Quality of Depth is Key to VCU Sustaining Its Success

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 10th, 2014

Effective depth is at a premium in college basketball. VCU, predicating its success on a constant full-court game in a frenzied atmosphere, needs to not only have enough players to run at their opponents for 40 minutes, but talented ones as well. As evidenced by their first conference game on Thursday night, a 71-57 victory over in-state rival and A-10 newcomer, George Mason, the Rams have both the depth and the talent that will be required to make serious waves in the Atlantic 10 again this year.


Juvonte Reddic is a catalyst for VCU, but the Rams reserves are equally as important to a big season (credit: csnwashington.com)

There are obviously players on this squad that opposing teams can look to as the focal points. Juvonte Reddick, the team’s starting center and best pro prospect, mans the middle and is often the sole post presence for the team. His rebounding prowess (14 boards last night, along with nine points) is of the utmost importance to a team that wants to get out and run at every opportunity. Briante Weber, the point guard, is one of the nation’s foremost steals experts, a menace in both the press and in the half-court. Weber’s acumen at the free throw line and an improved tear-drop floater he has developed this season have helped mesh his offensive game with his prowess on the defensive end. Guard/forward Treveon Graham is the steadying force on this team, a player who can bide his time for a half before becoming the go-to threat the team finds late in close contests, as it did in the win over Mason (Graham has now put up double figures in 39 of the team’s last 43 contests).

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Rushed Reactions: Florida State 73, Clemson 69

Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2013


Matt Patton is an RTC correspondent and ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after Thursday night’s ACC Tournament game between Florida State and Clemson.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Epic Almost-Collapse: Florida State had a 13-point lead with two minutes to play. Two turnovers, a missed dunk, a flagrant foul and a fouled three-point shooter later, the Seminoles were lucky to have a six-point lead (Clemson missed four field goals over that stretch). The Tigers proceeded to hit two unbelievable threes to cut the lead to two with 13 seconds to play, but Michael Snaer iced the game with four straight free throws to close it out. But Florida State looked flummoxed the last two minutes. It didn’t help that a couple of close calls went the other way, but the team lost its poise. After the game, Leonard Hamilton said, “It was like we were trying to invent ways to give the game back to Clemson.” In the end, Florida State hit more free throws and won, but it shouldn’t have been that close.
  2. Terrance Shannon makes Florida State a different team: Much of this year, Florida State has been muscled around inside by ACC opponents. With a young front line — only made younger by Terrance Shannon‘s injury — it wasn’t that the Seminoles were soft. They just didn’t play smart. They often got out of position and gave up easy buckets uncharacteristic of Hamilton’s system. But Shannon provides a spark of strength and experience that really turned the tables in the second half. He’ll be critical to the Seminoles’s chances against North Carolina tomorrow. So far the Tar Heels have struggled with big, physical teams and Shannon fits the description to a T.
  3. Clemson free throws: Clemson shot a smooth 19-of-31 from the free throw line (61.3%). The team missed four free throws in the final two minutes that would have made it even closer than it was. In the past 10 years, Clemson has only finished in the top 200 of Division I in free throw shooting twice. The only time the Tigers ended up in the top half was Brad Brownell’s first season. You want a big reason for Clemson’s rep as a team that chokes? Don’t look further than 15 feet.

Star of the GameOkaro White played like a man possessed tonight. He was everywhere for Florida State. He knocked down jumpers when Clemson let him, or he used the threat of a jump shot to get into the lane. He had several strong moves in the paint. After all was said and done he finished 8-of-11 from the field, good for 24 points in 39 minutes. You may not be familiar with Hamilton’s system, but it’s not every day someone plays essentially the whole game (he played 12 guys against Clemson). Snaer was the only other player to log 39 minutes, which highlights the two most important players for this squad.

