Considering Maryland’s Perimeter Surprise: Pressure Defense

Posted by KCarpenter on February 6th, 2012

The Terrapins lost to North Carolina on Saturday after a valiant and hard-fought game where it looked like Mark Turgeon had his old mentor Roy Williams on the ropes early on. How did Maryland get the jump on the Tar Heels? By relying on a tactic that Turgeon has been reluctant to embrace all season: perimeter pressure. On the season, Maryland has forced fewer turnovers than almost every team in the country, posting a defensive turnover percentage of 16.9% which puts them at somewhere around the 325th best in the country in this category. Worse, when it comes to steals, Maryland is the second worst team in the entire country, managing a takeaway on only 5.8% of defensive plays.

Mark Turgeon Should Consider Letting His Team Gamble More On Defense

Yet, going into the under-eight minute timeout in the first half, sure-handed Tar Heel Kendall Marshall already had five turnovers. Mark Turgeon unleashed the dogs on the Tar Heels and their perimeter pressure rattled North Carolina. It was an effective tactic that kept UNC’s guards off-balance and helped key an early lead for the Terrapins. Certainly North Carolina rallied to win the game and Kendall Marshall going forward only turned the ball over once more on his way to a 16-assist game. Still, the game was competitive when it probably shouldn’t have been.

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The Way Too Early ACC Freshmen Review

Posted by KCarpenter on February 3rd, 2012

It’s been something of a down year for sensational ACC freshmen after last year’s excellent class. Still there have been some real gems, and though the Rookie of the Year Honor was pretty much wrapped up by the time the first conference game was tipped, most spots on the ACC All-Freshman Team are wide open. A lot of highly-touted recruits have flopped or underperformed, a lot of talented guys haven’t won minutes over their more experienced teammates, and in general, the youngsters have played pretty inconsistently. If voting for the All-Freshmen team was held tomorrow, here’s who I would vote for.

  • G Austin Rivers (Duke)

Rivers Was Anointed An All-ACC Freshman a Long Time Ago

Barring a miracle, Rivers has Rookie of the Year wrapped up. Leading a top-flight Duke team, he’s the only freshman whose average has cracked double digits. He leads the balanced and talented Blue Devils with 14.1 PPG. Rivers game isn’t perfect; he struggles to do much beyond scoring and his offensive efficiency leaves something to be desired at 103.2. Still, he’s the leading scorer on the best offense in the ACC and that makes any other deficiency seem somewhat trivial. If highlight reel appearances were a statistical category, Rivers moves would leave all the other rookies in the dust.

  • G Shane Larkin (Miami)

With an expected backcourt of Malcom Grant and Durand Scott leading the talented Hurricanes, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of room for 5’11” freshman like Larkin to get a lot of playing time beyond spells off the bench. Somehow though, Larkin proved so valuable to Jim Larranaga that the Hurricanes went to a three guard lineup starting the energetic guard alongside his more experienced teammates. In his first year, Larkin has already managed to jump to the top of the ACC steals charts, averaging 1.9 SPG alongside Lorenzo Brown and Jontel Evans. In terms of tempo-free statistics, Larkin leads the ACC, getting a steal on 4.8% of opponents posessions (this also happens to be the 14th best mark in the nation). Outside of being an all-round pest on defense, Larkin leads ACC freshmen with 2.5 APG and shoots a very respectable 37.5% from behind the arc. With these skills, Larkin is going to be breaking the hearts of other teams fans for the foreseeable future.

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ACC Game On: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on February 2nd, 2012

Wednesday night was a night of valiant efforts, but no surprises. Despite the underdogs’ collective success at keeping games close, Goliath withstood David’s slings and the ACC standings are starting to finally look understandable. Without Glen Rice Jr., Georgia Tech was no match for the still-hot Florida State Seminoles who put the Yellow Jackets in the rear view with a dynamic closing stretch. Boston College, formerly a high-octane scoring attack, tried a more traditional underdog approach with a hideous burn offense that slowed the game with North Carolina State to a crawl. Despite some notable efforts to try to give away the game in the second half, Boston College still faltered in its end-game execution and Mark Gottfried and his crew walked away with the win.

