Newport News Daily Press: If you didn’t see Wake Forest’s epic collapse against Virginia last week, it was an all-timer. Truly, it was a spectacle. And this article doesn’t even mention that the game broke Bill James’ “safe lead” formula! But the real reason to talk about the beneficiary of Wake’s choke job is the Cavaliers’ subsequent dismantling of Louisville on the road on Saturday. There were (and are) questions surrounding Louisville (e.g., the Cardinals haven’t beaten a certain NCAA Tournament team yet), but statistically, they came into that game as the best team in the ACC. Emphasis on were (they’re now third in the league, according to Ken Pomeroy). Virginia was awesome offensively and completely locked down Damion Lee on the other end. It was the best performance by any ACC team in any game this season.
Winston-Salem Journal: Wake Forest fans don’t want or need to be reminded of this, but the program’s road struggles have continued under head coach Danny Manning (to his credit, many of his players overlap with the disastrous Jeff Bzdelik era). Wake Forest is now 2-48 in its last 50 ACC road games, with the two wins coming against Boston College (2012) and Virginia Tech (2014). Manning was quick to point out that “it doesn’t weigh on me from that sense, this is my second year,” but if the slump continues into another year, he’ll start feeling more pressure.
Raleigh News & Observer: “This schedule has been so ridiculous I can’t even remember what the crap day it is,” North Carolina’s Roy Williams complained last week. Meanwhile, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim described the league’s schedule as “horrific.” Needless to say, the two longtime coaches (here’s betting Mike Krzyzewski would join them in their displeasure) aren’t very happy with the effect of television and realignment on ACC schedules. But Williams wasn’t done complaining: He’s also tired of hearing about Ben Simmons “Green Room Guys.” Come to show solidarity; stay for the Tom Izzo anecdote.
Notre Dame Insider: Senior forward Zach Auguste has seen his field goal percentage drop precipitously in ACC play this season. The dip may be related to Jerian Grant’s missing ability to spread the floor and give the big man additional space to operate. Tom Noie thinks so, suggesting that Auguste’s shot selection may be more challenging in the All-American’s absence. Auguste thinks he may just need to slow down. Either way, Notre Dame has a very tough upcoming four-game stretch (at Miami; vs. North Carolina; at Clemson; vs. Louisville) and the Irish will need everything from Auguste they can get.
Tomahawk Nation: Florida State is rounding into form after an important weekend home win over Clemson. Perhaps most promising from the victory was the strong play from veteran Devon Bookert. The Seminoles are also starting to flash some vintage Leonard Hamilton defense in how they’re blocking shots and playing typically disruptive perimeter defense.
Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 4th, 2016
With just under six minutes to go in the Smith Center on Saturday afternoon, Georgia Tech was in great position to snag a precious ACC road win in Chapel Hill. The Yellow Jackets had started strong, leading by three at the half. North Carolina was playing its third game in six days, and with a Big Monday road trip to Florida State looming, it seemed as if the Tar Heels were looking ahead. Roy Williams’ team was uncharacteristically sloppy on offense early, committing seven first half turnovers, and was forced to battle Georgia Tech’s beefy frontline without injured starting center Kennedy Meeks. However, just as it did so many times in ACC play last season, Brian Gregory’s squad just couldn’t close the deal, falling by a final score of 86-78.
Adam Smith’s three point shooting has brought balance to Georgia Tech’s offense. (Photo by Chris Rodier/Icon Sportswire).
The pivotal moment in the game came when Adam Smith missed a wide open three with 5:41 to play and the Yellow Jackets on top 67-66. That miss kicked off an 8-0 Tar Heel run to take control of the contest, leaving Gregory wondering if his team will ever get over the hump in finishing winnable games. Not all hope is lost, however; this season’s group has shown potential that it may have what it takes to turn that trend around in 2016. That faith rests largely in a much improved offense, led by three seniors: center Charles Mitchell, wing Marcus Georges-Hunt, and the sharp shooting Smith. After Saturday’s game, Roy Williams talked about facing this year’s Yellow Jacket offense:
“I told Brian [Gregory] — this was before the game — that I liked his club. It’s so, so much better than they were last year, and he’s done a great job with them, got some new guys that look like they’ve been there the whole time the way they’ve bought into what he wants for them to do. But when you’ve got a three-point shooter like [Adam] Smith, you’ve got a guy that drives it to the basket and gets to shoot 15 free throws like Marcus and you’ve got [Charles] Mitchell and those guys doing everything inside, it’s tough to guard that kind of team.”
