Award Tour: Doug McDermott Has Some Company

Posted by Jameson Fleming on February 14th, 2014


Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart has fallen out of the rankings, not only because of his suspension, but because his play on the court has suffered. Prior to a good performance against Texas Tech (aside from the Jeff Orr incident), Smart had limped through four ugly games, three of which were Cowboy losses. With Oklahoma State now firmly on the bubble, Smart needs to return to form quickly in order to avoid an incredibly disappointing season.

Player of the Year

10. C.J. Fair – Syracuse. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 16.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 101.8 oRTG

I’ve been hard on C.J. Fair all season because he has turned into a volume shooter and turnover machine as a senior. He’s the main cog in Jim Boeheim’s offense, but he’s rarely been very efficient this season. Despite that, he’s still the leading scorer on an undefeated power conference team. Fair finally makes this list for two reasons: His turnovers are down in ACC play (42 in 13 non-conference games vs. 19 in 11 ACC games), and his clutch shots against Pitt. This breakdown is as much about Fair’s skills as Lamar Patterson dogging it defensively. In the first play, Fair runs off a simple screen along the baseline. Patterson gets caught on it and basically gives up, allowing the Syracuse senior to fire an easy three.

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In the second play, Patterson gets tricked into thinking Fair is going to drive baseline after he guarded Fair’s penetration well all game long. The Pitt star is a step too slow and Fair gets off a relatively uncontested mid-range jumper.
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9. Justin Jackson – Cincinnati. Last Week: 10
2013-14 stats: 11.4 PPG, 3.1 BPG, 106.9 oRTG

Sean Kilpatrick is the sexy pick from Cincinnati in the Player of the Year race, but teammate Justin Jackson ultimately has had a bigger impact on both ends of the floor. Jackson might be the best defensive player in the country. Toss in the fact he’s Cincinnati’s second best option offensively along with his rebounding and you get the Bearcats’ most influential player.

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ACC M5: 02.13.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 13th, 2014


  1. CBS Sports and ESPN: A couple of interesting tidbits from after Syracuse‘s miracle win last night at Pittsburgh. First, according to the Panther players after the game, they forced the Orange to take the shot they wanted. And truthfully, if you go back a couple possessions, I’m pretty sure they were fine with CJ Fair’s long three and step-back 15-footer too. Even more impressive is Tyler Ennis‘ resume in the last five minutes of one-possession games and overtime: he’s 8-of-9 from the field, 14-of-14 from the free throw line, with six assists and no turnovers. Ennis lives for the moment. It’s amazing (and lucky). But the best make their own luck, and it’s starting to look like Ennis is one of the best.
  2. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Here’s where I’m going to jump on the Internet bandwagon. Jamie Dixon shouldn’t have used his last timeout — the one he called after making a free throw to go up one with 4.4 seconds left. The one that let Syracuse set up a final play. Unless a Pittsburgh player was woefully out of position or Syracuse happened to be in the perfect formation to get an easy shot, I would have kept that timeout. But when it comes down to it, Pittsburgh played well enough to win and just caught a bad break. Unfortunately, that bad break probably puts the Panthers in the bubble conversation (although with its record, I think the Panthers are a shoo-in barring an epic collapse).
  3. AP (via Winston-Salem Journal): Wake Forest athletic director and chairman of the Selection Committee Ron Wellman (hey, at least he doesn’t have to worry about a conflict of interest anytime soon) announced some changes in how the NCAA seeds its teams that will matter for bracketologists. The two big ones are allowing rematches earlier in the tournament and having “more latitude in assigning teams to sites closer to their homes.” The second point runs counter to Wellman’s goal of honoring seed lines. If you honor the seeds and locations, you’re going to end up with ones in home regions for eights, which is beyond stupid.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: Duke vs. North Carolina was postponed last night, but that doesn’t mean we won’t talk about both teams. Here’s a good look at Marcus Paige from Bret Strelow. Paige, a little like Ennis, doesn’t have gobs of natural athleticism, but they both seem to make the game slow down. That’s essentially where the similarities end, though — Ennis is a distributor who morphs into an unstoppable machine in the final five minutes, while Paige is the first offensive option all game long.
  5. Washington Post: Terrific short (18 minutes) documentary on the dying MarylandDuke rivalry, focusing on the back-to-back national championships in 2001 and 2002. The Duke title year (2001) was when the rivalry came into its own with four (yes, four) absolutely tremendous, unforgettable games. I’ve mostly come to accept the Terrapins leaving for the Big Ten at this point, but work like this definitely makes me think twice. For a good stretch in the 2000s, the Maryland-Duke games were on an unparalleled level. There’s still a level of vitriol that runs between the schools that made for unbelievable atmospheres.
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ACC M10: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 12th, 2014


