Set Your TiVo: 01.25.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 25th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are no Top 25 matchups or truly ‘great’ games on tonight’s schedule, but it is another packed Wednesday of important conference battles so there will be plenty of action worth monitoring.

Villanova at Louisville – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)

Peyton Siva Looks to Get Louisville Back on Track Tonight Against Another Top Point Guard (Getty Images/A. Lyons)

  • In what would have been billed as a big-time matchup at the beginning of the season, this game now features two unranked teams (Louisville is still #25 in one poll) with a combined 6-9 record in the Big East. But this will still be a fun game to watch, and the away team is playing its best basketball of the season. Nova has won two straight games and lost by only four points at Cincinnati in the game before, as Maalik Wayns has finally taken his game to the next level. His averages over the past three games are an insane 30.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. He’s also gone 30-33 from the free throw line in that stretch. He’s second in the conference in scoring (18.7 PPG) and leads the Big East in free throws made. Nova needs other players to be strong with the ball against Louisville’s high-pressure defense, as the Wildcats average a terrible 17 turnovers in conference games, worst in the Big East. If Jay Wright’s team can take care of the ball and get to the rim instead of settling for outside shots, they have a chance in this game. Jayvaughn Pinkston will play a key role as an emerging threat (18 points, 11.5 rebounds in his last two) at the forward position that can attack the rim.
  • If Louisville wants to get back into consideration as a ranked team, they must win this game at home. The Cardinals continue to deal with injuries but have all of their key cogs healthy in this one, as leading-scorer Kyle Kuric (13.4 PPG) returned from an ankle injury to score 21 points against Pittsburgh in their last game. Louisville has the advantage on the wings with Kuric, Russ Smith (12.5 PPG), and Chris Smith (10.1 PPG) and they will try to swarm Villanova defensively, who only has one true ballhandler in its lineup. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng have tough matchups with Maalik Wayns and Mouphtaou Yarou, respectively, that are worth watching to see who has the edge on the perimeter and in the paint. Overall, Louisville’s depth and defensive pressure should prove too much for the Wildcats.
  • Louisville is a nine-point favorite at home in the KFC Yum! Center and cannot lose this game if it wants to be taken seriously in the Big East. The 10-10 Wildcats come in with some confidence and will look to play the role of spoiler as Wayns tries to prove he’s the best point guard in the conference. Expect the Cardinals to wear out Villlanova in the second half and come out with the win.

#8 Duke at Maryland- 9:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)

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Maryland Refuses To Feed The Post

Posted by KCarpenter on January 24th, 2012

Being a big man is tough. Your job is to set screens, battle for position, and when you get it, hopefully your guards will get you the ball so that you have a chance to score. Failing that, you can always hope to grab an offensive rebound from a missed shot for a putback. Good coaches of course get their big men to do more complicated things than that, but boiled down to the bare essentials: This is the life of a forward or center.

If you have a big man who is skilled on offense, you want him to get as many touches of the ball as possible to give him plenty of chances to score. In general, this is the easiest way to score in college basketball (provided you have a skilled offensive big man). For some reason, Maryland has decided to ignore this principle. The Terrapin forwards and centers take a good number of shots, but it’s mostly due to their own skill at getting offensive rebounds. Outside of that facet of the game, the Terrapin big men barely get a chance to score. At least, that’s what my eyes kept telling me after watching Maryland play against Temple and Florida State. So I decided to go to the numbers and check.

Poor Maryland Bigs

Sure enough, outside of super role-player Miles Plumlee, the main three Terps in the frontcourt rotation have fewer field goal attempts per game than any of the other talented rebounding forwards in the ACC once offensive rebounds per game are subtracted. This is odd, because though Maryland has the near-magical scoring power of Terrell Stoglin, this is a team that often has trouble on offense. While Sean Mosely is a very capable offensive player, Pe’Shon Howard and Nick Faust have not provided any kind of offensive efficiency from the guard position, posting offensive efficiency ratings of 80.0 and 83.9, respectively. That’s ugly. Meanwhile, touch-starved James Padgett, Ashton Pankey, and Alex Len are posting offensive efficiency ratings of 108.4, 113.4, and 96.5, respectively. Padgett and Pankey’s ratings are easily the second and third best on the team after Stoglin, and Len’s lower rating (caused by turnovers) hides the fact that he leads the team in true shooting percentage with an incredibly solid 63.0% mark.

