ACC Feast Week in Review

Posted by Brad Jenkins on December 3rd, 2019

Overall, the ACC showed out well in the many early season tournaments over Feast Week. Of the 10 league schools that participated in an event, four of those teams collected championships. Below we will review some comparison statistics with the other five major basketball conferences as well as some of the ACC’s best and worst team performances from the last 10 days.

The ACC logged as good a Feast Week as any other conference. The Big Ten had a slightly higher winning percentage, but only snared two championships. As a lead-in to this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the ACC claimed a 3-2 edge in tournament meetings between schools from those leagues.

THE BEST

Four Tournament Titles for ACC Teams.

  • Duke – Empire Classic. What a difference a week makes. After taking care of business in New York by thrashing California and beating Georgetown, the Blue Devils were flying high atop the polls. Now, Duke is reeling. First came a historic upset in Cameron Indoor Stadium to Stephen F. Austin and now Mike Krzyzewski’s guys will be without Cassius Stanley (hamstring) for at least a month.
  • Virginia – Air Force Reserve Tip-Off. The Cavaliers faced some adversity in Uncasville, rallying from nine points down in the second half of the title game against Arizona State. As usual, Tony Bennett’s pack-line defense was the difference, holding both the Sun Devils and Massachusetts under 50 points.
  • Pittsburgh – Fort Myer’s Tip-Off. Jeff Capel’s team picked off two Power Six opponents in Fort Myers to close an up and down month on a high note. The Panthers beat Kansas State in a tight one in the opener, and then handled Northwestern to earn the tournament title.
Florida State celebrates its Emerald Coast Classic Championship after beating Purdue in overtime. (Mark Wallheiser/AP)
  • Florida State – Emerald Coast Classic. The Seminoles have been on fire since dropping their season opener at Pittsburgh. In nearby Niceville, Leonard Hamilton continued his mastery of close game situations – Florida State edged Tennessee by three points and then bested Purdue in overtime, Hamilton’s eighth straight win in games decided after regulation.

THE WORST

 Bad Looks for ACC Teams with NCAA Tourney Aspirations.

  • Miami – Charleston Classic. The Hurricanes got off to a decent start in Charleston by beating Missouri State, but it was all downhill from there. Following two blowout losses to Florida and Connecticut, Jim Larranaga’s squad does not look like the improved team we expected to see this season.
  • Syracuse – NIT Season Tip-Off. Jim Boeheim went to Brooklyn with a great opportunity for some impressive wins, but his Orange laid a big egg. The Syracuse zone certainly needs some work, as was evident in two lopsided losses to Oklahoma State and Penn State, which posted 86 and 85 points respectively.

MIXED BAG

Four ACC Teams Didn’t Win Titles but Showed Promise.

  • Clemson – MGM Resorts Main Event. The Tigers split a pair of tight ones against good competition in Las Vegas. In the opener, Brad Brownell’s guys edged TCU in overtime before acquitting themselves well in a four-point loss to a ranked Colorado squad.
  • Virginia Tech – Maui Invitational. Picked to finish 14th in the ACC preseason media poll, the Hokies shocked Michigan State to open play in Hawaii. The rest of the trip didn’t go so well for first year coach Mike Young, as his squad got handled by Dayton and BYU.
  • North Carolina – Battle 4 Atlantis. The Tar Heels started and ended well in the Bahamas, but the middle part of the trip wasn’t so good. After dispatching Alabama in the first round, North Carolina ran into a buzzsaw situation against Michigan. But Roy Williams’ team rebounded to beat a good Oregon club in their final outing.
  • Wake Forest – Wooden Legacy. The Deacons made it all the way to the finals before falling to highly rated Arizona by seven points. Victories over Charleston and Long Beach State aren’t eye-opening wins, but Danny Manning’s team showed some promise in Anaheim by giving a competitive effort in the title game.
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What’s Trending: A Feast Week Stuffed With Action, Intrigue & Upsets

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 2nd, 2019

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

The first month of the season has been completely wild and unpredictable. The only thing that everyone seems to agree on is that there is no dominant team this season — the notion that anything is possible and that the top 10 will shuffle all season long — well, it continued this week.

