Five ACC Storylines to Watch this Offseason

Posted by Matt Patton on April 11th, 2016

With the long offseason ahead of us, let’s take a look at five key ACC storylines to keep an eye on over the summer.

  1. NCAA Sanctions: After investigations that surrounded both programs in different ways this season, there should finally be some closure for Louisville and North Carolina. Louisville is still trying to get in front of NCAA sanctions by self-imposing its own (in addition to this year’s postseason ban, the program also recently added recruiting penalties). This strategy has worked well for other schools, but predicting eventual NCAA punishments is an exercise in futility. North Carolina is the more interesting case — the Tar Heels may not receive any sanctions or they may get the book thrown at them. What remains unclear is whether there will be administrative fallout from either scandal. I would not be shocked if Rick Pitino ends up stepping down from his post — especially if the NCAA deems the Cardinals’ self-imposed penalties insufficient. But I would be shocked if Roy Williams did.

    Rick Pitino may be in for a stressful offseason. (photo: Getty Images)

    Rick Pitino may be in for a stressful offseason. (photo: Getty Images)

  2. Coaching Carousel: This is a slow year for the ACC in terms of coaching turnover. Pittsburgh lost Jamie Dixon to his alma mater, TCU, and Georgia Tech fired Brian Gregory. The Yellow Jackets were initially spurned by Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel and Bryce Drew (who went to Vanderbilt instead), and after reports that Cal’s Cuonzo Martin was their top candidate, athletic director Mike Bobinski hired Josh Pastner away from Memphis. Pastner is far from a sure thing in this spot, but he should be able to put more talented teams on the floor. Whether those teams will have more success than what Gregory mustered (two teams with winning records; no NCAA Tournament appearances) remains to be seen. In Pittsburgh, many fans were upset with the hiring of Kevin Stallings away from Vanderbilt (ironically, the response from Commodores’ fans mirrored Dayton fans after Georgia Tech hired Gregory). Stallings will have his work cut out for him in the Steel City, but he was a solid coach with several very good teams in Nashville. Like Jamie Dixon, he may have stuck around the same place a little too long, but there’s no reason to think he won’t do reasonably well there. Read the rest of this entry »
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2016 ACC Tournament Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 8th, 2016

After 10 consecutive years of southern hospitality, the ACC Tournament moves north to Washington, D.C., for a year before heading even farther up the east coast to Brooklyn in 2017 and 2018. This will mark the fifth time the ACC Tournament has been held in the DC area, and the first time back there since 2005. In a bit of a public gaffe, the league’s marketing office apparently used the wrong dome in a stock photo advertising for the tournament. Let’s hope that’s the only embarrassment that the league suffers this week. As we move into day one of the tournament, here’s a preview of a few things we expect to occur.

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Here’s a printable version of the Bracket: 2016 ACC Tournament

And The Winner Is: According to KenPom, there’s a 66 percent chance that one of the league’s two highest-rated teams (#2 Virginia and #1 North Carolina) wins the ACC crown this week. We agree that those are the two teams to beat, with the Cavaliers earning a slight edge over the Tar Heels. Led by newly-minted ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, the Cavaliers have been the league’s best team during the second half of conference play. North Carolina is certainly capable of beating any team in Washington, but we are a little leery of the Tar Heels’ tendency toward inconsistent shooting.

Dark Horse With a Chance: It would be a massive surprise if #4 Notre Dame repeats its historic run in Greensboro from last year, but there is a distinct possibility that this season’s bracket could break in favor of the Fighting Irish. It’s unlikely that Mike Brey’s squad will win the ACC title, but it could make a run to the championship game on Saturday. Could the 2016 ACC Tournament feature a narrative similar to that of 1976, the first time the league held its championship in the D.C. area? Virginia, the #6 seed, beat three higher-seeded teams on its way to the program’s first-ever ACC title. The Cavaliers were led by ACC Tournament MVP Wally Walker, who was supposedly motivated by a perceived snub by a media corps that neglected to vote him on to the all-ACC First Team that year. Many observers thought Notre Dame point guard Demetrius Jackson would be an all-ACC First Teamer when the league announced its current season awards on Sunday, but the outstanding junior ended up as a Second Team selection. It would not shock anyone if Jackson is out to prove a point this week.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VII – Final Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 7th, 2016

Here is the final edition of our weekly look at the ACC standings and team performances, where we focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. This week we also examine how each ACC team performed on the road compared with its home performances, and we take a final stab at predicting postseason placement for all of the eligible ACC schools.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Saturday, March 5.

