Morning Five: 07.12.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 12th, 2011

  1. It’s a somewhat weird time to come out with a Top 15 list for the 2011-12 season, but the folks in the City of Angels would be remiss if they didn’t do things a little differently.  There are no major surprises in this version, but Alabama at #11 is a bit ambitious for an NIT team.  The Big East carries the day with four teams — #4 Connecticut, #5 Syracuse, #13 Pittsburgh, and #15 Louisville –  which are the same four (albeit in a different order) our conference correspondent Brian Otskey chose in his summer update yesterday.  The team that is consistently showing up in everyone’s top ten because of its returning talent but despite consecutive First Round upsets as high seeds is #6 Vanderbilt.  The trio of Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli are all-SEC talents, but we’re going to need to see a little more evidence of getting over their mental hangups before believing that Kevin Stallings’ team is better than the likes of #7 Arizona or #8 Wisconsin.
  2. We may have missed out on this until now, but you shouldn’t.  CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd and Brett McMurphy are halfway through a five-part series examining cheating in college football, and it’s clear that, put rather simply, cheating pays off.  In part three, an examination of the five-year program outcomes after major violations, the writers found that winning percentages actually rose.  Although their analysis doesn’t touch on college hoops, we all know that athletic departments are often rather insular places — some of the findings from this analysis will without question apply to basketball programs facing similar demands for success and a common enemy (the NCAA).  It’s a thoughtful series of pieces, and we highly recommend that you keep up with it.
  3. The hits keep on coming at Wake Forest, as the Demon Deacon basketball program, still reeling from the ouster of head coach Dino Gaudio last summer, lost two more players on Monday.  Rising senior/perennial disappointment Ty Walker and rising sophomore Melvin Tabb were suspended from the squad indefinitely, with no reasons stated other than to say the causes were not academically-related.  You probably recall that Tony Woods, one of the other highly touted recruits along with Walker in the Class of 2008, was booted after getting into a fight with his girlfriend that resulted in a misdemeanor assault charge against him.  He was also suspended at Wake indefinitely, eventually left school, and is expected to suit up at Texas next season.  Wake was one of the worst power conference programs in America last season; head coach Jeff Bzdelik has a huge rebuilding project ahead of him for the Deacs to merely rise back up to respectability.
  4. While on the subject of disappointments, Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney has transformed himself Jerod Ward-style from one of the elite players in his class to someone many scouts believe may have peaked at the age of 16.  The Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger caught up with Sidney as he is spending his summer working out at John Lucas’ facility in Houston, and having already lost 23 pounds, he seems motivated to get back into shape.  At his playing weight of 270 lbs. last season, he averaged 14/8 but often appeared winded and uninterested for several plays at a time.  There’s not much question that Sidney has the requisite size and touch to play this game for pay, but second and third chances won’t come easily, so he’d serve himself well to come into next season at a chiseled 250 lbs. and enjoy the spoils of hard work that will accompany it.
  5. Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson came to Corvallis as the most highly-rated recruit to enter the Beaver program in years.  After two-thirds of a freshman season in 2010-11 where he averaged 8/2 APG in about 17 minutes per contest, big things are expected for the talented Southern California native.  During a recent summer foreign tour called “Beavers Without Borders” in Macedonia, as the below video shows, Nelson destroyed a glass backboard with a dunk in a game that seemed more pick-up than organized (start at the 2:00 mark).  The ensuing spill Nelson took as a result of his force was no joke, as he celebrated his powerful jam in the aftermath with a bloodied and broken nose.  This isn’t the Jordan Crawford/LeBron dunk from a couple of summers ago, but expect to see this one shown on numerous Pac-12 broadcasts next season.

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #3 – ACC

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2008

Zach Smith of Old Gold & Blog and DeaconsIllustrated is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). 

