RTC Live: Wake Forest @ Boston College

Posted by nvr1983 on January 14th, 2009

Thanks to the good folks at the BC athletic department we will be trying our first ever live game blog that actually occurs at the game.

– I’m sitting courtside right now (actually 2nd row) across from the Wake bench.
– Wake goes up 2-0 on a tough lay-up by James Johnson.
– Great play off the alley-oop from Al-Farouq Aminu. Going to the line for the old-fashion 3-point play.
– Should be a good match-up between Tyrese Rice and Jeff Teague tonight.

Teague Splits the BC Defense

Teague Splits the BC Defense

– Wake up 10-2 and BC calls a timeout. Crowd is pretty quiet right now. I guess that’s what happens after watching your team lose to Harvard and Miami back-to-back.
– Nice spin move by Corey Raji to get the crowd back into it and Rice follows with a 3. Rakim Sanders going to the line.
– Rice gets stripped again and Aminu leads the break before dishing off to Teague who finishes. I’ve been impressed by Aminu’s handle so far. Much better than I expected.
– Teague and Aminu head to the bench. Let’s see if BC can capitalize and cut into the lead here.
– Wake is really struggling to get into its offense without Teague and Aminu.
Dino Gaudio appears to be reading my mind or my laptop and signals for both guys to head to the scorer’s table.
– Rice just got run over there leading to a steal and a Wake Forest fast break. The crowd is less than pleased with the officiating so far.
– Rice with a big 3 to get the crowd back into it.
– Aminu goes behind his back and dishes to Gary Clark for the easy layup. Aminu has been ridiculous so far.
– Wake with another alley-up. That has to at least be a half a dozen just 15 minutes into the game. Isn’t Al Skinner telling his guys to stay with their men?
– Teague and Rice both have 10, but Teague has been much more efficient in doing it. Teague is totally dominating Rice right now. Teague is making a case to be 1st team All-ACC and possibly All-American.
– Wow. The new BC head football coach has been sitting in front of me the entire time and I had no idea. I wonder what kind of contract he had to sign after the Jagodzinski fiasco.
– Wake gets bailed out after an ugly possession before the half. The Demon Deacons go into the break with a 47-24 lead.
– Just had a discussion with a BC official about how he doesn’t like the flex offense they run. I told him I don’t care what type of offense you run as long as it doesn’t look as bad as BC’s tonight. I wonder if I am going to get invited back. Maybe I should keep those thoughts to myself. . .
– Nice alley-oop by Rice to Reggie Jackson pulling the Eagles to within 19. The crowd goes wild. . .
– I wonder if anybody calls Reggie “Mr. October”. Great nickname for baseball not so much for college basketball. . .
– Another 3 by Rice pulls BC back to 16. They can’t possible make this a game. Can they?
– Teague almost threw down a nasty dunk. That might have gotten press row out of its chairs.
– Things getting physical now. An altercation between Rice and L.D. Williams. What’s Rice doing getting involved with L.D. Williams?
– Rice is out of the game for BC. I think this is the first time all night. I wonder how long Skinner will rest him.
– Rice is already standing up next to the BC assistant coach.
Chas McFarland has been having a solid if quiet game and gets into double figures with that tip in.
– BC cuts it to 13 with 9 minutes left. How are they still in this game?
– Offensive foul on McFarland. BC ball now with a chance to cut it to 10.
– Huge 3 by Rice to cut it to single digits and the crowd erupts. Could we have a “Rush the Court” situation at RTC’s first game as a “media member”?
– Errant pass by Rice. He is a great scorer, but sometimes I question his decision-making. He’s thrown a couple awful alley-oops tonight.
– Strong finish by Teague bumps the lead back up to 14 and quiets the crowd.
– Rice needs to step up here.
– And he does with a nice driving lay-up.
– It looks like it is going to be Teague vs. Rice to finish the game off tonight.
– The crowd is heading to the exits with the Eagles down by 14 with 3:23 left.

The BC Student Section Didn't Have a Lot To Cheer About

The BC Student Section Didn't Have a Lot To Cheer About

– Teague just sealed it with a 10-foot runner in the lane to put Wake up by 15 with 1:30 left.
– “Let’s go defense!” chants from the crowd down by 15 with 50 seconds left.
– Teague with the exclamation point dunk and now Aminu with an alley-oop in the last 30 seconds. Not going to say it’s classless, but I don’t think BC appreciated it. Rice said something to Teague after his dunk.
– Well that’s a wrap for our first live blog at an actual game. Let me know what you think since I’ll be at the Miami-UNC game on Saturday night. Feedback, suggestions, and criticism are all welcome.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.14.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 14th, 2009

Set Your Tivos

Game of the Night
#8 Syracuse at #12 Georgetown, 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: It’s hard to believe that these two powerhouses are only the 3rd and 4th highest ranked teams in their own conference. [Calm down ACC folks. I realize that you have 4 teams ranked ahead of Georgetown, but the ACC doesn’t even come close to the Big East in terms of depth. Look for the next ACC team in the top 25. There are none.] Looking at these teams, I still have a hard time believing that the Orangemen can compete with Pittsburgh, UConn, or Georgetown if all of those teams are playing up to their potential. However, Jim Boeheim has his team playing solid basketball and is one miracle 60-footer away from being undefeated (or at least being in OT to stay undefeated). Syracuse has been able to do this despite the distraction created by the suspension of Eric Devendorf for assaulting a female student as noted extensively here at RTC. Boehiem has been able to do this thanks to solid play from Jonny Flynn (seen below getting away with the most blatant charge that wasn’t called that you will ever see) and Devendorf (when not interacting with the co-eds) on the perimeter and Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku on the inside. The embarrassingly weak early schedule (SOS: 56th in the nation) has certainly helped the Orangemen have a gaudy record.

