What’s on the Mind of the 15 ACC Programs Right Now

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 17th, 2014

With the start of the ACC college basketball season rapidly approaching, allow us to put on our psychoanalyst’s hat to determine what’s on the mind of each of its 15 member programs right now. Some are of the optimistic variety, while others are fearful at what they see lying ahead. All of them, though, are hoping to contribute to discussions lauding the ACC as the nation’s preeminent college basketball conference this year. Let’s jump into each program alphabetically.

  • Boston College: Blind optimism. The reality is that the Eagles, even with an all-ACC caliber star in Olivier Hanlan, are likely one of the three worst teams in the conference. But there’s a new coach around in Jim Christian, and thanks to the usual roster turnover, few remaining pieces to recall the 8-24 debacle of a year ago. Buying in to a new coach and system may not be a problem, but production on the court will continue to be.
  • Clemson: Loss. That loss is a huge one, in the departure of NBA draft pick K.J. McDaniels, who was their best player on both sides of the ball last year and led the team in four statistical categories. A 10-win improvement from the year before earned Brad Brownell a six-year contract extension, but how will this team score enough to win even if it replicates its defensive success of a year ago?
Jim Christian's hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC's fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

Jim Christian hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC’s fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

  • Duke: Motivation. Not just because of a stellar recruiting class that includes their first dominant center in some time in Jahlil Okafor and the overall potential to be in the mix for a championship. There’s also the internal motivation for Quinn Cook to keep a hold on the starting point guard role in light of the arrival of stud freshman Tyus Jones, and Rasheed Sulaimon’s motivation to show that an early-season slump last year (temporarily earning him a place in Coach K’s doghouse) was an aberration. Oh, and that first round NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer could light a fire of some sort, too.

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ACC Team Preview: Miami Hurricanes

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 6th, 2013

Last season was a historic one for Miami basketball. The Hurricanes became the first school from outside the state of North Carolina to win the ACC regular season title outright and the ACC Tournament in the same year. Along the way came two home blowout wins over perennial league powers Duke and North Carolina, and a level of local support never seen before at Miami. They even had LeBron James and Dwayne Wade attend a game! Unfortunately, the top six players from that squad are now gone, so this will clearly be a rebuilding year for the Jim Larranaga’s squad.

Miami Preview 2013

The good news is that the man in charge is still Jim Larranaga. The 29-year head coaching veteran swept conference and national Coach of the Year awards last season, but he is best known for leading George Mason to the 2006 Final Four. Larranaga excels at putting pieces together to form a cohesive team and, despite his age, is known as a progressive thinking coach. He’s constantly looking for new teaching and motivational techniques, and has also embraced the new advanced statistics now available. To prepare for this season’s rules changes limiting contact, Larranaga has put a greater emphasis on defending without fouling. As he explained to the media at the recent ACC Operation Basketball, the Hurricanes’ goal each game is to limit opponents to less than one point per possession. If you put someone on the free throw line, all they have to do is hit one out of two to beat their goal. To combat that tendency, Miami preseason practices are stopped when the defense fouls and everybody runs sprints. Although the Hurricanes will have a dropoff this season, the program is in good shape moving forward. Next year, two transfers from Big 12 schools will be eligible, when Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas) will form a solid junior backcourt.