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Night Line: Duke Looks Vulnerable Heading Into ACC Play

Posted by EJacoby on January 5th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Over the past month, Duke had won five straight games and quietly risen to #3 in the AP Poll and #2 in the RPI without skipping a beat. But home victories over the likes of Western Michigan and UNC Greensboro won’t make fans forget about the Devils’ embarrassing 22-point loss at Ohio State earlier in the year, and it would take a strong road performance to erase those memories. Wednesday night showed the Blue Devils get thoroughly outplayed by unranked Temple in downtown Philadelphia, confirming the suspicion that Mike Krzyzewski’s team could be vulnerable both defensively and on the road heading into conference play. Coach K will need to refine his rotation and strengthen his team’s defensive intensity if they want to realistically compete with North Carolina for another ACC title.

Duke Had Major Trouble Defending Temple on Wednesday Night (AP/T. Mihalek)

Perhaps no team played as difficult a non-conference schedule as Duke, which would suggest that they are well prepared for their old familiar foes when conference play begins this weekend. The Blue Devils played Michigan State, Ohio State, Belmont, Michigan, Kansas, Davidson, Tennessee, and Washington as part of one of the most challenging schedules in the country. But Wednesday’s game against Temple was just their second road game (although it was played on one of Villanova’s two home courts, not Temple’s), and they were dominated in both. At Ohio State on November 29, Duke allowed the Buckeyes to shoot 60% on two-pointers and 57% on threes, amounting to a horrendous 130.8 efficiency rating for the Buckeyes. On Wednesday night, Temple shot 58% on twos and 50% on threes for a 114.7 efficiency. Considering that Missouri’s 126.5 offensive efficiency is the best in the country, it goes without saying that Duke is allowing its opponents to score way too easily in hostile environments.

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Night Line: Duke Resembling Its 2010 Championship Team?

Posted by EJacoby on November 25th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

The Maui Invitational finals played to an instant classic last night, with Duke leaving the island as champions yet again. Coach K and the Blue Devils are now a perfect 15-0 in their five trips to Maui. Duke has won the first seven games of this season, and a team that nearly lost its season-opener at home to Belmont is starting to establish an identity. Upon further review, the 2011-’12 Blue Devils might just begin to resemble the 2009-’10 team that cut down the nets as NCAA Tournament champions. Just to be clear — no, this is not to say that Duke is the title favorite this season — teams like Ohio State, Kentucky, North Carolina, and UConn may be better built for long-term success. But the 2010 Blue Devils were a surprise champion, and this Duke team has a similar make-up.

Duke Doesn't Look Like a National Champ, But It Didn't in 2010 Either (Kemper Lesnik/B. Spurlock)

Duke started five upperclassmen (Smith, Scheyer, Singler, Thomas, Zoubek) in 2010 and turned to their bench for youth and energy. This year’s team starts four upperclassmen (Curry, Dawkins, Kelly, Mason Plumlee) and brings sophomore Tyler Thornton and freshman Quinn Cook off the bench, along with senior Miles Plumlee, to provide a spark. The biggest difference here is that freshman Austin Rivers is starting on the wing where the 2010 team had a junior leader, Kyle Singler, filling that role. But Rivers (14.4 PPG) is so far having a similar scoring impact on the game that Singler (17.7 PPG) did, and the rookie will no doubt continue to improve as the season goes along. While this year’s backcourt of Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins are not the big-name stars or volume scorers that Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer were, the two have seen tremendous improvements from last season and are playing at a very high level. This year’s team makes up for the small backcourt-scoring gap with Mason Plumlee’s offensive contributions down low. Plumlee averages 11.4 points per game so far, while no inside player averaged more than 5.6 PPG for the champions.

