Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • No news on Kyrie Irving or his toe, but Sidney Lowe did pipe in on Tracy Smith’s injury: per Brett Friedlander of Star News Online, Lowe said, “It’s a tough deal… It’s very frustrating, but I think it’s frustrating for Tracy as well.  This was a big year for him, a big year for us.”  Now, I don’t want to read too much into a coach’s postgame interviews following a tough loss to Arizona (who had their way with the Wolfpack inside), but it sounds like Lowe is starting to feel some hot seat pressure.  He continued: “I just think it’s one of those things where Tracy is going to have to decide he can play with a little bit of pain. That’s up to him… Certainly we don’t want him out there limping and everything. I think his biggest thing is getting over the fear of the injury itself…Structurally, everything is okay, but it’s his first real injury, so we have to be patient with him. The doctors say he’s okay, but they can’t feel his pain. So we have to go with what Tracy is saying.”  While I can feel his pain, Lowe really should stand by his players (read: not make it sound like he thinks they’re soft or faking injuries).  His job might be on the line, but Tracy Smith could have declared for the draft last year and never given Lowe the opportunity to complain about his injury.
  • Mike Scott of Virginia, Demontez Stitt of Clemson and Tony Chennault of Wake Forest are all out with injuries.  Scott underwent ankle surgery and his return time is still to be determined; Stitt required arthroscopic knee surgery and should be back before the end of the month; and Chennault is out for another month or so while his foot heals.
  • In other news, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski tied Dean Smith at second on the all-time win list with 879 after Duke soundly beat Elon in Durham Monday.  This is obviously a testament to the job that Coach K has done over his career at Duke, and there are sure to be plenty more wins for the Blue Devils as the season progresses.
  • Team of the Week: Virginia Tech sneaks past Georgia Tech for the award this week.  This is partially because I’ve ripped Virginia Tech the past couple weeks for being totally out to lunch.  But the Hokies got a very impressive (and much needed) win over Mississippi State on a neutral court.  Mississippi State was supposed to be the pride of the SEC West, but has come out with a slow start.  That said, a dominating win is a dominating win, and the Hokies won 88-57 with five players scoring in double figures.  Seth Greenberg should take note: his team is a whole lot better when Jeff Allen, Erick Green, Dorenzo Hudson and Manny Atkins produce on offense.  Malcolm Delaney only took 11 shots.  So when Virginia Tech starts back with losing ways because Delaney is the only one with any interest in trying to score, don’t be surprised.  However, if this team has finally figured out that they have the talent to win real games and they just need to utilize it, look out.  There’s a reason (albeit a somewhat misguided one) that this team had so much hype in the preseason, and they finally lived up to it.
  • Bizarro Team of the Week: Wake Forest – It was actually a fairly good week for the ACC overall.  But Wake Forest continued their epic struggles.  I really do hate choosing them week in and week out, but the only other losses in the conference came against good schools (Central Florida, Arizona and Texas).  Meanwhile Wake, almost lost to UNCG (yes, the 0-9 school out of the Southern Conference that hadn’t lost within double figures of an opponent all season).  Wake followed one almost loss with an actual loss at Xavier, which is much more excusable as the Musketeers are probably a Tournament-bound team.  Wake has to find some answers and find them fast.  Two of their next four games (Richmond and Gonzaga) are going to be very tough.  Wake legitimately has a strong case to be one of the top five worst major conference schools (along with Auburn, Oregon State, DePaul and South Florida).  Tony Chennault may hold the key for Wake to establish some decent guard play, but that remains to be seen.

(ed. note – following the submission of this week’s check-in, Wake dropped a game to a team known as the Presbyterian Blue Hose to continue its nightmare campaign)

A History Lesson: In case you hadn’t heard, the ACC and Raycom Sports teamed up to produce the ACC Vault.  We covered the Vault on its official opening last week, and I highly suggest you spend some time perusing the website.  It’s very easy to use (whether you want to find a specific play or a game).  I’ll be promoting one game a week with a few of my thoughts.  This week, I’m going to stick with the 1997 ACC Championship between North Carolina and North Carolina State.  You can see most of my thoughts on the game in the article on the site’s release, but the game has some historical significance.  It was Dean Smith’s last ACC game, and one of Herb Sendek’s first.  The Tar Heels brought star power with Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter and Shammond Williams, while N.C. State countered with a more deliberate offense that led to far more open looks than one might have expected in such a David vs. Goliath game.  Please feel free to comment if you have any suggestions for great games too!

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (11-0) beat Elon handily in their one game of the week.  Offense still lacks a real flow without Irving, and Coach K might need to investigate switching Nolan Smith back to the two guard.  Seth Curry would take some time but has a point guard build, or he could try running the offense through Kyle Singler.  Not sure either is ideal, but it’s definitely worth trying a couple things out before getting too deep into conference play.
  2. Florida State (9-2, 1-0) beat Stetson and Loyola Marymount this week to continue their winning ways.  They have games at Hawaii and Auburn (go ahead and chalk that one up) before heading to Virginia Tech to continue conference play.
  3. Boston College (9-2, 1-0) beat Bryant 93-77 in their lone game of the week.  Should be interesting to see how this team holds up in conference play.
  4. North Carolina (8-4) gets a boost in the ratings for playing a talented Texas team very close.  After watching the game, I literally have no idea why Roy Williams continues to play Larry Drew II at point instead of Kendall Marshall.  Marshall played much better than Drew II, but still only saw significant playing time when Drew II was sidelined with foul trouble (it’s no coincidence that the Tar Heels lost the lead when Marshall went out).
  5. Georgia Tech (6-4) got a much needed win over Richmond this week.  The Yellow Jackets still look like they’re very much on the wrong side of the bubble, but beating a team that looks like a contender in the A-10 is a quality victory.  Now a win this week against Siena would give Paul Hewitt another good win against decent mid-major competition.
  6. Virginia (8-3, 1-0) soundly beat Oregon and eked out a win over Norfolk State without the aid of Mike Scott who is averaging team best 16.3 points and 10.4 rebounds a game.  For the Cavaliers to be relevant, they desperately need Scott’s production.
  7. Virginia Tech (6-4, 0-1) took care of business in the Bahamas this week.  Now they need to sustain this level of play.
  8. Miami (8-3) lost a tough game against Central Florida this week.  The Hurricanes struggled with foul trouble inside with Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble fouling out in 16 and 25 minutes, respectively.  Central Florida is undefeated so far, but the Hurricane defense was vulnerable with Johnson and Gamble playing very limited minutes.  Keep an eye on their foul trouble in ACC play.
  9. Maryland (7-4, 0-1) didn’t play this week, but they have three cupcakes before continuing conference play at Duke.  The Terrapins really need Sean Mosley to step up and give them a more consistent second option beyond Jordan Williams.  They are still a leaderless team right now, so winning close games (or games on the road) will be pretty difficult.
  10. N.C. State (7-4) missed out on a huge chance to add a resume victory over Arizona this week, and Tracy Smith’s absence in the paint was evident.  The Wolfpack and Sidney Lowe really need Smith’s production and ability to open up the floor for jump shooters.
  11. Clemson (7-4, 0-1) won two creampuff games this week with Demontez Stitt in recovery. Jerai Grant had two excellent games off the bench.
  12. Wake Forest (6-6) continues to struggle.  Here’s to hoping that Tony Chennault has the answers.

A Look Ahead

Finals are over!  That’s good news for everyone–especially college basketball fans.  We still have a couple more uninteresting weeks before conference play really begins.  Probably the best chance for good games comes from Florida State, who will probably take on Butler (or Utah) and then most likely Baylor or Washington State in the Diamond Head Classic, a tournament that should give the Seminoles an opportunity to build their at-large resume.  All three match-ups are very intriguing because each team has shown significant defensive strength so far this season.

