Make No Mistake, Miami is The Best Team in the ACC

Posted by KCarpenter on January 24th, 2013

It may be tempting to add caveats, but make no mistake: The Miami Hurricanes really are the best team in the ACC. Sure, they haven’t played North Carolina State yet and, yes, Ryan Kelly makes Duke a significantly better team. There is a strong chance that both of these teams could beat the Hurricanes when they face them on their home courts later this season. On the other hand, Miami took the number one team in the country and administered the third biggest thrashing that the highest-ranked team in the country has suffered in the history of college basketball. Kelly and home court are important factors, but does anyone think that those two things are honestly worth 27 points?  If so, I’d like to present you with this honorary plaque commemorating your dedication to the Ryan Kelly Fan Club.

Miami Fans RTC'd the Blue Devils After Last Night's Destruction (credit: WaPo)

Miami Fans RTC’d the Blue Devils After Last Night’s Destruction (credit: WaPo)

The caveats don’t stand up against scrutiny. Miami sits at the top of the standings without a single conference loss because of the Hurricanes’ incredible commitment to defense under Jim Larranaga. Outside of Rasheed Sulaimon, the entire complement of Duke’s normally excellent guard corps combined to shoot 1-of-29 from the field. This wasn’t just luck on Miami’s part (though it helped).  Before last night, Miami had the eighth best defensive efficiency mark in the country, achieved by consistently excellent interior defense, limiting three-point attempts, contesting the ones that were put up, and a deliberate and marked effort to avoid putting their opponents at the line. With this team, Larranaga has opted for a cautious and conservative style of play: Miami mostly eschews the offensive glass in order to set its defense and limit transition buckets. They don’t try to force turnovers by risking fouling. The defense gets set, chases shooters off the three-point line, and funnels the offense to shot blockers who force opponents to attempt contested mid-range buckets (the worst shot in basketball). The defensive concept is simple: Make your opponent take difficult shots and then focus (as a team) on securing the defensive rebound. It’s how the San Antonio Spurs won four NBA championships and Larranaga has demonstrated that these concepts work well in college basketball as well. The Miami Hurricanes simply play phenomenal team defense and that goes a long way towards winning games.

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Rushed Reactions: Miami 90, #2 Duke 63

Posted by nvr1983 on January 23rd, 2013

rushedreactions

RTC’s East Coast Boss was courtside for Miami’s dominating 90-63 win over #2 Duke on Wednesday night.

Five Key Takeaways.

  1. Before the season all of the talk in the ACC was about North Carolina State, but that quickly evaporated as we saw that their run last March was nothing more than a hot streak. Duke stepped in to fill the void as the dominant team in the ACC and appeared for a while to be the best team in the country, but with Ryan Kelly’s injury which we will get to in a bit, the door to win the ACC is wide open and Miami has stepped in. After tonight the Hurricanes are two games up in the ACC with only three truly challenging games remaining — at home against North Carolina and on the road at North Carolina and Duke. While they can certainly slip up in conference road games, they are successfully positioning themselves to be in contention for the ACC regular season title. I’m still not sure how good this Hurricane team is, but they have wins over a Duke and Michigan State at home and North Carolina on the road. All of those teams have their weaknesses, but Miami is looking like it could be a very dangerous team in March.

