Morning Five: 12.27.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 27th, 2013

morning5

  1. After some initial uncertainty regarding the status of Cameron Biedscheid, Notre Dame granted Biedschied permission to transfer. As we noted earlier this week, it has been a rough week for the Irish who lost Jerian Grant to an academic issue over the weekend. Biedscheid, who took a redshirt just before the season started, was a top-30 recruit coming into school, but did not have a particularly impressive freshman season. News of Biedscheid’s intention to transfer leaked over the weekend, but then questions arose as to when and whether Notre Dame would grant the transfer request.
  2. Some might consider it a little early to start debating the best conference in the country, but in some ways it might be the second best time to judge conferences since the remainder of the regular season will essentially be conference match-ups (the best time being after the season). As such, Matt Norlander’s analysis of the top conferences in the country using the RPI and KenPom rankings is somewhat instructive. Most of the findings are not too surprising for those of us that follow the sport regularly, but it is interesting to see just how bad some conferences have been (like the Mountain West and SEC) and how disappointing some other ones have been (ACC).
  3. With Saturday’s massive intrastate match-up between Louisville and Kentucky looming, Sporting News took a look at the top 10 players from Rick Pitino and John Calipari (fair warning: they are both slideshows). Given their well-traveled coaching paths neither list is composed exclusively of Louisville and Kentucky players, but it is interesting although not surprising to see how heavily weighted Pitino’s list is towards Kentucky. Having said that it will be interesting to see how Pitino’s legacy in particular is defined in terms of his team association when he hangs it up. Given the arc of his career we suspect he will be someone like Larry Brown without a firm affiliation to one school.
  4. When we saw the headline that Reggie Johnson was transferring from Miami we were initially very confused. It turns out that it was not about the rather large former center for the Hurricanes. Instead it was referring to the 6’1″ sophomore guard from Miami (Ohio). This Reggie Johnson is the second-leading scorer for his team at 11.8 points per game and states that he is looking for “great chemistry, a winning program, a place where I can excel and reach my full potential and of course a great education.” Although the other Reggie Johnson was probably a more desirable target this one should have a fair number of suitors with nearly two and a half years of eligibility remaining.
  5. We have spent a fair amount of time on Twitter criticizing the breaks that teams (particularly professional ones) get from the government. It should not come as a surprise that other organizations get these benefits too, but the size of the benefits–particularly for a company like ESPN–may surprise you. According to The New York Times, ESPN has received almost $260 million in state tax breaks and credits over the past 12 years. We won’t get into the economic or political discussions regarding the reasoning behind this decision or the implications it has on the state government and economy, but we suspect that it might become a big debate whenever the next economic crisis hits Connecticut.
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The ACC’s Soft Middle Tier: Time to Panic Yet?

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 14th, 2013

We are less than one week into the start of the 2013-14 college basketball season and the median of the ACC is nearing panic mode. Maybe not quite yet, but things certainly could have started better for the NCAA’s mightiest conference. To date, N.C. State has lost to Cincinnati by 11, Virginia lost to in-state rival VCU (displaying the power shift between traditional Virginia basketball schools), Miami barely squeaked by Georgia Southern in overtime and posted an inexcusable overtime loss to St. Francis (NY), and Boston College suffered an opening defeat to Providence and followed that up with a 13-point shellacking at the hands of a game Massachusetts squad. What does this all mean for the ‘almighty’ ACC as the nation’s premier basketball conference? Does this, for one, quiet the whispers of the ACC as the greatest basketball conference of all-time?

Boston College

BC has little to celebrate after an 0-2 start (Michael Ivins/US Presswire)

A lot of a conference’s overall reputation and greatness has to be attributed to its depth and the overall quality of teams across the board. Now VCU happens to be a top-25 team that has largely surpassed the Virginia basketball program of late under Shaka Smart, but a team that has ACC title aspirations and is laden with senior leaders needs to win games versus A-10 programs, especially if it doesn’t wish to find itself on the bubble again. N.C. State is in what most people consider a rebuilding year under Mark Gottfried, but Cincinnati is not a powerhouse and the middle of the league must prove formidable for the ACC to solidify its place in history. Last Friday night, Maryland lost to a top-25 Connecticut team boasting one of the best backcourts in the nation by only a single point, but the Terps walked away with a close loss rather than gloating about a big win on their non-conference résumé. Miami wasn’t expected to have a great year after losing Kenny Kadji, Shane Larkin, Reggie Johnson, Durand Scott and the rest of its roster from last season, but losing to a NEC foe is a humbling step backward, to say the least.