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Set Your Tivo: Weekend Review

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 17th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

This is the last major weekend before conference play begins in earnest and it features a bunch of solid games but none that really jump out at you as must-watch. All in all it’s a pretty good set of games. Don’t forget about the two games in the Bahamas on Saturday (Richmond vs. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State). They’re not on television but are meaningful, especially the latter. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Texas vs. North Carolina (Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC) – 4 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

A Smaller Venue in Greenboro, But Still a Great Game

You may never see a game between two unranked teams have this much talent on the court as this one. Yes the Longhorns are ranked in both the AP and Coaches polls but they aren’t in our own top 25. Texas has played better this year on the strength of defense and better chemistry though a loss at USC was cause for concern. Still, Texas has a ton of talent and has the ability to turn this season into a successful one. Leading scorer Jordan Hamilton still has a so-so shot selection but he’s connecting on 41% of his treys, a positive sign for Rick Barnes. Freshman Tristan Thompson has also been a plus for the Longhorns, giving them an athletic post presence who can score and defend very well. When you look at this matchup with North Carolina however, Tyler Zeller (16/8) is going to have a significant height advantage inside. You may see Barnes turn to Matt Hill for a bigger defensive presence in the paint in an attempt to control UNC’s big man. Each team has had some issues at the point guard, especially North Carolina. The Tar Heels have seen better play from Larry Drew II (2:1 A/T ratio) but questions remain with the team averaging 15 turnovers per contest. With a talented freshman in waiting, Roy Williams has to make a decision on who should see the majority of time at the point as they head into ACC play. For Texas, Dogus Balbay has seen his minutes drop in favor of freshman Cory Joseph, a move that’s understandable from an offensive standpoint but questionable in the eyes of some who see the experienced Balbay as a team leader and an effective distributor, not to mention an outstanding defender. Texas is not a particularly great shooting team as a whole so the transition to Joseph could be more about transition opportunities and easy buckets plus Joseph is a much better shooter. As for North Carolina, getting Harrison Barnes going could be the key between middling outside the top 25 and being a consistently ranked team and #2 in the ACC. Barnes is still in a slump, shooting just 33% overall over his last five games including a dismal 5-24 (21%) from three. He’s still averaging double figures and has done a nice job rebounding but the Tar Heels need more out of their star freshman. To become a really good team, UNC needs John Henson to become a consistent third option. He rebounds very well but he’s in double figures one night and single digits the next. He may have a hard time with Thompson inside but Henson is able to stretch his game out a bit and that may open things up inside for the Tar Heels. This figures to be another close game, far different from last year’s Texas blowout. This time North Carolina has the crowd to their advantage and may come out on top by a few points. It’s a huge game for UNC, their last non-conference opportunity for a quality win. Texas still has games with Michigan State and Connecticut but this is a big game for them too in a quasi-road environment. We wouldn’t be surprised either way but a slight edge has to go to UNC in this game.

#5 Kansas State vs. Florida (BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, FL) – 3:30 pm Saturday on FSN (****)

This is the first of two key games for Kansas State, the second coming on Tuesday against UNLV. Winning one or both will certainly help the Wildcats grab a better seed in the NCAA Tournament come March. Against Florida, K-State will have to contend with the Gators’ trapping pressure defense, something that could be a problem given their propensity for turnovers and some point guard issues. Jacob Pullen has been the main distributor at four assists per game but he turns it over more than three times per game, the most on a team that averages 16 turnovers as a unit. Florida’s back court pressure could cause a lot of problems for Kansas State and plenty of extra possessions for the Gators. Pullen doing a lot of ball handling could also be a factor in his overall struggle relative to last season. He’s never been a great shooter, 40% overall from the floor for his career, but his three point shooting is down over six percent to 33% this season. It is true that other teams are trying to lock him up like Duke did, but Pullen has to work through this and become a better player in order to lift Kansas State to the next level where they can compete for a national championship. Frank Martin may go with Will Spradling at the point in order to take some pressure off Pullen. As for Florida, expect them to fire up three’s as usual (17 per game) even though the Gators shoot just 32% as a team. Billy Donovan loves the trey, yet another Rick Pitino protégé who sticks to the system no matter the personnel he has. Erving Walker has improved dramatically but Kenny Boynton still can’t find the range for Florida. Walker shoots 20% better than Boynton from deep yet Boynton has 15 more attempts this season. Kansas State should look to isolate Walker and aggressively defend him, keeping the ball out of his hands. Pullen and Rodney McGruder may have to match Walker’s deep shooting but Martin will be content with Boynton chucking shots up and hitting once in a while, requiring Kansas State to clear the boards well. Both teams rank high in offensive rebounding percentage so the Wildcats must put an emphasis on keeping Florida off the glass as that will lead to easy Gator put backs. Florida is #15 in two point percentage, largely a result of offensive rebounds and the play of Vernon Macklin inside. Macklin against Curtis Kelly will be a key matchup to watch in the low post as each player finishes well and can rebound the basketball effectively. Kansas State should not bank on outscoring Florida from the line considering their awful free throw shooting (55%) and Florida’s ability to keep opponents off the line, second in the nation in defensive free throw rate. Only three players on K-State’s roster shoot over 70% from the line and Pullen is the only one of those three who gets there often. Martin’s depth will take a hit if Wally Judge is out, dealing with personal issues, but we don’t think that will have a major impact on the game. Kansas State is still a very deep team, able to go eight or nine deep if necessary. This should be a terrific game that may come down to the very end. Ken Pomeroy predicts a two-point Florida win so this game is essentially a toss-up. We see it that way as well.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A Look Back

The biggest news this week (in the country) was Kyrie Irving’s injury.  Here’s what we know: it’s a “complicated” ligament injury that will have him out for an undetermined period of time.  Initial estimates pointed to him coming back in three to four weeks, but Mike Krzyzewski noted that he could be out all season.  I’d be surprised if Irving sat the whole season, but obviously I don’t know exactly what the injury is.  What I do know is Duke has one of the best medical staffs in the country.  Rather than speculate on the nature or duration of the injury, I’ll try and address the effect of the injury on Duke.

Kyrie Irving was Duke’s best player (so far) this season.  If you watched the close games, he totally took over for long stretches.  While he struggled a little making decisions in the halfcourt offense, Irving was phenomenal in transition.  Without Irving, Nolan Smith will be expected to step into the point guard role (a place he struggled last season).  His production will definitely take a hit, and Duke will not be as effective out in transition.  Audacity of Hoops had a very interesting statistical view of Irving’s plus-minus (expounded out to forty minutes) on the floor versus on the bench.  The sample size is small, but the point is clear: Duke is a very good team even without Irving.  Are they number one?  Probably not.  Only time will tell.  Coach K is one of the best “adapters” in the land.  For example: in 2001, he navigated Duke around Carlos Boozer’s broken foot, and Boozer came back just in time for the Big Dance (where they then won the national championship).  Regardless, Irving’s injury is huge, so I’ll keep you posted on any updates (which should be coming in the next week or two).

Team of the Week: Boston College – With a solid road win over Maryland and topping a streaking Providence, BC takes the honors this week.  The Terrapins led late in the game but couldn’t score for the last two and a half minutes.  Maryland did not score a single point down the stretch.  None.  Still, Steve Donahue and his players deserve the credit.  They took advantage of Maryland’s lack of a leader when it counted.  The Eagles have a solid team that has the talent to finish second in the ACC.  Do I think they will?  Probably not.  But Donahue is a good coach, and the players look like they have bought into his system.  The Eagles have won their last five games (losing to Wisconsin on a neutral court), and they have a very winnable nonconference schedule extending into January.

Bizarro Team of the Week – Wake Forest: I’d like to give this to Maryland for coughing up the game to Boston College.  Unfortunately, Wake Forest took note of the Maryland effort and outdid them by losing to UNC Wilmington –by 12.  Really?  UNCW.  Ken Pomeroy ranks UNCW as a solid 234th in the nation.  Defensively, they’re even worse (304th out of 345 teams).  But Wake couldn’t manage to score 70.  I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but Wake is terrible.  They’ve dug a cellar under the ACC and are camping out.  I would not be surprised if they didn’t win one game in conference play (they certainly won’t be favored in any of them).  I really hope Jeff Bzdelik gets things turned around soon (I have faith he will once he gets some of his recruits into the system).  Wake lost a lot of talent, but they’re still much more talented than UNC Wilmington, Winthrop or Stetson.  Those losses are unacceptable.

