Ten Questions: Mid-November Intrigue

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 16th, 2018

While this weekend’s schedule is a little light as teams prepare for the nonstop action of Feast Week, here are 10 questions to consider as the season settles in.

Is Michigan Due For a Letdown? (USA Today Images)

  1. How will St. John’s fare in its only road non-conference game? (St. John’s at Rutgers, Friday 7 PM EST, BTN) St. John’s only road non-conference game takes place just down the road in New Jersey against local rival Rutgers. In Mustapha Heron‘s  first two games as a member of the Red Storm, he is averaging over 20 points per game.
  2. Will Arizona State avoid an upset in a potential trap game? (ed. note: this game was canceled last night because of smoke issues related to wildfires) (Arizona State @ San Francisco, Friday 10 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Before Arizona State heads to Las Vegas to take on a ranked Mississippi State team, they will take on the Dons in San Francisco. After falling behind by 15 points early, San Francisco was only outscored by three points in the final 30 minutes of last season’s match-up in the desert.
  3. Has Stanford found Reid Travis 2.0 in KZ Okpala? (Wofford at Stanford, Friday 10 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) When Reid Travis decided to transfer to Kentucky, Stanford had to fill a large gap in its offense. Sophomore KZ Okpala has seen his scoring average explode from 10.0 as a freshman to 22.7 PPG through the first three games of the season.
  4. Will early season turnover woes be the deciding factor? (South Carolina vs. Providence, Saturday 2:30 PM EST, ESPN 3) Through three games South Carolina has committed 44 turnovers while Providence has committed 46 turnovers. Both the Gamecocks and Friars are forcing turnovers at a rate better than the national average, so winning the turnover battle will be crucial in this game.
  5. Can Charleston stay perfect with a win in Stillwater? (Charleston @ Oklahoma State, Sunday 4 PM EST) Coming off a 26-8 record last season, Charleston was picked second in the preseason CAA media poll. The Cougars feature two of the conference’s best players in Jarrell Brantley and Grant Riller. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is struggling, having lost to #299 Charlotte already this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Reviewing the ACC’s Five Early Losses

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 16th, 2018

We’re just over a week into the season and the ACC has suffered a total of five losses. Two of those defeats came from teams that were expected to struggle, two others were from teams that were hoping to be on the fringe of the NCAA Tournament, and one came from a potential contender. RTC ACC writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) breaks each of those early losses down. (All rankings via KenPom as of November 15.)

Syracuse Struggled Against Old Enemy UConn Last Night (USA Today Images)

  • #96 Connecticut 83, #7 Syracuse 76. As the old saying goes, throw out the KenPom rankings when two old rivals get together. Syracuse had to scratch and claw to make the NCAA Tournament last year despite an elite defense because the Orange simply couldn’t score (135th nationally). Last night against Connecticut in Madison Square Garden, they were up to their old tricks again. The Orange shot just 39.4 percent from the field and made just six threes while allowing Connecticut to nail 12-of-21 from three-point range. Most teams won’t shoot nearly that well against Syracuse’s length this year, but its lack of consistent offense leaves the Orange vulnerable when a team gets hot.
  • #259 IUPUI 76, #90 Boston College 69. Whatever dreams Boston College had at making a run at an at-large bid this year may already be over with its bad loss earlier this week to IUPUI. Jim Christian’s team simply isn’t making enough shots, hitting only 29.5 percent of its three-pointers so far this season and getting limited production from its frontcourt of Steffon Mitchell (46.4% eFG) and Nik Popovic (47.4% eFG). Most importantly, Boston College needs to find some depth — through only three games, the Eagles’ five starters are averaging at least 28 minutes per contest. Freshman Jairus Hamilton is playing just over 18 minutes per game off the bench. Nobody else is seeing more than five minutes per contest. If Christian can’t find anyone else he trusts to give the occasional spell to Ky Bowman and Jordan Chatman, Boston College is in major trouble in the ACC.