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ACC M5: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 30th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Miami Herald: The first line of this Miami preview says it all: “UM is the only Atlantic Coast Conference team with no returning starters.” It’s going to be a rough year in Coral Gables if you compare the team to last season. But there are some intriguing players on this team. Notably Manu Lecomte and Tonye Jekiri. Lecomte is a talented freshman point guard, who played for several Belgian national teams. Jekiri is a little more raw, as he just picked up basketball at a later age, but his physical tools make him an exciting post prospect.
  2. ESPN: Joel James switched to wear number 42 this season. That’s right, the same 42 that Sean May, Jerry Stackhouse, and Brad Daugherty wore at North Carolina before him. That’s quite the trio to live up to (side note: May is one of the most consistently underrated college players because of his lack of NBA success, but he was ludicrously dominant for the 2005 postseason)–especially for someone who didn’t produce much last year. But James seems eager for the challenge, and the buzz out of Chapel Hill this offseason certainly points to a much improved year for him.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: When you think Virginia, you probably don’t think NBA. Nothing about the Cavalier program (its history, its current style, etc.) immediately makes you think of the NBA Draft. But Tony Bennett has a deceptively talented team that could see as many as four or five players getting their names called. A lot has to go right, but certainly Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell will play professionally somewhere should they choose to do so. Mike Tobey is still a bit of an unknown, but the NBA has proven time and time again that being seven feet tall goes a long way (just ask Kwame Brown). And that’s not to mention Justin Anderson, whose athletic defense may pave the way to the bright lights.
  4. AP (via Washington Post): This year is Mark Turgeon‘s chance to prove he’s the man for the job at Maryland (I think he is). He got two rebuilding seasons at Maryland, as Gary Williams didn’t leave much in the cupboard. But now he has a deep roster of guys he recruited. No one expects the Terrapins to contend for the national championship this year, but Turgeon needs to make the NCAA Tournament. That shouldn’t be a problem if a point guard can limit the team’s turnovers.
  5. Georgia Tech: Brian Gregory had a press conference yesterday where he talked some about transitioning from high school to college. It’s easy for people to forget just how different the college game is from the high school game (or the difference between the NBA and college). Players have to adjust on the court and academically to a totally new environment. Most of Gregory’s interview is pretty run of the mill, but it’s cool to get a little chalk talk about areas that freshmen often are lacking coming from high school.
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ACC M5: 04.04.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 4th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. ESPN: With ACC play officially over, you can expect more of these pieces to pop up. Here’s a cool one from JA Adande (though Grant Hill probably contributed just as much) on talking to Hill about his career. Something younger fans might be surprised by is that Hill owned 29 (!!!) triple-doubles during his first five NBA seasons (and none since) before his career-defining injury took hold, which until recently was good for second most among active players. Hill is a guy that, should he want to be, could become a great coach. But there’s something about him that makes you think he’d probably be pretty good at whatever he ends up doing.
  2. Tar Heel Blog: USA Today released its annual coaching salary spreadsheet, but Brian Barbour noticed an oddity with Roy Williams‘ pay: North Carolina’s coach was listed at a remarkably cheap $1.7 million dollars a year (significantly under other top-tier coaches) despite other estimates of Williams’ salary being north of a couple million per year. This begs the question as to exactly where the data comes from and whether it takes into account the many sources of income coaches have. For instance, I expect Mike Krzyzewski‘s jaw-dropping $7.2 million figure includes everything. The figure reported for Williams may not include all of his extra income (bonuses, speaking engagements, basketball camps, Nike deals, etc.). But all told, North Carolina is getting a phenomenal deal with Williams. Per dollar as reported here, you couldn’t find a more accomplished coach in the country.
  3. Testudo Times: If you’re looking to catch up on Maryland hoops, this is a good round-up of links mostly covering the loss to Iowa but also talking about the future of Terrapins basketball. Maryland is a really interesting team going forward and it’s really unfortunate it won’t be in the ACC down the stretch of the careers of Seth Allen, Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell. I think all four will be three- or four-year guys, and the group represents a phenomenal base for Mark Turgeon to build this program.
  4. State of the U: Speaking of looks towards the future, here’s a really optimistic take on Miami going forward. I agree completely that Shane Larkin‘s return is absolutely critical, but I think Miami will really struggle to get an at-large bid unless Tonye Jekiri just explodes this offseason (I think he’s a couple of years away though). Larkin is a really interesting take. His situation is very similar to Trey Burke’s last offseason, as an undersized point guard oozing with skill. The only difference — which, granted, is a huge difference — is that instead of a top-10 or top-five team coming back, Miami loses almost everything from this year’s team. I lean towards Larkin leaving Coral Gables, but if he gets specific criticism back from the official NBA Draft board there’s a good chance he’ll return.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: NC State fans can back away from the ledge. TJ Warren will be back for his sophomore season to show off his skills as the number one scoring option on the team. Warren might have been the highest drafted of the Wolfpack players entering the draft had he gone, but he has the potential to break into the lottery if he has another year of high-efficiency numbers (with more teams focusing on him). Now the Wolfpack can move on towards filling out the rest of their roster instead of trying to keep everyone home.

EXTRA: This is a phenomenal take on the complexity of Mike Rice‘s “situation.” And the complexity doesn’t begin with Rice, it’s coaches who use similar tactics. Expect more on this later.

VIDEO EXTRA: In what’s becoming an annual tradition, Draft Express gave North Carolina and Duke McDonald’s All-American signees a place to vent some trash talk.

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Miami Hurricanes Make ACC History, Sweep Championships

Posted by mpatton on March 17th, 2013

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from the ACC Tournament championship game between North Carolina and Miami in Greensboro this afternoon.

