ACC Weekend Review: 01.14.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 14th, 2019

After a lackluster opening weekend, things were much crazier around the ACC this weekend. In the headline match-up in Tallahassee on Saturday, Duke survived Florida State, 80-78, on Cam Reddish’s last second three. Reddish (23 points) and fellow freshman RJ Barrett (32 points) picked up the slack when Zion Williamson missed the entire second half with an eye injury. The long Seminoles caused problems for the Blue Devils in the paint, blocking seven Blue Devils’ shots, winning the battle of the boards (+5) and out-dunking Duke by a 10-to-1 margin. League co-leader Virginia grabbed another impressive road win too, as the Cavaliers manhandled Clemson, 63-43. Two road underdogs also won with surprising ease as Louisville dominated North Carolina at the Smith Center, 83-62, and Georgia Tech pulled off a stunner at Syracuse, 73-59. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Steven Enoch outplayed Luke Maye as Louisville shocked North Carolina in the Smith Center on Saturday. (thecardinalconnect.com)
  • Best Win: Few gave Louisville a realistic chance to win in Chapel Hill on Saturday, much less blow the Tar Heels off their own floor. After all, the Cardinals had just lost to Pittsburgh while North Carolina was coming off an impressive road win over a ranked and fired-up NC State squad. However, Chris Mack’s unit came out smoking (seven first half 3-pointers) and North Carolina never put up much of a fight in the 21-point defeat. The most lopsided home loss of the Roy Williams era was also a huge boost to Louisville’s growing postseason resume. A major key to the victory was the Cardinals’ dominance in the paint. Connecticut transfer Steven Enoch finished with career highs in points (17) and rebounds (11), outplaying UNC star Luke Maye, who finished with just nine points on a cold (3-for-14) shooting day.
  • Worst Loss: Georgia Tech gave Syracuse a taste of its own medicine Saturday night in the Carrier Dome. Josh Pastner used a zone defense to befuddle the Orange’s offense and pull off a surprisingly easy upset. Syracuse was unable to penetrate the Yellow Jackets’ interior and struggled to make shots from deep (7-for-33), but Georgia Tech only launched 12 threes (hitting six) and shot 63.3 percent (19-of-30) on two-pointers. Jim Boeheim’s team now has three home defeats and is currently projected by KenPom to finish 9-9 in the league, well below its preseason expectations.
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Analysis: ACC Turnover Battle Drives Success

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 10th, 2019

It is common knowledge in basketball circles that winning the turnover battle is an important factor in determining the victor. However, we did not realize just how crucial it is until we reviewed every ACC league game from a year ago and found that the teams committing an equal or lesser number of turnovers than their opponents were victorious 76 percent of the time.

Duke Lost Two Games to North Carolina Last Season in Part Because of Turnovers

Among major statistical measures, only overall field goal shooting (81%) is a better predictor of the outcome of a game. Turnovers, in fact, were a better indicator than three-point shooting (74%), free throw shooting (61%) and rebounding (54%) in ACC play. Armed with that fact, we decided to examine several team characteristics that influence how well conference squads take care of the ball, with the caveat that overall skill and talent is the most likely driver. Over the last five years of play, offensive tempo, assist percentage and three-point attempt rate turned out to have no discernible impact on turnovers. The four team attributes that are listed below, however — years of experience, minutes continuity, average height and bench minutes — exhibit some connection to turnover rates. Here’s a look at how these traits are already fitting some league teams in 2018-19.

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ACC Weekend Review: 01.07.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 7th, 2019

All the favorites held serve on the first weekend of conference play around the ACC. On Saturday, the league’s co-favorites each won handily at home, as Virginia took care of Florida State and Duke routed Clemson. Two other ranked ACC squads were also successful – North Carolina blitzed Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech bested Boston College. The weekend was incredibly devoid of close games, with no outcomes among the group decided by single digits. Here are the highlights from (the real) opening weekend around the ACC.