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part I Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 15th, 2018

morning5_ACC

Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings. All times are Eastern.

  1. Myrtle Beach InvitationalWake Forest (#101) tipped off the ACC’s early season tournament action with a loss this morning, taking on St. Joseph’s (#90) in the first round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational and folding in the second half by a score of 89-69. On Friday, the Demon Deacons will play the loser between UCF (#74) or Cal State Fullerton (#132). West Virginia (#14) is the prohibitive tourney favorite in this event, being the only team in the field rated among KenPom’s top 70. Danny Manning‘s team figures to be in some close games during the rest of the weekend, and winning a couple of tight games in Myrtle Beach would be a huge confidence boost for Wake’s young players.
  2. Charleston Classic: Virginia Tech (#31) also had an early tip time today, knocking off Ball State (#99) in the first round of the Charleston Classic. The Hokies will likely see Alabama (#56) in Friday’s semifinals (1:30 PM), giving Buzz Williams’ club a chance for some payback — recall that the Crimson Tide knocked Virginia Tech out of last season’s NCAA Tournament in a first round meeting. In the other half of the bracket, Purdue (#16) looks like the most likely school to reach Sunday evening’s title game (ESPN2 – 8:30 PM). With seven top-100 KenPom teams in Charleston, the Hokies have a chance to grab some nice resume-building wins this weekend, and they may need them because the rest of their non-conference schedule is rather soft.
  3. 2K Empire ClassicSyracuse (#8) heads to Madison Square Garden tonight for the 2K Empire Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project. The Orange will meet their old Big East rival Connecticut (#97) in tonight’s opener (ESPN2 – 7:00 PM) with Oregon (#19) and Iowa (#38) squaring off in the nightcap. The two winners will meet in Friday night’s championship game (ESPN2 – 6:30 PM). So far this year, three-point shooting has been horrendous when Syracuse plays — at both ends of the floor. The Orange are only converting 18.2 percent of their deep tries, and Syracuse’s opponents are not much better in sinking just 22.0 percent from behind the arc. A Syracuse-Oregon championship game would probably be the nation’s best match-up of the week. The Ducks would provide a stiff challenge for Jim Boeheim’s zone, having made 43.8 percent of their three-point attempts in two blowout wins last week.
  4. Gotham Classic: This is a non-traditional event in which the games are all pre-scheduled. Notre Dame (#51) has already hosted two games as part of the event, beating Illinois-Chicago (#190) on November 6, and suffering an upset to Radford (#158) last night. Next up for Mike Brey’s club are home games with William & Mary (#150) this Saturday (ACCN – Noon) and Duquesne (#165) on Tuesday, November 20 (ACCNE – 7:00 PM). In years past, this event wrapped up with a game in Madison Square Garden, but apparently this particular field of teams was too weak to make that happen. This event is unlikely to boost the Irish’s NCAA resume, but Notre Dame’s upcoming schedule will take care of that. The Irish’s next five games are against top-80 KenPom teams from power-six basketball leagues.
  5. Barclays Center ClassicPittsburgh (#120) is also not participating in a traditional winner-advance tournament this season, instead opting for four pre-scheduled games as part of the Barclays Center Classic. On Monday, the Panthers beat Troy (#163) in their first game of the event. Next up for Jeff Capel’s squad are a pair of home match-ups with directional schools – Central Arkansas (#289) tonight and North Alabama (#336) on Saturday. The main event will take place in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, where Pittsburgh will meet Saint Louis (#81) on Wednesday, November 21 (ACCNE – Noon). A win over the Billikens would indicate that Capel is ahead of schedule as he rebuilds the Panthers’ once proud program. It could also help him reestablish a strong presence in New York City, which was once a very fertile recruiting spot for the program.
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ACC Conversation: Preseason Projections – Part 1

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 5th, 2018

Rush the Court’s ACC microsite writers Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24) and Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) recently got together to chat about the upcoming 2018-19 season and share their thoughts on all 15 ACC schools. Here’s Part 1 of that conversation.

