ACC Weekend Review: 01.07.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 7th, 2019

All the favorites held serve on the first weekend of conference play around the ACC. On Saturday, the league’s co-favorites each won handily at home, as Virginia took care of Florida State and Duke routed Clemson. Two other ranked ACC squads were also successful – North Carolina blitzed Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech bested Boston College. The weekend was incredibly devoid of close games, with no outcomes among the group decided by single digits. Here are the highlights from (the real) opening weekend around the ACC.

Kyle Guy was on fire Saturday as Virginia dominated Florida State. (John Markon)
  • Best Win: By dominating Florida State from start to finish, defending league champion Virginia served notice that the ACC regular season title race still runs through Charlottesville. A final score of 65-52 was not indicative of the complete beatdown that the Cavaliers administered on Saturday afternoon – the Seminoles scored the last 16 points of the game to make it look better than it actually was. Up until that point, Tony Bennett’s defense had held high-scoring Florida State to just 36 points over 38 minutes of play. Junior sharp-shooter Kyle Guy was red hot (5-of-6 from deep), leading the Cavaliers with 21 points, including 18 in the opening half.
  • Worst Loss: With no upsets occurring over the weekend, we’re going with Notre Dame’s home loss to Syracuse, 72-62. The Irish looked good early, leading by 10 points at one point, but Syracuse rallied behind sophomore transfer Elijah Hughes, who posted a career high 22 points on 6-of-13 three-point shooting. Mike Brey’s two freshman guards had a tough time in their first look at the Orange’s lengthy zone defense, as Prentiss Hubb and Dane Goodwin combined for just four points on 1-for-10 shooting. With its thin roster, Notre Dame can’t afford to drop too many home games if the Irish hope to have a chance at postseason play.
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2018-19 RTC16: Week Seven

Posted by Walker Carey on January 7th, 2019

Winning conference road games is difficult — it always has been and always will be. #8 Kansas and #11 Nevada were reintroduced to that notion on Saturday, with both top-10 teams falling hard in hostile road environments. The Jayhawks’ loss at Hilton Coliseum to a strong #15 Iowa State squad was not necessarily surprising — the Cyclones closed as a two-point favorite — but it was the way in which Bill Self‘s group faltered that raised some eyebrows around the country. Kansas finished the 77-60 defeat with an astounding 24 turnovers while also hitting just six of their 20 three-point attempts, while usual standout performers Lagerald Vick and Dedric Lawson combined for just 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting. The weekend went from bad to worse for Kansas on Sunday when Self announced that big man Udoka Azubuike — who was sidelined in Saturday’s loss — will miss the remainder of the season with a hand injury. Nevada’s loss was more unexpected, as the Wolf Pack dropped an 85-58 laugher to a New Mexico team that entered the contest with a paltry 7-6 record. Eric Musselman‘s team suffered through an uncharacteristically poor offensive outing — shooting just 33 percent from the field — and it let a 12-point halftime deficit balloon to the final margin with a no-show second half. Standout forward Caleb Martin had a particularly brutal evening, finishing with just eight points on 2-of-14 shooting. It was a rough weekend for these two teams, but knowing college basketball, a majority of the other top squads will also stumble on the road at some point over the balance of the season. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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ACC Conversation: Pre-Conference Edition – Part 2

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24), Mick Mcdonald (@themickmcdonald) on January 4th, 2019

Rush the Court ACC microsite writers Brad JenkinsMatt Auerbach and Mick McDonald recently got together to chat about the ACC heading in to conference play. Here’s Part 2 of that conversation.

Justin Robinson has guided Virginia Tech into contender status in the ACC. (accsports.com)

Brad Jenkins: Can Florida State or Virginia Tech crack the top three in the ACC? They both look like solid clubs, but are they being overlooked?

Matt Auerbach: I like both teams, and they deserve to be ranked inside the top 10 nationally. But I don’t believe that either will elevate above the aforementioned three squads when the league plays out.

Mick McDonald: Both definitely could, although I like Buzz Williams’ club a bit more. They are lethal offensively with so many guys who can light it up, and they play really hard on the defensive end. Their schedule has been light so far, so I’m very much looking forward to some bigger opportunities coming up shortly. Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Justin Robinson can make an argument for best backcourt in the country and Kerry Blackshear is a match-up nightmare.

Matt Auerbach: Truthfully, there’s no denying both belong inside the top 10 based on merit, but I don’t view either as a legitimate threat to make a Final Four without some unusual breaks falling their way.

