ACC Team Preview: Maryland Terrapins

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 2nd, 2013

Last year, Maryland had an impressive 13-game winning streak after an opening-night three point loss to the defending champions, Kentucky. Most of that run can be attributed to soft scheduling by head coach Mark Turgeon, but nonetheless it showed promise. Maryland finished out the regular season with a solid record of 20-11 and was rewarded with an NIT bid for its troubles. In addition to a run to the NIT semifinals (losing to Iowa), the Terps had a couple of signature wins on their résumé over #2 Duke late in the season. After the season was finished, they lost Ukrainian center Alex Len to the NBA Draft, but he struggled with inconsistency under Turgeon and never quite lived up to his potential.

Maryland Preview 2013

This season the Terps will be bolstered on the interior by Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, a versatile 6’8” junior who can play as a stretch-four for this athletic Maryland team. They also have a powerful 260-pound tandem of interior sophomores in Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell, who are expected to shoulder the majority of the rebounding and post defense responsibilities this season. How they are able to perform as two of the biggest players on the Maryland roster will go a long way in determining this team’s ultimate success. This may also speak to Maryland’s lack of frontcourt height, seeing as Cleare is 6’9” and Mitchell is only 6’8”. Going against larger ACC frontcourts, some with legitimate seven-footers, may prove to be a problem for this relatively inexperienced duo. Another particularly relevant story surrounding this year’s Terps will be their pending move to the Big Ten, which will show up in press conference quotes and in the form of cheers (and jeers) from opposing fan bases. Maryland will want to leave the ACC on a positive note, and this team certainly has the requisite talent to make an NCAA run in its ACC finale. If last season proves as any indicator, Maryland’s fate is inextricably tied with Dez Wells‘ output and performance.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on October 31st, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. ESPN: “Has the Carolina Way Disappeared?” CL Brown asks after a couple of rough years for the Tar Heels, between the academic scandal, football scandal and PJ Hairston’s lead foot. The short answer is no, if you buy into such things to begin with. But the truth of the matter is any time you try to make reality fit a myth, these stories will be written. Same thing with “The Patriot Way” and it goes for Coach K and his secondary violation a couple of years back.
  2. Baltimore Sun: There is big time bad news out of College Park, as Maryland announced that presumed starting point guard Seth Allen has broken his foot and will be sidelined for eight to 10 weeks. That’s essentially until conference play starts. With the Terrapin turnover issues last season, I’m sure Mark Turgeon was hoping to have a more experienced guard at the helm to start the season. Instead look for a hybrid of Dez Wells and frosh Roddy Peters to share point guard responsibilities in Allen’s absence.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Obviously take all of these reports coming from coaches and teams with a grain of salt, but Mike Tobey sounds like he may have picked up some intensity while practicing with the USA U-19 team this summer. That’s excellent news for Virginia, as Tobey was a really valuable offensive cog last season when he was healthy. He has put on an extra 10-15 pounds (remember that number) in hopes that the added strength will make him more productive.
  4. Tomahawk Nation: Michael Rogner does a good job breaking down Florida State‘s defense and what the Seminoles need to do to get back to their elite status on that end of the court. Their youth on the front line really showed last season. Unlike Bernard James two and three years ago, freshmen Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky felt like they were out of position as often as they were in it. But I trust Leonard Hamilton to turn them around. On paper this team should be very good defensively (an elite defensive coach and a roster stocked with length and athleticism), but the Seminoles may still be another year away depending on the development of the bigs.
  5. Greensboro News-Record: Remember that number? Tyler Lewis — like every other slightly undersized player in college basketball this offseason — gained 15 pounds. Lewis may be the most important part of NC State’s offense this year. Don’t get me wrong, TJ Warren will lead the team in scoring by a long margin. But Lewis is the one who has to get the less offensively inclined players involved. And in all seriousness, the added weight and confidence should help him become more effective at the rim and on the defensive end of the floor.
Share this story

