ACC M5: 02.24.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 24th, 2016

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  1. The ACC: Rejoice, ACC fans, because the bracket for this year’s conference tournament is out (including approximate tipoff times that will inevitably be pushed back since they still use the assumption that every game will end in under two hours). Unfortunately, in the league’s promotion of the event, a graphic designer failed to use a stock photo of the US Capitol. Alas, #goacc.
  2. BC Interruption: Speaking of that bracket, you can go ahead and sharpie Boston College in for the #14 seed. Is it statistically possible that the Eagles can catch Wake Forest? Yes. But after getting stomped by Virginia Tech at home last night, don’t hold your breath for that result. More seriously, Boston College has major issues with its men’s basketball program. The athletic department just announced a $200 million investment in sports, but it won’t directly affect the basketball team. An improved football team would help (Boston College is on pace to become the first team in ACC history to lose all of its conference men’s basketball and football games in the same school year), but there’s a lot of general apathy among the Eagles’ fan base. Even during the Al Skinner era, the basketball program found it difficult to compete with hockey for winter attendance. Firing Jim Christian after one season would be overly reactionary, but for each year the program continues to struggle, the more energy it will take to rebuild it. Just a guess, but it would seem that most of the remaining fans wouldn’t mind another change at the helm.
  3. Hampton Roads Daily Press: This piece is a good rebuttal to the chorus of whining ACC coaches. David Teel was right to focus on Miami head coach Jim Larranaga, who knows the benefits to both coffers and recruiting alike that asymmetric schedules can bring. Television revenue has become increasingly important to athletic departments (since unlike most other revenue, there’s no cost to the school when ESPN shows up to a game that would be played regardless). Then again, Larranaga may have just been in a good mood after Miami eked by Virginia to stay in the hunt for the top seed at next month’s ACC Tournament.
  4. Syracuse Post Standard: Jim Boeheim caught some recent flak for his comments about junior Tyler Roberson. Boeheim said, “If I had anyone else he wouldn’t play a minute,” in response to a question about his big man. As he’s prone to do, Boeheim immediately doubled down on the comments. Whether this public shaming will help Roberson play with more effort is unclear, but what should be clear is that Roberson isn’t paid enough to be publicly ridiculed for something as subjective as effort. Shame on Boeheim.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: Duke named former Blue Devil guard Nolan Smith a special assistant to the basketball program. Many people had wondered as he struggled to rehabilitate from repeat injuries whether Smith might eventually turn to coaching. He now has, but what remains to be seen is when he can join the staff as a full assistant. Is this a sign that assistant coach Jeff Capel might be thinking about taking over another program after this year? Or will a mid-major school take a shot at Nate James after Duke’s recent string of recruiting success? Both important questions, but the biggest current source of confusion facing most Duke fans is what Grayson Allen meant with this Instagram post.
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ACC Morning Five: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 31st, 2012

  1. Washington Post: Remember how Lefty Driesell complained about Maryland naming its court after Gary Williams? Well, he’s still talking. I’ll just pick out some choice quotes:

    “Everybody’s gonna think well Gary Williams’s players are the ones that put Maryland on the map. You know, Maryland was on the map before Gary got there.
    [On Georgia State’s court being named after him] Yeah, it sure is. Well, you know, they never had a successful program before I got there. Never.
    I think Mark Turgeon’s gonna win a couple of national championships.
    [On how Williams should have been honored] Well, I don’t know. You know, he got banners up there for winning the national championship. Maybe like the Orioles do, put a statue out back.”

    The moral of the story is Driesell isn’t happy and isn’t hiding his opinions.