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The ACC in the NCAAs: Previewing Marquette vs. Miami

Posted by KCarpenter on March 28th, 2013

It wasn’t always easy for Miami to get to this year’s Sweet Sixteen, but it was certainly never easy for Marquette to make the same journey. Ultra-tight games and impressive comebacks highlighted the Golden Eagles’ close wins over Davidson and Butler, while Miami romped over Pacific and held on against Illinois. Say what you will about Buzz Williams‘ team, but improbably this team has figured out how to handle the big gut-check moments. During the regular season, Marquette played four overtime games and won three of them. I’m honestly uncertain if “clutchness” is a real phenomenon, but the Golden Eagles give my doubts doubts.

Larranaga and Larkin Intend to Take the Hurricanes to the School's First Final Four

Larranaga and Larkin Intend to Take the Hurricanes to the School’s First Final Four

Big news came for Miami when it was announced that Reggie Johnson would not be traveling with the team for tonight’s match-up, but it’s unclear just how significant this news actually is. Johnson missed a huge chunk of the season with an injury and was out of shape and often ineffectual when he finally returned to the court. Against the smallish Golden Eagles, how much would the lumbering Johnson actually have played anyway? In Miami’s statement game in the ACC championship against small ball North Carolina, the center played all of three minutes. His time instead went to Rion Brown and Julian Gamble,  a pair of players who supercharge the Hurricanes’ offense and defense. It feels unlikely that Johnson would have (or should have) played all that much against Marquette. It’s not that this news doesn’t have a big impact on Miami’s title chances, but for the purposes of this match-up, it doesn’t feel particularly significant for those who have watched this team closely.

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ACC M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 27th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Sports Illustrated: The absolute must-read of the day comes courtesy of Luke Winn, who got pretty awesome access to follow Miami around before its games against Pacific and Illinois. My personal takeaways were that Jim Larranaga seems like a really fun guy to play for and that this team fits his coaching personality very well. It’s also not surprising at all that Julian Gamble led the team’s postgame celebratory freestyle.
  2. CBSSports.com: Gary Parrish absolutely kills it in this response to Ron Wellman‘s backing of Jeff Bzdelik yesterday. Kills it. Bzdelik is losing the Wake Forest fan base at an accelerating rate. Wellman is out pretty far out on this limb and while I understand not wanting to go back on his word (even if he won’t tell anyone exactly what that was), he has to balance that pride with Wake Forest’s present situation. I think Bzdelik is better than his record, maybe even a lot better. He’s also got a great group of players on his team. But that can’t excuse his sorry performances — both in the loss column or the public relations department. And his lack of (tangible) success at Colorado doesn’t help calm the critics. Unfortunately, Bzdelik is a coach who leaves a program better than he found it and is trending upwards but hasn’t shown the ability to achieve at the highest level. It’s a tough place to be.
  3. CBSSports.com: According to most of the national media, Chris Collins is the “heavy favorite” to land the Northwestern job after interviewing with the school on Monday. The announcement may come before or around the time this article gets posted. Duke alumni are doing well in the job market right now, as Bobby Hurley was just hired to coach Buffalo and Jeff Capel reportedly has received interest from at least two schools. Assuming at least one leaves, expect Nate James to resume his old position as a Duke assistant coach.
  4. Miami Herald: Unfortunately not all of today’s Miami news could be freestyles and celebratory dances. Reggie Johnson – apparently requiring knee surgery — won’t make the trip with the team to the Sweet Sixteen. While Johnson has played a much smaller role this year, the Hurricanes have struggled with foul trouble at times throughout the season. He was an extra body, good for a ton of rebounds and a couple of points every game. Now Julian Gamble, Kenny Kadji and Tonye Jekiri will have to find a way to replace Johnson’s productivity. Gamble sounded hopeful to get Johnson back in time for the Final Four.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: While neither have officially announced, reports came out yesterday that CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown are planning to head for the NBA (though Brown’s mother denied the rumors and Leslie vaguely denied them on his Twitter account). Their departures wouldn’t be surprising, but another name is starting to show up on numerous draft radars: TJ Warren. Warren’s loss would be a huge blow to NC State next season, but his great freshman campaign makes him a likely first round pick. IF this report is true, I’d expect all three to turn pro in a heartbeat.
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Selection Sunday Unkind to ACC Elite

Posted by mpatton on March 19th, 2013

After clinching the ACC Tournament title with three straight double-digit wins, Miami was riding high. The media present in Greensboro — including myself — were riding a similar high after watching one of the best offensive basketball games of the year. It felt like a slap in the face to watch as the seeds were announced and the Hurricanes weren’t rewarded for their efforts with a #1 seed. It was the first time in history that the consensus ACC champion failed to earn a spot on top of a region.

