CBS Sports and NBC Sports: After Duke lost another game to a very good team after leading most of the game, the popular question is whether or not the Kansas and Arizona losses are reasons to toss Duke out as a national contender. There’s no doubt, the losses bring up some concerns (though my question was “Why did Mike Krzyzewski randomly start playing zone?”). But not many teams are as big and athletic as Kansas and Arizona. Those are tough match-ups for Duke, which is still a young team. It’s not a surprise they struggled. The other story that didn’t get a ton of publicity after the game is how quiet Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon were in the second half for Duke. The backcourt holds the key.
NBC Sports and Tar Heel Blog: Speaking of raising questions, North Carolina didn’t exactly silence its doubters by losing a close game at Roy Williams protege Jerod Haase’s UAB Blazers. The Tar Heels got killed on the boards, and the Blazers concentrated on stopping Marcus Paige with considerable success. Look for Michigan State to key on Paige again this week. Until someone else shows the ability to be the man in his place, there’s no downside. That said, I personally wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tar Heels pull out the win because (1) I have no idea what to think about this team and (2) Roy Williams is Tom Izzo’s kryptonite.
Burlington Times-News: NC State looked significantly better against Eastern Kentucky and showed the ability to score against a zone–albeit a shorter, less athletic one than Syracuse will trot out in ACC play. Promising signs came from Jordan Vandenberg, who set a career high, and TJ Warren, who managed 26 points in the second half. This team is already improving, which is a good sign. To keep up his success on the recruiting trail, Mark Gottfried needs to keep showing player and program development.
Tomahawk Nation: If you haven’t watched Florida State, you should know that Leonard Hamilton’s team looks for real. The Seminoles came a touch-foul away from taking Florida to overtime on the road. Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky looked terrific. The twin sophomore towers kept the game within reach. Ojo in particular is a completely new player. Hamilton is the best coach in the league at developing big men. Last year Ojo looked completely lost. This year, he still has his moments, but is much more confident with the ball and is a terror on the boards. This team is good (much better than anyone predicted), but the next couple years could really be special.
Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs took a look at the hottest ACC teams historically from downtown. Number one? Virginia Tech. Yep, this year’s Hokie team is shooting an unbelievable 45.5% from deep. This year’s Duke team is third on the list. Notre Dame and Pittsburgh also check in at over 40%. Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, that percentage is likely to drop, which will hurt its already mediocre offensive efficiency.
Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 27th, 2013
After a lackluster start in non-conference play, the ACC has somewhat rebounded with some impressive showings in the early season tournaments so far. In the seven events that have already completed, the ACC has a record of 12-5 (not counting designated home games related to the events, only the neutral court games). That record includes three championships, one runner-up, and two third place finishes. That’s a big improvement over recent years, considering that ACC schools have only won five such titles in the previous three seasons combined.
Marcus Paige leads North Carolina to Hall of Fame Tip-off Title (Photo: Getty Images)
Leading the way was North Carolina, which bounced back from a home loss to Belmont the weekend before to stun #3 Louisville 93-84 in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off in Connecticut on Sunday. That followed a 82-72 Tar Heels win over Richmond the day before. Marcus Paige was sensational in his new role as North Carolina’s primary perimeter scorer, scoring 58 points in the two contests. He displayed a tremendous shooting touch going 9-of-14 on three-point attempts and 19-of-20 from the free throw line over the weekend.
Similarly, Maryland rebounded from a bad home loss last Sunday to Oregon State, winning the Paradise JamTournament title. The Terrapins got to the title game with wins over Marist, 68-43, and Northern Iowa, 80-66. They then beat Providence, 56-52, in Monday’s championship game. Dez Wells was selected as the tournament MVP while averaging 15 points and five rebounds over the three games. He was supported by transfer player Evan Smotrycz who scored 20 points against Northern Iowa and had a double-double (13/11) in the finals.
