ACC Morning Five: 10.20.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 20th, 2011

  1. Ballin’ Is A Habit: The gentlemen at BIAH do a great job previewing the ACC for the upcoming season. Nothing super surprising here, except they’ve got John Henson on the all-ACC second team. While it’s tough to distinguish Henson and Tyler Zeller (and I agree only one will make the first team, barring a truly phenomenal year from both), I think Henson’s defense merits first team consideration before Zeller’s offense. The other minor surprise I saw was that Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott make all-ACC teams, but Miami is ranked sixth. Assuming Reggie Johnson is back come January and the back court lives up to its potential, I think Miami could certainly challenge for a top four finish.
  2. SCACCHoops.com: Want the predictions from ACC media day without all of the fluff interviews from coaches and players? Not surprisingly, North Carolina ran away with the team and individual voting thanks to Harrison Barnes (John Henson actually garnered the final two Player of the Year votes). Three players made the all-ACC team for the first time since Duke’s loaded 2001-02 squad that featured Jason Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy. Austin Rivers nabbed preseason Rookie of the Year. We’ll certainly have some insight on the the more qualitative information from the day later.
  3. Cavaliers Journal – Washington Post: Because of a mediocre season last year, Virginia has been flying under the radar for much of the offseason. But the Cavaliers are in a very good place to finish in the top half of the conference and grab an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Sammy Zeglinski certainly sounds ready to take on the world: “We want to have success this year, but at the same time we need to go out and earn it. Nothing is gonna be given to us.” With Mike Scott back, this is looking like Tony Bennett’s year to make a leap within the league.
  4. Sports Illustrated: Luke Winn has an early look at North Carolina‘s prospects for next season. Initial reaction from the post: Harrison Barnes is not only going to be a great player in college and the NBA, but he’s going to make a great coach one day. His discussion with Winn on his early season struggles last year shows a self-awareness that goes beyond the average “I need to play better” response reporters often accept. As for the Tar Heels’ outlook, Winn’s remarks are short: “I don’t see anyone stopping them.”
  5. ESPN: The Worldwide Leader will be broadcasting more games than ever this season, broadcasting a total of 1,450 games across its many platforms. The best news for hoops junkies is that 1,100 of those broadcasts will be on ESPN3. This is also ESPN’s first year of the new ACC media deal that grants the network exclusive access to all men’s basketball games. And don’t worry Raycom fans, ESPN will be outsourcing many of the conference match-ups to your friendly neighborhood announcers.

BONUS: The Sporting News: [WARNING: NBA related] As you undoubtedly know, Mike Krzyzewski is more than just a college basketball coach. On the side he coaches the US Men’s Olympic team. Unfortunately, the NBA lockout is throwing a wrench into the normally straightforward process for selecting the national squad (watching games and inviting players). The biggest threat to the team is if the NBA decides to extend the 2011-12 season into next summer to account for the earlier missed games, but otherwise Coach K has a plan. If the season is cancelled there will be a training camp-tryout hybrid with 20 of the nation’s top players to assess who’s ready to go.

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Conference Report Card: ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 28th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

Conference Recap

The ACC had a down year though North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall-led resurgence and Florida State’s Sweet Sixteen appearance helped a little bit. Before and during the season, Duke was the runaway favorite in the conference: Kyrie Irving’s toe injury obviously was the pivotal point that brought Duke back down to earth. Equally pivotal (in the reverse direction) was Marshall’s move to starting point guard for North Carolina. With Larry Drew II at the helm, there is no way the Tar Heels could have come close to surpassing Duke for the regular season title. The down year did not really surprise most people, and despite lofty preseason expectations (read: people forgot how highly rated North Carolina was to start the season) I think the perception is that the league at least lived up to preseason expectations with a couple of notable exceptions: NC State, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. NC State had NCAA Tournament talent, but did not come anywhere close to sniffing the Big Dance; Wake was arguably the worst major conference team in the country; and Virginia Tech once again found itself very highly seeded in the NIT. On the flip side, Clemson and Florida State both exceeded expectations.

Roy Williams and Kendall Marshall led a mid-season resurgence that resulted in a trip the Elite Eight. (News Observer/Robert Willitt)

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • So I was wrong about the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  The Big Ten won, 6-5 (thanks to a comeback victory for Purdue over Virginia Tech).  The ACC sported wins from Duke, Virginia, Boston College, Wake Forest and MarylandN.C. State, Clemson and North Carolina were totally embarrassed by Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois, respectively.  If you’re keeping score at home, the predicted bottom of the ACC is better than the bottom of the Big Ten.  Fantastic.  Duke is now the only ACC team with fewer than two losses.
  • Luckily, the bottom tier of the conference seems to be improving, making the ACC a turbulent sea of mediocrity.  In better news, Mike Krzyzewski won his 876th game Saturday to tie Adolph Rupp at third on the all-time wins list.

Team of the Week

Miami ekes this one out over Boston College and Virginia.  The Hurricanes scored two very impressive wins over West Virginia and Mississippi.  Durand Scott caught fire, torching the Rebels for 27 points, six rebounds and six assists.  Reggie Johnson added 17 points and ten boards.  The Hurricanes put up an astonishing 57 points in the first half before putting things in cruise control for a 13-point win.  Malcolm Grant lead the way against West Virginia, putting up 26 points on the afternoon.  Miami showcases three guys who have the ability to carry the team on any given night.  When Scott and Grant get to the foul line, they’re deadly.  And Miami’s two losses come in a heartbreaker at Memphis and an ugly game at Rutgers.