  1. Fayetteville Observer: Great piece from Bret Strelow with a transcript from a conference call of ACC coaches discussing the Marcus Smart situation. Always good for a quote, Jeff Bzdelik mentioned “Twitter muscle,” noting “there are a lot of unhappy people out there.” Mike Krzyzewski had a lot to say and was the only coach to provide an example of something concrete that’s been done to try and avoid situations like these (in the 1980s, Duke put opposing fans in the 75 seats closest to the bench instead of students). Duke is a special circumstance though because many of its students are right on the court level. It was nice to see Jim Boeheim stick up for Smart (and generally, it feels like people are doing a good job with the post-kneejerk reactions on the incident).
  2. Charlottesville Daily Progress: A lot of disappointed articles have been written about Virginia’s Akil Mitchell this year, as his numbers have dropped significantly from last season. But what hasn’t been getting enough love outside of local media and blogs is attention to his defense. Mitchell consistently draws the opponents’ best large wing/high post players, and he locked down Evan Smotrycz in Virginia’s too-close-for-comfort win against Maryland Monday night.
  3. Macon Telegraph: Even in the slow-tempo ACC, Georgia Tech‘s current offense just isn’t cutting it. The good news is that Robert Carter is back. The bad news is that the team still relies on Chris Bolden (who is making a truly abysmal 28.7 percent of his twos this season) as a scoring option. But the Yellow Jackets need Trae Golden healthy to even be competitive in most conference games.
  4. John Gasaway: Tuesday Truths is back! That means another head-scratching look at the ACC’s tempo and wondering just how Syracuse has averaged 55 possessions per game. That’s ridiculously slow. What’s also becoming clear is that Syracuse is playing with fire right now. The Orange have slipped well below Virginia and Duke in efficiency margin (+0.17 compared with +0.22 and +0.21, respectively), and they still have road games against Pittsburgh, Duke, Virginia and a dangerous Florida State team that may be truly desperate for a resume win. Syracuse could easily go 1-3 in those games, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t lose at least two of them. Long story short: Don’t wrap up the regular season ACC title just yet.
  5. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Speaking of PittsburghSyracuse later tonight, Paul Zeise had a chat about the Panthers. Other than someone calling the Orange uptempo (see above), there’s a lot of good stuff here. Remember, in Pittsburgh’s recent slide, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna have not been playing at 100 percent. It’s also interesting that despite the injuries, Zeise likes Pittsburgh’s match-up with Syracuse. Clearly, the Panthers have to play better than they did against Virginia Tech last weekend, but that game may have been a worst case scenario (unhealthy trap game). Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 5th, 2014


  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Here’s a good look at three of the most efficient guards in the ACC: London Perrantes, James Robinson, and Tyler Ennis. Ennis and Robinson may best Ty Lawson’s assist-to-turnover ratio (although neither can touch his other offensive numbers), and it’s even more impressive when you remember that all three are freshmen and Ennis is the only one likely to leave school sooner rather than later. Their teams also currently reside in the top three in the conference standings (though Duke is hot on their trail).
  2. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Jamel Artis is going to be really good in a couple of years for Pittsburgh. Injuries are never good, but they always open the door for different players to see more time. Artis has been soaking up some of Durand Johnson’s leftover minutes, and he made the most of his newfound playing time in the team’s loss to Virginia. Like many other young players in the league (think: a young Ian Miller at Florida State), Artis is mostly held back by his defense. Once that comes around, he could become one of Pittsburgh’s top options in a hurry.
  3. Washington Post: Let’s just say that after a disappointing performance against North Carolina — especially in the first half — I think Mark Turgeon may have gotten a little too optimistic that all of his yelling was paying off. Now, playing in Chapel Hill is no easy feat, and it’s easy to make the Bzdelikian argument that it would have been a totally different game if North Carolina hadn’t started with an 11-0 lead. But Maryland gave up that lead. And it gave up another run to close the first half. Those flat stretches offensively are what Turgeon needs to find a way to avoid. Maybe yelling will be the answer. Maybe a healthy Seth Allen will. But there’s still a lot of work to do.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs does a good job dismantling a context-less stat from a Virginia broadcast that the Cavaliers are 32-2 when holding opponents under 50 points with Tony Bennett at the helm. The ACC as a whole this season is 30-3. The one bit of context that makes the statistic more meaningful is that Virginia usually plays with an abnormally slow tempo (meaning an opponent scoring 50 against the Cavaliers likely played better than an opponent failing to reach 50 against the Tar Heels).
  5. SBNation: Great story from SBNation on Kendall Marshall‘s NBA resurrection. Marshall looked like he might be destined for Europe just a couple of months ago, but now he’s starting at point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. What remains to be seen is how he can improve his defense (which will be the determining factor on a team not coached by Mike D’Antoni). But all facets of his game weren’t clicking in Phoenix, and James Herbert points to a change of attitude from the former North Carolina guard.
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With the Game on the Line, Which ACC Players Get the Call?

