ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

The 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off Wednesday in Greensboro. This should be one of the more entertaining tournaments of recent years, as every team has something to play for from bottom to top. It’s startling that so many are dismissing Virginia, who just won their first outright ACC regular season championship in 33 years. Syracuse has been left for dead after once being projected to be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing four of their last six to close the regular season. Duke and North Carolina need late runs to continue to improve their seeding for the Big Dance. The lone likely bubble team in the conference, Pittsburgh, will seek to bolster its resume. Everyone else seeks to shock the world and win the whole thing to steal a tourney bid. Here is RTC’s ACC Tournament preview, with predicted champion included.

This year's ACC tournament field should be wide open.

This year’s ACC tournament field should be wide open.

The first round kicking off on Wednesday is a new wrinkle for a newly-enlarged conference, and there won’t be any big surprises there. Virginia Tech owns two wins (their only two conference wins) over Miami this year; that will change this time around. It’s very difficult for anyone to beat a team three times in the course of one season, and this isn’t a juggernaut squad by any means. Jim Larranaga’s team tops James Johnson’s. Maryland, fresh off of its stunning win over Virginia in the season’s final game, will keep their momentum rolling in knocking Wake Forest out on the first day. The Demon Deacons don’t win away from home, and that won’t change in Greensboro. Georgia Tech will continue the disastrous year that Boston College has endured by out muscling them inside with Daniel Miller and capping off the win with Trae Golden’s ace free-throw shooting.

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O26 Superlatives, Part II: CAA, C-USA, MAC, MEAC, MVC, SoCon, Summit & WCC…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 10th, 2014

In Part II of our three-part series, we pass out 2013-14 superlatives to the best teams, performers and performances from eight different O26 conferences: CAA, Conference USA, MAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, SoCon, Summit and WCC. In alphabetical order:

Colonial Athletic Association

The Blue Hens outworked the rest of the CAA for much of 2013-2014. (The Post and Courier)

The Blue Hens outworked the rest of the CAA for much of 2013-2014. (The Post and Courier)

  • Team of the Year – Delaware (22-9, 14-2). Not even early- and late-season suspensions of two of Delaware’s best players could stop the Blue Hens’ run to a CAA regular season title. Monte Ross’ up-tempo club raced off to an 11-0 start in conference play, amassing a large enough lead that preseason favorite Towson was never able to catch up.
  • Player of the Year – Jerelle Benimon – Towson. You want beastly numbers? How about these: In 32 games, the 6’8’’ Benimon averaged 18.9 points, 11.7 boards, 3.7 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, recorded an NCAA-best 20 double-doubles and reached the free throw line 258 times, good for sixth in the country.
  • Coach of the Year – Monté Ross – Delaware. Ross found a way to keep things together, to keep winning after guard Devon Saddler – the team’s leading scorer – missed seven games due to suspension early in the season and Jarvis Threatt – the team’s third-leading scorer – was suspended for the entire month of February.
  • Upset of the Year – Northeastern over Georgetown, 63-56. In the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, miles from Boston or Washington D.C., Scott Eatherton and the Huskies pounded Georgetown in the paint and pulled off an unexpected upset. Alas, it was another full month before Bill Coen’s bunch wound up back in the win column.
  • Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Johnathan Burroughs-Cook – College of Charleston. Burroughs-Cook cares not that you are D-II school or that he is playing in a preseason game—he will still annihilate your attempt to draw a charge.