Turgeon Got Run, But Maryland Proved It Has Some Fight

The real excitement of the night was in the Maryland at Miami game. While it looked like it was going to be a by-the-numbers blow out, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon took exception to a referee call late in the second half, kept arguing, and finally got ejected. The Terrapins, rallying behind the guy who stood up for them, suddenly started playing some inspired ball. That combined with the absence of any true post players for Miami (Kenny Kadji was injured while both Reggie Johnson and Raphael Akpejiori fouled out) resulted in a remarkable turnaround that turned a double-digit deficit into a double-overtime thriller. It wasn’t the prettiest game, and before all was said and done, Durand Scott, Sean Mosley, and Nick Faust also fouled out of the game. Scott’s 24 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists would prove to be the deciding line of the night. Though Terrell Stoglin scored an impressive 33 points, he did so only after taking an I-still-can’t-believe-it 20 three-point shots. Though Maryland lost, Stoglin’s will, and the key defensive play of Alex Len means that the Terrapins leave Coral Gables feeling that their team is tough enough to hang in the big games and that their coach believes in them.

The Only Game In Town

  • Duke at Virginia Tech at 7:00 PM on ESPN
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Set Your TiVo: 01.25.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 25th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are no Top 25 matchups or truly ‘great’ games on tonight’s schedule, but it is another packed Wednesday of important conference battles so there will be plenty of action worth monitoring.

Villanova at Louisville – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)

Peyton Siva Looks to Get Louisville Back on Track Tonight Against Another Top Point Guard (Getty Images/A. Lyons)

  • In what would have been billed as a big-time matchup at the beginning of the season, this game now features two unranked teams (Louisville is still #25 in one poll) with a combined 6-9 record in the Big East. But this will still be a fun game to watch, and the away team is playing its best basketball of the season. Nova has won two straight games and lost by only four points at Cincinnati in the game before, as Maalik Wayns has finally taken his game to the next level. His averages over the past three games are an insane 30.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. He’s also gone 30-33 from the free throw line in that stretch. He’s second in the conference in scoring (18.7 PPG) and leads the Big East in free throws made. Nova needs other players to be strong with the ball against Louisville’s high-pressure defense, as the Wildcats average a terrible 17 turnovers in conference games, worst in the Big East. If Jay Wright’s team can take care of the ball and get to the rim instead of settling for outside shots, they have a chance in this game. Jayvaughn Pinkston will play a key role as an emerging threat (18 points, 11.5 rebounds in his last two) at the forward position that can attack the rim.
  • If Louisville wants to get back into consideration as a ranked team, they must win this game at home. The Cardinals continue to deal with injuries but have all of their key cogs healthy in this one, as leading-scorer Kyle Kuric (13.4 PPG) returned from an ankle injury to score 21 points against Pittsburgh in their last game. Louisville has the advantage on the wings with Kuric, Russ Smith (12.5 PPG), and Chris Smith (10.1 PPG) and they will try to swarm Villanova defensively, who only has one true ballhandler in its lineup. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng have tough matchups with Maalik Wayns and Mouphtaou Yarou, respectively, that are worth watching to see who has the edge on the perimeter and in the paint. Overall, Louisville’s depth and defensive pressure should prove too much for the Wildcats.
  • Louisville is a nine-point favorite at home in the KFC Yum! Center and cannot lose this game if it wants to be taken seriously in the Big East. The 10-10 Wildcats come in with some confidence and will look to play the role of spoiler as Wayns tries to prove he’s the best point guard in the conference. Expect the Cardinals to wear out Villlanova in the second half and come out with the win.