Duke entered the week as the #1 ranked team in the nation. Prior to this week, the Blue Devils had won 150 consecutive non-conference games at Cameron Indoor Stadium. As a 27.5-point favorite against Stephen F. Austin, Duke had four starters score 15 or more points; it shot 50 percent from the field as a team; and it won the battle on the glass. That said, this is college basketball, and chaos is to be expected. As the clock ticked down in regulation, Duke had the ball and a chance to win a tie game…

While things did not go Duke’s way at the end of regulation, the first four minutes and fifty seconds of overtime were mostly uneventful. Both Duke and Stephen F. Austin had scored just two points. With the clock winding down, Duke again had a chance to win the game… once again, though, chaos ensues…

Chaos and upsets were not limited to the top spot. In Maui a few days earlier, #3 Michigan State found itself trailing by 10 points against Virginia Tech with 4:39 to go, but a 15-6 run had cut the Spartans’ deficit to just a single point. That is when Landers Nolley hit a dagger. The Hokies’ freshman is now averaging 20 points and 5 rebounds per game, while making over three three-pointers per game on better than 50 percent shooting.

The drama in Maui continued into the title game. Dayton, already with wins against Georgia and Virginia Tech, found itself trailing by three points again #4 ranked Kansas late. In a possession which really was not going anywhere, Jalen Crutcher came up clutch to force overtime. While Kansas ultimately would go on to win the championship, it represented yet another scare for a top-five team.

The Battle 4 Atlantis entered Feast Week as the marquee event and it certainly did not disappoint. In his first year as coach, Juwan Howard and his Michigan squad made a statement. After getting by Iowa State, the Wolverines simply manhandled North Carolina. The Tar Heels jumped out to an early 16-7 lead, but a 53-20 Michigan run broke the game wide open.

Then Michigan found itself in the title game against Gonzaga. Not to be outdone by its previous performance, Big Blue held the Zags to 37.7 percent shooting from two-point range, the lowest such percentage from a Gonzaga team since the Bulldogs’ 30 percent outing in the 2017 National Championship game against North Carolina.

While Gonzaga fell short in the title game of that event, Mark Few‘s squad picked up a quality win against Oregon. One thing to watch moving forward for the Zags is this team’s depth. In their opening win over Southern Mississippi, Anton Watson was injured and he missed the rest of the tournament. While Killian Tillie played in the last two games, he also missed the opener. A player who has struggled to stay healthy in the past is already dealing with bumps and bruises early this season.

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1200190352931598336?s=20

Texas Tech spent Feast Week in Las Vegas as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, their three-point shooting did not make the trip from Lubbock to Sin City. After beginning the year shooting 42.3 percent from deep in the team’s first five games, Tech made just 4-of-24 in their opening loss to Iowa.

One night later, an 8-of-30 three-point night, along with a dazzling performance by Creighton’s Marcus Zegarowski, sent Texas Tech home with an ugly 0-2 trip in Las Vegas.

The Emerald Coast Classic featured top-20 Tennessee and VCU, along with Purdue and Florida State. The four games played between the teams all ended with a margin of victory of three points. On the opening night of the tournament, Florida State held Tennessee’s Lamonte Turner to 4-of-14 shooting and eight turnovers in a close Seminoles win.

On the same day, VCU found itself down three points to Purdue with the chance to tie the game. It was a game in which the teams combined to turn the ball over 39 times and made just 7 of their combined 33 three-point attempts.

A day later, Tennessee and VCU were battling to the buzzer. With the game tied at 69-all, Lamonte Turner knocked down this corner three to win it for Tennessee. Will Wade’s Rams finished the tournament 0-2, with a pair of tough, closely decided games.

Feast Week was highlighted by more than just ranked teams going down. With eyes glued to games everywhere, big time players had some big time performances.

In Maui, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards delivered. The Bulldogs trailed Michigan State by 19 points at the half, a half in which Edwards scored just four points on 1-of-8 shooting. But the final 20 minutes brought a different Edwards to the floor that resulted in 33 points on 10-of-18 shooting, Anthony Edwards gave Georgia a chance, while showing to NBA scouts that the highly regarded freshman warrants all of the attention that has been put upon him.

A day later, Tom Crean’s team found itself tied with host Chaminade. With the clock winding down, Edwards put an end to any hope of a Silverswords upset.

The Orlando Invitational brought the very best out of Marquette’s Markus Howard. A night after scoring 40 points in a win over Davidson, Howard tore apart the USC defense to the tune of 51 points. The senior All-American became the only Division I player in the past 20 seasons with multiple 50-point games.