Conference USA

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ACC M5: 03.10.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 10th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. The ACC: So the ACC Tournament bracket is set! And it’s loaded with juicy match-ups. We’ll definitely have more on this soon but you can see the bracket below to start setting your DVR (although make sure to extend it, because there’s no way the second games in the pairings will start two hours after the first ones). Might I suggest the potential Maryland-Virginia rematch (or a desperate Florida State’s chance to avenge the Cavaliers’ beatdowns from early in conference play), North Carolina getting a bubbly Pittsburgh team, Miami getting another chance to spoil NC State (and if not another chance for the Wolfpack to avenge their controversial loss at Syracuse), or Clemson getting another shot at Duke? And that doesn’t even look forward to the semifinals.
    ACC-bracket
  2. Backing the Pack: Austin Johnson brings the goods on the history of TJ Warren‘s number at NC State. The Wolfpack have only retired one jersey (David Thompson), but #24 has been worn by a series of great NC State players (including Warren’s father, Tom Gugliotta and Julius Hodge). Warren is earning his spot in the rafters this week with simply ludicrous offensive production (83 points in two games!). It’s a shame All-American awards generally rely so heavily on team quality because Warren’s play the second half of the season has been other-worldly. He should at least walk away with the ACC Player of the Year award and a lottery pick, which isn’t bad recognition at all.
  3. The Daily Orange: It’s oral history time! This time David Wilson travels back in time for the Big East ACC-American classic six-overtime game between Syracuse and Connecticut. There are very few games that stick with me (especially games that I didn’t attend live and didn’t involve ACC teams), but this one qualifies. I was writing a paper and watching the game in the background back when WatchESPN was still ESPN360 and was just starting to take off with live events. That game forced me to pull an all-nighter to finish the paper because it just sucked me in. And never ended. But let the people involved in the classic tell the story.
  4. Wall Street Journal: Here’s an amusing article on more enterprising Duke students (and possibly random people sneaking into the Duke-North Carolina game instead of camping out. Students have tried everything from ambushing the stadium to masquerading as a band member to hiding out inside.) Duke is a weird team. For around 30 minutes on Saturday against North Carolina they looked unbeatable. And for the other quarter of the game, no lead felt safe. Go ahead and put me down for having no clue what the top four ACC seeds are going to do over the next few weeks. All feel like they can lose to just about anyone on the wrong night or blow anyone out of the building.
  5. Hampton Road Daily Press and Charlottesville Daily Progress: Maryland has played (and won) its last regular season ACC game. Time to get nostalgic! It was fitting that the Terrapins played Virginia on the way out. The schools have been playing each other for a century, and the Cavaliers closed out Cole Field House a while ago. Maryland and Rutgers may prove the ultimate litmus test for super-conferences (Notre Dame would also count if not for its continued independence in football). If college sports continues increasing television revenues despite hurting geography and natural rivalries, super-conferences make sense. If this backfires, look for more emphasis to stay with the geographic footprint.
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Otskey’s Observations: Episode XV, Player and Coach of the Year Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 6th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball.

As the college basketball regular season wraps up, I thought this would be a good time to run down my Coaches of the Year and Players of the Year in each of the major conferences. Here goes…

ACC

  • POY: T.J. Warren, NC State (24.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG). Warren has been a tremendous bright spot on an otherwise mediocre Wolfpack squad. Since a rough four-point game against Virginia on January 11, Warren has scored at least 20 points in every game he has played (he missed one game due to injury). At 6’8” and an athletic 215 pounds, Warren is a match-up problem for nearly every opponent. He has had eight 30+ point games (only one fewer than Doug McDermott), including Monday’s 41-point explosion in a road win at Pittsburgh. Some may disagree because NC State is not at the top of the ACC, but a season like this where Warren brought it night after night deserves special recognition.
Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job at Virginia. (virginiasports.com)

Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job at Virginia. (virginiasports.com)

  • COY: Tony Bennett, Virginia (25-5, 16-1 ACC). Bennett’s teams have always been terrific defensively and this one is no exception. Ranked third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, Virginia has allowed only four ACC opponents to score 60 or more points this season. Even in a league with a tempo as slow as this year’s ACC, that is a remarkable statistic. Virginia was a trendy surprise pick but I am not sure anyone thought it would turn out to be this good. The Cavaliers were picked fourth in the preseason ACC poll but currently hold a three-game lead over Syracuse and North Carolina with just one game to play.