#8 Duke at Maryland- 9:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)

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Maryland Refuses To Feed The Post

Posted by KCarpenter on January 24th, 2012

Being a big man is tough. Your job is to set screens, battle for position, and when you get it, hopefully your guards will get you the ball so that you have a chance to score. Failing that, you can always hope to grab an offensive rebound from a missed shot for a putback. Good coaches of course get their big men to do more complicated things than that, but boiled down to the bare essentials: This is the life of a forward or center.

If you have a big man who is skilled on offense, you want him to get as many touches of the ball as possible to give him plenty of chances to score. In general, this is the easiest way to score in college basketball (provided you have a skilled offensive big man). For some reason, Maryland has decided to ignore this principle. The Terrapin forwards and centers take a good number of shots, but it’s mostly due to their own skill at getting offensive rebounds. Outside of that facet of the game, the Terrapin big men barely get a chance to score. At least, that’s what my eyes kept telling me after watching Maryland play against Temple and Florida State. So I decided to go to the numbers and check.

Poor Maryland Bigs

Sure enough, outside of super role-player Miles Plumlee, the main three Terps in the frontcourt rotation have fewer field goal attempts per game than any of the other talented rebounding forwards in the ACC once offensive rebounds per game are subtracted. This is odd, because though Maryland has the near-magical scoring power of Terrell Stoglin, this is a team that often has trouble on offense. While Sean Mosely is a very capable offensive player, Pe’Shon Howard and Nick Faust have not provided any kind of offensive efficiency from the guard position, posting offensive efficiency ratings of 80.0 and 83.9, respectively. That’s ugly. Meanwhile, touch-starved James Padgett, Ashton Pankey, and Alex Len are posting offensive efficiency ratings of 108.4, 113.4, and 96.5, respectively. Padgett and Pankey’s ratings are easily the second and third best on the team after Stoglin, and Len’s lower rating (caused by turnovers) hides the fact that he leads the team in true shooting percentage with an incredibly solid 63.0% mark.

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ACC Game On: 01.17.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on January 17th, 2012

Now, in the cool light of Tuesday we open up with a conference where Boston College and North Carolina have the same ACC record and we can answer the big question of the weekend with a firm nod: Yes, this is real life. The question that remains is simple: Which teams are for real? Florida State made a ridiculously impressive statement against North Carolina on Saturday, but the Seminoles had been maddeningly inconsistent up to this point. Meanwhile, Maryland has looked like a brand new team after Pe’Shon Howard and Alex Len joined with the team, though ironically, it’s been the play of neither that has been the most impressive.

Terrell Stoglin Takes 36.8% of Maryland's Shots. That's A Lot.

The Gut Check

  • Maryland at Florida State at 9:00 PM on ESPNU

Florida State may have pounded North Carolina, but they looked abysmal against a really rough-looking Clemson team. Florida State should be able to hammer Maryland without much difficulty at home, but the Terps have been full of surprises and this match-up has a number of pivot points that could make things really interesting. While the Seminoles have a sterling defense, they are (and have been for the past few years) curiously weak on the defensive glass. This is a problem because Maryland’s James Padgett‘s reign of terror on the offensive glass shows no sign of slowing. Padgett easily remains the best offensive rebounder in the country and his efficiency in the post, particularly on second-chance points, can be a deadly weapon. For Leonard Hamilton‘s squad, the strategy will be the same-as-it-ever-was: Pressure the perimeter to force turnovers and try to bait the team’s worst offensive players into taking too many shots. Sadly for the Terrapins, the shot-happy-but-accuracy-challenged tandem of Nick Faust and Pe’Shon Howard seems pretty susceptible to falling right into this trap. More good news for the Seminoles? Maryland doesn’t force many turnovers, which has been Florida State’s weakness all year long. Will it come down to  a shootout between Terrell Stoglin and a newly confident Deividas Dulkys? Stoglin shoots more than anyone in the ACC, but if anyone is prepared to match fire with fire, the Dulkys that we saw on Saturday was far from gun shy.

