College Basketball’s Five Best Games of 2013-14

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) on April 15th, 2014

As we continue to sift through the memories of the 2013-14 college basketball season, we take a look back at some of the best games of the season. In order, here are the five best games from 2013-14. We covered the five best stories of the season last week, if you’re interested.

  1. November 12: Kansas 94, Duke 83 – Two of the most anticipated freshmen in recent college hoops history matched up in the Champions Classic nightcap, and neither Wiggins (22 points, eight rebounds) nor Parker (27 points, nine rebounds ) disappointed. Kansas broke open a close game behind a late push from Wiggins and Perry Ellis (24 points, nine rebounds), in the process earning one of the season’s first true statement victories. The young Jayhawks would go on to win 25 games and the Big 12 regular season title, but their finest (and most entertaining) win may have come in their second outing of the year.

    Star Freshmen Jabari Parker And Andrew Wiggins Matched Up In What Was A Memorable Champions Classic Battle. (Getty)

    Star Freshmen Jabari Parker And Andrew Wiggins Matched Up In What Was A Memorable Champions Classic Battle. (Getty)

  2. March 29: Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63 (OT) – The low-possession game that everyone expected came to fruition, but both the Badgers (1.05 PPP) and Wildcats (1.03 PPP) managed solid offensive efforts in this Elite Eight battle. Neither team was able to build more than a three-point lead during the final 17 minutes of play (including overtime) in a tangibly tense seesaw battle, but it was the offensive clinic put on by the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky (28 points, 11 rebounds) that proved to be the ultimate difference. After a controversial replay review in the final seconds that gave the ball back to Arizona, Nick Johnson was unable to get up a winning shot attempt in time, and Wisconsin was headed to the Final Four for the first time under Bo Ryan. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Championship Preview: #6 Virginia vs. #7 Duke

Posted by Brad Jenkins & Matt Patton on March 16th, 2014

It’s the game that we all expected when the ACC Tournament brackets came out last weekend. Duke vs. Virginia. Let’s preview the ACC Championship game by answering the key questions headed into this one in Greensboro.

Joe Harris gets a second shot against Duke this season with an ACC title on the line (credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today).

Joe Harris gets a second shot against Duke this season with an ACC title on the line (credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today).

1. Can Virginia’s balanced scoring offset the star power of Duke’s Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood?

Yes and no. The Cavaliers can’t get in a shootout, but I don’t think they’ll try. Virginia is an experienced team that plays to its strengths. I’ll be very surprised if Duke can push them out of their comfort zone. That said, if Hood and Parker are both firing on all cylinders, I’m not sure how Virginia will put up enough points to win. Look for them to try to make Parker into a jump shooter or to force things against multiple defenders since he’s struggled passing out of double teams when he gets head full of steam. Hood is a little more difficult to contain (since he’s really a second option), but I expect to see a lot of Justin Anderson hounding him. Neither of these teams will quite be at 100 percent, playing their third game in three days, but I think that favors the more balanced team.

2. Duke hasn’t been hitting as many threes lately. Who do you expect to help keep the offense going if shots aren’t falling?

If the outside jumpers aren’t falling — and by playing the third straight grueling game in as many days, there’s a good chance they don’t — then Duke will have to rely on its two future NBA forwards to make plays. Jabari Parker makes plays that are almost unstoppable, even by great defenses like Virginia’s, so he figures to be the best candidate. Rodney Hood’s conditioning will be tested after chasing T.J. Warren all over the court yesterday. Rasheed Sulaimon has had success in the tournament with his penetration, so he may also try to create scoring chances that way.

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The Unofficial RTC ACC Superlatives

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 11th, 2014

While the more official hardware is beginning to be handed out, like Player and Coach of the Year and the All-ACC team’s, it’s worth looking at some more under-the-radar superlatives that players and coaches have earned through the course of the regular season on the precipice of ACC Tournament time in Greensboro.

Here are five awards that RTC found to be equally as important as some of their more official brethren:

Most Selfless Upperclassman: Joe Harris, Virginia.

His scoring dipped more than four points a game from a year ago as he watched Malcolm Brogdon become the go-to scorer and clutch player on the team, plummeting from preseason ACC Player of the Year prognostications seemingly from the first game’s opening tip. Nonetheless, Harris’ willingness to play team ball and enlarge his leadership role helped Virginia to their first outright ACC Title in 33 years and a current two-seed projection in the NCAA’s. Harris is a senior, so it’s rare for a player to back off in his final season and allow team success to trump personal statistics. Harris is still a force, but now knows he can operate in the background to help his team’s season become even more special.

