Set Your TiVo: 12.16.11 to 12.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 16th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With Dead Week mercifully over, we finally have some good games to enjoy this Saturday despite Sunday being a very slow day in the hoops world.

#6 Baylor @ BYU – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on BYU TV (****)

Perry Jones Leads Baylor into Provo Saturday (AP)

  • The Bears have had difficulty on the road in past seasons but they already passed one important test, demolishing Northwestern in Chicago a couple weeks ago. This game, however, will be an even better measure to see where the highly-rated Bears are really at. The Marriott Center is a notoriously difficult place to play but Baylor has a clear talent edge in this game. BU welcomes Gary Franklin, now eligible after the first semester, to an already highly skilled roster. Franklin didn’t play all that well at California last season but he was a four star recruit out of high school. He should help the Bears out at the point guard position, a place where turnovers are still an issue. Baylor averages 16 turnovers a game and that will be dangerous playing on the road against a team like BYU that likes to push the pace. 5.8 of those 16 turnovers come from the point guard position so Scott Drew is hoping that Franklin can help handle the ball. How Franklin will fit in alongside Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton remains a question mark.
  • BYU’s top six scorers are all 6’5” or taller, an important factor against the length and athleticism of Baylor’s front line. Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and Charles Abouo do the bulk of the damage for Dave Rose, as those three are his top scorers and rebounders. Hartsock in particular has been outstanding, scoring in double figures in every game thus far. All three will have to play well in order for BYU to pull the upset because Baylor’s front court is strong, deep and talented. With Quincy Acy blocking 3.3 shots a game, BYU’s big men should find it more difficult to score inside on Saturday. The Cougars have to get their outside game going as well. Baylor’s defense is very average against the three and BYU has three big deep threats, Abouo, Stephen Rogers and Brock Zylstra. Going up against the top-ranked interior defense in the nation, BYU needs its outside shots to fall in order to win. However, the Cougars can’t afford to settle for threes if they aren’t falling. They must get something going in the paint, even against such a strong defense, in order to balance out their offense.
  • This is an important game for both clubs. Baylor has played only two teams of note so far while BYU’s best win is over a mediocre Oregon team. Baylor shoots well (49.1% FG) but the biggest difference this season has been its defense. The Bears allow only 33.3% shooting inside the arc and their defensive efficiency has been terrific. Both teams get most of their offense from their respective front courts but Baylor may have the ultimate edge with Cory Jefferson off the bench. He adds some scoring punch and, more importantly, rebounding and depth for the Bears. For the Cougars to win, they’ll have to force turnovers to get points in transition because it’ll be awfully tough to score inside in the half court. In addition to making its threes, BYU must rebound well and get to the line while putting the Baylor big men in foul trouble. However, BYU ranks #295 in free throw rate and Baylor doesn’t foul too often. Although BYU rarely loses at home, this is a game Baylor can win. There are some who still doubt the Bears but a win here would put them on their way towards legitimate national recognition.

Texas A&M vs. #10 Florida (at Sunrise, FL) – 2:30 PM EST Saturday on FSN (***)

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Checking In On… the ACC

Posted by mpatton on December 14th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference. You can follow him on Twitter @rise_and_fire.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • Wake Forest’s Dynamic Duo: The Demon Deacons may not be the prettiest team to watch, but CJ Harris and Travis McKie are lighting up the box score. We knew (even if I, in a gaffe of all gaffes, left him off my All-Freshman team last year for Ryan Harrow) Mckie was going to be one of the ACC’s top players this year, but Harris has been a very pleasant surprise. The pair are efficiently combining for nearly 57% of Wake Forest’s points through the first 10 games of the year. Harris has already made as many threes as he made all last season on 18 less attempts, and he’s significantly more effective inside the arc. It remains to be seen how Harris will adapt to the defenses of ACC play, but so far he has to be leading the “surprise of the year” category.
  • Duke’s Post Presence: That’s right: after two solid years of berating the Plumlees as overrated and generally poor basketball players, it’s time to give credit where it’s due. Mason Plumlee has developed into a very good big man. No, he can’t make a free throw to save his life, but he’s much better offensively everywhere except the boards than he’s been the last few years. He developed a couple of solid post moves, stopped turning the ball over as much and learned to hold his ground on defense. If he can either learn to crash the offensive glass or hit 60% of his free throws, I’m confident in saying he’ll be one of the top three or four bigs in the ACC this season.
  • That’s right, the ACC Digital Network launched this season. Check out JR Reid break down North Carolina‘s softness and the conference power rankings. So far the coverage is fairly limited, but as it expands this could become one of the better sources of information for ACC fans.