Raleigh News & Observer: So remember when everyone said Duke is the clear front-runner to win the ACC? Yeah, me neither. Coach K definitely doesn’t based on his postgame quotes from its Sunday night victory over Vermont. I don’t know if Duke’s problems are fixable (without someone stepping up on the front line, this team may just be a bad defensive team). The good news is that everyone was right that the Blue Devils can score like nobody’s business. Krzyzewski mentioned effort or mindset, which certainly may have played a role, but the other questions are whether this team can either stay in front of fast perimeter players and whether they can effectively rebound out of the current defense. Krzyzewski needs this year’s Brian Zoubek to materialize (along with a lockdown on-ball defender not named Tyler Thornton) because giving up 1.41 points per possession to a bad Vermont team at home is nowhere near the sign of a contender.
Rant Sports: Florida State looks like a whole new team this year, and you should pay attention to Montay Brandon. He has undergone an unbelievable sophomore leap, upping his possession percentage a full three percent while improving his offensive rating an unfathomable 42 points per 100 possessions. Now the sample size is small and has partially come against cupcakes, but that’s a dramatic improvement. He has cut his turnover percentage by more than half, and marginally increased his field goal percentage (although shooting threes is still a struggle). He has also doubled his rebounding percentage on both ends of the floor. So far this has been nothing short of an unbelievable turnaround.
CBS Sports: With Duke falling precipitously through Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Pittsburgh has assumed the top spot in the ACC (I fully admit I never saw this coming and still don’t really believe it). Jeff Borzello does a good job reporting on the team’s defense from a player perspective (which interestingly focuses on the physicality of the team’s defense). Surprisingly, Jamie Dixon’s defense is so good in part because it isn’t called for excessive numbers of fouls. The big question going forward is whether the Panthers will have the same success they’ve had in crashing the offensive boards against more talented teams. Speaking of their offensive rebounding prowess, now is probably a good time to remind you that the Panthers only play Duke once at home this season. That game could get ugly if the Blue Devils don’t figure things out some defensive tenets in short order.
Beach Carolina Magazine: Clemson is a pleasant surprise this year. The Tigers aren’t world-beaters, but Brad Brownell‘s team looked very good in the Charleston Classic. Most notably, they absolutely manhandled a decent Davidson team. The team’s defense is tremendous but things look somewhat streaky on the offensive end. Clemson’s backcourt needs to work on drawing fouls when shots aren’t falling, which is likely to be regularly. There are still plenty of reasons to question whether Brownell can recruit enough talent to keep Clemson competitive in the ACC, but this start makes me think his teams will never be awful. He’s sort of the bizarro-Steve Donahue with his always elite defense and equally forgettable offense.
Gobbler Country: Small sample size alert! Apparently Virginia Tech struggles in close non-conference games. And with some creative accounting, they struggle in close ACC games too! Part of this is because the better team generally wins close games (as it also wins the majority of games, but that’s beside the point), but I wouldn’t be too quick to draw inferences from small, biased data sets. One thing I do agree with is that Cadarian Raines needs more touches, but he’s part of the problem. It’s not like Raines is wide open on the block all of the time standing solo while Jarell Eddie fires off a long two. Raines needs to focus on getting position, and James Johnson needs to make him more of a focal point of the offense. The Hokies’ three-point shooting should open the paint up for him to work, but, then again, his high turnover rate is terrifying.
College Basketball Talk: Huge props to Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton. I think we’ll look back on yesterday’s game seeing that Virginia Commonwealth was somewhat overrated, but the Seminoles gave the Rams an old-fashioned woodshed beating in Puerto Rico. Hamilton’s team has gotten back to its defensive principles this season, and the Seminoles dominated the game from a shot selection standpoint. This team plays smart basketball and is undefeated with a road win against a decent Central Florida team and last night’s whipping of a very good VCU squad. Maybe it’ll turn out to be a flash in the pan, but right now Florida State has the best resume in the ACC by a mile.
ESPN: While this article was only published yesterday, I imagine it was written before Boston College got off to a 1-4 start. Now that start includes a really close loss to Connecticut (Olivier Hanlan missed a layup to tie the game with 11 seconds left), but it also includes a puzzling home loss to Toledo. I still like this team’s makeup and think the Eagles will be a tough game for everyone in the conference. I really think the Eagles have struggled learning to play as a front-runner rather than a plucky underdog. But Steve Donahue has to turn things around quickly — it’s very difficult to make the Big Dance after such a slow start.