    Miami Fans Might Be Rushing The Court A Lot This Year

    Miami Fans Might Be Rushing The Court A Lot This Year

  2. Duke really needs Ryan Kelly to come back. I am not sure I can emphasize that enough. Kelly won’t win any Player of the Year awards and he might not even be First Team All-ACC, but the way this Duke team is constructed they might need his presence more than any other player on the team. Mason Plumlee is by far the best all-around player on the squad, but he lacks Kelly’s versatility, which is key when your bench is as short as Duke’s. Having said all of that, Duke needs to weather this stretch without Kelly which should theoretically be close to ending based on earlier reports from the school. Of course, that says nothing of how Kelly is actually healing. If he returns at 100% Duke should be fine, but their performances thus far following his injury demonstrates just how fragile this team is.
  3. Reggie Johnson could be an asset to Miami down the line, but he isn’t there yet. Before the game there had been rumors that Johnson might play tonight, but it wasn’t until just before tipoff that it was apparent that he would play (he was in the lay-up line without any protection on his broken left thumb). Johnson contributed in spots primarily with his girth filling space against a small Duke front line, but his impact was largely minimal (fill in your ground-shaking jokes). Johnson was only out of the lineup for about a month, but his conditioning looks horrible. He will never run up and down the court with the Cody Zellers of the college basketball world, but Jim Larranaga should have put Johnson on the treadmill for the past month. If Johnson can regain his previous form in the next few weeks, he could insert another dimension to this team although his return could affect the obvious chemistry the Hurricanes developed without him. Read the rest of this entry »
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Analyzing the Last Unbeaten in ACC League Play: Miami Hurricanes

Posted by EMann on January 19th, 2013

Not too many people would have expected Miami to be the last team in the ACC without a conference loss, sitting at 4-0 in league play at present, but that is indeed what has happened as we sit at just short of one-fourth of the way through league play. Ryan Kelly’s injury at Duke, North Carolina and Florida State’s disappointing play, and NC State acting in two straight games where the court was rushed (being on the winning side of one and the losing of another) have opened up this unlikely scenario. Is Miami’s run sustainable, especially considering that they are playing without big man Reggie Johnson?

Reggie Johnson

Miami has started off ACC play quite well without Johnson-is this more a product of a fairly soft schedule or has the team truly adjusted? (USA Today)

Miami has three losses overall, and absences were to blame for all of them; their stunning loss to Florida Gulf Coast in its second game of the season was without Durand Scott, who was suspended, and Johnson, of course, missed Miami’s losses to Arizona and Indiana State following his thumb injury. In conference play, Miami has defeated Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Boston College on the road, and Maryland at home.

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Lessons Learned: ACC Weekend Wrap-Up

Posted by KCarpenter on January 14th, 2013

We are now three games into conference play and after a tremendous weekend that saw some of the best teams squaring off, the number one team go down, and a session of overtime, the hierarchy of the conference is coming into focus. Or maybe it is getting more muddled. In any case, even if it is still not clear which teams (besides Duke) are actually good, we did learn some other things this weekend:

  1. Duke Isn’t Invincible. No one seriously thought this, but the occasional loose talk of the Blue Devils going undefeated turned out to be, unsurprisingly, a bit premature. Obviously, a road loss to North Carolina State with Duke’s most efficient scorer, Ryan Kelly, sitting on the bench is not bad. Still, it is hard to win games when your opponent shoots over 50% from the field, 50% from three, and makes 20 free throws. Duke’s defense has been solid this year on the whole, this was Duke’s first true road game, and the Wolfpack is one of the better offensive teams in the whole country, yet none of these excuses changes the fact that NC State handled the Blue Devils’ on the inside and Duke had no answer for Richard Howell.

    Duke Clearly Is Not The Same Team Without Ryan Kelly

  2. Miami Doesn’t Miss Reggie Johnson Yet. It seemed like the Hurricanes would miss the formidable big man after a two-game losing streak that not so coincidentally began when Johnson was injured. Since those two games, however, Miami has played very well, with veteran Julian Gamble filling Johnson’s shoes convincingly. The Hurricanes share a spot with the Wolfpack on top of the ACC standings, currently undefeated in conference play. Gamble’s production has looked great on the offensive end, and Miami’s defense has looked impressive. Still, the tempo-free percentages tell a story: Gamble just doesn’t match the rebounding prowess of Johnson. It hasn’t cost the Hurricanes yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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Miami Has Arrived: Two Conference Road Wins Show Hurricanes Experience

Posted by mpatton on January 11th, 2013

Miami is finally here. The past two years the Hurricanes’ roster was better on paper than it ever performed on the court. This year it looks like they’re finally reaching that potential, despite Reggie Johnson‘s current absence from the lineup with a broken thumb. The Hurricanes will also contend with NC State for the ACC runner-up slot come March. Their success isn’t thanks to a flashy offense, which you might expect from a team with Shane Larkin at the helm — rather, it’s thanks to their physical defense.