Mick McDonald: Agree with Matt. These two are rightful top 10 teams, but the ACC is just so loaded that could mean finishing fourth or fifth.

Matt Auerbach: If forced to choose one team over the other, I’d definitely lean towards the Hokies because of the backcourt. With a guy like Robinson surrounded by elite shooters, they can be impossible to stop if they get rolling.

Brad Jenkins: My only concern with the Hokies is that they are so reliant on great shooting. I’m just not sure how they can beat good teams on off shooting nights. I actually think Florida State may be better now that Phil Cofer is back in the lineup, but the Seminoles tend to not always progress very well through league play. Let’s move on to some surprise teams. Are NC State and Louisville legit?

Mick McDonald: I think NC State is legit in terms of a lock NCAA Tourney and potential second weekend team. Kevin Keatts is proving himself as one of the best young coaches in the country — that team looks like a nightmare to prepare for.

Matt Auerbach: Well, you saw the Pack in person, Brad, and your bird’s eye view confirmed what we had been seeing from afar. NC State is the real deal. Balanced, explosive, efficient and great chemistry makes for beautiful offensive basketball and that’s what Keatts’ team has going right now.

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ACC Weekend Preview: December 15 Edition

Posted by Mick McDonald on December 14th, 2018

Although the basketball slate has been very light during finals week, there are several intriguing ACC match-ups coming our way on Saturday. Rush the Court ACC microsite writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) previews your Saturday. (all rankings via KenPom)

Saturday, December 15

Roy Williams Will Be Ready for Gonzaga Saturday Night (USA Today Images)
  • #87 Old Dominion at #16 Syracuse. The Orange have won five straight games since back-to-back losses at Madison Square Garden last month, but they still have legitimate concerns on offense. Most pundits thought the return of Tyus Battle and the addition of transfer Elijah Hughes, along with freshmen Jalen Carey and Buddy Boeheim, would result in an improved three-point shooting team this season. They’ve been anything but, however, making just 29.0 percent (308th nationally) from long-distance. Luckily, Syracuse, as usual, boasts the 10th-best defense in the country, anchored by 7’2” center Pascal Chukwu (87.0 DRtg, 15.8% blk), who makes it very difficult to finish around the rim. Jim Boeheim‘s group will be tested by a very solid Old Dominion team that is led by two senior guards. Ahmad Caver (18.5 PPG, 5.1 APG, 23.1 PER) is one of the top point guards in the country and B.J. Stith (18.0 PPG, 8.8 RGP, 23.8 PER) is as tough a two-guard as you’ll find anywhere. This pair certainly won’t be intimidated by a raucous atmosphere in the Carrier Dome.
  • #27 NC State vs. #42 Penn State. This game will take place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and offers a great opportunity for NC State to pick up a quality win over a Big Ten team. So far the Wolfpack have played only two games against top 100 opponents, with a neutral court win over Vanderbilt their lone victory. Kevin Keatts’ offense has been led by point guard Markell Johnson (12.2 PPG, 4.2 APG, 72.9% eFG), who is the engine that makes the uptempo offense go. That offense will face a top-10 Nittany Lions’ defense on Saturday. NC State likes to play small-ball, but it will have to be ready for Lamar Stevens (20.1 PPG), Penn State’s go-to option with a 30.2 percent usage rate.
  • #11 Virginia Tech vs. #52 Washington. How about an ACC double-header in AC this weekend! Virginia Tech will follow behind NC State, a team that of which it is very similar: Both clubs have fantastic offenses that have feasted against mostly inferior competition. To get another notch in its growing belt this weekend, Buzz Williams’ team will need to light up the Washington zone from long-distance. The Hokies are shooting 44.9 percent (fourth nationally) from long-range, with every playing averaging at least 20 minutes per game converting at 40 percent or better. When a team shoots the ball that well, they want to avoid turnovers to get up as many shots as possible. This means that point guard Justin Robinson needs to improve on his 21.3 percent turnover rate if the Hokies hope to make a run in the ACC.
  • #6 Gonzaga at #7 North Carolina. This Saturday evening tilt has a chance to be the best game of the entire non-conference slate. Gonzaga has already played a pair of classics with Duke and Tennessee (splitting), but both of those contests were on neutral courts. The Chapel Hill crowd should be fired up to provide an amazing atmosphere for a mid-December college basketball game. Given how deep both of these teams are, it will be fascinating to see how they match up with each other. Will we see five-star freshman Nassir Little (96.1 DRtg) or senior Cam Johnson (95.1 DRtg) defend Gonzaga star Rui Hachimura (26.5 PER & 121.9 ORtg)? Will star freshman point guard Coby White, who missed the Tar Heels’ last game with an ankle injury, suit up? Can Luke Maye get any shots off around the rim with Brandon Clarke (94.3 DRtg, 11.9% blk) lurking nearby? If you are a college basketball fan and aren’t watching this game, what are you doing instead?

