ACC M5: Opening Night Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 9th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: While most of the ACC is starting out their season (tonight!) with some overmatched competition (with apologies to Virginia who will take on George Mason), Maryland is opening their season with a real challenge. Though this year’s Kentucky team is totally different from the beast that dominated college basketball last year, the Wildcats are still stacked with top recruits and still led by John Calipari. Maryland plans to put up a fight however, and the sudden eligibility of sensational wing Dez Wells puts a little muscle behind that hope. Though Calipari is making his traditional noise about how he feels his team is overrated and how he is concerned about the Terrapins, there is no doubt that Maryland is the underdog in this fight.
  2. Backing the Pack: Meanwhile in Raleigh, there remains at least one question: who will be the North Carolina State‘s fifth starter?Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and Scott Wood are no-brainer starters for Mark Gottfried, but the final starting slot has not yet been named. Gottfried said that he isn’t sure who will start, while adding the caveat that he doesn’t think it matters too much. The most probable choice is that the coach will go with highly-touted freshman guard Rodney Purvis, though there is an outside chance that the spot will be earned by T.J. Warren. Of course, it could always be some wild card option, but these two are the most logical choices.
  3. ESPN: In Chapel Hill, Roy Williams is dealing with a similar issue. Freshman Marcus Paige has been named a starter along with veterans Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock, and James Michael McAdoo. This leaves one open spot for North Carolina, and considering the named starters, the spot belongs to a big man. In the exhibition game, Desmond Hubert got the start, but freshman center Joel James shined when he got his turn. Williams suggests that little used sophomore Jackson Simmons and spindly freshman Brice Johnson could also get the start, but Hubert and James are the clear frontrunners for the spot with James holding an edge.
  4. Fox Sports: After a year spent playing home games in other peoples’ gyms, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets finally have a home court. Tonight the first game tips off at McCamish Pavillion, the new name for the renovated Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The building connects the Yellow Jackets to their storied past while also showcasing a dramatic environment for home games. While certainly new video and sound equipment are clear upgrades, the coolest addition to this court has got to be GT’s embrace of theater-style lighting, the effect of lighting the court while keeping the stands relatively dark, an unabashedly neat effect that evokes Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center when the Los Angeles Lakers are playing (the Clippers use a different, more traditional lighting scheme). It’s a neat idea and one that will hopefully add some extra atmosphere to the rechristened Thrillerdome.
  5. Wilmington Star News: The preseason Wooden Award Watch List has been released and six ACC players have been unsurprisingly tapped for the list. North Carolina State’s C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown, Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo, and Florida State’s Michael Snaer represent the conference on the list. Considering that this list fairly closely mirrors most folks’ All-ACC First Team, there isn’t too much to complain about, though C.J. Harris and a couple players from Miami may have a reason to grouse. As always, this list doesn’t include any of the impact freshmen who are expected to make their mark upon the conference, though they will surely be added once they show what they can do in the college game.
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ACC M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 8th, 2012