Miami's Eye Test couldn't overcome its losses Selection Sunday. (Photo: Robert Mayer / USA TODAY Sports)

Miami’s Eye Test couldn’t overcome its losses Selection Sunday. (Photo: Robert Mayer / USA TODAY Sports)

In Miami’s case, admittedly, a #1 seed was an uphill battle thanks to several bad losses in the non-conference and down the stretch in ACC play. First there was Miami’s game (without suspended Durand Scott) at Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles are dancing this week, but only because of the Atlantic Sun’s automatic bid. Then Miami lost neutral-site games to Arizona and Indiana State when the team was very banged up. After the win Sunday, Jim Larranaga documented the injuries plaguing his team in Hawaii: “Trey McKinney-Jones was in the hospital with a 105-degree temperature, Durand Scott‘s back tightened up on the trip — he couldn’t bend over, Shane Larkin tweaked his ankle, and Reggie Johnson broke his thumb.”

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Miami Hurricanes Make ACC History, Sweep Championships

Posted by mpatton on March 17th, 2013

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from the ACC Tournament championship game between North Carolina and Miami in Greensboro this afternoon.

An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the regular season title outright eight times since 1954 (most recently, Maryland won it in 2002). An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the ACC Tournament 10 times since 1954 (most recently, Florida State won it last year). Miami is the first team to ever do both in the same year. An unbalanced conference schedule has cheapened the regular season title in recent years, but that’s shouldn’t throw any shade on what the Hurricanes accomplished this year. The Miami win along with Florida State’s ACC Championship last season marks the second time in the league’s history that consecutive ACC Tournaments were won by schools outside of North Carolina (the 1984 and 1985 tournaments were won by Maryland and Georgia Tech, respectively).

Miami, your 2013 ACC Tournament champions. (photo: HurricaneSports.com)

Miami, your 2013 ACC Tournament champions. (photo: HurricaneSports.com)

And the Hurricanes won their final two games in front of very hostile crowds. They won because of tremendous coaching from Jim Larranaga – whose lineup changes proved instrumental in games against North Carolina and Boston College. They won because Shane Larkin was the best player in an ACC Tournament full of outstanding performances (Olivier Hanlan, Durand Scott and Dez Wells all went for over 30 points in a game). They won because experience doesn’t get rattled. In short, they won because they were the best team on the floor.

Miami made history in Greensboro. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Miami made history in Greensboro. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Against North Carolina, Miami found itself in a different position than usual. The Tar Heels and their new and improved smaller lineup came out firing. With just over 10 minutes to go in the first half, North Carolina led, 18-13. Miami proceeded to score on its next nine possessions and 13 of 16 of the final possessions of the half (over that time they missed three shots). North Carolina only scored on eight of 15 possessions, but PJ Hairston hit four threes and Marcus Paige added another to keep the game within a possession at the half. It was the best overall 10-minute offensive stretch I’ve seen this year. Both teams moved the ball to find open shots and both teams knocked down nearly every shot available. At one point the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.19.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 19th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are in the final stretch before conference tournaments tip off and there are several key match-ups this week that will help to determine not only postseason seeds but regular season titles. Let’s not waste any time and get to the breakdowns!

Indiana at Michigan State – 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (*****)

Tom Izzo's teams get the job done in March

How does Tom Izzo stop Indiana’s Victor Olidipo from lighting up the Spartans again?