Morning Five: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 31st, 2013

morning5

  1. Many times interviews with players tend to be essentially fluff PR pieces so we have to commend Andy Katz for his excellent interview with controversial Ole Miss star Marshall Henderson. Henderson’s exploits both on and off the court have been well-documented, but it was interesting to see him be so open about his missteps publicly. Henderson will have to sit out three games this season (season opener then the team’s first two SEC games), but otherwise appears to have avoided any more significant punishment. Hopefully, Henderson can stay focused enough to have a long basketball career whether it is in the NBA or abroad.
  2. Maryland was dealt a significant setback when it was announced that starting point guard Seth Allen had broken the fifth metatarsal in his left foot and will be out 8-10 weeks. The injury, which occurred at the end of Tuesday’s practice, will lead the Terrapins to shift Dez Wells to the point guard position and should create issues for the team during Allen’s absence particularly with their opener coming a little over a week against a Connecticut team that boasts one of the best backcourts in the country. Allen should be back in time for the majority of the team’s ACC schedule so the Terrapins still have some hope of recovering from what is a poorly-timed injury.
  3. Yesterday we mentioned that Kansas would be without Naadir Tharpe for their opener due to the discovery that he had played in a summer league game. It turns out he was not the only one as the NCAA suspended Kuran Iverson for Memphis’ opener for playing in an unauthorized summer league game too. Iverson’s situation is a little different than Tharpe’s in that he had not played a season before committing the violation (playing a summer league game near his home and near his college) that he self-reported. He will be forced to sit out the team’s season opener against Austin Peay, but will be able to play in the team’s second game of the season, which will be a much stiffer test against Oklahoma State
  4. The beginning of this season already promised to be a rough one for Billy Donovan with his Florida team with multiple players out with injuries, Scottie Wilbekin potentially missing games due to a suspension, and Chris Walker still in academic limbo. Unfortunately things just got tougher as sophomore guard Michael Frazier will be out indefinitely after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. The combinations of injuries/illnesses and suspensions will likely force the Gators to start freshman Kasey Hill and sophomore DeVon Walker at the guard positions for the season opener against North Florida before they go on the road to take on Wisconsin on November 12.
  5. Billy Donovan did get some good news yesterday as 5-star forward Devin Robinson committed to play at Florida. The addition is particularly big for the Gators as Robinson (a Virginia native) is their first out-of-state 5-star recruit since 2011 (Bradley Beal) and only their second since 2004 (Corey Brewer). In the end (we are assuming this is the end of Robinson’s recruitment although we might be speaking too early), Florida beat out Indiana, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State for Robinson’s services. Robinson will join two other top-50 recruits (Brandone Francis and Chris Chiozza) to comprise what is shaping up to be a very impressive class of 2014 for Florida. With Florida’s high turnover coming after this season (four players are seniors including three interior players) Robinson should expect to see playing time fairly early.
Share this story

Seth Allen’s Injury Unsettles Maryland’s Point Guard Situation

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 30th, 2013

In head coach Mark Turgeon’s time with the Maryland Terrapins (he’s now in his third season there), he’s never been blessed with a true point guard. He inherited the shoot-first Terrell Stoglin, and then made do with Pe’Shon Howard at the point last year, another player more interested in trying to create his own offense than running the ball club. Once Howard departed via transfer for USC this offseason, Turgeon was all set to turn over the reins to promising sophomore Seth Allen.

cbssports_allenmdinjured

Allen’s injury casts doubt on Maryland’s PG position early (credit: CBSSports)

Allen earned valuable playing time backing up Howard at the point while also playing on the wing at times last season, and ended up as the team’s fourth-highest scorer and assist man. However, just like his predecessors, Allen also seemed more comfortable playing off the ball. This offseason was geared towards helping him improve on his ability to initiate the offense, with word from Terrapins camp saying he’d improved drastically in that area. With the season now looming, it appeared that Turgeon would turn to the reliable Allen at season’s outset while preparing to bring freshman Roddy Peters along slowly, eventually installing him as the orchestrator of his offense.