  1. Inside Carolina: In the Roy Williams era, it hasn’t been too difficult for North Carolina to score. The combination of a brisk tempo and a humming offense has meant that Chapel Hill residents have gotten used to gaudy scores and the discounted biscuits that come when UNC scores over 100 during a home game. This year, however, it seems more likely that the team will derive more of its identity from defense. While John Henson and Tyler Zeller were great interior defenders, the perimeter defense of the Tar Heels was inconsistent at best last season. This year, with speedy Marcus Paige at the point and gifted defenders Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock on the wings, it seems likely that UNC could have one of the better perimeter defenses in the Roy Williams era.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Down the road in Raleigh, North Carolina State is thinking about defense as well. Despite the lofty expectations that have been placed upon the Wolfpack, one of the easily spotted weaknesses for this team is defense. In Mark Gottfried’s first year, NCSU had a middling defense, and with the departure of paint protector DeShawn Painter and the ball-hawking tandem of C.J. Williams and Alex Johnson, there is concern that the defense could get worse. Still, the Wolfpack has been focusing on defense in practice, striving to improve in areas where the team fell short. C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell were often the cornerstones of NCSU’s interior defense last season, but both struggled to stay on the court due to foul trouble. Each is working on defending without fouling while maintaining the same intensity that served the team so well last year. Increased time on the court for either will do nothing but help North Carolina State become the elite team that many pundits are expecting.
  3. Washington Post: The immediate eligibility of Dez Wells is a story with a lot of big time basketball implications for the Maryland Terrapins. On a human level it’s a big story for Wells, his family, his mentor, his teammates, and the Maryland basketball family as they all stood by him and hoped for the best when things looked bleakest for Wells. Sexual assault is a heinous offense that is psychologically damaging to its victims in a way that few other crimes are. To be wrongfully accused of committing this crime and to lose your place at school and on your basketball team is a heavy load for a young man to carry. It’s hard not to be happy for Wells who seems to have found a new and supportive home in College Park. His newfound eligibility is really just the cherry on top.
  4. The Virginian-Pilot: James Johnson is the only rookie coach in the ACC this year, and his road will be far from easy as he tries to rebuild a Virginia Tech program that seemed permanently stuck just outside the NCAA Tournament under Seth Greenberg. The departure of Greenberg made things seem even more difficult as players transferred and recruits like Montrezl Harrell de-committed. The scary thing is that it could have been much worse. Erick Green, the senior star point guard of the Hokies, considered transferring away from Blacksburg as well but Johnson’s appointment (previously an assistant under Greenberg) to the head spot tipped the scales in favor of VT. Now the Hokies are going to try to enjoy a rebirth as an up-tempo team that complements a blistering, frantic attack with the determined inside presence of a now-healthy Cadarian Raines. Little is expected of Virginia Tech this season, but it sounds like Johnson and Green hope to surprise the rest of the ACC.
  5. Washington Times: Last year, Virginia had a watershed moment with coach Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers were respected as one of the toughest defenses in the nation and Mike Scott was garnering praise as a potential All-American. When Bennett left Washington State to take on the project of rebuilding Virginia, it was clear that this wouldn’t be an easy job with a quick solution. It’s somewhat surprising then that Bennett was able to talk Washington native Joe Harris into following him to the other side of the country to play for a rebuilding team. Entering his third year, however, Harris is poised to take a starring role on a team that is expected to again make plenty of noise in the conference. Harris has NBA size and skills and, in a featured role for Cavaliers (including some time at the point with Jontel Evans out), the sharpshooting guard will hopefully see some more of  the seeds of his and Bennett’s hard work blossom.
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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 M5: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on October 26th, 2012

  1. Atlantic Coast Conference:  During the most recent wave of conference realignment, the academic caliber of the ACC has been stressed as a reason for why (or why not) certain schools were given invitations. Now, the ACC is not just known for its academics, but also the impressive performance of its student-athletes.  Overall, the ACC had a graduation rate for its athletes in all sports of over 87%, whereas the NCAA-wide average is 80%.  More specifically, in men’s basketball, the ACC was the only power conference with four schools topping the APR mark of 90, those being Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech.    This is a great bargaining chip for the conference and definitely bodes well for the future.  A more detailed summary for all sports can be found here.
  2. Washington Post:  After losing first-team all-ACC forward Mike Scott, Virginia is searching for answers in its quest to make consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time since 1995 (and their fourth of the  new millenium). Tony Bennett expects  junior Joe Harris, the team’s second leading scorer, to shoulder more of the offense. However, the team is not worried about replacing Scott, as forward Akil Mitchell said: “We don’t go into a season thinking, ‘Oh man, we gotta replace Mike.’ We go into a season looking at who we have and what we can do.” Bennett expects to have several players averaging between 8-12 points per game, which would definitely be a stark change from last season, where Scott took over 31% of the team’s shots while he was on the court.
  3. CBS Sports:  When thinking of elite point guards in the country this year, Jeff Goodman does not want you to forget about NC State’s Lorenzo Brown. Goodman believes that Brown is in a class with and even possibly above Missouri’s Phil Pressey, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, and Michigan’s Trey Burke. Like a lot of the love for NC State as a team, it is largely based on his Sweet Sixteen run last season where Brown really excelled. If Brown is as good as Goodman thinks, then NC State should have a great chance to win its first ACC Championship since 1987 and possibly its first national title since the miracle win over Houston in 1983.
  4. CBS Sports:  Going along with the M5 entry from yesterday, highly touted forward Andrew Wiggins has officially reclassified back into the class of 2013. His father, Mitchell, a former Florida State player, confirmed the news. Wiggins, who will likely be the top-rated recruit even despite his reclassification, is strongly linked to either Kentucky or Florida State. While it would be difficult to bet against John Calipari at this point, Florida State is definitely still a strong contender for Wiggins’ services. If the precocious player wants to be the undisputed star on his team (which he might not, owing to his humble nature), Florida State would provide him that chance. Of course, Kentucky would provide the brightest lights in college basketball, and he would join at least three of the top 10 recruits in the class of 2013 if he commits there.
  5. Keeping it Heel:  North Carolina’s starting lineup appears to have three certainties going into its first exhibition game against Shaw this weekend:  freshman point guard Marcus Paige, sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo, and junior guard Reggie Bullock. The rest of the lineup and rotation are definitely question marks at this point, a large change from last year’s team when the starting five was extremely constant (notwithstanding injuries). It is likely (at least according to Matt Hamm), that Roy Williams will tinker with his roster a lot this season, which means that there should be considerably more different lineup combinations that we are used to seeing from the Tar Heels.
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ACC M5: 10.17.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on October 17th, 2012