Current StandingsACCStand-Mar7

North Carolina and Virginia were pegged in the preseason as the two best teams in the ACC and that’s exactly how it turned out. Each team went through a tough stretch of games — Virginia began conference play with a 2-3 record while North Carolina was 4-4 in the month of February, but the Tar Heels and Cavaliers will enter the ACC Tournament as the clear co-favorites based on efficiency margins and seeding. Speaking of that, both teams are also still in the hunt for #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament along with favorable opening weekend placement in friendly Raleigh.

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ACC Weekend Review: 03.07.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 7th, 2016

The ACC regular season came to an end on Saturday, and despite persistent congestion at the top of the league standings for much of the campaign, we finished with an outright champion as North Carolina claimed its first regular season conference title since 2012. The Tar Heels collected this year’s title in a similar fashion to how they did so that season, beating archrival Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium after suffering an earlier crushing home loss to the Blue Devils. Miami was not able to tie the Tar Heels for the league’s top spot because of another poor showing on the road — this time at the hands of surging Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Virginia also easily handled Louisville for the second time this season. The Cavaliers (now ranked #1 in KenPom) are perhaps the favorite to win the upcoming ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C. Here are some of the highlights from a busy weekend around the league.

Brice Johnson slams home two of his 18 points as North Carolina dominated Duke in the paint. (Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports)

Brice Johnson slams home two of his 18 points to help North Carolina dominate Duke in the paint. (Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Best Win: There was a lot at stake for North Carolina in its annual season-ending meeting with Duke. Not only were the Tar Heels playing their archrival for a regular season crown and a potential #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Roy Williams’ team was also playing to prove its toughness against good competition — something this squad has struggled with. The game certainly wasn’t pretty (both teams shot less than 40 percent from the field), but North Carolina finally got over the hump to notch the big win (Duke had won 11 of their 14 previous meetings). To say that the Tar Heels dominated the glass would be a gross understatement. Led by Brice Johnson’s 21 boards, North Carolina held an incredible +35 edge in that category. Duke never led but managed to stay close by making 13 threes and committing eight fewer turnovers. The Tar Heels iced the game by going 8-of-8 from the foul line in the last 30 seconds of play. Saturday’s outcome continued an interesting recent trend in this rivalry. Over the last 14 seasons, Duke and North Carolina have split their regular season games eight times. On seven of those occasions, the Tar Heels claimed the season finale.

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ACC Afternoon 5: 02.15.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 15th, 2016