That approach was dealt a severe blow on Wednesday, when it was announced that Allen had broken the fifth metatarsal in his left foot and will be sidelined for eight to 10 weeks. Turgeon emphasized that Allen had enjoyed a great preseason, saying, “He was playing at a very high level throughout the summer and fall and was poised to have an excellent start to the season.” Now, with the sophomore sidelined until at least the first of the new year, Peters will have to step into an important role very early.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on October 16th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. The Mikan Drill: It’s no secret Jeff Bzdelik needs a decent season badly. Last year’s recruiting class brought in much needed depth and talent, but three- and four-star players usually take a year or two before they become effective at the college level. Unfortunately, Bzdelik probably can’t wait two years for Codi Miller-McIntyre to flourish running his offense. Josh Riddell does a good job highlighting Miller-McIntyre’s strengths and weaknesses running the team last year. The bottom line is that he has to make better decisions.
  2. Washington Post: Speaking of point guards who need to make better decisions, Seth Allen was one of the more exciting players to watch last season. He has a gift for quick penetration, but his lightning first step often went faster than his risk assessment, which led to many turnovers and bad shots. This year Mark Turgeon will expect Allen to step into a leadership role in a very different, wing-oriented offense. Going small should open up the lane, but Allen’s decision-making may very well decide Maryland’s efficiency.
  3. ESPN: Jim Boeheim sat down with Seth Greenberg and Andy Katz and talked about everything from media days (which he was salty about) to joining the ACC (which he’s now excited about) to specific player development. Boeheim also briefly hits on the hot-button topic of pay-for-play late in his interview. For those who prefer reading to podcasts, Jeremy Ryan of Nunes Magician transcribed some of Boeheim’s interview.
  4. One Foot Down: Sticking with ACC expansion teams, One Foot Down takes a comprehensive look at Notre Dame’s frontcourt. The Fighting Irish have to replace one of the most productive interior workhorses of last year’s all-Big East workhorse in Jack Cooley. That said, Mike Brey’s team has a good deal of experience inside, which could be something to exploit against perimeter-heavy teams like Duke or Maryland.
  5. The Daily Tar Heel: While the scandal still stays an arm’s length away from the basketball program, indictments continue to trickle out of District Attorney Jim Woodall’s office. Three people have been indicted so far: the agent, a former North Carolina tutor, and now Georgia realtor Patrick Jones is on the hook for paying $725 to someone associated with an athlete. Don’t expect this issue to be resolved quickly, but also don’t expect it to end in the death penalty for North Carolina sports at the end, either.

EXTRA: Time for a shameless plug. Walter Carey talked with Maryland alumnus Len Elmore, Duke alumnus Mike Gminski and Fayetteville Observer columnist Bret Strelow. It’s the first part of Rush the Court‘s preseason interview series, and is full of interesting tidbits previewing conference play with three of the more knowledgeable experts in the business.