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ACC M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 21st, 2013


  1. Fox Sports: I would’ve said the ACC Player of the Year race was a dead heat as late as last week. But as long as Miami keeps dominating the league (even by low margins of victory), I’m starting to think Shane Larkin holds the best card. Barring some outrageous performances to close out the season (and at least one marquee win) Erick Green should be done. It may not be fair, but life isn’t fair. Mason Plumlee has a very good shot at the award too — assuming he bounces back to form after struggling against Maryland and looks good against Miami (a Duke win against Miami next Saturday would turn the tables somewhat). But Larkin is the most important player on the conference’s best team. At a minimum, he and Kenny Kadji are first-teamers.
  2. Orlando Sentinel: Great news out of Tallahassee, as Terrance Shannon has been cleared for no-contact practice. Shannon suffered a nasty neck injury early in conference play at Virginia. He had to be carted off the court in one of the scarier moments of the season. Apparently, Shannon sought a second opinion and will be back much sooner than expected. Assuming the rest of his rehabilitation goes according to schedule, it’s possible he’ll be back before the end of the season. Shannon adds tons of energy and toughness to a young Florida State front line.
  3. Duke Basketball Report: Every year there’s a team in the ACC (usually one in the lower tier) that plays more than its fair share of close games. This year three of the league’s bottom five teams are struggling to win the close ones. Just in conference games alone, Boston College, Clemson and Georgia Tech are a combined 4-15 in games decided by five points or fewer. Meanwhile, all of Florida State’s conference wins have been by five points or fewer (thank Michael Snaer for that 6-1 record in close games), while close games are a coin flip for Wake Forest and NC State. Miami is the only team unblemished in close games with a 4-0 record, although the Hurricanes have been flirting with disaster recently.
  4. Washington Post: That sound was Maryland falling back to the wrong side of the bubble after a brutal letdown loss at Boston College following its emotional upset win against Duke. Want to know what this Maryland team is starting to look dangerously like? A worse version of 2010-11 Virginia Tech. Ugly non-conference resume with no quality wins? Check. Talented roster shaped largely around two dynamic players but with a fatal flaw? Check (the Hokies couldn’t shoot; Maryland can’t hold onto the basketball). Huge upset win over Duke that boosted NCAA hopes dramatically immediately followed by a soul-crushing loss to Boston College? Check. NIT? Yes and to be determined.
  5. Kansas City Star: The details of Frank Haith‘s notice of allegations were released by Missouri. The reported “unethical conduct” charge was dropped to “failure to monitor” (which is far less severe). The big charge levied against Haith is that he failed to notify the athletic department of Nevin Shapiro’s instability and gave money to an assistant to pass along to the renegade booster. With the NCAA’s recent struggles, it’s hard to see Haith’s punishment with much teeth. If the NCAA does try to get medieval, expect him to fight back and potentially get a settlement. A suspension of some kind is the most likely punishment.
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ACC M5: 01.23.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 23rd, 2013


