Conference Tourney Primers: Southern

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 6th, 2015

We’re in the midst of Championship Fortnight, so let’s gear up for the continuing action by breaking down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way.

Southern Tournament

Dates: March 6-9

Site: U.S. Cellular Center (Asheville, NC)

socon

What to expect: Wofford has the conference’s best player – guard Karl Cochran – and lost just twice in league play, but watch out for Chattanooga. The Mocs exploited the Terriers’ lack of interior size in their first two meetings, including a 10-point road victory in February. If those two meet up in the title game, the regular season champs could have their hands full. Mercer is capable of emerging from the bottom half of the bracket and East Tennessee State can be dangerous if outside shots are falling (the Bucs attempt 25 three-pointers per game), but it’s hard to envision anyone besides Wofford or Chattanooga winning this event.

Favorite: Wofford. With Davidson no longer around, Wofford is in excellent position to reach its third NCAA Tournament since 2011 and establish itself as the conference’s premier program (if it hasn’t already). This year’s team – while undersized – locks down defensively and features good balance, with five players averaging between 7.7 and 15.0 points per game. In their upset victory at North Carolina State in December, the Terriers held the Wolfpack (a top-40 offense) to just 54 points on 0.90 points per possession.

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ACC M5: 03.04.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 4th, 2015

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  1. BC Interruption: I’m hoping we get the full breakdown of possibilities from Patrick Stevens later this week, but Brian Favat does a good job projecting the ACC Tournament bracket (along with a look at where things stood on Tuesday night). Virginia is locked into the top line and Duke has clinched a double-bye. Tuesday’s games are already set with Wake Forest, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech squaring off. The middle is a little more interesting, but where the drama will play out over the next four days is with the last team to get the coveted double-bye to Thursday. One of Notre Dame, North Carolina or Louisville will lose the double-bye and have to play on Wednesday. Currently the Fighting Irish are in the safest position, but they still have two games to play.
  2. Greenville News: A couple of weeks ago, Clemson trustees approved a $63.5 million renovation to Littlejohn Coliseum. It needed to happen, as the depths of the old arena are aging poorly. New and improved practice facilities and locker rooms are sure to be hits with recruits, and I’m sure Clemson hopes the reduced seating attracts more fans. Personally, Littlejohn is one of the diamonds in the rough in terms of collegiate atmosphere. Even with modest attendance, it is one of the louder arenas in the league. Hopefully these renovations don’t change that (or put the student section farther from the floor).
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: Danny Manning is setting examples in the hope that it will change the culture at Wake Forest. In the Deacs’ recent ugly game against Virginia, he sat the starters early in the second half. He didn’t offer much of an explanation other than “they weren’t doing anything,” but his other comments make it clear these maneuvers are about remaking the program. The Demon Deacons have a long way to go, of course, but assuming they have a couple more strong performances to finish out the year, they should crack the top-100 in Ken Pomeroy’s final rankings. That would best anything during Jeff Bzdelik’s tenure and Austin Johnson points out that the situation is analogous to what Mark Gottfried was able to do at NC State his first year (although with less talent on the roster than when he arrived in Raleigh).
  4. Backing the Pack: Stat nerds rejoice! Now there’s a little circular logic to the “total impact” stat (since Ken Pomeroy’s data is adjusted for strength of schedule, it should be built into the numbers already). I would probably have used Basketball Prospectus‘ raw numbers for team output and Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted numbers for opponent expectations, but that’s a trivial difference. What’s interesting is that Duke and Virginia are so close when John Gasaway’s conference efficiency ratings have them at such different levels. NC State also appears to be underperforming based on its record, so the Wolfpack might be a team to watch closely next week.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: We got a little more comment from the Duke athletic department on the Monday allegations from the Duke Chronicle. Athletic Director Kevin White emphasized that the Duke coaching staff satisfied their legal responsibilities and followed university protocol, implying that their information about the case was reported immediately to the proper administrators. That’s not the reading a lot of people took with the original article, so it was smart for White to come out and clarify that position (even if we won’t ever get a detailed timeline). This article won’t satisfy everyone, so here are a couple of alternatives:
    1. If you’re looking for a candidate for hot take of the year, look no further than Art Chansky’s piece on the situation at Chapleboro.com.
    2. If you’re already sick of the story, the Los Angeles Times did a piece on Jahlil Okafor (the Lakers will be in the running for the first overall pick in the NBA Draft this year).
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ACC M5: 02.25.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 25th, 2015