Share this story

ACC M5: 04.08.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 8th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Run The Floor: Michael Rogner absolutely kills it with this Bleacher Report-driven satire on top prospect Andrew Wiggins (whose final four schools include North Carolina and Florida State). The story is sprinkled with quotes and paraphrases of just a few articles from the blog juggernaut (whose search engine optimization is second to none). You’ll learn everything from how Wiggins choosing North Carolina would affect its title hopes to why choosing Florida State would make him a metaphorical Simba. Spot on.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Well we know about NC State’s roster next year (minus any late additions), but we’re still working on North Carolina’s. PJ Hairston‘s mother mildly refuted yesterday’s CBSSports.com report that Hairston would be returning to school. In this case mildly means he may come back to school but that decision isn’t made yet. Hairston could be an absolute terror in the ACC next season, but he certainly has the tools to go pro right away. The main reason I see for Hairston not to come back is if Wiggins goes to Chapel Hill, though truthfully if there’s one thing Roy Williams learned with the current makeup of his team, it’s that it pays dividends to play his best players (and the arrival of Wiggins won’t change that). Expect an official release from North Carolina once Hairston, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo all decide what they’re going to do.
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Already looking for a primer for next season? Right now Bret Strelow and Stephen Schramm have Duke as the favorites with North Carolina and Syracuse (pending any draft declarations) right there behind them. One caveat I’d add to that top group is that if Wiggins ends up at Florida State, that puts the Seminoles in the conversation (not to make this an all-Andrew Wiggins M5 or anything). I’d also mention Clemson in the conversation of teams falling with Devin Booker and Milton Jennings graduating.
  4. Washington Post: Seth Allen had to sit out Maryland’s final game of the season — a loss to the NIT runners-up — with a broken hand. Allen still wanted to play, but it’s tough to blame Mark Turgeon for not wanting to risk further injuring his future point guard’s hand (not to mention it’s Allen’s dominant hand). Going forward, Allen might be the Maryland player poised to surprise those who didn’t follow the team very closely. He’s super quick in transition and has a good-looking jump shot (even if it was streaky in the worst kind of ways this season). Going forward, he’s the guy who could take Maryland to the next level.
  5. Charlotte Observer: Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell originally wanted to play in the ACC. A native of Tarboro, North Carolina, he once dreamed of suiting up for the Tar Heels. But when no offer materialized, he signed with Virginia Tech only to de-commit when Seth Greenberg was fired (talk about a huge loss for the Hokies). Now he’s playing for the national championship and will get to join the ACC in time to get a few games close to home. Right now Harrell is raw, but he’s exceptionally strong, a good worker and really athletic. He’s going to be really good as he polishes his offensive game.
Share this story

Rushed Reactions: Maryland 83, Duke 74

Posted by mpatton on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Matt Patton is an RTC correspondent and an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after tonight’s Maryland-Duke game from the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Three Key Takeaways:

Ryan Kelly didn't magically fix Duke's defense.

Ryan Kelly didn’t magically fix Duke’s defense.

  1. Maryland’s offense is fine*: That disclaimer is provided if the Terrapins hit open shots. Maryland torched Duke most of the night, knocking down shot after shot. Duke deserves much of the blame for faulty rotations and miscommunications, but many of Maryland’s struggles this season have come from its inability to take advantage of the opportunities teams present to them. As a team Maryland went 40% (8-of-20) from three and a crisp 23-of-25 from the free throw line. Also Maryland had fewer turnovers than Duke (something that only happened three times in 18 conference games). That’s how to hold onto a lead — especially late in the game. The game wasn’t without mistakes, but those mistakes were far less prominent than usual.
  2. Ryan Kelly didn’t magically fix Duke’s defense: A popular narrative the past two weeks or so is that Ryan Kelly fixed Duke’s issues on defense, but that’s not true. Dez Wells showed that an athletic player with the ability to knock down shots and penetrate can still wreak havoc on Duke’s defense. It wasn’t just Duke’s inability to stay in front of Maryland that was the problem, though. Duke also rotated poorly and when help defense did come, it was often ineffective. Unfortunately because of the small sample size of Duke’s recent games with Ryan Kelly, it’s hard to tell if this game was an anomaly or a crack in the foundation. Duke’s defense is better than this showing (teams aren’t typically going to shoot 92% from the free throw line), but it’s also a cause of concern looking towards the Big Dance.
  3. Freshman poise: Freshmen for both teams played very well for their first time on the ACC Tournament stage. For Maryland, Mark Turgeon got very valuable minutes from Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell, Shaquille Cleare and Seth Allen. They didn’t score tons of points, but all contributed in other ways. Layman in particular was instrumental in guarding Ryan Kelly (who finished 3-of-11 from the floor) for most of the night. Layman also sneakily led the game in rebounding. On Duke’s side, Rasheed Sulaimon kept the Blue Devils in the gym during the first half. He was the only aggressive Duke player, finishing the half with 12 points in 15 minutes. Surprisingly, Mike Krzyzewski sat Sulaimon for the first five minutes of the second half.