Free throws, threes, layups and dunks — the distance or form didn’t matter. For much of the second half in Saturday’s game against UCLA, it felt like North Carolina couldn’t miss. And for a crucial six-minute stretch late in the second half, it didn’t. The Tar Heels made 11 consecutive field goals, during which its lead ballooned from five to 16 points. From there, Roy Williams‘ veteran team put the Bruins in the rear view mirror and never looked back. For opponents that have never experienced the frenzy of North Carolina’s offense, the task of slowing it down once it gets rolling can be daunting, and UCLA was only the latest victim to conveniently fall into this trap. Still, for a team that blew the doors off of another quality opponent, questions linger about the quality and legitimacy of the Tar Heels’ defense.
North Carolina Carved Up the UCLA Defense. (USA TODAY Sports)
The North Carolina offense is humming. The Heels boast seven players averaging more than eight points per game and rank second nationally in offensive efficiency. But a heavy reliance on an uptempo attack to generate all those points comes with the caveat that their two losses this season came against teams that are among the slowest in college basketball. Texas and Northern Iowa like to slow down the pace, and both have experienced guards who manage to limit turnovers, and hence, the overall number of possessions. As such, North Carolina stands at 8-0 this season in games with 70 or more possessions and is 1-2 in games where it failed to reach that threshold. While its offense is averaging a robust 14.6 seconds per possession, its defense is using 18.8 seconds per possession — one of the 10 slowest teams nationally. In other words, North Carolina is spending an inordinate amount of time in its games laboring away on the defensive end. Read the rest of this entry »
Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week throughout the season he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul, dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at email@example.com.
Shooting guard Andrew Jones was one of the hottest names on the summer AAU circuit and his rise is still going strong with the tip of the high school basketball season. The wiry point guard from Texas recently averaged 33.0 points and seven rebounds over two games in the prestigious Thanksgiving Hoopfest against two of the top guards in the country. In his first game, Jones dropped 37 points against 2017 guard Trae Young and then in a mano y mano battle against future Kentucky guard De’Aron Fox, he scored 29 more. When offers started pouring in last summer, it looked like Jones’ recruitment was going to end quickly with official visits to Arizona and Louisville. Now, Jones is also considering SMU, Baylor and he has an official visit next weekend in Austin when Texas takes on North Carolina. The Irving, Texas, native is currently ranked No. 30 in the 2016 class and will make a strong push for McDonald’s All-American status as his senior season progresses.
2. Shoe Wars: Getting Ready for 2016
All eyes will be on New York City come the weekend of April 15-17. That weekend marks the first live recruiting period for college coaches and both Nike and Under Armour will be hosting their inaugural AAU events in the basketball mecca. This will be Nike’s first foray into New York City since the company kicked off its Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) and will coincide with the Jordan Brand Classic, an All-Star event at the Barclays Center for some of the top players in the class of 2015. Last year, Under Armour had one of their AAU weekends just outside of New York City, but two of the main players in grassroots basketball are raising the bar this year. You can certainly bet that all of the college coaches that will be out on the road in April will appreciate both rivals hosting their events within easy driving distance of each other. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 8th, 2015
Coming into this season, North Carolina was considered one of the best bets to make it to Houston for the Final Four. Those expectations for Roy Williams’ squad were in large part due to the return of senior guard Marcus Paige. Unfortunately, Paige suffered a broken hand before the season began and the Tar Heels dropped an early game against Northern Iowa in his absence. But Paige made an impressive return to the lineup last week in convincing wins over Maryland and Davidson, helping North Carolina look like the team that many expect to challenge for a spot in the season’s final weekend.
