ACC Weekend Preview: January 19

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 18th, 2019

This weekend is highlighted by a monster showdown in Durham, but there are some tricky road trips as well for teams near the top of the standings. Rush the Court ACC microsite writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) gets you ready for the weekend ahead in the ACC. (All rankings via KenPom)

Saturday, January 19

Roy Williams Needs His Freshmen to Produce (USA Today Images)

#10 North Carolina (13-4, 3-1) at #72 Miami (9-7, 1-3). Did we finally see the Nassir Little coming-out party? The stud freshman has been spent plenty of time on Roy Williams’ bench so far this season, but in the Tar Heels’ recent win over Notre Dame, Little scored 11 second-half points on 5-of-8 shooting along with six boards. Part of the equation for this North Carolina team being successful was Little becoming an immediate star. The Heels also need Coby White to get back on track. In the Tar Heels’ four ACC contests to date, White’s Offensive Rating is down eight points and his turnover percentage is up six points to nearly 24 percent. He’ll try to find his footing in Coral Gables as he matches up with Miami dynamo Chris Lykes, someone who is posting a 133.3 Offensive Rating and a 27.3 PER.

#32 NC State (14-3, 2-2) at #75 Notre Dame (11-6, 1-3). Oh, what a loss in Winston-Salem will do for an ACC team’s outlook. The Wolfpack were feeling pretty good about themselves in early ACC play after a successful non-conference campaign followed by a competitive home loss to North Carolina. Then Kevin Keatts‘ squad dropped the one game you cannot lose in the ACC this season. NC State three-point shooting, which was so strong through the first 13 games of the year (41.4%) has dropped to just 29.9 percent in ACC play. Given the way the Wolfpack plays, they are going to be in considerable trouble if they can’t start making more shots from long-distance. NC State heads to South Bend to take on a struggling Fighting Irish club. Even though it’s been a disappointing season for Mike Brey’s team so far, how about a little love for John Mooney? He is quietly putting up a monster season (30.2 PER, 130.6 ORtg), averaging a double-double and shooting nearly 46 percent from three-point range.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC Weekend Review: 01.14.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 14th, 2019

After a lackluster opening weekend, things were much crazier around the ACC this weekend. In the headline match-up in Tallahassee on Saturday, Duke survived Florida State, 80-78, on Cam Reddish’s last second three. Reddish (23 points) and fellow freshman RJ Barrett (32 points) picked up the slack when Zion Williamson missed the entire second half with an eye injury. The long Seminoles caused problems for the Blue Devils in the paint, blocking seven Blue Devils’ shots, winning the battle of the boards (+5) and out-dunking Duke by a 10-to-1 margin. League co-leader Virginia grabbed another impressive road win too, as the Cavaliers manhandled Clemson, 63-43. Two road underdogs also won with surprising ease as Louisville dominated North Carolina at the Smith Center, 83-62, and Georgia Tech pulled off a stunner at Syracuse, 73-59. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Steven Enoch outplayed Luke Maye as Louisville shocked North Carolina in the Smith Center on Saturday. (thecardinalconnect.com)
  • Best Win: Few gave Louisville a realistic chance to win in Chapel Hill on Saturday, much less blow the Tar Heels off their own floor. After all, the Cardinals had just lost to Pittsburgh while North Carolina was coming off an impressive road win over a ranked and fired-up NC State squad. However, Chris Mack’s unit came out smoking (seven first half 3-pointers) and North Carolina never put up much of a fight in the 21-point defeat. The most lopsided home loss of the Roy Williams era was also a huge boost to Louisville’s growing postseason resume. A major key to the victory was the Cardinals’ dominance in the paint. Connecticut transfer Steven Enoch finished with career highs in points (17) and rebounds (11), outplaying UNC star Luke Maye, who finished with just nine points on a cold (3-for-14) shooting day.
  • Worst Loss: Georgia Tech gave Syracuse a taste of its own medicine Saturday night in the Carrier Dome. Josh Pastner used a zone defense to befuddle the Orange’s offense and pull off a surprisingly easy upset. Syracuse was unable to penetrate the Yellow Jackets’ interior and struggled to make shots from deep (7-for-33), but Georgia Tech only launched 12 threes (hitting six) and shot 63.3 percent (19-of-30) on two-pointers. Jim Boeheim’s team now has three home defeats and is currently projected by KenPom to finish 9-9 in the league, well below its preseason expectations.
Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC Conversation: Pre-Conference Edition – Part 2

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24), Mick Mcdonald (@themickmcdonald) on January 4th, 2019

Rush the Court ACC microsite writers Brad JenkinsMatt Auerbach and Mick McDonald recently got together to chat about the ACC heading in to conference play. Here’s Part 2 of that conversation.