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ACC Morning Five: 01.02.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 2nd, 2012

  1. Boston Globe: Al Skinner got fired from Boston College because of the perception that he wasn’t recruiting at the same level he used to (currently, he’s still looking for that next college job as an AAU coach). But if you look at the recruits he had lined up for the Eagles before he left, they’re all performing very well at various schools around the country. I still don’t see a go-to guy on Boston College’s team if you add this bunch to the roster, but it’s certainly worth mentioning after the Eagles fell to 5-8 after being blown out by Harvard.
  2. Orangeburg Times and Democrat: It was a long flight home for Clemson after losing two of its three games in the Diamond Head Classic. Because of Oliver Purnell’s notorious non-conference schedules the Tigers are off to their worst start since 2003 at a disappointing 7-6. Despite generous preseason numbers, Clemson saw its ranking from Ken Pomeroy drop steadily over the first few weeks as the losses continued piling up. Barring a miraculous conference season (read: winning the ACC Tournament), it looks like Clemson’s streak of five straight NCAA Tournament appearances will end.
  3. Washington Times: Maryland quietly bettered its resume with six straight wins, albeit against unimpressive competition. The Terrapins finally got a wire-to-wire win against Samford Saturday thanks to strong games from Pe’Shon Howard, Terrell Stoglin and Nick Faust. The win came after Mark Turgeon threw the entire team out of practice the day before. Faust finally found the basket from long range (playing off the ball has helped his game). Today the team looks to continue its winning streak against Cornell before heading into conference play.
  4. Baltimore Sports Report: Luckily, expansion speculation and rumors have died down, but the moves from earlier this year leave several conferences with the challenge (or in the ACC’s case, opportunity) of rebranding (or reestablishing) the conference with its new members. The Big East has the most work to do, trying to move from a regional to national footprint, while the ACC looks to reclaim its basketball dominance with Syracuse and Pittsburgh preparing to join in the next couple of years. It was one thing to talk about, but the augmented conferences will be very interesting to watch going forward.
  5. Wilmington Star News: What were the top 10 ACC stories of 2011? Brett Friedlander does a pretty good job paring the list down, but I totally disagree with his ordering. I know Miami‘s scandal has fallen out of the news with other scandals and its ongoing investigation, but it or conference expansion has to be number one. Mark Gottfried‘s hire was a big splash in North Carolina, but it was way less important than Gary Williams’ retirement or overall coaching upheaval for the conference. The list is still worth a read.

EXTRA: Finally, take a second and read over the inspiring story of a Duke fan who couldn’t pull against Pennsylvania yesterday because the school saved his life after his liver failed.

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ACC Game On: 12.08.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 8th, 2011

Georgia Tech had the best night out of all the ACC teams, beating a pretty good Georgia team in Athens. The Yellow Jackets, in addition to putting together their usual solid defensive effort, displayed a versatile and balanced offense that saw five different players score in double figures while the team shot 52.1% from the field. If Georgia Tech can put together some more nights like this one, they will easily exceed expectations.

Georgia Tech Won in Athens For the First Time in a Long Time (AP/C. Compton)

Wake Forest and Maryland both nearly took losses but managed to get the win in games that should not have been that close. The Demon Deacons faced the white-hot fury of High Point‘s Nick Barbour who went nova and scored 35 points and hit 7 threes from beyond the arc.  Wake Forest also struggled on the boards, allowing High Point to grab twelve offensive rebounds while only securing two of their own. The net result of this rebounding difference helped to create a significant shot disparity where Wake Forest shot the ball only 48 times compared to the High Point’s 63 attempts. That Wake Forest won this game despite these factors is almost impressive. The Demon Deacons were hyper-efficient on offense, shooting 58.3% from the field and making 18 free throws. That this team could turn in such an impressive offensive performance and still come within four points of losing to High Point isn’t a great sign for the future, though. Maryland’s close win had a similar flavor as bad defense nearly undermined a clicking offense. The Terrapins put together a nice evening on offense, including a truly solid game from Nick Faust that included 13 points on five field goals while leading the team with six rebounds, five assists and two blocks. The narrow three-point margin of victory, however, is far from comforting to Terrapin fans.

