ACC Weekend Preview: December 29-31

Posted by Mick McDonald on December 29th, 2017

Finally, a full slate of ACC play has arrived! While we break down a few key match-ups heading into the last weekend of 2017, we can’t forget a huge non-conference game as well this afternoon. (All stats through games of December 28. All rankings via KenPom.)

Friday, December 29

David Padgett Gets His First Taste of Kentucky as a Head Coach (USA Today Images)

  • Louisville (#33) at Kentucky (#19). This game will always be big for both programs in the Bluegrass State, but what is on the line this year from a resume perspective also happens to matter. Kentucky’s home win over Virginia Tech is probably the best victory either team owns, and both could use another substantive non-conference win before the calendar flips to the new year. Keep an eye on how Kentucky chooses to attack Louisville’s defense today. The Cardinals allow opponents to shoot just 41.4 percent from two-point range (11th nationally), featuring two of the best shot-blockers (Anas Mahmoud, 15.5% block rate; Ray Spalding, 8.4% block rate) in college basketball. While most teams tend to lean on the three-point shot against David Padgett‘s group, that is not Kentucky’s strength. While the Wildcats shoot a solid 36.0 percent on the season from long range, they have only attempted 161 threes, or roughly 15 per game (348th nationally).

Saturday, December 30

  • Florida State (#27) at Duke (#4). The Blue Devils have played just one game — a rout of Evansville — since their surprising early December loss at Boston College. To avoid an 0-2 start in ACC play, Duke needs to once again avoid falling in love with the three-pointer. In that loss to the Eagles, Mike Krzyzewski’s team made just 8-of-30 three-point attempts. It spent long portions of the game ignoring its massive size advantage in the post in the forms of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter, opting instead to fire away at will. If Florida State hopes to copy Boston College’s winning game plan, the Seminoles will need athletic guards Braian Angola-Rodas (42.4% 3FG) and M.J. Walker (46% 3FG) to shoot it well from distance against a defense that does a solid job defending it (34.9% 3FG).

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ACC Weekend Preview: December 22-23

Posted by Mick McDonald on December 22nd, 2017

As you get set for the holidays, don’t miss a few must-watch ACC games before Santa comes down the chimney. (All ratings are via KenPom and statistics are through the games of December 21)

Friday, December 22

Syracuse Needs Quality Wins (USA Today Images)

  • St. Bonaventure (#60) at Syracuse (#52). This is an important game as Syracuse works to put together its NCAA Tournament resume. Normally non-conference wins over former rivals Georgetown and Connecticut would sparkle, but the Hoyas and Huskies are both down this year. Currently all Syracuse has to its credit is a win over Maryland. The Bonnies feature a wonderful backcourt of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, but, as usual, Syracuse should have a significant advantage up front. Freshman power forward Oshae Brissett has put together a three-game stretch where he has averaged 23.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
  • Miami (#14) at Hawaii (#211). The Hurricanes are off to the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii this weekend, where they’ll play three games on a Friday/Saturday/Monday schedule. The original hope with this trip five time zones away was to gain a few more chances at quality wins to counterbalance a light non-conference schedule. Instead, Miami will get a true road game against a sub-200 team (Hawaii), followed by a match-up with either Davidson (#83) or New Mexico State (#92). A potential match-up with USC in Christmas Day’s title game has also lost its luster given the Trojans’ recent struggles. Scheduling woes aside, we continue to be impressed by the play of Hurricanes’ sophomore center Dewan Huell. The big man has started to figure it out, putting up a 123.3 Offensive Rating and 28.5 PER to this point in the season. His game is by no means a finished product (an 11.3% defensive rebounding rate and a 15.1% turnover rate are issues), but he has at least become the big man that Jim Larranaga desperately needed coming into this season.

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Christmas Wish List for ACC Head Coaches

Posted by Mick McDonald on December 21st, 2017

What’s on the Christmas wish list for each coach in the ACC this holiday season? Let’s take a look.

