ACC M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 14th, 2012

morning5_ACC

  1. Tallahassee Democrat: Yesterday, Michael Rogner suggested Okaro White becoming more aggressive would help the Seminoles. Another thing to consider is that Florida State did very well in transition against Maine. Part of its success was Maine’s strategy, but the Seminoles reportedly wanted “to establish ourselves in transition,” according to head coach Leonard Hamilton. This year’s team isn’t quite the beast defensively inside the arc as the past few Seminole teams, so it makes sense to try to get more turnovers (on paper the team should be lethal in transition). Definitely keep an eye on this as we get closer to conference play.
  2. Winston-Salem Journal: Things are getting uglier and uglier at Wake Forest. Jeff Bzdelik will not be taking any more live calls on his radio show. Apparently the move isn’t to “deflect criticism,” but it definitely looks that way. The show’s producers are trying to cut down on long-winded callers wanting to vent instead of ask questions. Host Stan Cotten and some colleagues at IMG College made the call to move to a format of all pre-recorded questions.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Whitey Reid took a look at ranking the “pleasant surprises” for Virginia, but may have forgotten to point out the forest through the trees. It’s true Teven Jones, Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins have all surprised people, but what about the team as a whole? If you told me Virginia would be 8-2 with wins over Wisconsin and Tennessee at this point in the season and were missing Jontel Evans for most of it, I would have laughed at you. This team has really outperformed my expectations and Jones, Mitchell, Atkins and Tony Bennett all deserve credit.
  4. Keeping It Heel: I think Rich Martin really underrates Ty Lawson (who I think everyone underrates because he played with Tyler Hansbrough) and Kendall Marshall in this article when he compares the two former Tar Heels with Marcus Paige. It’s true they had more cohesive pieces surrounding them when they showed up in Chapel Hill, but they were two of the best point guards in college basketball of the last decade. Paige shows flashes of brilliance — much like Quinn Cook last season for Duke — but he really feels a year or two away from being an ACC-caliber frontman. It will be really interesting to see over the next month how Roy Williams trims his rotation. Paige is probably the best offensive option and he (again, like Cook) has to be the guy for this team to be great, but he’s not starting from the same place as Marshall or Lawson.
  5. The Examiner: Miami is a team we could learn a lot about over the next couple of weeks. The Hurricanes picked up an ugly loss early (without Durand Scott), but looked great in their ACC/Big Ten Challenge win over Michigan State. They have a good chance to find themselves ranked if they beat undefeated Charlotte, coming out of a 13-day hiatus for exams. Especially with North Carolina and NC State looking vulnerable early, Miami could find itself in a good position to challenge for the runner-up position in the league. Also Garrius Adams and Bishop Daniels should be rejoining the team sometime next semester, which will help with depth.

EXTRA: Luke Winn’s Power Rankings are always worth the time, though they’re a little light on ACC meat as of late. This week he looked at Mason Plumlee‘s progression from much-maligned contributor to Player of the Year contender. Essentially, Plumlee’s stats are identical to his sophomore season with a few exceptions: He’s drawing fouls like a mad man, he’s hitting his free throws and he’s not turning the ball over. He’s also involved in a lot more possessions. Regardless, it’s really interesting how something as trivial as free throw shooting can affect the overall perception of a player.

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Duke Guards Feast on the Attention Placed on Mason Plumlee Inside

Posted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Temple-Duke game in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

“How good can this team become coach?” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski did not want to answer that question. Superstitious perhaps, or having coached nearly 38 seasons in Division I, he knows how quickly a team’s prospects can change. “I have had some pretty good teams… [“one or two” someone whispered)] …we’ve done ok.” Anyone who had watched Duke dismantle Temple to the tune of 90-67 on Saturday afternoon had to know the #2 Blue Devils were better than “ok.” Previews of this match-up dwelled on the role Temple’s guards played in the Owls’ 78-73 win last season, and the Owls’ prospects would rise or fall on guard play again. Both teams play three guards, but the similarity ends there. Duke’s guards look like… guards. Quinn Cook is 6’ 1” and 175 pounds. Seth Curry, who still wears a boot while not on the court to protect his ankle injured in Duke’s win over Ohio State, stands at 6’ 2” and 185 pounds. Rasheed Sulaimon (dubbed “Sulaimon the Great” by a member of the press after the freshman hit his first three of the game standing about four feet behind the three point line) is a 6’ 4”, 185-pound beanstalk. Tyler Thornton is a 6’ 1”, 190-pound “sixth man,” and the only other guard on the roster.