Power Rankings

  1. North Carolina (8-2) stays atop the rankings with a hard-fought win over Long Beach State, which better get rewarded by the Selection Committee in March for playing such a tough non-conference schedule. The Tar Heels dominated on the inside with John Henson and Harrison Barnes leading the scoring, but it is worth noting that this is  another game where four Tar Heel starters played more than 30 minutes. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the ACC

Posted by mpatton on December 6th, 2011

Matt Patton is the ACC correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter @rise_and_fire.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • Kentucky and North Carolina: College basketball’s “Game of the Century” lived up to the hype coming down to the last possession (even if it ended bizarrely) and was fun from start to finish (well, almost finish for Tar Heel fans). The game was a reminder that North Carolina can be the team people thought it would be coming into this season. The Tar Heels were aggressive, knocked down perimeter shots, and controlled a little over half of the game. Harrison Barnes was outplayed by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but Kendall Marshall was passable on defense [Author's Note: That wasn't meant to be a bad pun. He actually played solid defense on Teague most of the game.] and his usual self on offense (though I was very surprised he saw as much time guarding Marquis Teague as he did, considering Teague’s turnover woes). I’m not sure any college basketball fan would mind seeing a rematch this spring.
  • Terrell Stoglin Can Score: Unfortunately, his teammates are struggling to keep up their end. Only three BCS-conference teams (Penn State, Washington, and Utah) have players with higher usages, and none have players more likely to take a shot (shot percentage). Stoglin is the only player on the team averaging over 20 points a game with 22.4. His field goal percentage could be a little higher, but right now he’s the best scorer in the conference. For more on Stoglin, check out our post from yesterday on his scoring ability.
  • Sportsman of the Year: Mike Krzyzewski and Pat Summitt joined the prestigious ranks of Sports Illustrated‘s “Sportsman of the Year” winners and are only the third and fourth college basketball coaches to be chosen for the honor (Dean Smith and John Wooden are the other two). Both are worthy choices, as they both signify excellence over the course of 73 combined years of coaching.

Terrell Stoglin is Maryland's Offense.

Power Rankings

1) North Carolina (6-2) lost to the #1 team in the country on the road by one point. But it was the second straight game that the Tar Heels were unable to control the tempo. Is this a problem going forward, or is the defense good enough to win ugly?
Ken Pomeroy Fun Fact: The only player in Roy Williams’ rotation that is not averaging over a point per possession? James Michael McAdoo (fellow frosh PJ Hairston leads the team with a 129.0 offensive rating).

2) Duke (7-1) hasn’t played since last week. My guess is this means a lot of quality time watching film on Ohio State.
Ken Pomeroy Fun Fact: Duke has the third worst free throw defense in the country, as opponents are shooting a whopping 80.6% from the charity stripe against the Blue Devils this year.

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ACC Morning Five: 12.02.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 2nd, 2011

Luke Winn’s Power Rankings are out! The Seminoles have dropped out, leaving Duke (fifth) and North Carolina (fourth) in the most interesting rankings in the land. But it’s time to get back to the ACC. In other rivalry news Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney took some shots at former ACC member South Carolina and former ACC coach Steve Spurrier. Shots fired starting around the two minute mark, but Swinney saves the big guns for the last line:

That is why Carolina is in Chapel Hill, USC is in California and the university in this state always has been and always will be Clemson. It’s right here in Clemson, SC. You can print that. Tweet that.

Boom. Roasted.