Bizarro Team of the Week

Virginia Tech wins hands down after losing their third straight game at home against Virginia.  Virginia’s definitely better than everyone thought, but that’s still inexcusable for a team searching for an elusive at-large bid.  I wrote in the Conference Primer that “Seth Greenberg’s squad should hear their names called come Selection Sunday, and they should be a pretty high seed.”  I was totally wrong.  There’s almost no chance they sniff a high seed, and they’re currently staring at another disappointing Selection Sunday if they can’t get it together.  They have no marquee victories: the only “Power Six” team the Hokies have beaten is Oklahoma State. Unlike Miami, the Hokies only have Malcolm Delaney, who puts up solid numbers, but he can’t do it alone.  They will need to find a real second threat to take some of the scoring load and defensive focus off Delaney.

Player of the Week

Kyrie Irving – I don’t like to repeat weekly honors for fear of beating dead horses.  But it’s tough to find a player in the country who was as valuable as Irving this week, much less the conference.  Irving exploded against Michigan State for 31 points, six rebounds, four assists, which is enough, to say nothing of his two steals and two blocks to boot.  In a game that featured four of the most talented seniors in the country (Duke’s Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith; Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers), Irving was the best player on the floor.  He scored at will: from the line, beyond the arc and off the dribble.  While he struggled in the first half against Butler–having to sit much of it after two offensive fouls–Irving was the difference-maker in the second period, exploding for 17 points in the second half alone.  So far this season, Irving has played against and with some of the best players in the country, and he’s consistently bested all of them.  Virginia’s Mike Scott was a close second.

Power Rankings

1. Duke (8-0): I went to the Duke – Butler game Saturday, and I was very impressed by both teams.  The most interesting thing to watch was how much Brad Stevens’ triangle and two frustrated Duke’s offense.  Duke also relied heavily on threes, even when they weren’t falling.  An off night in a hostile environment seems like Duke’s best shot to lose during ACC play.  Mason Plumlee will be a key factor on those nights.  If he disappears (or gets in foul trouble), forcing Duke into halfcourt sets will lead to a lot of jumpers.  Duke is a good enough shooting team that I don’t expect them to have but one or two “off nights” this season, but they’re far from unbeatable.

2. Miami (6-2): You’ll be seeing a whole lot of movement in these rankings between the second and 11th spots.  This is the first major leap.  I don’t expect Miami to stick around here for the whole season, but the Hurricanes showed that they are a talented team with a variety of weapons.   Their game against Central Florida (who just beat Florida) will be a big test for Frank Haith’s squad before conference play.

3. North Carolina (5-3): The Tar Heels rebounded from a woodshed beating in Champaign to take down Kentucky in the Dean Dome.  The Kentucky game showcased the talented frontcourt of Tyler Zeller and John Henson, but don’t move your expectations too high.  Kentucky is a young team with major interior depth issues.  Roy Williams should be thrilled with the win, but he still needs to overcome backcourt problems. Why Larry Drew II continues to play more minutes than Kendall Marshall, I’ll never know.  Harrison Barnes had another lackluster week, but the Carolina offense is probably as much to blame as Barnes’ slump.

4. Florida State (6-2): Florida State is a tale of two teams.  Defensively, they are the most dominant team in the nation: they are ranked first by Ken Pomeroy in adjusted defense behind great shot-blocking and field goal defense (the Seminoles are holding opponents to a striking 31.6% from the floor).  However, on offense, Florida State is a total train wreck.  They turn the ball over way too much, and Chris Singleton is their only player averaging double figures in scoring.  In halfcourt sets, the team is inactive, leading to bad shots and turnovers.  Florida State is turning the ball over at an alarming 26.4% rate, good for 332nd in the country.  That has to change if they want to be a factor in conference play. I’m sorry, but if you give Duke a quarter of your possessions in transition it doesn’t matter how good you guard them in halfcourt sets.

5. Maryland (6-3): The Terps are a strange team this year.  They’ve been good, but not quite good enough.  They almost notched a major nonconference win against Temple but couldn’t hold on down the stretch.  That leaves them with three very strong nonconference losses (two of which could have gone Maryland’s way if someone had stepped up down the stretch).  Jordan Williams is a star, averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds a game, but he hasn’t shown the ability to step up when it counts at the end of games.  Just this week, Williams missed two crucial free throws with about a minute to go that would have brought the Terps within one.  It should be interesting to see if Gary Williams can coach someone into a leader this season: if he can, they’ll be a very tough team to beat; if he can’t, they’ll lose a lot of close games.

6. Boston College (6-2):  Stability has taken hold after the Eagles’ embarrassing loss to Yale.  Since then, the Eagles are 5-1 with wins over Cal, Indiana and Massachusetts.  The only loss comes to Wisconsin, who just trounced N.C. State.  Sunday at Maryland will give them a chance to earn their stripes.  A fun fact about Boston College: currently, the Eagles are ranked eighth in adjusted offensive efficiency by Ken Pomeroy largely thanks to taking care of the ball and making free throws.  Eighth!  Needless to say, I was surprised (and if you aren’t, you’re lying).

