ACC Stock Report: Volume IV

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on January 23rd, 2018

By week’s end, the conference slate will be at the halfway point for the majority of the league. And with that milepost will come some clarity, as unbeaten Virginia, which sits alone atop the ACC standings, is facing its toughest week to date. The Cavaliers’ difficult stretch commences tonight with a home tilt against Clemson and culminates with a trip to preseason favorite Duke on Saturday. Virginia’s modus operandi is painstakingly familiar, with an elite defense bogging down the opposition at a far stingier clip than any of Tony Bennett‘s previous teams in Charlottesville. Syracuse’s 61-point outburst against the Cavaliers two weeks ago represents the most points Virginia has allowed since its only loss, a seven-point road defeat to West Virginia coming at the beginning of December. Virginia’s style of play isn’t for everyone, but it is a pleasant reminder that the only numbers that truly matter in the era of advanced metrics are the ones on the scoreboard when the clock reads zero. Credit Bennett’s team for already knocking out three ACC road wins so far this year.

Virginia Basketball Does Not Go Away Quietly (USA Today Images)

Stock Up

Part of my reticence in buying into Virginia this season has been assuaged recently by the development of burgeoning prospect De’Andre Hunter. Just one short season ago, I scoffed at the love the computer rankings showed to the Cavaliers in large part because I couldn’t find a difference-maker on the roster in the mold of Mike Scott, Joe Harris, Justin Anderson and Malcolm Brogdon. That same critique fostered my negativity on Virginia heading into this season. But Hunter is a game-changer. The redshirt freshman is undoubtedly still raw, but his athletic potential and certain skill development under the tutelage of Bennett should make him a contributor on an NBA roster in the near future. After going scoreless in his first career ACC game, Hunter has posted double-figures in five of his last six outings while converting at a 59 percent clip. While the senior leadership of Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins along with the sharpshooting of Kyle Guy have represented the foundation for this team, it is a player like Hunter who can be carry Bennett through to his first Final Four. If Virginia can navigate the perilous waters that await this week, then it’ll be time to eat my crow and jump aboard the crowded Wahoos bandwagon.

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Close Games in the ACC: Part III

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 12th, 2018

This is Part III of a three-part series. Part I can be found here.  Part II can be found here.

In our final examination of close games in the ACC, we will examine the extreme cases in both directions — the best and worst seasons over the last 11 years with respect to performance in tight games. Then we’ll see if history gives us any indication of what to expect for the four ACC teams with extreme results in one-possession games last year.

Brian Gregory and the 2015 Georgia Tech squad were historically inept in close games. (AP Photo)

  • Most 1-Possession Games – 2012 Virginia Tech (10), 2012 Virginia (9). These intrastate rivals chose the same season to participate in the highest number of games decided on the game’s final possession. Each team won four of their tight contests but the Cavaliers (9-7 ACC record) did much better in the rest of their league outings than the Hokies (4-12). As you might expect, both meetings between these two schools in 2012 came right down to the wire, with each team winning on the other’s home floor.
  • Least 1-Possession Games – 2007 N.C. State (0), 2011 Duke (0). These two squads avoided nail-biters in different ways. Duke (13-3 ACC) won most of its games comfortably in 2011, including 11 of their 16 conference games by double-figures. Meanwhile the Wolfpack (5-11) were often on the short end in lopsided affairs, posting a mark of 3-9 in games decided by 10 points or more. Ironically, in its ACC Tournament opener that year, N.C. State finally experienced a close game – beating Duke in overtime in Sidney Lowe’s first year at the helm.
  • Best Record in 1-Possession Games – 2013 Florida State (6-0). A year after their first and only ACC Championship, the Seminoles (9-9 ACC) would have been in much worse shape if they didn’t dominate their six close games.
  • Worst Record in 1-Possession Games – 2015 Georgia Tech (0-8). Brian Gregory’s squad in 2015 (3-15 ACC) was so snake-bitten that the next highest number of losses during this era was four.