Kyle Guy was on fire Saturday as Virginia dominated Florida State. (John Markon)
  • Best Win: By dominating Florida State from start to finish, defending league champion Virginia served notice that the ACC regular season title race still runs through Charlottesville. A final score of 65-52 was not indicative of the complete beatdown that the Cavaliers administered on Saturday afternoon – the Seminoles scored the last 16 points of the game to make it look better than it actually was. Up until that point, Tony Bennett’s defense had held high-scoring Florida State to just 36 points over 38 minutes of play. Junior sharp-shooter Kyle Guy was red hot (5-of-6 from deep), leading the Cavaliers with 21 points, including 18 in the opening half.
  • Worst Loss: With no upsets occurring over the weekend, we’re going with Notre Dame’s home loss to Syracuse, 72-62. The Irish looked good early, leading by 10 points at one point, but Syracuse rallied behind sophomore transfer Elijah Hughes, who posted a career high 22 points on 6-of-13 three-point shooting. Mike Brey’s two freshman guards had a tough time in their first look at the Orange’s lengthy zone defense, as Prentiss Hubb and Dane Goodwin combined for just four points on 1-for-10 shooting. With its thin roster, Notre Dame can’t afford to drop too many home games if the Irish hope to have a chance at postseason play.
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ACC Conversation: Pre-Conference Edition – Part 2

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24), Mick Mcdonald (@themickmcdonald) on January 4th, 2019

Rush the Court ACC microsite writers Brad JenkinsMatt Auerbach and Mick McDonald recently got together to chat about the ACC heading in to conference play. Here’s Part 2 of that conversation.

Justin Robinson has guided Virginia Tech into contender status in the ACC. (accsports.com)

Brad Jenkins: Can Florida State or Virginia Tech crack the top three in the ACC? They both look like solid clubs, but are they being overlooked?

Matt Auerbach: I like both teams, and they deserve to be ranked inside the top 10 nationally. But I don’t believe that either will elevate above the aforementioned three squads when the league plays out.

Mick McDonald: Both definitely could, although I like Buzz Williams’ club a bit more. They are lethal offensively with so many guys who can light it up, and they play really hard on the defensive end. Their schedule has been light so far, so I’m very much looking forward to some bigger opportunities coming up shortly. Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Justin Robinson can make an argument for best backcourt in the country and Kerry Blackshear is a match-up nightmare.

Matt Auerbach: Truthfully, there’s no denying both belong inside the top 10 based on merit, but I don’t view either as a legitimate threat to make a Final Four without some unusual breaks falling their way.

Mick McDonald: Agree with Matt. These two are rightful top 10 teams, but the ACC is just so loaded that could mean finishing fourth or fifth.

Matt Auerbach: If forced to choose one team over the other, I’d definitely lean towards the Hokies because of the backcourt. With a guy like Robinson surrounded by elite shooters, they can be impossible to stop if they get rolling.

Brad Jenkins: My only concern with the Hokies is that they are so reliant on great shooting. I’m just not sure how they can beat good teams on off shooting nights. I actually think Florida State may be better now that Phil Cofer is back in the lineup, but the Seminoles tend to not always progress very well through league play. Let’s move on to some surprise teams. Are NC State and Louisville legit?

Mick McDonald: I think NC State is legit in terms of a lock NCAA Tourney and potential second weekend team. Kevin Keatts is proving himself as one of the best young coaches in the country — that team looks like a nightmare to prepare for.

Matt Auerbach: Well, you saw the Pack in person, Brad, and your bird’s eye view confirmed what we had been seeing from afar. NC State is the real deal. Balanced, explosive, efficient and great chemistry makes for beautiful offensive basketball and that’s what Keatts’ team has going right now.

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ACC M5: 12.10.18 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 10th, 2018