North Carolina’s Cole Anthony put on quite the display over an in-game stretch of two minutes late in the first half against Oregon. First, the freshman phenom had his defense lead to offense in this sequence…

Moments later, Anthony was back making a statement defensive play. This time, the 6’3″ guard rose up and turned away Oregon’s 6’7″ Shakur Juiston at the rim…

The brilliant play of freshman guards extended west to Anaheim, where in the closing seconds of the Wooden Legacy opening round, Arizona found itself tied to Pepperdine. With 7.6 seconds left in a tie game, freshman guard Nico Mannion had the ball in his hands…

Freshman aside, the Maui Invitational was a place where Dayton’s Obi Toppin shined bright. In the Flyers’ three games, Toppin averaged 22.3 points (69.4 FG%) and seven rebounds per game. While Kansas got the best of Dayton in the game, Toppin’s reaction to this shot should have his future opponents on notice.

Off the court, the wild week that was can best be summed up with the story of Stephen F. Austin’s Nate Bain. The Lumberjacks’ hero in the win over Duke comes from a family that was devastated by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. A GoFundMe for the Bain family exploded with donations following his heroics against the Blue Devils.

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ACC Opening Game Reactions

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 7th, 2019

No conference launched the college basketball season quite like the ACC, with seven league games already in the books by Wednesday evening, in addition to Duke taking down Kansas in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. Here’s are five things that stood out over the opening two nights of ACC action.

Cole Anthony Blew Everyone Away on Wednesday Night (USA Today Images)

Cole Anthony is the real deal. Attention to everyone who did not put Cole Anthony on your preseason first-team All-American teams: You were silly and this is just the beginning of how silly you will look. After a slow start in the season opener against Notre Dame, Anthony took over in the second half, finishing with 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists on 12-of-24 shooting, including 6-of-11 from long-range. The performance was even more critical given that the Tar Heels were short-handed with Brandon Robinson on the shelf. A star is born in Chapel Hill. Now let’s just see if someone can get him some new glasses.

Should we be more worried about Duke’s offense? The Blue Devils notched a big win Tuesday over Kansas in the Champions Classic, but there are definitely concerns about Duke’s offense. The Jayhawks gifted the Devils 26 turnovers, but they still shot just 35.9 percent from the field and didn’t put the game away until the very end. Additionally, Duke made just eight of its 24 three-point attempts. Tre Jones was 0-of-4 from long range and Jack White and Alex O’Connell (2-of-9 combined) didn’t provide an offensive spark off the bench. The good news? There is plenty of time for Mike Krzyzewski to build an offense around Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt and Cassius Stanley.

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ACC 2019-20 Tipoff

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 21st, 2019

We are now just over two weeks away from opening night in college basketball, so it’s time to start our preseason coverage here at the ACC microsite. Over the next two weeks we will provide key question previews of all 15 ACC schools and we will also be sharing our preseason thoughts on Twitter. Follow us there – @rtcACC, Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24), and Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald). But first, let’s put a bow on last season and take a quick peak ahead at the upcoming campaign.

2018-19 Recap

Redemption and miracle finishes were the themes in Virginia’s dramatic run to the 2019 National Championship. (USA TODAY Sports)

It was another highly successful year for the conference. The ACC became the first league in history to land the top three rankings in the final AP poll – Duke, Virginia and North Carolina – all of which earned #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Then, in one of the all-time best NCAA turnarounds, Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers collected the program’s first National Championship just one year after suffering the agonizing distinction of becoming the first top seed in history to fall to a #16 seed. To add to the drama, Virginia faced extreme peril in each of its final three games in last season’s tourney. According to KenPom’s win probability model, the Cavaliers overcame the following situations:

  • Elite Eight vs Purdue – Trailed 70-67 with 16 seconds to play (Win Probability = 12.2%)
  • Final Four vs Auburn – Trailed 61-57 with 17 seconds to play (Win Probability = 5.5%)
  • Title Game vs Texas Tech – Trailed 68-65 with 22 seconds to play (Win Probability = 13.0%)
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Eight Questions For the Sweet Sixteen

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 28th, 2019

The lack of major upsets in the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament has created numerous intriguing match-ups for the upcoming Sweet Sixteen. Here are the questions I have for each match-up:

Thursday Games

Brandon Clarke Has Been Putting on a Show for the #1 Zags (USA Today Images)
  • Florida State vs. Gonzaga: Does Gonzaga have a Rui Hachimura problem? While Hachimura is averaging 19.7 points per game this year, he is coming off of a season-low six-point performance against Baylor. Hachimura scored in double-figures in each of the first 32 games of the season, but has failed to eclipse 10 points in two of his previous three games. What’s going on with the junior All-American? The 6’8″ forward will be put to the test against the length of the Florida State front line.
  • Purdue vs. Tennessee: Will Carsen Edwards’ shooting be the difference? Carsen Edwards is coming off of an explosive 42-point performance against Villanova — a game in which he went 9-of-16 from beyond the arc. Tennessee’s three-point defense ranks below the national average and the Volunteers allowed Colgate to shoot 51.7 percent from distance in the First Round.
  • Texas Tech vs. Michigan: Which offense will be more dynamic in a match-up of elite defenses? According to KenPom, this game features the top two defenses in college basketball, as both teams have held their Tournament opponents under 60 points. The Wolverines are led offensively by freshman Ignas Brazdeikis — who scored just five points on 2-of-8 shooting against Florida — while Texas Tech is led by Jarrett Culver, who is averaging 25.5 points per game over his last four outings. The Red Raiders’ All-American, however, has shot only 20.6 percent from beyond the arc in games Texas Tech has lost.
  • Oregon vs. Virginia: Can Oregon’s defense stifle the immensely efficient Virginia offense? Since being blitzed for 90 points in a loss at UCLA, Oregon has given up an average of just 54.2 points per game over its last 10 contests. During that stretch, the Ducks have held their opponents to a sterling 20.9 percent on three-point attempts. While Virginia has shot over 40 percent from distance on the season, the Cavaliers have gone just 29.8 percent so far in the Tournament.

Friday Games

Duke Survived the UCF Push (USA Today Images)
  • LSU vs. Michigan State: Will LSU be able to put together a full 40-minute performance against Michigan State? Through two NCAA Tournament games LSU is +25 in the first half and -18 in the second half. That disparity features a 30.8 percent field-goal percentage in the second half and an even worse 16.7 percent from beyond the arc. Over their last five games, the Spartans, on the other hand, have outscored their opponents by 36 points in the second half.
  • Auburn vs. North Carolina: As hot as Auburn can get offensively, can its defense slow down North Carolina? Auburn has played 13 games against opponents with adjusted offensive efficiency rankings of 40th or better, and the Tigers have gone just 5-8 in those games. Additionally, the Tigers are just 2-6 in games against an opponent with an offensive rebounding rate that ranks among the top 20 in college basketball. For your consideration, North Carolina owns the nation’s eighth most efficient offense and has a top 20 offensive rebounding rate.
  • Virginia Tech vs. Duke: Can Virginia Tech replicate its winning formula against Duke? The Hokies defeated Duke, 77-72, back in late February in a game both Zion Williamson and Justin Robinson missed. Kerry Blackshear had a season-high 23 points to lead the Hokies in an all-around balanced effort. The return of the point guard Robinson will give Buzz Williams’ squad an extra ball-handler to deal with the pressure defense of Tre Jones.
  • Houston vs. Kentucky: What will the status of PJ Washington be come tip-off time? Kentucky’s PJ Washington missed the first two games of the NCAA Tournament and his availability remains unclear for Friday night’s game. Washington was the SEC’s second-best three-point shooter in conference play and is a player that would help spread the floor for a Wildcats’ team that has made just 25.9 percent of its 27 three-point attempts in the NCAA Tournament.
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ACC Conversation: Sweet Sixteen Preview

Posted by The ACC Team on March 27th, 2019

Rush the Court ACC microsite writers Brad Jenkins, Matt Auerbach and Mick McDonald got together this week to take a look back at the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament while also looking ahead to this week’s regional action.

Tony Bennett hope that Kyle Guy regains his shooting touch and leads Virginia to its first Final Four since 1984. (Amber Searls/USA TODAY Sports)

Brad Jenkins: Here we go. The ACC proved its strength at the top by putting five teams in the Sweet Sixteen. But before we discuss the outlook for those schools, any thoughts on the league’s two early exit squads — Louisville and Syracuse?

Mick McDonald: I was surprised Louisville lost the way it did, but who could have counted on Minnesota shooting the ball like that? I’m not sure the Gophers will EVER have another shooting night like that.

Matt Auerbach: Let me just reiterate for the eleven hundredth time how disappointing Syracuse’s season was. The Orange were never the team I expected them to be, and maybe that’s just on me. Certainly the absence of Frank Howard was an issue against Baylor, but this year was just wildly uneven for them from start to finish. As for Louisville, despite the tough finish to the year, I would call Chris Mack’s first year a success. With a strong recruiting class coming and the development of his young players — particularly Jordan Nwora — I expect a big year two for the Cardinals under Mack.