Joe Harris' selflessness helped Virginia win the ACC regular season (UVAsports)

Joe Harris’ selflessness helped Virginia win the ACC regular season (UVAsports)

Best Coaching Job Outside of Charlottesville: Roy Williams, North Carolina.

Tony Bennett absolutely deserved the COY award for his unbelievable reclamation job with Virginia, but no one dealt with more adversity this year than Williams. Between the PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald saga, the academics issues brought to light by a former adviser, and the up-and-down start to the year with no set rotation and inconsistent effort, Williams had a ton on his plate in trying to get this team into postseason play. The Tar Heels won 12 conference games in a row, including a split with rival Duke, and own possibly the best non-conference wins of any team in the country. It’s arguably Williams’ best coaching job in Chapel Hill to date. Read the rest of this entry »

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Heading into March, Duke Much in Need of Its Upcoming Break

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 26th, 2014

After dispatching Virginia Tech 66-48 on Tuesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke will get a much-needed week off. Going into this break, the Blue Devils have played five games in the last 11 days. It was already going to be a tough stretch in the schedule, but it became even more so when a rare Triangle winter storm forced the postponement of the game with North Carolina, originally set for February 12. The rivalry tilt was rescheduled for play on February 20, the only available date that made sense for both schools, but it created a situation where Duke has basically been playing every other day for the last week and a half. Now with a clear schedule until next Wednesday at Wake Forest, it’s a good time to assess how this Blue Devils’ team is currently playing and their prospects moving forward.

Rasheed Sulaimon's Playing Well On Both Ends Of The Floor. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Rasheed Sulaimon Is Playing Well On Both Ends Of The Floor.
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Perhaps the best thing to happen for Duke lately is the emergence of Marshall Plumlee. After spot duty and inconsistent play for most of the season, the redshirt sophomore has developed to the point that he is now clearly the top frontcourt reserve. Plumlee had shown some flashes of talent previously, most notably in a home game against Florida State in which he achieved career highs in points and rebounds (seven each). That outing was followed by a total of two points and seven rebounds in Duke’s next four games. But in his last three outings, the youngest of the Plumlees has shown much more consistency. In 47 total minutes combined, he has scored 11 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. He has also had an impact on the defensive end, blocking five shots over that period. Earlier in the year, Plumlee was very weak at defending the high pick-and-roll and was often late in help situations. That part of his game has improved enough so that Duke can now take advantage of Plumlee’s size to help with it’s biggest issue on defense – protecting the basket. That weakness was on display again in the Virginia Tech game. The Hokies’ trio of big men, hardly an imposing bunch, converted 16-of-22 field goals against the Blue Devils’ interior.

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Duke’s Quest For Tempo-Free History Rolls Through Chestnut Hill

Posted by Matt Patton on February 9th, 2014

Since Ken Pomeroy first rolled out his ratings for the 2002-03 season, no team has finished with an offensive efficiency above 124.0 (a record set by Chris Paul and Wake Forest’s 2004-05 team). After trouncing Boston College on the road with its second most efficient game of the season, Duke’s adjusted offensive efficiency for this year is now an astounding 128.9 points per 100 possessions. The Blue Devils steamrolled a small Eagles team with an unbelievable performance from Jabari Parker, who finished with 38 points on 17 shots (leaving five points at the free throw line). They did it with an opening 32-9 run in the first 11 minutes of the second half. They did it dominating points off turnovers (15-3) and second chance points (22-7).

Jabari Parker was a force of nature against Boston College. (credit: Stephan Savoia / AP)

Jabari Parker was a force of nature against Boston College. (credit: Stephan Savoia / AP)

Admittedly, Boston College’s defense leaves a lot to be desired. Good defense doesn’t give up nearly 70 percent shooting over the course of a half at home. But Duke’s offensive polymathy is what makes them so dangerous. Duke normally has four three-point shooters on the floor at any given time. Once entirely ignored by Seth Greenberg, Tyler Thornton is shooting nearly 53 percent from three-point range (mostly wide open spot-ups). Five truly dangerous shooters (not counting Thornton despite his gaudy percentage) makes Duke a lot less susceptible to “dying by the three,” instead riding the night’s hot hands up the scoreboard.