Hampton Roads Daily Press: Duke athletic director Kevin White is “unabashedly bullish” on an ACC-centric cable channel in the near future (circa 2016). I tend to disagree. While the network may provide a short-term financial boon, I think the cable TV market is moving quickly towards an online a la carte service. This isn’t to say having a talented and devoted production team wouldn’t be beneficial, but everyone points to the Big Ten Network with its high revenues when I believe it may prove to be a hindrance as people begin to purchase television differently. This will be an interesting story to follow over the next few years.
Washington Post: Jarrell Eddie apparently learned a lot as Erick Green‘s roommate last season. And while the advice he got isn’t mind-blowing, it’s interesting to see how businesslike Green was in his approach to the game: “You’ve got to be in the gym all the time.” The Hokies will only go as far this year as Eddie will take them. He has the potential to be a very good scorer, and as one of two seniors on the squad it’s up to him to set the standards for the team. He admits to being complacent last year (citing it as a reason for his inconsistency), but any complacency this year will prove far worse, as Green isn’t around anymore to save the day.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: With struggling attendance, Georgia Tech is trying some creative marketing tactics to get people to come to its games. I don’t understand this at all, but if you buy your ticket through LivingSocial, you get to shoot a free throw after the game (along with a more sensical hot dog and soda). The free throw isn’t for a contest or anything. Presumably you just wait in line with the other people who sat in the upper deck with LivingSocial tickets and then line one up from the charity stripe afterward. I don’t understand it, but might as well give it a shot, right?
Run The Floor: Expect a break from the constant “ACC is the best conference ever” articles we got used to in the preseason. The conference’s performance to date has been less than satisfactory, to say the least, which Michael Rogner makes very obvious with the categories: “Could have been a statement win but wasn’t,” “Losses at home to plucky mid-majors,” “Home losses to teams which were beaten by Coppin State or Winthrop,” and “Losses to teams whose mascot is a yippy dog wearing a sweater.” Bottom line: The best conference on paper is sputtering a bit at the start. Also, Boston College fans should be very wary of the team’s slow start if they have any NCAA Tournament hopes at all.
College Basketball Talk: Everyone get ready for the semi-annual “Roy Williams can’t coach” meme after a lackluster start from the lineup challenged Tar Heels. Now’s the time everyone will take quotes and throw on their imaginary coaching hats where they are sure they could do more than Williams with the current roster. But here’s the thing: North Carolina is playing a lot of people (read: the rotation at center and members of the eligible backcourt not named Marcus Paige) either before they’re ready, or out of position. Rob Dauster makes an important point that Williams is likely focused on getting players acclimated to his system. But another worthwhile point is that this roster is going to struggle without PJ Hairston.
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Trevor Thompson has been a very pleasant surprise this season for Virginia Tech. The team’s relative success has also been a surprise — especially considering the conference’s lackluster start (see above). Thompson has earned a spot in the rotation, though with CJ Barksdale‘s return last night his role probably will be more limited. Regardless, Thompson played well in the second and third games of the season. James Johnson desperately needs depth at the forward position, so Barksdale’s suspension may end up being a positive for the Hokies.
Tomahawk Nation: Ian Miller drew a lot of praise from Leonard Hamilton following Florida State‘s win against Tennessee-Martin. Obviously, the level of competition for Florida State hasn’t been high thus far (though a road win against UCF will likely prove valuable), but right now Miller appears to be getting back to the player many thought he could be until his injury last year. Miller was known as an explosive scorer, but has worked very hard the last two years at getting better on defense. If he can become a good defender, it will help the Seminoles dramatically on the perimeter. The real test will come this Thursday against Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams and their havoc defense look like trouble for turnover-prone Florida State, but Devon Bookert and Miller are much better than they were a year ago. If they can limit turnovers and Ram fast breaks, I like Florida State’s chance at keeping things competitive.
Fox Sports Carolinas: Lauren Brownlow highlighted the best and worst from early ACC play. Surprise finisher on her week’s All-ACC team? Donnavan Kirk. For the record, any Miami player making the list will be somewhat of a surprise this year. Brownlow also highlighted two Maryland players – Shaquille Cleare and Nick Faust – whose struggles have been killing the Terrapins this season. Cleare managed more turnovers than points and assists in the loss to Oregon State, while Faust’s career-long shooting slump has continued into his junior season. Strangely enough, Faust had the reputation of a shooter coming into College Park as a freshman. To be fair, maybe he’s just trying to make up for Pe’Shon Howard‘s transfer.