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on February 1st, 2014

The ACC is chock full of great athletes and even greater coaches. In such a highly competitive environment, there is bound to be a plethora of close finishes. Even the elite coaches can’t physically will their teams to victory, but instead have to rely upon the players who have ice in their veins. Some coaches prefer a heady point guard who can wind the clock down, penetrate into the paint at the right moment, and then fire off a pinpoint pass to a shooter on the wing for the win. Other coaches prefer a more traditional route of isolation basketball, putting the ball in the hands of the best player, someone who can rise up over the defense or break down his defender one-on-one.

Michael Snaer breaks the heart of many Duke fans in CIS

Michael Snaer breaks the hearts of many Duke fans in CIS

The list of memorable ACC finishes could fill an entire book, provoking court rushes and jubilant celebrations for one team and a traumatic letdowns for another. The most recent that comes to mind from Tobacco Road was Duke’s Austin Rivers buzzer-beater in Chapel Hill two years ago. That same season, and only a month prior to Rivers’ game winner, Duke was shocked at home by Michael Snaer‘s three at the horn to snap a 45-game Duke home winning streak. Flash forward to the present and both Snaer and Rivers are long gone from their respective campuses as new faces and even a few teams litter the ACC landscape. With that in mind, who are the players that ACC coaches most want with the ball in their hands and the game on the line this season? Here are 10 players who have their coaches’ trust in those game-ending situations. 

  • Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: The freshman point guard from Canada has won Jim Boeheim as well as his teammates’ confidence and has solidified himself as the go-to presence for this year’s undefeated Syracuse team. Look no further than Ennis’ play in the final minutes of Syracuse’s home win over old rival Pittsburgh, as the Orange eked out a victory late, largely thanks to Ennis.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott Blowing Away the NPOY Competition

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 31st, 2014


Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

Michigan State was so close to landing a player in this week’s Award Tour rankings, but Gary Harris struggled in a loss to Michigan. His day will come… eventually. Providence’s Bryce Cotton and Ed Cooley are also very close to making their debuts on the watch lists as well. Cotton is an ironman who has carried the Friars after taking over as the point guard, while Cooley has kept the team moving forward after a rough start to conference play. Andrew Wiggins is quickly turning into the player everyone expected before the season — he was never bad or mediocre, just not a stud – until now. After 27 points against TCU and 29 more against Iowa State, Maple Jordan is rounding into form as Kansas’ second Big 12 Player of the Year candidate. Pitt’s Lamar Patterson struggled against Duke, but he’ll have several more chances in the coming weeks to prove he’s an ACC Player of the Year candidate.

Player of the Year

Thanks to some outstanding play of late, Justin Jackson (left), Xavier Thames, and Nick Stauskas are all in the POY discussion.

Thanks to some outstanding play of late, Justin Jackson (left), Xavier Thames, and Nick Stauskas are all in the POY discussion.

10. Justin Jackson – Cincinnati. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 11.1 PPG, 7 RPG, 3.3 BPG, 107.5 oRTG

Justin Jackson isn’t going to wow anyone offensively. He can score a few buckets here and there, be a playmaker occasionally, and draw a lot of fouls. So why did he make the Player of the Year rankings? He’s a dominant defender and rebounder. Jackson is arguably the best player on a Cincinnati team that is now 20-2 with wins at Louisville, at Memphis, Pittsburgh and SMU. He’s the only player in the top 50 in the country in block AND steal rate according to KenPom, and his late steal against Louisville helped seal an impressive victory in the KFCYum! Center against the Cardinals.