  1. Duke Basketball Report: There’s a generalization that Clemson is bad at shooting free throws (the Tigers are shooting just under 64% on the year). Turns out, that generalization is correct. Duke Basketball Report looked at free throw shooting percentages historically in light of the fact that Virginia and Maryland seem on pace for historically good and bad years, respectively. The Cavaliers are shooting the ball at a 78.3% clip through the first seven games of the season (which would be good for sixth all-time among ACC teams). The Terrapins, on the other hand, are knocking down 59.4% of their shots from the charity stripe (which would be good for second worst all-time). Interestingly, Clemson owns nine of the worst 15 season free throw performances for the conference.
  2. Charlotte Observer and Greensboro News-Record: You know things are serious when Roy Williams takes off his jacket (or takes out his BB gun). The normally composed coach tossed his outerwear in a (successful) attempt to inspire his team against Wisconsin. Just because they needed a little extra fire, don’t think the win wasn’t hugely important for the Tar Heels. Perhaps the most interesting part about the win was that it hinged on UNC’s defense. Normally, it’s the other side of Tobacco Road that flaunts an elite defense, while Williams’ teams prefer to steamroll opponents on offense. This year is different. And to Kendall Marshall’s credit he covered Jordan Taylor for the majority of the game against the Badgers, pushing the All-American into a 6-20 shooting night.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: The ACC/Big 10 Challenge showcased one elite conference and another that needs a lot of work. Unfortunately, the ACC was the latter. Apart from wins from Virginia and Wake Forest, the conference didn’t manage any upset victories. When North Carolina ekes out a win over a lower-ranked team at the Dean Dome is a highlight, it’s clear that the winds have changed from the decade of dominance the ACC showed during the opening years of the challenge. Mostly, I think, it’s a sign of so many new coaches in the league. Most programs’ success ebbs and flows; it just so happens that many of the ACC’s programs are currently ebbing.
  4. Charlotte Observer: The end of the NC State game was a little more controversial than Mark Gottfried would have liked. Specifically, the Wolfpack coach took issue with a flagrant one foul on Scott Wood that gave the Hoosiers an extra possession with three minutes left in the second half. Gottfried’s argument was that Wood went for the ball, which is true. It’s also true that Wood used both hands, which made the play look like Wood was trying to wrap up the Indiana player — especially from the referee’s angle. The call was a big one (and the wrong one, even if it was a judgment call).
  5. Fayetteville Observer: North Carolina‘s most consistent shooter, PJ Hairston, tweeted that he will miss the Kentucky game Saturday because of a sprained wrist suffered during the win over Wisconsin. That’s a blow to the Tar Heels, as Hairston has been the team’s best shooter so far this season at 45% from behind the arc. The loss shouldn’t be back-breaking though, as Reggie Bullock and (to some extent) Harrison Barnes are also good shooters and athletic wings.

EXTRA: If you’ve got a spare minute (or 20, actually) check out Shane Ryan’s interview with John Feinstein on his newest book, which is a retrospective of his first ten books. Feinstein is a Duke alumnus who’s written books on everything from college basketball to tennis. The interview is incredibly long, but just as interesting.

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ACC Game On: 11.22.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 22nd, 2011

ACC Game On will periodically review recent games involving ACC teams and take a look forward to key upcoming matchups.

It’s going to be a long season for Boston College. I thought that maybe the dismal performance against Holy Cross could be explained away by the absence of Patrick Heckmann, but I was wrong. Massachusetts has the makings of a very talented team, but make no mistake: Boston College is bad. There is no reason to be surprised, but there is also no reason to expect Boston College will not improve. The Eagles with a few exceptions are a team of freshmen. The difference between a freshman in November and a freshman in March can be huge, especially in terms of shooting. Just ask Harrison Barnes. This team shouldn’t go winless this year even though it might feel like it today.

North Carolina State, on the other hand looked excellent in a spectacular comeback against Texas. Richard Howell was neutralized by foul trouble but C.J. Leslie and a healthy Scott Wood came off the bench to deliver a much-needed scoring punch from the Wolfpack. Being able to win on a neutral court with your best big sitting on the bench seems like a pretty good omen  for a team with a challenging schedule over the next month.

Even Without Ryan Harrow, C.J. Leslie And Lorenzo Brown Have Started To Deliver On The Promise They Showed As Freshmen

Duke coasted to the finish after being challenged early on by a persistent Tennessee team that was ultimately simply over-matched. One thing to note early this season is the tight Blue Devils rotation. While Miles Plumlee came off the bench for some effective minutes and Tyler Thornton has been offering his customary amount of foul-happy pressure defense, the starters are seeing the bulk of the minutes so far. This line-up is far from solidified, but the reliance on the starters is something to keep an eye on.

Virginia beat Drake rather unimpressively and Jontel Evans was the least impressive of them all. He played 33 minutes and managed to log a stat line of one point, one assist, one steal, three turnovers, and three fouls. If he doesn’t improve, Virginia might need to shake up its starting line up.

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ACC Game On: 11.17.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 17th, 2011

ACC Game On will periodically review recent games involving ACC teams and take a look forward at key upcoming matchups.

