ACC Stock Report: Volume III

Posted by Matt Auerbach on January 24th, 2019

As we are now a third of the way through the conference docket, the preseason favorites of Duke, Virginia and North Carolina have forged a three-way tie for first at 5-1. Two other teams sit a half-game behind that trio, as Syracuse and a surprising Louisville squad are at 4-1, which is where we start this week’s stock report.

Uptrend

It’s Return of the Mack Around Louisville (USA Today Images)
  • Chris Mack: Given the context of a largely unproven roster, it was reasonable to assume that Louisville would be a sub-.500 team in mid-December. Instead, Mack’s team navigated the non-conference slate nimbly enough to take nine of its 13 games, highlighted by a mammoth home win over an increasingly exceptional looking Michigan State club. That momentum has carried over into ACC play, as the Cardinals have won four of their first five contests, announcing themselves as an upper echelon player in throttling North Carolina by 21 in Chapel Hill. It was the worst home loss for the Tar Heels in the Roy Williams’ era, and that performance played a major part in Louisville’s rapid ascension in the KenPom ratings. Up from a middling 63rd in the preseason to a robust 16th now, it appears that Mack didn’t understand that 2018-19 was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Barring something unforeseen, the Cardinals are poised to return to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year hiatus. Louisville hosts NC State tonight in a match-up between the two most pleasant surprises the league has to offer this season.
  • John Mooney: Injuries and uncharacteristically poor shooting (223rd in 3FG, 266th in 2FG) have combined to sabotage this season in South Bend. Short of another Mike Brey magic act, the Fighting Irish look destined to miss the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years for the first time since 2006. The bright spot amid that disappointment has been junior center John Mooney. Averaging a double-double on the season, Mooney now ranks 10th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, first in ACC games –where he’s snatching more than 14 total boards per game — and 70th in offensive rating. It will likely be a long winter at Notre Dame, but the Mooney is a sole bright spot as he is putting together a First Team All-ACC campaign.
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What’s Trending: The ACC/Big Ten Challenge & More…

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 3rd, 2018

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Two weeks ago, college basketball fans were treated to a Feast Week that featured Gonzaga vs. Duke in Maui, Virginia vs. Wisconsin in the Bahamas and Kansas vs. Tennessee in Brooklyn. This past week brought us the perfect dessert to the meal with the 20th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. This season’s event, as always, included a plethora of quality match-ups…

https://twitter.com/accmbb/status/1067103946186067968

The challenge this year included Michigan soundly beating North Carolina by 17 points, as Wolverines’ freshman Iggy Brazdeikis scored a season-high 24 points in a dominant performance. Michigan’s elite defense stifled the Tar Heels all game long, as the below sequence shows…

https://twitter.com/BigTenNetwork/status/1068000299506225152

The challenge this year included Wisconsin making plays in crunch time. The Badgers overcame a 12-point second half deficit to beat NC State. The below sequence sealed things…

The challenge this year included last-second drama. Pittsburgh was down a point with the ball in the closing seconds against Iowa. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the final few seconds included nothing more than these two airballs….

The challenge this year included an ACC team draining a game-winning shot in the final seconds. Leonard Hamilton‘s Florida State club trailed Purdue by eight points with under four minutes to go, but the deficit was just one point with ten seconds remaining. Then, the Seminoles’ Trent Forrest stepped up…

https://twitter.com/theACCDN/status/1068003704312233984

The challenge this year featured 14 games and each conference walked away with seven victories. Thank you ACC, thank you Big Ten, for another terrific challenge.

https://twitter.com/theACCDN/status/1068007237413732352

The challenge this year featured a number of individual efforts and plays as well. There was Zion doing #Zionthings in Duke‘s win over Indiana…

https://twitter.com/br_CBB/status/1067633045904199681

The challenge this year featured Wisconsin‘s Brad Davison taking five charges….