Danny Manning needs his young stars to come through for Wake Forest to move up the ACC standings. (Walt Unks/Winston-Salem Journal)

  • Brad Jenkins: Happy New Year, gentlemen! Let’s start with a look at the projected bottom of the league. Matt, you did our preview piece on Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Can any of these teams surprise us and contend for an NCAA bid like the Yellow Jackets did two years ago?
  • Matt Auerbach: Great to be back, guys! The short answer to that, Brad, is no. I just can’t see it. The best-case scenario for the first two, particularly Pittsburgh, is that they are competitive and playing a more exciting brand of basketball than they have the last two years. Jeff Capel was a home run hire that will ultimately steer the Panthers back to relevance. Josh Pastner built up some equity with his run to the NIT finals two years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be much to be excited about in Atlanta. As for Wake, if Jaylen Hoard could have a Trae Young or Deandre Ayton type of impact, sure. While extremely talented, I think the odds of that occurring, however, are near nil, and the pressure will be mounting on Danny Manning if another disappointing season ensues.
  • Mick McDonald: Great point on Capel, Matt. Pitt basketball at least feels interesting again. They’ll be bad this year but I’ll be interested to see how guys like Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens begin their careers. I think they may actually be better than Georgia Tech. Pastner’s team looks rough.
  • Matt Auerbach: Without a doubt, of the three, I’d be least surprised if Pittsburgh won four or five games.
  • Mick McDonald: I know Manning keeps pulling good recruits but it feels like he needs to have a team make some noise sometime soon.
  • Brad Jenkins: I think there’s a chance for Capel to do something like what Pastner did in his first year in Atlanta based on the new energy he has in the Pitt program, but the ACC schedule rotation did him no favors — they have zero home games against the predicted bottom four in the league. Is Manning the ACC coach on the Hot Seat this year?
  • Mick McDonald: I guess, but given how his recruiting is going, I’d bet Manning gets at least one more year.

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ACC Burning Questions, Part 2: Boston College, Notre Dame & Louisville

Posted by Mick McDonald on October 30th, 2018

As we head into another exciting ACC season that tips off in next week, we will be reviewing the key question for each of the league’s 15 squads. Next up,  Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) keeps things rolling with a look at Boston College, Notre Dame and Louisville.

Boston College Burning Question: Will Jerome Robinson’s departure doom the Eagles to another year near the bottom of the ACC?

Ky Bowman Has a Lot on His Plate This Year (USA Today Images)

Everything appeared to be lining up perfectly for Boston College head coach Jim Christian before star shooting guard Jerome Robinson decided to leave school early as a lottery pick — now, somewhat suddenly and unexpectedly, this season looks much murkier in Chestnut Hill. Robinson’s running-mate in the backcourt, Ky Bowman, is back, however, and although he can do it all, he’ll need to improve his offensive efficiency (104.5 ORtg) this season if the Eagles hope to climb from 12th place in the ACC standings. Jordan Chatman (39.5% 3FG) played third banana in the Boston College backcourt last year and will also be counted on to replace some of the scoring punch lost with Robinson’s departure.

While Bowman and Chatman should be able to provide considerable offensive firepower in the backcourt, Christian’s team will only be successful if its frontcourt can contribute more regularly than last season. Sophomore Steffon Mitchell (8.3 RPG) looks like he has the potential to become an effective ACC big man and junior Nik Popovic significantly improved his offensive output a  season ago (from a dreadful 95.5 ORtg to a respectable 107.9). The most exciting piece among the front line, however, is freshman Jairus Hamilton, a top 100 recruit who spurned the likes of NC State and Duke to head north. They certainly can’t count on Hamilton to fill the shoes of Robinson immediately, but he is the type of player that Boston College needs to compete in the talent-rich ACC.