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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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ACC Taking Stock: Volume II

Posted by Matt Auerbach on December 5th, 2017

It remains to be seen whether the whitewashing of the Big Ten in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge last week illuminates the weakness of the latter or the prowess of the former. But, as non-conference competition softens a bit heading into the upcoming holiday season, the ACC continues to boast the nation’s unanimous #1 team in addition to what appears to be another strong group behind Duke. One of the teams headlining that upper echelon group — Virginia — has been somewhat of a surprise, as Tony Bennett’s squad has steamrolled its way to a perfect start through eight games. Using their signature pack-line defense to once again stifle the opposition, the Cavaliers are allowing a paltry 85.6 points per 100 possessions (first nationally). If I were your broker, though, I’d exercise some caution before buying into these Wahoos. Consistently beloved by the computer models, Virginia’s placement as the fourth-best team in America (per KenPom) should be met with some healthy skepticism. A home win against a scuffling Wisconsin squad — wherein Virginia managed only 49 points of its own — and a neutral site thumping of Rhode Island (without star guard E.C. Matthews) are fine endorsements of a good team — but tonight, Virginia can play itself into the national conversation as a top-five team with a trip to Morgantown, West Virginia. The Cavaliers face an opponent in West Virginia intent on speeding the game up and making them uncomfortable. Win that game in a hostile environment and buying what the computers are selling on Virginia becomes easier to swallow.

A big week is ahead for Virginia. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY)

While the most popular form of investing is generally done by following the momentum (see: Bitcoin), the most money can be accrued in buying high quality, proven winners that are undervalued and underappreciated at a particular moment in time by the investment community (see: Apple in 2002). And while it would be unfair to compare Louisville‘s Quentin Snider to the most profitable company in the universe, the analogy still exists. The senior point guard has, without question, experienced numerous ebbs and flows during his career at Louisville, but the highs have been frequent enough to surmise that a tough start to his final campaign can quickly be eradicated. As a junior, Snider shot nearly 48 percent from behind the arc in ACC play, good for fourth in the league. Through this season’s first six games, Snider has made just seven of his first 32 triples. That will improve. It is both fashionable and intellectually lazy to blame the failings of the Cardinals down the stretch in its two losses to Purdue and Seton Hall on rookie head coach David Padgett. And sure, Rick Pitino’s presence on the sideline would have probably made a difference. But veteran players with the experience and success of Snider are supposed to make such a transition in leadership smoother. The bet here is that we start to see more of the Snider who had 22/6/5 in a win over Kentucky a year ago, and less of the Snider who posted a goose egg in the Cards Round of 32 loss to Michigan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can Virginia Duplicate the Success of Its 2015-16 Squad?

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 23rd, 2017

It’s still early in the season, but the initial returns are all positive on Virginia this year. Certainly home wins over UNC-Greensboro, Austin Peay and Monmouth are nothing to boast about, but a road win at VCU is typically a nice resume booster. There are, however, some revealing similarities to a recent group of Cavaliers that should make the good people of Charlottesville smile. The 2015-16 Elite Eight team that featured Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill started in much the same way. Early comparisons between the two teams seem fair.

A lot to potentially smile about for Tony Bennett and Virginia this season. (Amber Searls/USA TODAY Sports)

We know that Tony Bennett teams live and die by their defense. In the first four games of this season, the Cavaliers are allowing their opponents to shoot just 37.5 percent from the field. Through four games of the 2015-16 season, Virginia held its opponents to 37.4 percent shooting. This year’s team relies more on steals (8.3 vs. 5.0 SPG) and blocks (3.8 vs 2.5 BPG) than those Cavaliers, thanks to a starting front line (Isaiah Wilkins and Jack Salt) that is a stronger defensive unit than Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey. Bennett has also been adamant that his team get to the line more often. The 2015-16 team attempted 67 free throws in the first four games of the year; this year’s group has notched 74 attempts. That team had a deep backcourt, so when London Perrantes or Brogdon went to the bench, Bennett could turn to Darius Thompson, Marial Shayok or a young Devon Hall. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Preseason Predictions and Superlatives

Posted by Matt Auerbach on November 14th, 2017

While it’s true that the season is already several days old, it is not yet too late for the ACC microsite to present you with our humble preseason predictions and superlatives. Before season tip-off, the four microsite writers ranked all 15 ACC squads by predicted order of finish, made some all-league selections and projected the player and coach of the year. Should you choose to not take my word for it, none of the panelists — Brad Jenkins, Matt Patton, Mick McDonald or myself — picked Duke’s Marvin Bagley III as our ACC Player of the Year. After his first two collegiate contests, I would already like a mulligan on that.