EXTRA: Yesterday marked Len Bias’ would-be 50th birthday. Here’s a great article on Bias from Mike Wilbon’s archives.
Virginian Pilot: Bob Molinaro focuses on Virginia Tech‘s football program when talking about the challenges that will face the new Hokies athletic director, but the basketball program may prove just as challenging. James Johnson may very well be the man for the job in Blacksburg, but Virginia Tech has to invest more in its basketball program to overcome its geographical challenges. I liked the James Johnson hire then (though the timing was atrocious), and like it now. But it was a risk and new athletic directors aren’t always the most patient of bosses.
Syracuse Post-Gazette: Good reporting from Donna Ditota on player views about getting paid. While most acknowledged that getting paid would be “complicated,” all but Baye Keita (and Joe Harris) thought players should be paid. Harris is particularly interesting, as he would likely benefit from a rule allowing him to make money off of his likeness. Here’s the thing: No one in their right mind should argue against full cost of attendance scholarships. And I have a lot of trouble arguing against athletes being allowed to make money on the side. Yes, it has to be regulated, but having a complex problem to solve doesn’t mean you should just ignore it.
Grantland: I’ll sum up Mark Titus’s ACC preview. He likes Duke; he likes CJ Fair, Jabari Parker and TJ Warren (though I think he underestimates the number of people who know about Warren); and he loves Wake Forest‘s fan meltdown. Titus doesn’t love Virginia, which is surprising, although he may be right after the Cavaliers choked their game against VCU away. But all of Fair’s love and questions about Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis have obscured another big part of Syracuse’s future success: Jerami Grant. Grant’s brother has gotten plenty of love at Notre Dame, but this Grant will be much more important to Syracuse this season than in the past.
Greensboro News & Record: Want to see a newspaper for a decent-sized city use an outdated Excel graph format that looks like it belongs in a paper from 2005? Today’s your lucky day! But Mark Thompson’s article is actually pretty interesting. Thompson looked at ACC fouls last season compared to this season and found that league fouls are up 3.8 fouls per game so far. It would be interesting to see the numbers for every team, although the sample size (and schedule variance) would be an issue. Also interesting is that other conferences have seen a more substantial increase in whistles. All I know is that there was a hideous stretch in the second half of Duke vs. Kansas where neither team could play 12 seconds without picking up a dumb foul. Let’s hope that stops.
Blogger So Dear: In a bizarre last-minute signing day drama, Isaac Haas didn’t sign a letter of intent as expected to play at Wake Forest. All experts now point toward the 7’2″ center signing with UAB. What’s odd is that Haas’ uncle sent an inspirational tweet, prompting fans to wonder whether his scholarship offer was rescinded (according to Dan Collins at the Winston-Salem Journal, it wasn’t). Can’t blame a teenager for changing his mind, but it feels like we’re missing some facts from this story.
Winston Salem Journal: Somehow missed this a couple of weeks ago, but this is an awesome mini-series on the history of the ACC. Things are broken down by decade with all the top coaches, players and quotes highlighted. If you’ve got a few minutes, it’s definitely worth reading all the way through. Also who knew Frank McGuire felt so offended by the full-court press?
Sports Illustrated: And make it two great Andre Dawkins stories. Seth Davis did some great reporting on Dawkins’ struggle with depression following his sister’s death. It’s really hard to read these stories and know that someone didn’t get any help for over a year while he was hurting so much. It seems like Dawkins is in a much better place now, and props go out to the Duke staff for directly intervening when they did. Though for all of the positivity in this story and surrounding Dawkins’s return this season, he’s only logged two total minutes in Duke’s two games this season. Obviously, it may be a matter of rust or conditioning (or an embarrassment of wealth on the wing, more likely), but here’s to hoping Dawkins finds his way back into the rotation.
