ACC Team Previews: Virginia Cavaliers

Posted by KCarpenter on October 26th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams. Today’s victim: the Virginia Cavaliers.

The past season was excellent for the Virginia Cavaliers. Sure, the team only went 9-7 in the conference and exited the NCAA Tournament in a spectacular flame-out against Florida in its first game. Still, last season was a success for Tony Bennett. The team nearly ran the table in their non-conference slate except for a strange flukish loss to TCU. This impressive run included victories against Michigan, Drexel, Oregon, George Mason, and LSU. In conference play, Virginia was less consistent (though admittedly they played one of the tougher league schedules), with their two best wins coming against North Carolina State and Miami. Mike Scott‘s career year and Bennett’s pack line defensive scheme powered the Cavaliers to one of Virginia’s best seasons in the past few seasons. With Mike Scott now gone, can the Cavaliers match or better their high-water mark?

Tony Bennett Appears to Have the Cavaliers on the Upswing

Newcomers

The Cavaliers are bringing in a small army to bolster their depleted ranks. Teven Jones, Justin Miller and Taylor Barnette represent the incoming guard rotation. All three initially figured to see only back-up and spot minutes with incumbent senior point guard Jontel Evans taking up most of the time at point guard. Unfortunately for Evans, a stress fracture in his foot has the feisty defender and playmaker sidelined for the beginning part of the season. Unless Bennett elects to hand the keys to his team to senior walk-on, Doug Browman, these three freshmen will likely undergo a sudden baptism by fire.

At the wing, the freshman class brings in some potential future starters. Justin Anderson and Evan Nolte both have a nice array of skills, athleticism, and size at the small forward slot, where Virginia had only Paul Jesperson and converted shooting guards before the arrival of these two. If these guys can play defense to the coaching staff’s satisfaction, it’s likely that they will see plenty of minutes, and indeed, potentially a spot in the starting rotation.

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ACC Summer Recess: Virginia Cavaliers

Posted by KCarpenter on July 30th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Virginia.

Where They Stand Now

Bennett Will Need to Find Some Replacements Next Season

Heading down the stretch, it looked like Virginia was poised to have a moment. Mike Scott was easily one of the two best players in the conference and there was an instant where it looked like the Cavaliers might have the juice to win the ACC. A team that played insanely tough defense just couldn’t find enough offense, though, losing two of its last three games, dropping one to North Carolina State in the first game of the ACC Tournament and getting totally obliterated by Florida in its NCAA Tournament opener. It was a crushingly disappointing end to one of the best seasons of Virginia basketball in years.

Who’s Leaving

In terms of seniors, Virginia is losing its bedrock in Scott, who was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the early second round after a storied career in Charlottesville. Also hurting their frontcourt depth, seven-footer Assane Sene, was injured and then left the team at the very end of the season, though he would have otherwise presumably graduated and moved on anyway. Finally, the Cavaliers lose Sammy Zeglinski, a reliable veteran guard. During last season, the transfer plague that has dogged Virginia struck again, sending K.T. Harrell to Auburn and James Johnson to San Diego State.

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ACC Morning Five: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 29th, 2011

Only one game last night, but tonight we resume full-on Atlantic Coast Conference action. Last night was the debut of Alex Len, a 7’1″ big man from the Ukraine who is as skilled as he is giant. He looked pretty good in his debut for Maryland. Then again, this picture from his Twitter account is even better:

Alex Len Will Break You

I, for one, am excited for a season with 100% more Alex Len.

  1. Shelby Star: North Carolina State is moving the ball incredibly well. Over the past four games, 75% of Wolfpack field goals have been assisted. As a team, they are averaging 17.4 APG, good for second best in the ACC, behind only North Carolina. This is pretty impressive, but the article doesn’t get into how good NC State looks in terms of tempo free statistics. According to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, the Wolfpack actually leads the ACC in percentage of field goals assisted (62.8%) and are the 26th passing-est team in the country. For reference, last year the team only assisted on 55.3%, not even ranking within the top one hundred nationally. The statistics seem to back it up:  the culture of the Wolfpack is really changing.
  2. Boston Globe: It’s easy to disparage Matt Humphrey, the shot-hogging, terribly inaccurate inexplicable focal point of Boston College‘s terrible offense. That’s a shame too, because it’s easy to forget that Humphrey is a person, in truth, just another college kid. He had a hard time fitting in at his old school and after an awkward year of waiting is having a hard time fitting in at his new school. Julian Benbow’s profile of the swing man is a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand one of the most confusing players in the ACC.
  3. Washington Post: Paul Jesperson made his college debut on Tuesday, playing for short-handed Virginia which lost two players to transfer over the weekend. Jesperson, this time last week, had expected that he wouldn’t be playing until next season, taking a redshirt. This profile goes over how Jesperson made the decision to step up for his team and take to the big stage of college basketball.
  4. Baltimore Sports Report: The ACC is not very good this year. The typically excellent league is in a down year, and the conference’s combined non-conference record reflects the overall weakness of this year. While Duke and North Carolina appear to be as strong as ever, the ACC middle class appears to have fallen through the basement. Still, the non-conference schedule isn’t completely finished and the article includes some speculation about how a number of teams (notably Miami and Maryland) might be able to finish strong.
  5. ESPN: A nearly twenty year old record is poised to fall. Between 1992 and 1994, North Carolina won 25 home games in a row, setting a Dean Smith Center Record that remarkably stood up, even in the midst of two national championship runs. When the Tar Heels take on Elon tonight, they have a shot of tying a record that neither Vince Carter, Raymond Felton, or Tyler Hansbrough could match. A win on Sunday against Monmouth would break the record. These kinds of streaks are ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a nice reflection of what this team has accomplished so far.
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ACC Afternoon Five: 12.28.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 28th, 2011