As expected, Marcus Paige has helped North Carolina’s perimeter on both ends of the floor. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Although North Carolina performed reasonably well without Paige, the Heels are clearly a better team with their senior leader back on the court. A solid two-way player throughout his career, Paige has already had a positive impact on both ends of the floor. Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Nate Britt admirably filled in as long-range threats without Paige in the lineup for the team’s first four games against top-100 competition, but eventually that trio cooled from three-point range (see below table). In the two games since his return, Paige has directly contributed (6-of-10 on threes) to UNC’s improved shooting, but he has also helped his teammates get better looks. The rest of the team has made 42.3 percent of its long-range attempts since he returned, for a total of 47.2 percent.
As the the majority of the league transitions from Feast Week into the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, now is as good a time as any to make some initial evaluations. Based on what we’ve seen through two-plus weeks of the young season, let’s take stock in each of the 15 ACC clubs, reviewing what has transpired so far, and considering in what direction we surmise each to be trending.
Jim Boeheim has plenty to be thankful for after his club’s performance in winning the Battle 4 Atlantis (syracuse.com)
Syracuse: Not many teams are feeling better about itself than Syracuse is at the moment. Picked to finish ninth in the ACC standings, the Orange probably surprised even themselves in taking home the title at the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis. Seamlessly intertwining veterans Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney with rookies Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon, Jim Boeheim looks to have a team capable of reinvigorating his spirits during his 40th year at the helm. Banned from the postseason a year ago and forced to miss the first nine conference games this season, Boeheim appeared worn down last March as tumult swirled around his program. His current team, however, showed considerable resolve in coming from behind to beat both Connecticut and Texas A&M in the Bahamas, appearing eerily similar to some of his special clubs of the past and proving that there is still some juice left in the Hall of Famer’s tank. The Orange entertain Wisconsin on Wednesday before a weekend trip to the nation’s capital to visit old friend Georgetown.
Posted by Andrew Gripshover on November 23rd, 2015
There are talented tournament fields everywhere this Feast Week. The Gulf Coast Showcase has a relatively strong mid-major field headlined by Murray State, Duquesne (which absolutely BLASTED Penn State on Friday) and Texas Southern. Four capable teams — Clemson, UMass (already a winner over Harvard), Creighton and Rutgers — will tussle in another four-team field in Vegas. Looking further ahead, Atlantis tips off on Wednesday before a handful of other events kick off on Thanksgiving Day and beyond. As we did with Puerto Rico and Charleston last week, here’s a look at the event favorite, a dark horse, and the teams who have the most on the line this week. We’ll also highlight a player and a storyline to watch.
Despite some early struggles, Bill Self and Kansas are still the clear favorite in Maui. (Getty)
Favorite: Kansas. Even with no Cheick Dialloor Brannen Greene for the week and the second half collapse to Michigan State in Chicago notwithstanding, the Jayhawks are still the clear favorite in Maui as the only top 10 team in this tournament. Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor are seniors. Frank Mason and Wayne Selden are juniors. This is an experienced team that might be going on its last ride together. As usual, there’s chatter about this being the year the Big 12 title streak is broken. Winning the Maui title would probably pump the brakes on that notion, at least for the time being.
Darkhorse: UCLA. In terms of talent and potential, the Bruins are a clear sleeper. Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford, Tony Parker —you could easily see a team with talented pieces like these upsetting a still-not-quite-right Kansas in the semifinal and then taking out Indiana or Vanderbilt the next night. Of course, they’re flaky enough that they could brick the last Maui quarter to UNLV, especially after that whole Monmouth thing.
Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 23rd, 2015
Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings.