  1. Syracuse.com. It was just like old times at the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon as Syracuse edged Georgetown, 72-71, on Tyus Battle’s jumper with three seconds remaining. These original Big East schools have now met four years in a row after an initial two-year hiatus. Since the Orange joined the ACC prior to the 2013-14 season, they have played 14 non-conference games against original Big East schools, winning six of those contests. But with the ACC moving to a 20-game conference schedule beginning in 2019-20, Jim Boeheim isn’t sure those marquee match-ups can continue. Boeheim commented on the matter after Saturday’s contest, saying, “We’ve got so many games we have to play. It’s difficult to play these games.” That would be an unfortunate consequence of the new ACC schedule plan – it’s safe to say that most of us would rather see Syracuse play Georgetown (or Villanova) than an extra meeting with, say, Georgia Tech.
  2. Onefootdown.com. Speaking of historic non-conference rivalries from the past, Notre Dame lost to UCLA at the buzzer, 65-62, on Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion. As this article points out, the Irish’s problems are, for once, coming on the offensive end. Against the Bruins, Mike Brey’s club made only 33.3 percent of its twos and 8-of-15 from the foul line. On the season, Notre Dame has logged an effective field goal percentage of just 47.7 percent, making it to date the worst shooting team of the Brey era. Not coincidentally, this is also the youngest team Brey has ever suited up. Maybe the offense will begin to click as the season progresses, but if it doesn’t, Notre Dame should expect to have a lot of long nights in ACC play.
  3. Mississippi Clarion Ledger. Two southern ACC schools participated in Saturday’s Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. In the first game, Clemson fell to Mississippi State, 82-71, as the Bulldogs set a program record with 19 three-pointers. This is becoming a troubling pattern for Brad Brownell’s defense this year. Not only are the Tigers allowing opponents to shoot very well from deep – 39.1 percent (322nd nationally) – but they are also giving them a ton of opportunities. Opponents are attempting a robust 43.5 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. As Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland said, “You take what the defense gives you. And basically what their defense was giving us today were threes.” For the season, Clemson is giving up 2.5 more made threes per game than they are making. That is not a long-term recipe for success.
  4. Hartford Courant. In the second game at the Prudential Center, Florida State beat Connecticut, 79-71, in a ragged type of affair in which the Seminoles seem to thrive. The game featured a total of 41 turnovers and 55 fouls that resulted in 58 free throw attempts. Leonard Hamilton’s teams have often struggled with ball-handling and this year is no exception – the Seminoles rank 320th in the country with a turnover rate of 22.4 percent. But that’s offset by a defense that forces miscues on 24.3 percent of opponent’s possessions, good for 12th in the nation. With Florida State’s depth, Hamilton doesn’t mind a foul-fest type of game either – the Seminoles also beat Purdue in a similar manner in the recent ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  Expect a lot more “ugly” games involving Florida State, and a lot more Seminoles’ victories.
  5. Yahoo Sports. One scheduled ACC game this weekend did not take place as Boston College was either unable or unwilling – depending on which school you listen to – to travel to Texas A&M. This piece goes through the timeline of relevant events, beginning with the Eagles’ original flight that was delayed because of problems with their chartered plane. It sounds like several alternatives were presented for the game to continue, even if it was moved to a later tip-time on Saturday, but apparently Jim Christian was not willing to play a big non-conference game just five or six hours after a long plane flight. The sad part for Boston College is that it has missed an opportunity to notch a solid road win, something they would likely need to have any shot at an NCAA at-large bid this season.
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ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Tuesday Preview

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 27th, 2018

After Monday’s games, the 2018 Big Ten/ACC Challenge is tied with a pair of surprising results — Nebraska won at Clemson and Boston College outlasted Minnesota. ACC microsite writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) previews tonight’s heavy slate of action. (All rankings via KenPom as of Tuesday, November 26.)

Clemson Gave up a Home Game Last Night Against Nebraska (USA Today Images)

  • #16 Virginia Tech at #38 Penn State. Buzz Williams has another terrific offense brewing this season in Blacksburg. The Hokies currently rank seventh in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and are making 41.4 percent (26th nationally) of their shots from long distance. They’ve also gotten the start of a breakout season from sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker (29.8 PER, 60.6% eFG). Their hot shooting will be tested tonight by a Penn State defense that is allowing its opponents to make just 22.9 percent (fourth nationally) of their attempts from three-point range. While excellent on the perimeter, Virginia Tech lacks size and could be vulnerable to Nittany Lions forward Lamar Stevens (26.6 PER, 24.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG).
  • #95 Illinois at #52 Notre Dame. Mike Brey’s club currently ranks just 51st in offensive efficiency, which is an odd sight to see. The last time a Brey team finished outside the top 50 in that category was all the way back in 2004-05. Part of the struggles this season have laid at the feet of T.J. Gibbs, the expected star of this team who has shot just 32.4 percent from the field and 21.1 percent from three-point range. Notre Dame will need to make some shots tonight to get a win, as the Illini feature a talented young backcourt of sophomore Trent Frazier (17.6 PPG, 58.3% eFG) and freshman Ayo Dosunmu (14.5 PPG, 57.6% eFG).
  • #8 Michigan State at #58 Louisville. Hello, Jordan Nwora. It hasn’t taken long for the talented Cardinals’ sophomore to break out this season, already the team’s leading scorer (18.4 PPG) despite coming off the bench. Nwora (29.4 PER, 57.6% eFG) is not simply a scorer, however. He’s posting a 27.8 defensive rebounding percentage and his turnover percentage is much improved this season despite more usage. While Nwora is actively turning into an ACC star, the Cardinals still have issues on the defensive end. They’re allowing opponents to shoot 43.8 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from long distance. They’ll have a tough task scoring tonight against Michigan State (eighth in KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency).

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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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