  2. Beyond the Arc: Mike Miller sat down with Adam Rowe of Duke Hoop Blog to talk about the Blue Devils. One thing I really wish Rowe had mentioned is the lack of a versatile wing on the perimeter defensively. Kyle Singler was a big part of Duke’s defense the last four years. Combine his versatility with Nolan Smith’s on-ball pressure and you got a top defensive team despite not having ludicrous athleticism (as Arizona exposed in the NCAA Tournament). This year’s team doesn’t have that versatility and only Tyler Thornton applies great on-ball pressure. One of the more interesting points Rowe made was that Thornton is often credited as a great defensive stopper when he really is just good at playing physical defense and getting into passing lanes (though I think stopping, outside of shot-blockers, is generally a team stat on defense).
  3. ACC Sports Journal: Frank Haith had a reputation in the ACC “as a nice guy who recruited good players and did a middling job molding them into competitive teams.” Frankly, that’s probably generous. Haith was frequently panned, especially following last season when he brought back an experienced and talented squad but did little with it. But Haith’s success at Missouri stands in stark contrast with perceptions at Miami. Is it the perfect storm of the right players? I don’t know. What I do know is that Haith put on a miniature coaching clinic last night against Rick Barnes (another ACC coaching alum) when he went zone against Texas, shutting down J’Covan Brown entirely on the final possession of Missouri’s one-point win over the Longhorns in Austin.
  4. The State: Bad news coming out of Clemson, as Milton Jennings will be suspended because of  “‘failure to comply’ with the team’s academic standards.” Failure to comply is an interesting word choice — maybe just a slip of the keys, but that doesn’t sound like a grade issue. It sounds like a cheating, class cutting or missed assignment issue. The last of those options seems the most likely as Jeff Borzello tweeted yesterday that Jennings “should be back soon.” It hasn’t been a great season for Jennings off the court between this and getting into it with Brad Brownell.
  5. Washington Post: I always love it when coaches talk some trash. And Shaka Smart fired some shots across the Commonwealth of Virginia, saying “the reality is if you go by the numbers, if you go by postseason, if you go by even guys going to the NBA, the best programs in the state are in the CAA. It’s really not even close.” My guess is Tony Bennett has something to say about that. Most years Seth Greenberg would probably be a little more outspoken too.

Fun Fact: Richard Howell is on pace to break NC State’s foul record of 110 (set by Ilian Evtimov). He already has 73 in the books and doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

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Social Media: Or Why @KButter5 Shows Why Coaches Should Let Athletes Use Twitter

Posted by mpatton on December 14th, 2011

Mark Turgeon doesn’t love Twitter. It’s clear he’s skeptical of the social media giant. It’s something he “lets” players have, but like any privilege, tweeting can be taken away. Just last week, Roy Williams forced PJ Hairston to run sprints after Hairston tweeted that he wouldn’t play in the Kentucky game because of a twisted ankle [sprained wrist] (he played). In the world of college athletics, coaches strive for complete control. That desire for total control is part of the reason some great college coaches don’t make it at the next level. Twitter has no filter. Only the tired excuse “my account was hacked” can make tweets go away. While you or I might be able to delete a tweet, athletes get retweeted dozens of times for fairly bland comments, much less something actually controversial.

That said, barring a huge gaffe, coaches should let players use Twitter for a variety of reasons.

Kendall Marshall is an Example of Why Coaches Should Let Their Players Use Twitter

First off, Twitter is one of the few places athletes can be themselves with fans. Sure, indirectly, they’re still representing North Carolina or Maryland, but those tweets come from the players and the players alone. They can interact directly with fans in ways message boards have never allowed. Athletes can also provide interesting commentary on issues outside of the horrifically monotonous questions posed by sportswriters fishing for quotes after a game.

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ACC Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 13th, 2011

Eighteen years ago yesterday, Bobby Hurley left the Sacramento Kings’ arena after a relatively disappointing game. He was struck by a drunk driver, and “the impact threw Hurley’s Toyota 127 feet and onto its right side. Hurley, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the vehicle and landed in an irrigation ditch. His sneakers were ripped from his feet and lay on the pavement.” Long story short: Hurley’s basketball career was over before it really got started. The Sports Illustrated Vault has the story of his return to basketball five months later. It’s an inspirational read and a reminder of the world’s harsh realities.