Jim Christian May Have Already Gotten His Gift With a Win Over Duke (USA Today Images)

  • Jim Christian (Boston College): A healthy Deontae Hawkins. The Eagles pulled off a surprising upset of Duke thanks to red-hot three-point shooting, but they won’t be able to sustain it without some help on the interior. Hawkins was averaging 12.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game before suffering a season-ending knee injury on November 29 at Nebraska. Sadly, Santa can’t fix knee tendons.
  • Brad Brownell (Clemson): Some luck in close ACC games. The Tigers appear poised to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Brownell’s first season, but they will need to avoid being snake-bitten like last year’s team that lost nine ACC games by six points or fewer.
  • Mike Krzyzewski (Duke): Trevon Duval’s jumper to improve. Teams like Boston College are leaving the freshman point guard open for jumpers in favor of helping on Marvin Bagley III, and Duval is falling into the trap, making just 5-of-33 three-pointers on the season.
  • Leonard Hamilton (Florida State): Somebody makes a free throw. The Seminoles shoot 65.8 percent from the line (295th nationally) and M.J. Walker (13-of-16) is the only regular making over 78 percent this season.

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Ten Questions to Consider: Mid-December Blues

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 16th, 2017

With temperatures dropping across the country, nothing beats staying in and watching college basketball all weekend long. Here are 10 things to watch this weekend.

Butler (USA Today Images)

  1. Which Paul Jorgensen shows up for Butler? In Butler’s two losses this season, Paul Jorgensen scored a total of two points on 1-of-9 shooting. In Butler’s eight wins, Jorgensen scored 10 or more points seven times. If Butler expects to beat Purdue at the Crossroads Classic today, they will need Jorgensen to contribute offensively.
  2. Will Wichita State grab another win against a Big 12 opponent? Wichita State has already gone on the road and beaten Baylor and Oklahoma State in “Big 12 action”; this weekend the Shockers will get Oklahoma at home. Wichita State will be up against the nation’s leading scorer, Trae Young, who has scored 28 or more points in each of his last six games.
  3. Is Georgetown ANY good? Jokes about Georgetown’s dead-last non-conference schedule have been flying around all season long. Saturday’s game against Syracuse is the first Georgetown opponent to have a KenPom rating in the top 200 and only the second in the top 300. Good luck, Hoyas. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Weekend Preview: December 16-17

Posted by Mick McDonald on December 15th, 2017

There wasn’t much ACC action this week but the weekend promises a double-header in the Sunshine State, an ancient Big East rivalry renewed, and a pair of huge road tests (all ratings are via KenPom and statistics are through the games of December 14).

Saturday, December 16

Syracuse and Georgetown Pick Up Their Ancient Rivalry This Weekend (USA Today Images)

  • Syracuse (#56) at Georgetown (#95). An old Big East rivalry will be renewed as Georgetown has now finished the MEAC portion of its schedule. This is the toughest test of the season to date for the Hoyas, as their 8-0 start has come against a schedule that ranks dead last nationally. Syracuse star Tyus Battle has scored 20 or more points in three straight games, as the sophomore appears to have taken the leap that many expected — his PER (15.2 to 23.6) and Offensive Rating (116.4 to 123.1) have both significantly improved from last season.
  • Virginia Tech (#28) at Kentucky (#14). In what feels like a major statement game for Buzz Williams, the Hokies will travel to Lexington to take on a young and mostly untested Kentucky team. This Virginia Tech squad plays a very similar style to Kansas, which beat the Wildcats at the Champions Classic earlier this season. The Jayhawks won that game despite shooting just 8-of-28 from distance. The Hokies (96.2 PPG), on the other hand, are the highest scoring team in college basketball and rely heavily on three-point shooting (46.8% 3FG, second nationally) while mostly playing away from the basket. If Virginia Tech wishes to pull the upset at Rupp Arena tomorrow, it will need to convert double-figure three-pointers while shooting a high percentage.