7. Virginia (5-3, 1-0): The Cavaliers had another impressive week, knocking off in-state rival Virginia Tech on the road.  That gives them two straight upsets.  Getting blown out by Stanford remains their ugly loss, but sometimes things happen on the road.  Mike Scott has been tremendous so far, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds a game.  Once Sammy Zeglinski gets totally healthy, Virginia could be a solid, tournament-bound team.  It’s definitely too early to make any guarantees, but if I had to put money on an ACC team from Virginia making the Big Dance, I’d really consider Tony Bennett’s squad.

8. N.C. State (4-3): Sidney Lowe’s seat is on fire.  Yes, Tracy Smith is still injured.  Yes, they Wolfpack’s three losses came against very good teams (Georgetown, Wisconsin and Syracuse).  But their top win is against George Mason.  N.C. State had a chance to make a big statement at the beginning of this season and impress voters.  Now, Arizona is the only noteworthy team separating the Wolfpack from conference play.  They have the talent.  Now Lowe just needs to find a way to convert that talent into big wins.

T9. Georgia Tech (4-3): Speaking of hot seats, Paul Hewitt may push the athletic department to finally buy him out.  He’s well on his way to having another fairly talented, very disappointing team.  I couldn’t move Georgia Tech up after an embarrassing loss to Northwestern, but the Yellow Jackets did play Syracuse close right after Thanksgiving.  At the core of their problems is an abysmal 26% clip from three (less than 20 schools in D-I are worse) when threes account for a third of their shots.  They’ll need to improve their efficiency drastically, or find a way to steal Derrick Favors back from the NBA to compete in the ACC this season.

T9. Virginia Tech (4-4, 0-1): I think we covered most of the Hokies’ problems above.  But I can’t say it enough: Malcolm Delaney can’t do it alone.  And if he keeps trying, they’ll keep losing.

11. Clemson (5-3): Clemson quietly sports back-to-back losses against Michigan and at South Carolina this week.  Things probably won’t get any easier for the Tigers, as they take on Florida State in Tallahassee this Sunday.  There’s not any one glaring problem with this team, but Brad Brownell needs to make some changes.  Clemson isn’t terrible in any one statistic, but they don’t shine anywhere either.

12. Wake Forest (5-3): Wake rounds out the ACC for the third week in a row, despite two wins.  Color me unimpressed by beating Iowa and Holy Cross at home.  Wake is still struggling mightily rebounding, turning the ball over (but also forcing turnovers), and shooting in general (interestingly, they manage 44% from downtown).  The most frightening part of their poor field goal shooting has been that it has come against bad teams.  If you can’t break 50% against cupcakes, conference play is going to be very tough (also known as, Wake will be tabbed to lose every game, baring drastic, sudden improvement).

A Look Ahead

  • The non-conference week ahead figures to be pretty quiet, but on Sunday, conference play continues with Boston College at Maryland and Clemson at Florida State (the games are at 4:00 PM and 6:15 PM EST on Fox Sports Net).
  • Is Duke really such a draw for CBS that enough viewers will watch them play a nondescript St. Louis team at home to make it worth the network’s while?

History In the Making in Durham

Coach K now sits only three games behind Dean Smith and 26 games behind Bob Knight in all-time wins.  For my math-inclined friends: Duke has 23 regular season games, three possible ACC tournament games, and six possible NCAA tournament games.  That totals 32 total (possible) games, putting Coach K at 908 for his career.

Of course, that requires Duke going undefeated (or losing less than six of their possible games).  Can the Blue Devils do it?  It would be fitting that the coach to pass Knight on the wins list did it with the first undefeated squad since Knight’s 1976 Hoosiers.  But it probably won’t happen.  Technically, it’s possible (as it is for 19 other teams in D-I).  And yes, the ACC looks really weak so far.  But Duke still relies too heavily on threes (often struggling in halfcourt sets), and if they’re struggling in a hostile environment, they could fall flat.  Not to mention Butler’s zone really gave Kyrie Irving a lot of trouble the first half.  I’m not sure how many teams Duke will see as good as Butler defensively (besides Florida State), but the Bulldogs showed that Duke is beatable if you keep them out of transition.  Every game has more and more pressure–not to mention the fact that they’ve only won eight games so far.

In short, don’t get on a plane to Vegas to put your life savings on the Blue Devils going 40-0.  Even finishing the regular season unscathed leaves six possible games against top competition on neutral courts.  That alone is a daunting task for even the best of teams, not to mention one relying on a freshman point guard, even if he goes #1 overall next June.  While it’s tough to pick out a specific team that will knock Duke down, all it takes is a great night (with a mediocre night from Duke).  This team has flaws, and eventually those flaws will catch up to them.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 30th, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back:

The ACC looks out of sorts right now.  Duke is the only undefeated team remaining (to put that in perspective, the Big East has seven undefeated teams and even the normally middling SEC has two unbeaten teams left); the conference is fifth in the RPI (behind the Mountain West, no less); and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is shaping up to fall to the Big Ten for the second straight year.  Admittedly, the strongest teams in the ACC have lost to respectable top 25 foes; the RPI is shoddy this early, since it’s still nearly impossible to judge strength of schedule; and the matchups in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge favor the ACC enough where it should be an actual challenge as to which conference will win.