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. North Carolina (28-2, 14-2)
  2. Duke (27-5, 13-3)
  3. Wake Forest (21-8, 11-5)
  4. Miami (20-9, 10-6)
  5. Clemson (20-10, 8-8)
  6. Virginia Tech (18-12, 8-8)
  7. Georgia Tech (17-12, 7-9)
  8. Maryland (17-13, 7-9)
  9. NC State (15-14, 5-11)
  10. Boston College (15-15, 4-12)
  11. Florida State (13-16, 4-12)
  12. Virginia (11-16, 4-12)

acc-logo1

WYN2K. The ACC is still the ACC. I know many still long for the return of the days of nine teams (or even eight), but for better or worse a 12-team ACC is here to say, and it’s still plenty enjoyable. It may not be the absolute best conference in 2008-2009, but it’s dang good, and I have a feeling the majority of college basketball fans would still rather watch Duke play North Carolina play than Louisville play UConn. Everyone agrees UNC is the best team in the country (assuming they’ll have Tyler Hansbrough back sooner rather than later) and Duke is right there in the top five with them. With high expectations and lots of potential, Wake Forest is also making appearances in preseason top 25 rankings, and Miami also came in at #17 in the preseason AP poll. Clemson doesn’t appear to be far behind. I expect all five of those teams to make the NCAA Tournament this season, and I will not be surprised if Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Maryland compete for berths as well. If he comes back healthy, Hansbrough (22.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg) is likely to once again be the national player of the year, while Boston College’s Tyrese Rice (21 ppg, 4.9 apg), Miami’s Jack McClinton (17.7 pgg), North Carolina’s Ty Lawson (12.7 ppg, 5.16 apg), and Duke’s Gerald Henderson (12.7 ppg, 31 blocks) are all players to keep an eye on this season. Wake Forest boasts this year’s best recruiting class, led by forward Al-Farouq Aminu, and people will definitely want to keep an eye on Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert as well.

Predicted Champion. This isn’t a difficult choice to make this season. There’s little doubt the North Carolina Tar Heels (NCAA #1) are the best team in the ACC this season, and I think just about everyone will be surprised if they don’t win both the regular season and the tournament. Roy Williams has done an excellent job in his time at Carolina, and with both Tyler Hansborough and Ty Lawson deciding to return for another season, the Tar Heels have all five starters from last season back on the floor. No team in the ACC can match the talent, depth, and experience on this Carolina roster. They play fast and score quickly (88.6 ppg, .488 from the field last season) beat teams by the widest margins in the ACC (+16.1), and have an absurdly high rebounding margin (+11 – the closest team was +5). They also led the ACC in assists per game (16.8) and assist/turnover ratio (1.17). They don’t always play the best defense in the conference, but with their offense they don’t need to. It’s going to take an excellent performance for anyone in the ACC to beat them this season.

Others Considered.  I’d be lying if I said I seriously considered anyone else. North Carolina is just that good. I’m not saying Duke (NCAA #3) isn’t a great team—they are—but I don’t think they’re quite there with Carolina this season. Duke is a pretty clear favorite to be runner-up this season, and for good reason. They return a talented base, including point guard Greg Paulus (11.4 ppg, 3.2 apg), shooting guard Jon Scheyer (11.7 ppg), forward Gerald Henderson, and center Kyle Singler (13.3 pgg, 5.8 rpg). They will also count on strong performances from new starter Lance Thomas, as well as bench contributions from Nolan Smith and freshman Miles Plumlee. They score almost as much as UNC (83.2 ppg), play even better defense (allowing only 69.4 ppg) and lead the conference in turnover margin (+4.8). The Wake Forest (NCAA #5) Demon Deacons get in this discussion based primarily on potential. They didn’t graduate a single impact player, return two of last season’s most talented freshmen in forward James Johnson (14.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and guard Jeff Teague (13.9 ppg, 1.83 steals), and bring in the ACC’s best recruiting class of forward Al-Farouq Aminu and centers Tony Woods and Ty Walker. If Coach Dino Gaudio can maximize the potential in this team then they could really make some noise this season.