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Eight ACC Takeaways From the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 30th, 2018

This year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge was full of tight games that came down to the wire, so it was fitting that the event ended in a deadlocked 7-7 tie. In fact, 10 of the 14 games were decided by two possessions or fewer, with the Big Ten coming out ahead in six of those nail-biters. Below we offer takeaways from the event for eight ACC squads — four of which came out winners and four of which came out losers.

Louisville Shows Some Toughness

Louisville celebrates a gutsy home win over Michigan State. (Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal)

It appears that Chris Mack’s plan to restore toughness to the Louisville program may already be ahead of schedule, as the Cardinals proved very resilient in Tuesday’s 82-78 overtime victory over Michigan State. After watching a nice lead evaporate late in regulation, Louisville responded well in the extra session behind Ryan McMahon’s career game (24 points, 12-of-13 FT). Tough teams get to the free throw line often and nobody’s better at that aspect of the game right now than the Cardinals.

Key Stat: Louisville made 30-of-41 free throws against the Spartans. Season FTA% = 65.5% (#1 nationally).

Frank Howard is Important to Syracuse

With Frank Howard on the sidelines with an injury, Syracuse struggled mightily from the perimeter in its first four contests. That was particularly true for Orange starters Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett and Elijah Hughes, who together connected to make only 11-of-56 shots from behind the arc. With Howard now back in the lineup, Jim Boeheim’s guys suddenly have found the range — Battle, Brissett and Hughes combined to make 7-of-15 shots from deep in Syracuse’s 72-62 win at Ohio State on Wednesday.

Key Stat: Syracuse shot 11-of-24 (45.8%) on three-pointers against the Buckeyes. In its first four games without Howard, the Orange converted only 20.5 percent.

Virginia Gets Offensive

For the second time in Virginia’s last three outings, Tony Bennett’s celebrated defense was subpar – Maryland managed to score 1.18 points per possession (PPP) in the Cavaliers’ 76-71 road win on Wednesday evening. That’s a number that was topped by just one Virginia opponent last season — UMBC posted 1.19 PPP in last March’s historic upset of the Cavaliers. Virginia beat its old ACC rival by outscoring them, using hot shooting from deep (45.5% 3FG) and tremendous ball security.

Key Stat: Virginia with only two turnovers. Season TO% = 11.7% (#2 nationally).

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ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Tuesday Preview

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 27th, 2018

After Monday’s games, the 2018 Big Ten/ACC Challenge is tied with a pair of surprising results — Nebraska won at Clemson and Boston College outlasted Minnesota. ACC microsite writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) previews tonight’s heavy slate of action. (All rankings via KenPom as of Tuesday, November 26.)

Clemson Gave up a Home Game Last Night Against Nebraska (USA Today Images)

  • #16 Virginia Tech at #38 Penn State. Buzz Williams has another terrific offense brewing this season in Blacksburg. The Hokies currently rank seventh in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and are making 41.4 percent (26th nationally) of their shots from long distance. They’ve also gotten the start of a breakout season from sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker (29.8 PER, 60.6% eFG). Their hot shooting will be tested tonight by a Penn State defense that is allowing its opponents to make just 22.9 percent (fourth nationally) of their attempts from three-point range. While excellent on the perimeter, Virginia Tech lacks size and could be vulnerable to Nittany Lions forward Lamar Stevens (26.6 PER, 24.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG).
  • #95 Illinois at #52 Notre Dame. Mike Brey’s club currently ranks just 51st in offensive efficiency, which is an odd sight to see. The last time a Brey team finished outside the top 50 in that category was all the way back in 2004-05. Part of the struggles this season have laid at the feet of T.J. Gibbs, the expected star of this team who has shot just 32.4 percent from the field and 21.1 percent from three-point range. Notre Dame will need to make some shots tonight to get a win, as the Illini feature a talented young backcourt of sophomore Trent Frazier (17.6 PPG, 58.3% eFG) and freshman Ayo Dosunmu (14.5 PPG, 57.6% eFG).
  • #8 Michigan State at #58 Louisville. Hello, Jordan Nwora. It hasn’t taken long for the talented Cardinals’ sophomore to break out this season, already the team’s leading scorer (18.4 PPG) despite coming off the bench. Nwora (29.4 PER, 57.6% eFG) is not simply a scorer, however. He’s posting a 27.8 defensive rebounding percentage and his turnover percentage is much improved this season despite more usage. While Nwora is actively turning into an ACC star, the Cardinals still have issues on the defensive end. They’re allowing opponents to shoot 43.8 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from long distance. They’ll have a tough task scoring tonight against Michigan State (eighth in KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency).