  1. OrangeAndWhite.com: Brad Brownell, a “gym rat” from Evansville, Indiana, has spent 14 of the last 18 years coaching basketball in the South. Brownell described the differences in broad terms between recruiting in the Midwest and the South. Namely, in the Midwest basketball is king as kids play all year round. Whereas in the South, most players are multi-sport athletes, often playing football much of the year.
  2. Boston Herald: Boston College got what has been a rarity this season. The Eagles got a tip-to-buzzer win, beating Stony Brook 66-51. When it looked like the Sea Wolves might climb back in the game late in the second half, Patrick Heckmann scored ten of Boston College’s last 12 points. It was by far the Eagles’ best game of the season, as they played well in both halves and maintained a double-digit lead all of the second half. The defense held Stony Brook to 15% shooting in the first half.
  3. Blogging the Bracket: As college basketball moves into the calm period of finals, Chris Dobbertean grades ACC teams on where they stand with regards to Selection Sunday. Duke and North Carolina, unsurprisingly, are off to strong starts and earn the “Passing” grade. Virginia, Florida State, NC State and Virginia Tech all earn “Needs Improvement,” meaning they’ll need to bolster their resume with some solid conference wins (also hinting that not all of them will make the Big Dance). The rest of the conference is listed as “Failing.” My one semi-critique is that Miami will be a very different team when Reggie Johnson comes back. Its resume right now isn’t worth much, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hurricanes finished fourth in the conference.
  4. The Devil’s Advocate: I touched on Duke‘s lack of a leader in my thoughts on the Duke-Washington game yesterday, but The Devils’ Advocate‘s Michael Corey takes a different view. He thinks Duke’s leader is still Nolan Smith, as the NBA lockout kept Smith around the team even after he graduated. That might be true. I think it’s unlikely that Smith’s time around the team has kept one of the other guys from stepping up, but it’s an interesting idea. Remember, none of Duke’s starters really took on leadership roles on previous teams. Keep an eye on this going forward.
  5. Seminoles.com: Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton is debuting his radio call-in show across the state of Florida this Thursday. I’m sure some of the stations have online streams, so if you’re looking to tune in to it, Seminoles.com has all of the stations carrying the show. It will broadcast on Thursdays at 7 PM EST through the end of February. If you’re looking to watch the show live, the show is hosted at the Tomahawk Sports Bar and Grill. I’m not a huge fan of coach call-in shows myself, though Roy Williams drops some gold during his from time to time (see video below).

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Three Thoughts on Washington and Duke from Madison Square Garden

Posted by mpatton on December 12th, 2011

The DukeWashington game on Saturday was an interesting look at both teams. Here are three thoughts, for each team, that I garnered from each team that will be interesting to follow going forward.

Duke was much better with Tyler Thornton on the floor. Thornton’s stat line at the end of the first half: 18 minutes, 0-0 from the field, two assists and two turnovers. But there’s a reason he played more minutes than any other player: He locked down Abdul Gaddy and the Husky offense. There’s no other reasonable explanation for why Washington’s offense looked so stagnant at that time. Thornton is a sparkplug for this Duke team. He may not fill up the stat sheet, but the team visibly has more energy when he’s on the floor. His on-ball defense also covers up Duke’s mediocrity at defending dribble penetration. The offense also played very well, despite his apparent lack of production. Don’t be surprised to see Thornton start for Duke going forward.

Tyler Thornton

Tyler Thornton is Duke's Leader on the Defensive End (Eugene Tanner/AP).

On a related note, Washington’s offense is almost entirely based on its backcourt’s ability to utilize dribble penetration. Tony Wroten was really the only effective offensive weapon the Huskies had in the first half; luckily, he was a one-man scoring machine then. Wroten is the real deal. He was by far the most talented player on the floor. It remains to be seen whether he just took advantage of a huge mismatch with Duke (he’s a 6’5″ wing with boatloads of athleticism; no one that gets playing time at Duke fits that description), or whether he can be the go-to guy for the Huskies this year. But one thing I do know is that he’s an NBA talent.

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Night Line: Tu Holloway States Early Case For Nation’s Best Point Guard

Posted by EJacoby on November 29th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

As is the case every year, guard play dominates college basketball. A lead guard’s responsibilities – facilitating offense, team leadership, and defensive execution – are essential to a team’s success. In Monday night’s exciting matchup between Xavier and Vanderbilt, the point guards essentially decided the outcome. In crunch time of a tight game, Vandy’s Brad Tinsley made poor decisions for his team; while Xavier’s Tu Holloway dominated on both ends of the court to lead his team to an overtime road win. He’s already had his name in the conversation since preseason, but tonight Holloway made an early statement for why he — not Kendall Marshall, not Jordan Taylor, not anyone else — is the nation’s best point guard. The senior displayed in Nashville why he’s he capable of leading Xavier to a special season.