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ACC M5: 12.04.17 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 4th, 2017

morning5_ACC

  1. Washington Post: Friday night in Atlanta, Georgia Tech suffered the league’s worst non-conference loss in years — a 64-63 defeat to Grambling State — in ultra-embarrassing fashion by tipping the game-winning shot into its own basket. College basketball’s 338th ranked team (per KenPom) had lost 63 straight contests against teams from the six basketball power conferences, but led by 16 points midway through the second half and was able to hang on for the shocking upset. Granted, Ben Lammers was playing hurt (four points) and the Yellow Jackets were still without the services of star guard Josh Okogie (serving a six-game NCAA suspension), but that doesn’t excuse such a terrible loss. Georgia Tech lost again at home on Sunday night to Tennessee, and Okogie — dealing with complications involving a finger injury — may not be back until ACC play begins at the end of the month.
  2. Card Chronicle: Louisville dropped its second game in a row as well, falling to Seton Hall by a basket in a back-and-forth affair on Sunday afternoon. There’s no shame in losing games at Purdue and against a veteran Big East squad, but new head coach David Padgett is already facing some tough lineup decisions. His two best interior defenders — Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding — are giving him almost nothing on the offensive end of the floor — a combined two points and five turnovers in 37 minutes against the Pirates. However, the Cardinals’ defense becomes vulnerable when Padgett turns to freshmen forwards Jordan Nwora and Malik Williams looking for offense. It would certainly help matters considerably if Quentin Snider would break out of his shooting slump — the senior guard went 1-of-7 on threes Sunday and is shooting a frosty 21.9 percent from deep for the season.
  3. Roanoke Times: Virginia Tech got a nice road win in coming from behind to edge Ole Miss in overtime on Saturday afternoon. The Hokies trailed by 18 points early in the second half but recovered nicely in using a 16-3 run to get back into the game. It’s a good sign for Buzz Williams that his team won a tough road game while having a mediocre shooting performance (7-of-22 on threes), and one reason it can withstand such a night is because Virginia Tech does a great job in getting to free throw line (third nationally in FTA/FGA) — the Hokies outscored the Rebels by 13 points from the charity stripe. Last year, Williams typically brought his best player (Zach LeDay) off the bench, and he is using the same approach with Chris Clarke so far this season. Clarke led the Hokies with 16 points, 12 boards and four assists on Saturday.
  4. Syracuse.com: The Orange took their first loss of the season on Saturday, falling to Kansas on a neutral court in the Miami Hoophall Invitational — a south Florida double-header featuring two ACC schools (Miami). Syracuse has clearly struggled from behind the three-point line this year (27.7%), and did so again over the weekend, making only 6-of-27 from distance. On the bright side, Jim Boeheim‘s zone defense forced 16 turnovers against an experienced Kansas backcourt, but the Orange couldn’t keep Devonte’ Graham (35 points) under control. Syracuse is now down to eight scholarship players following Friday’s announcement that graduate transfer Geno Thorpe has left the program for personal reasons.
  5. Fox Sports: Miami finished off an impressive week by cruising past Princeton in the second Saturday game at American Airlines Arena. A big surprise for Jim Larranaga‘s squad has been sophomore guard Dejan Vasiljevic. A native of Australia, Vasiljevic has started all seven games of the season and ranks third on the team in scoring (11.3 PPG). On Saturday, he notched a game-high 20 points on 5-of-7 shooting from deep. Another good sign for the Hurricanes is the improved ball handling of senior Ja’Quan Newton (23.0 TO% last season). In the past two games, Newton contributed 14 assists while committing only one turnover. Attendance for Saturday’s game was down because of an unforeseen scheduling issue — tip-off came at the same time as the kickoff of the Hurricanes’ ACC football championship game in Charlotte. Considering the beatdown that Clemson gave them en route to another College Football Playoff appearance, Miami fans should have stayed home.
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Ten Questions to Consider: First Weekend of December

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 1st, 2017

The first weekend of games in December is upon us. Here are 10 things to consider throughout the weekend.

