Key ACC Non-Conference Games For NCAA Hopefuls

Posted by Brad Jenkins on November 19th, 2019

The top five schools in the ACC preseason poll (Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia and Florida State) look like good bets to make the Big Dance this season, but right below that group sits a trio of teams that appear likely to finish in the middle of the league standings. To warrant inclusion in the NCAA Tournament, it may come down to how these squads perform in a handful of key non-conference games. Here’s a look at each team’s three most important contests outside of ACC play, along with a sneaky tough opponent for the trio.

NC State

Kevin Keatts needs his NC State squad to pick up some key non-conference wins in case the Wolfpack is on the NCAA bubble again next March. (Jerome Carpenter/WRAL)
  • Memphis (Brooklyn, NY – Barclays Center Classic) – Thu Nov 28 (4:00 ET ESPN2)
  • Wisconsin (Big Ten/ACC Challenge) – Wed Dec 4 (9:15 ET ESPN2)
  • @ Auburn – Thu Dec 19 (9:00 ET ESPN 2)

The Wolfpack may catch a break on Thanksgiving Day if Memphis freshman phenom James Wiseman is still sitting out with eligibility issues. Either way, if Kevin Keatts finds his team on the NCAA bubble once again, a neutral site win over a top-20 team would look mighty good on its resume. The other two contests are rematches from last year in which the home team triumphed in tightly contested affairs.

Upset Alert: @ UNC Greensboro – Sun Dec 15 (3:00 ET ESPN+)

The Spartans return three starters from a campaign in which they won 29 games and were closer to making the NCAA Tourney than NC State. According to KenPom’s win probability metric, the Wolfpack currently has a 57 percent chance of coming out on top.

Notre Dame

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ACC Burning Questions, Part 3: NC State, Notre Dame & Miami

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 28th, 2019

N.C. State Burning Question: Will the Wolfpack’s frontcourt be good enough?

Senior point guard Markell Johnson hopes to lead N.C. State back to the NCAA Tournament. (PackInsider)

For Kevin Keatts to lead the Wolfpack back to the NCAA Tournament in his third season in Raleigh, he must find a way to develop a better interior group — especially defensively — to complement his potent backcourt. Last year, NC State allowed its ACC opponents to make 51.6 percent of their two-point tries (13th in the ACC) and ranked ninth in the league in defensive rebounding. And, oh yeah, the Wolfpack lost their two best defensive rebounders (Torin Dorn and Wyatt Walker). Further mucking things up is the status of NC State’s best returning big man, DJ Funderburk who is serving an indefinite suspension. Even with Funderburk available, Keatts would have to rely on newcomers to help man the post. Redshirt freshman Manny Bates should bring rim protection, but his offense is a question mark. Lehigh graduate transfer Pat Andree is known for his outside shooting touch (41.9% 3FG last year) but entering the ACC will be a big step up in competition for him.

There is a plethora of talent and experience available on the Wolfpack’s perimeter. Leading the way will be senior point guard Markell Johnson (12.6 PPG, 4.2 APG, 42.2% 3FG) and his returning running mate, junior Braxton Beverly (9.4 PPG, 2.5 APG). On the wing, expect a pair of former transfers to show improvement in their second go-around in Raleigh. C.J. Bryce (11.6 PPG) and Devon Daniels (9.3 PPG) are the prototypical players to fit Keatts’ style. They both can shoot from distance, attack off the dribble, and harass opposing ball-handlers. Blake Harris recently decided to transfer out of the program, but that still leaves plenty of outside firepower. However, for NC State to return to the Big Dance, the guards will need help from their bigger buddies.

Notre Dame Burning Question: Will the Irish make some shots this year?

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ACC Tournament Takeaways: Thursday Afternoon

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 14th, 2019

RTC’s Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) will be reporting live from Charlotte at the 2019 ACC Tournament through Saturday’s championship game.

Kyle Guy continued his red-hot shooting to lead Virginia over N.C. State. (Getty Images)

Here are a few thoughts on the four teams from today’s afternoon session at the ACC Tournament.