Justin Robinson has guided Virginia Tech into contender status in the ACC. (accsports.com)

Brad Jenkins: Can Florida State or Virginia Tech crack the top three in the ACC? They both look like solid clubs, but are they being overlooked?

Matt Auerbach: I like both teams, and they deserve to be ranked inside the top 10 nationally. But I don’t believe that either will elevate above the aforementioned three squads when the league plays out.

Mick McDonald: Both definitely could, although I like Buzz Williams’ club a bit more. They are lethal offensively with so many guys who can light it up, and they play really hard on the defensive end. Their schedule has been light so far, so I’m very much looking forward to some bigger opportunities coming up shortly. Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Justin Robinson can make an argument for best backcourt in the country and Kerry Blackshear is a match-up nightmare.

Matt Auerbach: Truthfully, there’s no denying both belong inside the top 10 based on merit, but I don’t view either as a legitimate threat to make a Final Four without some unusual breaks falling their way.

Mick McDonald: Agree with Matt. These two are rightful top 10 teams, but the ACC is just so loaded that could mean finishing fourth or fifth.

Matt Auerbach: If forced to choose one team over the other, I’d definitely lean towards the Hokies because of the backcourt. With a guy like Robinson surrounded by elite shooters, they can be impossible to stop if they get rolling.

Brad Jenkins: My only concern with the Hokies is that they are so reliant on great shooting. I’m just not sure how they can beat good teams on off shooting nights. I actually think Florida State may be better now that Phil Cofer is back in the lineup, but the Seminoles tend to not always progress very well through league play. Let’s move on to some surprise teams. Are NC State and Louisville legit?

Mick McDonald: I think NC State is legit in terms of a lock NCAA Tourney and potential second weekend team. Kevin Keatts is proving himself as one of the best young coaches in the country — that team looks like a nightmare to prepare for.

Matt Auerbach: Well, you saw the Pack in person, Brad, and your bird’s eye view confirmed what we had been seeing from afar. NC State is the real deal. Balanced, explosive, efficient and great chemistry makes for beautiful offensive basketball and that’s what Keatts’ team has going right now.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

NC State is Legit — and So is Markell Johnson

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 20th, 2018

N.C. State got its biggest win of the season on Wednesday night at PNC Arena, taking out #7 Auburn, 78-71. As our colleague Matt Auerbach pointed out yesterday, there has been a lot of early-season skepticism about the Wolfpack because of their weak overall schedule to date. Now, after handling the Tigers, look for Kevin Keatts‘ surprising young squad to crack the Top 25 rankings next week (assuming it handles USC-Upstate over the weekend).

Markell Johnson led NC State to its biggest win of the year over #7 Auburn (wralsportsfan.com)

NC State’s rise is in large part because Markell Johnson has quietly emerged as one of the nation’s best guards. Against Auburn, the 6’1″ junior exploded for 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting and was at his best when his team really needed him. A personal 10-2 run in the second half exhibited the value Johnson is giving his team at a regular occurrence. Against the four Power Six schools that NC State has faced, he is averaging 20.0 points and posting an outstanding effective field goal percentage of 71.4 percent. On the season, Johnson is making 50.0 percent of his threes and 72.7 percent of his two-point attempts. Additionally, he’s posting a superb assist to turnover ratio of 2.5-to-1. As Kevin Keatts said Wednesday night, “He [Johnson] is one of the best guards in the country when he stays aggressive.” Johnson’s game is blending nicely with his backcourt mate Braxton Beverly — the duo thoroughly outplayed Auburn’s highly regarded pair of Jared Harper and Bryce Brown. The side-by-side comparison shows that Johnson/Beverly combined for 42 points, 9-of-13 shooting from deep, and four turnovers; Harper and Brown, on the other hand, totaled just 14 points, made only 1-of-9 shots from distance, and committed 10 turnovers.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