Tonight the Orangemen will face their first true test against the Hoyas on the road. Unlike Syracuse, Georgetown has already faced a difficult schedule (SOS: #2 in the nation behind only 6-10 Oregon) including 3 brutal games in the Big East (road games at Connecticut and Notre Dame and at home against Pittsburgh). While the Hoyas lack the depth inside (or thugs according to JT2), they will have the most talented player on the court playing for them on the inside in Greg Monroe who has shown glimpses of brilliance this year. Having seen him in person at the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving Break, I can definitely see why he has NBA scouts drooling, but at times he appears too passive at times to dominate games. While neither Harris nor Onuaku can match Monroe’s talent, it will be interesting to see if he can match their intensity the entire game. The other key match-up will be how DaJuan Summers, Chris Wright, and Austin Freeman do against Flynn and Devendorf on the perimeter although I’m not sure how John Thompson III will utilize Summers if Boeheim opts for his patented 2-3 zone. I’m not sure what to make of his experiments with man-to-man, but I would venture that he will go with the more familiar now that he is finally playing some solid teams. I’m guessing that Georgetown has too much talent, the home court, and experience from playing actually competition to lose this game. Syracuse should be able to keep it close until the final 5 minutes when the Hoyas should pull away.

Others to Watch
#2 Duke at Georgia Tech, 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This has trap game written all over it. Duke just came off a win at FSU, which has shocked Duke several times this year, and the Blue Devils have a nationally televised showcase at Cameron against the aforementioned Hoyas on Saturday. Georgia Tech is mediocre enough (9-6) that the Blue Devils may overlook them, but just talented enough that they could shock Duke particularly since the game will be played at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The key thing to watch here will be how the Yellow Jacket bigs–Gani Lawal (16.8 PPG and 10.0 RPG) and Alade Aminu (13.5 PPG and 9.4 RPG)–do since interior play will continue to be Duke’s Achilles’ heel (except when they go 3 for their first 27 from 3-point range). If Lawal and Aminu can dominate inside against Kyle Singler and Brian Zoubek, Paul Hewett just may be able to pull out the win.

#3 Wake Forest at Boston College, 9 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: RTC will be at this game (look for the male equivalent of Erin Andrews typing away on his keyboard) to bring you the latest scoop on Wake Forest, the most intriguing team in college basketball. Even after the Demon Deacons win at BYU to end the Cougars nation-leading 53 game home winning streak, there remained a healthy skepticism of Dino Gaudio‘s young squad. However, after they held off everyone’s national title favorite UNC people have really started to come around on this team (I don’t think their rise of 1-2 spots in the polls reflects the magnitude of the change in perception). On the other hand, Boston College may be the most confusing team in the nation. After pulling off one of the bigger upsets of the season (and ending the media’s speculation of an undefeated season for UNC), the Eagles followed it up with a loss at home against Harvard and then to Miami. While the loss to Miami (preseason #17) is excusable, the loss to the Crimson isn’t. Wake will try avoid a letdown similar to the one BC had by relying on Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and Al-Farouq Aminu. Teague will likely be guarded very closely after his explosion against UNC. Wake also hopes to get a big contribution out of Chas McFarland, who was last seen outsprinting Ty Lawson down the court for a crucial lay-up on Saturday. If the Eagles are going to rebound for their back-to-back defeats, they will need a huge game out Tyrese Rice along with solid contributions out of Joe Trapani and Corey Raji. Much like the Duke-Georgia Tech game, this is one to watch to see if the favorite is looking ahead to their next game, which is also a monster match-up for Wake (against undefeated Clemson).

#21 Baylor at Texas A&M, 9:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: A match-up of two lightly regarded teams with impressive records (13-2 and 14-2, respectively). These two teams are my pick to compete with Kansas for the #3 spot in the Big 12 this year. Baylor appears to have recovered from the Dave Bliss fiasco and comes into the game with a top 25 ranking. They have done this with their entire starting 5 averaging double figures, but the unquestioned leader of this team is Curtis Jerrells who will need to have a big game tonight to get a win on the road. Looking through their results so far, I’m having a hard time finding any good wins. A win at College Station would mean a big jump for the Bears in the eyes of the voters. I think a lot of people forget just how good Texas A&M was last year. They were one blown call against UCLA away from potentially forcing OT in the Sweet 16. The Aggies will rely on a balanced attack with Josh Carter, Donald Sloan, Bryan Davis, and Chinemelu Elonu to try and defend their home court.

#24 Michigan at Illinois, 8:30 PM on The Big Ten Network: It looks like a year after his program looked like it was going implode after the Eric Gordon recruiting disaster, Bruce Weber has his team headed in the right direction. Tonight he will try to avenge one of the Fighting Illini’s 2 losses (the other was by 2-points to undefeated Clemson). This should be a close game as the Wolverines won by 10 at Ann Arbor a little over a week ago. Outside of the big guys from each team (Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims for Michigan and Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey for Illinois), my player to watch tonight is Alex Legion, who has shown signs of becoming a big-time scorer since his mid-season addition to Illinois after his transfer from Kentucky.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.10.09 & 01.11.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 8th, 2009

Set Your TivosSet Your Tivos is back with a loaded schedule. It looks like the NCAA is kicking the season into full swing this weekend with that pesky little college football sport and its antediluvian method of determining a champion out of the way, we can all focus on what’s really important.

NC State at #11 Clemson on Raycom Sports and ESPN Full Court: The Wolfpack will be looking to hand the Tigers their first defeat. Just based on history, I don’t have a lot of faith in Clemson and it looks like the pollsters don’t either. I don’t think this is a particularly interesting game based on the teams playing (especially when you look at the other games you can watch in this time spot), but keep an eye on this one particularly around the end when you could see a team fall from the ranks of the unbeatens.