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ACC Feast Week In Review

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 26th, 2018

It was a mixed performance by the 11 ACC squads that saw action in early season tournaments over Feast Week, as three league schools took home titles but five preseason top-25 ACC teams fell to lower-rated clubs. Below we will review some comparison statistics with the other five major basketball conferences as well as some of the ACC’s best and worst team performances from the last 10 days.

Unlike last November when the Big 12 dominated Feast Week play, things were more balanced this year, with some interesting conference-related takeaways: After a rough opening week of the regular season, the Big East (best record against other Power Six conferences) bounced back nicely in tournament action; the SEC (no titles) may not be nearly as strong as many had us believe; and the Pac-12 (overall losing record) is clearly a notch below the other Power Six leagues this year. Up next are some of the highs and lows involving ACC squads last week.

THE BEST

Three Tournament Titles for ACC Teams.

  • Virginia Tech – Charleston Classic. The Hokies captured the ACC’s first tourney championship with an 89-83 comeback win over Purdue. Emerging star Nickeil Alexander-Walker led the way, as the sophomore guard averaged 22.0 PPG on 55.1 percent shooting over the three games. Senior point guard Justin Robinson more than held his own against Purdue All-American Carsen Edwards in the title clash. Robinson finished with 23 points and six assists, leading Buzz Williams‘ club back from a 12-point second half deficit.
  • Boston College – Ft. Myers Tip-Off. Although the competition in Ft. Myers, Florida, was not stellar, Jim Christian’s squad deserves credit for two fairly comfortable wins. The Eagles took out Wyoming, 88-76, behind Ky Bowman’s 38-point explosion, and followed that up by holding Loyola (Chicago) to 0.87 points per possession in a 78-66 victory over last year’s surprise Final Four school.

De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome celebrate Virginia’s Battle 4 Atlantis title. (@UVAMensHoops)

  • VirginiaBattle 4 Atlantis. The Cavaliers’ vaunted defense struggled in their semifinal win over Dayton last week, allowing the Flyers to score 1.08 points per possession (PPP), but things were quickly back to normal for Tony Bennett’s pack-line D in Friday night’s championship tilt against Wisconsin. The Badgers only managed to post 0.79 PPP in Virginia’s 53-46 triumph. Sophomore De’Andre Hunter led the way with 20 points and nine boards in the title game, and the Cavaliers may have found some unexpected perimeter depth in the form of 5’9″ freshman Kihei Clark. Bennett inserted Clark into the starting lineup in the title game to spark his defense, and Clark responded with five defensive rebounds and three steals in 37 minutes of action.

THE WORST

Five Ranked ACC Teams Lost as Tournament Favorites.