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ACC M5: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 6th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Fayetteville Observer: Rasheed Sulaimon has been one of the more interesting players to follow in the conference this season. He was a presumed star in Duke’s rotation after a strong freshman campaign before spending much of the start of the season on the bench. Then he became the go-to player for Duke’s second rotation as the Blue Devils righted the ship. Now, he’s tentatively taken over the starting point guard role while Quinn Cook is struggling through a slump. As a freshman Sulaimon showed a knack for finding the open man, so his new role fits. Suddenly Duke is less reliant on Cook to run the offense, which only makes the team more dangerous over the next couple of months.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: This article really surprised me. I know Syracuse‘s 22-game winning streak is a big deal, but I had no idea that it ranked so highly among unbeaten starts in league history. Syracuse is already tied for the third-best start ever in the ACC. The rest of the list? 1980-81 Virginia started 22-0 on its way to the Final Four (Ralph Sampson’s sophomore campaign); 1972-73 NC State’s unbeaten season on probation (David Thompson’s sophomore year); and 1956-57 North Carolina unbeaten year, which won the national title, 54-53 (in three overtimes!), over Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: I’m on board with Jerry Ratcliffe’s general premise that the ACC isn’t getting its due (thanks to a horrible bottom of the conference), but let the record show that Florida State isn’t underperforming. They’ve played a hellacious league schedule and still have a reasonable chance for an at-large bid. It’s tough to expect better than that after last year’s disaster. Go ahead and add Clemson (tentatively), Pittsburgh and Miami to the list of ACC teams playing better than expected. North Carolina, Maryland and Boston College are certainly on the wrong side of expectations, but as a whole the ACC’s chronicles of woe are mostly thanks to overzealous preseason expectations.
  4. WRAL Sports Fan: Put me down as a second to Adam Gold’s idea for an ACC double-header of Duke-Syracuse and North Carolina-Louisville during the weekend of next season’s Super Bowl. Hell, why not throw in Virginia and Pittsburgh for those who prefer a slower game. While you’re at it, put me down for whatever it takes for the Blue Devils and Orange to face off twice a year while they have their respective Hall of Famers still at the helm.
  5. Bleacher Report: Here comes another interview with PJ Hairston. He’s learned a valuable lesson: Don’t read message boards. Probably the most interesting quote in this piece was from Hairston’s assistant coach, Hollis Price, after Hairston dove for a loose ball in practice: “That’s a credit to Roy Williams and the things he instilled in him,” said Price, laughing. “But I told him, ‘P.J., you’re not in college anymore. You’ve got to protect your money, especially in practice.” And you wonder why elite college coaches don’t always pan out at the next level?
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Amile Jefferson Channels His Inner Zoubek

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 4th, 2014

He knew he had it within him all along. The skinny 6’9” “power” forward from Philadelphia had always played with an infectious sense of energy — the quintessential ‘hype man’ for Duke. But in Amile Jefferson’s freshman season, he primarily logged spot duty minutes at a clip of about 13 minutes per game. Stuck behind senior frontcourt leaders Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, Jefferson struggled to get into a groove and find a defined role in Duke’s system. Coming into this year, the 2012 McDonald’s All-American made it his business to add weight to his frame so he could take advantage of a vacuum of low-post talent in the frontcourt.

Amile Jefferson has taken Coach K's lessons to heart

Amile Jefferson has taken Coach K’s lessons to heart

Without a true post presence on the floor but all his other pieces aligning, Mike Krzyzewski needed either Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee or senior Josh Hairston to anchor the post while flanked by perimeter-oriented forwards Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker. Given that the Parker/Hood tandem is a highly efficient scoring duo, the center role in Duke’s scheme this year primarily requires competent rebounding, post defense, and communication while anchoring the back line of the defense. While Jefferson will never be the kind of defensive shot-blocking presence as Kansas’ Joel Embiid or Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski, he can arguably check the boxes that Duke desires in a big man.

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Duke Dominates Florida State in Coach K’s 900th Win at Duke

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 26th, 2014

After a little over eight minutes of play Saturday afternoon in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke held an 11-10 lead over Florida State, but their coach was not pleased. During the second media timeout, Mike Krzyzewski ripped off his jacket and then proceeded to rip into his team. The Blue Devils responded by outscoring the Seminoles 32-15 during the remainder of the half and maintained a double-figure lead throughout, winning 78-56. It was a milestone win for Krzyzewski, who joined Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim as the only coaches with 900 career wins at a single school.