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ACC Game On: 11.22.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 22nd, 2011

ACC Game On will periodically review recent games involving ACC teams and take a look forward to key upcoming matchups.

It’s going to be a long season for Boston College. I thought that maybe the dismal performance against Holy Cross could be explained away by the absence of Patrick Heckmann, but I was wrong. Massachusetts has the makings of a very talented team, but make no mistake: Boston College is bad. There is no reason to be surprised, but there is also no reason to expect Boston College will not improve. The Eagles with a few exceptions are a team of freshmen. The difference between a freshman in November and a freshman in March can be huge, especially in terms of shooting. Just ask Harrison Barnes. This team shouldn’t go winless this year even though it might feel like it today.

North Carolina State, on the other hand looked excellent in a spectacular comeback against Texas. Richard Howell was neutralized by foul trouble but C.J. Leslie and a healthy Scott Wood came off the bench to deliver a much-needed scoring punch from the Wolfpack. Being able to win on a neutral court with your best big sitting on the bench seems like a pretty good omen  for a team with a challenging schedule over the next month.

Even Without Ryan Harrow, C.J. Leslie And Lorenzo Brown Have Started To Deliver On The Promise They Showed As Freshmen

Duke coasted to the finish after being challenged early on by a persistent Tennessee team that was ultimately simply over-matched. One thing to note early this season is the tight Blue Devils rotation. While Miles Plumlee came off the bench for some effective minutes and Tyler Thornton has been offering his customary amount of foul-happy pressure defense, the starters are seeing the bulk of the minutes so far. This line-up is far from solidified, but the reliance on the starters is something to keep an eye on.

Virginia beat Drake rather unimpressively and Jontel Evans was the least impressive of them all. He played 33 minutes and managed to log a stat line of one point, one assist, one steal, three turnovers, and three fouls. If he doesn’t improve, Virginia might need to shake up its starting line up.

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RTC Live Recap: #6 Duke 74, Michigan State 69

Posted by nvr1983 on November 16th, 2011

We aren’t going to go into some deep analysis of Mike Krzyzewski picking up win #903 of his career because we already did it and there are some pretty cool graphics about it online. Instead, we are going to focus on the actual game, which many people decided to gloss over last night.

Krzyzewski Had a Great Night, But His Team Still Needs Some Work

For Duke:

  1. They aren’t very good right now. This game was not as close as the final score indicates, but the lead that Duke had at one point — 20 points with 9:22 left — also does not indicate how well they played. For most of the game the Blue Devils looked lost against a Michigan State team that only returned two players (Keith Appling and Draymond Green) who played more than 20 minutes per game last season. The Blue Devils were bailed out by some phenomenal shooting from Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly, who combined for 40 points on just 18 field goal attempts, and some sloppy play by the Spartans, who had 21 turnovers.
  2. Austin Rivers is not ready for prime time. Every year we hear about some talented perimeter player who is a sure thing and will dominate college basketball from day one. To be fair to Rivers, he never had the expectations that Harrison Barnes had last year, but many people figured that the son of a former NBA star and “current” NBA head coach would be able to adjust to the college game and the pressures that come with it. We saw the first signs of weakness in his game during Duke’s trip to Dubai and China, but figured that he just needed to get used to his new teammates. We will not say he is a bust because as Barnes proved last season some players just take a little while to get going, but the line for Rivers last night — five points on 1-7 shooting, one rebound, one assist, one steal, two turnovers, four fouls, and a seat on the bench late in the game — are not comforting. Rivers will come around eventually, but for right now we don’t see him playing a major role in the rotation late in games.
  3. Duke has some big bodies on the inside. For all of their faults (and there are many) the Plumlees are big. They may drive some of their fans crazy, but they battle on the inside and as tonight showed they can even get chippy as they got physical with one of the more rough teams they will see all season. Ryan Kelly can also be a factor down low, but his real utility is battling a big man under the basket on the defensive end then taking him out to the perimeter on the offensive end. The reality is that the Plumlees need to play better if Duke is going to do Duke things like challenge for a Final Four appearance. At this point every Duke fan has to admit Miles is essentially a big body who will play physical, get rebounds and frequently get confused for his two younger brothers. Mason, on the other hand, has to do much more offensively. We are not expecting him to put up 25 points and 12 rebounds like he did against Marquette last season, but he should be a focal point of the Duke offense and should be able to create good looks for the perimeter players when he kicks the ball out.
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Set Your TiVo: Marathon of Hoops Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 15th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Twenty-four straight hours of college hoops is the dream scenario for those of us who are diehard fans of the sport.  Fortunately, it’s not a dream as ESPN brings back its Tip-Off Marathon for the fourth consecutive season.  Games got started at 12:01 AM EST this morning and go all the way till approximately 1:00 AM EST later tonight.  If you can’t sit in front of your TV for all twenty-four plus hours, then make sure you at least watch these four games.