  • It doesn’t get any bigger than this game this week, as the Hoosiers and the Spartans battle for sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. Michigan State faces a gauntlet of games as it goes up against Indiana at home, Ohio State and Michigan on the road, and then back home against Wisconsin. It is highly unlikely that they will get through the next four unscathed, so this first game at home is crucial if they want to win a regular season Big Ten crown. In the teams’ previous game this season, IU defeated MSU 75-70 in Bloomington. Tom Izzo’s squad turned the ball over too many times, couldn’t hit their two-point shots, and didn’t get to the free throw line enough. Since then, the Spartans have won five straight and are looking better and better each game. They are being led by point guard Keith Appling. Appling is averaging 16.4 points per game in their current five-game winning streak, since going 1-of-4 with three points in the loss to IU. Appling will once again be a key factor as the Spartans will need his scoring and play-making abilities. Izzo will also need his defense to figure out a way to stop Indiana’s Victor Olidipo. Olidipo torched the Spartans last time out for 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. If Indiana is allowed to go 19-of-32 again from inside the paint, Michigan State will struggle to find a way to win. The Spartans need a better defensive effort on the interior and better rebounding if they are going to overtake the Hoosiers for the Big Ten lead.

  Virginia at Miami (FL) – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPNU (****)

  • While Miami remains undefeated in the ACC and is aiming for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tourney, they face two tough tests the remainder of the season against Virginia at home and against Duke on the road. The Cavaliers have been anything but road warriors in the ACC (2-4), but they present a tough match-up because of their ability to shoot the ball, especially from three. Keep a close on Virginia’s Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. If they are to knock off the Hurricanes, these two players must have very big games. If UVA is still without 6’11” Mike Tobey (mononucleosis), scoring on the interior will be tough against Miami’s 6’11” Kenny Kadji and 6’10” Reggie Johnson. The three-point shot is a significant part of the Cavaliers’ offense, so pay close attention to their effort early from beyond the arc. If they can stay in the game with some made threes, they will have a shot to win it in the end. However, the Hurricanes play lockdown perimeter defense too. This is a tall task for the Cavaliers, but it will still be an interesting match-up nonetheless.

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Lessons Learned: ACC Weekend Wrap-Up

Posted by KCarpenter on February 18th, 2013

It was a good weekend for basketball fans in the ACC though fans of individual teams may be feeling more ambivalent. Of the six games this weekend, all but one of them had a final margin of four points or less. In fact, if North Carolina State hadn’t managed a four-point overtime win, all but one of the games this weekend would have had a final score where the outcome was within one possession.  Even the single game that wasn’t close had its own fascinating subplot and March ramifications. It was a good weekend for close games, but did we learn anything?

  1. Duke Is Fouling Too Much. On the season, Duke has been fouling opponents at a nice and low rate, posting and opponent free throw attempted to field goal attempted ratio of 30.5%. In conference, however, Duke has jumped in this metric to 36.4%. Amazingly, like many of Duke’s problems, this rise can probably be accredited to the injury of Ryan Kelly. Kelly’s replacements foul at a very high rate while still allowing a conference-worst 49.5% shooting from inside the arc. Physical defense that prevents easy buckets can sometimes be used to excuse high fouling rates, but Duke’s interior is offering up the worst of both worlds. On Saturday, Duke forced 26 turnovers against Maryland and shot nearly 50% and the Terrapins still won.
  2. Marcus Georges-Hunt Belongs On The ACC All-Freshmen Team. There are probably three sure-fire picks on the ACC All-Freshman Team: TJ Warren, Olivier Hanlan, and Rasheed Sulaimon. Those three have all proven to be valuable contributors to their respective teams. With apologies to Daniel Miller, Georges-Hunt often looks like the best player on his Georgia Tech team. Against Wake Forest,  Georges-Hunt scored a game-high 16 points including many critical buckets down the stretch to lead the Yellow Jackets to victory. With the exception of Hanlan, few freshmen are as critical to their team’s success as he is to Georgia Tech. Read the rest of this entry »
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IX

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 11th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. my friend’s text response to my joking suggestion that Dickie V might not survive five overtimes at his age during the Louisville-Notre Dame game Saturday night: “At one point in the third OT he said on air, ‘Dan I gotta go to the bathroom. Seriously I’m not kidding,’ and then he was gone from the broadcast for like five minutes.” Priceless.

I LOVED…. Indiana going from an are-you-kidding-me loss to Illinois, complete with a late-game collapse and unforgivable defensive sequence on the buzzer-beater, to looking like a can’t-miss Final Four team by completely dominating Ohio State on the road.  Of course, what good college team hasn’t pulled this Jekyll and Hyde routine at least once this season? If Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are on their A-game, though, this Hoosiers team is awfully tough to beat.

I LOVED…. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s stroke. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone pure so many consecutive threes as he did against Ohio State on Tuesday. As LeBron pointed out in a tweet, it’s pretty because the form is so consistent each time he rises up. His clutch marksmanship should have gotten the Wolverines a win at Wisconsin on Saturday, and it could be part of some fun nail-biters in March, too.