Durand Scott's toughness adds a lot to Miami's backcourt. (Photo: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

Durand Scott’s toughness adds a lot to Miami’s backcourt. (Photo: Robert Willett / Raleigh News & Observer)

This is the first year the team has been in the top 50 in defensive efficiency since 2009, and it’s making a big difference. Statistically, the secret is two-fold: The Hurricanes shut down the interior (opponents are only 41% from inside the arc this season), and they don’t commit fouls. Visually, their experience plays a big role. Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble are very good shot-blockers and their guards are athletic enough to stay in front of people. Experience combined with Jim Larranaga’s system allow the Hurricanes to play physically and avoid fouling. Offense is still a factor in Miami’s success. Miami runs Larkin or Durand Scott through at least one (often two) high ball screens per possession. Against North Carolina the Hurricanes’ offense looked bad most of the game. They shot too many threes, and there was no flow. After the game, Jim Larranaga made it sound like this was at least in part intentional: “When we play a team that pressures us and is going to be trapping the ball-handler, we share the ball and spread them out. And if you get an open three, you have the green light to shoot it.”

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Miami’s Reggie Johnson Out For 6-8 Weeks: What It Means For the Hurricanes

Posted by KCarpenter on December 31st, 2012

Confirming a story first reported by CBS Sports, the Miami has announced that senior center Reggie Johnson will miss the next six to eight weeks due to a broken left thumb. Johnson had missed the past two games against Arizona and Indiana State, games that the Hurricanes lost. Miami had seemed poised for a breakout year after reeling off seven straight wins subsequent to an early season stumble against Florida Gulf Coast, including a marquee win against Michigan State at home.  The loss of the dominant big man and the playing slump of Kenny Kadji have made the formidable Hurricanes front line seem very vulnerable indeed.

Johnson's Absence Puts Miami in a Precarious Situation

Johnson’s Absence Will Put Miami in a Precarious Situation

How badly will head coach Jim Larranaga miss Johnson? When he’s on the court, the 6’10” Johnson bullies opponents with his 290-pound body. He is a fantastic rebounder and one of the nation’s very best on the glass. With a 26.9% defensive rebounding rate, he leads the conference while also posting a respectable 13.6% on the offensive boards. On the defensive end, he is a capable shot blocker (fifth best in the conference by percentage) and an imposing presence beneath the rim. Despite all of this, however, Johnson will be missed the most on offense. When he is on the court, the center uses 28.7% of all of Miami’s possessions, a usage rate that is only surpassed by the one-man team of Erick Green at Virginia Tech. While Johnson has sometimes struggled with his shooting from the field this season, the area where he truly excels is getting to the free throw line. Outside of Mason Plumlee, no one in the conference gets to the stripe more than Johnson, who converts a very respectable 71.4% of his free throw attempts.  Miami has numerous effective scorers, but the loss of Johnson really hurts.

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ACC M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 31st, 2012