American

  • POY: Russ Smith, Louisville (18.0 PPG, 4.5 APG, 2.0 SPG). This was a really close call between Smith and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick but I am giving Smith the slightest of edges. Both mean so much to their respective teams but Smith’s decision to return to Louisville for his senior year has proven to be a wise one. Smith is enjoying the best shooting season of his career (46.8 percent) and has matured greatly. He is playing smarter and has led this Louisville team to a 25-5 overall record. The Cardinals again have the look of a Final Four contender and Smith is the primary reason why.

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ACC M5: 03.03.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 3rd, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress: First things first, Virginia showed the world it was ready for the bright lights with a doubter-silencing beatdown of Syracuse to clinch the ACC regular season title (its first since Ralph Sampson). Sure, you can still bag on the unbalanced schedule and the ugly non-conference games all you want, but this Virginia team isn’t playing games. The Cavaliers were the first team this year to beat Syracuse in convincing fashion, the fans stormed the floor, and the nets were cut down. Tony Bennett compared the noise at the game to a Taylor Swift concert. With the win, three ACC teams have a shot for the final one seed (assuming one wins out).
  2. Backing the Pack: Virginia wasn’t the only team to reach emotional extremes this week. NC State also finds itself on new ground under Mark Gottfried. For the first time since he was hired, the NCAA Tournament is effectively off the table (barring a miraculous ACC Tournament run) after getting blitzed by Miami at home. This team had really over-performed most people’s (including my own) expectations, so the loss wasn’t that surprising. Though it was icing on the cake after the brutal loss to North Carolina earlier last week. Now Gottfried has to show that he can motivate a team with new goals.
  3. Orlando Sentinel: Leonard Hamilton relies heavily on a mercurial sophomore class. Four play over 20 minutes a game, and Michael Ojo gets significant time off the bench. Unsurprisingly, the season has been somewhat of a roller coaster, dismantling a very good Virginia Commonwealth team early in the year and losing to Miami at home three weeks ago. The Seminoles hold a decent position on the bubble. They still have work to do, but a home finish against a reeling Syracuse team might be just what the bracketologist ordered.
  4. Washington Post: John Feinstein touches on a great point. Last week was the first big ACC game (from a national perspective) not involving Duke and North Carolina in a very long time. The last time Duke or North Carolina didn’t finish at least second in the regular season was 2003 when Wake Forest finished first and Maryland was second. Also a good point from Brian Gregory on the side effects of expansion: “I feel like I started out trying to construct a building,” Gregory said. “Just when I got the foundation built, I found out that someone has already built three new penthouse units on top of me.”
  5. Washington Post: Keeping things with Feinstein to close things out. It was Dean Smith‘s 83rd birthday Friday, so it’s worth reading a couple of anecdotes about him.

EXTRA: Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski went on Dan LeBatard’s radio show together and gave an amusing interview — especially the first few minutes. Suffice to say five years ago, no one and I mean no one would have expected Coach K to do an interview like this one.

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Whats Trending: Tom Izzo Dancing, Baylor Getting Baptized, Marcus Paige, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on February 28th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Tom Izzo… Pony… Ride It

So Tom Izzo apparently appears in a new Werner Ladders TV commercial. That’s clever and funny and all, but SB Nation‘s Brian Floyd already made the remix for us because that is how he rolls… just laying beats over video and hitting the “UPLOAD TO YOUTUBE” button.


Yes, that would be the renowned R&B hit “Pony” by Ginuwine.

Baylor Bears Get Baptized

No for real. This is not a euphemism for getting shown up on defense while your opponent throws one down in your face. A handful of Baylor Bears were actually baptized last week. Isaiah Austin captured it all.

Scottie Wilbekin Celebrates Like A Soccer Player

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The ACC’s Unknown Superstars: TJ Warren & KJ McDaniels

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 28th, 2014

T.J. Warren and K.J. McDaniels are two of the best wings in college basketball and you’d never know it. Most of their lack of attention has to do with their respective teams’ success — N.C. State (17-11, 7-8 ACC) and Clemson (17-10, 8-7 ACC) — and the fact that the Wolfpack and the Tigers are on the outside of the bubble looking in. Both players have assumed huge responsibilities and increased roles this season, a necessary component for N.C. State after losing a huge contingent of talent and for a Clemson squad lacking star power.