9. Xavier Thames – San Diego State. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 17.5 PPG, 2.7 APG, 121.6 oRTG

Xavier Thames has emerged as San Diego State’s top player after spending three years toiling in mediocrity thanks to poor shooting and turnovers. But as a senior, Thames has become a much more efficient scorer and distributor. He’s the main reason why the Aztecs could overcome huge personnel losses and improve from last year’s NCAA round of 32 squad.

8. Joel Embiid – Kansas. Last Week: 9
2013-14 stats: 11.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 113.6 oRTG

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London Perrantes Has the Virginia Offense Humming

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 31st, 2014

Virginia’s resurgence is well-known by now, with everyone from this site to Joe Lunardi taking notice — standing firm right behind Syracuse in the ACC standings will do that. But while Virginia’s defense is still as potent as ever (only allowing opponents to shoot 38.0 percent from the field on the year), it’s the Cavaliers’ suddenly white-hot offense that has them racing off to such a commanding ACC start. It would be a challenge to find anyone who projected Virginia would be fourth in the ACC in scoring (70.5 PPG) through eight games, but there’s one obvious catalyst for Tony Bennett’s best offensive team during his tenure at Virginia: freshman point man London Perrantes.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Notre Dame

London Perrantes has Virginia’s offense rolling and the team sitting near the top of the ACC (credit: usatodaysports)

While Tyler Ennis has garnered most of the freshman point guard accolades in the ACC this season, Perrantes can make an argument he’s just as vital to his team’s success as his Syracuse counterpart. He is averaging 4.8 assists per game in conference contests, but more impressively his assist-to-turnover ratio is an astounding 4.2 to 1. Like Ennis, Perrantes is lauded for his calm demeanor under fire and an innate ability to set and maintain his team’s preferred tempo regardless of opponent. Part of the reason the team is scoring at its current clip is because Perrantes is doing a tremendous job protecting the ball as well as knowing when to get the team out in transition (traditionally a rarity for Bennett’s squads). Virginia struggled while the young point guard was getting acclimated to the college game, but with him now firmly entrenched as the starter at the position, this team runs at a much more efficient pace.

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Morning Five: 01.31.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 31st, 2014


  1. When we found out that Larry Brown was headed back to college basketball two years ago we never would have imagined that he would be toiling in such obscurity. Sure, Southern Methodist is not exactly a basketball hotbed, but he is still Larry Brown–possibly one of the ten best basketball coaches ever. While Brown might not be getting much attention at Southern Methodist it certainly is not due to a lack of success because it seems like he has turned the program around (not counting Tuesday’s surprising loss at USF). Southern Methodist may only being on the bubble at this point, but we would love to see Brown back in the NCAA Tournament if only for the idea of him getting to coach against another legend.
  2. Notre Dame forward Austin Burgett was released from the hospital yesterday after undergoing a procedure to treat an irregular heartbeat he noticed during the team’s game against Florida State on January 21. Burgett reportedly underwent an ablation for an undisclosed arrhythmia and although the school is calling this a “common, non-life threatening procedure” given all of the issues we have seen with arrhythmias in sports (in particular college basketball) we could not help but be worried for Burgett when we heard about his condition initially. According to the school, they will monitor Burgett’s recovery before making a decision on when he will return to the court.
  3. We have heard endless talk about the NBA potential of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and a few top prospects. What we have not heard much about is what NBA scouts think of the next tier of prospect. Jason King spoke to three NBA scouts about several of the more intriguing underclassmen and for the most part their comments were fairly critical. Of course, that doesn’t mean that several of these players would not be drafted in the first round (you need 30 players to fill the 30 spots), but it does show you where these guys fall short if you did not already know.
  4. In this week’s edition of his Power Rankings, Luke Winn has his usual treasure trove of statistics and advanced metrics, but the two things that jumped out at us were his breakdown of the play of T.J. McConnell and Tyler Ennis as the distributors for the top two teams in the nation and just how remarkable efficient Jabari Parker has been in the post. The numbers for McConnell and Ennis are not particularly surprising (we knew they were very good), but the McConnell’s equitable distribution and the way Ennis has stepped up against better competition was eye-opening. As for Parker, we were surprised at how efficient he is in the post, but that might be due to how diverse his game is.
  5. Speaking of Arizona and Syracuse (and Wichita State) we are reaching the point in the season where people are starting to talk about the possibility of a team going undefeated. We are also at the point where we are starting to get our annual barrage of articles talking about how a team would be better off losing a game. We have never bought into this theory and we doubt that any player or coach would admit to it. Certainly there is another degree of pressure later in the season when you are undefeated, but it seems hard to believe that there would be any additional pressure in the NCAA Tournament.
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Rushed Reactions: #2 Syracuse 59, #22 Pittsburgh 54