ACC M5: 12.03.18 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 3rd, 2018

morning5_ACC

  1. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: After coming up just a little short at Iowa in last week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Pittsburgh struggled early in Friday’s annual City Game with cross-town rival Duquesne. But the Panthers eventually got it going and won going away, 74-53, in front of a crowd of 12,246. We mention the game’s attendance because it represents a 21 percent increase over last year’s meeting in the same event, furthering the notion that first-year head coach Jeff Capel is rebuilding the excitement level for his program in the Steel City. Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot noticed a difference with Capel in charge, saying, “[Former Pitt] Coach [Kevin] Stallings is a finesse guy who is a little more offensively oriented. This team is more like Duke [where Capel played and was an assistant coach].”
  2. Louisvile Courier-Journal: Louisville took another positive step in its own rebuilding process by winning at Seton Hall, 70-65, on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals showed during Feast Week that they were ready to compete with the big boys — dropping close games against Tennessee and Marquette in the NIT Season Tip-Off — before edging top-10 Michigan State in overtime last week. In adding a significant road win over a Big East club, Chris Mack‘s balanced attack — only Dwayne Sutton (12 points) reached double figures — has become the norm this year. Sophomore breakout player Jordan Nwora (17.7 PPG) leads the squad in scoring, but eight other Cardinals are averaging between 6.3 and 10.0 points per contest. Keep an eye on this team over the next month.
  3. USA Today: Three ACC schools took part in Saturday’s Miami Hoophall Invitational at AmericanAirlines Arena, although the sparse crowds suggest that the four games would have fit better in a local high school gym. Georgia Tech was the first squad to see action, ultimately blowing a 16-point second half lead in falling to St. John’s, 76-73. We are now in year three of the Josh Pastner era, and some clear patterns have emerged:  First, the Yellow Jackets will defend hard (they are currently 16th in national defensive efficiency); next, they will struggle to make shots from deep (30.7% 3FG this season). If their shooting holds, Georgia Tech will fail to make at least 33 percent of its three-pointers for the third straight season. Until Pastner can recruit some shooters into the program — and shouldn’t he have by now (?) — the Yellow Jackets’ limited offense will hold them back.
  4. Miami Sun-Sentinel: Georgia Tech wasn’t the only ACC team to blow a huge lead in the Hoophall Invitational. Home team Miami squandered a 15-point second half advantage in losing to Yale, 77-73, its third consecutive defeat. Head coach Jim Larranaga has noticed a fatal flaw in the Hurricanes’ defense this year — after Yale’s Miye Oni (29 points) torched his club, the Hurricanes’ coach noted, “We just don’t have a guy that can stop a guy like that.” Previously, Bethune-Cookman’s Malik Maitland (29 points) and Fresno State’s Braxton Huggins (28 points) found similar success against the Hurricanes’ defense. This raises the obvious question — if mid-major players are slicing up Miami, what will happen when the stars of the ACC get a crack at the Hurricanes?
  5. WRAL Sportsfan: The only victorious ACC school in Miami on Saturday was NC State, which pulled away late to top Vanderbilt, 80-65. Much like the Wolfpack’s game at Wisconsin earlier in the week — when the Badgers rallied to overtake them — NC State was in control for most of the way before being challenged in the second half. This time, Kevin Keatts’ team responded positively in what was only their second match-up with a team ranked in KenPom’s top 175. NC State forward Torin Dorn is quietly putting up impressive numbers in many areas. The 6’5″ senior is leading the team in scoring (16.6 PPG) and on the boards (7.6 RPG), while making 55.7 percent of his two-point tries and 50.0 percent of his three-point attempts. Additionally, Dorn has collected 14 steals and only committed nine turnovers in eight games this year.
Share this story

ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Tuesday Preview

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 27th, 2018

After Monday’s games, the 2018 Big Ten/ACC Challenge is tied with a pair of surprising results — Nebraska won at Clemson and Boston College outlasted Minnesota. ACC microsite writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) previews tonight’s heavy slate of action. (All rankings via KenPom as of Tuesday, November 26.)