Will he stay or will he go? Warren's season has Wolfpack fans hoping for more T.J.(Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Will he stay or will he go? Warren’s season has Wolfpack fans hoping for more T.J. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren has risen to the occasion, solidifying himself as a legitimate all-ACC candidate in leading the league in scoring at 23.8 PPG, five points per game higher than Duke’s Jabari Parker. While it was unreasonable to expect Warren to continue his otherworldly efficiency of last season when he shot 62.2 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from behind the line, he still is shooting very well from the field (52.3 percent from the field, 29.5 percent from three). He clearly is a massive piece to the Wolfpack offense and quite possibly the only thing keeping them afloat. While he is known for his scoring credentials, he is no slouch in the rebounding department either, collecting 7.0 caroms per contest for the Pack. Warren’s superb play has helped the Wolfpack outdo preseason expectations and explains why N.C. State has a great shot at a top-half conference finish.

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ACC Weekend Preview #9

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 28th, 2014

It’s the next to last weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 26, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features a battle for first place, with the winner likely headed to the ACC Tournament in Greensboro as the top seed.

Saturday - Syracuse (26-2, 13-2 ACC) @ Virginia (24-5, 15-1 ACC) – ESPN (4:00 PM)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title. (Photo: VirginiaSports.com)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title.
(VirginiaSports.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#4) Virginia 58-53 (#10) Syracuse

Syr-Va

This match-up will probably decide the ACC regular season title. Virginia could be the least publicized 15-1 major conference team ever. With Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina getting most of the national attention, the Cavaliers have methodically taken care of business and rolled through conference play. They also seem to be on the upswing, winning their last two games by over 20 points after three straight single-digit victories. Malcolm Brogdon continues to be a model of consistency. It’s almost unreal to look at his game-by-game scoring totals. Not only has he scored in double figures in every ACC game, but he has scored in the 12- to 17-point range in 14 of the 16 games. And in the other two contests, he had 11 once and — you guessed it — 18 in the other. The good news for Syracuse is that Jerami Grant is expected to play in the game. The sophomore missed the entire second half of Monday’s contest at Maryland with a lower back issue. In that game, the Orange won another nail-biter, bringing their record in close games (decided by five points or less) to a rather fortunate 6-1. For Syracuse to get Virginia in a close one, it better shoot much better than the team has lately. In the last four games, the Orange have averaged an extremely low effective field goal percentage (39.0). That doesn’t match up well with Virginia’s league-best defense.