Team of the Week

Say hello to the Virginia Cavaliers.  Yes, the same team I slated ninth last week just overcame a ten-point halftime deficit to shock upstart Minnesota on the road.  That’s a huge road win for the ACC in the Challenge (especially considering no one picked Virginia to even make this a game).  The Golden Gophers were ranked 13th and 15th in the Coaches’ and AP polls, respectively, coming into Monday night’s contest.  The Cavaliers were led by seniors Mustapha Farrakhan (23 points, 4-5 from three), Mike Scott (17 points, 12 rebounds), and freshman Joe Harris (24 points, 4-6 from three).  Tony Bennett showed his team might not be the most talented squad in the ACC, but they can surprise some people.

Player of the Week

Kyrie Irving had a phenomenal week.  He totally shut down All-American Jacob Pullen on the defensive end, while offensively he finished with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.  Irving has a quick first step and the ability to create his own shot, which combines with very good court vision (especially for a freshman) to make him virtually unguardable.  He can shoot the three, get to the bucket, or collapse the zone while dishing it to an open teammate with relative ease.  Expect to see his name here multiple times this season.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (6-0): Duke showed off a dominant performance against Kansas State to start the week.  As mentioned before, Irving was phenomenal.  Five Duke players finished in double figures, and the game never felt in question despite subpar performances from seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith.  This Duke team has a ton of offensive weapons.  Especially when the threes start to fall, the Blue Devils put up points in a hurry.  Huge game this Wednesday against Michigan State.
  2. Florida State (5-1): Florida State lost a closely contested game to Florida at home this week.  Not surprisingly, the Seminoles’ offense was the root of their troubles: they finished shooting an ugly 33% from the field and 55% from the charity stripe.  Defensively, they held an explosive Gator team to under 40% from the floor.  They’ll need to score more than 50 points if they want to beat Ohio State this Tuesday night, but watch out if Chris Singleton can get this offense into a rhythm.
  3. Clemson (5-1): The Tigers needed overtime to take care of a pesky Seton Hall team in the Virgin Islands, but the bigger concern is on the glass.  Clemson has only averaged 32.2 rebounds a game (good for 287th in Division I), and they play at a pretty good pace.  While they might not need a dominant rebounding performance to beat Michigan, they’ll need to improve before conference play rolls around.
  4. Maryland (5-2): After a tough 2kSports Classic, the Terrapins enjoyed a light week, taking care of Delaware State and Elon.  Elon kept it a little close for comfort after a slow start, but a dominating 24 points and 13 rebounds from Jordan Williams sealed the deal.  Maryland really needs Sean Mosley to step into a more involved role: last year, he averaged more points, more rebounds and less turnovers.  It’s tough to lose a player like Greivis Vasquez (who used 30.6% of Maryland possessions last season), but as this team matures, players should find their respective roles.
  5. N.C. State (4-1): The Wolfpack are still without Tracy Smith.  Smith’s role on this team cannot be understated: he’s the best rebounder, senior leader, and first offensive option for an otherwise very young team.  Not having Smith really showed down the stretch as Georgetown took over the finals of the Charleston Classic (not to mention in the nine rebound advantage).  Smith is supposed to come back in the middle of December, and N.C. State will be a very different team when he does.
  6. Virginia Tech (4-2): The Hokies sport two quality losses (Kansas State and UNLV), but they weren’t all that competitive in either game.  So far, Seth Greenberg’s squad relies too heavily on Malcolm Delaney and hasn’t shown the ability to give him the support he needs to be successful.  They have a real measuring-stick game at home against Purdue this week.  This team has played a tougher schedule than last year’s “snubbed” squad, but they haven’t capitalized on any of the opportunities.
  7. Virginia (4-3): Despite Sammy Zeglinski’s injury Tony Bennett’s squad got the first quality win of the season at Minnesota.  Don’t think this punched a ticket to the Big Dance (or even the NIT), but it’s a great sign for the Cavaliers going forward.
  8. North Carolina (4-2): North Carolina continues to underachieve.  The Tar Heels were only up six on the University of North Carolina-Asheville with five minutes to play, and then barely eked out a win over the College of Charleston Sunday.  Both games were at home.  So far, no one has stepped up as the leader of this team.  Tyler Zeller looks like the most likely candidate right now, but he needs to be much more aggressive if he’s going to be the go-to guy this season (and avoid nagging injuries).  There is plenty of talent to be found, but someone needs to take over and make this his team.
  9. Boston College (4-2): Boston College rebounded with wins against Texas A&M and Cal, but lost to a talented Wisconsin team.  The Eagles seem to be getting more and more comfortable with Steve Donahue’s style, but they are far from perfect.
  10. Georgia Tech (4-2): The Yellow Jackets played two impressive games this week.  After beating a talented UTEP team they took a (slightly overrated) Syracuse team down to the wire.  Paul Hewitt has got talent this year in Brian Oliver and Iman Shumpert.  Now he only has to coach that talent to its potential.
  11. Miami (4-2): The Hurricanes are a mixed bag.  Maybe the team is too caught up in Randy Shannon’s recent firing.  But I expected Durand Scott to be much more of a factor.  They definitely should move up in the rankings as the season progresses, but the big three of Malcolm Grant, Scott and Reggie Johnson (who admittedly is averaging a very solid 12 points and 10.5 rebounds a game) will be expected to really step up.  This week the Hurricanes get tests against Mississippi and West Virginia this week.
  12. Wake Forest (3-3): The Demon Deacons took care of Marist, but dropped a game at home to Winthrop. Tuesday night’s game against Big Ten cellar-dweller Iowa will not be for the faint of heart.