Despite a lingering ankle injury, Duke’s Seth Curry launches a three from well behind the three-point line. He made this second half attempt.

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy favors taller, thicker wings who move seamlessly between point guard and small forward. Will Cummings, a 6’ 2” sophomore who plays the point for Temple this season, is the only one of the seven players listed on the Temple roster as a “guard” or more appropriately “guard/forward” who could pass for a Duke mold guard. Khalif Wyatt, at 6’ 4” and 210 pounds, and Scootie Randall, 6’ 6” and 225 pounds, are “Philly guards,” whose build and style of play reminds fans of the Big 5 of Diante Christmas and Ramone Moore, two of the wings developed by Dunphy since he moved over from Penn four seasons ago. They are all built like safeties and each is as likely to roll off a screen, catch and shoot a three, as he is to put the ball on the deck and drive the lane for a layup. Christmas, Moore, Wyatt and Randall, along with 6’ 5”, 220-pound transfer Dalton Pepper, grew up in Philadelphia or in one of the surrounding Delaware Valley suburbs.

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RTC Top 25: Week 3

Posted by KDoyle on December 3rd, 2012

The Top 10 in this week’s poll went relatively unchanged—aside from Kentucky plummeting 12 spots to #20—but nine of the other teams held their positioning for the most part. Gonzaga makes their first appearance in the single digits by checking in at #9. Tremendous movement occurred from #11-#25 as four teams departed the Top 25 and the average movement was a shade above five spots. Two teams remain true: #1 Duke and #2 Indiana. Both continue to impress and earned all votes of “1” or “2” in this week’s 25, with the exception of a single “3” that Indiana picked up.

This week’s QnD after the jump…

Quick ‘n Dirty Analysis.

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Night Line: Mason Plumlee’s Post Dominance Keying Duke’s Phenomenal Start

Posted by EJacoby on November 29th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Plenty of elite teams have impressed in the opening month of this season, but Duke is in a tier by itself when it comes to a complete resume. After exacting revenge on Ohio State from last season’s drubbing with a 73-68 victory over the Buckeyes on Wednesday night, Mike Krzyzewski’s team has now defeated three top-five teams in November. That doesn’t even include victories over Minnesota and VCU, as well, two other likely NCAA Tournament squads. In Wednesday’s win, Duke trailed by eight points at halftime to a tougher-looking Buckeyes squad while itself looking fatigued, and it needed a significant second half spark to change the tone of the game. That’s where it turned to Mason Plumlee, who turned momentum back on Duke’s side with two monster alley-oops from point guard Quinn Cook. Blue Devil fans have waited three long years for Plumlee to become a dominant post force who successfully harnessed all of his athletic potential, and tonight’s 21-point, 17-rebound effort in a comeback win over an elite opponent shows just how far the big man has come.

Mason Plumlee has Duke soaring up the rankings through victories over elite opponents (AP Photo)

We knew Duke had the depth, shooting, and coaching to remain an ACC contender this season, but Plumlee’s transformation into a dominant, All America-caliber forward gives the team a chance to reach greater heights than almost anyone imagined. Through seven games, the 6’10” senior is now averaging 19.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game on 65% shooting from the field; all good for top-five rankings in the ACC. But what’s most astonishing about Plumlee’s stats is his free throw percentage, which at 79% is an exponential improvement over his career 50% shooting coming into this season. Never mind the massive 8.8 PPG  jump; an increase of 30 points on a go-to player’s free throw percentage is enough to change the entire dynamic of an offense. As Jay Bilas consistently pointed out during Wednesday’s ESPN broadcast, Plumlee plays with improved aggressiveness near the basket this season now that he’s not afraid to get fouled. The senior converted 9-12 freebies tonight while also producing a game-high in scoring and rebounding.

