ACC Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 13th, 2011

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

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

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Checking In On… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 2nd, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • ACC/Big 10 Challenge: I’m not sure we can call it a challenge this year, as the ACC was dismantled 8-4 (with two of those wins being upsets). I don’t put much stock in the Challenge results although I do think it’s the best of the conference duels. I also think the Big 10 is a much better basketball conference than the ACC. The lone conference highlights came from Wake Forest and Virginia. The Demon Deacons got their second straight BCS-conference victory over Nebraska (on the road no less). To put the milestone in perspective, last season, Wake Forest didn’t win any road games against BCS competition and only won two home games against major conference schools. Meanwhile the Cavaliers rebuffed their critics (read: me) by beating a talented, well-coached Michigan squad.
  • Tar Heel Questions: North Carolina may be the best team in the country, but  any aura of invincibility was shattered by UNLV bum rushing the Tar Heels out in Las Vegas. UNLV played extraordinarily well: it exploited mismatches, slammed North Carolina inside and knocked down open shots. The Tar Heels left with major questions about who will take over games in tough spots, and whether John Henson and Tyler Zeller could step up inside in big moments. The big men reverted back to earlier seasons’ form, Henson settling for ill-advised jumpers and Zeller settling for no shots at all.
  • Austin Rivers Criticism: High profile recruits going to high profile schools generate high profile expectations. But less than ten games into the season, in my opinion, is a little early to say that Austin Rivers cannot fit into Duke’s system. The statements are coming from Duke fans, Duke haters, and journalists alike. It’s true that Rivers hasn’t seamlessly moved to the college game, but he’s been Duke’s best offensive threat so far this season. Watch the Duke – Ohio State game: the only two offensive factors for Duke were Rivers and Mason Plumlee. Rivers has a well-documented crossover that allows him to get to the rim at will. With a little better shot selection and the occasional pass to open teammates, he’ll be near the top of college basketball’s offensive players relatively soon.
  • Pre-Season Tournaments: We know Duke won the Maui Invitational for the fifth time, but how did other ACC schools fare in tournament play? Boston College took sixth at the 76 Classic (which, for the record has been a “Classic” since 2007) thanks to an overtime win over UC Riverside. Clemson has yet to take place in the Diamond Head Classic (est. 2009), but will take to Hawaii in late December with the possibility of playing a very talented Xavier squad. Florida State struggled at the Battle 4 Atlantis, getting beat by Harvard in the second round before losing a very close game against defending national champion Connecticut in the third place game. Georgia Tech had a mixed trip to the Charleston Classic (est. 2008), losing to St. Joseph’s and LSU with a win against VCU thrown in. Maryland struggled in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, getting blown out by likely NCAA Tournament teams Alabama and Iona. Miami will join Florida, Texas A&M, and FAU at the Orange Bowl Classic in mid-December. North Carolina came away with its first loss from the Las Vegas Invitational. NC State got some very valuable experience from the Ticketcity Legends Classic (est. 2007) losing to Vanderbilt in a close game but coming from behind to beat Texas. Virginia took fourth at Paradise Jam highlighted by a close (but bad) loss to TCU in the first round. Virginia Tech was competitive at the NIT Season Tip-Off, winning the third-place game over Oklahoma State after playing well in a loss to Syracuse. Finally, Wake Forest lost a very close game to Dayton, was blown out by Arizona State, and bounced back with a win over Texas Tech to take seventh at the Old Spice Classic (est. 2006).
  • Boston College’s Identity: Boston College isn’t good, but the Eagles might be better off if Matt Humphrey passed the torch to Patrick Heckmann. Regardless, the Eagles will probably struggle a lot this season, but Heckmann has proven to be very efficient offensively so far.