Xavier (USA Today Images)

  1. Will Cincinnati get a win at Xavier? Cincinnati has lost their last six true road games at Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout, and this will be the first true road game of the season for the Bearcats. Xavier will be the second Cincinnati opponent with a top 100 KenPom rating and the first within the top 50.
  2. Will Wichita State make a statement against the Big 12? A weekend trip to Baylor starts a stretch for Wichita State in which three of their next four opponents come from the Big 12. The Shockers demolished Savannah State last week, but several consistency questions arose while they were in Hawaii. Wichita State needed a second-half rally to beat California, but just days later sleptwalk through a second-half collapse against Notre Dame.
  3. Who will control the pace in SMU vs. USC? Last year’s matchup between these two teams had 73 possessions, 9.5 more than the SMU season average and its highest total of the season. Coming into this year’s match-up, SMU ranks among the bottom 50 nationally in pace, while USC ranks in the top 75 overall (and top 20 in offensive pace).
  4. Which Arizona team shows up in Las Vegas? Arizona has had no problems winning at the McKale Center this season (4-0) but its recent trip to the Bahamas resulted in three straight disappointing losses. The Wildcats have a marquee game upcoming against top-10 Texas A&M, but will they avoid looking past an interesting UNLV team? The match-up to watch will be down low between freshman bigs DeAndre Ayton of Arizona and Brandon McCoy of UNLV. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Weekend Preview: December 1-3

Posted by Mick McDonald on December 1st, 2017

After overwhelming the Big Ten this week by a final tally of 11-3, the ACC now moves into a weekend that features a handful of very interesting non-conference tilts. (All ratings are via KenPom and statistics are through games of November 30)

Friday, December 1

  • North Carolina (#12) vs. Davidson (#77). Two of the highest-scoring teams in the country (both coming in at over 85.0 PPG) will face off tonight in Charlotte in what promises to be a very fast-paced affair. Tar Heels point guard Joel Berry II has improved his scoring (career-high 20.0 PPG) thanks to tempo and opportunity, but he is clearly still shaking off some rust from an early-season hand injury — logging career lows in shooting (34.1 FG% and 35.9% from three-point range). While his shooting should improve over time, he has been terrific in taking care of the ball (career-low 6.9% turnover rate) and will have an opportunity to find his touch against a Davidson team that is allowing opponents to shoot 38.4% from from behind the three-point line.

Saturday, December 2

Ahmed Hill has led a prolific Hokies offense early on. Can it continue as the competition picks up? (Hokie Sports)

  • Virginia Tech (#37) at Mississippi (#60).  A road contest at Ole Miss will represent the biggest challenge faced by Buzz Williams’ team so far this season. Both teams are guard-oriented and love to shoot the three, with the Hokies’ scorching 46.8 percent mark good for fourth nationally. With the caveat that Virginia Tech’s competition this far has been bad, not enough has been said about the play of Ahmed Hill this season. The junior wing is shooting the lights out, with marks of 63.9% FG, 54.3% 3FG and an insane 73.8% eFG. His elite offensive performance alongside guards Justin Bibbs and Nickeil Alexander-Walker has made Williams’ offense especially dangerous. Those three will need to outperform a loaded Rebels’ backcourt that features Terence Davis (61.8% eFG) and Deandre Burnett (45.2% 3FG).

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ACC/Big Ten Challenge Preview: Part I

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 27th, 2017

Since its creation in 1999, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge has accomplished all of its goals. It has provided a number of high-level non-conference games between two of the best basketball leagues in America. It has ensured that those games take place on campus in front of fans yearning for some real competition after a steady diet of November cupcakes. It has forced some well-regarded coaches — we won’t name anyone here, of course — to play a quality non-conference road game every once in a while. It has also created water cooler fodder for discussion between ACC and Big Ten fans during the heart of football season. Since the inception of the event nearly two decades ago, the ACC leads the overall series by a score of 11-5-2. The ACC won the first 10 challenges, but the Big Ten has come back strongly in recent years, winning five of the last eight, including two ties.