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What Does Gorgui Dieng’s Injury Mean for Louisville and the Big East Race?

Posted by Will Tucker on November 27th, 2012

After hanging tough with Duke for 39 minutes without Gorgui Dieng, Louisville only trailed by three as the Blue Devils milked their last possession. Thirty-two seconds and six ticks on the shot clock remained when Quinn Cook baited Russ Smith into lunging for a steal beyond the three-point line. With a head of steam and the middle of the floor cleared out, Stephan Van Treese was the only thing with a pulse separating Cook from the basket. The 6’1″ Duke sophomore charged a responsible distance into the lane, pulled up, and effortlessly delivered a floating dagger that put a nail in the coffin of the Cardinals’ comeback.

Winning without Gorgui Dieng will require creativity from Rick Pitino

Simply put, that shot from Cook isn’t there with Gorgui Dieng in the game. The 6’11”, 245-pound defensive juggernaut had broken his wrist the night before in Louisville’s win against Missouri –– appropriately enough, taking a charge. Though Peyton Siva was the preseason favorite for Big East Player of the Year, Dieng is the safety valve that makes it possible for Siva and Smith to play tenacious, often reckless, defense, which yields 5.8 steals per game between them. Louisville’s guards had grown accustomed to being bailed out by Dieng, and on Saturday night they got a taste of life without one of the country’s pre-eminent big man around to anchor its defense. Without Dieng lording over the paint, the psychology of his shot-blocking reputation looming larger even than his 194 career rejections, Quinn Cook pulled up without hesitation, and the rest is history.

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ACC Week 1 Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 16th, 2012

We’ve got a full week of game action as evidence to start evaluting these teams a bit better, so here goes…

Disclaimer: Power Rankings don’t imply which teams are best. They’re all about who has momentum right now. 