#21 Louisville at #17 Villanova on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Will Edgar Sosa’s resurgence lead more disgruntled college coaches to adopt the Rick Pitino method of motivation? Pitino will need Sosa, Earl Clark, and Samardo Samuels at the top of their game if he wants to go into Philadelphia and get Louisville its first quality win of the year. Jay Wright will counter with Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds as the Wildcats hope to return to form after 2 rough games on the road. We’ll be interested to see if Louisville can ride the momentum off their big win over Kentucky to finally play up to the form that we expected them to earlier in the season.

We're big fans of Original Recipe
We’re big fans of Original Recipe

#22 West Virginia at #15 Marquette on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Honestly, I don’t know if any Big East team is going to be able to make it out of the conference with less than 4 losses. The scary thing is that both of these top 25 teams will struggle to go 8-8 in the conference this year. After a tough loss to Connecticut, the Mountaineers travel north to face the Golden Eagles. Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler will need to outplay Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal, and Lazar Hayward if they hope to get a road win, which will be a rarity this year in the Big East.

1 PM
Kansas at #12 Michigan State on CBS: Tom Izzo has his Spartans playing well after some early struggles. Does anybody want to work out a comparative score about how bad Harvard would beat Michigan State? Bill Self will rely on the inside-outside combo of Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins if he hopes to steal one in East Lansing. The key to this game will be how Collins does against Kalin Lucas. If Collins can outplay Lucas, don’t be surprised if the Jayhawks extend their impressive recent run including a win over Tennessee.

2 PM
#2 Duke at Florida State on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This could be  potential letdown game for the Blue Devils after their win over Stephen Curry and Davidson on Thursday. [Yes. Curry played well. Much better than he had in previous BCS games, but I don’t buy the starting PG, 18-20 PPG as a rookie, and NBA superstar stuff that ESPN was trying to stuff down my throat. I’ll post more on this in the near future.] I’m sure that Coach K will remind his team that the Seminoles have knocked off heavily favored Duke teams several times in the past few years (I attended the most shocking of these upsets). I would normally say that Duke should win this type of game without any problem, but with the recent history of this “rivalry” I wouldn’t be too short of anything. As usual with Duke, watch the officials closely.

7 PM
Miami (FL) at #24 Boston College on ESPNU: As we earlier wrote this week, we have no idea what to make of the Eagles. Beat UNC then lose to Harvard the next game. The Hurricanes have been winning all the games they are expected to, but they need to start winning some of the tougher games on their schedule if they want to live up to their preseason top 25 ranking or even make the NCAA tournament. This game will likely come down to a showdown between Jack McClinton and Tyrese Rice. Well that and whether BC decides to show up for this game.


St. John’s at #1 Pittsburgh on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: The Red Storm are coming off a shocking victory over Notre Dame. I don’t really think they should pose much of a challenge to the #1 team in the country, but momentum has a funny way of affecting games like these that shouldn’t be competitive. The Red Storm lost Anthony Mason Jr (son of that Anthony Mason) three games into the season, but have a balanced attack with 4 players averaging between 10.1 and 13.0 PPG. As you’re aware (since you visit this site), the Panthers aren’t quite as balanced, but Sam Young and DeJuan Blair may be one of the best 1-2 combo in nation. Look for this one to be closer than you would expect.

Junior could use some help from daddy this weekend.
The Red Storm could use some help from Junior and daddy this weekend.

1:30 PM
Wisconsin at #14 Purdue on CBS: After years of bashing the Big 10, it looks like the conference is slowly making a comeback. The problem they have now is that they have a lot of solid teams, but no great teams (with the possible exception of Michigan State). After a big win over Michigan at Crisler last weekend, the Badgers go into Indiana looking to pull off another upset. I’m guessing most people will probably be watching the NFL playoffs around this time, but keep this one on “Recall”, “Last”, or whatever function your remote has so you can flip back and forth between the games.

8 PM
#3 UNC at #4 Wake Forest on FSN: Without question, the biggest game of the weekend features the experienced Tar Heels going into Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum to face the extremely young  Demon Deacons. I don’t think there is much to say about the Tar Heels, but here’s a brief summary: Tyler Hansbrough hustles and pulls in the ladies; Ty Lawson is fast, inconsistent, and shouldn’t be let near a car; and Roy Williams wears goofy ties and has a tendency to make comments he wishes he could take back. Oh yeah, they also ball with the President Elect. The Demon Deacons are still kind of an unknown to most of America, but with their win at BYU (ending the Cougars NCAA-leading home winning streak at 53) may be our first glimpse at how good this team could be in the very near future. Al-Farouq Aminu may get the headlines nationally, but be sure to watch for Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and Chas McFarland who are all at least as important to Wake as Aminu is. A win here could be big for Wake in getting a high seed in the NCAA tournament. I’d like to take Wake here, but I think the BC game may have woken up the Tar Heels who may have been buying into the hype that was being thrown their way (definitely not from us).

10:30 PM
#7 UCLA at USC on FSN: The Bruins have quietly rebounded from a couple of close, early-season losses to roll off 8 straight wins (against admittedly weak competition). The Trojans have been inconsistent with some solid wins followed by some horrible losses (Oregon State). This will be one of our East Coast offices first good looks at the Pac-10, which only has two top 25 teams currently. There are a couple of intriguing aspects in this game. How has Darren Collison  adjusting to not having Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook? How is Demar DeRozan adjusting to college hoops and is he legit? Do teenage girls still love Lil’ Romeo? If any of these mysteries interest you or you want to see one of the better crosstown rivalries in recent years, we recommend you tune in at the end of a long weekend. If none of that interests you, tune in to see what Jordan Farmar was complaining about.

0.5 PPG

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ATB: So… Harvard > BC > UNC, right?