Player of the Week: Jordan Williams, Maryland - Williams is the obvious choice, but I hate giving this honor to someone who couldn’t get up a bucket in the last two minutes of a close game.  But in truth it wasn’t his fault (at least directly).  As a big man, he requires someone to get him the ball.  Long story short: that didn’t happen.  Still, I’d like to see him get a little more aggressive down the stretch.  But you can’t argue with his numbers: 23 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes against UNC Greensboro and 27 points and 13 rebounds against Boston College.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (10-0): Duke didn’t have any trouble with Bradley or Saint Louis this week.  Andre Dawkins looked especially good, scoring a career high 28 points against Bradley in Irving’s absence.  All that talk about the effects of Irving’s injury applies more to Duke’s national hopes than their conference aspirations.  Without Irving, Duke is still the class of the ACC.  They’ll be much more susceptible to a couple of losses, but they still have a lot of offensive weapons.
  2. Miami (FL) (7-2): Miami took care of Stetson this week.  Not a whole lot more to say.  But I encourage you to check out Miami’s game against Central Florida, the only unbeaten squad left in the Sunshine State.  The game is on Fox Sports at 1:00 PM EST Saturday.
  3. North Carolina (7-3): The Tar Heels beat Evansville decisively but weren’t ever able to put Long Beach State away.  The game never felt like Long Beach State was going to win, but Roy Williams probably wanted more separation.  However, two major pieces of good news for Tar Heels fans came out of the game: Harrison Barnes had his first double-double (19 points and ten rebounds), and Larry Drew II hit six of seven from the field to finish with 13 points and eight assists.  That’s the kind of production most expected Barnes to showcase from the start, and the Heels will be thrilled if he can keep his numbers at those levels.  As for Drew, that’s the first competent offensive performance he’s had this season (and more critical fans might suggest in his entire career).  Chapel Hill point guards aren’t known for scoring in bunches, a product of Williams’ system, but a starting point guard needs to be able to hit shots.  He had some particularly important shots late in the second half when Long Beach State was trying to mount a comeback.
  4. Boston College (8-2, 1-0): See “Team of the Week.”
  5. Florida State (7-2, 1-0): Florida State continued their painful offense, but they did get strong contributions from Deividas Dulkys (17 points), Derwin Kitchen, Bernard James and Okaro White (nine points each).  The Seminoles need to find a way to repeat that production night in and night out rather than relying on Chris Singleton for everything.  If they can score 75 every time out, they will win the majority of their games.
  6. Virginia (6-3, 1-0): Mike Scott is a player.  So far, he’s averaging 16.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.  He had an off night against Radford, but finished with ten points and 13 boards.  He’ll be crucial if Virginia wants to keep from sliding back down into the second half of the ACC (where everyone picked them in the preseason).  A lot of credit goes to Tony Bennett for getting this team ready to play and picking up a couple great wins already.
  7. Maryland (7-3, 0-1): This team can’t win close games unless someone steps up.  Sean Mosley is having an awful year (his numbers are down significantly from his sophomore season).  If I had to guess, I’d say his decreased production comes from more pressure in Greivis Vasquez’s absence.  His offensive efficiency rating has dipped from 116.6 last season to an ugly 89.0.  I think Terrell Stoglin may need to be the one to step up down the stretch.  It’s tough being a freshman leader, but someone has to do it (or at least get Jordan Williams the ball).  Otherwise, this team is going to lose a lot of close games.
  8. N.C. State (5-3): Not much to report here apart from a win over South Carolina Upstate.  Although the close loss to Syracuse is looking better after the Orange totally dismantled Michigan State this week.  Once Tracy Smith is healthy, this team could still make a run for second.  Keyword: could.  I’m totally disenchanted with Sidney Lowe’s coaching, so I don’t expect it to happen, but they should at least get to the middle of the pack.
  9. Virginia Tech (5-4, 0-1): Life is tough for Virginia Tech basketball fans.  They get built up and let down season after season.  This week’s win at home against Penn State was nice, but it’s not going to help the at-large resume a lot (Maryland beat the Nittany Lions on the road by a much more convincing margin).  The good news for Hokie fans is that Malcolm Delaney didn’t have to beat Penn State solo: three other Hokie players scored in double figures (Jeff Allen had a double-double, while Terrell Bell and Erick Green added some help).  Seth Greenberg is going to have to find a way to get that sort of production against better teams too.
  10. Georgia Tech (5-4): Georgia Tech blew a lead to in-state rival Georgia to lose a heartbreaker.  The Yellow Jackets bounced back with a win over Savannah State, who is admittedly very bad (1-10 to be exact).  This week, Paul Hewitt can add a real resume booster with a win against A-10 contender Richmond.
  11. Clemson (5-4, 0-1): Brad Brownell got off to a quick start, but they’ve dropped their last three games–most recently choking away a lead at Florida State.  Demontez Stitt is having knee troubles, but luckily for the Tigers, they have two very winnable games ahead of them in Savannah State and UNC Greensboro which they should be able to handle even if they’re without their leading scorer.
  12. Wake Forest (5-4, 0-1): Ugh.  See “Bizarro Team of the Week.”

A Look Ahead

It’s exam time, ladies and gentlemen!  That means the good games are few and far between.  There are a couple of gems coming up.  Saturday is definitely the best day:

  • Central Florida vs. Miami (1:00 PM, FSN)
  • Texas @ North Carolina (4:00 PM, CBS)
  • Georgia Tech vs. Richmond (5:00 PM)
  • Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State (8:00 PM)
  • Wake Forest @ Xavier ** (8:00 PM, CBSCS)
  • Arizona @ N.C. State (4:30 PM, FSN) on Sunday is also one to keep an eye on because Arizona’s Derrick Williams is a beast in the paint.

**OK, so that probably won’t be a great game unless Wake makes some major adjustments.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • So I was wrong about the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  The Big Ten won, 6-5 (thanks to a comeback victory for Purdue over Virginia Tech).  The ACC sported wins from Duke, Virginia, Boston College, Wake Forest and MarylandN.C. State, Clemson and North Carolina were totally embarrassed by Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois, respectively.  If you’re keeping score at home, the predicted bottom of the ACC is better than the bottom of the Big Ten.  Fantastic.  Duke is now the only ACC team with fewer than two losses.
  • Luckily, the bottom tier of the conference seems to be improving, making the ACC a turbulent sea of mediocrity.  In better news, Mike Krzyzewski won his 876th game Saturday to tie Adolph Rupp at third on the all-time wins list.

Team of the Week

Miami ekes this one out over Boston College and Virginia.  The Hurricanes scored two very impressive wins over West Virginia and Mississippi.  Durand Scott caught fire, torching the Rebels for 27 points, six rebounds and six assists.  Reggie Johnson added 17 points and ten boards.  The Hurricanes put up an astonishing 57 points in the first half before putting things in cruise control for a 13-point win.  Malcolm Grant lead the way against West Virginia, putting up 26 points on the afternoon.  Miami showcases three guys who have the ability to carry the team on any given night.  When Scott and Grant get to the foul line, they’re deadly.  And Miami’s two losses come in a heartbreaker at Memphis and an ugly game at Rutgers.

Bizarro Team of the Week

Virginia Tech wins hands down after losing their third straight game at home against Virginia.  Virginia’s definitely better than everyone thought, but that’s still inexcusable for a team searching for an elusive at-large bid.  I wrote in the Conference Primer that “Seth Greenberg’s squad should hear their names called come Selection Sunday, and they should be a pretty high seed.”  I was totally wrong.  There’s almost no chance they sniff a high seed, and they’re currently staring at another disappointing Selection Sunday if they can’t get it together.  They have no marquee victories: the only “Power Six” team the Hokies have beaten is Oklahoma State. Unlike Miami, the Hokies only have Malcolm Delaney, who puts up solid numbers, but he can’t do it alone.  They will need to find a real second threat to take some of the scoring load and defensive focus off Delaney.

Player of the Week

Kyrie Irving – I don’t like to repeat weekly honors for fear of beating dead horses.  But it’s tough to find a player in the country who was as valuable as Irving this week, much less the conference.  Irving exploded against Michigan State for 31 points, six rebounds, four assists, which is enough, to say nothing of his two steals and two blocks to boot.  In a game that featured four of the most talented seniors in the country (Duke’s Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith; Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers), Irving was the best player on the floor.  He scored at will: from the line, beyond the arc and off the dribble.  While he struggled in the first half against Butler–having to sit much of it after two offensive fouls–Irving was the difference-maker in the second period, exploding for 17 points in the second half alone.  So far this season, Irving has played against and with some of the best players in the country, and he’s consistently bested all of them.  Virginia’s Mike Scott was a close second.

Power Rankings

1. Duke (8-0): I went to the Duke – Butler game Saturday, and I was very impressed by both teams.  The most interesting thing to watch was how much Brad Stevens’ triangle and two frustrated Duke’s offense.  Duke also relied heavily on threes, even when they weren’t falling.  An off night in a hostile environment seems like Duke’s best shot to lose during ACC play.  Mason Plumlee will be a key factor on those nights.  If he disappears (or gets in foul trouble), forcing Duke into halfcourt sets will lead to a lot of jumpers.  Duke is a good enough shooting team that I don’t expect them to have but one or two “off nights” this season, but they’re far from unbeatable.

2. Miami (6-2): You’ll be seeing a whole lot of movement in these rankings between the second and 11th spots.  This is the first major leap.  I don’t expect Miami to stick around here for the whole season, but the Hurricanes showed that they are a talented team with a variety of weapons.   Their game against Central Florida (who just beat Florida) will be a big test for Frank Haith’s squad before conference play.

3. North Carolina (5-3): The Tar Heels rebounded from a woodshed beating in Champaign to take down Kentucky in the Dean Dome.  The Kentucky game showcased the talented frontcourt of Tyler Zeller and John Henson, but don’t move your expectations too high.  Kentucky is a young team with major interior depth issues.  Roy Williams should be thrilled with the win, but he still needs to overcome backcourt problems. Why Larry Drew II continues to play more minutes than Kendall Marshall, I’ll never know.  Harrison Barnes had another lackluster week, but the Carolina offense is probably as much to blame as Barnes’ slump.