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (2-0) stays on top of the rankings after taking care of business against Georgia State at home before knocking off the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats in the Georgia Dome. This team still has a long way to go, but they showed poise holding off a talented, albeit young, Kentucky team. While Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee owned the box score, Quinn Cook rose to the challenge and put in his bid for the starting spot. Minnesota is the next NCAA tournament-quality team on Thursday.
NC State Wolfpack 2. NC State (2-0) absolutely blitzkrieged its first two opponents, Miami (OH) and Penn State. Putting too much stock in beating the Redhawks by 38 is unwise. But that 17-point win over the Nittany Lions–despite Lorenzo Brown finishing an icy 1-12 from the field–is worth noting. Specifically, Tyler Warren was phenomenal going for 22 points (on 12 shots) and eight rebounds. The game tonight against Massachusetts should be a fun one.
North Carolina Tar Heels 3. North Carolina (2-0) looked lost on offense at times against Gardner-Webb, which is just a young team trying to learn to play together. James Michael McAdoo has been phenomenal through the first two games (he’s averaging over 20 points and 12 rebounds), and Reggie Bullock asserted himself against Florida Atlantic. This team should keep improving, but in time for the trip to Bloomington in a week and a half? That’s ambitious.
Maryland Terrapins 4. Maryland (1-1) looks a lot better than expected. Alex Len is going to be a top-10 pick. He absolutely ravaged Kentucky, which Maryland kept close to the bitter end before making mincemeat of Morehead State. Nick Faust still can’t shoot, but Seth Allen will be really fun to watch the next few years. The Terrapins need to work on consistent offense, but as Dez Wells gets more and more used to Mark Turgeon’s system, good things will happen.
Boston College 5. Boston College (1-1) played with a stacked Baylor team for 35 minutes after beating a bad Florida International team by double figures (still, that’s huge improvement over last year). This team will still struggle to win a ton of games, but Ryan Anderson‘s development into an All-ACC caliber player is accelerating the rebuilding process (he’s averaging 27 points and 12 boards a game). Dennis Clifford also got off to a solid start. The Eagles’ games against Dayton and Auburn should both be winnable this week.
Clemson Tigers 6. Clemson (1-0) beat down Presbyterian this week, which isn’t worth much on its own. But Devin Booker and Milton Jennings both played very well (combined to go 11-14 from the field for 26 points) and look like they’re ready to step into bigger roles for Brad Brownell this season. A near impossible test awaits this week in the form of Gonzaga.
Virginia Tech Hokies 7. Virginia Tech (3-0) scarfed three cupcakes this week, winning all three games by double figures. The “meat” of the nonconference schedule is still a ways off (and “meat” is used loosely to describe BCS-conference teams), but so far James Johnson‘s tenure is a success. He’ll need Robert Brown to continue producing offensively to relieve some of Erick Green‘s perimeter burden.
Florida State Seminoles 8. Florida State (1-1) is much better than its home loss to the South Alabama, but those are the kind of losses that will motivate this team to keep getting better. Michael Snaer is also in an early season slump, having only hit a third of the shots he’s taken. But the Seminoles’ 27-point beatdown of Buffalo (where they scored 95 points!) may right the ship. The next six games showcase three against possible NCAA tournament teams: BYU (today), Minnesota and Florida.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 9. Wake Forest (1-0) played decently against Radford. The game was never free from doubt, but the Demon Deacons didn’t let the Big South Highlanders get the best of them this year. CJ Harris got to the charity stripe like a pro, but Travis McKie‘s 11 points left a little to be desired–especially against a team of this caliber. Turnovers are going to kill Wake Forest in at least two conference games this year.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 10. Georgia Tech (2-0) has balance, but can’t shoot. The Yellow Jackets need someone to step up from the perimeter to keep other teams honest (right now they make a smooth 17.6% of their shots from downtown. Two of Mfon Udofia, Daniel Miller and Kam Holsey need to become go-to guys on offense. Miller doesn’t appear to want that role.
Miami Hurricanes 11. Miami (1-1) needs to be careful not to become a dumpster fire. The team lost its exhibition against St. Leo and now lost to Florida Gulf Coast to ice the cake. This team looks phenomenal on paper, but sometimes things just don’t translate the way we expect. The same Reggie Johnson who made Mason Plumlee look like a child at Cameron Indoor Stadium last year has only hit one third of his shots against middling competition. There’s still time for Larranaga to turn this car around, but time is running out.
Virginia Cavaliers 12. Virginia (1-2), if Miami has to be careful, Virginia fans may already smell that trash burning. So far the Cavaliers lost to George Mason and Delaware. These wins (or struggles) could be statistical aberrations (if your style keeps opponents within striking distance, you’re bound to lose some unfortunate games), and Jontel Evans is out.Things aren’t off to a great start in Charlottesville.
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ACC M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 15th, 2012