Star of the Game: Dez Wells, hands down. As Dave Telep pointed out late in the game, Wells is from Raleigh and never got much interest from Duke. Whether or not that was the reason, Wells played like a man possessed, going 9-of-13 from the field and 10-of-10 from the free throw line for 30 points to go with six boards and three assists. Duke couldn’t stop him and every time Maryland needed a bucket, he stepped up big. He’s carried Maryland in both of its ACC Tournament games.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M10: 02.27-28.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 28th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Ken Sugiura spent a day with Brian Gregory, taking in the coach’s in-season routine. These stories are always worth a read just because all coaches are so different in their approaches (though at the highest level, nearly all are tireless in their pursuit of winning). The things that stick out at first glance are the emphasis Gregory places on religion and family. Hardly two paragraphs go by without a mention of his faith, and the one thing part of his schedule unrelated to basketball is his family. 
  2. South Florida Sun-Sentinel: After Miami’s loss to Wake Forest, Jim Larranaga took measures to fix the team’s focus issue. That meant trading interviews for film and getting back to basketball. One thing it’s easy to overlook is the amount of time off the court players spend promoting their or their schools’ brands. Not promoting in the usual way, but through media interviews or events on campus. Nearly every article you read that’s published a day removed from game day included an interview. That time adds up–especially if your team is successful. The attention can also be distracting if it alters how you prepare or execute (look at Jeff Bzdelik’s road record if you want to see the reverse situation).
  3. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: John Castillo looks at the alternate universe where Virginia Tech isn’t added to the ACC over Syracuse (with some help from WhatIfSports.com). But the game simulations aren’t the most interesting thing by a mile. Virginia Tech turned out to be a slam-dunk grab by the ACC because of its success in football (Miami on the other hand…). If the ACC chooses another basketball-first school over Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State would rightfully be upset about the conference’s football brand. Also, Virginia’s statehouse would be upset too. Now bring in conference realignment and suddenly the ACC is much less stable than currently.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Seth Allen suffered a pretty grisly bicycle accident when he was 12. He shattered his elbow and was told he might never play basketball again. Luckily, after a long rehab he is able to play and is one of the more exciting players in the league. Allen still lacks control, but Maryland doesn’t have anyone who’s comfortable running the point and in control. Mark Turgeon likens Allen to a less polished Shane Larkin, but that comparison doesn’t do Larkin justice. Both are exciting point guards with the ability to score, but Larkin’s speed is on another level. Allen’s scoring is probably better than Larkin’s though.
  5. CBSSports.com: After Florida‘s loss to Tennessee, the conversation about one-seeds is getting a little tighter. What does the Gators’ loss mean for the ACC? Most importantly, it means that Miami and Duke could both get one seeds. A few things need to happen: Duke needs to take care of Miami at home, both teams need to win their remaining games and at least make the semifinals of the ACC Tournament (finals would be better), and Duke needs to look more like its early season self once Ryan Kelly returns. Even then, they’ll probably need some help from the Big Ten and the Big East. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Maryland: The Most Confusing Team in the ACC Could Still Be a Problem in March

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on February 20th, 2013

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsInDurham

At one point during Maryland’s 83-81 win over Duke on Saturday, the Terps looked like a team that could do no wrong. Throughout their 68-59 loss to Boston College on Tuesday it looked like they could do no right. In a microcosm of Maryland’s season, the Terps followed up what should have been their signature win with what will be pointed to by the bracket experts as a signature loss. However, despite the disappointing result on Tuesday night, Maryland still has all of the tools to make life difficult for teams like Miami, NC State, and Virginia in the upcoming ACC Tournament.