  • Virginia (29-2): The Cavaliers exorcised some demons in the Spectrum Center today. It was in this building nearly 365 days ago that Virginia became the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed in NCAA Tournament history. Perhaps Tony Bennett’s guys were reliving that nightmare in the first half against NC State — Virginia trailed by two at the break — before getting it going after intermission and cruising to a 76-56 win. Kyle Guy kept up his torrid long range marksmanship by shooting 7-of-9 from deep en route to 29 points. Guy has made 26 of his last 41 attempts from beyond the arc for an impressive rate of 63.4 percent. With Ty Jerome having an off day — two points on 1-of-11 shooting — Jack Salt gave Virginia a huge lift by scoring a career high 18 points.
  • NC State (22-11): Kevin Keatts’ club hung tough with the top seed for about 24 minutes today, but ultimately couldn’t overcome a terrible shooting day. The Wolfpack shot just 38.8 percent from the floor, including a frigid 3-of-20 performance from three-point land. Now, NC State will be on bubble watch for the rest of the weekend, hoping that the NCAA Selection Committee weighs their high metric numbers (#32 NET, #32 KenPom) heavier than that ugly non-conference strength of schedule (dead last in college basketball). We think the committee will be inclined to validate its new NET tool this year — which would be to NC State’s benefit — so, we think the Wolfpack will be invited to the Big Dance.
  • Florida State (26-6): In the second quarterfinal of the day, Florida State’s Terance Mann tossed in a runner with two seconds left in overtime as the Seminoles edged Virginia Tech, 65-63. Florida State controlled things for most of the game, but after a late Virginia Tech rally, Leonard Hamilton’s team needed a clutch three from Devin Vassell just to force the extra session. It was not a stellar offensive performance for the Seminoles — 38.6 percent shooting and 17 turnovers — but their defense and work on the glass (+13 rebounding edge) enabled them to overcome their scoring issues. For Florida State to have a chance to knock off top-seeded Virginia in Friday’s semifinals, it will need to be much more efficient offensively than it was today.
  • Virginia Tech (24-8): This was a tough situation for a shorthanded team to deal with — Virginia Tech was playing on back-to-back days and it was up against the deepest team in the league. The Hokies struggled to make shots from deep (4-of-19 three-pointers) but hung around with a strong defensive effort. This is the second overtime loss to Florida State in a nine-day span for Buzz Williams’ group, but it shouldn’t negatively impact their seeding in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. It’s still not known if the Hokies will have the services of star point guard Justin Robinson, as Williams said in the postgame that Robinson — who has missed the last 12 contests — will meet with doctors on Sunday for another evaluation.
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ACC Weekend Review: 02.18.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 18th, 2019

It appears that the ACC is on a regular rotation this season that provides us with a great set of games every other weekend. Still, there were some interesting things happening on Saturday around the league; Louisville almost blew another late lead before holding on to edge Clemson, 56-55; and Virginia had an unexpectedly tough time with Notre Dame, winning 60-54 in Charlottesville. Elsewhere in the conference, North Carolina routed Wake Forest, 95-57, in Winston-Salem, and first-place Duke handled NC State in Durham by a score of 94-78. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Jordan Nwora’s block saved the day for Louisville against Clemson on Saturday as the Cardinals survived another late meltdown. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
  • Best Win: Coming off back-to-back heartbreaking losses to Florida State and Duke — games in which Louisville led both games by double-figures late — Chris Mack’s club almost did it again. This time, the Cardinals led Clemson by eight points with 30 seconds to go, before falling apart again in front of a stunned crowd at the KFC Yum! Center. At the end, Louisville practically handed the game to the Tigers when Marcquise Reed stole Jordan Nwora’s inbounds pass in the lane with three seconds to go — had Nwora not redeemed himself by blocking Reed’s short jumper to preserve the one-point victory, the Cardinals would be in full meltdown mode. Normally, we wouldn’t bestow “Best Win” status to a ranked team that barely survived against a squad with a sub-.500 conference record, but in this case, Louisville gets that distinction because it possibly saved its season.
  • Worst Loss: We also have an unusual choice in this weekly category. Nobody expected lowly Wake Forest to give North Carolina much of a game on Saturday, but the enormous margin of defeat — 38 points represents the largest in series history — may be the final nail in the coffin for Danny Manning’s tenure in Winston-Salem. After barely squeaking into the 2017 NCAA Tournament First Four, Manning was given a six-year contract extension — reportedly with a huge buyout attached. Since then, the Demon Deacons have posted a 20-35 record, including a pathetic ACC mark of 6-24. If Manning gets fired after the conclusion of this season, we recommend that the school have someone other than athletic director Ron Wellman choose the next head basketball coach. He’s certainly whiffed on his last two selections (Jeff Bzdelik and Manning) and as a result, Wake Forest is now one of the worst power conference programs in college basketball.
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ACC Weekend Review: 02.11.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 11th, 2019