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress:  Virginia has limped out of the gates to a 1-2 start, including an embarrassing home loss to Delaware in the NIT Season Tip-Off. But the bigger story at play may be their injury issues. Senior point guard Jontel Evans, who was limited to just three minutes in the game against Delaware, has been struggling to recover from surgery to his right foot to repair a stress fracture. While Evans is not known for being an electrifying scorer or shooter, his steadying presence defensively (he made the ACC All-Defensive team last year), including leading the team in steals over the past two years, and offensively (leading the team in assists) would definitely help provide structure to an offense that has sorely struggled without him. With backup Malcolm Brogdon injured, Virginia has employed a myriad of options at the point, including leading returning scorer Joe Harris and a walk-on, among others, with a clear dropoff from Evans’ typical play. Virginia will certainly be patient with Evans’ return to an increased amount of minutes, but they surely must hope he can return in a fuller, healthier capacity soon before the team potentially has more crippling out of conference losses.
  2. If the ACC wants to gain more respect as a conference on the national scale (at least relative to the Big Ten and the presently constructed Big East), it cannot afford for teams thought of as likely to make the NCAA Tournament to have potentially resume-crushing losses before Thanksgiving. Virginia is 0-2 against the CAA, having lost to George Mason on the road (somewhat acceptable) and Delaware at home (not good). Preseason #25 Florida State dropped its opener at home to South Alabama, and Miami, projected fifth in the ACC, lost to Florida Gulf Coast, who is in just their second year with NCAA Tournament eligibility, though they were without starting guard Durand Scott (suspended) and forward Garrius Adams (injury). Regardless, these teams will likely be a bit more antsy on Selection Sunday than the pundits thought in the preseason.
  3. Charlotte Observer:  NC State has recently been the third wheel in the Triangle basketball scene, but that certainly has started to change under Mark Gottfried. In this Observer piece, Joe Giglio details Gottfried’s recruiting strategy, which is already starting to pay dividends. With NC State’s Sweet Sixteen run last year, Gottfried has already “earned street cred with the best players in the country,” according to recruiting expert Dave Telep. Along with their initial success in the coach’s first year, in addition with Gottfried’s tireless recruiting, his comfort with the media, and his commitment to a “system,” according to Giglio, Gottfried has enhanced NC State’s perception greatly — which is a huge aspect of the recruiting world. With six top 50 recruits signed or committed from the classes of 2012, 2013, and 2014, the Wolfpack has more top 50 recruits in those classes than either Duke or North Carolina. Gottfried will definitely be a force to be reckoned with for a long time, especially considering that he will likely outlast both of the Triangle’s other coaching giants (Gottfried is only 48 years old), barring a major surprise.
  4. A lot of ink has already been given to Seth Curry’s phenomenal game against Kentucky, especially in light of his nagging shin injury which has limited his practice time. But a story to continue to watch for at Duke this season is the play of sophomore point guard Quinn Cook, and Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News added his perspective to the situation. Cook, who started both of Duke’s exhibition games, has been benched in favor of Tyler Thornton in each of Duke’s regular season games. This is not to say that Cook has been terrible, as he played 30 decent minutes against Kentucky. By placing Thornton in the starting lineup in these two games, Coach K has signaled to Cook that nothing is guaranteed, and even Cook realized this about his early season performances, saying, “I played sub-par. I was thinking too much.” Cook has not been spectacular in Duke’s first two games, but it seems like he is definitely taking steps in the right direction. Duke will need him to continue to progress if they are going to be a serious title contender next spring.
  5. There was only one game involving ACC teams last night, as Georgia Tech prevailed in a slog over Presbyterian, 52-38. The Yellow Jackets actually trailed at halftime before overwhelming the Blue Hose with their size in the second half. The Yellow Jackets won despite shooting only 33.3% for the game. While Georgia Tech certainly avoided joining the club of ACC teams posting embarrassing early non-conference losses, coach Brian Gregory will certainly see room for improvement as the season goes on. This game was played as a result of negotiations which involved Georgia Tech’s football team opening against Presbyterian this season, interestingly enough.
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Duke vs. Kentucky, Redux

Posted by mpatton on November 13th, 2012

The Shot is part of college basketball’s canon. Basketball fans regardless of age know The Shot from its prominent place during March Madness, both in promos and commercials. Duke and Kentucky fans — at least the ones old enough to do so — remember where they were when it happened. They still remember that bitterest taste of defeat when victory seemed secure and the inconceivable high brought on by the most unlikely of victories. Kentucky fans remember the Christian Laettner stomp from earlier in that game, which, in another universe, meant Kentucky winning while Duke’s star center looked on from the locker room. A couple of decades and a self-deprecating charity performance have somewhat repaired Laettner’s standing with the Big Blue Nation. Somewhat. But there’s still a remarkable tension between two schools that haven’t played in over 10 years, which makes this game more than just two top 10 teams facing off early in the season.