Clemson Gave up a Home Game Last Night Against Nebraska (USA Today Images)

  • #16 Virginia Tech at #38 Penn State. Buzz Williams has another terrific offense brewing this season in Blacksburg. The Hokies currently rank seventh in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and are making 41.4 percent (26th nationally) of their shots from long distance. They’ve also gotten the start of a breakout season from sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker (29.8 PER, 60.6% eFG). Their hot shooting will be tested tonight by a Penn State defense that is allowing its opponents to make just 22.9 percent (fourth nationally) of their attempts from three-point range. While excellent on the perimeter, Virginia Tech lacks size and could be vulnerable to Nittany Lions forward Lamar Stevens (26.6 PER, 24.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG).
  • #95 Illinois at #52 Notre Dame. Mike Brey’s club currently ranks just 51st in offensive efficiency, which is an odd sight to see. The last time a Brey team finished outside the top 50 in that category was all the way back in 2004-05. Part of the struggles this season have laid at the feet of T.J. Gibbs, the expected star of this team who has shot just 32.4 percent from the field and 21.1 percent from three-point range. Notre Dame will need to make some shots tonight to get a win, as the Illini feature a talented young backcourt of sophomore Trent Frazier (17.6 PPG, 58.3% eFG) and freshman Ayo Dosunmu (14.5 PPG, 57.6% eFG).
  • #8 Michigan State at #58 Louisville. Hello, Jordan Nwora. It hasn’t taken long for the talented Cardinals’ sophomore to break out this season, already the team’s leading scorer (18.4 PPG) despite coming off the bench. Nwora (29.4 PER, 57.6% eFG) is not simply a scorer, however. He’s posting a 27.8 defensive rebounding percentage and his turnover percentage is much improved this season despite more usage. While Nwora is actively turning into an ACC star, the Cardinals still have issues on the defensive end. They’re allowing opponents to shoot 43.8 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from long distance. They’ll have a tough task scoring tonight against Michigan State (eighth in KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part III Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 21st, 2018

morning5_ACC

Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings. All times are Eastern.

  1. Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational: North Carolina (#3) heads to Sin City as part of a strong field in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. The Tar Heels will start off by facing Texas (#27) on Thanksgiving Day (FS1 – 7:30 PM), right after Michigan State (#12) and UCLA (#39) square off in the first game. If the Heels and Spartans both reach the finals on Friday evening (FOX – 6:30 PM), it would be the second consecutive year that Roy Williams and Tom Izzo fought for a Feast Week tourney title. In last year’s PK80 Invitational, Michigan State held North Carolina to its worst shooting performance in school history (24.6%), as Izzo finally bested a Williams-coached UNC team after seven previous losses. We’re betting that Luke Maye would love a shot at redemption against the Spartans — the Heels’ All-America candidate was held to eight points on 3-of-13 shooting in last year’s meeting.
  2. Wooden Legacy: Miami (#21) heads to southern California after opening the season with three relatively easy home wins without Dewan Hernandez, who is being held out with eligibility concerns. Even without his best big man in the lineup, Jim Larranaga’s team will be the Wooden Legacy tournament favorites. The Hurricanes will get underway against LaSalle (#192) on Thursday afternoon (ESPNU – 2:30 PM) and will face either Northwestern (#48) or Fresno State (#111) on Friday. The top two-rated schools on the other side of the bracket are Seton Hall (#57) and Utah (#71), so Miami could face a decent opponent if it gets to Sunday night’s championship game (ESPN2 – 10:30 PM). To sweep the competition here, the Hurricanes will need more consistent play from senior center Ebuka Izundu. After a career-best performance (22 points, 19 rebounds) against Stephen F. Austin, Izundu laid an egg (five points, four boards) in Miami’s last game versus Bethune-Cookman.
  3. AdvoCare Invitational: Just  two short weeks ago, defending national champ Villanova (#22) was regarded as the team to beat in this year’s event. But after getting smoked by Michigan and then falling to Furman last week at home, the Wildcats are reeling. Now Florida State (#8) enters the AdvoCare Invitational as the presumed favorite. The Seminoles will take on UAB (#163) in Thursday’s opening round (ESPNU – 9:30 PM) and will meet either LSU (#46) or College of Charleston (#107) on Friday. If Leonard Hamilton’s club makes it to the finals on Sunday (ESPN/ESPN2 at either 1:00 or 4:00 PM), it could see Oklahoma State (#62) there — the school that gave the 70-year-old Hamilton his first head coaching gig back in the late 1980s.
  4. Deep South Showcase: In each of his three years in Atlanta, Josh Pastner has elected to not participate in a traditional early season tournament, opting instead to have Georgia Tech (#81) play four pre-scheduled home games that are classified as an exempt event. This year’s version is called the Deep South Showcase and the Yellow Jackets have already played twice in it, besting Lamar (#251) and East Carolina (#275). Their remaining games will be played tonight against UT-Rio Grande Valley (#300) and on Friday versus Prairie View A&M (#272). Obviously none of these opponents will boost Georgia Tech’s non-conference schedule strength, but that will be offset by four road/neutral contests on the Yellow Jackets’ pre-conference slate against schools from Power Six leagues.
  5. Wolfpack ClassicNC State (#32) is going the same route as Georgia Tech this season, playing in an exempt event that features four pre-scheduled home games against weak competition. It’s surprising that Wolfpack second-year coach Kevin Keatts chose this plan over testing his club in a traditional tournament setting — a year ago, his team gained confidence by participating in the Battle 4 Atlantis and upsetting a highly-rated Arizona squad. In Wolfpack Classic games so far, NC State has dominated Maryland-Eastern Shore (#343), Maine (#335) and Saint Peter’s (#222). In the last match-up of the event, the Wolfpack will host Mercer (#210) on Saturday. This means that NC State will not have faced a top 200 team before it travels to Wisconsin next week as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. How prepared will they be?
Share this story