Lynchburg News Advance: Normally, game recaps don’t deserve a spot in the M5, but not all wins are created equal. After a bad horrendous opening loss to South Carolina Upstate, Virginia Tech showed some major grit in coming back from 19 down in the first half to beat West Virginia on Tuesday. The Hokies were left for dead after getting down 29-10, but freshman Ben Emolgu and UNC Wilmington transfer Adam Smith combined for 41 points in the victory. James Johnson has to be pleased both with the win and the production of his newcomers, who will be crucial if the Hokies hope to exceed expectations in conference play.
Reuters (via Chicago Tribune): A couple of big news items are hidden in this piece. First, the ACC Tournament will not be going to New York in 2016. It will be going to Washington, DC. Alas, Maryland won’t be able to revel in the home court advantage, as the Terrapins will be playing in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago that season. Geographically, the capital city makes sense (thanks to the new northern schools’ collective impact on the ACC footprint), and flights should be easy to come by. Second is that the official date for Louisville leaving the American conference has been set for July 1, 2014 (a year earlier than scheduled).
Orlando Sentinel: Okaro White was thrust into a leadership position last year. Sure, Michael Snaer was the heart and soul of Florida State’s team, but White was expected to help manage the youngest team Leonard Hamilton has trotted out in recent memory. That was a big change from being an important offensive player on a team of juniors and seniors. This year, White sounds more ready for the challenge — which is also easier because the team he’s leading is a year older. Experience is a big part of playing good defense (see, Duke’s defense on Tuesday night). The game is faster and the systems more complicated than anything players see in high school or AAU, and already, Florida State’s experience is paying dividends.
Hampton Roads Pilot: Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver announced he will be stepping down at the end of the year due to health reasons. Weaver has Parkinson’s disease and needs both hips replaced. Weaver’s departure very much puts the Hokie administration in limbo, as the university is also currently looking for a president. The plan is to hire the president first, so he or she can give the go ahead on the athletic director. That’s the best case for stability. Though the turmoil in the administration may indirectly put some pressure on James Johnson, as the new athletic director may want to make his or her mark early.
Atlanta Journal Constitution: Brian Gregory earned himself a one-year extension, which seems a show of tepid support from the relatively new athletic director, Mike Bobinski. A single year is nothing to clamor about, and it likely was the minimum required to help ease the minds of recruits and their parents. With the extension, Gregory is under contract until the end of the 2018 season (and if you do the math, next year’s class would be seniors in the final year of Gregory’s contract).
Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Jim Boeheim is doing his best to temper expectations heading into the season. But as the author points out, Syracuse generally wins a whole lot of games and experiences success regardless of the players lost the previous season. But possibly more important when defining expectations for this year’s team is considering the hot streak–defensively–last year’s team went on to reach the Final Four. Syracuse didn’t look like a contender for much of the season, but things came together when it mattered most.
Baltimore Sun: You would have thought an unranked Connecticut outrebounded Maryland by 30 in a rout based on Mark Turgeon‘s comments after the game. The Huskies outrebounded Turgeon’s team by three boards and won by one. More importantly, Maryland missed far more shots than its opponent. The Terrapins actually won (barely) the rebound percentage battle. Long story short, Turgeon may be upset with his team’s effort on the glass, but Maryland is still a good rebounding team.
Keeping It Heel: Every day that passes without more concrete news is another day that fuels rumors that PJ Hairston may be permanently ineligible. What started as a message board rumor has quickly gained steam (and some legitimacy) yesterday. The story still doesn’t make a ton of sense, but apparently hinges on the fact that Hairston wasn’t entirely truthful with the NCAA or Roy Williams. The latter seems unlikely (why would he still be practicing if Williams was planning to kick him off the team), but the former is definitely in play considering the NCAA’s loose definition of evidence. Alexander Hines takes a look at the Tar Heels without Hairston, which would obviously be a huge blow.
This Weekend’s Lede. It started somewhat unceremoniously with a nondescript game between Air Force and Army in something called the All-Military Classic in Lexington, Virginia. But after seven long months of quiet, the early afternoon tip between two of the military academies in a tiny gym on the campus of VMI represented the reappearance of the sport we call college basketball. For years we’ve clamored for an Opening Night with the appropriate pomp and fanfare that the game deserves upon its November arrival, and with the excitement around social media and the number of good games available on the various networks, we’re getting there. Some 225 other games involving D-I teams came throughout the weekend, and even though there were no aircraft carrier games scattered about the land, there was still plenty to get juiced about.