4. Florida State (6-2): Florida State is a tale of two teams.  Defensively, they are the most dominant team in the nation: they are ranked first by Ken Pomeroy in adjusted defense behind great shot-blocking and field goal defense (the Seminoles are holding opponents to a striking 31.6% from the floor).  However, on offense, Florida State is a total train wreck.  They turn the ball over way too much, and Chris Singleton is their only player averaging double figures in scoring.  In halfcourt sets, the team is inactive, leading to bad shots and turnovers.  Florida State is turning the ball over at an alarming 26.4% rate, good for 332nd in the country.  That has to change if they want to be a factor in conference play. I’m sorry, but if you give Duke a quarter of your possessions in transition it doesn’t matter how good you guard them in halfcourt sets.

5. Maryland (6-3): The Terps are a strange team this year.  They’ve been good, but not quite good enough.  They almost notched a major nonconference win against Temple but couldn’t hold on down the stretch.  That leaves them with three very strong nonconference losses (two of which could have gone Maryland’s way if someone had stepped up down the stretch).  Jordan Williams is a star, averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds a game, but he hasn’t shown the ability to step up when it counts at the end of games.  Just this week, Williams missed two crucial free throws with about a minute to go that would have brought the Terps within one.  It should be interesting to see if Gary Williams can coach someone into a leader this season: if he can, they’ll be a very tough team to beat; if he can’t, they’ll lose a lot of close games.

6. Boston College (6-2):  Stability has taken hold after the Eagles’ embarrassing loss to Yale.  Since then, the Eagles are 5-1 with wins over Cal, Indiana and Massachusetts.  The only loss comes to Wisconsin, who just trounced N.C. State.  Sunday at Maryland will give them a chance to earn their stripes.  A fun fact about Boston College: currently, the Eagles are ranked eighth in adjusted offensive efficiency by Ken Pomeroy largely thanks to taking care of the ball and making free throws.  Eighth!  Needless to say, I was surprised (and if you aren’t, you’re lying).

7. Virginia (5-3, 1-0): The Cavaliers had another impressive week, knocking off in-state rival Virginia Tech on the road.  That gives them two straight upsets.  Getting blown out by Stanford remains their ugly loss, but sometimes things happen on the road.  Mike Scott has been tremendous so far, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds a game.  Once Sammy Zeglinski gets totally healthy, Virginia could be a solid, tournament-bound team.  It’s definitely too early to make any guarantees, but if I had to put money on an ACC team from Virginia making the Big Dance, I’d really consider Tony Bennett’s squad.

8. N.C. State (4-3): Sidney Lowe’s seat is on fire.  Yes, Tracy Smith is still injured.  Yes, they Wolfpack’s three losses came against very good teams (Georgetown, Wisconsin and Syracuse).  But their top win is against George Mason.  N.C. State had a chance to make a big statement at the beginning of this season and impress voters.  Now, Arizona is the only noteworthy team separating the Wolfpack from conference play.  They have the talent.  Now Lowe just needs to find a way to convert that talent into big wins.

T9. Georgia Tech (4-3): Speaking of hot seats, Paul Hewitt may push the athletic department to finally buy him out.  He’s well on his way to having another fairly talented, very disappointing team.  I couldn’t move Georgia Tech up after an embarrassing loss to Northwestern, but the Yellow Jackets did play Syracuse close right after Thanksgiving.  At the core of their problems is an abysmal 26% clip from three (less than 20 schools in D-I are worse) when threes account for a third of their shots.  They’ll need to improve their efficiency drastically, or find a way to steal Derrick Favors back from the NBA to compete in the ACC this season.

T9. Virginia Tech (4-4, 0-1): I think we covered most of the Hokies’ problems above.  But I can’t say it enough: Malcolm Delaney can’t do it alone.  And if he keeps trying, they’ll keep losing.

11. Clemson (5-3): Clemson quietly sports back-to-back losses against Michigan and at South Carolina this week.  Things probably won’t get any easier for the Tigers, as they take on Florida State in Tallahassee this Sunday.  There’s not any one glaring problem with this team, but Brad Brownell needs to make some changes.  Clemson isn’t terrible in any one statistic, but they don’t shine anywhere either.

12. Wake Forest (5-3): Wake rounds out the ACC for the third week in a row, despite two wins.  Color me unimpressed by beating Iowa and Holy Cross at home.  Wake is still struggling mightily rebounding, turning the ball over (but also forcing turnovers), and shooting in general (interestingly, they manage 44% from downtown).  The most frightening part of their poor field goal shooting has been that it has come against bad teams.  If you can’t break 50% against cupcakes, conference play is going to be very tough (also known as, Wake will be tabbed to lose every game, baring drastic, sudden improvement).

A Look Ahead

  • The non-conference week ahead figures to be pretty quiet, but on Sunday, conference play continues with Boston College at Maryland and Clemson at Florida State (the games are at 4:00 PM and 6:15 PM EST on Fox Sports Net).
  • Is Duke really such a draw for CBS that enough viewers will watch them play a nondescript St. Louis team at home to make it worth the network’s while?

History In the Making in Durham

Coach K now sits only three games behind Dean Smith and 26 games behind Bob Knight in all-time wins.  For my math-inclined friends: Duke has 23 regular season games, three possible ACC tournament games, and six possible NCAA tournament games.  That totals 32 total (possible) games, putting Coach K at 908 for his career.

Of course, that requires Duke going undefeated (or losing less than six of their possible games).  Can the Blue Devils do it?  It would be fitting that the coach to pass Knight on the wins list did it with the first undefeated squad since Knight’s 1976 Hoosiers.  But it probably won’t happen.  Technically, it’s possible (as it is for 19 other teams in D-I).  And yes, the ACC looks really weak so far.  But Duke still relies too heavily on threes (often struggling in halfcourt sets), and if they’re struggling in a hostile environment, they could fall flat.  Not to mention Butler’s zone really gave Kyrie Irving a lot of trouble the first half.  I’m not sure how many teams Duke will see as good as Butler defensively (besides Florida State), but the Bulldogs showed that Duke is beatable if you keep them out of transition.  Every game has more and more pressure–not to mention the fact that they’ve only won eight games so far.

In short, don’t get on a plane to Vegas to put your life savings on the Blue Devils going 40-0.  Even finishing the regular season unscathed leaves six possible games against top competition on neutral courts.  That alone is a daunting task for even the best of teams, not to mention one relying on a freshman point guard, even if he goes #1 overall next June.  While it’s tough to pick out a specific team that will knock Duke down, all it takes is a great night (with a mediocre night from Duke).  This team has flaws, and eventually those flaws will catch up to them.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.04-12.05

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The biggest hoops weekend of the year thus far features a blueblood clash, a national championship rematch, a good mid-major battle, a key top 25 Battle in Seattle and a bunch of other quality matchups. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#14 Kentucky @ North Carolina – 12:30 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

The UNC-Kentucky Game Is Always Special

Two of the three members of the 2,000 win club meet in Chapel Hill with the Tar Heels holding a 21-11 edge in this series. Even better, Gus Johnson is calling this game for CBS in its first nationally televised game of the season. North Carolina has won five of the last six meetings and could really use a quality win after starting the year 0-3 against major conference opponents. The story for North Carolina will be turnovers. Roy Williams must be going crazy over his backcourt, which committed 14 of UNC’s 18 turnovers in a loss to Illinois on Tuesday. Carolina ranks #217 in turnover percentage but Kentucky, surprisingly is just #305 in forcing turnovers. That could help North Carolina’s confidence in a home game where the place will be sold out and the fans really fired up. If Harrison Barnes can break out of his slump, North Carolina has a really good chance to win this game. Tyler Zeller and John Henson have been the only reason UNC has been competitive. With everyone else on the team having a hard time, Zeller and Henson have combined to average 26 points and 18 rebounds per game. They’ll face a different kind of challenge against Kentucky star freshman Terrence Jones. The 6’8 Jones has been on a tear to start the season, averaging 21/10 while blocking over two shots a game and stretching his game to the perimeter as well. It’ll be interesting to see whether Roy Williams puts Henson or Barnes on Jones defensively as neither comes close to Jones’ strength and athleticism for his size. A better strategy might be to let Jones get his points and focus the defense elsewhere, specifically on getting turnovers from Brandon Knight. The freshman point guard has played well for John Calipari, but his 4.5 turnovers can be a major problem against an up-tempo team like North Carolina. UNC ranks #19 in tempo which is the quickest pace Kentucky has seen since Washington in Maui. Against the Huskies, Knight had eight turnovers and no assists, though he did score 24 points. North Carolina’s guards must be ready defensively against a Kentucky team that shoots 41% from long range, good for #25 in the nation. The Tar Heels have not been good defending the trey, ranking #185. This matchup could tip the balance of this game towards UK if UNC doesn’t defend well. North Carolina gets 61% of its points from inside the arc, something to watch against Kentucky’s tough interior defense which ranks #8 in block percentage. Expect a fun to watch game with a lot of talent on the floor and intensity on the sidelines and in the stands. It’s hard to predict a winner here because UK has the edge overall but UNC is at home where they enjoy a nice advantage. Best to call this one a toss-up.