The Atlantic Coast Conference remains unbeaten, although it took a timely jumper by North Carolina State’s Deshawn Painter to maintain the currently perfect winning record of all conference teams. The Wolfpack’s game against Princeton was the highlight of a mostly lackluster slate of games last night. Mark Gottfried‘s team, already playing without C.J. Leslie, lost Scott Wood to an ankle injury two minutes into it. That, combined with insanely hot shooting by Princeton in the first half made a manageable game suddenly very challenging. Despite being down by three at the half, N.C. State rallied behind the sterling play of Lorenzo Brown to pull out the win in the final seconds. Brown led the team in points, assists and steals, contributing sixteen, eight, and five respectively, as well as snagging five rebounds.

Lorenzo Brown Came Up Big For N.C. State

Clemson and Florida State easily took down their opponents, using highly effective offenses to complement already lethally effective defenses. Both teams shot over 50% from the field, with Florida State managing an impressive 57.1%. For Clemson, the all-round play of Tanner Smith has continued to help the Tigers in myriad ways. Smith led his team in assists and rebounding while also scoring eleven points.

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ACC Morning Five: 11.17.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 17th, 2011

The gentlemen over at Blogger So Dear (SBNation‘s Wake Forest blog) took note of the conference’s unblemished record yesterday morning: “The ACC is 22-0 this year so far…it must be asked…can we run the table?” Another four wins later and the last perfect conference (sorry Pittsburgh, your application is for 2014-15) is still standing.

Blogger So Dear is Definitely Worth the Follow for Wake Forest Sports

  1. Sports Illustrated: I’m not sure how I missed this for yesterday’s Morning Five, but Seth Davis’ post on Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight’s relationship is a must-read. In some ways the men are as different as you could imagine, but take a look at some of Knight’s old Indiana games and you’ll see (and lipread) the same fire that’s characterized Coach K’s sideline persona. The article speaks for itself, and I can’t begin to do it justice so I’ll just leave the rest to Seth Davis.
  2. TarHeelBlue.com: This is a cool series North Carolina‘s athletic department is doing where once a month it’s hosting a chat with a member of the basketball team. Whoever is up next is going to have pretty big shoes to fill (sorry for that), as Kendall Marshall led off the series with a chat covering everything from his love for kicks to his favorite place to eat on Franklin Street. Marshall has been getting well-deserved love for his social-networking on Twitter (he’s overtaken Missouri’s Kim English as the best follow in college basketball), so if you ever get tired of “#riseandgrind #nodaysoff goin to the gym” athlete tweets, check him out. I’d be very excited to hear Harrison Barnes answer fan questions, but the true must-read chat might come if Blue Steel (the walk-ons) are ever given a chance.
  3. New York Daily News: Maryland will face off against Kentucky in the first college hoops battle at the new Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn next season. The new building will host the New Jersey Nets (who will probably be getting a new name), but John Calipari “approached the Nets months ago and asked to have his team play the first college game there.” This is interesting to me on a couple of levels: (1) Calipari coached the Nets a while ago and it would be kind to call his tenure anything but a failure; and (2) Nets’ co-owner Jay-Z is a big Kentucky fan. The game is scheduled for November 9, 2012.
  4. PressBoxOnline.com: Maryland legend Ernie Graham is finally having his jersey retired 32 years after he left Maryland. Graham’s story is a sad one filled with drugs, but he’s using his story (much like former Boston College stand-out Chris Herren) to help keep others from falling into the same trap. Graham’s crowning achievement was scoring 44 against NC State in 1978. The record is even more amazing taking into account the lack of a three-point line and that he only played 25 minutes per game. Because of his troubled past the athletic department has been largely distant, but a combination of getting clean and Maryland hiring new athletic director Kevin Anderson will finally bring closure and recognition to a great college career.
  5. Associated Press: NC State relapsed into its coasting tendencies from last year in a tight 60-58 win over Princeton last night. Princeton notoriously plays a brand of basketball based on slowing the game down, not committing turnovers, and moving the ball (trust me, NC State fans know). This kept the Wolfpack out of transition, which has been their bread and butter in their opening two games. However, the biggest news of the game was Mark Gottfried’s cold-blooded assassin, Scott Wood, suffering a bad ankle injury early. The good news is that X-rays came back negative. The bad news is that Wood could be out “for a while,” according to Gottfried.