Seth Curry And Duke Got Undressed By The Buckeyes On Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Power Rankings

  1. North Carolina (6-1): The Tar Heels may have suffered their first loss, but they’re still the best team in the ACC. They got a very good win at home against Wisconsin on Wednesday night, and did it playing Wisconsin’s style. That’s good and bad as it means they succeeded playing a very uncomfortable game thanks to very good defense, especially from Dexter Strickland. However, it also means Wisconsin controlled the tempo. The good news is Kentucky is a very young team that likes to run. This plays right into North Carolina’s hands as it has much more experience running fast, but staying in control.
  2. Duke (7-1): The Blue Devils got absolutely handled at Ohio State on Tuesday, but they still have the best wins in the conference (at least number of quality wins). The worst news in the loss was Ryan Kelly’s disappearance on offense. He and Seth Curry absolutely have to have a positive impact on that end of the floor for Duke to live up to expectations this season. On a more positive note, Mason Plumlee looks like he’s made at least part of the leap people have been expecting since he arrived (still too many turnovers, but very solid otherwise). Read the rest of this entry »
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Matt Humphrey, Patrick Heckmann and the Identity of Boston College

Posted by KCarpenter on November 28th, 2011

Boston College does not have a good team this year. It’s likely to get better as the year goes on, but any amount of improvement is still likely to find the Eagles in the basement of the ACC. This weekend seems like it might be a microcosm of the rest of the season for BC: Friday saw the young team eke out an overtime win against equally woeful UC Riverside thanks to the heroic effort put forth by Patrick Heckmann and his 32 points on 13 shots scoring performance. Then, on Sunday, the team got blown out by New Mexico. Matt Humphrey led the way with a very inefficient 12 points on 18 shots. This looks to be the future of Boston College: Tough wins behind Heckmann or the team chucking up misses on the way to clear routs.

Patrick Heckmann is an Efficiency Dream (AP/A. Gallardo)

Heckmann’s early promise has been pointed out and analyzed before, so I’m not going to waste a lot of time talking about the clear-cut best player on the team. However, I will use him for the sake of comparison: So far this season, he has scored 69 points for his team on 38 shots. Humphrey, the second leading scorer, has scored 66 points. It has taken him a whopping 73 shots. In per game terms, Heckmann is taking 7.6 shots a game and making them at 47.4% rate. Humphrey is taking 12.2 shots a game and making them at a 27.4% rate. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that offense is being allocated inefficiently. This team needs to fall behind Heckmann, giving him more touches while simultaneously decreasing Humphrey’s role in the offense.

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ACC Morning Five: 11.25.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 25th, 2011

  1. Grantland: Shane Ryan’s post about Duke‘s developing guard play is very interesting to read knowing the result of the Maui championship game against Kansas. Ryan breaks down Duke’s evisceration of Michigan’s zone with screenshots (a trend that I am really starting to enjoy). Ryan looks at the blend of talent and Duke’s system, though he ignores the possibility of Tyler Thornton coming off the bench and hitting the biggest threes of his life… But in all seriousness, it’s amazing how much Mason Plumlee’s play in that game got written off by a prayer (and the Seth Curry travel before it). The story went from Mason Plumlee locking down Thomas Robinson the last eight minutes while sinking clutch free throws for Duke to a desperation heave, but that’s a different post for a different time.
  2. BC Interruption: The Eagles’ SBNation blog takes a look at the best player on a  young, bad Boston College team. His name is Patrick Heckmann. Possibly because he played at high-level competition in Germany, Heckmann seems like the most consistently aggressive player on the Eagles. Heckmann also has the advantage of size and solid athleticism. Heckmann is far from a finished product, but he’s definitely a little light in what could be a very long season on the hardwood in Chestnut Hill.
  3. Washington Times: Maryland‘s beatdown at the hands of the Iona Gaels pointed out a lot of flaws. Mark Turgeon is blaming himself for the inconsistency from his players. The bottom line is the Terrapins have a long way to go. Sean Mosley has picked up where he left off two years ago, but the rest of the team is struggling. But Turgeon clearly isn’t used to losing:

    It’s hard to be good. Right now, we’re taking the easy way out. We don’t run the defense because that’s hard. We don’t box out because that’s hard. We don’t execute our plays against pressure because that’s hard.