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  1. Duke Basketball Report: If you’re behind at all on ACC play, read this outstanding piece from Al Featherston. If you’re not behind, read it anyway. I agree with him wholeheartedly that Notre Dame has the most likely path to the top seed in Washington, DC. North Carolina is the better team, but there are a lot of traps in the final few games of its conference season. But what I hadn’t considered was all the tiebreaker scenarios (most of which give Notre Dame the advantage). Either way, ACC play has some great games ahead of it in the final month.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Will Duke’s Amile Jefferson redshirt? On one hand, he is eligible for a redshirt year and his veteran leadership could be the x-factor in whether next year’s stacked Blue Devils’ roster wins a championship. On the other hand, Duke is bringing in two elite 6’9″ freshmen and Chase Jeter might transfer if he’s relegated to the bench next season (not to mention Duke is still recruiting five-star center Marques Bolden). The bottom line is that Duke is a Final Four contender with Jefferson this year. That’s why I think he returns.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Virginia lost a heartbreaker in Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday on a controversial buzzer-beater from Grayson Allen. (Note: I don’t think this was an example of a Duke bias, just the tendency of referees to swallow their whistles in the final seconds to focus more on the clock.) Before the wild ending, though, it was an awesome game. It looked like Virginia would run Duke out of the gym in the first half before Brandon Ingram rescued the Blue Devils, at one point scoring 16 straight points for his team. Then Tony Bennett locked Ingram down with Malcolm Brogdon (who in response put the Cavaliers’ offense on his shoulders), opening the game up for Allen.
  4. Syracuse Post Standard: Tyler Lydon has turned out to be quite a diamond in the rough for Jim Boeheim this season. Lydon has looked like a totally new player during the Orange’s five-game winning streak, using an average of 23 percent of possessions compared with a season usage of less than 16 percent. That’s a big difference. He’s Syracuse‘s most efficient player, mostly thanks to excellent shot selection and stroking nearly 45 percent of his three-point attempts.
  5. CBS Sports: NC State’s Cat Barber finally started getting some national love last week, as he’s scored more than 30 points five times in the last seven games. In those same seven games, head coach Mark Gottfried has let him sit for a total of three minutes. So why has it taken so long for him to get noticed? Part of it is a disconnect. Generally the national media loves underdogs, but Barber doesn’t fit that mold. He’s on a major conference team, and his team is generally viewed as disappointing (unlike former Virginia Tech star Erick Green, whose team was expected to be horrendous). That’s a perfect recipe for getting ignored. Still, it’s nice to see Barber getting some shine, even if it is belated. Also, here’s to him putting on an Olivier Hanlan-esque performance at the Verizon Center next month.

EXTRA: The ACC released its schedule of conference opponents for the next two seasons. Just in case you want to start complaining about unbalanced schedules a little earlier than usual.

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ACC M5: 02.03.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 3rd, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. RickPitino.net: Wait, Rick Pitino is the newest ACC basketball blogger (h/t to Card Chronicle)? Pitino hits us with some great Alfred Pennyworth-esque coachspeak in his latest post: “Many get knocked down; you judge character by how they get up.” Beyond the very bloggy writing, you actually get a pretty cool PDF of the team’s “MVP” metrics for Monday night’s game against North Carolina. It turns out that the Louisville coaching staff tracks everything from hockey assists to poor shot selection.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: This is a great look at the ACC through the first half of the season from Al Featherston. The league is really competitive this season, which has led to some peculiar oddities: for example, Georgia Tech is a lot better than its 2-7 conference record (people called last night’s game a “must-win” for Duke, but that Yellow Jackets team isn’t bad). My only real disagreement with the article concerns Pittsburgh‘s inclusion in the “contender” category. The Panthers have only two impressive wins so far: at Florida State and at Notre Dame. Both of those wins were really close calls, but their three losses weren’t. Maybe this Pittsburgh team is good, but I haven’t seen it.
  3. Anderson Independent Mail: Jaron Blossomgame is earning his name this season, as he’s become a much more efficient player than last year. An amazing factoid from Dan Hope’s piece on the junior’s emergence is that he’s the first Clemson player since Terrell McIntyre in 1999 to score at least 20 points in four straight games against ACC opponents. He then made the streak five in row in last night’s win over Wake Forest. Blossomgame has an inspiring story, recovering from a grisly high school injury to become a quiet ACC star.
  4. Winston-Salem Journal: Wake Forest is officially reeling, having lost nine of their last 10 games including a 56-point second half to Clemson on the way to a blowout loss. That makes Dan Collins’ column on Dave Odom‘s improvement as a color commentator a welcome distraction. Odom will be Wake Forest’s basketball “legend” this year at the ACC Tournament.
  5. Miami Herald: What to make of Miami? The Hurricanes looked like a juggernaut against Duke; then they turned around and were blown out by NC State. Maybe the games are related or maybe they looked past an underachieving Wolfpack team. Or maybe, like Angel Rodriguez mentioned, there was a tighter whistle in Raleigh. Either way, Miami’s ups and downs mesh with the whole league outside of Chapel Hill (although with Monday’s loss, maybe the Tar Heels are regressing to the league randomness).

EXTRA: Coach K was “under the weather” (reportedly treated for high blood pressure at Duke Hospital) and missed Duke’s win last night at Georgia Tech. Jeff Capel took the helm, possibly foreshadowing the future in Durham. Krzyzewski is expected to be back on Saturday for Duke’s game against NC State.