An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the regular season title outright eight times since 1954 (most recently, Maryland won it in 2002). An ACC school from outside the state of North Carolina has only won the ACC Tournament 10 times since 1954 (most recently, Florida State won it last year). Miami is the first team to ever do both in the same year. An unbalanced conference schedule has cheapened the regular season title in recent years, but that’s shouldn’t throw any shade on what the Hurricanes accomplished this year. The Miami win along with Florida State’s ACC Championship last season marks the second time in the league’s history that consecutive ACC Tournaments were won by schools outside of North Carolina (the 1984 and 1985 tournaments were won by Maryland and Georgia Tech, respectively).

Miami, your 2013 ACC Tournament champions. (photo: HurricaneSports.com)

Miami, your 2013 ACC Tournament champions. (photo: HurricaneSports.com)

And the Hurricanes won their final two games in front of very hostile crowds. They won because of tremendous coaching from Jim Larranaga – whose lineup changes proved instrumental in games against North Carolina and Boston College. They won because Shane Larkin was the best player in an ACC Tournament full of outstanding performances (Olivier Hanlan, Durand Scott and Dez Wells all went for over 30 points in a game). They won because experience doesn’t get rattled. In short, they won because they were the best team on the floor.

Miami made history in Greensboro. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Miami made history in Greensboro. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Against North Carolina, Miami found itself in a different position than usual. The Tar Heels and their new and improved smaller lineup came out firing. With just over 10 minutes to go in the first half, North Carolina led, 18-13. Miami proceeded to score on its next nine possessions and 13 of 16 of the final possessions of the half (over that time they missed three shots). North Carolina only scored on eight of 15 possessions, but PJ Hairston hit four threes and Marcus Paige added another to keep the game within a possession at the half. It was the best overall 10-minute offensive stretch I’ve seen this year. Both teams moved the ball to find open shots and both teams knocked down nearly every shot available. At one point the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions.

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ACC Team Previews: Miami Hurricanes

Posted by mpatton on October 29th, 2012

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

Miami never really clicked last season. The team showed flashes of brilliance like in its overtime win at Duke or their home dismantling of eventual ACC champion Florida State. However, more often than not, Jim Larranaga’s team looked mediocre and inconsistent. Reggie Johnson added trying to recover from a knee injury to his ongoing weight issue, which meant he couldn’t stay on the court for extended stretches nor run the floor very well. To make matters worse, senior sharpshooter Malcolm Grant lost his stroke last season, regressing at an alarming rate to an abysmal 34% from the field. This year looks much better on paper, though history certainly calls for caution when prognosticating Miami’s season.

Shane Larkin

Shane Larkin Is The X-Factor For Miami This Season (credit: Paul Abell / US Presswire)

Newcomers

Consensus three-star center Tonye Jekiri and shooter Steve Sorenson are the only freshmen joining Larranaga in Coral Gables this season. However, redshirt freshman Bishop Daniels may prove to have the most impact, as he’s spent the most time with the team. Daniels redshirted last season after missing the first half of the season with a foot injury. He’s a very athletic combo guard known for his leaping and could provide an offensive spark off the bench backing up Durand Scott or Shane Larkin.

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ACC Summer Recess: Miami Hurricanes

Posted by mpatton on July 25th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Miami.

Where They Stand Now

Jim Larranaga Has Plenty of Talent Back in Coral Gables for his Second Year

Miami comes off of another simultaneously successful and disappointing season after finishing 9-7 in ACC play (as modestly predicted last November) last year. The mediocre season led to a two-seed in the NIT, where the Hurricanes got trounced in the second round by Minnesota thanks to a horrendous defensive effort. Still, for Jim Larranaga‘s first season — especially one damaged by the Nevin Shapiro scandal and numerous injuries — a conference record above .500 shouldn’t be taken for granted. The Hurricanes never made the jump from a good team to a great one, but two high-profile wins at Duke and against Florida State showed the potential hidden in the roster.

Who’s Leaving

Malcolm Grant and Dequan Jones hit the road after finishing their final seasons of eligibility, but don’t overrate Grant’s departure. Last year Grant took major steps backward offensively, never finding his shot. For the first three years of his career, Grant was one of the country’s best shooters. He averaged significantly over 40% from deep those years, taking over 200 threes in 2010-11. Three-point shooting made up for his poor finishing skills and lackluster mid-range game, but Grant went cold from downtown in 2011-12 finishing the year at a tepid 33%.

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