efficiency on both ends of the floor, but that didn’t stop them from shooting 35.1 percent from the field in a first-round clunker against Wichita State and departing from the NCAA Tournament in unceremonious fashion.

Preseason Expectations

Most pundits were cautiously bullish on the Panthers’ chances of rebounding from the 2011-12 debacle. Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson were both gone, but the team returned basically every other contributing player and also added Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler (15.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 46.1% FG as a sophomore with the Chippewas) and ballyhooed freshman center Steven Adams, a seven-footer from New Zealand who was universally considered an NBA talent. No one expected the Panthers to shock the world this season, but both the coaches and our writers had Pitt pegged as one of the top five teams in the conference, and during the regular season at least, they made us look smart.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

The Good

Despite the disappointing finish, there are plenty of team-wide positives Dixon can point to this offseason. For starters, the Panthers’ trademark defense returned with a flourish. After finishing outside the top 150 in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2011-12, the Panthers leaped all the way back into the top 20 in that category by creating turnovers and contesting shooters on every possession. The offense was even more efficient, finishing just outside the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks in large part to the team’s terrific offensive rebounding, taking care of the basketball, and insistence on scoring inside of 20 feet. Also, he very much looked the part of a freshman point guard at times this season, but James Robinson (6.1 PPG and 3.5 APG in just 26.6 MPG) is going to develop into an excellent floor general for Dixon as quickly as next season. Neither Woodall nor Lamar Patterson took their games to the next level, but they were still the only two consistent offensive threats on the roster. Even Adams (7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 57.7 FG%) proved himself to be an excellent prospect, although he didn’t exactly set the conference ablaze like so many had predicted.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.07.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 7th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Four automatic bids will be handed out this evening in places stretching from Connecticut to Las Vegas. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Colonial Championship (at Richmond, VA): VCU vs. Old Dominion — 7 pm on ESPN (****)

Old Dominion looks like a safe bet even if they lose but VCU more than likely has to win this game to make the NCAA Tournament. The Rams and Monarchs split the season series, each winning on the other’s home floor. This game will be all about pace and one team’s strong defense against the other’s potent offense. If Old Dominion can keep this game in the half court, they can let their stellar two point defense and rebounding take over. The Monarch’s are the best offensive rebounding team in the country while VCU ranks #303 in defensive rebounding percentage. Old Dominion also ranks highly in defensive rebounding, placing them among the best overall rebounding teams in the nation, led by Frank Hassell, averaging just under 15/10 on the season. Over his last eight games, Hassell has been even better, averaging 19/10 down the stretch. Not coincidentally, the Monarchs have won all eight of those games and 12 of their past 13. ODU is #9 in two point defense but allows 36.9% three point shooting, #298 in America. That has been the bugaboo for Blaine Taylor’s group and the Rams are one team that can really take advantage of that. Four out of ten VCU field goals attempted are threes and they shoot it at a pretty good clip, 35.6% this season. However, that percentage drops to 33.7% when you look at CAA games only. The Rams must create offense through their defense by forcing turnovers. That will offset part of the rebounding edge ODU is almost sure to have. An energetic and aggressive defense can help push the pace and take Old Dominion out of its rhythm. The Monarchs struggle to shoot and score, relying on their defense and rebounding to win games most of the time. Shaka Smart should use some zone from time to time in order to force Old Dominion to make jump shots, something they don’t do well. Rebounding out of a zone is always difficult (especially against the #1 offensive rebounding squad) but we feel it’s worth the risk. VCU shouldn’t spend all game in a zone but mixing it up defensively will greatly help their cause. Old Dominion gets 57.5% of its points from two point range but they have a few threats from deep, most notably Kent Bazemore. He’s arguably their best three point shooter and also a terrific defender, ranked eighth nationally in steal percentage.  The Rams shouldn’t have that much trouble answering Old Dominion from the arc considering they have a number of quality shooters, including Bradford Burgess (16/13 vs. George Mason yesterday), but they need to get some looks inside for Jamie Skeen. The Wake Forest transfer has had a terrific year in Richmond and is averaging 21.7 PPG over his last three. It’ll be tough to score against Old Dominion’s interior defense but Skeen should look to get to the free throw line where he’s a 73.7% shooter. VCU is a good free throw shooting team overall and they’ve made it to the line on 41.5% of their possessions in conference play. Foul trouble for Old Dominion would open up the interior a bit and allow the Rams to spread the floor easier. VCU had lost four of their last five games heading into the conference tournament but seems to have found new life just down the road from campus in Richmond. They’ll be slight underdogs tonight but this is anybody’s game. Old Dominion will likely win the rebounding battle but whoever controls the turnover margin and the tempo will likely win this game and clinch the automatic berth.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.15.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 15th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Monday begins an exciting week of hoops featuring a marathon of games and many big matchups later in the week. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Wofford @ Clemson – 7 pm (no TV, live stream on www.clemsontigers.com) (***)