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ACC Weekend Review: 01.25.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 25th, 2016

Once again, it wasn’t exactly a weekend of mega-matchups in the ACC. Going into Saturday’s action, the league had seven teams rated in KenPom’s top 38, yet none of them faced each other over the weekend. Some of the games were affected by winter storm Jonas, which caused the rescheduling of two games. On Sunday afternoon, North Carolina continued its undefeated ways in the ACC by holding off a feisty Virginia Tech squad in a game that was moved from Sunday night due to travel concerns in Blacksburg. Syracuse probably faced the toughest travel adversity, finally arriving in Charlottesville less than seven hours before Sunday night’s tipoff. In a game that had been originally scheduled for Saturday night, Virginia pulled away in the closing seconds to hang on against an Orange team that is suddenly playing well. Saturday, three road teams were successful in tight contests; Duke snapped its three game losing streak by beating N.C. State in Raleigh; Louisville gave Georgia Tech another tough home loss; and Pittsburgh rallied from a big halftime deficit to overtake Florida State. In other Saturday action, Miami broke open a tight game late to defeat Wake Forest, and Notre Dame blasted Boston College even though the Irish lost point guard Demetrius Jackson to injury just minutes into the game. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend in the ACC.

Tony Bennett and Virginia earned a hard fought win over Syracuse on Sunday night. (Stephen D. Cannerelli/syracuse.com)

Tony Bennett and Virginia earned a hard fought win over Syracuse on Sunday night.
(Stephen D. Cannerelli/syracuse.com)

  • Best Win: Since we didn’t have any blockbuster matchups or big upsets this weekend, we will declare Virginia‘s home 73-65 victory over Syracuse as the best ACC win of the weekend. The Cavaliers came into the contest with a disappointing 3-3 ACC record and were facing one of the hottest teams in the league. After dropping their first four league games, the Orange had ripped off three straight wins, including two on the road. The Syracuse surge looks to be directly related to the return of Jim Boeheim, who had to serve a NCAA mandated nine-game suspension that included the school’s first three ACC games. The Cavaliers led most of the way but couldn’t shake the Orange, who made 13 three-pointers, until the end. Tony Bennett‘s big three led the way as usual; Malcolm Brogdon scored 21 points; Anthony Gill had 16 points and eight rebounds; and London Perrantes finished with 16 points and seven assists.
  • Worst Loss: After 20 minutes of play, Florida State was looking good against Pittsburgh. The Seminoles were at home, leading by 10, and playing a team coming off a confidence killing home loss to NC State earlier in the week. But two weaknesses from the past came back to haunt Leonard Hamilton‘s team, who let the Panthers come back to take an important 74-72 win in a matchup of NCAA Tournament hopefuls. Somehow, Florida State managed to lose despite outshooting Pitt from the field by a wide margin (53.7 percent to 39.3 percent). Pitt won as a result of having more chances to score, thanks to a +6 edge in both offensive rebounds and turnovers. Those two areas have long been an issue for the Seminoles during Hamilton’s tenure, but hadn’t this year until conference play began. Currently, Florida State ranks 13th in the league in turnover margin and last in defensive rebounding percentage in ACC games.
Grayson Allen had a strong all-around game to help Duke end its losing streak. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer)

Grayson Allen had a strong all-around game to help Duke end its losing streak.
(Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer)