Belmont @ #14 Memphis – 12:00 PM EST on ESPN HD (***)

Expectations are high for Memphis and Josh Pastner

  • Memphis brings high expectations into the 2011-12 season (Coaches Poll #9).  They return all five starters from last year’s team, several key reserves, and add McDonald’s All-American Adonis ThomasJosh Pastner has put together an incredible amount of talent that is going to get a stiff test in its first game of the season against an experienced Belmont team.  The Tigers need to greatly improve their turnover percentage (21.9% in 2010-11), three point shooting (32.9% in 2010-11), and defensive rebounding percentage (34.3% in 2010-11) in order to live up to those lofty expectations this season.  Pastner’s squad showed promise on the defensive end last year ranking 23rd and 25th in block percentage and steal percentage, respectively.  They need to maintain that defensive toughness while still trying to improve on the offensive end.
  • Belmont gave Duke all it could handle last Friday night in the opener at Cameron Indoor Stadium, losing 77-76.  Turnovers (17), missed threes (6-19), and the Blue Devils’ Mason Plumlee’s great work on the defensive glass (10 defensive rebounds) proved to be the difference.  Still, the Bruins showed excellent offensive balance in the loss with five players scoring in double figures.  Although the FedEx Forum is another difficult place to play, it’s a bit closer to home for Rick Byrd’s team and they have already experienced the ruckus of the Cameron Crazies.  Belmont needs to get off to a better start from the three-point line and limit turnovers to have a chance in this one.
  • This game will hinge on turnovers and second-chance points.  Belmont forced Duke to turn the ball over 19 times in the first game and ranked second in the nation last season in defensive turnover percentage.  As previously mentioned, Memphis turns the ball over a lot.  Memphis guard Joe Jackson in particular turned the ball over on 29.1% of his possessions last season.  Look for the Bruins to put all kinds of pressure on a still-young Tigers team to create easy baskets.  At the same time, Belmont relies heavily on second chance points.  The addition of the 6’7” Thomas to the Memphis lineup should certainly improve their defensive rebounding percentage.  If Thomas and the rest of the team can hit the glass hard in his first game, it will limit Belmont’s chances to pull an upset on the road.

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Belmont at Duke: An Upset Special?

Posted by KCarpenter on November 11th, 2011

Belmont is good. This is no secret. In years past, Duke opening it’s season by hosting Belmont wouldn’t be a big deal: just another ceremonial squashing of a mid-major to inaugurate the season. But this year, Belmont seems to be designed explicitly for the sole purpose of shocking the Blue Devils. Duke is a good team and Mike Krzyzewski didn’t become the legendary Coach K by overlooking opponents. Duke will be ready to deal with Belmont trying to leverage their strengths against Duke’s weaknesses. That said, what exactly are Belmont’s strengths?

Does Rick Byrd Have The Ingredients Needed To Cook Up An Upset?