Notre Dame Burning Question: Is Mike Brey actually a wizard?

Mike Brey Seems to Make Surprising Everyone His Annual Task (USA Today Images)

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey might actually be some kind of wizard. It seems as if the Irish lose a player or two every year that they simply cannot afford to lose. Analysts over the summer then decide that Notre Dame’s run of sustained success is over. Brey just simply gets back to work; a player or two nobody thought much of turn into better versions of themselves; and the Irish are dancing come March. Last year it took two crippling injuries to Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell to keep Notre Dame out of the NCAA Tournament, and they were still the first team out! That pair is now gone, but if that makes you think Brey’s club is headed for bad times, so be it. I’m not falling into that trap.

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Where 2018-19 Happens: Reason #10 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2018

As RTC heads into its 12th season covering college hoops, it’s time to begin releasing our annual compendium of YouTube clips that we like to call Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball. These 30 snippets from last season’s action are completely guaranteed to make you wish the games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Tuesday, November 6. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#10 – Where Triumphant Return Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17  and 2017-18 preseasons.

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Ten Questions to Consider: End of Season Edition

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on April 23rd, 2018

With the season now well in the rear view mirror, it’s time to look at the long, hot summer ahead. Here are 10 questions to consider this offseason.

Arizona’s No-Show in the NCAA Tournament Capped Off a Frustrating Season in Tucson (USA Today Images)

  1. What will come of the FBI investigation? The uncertainty of what is still to come from the FBI investigation sits at the forefront of this offseason’s key storylines. The drama that unfolded at Arizona late in the season has created great uncertainty for at least one powerful program, but it is only a matter of time before the college basketball world is dealt another blow in this ongoing saga.
  2. Will the NBA change the one-and-done rule? While the FBI holds the key to one significant component of the college basketball offseason, the NBA is likely to also greatly affect the future of the sport. If the NBA rids itself of the one-and-done rule, top recruits will likely be able to make the jump — somewhere — immediately. At the same time, could college basketball adopt amateurism models similar to those of the Olympics, baseball or hockey? A change to the current system seems imminent.
  3. Which player would have the biggest impact if he pulls out of the NBA Draft? While Villanova’s exalted trio of Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo are the easy picks here, Creighton’s Khyri Thomas would ultimately have the biggest impact. The Bluejays will be without Marcus Foster’s scoring output next season, meaning that a Thomas back in Omaha can fill the role of primary scorer along with being a defensive stalwart — remember that he was the Big East’s Defensive Player of the Year last season. The rising senior might be better suited to return to a featured role next season.
  4. Which coach is under the most pressure to succeed heading into next season? Planes flying around Westwood have returned as UCLA’s Steve Alford enters next season in a position where a trip to the Sweet Sixteen might not be enough success to keep his job. Recruiting victories must better translate to regular season and postseason success, beginning in a Pac-12 where the Bruins should be among the preseason favorites with Arizona facing a period of vulnerability. Read the rest of this entry »
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Way Too Early 2018-19 ACC Rankings

Posted by Mick McDonald on April 6th, 2018

This season may have just wrapped up, but we are always looking forward to next season. Here’s a much too early look at how the ACC may shake out in 2018-19.

The Four Kill4s Arrive in Durham With Much Fanfare

  1. Duke. We’ll see if Gary Trent returns, but either way, it’s another loaded freshman class that will make the Blue Devils the most talented team in college basketball. RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson are the top three players in the class of 2018 and will be joined by the top-rated point guard, Tre Jones.
  2. Virginia. The Cavaliers lose Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins but return their starting backcourt of Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, plus ACC Sixth Man of the Year De’Andre Hunter. Look for Mamadi Diakite to continue a long line of athletic bigs who flourish in Tony Bennett’s system.
  3. North Carolina. Joel Berry and Theo Pinson are gone, but the Tar Heels return Luke Maye in addition to Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams. Roy Williams is also bringing in his best recruiting class in years, with point guard Coby White and wing Nassir Little set to arrive. The improvement of sophomore big men Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley and Brandon Huffman will be important to watch.
  4. Virginia Tech. Buzz Williams loses just Justin Bibbs and Devon Wilson from this year’s squad, and he will return a senior-laden backcourt with Ahmed Hill and potential All-ACC player Justin Robinson. Chris Clarke and Kerry Blackshear, Jr. are versatile bigs who can hit shots from the outside. Last year’s freshmen class also has the potential to break out, especially Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Tournament Instareaction: ACC Teams