  1. Washington Post: Alex Len, the 7’1″ Ukranian freshman is set to debut tonight as Maryland takes on Albany. Len was serving an NCAA suspension for violating amateurism policies while playing for a Ukranian club. The addition of Len to the lineup along with the recent re-entry of Pe’Shon Howard into Mark Turgeon’s rotation bodes well for a Maryland team that has under performed in the first season of the post-Gary Williams era.
  2. Richmond Times-Dispatch: After the loss of two players to transfer, Virginia probably felt like it had something to prove against the over-matched Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks. The Cavaliers stomped their opponents as they waltzed to the team’s best start in over a decade. As expected, Paul Jesperson burned his redshirt and made his debut in this game, spelling the starters admirably. The Wahoos look pumped and primed for conference play to begin.
  3. Roanoke Times: The gradually unfolding story of the Virginia Tech placekicker robbing the home of Virginia Tech shooting guard Dorenzo Hudson is getting stranger and stranger. After the kicker and his friends allegedly invaded Hudson’s home, looking for marijuana that Hudson’s roommate had taken, the two roommates later went out to find the three invaders and got into a physical conflict. If this is news to you, you aren’t alone, considering that the Hokies athletics director Jim Weaver stated that he had no knowledge of this second confrontation. He was also quick to shoot down the idea that the basketball team had a “marijuana problem,” an idea that has apparently been floating around since forward Jarrell Eddie was charged with marijuana posession in the spring.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs takes some time to look at the free throw dominance of Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the past decade. Very few teams have managed to make more free throws than their opponent attempted, but currently North Carolina, Virginia, Duke, and Maryland all belong to this rare club. Though Jacobs acknowledges that all four are unlikely to maintain this status until the end of the season, teams that have managed free throw dominance over the course of a whole season have been wildly successful in the NCAA Tournament.
  5. ESPN: Robbi Pickerall profiles Denzel Robinson, a member of North Carolina‘s junior varsity team and son of assistant coach Steve Robinson. Since he was twelve, Denzel Robinson has watched his father and Roy Williams coach from the end of the bench, first at Kansas and now at North Carolina. Robinson has had a closer view of the players and coaches than just about anyone, and now, playing his second year of JV basketball, he seems poised to try out for a varsity roster spot next year, potentially earning a spot back on the bench where he sat for so many years.
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ACC Team Previews: Virginia

Posted by KCarpenter on October 24th, 2011

Virginia had a run of bad luck last season. In the early part of the season, there were flashes of promise. An upset against a Minnesota team that had shellacked North Carolina in Puerto Rico and the incredible play of Mike Scott offered hope for the Cavaliers. But then, Scott, who was averaging a double-double with a ridiculous 15.9 PPG and 10.2 RPG, got hurt. The magic that led to an upset against Minnesota never returned as UVA simply failed to make much noise in ACC play. The team finished the season with a paltry 16-14 record and a meager seven wins in the conference. A season that started with promise ended in a first round conference tournament overtime loss to Miami.

Bennett Has an Interesting Team Returning to Charlottesville This Season

This season, much like last season, Virginia looks like it has a lot of potential. Mustapha Farrakhan (graduation) is the only major contributor that Tony Bennett lost over the summer.  Scott was granted a medical hardship waiver and will return for a fifth year with the Cavaliers. A talented freshman class includes four-star shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon as well as solid forwards in Paul Jesperson and Darion Atkins. After taking a redshirt, the 6’9″, 240-pound James Johnson will add even greater depth to a frontcourt that was depleted after Scott’s injury. That’s five significant pieces added to a nucleus that only lost Farrakhan.