  • Syracuse – 2K Classic. Granted, the Orange were without injured guard Frank Howard last week but no one expected them to get worked like they did in Madison Square Garden two weekends ago. Syracuse struggled mightily with perimeter shooting (11-of-50 3FG) in their two games, and even Jim Boeheim’s famous zone defense was ineffective, allowing both Connecticut and Oregon to top 80 points — something that only one of Syracuse’s opponents managed to do in regulation last year.
  • Clemson – Cayman Islands Classic. The Tigers were solid favorites in this event but couldn’t contain Creighton’s T-Shon Alexander in the championship game. Alexander exploded for 36 points in the Bluejays’ 87-82 win, torching Brad Brownell’s squad from deep (seven threes) and from the foul line (11-of-11 FT). Surprisingly, seniors Marquise Reed and Elijah Thomas were extremely careless with ball, combining for 12 of Clemson’s 19 turnovers in the championship bout.
  • Duke – Maui Invitational. So much for that crazy idea that the Blue Devils would go unbeaten. After dispatching #8 Auburn in the semifinals, Duke ran into an offensive machine in the title game. Gonzaga made 10 of its first 15 three-point attempts while racing to an impressive 16-point second half lead. Mike Krzyzewski’s young squad made a furious comeback to earn a chance to win but couldn’t convert with the game on the line and fell to the #3 Zags, 89-87. Duke missed all seven of its field goal attempts in the game’s final minute, which included an 0-for-5 effort from R.J. Barrett.
  • North Carolina – Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. Texas once again played the spoiler role as the Longhorns hung on to defeat North Carolina, 92-89, in the opening round in Las Vegas. The Tar Heels were unable to contain Texas guard Kerwin Roach, who erupted for 32 points on 12-of-15 shooting. Surprisingly, Roy Williams is now 1-7 versus the Longhorns as the Tar Heels’ head coach. His team avoided a disastrous trip by rallying to beat UCLA, 94-78, in Friday’s consolation game.
  • Florida State – AdvoCare Invitational. The Seminoles entered Sunday’s title game with Villanova averaging 82.7 points per game, but they allowed the Wildcats to control tempo and lost a low scoring affair, 66-60. Leonard Hamilton’s crew was fortunate to be playing in the championship game, rallying from nine points down in Friday’s semifinal game with LSU to force overtime. The Seminoles eventually won, 79-76, when Mfiondu Kabangele rattled in a corner three with less than a second to go in the extra period.
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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part I Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 15th, 2018

morning5_ACC

Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings. All times are Eastern.

  1. Myrtle Beach InvitationalWake Forest (#101) tipped off the ACC’s early season tournament action with a loss this morning, taking on St. Joseph’s (#90) in the first round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational and folding in the second half by a score of 89-69. On Friday, the Demon Deacons will play the loser between UCF (#74) or Cal State Fullerton (#132). West Virginia (#14) is the prohibitive tourney favorite in this event, being the only team in the field rated among KenPom’s top 70. Danny Manning‘s team figures to be in some close games during the rest of the weekend, and winning a couple of tight games in Myrtle Beach would be a huge confidence boost for Wake’s young players.
  2. Charleston Classic: Virginia Tech (#31) also had an early tip time today, knocking off Ball State (#99) in the first round of the Charleston Classic. The Hokies will likely see Alabama (#56) in Friday’s semifinals (1:30 PM), giving Buzz Williams’ club a chance for some payback — recall that the Crimson Tide knocked Virginia Tech out of last season’s NCAA Tournament in a first round meeting. In the other half of the bracket, Purdue (#16) looks like the most likely school to reach Sunday evening’s title game (ESPN2 – 8:30 PM). With seven top-100 KenPom teams in Charleston, the Hokies have a chance to grab some nice resume-building wins this weekend, and they may need them because the rest of their non-conference schedule is rather soft.
  3. 2K Empire ClassicSyracuse (#8) heads to Madison Square Garden tonight for the 2K Empire Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project. The Orange will meet their old Big East rival Connecticut (#97) in tonight’s opener (ESPN2 – 7:00 PM) with Oregon (#19) and Iowa (#38) squaring off in the nightcap. The two winners will meet in Friday night’s championship game (ESPN2 – 6:30 PM). So far this year, three-point shooting has been horrendous when Syracuse plays — at both ends of the floor. The Orange are only converting 18.2 percent of their deep tries, and Syracuse’s opponents are not much better in sinking just 22.0 percent from behind the arc. A Syracuse-Oregon championship game would probably be the nation’s best match-up of the week. The Ducks would provide a stiff challenge for Jim Boeheim’s zone, having made 43.8 percent of their three-point attempts in two blowout wins last week.
  4. Gotham Classic: This is a non-traditional event in which the games are all pre-scheduled. Notre Dame (#51) has already hosted two games as part of the event, beating Illinois-Chicago (#190) on November 6, and suffering an upset to Radford (#158) last night. Next up for Mike Brey’s club are home games with William & Mary (#150) this Saturday (ACCN – Noon) and Duquesne (#165) on Tuesday, November 20 (ACCNE – 7:00 PM). In years past, this event wrapped up with a game in Madison Square Garden, but apparently this particular field of teams was too weak to make that happen. This event is unlikely to boost the Irish’s NCAA resume, but Notre Dame’s upcoming schedule will take care of that. The Irish’s next five games are against top-80 KenPom teams from power-six basketball leagues.
  5. Barclays Center ClassicPittsburgh (#120) is also not participating in a traditional winner-advance tournament this season, instead opting for four pre-scheduled games as part of the Barclays Center Classic. On Monday, the Panthers beat Troy (#163) in their first game of the event. Next up for Jeff Capel’s squad are a pair of home match-ups with directional schools – Central Arkansas (#289) tonight and North Alabama (#336) on Saturday. The main event will take place in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, where Pittsburgh will meet Saint Louis (#81) on Wednesday, November 21 (ACCNE – Noon). A win over the Billikens would indicate that Capel is ahead of schedule as he rebuilds the Panthers’ once proud program. It could also help him reestablish a strong presence in New York City, which was once a very fertile recruiting spot for the program.
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ACC Conversation: Preseason Projections – Part 2