Your Watercooler Moment. The Triumphant Return of Joshua Smith.
Joshua Smith Showed Off His Dominant Post Game in the Armed Forces Classic
Approximately one year ago, the last time any of us saw Joshua Smith, we were subjected to this embarrassing crime against basketball. After a transfer year when he traveled cross-country to Georgetown and received a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately, it was hard to say what to expect this time around. We’ve always known that the 6’10″, 300+ pound center has soft hands, quick feet that belie his size and great touch around the basket, but his weight, and correspondingly, his stamina, have remained problematic. He simply couldn’t stay on the floor at UCLA, averaging only 19.3 minutes per game in a little over two seasons. But on Friday, for at least one night, Smith appeared to be a different player. Although Georgetown lost the Armed Forces Classic game to Oregon, the burly center logged 27 fruitful minutes, shot 10-of-13 from the field, and looked downright unstoppable inside on his way to 25 points. The Hoyas wouldn’t have been within 15 points of the Ducks were it not for Smith’s production, and it begs the question: Has the change of scenery allowed Smith to turn the corner in his development? If so, and what we saw this weekend is any indication, Georgetown has found itself with one of the most talented big men in the nation.
Sights & Sounds. Plenty of great stuff from Friday night, so check out the separate post we put together on Saturday to store it all. The top dunks, buzzer-beaters and some other notable videos and images are all over there, but we saved the best buzzer-beater of the weekend for here. Dayton was down two points as IPFW looked to inbound the ball to ice the big road upset. Then, this happened…
Brutal. And in case you’re too lazy to click through, here’s the best dunk of the weekend for good measure. Michael Qualls!
Top Storyline. Four Freshman Phenoms. We’ve been talking about them all offseason, and the debuts of some of the nation’s top rookies was everything we had hoped it would be. On Friday night, Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins were all playing at the same time, and none disappointed. In a dominant win over Davidson, Parker went for 22/6 on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor that included a silky-smooth 3-of-3 from deep. Randle did Parker one better with a 23/15 performance against UNC-Asheville that included an impressive 11-of-13 from the foul line. He followed that up with another 22/14/3 assts against Northern Kentucky on Sunday, becoming the first freshman to go for consecutive double-doubles in his first two collegiate games since Michael Beasley pulled the trick six years ago. Wiggins didn’t have a dominant performance in Kansas’ win over Louisiana-Monroe, tallying 16/3/3 stls in 34 minutes of action. The trio will all be on display tomorrow night at the Champions Classic, and so far, so good. We also shouldn’t forget Arizona’s star freshman, Aaron Gordon, who put up a 13/10/4 blks double-double himself in the Wildcats’ win over Cal Poly.
Four More Weekend Storylines.
These Games Are Foul. Well, some of them are, at least. There was an awful lot of preseason discussion given to the new hand-checking rules and how coaches, players and officials would have to adjust on the fly. Results have been mixed. One team that many pundits thought would be most impacted, Louisville, only had 14 total fouls in a 62-possession game against Charleston. On the other hand, a Seton Hall-Niagara game on Saturday resulted in a dreadful 73 fouls in an 81-possession game. In fact, there were more free throw attempts (102) than field goal attempts (101) in that game, which two hours and 28 minutes to complete. A total of 24 teams were called for 30 or more fouls over the weekend, while 18 were called for fewer than 15. The national average last season was 17.7 fouls per team per game (or 35.4 fouls per game), so this is definitely a trend worth watching.
ACC Darling Boston College Struggling. BC was a chic pick to make some noise in the ACC this season, and certainly there’s a lot of time left for the Eagles to get things going. But two losses over the weekend revealed that the same issues that Steve Donahue’s team had last season haven’t been solved. They still can’t guard anybody. In losses against Providence and Massachusetts, Boston College gave up 1.04 and 1.20 points per possession, respectively, and an average of 84 points per game. Furthermore, Bryce Cotton (28 points) and Cady Lalanne (27 points) lit their defense up, getting the shots they wanted whenever they wanted. Last season the Eagles finished 192nd in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency; if they don’t figure out a way to limit easy looks from the opposition, they’ll be staring another .500 season in the face not matter how good their offense becomes.