Alex Len, Maryland

Alex Len (right) and Shaquille Cleare (left) are two of the reasons why Maryland could be a tough out this postseason (AP Photo)

We hear the same story every year: Guard play wins games in March. With that in mind, Maryland sounds like a team built to make life tough on a better team when the games start to count a little more. Seth Allen had one of his best games in conference play on Saturday and Dez Wells helped keep Maryland on top with his efforts in getting to the line. But despite how good the duo looked in stretches, they still managed to turn the ball over 14 times between them, with seven of those miscues coming in the final five minutes when Duke battled back to tie the game. For Maryland to make any sort of run in March their guards will need to play more like they did while building the lead than they did in the last five minutes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 01.10.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 10th, 2013

morning5_ACC

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

ACC Week 1 Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 16th, 2012

We’ve got a full week of game action as evidence to start evaluting these teams a bit better, so here goes…

Disclaimer: Power Rankings don’t imply which teams are best. They’re all about who has momentum right now. 

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (2-0) stays on top of the rankings after taking care of business against Georgia State at home before knocking off the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats in the Georgia Dome. This team still has a long way to go, but they showed poise holding off a talented, albeit young, Kentucky team. While Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee owned the box score, Quinn Cook rose to the challenge and put in his bid for the starting spot. Minnesota is the next NCAA tournament-quality team on Thursday.
NC State Wolfpack 2. NC State (2-0) absolutely blitzkrieged its first two opponents, Miami (OH) and Penn State. Putting too much stock in beating the Redhawks by 38 is unwise. But that 17-point win over the Nittany Lions–despite Lorenzo Brown finishing an icy 1-12 from the field–is worth noting. Specifically, Tyler Warren was phenomenal going for 22 points (on 12 shots) and eight rebounds. The game tonight against Massachusetts should be a fun one.
North Carolina Tar Heels 3. North Carolina (2-0) looked lost on offense at times against Gardner-Webb, which is just a young team trying to learn to play together. James Michael McAdoo has been phenomenal through the first two games (he’s averaging over 20 points and 12 rebounds), and Reggie Bullock asserted himself against Florida Atlantic. This team should keep improving, but in time for the trip to Bloomington in a week and a half? That’s ambitious.
Maryland Terrapins 4. Maryland (1-1) looks a lot better than expected. Alex Len is going to be a top-10 pick. He absolutely ravaged Kentucky, which Maryland kept close to the bitter end before making mincemeat of Morehead State. Nick Faust still can’t shoot, but Seth Allen will be really fun to watch the next few years. The Terrapins need to work on consistent offense, but as Dez Wells gets more and more used to Mark Turgeon’s system, good things will happen.
Boston College 5. Boston College (1-1) played with a stacked Baylor team for 35 minutes after beating a bad Florida International team by double figures (still, that’s huge improvement over last year). This team will still struggle to win a ton of games, but Ryan Anderson‘s development into an All-ACC caliber player is accelerating the rebuilding process (he’s averaging 27 points and 12 boards a game). Dennis Clifford also got off to a solid start. The Eagles’ games against Dayton and Auburn should both be winnable this week.
Clemson Tigers 6. Clemson (1-0) beat down Presbyterian this week, which isn’t worth much on its own. But Devin Booker and Milton Jennings both played very well (combined to go 11-14 from the field for 26 points) and look like they’re ready to step into bigger roles for Brad Brownell this season. A near impossible test awaits this week in the form of Gonzaga.
Virginia Tech Hokies 7. Virginia Tech (3-0) scarfed three cupcakes this week, winning all three games by double figures. The “meat” of the nonconference schedule is still a ways off (and “meat” is used loosely to describe BCS-conference teams), but so far James Johnson‘s tenure is a success. He’ll need Robert Brown to continue producing offensively to relieve some of Erick Green‘s perimeter burden.
Florida State Seminoles 8. Florida State (1-1) is much better than its home loss to the South Alabama, but those are the kind of losses that will motivate this team to keep getting better. Michael Snaer is also in an early season slump, having only hit a third of the shots he’s taken. But the Seminoles’ 27-point beatdown of Buffalo (where they scored 95 points!) may right the ship. The next six games showcase three against possible NCAA tournament teams: BYU (today), Minnesota and Florida.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 9. Wake Forest (1-0) played decently against Radford. The game was never free from doubt, but the Demon Deacons didn’t let the Big South Highlanders get the best of them this year. CJ Harris got to the charity stripe like a pro, but Travis McKie‘s 11 points left a little to be desired–especially against a team of this caliber. Turnovers are going to kill Wake Forest in at least two conference games this year.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 10. Georgia Tech (2-0) has balance, but can’t shoot. The Yellow Jackets need someone to step up from the perimeter to keep other teams honest (right now they make a smooth 17.6% of their shots from downtown. Two of Mfon Udofia, Daniel Miller and Kam Holsey need to become go-to guys on offense. Miller doesn’t appear to want that role.
Miami Hurricanes 11. Miami (1-1) needs to be careful not to become a dumpster fire. The team lost its exhibition against St. Leo and now lost to Florida Gulf Coast to ice the cake. This team looks phenomenal on paper, but sometimes things just don’t translate the way we expect. The same Reggie Johnson who made Mason Plumlee look like a child at Cameron Indoor Stadium last year has only hit one third of his shots against middling competition. There’s still time for Larranaga to turn this car around, but time is running out.
Virginia Cavaliers 12. Virginia (1-2), if Miami has to be careful, Virginia fans may already smell that trash burning. So far the Cavaliers lost to George Mason and Delaware. These wins (or struggles) could be statistical aberrations (if your style keeps opponents within striking distance, you’re bound to lose some unfortunate games), and Jontel Evans is out.Things aren’t off to a great start in Charlottesville.
Share this story