A Look Ahead to the ACC — Big 10 Challenge (predictions included)

Monday

  • 7:00PM Virginia at Minnesota: Minnesota (1-0, Big 10)

**Author’s Note: Virginia already won this game, but I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I picked Virginia.

Tuesday

  • 7:00PM Iowa at Wake Forest: Wake Forest (1-1)
  • 7:00PM Georgia Tech at Northwestern: Northwestern (2-1, Big 10)
  • 7:30PM Ohio State at Florida State: Ohio State (3-1, Big 10)
  • 9:00PM Michigan at Clemson: Clemson (3-2, Big 10)
  • 9:30PM North Carolina at Illinois: North Carolina (3-3)

Upset alert: look for North Carolina to at least temporarily find themselves on the road at Illinois.

Wednesday

  • 7:15PM Indiana at Boston College: Boston College (4-3, ACC)
  • 7:15PM N.C. State at Wisconsin: Wisconsin (4-4)
  • 7:30PM Purdue at Virginia Tech: Purdue (5-4, Big 10)
  • 9:15PM Maryland at Penn State: Maryland (5-5)
  • 9:30PM Michigan State at Duke: Duke (6-5, ACC)

Call me a homer, but I like the ACC to win the challenge.  Especially since Virginia was able to steal a win on the road Monday night.  The games to keep an eye on now are Ohio State – Florida State, North Carolina – Illinois, Purdue – Virginia Tech and Michigan State – Duke.  No games are gimmes for either conference (as Virginia proved), so it should be another great year of the Challenge.  Don’t forget to tune in for a couple of the games, though I’d suggest looking for games taking place outside of Winston-Salem.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • The ACC looks rough early.  I think I was a little optimistic coming into the season, especially with Virginia Tech.  I definitely underrated Florida State and Maryland marginally (at least so far), but as a whole, play has been underwhelming in the early going.
  • Unfortunately, the ACC wasn’t helped when N.C. State’s Tracy Smith went down with a knee injury.  I really think Smith would have been a major factor in the Georgetown game.  State was absolutely picked apart inside, and Smith’s talent and experience would have been invaluable — especially as things started getting out of hand in the second half.  I’m not sure Smith would have been the difference, but he certainly would have helped significantly.  Smith is expected to be back in around three weeks.  The injuries don’t stop there: Virginia Tech is having major injury issues with J.T. Thompson and Allan Chaney out for the season.  Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski is out for the first couple of months recovering from knee surgery.  Wake Forest is fighting injuries to Melvin Tabb (mono), Tony Chenault (foot, 8-10 weeks) and Nikita Mescheriakov’s eligibility (not to mention anyone who has suffered through watching them play).
  • In recruiting news, the ACC had a huge signing day.  Duke looks ready to reload with three LOI’s from 5-star recruits Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers and Michael Gbinje (not to mention 4-star Marshall Plumlee).  North Carolina inked two 5-stars in James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston.  Virginia Tech also has a sneaky-good class coming in with four-star recruits Dorian Finney-Smith, Marquis Rankin and C.J. Barksdale.