Posted by rtmsf on January 8th, 2009

afterbuzzerHow is This Humanly Possible? Harvard 82, Boston College 70. In one of the biggest transitive property sequences we’ve ever seen, Harvard, a school who had never in its illustrious basketball history defeated a ranked team, went to BC and knocked off the newly-ranked Eagles a mere 72 hrs after those same Eagles had gone into the nation’s #1 team, North Carolina, and knocked them off.  Sure, this kind of scratch-your-head stuff happens every year to a certain extent.  But rarely is it in back-to-back games, and even more rarely is the difference in talent so great in the larger of the two upsets (according to Sagarin, BC was #40 in America; Harvard #247).  Of course, we know that the transitive property doesn’t work in basketball, but it’s fun to talk about.  What’s also fun to talk about is the word “letdown,” and BC may have redefined the word by completely failing to show up for a crosstown rival that its second team should be able to handle (esp. love the cheerleader angle below on the video).  Credit is due to Tommy Amaker’s crew, who took advantage of an opportunity to catch an ACC team sleepwalking – the Crimson took the lead 19-17 with 7:32 remaining in the first half, and never lost it again, even extending into the 12-16 pt range deep into the second half.  Jeremy Lin was the story, dropping 27/8/6 stls, and perhaps signaling to the rest of the Ivy League that Amaker’s influx of talent will be heard from this season.  As for BC, Tyrese Rice, who was outstanding against Carolina, had a quiet 14-pt foul-out game.   In the long run, this game won’t hurt BC too terribly much if they reboot and have a good ACC slate (8-8 or better, for example).  But if they go 6-10 or even 7-9 in conference, this could end up being a bubble knockout game for the Eagles.

Curry Watch. Duke 79, Davidson 67. This game wasn’t as close as the floor, but we do have a few points to make about this one.  First of all, the announcing trio of Tirico/Jackson/Van Gundy was soooooooooooooooooooo much better than it would have been listening to Dickie V. chortle about Curry and K, Duke and Carolina, Roy and Dean, and various other interludes for two hours.  Secondly, COMPLETE AGREEMENT with Van Gundy and it took an NBA guy to point it out, but the charge call in the NCAA (perfected by Duke) where a player stands underneath the rim waiting on a driving player to run into him has got to end.  College basketball needs the NBA block/charge semi-circle, we’ve been saying it for years – it would put an end to that gimmicky nonsense and avoid penalizing players who make fantastic drives to the rim without running through someone (standing under the basket Battier-style does not qualify).  About the game, Stephen Curry was cold early, made some shots late, and turned the ball over a lot (but he still ended with 29/8/6 assts to go with his 7 tos).  Davidson isn’t as good as they were last year, but heck, they lost all these type of games in the pre-conference season in 2008 too, so we won’t write them off  for a March run just yet.  Other than that, we’ll have to respectfully disagree with Mark Jackson’s assessment of Curry’s game as a PG – we’re more in concert with SVG’s thoughts – great shooter who has questionable decisionmaking skills.  For Duke, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer had twin 22-pt games.

Overtime Madness. There were two games tonight that went into OT and, in both cases, the home team outplayed the visitor for the majority of the contest, only to be shocked by furious comebacks which led to OT losses for Indiana and Tennessee.

  • Gonzaga 89, Tennessee 79 (OT). This game probably shouldn’t have gone into overtime, as Matt Bouldin’s final shot in regulation should have counted due to a missed goaltending call where a UT player’s hand went up through the net and into the rim as the ball flew over the goal.  Thanks, Jay Bilas.  Nevertheless, Tennessee’s porous defense caught up with them tonight and ended their 37-game homecourt winning streak, as they allowed Gonzaga to get off the schneid and pull out a key road victory thanks to 53% shooting and Bouldin’s 26/4/5 assts.  Austin Daye added 20/8, but more importantly for the Zags, they held UT to only 36% shooting, their worst home performance since late in the 06-07 season.  Does this mean that the Zags we saw a month ago – the ones who played defense – are back?  Obviously, it’s uncertain, but at least they appeared to be interested in the concept tonight.  Or maybe they just know how to play Tennessee.
  • Michigan 72, Indiana 66 (OT). We’ll give credit to Tom Crean’s kids – they’re playing extremely hard.  They just don’t have the kind of talent to hold good teams down when they wake up and realize they’re down 20 pts to an inferior squad, as Michigan did in the second half tonight.  We were sure this was going to be an L for the Wolverines when we saw the early score, but Manny Harris, Laval Lucas-Perry and DeShawn Sims (49 pts combined) didn’t allow that to happen.  UM improves to 2-1 in the Big Ten.

Edgar Sosa Watch and Other Interesting Things.

  • Louisville 71, S. Florida 57. Tonight’s Edgar Sosa Watch: 5-9 for 12 pts.  Verdict: not invited to transfer after this road win for the Cards.
  • Syracuse 85, Depaul 68. Andy Rautins hit five threes to continue his hot streak over the last few games (25-44).  Cuse’s main six players all scored between 12-17 pts.
  • Providence 87, Cincinnati 79. If PC is going to make a run at an at-large, it’s games like this on the road that they have to win.  The Friars are now 3-0, but they’ve played three of the four bottom-feeders in the league so far (St. John’s and Depaul in addition to Cincy).
  • Morgan St. 66, Maryland 65. Horrendous home loss to a MEAC team (albeit probably the best one in that conference).  Very rough night for the ACC.
  • Marquette 81, Rutgers 76. Rutgers is making it known they’ll not be a pushover in the RAC this year.  Wes Matthews was perfect from the field (10-10) for 23/6 in a game where MU had to hold on down the stretch despite having a 21-pt lead earlier in the second half.
  • Wisconsin 74, Northwestern 45. UW moved to 3-0 in the Big 10 in an easy home win over the Wildcats (now 0-3).
  • UNC 108, Charleston 70. Carolina rebounded from its first loss of the year with a huge second half against Charleston, putting all five starters into double figures (led by TH’s 24/7, of course).
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ATB: #1 Goes Down as BC Flies Like an Eagle Over UNC

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2009


We felt tonight’s ATB of #1 UNC losing to Boston College deserves its own post.