  1. ESPN: Not to be outdone by the other ACC schools making recruiting splashes, the Maryland Terrapins have locked down a four-star point guard in Roddy Peters. Peters is a Maryland kid and a very skilled playmaker and scorer who will be able to contribute almost immediately for the Terps. Peters plays for D.C. Assault, the famed AAU team and an outfit that highly paid Maryland assistant Dalonte Hill used to coach, and according to Peters, Hill’s presence played a key role in helping the guard choose Maryland.
  2. Baltimore Sun: In more disappointing Terrapin news, this is the week that James Padgett will go to court to deal with charges stemming from a DUI arrest over the summer. Padgett, a senior and the likely starting power forward for the Terrapins, is a favorite in the tempo-free statistics community. Despite relatively mediocre per game rebound totals, Padgett is something of a savant on the offensive glass, posting  possession numbers that surpass every other player in the conference but fellow offensive rebounding wunderkind Miles Plumlee. In any event, Padgett’s court date is this Friday, though he is still expected to participate in today’s Operation Basketball media extravaganza.
  3. Greensboro News & Record: Speaking of Operation Basketball, the News & Record has taken the time to go ahead and figure out the preseason rankings for the teams in the conference. Of course, the paper is doing it by counting the Twitter followers for the two player representatives from each school. Duke takes the top spot, largely thanks to the Twitter sensation that is Seth Curry. Curry’s roughly 51,000 followers easily overpowers any other player on the list with North Carolina’s Reggie Bullock coming in a distant second at around 32,500 followers. We’ll have more on Operation Basketball as the day rolls on, but for now, I leave you to pore over these social media numbers. If you want to follow every single basketball player, reporter, and tangential figure in the ACC on Twitter, I would direct you to this rather helpful guide.
  4. Chicago Tribune: If you want to talk about meaningful numbers, the number of the day is clearly $9,995. This is the price that a gallon of unopened McJordan Barbecue sauce from 1992 recently sold for on Ebay.  Just when you thought North Carolina couldn’t be more proud of it’s living legend and his accomplishments, a jug of his sauce sells for nearly ten grand and makes you change your whole way of looking at things. The greatness of Michael Jordan is truly unending.
  5. Blogger So Dear: On a less silly note, our Wake Forest loving friends at Blogger So Dear have posted some early observations of this year’s Demon Deacons based on what they saw at Black and Gold Madness. There are some good notes on players both incoming and returning here as well as some keen observations on a team with a lot of potential and even more unknowns.
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ACC Weekly Five: 08.27.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on August 27th, 2012

  1. ESPN: Michael Snaer has major swagger. He’s coming off his best year yet and spent the summer dominating Lebron James’ and Kevin Durant’s respective camps. Here is a sampling of quotes that should make you not count Florida State out when predicting the ACC standings this year:
    • “If I’m not the best, I’m one of the best. I can’t be guarded.”
    • “I just straight destroyed people.”
    • “Anybody wants to prove me otherwise, come get it. [...] That’s how I feel.”