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  1. Fayetteville Observer: Let’s start with NC State. The Wolfpack uglied it up last night in Chapel Hill and came away with a convincing win in Chapel Hill (their first in over a decade — couches were burned). Bret Strelow does a terrific job with this profile of Trevor Lacey. It’s full of great information. Did you know Lacey leads the country in points per possession on isolation plays, according to Synergy? Now you do. It also has some great anecdotes from Lacey’s days dominating high school and from his time on the scout team. My two favorite parts were Mark Gottfried dropping, “I remember when I got drafted by the Pistons” as an introduction to a story. Gottfried was drafted in the seventh round! I mean there were only 23 teams back then, but that’s an elite-level humblebrag. My second favorite tidbit was that Lacey credits former Duke guard Austin Rivers as the inspiration for some of his moves. That was completely unexpected.
  2. The Cauldron: Ever wondered what it’s like to be the PA announcer at Cameron Indoor Stadium? Trip Durham (Duke’s PA announcer) gives us all the details. He grew up a North Carolina fan, but he’s now fully integrated into the Duke home game experience. It’s interesting that Durham feels like the job connects him back to his childhood and his late father. PA announcers generally fly under the radar (except at Wake Forest games; you won’t miss the distinctive growl), but it’s fascinating to see another side of the coin.
  3. Syracuse Post Standard: Time to talk some bracketology with Patrick Stevens. If you don’t keep up with Stevens’ work, he’s been one of the best in the business for a few years now, so it’s worth checking in with his regular columns. The only real questions in the ACC are: “Will NC State and/or Miami get in?” and “Who earns a #1 seed?” Right now the answers seem like yes and no, respectively; and Duke and Virginia (although I’d be surprised if both manage to get a top seed unless there are a flurry of upsets in other conference tournaments).
  4. The Pitt News: Remarkably, Pittsburgh managed to stay in the NCAA Tournament conversation (barely) by eking out a home win last night over Boston College. The reason the Panthers still have a shot to make it into the Dance is because they have a fairly strong RPI. They’ll be hurt by an abysmal non-conference schedule, but Pittsburgh is a (very) strong ACC Tournament run away from the right side of the bubble. Now the real story from the Pittsburgh win is that Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan scored 39 points on 20 field goal attempts! That’s incredible. Fingers are crossed that we see Hanlan go unconscious again this year in Greensboro.
  5. JohnGasaway.com: Tuesday Truths are back! Why is this week noteworthy? Duke and Virginia appear to be separating themselves from the pack (I imagine even more so now, given last night’s results). That’s far from unexpected, but it hasn’t been the case until just recently. It’s somewhat misleading to say Virginia is distinguishing itself because its efficiency margin has plummeted since losing Justin Anderson to injury (thanks to an anemic offense) — although it was bound to suffer, it has dropped by 30 percent in the last three weeks.
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RTC Weekly Primer: Who Can Make a Run in March?

Posted by Henry Bushnell on February 24th, 2015

It happens every year. Every single year. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but more often than not, there comes a time in a college basketball season when the entire hoops world witnesses the birth of something. It can begin with a bang; but it can also begin innocuously. It can occur in plain sight; but it can also be the tree in the middle of a deserted forest. This birth, of course, is the preliminary stage of a postseason run. And the run, of course, is the one that in a few weeks time will be the talk of college basketball. Back in 2011, it was Shelvin Mack, Brad Stevens and Butler. In 2012, it was Lorenzo Brown and NC State. In 2013, it was very nearly Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss. A season ago, it was Jordan McRae and the upstart Tennessee Volunteers. NCAA Tournament runs usually don’t just appear out of thin air. Typically, there’s a backstory. In 2015, the time has come for those backstories to develop. Next month’s headlines will start formulating themselves right now.