Robert Willett/Raleigh News-Observer)

#1 No More (photo credit: Robert Willett/Raleigh News-Observer)

Boston College 85, UNC 78. It’s conference season, isn’t it?  In just the last seven days, we’ve now had the consensus way-better-than-everyone-else teams (UNC and UConn for those of you just tuning in) lose to conference foes.  At home.  In games where neither appeared to be the better team.  There was considerable talk in the last couple of weeks of the likelihood of Carolina going undefeated this season, and we always sorta rolled our eyes when we heard such talk.  There are several reasons for this:

  • First, it just doesn’t happen.  A hunted team like Carolina simply will not bring its A+ game every single night, no matter how good they are or how faux-slighted they feel (and how slighted can you feel when you’re being told how great you are at every turn?).  There are always a couple of games where that team will come out flat or fail to properly motivate because their press clippings have gone to their head.
  • Second, while this UNC team is stacked relative to the rest of college basketball this season and remains the prohibitive favorite to win the national title in April, the level of talent of their individual players simply isn’t so otherworldly ridiculous that other teams can’t play and compete with them.  As evidence here, we saw what Kansas with its two lottery picks (one actual and one shoulda-been) did to them in the first half of last year’s F4 game (40-12), and much of the reason behind this year’s hype is because all of UNC’s players returned to school, and the reason for THAT is that none/zilch/zero/nada would have been lottery picks had they entered  the NBA Draft last spring.  Put simply, nobody in college basketball is so talented that they can play half-assed  or have a bad game collectively and still win every game.
  • Third, Carolina plays in a conference like the ACC, and leagues like that are simply too good on a yearly basis to allow teams like UNC to run roughshod over them.  There are exceptions – we know Duke in 1999 went 16-0 in that league, and more recently, Kentucky went 16-0 in the SEC in 2003, but those teams had already lost a pre-conference game(s) so there wasn’t nearly the same pressure that an unbeaten #1 will face throughout the conference slate.  The only possibility for an unbeaten team in today’s early-entry NCAA basketball environment is something akin to what Memphis was able to do last year or UNLV in 1991 – roll through its vastly inferior conference unbeaten and (for the most part) untested.  The problem is that scenario tends to catch up with those teams during March Madness, as both of those teams in that example learned.

So what happened tonight?  It’s simple and it’s the same problem that Carolina had last year.  Their offense is unmatched by anybody in the country, but their defense sometimes takes nights off.  Against the 68th toughest schedule to date, the UNC offense is the second-most efficient offense in America, but only the 18th most efficient defense.  Most of that ranking is attributable to Carolina’s ability to force turnovers (4th in the nation), but the Heels simply don’t get enough stops  from their halfcourt defense – it ranks 60th at defending twos and 81st at defending threes – not exactly national-title defensive numbers there.  (To be fair, last year’s Heels were even worse defensively, but UNC’s schedule will only get tougher from here on out, which should negatively impact those numbers.)

Robert Willett/Raleigh News-Observer)

Let's Hope For His Sake He Didn't Get a Ticket After All (photo credit: Robert Willett/Raleigh News-Observer)

Tonight BC never flinched, shooting 45% from the field and hitting nine threes in the Dean Dome, led by Tyrese Rice’s 25/5/8 assts (who continues his torching of Carolina with 91 pts in his last three games against UNC) and Rakim Sanders’ 22/6/7 stls.  BC not only got the lead in the first half (no big deal), but they held on to as UNC repeatedly got it down to two and even in the last few minutes as BC predictably went cold and UNC made its last-ditch efforts.  Carolina didn’t help itself, though as the Heels were ice cold, especially in the second half (29%) and even more especially Ty Lawson (3-13), and the typically excellent Tar Heel free throwers (#13 nationally at 75%) only managed 5-12 in the last 8 minutes and 15-27 for the game.   Perhaps most importantly, the Heels only forced BC into 10 turnovers, and it was clear that this was something head coach Al Skinner had drilled into his players’ heads, realizing that TOs are the kindling that fuels the UNC attack.

But BC was not to be denied tonight, and #1 goes down, only slightly spoiling the juicy UNC @ Wake matchup scheduled for next weekend.  Whether BC uses this win as a springboard to a surprising season remains to be seen, as its only truly bad loss thus far was at St. Louis, but for tonight they are the giant-killers and the Eagles should be commended for taking it to the vaunted Heels in their house.  Come Monday morning, we’d expect to see BC ranked for the first time in a couple of years, and that gasp you hear from western Pennsylvania has nothing to do with the Steelers – rather, it’s Jamie Dixon’s team prepping itself for it’s school-first #1 ranking in the AP Poll.   College hoops, you gotta love it.

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ACC – Big 10 Challenge Preview

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2008

If you haven’t heard, the ACC – Big 10 Challenge starts continues tonight!  We were certifiably swamped yesterday with catch-up, so we’ll sorta forget that the Wisconsin v. Virginia Tech game already happened (brought to you by Trevon Hughes), and spend a few minutes taking a sideways glance at the tonight’s slate of games.


The Challenge is usually an exercise in futility for the Big 10 (0-9 all-time), but we think this year they have a shot (just a shot, mind you) at pulling off a 6-5 upset for the first time in the history of the event.  Remember, thanks to Wisconsin, the league already has a 1-0 lead in one of the key tossup games.  We expect the league to come out of tonight at 3-3 (possibly 4-2) with two home games left.

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ATB: Turkey Weekend Wrapup

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2008


And we’re back… We hope that our fair readers had a luckier Thanksgiving weekend than we did.  Due to substantial computer issues, we were unable to keep the site updated over the weekend.  But we managed to watch a fair number of the multitude of games this weekend, so rather than recapping what has effectively become stale news, we’ll instead offer our observations.

