Meet Devin Thomas, Wake Forest’s Wolfpack Killer

Posted by KCarpenter on January 23rd, 2013

It’s understandable if, before today, you hadn’t thought much about Devin Thomas. The 6’9″ freshmen has only averaged 24.9 minutes per game, and his scoring average of 6.5 PPG for a still-struggling Wake Forest squad hadn’t exactly been the stuff of legend.  You’d think that maybe his true offensive brilliance has been masked by a relative dearth of playing time, but Ken Pomeroy had measured his offensive efficiency at the staggeringly bad figure of 84.9. In one sense, that makes last night’s performance seem especially incredible. It also makes it seem like Thomas was due to finally have some luck.

Devin Thomas Announced His Presence to the Nation Last Night

Devin Thomas Announced His Presence to the Nation Last Night

Against North Carolina State, Thomas out-Howelled none other than Richard Howell himself. The Wolfpack center scored 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting and grabbed 16 rebounds (nine offensive rebounds). Yet somehow, the wily freshmen put up 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting and managed “only” 14 rebounds (also with nine offensive boards) and four blocks. On a night when the two other Wake Forest freshman starters struggled, with Codi Miller-McIntyre amassing six turnovers (though admittedly having a strong shooting night) and Arnaud William Adala Moto fouling out in only 17 minutes, Thomas delivered the strongest performance of his blossoming collegiate career.

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More Than A Big Stiff: Forwards With A Little Extra Something in Their Skill Set

Posted by KCarpenter on January 18th, 2013

In Duke’s win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Mason Plumlee put up 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks while playing all 40 minutes. That’s excellent production and exactly the kind of statistics you would expect to see out of your star big man. What you might not expect to see is that Plumlee also tallied three steals and a couple assists. In fact, the 6’10” Plumlee managed to tie starting point guard Quinn Cook in steals and placed second behind him in assists. That’s an impressive demonstration of Plumlee’s versatility, but it’s also a huge boon for his team.

Mason Plumlee Is One of the Leading NPOY Candidates

Mason Plumlee Is One of the Leading NPOY Candidates

Generally, folks underrate the importance of steals, but with a moment of consideration it’s easy to see why they are so important. Like the obviously important offensive rebound, a steal gives you an opportunity for a shot you wouldn’t normally have, and like an opponent’s unforced turnover, it ends your opponent’s possession without a shot. Steals are very valuable to a team, and if your guards are wracking up steals at close to the average rate, getting above average production in a category like steals from your forwards and centers can lead to a team gaining a big advantage. When the biggest guy on your team can earn your squad extra possessions? It’s nothing but a good thing. So who in the ACC contributes in these unusual categories?

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ACC M5: 01.15.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 15th, 2013


  1. Sports Business Daily: It was only a matter of time for this, but word has leaked that the ACC is looking into a conference channel like the Big Ten Network or Pac-12 Networks. Currently, ACC ratings are actually surprisingly strong in football (although without many huge games) considering the conference’s recent play. But a network wouldn’t be easy to pull off. My guess is that any ACC network would get pushed to the back burner until after the SEC’s network gets distributed.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Not enough love for Richard Howell‘s performance was given here in the aftermath of NC State’s win over Duke. In the first half the Blue Devils kept things close (and looked like they might run away with the game for a while) thanks to strong work on the boards, but Howell grabbed almost every available board in the second half. He’s one of the strongest players in the league and he’s finally found a way to use his exceptional motor without also fouling. The Wolfpack need Howell to give them more games like that one if they want to finish on top of the league this season.
  3. Ryan Kelly‘s injury may have opened the ACC race up. The biggest related questions are: (1) Can NC State play with the intensity it played with Saturday on a regular basis; and (2) Can Miami avoid its trademarked losing streaks? Based on the Wolfpack’s first two ACC games, their prognosis is troubling, but the game against Duke was excellent all-around. Miami is a bigger question mark. Its ceiling is decidedly lower than Duke or NC State’s, but it’s also a proven commodity on the road. In the end, look for Duke and one other team to vie for the top spot if Kelly is out of the lineup for more than two weeks.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Mark Turgeon is starting to see familiar signs plaguing his point guard. The Terrapins are reeling after two straight losses and have gone from popular darkhorse contender to completely overrated in the span of a week. Now Turgeon is looking at a brutal four-game schedule that is like this: against NC State, at North Carolina, against Boston College, and at Duke. Those are three very losable games (I’d be surprised if Maryland was favored in any of them) with a classic trap game stuck in there too. Now’s not the time for dramatic changes, but Turgeon doesn’t have a lot of choice. The results of these four games will likely determine where Maryland’s postseason will be decided.
  5. Daily Tar Heel: And in the inane Letters to the Editor category (from an alumnus no less), we have a letter calling for the firing of UNC head coach Roy Williams. Now, a pessimistic case could be made for Williams’ talent-driven system being disrupted by one John Calipari’s annual raids on the five-star recruit pantry. A much more reasonable argument would see this year as Williams getting burned by Kendall Marshall departing for the NBA early (something few expected) and the Wear twins transferring back home.