Most Every Team is Looking For Its Butler Moment (USA Today Images)

Most Every Team is Looking For Its Butler Moment (USA Today Images)

Who will those headlines be written about this year? Who will be the team that sees everything come together at the right time? Who will be that team? It’s time to start considering some possibilities:

  • Georgetown – The Hoyas aren’t exactly in the same category as the Butlers and Ole Misses of years past, but they seem to be flying somewhat under the radar. Georgetown has the pieces to make a run. The Hoyas are a top-20 defensive team, boast an occasionally dominant post presence in senior center Josh Smith, and have a guard in D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera who can take over a game. After getting smoked by Villanova a couple weeks ago, they’ve now won three straight and have the week off to prepare for St. John’s in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. That’s the kind of win that could propel the Hoyas to a #4 or #5 seed and their first Sweet Sixteen (or better) run since 2007.
  • Indiana – Another team that is solidly in the NCAA Tournament, the Hoosiers certainly will never be considered a Cinderella story. But most projections have them as a #8 or #9 seed right now, meaning they aren’t being discussed as a legitimate contender either. This team has notable flaws in its personnel and it has a coach who many have questioned in recent years. But it’s also arguably got the most lethal backcourt in the country — just the type of thing that can carry a team on a surprising journey through March. The Hoosiers, which have struggled on the road but have been dynamite at home, travel to Northwestern on Wednesday night before a two-game home swing featuring Iowa and Michigan State. It’s really the perfect slate to build some March momentum.

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RTC Weekly Primer: Road Warrior Week as Pressure Mounts at the Top

Posted by Henry Bushnell on February 10th, 2015

As we approach Selection Sunday — and, yes, it is now a mere 33 days away — two ends of the spectrum dominate the college basketball conversation. One of those is the bubble. The other, of course, is the top line. And while it’s a bit too early to paint a decipherable picture of those teams vying for positions in the play-in games, the competition for the four No. 1 seeds is beginning to take shape. There appear to be three solid bets. Kentucky is near-lock. Virginia, with only one loss — a good loss, mind you — and a handful of impressive wins, is another. And Gonzaga, despite a relatively weak conference slate, is a third. Even if the Zags were to suffer one more defeat along the way, they might still be safe in a position on the top line. The fourth spot, however, is truly up for grabs. On the back of a splendid array of wins away from home, Duke would appear to be the front-runner. But Wisconsin, Kansas, Arizona and Villanova aren’t too far behind the Blue Devils. If the Badgers run the table the rest of the way — a real possibility — they’d make the committee’s job on this decision excruciating. Villanova could also cause a few headaches if they enter the discussion as a two-loss team. And Kansas, with its top-ranked schedule and plethora of top-50 wins, could close the season at No. 1 in the RPI. The pressure is on at the top. We’ll see which teams can handle it.

Gonzaga Continues to Roll Along to a Likely #1 Seed (USA Today Images)

Gonzaga Continues to Roll Along to a Likely #1 Seed (USA Today Images)

Road Warrior Week

This week isn’t overflowing with marquee matchups, so we’ll forgo Three for the Money in favor of a more general theme. It’s road warrior week. Duke got things started on Monday night when it went to Florida State and escaped with a narrow victory in Tallahassee. Some other top-10 teams this week might not be so fortunate, as eight of those — including the Blue Devils — will play on the road at an unranked team between Monday and Friday. It starts on Tuesday night when Kentucky travels to LSU; Notre Dame makes the long trek to Clemson; Kansas plays at Texas Tech; and Wisconsin heads to Nebraska. Kentucky perhaps faces the stiffest test of all. LSU, an up-tempo squad with a big and physical front line, will try to get out in transition and score before Kentucky can set up its suffocating half-court defense. Notre Dame, however, is the most likely of the four to lose. The Fighting Irish are only three-point favorites against the Tigers, a hard-luck team that has lost a bunch of close games this year. Wisconsin revisits the site of last year’s memorable Cornhuskers upset on ‘no-sit Sunday.’

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ACC Stock Watch: 02.06.15 Edition

Posted by Lathan Wells on February 6th, 2015

Another week, another slate of terrific basketball from the ACC. While some teams seemingly riding high got a dose of reality this week (hello Virginia and Notre Dame), others showed their ability to overcome adversity (Duke), while others flew under the radar entirely (Clemson). This is this week’s ACC Stock Watch:

Trending Up

  • Duke. The Blue Devils showed the dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon was not going to be a distraction for them, as they went into John Paul Jones Arena Saturday and knocked off previously unbeaten Virginia. Avoiding a letdown after that big win in knocking off Georgia Tech at home was nice to see from such a young squad, too.
  • Louisville. The Cardinals had an impressive week, exacting revenge on North Carolina in an impressive comeback fashion at home and emerging victorious from a road trip at Miami. The offense is coming around, making Rick Pitino’s team look as if it may be peaking at the right time.
  • Clemson. How many casual ACC fans realize that the Tigers have reeled off four straight wins? Their demolition of NC State in Raleigh was particularly impressive on January 28th, but taking care of two teams they should defeat in Boston College and Florida State this week showed the team is still battling for a ticket to the Dance for Brad Brownell.
Sidy Djitte and Clemson smothered NC State on their way to another solid week (AP Sports)

Sidy Djitte and Clemson are riding a four-game winning streak in the ACC. (AP)

  • Wake Forest. Danny Manning’s team, so close in so many defeats this year, had a nice week in dispatching of Virginia Tech and defeating a talented (but hard-to-figure out) NC State team. More importantly than that is that the Demon Deacons may be regaining some of the home-court edge they lost during Jeff Bzdelik’s tenure.
  • Terry Rozier, Louisville. Rozier has four straight 20-point games, but his matching 22-point performances this week were huge for Louisville in overcoming the Tar Heels in overtime and winning the tough road test against the Hurricanes. He and Chris Jones continue to make life easier for Montrezl Harrell down low, and some argue Rozier is the Cardinals’ most dangerous offensive threat.
  • Justise Winslow, Duke. Whether or not it was accurate that Winslow was hitting the “freshman wall,” he broke out of it in fine fashion this week. With Jahlil Okafor hounded by Virginia’s double teams, Winslow willed the Blue Devils to victory with a 15-point, 11-rebound performance. He matched that effort with another stat-stuffer against the Yellow Jackets: 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, two steals. Some believe he’s the key cog in the Duke machine going forward.

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ACC M5: 02.05.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 5th, 2015

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  1. Syracuse Post-Standard: Huge news broke yesterday evening. Syracuse has decided to self-impose a postseason ban in basketball this year “as a further means of acknowledging past mistakes.” Even though the team isn’t all that great this season, this is a big step. It means the Orange can’t play in the ACC Tournament, much less the Big Dance. The worst part is that this year’s players (who didn’t commit any of the infractions) are the ones who will pay the price. I’ll leave you with a couple of things: First, this doesn’t mean that the Orange are off the hook with the NCAA (although postseason bans usually go a long way — see Miami’s football scandal for an example); and second, this is the new ACC Tournament bracket — the only change is that the #10 seed now gets a bye.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Luke DeCock thinks Virginia is still the team to beat in the ACC after the Cavaliers thrashed North Carolina (which admittedly couldn’t match up much worse) in Chapel Hill on Monday night. John Gasaway and I both agree. If you had questions, Duke’s letdown win at home against Georgia Tech should help with the argument. It doesn’t mean Duke isn’t really good or really dangerous (the same goes for Notre Dame, North Carolina and Louisville). It just means that Virginia operates in a higher gear consistently.
  3. Chicago Tribune: Speaking of the Fighting Irish, Notre Dame has done very well in its close games this year. Sure, the Irish lost one to Pittsburgh, but on the whole Mike Brey’s team keeps its cool when games get tight. Their opponents do not, which means that the Irish’s porous defense gets enough stops to pull out the win. With a stone-cold killer like Jerian Grant capable of getting his own shot and plenty of shooters surrounding him, the Irish are really tough to beat down the stretch.
  4. NC State Technician: NC State is digging deeper and deeper. Tuesday night’s game at Wake Forest represented a microcosm of their season (although their normal routine is a good first half followed by a bad second half). The Wolfpack came out incredibly flat in Winston-Salem and trailed by 21 points at the half. By the time they had mounted a comeback to make the margin reasonable, it was too late. The Demon Deacons held off the final run thanks to a little luck and a lot of cushion. NC State has now lost four of its last five games and has a whole week off to think about it. That gives Mark Gottfried plenty of time to make some adjustments, but his players also will have a lot of time to stew on their struggles. Oh, and Virginia is coming to town. The Wolfpack’s options are becoming limited — either steal a couple of wins down the stretch and stop losing to mediocre competition, or make a serious run in the ACC Tournament.
  5. Washington Post: So how does Maryland‘s move to the Big Ten look? Mark Turgeon has finally gotten around to succeeding like I predicted when Maryland first hired him (albeit in a much weaker Big Ten than in years past), but it’s nice to hear Adrian Branch and Kristi Toliver say they regret the move and miss the ACC. I’ll be the first to admit I miss having Maryland around. Duke needs a foil outside of the Triangle, and the Terps often lived up to the role. All that said, I’ll take the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh over moving to be geographically isolated in a conference.
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ACC Stock Watch: 01.30.15 Edition