The Bruins squad is deep. Last year, they played eleven men for more than ten minutes a game. None of their players averaged more than twenty-five minutes a game. This depth is a necessary part of the Bruin’s clever, but physically taxing, pressure defensive scheme. This team plays fast (though not faster than Duke did last season) and tries to force turnovers with tough man to man pressure and trapping schemes. Last year, the Bruins were fairly successful, forcing turnovers on a remarkable 27.5% of defensive possessions, good for second best in the entire nation. Kerron Johnson actually managed to lead the nation in steal percentage, taking away the ball on 6.3% of posessions. No one in the nation even really came that close to matching that per-possession mark. Combine that with an old-school protect the paint mentality and the Bruins managed to successfully limit opponents field goal percentage (though admittedly at the expense of fouling a lot). Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency statistics rated the Bruins as the twenty-third best defense in the country, which is not too shabby. With the relatively inexperienced Duke backcourt, it seems very possible that Belmont should be able to have some success in forcing turnovers.

On offense, the Bruins could take down Goliath with the same tactic that countless mid-majors use: shooting a ton of threes. Belmont, last year, has no problem leaning on the three: 42.3% of all of the Bruins field goals came from behind the arc. Only seventeen schools in Division I shot more from three. Not only does the team take a lot of threes, but they make a lot. As a team, they made 37.8% of their three-point attempts, 33rd best in the nation. Surprisingly, the team rated even better on two-pointers, making 52.2%, the 19th best in the nation. While many teams pick their spots when they shoot threes, going to the long ball relatively sparingly, Belmont moves in the opposite direction, picking their spots on inside shots and only shooting high percentage shots created from keen ball movement. While the Bruins will certainly miss senior Jordan Campbell and his insane 45.8% three-point shooting, Belmont is well-positioned to maintain last year’s highly successful attack.

The irony of Belmont’s strengths is that they play into areas that are usually Duke’s strengths. The recent hallmarks of a Blue Devil team are an experienced back court that can apply excellent perimeter pressure and rarely turns the ball over on offense. With this year’s personnel, it’s unclear if Duke will be able to match previous year’s marks in this era. Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, and Austin Rivers are all skilled players, but their ability to play effective perimeter defense is largely unproven. In this year’s exhibitions, Duke had a hard time stopping dribble penetration and often found it’s guards getting beat by opponents. While Curry and Dawkins had relatively low turnover rates this year, it’s unclear if they will be able to maintain these rates when both players will be handling the ball more an expected to create their own shots.

Still, despite Belmont’s seeming match-up advantages, Duke still has what might be an effective trump card: size. Ryan Kelly, Miles Plumlee, and Mason Plumlee are big guys that are (usually) talented interior defenders. While Belmont goes inside less than most teams, it’s still an important part of their offensive game plan. If their is one statistic that bodes well for the Blue Devils, it’s that last year Belmont got blocked on 13.0% of all their offensive possessions, the third worst mark in all of college basketball. Mason Plumlee and Kelly both shared a real flair for blocking shots last year and if they get the chance, they have the potential to make things really miserable for Belmont whenever they look to score inside.

Still, it’s easy to see that Belmont has all of the pieces to pull off an upset. Will they? It’s the home opener for Duke. The home opener in a surely loud and rocking Cameron Indoor. If Belmont managed to catch Duke somewhat off-guard, maybe in the middle of the season or after another tough opponent, I’d like their chances better. I don’t think they pull it off tonight, but, at least on paper, the Bruins certainly look capable of shocking Duke.