  1. Tar Heel Monthly: Chad Ford wrote an article last week that included a list of the college programs that best prepare players for the NBA. He left North Carolina off the list because Roy Williams‘ “players don’t really seem to get any better the longer they stay in the program.” Adam Lucas didn’t take kindly to Ford’s admittedly tired argument and eviscerated it for all to see. This is what happens when facts are fitted to narratives instead of the other way around. Ford published what was becoming a more and more popular narrative (following Harrison Barnes’ “disappointing” career). Lucas shut him down.
  2. Orlando Sentinel: Unfortunately, this was an injury you could see coming. Terrance Shannon‘s strength opened him up to injuries like the one he sustained against Virginia on Saturday. If you’ve watched much of Florida State this year, you’ve seen Shannon’s style. He hurls himself at every rebound, every 50/50 ball; he’s not the most athletic guy on the floor, but he wants it more than anyone else. That recklessness caught up to him on a rebound where Shannon landed wrong and sprained his neck. Losing him will really hurt Florida State’s front line — for one reason, Leonard Hamilton will have to cut down his rotation (or add someone else to the mix, which appears unlikely). Additionally, Shannon provided a huge spark off the bench, which the Seminoles will need to replace.
  3. Independent Weekly: This is a terrific article that uses Iron Chef as a metaphor for coaching college basketball. Eric Martin also makes a very good point about what Duke may do without Ryan Kelly. Long story short, look for the Blue Devils to push the pace. Especially at the points without Seth Curry in the lineup (which is only 10 minutes a game, but still), look for Duke to start running. Kelly was built to thrive in the halfcourt, but Amile Jefferson, Mason Plumlee, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon are all meant for running the floor. In the second half against Georgia Tech, Martin points out that Duke cut its time per possession 25 percent from the first half. Not coincidentally, the Blue Devils pulled away.
  4. Charlottesville Daily Progress: After the Manti Teo incident, Virginia players are watching their backs on Twitter. If they’re to be believed, all reported girlfriends of the Cavaliers are real. Jontel Evans claims to believe Teo (disclaimer: I don’t), but can’t believe Teo didn’t try to Skype with his girlfriend — especially if he couldn’t meet her in person. Evans himself avoids making relationships of any type over social media, but also has a (real) girlfriend at Virginia.
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Well it’s gut-check time in Raleigh. The loss at Maryland was OK (Maryland appears to be a solid team and was desperate for a win), but the loss at Wake Forest wasn’t. Wolfpack fans can blame the officials all they want (and the officials did miss two key fouls down the stretch), but the game shouldn’t have been close enough to matter. What should have been a tune-up before NC State‘s first big showdown with North Carolina became the Wolfpack’s first bad loss. The Demon Deacons scored over 50 points in the second half, they intercepted sloppy passes, and they managed to hang on down the stretch. This game is the reason people are scared to pick NC State to improve on its Sweet Sixteen finish from last year.

EXTRA: Former Miami coach Frank Haith is in hot water with the NCAA. The water may be hot enough to get him fired at Missouri with a show-cause to boot.

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More Than A Big Stiff: Forwards With A Little Extra Something in Their Skill Set

Posted by KCarpenter on January 18th, 2013

In Duke’s win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Mason Plumlee put up 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks while playing all 40 minutes. That’s excellent production and exactly the kind of statistics you would expect to see out of your star big man. What you might not expect to see is that Plumlee also tallied three steals and a couple assists. In fact, the 6’10” Plumlee managed to tie starting point guard Quinn Cook in steals and placed second behind him in assists. That’s an impressive demonstration of Plumlee’s versatility, but it’s also a huge boon for his team.

Mason Plumlee Is One of the Leading NPOY Candidates

Mason Plumlee Is One of the Leading NPOY Candidates

Generally, folks underrate the importance of steals, but with a moment of consideration it’s easy to see why they are so important. Like the obviously important offensive rebound, a steal gives you an opportunity for a shot you wouldn’t normally have, and like an opponent’s unforced turnover, it ends your opponent’s possession without a shot. Steals are very valuable to a team, and if your guards are wracking up steals at close to the average rate, getting above average production in a category like steals from your forwards and centers can lead to a team gaining a big advantage. When the biggest guy on your team can earn your squad extra possessions? It’s nothing but a good thing. So who in the ACC contributes in these unusual categories?

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ACC M5: 01.14.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 14th, 2013


  1. USA Today: In one of the cooler side stories of the year, NC State student Will Privette rushed the court… in his wheelchair. Pushed by the student body president, Privette led the charge to center court to celebrate the Wolfpack win over top-ranked Duke. As the mass of students came, he was knocked over before his 6’9″ savior, CJ Leslie scooped him up and held him “like how you’d hold a baby.” To add to the image Privette started screaming and cheering again once he realized he was safe. In the end only his wheelchair and phone were harmed.
  2. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Calling for an “offensive coordinator” echoes similar rumblings as some talk out of Tallahassee the last few years. But Jerry Ratcliffe points to a more troubling development for the Cavaliers than an over-reliance on defense. Clemson shut Virginia down by giving it a taste of its own packed-in defense. Don’t expect an elite team to change its defense completely, but Clemson may have given weaker teams a silver bullet to beat the Cavaliers.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: Jeff Bzdelik may be saving his job. Combine signing a highly coveted top-50 recruit with a 2-1 record in ACC play, and suddenly Bzdelik’s seat is looking a whole lot cooler. There are still a lot of ACC games left to play though, so don’t set this in stone. At the end of the day, I don’t think Wake Forest is better than eleventh in the 12-team league, but so far it’s proving me wrong in a big way.
  4. Orlando Sentinel: The Seminoles couldn’t hand North Carolina its third loss in as many games Saturday, but they are starting to show positive signs in the frontcourt. Okaro White still has to work on being consistently aggressive, and Terrance Shannon needs to keep shot selection in the back of his head. Last but not least, some of the younger guys need to step up. In the long run (i.e. over the course of his four-year career), Boris Bojanovsky is where my money goes. But in the short run, Leonard Hamilton needs more from his veterans.
  5. AP (via ESPN): Fans out of Coral Gables may be able to breathe soon, as sources close to the NCAA’s investigation told the AP that the investigative gathering may be drawing to a close (assuming no other leads are unearthed in final interviews). This is a longtime coming and hopefully won’t put too much of a damper on Miami‘s great start to conference play.