#1 Duke vs. Butler (IZOD Center, East Rutherford, NJ) – 3:15 pm Saturday on ESPN (***)

The rematch of last year’s epic title game doesn’t have nearly the same feel. Duke is better than last year while Butler has had a rough start to the season with point guard Ronald Nored suffering a concussion against Siena. He’s day-to-day according to Brad Stevens and may miss this game. Butler’s do-everything star from last year’s team, Gordon Hayward, is gone too, averaging just two points a game in less than ten minutes for the Utah Jazz. The Bulldogs were shredded by Louisville and upset by Evansville at home last week, two disappointing losses for a team that came in with high expectations again this year. Look for Duke’s shooters to dominate this game as Butler really struggles on offense and is mediocre defensively inside the three-point line. Butler ranks #171 in two point defense and is one of the worst teams at blocking shots, #312. Duke’s opponents get most of their points inside the arc but Butler is just #246 in two point percentage. Leading scorer and rebounder Matt Howard is making 55% of his shots but as a whole the team is just at 43.5%. Shelvin Mack is back too and has done a nice job distributing the ball, especially with Nored out. Howard’s foul problems are still there but he has yet to foul out of a game this season. Going up against the athletic Mason Plumlee and company inside, it would be naïve to think Howard won’t have foul problems in this game given his history. Duke is the top ranked team in offensive efficiency and should be able to pile up the points against Butler. Kyrie Irving, coming off his spectacular 31-point performance against Michigan State, makes his return to his home state of New Jersey and will surely be ready to play well in front of the home folks. Duke simply has too much for Butler this time around. While it’s sure to be nostalgic for most college basketball fans, don’t expect this game to be close especially if Nored is still out.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.01.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 1st, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

It’s going to be hard to top the game of the year to date, Georgetown’s thrilling overtime win over Missouri last night, but we have some good matchups on the schedule tonight as we head into the second month of the season. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#25 Richmond @ Old Dominion – 7 pm on WSKY4 Hampton Roads, VA (****)

Richmond is coming off a huge win for their program, a 65-54 win over Purdue to take the Chicago Invitational crown. The Spiders star player, Kevin Anderson, led the way with 28 points and Richmond’s defense held the Boilermakers to 30% shooting. Old Dominion is coming off a tournament victory of their own as they defeated Xavier to win the Paradise Jam last week. Richmond is a solid offensive team, eighth in the country in effective field goal percentage. That will be the story of the game as they go up against an Old Dominion defense ranked #16 in efficiency. The one weakness for the Monarchs defensively is their three point defense, #193 in the country. Richmond is an outstanding three point shooting team averaging almost 43% on the season behind Anderson and quite a few other shooters such as Darien Brothers (64% from deep). Richmond is going to get points from the outside so Old Dominion must try to lock them up inside through physical play, rebounding and blocked shots. Key to that effort will be Frank Hassell who averages 13/10 and blocks almost two shots per game. He’ll have to stop 6’10 Justin Harper who has a height advantage on Hassell. However, Hassell outweighs Harper by 20 pounds so he should be able to get position and be physical with the Richmond big man. These are arguably the two best teams in the state of Virginia going at it, although we’re sure Seth Greenberg and the folks from Blacksburg may have something to say about that. If Richmond gets off to a hot start they should win this game as ODU lacks offensive punch and would rather win the game in the 50’s. Expect a hard fought, close game with the winner holding the edge on the glass and in the paint.

#18 Purdue @ Virginia Tech – 7:30 pm on ESPN (****)

Coming off the aforementioned loss to Richmond, Purdue faces a tough road game in the hostile environment of Cassell Coliseum. If there’s any good news for the Boilermakers it’s that Virginia Tech is struggling a bit itself when considering injuries and on-court performance. The Hokies escaped Oklahoma State but lost to UNLV in the 76 Classic, their second loss of the season. Malcolm Delaney has been doing it all offensively for Seth Greenberg but he’s not getting much help elsewhere. Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson are Virginia Tech’s other main scoring threats but Allen has a hard time staying on the floor with foul trouble and Hudson is nursing an injured finger on his shooting hand. After that, Greenberg is having a hard time figuring out a rotation. The Hokies are thin up front and that’s something Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson should exploit this evening. Purdue’s star big man is averaging 17/9 and three blocks but is just 11-29 (38%) shooting in his last two games. He’ll go up against Victor Davila in this game and should be able to break out against the thin Hokie front court. With Allen coming over to help, foul trouble could become a concern yet again for the Virginia Tech forward. Johnson and Purdue do have to get to the line more often, ranking #241 in free throw attempts per field goal attempts. The Boilers don’t shoot it very well from there, either. This should be a low scoring game as both teams are strong defensively and force turnovers. Extra possessions and rebounds will be something to watch as Virginia Tech averages only 34 RPG, giving Purdue second chance opportunities and leading to foul trouble for the Hokies. Virginia Tech is not a strong outside shooting team other than Delaney so they’ll have to get a lot of their scoring inside against a tough Purdue defense that will get in the passing lanes and really disrupt their half court offense. Virginia Tech definitely can win this game but more has to go right for them than for Purdue. Matt Painter’s team has more options plus the matchup advantages are in their favor for the most part. However, playing on the road is always difficult, especially in a nationally televised game such as this. Expect this game to come down to the very end with free throws possibly deciding the outcome.

#6 Michigan State @ #1 Duke – 9:30 pm on ESPN (*****)

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 30th, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back:

The ACC looks out of sorts right now.  Duke is the only undefeated team remaining (to put that in perspective, the Big East has seven undefeated teams and even the normally middling SEC has two unbeaten teams left); the conference is fifth in the RPI (behind the Mountain West, no less); and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is shaping up to fall to the Big Ten for the second straight year.  Admittedly, the strongest teams in the ACC have lost to respectable top 25 foes; the RPI is shoddy this early, since it’s still nearly impossible to judge strength of schedule; and the matchups in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge favor the ACC enough where it should be an actual challenge as to which conference will win.

Team of the Week

Say hello to the Virginia Cavaliers.  Yes, the same team I slated ninth last week just overcame a ten-point halftime deficit to shock upstart Minnesota on the road.  That’s a huge road win for the ACC in the Challenge (especially considering no one picked Virginia to even make this a game).  The Golden Gophers were ranked 13th and 15th in the Coaches’ and AP polls, respectively, coming into Monday night’s contest.  The Cavaliers were led by seniors Mustapha Farrakhan (23 points, 4-5 from three), Mike Scott (17 points, 12 rebounds), and freshman Joe Harris (24 points, 4-6 from three).  Tony Bennett showed his team might not be the most talented squad in the ACC, but they can surprise some people.