Mick McDonald: And yes, the future is very bright for the Cardinals. Chris Mack will have them in the top 10 in the next two years.

Brad Jenkins: Agreed. The Orange and Clemson must be the biggest disappointments in the league this year after returning their cores from a pair of Sweet Sixteen clubs a year ago. And Louisville is certainly headed for great things soon. Now on to the survivors. Let’s take a look at the ACC teams in action on Thursday this week, starting with Virginia in the South Region in Louisville. Thoughts on the Cavaliers’ chances there?

Mick McDonald: Look, Oregon wasn’t very good this year. Once Bol Bol got hurt, the Ducks didn’t really have an identity. But give Dana Altman credit. He figured out that they just needed to become a super-athletic, defensive freak type of team, with a great point guard in Payton Pritchard. They are the type of big, athletic club that can give Virginia’s offense trouble. Can Oregon score on Virginia? Not very likely. First to 50 wins?

Matt Auerbach: I still think Virginia is the favorite to win the Tournament, but I’m really a little worried about the Oregon match-up. The Ducks had a really poor overall season, but there is no denying they are currently playing some of the best basketball out there, particularly on the defensive end of the court. This game is tricky for me, because if both teams play their best, Virginia definitely wins — if not, Oregon may get them. I think if the Cavaliers win convincingly, they will rout the winner of Tennessee and Purdue on their way to the Final Four.

Mick McDonald: I’d like to see a statement game from De’Andre Hunter. He looked a little tentative in the Oklahoma game, and this is the type of game that will lend itself to taking over the offense at points. Also, Mamadi Diakite apparently finally putting all the tools together could not have happened at a better time. He looked fantastic in Virginia’s first two games and has given it that interior scoring option they have so badly needed.

Brad Jenkins: I admit that I was really worried when Virginia got down 14 points in the first half to Gardner-Webb. All I could think about was dreading having to go to the postgame presser and seeing those kids crushed again. Thankfully they pulled it together. And like Tony Bennett said, they defended like Virginia for 40 minutes against Oklahoma. I see them doing the same in Louisville and coming out OK. Any concerns about Kyle Guy’s sudden shooting slump?

Mick McDonald: Not really. He got some good looks against Oklahoma — they just didn’t go down. I worry a bit about him getting bullied and not being able to get open against Oregon, but if he gets enough open looks, he will knock some down. Shooters shoot, as the saying goes.

Matt Auerbach: I wouldn’t be concerned about Guy, but with the way Kenny Wooten is throwing shots back, Guy will need to make some perimeter shots — something he did better than just about anyone all year.

Brad Jenkins: Now on to the West Region semifinal rematch between Florida State and Gonzaga. Can the Seminoles pull off the upset again?

Mick McDonald: Florida State is good enough to beat any team in the country and I actually think they match up as well as a team can against Gonzaga. They have sufficient athletes to throw at Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke that should be able to rattle them. The key for me: Can Josh Perkins handle physical athletes like Trent Forrest, Terrance Mann and David Nichols that Leonard Hamilton? If he turns the ball over more than a normal rate, I like Florida State’s chances.

Matt Auerbach: Why not? They’ve been about as impressive as anyone else after the first weekend. Eleven deep, with that length and experience. I can certainly see it happening again, but not easily. People will focus on Killian Tillie playing this year, but the X-factor is Brandon Clarke — he’s almost a Seminole prototype on the other side, and I think he presents a lot of issues for Leonard Hamilton’s team on both ends.

Mick McDonald: Great point on Clarke, Matt. He is such a force on the inside, most teams have to be very worried about getting their bigs in foul trouble against him. The Seminoles have less of a worry because they are so deep.