Duke Blue Planet produced an awesome video in honor of Coach K’s record-setting victory Tuesday night (their tribute site also has some pretty outrageous stats, but this one courtesy of @TheDevilWolf is unbelievable: “Coach K has coached 169 players [148 at Duke]. Of those, 84 have played in a Final Four, and of those, 41 won national championships”).

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ACC Morning Five: 11.09.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 9th, 2011

  1. Washington Post: Mike Scott will be very important for Virginia, and in more ways than filling up the stat sheets. Sure his double-figure scoring and double-figure rebounding should help a middling offense and horrendous offensive rebounding squad improve in those areas this season. But more importantly, he’ll draw defenders and allow Joe Harris to move back to small forward. That’s fairly significant, as Harris (a 6’6″ sophomore) was forced to play the power forward spot despite being the team’s most consistent outside shooter last year. Scott should also keep defenses honest in the paint, which should allow an already very good perimeter shooting team more openings. Basically, Mike Scott is the only reason it’s not laughable for the media to rank Tony Bennett’s squad fourth in the conference, as the WaPo observes.
  2. Charlotte Observer: A hallmark of Mike Krzyzewski-coached teams is gritty, overplaying man-to-man defense that’s especially effective in keeping opponents from getting open perimeter looks. However, a quick glance at Duke‘s backcourt (Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Austin Rivers) doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The questions proved legitimate in Duke’s preseason scrimmage, as D-II Bellarmine managed to knock down eight outside buckets. Duke doesn’t have much time though, as Belmont made over nine threes a game last season (at a 38% clip). Oh, and the Bruins won 30 games last year and bring back nearly all of their talent. Do I hear a non-conference upset special brewing in Cameron Indoor this Friday?
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Speaking of Duke generalizations, Bret Strelow breaks down the importance of big men for the Blue Devils’ upcoming season. And if you look at the roster, it makes sense. How many teams have two athletic 6’10” players and a 6’11” guy who gets buckets? Not many. But Duke’s current frontcourt has had limited success so far, even if Miles Plumlee, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly all seem capable of breakout seasons. They’re also fighting against the stereotype that Duke big men struggle. Exhibition play tends to overrate frontcourts mightily (if you ask the above question about a D-II school, no matter what caliber, the answer will be an emphatic “no”), but the Plumlee brothers have looked especially good. To live up to its top-five potential Duke needs one of its forwards to have a star campaign.
  4. Charlotte Observer: Mark Gottfried didn’t hear a lot of compliments about his team when he first took the job. The trouble seems as much coach-related as talent-related, though — in a recent interview, Scott Wood “basically admits practice used to be ‘just throwing the ball out there and shooting it.’ Now practices have a lot more drills.” That’s the sort of culture Gottfried was facing when he moved to Raleigh. From player quotes such as these, it sounds like Gottfried has the team buying into his style; and if he wins there, players will keep buying it.
  5.  Richmond Times-Dispatch: Potential breakout candidate Erick Green may miss Virginia Tech‘s season opener against East Tennessee State with an “Achilles’ strain”. The Hokies have already lost JT Thompson to a season-ending injury, and definitely can’t afford to lose Green too. Green is expected to be the star, both on offense and defense, for Seth Greenberg’s team in its latest pursuit of an invitation to the Big Dance. Here’s to hoping the rash of preseason injuries doesn’t carry over into the regular season because it feels like there have been way more injuries than usual this year.

In honor of the opening of college basketball season, Sports Illustrated has a slideshow of college basketball previews going back as far as the early 1960s. The most interesting (with borderline-racist undertones) image is probably the 1967 cover calling for a 12-foot basket, but I’ll leave you with NC State legend David Thompson. Thompson led the 1972-73 Wolfpack to an undefeated season averaging nearly 25 points a game (ironically his least dominant statistical season).

NC State's David Thompson Led the Wolfpack to an Undefeated Season in 1973

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ACC Preseason All-Conference Teams

Posted by mpatton on November 8th, 2011

Now that our individual team previews are done, it’s time to look at individual players. With only five all-ACC selections from last season returning there are plenty of open spots to fill, so here are our Preseason all-ACC Teams for the 2011-12 season.

2011-12 Preseason All-ACC Teams

Looking at our projections, North Carolina, Miami and Duke lead the way with eight, six and five selections, respectively. No surprise with Harrison Barnes checking in as the consensus ACC Player of the Year, or Austin Rivers as the ACC Rookie of the Year (though Kellen wants to keep an eye on Maryland’s Nick Faust for the ROY award).