Poll Thoughts: There was a lot of discussion about who the new number one team should be after the last of the unbeatens, Michigan, went down over the weekend. The ACC part of the argument essentially came down to the fact that Duke is a very different team without Ryan Kelly on the floor and should be ranked as such. This (essentially a small sample size eye test), to me, is just as good an argument as basing your rankings entirely on resume. The one caveat to such a standpoint is that once Kelly returns, Duke should — assuming he’s at 100% — jump back to its previous standing. This is where the justification is flawed, as voters rarely jump teams near the top of the rankings without a loss. Luckily polls mean nothing but pride for college basketball.

EXTRA: In case missed the Miami-Maryland brick-laying contest, this GIF sums the game up remarkably well.


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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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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.14.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 14th, 2013


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

Conference season has leveled the playing field as the remaining unbeaten teams have all lost. The Big Ten schedule is proving to be an absolute gauntlet and the Mountain West is nothing to sneeze at. Both leagues have stellar games this week along side a few other notable match-ups from around the nation. Let’s get to the breakdowns:

#1 Louisville at Connecticut – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

kevin ollie napier

  • The Louisville Cardinals are moved into the top spot in the nation after losses this weekend by Duke and Michigan and a loss by Arizona earlier last week. Their first game as #1 will be no easy contest as they head to Connecticut in a tough Big East road match-up. The Huskies are coming off a significant win at Notre Dame, which rarely loses at home, but it looks like UConn has their number, as they account for ND’s only two losses at home in the last two and a half years. UConn guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier will be the focus of this game, as they face intense pressure from the Louisville defense. Up to this point in the season, both players have protected the ball quite well, particularly Napier who is only giving it up on 11% of his possessions. They must be able to handle the press however in order to give the team a chance to win this game. Also, keep an eye on UConn’s Tyler Olander. He went 8-9 from the field against Notre Dame going for 16 points and 7 rebounds. He will be surrounded by very athletic big men on Louisville. UConn needs him to produce against Gorgui Dieng and company to take some pressure off the guards. The difference in this game may actually be Louisville on the offensive boards. The Huskies rank 298th in defensive rebounding percentage. With the Cardinals throwing Dieng, Chane Behanan, and Wayne Blackshear at the glass on the offensive end, it’s going to be tough for UConn to prevent second chance points. However, if they can limit turnovers, they have a shot to win at home.

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On NC State and Gambling: Why the Wolfpack Defense Has to Improve, Or Else

Posted by mpatton on January 10th, 2013

Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) is an RTC correspondent and an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after NC State’s win over Georgia Tech last night in Raleigh.

NC State is probably the second best team in the ACC. The Wolfpack are experienced and talented. But they’re also a mixed bag thanks to their less than stellar defensive efficiency. The Wolfpack is a team of runs on both ends of the floor. These aren’t the normal runs of basketball cliche, they’re the runs of a degenerate gambler. On defense the gambler is often Rodney Purvis leaking out before NC State secures the rebound. Nearly two-thirds of the time, it’s a good gamble because the Wolfpack corrals the rebound. Otherwise NC State’s defense struggles to get reset, and the opponent gets a second chance with the odds in its favor. On offense the gambler is generally Lorenzo Brown or CJ Leslie looking for the home run play but instead turning the ball over.