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ACC Morning Five: 11.09.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 9th, 2011

  1. Washington Post: Mike Scott will be very important for Virginia, and in more ways than filling up the stat sheets. Sure his double-figure scoring and double-figure rebounding should help a middling offense and horrendous offensive rebounding squad improve in those areas this season. But more importantly, he’ll draw defenders and allow Joe Harris to move back to small forward. That’s fairly significant, as Harris (a 6’6″ sophomore) was forced to play the power forward spot despite being the team’s most consistent outside shooter last year. Scott should also keep defenses honest in the paint, which should allow an already very good perimeter shooting team more openings. Basically, Mike Scott is the only reason it’s not laughable for the media to rank Tony Bennett’s squad fourth in the conference, as the WaPo observes.
  2. Charlotte Observer: A hallmark of Mike Krzyzewski-coached teams is gritty, overplaying man-to-man defense that’s especially effective in keeping opponents from getting open perimeter looks. However, a quick glance at Duke‘s backcourt (Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Austin Rivers) doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The questions proved legitimate in Duke’s preseason scrimmage, as D-II Bellarmine managed to knock down eight outside buckets. Duke doesn’t have much time though, as Belmont made over nine threes a game last season (at a 38% clip). Oh, and the Bruins won 30 games last year and bring back nearly all of their talent. Do I hear a non-conference upset special brewing in Cameron Indoor this Friday?
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Speaking of Duke generalizations, Bret Strelow breaks down the importance of big men for the Blue Devils’ upcoming season. And if you look at the roster, it makes sense. How many teams have two athletic 6’10” players and a 6’11” guy who gets buckets? Not many. But Duke’s current frontcourt has had limited success so far, even if Miles Plumlee, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly all seem capable of breakout seasons. They’re also fighting against the stereotype that Duke big men struggle. Exhibition play tends to overrate frontcourts mightily (if you ask the above question about a D-II school, no matter what caliber, the answer will be an emphatic “no”), but the Plumlee brothers have looked especially good. To live up to its top-five potential Duke needs one of its forwards to have a star campaign.
  4. Charlotte Observer: Mark Gottfried didn’t hear a lot of compliments about his team when he first took the job. The trouble seems as much coach-related as talent-related, though — in a recent interview, Scott Wood “basically admits practice used to be ‘just throwing the ball out there and shooting it.’ Now practices have a lot more drills.” That’s the sort of culture Gottfried was facing when he moved to Raleigh. From player quotes such as these, it sounds like Gottfried has the team buying into his style; and if he wins there, players will keep buying it.
  5.  Richmond Times-Dispatch: Potential breakout candidate Erick Green may miss Virginia Tech‘s season opener against East Tennessee State with an “Achilles’ strain”. The Hokies have already lost JT Thompson to a season-ending injury, and definitely can’t afford to lose Green too. Green is expected to be the star, both on offense and defense, for Seth Greenberg’s team in its latest pursuit of an invitation to the Big Dance. Here’s to hoping the rash of preseason injuries doesn’t carry over into the regular season because it feels like there have been way more injuries than usual this year.

In honor of the opening of college basketball season, Sports Illustrated has a slideshow of college basketball previews going back as far as the early 1960s. The most interesting (with borderline-racist undertones) image is probably the 1967 cover calling for a 12-foot basket, but I’ll leave you with NC State legend David Thompson. Thompson led the 1972-73 Wolfpack to an undefeated season averaging nearly 25 points a game (ironically his least dominant statistical season).

NC State's David Thompson Led the Wolfpack to an Undefeated Season in 1973

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ACC Preseason All-Conference Teams

Posted by mpatton on November 8th, 2011

Now that our individual team previews are done, it’s time to look at individual players. With only five all-ACC selections from last season returning there are plenty of open spots to fill, so here are our Preseason all-ACC Teams for the 2011-12 season.

2011-12 Preseason All-ACC Teams

Looking at our projections, North Carolina, Miami and Duke lead the way with eight, six and five selections, respectively. No surprise with Harrison Barnes checking in as the consensus ACC Player of the Year, or Austin Rivers as the ACC Rookie of the Year (though Kellen wants to keep an eye on Maryland’s Nick Faust for the ROY award).

My personal honorable mentions are Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, Maryland’s Sean Mosley and NC State’s Richard Howell. I’m especially surprised Mosley didn’t show up on any of the teams, but his middling campaign last season probably did him in. Green appears to be in the right place to take over for departing Hokies Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, but he’s got a ways to go based on the Virginia Tech games I went to last season. Finally, Howell had a sneaky good season last year for the Wolfpack and could be a great frontcourt presence alongside CJ Leslie.