My personal honorable mentions are Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, Maryland’s Sean Mosley and NC State’s Richard Howell. I’m especially surprised Mosley didn’t show up on any of the teams, but his middling campaign last season probably did him in. Green appears to be in the right place to take over for departing Hokies Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, but he’s got a ways to go based on the Virginia Tech games I went to last season. Finally, Howell had a sneaky good season last year for the Wolfpack and could be a great frontcourt presence alongside CJ Leslie.

My biggest reach was putting Terrell Stoglin on the first team. He was a decent player last year (who averaged over 20 points per game pro-rated at 40 minutes), but he’ll really need to make some waves if he wants to crack the first team this season. Malcolm Grant and Kendall Marshall are the safer choices for that final guard spot. My reasoning is that Marshall will be hidden statistically behind Zeller and Barnes. In general, Roy Williams point guards are under-appreciated because they don’t put up sick numbers, but with Marshall the case is a little different. He’s a very polished player, but I see him as the perfect complimentary player. North Carolina wouldn’t be nearly as good as a team without him, but by himself he’s not spectacular. Thus, I voted him onto the second team in favor of Maryland’s ascendent sophomore.

On the second team Kellen and I differed on power forwards: he chose Mason Plumlee; I chose Travis McKie. Again for me the key was relative importance. Mason Plumlee may be more talented than McKie, but I’ll be shocked if he’s as important for Duke as McKie is for Wake Forest (and really I’m not sold that McKie isn’t more talented). Duke’s bigs are certainly going to be critical this year, but I think the mere fact that there are three of them (Mason, Miles and Ryan Kelly) will dilute each one’s share of the limelight. I did include Miles on my third team because reports from Durham laud him as Duke’s backbone.

However, both of our teams (mine especially) did a lot of projecting for this season. The only locks feel like Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott (and it’s conceivable Zeller falls to the second team depending on his role). Player and coach turnover left the ACC relatively unknown this season, but Friday players start earning their spots.

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ACC Team Previews: North Carolina State

Posted by KCarpenter on October 20th, 2011

Looking at the North Carolina State roster from last year, it’s hard to see how this team was so bad. The pieces all seemed to be there, but the last year of Sidney Lowe‘s tenure was undoubtedly a disappointing season for the Wolfpack. The team won only fifteen total games last season and five in the conference. That said, N.C. State won all the games it was supposed to win and didn’t allow any serious upsets. The closest thing NCSU has to a bad loss was a defeats to Boston College and Virginia. That’s really not all that bad. The Wolfpack had a tough draw in the conference, playing the top three teams — Duke, North Carolina, and Florida State — twice. It doesn’t explain some of the other conference losses, nor does it explain the first round ACC Tournament flame-out against Maryland either. Sidney Lowe didn’t do a terrible job last year: he just did a mediocre job under tough circumstances and it finally cost him his job.

Mark Gottfried is The Ultimate X-Factor For North Carolina State

Enter Mark Gottfried. The new coach in charge, as many in Raleigh are quick to point out, is not Shaka Smart or Sean Miller. Gottfried is a proven leader of successful programs. Though his last few years at Alabama are cause for reasonable doubt, Gottfried should receive equal credit for the outstanding Alabama teams that he led in the early 2000s. The Sidney Lowe years weren’t terrible, but they were thoroughly mediocre. No matter what other roster changes have happened between last season and this one, no change is more important than Mark Gottfried taking the helm.

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Gottfried Lays the First Brick: Rodney Purvis Commits to NC State

Posted by mpatton on October 3rd, 2011

NC State‘s Mark Gottfried took a big step towards rebuilding the Wolfpack program in picking up a commitment from Rodney Purvis on Friday. Assistant coach Tim Fuller originally recruited Purvis to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville. However, once Fuller left to take an offer from former Miami coach Frank Haith at Missouri, Purvis reopened his recruitment. Friday Purvis announced his decision to stay home and play for the Wolfpack.  The commitment has huge implications, especially with former point guard Ryan Harrow transferring to Kentucky. Purvis is an incredibly talented combo guard, ranked in the top sixteen prospects of the class of 2012 by Scout.com, Rivals.com (where he is highest at sixth) and ESPNU.