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Behind the Numbers: Who Is Killing Their Own Team?

Posted by KCarpenter on December 1st, 2011

A lot of the effort in basketball analytics goes towards the good things that players do that do not appear in the box score. This is the driving idea behind Michael Lewis’s seminal New York Times feature, “The No-Stats All-Star,” an early look at analytics in the NBA primarily focused on Darryl Morey, Shane Battier, the Houston Rockets, and adjusted plus/minus. This makes sense: finding hidden strengths is the coach’s angle while finding hidden value is the economist’s angle. As a result of the fine work of smart guys with formulas and others with a willingness to watch a lot of games closely, Charles Jenkins and Nate Wolters were household names last season. This, of course, assumes that your household is filled with basketball dorks, but you get the idea.

Faried Was An Underappreciated Star

Finding diamonds in the rough is a noble pursuit and talking up the greatness of underexposed and underrated players is a worthwhile task (Hey there, Kenneth Faried!). Sometimes, however, there is a joy in using analytics and “advanced” statistics to look for the guy who is hurting his team the most.  Let’s ignore the diamonds and go straight for the rough.

How does a player hurt his team? Well, when push comes to shove, there are basically only two ways: offensively and defensively. Sadly, however, contemporary box scores assign no grade for bad defense to the individual outside of counting how many fouls (which could very well be offensive) a player commits. Our primary understanding of player’s individual defense comes only in positive contributions like blocks, steals, and defensive rebounds while the effect on an opponents shooting percentage is measured at a team level. The noble effort of Luke Winn, David Hess, and others that has sought to enact Dean Oliver’s defensive charting schemes is a good start at really quantifying individual defense, but a very small percentage of Division I games have been looked at in this way making the approach of limited use to someone who wants to look at the whole of college basketball. So, acknowledging that analytic approaches to finding bad defensive players are limited, let’s at least take a quick look at fouls.

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Who’s Got Next? Stokes Denied Appeal, Pronouncing Muhammad’s Name is an Issue…

Posted by Josh Paunil on November 23rd, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at

Lead Story: Jarnell Stokes Still Ineligible For His Senior Season

Jarnell Stokes Is Ineligible For His Senior Basketball Season. (Wildcat Blue Nation)

Top-20 Recruit Left Searching For Other Options. The TSSAA Board of Control, the body of people responsible for deciding whether Class of 2012 power forward Jarnell Stokes can play basketball his senior season, announced Monday that they denied his appeal to the August ruling that said he cannot play in the 2011-12 season. Stokes was initially ruled ineligible by Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association executive director Bernard Childress after transferring from Central High School (TN) to Southwind High School (TN). Stokes has lived in the same address for the past nine years in the Southwind district but was able to attend Central on an academic exemption as a freshman. However, Stokes’ academic record over the last three years doesn’t meet any of the ten TSSAA guidelines that would have allowed him to transfer and become eligible at Southwind this season. Despite the setback, Stokes and his family still have several other options. One option, something that Stokes’ father says is a possibility, is that Stokes can graduate early and enroll in college in January (keep in mind though that he is still uncommitted). Another option he has is to return back to Central, but his father says that almost certainly won’t happen. Stokes is a good enough player though that, even if he doesn’t player basketball this year, the likes of Arkansas, Memphis and Kentucky will still recruit him and his recruitment should be unaffected.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior standout Ricardo Ledo on who Providence is going after: “We’re trying to get [Class of 2012 power forward] Chris Obekpa, we’re trying to get [Class of 2013 center] Nerlens Noel, we’re going hard at him. We’re trying to get [Class of 2012 small forward] JaKarr Sampson.”

Ricardo Ledo Says Providence Is Going After Chris Obekpa, Nerlens Noel And JaKarr Sampson.

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