    Those quotes may show something negative, but they sound a lot like a promise that another ultra-competitive combo-guard brought to fruition a few years ago.

  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Rodney Purvis still isn’t cleared to play, despite the NCAA last week approving him to take classes. Because of one of the NCAA’s many odd rules, Purvis wasn’t eligible to start classes at NC State the week prior because of an unrelated eligibility question. Purvis’ high school, the Upper Room Christian Academy, is being checked out. Purvis was part of the school’s first graduating class, which prompted the NCAA to vet his academics a little more closely. Purvis didn’t travel with the Wolfpack to Spain earlier this summer, though his eligibility should be decided in time for the regular season.
  3. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Great news out of Atlanta, as Bobby Cremins is back at Georgia Tech after retiring from College of Charleston for health reasons at the end of last season. The longtime Yellow Jackets’ coach (and floor namesake) will be working with Brian Gregory and the athletic department to bring back as many of his former players as he can find for the season opener on November 9. So far the committee has contacted over 200 players and hopes to get in touch with nearly 500. It’s good to see Cremins back in the fold at Georgia Tech with his jokes and contagious grin.
  4. USA Today: Mark Turgeon is hoping to replace Terrell Stoglin “by committee” this year, and he’ll have to. The mercurial Maryland guard made up almost all of the Terrapins’ offense last season, and there’s no one on this year’s team with that sort of playmaking ability. Turgeon pointed out last year injuries made it where Stoglin had to do everything.
  5. Keeping It Heel: Reggie Bullock has been putting in work this summer and brought home the North Carolina ProAm MVP and Championship for his effort. Bullock’s summer play concluded with a 31-point game in the finals to seal his accolades. Bullock’s performance makes it seem like he’ll be relied on a lot by Roy Williams to replace much of the offense that left Chapel Hill for the NBA.
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ACC Summer Recess: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by KCarpenter on August 6th, 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: North Carolina.

Where They Stand Now

What do you do when you have a team that goes 14-2 during conference play and loses in the Elite Eight after its record-shattering point guard goes down with an injury? In Chapel Hill, you are deeply disappointed in a team that arguably underperformed. The loaded Tar Heels were near helpless after Kendall Marshall‘s injury, struggling to execute on offense, and the surfeit of NBA-caliber talent all amounted to nothing against a Kansas team that came prepared to capitalize on North Carolina’s weaknesses. Most teams would still call a season like that a success, but for UNC fans, the 2012-13 ended in incredibly disappointing fashion.

Roy Williams Will Have to Put the Pieces Together With His 2012-13 Squad

Who’s Leaving

Everyone. Well, not quite, but like Florida State, the Tar Heels are facing quite a bit of turnover. ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller now plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. Harrison Barnes, an All-ACC First Team selection, is now with the Golden State Warriors, while Kendall Marshall, the all-time assists in a season record-holder for the conference and Bob Cousy Award winner for the nation’s top point guard, is now with the Phoenix Suns. Stilman White, the team”s back-up point guard, is leaving for two years to work as a Mormon missionary. The team is also losing the services of the versatile fan-favorite Justin Watts to that scourge called graduation. In short, next year’s team will be near unrecognizable from last year’s team.

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ACC Morning Five: 04.09.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 9th, 2012