Rodney Purvis is already an emotional leader for NC State. (Photo: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Rodney Purvis is already an emotional leader for NC State. (Photo: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Those runs outlasted Boston College and Georgia Tech in the final minutes. Experience, talent and conditioning helped too. Those runs almost brought the Wolfpack back from what looked like a blowout against Michigan. Those runs never made an appearance in Oklahoma State’s rout of the Wolfpack. The runs come at a defensive cost, but NC State’s offense is elite because of its defensive gambles. It is unstoppable in transition for four reasons: the Purvis leak, Brown is a terror leading the break, Leslie runs the floor as anyone without the last name “Zeller,” and the icing on the cake is Wood trailing after that. Long story short, everyone but Richard Howell (one of the best defensive rebounders in the ACC) is a great option. Lots of options with a capable floor general leads to transition success better or comparable to any team in the country.

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ACC M5: 01.10.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 10th, 2013


  1. biggest news of yesterday was that Ryan Kelly‘s foot injury is significant. It’s the same foot he hurt at the end of last season, requiring surgery and a lengthy layoff. Sources told Jeff Goodman that Duke hopes Kelly will be back in two weeks, but it’s more realistic that it will be closer to four weeks. While the exact impact on Duke and its rotation remains to be seen, it will be significant. Last year with Kelly out, the mighty Blue Devils offense sputtered to a stop (it doesn’t help that Kelly was playing his best ball of the season before re-injuring the foot). The only real silver lining is that the young guys on the team (namely Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson) should see a few more minutes.
  2. The Sporting News: As the saying goes, “hindsight is always 20/20.” Unfortunately, Ryan Fagan didn’t have hindsight when he wrote this article. Fagan acknowledged that it was possible the Cavaliers would lose to Wake Forest Wednesday night. Even if North Carolina is down, there’s often a pretty big emotional crash after beating Duke or UNC (see: Virginia Tech in 2010-11). Also, Virginia is going to lose some head-scratchers when the shots aren’t falling just because fewer possessions make each brick more important than in a faster-paced game.
  3. Baltimore Sun: Mark Turgeon is currently using two point guards, and it’s working out pretty well (the Terps’ home loss to Florida State notwithstanding). Pe’Shon Howard distributes, Seth Allen scores. Allen is clearly the point guard of the future, but his forced three in the waning seconds against Florida State show he’s still got a ways to go. In the meantime, Turgeon can rely mostly on Howard as Allen matures. My guess is Turgeon would love some of Allen’s aggressive nature to rub off on Howard too.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs took a look at the longest winning streaks (against a single conference opponent) of the ACC in light of Duke beating Wake Forest for the sixth straight time last week. The longest streak ever was Duke over Virginia, which Duke won 16 straight times following the beatdown that the Cavaliers and Ralph Sampson gave the Blue Devils in the 1983 ACC Tournament. But North Carolina is knocking on the Blue Devils’ door, as the Tar Heels currently hold a 10-win streak over Miami and a 13-game win streak over NC State (both of which, it says here, will likely come to an end this season).
  5. NC State Technician: Speaking of NC State, the student newspaper at the school put together midseason grades for the Wolfpack. Rightfully, Andrew Scheutt gives major props to Richard Howell, who hasn’t necessarily been NC State’s most valuable player, but he’s improved dramatically even since his huge leap in production last season. He’s shooting outrageously well, rebounding even better, and he’s quit fouling (his Achilles’ heel last season).
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Night Line: Richard Howell is a Crucial Piece For Evolving Wolfpack

Posted by BHayes on December 19th, 2012


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

Fresh off a Sweet Sixteen run a year ago and carrying a roster bursting with raw ability, NC State began the season as one of the sexier national title contenders. Pack star CJ Leslie was voted ACC Preseason Player of the Year, pundits touted Lorenzo Brown as the nation’s best point guard, and Scott Wood found many a short list of the nation’s best shooters. Heck, even the incoming freshman class was bringing the buzz, as three ESPN Top-50 recruits made the roster that much scarier. There certainly are plenty of reasons for optimism residing on that NC State roster, but one of the most important ones has too often been overlooked. Richard Howell’s game lacks the sizzle of his more celebrated teammates, but the 6’8” forward’s dependable contributions have been crucial for this enigmatic team. Howell quietly posted another double-double (his fourth straight) in NC State’s 88-79 win over Stanford tonight, and as the talented Pack continues to move forward and carve out an identity, rest assured that the gritty senior will be the rock at the core of the evolution.