After a loss to Minnesota on Friday, Wofford gets another crack at a road win against a major conference team. The Gophers were able to hold Terrier star Noah Dahlman in check, limiting him to 15 points. Clemson must do the same as they’re not as talented as Minnesota. The Tigers, under the direction of first year coach Brad Brownell, are coming off an 87-64 victory over Western Carolina in their season opener also on Friday. Clemson is going to pose a significant problem for Wofford in the frontcourt. Wofford has only three players 6’8 or taller on its roster and none of them played against Minnesota. By contrast, Clemson has four guys at least that height. All contributed on Friday, led by Devin Booker’s 16/7. Brownell’s big men scored 52% of their points, while Minnesota’s front line scored 70% (48 of 69) of their points against Wofford including 43 out of 48 in the paint or from the foul line. The Terriers did a nice job limiting Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen to a combined ten points but they got absolutely destroyed up front, including on the boards (41-29 in favor of Minnesota). Coach Mike Young needs a big performance out of his junkyard dog player Tim Johnson (10/13 vs. Minnesota) if the Terriers hope to get this win. The problem for Wofford is Johnson shot 37% from the line last year so if he’s fouled it’s essentially a turnover most of the time. A solid performance out of the Clemson backcourt, led by Demontez Stitt, will only make it much more difficult for Wofford to win. The Tigers lead the all-time series (50-16) between these upstate South Carolina rivals. For Young’s team to win, he’ll need to come up with some clever defensive strategies to counter the serious height disadvantage his team faces. While it’s possible he can do that, it is unlikely Wofford can win the game given the matchups. Ken Pomeroy gives Clemson an 88% chance to win and that’s about how we see it as well.

Miami (FL) @ #20 Memphis – 12 am on ESPN (***)

Josh Pastner is a Man Down But Will Be Ready Regardless

Josh Pastner’s heralded recruiting class lost a piece on Saturday as Jelan Kendrick was kicked off the team by Pastner and his staff. While it’s certainly unfortunate for the Tigers, Memphis fans know they still have a terrific class coming in led by Will Barton and company. Barton has received all the headlines it seems but it was his brother, Antonio Barton, who stepped up in his collegiate debut and led Memphis in a romp over Centenary on Friday. Antonio had 17 points, four assists and five steals in only 23 minutes of action. Chris Crawford also had a big game, hitting every shot he took from the floor for 16 points. Memphis shot 55% overall, including 52% from behind the arc in totaling 104 points. Even more encouraging were 25 assists on 33 made field goals. The bad news? The competition gets much tougher tonight as Frank Haith’s Miami Hurricanes visit FedEx Forum in the first game of ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops marathon. Miami finished last in the ACC last year but made a nice run in the conference tournament. They have one of the better backcourt tandems in the conference in Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, who combined for 43 points and ten assists in an opening win over Jacksonville on Friday. Grant has been around, giving a verbal to Seton Hall back in 2005 then reneging and signing with Villanova. Eventually he transferred to Miami where he seems to have found a home. It’ll be interesting to see these two go up against the deep and talented (but young) Memphis backcourt. Miami has some talent up front, too. Adrian Thomas, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble return for Haith. Johnson is an absolute brute in the paint. Standing 6’10 and checking in at 300 pounds, he somehow has the endurance to play a number of minutes (24 against Jacksonville) and still put up good numbers. These three combined for 35 points the other night and will be tough for Memphis to handle. That job falls to Will Coleman, Angel Garcia and freshman Tarik Black. We expect this to be a fairly high scoring game as both teams shot over 50% in their openers. Vegas pegs the Tigers as five and a half point favorites at home which seems a tad low given Memphis’ ranking and expectations. We do expect Miami to be in this game but Memphis is at home and should be able to take care of business.

St. John’s @ St. Mary’s – 2 am on ESPN (****)

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