Player of the Week: Chris Singleton, Florida State: Singleton has been absolutely unbelievable for the Seminoles so far.  Through four games, he’s averaging 19.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 3.8 steals per contest.  The performance that sealed the deal was his unconventional triple-double against UNC Greensboro (22 points, 11 rebounds, 10 steals, 6 assists and 4 blocks).  If he can keep his scoring up this season, the Seminoles could be a dark horse in the ACC runner-up race.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (4-0): Through four games, the Blue Devils have been incredible.  Kyrie Irving introduced himself to the college basketball world with nine assists and one turnover against Princeton.  Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have looked good, not great, but Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry can shoot.  If the Blue Devils catch fire from downtown (and with five players who could shoot 40% from beyond the arc in Singler, Smith, Curry, Dawkins and Irving, that should happen plenty) they’ll be close to unbeatable.  It’s still early, but so far the Blue Devils lead both adjusted offense and adjusted defense in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. Duke’s ability to get past Marquette in the second half Monday without much from Kyle Singler speaks to their depth across the starting lineup. How will Mason Plumlee build on his big game in Kansas City?
  2. Virginia Tech (2-1): I’m leaving the Hokies here mainly out of respect for Kansas State.  The Hokies have come out flat: they rely too much on Malcolm Delaney and are easily drawn into sloppy play.  There’s a reason Seth Greenberg’s squad didn’t make the tournament last year: they weren’t that good.  I expect Virginia Tech to get better (though losing J.T. Thompson really hurts), but I expected a team that returns all five starters to be ready to go right away.
  3. Florida State (4-0): The Seminoles have a very good defense: color me not surprised.  It’ll be interesting to see how Florida State’s defense evolves as the season progresses, but they’ll get a big test next Sunday against Florida.  If the Seminoles can muster up some solid offense, they’ll be a very tough team to beat this year.  Definitely a tournament-level team, and arguably a top-25 team so far.
  4. N.C. State (3-1): Getting blown out in the second half by Georgetown wasn’t good, but it wasn’t terrible.  N.C. State is a very young team with Tracy Smith, and it’s no surprise they struggled against a veteran Georgetown team with one of the country’s best backcourts (especially if you consider Georgetown’s biggest weakness in the post).  Hopefully, for Sidney Lowe’s sake, the Wolfpack get Smith back before their showdowns with top-25 teams Wisconsin and Syracuse.  In the meantime I expect them to manhandle Fairleigh Dickinson.
  5. Clemson (4-1): The Tigers’ lone loss comes against Old Dominion (one of the top mid-majors in the country), and Clemson made a game of it, only losing by one after an ugly first half.  There’s no doubt they miss Trevor Booker, but Demontez Stitt looks like he’s ready to take on a much bigger offensive role this season.  Consistency will be the biggest question for the Tigers going forward.
  6. Maryland (3-2): I thought Maryland would be totally lost without Greivis Vasquez, but the Terps played Pitt and Illinois down to the last minute.  Gary Williams has done a great job getting this team to such a competitive level very quickly.  Unfortunately, Maryland still turns the ball over a lot, and they haven’t shown an ability to close out big games.  That said, I’m still very impressed with the showing they put up at the 2k Classic against two of the country’s top teams. The Terps would be better served to feed Jordan Williams the ball more than they have.
  7. North Carolina (2-2): This team is having some major growing pains.  Two straight losses to Minnesota and Vanderbilt are not what Tar Heel Nation was expecting out of Harrison Barnes’ debut.  Before you’re too quick to judge Barnes, remember: he’s a freshman (with colossal expectations), and the Heels do not have a legitimate point guard.  If I were Roy Williams, I’d bench Larry Drew II immediately to get some quality time in for frosh Kendall Marshall.  Marshall is the future of the program, and can he really play that much worse than Drew?
  8. Miami (2-2): Miami can deal with losing at Memphis.  And they made a very close game of it.  But getting blown out at Rutgers?  That’s totally unacceptable.  Reggie Johnson (12 points and 14 boards) was the only Hurricane in double figures.  I’m not sure where Durand Scott was, but he needs to step up his game if the Hurricanes don’t want to join the lowest tier of the conference.  Right now, I’m pegging Miami as a horrendous road team that could prove a tough out at home.  They just as easily could be a terribly inconsistent team.  Frank Haith’s seat started warming up this week.
  9. Virginia (2-2): The Cavaliers are the best of the worst this week.  While they notched wins over William and Mary and U.S.C. Upstate, they got blown out by the Pac 10 – first by Stanford, then by #11 Washington.  If it’s possible to have a bad time during a November trip to Hawaii, Virginia has found the way. They’ll try to salvage things against Oklahoma on Tuesday.
  10. Georgia Tech (3-1): 3-1 isn’t that bad, right?  Georgia Tech has looked awful so far-most notably in their blowout loss at Kennesaw State.  The most important question is what was Paul Hewitt doing playing at Kennesaw State in the first place?  What good comes out of that game?  The Yellow Jackets get a chance to prove the doubters (which should be nearly everyone at this point) partially wrong this week with a game against UTEP.
  11. Boston College (2-1): Boston College has got to stop losing to Ivy League teams.  They lost to Yale last week.  Yale isn’t even supposed to be a real competitor in the Ivy League, much less the ACC.  Steve Donahue runs a very different style than Al Skinner, and I’m not sure he or his players have totally adjusted.  It’ll take a few years to get everything optimized to his style of play, but in the meantime he should be avoiding the easy losses. To keep the bad loss from dwelling, the Eagles beat Holy Cross rather soundly.
  12. Wake Forest (2-3): Wake Forest has major issues.  So far they’ve lost to Stetson, been blown out by Virginia Commonwealth, and couldn’t keep up at Winthrop. They check in at a smooth 159th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, lowest among any of the “Power Six” conference teams, save DePaul and Auburn.  So far the Demon Deacons miss Ish Smith more than anything: currently they sport a ghastly 25.5% turnover percentage…  That means they turn it over more than once every four possessions.  If Wake can’t improve their offensive execution by conference play, the ACC will have a new conference doormat.

A Look Ahead

The non-con tournaments continue!  Duke will look to make a major statement this week at the CBE Classic in Kansas City with a big game against #4 Kansas State Tuesday. It may as well be a true road game with the Wildcats’ campus just two hours away.  Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech also participate in early-season tournaments throughout the week.  Most importantly, the Big 10-ACC Challenge is right around the corner (starting November 29).  While the Big 10 looks like a far superior conference on paper, the basketball gods were very kind in placing games (Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke all play at home) and somehow Wake Forest drew Iowa and Boston College drew Indiana.  Even if the ACC doesn’t win, there are a ton of great games, so make sure to get it on your calendar early.