His Game May Not Always Be Pretty, But Richard Howell Consistently Produces

His Game May Not Be Pretty, But Richard Howell Consistently Produces

Howell nearly averaged a double-double a season ago, posting season averages of 10.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.  He’s upped those numbers to 14.1/9.6 this year, and has shot an eye-popping 63% from the field as an upperclassman.  Ironically, the most telling Howell statistic may be his three-point shooting numbers from the last two years – 0-of-2 on three-point attempts.  In an era loaded with bigs too often dreaming of being J.J. Redick, it’s refreshing to see a guy who knows, glamorous or not, where he’s most effective to his team. But Howell’s contributions go well beyond the stat sheet. On a team that has been accused of careless and disinterested play at times, the senior is a source of relentless energy — a bruising, tough banger who rarely takes a play off. Furthermore, as Mark Gottfried preaches the value of a consistent, focused effort on both ends of the floor to the enigmatic Leslie, he can instruct his star to simply turn and look at the guy next to him, for Howell is the perfect embodiment of those principles.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Illinois, Undefeated Teams, A Blown Call Nobody Noticed, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 11th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

  1. Illinois fans, here is my mea culpa. I was wrong not to rank your team. On Saturday night, the Fighting Illini ventured up to Spokane and walked out of the Kennel with the best win of any team to date. Yes, better than Duke’s wins over Louisville and Ohio State. Why? There has not been a road win of this magnitude by any team through this early point in the season. The Illini proved they’re for real with a dominant second half against a very strong Gonzaga team. After taking the opening punch and falling behind 8-0 right out of the gate, John Groce’s team didn’t panic and made fantastic adjustments. Gonzaga’s game plan was clearly to feed the ball inside and try to dominate a less than imposing Illinois front line. Illinois’ defense suddenly picked up later in the first half, swarming the Gonzaga big men and forcing the Bulldogs into an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers. Illinois was able to speed the game up a bit and prevent Gonzaga from setting up its half court offense effectively. The Zags attempted 18 threes which is right about their season average but a lot of them were rushed and not something the game plan should have called for against an Illinois team without a significant inside presence. Brandon Paul looked like an All-America candidate with his performance not just on the offensive end but defensively against Pangos and the Gonzaga guards as well. Can Illinois keep this level of play up? I’m not sure but I know one thing: The Illini are way better than I thought. This team’s over-reliance on the three-point shot is concerning and is bound to catch up with them at some point, but Illinois has already proved it will be a factor in the loaded Big Ten.

    Brandon Paul Looked Like An All-American Candidate On Saturday Night In Spokane. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

  2. Another impressive performance played out in a different fashion on Saturday night in Clemson, South Carolina. Trailing Clemson by six points midway through the second half, Arizona absorbed the hit and put the pedal down in impressive fashion with a 26-5 run down the stretch to come out of rowdy Littlejohn Coliseum with a sneaky good road win. It was an impressive showing because this Arizona team had been highly touted but untested coming into the game. The Wildcats passed that test with flying colors as they head into a Saturday showdown with Florida in Tucson. Mark Lyons took control in the final minutes for Arizona but contributions from Nick Johnson (13 points, five steals) and Solomon Hill (10 rebounds despite an awful shooting night) illustrate the talent and depth of Sean Miller’s team. Although he didn’t have a great game, I was thoroughly impressed with the physique of freshman Kaleb Tarczewski. It was the first time I’ve seen him play and his body appears mature beyond his age. He’ll be a load for any opponent in the post. Arizona is clearly the best team in the Pac-12 and has the pieces to make a deep run in March. With the gritty Miller at the helm and a boatload of talent, this team will keep getting better as the year moves along. Make sure you watch the Wildcats take on Florida this Saturday night in what could prove to be the best non-conference game of the season.
  3. Another week, another confounding loss for Baylor. Just when you thought the Bears were turning the corner after winning at Kentucky, they put together an absolute stinker of a loss at home to a mediocre Northwestern team that had just suffered back-to-back home losses to Maryland and Illinois-Chicago. Baylor was dominated on the glass by a Northwestern lineup that isn’t all that physically imposing and allowed the Wildcats to shoot 51% for the game. It is inexcusable for a team with Baylor’s talent to have three losses at this point in the season but you know what I like to say, nobody does less with more than Scott Drew. When you look at the statistics, Baylor appears to be a pretty good team. But the chemistry and focus clearly is lacking, otherwise this team wouldn’t have lost to Charleston and Northwestern on its home court. Baylor is a highly talented team and has actually improved its turnover numbers significantly from previous years. Pierre Jackson is playing like one of the best point guards in America and Drew has seen junior forward Cory Jefferson take a huge step forward. Baylor has two more non-conference challenges before Big 12 play begins, against BYU in Waco and a tough trip to Gonzaga in back to back games at the end of this month. Even if the Bears enter Big 12 play at 8-4, I still believe this team is good enough to eventually earn a Top 25 ranking and fit solidly in the NCAA Tournament. At this point however, Baylor just isn’t there yet. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC M5: 12.10.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 10th, 2012