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16 Questions: Friday’s First Round Games

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 22nd, 2019

It’s time for another exciting day of 16 games. Here are the questions I have going into Friday’s action:

The Zion Show Moves to the NCAA Tournament (USA Today Images)
  • 1) Duke vs. 16) North Dakota State: Will Duke’s perimeter players begin the Tournament knocking down shots? Zion will be Zion, of course, but Duke will need its other players knocking down shots down the line if the Blue Devils are to cut down the nets in Minneapolis.
  • 1) North Carolina vs. 16) Iona: Can Iona make it to the half within closer range than last year against Duke? As a #15 seed against Duke last year, Iona trailed at the half by 14 points before going on to lose by 22. While the Gaels shot a sterling 58.3 percent from inside the arc, they were just 5-of-24 from beyond the stripe. Duke, on the other hand, shot 62.2 percent from two-point range and went 13-of-30 from behind the line.
  • 1) Virginia vs. 16) Garder-Webb: Will Virginia be quick to rid itself of last season’s nightmare? A 29-3 regular season was great, but memories of last year will surely still be on everyone’s minds as the Cavaliers’ postseason begins. Virginia scored just nine points during the opening 10 minutes against UMBC one year ago, so its first few segments of the game will be telling.
  • 2) Tennessee vs. 15) Colgate: Will Tennessee make quick work of Colgate? Colgate comes into this game with a defensive efficiency ranking of #202, and the Raiders will be tasked with stopping the nation’s third most efficient offense led by the force that is Grant Williams. Good luck.
  • 3) Houston vs. 14) Georgia State: Does Georgia State coach Ron Hunter have more Tournament magic up his sleeves? On the season, Houston has out-rebounded its opponents by an average of 7.7 rebounds per game, whereas Georgia State finds itself getting outmuscled by the tune of 5.3 rebounds per game. If the Panthers can survive on the glass, the duo of D’Marcus Simmonds and Devin Mitchell might be able to keep Georgia State within striking distance.
  • 3) Texas Tech vs. 14) Northern Kentucky: Will Texas Tech’s loss to West Virginia have any carry-over effects? While Texas Tech held the Mountaineers to just 38.8 percent shooting, the Red Raiders gave up 19 offensive rebounds and 20 points at the charity stripe.
  • 4) Kansas State vs. 13) UC Irvine: Will Kansas State be able to get any play and production out of Dean Wade? Wade did not play in the Big 12 Tournament and his status remains up in the air for today’s game. Without the big man inside, the Anteaters could be able to take advantage of its offensive rebounding prowess.
  • 4) Virginia Tech vs. 13) Saint Louis: How will Virginia Tech work Justin Robinson back into the lineup? After missing the last 12 games of the season, Robinson is set to return for the Hokies. The senior guard averages just under 14 points per game while shooting better than 40 percent from deep.
  • 5) Wisconsin vs. 12) Oregon: Can Wisconsin get D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison to knock down open shots? In Wisconsin’s five March games, the pair of Trice and Davison have gone a combined 11-of-48 from behind the three-point line. Without knocking down open shots, Oregon will be able to throw everything they have at slowing All-America center Ethan Happ.
  • 5) Mississippi State vs. 12) Liberty: Will Liberty be overwhelmed by the Mississippi State offense? The Flames played 14 games against an opponent with an offensive efficiency ranking of 260th or worse. The Bulldogs have an offensive efficiency ranking of 56th and are led by Quinndary Weatherspoon, who shot an SEC-best 44.9 percent on three-point attempts during league play.
  • 6) Buffalo vs. 11) Arizona State: Will Buffalo get the best of a school from Arizona again? Bobby Hurley and the Sun Devils won on Wednesday night in Dayton and are rewarded with a match-up against Hurley’s former squad. Arizona State will need more than 23 minutes of action from Remy Martin to get another victory.
  • 6) Iowa State vs. 11) Ohio State: With Kaleb Wesson back, can Ohio State pull off the upset? The Buckeyes lost two of their last three games with Wesson back before falling in his return to the Spartans. Ohio State averaged 10 fewer points per game on the road than they did at home.
  • 7) Cincinnati vs. 10) Iowa: Can Iowa change its late season misfortune? The Hawkeyes come into this game losers of five of their last six games. Throw in needing a pair of last second baskets to beat Northwestern and Rutgers and it’s clear Iowa is playing its worst basketball at the wrong time of the year.
  • 8) Ole Miss vs. 9) Oklahoma: Can Ole Miss knock down enough threes to beat the Sooners? The Rebels were just 2-8 when they failed to make a third of their three-point attempts this season. On the year, Oklahoma has held opponents to a three-point average of 33.3 percent.
  • 8) Utah State vs. 9) Washington: Can the Pac-12’s highest seed help the conference from its dismal 2018 showing in the NCAA Tournament? The Pac-12’s regular season champion scored fewer than 50 points in two of its final four games, both coming against Oregon. The Huskies’ defense does a terrific job of creating havoc, however, led by the wizardry of defensive ace Matisse Thybulle.
  • 8) VCU vs. 9) UCF: If VCU’s Marcus Evans is not at 100 percent, will the Rams have enough firepower? Evans suffered a bone bruise in VCU’s loss to Rhode Island in last week’s Atlantic 10 tournament. The starting guard averages a team-best 13.9 points per game and VCU could be tested greatly by UCF’s stout defense — which includes the towering presence of 7’6″ Tacko Fall.
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Rushed Reactions: Duke 74, North Carolina 73

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 15th, 2019

RTC’s Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) is providing on-site coverage of the ACC Tournament all week long.