This was perhaps the best potential weekend slate of games in ACC play this season and it didn’t disappoint in terms of excitement. In the national headliner, Duke completed a regular season sweep of Virginia by besting the Cavaliers, 81-71, in Charlottesville on Saturday evening. In a surprisingly close call, North Carolina remained tied with the Blue Devils atop the league standings with a comeback overtime win over Miami in the Smith Center. In other key contests, a pair of ranked ACC squads fell on the road — Clemson handled Virginia Tech, 59-51, in Littlejohn Coliseum; and Florida State rallied to take Louisville into overtime in Tallahassee, winning by a score of 80-75. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

RJ Barrett led the 3-point shooting barrage for Duke in its big win on the road over Virginia. (Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
  • Best Win: Duke once again showed it can solve Virginia’s pack-line defense, mostly because of an unanticipated Blue Devils’ explosion from behind the arc. Tony Bennett’s squad gave up 13 three-pointers — the most it had given up previous to this game was eight against Notre Dame — but great outside shooting wasn’t all that went well for Mike Krzyzewski’s club. Duke held a 17-0 edge in fast break points as well as a 14-9 advantage in second-chance points, despite the fact that Virginia grabbed six more offensive boards than the Blue Devils. RJ Barrett led the way with 26 points, giving him a total of 56 in two games versus the Cavaliers. This contest marked the beginning of an extremely tough stretch of games for Duke — its next five games are all against top 45 teams, three of which are on the road. Meanwhile, Virginia has a quick turnaround, traveling to face ACC co-leader North Carolina tonight.
  • Second Best Win: With no real bad losses over the weekend, we opt to highlight another big ACC win. Florida State won its fifth ACC game in a row with a gutty comeback win over Louisville, a game in which the Seminoles trailed by double-figures midway through the second half. Leonard Hamilton’s guys were outshot from the field by a wide margin (48.1 percent to 37.7 percent), so how did they pull it off? Two ways — by posting a huge edge in turnover margin (+15) and dominating the free throw game — Florida State went 27-of-36 at the stripe while Louisville was 13-of-16. The Seminoles have definitely righted the ship after their 1-4 start in conference play, and are now in contention for a top-four finish in the league, which comes with the cherished double-bye in the ACC Tournament.
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ACC Weekend Preview: February 9

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 8th, 2019

It’s a busy weekend around the ACC, including the #1 vs. #2 rematch we’ve all been waiting for in Charlottesville. Rush the Court ACC writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) gets you prepped. (All rankings via KenPom)

Saturday, February 9

Clemson Needs a Win and Virginia Tech Visits on Saturday (USA Today Images)

#9 Virginia Tech (18-4, 7-3) at #35 Clemson (14-8, 4-5). This feels like the kind of game Clemson needs to win if it realistically hopes to make the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers’ current resume has no meat on the bone, so an opportunity to beat a top 10 KenPom team is one they can’t squander. They’ll need to take advantage of a Virginia Tech club without much interior size, which means feeding Elijah Thomas (29.6 PER, 65.9% eFG) like they did in their win over Wake Forest last Sunday (23 points on 10-of-11 FG). What cannot happen is that Thomas instead gets into foul trouble, like he did on Wednesday night at Georgia Tech (seven points in 17 minutes). Given the Hokies’ firepower from the outside, it’s difficult to envision a Clemson victory without another monster performance from its big man.