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: After the Martin Report investigating North Carolina was released, it raised numerous more questions than answers. It also reflects several inconsistencies that point to one of three things: (1) people lied to Jim Martin, (2) people lied to N&O reporter Dan Kane, or (3) there was a serious lack of depth to the report that failed to check those assertions. Kane went through the committee minutes and didn’t find evidence of “red flags being raised” and confirmed that with a member of the committee himself. He also points out some (damning but circumstantial) anecdotal evidence as a counterexample to the Martin Report’s assertion that this isn’t an athletic scandal. Don’t think we’ve seen the last of this.
  2. Winston-Salem Journal: Wake Forest’s Devin Thomas comes from a basketball family. His mom and dad both played in college, and two years ago his sister was the ACC Rookie of the Year. He’s still very raw — especially on the offensive end — but he’s extremely aggressive, a solid rebounder and already a good shot-blocker. If Thomas can cut down on his turnovers and hit some more shots, he’ll be a very good player for Jeff Bzdelik in time.
  3. Baltimore Sun: It’s pretty generous to say Maryland‘s non-conference schedule was “too soft.” Right now the Terrapins’ strength of schedule is a below average #265 out of 347, according to the still evolving RPI. According to Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin the slate rates an even more pathetic #341 and #343, respectively. Outside of the Terps’ opening game against Kentucky, there’s been no substance to speak of.  Next up: IUPUI. Then conference play. Needless to say, it’s hard to know exactly where the Terrapins stand going into ACC play, but the league really needs Mark Turgeon’s team to be good this season.
  4. Macon Ledger-Inquirer: Speaking of schedules best described as a “parade of pre-ACC pretenders,” Georgia Tech is also wrapping up its non-conference schedule against the terrifying Chattanooga Mocs (which is short for “mockingbirds” if you were curious). Georgia Tech’s cupcake schedule makes a lot more sense than Maryland’s, though, for one reason — this truly is a rebuilding year in Atlanta. The NIT is a more reasonable goal for the Yellow Jackets than the NCAA Tournament, so the non-conference schedule is more of a confidence builder and tune-up than a resume. That said, as the last two articles illustrate, ACC play could be a real wake-up call for a lot of teams.
  5. USA Today: Bad news out of Coral Gables, as Reggie Johnson will yet again miss a significant portion (six to eight weeks) of the season with an injury. This time it’s a left thumb fracture that has already caused Johnson to miss the past two games. The really unfortunate part about the news is that Johnson has always seemed to be on the cusp of greatness. Likewise, this seemed like Miami’s year to put together a run and contend in the league. We’ll have a more thorough analysis of what Johnson’s injury means for the Hurricanes a little later this morning.
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Morning Five: 12.31.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 31st, 2012

morning5

  1. We hate to end the year by talking about cover-ups and conspiracy theories, but the situation at North Carolina regarding their ungoing academic scandal seems to get worse every time we hear about it. When former North Carolina Governor Jim Martin essentially cleared the athletic department of any wrongdoing he stated that officials had tried to raise questions about the suspicious classes, but a recent investigation by News & Observer indicates that there is no evidence of that in meeting minutes from that period and officials there do not recall any such objections[Ed. Note: Meeting minutes available here.] We are not sure if the school or the state will look into this any further because doing so could raise questions about the former Governor and likely several other prominent individuals within the state, but it will remain a blemish upon the athletic department and more importantly the university until it is properly addressed.
  2. The national media’s long nightmare (the limbo of Kevin Ollie) is over as Connecticut signed Ollie to five-year extension that is reportedly worth just under $7 million. After Jim Calhoun’s late decision to retire put the school in a difficult position of having to pick a coach in a relatively short period before the season began the school opted to name Ollie as the interim coach. While the move may have infuriated some national media members who felt that Ollie should have immediately been given a long-term contract and that the interim label immediately undercut him on the recruiting trail it seemed like a perfectly reasonable way to go. Ollie, who had no head coaching experience on his resume, has done an excellent job leading a Huskies team that is playing without the possibility of a postseason and now will have the opportunity to try and rebuild the program in a manner he sees fit. Of course, he will be doing so with a school that is in a conference that is imploding around it, but given the lack of another quality school in the region Ollie should have ample opportunity to prove himself over the next five years.
  3. A year after his off-season knee injury may have cost Miami a shot at the NCAA Tournament, Reggie Johnson will miss six to eight weeks due to a broken left thumb. The loss comes at a particularly inopportune time for the Hurricanes who were without Johnson for their trip to Hawaii that resulted in losses to Arizona and Indiana State and are about to start ACC play. Based on the six to eight week estimate Johnson should be able to return by early-to-mid February, but would probably miss home games against Maryland, Duke, FSU, and (possibly) North Carolina as well as road games at North Carolina, NC State, and (possibly) FSU. That would leave them with just one game (a March 2 trip to Duke) and the ACC Tournament to impress the Selection Committee. If Miami is healthy and plays to the level they are capable of there is no question that they should be a NCAA Tournament team, now the question is whether they can do enough without Johnson to prove to the Selection Committee that they still belong in the NCAA Tournament when he returns.
  4. We normally don’t pay attention to 2-9 teams in non-power conferences, but the situation at Penn that transpired over the weekend with regards to reports of failed drug tests caught our eye. Late on Friday the school’s student newspaper filed a report citing “a highly reputable source” that said that five players–Miles Cartwright, Henry Brooks, Tony Hicks, Darien Nelson-Henry, and Steve Rennard–had been suspended from the team’s December 21 game at Delaware after failing a drug test. As the original report indicates it appears this was a random drug test administered by the school and not the NCAA. However, the following day the same paper reported that “alcohol may have played a role in the suspensions” while their original “highly reputable source” maintains that it was a positive drug test that triggered the suspension (alcohol is listed as a banned substance by the NCAA). We tried to find the ages of the players to see if they were underage, which would provide a stronger case for the alcohol theory, but the school doesn’t list the date of birth for its players on their site. However, none of the players on the roster are seniors so it is possible that everybody might be under 21 making the theory plausible. Still we have some questions as to what sort of situation they were in that they were even tested for alcohol.
  5. When the NCAA handed down its unprecedented $60 million fine against Penn State in the wake of its child molestation scandal we expected to the school to challenge it in court. What we didn’t expect was the questions about where the money would be sent. The initial agreement between the school and the NCAA indicated that 25 percent of the fine would go towards funds within the state, but some legislators in Pennsylvania believe that all of the money should stay within the state based on the belief that the sum of money would have a very small impact on a nationwide level, but would have a significant impact on programs if concentrated within the state. While we understand the NCAA’s position that this is a nationwide problem, we would have to side with the state argument here particularly since this fine, which has no legal basis, would then be a redistribution of money within the state rather than a net loss for the state’s taxpayers.
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ACC M5: 12.28.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 28th, 2012