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 30th, 2015

This week was an eye-opening one for ACC teams, with several marquee match-ups that shed greater light on the haves and have-nots of the conference race. Now moving into February, the teams with staying power are starting to emerge and those that are disappointing are showing their true colors as well. This is this week’s ACC Stock Watch.

Trending Up

  • Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish keep beating good teams and are a stellar 8-1 in ACC play at the turn. They withstood a 10-point deficit from Duke on Wednesday night and never lost their composure. This is starting to look like a team that has major potential come NCAA Tournament time.
  • North Carolina. The Tar Heels’ six-game winning streak has put them in the thick of the conference race through four weeks. Marcus Paige seems to have regained some of his missing star power, and some timely shots falling for Justin Jackson and Nate Britt make the team more dangerous from the perimeter. Don’t forget Joel Berry and Theo Pinson are expected to return before year’s end, too.
  • Virginia Tech. Hokies’ fans had been waiting to see some early returns on Buzz Williams’ hiring, and this may have been the week they got a glimpse of what he’s building. Virginia Tech nearly knocked off undefeated Virginia last weekend before bowing out by just three points, then procured an overtime win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday for Williams’ first ACC win. Progress, people.
Adam Smith's game-winning three in OT gave Virginia Tech its first ACC win under Buzz Williams (USATodaySports)

Adam Smith’s (far left) game-winning three in OT gave Virginia Tech its first ACC win under Buzz Williams and reason for hope in the future (USATodaySports)

  • Nate Britt, North Carolina. After learning of the emotional state Britt was in prior to North Carolina’s ESPN Big Monday match-up with Syracuse, his performance became that much more admirable. Britt set a career high with 17 points, but perhaps more importantly for Roy Williams’ team was his 4-of-5 shooting from three. Could he finally be the long-range complement to Paige the Tar Heels desperately need?
  • Jerian Grant, Notre Dame. No need to talk too much about how outstanding Grant’s season has been as the national media has that pretty well covered, but anyone who watched his performance live against Duke had to be amazed. He was the best player on the court in that game (yes, including Jahlil Okafor) en route to a stat line of 23 points, six rebounds, 12 assists, three steals and two blocks. Yes, he’s for real.
  • Louisville’s Backcourt. The much-maligned Cardinals’ offense has shown signs of life, largely because of the clearly improved shooting of their guards. Terry Rozier and Chris Jones had an especially dominant week in wins over Pittsburgh and Boston College on the road; combined, they scored 94 points in the two contests on 65 percent shooting from the field and 67 percent from three.

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ACC M5: 01.30.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 30th, 2015