  1. ACC Sports Journal: We know he’s coming back, but Jim Young took a look at the pros and cons of James Michael McAdoo‘s decision whether or not to return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore campaign. The strongest argument, in my opinion, is building his confidence through collegiate success. It’s a way for a guy like McAdoo, who looked like a late lottery pick based on most draft projections, to sneak into the top five (where he’d get a much nicer contract), and also make it more likely for him to succeed. That said, I think it’s a little risky (see: Harrison Barnes).
  2. Tar Heel Blog: With the roster pretty much set, Brian Barbour went to work trying to guess North Carolina‘s lineup for next year. I would only add a couple of things: (1) I think Dexter Stickland will be hugely important to next year’s team; (2) I think North Carolina may play small a good amount of the time, possibly putting Reggie Bullock at the four and McAdoo at the five to create mismatches.
  3. Testudo Times: Speaking about potential ACC transfers, Maryland is getting serious about Evan Smotrycz, inviting the Michigan transfer on a visit this week. I agree that while Smotrycz isn’t the perfect player, he brings a valuable skill set to the Terrapins. This is especially true for a team that currently really struggles scoring, so having a stretch four could make a very big difference.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: I feel like I’ve mentioned this several times (albeit looking at Duke big men from a little further back), but this article goes straight at the oft-repeated knock against Duke coming from high-profile recruits that the Blue Devils can’t coach bigs (namely, Mitch McGary and Tony Parker). One piece of ammunition — ironically for both sides of the argument — is Lance Thomas. I think the real question comes from the article’s final “proviso that what anyone does in high school is irrelevant to the college game.” Obviously, to some extent that’s true (especially of big men), but that’s the gap current recruits see between Mason Plumlee‘s high school dominance and freshman and sophomore year incompetence.
  5. Staunton News-Leader: I agree with this article in all but one respect. I think Duke fans (and logical North Carolina fans) will be pulling for NC State next year. This isn’t to say they’ll put the Wolfpack ahead of their own teams, but it’s good for the ACC when the whole conference is up, and that means having another national contender outside of the usual suspects. Assuming Florida State can keep playing at a high level and that Maryland improves significantly, the ACC could be almost wide open depending on Duke’s last-ditch recruiting.

EXTRA: The UConn Blog - There’s a little unrest in Storrs, as Alex Oriakhi‘s dad publicly called for reprimands towards Jim Calhoun by saying, “I have no qualm in calling on the [AD] to relieve Calhoun of this position.” Wow. Not exactly going out with a whimper. Mr. Oriakhi may want to wait for his son to pick a school before ripping into the Huskies’ legend, as Connecticut could ultimately make his son’s transfer much more difficult.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Elite Eight Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 25th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#1 Kentucky vs. #3 Baylor – South Regional Final (at Atlanta, GA) – 2:20 PM ET on CBS

Despite there being four double digit seeds advancing to the third round, two of the teams many predicted to reach the South Region Final will meet on Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome: Kentucky and Baylor. Kentucky has been nothing short of impressive and, at times, downright jaw dropping to watch; their speed, athleticism, length, and sheer ability cannot be matched—or can it? The Baylor Bears will look to pull off the upset and ruin millions of brackets across the nation in the process. After watching both teams compete on Friday evening, Kentucky demonstrated why they are the top team in the land, but it would be foolish for one to believe that they are invincible and Baylor doesn’t have the horses to knock off the Wildcats. The individual matchup that seemingly everyone is focusing on is in the frontcourt between Anthony Davis and Perry Jones III; both move like an athletic two guard, but have the imposing presence of a seven footer with an endless wingspan. But, let’s not forget about Terrence Jones and Quincy Acy, both dominant players in their own right. As we have seen throughout the tournament, especially lately, officiating crews seem to have quick whistles. Against Indiana, Davis picked up two quick fouls and sat for the remainder of the first half; it was an obvious, yet brilliant move by Tom Crean to get Davis on the bench. Expect Scott Drew to employ a similar tactic; he would be foolish not to dump the ball inside on Baylor’s early possessions in an effort to get Davis and Jones to the bench. When you have forwards running like guards, and guards running like track stars, expect this game to be played at a frantic pace. As has been the case throughout the year, when a rebound is corralled by either Kentucky or Baylor, there are instantaneously four players filling the lanes down the floor, and it doesn’t take long for the ball to move from one basket to the other. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague are two of the best in the game in pushing the ball in transition. While the offensive proficiency of both teams will, no doubt, be the focal point of the game, the team that strings together a series of critical defensive stops will ultimately be the team that wins. Kentucky’s three point defense has been exceptional all season—a good thing since Baylor is a strong outside shooting team—while their interior defense is the best in college basketball bar none. The Bears will give Kentucky a run for their money, but the Cats and Calipari prevail in the end and march on to New Orleans.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Friday