Other Likely NCAA Bids.  Miami (NCAA #6) and Clemson (NCAA #12) should both be good enough to make the tournament this year. Jack McClinton (17.7 ppg) is the clear leader of the Miami team – a great shooter who has improved his entire game. Miami relies on a strong defense (second in scoring defense last season at 67.9 ppg) and will do so again this season, hoping to ride that into the NCAA Tournament. Clemson hopes to join them, led by Trevor Brooker who is both a great scorer and rebounder. In the past the Tigers have relied on a speedy trapping defense that creates lots of turnovers, but much of the talent that made that style of play work in the past is gone this season. They’ll need Brooker and KC Rivers to step up and put points on the board this season. Virginia Tech (NIT) and Georgia Tech (NIT) are likely bubble teams this season. VT only lost one starter from last year’s squad and returns lots of young talent, including AD Vasallo and Jeff Allen. Georgia Tech lost a lot from last year’s team but brings back some young talent in a good recruiting class. Maryland (NIT) lost a great frontcourt and will rely on Greivis Vasquez to lead them to a potential NIT birth.

The Rest.  NC State, Boston College, Florida State and Virginia are all likely to be staying home in March, although it is certainly possible for one or two to surprise and make some kind of noise this season and maybe grab an NIT birth. NC State lost its top three players from a season ago and will need lots of guys to step up this year. Boston College boasts a great player in Tyrese Rice, but lacks anyone to support him and I don’t see who could step up and really fill that role. Florida State loses as much as NC State did, if not more, and probably has even less talent that could step up. Virginia, like these other teams, lost its top three players from last season and another to injury. For now, everything is on Mamadi Diane’s shoulders and the prospects for this season are grim.

RPI Boosters.

  • Kentucky @ North Carolina – ESPN 9:00  (11.18.09)
  • Ohio State @ Miami – ESPN 7:00 ACC/B10 Challenge  (12.02.08)
  • Duke @ Purdue – ESPN 9:15  ACC/B10 Challenge  (12.02.08)
  • Indiana @ Wake Forest – ESPN 7:00  ACC/B10 Challenge  (12.03.08)
  • North Carolina @ Michigan State – ESPN 9:15  ACC/B10 Challenge  (12.03.08)
  • NC State @ Davidson – FSN 12:00  (12.06.08)
  • Miami @ Kentucky – ESPN 5:30  (12.06.08)
  • Duke @ Xavier – CBS 2:00  (12.20.08)
  • Davidson @ Duke – ESPN 7:00  (01.07.09)
  • Georgetown @ Duke – CBS 1:30  (01.16.09)

Preseason Tourneys.

  • North Carolina – Maui Invitational
  • Duke – Coaches Versus Cancer
  • Boston College – Preseason NIT
  • Virginia Tech – Puerto Rico Tip Off
  • Miami – Paradise Jam
  • Wake Forest – 76 Classic
  • Maryland – Old Spice Classic
  • Florida State – Las Vegas Invitational

The preseason/Thanksgiving tournaments should provide some good early challenges for these ACC teams, and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge usually provides some entertainment as well. Just about everyone has a couple of significant OOC games, and for some of the bubble teams these could be the RPI boosters they need to make a push into the NCAA Tournament.

Key Games.  I’ve heard it said that every game is a big game in the ACC, and in many ways this is true. Obviously, though, some are bigger than others so let’s take a look:

  • Clemson @ Miami – FSN 7:45  (12.21.08)
  • North Carolina @ Wake Forest – FSN 8:00  (01.11.09)
  • Duke @ Georgia Tech – ESPN 7:00  (01.14.09)
  • Miami @ North Carolina – ESPN 9:00  (01.17.09)
  • Virginia Tech @ Wake Forest – ESPN2 7:00  (01.21.09)
  • Duke @ Clemson – ESPN 9:00  (02.03.09)
  • North Carolina @ Virginia Tech – ESPN 7:00  (03.04.09)
  • Duke @ North Carolina – CBS 4:00  (03.11.09)

As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s really difficult to just pick a handful of important ACC games, but these represent a smattering of some of the best teams and contenders playing each other. I promise, there will plenty of important and exciting games in the ACC all season long.

Did You Know. Tyler Hansbrough is the first AP National Player of the Year to return for another season since Shaquille O’Neal did it at LSU after winning the award in 1991. Pretty impressive, but maybe more surprising is that O’Neal returned – I’d be curious to know why he did. Also interesting, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski actually led a team to a gold medal for the second time over the summer. He had also been an assistant coach on the 1992 Dream Team. Unfortunately for him, coaches aren’t actually awarded medals, only players.