My biggest reach was putting Terrell Stoglin on the first team. He was a decent player last year (who averaged over 20 points per game pro-rated at 40 minutes), but he’ll really need to make some waves if he wants to crack the first team this season. Malcolm Grant and Kendall Marshall are the safer choices for that final guard spot. My reasoning is that Marshall will be hidden statistically behind Zeller and Barnes. In general, Roy Williams point guards are under-appreciated because they don’t put up sick numbers, but with Marshall the case is a little different. He’s a very polished player, but I see him as the perfect complimentary player. North Carolina wouldn’t be nearly as good as a team without him, but by himself he’s not spectacular. Thus, I voted him onto the second team in favor of Maryland’s ascendent sophomore.

On the second team Kellen and I differed on power forwards: he chose Mason Plumlee; I chose Travis McKie. Again for me the key was relative importance. Mason Plumlee may be more talented than McKie, but I’ll be shocked if he’s as important for Duke as McKie is for Wake Forest (and really I’m not sold that McKie isn’t more talented). Duke’s bigs are certainly going to be critical this year, but I think the mere fact that there are three of them (Mason, Miles and Ryan Kelly) will dilute each one’s share of the limelight. I did include Miles on my third team because reports from Durham laud him as Duke’s backbone.

However, both of our teams (mine especially) did a lot of projecting for this season. The only locks feel like Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott (and it’s conceivable Zeller falls to the second team depending on his role). Player and coach turnover left the ACC relatively unknown this season, but Friday players start earning their spots.

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ACC Morning Five: 11.07.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 7th, 2011

  1. Fox Sports Carolinas: Fox Sports‘ Andrew Jones offers a throwback list of the top ten players “capable of significantly enhancing their team’s fortunes.” I only call the list throwback because Jones ignores the two extreme geographic points of the ACC (Boston College and Miami) when constructing his list. In general I agree with all of his selections, though I possibly would’ve substituted Miles Plumlee for Ryan Kelly based on recent reports. For Boston College, I would’ve chosen Danny Rubin (the most productive of the Eagles’ only three returning players), and I would choose sophomore Rion Brown for Miami.
  2. Boston Globe: Speaking of Boston College, Patrick Heckmann is hoping to make an impact on the Eagles this year, coming by way of Germany. This Globe piece gives a little insight into the recruiting world for international prospects, and Heckmann is a frosh out of Germany with a pretty unique story. He’s also a 6’6″ slasher who will get plenty of playing time for a young team. The story offers an especially interesting look at Heckmann’s decision in choosing Boston College over playing for a club team in Germany.
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Looking for more lists? Bret Strelow and Sammy Batten compiled a pretty interesting list of superlatives for ACC basketball that will definitelybe good for starting debates. Sure, Milton Jennings is a great breakout candidate and Staats Battle definitely has the coolest name in the conference, but is Andre Dawkins really the most underrated dunker? He dunks almost rarely, which makes each time feel special, but we need to see more frequency in order to garner a superlative. Also, I wonder why they chose to ask a freshman (Wake Forest’s Travis McKie) about the toughest arena. For the record he chose Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum, though this coming year will be McKie’s first trip to the unfriendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
  4. TarHeelBlue.com: North Carolina and NBA legend James Worthy will be elected into the college hoops hall of fame alongside of Virginia’s Ralph Sampson. Worthy was the first overall pick of the 1982 NBA Draft, led the Tar Heels to Dean Smith’s first NCAA Championship that same year (scoring 28 points on 13-17 shooting in the championship game), and is already a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
  5. Searching For Billy Edelin and Fayetteville Observer: A couple of ACC previews and predictions with more “controversial” picks. For Nick Fasulo at Searching For Billy Edelin, the conference is down. Fasulo’s most interesting predictions come in his individual accolades, where he picked Jim Larranaga as Coach of the Year and Tyler Zeller as Player of the Year. Personally, I see Zeller as more of a complement (as he was at the end of last season), but “everything is in place for this guy. Assuming he stays healthy, there should be no [...] unexpected things to limit his production,” Fasulo tweeted. The Fayetteville Observer‘s contrary nature shows up in its projected finish: Unlike the media, the newspaper projects Virginia to finish eighth in the conference (NIT-bound), while Miami takes the fourth place spot and earns an eight-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Around the greater world of college sports, one of the most sickening alleged scandals in the history of college athletics came to light over the weekend. In a story that will turn your stomach, former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been accused of 40 crimes (21 felonies and 19 misdemeanors) involving eight sexual abuse victims who were minors at the time. The worst part is that the PSU athletic department reportedly knew about some of the crimes and never reported them to the proper authorities despite extensive discussions internally. While the article is tough to read, Sara Ganim of The Patriot News does a great job breaking down the details of the case. As of today, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave and Senior Vice President for business and finance Gary Schultz has stepped down (both have been accused of perjury), but I’d be surprised if the punishments end here based on the heinous nature of these allegations.