morning5_ACC

  1. Keeping it Heel: Matt Hamm thinks that UNC, now unranked and at 9-3 with no victories against notable opponents, needs to tighten its rotation with time lacking for further “experimentation.” He advocates solutions that enhance the offense, including giving freshman Brice Johnson the lion’s share of the minutes at center. He also insists that UNC must play PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald more to maximize UNC’s perimeter effectiveness. All of these moves have offense in mind, although the defense, which gave up 85 points to a struggling Texas team and 61 in the second half to East Carolina, has not always been a strong suit. Regardless, UNC needs to get things figured out as conference play is around the corner. One area that UNC could definitely improve in is getting to the free throw line — this season, the Tar Heels rank 335th in FTA/FGA, with Brice Johnson interestingly enough among the worst at getting to the free throw line.
  2. Virginia has been one of the most enigmatic teams in the ACC this season — the Cavaliers soundly defeated Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, but are also 0-3 against the CAA, its only three losses of the season. Its latest loss, to previously 1-10 Old Dominion, has raised many of the lingering questions that Virginia has had all season. Tony Bennett’s normally stout defense was poor against ODU, surrendering 63 points, one shy of its maximum all season, in a game with few possessions. The absence and/or limited effectiveness of Jontel Evans has really plagued the Cavaliers, and their undersized front line came back to haunt them against the Monarchs, as UVA posted one of its worst rebounding efforts of the season. Virginia must avoid losses like these if it wants to be considered a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender.
  3. Miami’s Reggie Johnson is an essential cog for the Hurricanes. Without Johnson in the lineup, Miami dropped two games in this week’s Diamond Head Classic. While he has not been particularly efficient this season — shooting only around 43% from the floor, a stark decline from previous seasons — he is the best on the team at getting to the free throw line, and is a good foul shooter for a big man (just over 70%). The effects of Johnson’s absence were most notably seen at the other positions where teams could focus more of their defensive attention as Miami lacked its skilled big man. Kenny Kadji bore the brunt of this attention, as he was just 5-of-16 in the Indiana State game. Miami needs Johnson to get back to action, not only because he is likely to improve to a performance in line with seasons past, but also because his presence opens up opportunities for Miami’s potentially lethal perimeter attack.
  4. With Dez Wells and Alex Len getting a majority of the ink for 10-1 Maryland, an under-appreciated part of the Terrapins’ attack has been junior point guard PeShon Howard. Howard has quite a bipolar season stat line — he is 38th in the country in assist rate , but his turnover rate is nearly as high and is the worst on the team. Howard has also been an anemic shooter this season (just 8-of-31 overall), but adding to his strange profile, he is an incredibly good free thrower, albeit in a low sample size as well (15-of-17). Howard, in order to improve his overall profile, must keep teams a bit more honest when calling his own number, but Mark Turgeon has generally been pleased with his improved shot selection, as he has been known as a bit of a chucker in previous seasons. Regardless of his odd statistical profile, Howard will play a very important role in Maryland’s overall success this season, and he was nominated for the Bob Cousy Award, which honors the top point guard in the country..
  5. State of the U: This article presents a detailed if slightly off-color look at some interesting statistics in the ACC this season. Some highlights include: Mason Plumlee is second in the ACC in scoring and first in rebounding, averaging over a double-double per game. NC State has three of the top four players in the conference in offensive efficiency. North Carolina, while ranked third in the country in scoring, has largely done it against poor competition — their upcoming game with UNLV will likely be the most accurate litmus test for the Tar Heels this season. Boston College’s woes can be at least partially explained by the fact that their second and third leading scorers are both shooting under 40% from the floor. There’s more than this in the article – make sure to check it out.
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ACC M5: 12.27.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 27th, 2012