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  1. Raleigh News & Observer and Durham Herald-Sun: Duke very abruptly dismissed Rasheed Sulaimon from the team yesterday. There aren’t any details beyond that other than to say that it wasn’t related to academic or legal problems. But it appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s underselling how huge this dismissal is because Duke isn’t deep and does not appear to be struggling with chemistry issues (at least not during games). Sulaimon was doing well as a defensive specialist who also ran the team when the other two point guards weren’t performing well. My guess is that Coach K gave Sulaimon an ultimatum at some point last season (probably after his one-game hiatus that wasn’t officially a suspension) and Sulaimon finally struck out. It’s amazing to think that Sulaimon is the first player Krzyzewski has ever dismissed from his team.
  2. Washington Post: This article does a fair job of explaining why John Feinstein is the last man ranking Virginia ahead of Kentucky in the AP poll. Weirdly enough, I think both of those teams are much more similar than people let on. The main difference is that Kentucky doesn’t have to worry about teams outside of the top 50 by virtue of its depth and length, while a hot-shooting Virginia Tech team gave the Cavaliers quite a scare. Furthermore, Kentucky has the unique ability to crush a good opponent into oblivion. I expect both teams to lose to a good (at least average-height) team that gets hot from long range because they can be outscored. That said, I think Feinstein enjoys being a voting outlier and that’s why he’s still voting for Virginia even after its close call in Blacksburg.
  3. College Basketball Talk: Jerian Grant is really, really good. He allows Notre Dame to run offense instead of plays because he’s a tremendous playmaker and competitor. Rob Dauster does a good job in showing how important he is to the Notre Dame attack. Grant is terrific, and he’s probably got the inside track on ACC Player of the Year unless the Irish take a February nosedive. I admit I need to watch more of Mike Brey’s team (which should be a pleasure), because based on the statistics, the Duke victory was somewhat anomalous in terms of his usage, a little low for a Player of the Year contender.
  4. Louisville Courier-Journal: Don’t look now, but Louisville‘s defense in ACC play has actually been worse than its offense. That’s bonkers. A lot of the credit goes to the rise of guard Terry Rozier, who has been tremendous in conference bouts. He’s not turning it over nearly as much as he was and he’s scoring at a really impressive clip. Chris Jones has also risen to the occasion, turning into a legitimate offensive weapon rather than a liability.
  5. Raleigh & Co.: Here’s a satirical case to get rid of NC State head coach Mark Gottfried. While I agree that the Wolfpack should hold onto him, this team has dug a hole for itself with its three-game losing streak (Clemson at home???). What remains to be seen is whether Gottfried can sustain a consistent, high level program or whether his teams are always talented but never meet expectations (often in a good way). If he gets this year’s group to the NCAA Tournament, I’ll be pretty solidly on the side of Gottfried sustaining a high level over time.
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ACC M5: 01.27.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 27th, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Justin Anderson woke from his slumber with seven minutes left and saved Virginia from a truly horrendous Sunday loss at Virginia Tech. Anderson has been unreal this season, shooting over 50 percent from three on the year. After a five-point mini-run from Anderson, Tony Bennett unveiled his secret weapon: a drawn-up lob for his junior wing. Apparently Anderson has been lobbying Bennett for lob plays since he got to Charlottesville, and with more and more teams going to zones, you have to wonder if Bennett will start to look his way more often.
  2. Savannah Morning News: In addition to asking if Virginia can go undefeated (Ken Pomeroy predicts the Cavaliers will finish with one loss, with a 26 percent chance of finishing unblemished), it’s time to start asking harder questions about Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. They are a combined 0-13 in ACC play, but the good news is that there are plenty of games left to play (including against each other in Blacksburg). Incidentally, Pomeroy puts the odds of either going winless in the ACC at less than two percent. The Yellow Jackets are actually favored in four straight games but that won’t make Brian Gregory feel any more secure in his job. Recent quotes from athletic director Mike Bobinski definitely haven’t quieted rumors that Gregory is on the hot seat, but it remains to be seen whether the department is willing to pay enough money to find an upgrade.
  3. Louisville Courier-Journal: Florida State president John Thrasher said that the goal is to have an ACC Network ready by 2016. I’ve made my case before in this space but I’ll make it again. Going after a network now may be the wrong time if things start moving in the direction of a la carte broadcast shopping. What should make the league revenue no matter what is more games getting shown, but the days of windfall profits from the likes of the Big Ten Network are numbered. Soon it won’t be every house paying two dollars per subscriber because cable forces them to do so, but people will be able to subscribe to individual networks and stream them online. That likely means less revenue than a network in the short run, but it would still be a big boost over what the league gets right now.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: NC State (kind of got jobbed) lost a weekend heartbreaker to Notre Dame, but it was classic Wolfpack to blow a big second half lead. Still, there were some positives to take away from the loss, as freshmen Cody and Caleb Martin both gave Mark Gottfried good minutes. Had they won, NC State would have been in the driver’s seat for an NCAA bid; instead, the Wolfpack may still have work to do. Assuming they win the games they should the rest of the way, though, everything will probably be OK. But this team has been up and down already with a few head-scratching losses. One person the game didn’t look good for is Cat Barber, who only played two minutes in the loss.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: Looks like the old local paper jinx. In a statistic surprising absolutely no one, North Carolina doesn’t shoot many threes (other than Marcus Paige) but Nate Britt was feeling it in the Tar Heels’ win last night over Syracuse, going 4-of-5 from long range. Britt hadn’t hit a single three in his last four games, and the team (other than Marcus Paige) had only hit 11 threes in conference play. He didn’t carry the team alone (North Carolina feasted against the Orange in the paint), but his shooting played a big role in the win. Side note: Rakeem Christmas put up a cool 22/12.
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ACC M5: 01.21.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 21st, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. Streaking the Lawn: Here’s a cool visualization from Streaking the Lawn looking at the winners of every ACC game for home games versus away games. Right now the conference gives a slight edge to the home teams (which have won 23 of 40 games counting Syracuse’s win over Boston College), but it’s still a little early to put too much stock in this. Once all the teams have played each other, this will be a very interesting graphic. On its own it will still say as much about match-ups as it does home-court advantage, but charts are a quick way of getting into the M5.
  2. Washington Post: College GameDay is coming to Charlottesville for the first time in its admittedly short history! It should be a really fun day with Duke coming to town in one of the more anticipated games of the regular season. The funniest part of this story is that ESPN host Karl Ravech accidentally slipped the news before the Worldwide Leader had officially announced it, but that game has been on everyone’s radar for a while so it’s not exactly a surprise. For the time being, though, I don’t have much insight on it (I’d favor Virginia, but Duke will win if it’s hitting threes).
  3. Sporting News: Speaking of the Blue Devils, don’t immediately label Duke‘s recent dabbling with a zone a defensive cure-all. That said, this Duke team will likely need to play more zone than any other group under Mike Krzyzewski (they are too small and laterally challenged in the backcourt to make up for Okafor’s learning curve). In some games Duke’s man-to-man may do the trick (see the game at Wisconsin), but in other games, a zone might be the way to go (see the game at Louisville). Learning to play both competently will determine how tough this team is to beat in March.
  4. Busting Brackets: Is Louisville overrated? It depends on how good you think the Cardinals are. What we know about Rick Pitino’s team is that it doesn’t have a consistent halfcourt offense. The Cards don’t shoot well and Montrezl Harrell isn’t your classic back-to-the-basket post player. That said, their defense is elite. Louisville will crush most undermatched teams on their defense alone, but they too will struggle to score against better teams. This is a really good squad, but it is missing some key offensive pieces that it has had over the last few years (as many expected coming into this season).
  5. John Gasaway: Tuesday Truths are back! Unsurprisingly, Virginia is running away with the league from an efficiency standpoint. Look for Duke and another challenger (maybe North Carolina or Notre Dame?) to close the gap a little as the season progresses. The biggest surprises here were NC State and the Tar Heels taking the runner-up spots. Gasaway thinks North Carolina has the best shot at becoming a well-rounded team, but I worry about the Tar Heels’ ability to make shots.
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Duke Heads to Louisville Looking for Confidence