  4. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Doug Roberson checks in with coaches from around the state of Georgia, including Georgia Tech‘s Brian Gregory, to talk about who inspired them as children. Gregory’s inspiration came from an old high school counselor, who told Gregory, “If you work hard and are a good person then usually things work out pretty well.” It’s definitely interesting to see where coaches, whose job requires inspiring student athletes every day, derived their inspirations.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: Michael McAdoo‘s lawsuit against North Carolina and the NCAA was dropped this week, but the process is far from over. McAdoo’s lawyer is planning on filing an appeal next week. McAdoo was ruled permanently ineligible after the NCAA’s investigation of North Carolina’s infractions under Butch Davis because of academic fraud. McAdoo was signed by the Baltimore Ravens after being drafted in the NFL’s supplemental draft. The lawsuit is one of many against the NCAA currently that could mean major changes for the organization in the near future.
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ACC Preseason All-Conference Teams

Posted by mpatton on November 8th, 2011

Now that our individual team previews are done, it’s time to look at individual players. With only five all-ACC selections from last season returning there are plenty of open spots to fill, so here are our Preseason all-ACC Teams for the 2011-12 season.

2011-12 Preseason All-ACC Teams

Looking at our projections, North Carolina, Miami and Duke lead the way with eight, six and five selections, respectively. No surprise with Harrison Barnes checking in as the consensus ACC Player of the Year, or Austin Rivers as the ACC Rookie of the Year (though Kellen wants to keep an eye on Maryland’s Nick Faust for the ROY award).

My personal honorable mentions are Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, Maryland’s Sean Mosley and NC State’s Richard Howell. I’m especially surprised Mosley didn’t show up on any of the teams, but his middling campaign last season probably did him in. Green appears to be in the right place to take over for departing Hokies Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, but he’s got a ways to go based on the Virginia Tech games I went to last season. Finally, Howell had a sneaky good season last year for the Wolfpack and could be a great frontcourt presence alongside CJ Leslie.

My biggest reach was putting Terrell Stoglin on the first team. He was a decent player last year (who averaged over 20 points per game pro-rated at 40 minutes), but he’ll really need to make some waves if he wants to crack the first team this season. Malcolm Grant and Kendall Marshall are the safer choices for that final guard spot. My reasoning is that Marshall will be hidden statistically behind Zeller and Barnes. In general, Roy Williams point guards are under-appreciated because they don’t put up sick numbers, but with Marshall the case is a little different. He’s a very polished player, but I see him as the perfect complimentary player. North Carolina wouldn’t be nearly as good as a team without him, but by himself he’s not spectacular. Thus, I voted him onto the second team in favor of Maryland’s ascendent sophomore.

On the second team Kellen and I differed on power forwards: he chose Mason Plumlee; I chose Travis McKie. Again for me the key was relative importance. Mason Plumlee may be more talented than McKie, but I’ll be shocked if he’s as important for Duke as McKie is for Wake Forest (and really I’m not sold that McKie isn’t more talented). Duke’s bigs are certainly going to be critical this year, but I think the mere fact that there are three of them (Mason, Miles and Ryan Kelly) will dilute each one’s share of the limelight. I did include Miles on my third team because reports from Durham laud him as Duke’s backbone.

However, both of our teams (mine especially) did a lot of projecting for this season. The only locks feel like Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott (and it’s conceivable Zeller falls to the second team depending on his role). Player and coach turnover left the ACC relatively unknown this season, but Friday players start earning their spots.