  • Most Outstanding Player: Few Duke teams have needed a regular season win as desperately as this team needed this win on Saturday against rival N.C. State. The Blue Devils had lost three consecutive ACC games coming into the day, all of which had been winnable in the final minute of play. Grayson Allen made sure the Blue Devils’ losing streak came to an end with an excellent all-around performance. The sophomore guard led all scorers with 28 points, shooting 11-17 from the floor and 5-5 from the line. Allen also dished out seven assists and helped out on the glass, finishing with seven rebounds – six of them on the defensive end. Allen is making a strong case for first team All-ACC honors, as he currently ranks second in the ACC in scoring. He’s also fifth in both field goal percentage and assists in ACC games.
  • Unsung Heroes: The most obvious choice here is sophomore big man Anas Mahmoud of Louiville. The native of Cairo, Egypt more than doubled his previous career high, finishing with 15 points in the Cardinals’ road win over Georgia Tech. Mahmoud has been gaining more confidence and playing time from Rick Pitino lately, averaging close to eight points and six boards in his last four outings. Pitt’s Jamie Dixon was glad to see Sterling Smith snap out of his slump, as the graduate transfer tied his season-high with 16 points, including four three-pointers. Smith was much more aggressive than he was in his three prior contests, when he only attempted a total of four shots in 56 minutes of play. Finally, Miami’s Ja’Quan Newton deserves recognition. Newton helped break open a tight game with Wake Forest by scoring 13 of his 18 points in the second half. The aggressive sophomore has been solid off the bench all year for the Hurricanes – he’s second on the team in both scoring and assists, and leads the team in free throw attempts despite playing less than 22 minutes per game.
  • Most Efficient Offense/Least Efficient Defense: At half-time of Saturday’s game in Raleigh, Duke trailed by seven, which was due in great part to a soft Blue Devil zone defense that allowed N.C. State to shoot 56.7 percent from the field. But according to Mike Krzyzewski after the game, despite the deficit and defensive struggles, the zone at least allowed his thin Duke team to be much fresher for the second half than they had been in their previous three losses. The strategy worked (at least for one game) as Duke scored 52 points on 31 second half possessions. For the game, the Blue Devils averaged 1.33 points per possession. Duke shot the ball well in all areas: 65 percent on two-pointers, 40 percent on threes, and 78 percent from the foul line.
  • Most Efficient Defense/Least Efficient Offense: We don’t expect to see Notre Dame’s defense win this honor very often, but when the opponent is Boston College, even the Irish’s normally generous defense can look good. The Eagles managed only 0.74 points per possession on Saturday in South Bend and rank 338th in the country in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. You can safely expect to see them in this category a few more times this season. The biggest issue for BC in this game was two-point shooting, as the Eagles made just eight of their 38 two-point attempts.
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ACC M5: 01.22.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 22nd, 2016

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  1. Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Paul Zeise’s theory about Pittsburgh‘s problems against NC State is that the Panthers struggle with size. He’s wrong that in it wasn’t a rebounding issue (the Panthers had a bad rebounding night against NC State, but were fine against Purdue and Louisville), and NC State’s shot blocker also weren’t a huge factor. The common thread in the losses is unsurprisingly poor shooting. Pittsburgh isn’t a good enough defensive team to win when it shoots poorly. Either way, this trend is worth looking out for when the Panthers play other tall opponents (ahem, Florida State).
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: North Carolina is shooting more than four percent better on free throws this season than last year (74.4 vs. 70.2, respectively). When questioned about the dramatic improvement, Roy Williams was on point: “Everybody thinks that your bad free-throw shooters would get into a room and get some candles out and do a seance and everything.” Just how good are the Tar Heels from the charity stripe this season? Marcus Paige is the the third-best free throw shooter on the team, with Isaiah Hicks hot on his tail. So far North Carolina is 0-2 in games decided by five points or fewer, but the improved free throw shooting will continue to paid dividends in stretching leads.
  3. Syracuse Post Standard: This is a good look at Michael Gbinije and his evolution – one somewhat forced upon him – into a point guard. Interestingly, Duke (where Gbinije transferred from) would love to have Matt Jones complete a similar transformation, but Jones still looks a little lost running the offense. Syracuse’s road to the NCAA Tournament is challenging but achievable. It becomes near impossible if Gbinije can’t play consistently like he did against Duke.
  4. Richmond Times Dispatch: This is the first story of the year on an ACC team holding a players-only meeting. That team was Virginia, slotted by many as the best team in the league before messing around and losing three of their first five ACC games. Clemson coming to Charlottesville didn’t look like a test before the season, but with the teams trending in opposite directions, the seniors chose to take matters into their own hands.
  5. CBS Sports: Not going to lie, this is being posted mainly because of the vine of Donovan Mitchell‘s dunk. But it’s worth mentioning that the one team that might be better than North Carolina in the ACC is Louisville. Their strength of schedule was so bad in non-conference that it’s still tough to get a good read on the Cardinals, but they’re terrific defensively and are undefeated at home this season.
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ACC M5: 01.20.16 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 20th, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Everyone put your hands together for NC State! That’s right, the Wolfpack got their first conference win at Pittsburgh. The Panthers’ league record is a little shinier than their non-conference play merited (they only beat one top-100 team according to Ken Pomeroy), but going to Pittsburgh and coming out with a win says a lot about Mark Gottfried‘s team. At least for tonight NC State was a good shooting team, led by Cat Barber‘s 31 points on 18 shots (he went 14-14 from the charity stripe). But even more promising was holding a good offensive team at bay on the road.
  2. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Buzz Williams knows that his team’s record is likely a mirage. But he knows that it’s progress that the Hokies find themselves in situations where games can go their way. And he talks about exploiting small things–out of bounds plays and drawing fouls–to make his team more competitive. Both also are of utmost importance in close games when each possession matters a little more.
  3. USA Today: This is a good story from Nicole Auerbach on Malik Beasley (and Dwayne Bacon, but he’s really just mentioned as Beasley’s friend and the other freshman star). Beasley’s parents are both actors, but his father also played basketball at a high level. The preparation he put in over the summer getting to know Leonard Hamilton’s system and his future teammates while taking summer courses is a little like learning lines.
  4. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Tech is a better team than a lot of people know. While the team’s conference record looks like Wake Forest and Boston College, the Yellow Jackets are much more efficient (62 according to Ken Pomeroy; 59 according to Jeff Sagarin). That should pay dividends at some point, though it may be too late to save Brian Gregory’s job. Gregory will have plenty of time to plan for this Saturday when Louisville comes to town, and that’s the kind of win that could start turning heads.
  5. Syracuse Post Standard: So Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t happy about the no-call on a rebound at the end of Duke‘s third straight loss (though possibly it was karmic justice for another controversial no-call). But the real reason to bring up this article is to touch on Coach K snubbing a few Syracuse players in the handshake line. Handshake lines are stupid, but this controversy may be even stupider (or Boeheim could be sticking up for a friend).
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ACC Weekend Review: 01.18.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 18th, 2016