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

One week ago, the storyline surrounding Duke‘s visit to Louisville was that Mike Krzyzewski would most likely be going for win #1,000 in his illustrious coaching career. How quickly things change in the world of college basketball! Today, after two discouraging beatings by unranked teams, the Blue Devils head into a Noon ET (ESPN) showdown wondering if they can beat just about anybody right now. So what’s going on with the team that won each game handily on its way to a 14-0 start, including that huge early December win at Wisconsin that seems like ages ago?

Mike Kzyzewski Had No Answers in Tuesday's Loss to Miami. (Grant Halverson / Getty Images)

Mike Kzyzewski Had No Answers in Tuesday’s Loss to Miami.
(Grant Halverson / Getty Images)

Whenever a team goes through a bad stretch, there are invariably multiple reasons for the slump. In Duke’s case, much has been made of the team’s poor defensive play and with good reason — both N.C. State and Miami torched the Blue Devils with over 1.2 points per possession. Duke’s defense struggled in almost every area in both games: off the dribble; perimeter shooters; poor rotation; transition; at the rim. That’s too many areas to fix with strategic adjustments alone. On offense, the team that has ranked first nationally in offensive efficiency for most of the season has suddenly gone ice cold. Senior Quinn Cook is the only perimeter player who can make a jump shot right now, which allows defenses to concentrate on surrounding Jahlil Okafor without paying the price. Consider this: Cook has made 8-of-14 shots from three-point range in the two losses, but the rest of the team is 6-of-35. Perhaps all of that cold shooting is a big reason for the defensive meltdowns that took place in the second half of each loss (see tables below).

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