Maui Invitational: It just wouldn’t be Feast Week without the Maui Invitational, which has been around in some form since 1984. Wake Forest (#80) will be this year’s ACC representative in the Hawaii tournament, as the Demon Deacons are slated to meet Indiana (#15) in today’s first round (ESPN2 – 5:00 ET). Danny Manning‘s team has been shorthanded in its first three games — including wins over UMBC and Bucknell along with a home loss to Richmond — but there is a chance that some players will return soon. Manning announced after Wednesday’s defeat to the Spiders that Codi Miller-McIntyre (foot) and Cornelius Hudson (suspension) will make the trip to Maui, but he said that he considered it doubtful that Miller-McIntyre would play this week. As usual, there are a number of highly rated teams in the Maui field — in addition to the Hoosiers, some other participants include Kansas (#5), Vanderbilt (#19) and UCLA (#47)
CBE Classic: Roy Williams hopes the rest of his team’s three-game trip through the Midwest goes better than it started on Saturday. North Carolina‘s homecoming game for Marcus Paige did not work out as planned; not only did the injured star have to watch the game from the bench in street clothes, but the Tar Heels lost to a pumped up Northern Iowa team, 71-67. Look for Williams’ squad (#7) to bounce back tonight (ESPN2 – 9:30 ET) when it takes on Northwestern (#69), coached by a familiar rival — former Duke player and assistant coach Chris Collins. Next, the Tar Heels will take on either Kansas State (#94) or Missouri (#148) — the co-hosts of this Kansas City tournament — on Tuesday night. The championship game will be played at 10:00 ET (ESPN2).
Legends Classic: Another team headed by a former Duke guard will be N.C. State’s (#56) opponent in Brooklyn tonight (ESPN3 – 9:30 ET) with Bobby Hurley in his first year at the helm at Arizona State (#68). Both teams suffered upset losses in their opening games — Mark Gottfried‘s Wolfpack to William & Mary and the Sun Devils to Sacramento State — but since then each team has won two games at home. In the other semifinal, LSU (#54) takes on Marquette (#100), a team coached by yet another former Blue Devil player and assistant coach, Steve Wojciechowski. Although the games should be fairly entertaining with several evenly matched teams, the big story of this tournament has to be the New York City debut of the nation’s #1 freshman (maybe even #1 player) in LSU’s Ben Simmons.
MGM Grand Main Event: So far this year, Clemson (#40) has beaten up on three teams rated in the 200s nationally, all in nearby Greenville, the Tigers’ current home. Brad Brownell‘s squad will face a slightly stiffer challenge in playing Massachusetts (#157) in Las Vegas tonight. The other schools in this four-team tournament are Creighton (#83) and Rutgers (#210), so it’s not exactly a power-packed field. Still, if Clemson plans on getting to postseason play next March, neutral court wins over mid-level competition are a must. As usual, Clemson appear to be quite capable on the defensive end, holding opponents to 47.0 points per game and 32.4 percent field goal shooting. The question will be one of offense.
Battle 4 Atlantis: In only its fifth year of existence, this event has quickly become one of the best Feast Week tournaments. In just a short period of time, the Bahamas event has become a desired destination for many of the sport’s power schools. Compared to the Maui Invitational — the longtime top draw of the week — the Battle 4 Atlantis offers a similar resort experience for fans without the long travel there and back for schools located outside the west coast. This year Syracuse (#38) joins six other top-100 teams in the Atlantis field. Jim Boeheim‘s Orange start with a break by facing the only lowly regarded team, Charlotte (#275) in Wednesday’s opening round game (ESPN2 – 2:30 ET). After that, Syracuse is guaranteed a worthy opponent on Thanksgiving Day, going up against either Connecticut (#26) or Michigan (#37). And with big dog Gonzaga (#6) sitting on the other side of the bracket, the Orange could have a great opportunity to log some huge non-conference wins on their resume.
Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 18th, 2015
When Marcus Paigebroke his hand on November 4 and it was announced that North Carolina’s star guard would miss the first several games of the season, the obvious positive spin on the situation was easy to anticipate. The Tar Heels would still win its first several games comfortably while the other guards on the roster would be gifted a great opportunity to improve. Upon Paige’s return, the narrative went, his backcourt mates would have greater in-game experience to support the ACC’s Co-Preseason Player of the Year in their quest for a National Championship. Sometimes spin turns out to be reality: After the Tar Heels’ first two games of the season, that plan seems to working out beautifully.