Bonzie Colson is the ACC Microsite’s Preseason Player of the Year (USA Today Images)

That honor instead went to Notre Dame senior forward Bonzie Colson in unanimous fashion. Diminutive for his position, the 6’5” Colson is coming off an all-ACC first team selection in which he averaged a double-double, and finished 10th in KenPom’s Player of the Year standings.

Preseason All-ACC First Team

  • Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame (40)
  • Joel Berry, North Carolina (30)
  • Grayson Allen, Duke (29)
  • Marvin Bagley III, Duke (28)
  • Bruce Brown, Miami (FL) (24)

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ACC Burning Questions: Virginia Cavaliers

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 1st, 2017

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: How Will Virginia Fill the Big Shoes of London Perrantes?

Over his four seasons in Charlottesville, London Perrantes was a massive part of Virginia‘s 112 wins and four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. Since taking the reins of the offense as a freshman, the 6’2″ point guard was a calm and steadying influence during a four-year career that resulted in a pair of ACC championships. There will be a changing of the guard this season as head coach Tony Bennett needs to now rely upon pair of sophomores who showed flashes of brilliance last season. The first of those players is sophomore guard Ty Jerome, who recorded a 60.5 percent effective field goal percentage last year and took over the game at Villanova down the stretch before the Cavaliers lost on a last-second tip-in. Jerome injured his foot over the summer and missed Virginia’s preseason scrimmage as a result, but he is expected to be ready to go for the regular season opener against UNC-Greensboro next week. If Jerome misses any time, look for Rutgers graduate transfer Nigel Johnson to step into the starting point guard role. With a quick first step and a proven ability to find open looks, Johnson could be a key spark plug to provide offense when needed.

Sans man-bun, can sophomore Kyle Guy become the scorer Virginia needs? (USA TODAY Sports)

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Florida 65, #5 Virginia 39

Posted by Walker Carey on March 19th, 2017

Rush the Court will be covering the NCAA Tournament from start to finish over the next three weeks.

Florida Advanced to Its First Sweet Sixteen Since 2014. (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Virginia’s offensive deficiencies ended its season. Virginia was never going to break any records with its painstaking offensive attack, but criticizing it seemed fruitless given the program’s success over the last several years. Considering tonight’s hapless offensive performance, it is probably time to start questioning if the Cavaliers’ style of play will ever allow them to make a significant NCAA Tournament run. There might not be an appropriate adjective to describe just how anemic the Virginia offense was tonight. Scoring a grand total of 39 points is bad enough, but adding some context to that point total makes it even worse. Tony Bennett’s group shot a ghastly 29.6 percent from the field and converted only one of its 15 three-point attempts (6.7%). It was a truly dreadful performance and it came at the absolute worst time for Virginia.
  2. Devin Robinson is finding consistency at the right time. Robinson arrived in Gainesville in 2014 as a ballyhooed recruit. Through his first three years as a Gator, however, he has struggled to match production with his copious physical tools. While two games is certainly a small sample size, Robinson is right now playing his best basketball of collegiate career. Just two days after being the best player on the court in Florida’s first round win over East Tennessee State, Robinson once again exerted his dominion in the win over Virginia. A double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds may not seem like dominant numbers, but his length and quickness changed the game for Florida on the defensive end. In the postgame press conference, Robinson noted that he did not take defense seriously enough during his first two years as a Gator and his newly dedicated effort on that end of the floor has allowed for performances like tonight.
  3. Florida’s guards can change the game with their defense. Mike White made a point to note in his remarks that tonight’s defensive effort was orchestrated by the speed and intensity of guards Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza — a fairly obvious conclusion for anyone who watched the game. The backcourt duo made life absolutely miserable for Virginia’s guards — London Perrantes was held to a 2-of-12 shooting performance, while freshmen Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome both finished scoreless on a combined 0-of-8 from the field. Virginia had no chance to get its offense in rhythm, as Hill and Chiozza refused to let up for even a single possession.