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#3 Baylor vs. #10 Xavier – South Regional Semifinal (at Atlanta, GA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Baylor was supposed to be here, Xavier was not. That is the beauty of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament though: play it out on the floor. One can review all the matchups, crunch the numbers, and look at past tournament history, but sometimes simply getting hot at the right time is a more important factor than anything else. The Xavier Musketeers, an up-and-down team all year following the brawl against Cincinnati back in December, are peaking at just the right time. After a 21 game stretch in the middle of the year that saw Xavier go 10-11, they rebounded by winning five of six; the melee seems like a thing of the distant past right now. What teams should now begin to take notice of: Tu Holloway is back to playing at the level of an All-American. Not to mention, Kenny Frease is looking like one of the most dominant big men in the country after dismantling the Lehigh front line last Sunday. Despite all of this, Baylor is a downright scary team to be playing this weekend, especially with the shooting prowess of Brady Heslip who is a combined 14-22 from downtown. Xavier’s three-point defense is one of the best in the nation as they allow opponents to shoot just 30% from the outside, but can they contain the hot shooting Heslip and the steady Pierre Jackson? Consequently, if Heslip and Jackson are not connecting from distance, the onus will be on Perry Jones III. The Jones-Frease matchup down low is one to keep an eye on, and if we are to take any stock in the first two games, Frease is the one playing better of the two as Jones has combined to score just nine points on 4-14 shooting against South Dakota State and Colorado. A streaky scorer throughout the year, Jones has scored in single digits nine times and double digits 19 times; the Bears will need the latter of Jones’ scoring efforts to keep Xavier honest on defense. Baylor’s only losses this year have come against Big 12 opponents, and I expect this trend to continue as the Bears hold off Holloway and the Musketeers.

The RTC Certified Pick: Baylor

#1 North Carolina vs. #13 Ohio – Midwest Region Semifinals (at St. Louis, MO) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

The storylines leading up to this game have been completely taken over by Kendall Marshall’s “wrist watch”, but once the ball tips off on Friday night and Marshall is presumably unable to play, then we can finally focus on the matchups in-game. Of course, Marshall’s expected absence will then be the main factor to watch in the game. How will North Carolina distribute minutes at the point guard position against the harassing perimeter defense of D.J. Cooper? Expect Roy Williams to explore several different options, including seldom-used reserves Stilman White and Justin Watts. Both White and Watts average under seven minutes per game and were never expected to be significant factors for the team, but they are the only players with experience at the lead guard spot. But since neither guy is likely to make much of an impact offensively, UNC also could experiment by placing Harrison Barnes at the position in a point-forward role. Barnes has the size to see over any defenders but has never been asked to run an offense. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, two primary wing shooters, could help Barnes bring the ball up in a point guard by-committee approach, as well.

Regardless, as long as the point guard replacements or by-committee members don’t turn the ball over at an alarming rate, then Carolina should still have the advantage in this game on both ends because of its tremendous forwards. Ohio’s regular rotation only includes two bangers in the post in Reggie Keely and Jon Smith, and while Keely is a solid post defender with bulk at 265 pounds, neither of those players is taller than 6’8”. It will be an adventure trying to defend the most talented front line in the country. Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and James Michael McAdoo should have a field day in the paint, and the lack of a point guard means that every UNC possession should include an early paint touch. Expect big numbers from this trio. But if Ohio is somehow able to key on the UNC bigs and stop the domination in the paint, then the Bobcats can pull another upset by gaining an advantage on the perimeter. Nick Kellogg and Walter Offutt must hit a high percentage of shots from the outside and D.J. Cooper will need another breakout performance to carry this team. It just seems unlikely that Ohio has enough firepower to hang with Carolina’s athletes on the interior. With or without Marshall, roll with North Carolina in this one.