Tim-hardaway-jr_display_image

Tim Hardaway’s Stroke is Picture Perfect

I LOVED…. the cat-and-mouse ending to the Kansas-Oklahoma game. Bill Self made the absolute right call switching to the triangle-and-two defense, which got the Jayhawks back into the game in the final minutes. He dared the Sooners to beat them from the perimeter, and they did just that by knocking down multiple three-balls in the closing minutes. Perfect strategy shift, but better response.

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ACC M5: 02.04.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 4th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Duke Basketball Report: This is a phenomenal article from Al Featherston, looking back at Duke winning number 1,000 nearly four decades ago. The article also includes two of the biggest ACC “What ifs?” ever:
    1. What if Lefty Driesell was given the Duke job?
    2. What if Adolph Rupp had taken over for Duke in the mid-1970’s?

    The first question is fascinating. Driesell built Maryland, but Duke already had a history of success (only five teams beat the Blue Devils to the 1,000 win mark). Could he have taken the Blue Devils to similar heights (and lows)? Just how different would Duke’s program be today if the (aptly described) “mercurial” Driesell ushered in the modern era instead of Coach K. Also, what would have happened to Mike Krzyzewski? Similar butterfly effects happen if Rupp takes over. The article also has historical anecdotes about the dominance of the Durham YMCA in the 1920’s. Seriously, give it a read.

  2. ESPN: Well, the inevitable has arrived. Despite not receiving bids from Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center in New York City, “because of the league’s changing membership,” those two arenas will still be in the running for the 2016-2021 ACC Tournaments. The move makes sense, but it has the potential to be a major flop too. The atmosphere at the ACC Tournament the past few years hasn’t been the same. The declining excitement is largely thanks to an increase in noncompetitive teams, the addition of Thursday and an expanding geographic footprint. Moving the tournament to New York could exacerbate the issues if the league continues to aim for a balanced allotment of tickets.
  3. ACC Sports Journal: The ACC is slowly rebuilding. Almost all programs appear to be moving in the right direction, though there are still plenty of questions surrounding almost all of the new coaches: Can Jim Larranaga and Steve Donahue recruit at the ACC level consistently? Can Brian Gregory and Brad Brownell break through to the next level? And can Jeff Bzdelik and Donahue pull their teams out of the cellar? The next couple of seasons are critical to the success of the ACC going forward because coaching stability is a huge factor in sustained success.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: NC State took a gut-punch against Miami without junior guard Lorenzo Brown. The Wolfpack controlled for most of the game, but a late Miami run and some costly errors from CJ Leslie (missed foul shots, turnovers, and dumb fouls) gave the Hurricanes the chance to win. But two stories more important than Reggie Johnson‘s buzzer-beating tip are starting to show through the game. For one, Miami is a solid two games ahead of Duke in the loss column (everyone else has three or more losses). That’s a very, very good place to be going into the second half of conference play. Second, Tyler Lewis finally started showing why he was a McDonald’s All-American. Lewis ran NC State’s offense very well against the best defense in the ACC, and he didn’t look nearly as lost on defense. He still needs some work, but developing Lewis is crucial in the long run.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Tech was a different team Sunday than the one that got smacked in Charlottesville (to be fair the home-road splits are looking fairly dramatic for Virginia too). The Yellow Jackets looked like they might be due for a repeat of their last game with the Cavaliers as they went into the half down by nine. Brian Gregory said after the loss that his team needed to learn how to finish. Well, the second time around they did just that. Georgia Tech held Virginia to six points in the final 9:40 of the game. The Yellow Jackets were the first ACC team to drop 60 on Virginia. Good luck ranking the middle and bottom of the ACC this season. It’s a train-wreck, though it’s a train-wreck played at a higher level than last year.
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 1st, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The biggest game of the season thus far is upon us, as the top two teams in the Big Ten collide in what could be an epic battle of offensive efficiency. There are some important match-ups in the other conferences as well that should keep your Super Bowl weekend packed with great sports. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#1 Michigan at #4 Indiana – 6:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Darius Morris may be gone, but Tim Hardaway Jr. is primed for big things in 2011-12. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s defense could be the key to a Michigan win. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