Mike Krzyzewski Fires up Duke During First Half versus Florida State. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Mike Krzyzewski Fires up Duke During  the First Half versus Florida State.
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Here’s what had Coach K so upset. Duke had executed the defensive game plan well early, forcing Florida State into seven turnovers before that second media timeout, but the Blue Devils had wasted that effort with otherwise casual play – four turnovers of their own, 3-of-16 shooting, and only two free throw attempts. Perhaps even more troubling was the four consecutive fast break opportunities that his team had allowed Florida State during that time. Duke was fortunate that the Seminoles only converted on two of those chances with Ian Miller missing a wide-open three and Robert Gilchrist misfiring on those two attempts from the line. From that point on, Duke was much more aggressive. Even though the Blue Devils struggled to make shots — as most teams do against the tall and athletic Seminoles — the Blue Devils found other ways to score. Duke dominated the boards, grabbing more offensive rebounds (27) than Florida State did in total (24), and repeatedly attacked the basket, shooting 43 free throws compared to 18 for the Seminoles. Duke also had a huge edge in bench points (42-11) but part of that was because Rodney Hood (18 points) was unable to start the game due to an interesting uniform issue that required him to borrow shorts from a teammate.

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ACC M5: 01.17.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 17th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Roanoke Times: I entirely overvalue Cadarian Raines‘s performance. I can admit it. I’ve seen flashes of potential — usually glimpses of a remarkably well-developed post game. It appears Aaron McFarling is on the bandwagon with me, but James Johnson isn’t as he’s sat Raines for the last two games. The question is why? Johnson claims it’s the players “ahead” of Raines, and that could be true but I think it has to be Raines’ attitude. Johnson knows he’s not going to win 20 games this season, with or without Raines, but  he also knows the culture he wants to build in Blacksburg. This just feels a lot like Coach K’s early season benching of Rasheed Sulaimon.
  2. Sporting News: Speaking of Rasheed Sulaimon, Mike DeCourcy does a great job in this profile of the Duke sophomore. Sulaimon pointed to becoming the third “break down the defense” option this year, instead of last year when he was arguably the first. It’s interesting that Mike Krzyzewski appears to be meeting Sulaimon somewhere in the middle. A side product of his recently instituted “line changes” are some odd lineups. One includes Marshall Plumlee and Tyler Thornton, which leaves Sulaimon as the go-to player in those situations.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: Come for the brief profile of Arnaud William “Bill” Adala Moto; leave with an awesomely awkward Bzdelikian analogy.

    “I kind of likened it the other day to a bunch of chicken eggs. Some of the eggs start cracking, and the little chick pokes its head out and looks. Some of these guys have completely gotten out of their shell. Some of them, the shell is cracking, and their head is poking out. Some of them are still in it, playing. But my point is, they’re all starting to hatch — at different times — and slowly breaking out of that shell.”

    Clearly, Jeff Bzdelik has been working on his PR game. But seriously, Moto is a guy who plays like a great teammate. He just outworks opponents.

  4. Tar Heel Blog: Speaking of PR game, North Carolina needs to up its version in a serious way. The university hasn’t looked good at all in its dealing with Mary Willingham’s allegations, and the fine bloggers at Tar Heel Blog have done a tremendous job covering the story. The interesting possible spin going on right now is that North Carolina claims 97 percent of admitted athletes during the past two years were above the testing levels that CNN and Willingham cited. What’s interesting is that Willingham’s numbers covered 2004-12. Does that mean her numbers are right and North Carolina has fixed its problems, or was the most recent data the most accessible? Good move by the administration to question the media (which is likely at fault anyways) instead of Willingham here.
  5. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Virginia has played well but lost all (three) of its games against Top 25 opponents this season. But I’m not sure there’s much to be drawn from the Duke loss. Had the Cavaliers rolled over and lost by 15 instead of mounting a comeback in the last three minutes, I would be more concerned. By the end of the year Virginia will knock off at least one team in the national rankings assuming no one gets hurt.
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Duke’s New Starting Lineup Pays Dividends

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 8th, 2014

Tuesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Mike Krzyzewski gave another chance to a starting lineup that had started four consecutive games back in November. Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon replaced Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton, playing well enough to earn a combined 64 minutes in Duke’s 79-57 win over Georgia Tech. After an evenly played first half, Rodney Hood’s second straight 27-point game and the Blue Devils’ energy level rolled past a Yellow Jackets team trying to adjust to playing without Robert Carter, Jr., in the wake of his meniscus injury.

Rodney Hood Scores 27 Again As Duke Beats Georgia Tech (photo: www.goduke.com)

Rodney Hood Scores 27 Again As Duke Beats Georgia Tech
(photo: www.goduke.com)

The last Duke game featuring sophomores Jefferson and Sulaimon as starters turned out to be the worst defensive Duke performance in at least a dozen years, a narrow 91-90 home win over Vermont in the sixth game of the season. After that contest, in an effort to establish a tougher defensive identity, Mike Krzyzewski inserted seniors Hairston and Thornton into the starting lineup. The Blue Devils made measurable progress defensively after the change, but for Duke to reach its full potential as a team this season, the more talented sophomores will need to be on the court more than the solid but offensively limited role players.