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Morning Five: 10.21.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2010

  1. Yesterday was ACC and Big East Media Days, and there were no major surprises coming out of either, unless you count some buffoon giving North Carolina a #1 vote in the ACC over Duke a surprise (more like insanity, but whatev).  The Devils received 61 of 62 first-place votes in the ACC, while Pittsburgh received 12 of 16 first-place votes (from the coaches) in the Big East (Syracuse with two, Villanova and St. John’s received the others).  The preseason all-conference team went like so: ACC — Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech), Kyle Singler (Duke), Nolan Smith (Duke), Tracy Smith (NC State), Chris Singleton (Florida State); Big East – Austin Freeman (Georgetown), Kemba Walker (Connecticut), Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh), Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall), Corey Fisher (Villanova), Kevin Jones (West Virginia).  ACC writers will regret leaving UNC’s Harrison Barnes off that team around mid-December, guaranteed.
  2. At said Big East Media Day in NYC, Louisville coach Rick Pitino chose the opportunity to announce that he would no longer be doing his weekly television show on WHAS-TV.  It’s no secret in the River City that Pitino was unhappy about the channel’s coverage of the Karen Sypher trial over the summer, so this may be his way of expressing his disdain.  Pitino scoffed at that suggestion, pointing out that he still plans on talking to the local newspaper this season even though he was unhappy with their coverage as well.  Nevermind that the Courier-Journal is the only newspaper of record in the Louisville area, while there are multiple local television channels there.  We’re sure that has nothing at all to do with the decision.
  3. Some injury news:  Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski will miss at least eight weeks after Tuesday surgery to his knee to repair some cartilage damage.  Assuming he can get back quickly, the best-case scenario might be having the junior guard back at 100% for ACC play in early January.  Steve Lavin got some bad news with the word that senior forward Justin Burrell broke his hand in a practice, putting St. John’s in a precarious spot in the frontcourt for the next month or so.  As for Robbie Hummel, he told the assembled media on Wednesday that he plans on coming back next year better than ever — let’s hope that’s the case.
  4. Luke Winn analyzes how Purdue will cope with the loss of Hummel, which at this point could be as much of a mental hurdle as a physical one. Fanhouse’s Matt Snyder gives a reasoned analysis as to why he’s dropping Purdue from preseason #2 down to #10 and thinks that the Boilermakers will still be a factor in the Big Ten race.  Can’t say we disagree — after all, Purdue is used to playing without Hummel by now.  He missed parts of his sophomore season and junior season due to injuries, yet the Boilers still made it to the Sweet Sixteen both years.  For anyone to seriously sell this team short really isn’t paying attention to how this game tends to work.  They’re not a Final Four favorite anymore, but they’re most definitely a contender.
  5. Jim Calhoun: “I am not a crook.”  Or, that’s what it sounds like as the venerable old UConn coach said yesterday that he was not going to be held responsible for anything other than “mistakes” that were made.  And over a thousand emails and text messages were made, so we’re not really feeling a lot of sympathy these days…
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Morning Five: 10.19.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 19th, 2010

  1. Binghamton University announced that the NCAA found no major and only two secondary violations as a result of its investigation into the basketball program.   The two minor violations related to an assistant coach providing impermissible travel to members of the team.  How the school got around a purported email uncovered by the NYT discussing “cash payments and academic fraud,” we’re not sure; but apparently the NCAA was satisfied with what it found (or didn’t find).  Former head coach Kevin Broadus has been on administrative leave for a year as all this played out — Mark Macon took the reins in 2009-10 and led the team to a 13-18 (8-8 Am East) season — but we’d be highly, highly shocked and awed if he got his old job back.
  2. Former Michigan team captain CJ Lee (2007-09) might be taking after former Dookie Reggie Love by finding a role in politics after graduation.  The guard who topped out at 16.5 minutes per game during his senior season when Michigan went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament is highlighted in a television spot supporting Michigan gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder (R) that debuted last week (see ad here).  According to Nate Silver’s aggregate model, Snyder has a 95% chance of winning the position, which means we’ll probably see Lee moving to Lansing sometime this winter.
  3. Former Wake Forest center Tony Woods appears to be set for a transfer to Louisville.  He would begin taking classes there in January and would expect to become eligible to play at the semester break of the 2011-12 season.  Woods of course has to first complete 100 hours of community service in Winston-Salem as a result of a guilty plea to assault for pushing his girlfriend and seriously injuring her during a dispute last month.  All we can say is that we hope Woods has learned his lesson here, and we’ll never feel the need to speak of him again except for his performance on the court.
  4. Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski, one of the best three-point shooters in the ACC last season, has injured his knee and will be out for an undetermined amount of time.  He’s set to have surgery to deal with what is being characterized as “cartilage work” today and the school won’t know the length of his rehabilitation until after the procedure is completed.  Here’s wishing the guard and Virginia fans good fortune on that surgery.
  5. The SEC media picked Florida to win the conference yesterday, garnering eight of the 16 first-place votes cast.  We’re not so sure.  Sure, the Gators return all five starters and bring in a nice recruiting class, but lest we forget that those same five players lost thirteen games in 2009-10 including five of six down the stretch.  KenPom rated UF as the #45 team in America last year mostly due to a suspect defense, and we’re not convinced that another year in Gainesville automatically means that the Gators are ready to crash the top ten (as many publications and pundits are picking).  Granted, the rest of the SEC East also has question marks.  Kentucky and Tennessee took significant personnel losses, and the up-and-coming Georgia Bulldogs are in the same spot as Florida, just worse (Georgia won five SEC games last year).  Vandy is picked fifth and we can’t figure out how a team that won 24 games (including 12 SEC wins) and brings back a  talented duo like Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins is getting no love whatsoever.  As for the SEC West, we agree with the media that Mississippi State with Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney eligible should run away with that division.  Of course, this is the same media who last year picked Kevin Stallings over John Calipari  for SEC Coach of the Year — all due respect to the season Vandy put together, but give us a break. As for this year’s individual awards, Georgia’s Trey Thompkins received 18 of the 20 first-place votes for preseason SEC POY.  Vanderbilt’s Taylor, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, Georgia’s Travis Leslie and Ole Miss’ Chris Warren rounded out the first team.
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ACC Tourney Daily Diary: Quarterfinals

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. One of our RTC correspondents is at the ACC Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the quarterfinal games.