What We Learned.

Old Spice Classic.

  • Maryland is equally as likely to pull a major upset as to lay a gigantic egg (beating Michigan St. by 18, then losing by 22 to Gonzaga and 27 to Georgetown).
  • Michigan St. isn’t going anywhere without a healthy Delvon Roe/Goran Suton and learn to make its FTs (49-84, .583 for the tourney).
  • A Gonzaga team that actually defends (with a healthy Josh Heytvelt) is a dangerous one.  Oklahoma St., Maryland and Tennessee shot 36.7%/29% against the Zags.
  • Georgetown is going to be dealt with.  With tremendous balance between their inside/outside players, the Hoyas should only get better as the year (and Greg Monroe) progresses.
  • Tennessee is far and away the best team in the SEC, and the Bobby Maze experiment at PG appears to be working (so far).

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ATB: Memo to Arizona Players – Time and Score, Gents

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2008


As usual, we’ll start with some news from today…

  • The nation’s #1 shooting guard, Xavier Henry, announced to the world on Sportscenter during the 24HoCH that he will attend Memphis next season.  His brother, CJ Henry, is already a Tiger.  This is very good news to Calipari, who watched his team clank three after three last night (2-19) in their game against UMass, because Henry’s range easily extends out to 22 feet.  Additionally, it shows that for elite guard prospects, Memphis has become the NBA stopover de rigeur.
  • The 2012-16 Final Fours will be chosen from these ten locations tomorrow: Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, North Texas, Phoenix, San Antonio and St. Louis.  North Texas?  Is that supposed to mean Amarillo?  Texarkana?  Paris?
  • Finally, this guy over at USA Today has nothing on our John Stevens liveblog of the 24HoCH.
  • Oh, and Steve Lavin changed his haircut.

Game of the Night. UNC 77, Kentucky 58.  It wasn’t the GOTN in terms of play on the court, but it was definitely the game with the most attention (as it should be, given the historical importance of the two programs).  What was striking was just how overmatched Kentucky looked against Carolina’s defense.  Every pass was an exercise in precariousness, as UK often simply looked as if they were trying to hang onto the possession rather than actually running a play to score the ball.  UNC forced 17 turnovers in the first half, 28 for the game, and it honestly felt like more than that.  Part of the blame is on Kentucky’s huge gaping achilles heel – the lack of a competent point guard – but UNC clearly had a gameplan to cover those passing lanes and keep the ball away from UK’s only consistent scoring threat, Patrick Patterson.  Patterson ended up with 19/11, but that was mostly in the second half after the game was well in hand.  You may ask why we thought a game that was largely played in a 12-18 point range was ‘well in hand,’ but it was patently obvious to anyone watching that UK simply couldn’t put together enough good offensive possessions to make a serious run against the Tarheels.  Thing is, we didn’t feel that Carolina was all that great offensively.  They shot only 41% from the field, led by Deon Thompson’s 20/9, but their offense wasn’t as fluid as we would have expected from a team returning so many pieces.  Of course, we realize two starters are out injured, one of whom you may have heard of before.  When Carolina gets to full strength again, bad news for the rest of the ACC and the nation – Roy may indeed have his best team since his 2005 national champs.  For some further thoughts, check here for the UNC viewpoint and here for the Kentucky one.

Upset of the Night. UAB 72, Arizona 71. Very mild upset, but beating Arizona at home still qualifies.  An extremely entertaining game, it had one of the more bizarre endings you’ll ever see.  Is Russ Pennell already on the hot seat at Arizona?  A few more unconscionable mental lapses by his players in late-game situations and he will be.  UAB had blown a 14-pt second-half lead when Arizona rebounded a FT miss and put it back in to tie the game with 0:27 left.  That’s when freshman Kyle Fogg inexpicably decided to foul a UAB player!  Keep in mind that the game was TIED.  Clearly he had forgotten that minor fact.  So a timeout ensues and then UAB predictably goes to the line and misses the front end of the 1-and-1.  Arizona misses a contested shot, UAB gets the rebound, and this time, Jamelle Horne (a sophomore) chases down Paul Delaney III and INTENTIONALLY FOULS him at 0.8 seconds as he’s running upcourt.  AGAIN, THE GAME IS STILL TIED.  Delaney hits one free throw and effectively finishes a game that should have been going to overtime.  Are the Arizona players this dumb or is Pennell not telling them to keep the score in mind while they’re playing??? (be sure to check John Stevens’ liveblog comments on this here)  Chase Budinger played solidly, leading Arizona with 27/5, while Jordan Hill came off the bench for 13/22.  UAB’s Robert Vaden had 20, including four of their thirteen threes, in the winning effort.  UAB now moves on to MSG to play Oklahoma next Wednesday night.

NIT Action.

  • Oklahoma 82, Davidson 78. How ridiculous is Steph Curry?  He had an off night (12-29 FGs) and he still dropped 44 on a good Sooners defense designed exclusively to contain him.  Does anyone not enjoy watching this kid play?  Just as soon as he throws up a tired, forced jumper that goes wide left by three feet, he’ll turn right around and drop a 25-footer right in someone’s grill.  This seems to be the Davidson MO – play major conference teams tough on the road in Nov/Dec, then beat them at neutral sites in March.  As for Oklahoma, the Griffin boys combined for 41/27, but really we just have one question – what’s going on with Blake Griffin’s eyes?  He looks more crosseyed than Stuart Scott at a Carolina sorority party, but his game doesn’t seem affected by it.  OU actually had a 21-pt lead with 12:53 remaining, but they were able to hold on largely because of great foul shooting (26-31).  Oklahoma will bring the Griffin dunking show to MSG next week, where they will play UAB.