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ACC M5: 02.27.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 27th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. The Agony (via Air Balled Free Throw) and The Ecstasy (via Tar Heel Blog): Life wouldn’t be complete without both perspectives on one of the best ACC games of the season. Only Syracuse’s win over Duke in the Carrier Dome topped North Carolina eking out a win over NC State last night. Of course there was weird officiating, but the fun was watching Marcus Paige and T.J. Warren trade buckets down the stretch (both finished with career-high nights). Voting for first-team All-ACC will be brutal this year.
  2. Fayetteville Observer: Speaking of TJ Warren, Bret Strelow brings up an interesting fact. Warren is likely to be the first player from the Triangle to make first-team all-conference in two decades. Strelow looks at Warren’s ascent from sixth man to possible ACC Player of the Year. Here’s hoping that NC State gets another shot at the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament in two weeks.
  3. Syracuse Post-Standard: Patrick Stevens is watching the bubble. Historically he’s done an excellent job in picking the NCAA Tournament field, so definitely pay close attention to his work. NC State’s loss probably pushes the Wolfpack into longshot territory for the moment. I only see five (maybe six if a couple of the top tier lose in the conference tournament) ACC teams making the Big Dance as of right now. The question is whether NC State, Florida State, Clemson or Pittsburgh will nab another spot by finishing strong. There just aren’t many great wins on the resumes of NC State or Pittsburgh, but there are some real head-scratching losses for Clemson and Florida State.
  4. Raycom Sports: This is old(ish) news, but with the ACC Tournament around the corner it makes sense to talk about now. The ACC decided it would be a good idea to put Miami between Duke and North Carolina’s fan sections this year in Greensboro Coliseum. That’s a sliver of a buffer. And the Florida State-Boston College crescent is the only thing keeping the Tar Heels from becoming a Duke-NC State sandwich. What really stands out about the seating chart is how small Pittsburgh‘s section turned out to be. Welcome to the ACC!
  5. Winston-Salem Journal: In case Wake Forest fans want to forget the present in favor of better times (read: postseason times), there’s a new book out on Bones McKinney, the baptist preacher and head coach who led the the Demon Deacons to the Final Four a half-century ago.
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ACC M5: 02.21.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 21st, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse Post-Standard: Mike Hopkins is into advanced statistics. Specifically, he looks at rebounds per minute (a stat NBA teams look at closely to try and gauge a college player’s future potential on the blocks). He also has his own version of the player efficiency rating that he uses to scout teams and address concerns for the upcoming season. It’s interesting he chooses per-40 stats instead of the raw efficiency stats, though.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: NC State needs a really strong showing the rest of its season to wind up in the NCAA Tournament. A weak bubble helps, but the Wolfpack need a lot of wins and don’t have a lot of time to get them. At this point, NC State is Pittsburgh-Lite in terms of resumes (essentially no horrible losses but no good wins either). They have a better RPI than resume, which is troubling (in that “you’ll count as a good win, but don’t have a good shot at making the Big Dance” kind of way). The good news is that’s a foundation that a win at Pittsburgh would help a lot with (especially with one big ACC Tournament win), but NC State is a long shot at this point.
  3. FSU News: Big administrative news out of Tallahassee, as Eric Barron will be moving to Penn State to serve as president. Barron will leave Florida State in early April. It’s a turbulent time for the school as a whole, as they look for a billion dollar capital campaign to push Florida State into the top 25 public universities in the country (Barron said he’d continue his fundraising, but it’s going to be tough to raise a billion dollars with an interim president). One interesting piece of the puzzle is Florida law, which gives state politicians much more influence in school matters than most states. This is a huge future hire from an ACC fan perspective, as things could get rocky if the future president isn’t as dedicated to the ACC as Barron(who always was a public supporter of the conference)  has been.
  4. From The Rumble Seat: Bobby Cremins and Homer Rice are being elected into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame tomorrow. Cremins was a huge part of Georgia Tech basketball’s ascension to relevance before the school pushed him out in 2000. Three years later the school reconciled with him, honoring Cremins with his name on the court. Rice was the athletic director for 17 years, and the athletic success (in football and basketball) under his tenure is a large part of the Yellow Jackets’ perceived high potential.
  5. iSportsWeb: I hate to break it to John Ernstes, but there’s no chance that Wake Forest lands Gregg Marshall. Wichita State is paying Marshall very well. While the Wake Forest job would be a moderate increase in exposure, I doubt they’ll be willing to break the bank. And he’s definitely got easier success with the Shockers than he’d have in Winston-Salem. I think Wake Forest has to aim a little lower (or at least riskier).

Oh, and North Carolina found a way to hold Duke‘s offense to no field goals in nearly 10 minutes of game time en route to a win in Chapel Hill.