Player of the Week

Kyrie Irving had a phenomenal week.  He totally shut down All-American Jacob Pullen on the defensive end, while offensively he finished with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.  Irving has a quick first step and the ability to create his own shot, which combines with very good court vision (especially for a freshman) to make him virtually unguardable.  He can shoot the three, get to the bucket, or collapse the zone while dishing it to an open teammate with relative ease.  Expect to see his name here multiple times this season.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (6-0): Duke showed off a dominant performance against Kansas State to start the week.  As mentioned before, Irving was phenomenal.  Five Duke players finished in double figures, and the game never felt in question despite subpar performances from seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith.  This Duke team has a ton of offensive weapons.  Especially when the threes start to fall, the Blue Devils put up points in a hurry.  Huge game this Wednesday against Michigan State.
  2. Florida State (5-1): Florida State lost a closely contested game to Florida at home this week.  Not surprisingly, the Seminoles’ offense was the root of their troubles: they finished shooting an ugly 33% from the field and 55% from the charity stripe.  Defensively, they held an explosive Gator team to under 40% from the floor.  They’ll need to score more than 50 points if they want to beat Ohio State this Tuesday night, but watch out if Chris Singleton can get this offense into a rhythm.
  3. Clemson (5-1): The Tigers needed overtime to take care of a pesky Seton Hall team in the Virgin Islands, but the bigger concern is on the glass.  Clemson has only averaged 32.2 rebounds a game (good for 287th in Division I), and they play at a pretty good pace.  While they might not need a dominant rebounding performance to beat Michigan, they’ll need to improve before conference play rolls around.
  4. Maryland (5-2): After a tough 2kSports Classic, the Terrapins enjoyed a light week, taking care of Delaware State and Elon.  Elon kept it a little close for comfort after a slow start, but a dominating 24 points and 13 rebounds from Jordan Williams sealed the deal.  Maryland really needs Sean Mosley to step into a more involved role: last year, he averaged more points, more rebounds and less turnovers.  It’s tough to lose a player like Greivis Vasquez (who used 30.6% of Maryland possessions last season), but as this team matures, players should find their respective roles.
  5. N.C. State (4-1): The Wolfpack are still without Tracy Smith.  Smith’s role on this team cannot be understated: he’s the best rebounder, senior leader, and first offensive option for an otherwise very young team.  Not having Smith really showed down the stretch as Georgetown took over the finals of the Charleston Classic (not to mention in the nine rebound advantage).  Smith is supposed to come back in the middle of December, and N.C. State will be a very different team when he does.
  6. Virginia Tech (4-2): The Hokies sport two quality losses (Kansas State and UNLV), but they weren’t all that competitive in either game.  So far, Seth Greenberg’s squad relies too heavily on Malcolm Delaney and hasn’t shown the ability to give him the support he needs to be successful.  They have a real measuring-stick game at home against Purdue this week.  This team has played a tougher schedule than last year’s “snubbed” squad, but they haven’t capitalized on any of the opportunities.
  7. Virginia (4-3): Despite Sammy Zeglinski’s injury Tony Bennett’s squad got the first quality win of the season at Minnesota.  Don’t think this punched a ticket to the Big Dance (or even the NIT), but it’s a great sign for the Cavaliers going forward.
  8. North Carolina (4-2): North Carolina continues to underachieve.  The Tar Heels were only up six on the University of North Carolina-Asheville with five minutes to play, and then barely eked out a win over the College of Charleston Sunday.  Both games were at home.  So far, no one has stepped up as the leader of this team.  Tyler Zeller looks like the most likely candidate right now, but he needs to be much more aggressive if he’s going to be the go-to guy this season (and avoid nagging injuries).  There is plenty of talent to be found, but someone needs to take over and make this his team.
  9. Boston College (4-2): Boston College rebounded with wins against Texas A&M and Cal, but lost to a talented Wisconsin team.  The Eagles seem to be getting more and more comfortable with Steve Donahue’s style, but they are far from perfect.
  10. Georgia Tech (4-2): The Yellow Jackets played two impressive games this week.  After beating a talented UTEP team they took a (slightly overrated) Syracuse team down to the wire.  Paul Hewitt has got talent this year in Brian Oliver and Iman Shumpert.  Now he only has to coach that talent to its potential.
  11. Miami (4-2): The Hurricanes are a mixed bag.  Maybe the team is too caught up in Randy Shannon’s recent firing.  But I expected Durand Scott to be much more of a factor.  They definitely should move up in the rankings as the season progresses, but the big three of Malcolm Grant, Scott and Reggie Johnson (who admittedly is averaging a very solid 12 points and 10.5 rebounds a game) will be expected to really step up.  This week the Hurricanes get tests against Mississippi and West Virginia this week.
  12. Wake Forest (3-3): The Demon Deacons took care of Marist, but dropped a game at home to Winthrop. Tuesday night’s game against Big Ten cellar-dweller Iowa will not be for the faint of heart.

A Look Ahead to the ACC — Big 10 Challenge (predictions included)

Monday

  • 7:00PM Virginia at Minnesota: Minnesota (1-0, Big 10)

**Author’s Note: Virginia already won this game, but I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I picked Virginia.

Tuesday

  • 7:00PM Iowa at Wake Forest: Wake Forest (1-1)
  • 7:00PM Georgia Tech at Northwestern: Northwestern (2-1, Big 10)
  • 7:30PM Ohio State at Florida State: Ohio State (3-1, Big 10)
  • 9:00PM Michigan at Clemson: Clemson (3-2, Big 10)
  • 9:30PM North Carolina at Illinois: North Carolina (3-3)

Upset alert: look for North Carolina to at least temporarily find themselves on the road at Illinois.

Wednesday

  • 7:15PM Indiana at Boston College: Boston College (4-3, ACC)
  • 7:15PM N.C. State at Wisconsin: Wisconsin (4-4)
  • 7:30PM Purdue at Virginia Tech: Purdue (5-4, Big 10)
  • 9:15PM Maryland at Penn State: Maryland (5-5)
  • 9:30PM Michigan State at Duke: Duke (6-5, ACC)

Call me a homer, but I like the ACC to win the challenge.  Especially since Virginia was able to steal a win on the road Monday night.  The games to keep an eye on now are Ohio State – Florida State, North Carolina – Illinois, Purdue – Virginia Tech and Michigan State – Duke.  No games are gimmes for either conference (as Virginia proved), so it should be another great year of the Challenge.  Don’t forget to tune in for a couple of the games, though I’d suggest looking for games taking place outside of Winston-Salem.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • The ACC looks rough early.  I think I was a little optimistic coming into the season, especially with Virginia Tech.  I definitely underrated Florida State and Maryland marginally (at least so far), but as a whole, play has been underwhelming in the early going.
  • Unfortunately, the ACC wasn’t helped when N.C. State’s Tracy Smith went down with a knee injury.  I really think Smith would have been a major factor in the Georgetown game.  State was absolutely picked apart inside, and Smith’s talent and experience would have been invaluable — especially as things started getting out of hand in the second half.  I’m not sure Smith would have been the difference, but he certainly would have helped significantly.  Smith is expected to be back in around three weeks.  The injuries don’t stop there: Virginia Tech is having major injury issues with J.T. Thompson and Allan Chaney out for the season.  Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski is out for the first couple of months recovering from knee surgery.  Wake Forest is fighting injuries to Melvin Tabb (mono), Tony Chenault (foot, 8-10 weeks) and Nikita Mescheriakov’s eligibility (not to mention anyone who has suffered through watching them play).
  • In recruiting news, the ACC had a huge signing day.  Duke looks ready to reload with three LOI’s from 5-star recruits Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers and Michael Gbinje (not to mention 4-star Marshall Plumlee).  North Carolina inked two 5-stars in James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston.  Virginia Tech also has a sneaky-good class coming in with four-star recruits Dorian Finney-Smith, Marquis Rankin and C.J. Barksdale.