  • Purdue 78, Loyola (IL) 46. All you really need to know about this game is that it was 40-14 at halftime.  We’re sure Loyola was content to leave the NIT with its upset over Georgia in tow, but Purdue is a really good team.  E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell led the way with 14 and 13 pts, respectively, but it was a solid team effort from the Boilers, placing five guys in double figures.  Purdue will play BC on Wednesday night.
  • Boston College 82, St. John’s 70. The Johnnies won’t get two more games at “home” in MSG next week, after losing to BC, who we are officially adopting as one of our surprise teams in the ACC this season.  The addition of Vermont transfer Joe Trapani (19/4/3 blks) has really improved this team, which already had an all-conference performer in Tyrese Rice (28/5/9 assts).

Midnight in the Garden of Memphis and Moraga. Ok, actually 11pm tipoffs locally in both places, but the ESPN 24HoCH kicked off last night with two entertaining games, and not one BCS school was involved!  Check JS’ liveblog of these games, but these were our thoughts.

  • St. Mary’s 99, Fresno St. 85. In a last-minute moment of clarity, we actually threw caution to the wind and drove over to this game last night.  God, how great would it be to go back to college??  Patty Mills was typically awesome, but his show-stopping speed didn’t come through live as much as we thought it would.  He was still money, though, going for 27/5/6 assts with 19 of those points coming in the first 17 minutes of the game.  St. Mary’s played well, but they were never able to completey finish off Fresno – their defense and shot selection looked a little suspect at times.  Diamon Simpson didn’t have his best game, but he still ended up with a dub-dub (10/10) and a couple of nasty blocks in the interior.  St. Mary’s will be heard from this season.  The play of the day week month year decade century millenium epoch occurred halfway through the first half, when Fresno’s Paul George (25/10) took one hard dribble from the right wing and seemingly cocked his arm back into the 1980s before throwing a hellacious dunk over everyone on earth.  Seriously, the entire arena breathlessly gasped for air after that throwdown.  We’ve attended hundreds of games in our life – mostly college, but some pro – and that dunk ranks in the top three we’ve ever seen in person – it was utterly superbulous.

  • Memphis 90, UMass 68. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.  The bricks thrown up in the first ten minutes of this game rivaled anything we’d seen in a while (see shot chart below – bricks are in red font).  Maybe it was the combined 7-43 (16%) three-point shooting that put us in a bad mood, but we got so fed up with this game that it inspired us to make the drive to Moraga instead of watching the second half.  Things heated up in half two, at least for Memphis, who were led by Antonio Anderson’s 15/12/5 assts.  The Tigers began pulling away from UMass on the basis of continued poor shooting by UMass, and eventually Memphis’ athleticism and size put down the Minutemen.  It says something about Memphis in that they were able to win so convincingly despite only shooting 39% for the game, only hitting two threes and getting outrebounded.


Other Games of Interest.

  • Georgia 61, E. Michigan 60. Dennis Felton saves his job for another day.  The Dawgs were down by as many as 11 pts in the mid-second half before rallying to nip the Eagles
  • Baylor 90, Centenary 55. Baylor hit an absurd 64% in a romp over Centenary.  JS in the liveblog had a lot of good things to say about the Bears.
  • USC 73, New Mexico St. 60. Taj Gibson had 22/10/5 blks to lead the Trojans to a 2-0 star.  Demar DeRozan had a disappointing night with 7/6.
  • Ole Miss 89, South Alabama 71. Ole Miss rallied from the bad news that it had lost its best defender today (Eniel Polynice) by pulling away from South Alabama, led by David Huertas’ 27 pts.
  • San Diego 65, Nevada 51. USD’s Rob Jones led the way with 23/5 on 10-12 shooting, and teammate Gyno Pomare had 12 pts in his first game back.  Nevada freshman Luke Babbitt had 20/12 in his debut.
  • Indiana 60, IUPUI 57. For what it’s worth, Tom Crean has already earned his salary by going 2-0 this year.
  • Gonzaga 80, Idaho 46. We swear we saw a score on the bottom line that said Gonzaga 17, Idaho 1.  Things did not improve.
  • Tennessee 91, UT-Martin 64. We were excited to see Lester Hudson in this one, but UT held him in check (20/4/5 assts on 7-22 shooting).  Backup center Brian Williams dropped 21/12 on the visitors.
  • Syracuse 76, Richmond 71. It took everything Syracuse had to avoid the upset at home, but starting backcourt Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf combined for 49/6/7 assts in the game, which was tight throughout.
  • Texas 76, Tulane 51. Damion James with 16/8 as Texas rolled, holding Tulane to 31% shooting and putting five players into double figures.
  • Arizona St. 59, San Diego St. 52. Tough loss for SDSU, as they led much of this game behind Kyle Spain’s 17 pts.  ASU’s James Harden had 18/5 as he keyed his team to a late 18-8 run to win the game.

On Tap Wednesday (all times EST).

  • Wake Forest (-18) v. UNC-Wilmington – 7pm
  • Villanova (-19) v. Niagara (ESPNU) – 7pm
  • Butler (-15) v. Ball St. – 7pm
  • Michigan St. @ IPFW – 7pm
  • Auburn v. Mercer – 8pm
  • UIC (-5.5) v. N. Iowa (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
  • Alabama v. Florida A&M (ESPN FC & 360) – 9pm


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ATB: Quiet Before the Storm

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2008


News & Notes. We’d like to take a moment at the beginning of tonight’s ATB to honor former Cal head coach and legendary big man guru Pete Newell, who died today at the age of 93.  He led Cal to its only national championship in 1959, won a gold medal as the US Olympic team coach in 1960, and was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1979.  Although he was before our time, we’ve heard the stories of his legend and he is considered one of the most influential figures in basketball history.  May he rest in peace.

pete-newellPhoto Credit:  LA Times

Game of the Night. UAB 64, Santa Clara 61. We’re throwing some love to the mid-majors tonight with this one, but we expected this game to be a dandy, and it was.  Santa Clara led most of the game, but UAB made a valiant comeback in the second half to tie the game with three minutes remaining and held on to win   Robert Vaden had 23/9 and Paul Delaney III had 20/5 for UAB, who didn’t get much production from anyone else.  SC’s John Bryant had a huge 17/15 performance, but it wasn’t enough.  In an interesting sidenote, the game tipped off with 100 people in the stands at the McKale Center in Tucson.  People are really excited about basketball in Arizona right now.