Saturday was a day for upsets in the ACC as four underdogs were victorious. Notre Dame won a shootout over Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium in the marquee matchup of the weekend; the Clemson Tigers continued their amazing run with a home rally over Miami; Virginia Tech overcame a large late deficit to beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta; and Syracuse got its second ACC win by blasting Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. The other two games on the day ended as expected – Pittsburgh handled Boston College at home and North Carolina, the ACC’s only undefeated team in conference play, overcame a slow start to finish off North Carolina State in Chapel Hill. In the only ACC action on Sunday, Virginia‘s road woes continued in a loss to Florida State in Tallahassee. Here are some of the other highlights from the weekend in the ACC.

Brad Brownell and Jaron Blossomgame have had plenty to celebrate during Clemson's five straight ACC upset wins. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

Brad Brownell and Jaron Blossomgame have had plenty to celebrate during Clemson’s five straight ACC upset wins. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

  • Best Win: In one of the most improbable occurrences in college basketball this year, Clemson has overcome one of the ACC’s toughest early league schedules by winning five straight games as an underdog. The latest victim was Miami by a score of 76-65 on Saturday afternoon in Greenville. With seven minutes to go and Miami holding a six point lead, it looked like the Tigers’ streak was near its end. But Clemson closed out the game with a 25-8 run and has now won five straight ACC games for the first time since Rick Barnes was coaching the Tigers in 1997. Jaron Blossomgame led the way with 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting. During the Brad Brownell era, the Tigers have always played good defense, but the difference this year is the Tigers’ offense. After finishing among the bottom three in ACC offensive efficiency the last three years (and never above 1.00 points per possession), Clemson is currently sixth in the league at a much improved 1.12 points per possession. A huge part of that success is the Tigers’ ability to punish teams from the foul line – they rank second in the ACC in free throw rate (45.1%) and first in accuracy (79.6%).
  • Worst Loss: Even though Wake Forest’s dismal effort in a home blowout to Syracuse technically may be the worst performance, we instead will go with the squad that suffered the most heartbreaking defeat, mainly because of what it may mean for that team’s confidence going forward. The team in question is Georgia Tech, who suffered a total meltdown at home against Virginia Tech. In our last weekend recap, we lauded Brian Gregory’s team for finally getting over the hump in winning a close league game. Well, the praise may have been a bit premature. The end of Saturday’s game in Atlanta played out exactly like many of the Yellow Jackets’ league games did a year ago, as the Jackets blew a 10-point lead over the last 4:14 of the game. In its final 12 possessions, Georgia Tech had more turnovers (4) than points (3). It certainly didn’t help that Adam Smith, the Jackets’ main outside threat, only made one three-pointer in seven tries from deep.
Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson punished Duke with 31 points in the Irish's big road win. (Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports)

Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson punished Duke with 31 points in the Irish’s big road win.
(Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Most Outstanding Player: Notre Dame’s Mike Brey has many weapons at his disposal, and that includes sophomore Bonzie Colson, who apparently loves to play against Duke. Colson helped the Irish defeat the Blue Devils in last season’s ACC Tournament semifinals with a then career-best 17 points. He nearly doubled that output on Saturday afternoon, finishing with 31 points and 11 rebounds (eight offensive) to lead the Irish to their fourth win over Duke in five meetings as ACC members. Colson scored in a variety of ways: post moves, putbacks, free throws (5-5) and even from deep (2-3 on threes). Afterwards, Brey commented on his play, “He gets pretty fired up when he does play them. Bonzie’s a big game guy. He loves a big game, and I thought he helped his teammates get confident.” Colson did not start the contest but logged 33 minutes as Brey recognized early on that the burly forward was a huge matchup problem for the Blue Devils’ thin frontcourt.
  • Unsung Heroes: With North Carolina’s top three scorers struggling against NC State, Roy Williams needed someone else to step up. That someone turned out to be Kennedy Meeks, who scored 25 points, grabbed six boards and blocked three shots to help the Tar Heels pull away from their rival. In only his second game back from a knee injury, Meeks had his highest point total since he tallied 25 in the season opener. Syracuse has not been a balanced team this year, having been carried by its backcourt to this point. But in Saturday’s rout of Wake Forest, junior forward Tyler Roberson delivered a dose of frontcourt production with 16 points and 13 rebounds. That makes four consecutive double figure scoring games for Roberson, who also helped the Orange’s defense Saturday with three steals. Pittsburgh’s Cameron Johnson only played 15 minutes in the Panthers’ win over Boston College, but he maximized that time with 20 points on an efficient seven of ten shooting performance. The redshirt freshman wing flashed a nice touch from deep, making four of his seven long-range attempts. He is now shooting 42.4 percent for the season from three-point range.
  • Most Efficient Offense/Least Efficient Defense: With Notre Dame visiting Duke in a game featuring two of the top four offenses in the country, we expected a shootout. Boy did we ever get one. Rare are games in which both teams score at a rate higher than 1.30 points per possession, but that’s what happened in Cameron Indoor on Saturday. The Irish prevailed with an offense that posted 1.36 points per possession in the exciting 95-91 win. That’s the most points per possession allowed by Duke to an ACC foe at home in the 15-year KenPom era. As one might expect in a performance that efficient, Notre Dame was outstanding in multiple offensive areas. They made 51.8 percent of their two-point attempts; hit 43.8 percent from three-point range; converted 80 percent from the foul line; grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, and only gave the ball away six times. It took every bit of that efficiency to hold off a Duke team that made half of their 24 three-point attempts.
  • Most Efficient Defense/Least Efficient Offense: In the weekend’s most lopsided game, Wake Forest managed only 0.77 points per possession in its 83-55 home loss to Syracuse. The Deacons had a tough time figuring out how to attack the Orange’s 2-3 zone from the outset and finished with 18 turnovers. When the Demon Deacons did get shot opportunities, they failed miserably, making just two of 20 from deep and missing 17 of 42 free throw attempts. Coming into the game, Wake figured to take advantage of Syracuse’s normally weak defensive rebounding, but things played out differently, as the Deacons only grabbed 25 percent of their misses. That percentage is well below Wake’s season average (35.1%) and that of Syracuse’s opponents (also 35.1%). Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim said, “This was the best defensive game we’ve had all year. We just were tremendously active. We had been doing a good job at the three-point line, but not so much inside. We were much better inside tonight.”