ACC M5: 11.12.18 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 12th, 2018

morning5_ACC

  1. Card Chronicle: As this article at Card Chronicle points out, Louisville fans may need to show some patience this year despite obvious excitement about the beginning of the Chris Mack era. Success in 2018-19 should be measured by progress on establishing standards for the kind of toughness that Mack’s teams exhibited at Xavier more than the Cardinals’ win-loss record and/or postseason status. To that end, expected starter Jordan Nwora came off the bench in Louisville’s opening tilt against Nicholls State because of poor practice performances leading up to the game. Transfer center Steven Enoch was impressive in his debut, however, posting 15 points, grabbing eight boards and going perfect from the foul line (9-of-9 FT).
  2. Miami Herald: Just prior to Friday’s opener against Lehigh, Miami announced that junior big man Dewan Hernandez was being held out because of eligibility concerns. It is possible — perhaps even probable — that Miami’s decision on Hernandez is related to last week’s announcement that the NCAA has been given the go-ahead from the federal government to start its own investigations into recruiting wrongdoing using FBI evidence. Hernandez’s name came up in the recent FBI trial as someone who convicted former Adidas runners wanted to bribe with cash payments. In Friday’s game, Chris Lykes showed he may be ready to take on a much larger role for the Hurricanes as a sophomore, notching a career-high 22 points in their 83-62 victory.
  3. News & Observer: Duke experienced a minor letdown in its trickier-than-expected 94-72 home win over Army on Sunday afternoon. After the game, head coach Mike Krzyzewski said his players let “significant noise” creep into their heads following last week’s blowout win over Kentucky, which affected the Blue Devils’ preparation. We also found it interesting that ESPN chose to broadcast this game on its primary network directly opposite the early afternoon NFL games. Doing so speaks to the interest and impact of Duke’s star-studded freshman class, especially social media superstar Zion Williamson. For anyone who thinks reversing the NBA’s one-and-done rule would be good for college basketball, would ESPN put Duke-Army on its flagship channel against the mighty NFL if Marques Bolden was the most heralded player on the floor?
  4. Tigernet.com: We knew Clemson would be led by its three returning senior starters this season — Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas — but the Tigers’ remaining supporting cast was unproven offensively. So far, however, Brad Brownell is getting excellent production from his other two starters, David Skara and Aamir Simms. A defensive specialist last year, Skara scored in double figures in each of the Tigers’ two easy wins last week, while Simms is making our colleague Mick McDonald look very smart for picking him to be an ACC breakout player this year. The sophomore forward is averaging 15.0 points per game while shooting 75.0 percent from the floor. Furthermore, after making only 14 threes last season, Simms has already sunk 5-of-6 attempts from distance so far this year.
  5. News & Observer: It appears that we may have our first in-season roster casualty in the ACC as freshman big man Ian Steere could be leaving NC State after playing in the Wolfpack’s opener. Kevin Keatts is known for playing only one big man on the floor and it must have become obvious to Steere that his minutes would be limited behind incoming transfers Wyatt Walker and D.J. Funderburk. Even looking ahead to next year, the Wolfpack will also welcome former Kentucky forward Sacha Killeya-Jones to its roster. On the court, however, it looks like Keatts is having no problems blending his newcomers into a dangerous unit, blowing out NC State’s first two opponents by an average of 48 points.
Share this story

ACC Conversation: Preseason Projections – Part 1

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 5th, 2018

Rush the Court’s ACC microsite writers Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24) and Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) recently got together to chat about the upcoming 2018-19 season and share their thoughts on all 15 ACC schools. Here’s Part 1 of that conversation.