Picture of the Day:

Len Bias Posts Up Michael Jordan in 1984. (Manny Millan/SI) h/t SI Photo Blog

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RTC Conference Primers: #4 – Atlantic Coast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 3rd, 2011

Matt Patton of RTC’s ACC Microsite is the RTC correspondent for the ACC. You can find him on Twitter @rise_and_fire.

Reader’s Take I

The ACC looks like it has three tiers this year. The top: North Carolina, Duke and Florida State. The bottom: Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. And then there’s everyone else.

 

Top Storylines

  • Can North Carolina Win Its Third Ring in the Roy Williams Era?: By all counts, yes. And to this point I haven’t heard any “undefeated” nonsense from anywhere, which means people’s expectations aren’t totally out to lunch. There are several other very good teams this year. Last year’s Tar Heel team wasn’t unstoppable, even at the end of the season (they lost to a #4 seed, remember?); I don’t expect them to be unstoppable this year, either. But if you’re looking for the most complete team with the fewest unknowns, you won’t find it anywhere else in college basketball. My one peeve with the offseason coverage of this team is the idea that four of the five starters should be first team All-ACC (or even All-American). There are only so many possessions in a basketball game. Only so many players can be integral. Part of the intimidating nature of this team on paper is that no one player controls the team’s fate: On any given night, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller or John Henson are all candidates to blow up the scoreboard (though in Henson’s case, it’s usually keeping opponents off it). It’s the fact that the combination could be more than the sum of its parts that makes the Tar Heels a lock for preseason number one.

Another Season, Another Set of Huge Expectations in Chapel Hill

  • Will Florida State Challenge Tobacco Road And Make The ACC Interesting Again?: Yes. I was pretty low on Florida State for my summer update, but I’m currently very high on the Seminoles. Specifically, I think Bernard James is the best defender in the country (though John Henson is a significantly better rebounder), and Jeff Peterson will be able to find offense more effectively than Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen last season. Oh, and the Seminoles are also hungry after an ugly loss to VCU left them stranded in the Sweet Sixteen last year (and they then had to watch the Rams march on to the Final Four).
  • How Will This Year’s Batch Of New Coaches Fare?: I think Jim Larranaga will objectively perform the best, but I also think he has the most talent at his disposal. Against my better judgment, I’m warming up to this NC State team and Mark Gottfried’s leadership (at least for the first few years). As for Georgia Tech and Brian Gregory, yikes. There’s been a little recent buzz about the Yellow Jackets being better than people expect (which is a very low threshold), but I don’t see it. Gregory has an undermanned roster full of guys he didn’t recruit with nothing to speak of in the post, and he doesn’t have a dedicated home court. Not the combination for success. In College Park, Mark Turgeon should return Maryland to regular conference title contenders again once he reopens the pipeline to Washington, D.C., talent.
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