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ACC Morning Five: 11.07.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 7th, 2011

  1. Fox Sports Carolinas: Fox Sports‘ Andrew Jones offers a throwback list of the top ten players “capable of significantly enhancing their team’s fortunes.” I only call the list throwback because Jones ignores the two extreme geographic points of the ACC (Boston College and Miami) when constructing his list. In general I agree with all of his selections, though I possibly would’ve substituted Miles Plumlee for Ryan Kelly based on recent reports. For Boston College, I would’ve chosen Danny Rubin (the most productive of the Eagles’ only three returning players), and I would choose sophomore Rion Brown for Miami.
  2. Boston Globe: Speaking of Boston College, Patrick Heckmann is hoping to make an impact on the Eagles this year, coming by way of Germany. This Globe piece gives a little insight into the recruiting world for international prospects, and Heckmann is a frosh out of Germany with a pretty unique story. He’s also a 6’6″ slasher who will get plenty of playing time for a young team. The story offers an especially interesting look at Heckmann’s decision in choosing Boston College over playing for a club team in Germany.
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Looking for more lists? Bret Strelow and Sammy Batten compiled a pretty interesting list of superlatives for ACC basketball that will definitelybe good for starting debates. Sure, Milton Jennings is a great breakout candidate and Staats Battle definitely has the coolest name in the conference, but is Andre Dawkins really the most underrated dunker? He dunks almost rarely, which makes each time feel special, but we need to see more frequency in order to garner a superlative. Also, I wonder why they chose to ask a freshman (Wake Forest’s Travis McKie) about the toughest arena. For the record he chose Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum, though this coming year will be McKie’s first trip to the unfriendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
  4. TarHeelBlue.com: North Carolina and NBA legend James Worthy will be elected into the college hoops hall of fame alongside of Virginia’s Ralph Sampson. Worthy was the first overall pick of the 1982 NBA Draft, led the Tar Heels to Dean Smith’s first NCAA Championship that same year (scoring 28 points on 13-17 shooting in the championship game), and is already a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
  5. Searching For Billy Edelin and Fayetteville Observer: A couple of ACC previews and predictions with more “controversial” picks. For Nick Fasulo at Searching For Billy Edelin, the conference is down. Fasulo’s most interesting predictions come in his individual accolades, where he picked Jim Larranaga as Coach of the Year and Tyler Zeller as Player of the Year. Personally, I see Zeller as more of a complement (as he was at the end of last season), but “everything is in place for this guy. Assuming he stays healthy, there should be no […] unexpected things to limit his production,” Fasulo tweeted. The Fayetteville Observer‘s contrary nature shows up in its projected finish: Unlike the media, the newspaper projects Virginia to finish eighth in the conference (NIT-bound), while Miami takes the fourth place spot and earns an eight-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Around the greater world of college sports, one of the most sickening alleged scandals in the history of college athletics came to light over the weekend. In a story that will turn your stomach, former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been accused of 40 crimes (21 felonies and 19 misdemeanors) involving eight sexual abuse victims who were minors at the time. The worst part is that the PSU athletic department reportedly knew about some of the crimes and never reported them to the proper authorities despite extensive discussions internally. While the article is tough to read, Sara Ganim of The Patriot News does a great job breaking down the details of the case. As of today, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave and Senior Vice President for business and finance Gary Schultz has stepped down (both have been accused of perjury), but I’d be surprised if the punishments end here based on the heinous nature of these allegations.

Picture of the Day:

Len Bias Posts Up Michael Jordan in 1984. (Manny Millan/SI) h/t SI Photo Blog

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ACC Morning Five: 10.28.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 28th, 2011