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Has Duke Found the Answer on Defense?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 28th, 2013

Back in late November we wrote about Duke’s historically bad defense. At the time, the Blue Devils were coming off their worst defensive effort of the last 12 years, having given up 90 points on 1.38 points per possession in their home squeaker against Vermont. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski was extremely upset and vowed that great improvement must be made on the defensive end of the floor. Five games later, it’s now a good time to see how much progress Duke’s defense has made in the intervening month of action.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski Was Pleased With Duke's Defense In Win Over UCLA (Photo: Mark Dolejs - USA TODAY Sports)

Coach Mike Krzyzewski Was Pleased With Duke’s Defense In Their Win Over UCLA
(Photo: Mark Dolejs – USA TODAY Sports)

Let’s take a more detailed look at the team’s defensive numbers from the first six Duke games through that dreadful Vermont performance on November 24. Then we will compare those statistics to what the Blue Devils have done in their last five games heading into the Christmas break. Here are the key defensive statistics from the first six games:

  • 1.07 - Opponents’ Avg Points Per Possession for All Games
  • 1.08 – Opponents’ Points Per Possession vs. Duke

By applying Ken Pomeroy’s principle of adjusting for competition, we come up with an Adjusted Defensive Rating of 1.05 PPP for Duke’s first six games. That number would currently put Duke’s defense at around #200 in the nation in Pomeroy’s ratings – lousy defense indeed. Now that’s look at the same metric for Duke’s last five games:

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ACC M5: 12.20.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 20th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Chicago Tribune: The biggest difference for Notre Dame’s Garrick Sherman this season? He’s playing twice as many minutes! He’s also one of the better rebounders in the ACC, getting to the line more, and blocking more shots. Not bad for a guy who averaged 15 minutes per game last season. The former Michigan State transfer is one of Notre Dame’s most important players (arguably the Irish’s most important if you consider the void left by Jack Cooley’s graduation), and although Sherman’s numbers are nowhere near Cooley’s, he’s proved to be more than capable of anchoring Mike Brey’s system.The guy to watch against Ohio State, though, is Demetrius Jackson. He’s been getting more minutes as the season progresses, and appears primed for a breakout game soon.
  2. CBS Sports: Rasheed Sulaimon broke out of his early season slump last night against UCLA. He didn’t have a gaudy stat line or game — just eight points, six rebounds and five assists. But in 18 minutes of action, Sulaimon looked a lot like the player who started for the Blue Devils last year. This game was a good reminder of why he’s so important for Duke going forward, because it’s safe to say Sulaimon will get minutes if he continues to play with that intensity. What remains unclear is how much Sulaimon’s resurgence will affect Matt Jones’ minutes. Andre Dawkins will obviously see consistent (but limited) time as a potential offensive spark plug off the bench, and don’t expect Tyler Thornton to fall out of the rotation anytime soon. But that may leave Jones as the odd wing out unless Duke elects to go small occasionally.
  3. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Don’t tease me with these awesome potential series if you don’t really mean it! I’m looking at you, James Johnson. Here’s to hoping Johnson follows through and inks a long-term deal with Virginia Commonwealth sooner than later. In-state rivalries are the best, and while most people wouldn’t lose sleep over Virginia Tech not playing the Rams every year, both programs would be better off for it.
  4. Washington Post: This is a good piece looking at the questions facing Tony Bennett as Virginia takes a break for finals and the holidays. Notably, should he sub differently? What should his rotation look like? Why can’t his team hit free throws? (Crazy stat from the article: Joe Harris is hitting less than 55 percent of his free throws this year. How is that even possible?!) How does he fix the team’s abysmal assist to turnover ratio? I’m not sure all of those questions have answers, but I think finding ways to make London Perrantes more comfortable will help. And Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell have to step up and play at or near the level people expected them to coming into the season.
  5. Washington Post: Throwback! This oral history of the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry is tremendous. It’s also long, but totally worth it whether you’re trying to brush up on a little history of the ACC newcomer or you’re just nostalgic for the retro-Big East. Check it out.

VIDEO EXTRA: Missed this when this first hit, but this Seth Davis interview with Rick Barnes on his tense relationship with Dean Smith is really worth the time (h/t Laura Keeley).

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