Danny Manning needs his young stars to come through for Wake Forest to move up the ACC standings. (Walt Unks/Winston-Salem Journal)

  • Brad Jenkins: Happy New Year, gentlemen! Let’s start with a look at the projected bottom of the league. Matt, you did our preview piece on Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Can any of these teams surprise us and contend for an NCAA bid like the Yellow Jackets did two years ago?
  • Matt Auerbach: Great to be back, guys! The short answer to that, Brad, is no. I just can’t see it. The best-case scenario for the first two, particularly Pittsburgh, is that they are competitive and playing a more exciting brand of basketball than they have the last two years. Jeff Capel was a home run hire that will ultimately steer the Panthers back to relevance. Josh Pastner built up some equity with his run to the NIT finals two years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be much to be excited about in Atlanta. As for Wake, if Jaylen Hoard could have a Trae Young or Deandre Ayton type of impact, sure. While extremely talented, I think the odds of that occurring, however, are near nil, and the pressure will be mounting on Danny Manning if another disappointing season ensues.
  • Mick McDonald: Great point on Capel, Matt. Pitt basketball at least feels interesting again. They’ll be bad this year but I’ll be interested to see how guys like Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens begin their careers. I think they may actually be better than Georgia Tech. Pastner’s team looks rough.
  • Matt Auerbach: Without a doubt, of the three, I’d be least surprised if Pittsburgh won four or five games.
  • Mick McDonald: I know Manning keeps pulling good recruits but it feels like he needs to have a team make some noise sometime soon.
  • Brad Jenkins: I think there’s a chance for Capel to do something like what Pastner did in his first year in Atlanta based on the new energy he has in the Pitt program, but the ACC schedule rotation did him no favors — they have zero home games against the predicted bottom four in the league. Is Manning the ACC coach on the Hot Seat this year?
  • Mick McDonald: I guess, but given how his recruiting is going, I’d bet Manning gets at least one more year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Burning Questions, Part 3: Clemson, Miami & NC State

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 31st, 2018

As we head into another exciting ACC season, we will be reviewing the key question for each of the league’s 15 squads. Today Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) looks at the middle of the conference, with Clemson, Miami and NC State

Clemson Burning Question: After last year’s surprisingly successful season, can the Tigers repeat that performance?

Clemson returns one the nation’s top backcourts with seniors Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed. (TheClemsonInsider.com)

Last season was a breakout year for Brad Brownell’s program in many ways: a school-record 25 wins; a program-most 11 ACC victories; a top 20 finish in the AP poll; and, a trip to the Sweet Sixteen that included a resounding victory over fellow power conference upstart Auburn. With a veteran squad returning this season, Clemson is poised to build upon that success and perhaps even improve it. Last year the Tigers were consistently solid on both ends of the floor, using a three-guard lineup to shred opponents from the perimeter combined with a stifling defense (KenPom’s seventh-best nationally). Another key for the Tigers’ unprecedented success was that they finally learned how to win close games in league play. After a gut wrenching 2-9 performance in contests decided by fewer than seven points two years ago, the Tigers went 4-3 in such games last season.

Leading the charge this year will be one of the nation’s top backcourts, featuring two fifth-year seniors — Marcquise Reed (Second Team All-ACC, 15.8 PPG) and Shelton Mitchell (12.2 PPG, 3.6 APG). Also returning for his final campaign is Elijah Thomas (10.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.3 BPG), one of the best two-way big men in the league. We agree with fellow RTC-ACC writer Mick McDonald, who lists the Tigers’ 6’7″ sophomore Aamir Simms among his top breakout candidates in the ACC this year. A key for Brownell will be replacing the production of departed guard Gabe DeVoe — a dangerous three-point bomber, DeVoe helped spread the court, allowing Reed and Mitchell excellent driving angles. But even if Clemson’s offense slips a bit, its defense should be good enough to keep the Tigers in the upper half of the ACC with another trip to the Big Dance.

Miami Burning Question: Will the Hurricanes’ guard play be good enough?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story