Theo Pinson has shown good playmaking skills with Marcus Paige out. (Will Bratton/WRAL)
Last Friday night North Carolina tipped off the season with an impressive 91-67 neutral court win over Temple in Annapolis. The Heels followed that up with a lackluster performance in its Sunday home opener against Fairfield, a game in which the final score of 92-65 was not indicative of how close the game was. In both games, the Tar Heels have received great offensive production from its current backcourt rotation — sophomores JoelBerry II and Theo Pinson along with junior Nate Britt. This trio has combined to average 39.5 points per game thus far, complementing the strong production from the Tar Heels’ frontcourt. In a bit of a surprise, Pinson has been the most effective playmaker on the floor, twice leading the team in assists, including a super performance on Sunday: eight assists and zero turnovers. Meanwhile, Berry and Britt have been lighting it up from deep, combining to make 12-of-20 threes. Perhaps Paige’s absence has helped to answer one of the biggest questions about perimeter shooting going into this season. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Andrew Gripshover on November 13th, 2015
This post doesn’t matter. Scrimmages are poor man’s exhibition games; exhibition games are in the preseason; and the preseason is useless. The only people who watched these “secret” scrimmages are the participating coaches and players. And yet, information about them always gets out because nothing’s ever a secret on the Internet, allowing us to wildly overreact to games that don’t even count as not even counting. As we head into the opening weekend of the regular season, here are some such overreactions. Information herein is mostly courtesy of random message board posts and hearsay. #HotScrimmageTakes (miss you, Grantland) are my own and should definitely be saved to fill out your brackets in four months. Enjoy.
Scrimmage or not – Roy Williams and UNC will be expected to perform at a high level this season. (Getty)
No. 1 North Carolina defeated No. 18 Vanderbilt by 12. The Heels stormed out to a 20-3 advantage and never looked back. Justin Jackson was their leading scorer and Isaiah Hicks was impressive off the bench. Joel Berry II started at point guard and ran the show most of the way. The Commodores got good performances from Camron Justice — Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball last year — and Riley LaChance, but those were not enough to prevent the nation’s No. 1 team from exacting some measure of revenge from previous scrimmages.
#HotScrimmageTakes – This UNC team is a hybrid of 2009 and 2005. Berry is Ty Lawson. Marcus Paige is Ray Felton. Kennedy Meeks is Sean May mixed with Tyler Hansbrough. Jackson is a bigger, less temperamental Rashad McCants. Hicks is a cross between Danny Green and Marvin Williams. 40-0 or bust. Vandy starts slowly and is shocked by Stony Brook before placing seventh in Maui (needing overtime to beat Chaminade) but goes 12-6 in SEC play thanks to Justice and LaChance averaging a combined 44 points per game. They’re one of the Last Four In and lose yet again in March to a mid-major as Dayton (yep, Dayton gets another home play-in game) completes the season sweep after winning in Memorial Gym on December 9. Read the rest of this entry »
This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.
Burning Question: Is this really the best team in the country?
The Tar Heels were a very good team last season — remember, they led national runner-up Wisconsin until the final six minutes of the Sweet Sixteen (and were within one point in the final minute). But JP Tokoto opted to play basketball for money, leaving Roy Williams without much depth on the wing. Theo Pinson will likely get the call to replace him and seems a good fit for the role. He was a worse than average shooter last season but he was a good prep free throw shooter which usually tracks well with shooting ability. Pinson should immediately assume the role as this team’s defensive stopper.
Is a healthy Theo Pinson the difference between a good and great North Carolina team? (USATSI)
The x-factors for this team are twofold. First and foremost, Marcus Paige has to get healthy — his recently broken hand will put him out of action for a month. The real x-factor, however, is Joel Berry. Berry was quietly very efficient last season. It was shocking that he finished the season with an offensive efficiency rating of over 110 (the best of the bench). With Paige out of the lineup, this will be Berry’s offense to run from day one along with Nate Britt. The good news for Tar Heels fans is that both point guards are competent three-point shooters, and it’s also good for both to get early season experience at point guard so that when Paige comes back he’ll mostly be able to play off the ball. Read the rest of this entry »