EXTRA: You can find the second most inspirational story out of Raleigh Saturday below.


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ACC M5: 11.20.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 20th, 2012

  1. CBS Sports and USA Today: Surprising no one, conference realignment chatter dominated ACC press with Maryland‘s official announcement that it would accept the Big Ten’s invitation and join that league in 2014. But where should the ACC go from here? Matt Norlander argues that the league should embrace its basketball roots looking forward. Dan Wolken spoke with David Wilkins, chairman of Clemson’s Board of Trustees, who added, “I’d say that Clemson is very excited about our football program right now and we’d like to see a team added that adds to the football prowess of the ACC, but that’s a decision for the presidents to make based on a lot of factors.” Stability-wise, the conference needs to put football first or not expand at all. Basketball just doesn’t make enough money for conferences with the way the NCAA television deals are currently set up.
  2. Sporting News: Mike DeCourcy is not impressed by Maryland’s decision. He makes a good point that despite why decisions are made (ahem, money), we’ll evaluate their success by how Maryland sports do in the Big Ten. The going theory has been that more money means more success, but DeCourcy makes an interesting point that Maryland is making itself into a geographic outlier. It’s true that in the age of chartered jets teams might not care as much about close road games, but parents and potential recruits do.
  3. Tallahassee Democrat: Terrance Shannon loves coming off the bench so much that he went to Leonard Hamilton before the season to make sure he could still fill the Seminoles’ sixth man role. Luckily for Florida State, Shannon does well coming off the bench. The best asset he has is his motor, which makes him invaluable as a substitute by adding energy to the game. It’s rare that you see a college player who’s both motivated and willing to not start, which speaks to Shannon’s maturity and one reason why Hamilton’s program has been so successful the last few years.
  4. Charlotte Observer: NC State got a harsh reality check from a good Oklahoma State team over the weekend. The game saw miserable performances out of veterans Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie. Joe Giglio damningly noted that Leslie looked like “old Leslie,” the immature and indecisive Leslie from his freshman year. Brown struggled on both ends of the floor, with his defense probably reflecting a general level of frustration.
  5. SBNation: And one last shout-out to conference expansion. Jason Kirk lays out a very good argument for the ACC taking Louisville over Connecticut: (1) it gives Notre Dame a close geographic rival while making the conference footprint more contiguous; (2) it’s a much better football program with decent local recruiting; and (3) the Cardinal athletic department is just more profitable than Connecticut’s by a long shot. The only drawback is Louisville’s academics, but right now the ACC has a very strong academic brand and needs to buck up its football cachet, not the other way around.
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ACC Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 6th, 2012

With all of the ACC previews behind us, it’s time to put everything together in our first ACC Power Rankings of the season.

