Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 6th, 2017
Even though surprises and upsets galore dotted the national landscape on Saturday, the ACC experienced a fairly normal weekend of results. Still, there were some good conference storylines throughout the weekend: Jim Boeheim attained a milestone in his team’shome upset of Virginia; Mike Krzyzewski returned to the sideline following back surgery as Duke held off visiting Pittsburgh; and North Carolina triumphed over Notre Dame in a game that had to be rescheduled to Sunday in the Greensboro Coliseum due to a water crisis in Chapel Hill. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC:
Jim Boeheim celebrates Syracuse’s big win over Virginia, the 1,000th victory of his career. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)
Best Win: Syracuse‘s 66-62 comeback win over Virginia on Saturday was important for several reasons. First, the fourth consecutive victory moved the Orange to a solid 7-4 mark in league play. Next, it also provides another high-quality win that will get them closer to the 10 or possibly even 11 conference wins that will be necessary for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Finally — even though the NCAA doesn’t agree — the 72-year-old Boeheim earned his 1,000th win as a head coach, every one of which came at his alma mater. The Orange were led by freshman Tyus Battle, who finished with a season-high 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting, as they rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to notch the big win. Tony Bennett‘s Virginia teams have only suffered two defeats when leading by double-figures at the half — last year’s Elite Eight loss and Saturday’s defeat.
The Heights: Cool piece from the Boston College student paper doing a deep dive (with GIFs) into the Eagles’ close loss over the weekend at Virginia Tech.
USA Today: Georgia Tech is the ACC’s Cinderella this season — remember, the Yellow Jackets were a favorite to dethrone Boston College from the league’s cellar. Now Josh Pastner‘s team looks very much like it will earn a trip to the Big Dance. USA Today‘s Dan Wolken is more qualified to write on Pastner than most — he spent a number of years on the Memphis beat. While Pastner’s hire was initially greeted with great skepticism, the Memphis job may have just been a poor fit (i.e., no one was going to fill John Calipari’s large shoes there). Georgia Tech’s good start in ACC play may turn out to be a flash in the pan or it could be evidence that Pastner can coach a team to a certain ceiling but struggles with expectations. But now’s hardly the time for negativity.
Raleigh News & Observer: If you’re trying to catch up on the ACC — well, mostly the North Carolina teams — Andrew Carter’s piece is a great place to start. I question the notion that the Tar Heels are the obvious best team — especially since they still have five games against Duke, Virginia and Louisville left on the schedule. Duke may ultimately prove to be smoke and mirrors, but the Cavaliers and Cardinals are every bit as good as North Carolina. The most interesting fact from the piece is that ACC road teams were 21-42 going into Sunday (Duke tallied a win in South Bend, but Louisville and Virginia Tech both protected their home courts after the piece was posted).
WDRB: Is Louisville the best team in the ACC? Maybe (but give me Virginia, which should have beaten Villanova in Philadelphia). The Cardinals’ Donovan Mitchell has been tremendous, but Eric Crawford is right to note that Louisville’s gaudy efficiency numbers are partially the result of poleaxing the bottom of the league. There’s certainly no doubt that the Cardinals are a Final Four caliber team with a bona fide all-ACC star. But if they knock off the Cavaliers in Charlottesville? Then we’re talking.
Syracuse Post-Standard: I probably don’t have to tell you the source, but apparently “some people […] behind the scenes” liken Tyler Lydon to Tom Brady. But fun oral history aside, Tyus Battle‘s recovery of Lydon’s pass on Saturday probably saved Syracuse from a crushing collapse against Florida State. It’s obviously impossible to know, but a turnover there gives Leonard Hamilton‘s team a chance to settle down and cut the deficit to one possession. Don’t worry about the Seminole, though: ACC road games are hard.
EXTRA: In defense of Syracuse‘s court-rushing from a participant. My fiery take is if something is fun and reasonably safe for players, go for it. “Act like you’ve been there before” is for fun-haters.
This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.
Burning Question: How quickly will Andrew White and John Gillon slot into Jim Boeheim’s system?
Tyler Lydon will have help this year in Syracuse. (Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
Can you be a consensus Top 25 team as well as a conference sleeper?This question doesn’t pertain only to the Orange, but because of the deserving press of those two monolithic teams on Tobacco Road, Syracuse is flying under the radar this preseason. It’s not just the perpetual hype machine surrounding Duke and its bevy of one-and-dones or North Carolina following up on its heartbreaking ending. There are legitimate questions about this Syracuse team but you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of teams as talented as Jim Boeheim‘s group. The first question he needs to answer is how to replace the team’s best player and jack-of-all-trades, Michael Gbinije?
Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul, dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where will the top college coaches descend to after their teams finish play this weekend? Most likely Washington D.C., as two top tournaments take place in the nation’s capital — the Gonzaga DC Classic and the National High School Hoops Festival at Dematha High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. While the Gonzaga Classic has tipped things off already, the National Hoops Festival is like a grand prize fight. Some of the top young talent who will be in attendance include top five juniors in Jayson Tatum (No. 1 – 2016) and Thon Maker (No. 4 – 2016), while five-star unsigned seniors Cheick Diallo (No. 8 – 2015) and Antonio Blakeney (No. 22 – 2015) will also showcase their skills at the event. Other notable names include Terrance Ferguson (No. 10 – 2016) and Dennis Smith (No. 7 – 2016), both five-star talents in the 2016 class. Games go on throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday and you can be sure that coaches from everywhere will be stopping by throughout the weekend.
2. Harry Giles: Getting Back To 100%
Before he suffered a torn ACL playing for the Team USA U-16 team in the summer 2013, 6’10” Harry Giles (No. 2 -2016) was without a doubt the top player in his class. At the time, Dave Telep, the head of ESPN college basketball recruiting, noted “What I’m alluding to here is the chance that Giles is that special player — a phenom, if you will. He’s a unique person equipped with the talent, humility, and big-picture view of his game and impact.” After sitting out his sophomore season, Giles was surpassed in the rankings by players such as Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson, but now it seems that he is rounding back into form. During the summer he started for the undefeated U-17 team, averaging 10.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game at what was classified as “90%.” Now, he is the unquestioned leader of Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC) as he looks to lead his team their third state championship in three years. As a freshman, Telep also stated, “In my opinion, everyone else should stop recruiting Giles. If he goes anywhere but UNC, Duke or Kentucky, I’d be shocked. Shocked.” Two years later, those three schools are still battling it out for his services. John Calipari, Coach K and Roy Williams have all made stops to see Giles in action over the past few weeks. Wake Forest and Danny Manning have also made inroads on the local star. Giles has been dominant so far in his junior season, and the young Chris Webber is ready to reclaim his spot as the top talent in the class of 2016. In a recent interview with InsideCarolina, Giles said “I want to go somewhere that’s going to help take you to another level. A place that can help you make your brand bigger. That’s why people go to some colleges – you got John Wall here, Jabari Parker there, [Andrew] Wiggins, they went somewhere to help their brand out.”