Is Rasheed Sulaimon enough to turn Duke’s perimeter defense around? (photo: Duke photography)

Ironically, the players have far less historical weight attached to the game. No doubt Duke and Kentucky players alike know about The Shot, and some of the fan intensity between the two fan bases probably has worn off on the men who will decide the game. But fans hold onto the past much more than players, most of whom chose their school because they thought it was the best “fit” (because of facilities, coaches, branding or academics). Many players weren’t yet alive to see the storied game, and the ones who were breathing probably weren’t walking.

But this game is huge for Duke. This is a game to prove — both to critics and themselves — that last year was an anomaly and they can handle the task of defending an athletic perimeter. It’s a chance to grab a marquee win that will look very good come Selection Sunday. And it’s a chance to put the Blue Devils on the list of legitimate national title contenders. For Kentucky the stakes are a little lower. The team is already considered a contender — though that’s largely thanks to John Calipari‘s track record with top recruits than anything this group has actually done — and his team is very young. No one expects Kentucky to be at its best this early. Even for Calipari that expectation is unreasonable. But this is still a chance at a statement win.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 11.12.12

Posted by bmulvihill on November 12th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The first full week of the college hoops season provides us several excellent non-conference match-ups between the true blue bloods of the sport, as well as a first glimpse at some of the mid-majors we may be hearing from in March. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#2 Kentucky vs. #9 Duke – 9:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

Nerlens Noel needs to step-up his offensive game against the Duke Blue Devils

  • Duke took care of business in last Friday’s opening game against Georgia State. Because of the the level of competition, the first game does not give us too much insight into the 2012-13 version of the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad shot and rebounded well, but they were expected to against the Panthers. Mason Plumlee leads the way for Duke and his match-up against the Kentucky front line should be a key factor on Tuesday. The Wildcats can throw Kyle Wiltjer, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, and Nerlens Noel at the Duke big man. While Maryland forward Alex Len was able to have a big game against these four, look for Kentucky coach John Calipari to make major adjustments to stop Plumlee. Duke senior Ryan Kelly needs to step-up to help Plumlee, particularly on the offensive glass where Duke struggled a bit in their first game. Also, keep an eye on Duke’s turnover numbers. They turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions against Georgia State. Neither Seth Curry, Tyler Thornton, or Quinn Cook had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in the first game. Continued turnovers will come back to bite the Blue Devils against better competition.
  • Kentucky gets its second ACC team of the season, but now it’s the cream of the crop in the Blue Devils. UK’s freshmen performed reasonably well in their first game but need to put together a full 40 minutes of effective basketball. Maryland was down by double figures in the first half of their first game last week but was able to make the game very tight by the end. Freshman guard Archie Goodwin put together a solid game against the Terps with 16 points, but highly touted freshman center Noel looked lost on offense. Pay close attention to how the freshmen play in the second half in this one. Interestingly enough, Kentucky played very good team defense even with so many freshmen. Typically, defensive skills take longer to develop but the Wildcats held Maryland to a 35% eFG, including 3-19 from three-point land. Duke is a three-heavy team, so watch to see how the Blue Devils fare against a tough perimeter defense.
  • Kentucky is going to need more of their freshmen to step up on offense, if they want to beat the Blue Devils. Wiltjer carried them in the first game and is as smooth as they come on the offensive end, but they need additional offensive support. Watch to see who among all the rookies is able to provide more offense. If Goodwin can continue to provide punch and they can get double figure points from one other freshman, Kentucky can win this game. Duke needs to limit turnovers and get scoring and rebounding from Ryan Kelly. He is very capable on the offensive end but needs to be more aggressive.

More Great Hoops

#8 Michigan St. vs. #4 Kansas – 7:00 PM EST, 11/13/12 on ESPN HD (*****)

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ACC Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 6th, 2012

With all of the ACC previews behind us, it’s time to put everything together in our first ACC Power Rankings of the season.