Alex Len’s Coming Out Party Nearly Spoils Kentucky’s Title Defense Debut

Posted by EJacoby on November 9th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. He filed this report from the Kentucky-Maryland game tonight in Brooklyn. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. 

We assumed it was nearly impossible for Kentucky to repeat the kind of immediate, dominant success it had last season with a brand new crop of young players this year. For the first half of their season-opening game against Maryland on Friday night, though, the Wildcats came out on fire and efficient on both ends en route to opening a 15-point lead just minutes into the second half in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But it didn’t take long for the inconsistency, poor decision-making, and defensive mistakes that are typical of freshmen players to crop up for John Calipari’s team, which opened the door for Maryland to make a run in front of a very pro-Terrapin crowd. Led by emerging sophomore center Alex Len, the Terps went on a 15-0 second half run and eventually took the lead before seesawing to a tough, 72-69 loss. Len was the catalyst on both ends for Maryland’s near-upset, as the sophomore seven-footer finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks — all game-highs. He shot 10-18 from the field and committed zero turnovers. Despite failing to capitalize with a monster non-conference victory, Maryland and its fans must feel confident about this season’s outlook on the heels of Len’s dominant opening performance.

Alex Len nearly led his Maryland team to a big-time upset win over Kentucky on Friday night (Maryland 247 Sports photo)

The big sophomore showed flashes of greatness last season for Maryland, but he did not put together any dominant performances that could propel Mark Turgeon’s team to big wins. The center from the Ukraine recorded six total games in double-figure scoring last year, and none after February 4. He averaged 4.1 points per game in his final 10 games and amassed just one double-double all season. Tonight was a completely different story, as Len looked much more polished in the paint with offensive moves, finishes at the rim, rebounding prowess, and strong defensive positioning. Len turned national consensus #1 recruit Nerlens Noel of Kentucky into an afterthought, dominating the freshman in the paint as well as beating him down the floor in transition on multiple occasions. Noel had just four points on 2-6 shooting to match his nine rebounds and three blocks. If not for the unlikely late-game heroics of former Kentucky walk-on Jarrod Polson, who scored 10 points tonight after recording a total of seven previous points in his career, the Terps could have left Barclays Center with a defining victory.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story