Xavier's Tu Holloway Shot His Team Past Vanderbilt on Monday Night (Credit: Mark Humphrey, AP)

Holloway is one of the true do-it-all players in the country, and he makes it look easy with his poised demeanor. He plays the game at his own, controlled speed and knows when to kick it up an extra gear for big moments. Tonight was a clinic in that respect, as Holloway sealed the game with back-to-back three-pointers in overtime, where he poured in 10 of his game-high 24 points. He also totaled five rebounds, four assists, and just one turnover in 42 minutes while hitting nine of his ten free throws. His 6-20 shooting line wasn’t the most efficient offensive output you’ll see from him, thanks in part to a solid defensive effort by Vandy, but his command of the floor and complete contributions ultimately led his team to a road win in Nashville.

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Night Line: Duke Resembling Its 2010 Championship Team?

Posted by EJacoby on November 25th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

The Maui Invitational finals played to an instant classic last night, with Duke leaving the island as champions yet again. Coach K and the Blue Devils are now a perfect 15-0 in their five trips to Maui. Duke has won the first seven games of this season, and a team that nearly lost its season-opener at home to Belmont is starting to establish an identity. Upon further review, the 2011-’12 Blue Devils might just begin to resemble the 2009-’10 team that cut down the nets as NCAA Tournament champions. Just to be clear — no, this is not to say that Duke is the title favorite this season — teams like Ohio State, Kentucky, North Carolina, and UConn may be better built for long-term success. But the 2010 Blue Devils were a surprise champion, and this Duke team has a similar make-up.

Duke Doesn't Look Like a National Champ, But It Didn't in 2010 Either (Kemper Lesnik/B. Spurlock)

Duke started five upperclassmen (Smith, Scheyer, Singler, Thomas, Zoubek) in 2010 and turned to their bench for youth and energy. This year’s team starts four upperclassmen (Curry, Dawkins, Kelly, Mason Plumlee) and brings sophomore Tyler Thornton and freshman Quinn Cook off the bench, along with senior Miles Plumlee, to provide a spark. The biggest difference here is that freshman Austin Rivers is starting on the wing where the 2010 team had a junior leader, Kyle Singler, filling that role. But Rivers (14.4 PPG) is so far having a similar scoring impact on the game that Singler (17.7 PPG) did, and the rookie will no doubt continue to improve as the season goes along. While this year’s backcourt of Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins are not the big-name stars or volume scorers that Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer were, the two have seen tremendous improvements from last season and are playing at a very high level. This year’s team makes up for the small backcourt-scoring gap with Mason Plumlee’s offensive contributions down low. Plumlee averages 11.4 points per game so far, while no inside player averaged more than 5.6 PPG for the champions.

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ACC Morning Five: Countdown To 903 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 15th, 2011

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is going for his 903d win to hold the record for D-I men’s college basketball wins outright tonight against Michigan State. We covered the milestone and its implications in our preseason coverage, but the rest of the collective college basketball media will pay tribute to Duke’s legendary coach over the next few days. In preparation for Coach K’s big game at Madison Square Garden, today’s Morning Five is dedicated to the occasion.

  1. New York Times: Krzyzewski may be 64 years old, but you’d never know it from watching him on the sideline. Whether the game is against UNC Greensboro or North Carolina, the fiery coach still expects the best out of his team. He up until the wee hours watching film before a big game only to be “shot out of a cannon” for practice the next day. Will he get to 1,000 wins in the next few years? Former assistant Mike Brey thinks so, and it’s hard to argue with him.
  2. The Sporting News (interviews with Grant Hill and Nolan Smith): Grant Hill might be the best player Krzyzewski has ever coached and Nolan Smith etched his name in Duke history (and probably his jersey in the rafters) after leading the Blue Devils to the 2010 National Championship. The Sporting News caught up with both former players and the interviews give an interesting look at Coach K and the evolution of his coaching style over the years. Hill remembers a speech from his freshman year two decades ago where Coach K guaranteed, “we’re going to win the national championship this season.” Nolan Smith, on Krzyzewski’s strategy: “Make plays, be a player.”
  3. Associated Press: In 1994-95, Coach K offered his resignation after sitting out most of a season with back surgery: “When I did that, I knew I couldn’t lead my team, and I just think that comes from the military,” Krzyzewski said. “If you’re not [able], there should be a different leader.” Luckily, Tom Butters didn’t accept the resignation. He has downplayed the record consistently, pointing out that the game against Michigan State means more to this team than his career. In a sense he’s right. One regular season game of hundreds is insignificant, but 903 wins represents an unprecedented level of continued success among men’s basketball coaches in Division I.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Duke Basketball Report takes a look at 17 of the most important games of Coach K’s storied career. Not all of the games are wins. In fact three are embarrassing losses: A beat-down at the hands of Ralph Sampson and Virginia in 1983; the worst defeat in the history of the Final Four against UNLV in 1990; and a loss to Clemson in 1995 that punctuated a short season for Krzyzewski. After the 43-point shellacking from the Cavaliers, at dinner “one of the diners raised his glass and said ‘here’s to forgetting tonight.’  Krzyzewski fixed him with a glare and said ‘here’s to never forgetting tonight.'”
  5. Fayetteville Observer: I’ve linked this before and I’ll probably do it again because Dan Wiederer’s three-part profile of Coach K from 2010 is incredible. The piece is one of the rare instances where you get what feels like a three-dimensional perspective on Krzyzewski and his life. He’s simultaneously revered and vilified by college basketball fans, often at a personal level. This profile captures a man far more complex than the saint or sinner portrayed by most fans. It manages to find a touch of gray in the man with the jet-black hair.
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Duke and UNC Will Square Off In An Alumni Game on November 17