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke has all of the pieces to be a much better team than last year’s team. While the recruiting class is small, don’t forget redshirt freshmen Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee. Mason Plumlee may be the focal point of the Blue Devil offense. But the big question is how improved will Quinn Cook be?
NC State Wolfpack 2. NC State has the most complete team on paper. Add three top-shelf recruits to a talented returning group that includes two potential conference players of the year, and there’s bound to be plenty of hype. But will the Wolfpack be able to overcome their defensive woes (and the historical defensive woes of Mark Gottfried) and play like the end of last season, or will they play like the rest of the year?
North Carolina Tar Heels 3. North Carolina (tied) lost a lot from last year’s team with the four leading contributors with Reggie Bullock as the sole returning starter. But Roy Williams reloads instead of rebuilds. James Michael McAdoo may be the best player in the league, and Bullock looks ready to step up production. Freshman point Marcus Paige has big shoes (or at least a lot of shoes) to fill, but he’ll have help from backcourt veterans Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald.
Florida State Seminoles 3. Florida State (tied) may fall on its face, but Leonard Hamilton and Michael Snaer have earned the right to be taken seriously after knocking Duke and North Carolina off en route to the conference championship. Keep an eye on Okaro White and Terrance Shannon this season. You can trust Hamilton’s team to bring it defensively, but can they stop turning the ball over?
Miami Hurricanes 3. Miami (tied) looked rough in its exhibition loss, but there’s no denying the talent on this roster. The Hurricane frontcourt of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji is the best in the league; Durand Scott and Shane Larkin make an exciting backcourt duo; and there’s no shortage of athletic wings to help fill out the lineup. But can Jim Larranaga realize his team’s talent?
Maryland Terrapins 6. Maryland also has a lot of talent on its roster, but the Terrapins were abysmal offensively last season. To make matters worse (though potentially better in the long run), Terrell Stoglin is no longer with the team. Nick Faust and Alex Len need to make big improvements for Maryland to finish in the top half of the conference. Keep an eye on Maryland’s freshmen.
Virginia Cavaliers 7. Virginia has some interesting pieces, and Tony Bennett‘s system appears very effective. But the Cavaliers don’t have Mike Scott and his mid-range game to bail mediocre offensive possessions out anymore. This team will rely on its tenacious defense because it’s hard to see the offense being consistently effective.
Virginia Tech Hokies 8. Virginia Tech hired James Johnson to replace Seth Greenberg, and Greenberg left Johnson with some real talent. The Hokies are a sleeper to finish in the top half of the conference if Erick Green, Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines mesh well. Depth will be an issue, but those three are very good players. Johnson also has established relationships with the players, which should make his transition smoother.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 9. Wake Forest is really young. But a strong freshman class joining two of the best scorers in the league should make the team marginally more competitive than the last two years. Don’t sleep on Travis McKie. McKie is a match-up nightmare for every team, and shouldn’t surprise anyone when he averages close to 20 points a night.
Clemson Tigers 10. Clemson probably should be ranked higher than this. Certainly based on roster talent and previous results, the Tigers look better than tenth in the league. That said, Milton Jennings and Devin Booker haven’t shown the consistency to take over primary roles. If Jennings lives up to his McDonald’s All-American billing and Booker gets more aggressive, this team could finish much closer to the middle of the pack.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 11. Georgia Tech (tied) looks OK on paper, but didn’t add anything significant from last season’s 4-12 campaign. This points to another rough season in Atlanta, though Glen Rice Jr.’s sudden departure may prove more of a blessing than a curse.
Boston College 11. Boston College (tied) will be a significantly more watchable team this season. The team is still young, and still low on ACC-caliber talent. But the sophomore trio of Ryan Anderson, Patrick Heckmann and Dennis Clifford are the real deal. They also all improved a lot just over the course of last season (except Heckmann, who went down with mono).
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ACC Team Previews: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by EMann on November 1st, 2012