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 6th, 2018

Rush the Court’s ACC microsite writers Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24) and Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) recently got together to chat about the upcoming 2018-19 season and share their thoughts on all 15 ACC schools. Here’s Part 2 of that conversation. Part 1 can be found here.

Justin Robinson returns to lead Virginia Tech after being a Second Team All-ACC selection in 2017-18. (AP Photo)

  • Brad Jenkins: Let’s discuss Florida State. I was a little surprised at ACC Media Day to hear Leonard Hamilton and his players talk about coming up short last year — as if the Elite Eight wasn’t good enough. That impressed me (if they really believe it). How good can the Seminoles be this season?
  • Mick McDonald: I think they are being overrated somewhat thanks to the NCAA Tournament run. They’ll be solid — Leonard Hamilton teams usually are. They’ve got good depth and guys like Terrance Mann and Phil Cofer (when he returns) who are proven ACC players, and a guy in MJ Walker who could be in for a breakout year. But I see them much more as a solid sixth-eighth place team versus one that can compete for the league title.
  • Matt Auerbach: Which is essentially what they were a year ago. But we tend to remember how teams finished and apply our expectations based upon that. I think Florida State will be good, in fact better than a year ago, but that puts the Seminoles at around 11-7 in the league.
  • Brad Jenkins: Florida State does have a pretty decent ACC schedule, as the Seminoles will play the bottom four teams on the road, which could help them place higher than expected. Buzz Williams did a good job last year of hiding Virginia Tech’s size disadvantage by going to a pack-line defensive philosophy. Can the Hokies get away with that again? It feels like this is the year that Buzz has been building for.
  • Mick McDonald: Count me all-in on Buzz. I think you can make an argument the Hokies have the best backcourt in the league with Justin Robinson and Nickeil-Alexander Walker. Chris Clarke is a poor man’s Jae Crowder from Williams’ awesome Marquette teams, and they have a few other guys who shoot the lights out. I have them fourth in the ACC and a borderline top-10 team nationally. If Kerry Blackshear can stay out of foul trouble, this team can beat anyone. (Editor’s note: This conversation took place before Wednesday’s announcement that Clarke had been suspended indefinitely from the Hokies’ squad.)
  • Matt Auerbach: Agreed. I love Robinson and that’s a great comp for Clarke. Ty Outlaw can also really shoot it. Blackshear is the X-factor here. When he plays well, this team will be nearly impossible to deal with in Blacksburg and will be able to compete with anyone on the road.

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Projecting Five ACC Breakout Players

Posted by Mick McDonald on October 25th, 2018

You know the returning stars and you know all about the five-star freshmen who are set to make their debuts. Today we present five ACC players who we believe will be household names around the conference by March.

Can Aamir Simms continue the promising finish to last season following Donte Grantham’s injury? (Al Bello/Getty Images)

  • Aamir Simms, Clemson. A back-end top-100 prospect coming out of high school, Simms was a project last year. In his first 17 games, he mostly saw action in garbage time. But when star forward Donte Grantham tore his ACL on January 20 at Notre Dame, Simms was a different player. Over his last 17 games, the bulky forward shot 48 percent from the field and made 39 percent from three-point range in becoming a key cog of the Tigers’ attack. With an experienced backcourt that excels in ball screen action returning, look for Simms to continue to emerge as one of the best pick-and-pop stretch forwards in the ACC this season.
  • Jordan Nwora, Louisville. Last season at Louisville was a mess from the very beginning (you may have heard about this whole Brian Bowen situation). A group of talented veterans never really meshed under interim coach David Padgett, but because they logged such heavy minutes, the Cardinals’ underlying freshman class never really got a chance to show what it could do. The wing Nwora played just 12.0 MPG last season, but he shot almost 44 percent from long distance and logged a stellar 61.2 percent eFG in ACC play. With new head coach Chris Mack taking over, expect Nwora to become his go-to bucket-getter.

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