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ACC M5: 02.17.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 17th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Atlantic Coast Confidential: So first, about the Syracuse-NC State game. Neither team deserved to win. You can’t claim you deserve to win if you turn the ball over twice in the last 30 seconds. Nor can you stake much on getting bailed out on a foul call. I want to spend a few words talking about Trevor Cooney’s foul on TJ Warren. It may have been the right call. Good arguments have been made that it was (notably, he traveled after the foul but before shooting). But that doesn’t mean the rule is dumb. Reasonable minds disagree, but Warren had an open layup and Cooney just threw his arm at the ball with no angle to make a play. The contact changed Warren’s timing (resulting in the aforementioned theoretical travel). The clear-path rule should be adopted to some degree at the college level because it’s ridiculous to reward a desperation play like Cooney’s. Moving forward, I’m a little concerned that Syracuse’s regression may come at the wrong time (see the 2010 team for another example). That’s not to say it will, just that I hope people aren’t just paying lip service to the Orange because they’re undefeated. This is a really good team, maybe the best Jim Boeheim has ever coached.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: In moral-boosting NC State stories, good stuff from Joe Giglio on David Thompson (in honor of the 1974 national championship team). Thompson probably tops the list of players I’d like to get a time machine to both go back to see them play and bring back to see them play in today’s game (runner up is probably Wilt Chamberlain). Thompson is one of those athletes (Bo Jackson is the paradigm) who’s reached an almost mythical status where I’d believe nearly any fabled athletic feat (at least related to leaping ability in Thompson’s case) someone told me.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: With Wake Forest continuing its quest to play on the first Wednesday in ACC Tournament history Dan Collins has seen enough of the Jeff Bzdelik era. Had Bzdelik arrived a couple of years later, he might have been able to usurp Les Robinson’s honorary nickname of shame for the conference tournament’s opening day, but I’d be surprised if Wake Forest keeps Bzdelik after this season. Bzdelik’s players may have too, as they’re still talking the talk, but the losses appear to be weighing them down as a group.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State kept its NCAA hopes alive by winning at Wake Forest. But there’s still a lot of work left to do, and the team knows it. I think Florida State is in if it wins four of its last five games. Two are gimmes (home against Georgia Tech and at Boston College). But there’s a surging North Carolina team and a trip to increasingly desperate Pittsburgh, not to mention undefeated Syracuse all on the horizon.
  5. BC Heights: Legendary Boston College basketball SID Dick Kelley died last week from ALS. Austin Tedesco–sports editor of the student newspaper–penned a few stories about how Kelley continued to mentor him, even into the later stages of his illness. Anytime you hang around Conte Forum long enough you start hearing stories like these. as Kelley’s manner was just infectious. As a side note, Kelley was the first SID to credential this website as a legitimate entity. He will be missed.
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Saturday Preview: Entering February, Stakes Are Raised

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 1st, 2014

Hello February! College hoops welcomes you into 2014’s second month with a mouth-watering slate of action. You may be sold at “Duke-Syracuse,” but there will be plenty of games that don’t set Carrier Dome attendance records worth watching. That’s not to say that your college basketball fan credentials will be confiscated if you aren’t settling in to your couch for some ACC on ESPN action at 6:30 PM ET today – because they will be – but here are some other storylines to watch on the first day of February.

Perfection Will Be Tested

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

For the first time since 1976, there are three teams 20-0 or better in college basketball, and all three are in action on Saturday. Wichita State shouldn’t have any issues with Evansville (3-6 in the MVC) at The Roundhouse (3:00 PM ET, ESPNU), but both Arizona and Syracuse face serious threats to their dreams of perfection. The Wildcats visit Berkeley to take on a Cal team (10:30 PM ET, P12 Nets) which had been undefeated at home up until Wednesday, when Arizona State squeezed out an overtime win over the Bears. If Mike Montgomery’s team is to add the signature victory of all signature victories to its resume, they will need senior Richard Solomon to have a big game against that impressive Arizona frontcourt. All the way across the country, Duke would be well-served to find a way to match up with the impressive frontcourt of their undefeated opponent. The Blue Devils are not a great rebounding team, but in their game with Syracuse (6:30 PM ET, ESPN), keeping the Orange (ninth nationally in OR%) off the offensive glass will be imperative for Coach K’s squad. On the other end, look for Jabari Parker to get plenty of touches out of the high post. A record crowd is expected at the Carrier Dome for this one, which obviously sounds like good news for Syracuse. Maybe not, though. The last time there was an attendance record set at the dome (last February, versus Georgetown), a do-it-all 6’8” forward named Otto Porter torched the Orange for 33 points and eight rebounds in a lopsided victory for the visitors. Can Parker induce a little déjà vu on Saturday, and end Syracuse’s perfect season while he’s at it?

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