Purvis Gives NCSU Fans Reason For Hope

But Purvis’ commitment means more than the pure talent he brings to the court. He represents a local star staying home–much like his future teammate CJ Leslie did–but he also represents Gottfried’s first step towards restoring NC State’s basketball tradition. Leslie’s former high school teammate John Wall attended Purvis’ announcement and noted the importance of his decision: “There’s a lot of pressure [...] He’s the hometown hero now.” Wall was faced with a similar decision, but chose the bright lights of Rupp Arena over the RBC Center.

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RTC Summer Updates: Atlantic Coast Conference

Posted by jstevrtc on July 21st, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our ACC correspondent, Matt Patton.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • New Faces: That’s right, the ACC will be totally different conference this season. Only five of the fifteen players selected as to the all-conference teams will be running the floor this season, namely four of North Carolina’s five starters (with Miami’s Malcolm Grant keeping the group from being only Tar Heels). Somewhat surprisingly, all of the ACC all-freshman squad will be back in action. Duke’s Kyrie Irving was a prominent frosh, but he didn’t play a single conference game before leaving school and UNC’s Harrison Barnes opted to return for his sophomore campaign. Keep an eye on Wake Forest’s Travis McKie and Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin especially. Both should be the stars on their respective teams.
  • However, the strength of the conference will rely heavily on the incoming players and coaches. Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State all bring in consensus top 25 classes according to ESPN, Rivals and Scout. To make a long story short, the rich get richer. Duke’s Austin Rivers (ranked 1st by Rivals, 2nd by Scout and ESPNU) will be expected to contribute immediately, while North Carolina’s James McAdoo (8th by Rivals, 4th by Scout and 5th by ESPNU) and PJ Hairston (13th by Rivals, 20th by Scout and 12th by ESPNU) should be given ample time to find roles on an already stacked team.
  • Arguably more important, at least in the long term, are the new coaches: NC State welcomes Mark Gottfried, Miami welcomes Jim Larranaga, Maryland welcomes Mark Turgeon, and Georgia Tech welcomes Brian Gregory to the conference. The only coach I think is a surefire “upgrade” is Larranaga, who comes with some disadvantages (namely, age). While Gottfried experienced some success at Alabama, the Crimson Tide isn’t known as a basketball powerhouse and he didn’t leave the school on great terms. I also don’t think it’s a great sign that Ryan Harrow left for the bluer pastures of Kentucky. Gregory, though, sticks out as the strangest hire of the four. He had a fairly nondescript tenure at Dayton with many Flyer fans happy to see him leave. I know a tight budget hamstrung by Paul Hewitt’s hefty buyout deal probably kept the Yellow Jackets from going after the sexiest candidates, but the choice still surprised me. Gregory’s biggest disadvantage is his ugly, grind-it-out style of play that will eventually make it difficult to attract top recruits and could possibly alienate the entire GT fanbase (see: Herb Sendek).
  • North Carolina Navigates Investigation Waters: Finally, it may not be basketball-related, but it’s impossible to mention this offseason without discussing North Carolina’s impending date with the NCAA Committee of Infractions. The story has dominated ACC sports news. To briefly sum things up, the Tar Heels had an assistant coach, John Blake, on the payroll of an agent. If that wasn’t enough, the NCAA investigation unveiled thousands (I’m not kidding) of dollars in unpaid parking tickets and even several cases of academic fraud. The university has come out very firmly saying these infractions only involved the football team** but the scandal has gained national notoriety. (**Author’s note: the one connection with the basketball team is that Greg Little was one of UNC’s ineligible football players. Little was also a walk-on for the basketball team during the 2007-08 season, playing in ten games. North Carolina has said that his infractions occurred after his year with the basketball team, so no win vacations are in the basketball team’s future.)
  • Somehow, despite academic fraud, ineligible benefits and an agent runner on staff, the Tar Heels failed to get the NCAA’s most serious “lack of institutional control” violation for what appeared to be nothing less thana lack of institutional control. Again, this scandal is confined to football, but it’s one of the many recent scandals that have come to light in big time college athletics in the last couple of years (Connecticut, USC, Ohio State, Oregon, etc). These scandals could force the NCAA to augment its rules somewhat, and even though they may not directly relate to basketball, they may have a very real impact of college sports as we know it over the next few years.

    Freshman phenom Austin Rivers is ready for Duke, but how quickly will 2011's top high school point guard perform on the big stage? (Orlando Sentinel)

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