The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina

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Set Your TiVo: 02.15.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 15th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s a national affair tonight, as two big games take place about 3,000 miles away, from Miami to San Diego. You’ll get to watch the Tar Heels play on the road against a hungry opponent and two of the top Mountain West teams line up looking to continue the streak of great games taking place in that conference race. Here’s the breakdown:

#7 North Carolina at Miami- 8:00 PM ET on ESPN (****)

Tyler Zeller is Running Full Speed Ahead as ACC Player of the Week Heading into Tonight (AP Photo/G. Broome)

  • If it wasn’t for the final four-minute collapse against Duke last week, this Tar Heels team would be rolling right now and in position to shoot for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a strong finish. Instead, they dropped that game at home and need to build momentum back up, as well as their overall profile. Many mock brackets have Carolina on the 3-line this week. A road win here at surging Miami will not be easy, but the Tar Heels should be able to get it done if they stick to their guns offensively. Both teams have big front lines that will match up one-on-one, but UNC has the better playmakers. Tyler Zeller has been awesome lately and should be able to use his agility against the thicker Reggie Johnson inside. If he draws Kenny Kadji, he will look to use his experienced post moves against the jumpy shot-blocker. Carolina has the size advantage on the wings and will need Reggie Bullock to step up offensively to take advantage. Harrison Barnes will be monitored closely by the U’s top wing defender Durand Scott, so watch how aggressive Barnes chooses to be. Defensively, UNC needs to stay out of foul trouble against an aggressive though not very efficient Miami attack.
  • A win tonight would all but lock up Miami’s status as an at-large entry to the NCAA Tournament, as they have a questionable overall profile but are certainly on the rise. To get this win, the Hurricanes need to play strong on the defensive end. They have the athletes in Kenny Kadji (1.8 BPG), Reggie Johnson (1.1 BPG), and Durand Scott (6’5” guard, 1.1 SPG) to make plays on that end. Freshman guard Shane Larkin averages 1.8 steals per night and will look to bother Kendall Marshall on the perimeter all night. On their own end, Miami has a balanced attack but must use better shot selection. They have four players in double-digit scoring but rank just sixth in the conference in offensive efficiency and seventh in field goal percentage. Making shots is their ticket to a serious shot at victory tonight.
  • UNC is a five-point favorite tonight, but Miami has the goods to take this upset if they can make shots on their home floor. A rocking crowd tonight would be a huge boost. I think Carolina presents too many problems on both ends of the floor and will walk away with a win tonight, though it should be tight.
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Night Line: Instant Classic a Result of Duke’s Late-Game Execution, UNC’s Lack of It

Posted by EJacoby on February 9th, 2012

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

Austin Rivers’ three-ball went down for Duke at the buzzer, and Mike Krzyzewski’s team walked away with a stunning road victory in Chapel Hill on Wednesday night. This 85-84 Blue Devils win will always be remembered for the freshman guard’s late-game heroics, but there were plenty of other factors that played into the result. By now, I assume everyone has seen the shot, which will undoubtedly go down as one of the all-time great moments in the 92-year history of the Tobacco Road rivalry. But it cannot be forgotten that this game was actually not a back-and-forth classic between the two teams. North Carolina led the entire second half, including a nine-point advantage at the under-four minute timeout, and gave the game away by failing to make any winning plays down the stretch. Meanwhile, Duke was clinical from the outside and knocked down clutch shot after clutch shot, capped off by the game-winning shot by Rivers as time expired. All that was left from there was a completely silenced Dean Smith Center, an elated Blue Devils sideline, and a moment that will be replayed hundreds of times this season.

Austin Rivers is About to Silence a Crowd of Thousands in this Game-Winning Shot for Duke (Getty Images)

If you want to know why North Carolina blew an 11-point lead at home with 4:09 to play, the answer certainly begins with the clutch play of Duke’s Rivers. But it doesn’t end there. He had a career-high 29 points on 6-10 shooting from three, but one man cannot be solely responsible for erasing a double-figure lead in four minutes. Instead, look at the home team’s attempts to close out the game and what they did wrong, which includes three missed free throws, three offensive rebounds allowed, two turnovers, and a total of one field-goal attempted in the final four-plus minutes. Leading 79-68, UNC allowed Duke to score after a missed three with a second-chance putback. Then came the barrage of mistakes, which were incurred on offense by way of clanked free throws and lost-ball turnovers. On the other end, Duke was 6-8 from the field to close out the game with three huge three-pointers and three other deep jumpers.

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