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1067663730316636161

Outside of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge last week, college basketball also experienced a rather sizable lowlight. Despite having access to countless respected advanced analytics platforms and plenty of smart people offering to help the NCAA develop its system, it decided to handle the job on its own. The organization unveiled its initial NET Rankings on Wednesday morning…

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1067105577661276160

And well, within a half-hour Twitter ripped apart the new system. Whether that meant Nate Silver offering this opinion…

The NET rankings also gave us the least talked about upset of a “#1” team ever…

This past week also featured March Madness darling Sister Jean jumping back into our lives as she was given a Final Four ring at Loyola (Chicago)

This past week also featured two plays that flew under the radar. First, Western Kentucky’s Josh Anderson registered this dunk which could be up against any dunk of the week…

And finally, Eastern Kentucky’s Nick Mayo found the ball in his hands in the waning seconds against High Point…

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ACC Burning Questions Part 4: Virginia Tech, Syracuse & Florida State

Posted by Matt Auerbach on November 1st, 2018

As we head into another exciting ACC season, we will be reviewing the key question for each of the league’s 15 squads. Today Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24) works into the upper tier, with Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Florida State

Virginia Tech Burning Question: We know they’ll fill it up, but can the Hokies improve enough defensively to fulfill their potential?

Buzz Williams Needs to Improve His Defense to Contend This Year (USA Today Images)

Virginia Tech came out of the gates blazing a year ago, scoring more than 90 points in five of its first six affairs. And while the numbers understandably dipped as the competition toughened, the Hokies’ up-tempo, let-it-fly mentality, led to season marks of 28th nationally in offensive efficiency and sixth in effective field goal percentage. Lead guard Justin Robinson, the engine behind the high-powered unit, is back for his senior season, and pairs with sophomore sharpshooter Nickeil Alexander-Walker, as perhaps the most explosive backcourt in the ACC.

Robinson, a preseason all-ACC second team selection, is the model of consistency, and the type of point guard head coach Buzz Williams can trust to spearhead his attacking offense. An old-school point guard at his core, Robinson has developed in an old-school manner, as his three-point percentage, points, assists and steals per game have all steadily increased over his three years in Blacksburg. Another leap is a tall order for him after averaging 14.0 PPG, 5.6 APG and shooting nearly 40 percent from long-distance last season, but one that he may need to make given that senior Chris Clarke has been suspended from the team indefinitely. Clarke, the runner-up for ACC Sixth Man of the Year, was in line to start and become a major contributor. In his absence, the Hokies will need a healthy and productive Kerry Blackshear Jr. to replicate upon his excellent sophomore season. Coming off a redshirt year, the 6’10” Blackshear averaged just under 13 points per game on the back of a 63.4 percent true shooting rate. Without Clarke around to bolster the interior, he becomes the Hokies’ leading returning rebounder and will be relied upon to protect the rim.

In his first four years at Virginia Tech, Williams’ teams have never finished within the top 60 nationally in defensive efficiency. If this is to be the year that the Hokies break through and make a run in the NCAA Tournament, improvement on that end is absolutely necessary. There’s no doubt that this team’s offense will pressure opposing defenses, but seeking to outscore the opposition will only get a team so far.

Syracuse Burning Question: Can Syracuse make enough shots?

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.05.18 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 5th, 2018

It may have been Super Bowl weekend everywhere else, but it was a Super Saturday for ACC teams on the road this weekend. The two Florida schools picked up a pair of key wins away from home, as Miami took out Virginia Tech and Florida State avenged an earlier loss to Louisville. League leader Virginia had no problem at Syracuse and Clemson moved into second place in the conference standings by virtue of its road triumph over Wake Forest. But life on the road was not nearly as enjoyable for Duke as the Blue Devils fell to Big East cellar-dweller St. John’s in Madison Square Garden — a performance that head coach Mike Krzyzewski described as “disgusting.” Here are the highlights from this weekend’s action around the ACC.