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke has all of the pieces to be a much better team than last year’s team. While the recruiting class is small, don’t forget redshirt freshmen Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee. Mason Plumlee may be the focal point of the Blue Devil offense. But the big question is how improved will Quinn Cook be?
NC State Wolfpack 2. NC State has the most complete team on paper. Add three top-shelf recruits to a talented returning group that includes two potential conference players of the year, and there’s bound to be plenty of hype. But will the Wolfpack be able to overcome their defensive woes (and the historical defensive woes of Mark Gottfried) and play like the end of last season, or will they play like the rest of the year?
North Carolina Tar Heels 3. North Carolina (tied) lost a lot from last year’s team with the four leading contributors with Reggie Bullock as the sole returning starter. But Roy Williams reloads instead of rebuilds. James Michael McAdoo may be the best player in the league, and Bullock looks ready to step up production. Freshman point Marcus Paige has big shoes (or at least a lot of shoes) to fill, but he’ll have help from backcourt veterans Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald.
Florida State Seminoles 3. Florida State (tied) may fall on its face, but Leonard Hamilton and Michael Snaer have earned the right to be taken seriously after knocking Duke and North Carolina off en route to the conference championship. Keep an eye on Okaro White and Terrance Shannon this season. You can trust Hamilton’s team to bring it defensively, but can they stop turning the ball over?
Miami Hurricanes 3. Miami (tied) looked rough in its exhibition loss, but there’s no denying the talent on this roster. The Hurricane frontcourt of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji is the best in the league; Durand Scott and Shane Larkin make an exciting backcourt duo; and there’s no shortage of athletic wings to help fill out the lineup. But can Jim Larranaga realize his team’s talent?
Maryland Terrapins 6. Maryland also has a lot of talent on its roster, but the Terrapins were abysmal offensively last season. To make matters worse (though potentially better in the long run), Terrell Stoglin is no longer with the team. Nick Faust and Alex Len need to make big improvements for Maryland to finish in the top half of the conference. Keep an eye on Maryland’s freshmen.
Virginia Cavaliers 7. Virginia has some interesting pieces, and Tony Bennett‘s system appears very effective. But the Cavaliers don’t have Mike Scott and his mid-range game to bail mediocre offensive possessions out anymore. This team will rely on its tenacious defense because it’s hard to see the offense being consistently effective.
Virginia Tech Hokies 8. Virginia Tech hired James Johnson to replace Seth Greenberg, and Greenberg left Johnson with some real talent. The Hokies are a sleeper to finish in the top half of the conference if Erick Green, Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines mesh well. Depth will be an issue, but those three are very good players. Johnson also has established relationships with the players, which should make his transition smoother.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 9. Wake Forest is really young. But a strong freshman class joining two of the best scorers in the league should make the team marginally more competitive than the last two years. Don’t sleep on Travis McKie. McKie is a match-up nightmare for every team, and shouldn’t surprise anyone when he averages close to 20 points a night.
Clemson Tigers 10. Clemson probably should be ranked higher than this. Certainly based on roster talent and previous results, the Tigers look better than tenth in the league. That said, Milton Jennings and Devin Booker haven’t shown the consistency to take over primary roles. If Jennings lives up to his McDonald’s All-American billing and Booker gets more aggressive, this team could finish much closer to the middle of the pack.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 11. Georgia Tech (tied) looks OK on paper, but didn’t add anything significant from last season’s 4-12 campaign. This points to another rough season in Atlanta, though Glen Rice Jr.’s sudden departure may prove more of a blessing than a curse.
Boston College 11. Boston College (tied) will be a significantly more watchable team this season. The team is still young, and still low on ACC-caliber talent. But the sophomore trio of Ryan Anderson, Patrick Heckmann and Dennis Clifford are the real deal. They also all improved a lot just over the course of last season (except Heckmann, who went down with mono).
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ACC Team Previews: Florida State Seminoles

Posted by mpatton on October 30th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams. Today’s victim: the Florida State Seminoles.

Leonard Hamilton and his team knocked off Duke and North Carolina to become the first ACC champion from somewhere off of Tobacco Road since Maryland in 2004. Hamilton’s team used experience, physical defense and drive to push through the ACC Tournament before falling in a brutal game to Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32. Still, the Seminoles’ triumph earned Hamilton the credibility where it’s time to start accepting his teams as conference contenders — especially when star guard Michael Snaer is at the helm.