morning5_ACC

  1. Fox Sports Carolinas: NC State forward CJ Leslie has long been thought of as the Wolfpack’s most talented player, but his immaturity has overshadowed his innate talent for most of his first two years in Raleigh. However, his recent performance against St. Bonaventure, where Leslie totaled 33 points and eight rebounds, is the latest culmination of a season-long maturation process, according to Fox Sports’ Andrew Jones. Leslie, whom Mark Gottfried has coached very differently from other players, calling him by his first name “Calvin,” has finally started to show the potential that made him eigh’s most touted recruit in a long time. If Leslie can continue to improve, NC State has a fantastic chance to advance past last year’s Sweet Sixteen appearance.
  2. Yahoo! Sports: Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports, like many other prognosticators, is backing off of his original choice of NC State to win the conference. Eisenberg differed from most, however, in also selecting North Carolina to finish ahead of Duke as well (NC State-Duke-UNC was the most popular projection). He is now definitely backing off the Tar Heels as well, whose poor play has dropped them out of the Top 25; and while he favors Duke to win the conference now, he warns us not to give up on NC State. Eisenberg also calls attention to league disappointments (Florida State and UNC) and the burgeoning conference player of the year competition between Virginia Tech’s Erick Green (America’s leading scorer) and Duke’s Mason Plumlee.
  3. Washington Post:  Maryland has sailed under the radar this year. After dropping an extremely close opener to then #3 Kentucky, the Terrapins have not lost another game. Still, the Terps only received seven votes in the latest Top 25 poll. This low profile is emblematic of the team’s coach, Mark Turgeon, who has had to replace one of the game’s iconic head coaches in Gary Williams. As detailed in Rick Maese’s article,Turgeon’s disciplined, calculating approach has been nurtured through various experiences in his career, dating back to middle school basketball. But while remaining fiercely competitive, he also has struggled to balance family with basketball. Regardless, after reading this piece it seems like Turgeon is the right man to lead the Terrapins forward as they transition from the ACC to the Big Ten.
  4. Salisbury Post: A big part of Duke’s rise to #1 this year can be credited to an improvement in the team’s defense. Last year, Duke’s defense was the worst (#70) that it has been since Ken Pomeroy began his ratings in 2003. Duke’s defense has improved in nearly every facet this year and now ranks ninth in the Pomeroy rankings. Another notable accomplishment for this Duke team includes the fact that all five of its starters are averaging in double figures, which has not happened in Durham since 2003-04. However, Mike Krzyzewski knows that his team is not perfect, saying, “This season will not be a perfect one.” Still, with their performance against one of the toughest opening stretches in recent memory and an improved defense, it is hard not to be bullish about Duke’s long-term chances this year.
  5. Florida Today: Flying under the radar during Christmas season was Miami‘s struggles in the Diamond Head Classic. Playing without senior forward Reggie Johnson, the Hurricanes ended up finishing fourth in the tournament, including a costly overtime loss to Indiana State in the third place game where Miami squandered a late seven-point lead. However, assuming Johnson can return from his injury, Miami should end up being alright. Miami has yet to lose a game where it has been at full strength (Durand Scott was suspended in the loss to Florida Gulf Coast) and Johnson missed the ISU game as well as the previous night’s defeat to San Diego State. Look for Miami to continue to fly under the radar in conference play, but they will need to be a bit more careful in the ACC because these two losses will give them a slightly smaller margin for error in their quest to make the NCAA Tournament.
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Is Miami the Second Best Team in the ACC?