Trent Forrest led Florida State down the stretch in the Seminoles huge road win at Louisville on Saturday. (Jamie Rhodes – USA TODAY Sports)

  • Best Win: In early January, Louisville went to Tallahassee and came away with an impressive four-point win over Florida State. The Seminoles on Saturday returned the favor with an 80-76 victory in Louisville. As usual, Florida State got key contributions from several sources, with six Seminoles ultimately scoring in double-figures. A huge defensive key for Leonard Hamilton‘s squad was an abnormally impressive performance on the glass. Coming into the game ranked 267th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, Florida State held a decisive 33-6 edge in that category. The Seminoles, at one time just 1-3 in ACC play, have since won five of seven games to get back over .500. Florida State will have another opportunity for a resume-booster on Wednesday when unbeaten Virginia visits Tallahassee.

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On Florida State: It May Not Be A Down Year After All

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 14th, 2017

Last season was one of the best in Florida State basketball history — the Seminoles won 26 games, finished tied for second place in the ACC, and earned a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Given the losses of his three best players from that squad (Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes), however, head coach Leonard Hamilton was not expected to keep Florida State among the league’s elite. Yet here we are in mid-December and the Seminoles are 9-0 and ranked 19th in the latest AP poll. Their schedule has not been very challenging to date (ranked 283rd nationally, according to KenPom), but Florida State has been pounding the teams it is supposed to beat and also owns a big road win at Florida. So are the Seminoles for real?

Terance Mann leads a balanced Florida State attack this year. (Getty Images)

Hamilton prefers to spread out his playing time more than most coaches, and last season was a great example of that. Eleven Seminoles averaged double-figure minutes with the top three seeing over 25 minutes per game. This year’s squad is not quite as deep but it has a more balanced scoring attack. Four Florida State players averaged more than 5.5 points per game last year but this version has seven scoring over 7.0 points per outing. Hamilton likes his team’s balance and unselfishness, saying recently, “They’ve bought into the idea that we need each other in order to be successful. We don’t have anybody that feels like they have to carry us. Everybody feels like they have to carry their part.”

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ACC Burning Questions: Florida State Seminoles

Posted by Matt Auerbach on November 8th, 2017

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

Burning Question: Will the Seminoles have enough left to overcome the departures of last year’s leading triumvirate?

Few teams nationally will have to cope with the task of replacing as much lost production as Florida State. With the early defections of freshman phenom Jonathan Isaac (picked sixth by Orlando), sophomore Dwayne Bacon (second round, now with Charlotte) and junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes (G-League), Seminoles’ head coach Leonard Hamilton bid adieu to the three players most responsible for last year’s 26-win campaign (second most in school history) and second place ACC finish. By the numbers, the group accounted for an astounding 47 percent of Florida State’s points, 38 percent of its rebounds, 52 percent of the assists and 41 percent of the steals. Daunting as it is to replace all of that output, the statistics that best elucidate the value of the big three come from their exorbitant usage rates. A resounding 48 percent of Florida State’s shot attempts (including 57 percent of those hoisted beyond the arc) emanated from the hands of Isaac, Bacon and Rathan-Mayes.

The player most likely to yield a major uptick in production is 6’4” junior sharpshooter PJ Savoy. (Logan Bowles/USA TODAY Sports)

The good news for the glass half-full crowd is that Hamilton returns six players who averaged double-figure minutes a season ago. Junior Terrance Mann is the most notable and accomplished of the returnees, having started all but one game as a sophomore. The versatile 6’6” wing trailed only the aforementioned three in scoring, tallying an efficient eight points per game while ranking 89th nationally in effective field goal percentage. Sophomore southpaw CJ Walker, who averaged a touch under five points per game while handling reserve point guard duties, will be handed the keys to the offense. Walker proved skillful and capable of providing an explosive spark off the bench a year ago, but he’ll need to combine that scoring punch with an adroitness in setting the table for his teammates this season. Read the rest of this entry »

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