Player of the Week: Chris Singleton, Florida State: Singleton has been absolutely unbelievable for the Seminoles so far.  Through four games, he’s averaging 19.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 3.8 steals per contest.  The performance that sealed the deal was his unconventional triple-double against UNC Greensboro (22 points, 11 rebounds, 10 steals, 6 assists and 4 blocks).  If he can keep his scoring up this season, the Seminoles could be a dark horse in the ACC runner-up race.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (4-0): Through four games, the Blue Devils have been incredible.  Kyrie Irving introduced himself to the college basketball world with nine assists and one turnover against Princeton.  Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have looked good, not great, but Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry can shoot.  If the Blue Devils catch fire from downtown (and with five players who could shoot 40% from beyond the arc in Singler, Smith, Curry, Dawkins and Irving, that should happen plenty) they’ll be close to unbeatable.  It’s still early, but so far the Blue Devils lead both adjusted offense and adjusted defense in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. Duke’s ability to get past Marquette in the second half Monday without much from Kyle Singler speaks to their depth across the starting lineup. How will Mason Plumlee build on his big game in Kansas City?
  2. Virginia Tech (2-1): I’m leaving the Hokies here mainly out of respect for Kansas State.  The Hokies have come out flat: they rely too much on Malcolm Delaney and are easily drawn into sloppy play.  There’s a reason Seth Greenberg’s squad didn’t make the tournament last year: they weren’t that good.  I expect Virginia Tech to get better (though losing J.T. Thompson really hurts), but I expected a team that returns all five starters to be ready to go right away.
  3. Florida State (4-0): The Seminoles have a very good defense: color me not surprised.  It’ll be interesting to see how Florida State’s defense evolves as the season progresses, but they’ll get a big test next Sunday against Florida.  If the Seminoles can muster up some solid offense, they’ll be a very tough team to beat this year.  Definitely a tournament-level team, and arguably a top-25 team so far.
  4. N.C. State (3-1): Getting blown out in the second half by Georgetown wasn’t good, but it wasn’t terrible.  N.C. State is a very young team with Tracy Smith, and it’s no surprise they struggled against a veteran Georgetown team with one of the country’s best backcourts (especially if you consider Georgetown’s biggest weakness in the post).  Hopefully, for Sidney Lowe’s sake, the Wolfpack get Smith back before their showdowns with top-25 teams Wisconsin and Syracuse.  In the meantime I expect them to manhandle Fairleigh Dickinson.
  5. Clemson (4-1): The Tigers’ lone loss comes against Old Dominion (one of the top mid-majors in the country), and Clemson made a game of it, only losing by one after an ugly first half.  There’s no doubt they miss Trevor Booker, but Demontez Stitt looks like he’s ready to take on a much bigger offensive role this season.  Consistency will be the biggest question for the Tigers going forward.
  6. Maryland (3-2): I thought Maryland would be totally lost without Greivis Vasquez, but the Terps played Pitt and Illinois down to the last minute.  Gary Williams has done a great job getting this team to such a competitive level very quickly.  Unfortunately, Maryland still turns the ball over a lot, and they haven’t shown an ability to close out big games.  That said, I’m still very impressed with the showing they put up at the 2k Classic against two of the country’s top teams. The Terps would be better served to feed Jordan Williams the ball more than they have.
  7. North Carolina (2-2): This team is having some major growing pains.  Two straight losses to Minnesota and Vanderbilt are not what Tar Heel Nation was expecting out of Harrison Barnes’ debut.  Before you’re too quick to judge Barnes, remember: he’s a freshman (with colossal expectations), and the Heels do not have a legitimate point guard.  If I were Roy Williams, I’d bench Larry Drew II immediately to get some quality time in for frosh Kendall Marshall.  Marshall is the future of the program, and can he really play that much worse than Drew?
  8. Miami (2-2): Miami can deal with losing at Memphis.  And they made a very close game of it.  But getting blown out at Rutgers?  That’s totally unacceptable.  Reggie Johnson (12 points and 14 boards) was the only Hurricane in double figures.  I’m not sure where Durand Scott was, but he needs to step up his game if the Hurricanes don’t want to join the lowest tier of the conference.  Right now, I’m pegging Miami as a horrendous road team that could prove a tough out at home.  They just as easily could be a terribly inconsistent team.  Frank Haith’s seat started warming up this week.
  9. Virginia (2-2): The Cavaliers are the best of the worst this week.  While they notched wins over William and Mary and U.S.C. Upstate, they got blown out by the Pac 10 – first by Stanford, then by #11 Washington.  If it’s possible to have a bad time during a November trip to Hawaii, Virginia has found the way. They’ll try to salvage things against Oklahoma on Tuesday.
  10. Georgia Tech (3-1): 3-1 isn’t that bad, right?  Georgia Tech has looked awful so far-most notably in their blowout loss at Kennesaw State.  The most important question is what was Paul Hewitt doing playing at Kennesaw State in the first place?  What good comes out of that game?  The Yellow Jackets get a chance to prove the doubters (which should be nearly everyone at this point) partially wrong this week with a game against UTEP.
  11. Boston College (2-1): Boston College has got to stop losing to Ivy League teams.  They lost to Yale last week.  Yale isn’t even supposed to be a real competitor in the Ivy League, much less the ACC.  Steve Donahue runs a very different style than Al Skinner, and I’m not sure he or his players have totally adjusted.  It’ll take a few years to get everything optimized to his style of play, but in the meantime he should be avoiding the easy losses. To keep the bad loss from dwelling, the Eagles beat Holy Cross rather soundly.
  12. Wake Forest (2-3): Wake Forest has major issues.  So far they’ve lost to Stetson, been blown out by Virginia Commonwealth, and couldn’t keep up at Winthrop. They check in at a smooth 159th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, lowest among any of the “Power Six” conference teams, save DePaul and Auburn.  So far the Demon Deacons miss Ish Smith more than anything: currently they sport a ghastly 25.5% turnover percentage…  That means they turn it over more than once every four possessions.  If Wake can’t improve their offensive execution by conference play, the ACC will have a new conference doormat.

A Look Ahead

The non-con tournaments continue!  Duke will look to make a major statement this week at the CBE Classic in Kansas City with a big game against #4 Kansas State Tuesday. It may as well be a true road game with the Wildcats’ campus just two hours away.  Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech also participate in early-season tournaments throughout the week.  Most importantly, the Big 10-ACC Challenge is right around the corner (starting November 29).  While the Big 10 looks like a far superior conference on paper, the basketball gods were very kind in placing games (Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke all play at home) and somehow Wake Forest drew Iowa and Boston College drew Indiana.  Even if the ACC doesn’t win, there are a ton of great games, so make sure to get it on your calendar early.

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Morning Five: 11.22.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 22nd, 2010

  1. It looks like this whole Bruce Pearl ordeal just got a whole lot more interesting as the SEC suspended the Tennessee coach for the first eight games of SEC play. The suspension means that Pearl will not be able to coach the Volunteers in their SEC games between January 8th and February 5th nor will he be able to coach them during practices in the hours preceding/following those games BUT (emphasis intended) he will be able to coach against UConn and Jim Calhoun, someone in a bit of hot water with the NCAA, on January 22nd, and against Kentucky and John Calipari, someone who always appears to be at the edge of the hot water with the NCAA, on February 8th. Pearl still has to go in front of the NCAA infractions committee in early February. Some pundits are calling for Pearl’s head (figuratively, we think), but Pearl himself does not think it will be such a big deal.
  2. The other piece of big news over the weekend was the NCAA clearing Josh Selby to play for Kansas this season. They suspended Selby nine games, of which he has already missed three, for receiving $5,757.58 (or $4,607.58 if you believe Kansas) in impermissible benefits. Of course, some Kentucky fans are up in arms about Enes Kanter being ruled permanently ineligible for taking $33,033 (technically a little over 51 games worth if it was matched to Selby’s suspension) from his Turkish club, but it appears that the NCAA is differentiating between taking money on the side and being a professional.
  3. There’s some important injury news to get to, as two teams were hit hard this weekend. NC State will be without the services of Tracy Smith, who led the team in scoring (16.5 PPG) and rebounding (7.5 RPG) last season, for three weeks after he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Friday. Smith’s absence will only put more pressure on beleaguered head coach Sidney Lowe (can that be his new title: “beleaguered head coach?”). Meanwhile, a few hundred miles up the Atlantic coast, new coach Kevin Willard will have to search for more scoring from his Seton Hall team as gunner extraordinaire Jeremy Hazell will be out for 4-6 weeks with broken bone in his left wrist.
  4. Over the weekend, Michigan brought back three-fifths of the Fab 5, which according to the NCAA never existed, to Crisler Arena. Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson were all on hand for the Wolverines’ rout of Gardner-Webb. Juwan Howard was not available as he is currently “playing” for the Miami Heat (8.3 minutes per game in four appearances this year). Chris Webber…well, according to the NCAA, Chris Webber never attended the University of Michigan. At least not for a few more years.
  5. Coming into the season we knew that UNC freshman Harrison Barnes would face unrealistic expectations. Now, we didn’t expect him to go 0-for-12 as he did against Minnesota on Friday, but our expectations were significantly lower that his hometown paper (see the headline).
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Set Your Tivo: 11.21.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 21st, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

All of these games are from tournaments played on a neutral floor. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Third Place Game: #17 North Carolina vs. Vanderbilt — 5:30 pm on ESPN2 (***)

After losing to an upstart Minnesota team on Friday, North Carolina and Harrison Barnes are trying to avoid going 1-2 in this tournament. The star freshman couldn’t get anything to fall against the Golden Gophers as he shot a dreadful 0-12 from the floor. Vanderbilt is one of those teams that always seems to exceed expectations, mostly because of their underrated head coach Kevin Stallings. The Commodores had a strong second half against West Virginia in their last game but fell just short of a berth in the championship game of this event. John Jenkins shot it well from long range but was only 1-8 inside the arc. He figures to have more trouble penetrating and finishing against the taller UNC front court so you have to imagine he’ll play to his strength and shoot quite a few threes yet again. This should be a closer game than some might imagine, mainly because both teams are playing their third game in four days and Stallings always gets his club to fight hard even when they aren’t as talented. Vanderbilt seems to be doing a lot of work on figuring out its rotation as the minute distribution has been fairly balanced and spread out amongst many players. For UNC, Larry Drew II needs to take better care of the ball and get others more involved. His assists are down a bit to start the year but that could also be due to freshman Kendall Marshall earning some quality minutes at the point. North Carolina should win this game but it won’t be easy. Vanderbilt is going to surprise some people this year whether it’s this evening or later in the season.