  • Michigan versus Indiana should be one of the best offensive duels we see in college hoops this season. Both teams have scoring options all over the floor, shoot the lights out from two and three, and have proven to be incredibly efficient all season long. There is very little that separates these two teams on paper. One factor that could play huge role even before the game starts is the availability of Michigan forward Jordan Morgan. Morgan rolled his ankle early in the game against Illinois and sat out against Northwestern on Wednesday. Morgan gives the Wolverines another sneaky offensive threat and size on the inside. He is a key player on the defensive glass, which will be very important for the Wolverines. If Indiana gets too many second chance points, it will be a long night for John Beilein and company. You will also want to keep an eye on the potential match-up between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Victor Oladipo. Oladipo is clearly the Hoosiers most valuable player at this point and is filling up the stat sheet recently. Michigan must find a way to lock down Oladipo. Additionally for Michigan, keep an eye on Jon Horford. Horford has been very solid in the last two games making up for the loss of Morgan. The Wolverines will need Horford to be at the top of his game, if they want to win. Finally, keep a close eye on Michigan’s demeanor early in the game. If you recall, the Wolverines came out rattled and uninspired against Ohio State on the road. Early mistakes put them behind big. If that happens in Bloomington, it’s unlikely Michigan can bounce back against an offense as good as Indiana’s. If Indiana gets off to a fast start, you won’t see the Wolverines panic.  However, if the fast start is due to mistakes and uninspired play, it’s curtains. While the offenses will be at center stage in this game, the winner will be the team that plays better defense. Watch perimeter defense closely as both teams are excellent from distance. Whoever is able to defend the perimeter better will win the game.

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ACC M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 30th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Basketball Prospectus: So how good has Miami been? So far this season, the Hurricanes are an average 0.21 points per possession (PPP) better than their conference opponents (the Duke game helped a lot on this front). For those of you not mathematically inclined, that’s equivalent to a point lead in every five possessions.  That’s the third best mark for a power-conference team behind Florida’s gaudy 0.43 (which will come down) and Michigan’s 0.24 PPP. Miami has the best defense in the league by a decent margin to go with a serviceable offense. The Hurricanes’ secret? Insanely good field goal percentage numbers and good rebounding.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: It’s pretty obvious Duke is a different team without Ryan Kelly, but his injury may have some positive side effects. For one, Amile Jefferson is really starting to develop, which probably wouldn’t have happened until next season without the recent extra playing time. Also Duke is changing its offense, namely running more set plays to get people open. Both should prove very useful when Kelly returns. Duke would be able to throw very different offensive looks at opponents and won’t have to settle for Josh Hairston’s limited offensive repertoire (though don’t look for his minutes to disappear completely).
  3. Fayetteville Observer: For pretty much everyone but Miami, the road has been tough on ACC teams. Take out the Hurricanes and the league is 8-30 in road games (with Duke still searching for its first win). Duke‘s biggest issue is that it played its hardest two road games first. I don’t agree that it’s an experience thing, unless Coach K means experience playing without Ryan Kelly. The Blue Devils don’t have Miami’s aggregate age across the lineup, but they do start two seniors and this mostly shows that the ACC is very competitive. There’s just not a lot separating the teams in the middle of the pack or even at the top of the league right now (discounting the Hurricanes, of course).
  4. NBC Sports: Virginia Tech’s Erick Green is shining this season, but unfortunately his teammates in Blacksburg aren’t. He’s leading the country in scoring right now, but Green isn’t a new Terrell Stoglin. He’s surrounded by competent but passive players who can’t seem to find the bottom of the net. Cadarian Raines and Jarrell Eddie, especially Eddie, should make a decent scoring backcourt. But Raines has only added half a point to his average from last season in a much bigger role, and Eddie can only do so much. Add in zero depth, and there’s good reason for Green to take as many shots as he does. For Virginia Tech to win, he needs his teammates to join the offensive cause. Green knows it and wants to win more than anything, but if his supporting cast keeps up its current pace, he’ll have to settle for scoring.
  5. Maryland Diamondback: It’s too bad Charles Mitchell will be leaving the ACC with the Terrapins because he’s incredible to watch. He’s a more in-shape Reggie Johnson with plenty of opportunity to condition himself next offseason. If there’s a shot missed, it’s a good bet Mitchell will come down with it. He combines a massive frame, good instincts and superb hustle to rack up boards like no one’s business. He also showed some pretty strong post moves against Duke. Assuming Mark Turgeon can convince him to stay around College Park for four years, Maryland has a real asset for the future in the post.
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