65 Team Era.  By nearly every objective measure, the ACC has been the best league of the last quarter-century: the best overall NCAA record (234-116, .669), the most #1 seeds (21), the most titles (6), the most F4s (22) and the most S16s (63).  These numbers are all driven by the fact that UNC and Duke have arguably been two of the top several programs in the nation during this time period.  What if we removed these two from consideration – how would the ACC compare?  After removing 130 wins, 19 #1 seeds, 5 titles, 18 F4s and 33 S16s, you’re left with a conference that would look a lot like the Atlantic 10 or CUSA in its best years.  It’s pretty amazing just how dominant those two programs have been over the years, and will continue to be. 

Final Thoughts.  It’s going to be another fun year in the ACC this season. I grew up outside ACC country, but having been here for several years now I can honestly say there’s nothing quite like it. I was skeptical at first, but I’ve been convinced. I’m looking forward to another great season. The top tier of teams is excellent, and the conference has enough depth to be exciting from nearly top to bottom. Despite North Carolina’s unanimity at the top, I don’t believe it is impossible for someone else to knock them off. Duke could certainly do it, as could anyone else in that next tier of teams. It will also be interesting to see how Tyler Hansbrough’s injury affects the Tar Heels and the ACC as a whole.

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Be careful walking around Winston-Salem next year

Posted by nvr1983 on April 2nd, 2008

I just noticed this story this morning, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my colleague rtmsf was aware of this and decided to turn a blind eye to it. . .

As we mentioned before, Wake landed a great 2008 class picking up 3 five-star players (Al-Farouq Aminu, Ty Walker, and Tony Woods). Although all 3 are top prospects, Aminu is widely considered the jewel of the class. Unfortunately, young Mr. Aminu has run into a bit of trouble. According to police reports, on March 14th Aminu went out with 2 of his teammates and shot a woman in the stomach with a BB gun (details of the story here).

A little too happy to be here?

Aminu decided to turn himself into police on March 28th (2 days after his 0-point performance at the McDonald’s All-American game) on charges of felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor criminal trespass. It seems like the victim is doing ok and that her husband has a sense of humor as he is quoted in the story saying that “his shooting at my house was better than his shooting at the McDonald’s game”. The victims also appear to be asking the DA to go easy on Aminu and his teammates. For their part Wake Forest and Dino Gaudio decided to issue the standard reply:

We are in the process of gathering all of the information on this incident and it would not be fair to make any statement or judgment until we collect all of the facts.

We (or at least I) will follow this story and keep you posted if and when anything else comes out. Hopefully after rtmsf fires off a passive aggressive e-mail to me, he can offer some legal insight into the case/charges.

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08.20.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 20th, 2007

Some random morsels on Michael Vick Day in America:

  • And now on to the next great great political debate, Swift Boat style.  Did Obama play ball at Occidental or not?  There appears to be some dispute on this story, with a blogger at the Fanhouse refuting the original story we linked to from last week, while someone else dug up an old Washington Post quote from his coach talking about his game.  This is so much more interesting than whether W showed up for air guard duty!
  • Aggiesports.com reports with an in-depth article on Billy G‘s first 100 days in Lexington.
  • Quick, what Big East team has the most wins in the Big East Tournament during the 2000s?  If you said Pittsburgh (15 wins, largely due to five runner-up finishes) give yourself a Dave Gavitt doll.
  • Andy Katz exonerated Roy Williams from the accusation that he was still recruiting Wake Forest commit 6’11 PF Ty Walker after the death of Skip Prosser several weeks ago.  There was apparently some misunderstanding over a letter of condolences sent by Williams to Walker regarding the incident (from Katz’s blog – subscriber only).
  • A small newspaper article in Missouri confirms what we’ve always known as true about the upcoming college football season (which, admittedly, we enjoy very much despite its fundamental flaws):
    • But that’s what we’re asked to do year after year during college football season, as the “best regular season” leads way to the “worst postseason” of any sport. Sure, the bowl games are great for TV viewing on New Year’s Day, but most of them are meaningless and the game we’re supposed to care the most about happened during the second week of January last season.

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