Paradise Jam Semifinal: Old Dominion vs. Clemson — 6 pm on Fox College Sports (***)

Games like this, where contrasting styles go head to head, are always fun. In this case, the up-tempo Clemson Tigers meet an Old Dominion team that would like nothing more than to turn this game into a slow defensive struggle. Each team got a fairly easy draw in their first round game with Clemson knocking off Long Beach State and ODU taking care of St. Peter’s, though the Monarchs had some trouble closing them out. Blaine Taylor’s team has tall guards and wings who can really get after it on defense by using their length against smaller guards. That’s exactly what they’ll see in Clemson’s Andre Young and Demontez Stitt. Both are talented players but it’s going to be hard for them to get anything going against a stout Monarch defense that ranked tenth last year in defensive efficiency and is 20th so far this year. A great matchup should occur on the wing between each team’s leading scorer, Ben Finney for ODU and Tanner Smith for Clemson. Both are listed at 6’5/220 and have enjoyed solid starts to the season. The teams are evenly matched inside height-wise as they each have two important players that stand at 6’8. You’d have to favor Devin Booker and Jerai Grant for Clemson against ODU’s Frank Hassell and Keyon Carter. One statistic to watch is rebounding, where Old Dominion should enjoy an advantage. Clemson is definitely the more athletic team and probably the more talented one as well but we like the Monarchs to advance to the Paradise Jam finals in a close, low-scoring affair.

Charleston Classic Championship Game: #18 Georgetown vs. NC State — 7:30 pm on ESPNU (****)

NC State received some bad news late Saturday as ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported that senior forward Tracy Smith will miss three weeks with a knee injury suffered on Thursday against East Carolina. The Wolfpack had no problem against a decent George Mason squad as they placed five players in double figures in a balanced effort, but Georgetown is a different animal. Smith could really have helped NC State expose a suspect Georgetown front court but now they’ll have to turn to others to make up for the loss. The most likely candidate to see his minutes and production increase is stud freshman C.J. Leslie. He scored 21 points in an opening night win over Tennessee Tech and figures to be a main contributor for Sidney Lowe this season. NC State is a very young team, even more so now without Smith in the lineup. That youth, including another freshman star Ryan Harrow, will be tested by the experienced, strong and versatile Georgetown back court trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. Clark has been a pleasant surprise for John Thompson III as he’s increased his production quite a bit from last year. Georgetown’s offense is predicated almost exclusively on the backcourt this season, a far cry from historical Georgetown teams dominated by front court strength. The Hoyas are relatively thin yet again with the three guards all logging over 30 minutes a game. Georgetown has tall players on the roster but they’re very inexperienced and rather ineffective except for Julian Vaughn and Hollis Thompson. Look for NC State to take advantage inside early even without Smith and maybe jump out to a lead, but we expect the experienced Hoya back court to assert itself down the stretch as they did against Old Dominion and pull this one out.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players: National Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2010

Over the past month-plus, we’ve been presenting our RTC Impact Players for the 2010-11 season. From coast to coast and the Canadian border down to Mexico, we’ve selected the sixty players nationally who we believe will have the most impact on the game this year.  Each of the ten geographic regions was allotted five “starters” and a “sixth man,” an artificial construct that was easy to fill in some areas while much more difficult in some of the others.  In case you’ve missed the series along the way, this post will serve as your wrap-up.  We’re rank-ordering the ten “teams” by geographic region and list some of the near-miss players in each one.  Each regional post has a much more extensive writeup on each player chosen, so be sure to click on its respective link if you’re looking for additional information.  Here’s the view of the 2010-11 college basketball world from 500,000 feet.

The 2010-11 RTC Impact Players Map

The Ten Regions

(* denotes current injury, suspension or ineligibility)

1. Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL). Wow, and imagine if Robbie Hummel hadn’t gotten hurt.  Another group of first-rounders has everything, but what really sets this team apart is the inside dominance that Sullinger and Johnson can impose.  There isn’t a region on our list this year that would be able to stay out of foul trouble against those two, especially with the heady play of Mack, McCamey and Moore finding the big men in the right spots time and time again.  It’s no coincidence that the nation’s best conference — the Big 10 — has its footprint located here.

  • Shelvin Mack, G, Butler
  • E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
  • Chris Wright, F, Dayton
  • Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State
  • JaJuan Johnson, C, Purdue
  • Demetri McCamey, G, Illinois (6th)

Near Misses: William Buford, Ohio State; Maurice Creek, G, Indiana; John Shurna, Northwestern

2. South Atlantic Region (VA, NC, SC). Obviously, if you can’t find a space for a likely all-american like Nolan Smith, this is a sick team.  Its only weakness is that other than Tracy Smith, it is extremely perimeter-oriented.  Granted, nobody can put a more talented five on the floor, but if a team like the above can pound the ball inside on them, that could make the difference.

  • Kyrie Irving, G, Duke
  • Malcolm Delaney, G, Virginia Tech
  • Kevin Anderson, G, Richmond
  • Harrison Barnes, F, UNC
  • Kyle Singler, F, Duke
  • Tracy Smith, F, NC State (6th)

Near Misses: Nolan Smith, Duke; Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston

3. Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX). This is a ridiculously talented region, with first-rounders everywhere on the floor.  The only possible issue would be who would be willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team, but if Selby is eligible to run the show, we’re not sure there’s a much better group anywhere else in America.  This region is so strong we had to leave a high-major conference POY (Culpepper) off the team.  Wow.

  • LaceDarius Dunn*, G, Baylor
  • Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State
  • Perry Jones, F, Baylor
  • Marcus Morris, F, Kansas
  • Cory Higgins, F, Colorado
  • Josh Selby*, Kansas (6th)

Near Misses: Alec Burks, Colorado; Gary Johnson, Texas; Randy Culpepper, UTEP

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RTC Conference Primers: #4 – Atlantic Coast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 3rd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC Correspondent for the ACC.


Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Duke (15-1)
  • 2. Virginia Tech (12-4)
  • T3. North Carolina (10-6)
  • T3. NC State (10-6)
  • 5. Florida State (9-7)
  • 6. Maryland (9-7)
  • 7. Clemson (8-8)
  • 8. Miami (7-9)
  • 9. Boston College (5-11)
  • 10. Wake Forest (4-12)
  • 11. Georgia Tech (4-12)
  • 12. Virginia (3-13)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech (20.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.5 APG)
  • G: Nolan Smith, Duke (17.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.0 APG)
  • F: Kyle Singler (POY), Duke (17.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.4 APG)
  • F: Harrison Barnes, UNC (26.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.1 SPG for Ames High School)
  • C: Tracy Smith, NC State (16.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 APG)

6th Man

Chris Singleton (F), Florida State (10.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.2 APG)

Impact Newcomers

Harrison Barnes (F, UNC) and Kyrie Irving (G, Duke).

Here’s the catch.  Barnes might be the better player statistically, and he should have an unbelievable season, but if Duke’s repeat hopes rest on Irving’s shoulders, I’m not sure how he couldn’t be an impact newcomer. Both have NBA scouts fawning over them.

Kyrie Irving (left) and Harrison Barnes have sky-high potential, but how will they do in their respective coaches' systems? (Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

What You Need To Know

People will probably say the ACC is having a down year again, but statistically, in the ACC’s “down season” last year, it finished as the highest ranked conference by Ken Pomeroy (just above the Big 12).  Even though the conference has won five of the last ten NCAA championships, people will argue it’s in decline after perennial contender UNC had a devastating season and Duke caught a few breaks on the road to the National Championship. That said, the ACC will not be the country’s deepest conference this season, but that doesn’t mean it will be irrelevant beyond the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.  The ACC has five recruiting classes in ESPN’s top 25, which should ease the loss of important conference players like Greivis Vasquez, Jon Scheyer, Sylven Landesberg, Trevor Booker and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Predicted Champion

Duke (NCAA #1 Seed) – Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad should not only be favored to win the conference, they should be favored to win the NCAA Tournament.  Duke returns two Preseason All-Americans in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith from last year’s championship team.  Kyrie Irving is the highest-touted Duke recruit since Jason Williams, who led the Blue Devils to the 2001 title. Irving is also considered by scouts as the best true point guard of this class.  Additionally, the Blue Devils picked up four-star power forward Joshua Hairston and Seth Curry (who averaged 20.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 2.3 APG in his freshman season at Liberty), both of whom should see lots of playing time. Duke loses three starters from last year’s team: Jon Scheyer (18.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.9 APG), Lance Thomas (4.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 0.9 APG), and Brian Zoubek (5.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.0 APG).  Losing three starters would normally lower expectations for a team.  But, if anything, this Duke team should be more talented than last year’s squad.  According to Evan Daniels of Scout.com: three people who have watched Duke recently “are raving about their overall talent and Kyrie Irving.”  If you’re looking for more praise (not likely), Dan Wetzel tweeted: “Keep hearing from NBA scouts who’ve seen Duke practice describe Devils as ‘scary’ ‘complete’ ‘even better.’”  He followed that up rebutting the pro-Coach K media saying “These are NBA scouts raving about Duke, not supposedly pro-Coach K media.”  And last but not least, Luke Winn ranked the Blue Devil backcourt first in the nation and the frontcourt second (after Purdue, whose loss of Robbie Hummel almost certainly drops them a couple of spots). Long story short, Duke is going to be very, very good this year, especially if Mason Plumlee has the breakout season people are expecting. Read the rest of this entry »

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