Tyus Battle’s back issue would certainly pose a big problem for the Orange moving forward. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s no surprise that Duke leads the way among ACC teams historically — the Blue Devils are 16-2 in this event, carrying a current streak of five straight victories. Virginia and Wake Forest are tied for second with 11 all-time wins, while only Florida State (7-11), Georgia Tech (6-10), NC State (6-11), Virginia Tech (4-7) and Syracuse (1-3) have losing records in challenge play. This week we’ll be rolling out game previews for each night’s action — here is a look at the challenge’s first two games. (Ratings via KenPom as of Monday) Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part III Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 23rd, 2017

morning5_ACC

Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings. All times are Eastern.

  1. PK80 – Victory: In a unique affair this Thanksgiving weekend, Portland is hosting the PK80–Phil Knight Invitational, a 16-team, two-bracket event in honor of the Nike co-founder’s 80th birthday (the actual milestone birthday is February 24, 2018). All of the participating schools have a business relationship with the footwear company, including North Carolina (#10), slotted into the Victory Bracket. The Tar Heels, fresh off an impressive 96-72 road thumping of Stanford on Monday night, will face co-host Portland (#302) today (ESPN – 2:30 PM) in the opening round. Assuming they win, Roy Williams‘ team would then take on the winner of Oklahoma (#22) and Arkansas (#38) in Friday’s semifinals (ESPN – 3:30 PM). The Victory Bracket championship will be decided on Sunday (ESPN – 8:30 PM). Lurking on the other side of the bracket are Michigan State (#12) and Oregon (#33), so the Tar Heels will have a chance to claim some impressive early season scalps this weekend in Portland.
  2. PK80 – Motion: Each Power Five conference + Big East has two schools in the PK80 event, with teams from the same league slotted in separate brackets to avoid meeting each other. Duke (#5) is the ACC’s other representative and will be part of the Motion Bracket. It appears that tournament officials along with ESPN have set the schedule to maximize the national drawing power of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry. As long as both teams win, the Blue Devils’ games this weekend will always directly follow the Tar Heels’ contests in a wrinkle of savvy marketing. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad meets Portland State (#217) in today’s opener (ESPN – 4:30 PM) and will see either Texas (#31) or Butler (#49) on Friday. If it reaches the Motion Bracket title game on Sunday (ESPN – 10:30 PM), Duke would likely get either Florida (#9) or Gonzaga (#23) in what would be a compelling tournament finale.
  3. Hoophall Miami Invitational:  This is a non-traditional event in which the games are all pre-scheduled. Syracuse (#58) hosted and already won three games as part of the event, beating Texas Southern (#259), Oakland (#110) and Toledo (#156) in the last five days. To wrap up the event, the Orange will travel to Miami to face Kansas (#3) on Saturday, December 2 (ESPN – 5:30 PM). This is Jim Boeheim’s least experienced squad in years but it has performed well so far against some decent mid-major teams. The Jayhawks will obviously present a much different level of competition, but if Syracuse can keep it close, it may indicate that the Orange won’t have the very down year many have projected.
  4. Gotham ClassicLouisville (#27) is also not participating in a traditional winner-advance tournament this season, instead opting for four pre-scheduled games in December as part of the Gotham Classic. They will host Siena (#273) on December 6, Bryant (#321) on December 11, and Albany (#102) on December 20. The main event will take place in Madison Square Garden, where Louisville will meet Memphis (#138) on Saturday, December 16 (ESPN2 – Noon). Rookie head coach David Padgett’s team did not exactly storm out of the gate this season, struggling to beat George Mason and Nebraska-Omaha in its first two outings. But the Cardinals looked much better on Tuesday night in destroying Southern Illinois by 42 points at the KFC Yum! Center.
  5. Diamond Head ClassicMiami (#19) will be the last ACC school to see holiday tournament action this year with a late December trip to Hawaii. The Hurricanes will take on the host school, Hawaii (#205), in the wee hours on Saturday, December 23 (ESPNU – 1:00 AM), and later that night, that they will face either Davidson (#68) or New Mexico State (#103) in the second round of action. The favorite on the other side of the bracket will be USC (#15), which means we could get a heavyweight matchup in the championship game on Christmas Day (ESPN2 – 6:00 PM). A victory over the Trojans would propel Jim Larranaga’s squad into ACC play on a high note.
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