  1. Tracking the Terps – Baltimore Sun: Maryland assistant coach Dalonte Hill was named as a third party in a lawsuit by Michael Beasley that could have major ramifications for college basketball. Hill coached Beasley on the AAU circuit with the DC Assault before moving on to an assistant coaching position at Kansas State. While I don’t think the lawsuit will affect Hill directly, it could expose some ugly realities about his role in Beasley’s recruitment (see Dave Telep’s article from two days ago for possibilities). I don’t expect Hill to make any comments on the case, but this is definitely something to keep an eye on.
  2. Terrapins Insider – Washington Post: Although Beasley’s lawsuit is bigger news for college basketball, Pe’Shon Howard‘s injury is bigger news for Maryland. Howard broke his foot and is expected to be out for around ten weeks. If it’s much longer than ten weeks, Mark Turgeon will consider redshirting Howard to keep his eligibility intact. But Turgeon also sounds focused on this season, and Howard’s presence would be a big boost for a team that will have major depth issues. While Howard is sidelined, Terrell Stoglin will have to handle the point guard position. This could go either way, but my guess is Stoglin will take some time to adjust to the new role.
  3. Boston Herald: Boston College freshman Patrick Heckmann wasn’t surprised with the team’s last place conference selection at Operation Basketball: “It’s kind of understandable. We lost pretty much all of our scoring options from last year […] We should surprise a lot of people how good we can actually play [sic].” My only revision would be to remove the “pretty much” from his first sentence. But the Eagles haven’t given up (and are “scrappy as heck,” according to Steve Donahue), which should serve them well in a conference where a lot of teams are rebuilding or have major flaws.
  4. ESPN: Mitch McGary is nearing a decision (ETA next week). He’s trimmed his list to three: Duke, Michigan and Florida (he claims North Carolina is still in the race, but it sounds like a combination of not hearing from them and Brice Johnson’s recent commitment to the Heels has them off the list). Maryland was the other school to get axed. His latest blog post also reminds fans that the recruiting process isn’t all fun and games: “To be honest, it’s been really stressful and, at times, it’s been hard on my family.” As a top power forward in the Class of 2012, McGary would be a huge get for the Blue Devils.
  5. Recruiting Insider – Washington Post: The NCAA has finally caught up with the 21st Century and will allow coaches unlimited calls and texts to high school juniors and seniors. Although the summer evaluation period has been tightened up a little, an April evaluation period will be re-opened. One of the less-reported points that seems like a bigger deal is that coaches will now be able to give an on-court evaluation of players during official visits.
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ACC Team Previews: Boston College

Posted by KCarpenter on October 26th, 2011

Usually, replacing the winningest coach in a program’s history is a thankless task. Yet somehow, Steve Donahue came out of the 2010-11 season smelling like roses. Taking over for longtime head coach and flex offense enthusiast Al Skinner, Donahue led Boston College to a 21-13 season and 9-7 conference record, a significant improvement over the 2009-10 season. Donahue was lucky to inherit a veteran team, stocked full of seniors and a first round NBA draft caliber talent in Reggie Jackson. Still, while that season was an improvement over the previous one, it too ended in disappointment: a second-round ACC Tournament exit against Clemson and a March spent watching other teams play basketball.

Boston College Will Miss Reggie Jackson This Season

As for the summer turnover, well, it was near-complete. The downside of a team of mostly seniors is that seniors have this habit of graduating. The starting lineup was completely wiped out and the bench was decimated. Calling this year a rebuilding year is an understatement. Donahue is bringing in nine freshmen and two transfers to totally re-fashion a team that barely has anything in common with last year’s team. As for the newcomers? Well, the recruiting services didn’t think too highly of them. Despite bringing in so many players, Rivals rates BC’s 2011 crop as only the 9th best in the ACC. However, Donahue thinks that this is deceiving, considering the recruiting services focus more on raw athletic talent. Donahue got his kind of guys: Guys who can shoot, pass, and dribble even if they aren’t as naturally physically gifted as some of their peers. Years recruiting at Cornell means that Donahue has the potential to be a more wily recruiter than you might expect: Luring a player to a program without the ability to offer athletic scholarships has a tendency to hone recruiting skills. Similarly, the scholarship restriction in the Ivies drove Donahue further abroad, giving him a chance to extensively network and now he has a chance to snag players that might not even be on the radar of other ACC schools. Much has been made out of the heavy California contingent in BC’s freshmen class, but Donahue’s explanation as why he recruits so heavily from the Golden State is cogent and well-thought outUsing Euroleague style ball as his model, it seems clear that the coach is assembling a team that will thrive on open perimeter shots generated by fast and frequent ball movement.

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