Luke Loucks is gone, but Michael Snaer is ready to build on a dream season (Reuters)

This isn’t to say picking Florida State to finish near the top of the league again is a no-brainer; on the contrary, the Seminoles lost six players to graduation, including three starters. Among those leaving were Luke Loucks, the veteran point guard who played the cool foil to Snaer much of last year, and Bernard James, whose shot-blocking and tough defense anchored one of the best defenses in the country.


Five freshmen and a junior college transfer join the Seminoles this season, headlined by Aaron Thomas and Montay Brandon. Brandon, a consensus four-star 6’7″ wing out of Greensboro, North Carolina, looks to be a paradigmatic Hamilton player: He’s very long, athletic and is ready to focus on defense. Thomas was also a consensus four-star recruit and is known as a slasher; he’ll be backing up Florida State’s very talented backcourt this season. His playing time will probably directly correlate to how his defense stacks up with Ian Miller. Devon Bookert and junior college transfer Robert Gilchrist also join the Seminoles, though look for their impact to be somewhat down the road. Bookert is an offensive-minded point guard out of Alaska, and Gilchrist is a skinny forward with terrific length and athleticism. Finally, there are the seven footers Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky. Ojo and Bojanovsky are both very raw, but the Seminoles will need an eraser at the center of Hamilton’s defense, and one or both may play significant time if they can fit that role.

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ACC Morning Ten: 12.20 & 12.21 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 21st, 2011

Please accept my sincerest apologies for the absent Morning Five yesterday. I hope a double-dose of links will help ease the pain.

  1. Run The Floor: In case you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of defensive charting. Michael Rogner has charted the defensive work of Bernard James, John Henson, Josh Smith and Anthony Davis. Putting on your ACC goggles, you can also check his piece over at Tomahawk Nation that ignores the non-Seminole players. The findings are very interesting. Basically, without Chris Singleton, the Seminole defense is elite with James in the game and above average with him on the bench. With James on the court, Leonard Hamilton’s squad allows only 0.75 points per possession, but with him on the bench it allows 0.91 points per possession. That’s a gigantic difference. For comparison’s sake, Henson “only” affects North Carolina’s defense by 0.11 points per possession.
  2. Durham Herald-Sun: James Michael McAdoo is off to a relatively slow start for North Carolina this season, and Roy Williams thinks it’s his lack of aggression to blame. Against UNCG, “Williams turned to the bench and said that if the 6’9″ freshman didn’t dunk the ball next time, everyone on the team would run sprints while he sat McAdoo on a lawn chair and served him lemonade.” McAdoo’s talent is undeniable, but his transition to the college level has been far from smooth.
  3. Washington Post: Coaching legend Larry Brown made another short stop (zing) to visit his former player, Mark Turgeon, at Maryland’s basketball practice recently. Despite playing for North Carolina, Brown called Maryland a “special place” with a “special coach.” The only coach in history to win an NCAA championship (1988) and an NBA championship (2004) also gave some advice to Turgeon.

  4. Basketball Prospectus: Drew Cannon evaluated Kendall Marshall as the 70th best basketball player in the country during the offseason, which was substantially below where pretty much everyone else places the unique North Carolina point guard. But Cannon realized that “[he] was evaluating players in terms of ‘how many wins would this player add to a randomly assembled team of college players?’ while everyone else was evaluating players in terms of ‘how many wins will this player add to his team?'” It’s an important distinction to make, and a valuable one. I still think he had Marshall a little undervalued (and most have him overvalued), but it certainly provides some food for thought (also, don’t be surprised to see some more content this week in a similar vein).
  5. CollegeHoops.net: It’s probably not surprising that three ACC teams are in the Top 25 this week. What may be surprising is which three teams made the cut. Instead of Florida State, Virginia‘s hot start earned the Cavaliers the conference’s third spot in the AP and Coaches polls. This raises the question of which team is actually better. Florida State has played a tougher schedule, and definitely has the athletic advantage on defense. But Virginia’s offensive and defensive numbers are a little better at the moment. This debate will definitely be something to keep an eye on moving forward. The second half of today’s links is after the jump.
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