 

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ACC Weekend Review: 01.11.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 11th, 2016

The ACC currently has five teams that rank among KenPom’s top 10, but two of that group fell on the road in the second weekend of conference play. On Saturday afternoon, Georgia Tech finally won a close ACC game by knocking off Virginia in Atlanta. Clemson also pulled off a solid upset by beating Louisville in the Tigers’ makeshift home gym this year – Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Syracuse put up a good fight in Jim Boeheim’s return on Saturday before wilting down the stretch at home against North Carolina. In other action, Duke blew out Virginia Tech in Cameron Indoor Stadium; Miami cruised at home over Florida State; and red-hot Pittsburgh won a shootout over Notre Dame in South Bend. Wake Forest got its first conference win last night by holding off N.C. State in Winston-Salem. Here are some of the other highlights from the weekend in the ACC.

Brian Gregory finally got over the hump with Georgia Tech's big win over Louisville. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Brian Gregory finally got over the hump with Georgia Tech’s big win over UVA. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

  • Best Win: It’s been a long time coming for Georgia Tech fans, but Brian Gregory’s team was able to close out a tough conference opponent for the first time in a long while. After suffering through a brutal stretch of tight ACC defeats last season, the Yellow Jackets started this year in similar fashion, dropping their first two games on the road. But those demons were exorcised Saturday in McCamish Pavilion as Georgia Tech outplayed two-time defending ACC regular season champion Virginia. The Jackets flashed their newfound long-range marksmanship by making 8-of-15 three-point tries, including three straight during a crucial 11-0 spurt when the score was tied with six minutes to play. Georgia Tech also owned the glass, finishing +12 in rebounding margin for the game. For Virginia, this loss, coming just days after a shocking defeat at Virginia Tech, completes the Cavaliers’ roughest week of ACC play in a very long time.

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ACC M5: 01.11.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 11th, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. Charlotte Observer: Andrew Carter takes a deeper look at how this season’s unbalanced schedule will affect the presumed ACC contenders (where’s Clemson?!). First, compliments to the author for including “halcyon” in the lede; second, Virginia‘s hole may look deeper than it is. On the other side of things, Duke‘s shiny record may be more a reflection of an easy start than a strengthened Blue Devils team.
  2. Winston Salem Journal: Want to know a team whose hole is exactly as deep as it looks? Say hello to NC State! After a loss at Wake Forest last night, head coach Mark Gottfried said, “I’ve seen bad teams before. We’re not a bad team.” Unfortunately, his team’s problem is that it can’t shoot. Its defense is typical of a Gottfried-coached team and Cat Barber is a must-watch player, but his roster has way too many offensive holes.
  3. Louisville Courier-Journal: The only disappointing things about Clemson‘s ACC season so far are: 1) the Tigers weren’t able to end their lifetime streak of futility in Chapel Hill; and, 2) Littlejohn Coliseum is being renovated so all their home games are being played 30 miles down the road in Greenville. That second fact makes the Tigers’ win over Louisville even more impressive. Littlejohn often surprises visiting teams with its great atmosphere, but this games wasn’t on campus (not to mention that a certain football game tonight is dominating Clemson fans’ minds). For Louisville, though, this game emphasizes just how much we don’t know about the Cardinals.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: One thing was clear in watching Duke‘s game against Virginia Tech this weekend, which is that it’s not necessarily insane to think Marshall Plumlee is the Blue Devils’ most important player. Certainly, he’s not their best player — Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen are much more important to the team from a production perspective. But Plumlee brings the fire. He throws himself around with reckless abandon and has gone 13-of-14 from the field in his last two games.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: The ACC Tournament will never be the same, as the league has made the decision to sell beer and wine at the event beginning this season. That may not seem like a huge deal (and for many it won’t be), but a beer or three would go a long way, especially on Wednesday and Thursday. The best part of this move is that it brings beer and wine back to  the common people. For years it has been available in the luxury boxes and suites, out of reach of the average fan. No longer!
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