Posted by mpatton on January 18th, 2014


Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Pittsburgh is worthy of a higher ranking. With no great non-conference wins and that horribly slow loss to Cincinnati, there was good reason to question whether the Panthers deserved their advanced statistical love. But they played Syracuse even on the road, even owning a lead in the final three minutes. But even more impressive was that the Panthers took the lead after trailing by double figures in the second half. It’s not a secret at this point: Lamar Patterson is a special player and may be frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year if he keeps up the pace.

    Tyler Ennis got to the rim to seal Syracuse's victory. (credit: Dick Blume / Syracuse Post-Standard)

    Tyler Ennis got to the rim to seal Syracuse’s victory. (credit: Dick Blume / Syracuse Post-Standard)

  2. Syracuse isn’t going undefeated in the ACC. The Orange might be perfect at home when it’s all said and done, but their late game rebounding is a huge concern. Pittsburgh missed a lot of foul shots and layups, and still almost won the game at the Carrier Dome. Someone will get hot from beyond the arc and torch Syracuse on the offensive glass. Even more importantly, the Orange only played seven players, and every starter logged more than 29 minutes. Jerami Grant, CJ Fair and Tyler Ennis each played the entire 40 minutes, which could cause problems if the Orange get in foul trouble.
  3. Syracuse’s interior length bothered Pittsburgh on offense. Part of the problem is that the Panthers’ front line doesn’t have a lot of height. But multiple times Pittsburgh ended up having to force a jumper late in the shot clock because a guard was met by Rakeem Christmas or Baye Keita in the paint. That said, Talib Zanna had a couple of really good offensive possessions operating near the elbow, and finished with an efficient double-double.

Star of the Game: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse. Ennis scored six of Syracuse’s last eight points to close the game, including the big shot to retake the lead. He finished with 16 points (a team high) on eight shots with three assists and one turnover in just shy of 40 minutes. Jim Boeheim made it clear after the game that they opened the floor (keeping CJ Fair and Trevor Cooney on the wing) to let Ennis work. That’s a lot of responsibility for a freshman, but you never felt like Ennis was rattled. Even when Pittsburgh deflected his pass late in the second half, he stayed calm and got it back.

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Five Key Questions as Pittsburgh Heads to the Carrier Dome with Something to Prove

Posted by Matt Patton & Lathan Wells on January 18th, 2014

In anticipation of the new marquee ACC match-up this afternoon at 4:00 PM EST, microsite columnists Matt Patton and Lathan Wells ask each other the tough questions. Somehow, we only mention CJ Fair once.

Can anyone disrupt Syracuse's diaper dandy? (credit: Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports)

Can anyone disrupt Syracuse’s diaper dandy? (credit: Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports)

LathanTyler Ennis has proven to be a freshman beyond his years at the point, with a demeanor that belies his class. Can anyone disrupt him defensively and thus help stymie what Syracuse wants to do on offense?

Matt: Calling Ennis a surprise is disingenuous because everyone expected him to be really good. People just didn’t him to be this good this quickly. He’s made the offense more efficient by replacing Michael Carter-Williams, the current NBA Rookie of the Year front-runner. But Pittsburgh will likely try to make the freshman uncomfortable by sealing off the lane with face-guarding on the perimeter.

Pittsburgh has some of the best ball movement in the country (seventh nationally in assists per field goal made). How will Syracuse’s zone combat it?

Lathan: In short, the zone makes ball movement the key to staying in the game. Syracuse’s length across its lineup forces teams to keep throwing the ball around the perimeter and causing teams to hurry late in the shot clock to get a good shot. Establishing a solid high-low option is probably the key to having some sort of success on offense.

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