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RTC Summer Updates: Atlantic Coast Conference

Posted by jstevrtc on July 21st, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our ACC correspondent, Matt Patton.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • New Faces: That’s right, the ACC will be totally different conference this season. Only five of the fifteen players selected as to the all-conference teams will be running the floor this season, namely four of North Carolina’s five starters (with Miami’s Malcolm Grant keeping the group from being only Tar Heels). Somewhat surprisingly, all of the ACC all-freshman squad will be back in action. Duke’s Kyrie Irving was a prominent frosh, but he didn’t play a single conference game before leaving school and UNC’s Harrison Barnes opted to return for his sophomore campaign. Keep an eye on Wake Forest’s Travis McKie and Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin especially. Both should be the stars on their respective teams.
  • However, the strength of the conference will rely heavily on the incoming players and coaches. Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State all bring in consensus top 25 classes according to ESPN, Rivals and Scout. To make a long story short, the rich get richer. Duke’s Austin Rivers (ranked 1st by Rivals, 2nd by Scout and ESPNU) will be expected to contribute immediately, while North Carolina’s James McAdoo (8th by Rivals, 4th by Scout and 5th by ESPNU) and PJ Hairston (13th by Rivals, 20th by Scout and 12th by ESPNU) should be given ample time to find roles on an already stacked team.
  • Arguably more important, at least in the long term, are the new coaches: NC State welcomes Mark Gottfried, Miami welcomes Jim Larranaga, Maryland welcomes Mark Turgeon, and Georgia Tech welcomes Brian Gregory to the conference. The only coach I think is a surefire “upgrade” is Larranaga, who comes with some disadvantages (namely, age). While Gottfried experienced some success at Alabama, the Crimson Tide isn’t known as a basketball powerhouse and he didn’t leave the school on great terms. I also don’t think it’s a great sign that Ryan Harrow left for the bluer pastures of Kentucky. Gregory, though, sticks out as the strangest hire of the four. He had a fairly nondescript tenure at Dayton with many Flyer fans happy to see him leave. I know a tight budget hamstrung by Paul Hewitt’s hefty buyout deal probably kept the Yellow Jackets from going after the sexiest candidates, but the choice still surprised me. Gregory’s biggest disadvantage is his ugly, grind-it-out style of play that will eventually make it difficult to attract top recruits and could possibly alienate the entire GT fanbase (see: Herb Sendek).
  • North Carolina Navigates Investigation Waters: Finally, it may not be basketball-related, but it’s impossible to mention this offseason without discussing North Carolina’s impending date with the NCAA Committee of Infractions. The story has dominated ACC sports news. To briefly sum things up, the Tar Heels had an assistant coach, John Blake, on the payroll of an agent. If that wasn’t enough, the NCAA investigation unveiled thousands (I’m not kidding) of dollars in unpaid parking tickets and even several cases of academic fraud. The university has come out very firmly saying these infractions only involved the football team** but the scandal has gained national notoriety. (**Author’s note: the one connection with the basketball team is that Greg Little was one of UNC’s ineligible football players. Little was also a walk-on for the basketball team during the 2007-08 season, playing in ten games. North Carolina has said that his infractions occurred after his year with the basketball team, so no win vacations are in the basketball team’s future.)
  • Somehow, despite academic fraud, ineligible benefits and an agent runner on staff, the Tar Heels failed to get the NCAA’s most serious “lack of institutional control” violation for what appeared to be nothing less thana lack of institutional control. Again, this scandal is confined to football, but it’s one of the many recent scandals that have come to light in big time college athletics in the last couple of years (Connecticut, USC, Ohio State, Oregon, etc). These scandals could force the NCAA to augment its rules somewhat, and even though they may not directly relate to basketball, they may have a very real impact of college sports as we know it over the next few years.

    Freshman phenom Austin Rivers is ready for Duke, but how quickly will 2011's top high school point guard perform on the big stage? (Orlando Sentinel)

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Conference Report Card: ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 28th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

Conference Recap

The ACC had a down year though North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall-led resurgence and Florida State’s Sweet Sixteen appearance helped a little bit. Before and during the season, Duke was the runaway favorite in the conference: Kyrie Irving’s toe injury obviously was the pivotal point that brought Duke back down to earth. Equally pivotal (in the reverse direction) was Marshall’s move to starting point guard for North Carolina. With Larry Drew II at the helm, there is no way the Tar Heels could have come close to surpassing Duke for the regular season title. The down year did not really surprise most people, and despite lofty preseason expectations (read: people forgot how highly rated North Carolina was to start the season) I think the perception is that the league at least lived up to preseason expectations with a couple of notable exceptions: NC State, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. NC State had NCAA Tournament talent, but did not come anywhere close to sniffing the Big Dance; Wake was arguably the worst major conference team in the country; and Virginia Tech once again found itself very highly seeded in the NIT. On the flip side, Clemson and Florida State both exceeded expectations.

Roy Williams and Kendall Marshall led a mid-season resurgence that resulted in a trip the Elite Eight. (News Observer/Robert Willitt)

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