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Rushed Reactions: #5 Virginia 76, #12 UNC-Wilmington 71

Posted by Walker Carey on March 16th, 2017

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is in Orlando this weekend.

London Perrantes Led His Team to a First Round Victory Today (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. London Perrantes took over the game after UNC-Wilmington’s hot start. Virginia got off to a slow start this afternoon. After UNC-Wilmington guard Denzel Ingram knocked down a three with 7:25 to play in the first half to build a 26-11 lead, it looked as if the Cavaliers were primed to become the first upset victim of this NCAA Tournament. That turned out not to be the case, though, as Virginia clamped down defensively and made enough big shots to advance to the next round. A major reason for the change in fortune was senior point guard London Perrantes, who grabbed control of the game and made big play after big play to ensure his collegiate career didn’t end today. A theme throughout NCAA Tournament history has been that veteran guard play is very important in determining who moves on and who goes home. If that continues this year, look for Perrantes to lead Virginia deep into the bracket.
  2. While Perrantes was Virginia’s most valuable player, Marial Shayok’s scoring outburst was essential to the winning effort. It quickly became apparent in the second half that UNC-Wilmington was not going to fade away and allow Virginia to coast to the easy victory. The Cavaliers were going to need to score to emerge with the win. To get those points, they turned to junior forward Marial Shayok, who turned in a career-best performance of 23 points (8-of-14 FG, 3-of-5 3FG). Tony Bennett’s teams have a well-earned reputation for comfort with slow-paced games played in the 50s or 60s. With UNC-Wilmington mostly dictating the pace today, Shayok led the scoring charge necessary to get to the Second Round.
  3. How much longer will Kevin Keatts be at UNC-Wilmington? Even with today’s result, it is difficult to not to be impressed with what Kevin Keatts has built at UNC-Wilmington. The Seahawks have won 72 games over the last three seasons, and both of their NCAA Tournament losses – this afternoon’s defeat along with last year’s eight-point loss to Duke – have been closely contested games. That much success makes it reasonable to question how long Keatts will remain at the helm in southeastern North Carolina. Successful mid-major coaches are poached by high-majors every spring, and with several good jobs already open, it is safe to assume his name will be brought up in at least a few conversations. It will be interesting to watch where Keatts opens the 2017-18 season.

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Computers and Eyes Tell Divergent Stories About Virginia

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on March 10th, 2017

What I’m about to write won’t make me very popular with the majority of new wave, analytically-obsessed fans, who comprise a majority of today’s young college basketball devotees. But forget what KenPom’s formula spits out. Use your eyes. Virginia stinks. Inexplicably, prior to its ACC quarterfinal loss last night — a game in which the Cavaliers were thoroughly outplayed by Notre Dame from tip to buzzer — Virginia was still rated seventh by KenPom’s analytical formula. After its 10th loss of the season, Tony Bennett‘s team probably won’t slide all that much. But if you watch Virginia play and can honestly tell me it is an elite team — and in this model that means the Cavs would be favored to beat all but Gonzaga, Villanova and North Carolina on a neutral floor — then fly me to Vegas with all the money you can get your hands on to take, let’s say, UCLA.

Tony Bennett and Virginia are still a very strong team, but not quite where they have been. (USA TODAY Sports)

I use UCLA as an example because, first, the metrics don’t care much for the Bruins (17th nationally, per KenPom), and second, they have pros. And while their defense leaves much to be desired at times, the Bruins have a roster full of studs who are not very far away from earning a handsome living playing basketball. And that matters at this time of year. A tremendous pack line defense and slow tempo can only get you so far. Who for Virginia can blow by his defender and get to the rim himself or create an easy opportunity for a teammate? The answer is as startling as it is obvious. Bennett has done a remarkable job in revitalizing a moribund program in Charlottesville by winning a pair of ACC regular season titles and making a trip to the Elite Eight, so it would be disingenuous for me to disparage the Cavaliers’ style of play without acknowledging that his teams have  all utilized an identical strategy. Still, successful systemic pedigree can only get you so far. This iteration doesn’t have a Justin Anderson or a Malcolm Brogdon on the roster, a pair of players who, by the way, are now NBA professionals. Read the rest of this entry »

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