Posted by mpatton on December 21st, 2012

After Miami undressed Central Florida on the road this week, it’s become very clear that this team is better than its 12-point road loss to Florida Gulf Coast to start the season. Throw in Florida State’s early struggles, North Carolina losing to a very mediocre Texas team and NC State giving up nearly 80 points to a offensively challenged Stanford team, and now it looks like the Hurricanes are the second best team in the ACC because of their improved backcourt play.

Miami is a team to be reckoned with thanks to improved backcourt play. (Photo: Al Diaz / Miami Herald Staff)

Jim Larranaga‘s team has all the pieces: an exciting — underrated, at least in terms of watchability — point guard, a veteran leader, a slew of athletic wings, and a terrific front line. But seriously, how awesome will the frontcourt battle between Duke and Miami be this year? Reggie Johnson and Mason Plumlee are two of the best back-to-the-basket guys in the country. Kenny Kadji and Ryan Kelly are two of the best stretch fours. Right now, Duke appears to have an edge, but just remember last year’s Duke – Miami game at Cameron Indoor Stadium for a look at Johnson’s value.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 11.27.12

Posted by bmulvihill on November 27th, 2012

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

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday/Wednesday nights will give us some of the best non-conference match-ups we’ll see this season. It should be a great battle between two of the top conferences in the nation. We sneak in Kentucky vs. Notre Dame also later this week. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge gives us some of the best games of the season so far.

#23 Minnesota at #25 Florida State – 7:15 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN2 (****)

  • Minnesota comes into this game battle tested from a tough, early non-conference schedule. With the exception of the Gophers’ loss to Duke, Tubby Smith’s squad is winning with defense. Typically, we would say the same thing about Florida State’s defense, but it’s their offense that is winning their games this season. The Seminoles are shooting 56% from two and 41% from three. While Minnesota has only allowed opponents to hit 29.6% of their three-point attempts this season, they have been susceptible to the long ball in their last three outings. Additionally, they have been poor on the defensive glass, allowing teams to grab 37% of their misses. FSU has four players that shoot over 40% from beyond the arc and they are actually taller than the Gophers, particularly in the backcourt. Pay close attention to FSU’s three-point shooting and offensive rebounding in this one. Because Minnesota is not a great shooting team, they are going to have to figure out a way to deal with the Seminoles’ size on the offensive glass. Thus far, the Gophers are grabbing 47.3% of their missed shots on the offensive end, which is good for fourth in the nation. The winner of this game will be the team that owns the offensive glass.

#21 North Carolina State at #5 Michigan  7:30 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (*****)

  • Both of these teams are in the top 20 in effective field goal percentage thus far in the season. Three-point shooting will be a key factor in this match-up with both teams hovering right around the 40% mark. The Wolfpack is led by Rodney Purvis and Scott Wood on the outside, shooting 58.8% and 44.8% respectively. Those are the only two players on NC State who have attempted more than 10 three-point shots on the season. The Wolverines, however, have four players – Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III – who have attempted 10+ threes and all are shooting at over 30%. Both teams are middle of the pack at defending the outside shot, so it will be interesting to see who is able to take this advantage. While offensive firepower seems to be the key in this game, defense will ultimately determine the winner. Michigan has held all of its opponents under a point per possession this season and has proven it can win ugly against Pittsburgh. NC State is the best offense UM has faced thus far, though, but the question remains if the Wolfpack can hold off the plethora of Wolverines who can score. NC State is coming off a shellacking at the hands of Oklahoma State and a very close win against UNC-Asheville, where they allowed an eFG of 56.3%. If they don’t improve that field goal defense against Michigan, they will get crushed again.
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