  1. Boston Globe: Steve Donahue is trying to figure out how to best rebuild Boston College, but after losing to Harvard for the fifth straight year (and in non-competitive fashion), he called off practice. He assessed what the team is good at and what it isn’t, and, long story short: shooting and defense, respectively. With that in mind Donahue changed the look of the Eagles. He went out against St. Francis looking to score 75 or 80 points, and focused the defense on aggressiveness instead of implementing complex schemes. When the first half wasn’t going well, Donahue benched his star player Ryan Anderson for most of the second half. If the Eagles start looking better, we might look back and see coaching genius. If they don’t, we’ll see desperation.
  2. Fayetteville Observer: Richard Howell may be the most important player on NC State’s roster this season. He’s definitely not the most talented, but the senior consistently outworks everyone on the floor. Most people expected Lorenzo Brown or CJ Leslie to take the helm of this Wolfpack team, but Howell has been the guy who refuses to quit — he’s the guy that sparks the team and steps up in the big moments. This isn’t to say Howell is perfect, as he still attracts fouls at an alarming rate and lacks the polish to really be an offensive centerpiece. But he’s the type of guy who could bring the talented freshmen into the fold and build on the success Mark Gottfried’s team had to end last season.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Justin Anderson is going to be a special player for Tony Bennett if he stays all four years. Right now, he’s an incredibly athletic wing who adds a little flash to the slowest team in college basketball. But his greatness still comes in spurts. He’s taking too many threes, especially considering his skill set. Anderson is a guy who is going to give some very good teams fits during his career. Combine him with Bennett’s muck-it-up pack-line defense that keeps things close, and it certainly looks like a recipe for success.
  4. Washington Post: Mark Turgeon is still figuring out his rotation. Mostly Turgeon is trying to find his most effective combinations. Right now the Terrapins are playing a caliber of opponent that allows Turgeon to tinker a lot with very little risk. Even though he wasn’t on the team last year Dez Wells had a quote that certainly harkened back to a certain elite Terrapin from last season:

    “Nobody cares about who scores the points, nobody cares about the Terp of the Week, that stuff. That’s good for the team, and that’s good for the school, because they’re really behind us, but as a team we’re not worried about the accolades, we just want to win. Whether somebody scores 50 points or somebody doesn’t score at all, we’ll continue to pick that person up.”

  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Duke isn’t the only ACC team struggling to crash the boards this season. Georgia Tech has struggled with rebounding margin as well. Somewhat surprisingly, the Yellow Jackets’ advanced splits from Ken Pomeroy don’t back up Brian Gregory’s concerns. It’s true Gregory’s team is in the second half of the country in rebounding its own misses, but the team is actually a solid defensive rebounding team. But stats never give the whole picture, and it’s clear Gregory wants the team to box out more aggressively.

EXTRA: Brian Zoubek is still living the dream as a deluxe cream puff chef based in New Jersey. He planned on giving Duke a sampling of his craft after its trip to the Izod Center to play Temple.

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