Posted by KCarpenter on November 8th, 2011

Even though real, meaningful basketball has started, indulge me for a bit more while we talk about one more meaningless game. Nolan Smith hinted at it on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and it turns out that the rumors are true: There will be a DukeNorth Carolina alumni game featuring some of the very best players in each program’s respective histories. To return to one of the more tragic themes of this fall — the sadness of NBA fans is transmuted into joy for college basketball fans. Due to the NBA lockout, this alumni game is expected to include a sizable number of current NBA players. For Duke, last year’s stars in Smith and Kyrie Irving will team up with some of last decade’s stars, namely Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, and Chris Duhon. For the Tar Heels, the lineup is headlined by a number of stars from the 1990s: Jerry Stackhouse, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter,  and Brendan Haywood.

Duke Stars Together Again?

Notably lacking from either lineup is the presence of many players from the mid-2000s. While Raymond Felton is expected to play for UNC, and Gerald Henderson will suit up for the Blue Devils, some young blood might add a little more spice to the game. Some accounts, notably this one by Duke Basketball Report, suggest J. J. Redick will play, which would certainly be a welcome addition. The most conspicuous missing name, though, is Tyler Hansbrough. In the Kentucky Villains game, Hansbrough showed that he wasn’t absent from the exhibition circuit. That combined with his continued presence in Chapel Hill during the lockout would seem to make him a prime candidate for taking part in this game.

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ACC Team Preview: Duke

Posted by mpatton on November 2nd, 2011

And then there were two.

Duke is a very tough team to project this season. The Blue Devils lost their top three players (Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving) from last season, but there’s still plenty of talent and a Hall of Fame coach on the sideline in Durham. Thoughtful preseason rankings slot Duke anywhere from fourth to ninth nationally, which seem very reasonable for where Duke could finish the season — not necessarily where it should start.

The team’s two major questions are, “who will run the offense?” and “will any of the frontcourt players finally live up to his potential?” Duke’s relative success depends almost solely on these questions. Of course, one thing we forget is that both questions also faced the Blue Devils when Kyrie Irving went down after the Butler game last year. To that point Nolan Smith had not played much point guard since the first half of the 2009-10 season. During Duke’s National Championship year Mike Krzyzewski moved Smith to the off-ball position, ceding the point guard spot to Jon Scheyer. If not for Brian Zoubek’s miraculous ascension from unproductive bench-warmer to one of Duke’s most important pieces, the guard switch would have garnered much more attention. Smith excelled while working off the ball and Scheyer limited Duke’s turnovers to the absolute minimum.

Duke Needs Seth Curry to Take Over as Floor General This Year.

But once Kyrie Irving’s foot problem arose last season, Duke was again left without a quarterback. The best choice was to move Smith back to the point, although Krzyzewski experimented with Tyler Thornton and Seth Curry there briefly as well. The result was Smith leading the ACC in scoring and nearly leading the conference in assists. Of course Smith was a special player. His career arc only answers the question that it’s possible for Seth Curry to step up and lead Duke. Read the rest of this entry »

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