#42 NC State (16-7, 4-6) at #75 Pittsburgh (12-11, 2-8). My, how things can change in just a week. Only 10 days ago, NC State was *this close* to taking down Virginia. After losing in overtime, however, the Wolfpack followed up with embarrassing displays on both offense (24 points in a home loss to Virginia Tech) and defense (allowing 113 to North Carolina in Chapel Hill). So what we have is something that feels like an important game for Kevin Keatts, one in which he really needs a breakout performance from Torin Dorn. The senior shot just 35.3 percent from the field and made only one three-pointer in the last two games, but the bigger issue is that Dorn hasn’t played well since conference play began. In league games only, Dorn (14.3 PER, 41.9% eFG) has been much worse than his overall numbers (20.8 PER, 50.7 eFG%) — if the Wolfpack expect to turn things around, it starts with their small-ball four recovering his groove.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.04.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 4th, 2019

It was not a banner weekend for scoring in the ACC. The main offender, of course, was NC State, which set many dubious records for offensive futility in its 47-24 home loss to Virginia Tech. The Wolfpack weren’t the only squad to struggle to put the ball in the hoop this weekend, however. Eight of the 14 teams in action failed to crack the 60-point barrier, and the league collectively made just 37.1 percent of its field goal attempts. In the big match-up of the weekend, North Carolina earned its revenge on Louisville, handling the Cardinals, 79-69, in the KFC Yum! Center. League leader Virginia beat Miami, 56-46, without the services of Ty Jerome (back injury), while Duke stepped away from league play to throttle St. Johns’s in Durham. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

An exasperated Kevin Keatts reacts to N.C. State’s historically bad offensive performance against Virginia Tech. (cbssports.com)
  • Best Win: After suffering the worst home loss during Roy Williams‘ tenure in Chapel Hill a few weeks ago at the hands of Louisville, the Tar Heels redeemed themselves in a big way this weekend. A 30-8 first-half run gave North Carolina a commanding lead that was never really challenged. Luke Maye and Cam Johnson led the way with a pair of double-double performances, and, for Maye, it was a personal measure of revenge, as he was outplayed by Louisville’s Steven Enoch in the first meeting. Saturday was a completely different deal — Maye finished with 20 points and 11 boards while Enoch failed to score in 16 minutes of action.
  • Worst Loss: It looked like a great opportunity for NC State to recover some steadiness entering Saturday’s contest. Kevin Keatts’ team was coming off two emotional home games — last Saturday’s buzzer-beating win over Clemson, and a tough overtime loss to Virginia — with Virginia Tech missing its star point guard Justin Robinson. Unfortunately for Keatts, the Wolfpack forgot to bring their offense to PNC Arena. In scoring only 24 points for the entire game, NC State posted the lowest point total by a Division I team this decade, and the lowest by an ACC school in the shot-clock era. More importantly, Keatts’ squad whiffed on a chance to post a resume-building win that it may need on Selection Sunday.
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ACC Weekend Review: 01.28.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 28th, 2019

Entering the weekend, five schools set atop the ACC standings with just one loss each. That number of teams is now down to four, as Syracuse lost to Virginia Tech, 78-56, on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, conference co-leaders Virginia (82-55 at Notre Dame), Duke (66-53 versus Georgia Tech) and Louisville (66-51 against Pittsburgh) all finished with comfortable wins, although the Blue Devils needed to rally from an eight-point deficit early in the second half. Two other games produced the most exciting finishes of the weekend. Braxton Beverly’s last-second three-pointer capped a furious rally by NC State, as the Wolfpack scored the game’s last eight points to beat Clemson in Raleigh, 69-67. Similarly, Ky Bowman made a clutch three to complete a Boston College comeback victory at Wake Forest. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