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

The 2011-12 Duke Blue Devils will be remembered primarily for two things:  (1) Austin Rivers’ dramatic three-pointer at the buzzer to cap a miraculous comeback and beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 85-84, which will live permanently in the rivalry’s lore; (2) their stunning 75-70 loss to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That Duke team, however, had a very strange portfolio for most of the season — mostly manifested through its porous defense (by Duke standards), which ranked 70th in the Ken Pomeroy rankings. It was also strange in that it featured a player in Austin Rivers who never quite fit into the Duke mold in many people’s eyes; while Rivers was certainly an extremely competitive player, the combination of his reliance on the ball for much of the team’s offense and individual success (and scoring incredibly inefficiently:  his offensive rating was the second worst on the team), along with the ensuing chemistry issues that his style of play seemed to cause, ultimately derailed the Blue Devils (along with Ryan Kelly’s injury). Duke also finished 8-0 in road play in the ACC, but lost three conference games (and nearly five – a 20-point comeback against NC State in the second half and an overtime victory against lowly Virginia Tech) at home, a shocking result for a generally good Duke team in Cameron Indoor Stadium. While it did defeat eventual runner-up Kansas and Michigan State at neutral sites, among others, in non-conference play, it was also destroyed by Ohio State. This year may very well feature addition by subtraction, and Coach K has clearly focused on teamwork and communication as the season gets underway as he sensed that as contributing at least partially to the team’s defensive woes last year.

Rasheed Sulaimon has a great chance to win ACC Rookie of the Year.

Newcomers

Duke has four new players eligible for this season, as the fifth newcomer, Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, quite possibly Duke’s best player on the floor during Countdown to Craziness, must sit out this season. Two of these players are true freshmen, headlined by guard Rasheed Sulaimon. Although Rodney Purvis at NC State has gotten most of the headlines as the favorite for ACC Rookie of the Year, look for Sulaimon to heavily challenge for that honor. Sulaimon is a versatile player in the mold of many of Mike Krzyzewski’s favored guards over the years:  a solid outside shooter who can also attack the rim, as well as a strong perimeter defender. With Seth Curry’s undisclosed injury keeping him out for possibly another couple weeks, Sulaimon has been temporarily slotted into the starting lineup.  While Sulaimon may not start once Curry returns, he will definitely play a ton of minutes and should see the court at crunch time to take advantage of his opportunity. Forward Amile Jefferson, who chose Duke over NC State at the 11th hour, will provide high motor play and solid interior defense, though his offensive game is still a bit unrefined.  Look for him to contribute 10-12 minutes a game.

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ACC Summer Recess: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by mpatton on August 8th, 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: Duke.

Where They Stand Now

Duke fans are still reeling from an embarrassing upset bid from CJ McCollum and the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh, but the sour ending to the team’s season overshadowed a very strong year. The Blue Devils showcased the most flaws  it has had since the 2006-07 Duke team that went 22-11, but they managed to keep winning games. They beat a loaded North Carolina team on the road; they finished second in the conference; and, they won a loaded Maui Invitational. Ryan Kelly‘s late season injury stagnated one of the country’s best offenses, leaving Duke with a decent offense and mediocre defense for its last three games. Long story short, the Blue Devils managed to overachieve and disappoint last season.

Mason Plumlee is the Anchor to Duke’s Young, Potentially Great Front Line.

Who’s Leaving

Austin Rivers went to the NBA, Miles Plumlee graduated, Michael Gbinije transferred to Syracuse, and Andre Dawkins will redshirt. Despite frequent deserved criticism during his playing career, the eldest Plumlee’s strength and athleticism in workouts earned him a guaranteed contract with the Pacers. Gbinije saw very little playing time his freshman season, and with the additions of Rasheed Sulaimon and redshirt freshman Alex Murphy, he may not have seen much more next year. Gbinije’s lack of playing time puzzled many Duke fans because his length and athleticism were exactly what Duke’s perimeter defense needed. Fans concerns are probably overreactions: Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t have a history of sticking with experienced guys over more talented freshmen.

Rivers’ departure is harder to evaluate. On paper, it’s terrible. Rivers was the only playmaker on last year’s team. Without consistent play at point guard, Coach K relied on the freshman to create his own shot a lot of the time. However, Rivers’ season had its detractors. While the heat he took for being selfish was over the top, comments Seth Curry made earlier this summer to Shawn Krest certainly point to a lack of chemistry on last year’s team.

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