Upset of the Night. Oakland 82, Oregon 79 (OT). We really feel like you could throw Ernie Kent, Mark Gottfried, John Brady, Dave Odom, and a few others into a jar, shake them up and let them float to any school in America, and you’d end up with the same mediocre programs wherever they land.  Not much was expected from the Ducks this year (heck, ATQ doesn’t even have commentary on the game yet), but they could usually count on their home court for the push to win most of their OOC games.  No longer.  Oakland’s Johnathan Jones dropped 32/7 on the Ducks, (10 in OT, including the decisive bucket with seven seconds left) who were outshot from the floor by their visitors (43% to 39%).  Joevon Catron (13/11) and Michael Dunigan (15/10) both contributed double-doubles in the losing effort.  So far, the Pac-10 is not looking too impressive.

Preseason NIT Action.

  • Davidson 99, James Madison 64. Stephen Curry is just ridiculous.  33/9 assts/4 stls on 14-19 shooting.  The Wildcats got off to an 11-0 start and never looked back.  They’ll face Oklahoma tomorrow night.
  • Oklahoma 94, Miss. Valley St. 53. This OU team has looked scary in two games thus far.  Blake Griffin dominated inside, with 20/19/6 stls.  MVSU more than doubled its output from Saturday night against Wazzu, but they looked completely overmatched in this game.
  • BC 90, Loyola (MD) 57. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani led the Eagles with 20/4 as Tyrese Rice came back from suspension to contribute 16/6 assts.  BC might be better than people were thinking, folks – they will play Cornell in round two.
  • St. John’s 86, Cornell 75.  The Johnnies, led by Anthony Mason Jr.’s 24 pts, held off a late Cornell rally that had cut the lead to 80-75.  Cornell was led by Ryan Wittman’s 25/4.
  • Purdue 87, E. Michigan 58. Purdue shook off a slow start to go on a 26-6 run to put this game away by the mid-first half.  E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell combined for 35/8/8 assts in the win.  Purdue will play Loyola (IL) next.
  • Loyola (IL) 74, Georgia 53.  Let’s just go ahead and fire Dennis Felton right now and avoid this lame duck nonsense for the next four months.
  • Arizona 75, Florida Atlantic 62.  Get used to this – Budinger, Wise and Hill scored 52 of Arizona’s 75 points tonight.  The Wildcats never really pulled away from FAU – we remain unconvinced.  UAB will beat this team tomorrow night.

Big East Tuneups.

  • Marquette 106, Chicago St. 87. Are teams hitting the century mark more often this year?  Wesley Matthews led Marquette with 26/9/3 assts, but new coach Buzz Williams was largely disappointed with his defense for allowing 51 second-half points to Chicago St.
  • Villanova 107, Fordham 68. Wow, Dante Cunningham absolutely dominated the interior (31/11) as Villanova rolled up Fordham, shooting a blistering 58% with all five starters reaching double figures.
  • Georgetown 71, Jacksonville 62. Freshman center Greg Monroe’s debut at Georgetown went well (14/7), even though the Hoyas struggled to put away Jacksonville.  Georgetown needs to shore up their three-point shooting (5-23), but their defense was typically solid, holding Jax to 35% for the game.
  • Pittsburgh 82, Miami (OH) 53. Miami head coach Charlie Coles gave the nod to Pitt as the better team between the Panthers and UCLA at this juncture in the season.  Levance Fields is just so important to this team, getting 12/12 assts as every starter reached double figures.
  • Connecticut 99, Hartford 56. With 14:30 to go, this was a three-point game.  UConn then went on a late 54-12 run to put this one away.  AJ Price was on the bench for being a knucklehead with a sprained ankle, but Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker both had 21 to make up the slack.  Hasheem Thabeet had a somewhat disappointing 9/8/2 blks.

Other Games of Interest.

  • Xavier 81, Toledo 65. Xavier enjoyed a comfortable margin throughout the second half, but the story of this game was returning MAC scoring leader Tyrone Kent’s 37 pts.  He even went 10-10 from the line – true scorers understand that’s where the easy points are.
  • Austin Peay 86, Belmont 84. Drake Reed’s two FTs with 0.2 showing on the clock sealed a comeback win for Austin Peay over Belmont.  He contributed 24/9 in the win, along with Wes Channels, who put up 25 pts.  AP shot 58% in the second half to come back from 12 down at halftime.
  • Penn St. 74, NJIT 47. NJIT now holds the record for college basketball futility with 35 Ls in a row.  Another 26% FG shooting night.  Can we send them back to D2 now?

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST):

  • 24 Hour Marathon of College Hoops – see separate post here for schedule and times.
  • Indiana v. IUPUI (BTN) – 6:30pm
  • Bucknell v. Boston U. – 7pm
  • Tennessee (-25) v. UT-Martin (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
  • Ole Miss (-10) v. South Alabama – 8pm
  • Texas (-22) v. Tulane (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
  • USC (-16) v. New Mexico St. – 9pm
  • Gonzaga (-27.5) v. Idaho (FSN) – 9pm
  • San Diego (-5.5) v. Nevada (ESPN FC & 360) – 10pm
  • Arizona St. (-3) @ San Diego St. (CBS CS) – 11pm
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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)


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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