Three Key Takeaways.

Zion Williamson led Duke to an exciting ACC Tournament win over rival North Carolina. (The Sporting News)
  1. This game lived up to the hype. This was perhaps the most anticipated semifinal matchup in ACC Tournament history and the two teams delivered an instant classic. It was only fitting that the outcome wasn’t decided until the game’s final possession when North Carolina missed two shots in the last three seconds. For most of the first half it looked like a mismatch — North Carolina raced out to a commanding 13-point lead and the Blue Devils were dealing with foul trouble to their depleted front line (especially true with Marquise Bolden out). But Mike Krzyzewski got some surprising production from his bench and Duke roared back to tie the game at the half. After the break Duke took the lead and looked to be in control only to see the Tar Heels rally. It wasn’t the prettiest game — the teams combined to make just 9-of-47 shots from deep — but the intensity level and effort from both teams was top-notch. And who knows? We may get to see them go at it again in Minneapolis.
  2. Duke’s bench came through in surprising fashion. Zion Williamson was outstanding, but Duke would not have pulled this game out without the play of the much-maligned Blue Devils’ bench. Led by Cameron Johnson (16 first half points), North Carolina was rolling in the first half and beating the Blue Devils down the court for transition buckets. Additionally, Cam Reddish and Javin DeLaurier were in foul trouble. First, Krzyzewski inserted Jordan Goldwire into the game in place of Reddish and his defense helped turn the game around. Goldwire took on the assignment of slowing down Coby White, an absolute jet in the open court, while starting point guard Tre Jones moved over to harass Johnson. When DeLaurier picked up his third foul, seldom used Antonio Vrankovic got the call and held his own with the Tar Heels’ frontcourt for a total of 10 minutes. Goldwire earned postgame praise from both head coaches for the energy he brought to his team when they needed a boost.
  3. History repeats itself (barely). This makes the third year in a row that these two old rivals have met in the ACC Tournament semifinals. In each of those prior tourney matchups, the winner was the team that had lost the prior meeting between the two a week earlier. In fact, that has been the case in the last five ACC Tournament meetings between Duke and North Carolina (2003, 2011, 2017-19). For North Carolina, this tradition runs even deeper — over the last 46 years, whenever the Tar Heels face Duke in the ACC Tournament after defeating the Blue Devils in the regular season finale, their record in those games is 0-6. But recent rivalry history is not all bad news for Williams. During his 15 years at the helm in Chapel Hill, the winner of the last regular season Duke-UNC matchup of the year has gone on to perform better in the NCAA Tournament than its rival 13 times.

Player of the Game. Zion Williamson, Duke. The freshman phenom finally got his chance to play in college basketball’s biggest rivalry and he made the most of it. Williamson finished with 31 points and 11 rebounds and ended up making the game-winner when he followed up his own miss with 31 seconds to go.

Quotable.

  • “The guy that’s been hurt [Zion Williamson] came back and put on his superman jersey again and was incredible. It’s such a blend of strength and power and quickness that we couldn’t stop him getting the basketball inside and going to the basket.” – North Carolina coach Roy Williams’ opening comments in the press conference.
  • “This was obviously a great game. I mean vintage ACC, Duke-North Carolina.” – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on the game.
  • “I mean it was tough watching the first two games. […] the rivalry lived up to what I expected it to be” – Duke’s Zion Williamson on finally getting to play against North Carolina.

Sights and Sounds. This was probably the most anticipated semifinal matchup in ACC Tournament history, so it was fitting that this battle between Tobacco Road rivals took place in the state of North Carolina. As expected, the Tar Heels had the support of about two-thirds of the Spectrum Center, but both sets of fans were extremely into the game throughout the contest.

What’s Next. Duke moves on to play Florida State for the ACC championship on Saturday night. It will be the second title meeting between the two schools — the Blue Devils beat the Seminoles in 2009. Duke and Florida State only played once in the regular season, with Duke winning a one-point buzzer-beating game in Tallahassee in early January.