N.C. State’s Braxton Beverly celebrates his last-second game winner over Clemson. (USA TODAY Sports)
  • Best Win: Just five days after seeing its reputation plummet following a 21-point beatdown at North Carolina, Virginia Tech bounced back in a big way by trouncing Syracuse. The Hokies used quick ball movement and laser-sharp shooting to shred Jim Boeheim’s famous zone defense. Buzz Williams’ team sank 14 threes and finished with 23 assists on their 25 made field goals. Surprisingly, Syracuse was unable to capitalize on its huge height advantage over the Hokies – the Orange only converted 40.7 percent of their two-point tries.
  • Worst Loss: Gut-wrenching is the only way to describe the utter meltdown suffered by Clemson at PNC Arena on Saturday. It’s been a struggle so far in conference play for the 1-5 Tigers, but they seemed well on their way to picking up a possible season-changing win when leading the Wolfpack by six with 20 seconds to play. Then everything that could go wrong did, with most of it self-inflicted. Senior Marcquise Reed (84% FT for the season) missed four straight free throws, and Clemson tried the ‘fouling while up three’ strategy way too early – allowing NC State’s Beverly to cut the lead to one with nine seconds remaining. That left the Wolfpack with ample time to foul Reed and then get the ball up the floor for Beverly’s clean look, which (of course) he drained. Fortunately for Brad Brownell, the schedule lightens up considerably now, but time is quickly running out for the Tigers’ NCAA hopes.
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ACC Weekend Review: 01.22.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 22nd, 2019

The first ACC clash of the titans lived up to the hype as Duke edged Virginia, 72-70, in an electric Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night. And luckily for us, those two league heavyweights will do it all over again in three weeks in Charlottesville, with one or even two more meetings possible in the postseason. Elsewhere in the league, two other Triangle schools picked up hard earned road wins. North Carolina used a late three-point shooting barrage to pull away from a pesky Miami team, 85-76, and NC State (still playing without point guard Markell Johnson) held off Notre Dame, 77-73. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Duke’s freshmen stars Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett combined for 57 points in Duke’s big win over Virginia. (Rob Kinnan – USA TODAY Sports)
  • Best Win: Ever since Tony Bennett raised Virginia to elite status in the ACC hierarchy beginning in the 2013-14 season, the Cavaliers’ games in Durham have been instant classics. To say this game between co-#1 teams could have gone either way would be a vast understatement – for an eight-minute stretch in the middle of the second half, neither school held more than a one-point lead. While the rest of the ACC has struggled to score against Virginia’s pack-line defense, Duke seems to have cracked the code. Only nine league opponents have scored over 1.12 points per possession against Virginia over the last six seasons, but Duke has managed to do it four times, including a 1.14 mark on Saturday. Of course, it may be more a matter of talent than strategy. Mike Krzyzewski has had numerous elite players to call on lately, including, most recently, the transcendental talents of Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. Playing without injured point guard Tre Jones, the Blue Devils relied on Barrett (30 points) and Williamson (27 points) to become the first pair of opponents to score more than 25 points against the Cavaliers in the Bennett era. Both teams were effective in the paint but less so from distance – Duke went 2-of-14 from deep while Virginia connected on only three of its 17 three-point tries. That’s where Virginia must feel it let a huge road win get away. While Duke has been struggling with the three-pointer all year, the Cavaliers have been one of the nation’s best outside shooting teams. Expect another classic when the two face off again in three weeks.
  • Worst Loss:  Call it the Duke Hangover, Part 2. Last Saturday, Florida State was one second away from stunning the top-ranked Blue Devils, but now, Leonard Hamilton‘s team is looking at a three-game losing streak after back-to-back road upsets at Pittsburgh and Boston College. The Seminoles blew a 10-point halftime lead Sunday afternoon in Conte Forum en route to an 87-82 loss to the Eagles. As has become the custom, Florida State was killed from behind the arc – the Seminoles went 8-of-25 from deep while allowing Boston College to make 13-of-21 from long distance. In five ACC games to date, Florida State ranks last in the league in three-point shooting (24.8%) and is tied for worst in opponents’ success from deep (41.7%).
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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.

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