Duke 57, Virginia 46

  • Virginia was again playing without second team all-ACC Sylven Landesberg, who was suspended by head coach Tony Bennett for the remainder of the season due to academic issues, and senior guard Calvin Baker, who left the team for personal reasons.
  • Sammy Zeglinski did not score in today’s game after leading the team yesterday with 21 points. Duke did a good job of limiting his open looks and keeping him out of the lane. He shot 0-9 from the floor, 0-4 from three point range.
  • Duke got its usual production from the big three of Singler, Scheyer, and Smith, accounting for 48 of the team’s 57 points. No other player had more than three points. This is going to bite Duke hard at some point, because one of those players is going to have an off night, and that will spell doom for their NCAA run. This looks like no better than an Elite Eight team, but I could easily see them losing in the Sweet 16.
  • Give Virginia credit, they scared Duke for about 33 of the 40 minutes. They fought hard on both ends and did not back down. Tony Bennett’s team may not always be the prettiest thing to watch, but they do compete. This could be a very solid program in a few years after Bennett has a couple of recruiting classes under his belt.

Miami 70, Virginia Tech 65

  • Miami starting PF Dwayne Collins was again not available for today’s game due to a “stress condition” of his left leg. Reggie Johnson, who scored a career high 22 points yesterday versus Wake, replaced him in the starting lineup. This game was not nearly as successful for him, scoring only five points.
  • Virginia Tech’s Malcolm Delaney, the ACC’s leading scorer at 20.5 ppg, was held to seven points on 3-15 shooting today, one of his worst performances all season. He was short on just about every shot, including an airball from three on Tech’s last possession.
  • Miami pulled off their second consecutive upset in as many days, having defeated the 4th and 5th seeds. No one was happier than coach Frank Haith, except for maybe the Duke fans who were cheering the loudest. They will now see a worn-down Hurricane team for a chance to advance to the championship game. As usual, the lucky ones get luckier.
  • Who needs Dwayne Collins? Apparently not Miami. They’re playing better now than at any point since the conference season began. No Collins clogging up the middle allows the lightning quick guards to penetrate for either a lay up or a dish for three. The threes didn’t fall today (4-16) as much as yesterday, but continued penetration put Miami on the line, where they were 83% yesterday and 76% today.

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ATB: The Only Time You’ll See Auburn Here This Season

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2009

atb

Story of the Night Week.  The lack of good games this week will mean our nightly ATBs will run a little shorter than usual.  From Monday to Friday, there will only be three games between ranked teams, and here’s your complete list.

  • Tuesday Dec. 8 – #13 Georgetown vs. #20 Butler (ESPN) – 7 pm (Jimmy V Classic)
  • Wednesday Dec. 9 – #4 Kentucky vs. #12 Connecticut (ESPN) – 9:30 pm (SEC/Big East Invitational)
  • Thursday Dec. 10 – #6 Syracuse vs. #11 Florida (ESPN) – 9 pm (SEC/Big East Invitational)

If you’re a regular here at RTC, you know that good games can come in all shapes and sizes, and there needn’t be two ranked teams to ensure our interest.  Still, this week offers a paucity of quality matchups on paper, but we’ll do our best to inform you as to the best games of each evening.

Game of the NightAuburn 68, Virginia 67.  We’re not sure why these two struggling teams from the SEC and ACC are even playing on a random Monday night before finals, but they did, and it was the War Eagles of Auburn that came out with the last-second tip-in to win.  We’d be remiss to say that this game is likely to impact either team’s postseason chances later this year (because neither team will be participating), but hey, the SEC will take a win over the ACC wherever it can get it.  After Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski hit two FTs to put the Wahoos up by one with 7.7 seconds left, Auburn’s DeWayne Reed (18/5/7 assts) streaked upcourt to try to win the game.  When his layup attempt went awry, center Brendon Knox tipped it in with 1.4 remaining, giving Auburn the win (good thing… because Knox was 1-7 from the line).  Sylven Landesberg led UVa with 20/3 in the loss.

Floriani LiveSeton Hall 86, Massachusetts 68. RTC Live wasn’t there but correspondent Ray Floriani was, and he sent in his report…

NEWARK, NJ – Sunday evening Herb Pope spent most of the night ill. He visited Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez Monday morning and informed him that he wasn’t sure he could play that night against UMass. Suffice it to say that Gonzalez probably didn’t feel too well at that point. A trip to the trainer for Pope and something to settle his stomach gave him enough strength to give it a shot. Gonzalez told Pope to ’raise your fist if you get tired and we will substitute.’ The fist was never raised. Pope logged 32 minutes with a game high 22 points and 16 rebounds in an 86-68 Seton Hall triumph over UMass at the Prudential Center.  Besides Pope’s outstanding work the story was defense. The first half numbers…

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