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ACC Tournament Takeaways: Thursday Evening

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 14th, 2019

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

Zion Williamson looked strong in his return to the floor in the ACC Tournament. (Getty Images)

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

  • North Carolina (27-5): The Tar Heels are a very confident team right now and with good reason. After dispatching Louisville, 83-70, in Thursday’s quarterfinals, North Carolina has won 15 of its last 16 outings and is still in contention to grab a #1 seed in the upcoming Big Dance. Although the Cardinals stayed within striking distance for most of tonight’s game, it never felt like the outcome was in doubt. Freshman point guard Coby White continued his recent outstanding play for Roy Williams, finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The Tar Heels will get a chance at the rare three-game season sweep of archrival Duke in Friday night’s semifinals.
  • Louisville (20-13): After losing five or its last six February outings, the Cardinals appear to have somewhat righted the ship. They closed the regular season with a comfortable win over Notre Dame followed by a narrow defeat at top-seed Virginia. In Charlotte, Louisville blew out the Fighting Irish on Wednesday and gave a good account of themselves against North Carolina, one of hottest teams in the country. Most bracketologists forecast Chris Mack’s club as a #6 or #7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, meaning they would likely face a high-caliber team in the second round. Mack hopes that the six games his squad has already played against North Carolina, Virginia and Duke have prepared it for such a challenge.
  • Duke (27-5): He’s back! But that doesn’t mean everything is OK with Duke going forward. In his much anticipated return from a knee injury that caused him to miss six games, Zion Williamson exploded out of the gate to lead the Blue Devils to a big early lead. In the first half alone, he scored 21 points on 9-for-9 shooting, grabbed nine rebounds and came up with five steals. But while Williamson’s presence helps Duke in many areas, it doesn’t alter the team’s glaring flaws — namely, shooting and the propensity to collect offensive fouls. In its 84-72 win over Syracuse, the Blue Devils made 30.4 percent of their threes, shot 67.9 percent from the foul line and committed 18 turnovers — many of those coming on charges. They’ll have to be better than that to knock off North Carolina on Friday night, in what will be one of the most anticipated semifinal matchups in ACC Tournament history.
  • Syracuse (20-13): This was always going to be an uphill battle for the Orange, especially when star Tyus Battle was unable to suit up due to a sore back. Without its best offensive player, Syracuse struggled mightily to score against Duke’s pressure early. But they settled down after that, storming back catch the Blue Devils in the second half before fading down the stretch. The Orange had one of their best outside shooting nights of the year, making 9-of-21 from deep and they have to be encouraged at the development of the coach’s son, Buddy Boeheim. Starting in place of Battle, the freshman put together back-to-back strong outings in Charlotte, including 15 points against Duke. Jim Boeheim indicated that Battle should be ready to go in a few days, so he should be available for the start of the NCAA Tournament. That’s good news for a team that’s likely to end up with a #9 or #10 seed, which guarantees that the Orange will be facing a good First Round opponent.
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Inside the ACC Numbers: Final Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 11th, 2019

Here is the final edition of our weekly view at the current ACC standings with a focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their conference records may indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to share a few interesting notes on teams, statistics, and trends around the conference. With the regular season in the books, this week we will compare how each ACC squad performed in the second half of league play, with an eye on the teams that might excel in the ACC Tournament in Charlotte. Finally, we will examine the ACC standings and project what it may mean for teams’ ultimate postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Saturday, March 9.

Final Standings

Congratulations are in order for Virginia, which accomplished something this season that no ACC school has done in over a decade. Tony Bennett‘s club posted both the best offense and defense, the first league squad to lead the conference in each metric since North Carolina turned the trick in back-to-back seasons (2007 and 2008). The Cavaliers won the defensive crown for the fifth time in the past six years, while simultaneously trotting out the best offense of Bennett’s career in Charlottesville. Virginia’s shooting acumen has been the main driver to its offensive prowess — the Cavaliers made 43.1 percent of their three-pointers in league play, which represents the ACC’s best mark of the KenPom era. Co-regular season champion North Carolina used a balanced attack to finish with the league’s second-best offense — the Tar Heels finished among the top five in two-point shooting, three-point accuracy, offensive rebounding and turnover percentage. Brad Brownell also deserves credit for the performance of Clemson’s defense, which finished second in the ACC, ahead of more acclaimed units from Florida State and Duke.

Advanced Stat of the Week: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

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