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 11th, 2018

The ACC received nine bids to the NCAA Tournament today — the same number as a year ago — and is well-represented at the top of the bracket. Virginia rode its superb regular season and ACC Tournament championship all the way to the top of the field as the NCAA Tourney’s #1 overall seed. Tobacco road rivals North Carolina and Duke each landed on the #2 seed line with the Tar Heels earning the preferred Charlotte pod for the first weekend. Some late bid-stealers (Davidson and San Diego State, notably) burst the bubble for two ACC teams — Louisville and Notre Dame didn’t make the cut — but Syracuse somehow squeaked into the field. Here are some quick best- and worst-case scenarios for each of the nine ACC teams in this year’s field.

Virginia (#1 South)

Virginia players celebrate with the championship trophy after defeating North Carolina in the ACC tournament. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Best Case: The Cavaliers ride the nation’s top defense all the way to San Antonio, giving Tony Bennett his first Final Four appearance and a shot at the school’s first-ever National Championship.
  • Worst Case: Virginia’s offense bogs down against a team that has enough NBA-level talent to make shots against the pack-line defense. Both Arizona and Kentucky fit that description, and one of them will likely play the Cavaliers in the Sweet Sixteen.

North Carolina (#2 West)

  • Best Case: Joel Berry turns into Mr. March again, leading the veteran Tar Heels back to the Final Four for the third consecutive year.
  • Worst Case: The threes don’t connect for North Carolina and they can’t get enough stops against a hot Michigan squad in the Sweet Sixteen.

Duke (#2 Midwest)

  • Best Case: Duke plays to its potential on offense and opponents continue to struggle against the Blue Devils’ zone defense, giving Coach K a chance to win his sixth National Championship.
  • Worst Case: Duke’s prize freshmen succumb to postseason pressure, and once again, a talented Blue Devil team underachieves in the Big Dance — perhaps as early as the Second Round.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Final Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 6th, 2018

Here is the latest 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. This week we will compare how each ACC squad performed in its last nine league games, with an eye on the teams that might excel in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn. 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 3.

Current Standings

The final points per possession margin (PPM) figures suggest that there are a pair of ACC teams (Virginia and Duke) that are clearly superior to the rest of the league, and one squad (Pittsburgh) that is exceptionally worse. There is also a lot of parity in the middle of the league this season, with six schools posting +/- 0.01 in PPM. Among that group, Miami at 11-7 stands out as the most fortunate. By winning their last four games by three points or fewer — and thanks to the league’s tie-breaking procedures — the Hurricanes landed the #3 seed in Brooklyn this week. They accomplished this feat despite only outscoring their ACC foes by a total of nine points all season long. It’s also interesting to consider the relative strength of schedule among the 15 league members. Note that there is some bias built into the standings — Virginia and Duke only met once and can’t play themselves, partially explaining why they have the ACC’s two weakest schedules. But North Carolina clearly played a much tougher slate, with two games each against three of the top five seeds in this week’s tournament (Duke, Clemson and NC State). Even that gauntlet, though, doesn’t match what Buzz Williams‘ crew at Virginia Tech faced this year — the Hokies logged two meetings with each of the top three seeds in Brooklyn (Virginia, Duke and Miami). Additionally, hats off to Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers for submitting the ACC’s best defense for the fourth time in five years, while North Carolina finished with the league’s top offense for the second straight year.

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