Mr. Robinson May Need a New Neighborhood. It was no secret that Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson came into this season on the hot seat. After yet another embarrassing home loss to a low-major team Sunday night, he may want to go ahead and start picking out his moving company. MEAC teams were 1-89 in the last two seasons against power conference schools (the one victory was Norfolk State over Missouri in the 2012 NCAA Tournament), and they were 0-5 so far this season. That is, until Coppin State went into Oregon State’s Gill Coliseum and used its athleticism and timely three-point shooting to lead for much of the game before walking out with a Pac-12 scalp. Robinson has had a history of these types of awful home losses, and adding another one to his resume surely doesn’t help things for him in Corvallis.
Other Weekend Upsets. Virginia Tech and Miami (FL) suffered tough home losses over the weekend (to USC Upstate and St. Francis (NY), respectively), but both of those programs were expected to be rebuilding this season. The biggest upset of the weekend instead had to have been Kansas State’s shocking home loss to Northern Colorado on Friday night. The jokes about Bruce Weber losing with some of his own players started in earnest immediately after the game, but it was two holdovers from last season’s Big 12 co-champions in Shane Southwell and Will Spradling who were largely responsible for this one. The duo combined to shoot a miserable 4-of-22 from the field and 2-of-12 from behind the arc.
Your Weekend All-Americans.
Julius Randle, Kentucky (NPOY). Consecutive double-doubles to start a collegiate career for the first time since Michael Beasley did it in 2007-08 makes this an easy choice. Through three days of action, he’s the NPOY.
Jabari Parker, Duke. Parker didn’t board like Randle but he scored more efficiently, missing only two shots in his debut.
Joshua Smith, Georgetown. As mentioned above, Smith’s 25/4 on 10-of-13 shooting was his best game in nearly two years.
TJ Warren, NC State. Warren went off for 27/8/3 assts as the Wolfpack beat Appalachian State to start a season of very low expectations.
Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 8th, 2013
Over the last two weeks, we have previewed each team individually to go with several more articles to get you ready for ACC basketball starting later today. Links to the previews can be found in each of the preseason power rankings listed below. Also look for our preseason conference awards later which will publish later today.
1. Duke (75): Unanimous selection for the top spot, Coach K hopes this year’s more athletic group of players can thrive at a faster pace of play. Duke is a national contender this season.
2. Syracuse (67):Their loaded front court and a legendary coach will help make seamless transition to the ACC, bringing their length and vaunted 2-3 zone along with them. Frosh point guard Tyler Ennis is the difference between a very good team and a great one.
T3. North Carolina (64): The development of the young frontcourt will be key for a team with plenty of upside, but a daunting non-conference schedule and the suspensions of PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald loom early.
T3. Virginia (64): ACC stars Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are back in Charlottesville. If the point guard position has more offensive output than last season, this team has all the pieces to be an ACC contender.
5. Notre Dame(52): Mike Brey has to find a way to replace Jack Cooley‘s production in the post, but the Fighting Irish bring back one of the best backcourts in the ACC. The Fighting Irish look like a border-line top-25 team heading into the season.
6. Maryland (48): Losing Seth Allen for a spell and Alex Len to the lottery will hurt, but Dez Wells‘ brilliance and Maryland’s overall athleticism should propel them to new heights under Mark Turgeon assuming they can cut out some of their turnovers.
7. Boston College (43): A veteran core and a bona fide star could take Boston College to the next level, provided Steve Donahue does something about the team’s dreadful defense. If Dennis Clifford is healthy, this team has a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
8. Pittsburgh(41): The Panthers have three solid returning starters to build around, but will need their new big men to make an immediate impact after Steven Adams’ surprising decision to bolt for the NBA Draft. Also how will the new officiating rules affect Jamie Dixon‘s style?
9. Georgia Tech (31): The tandem of sophomores Robert Carter, Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt will prove even more effective as the Yellow Jackets look to make strides, but their young core is a few years away from making noise. Tennessee transfer Trae Golden should be an upgrade over Mfon Udofia at point guard.
10. NC State (29):TJ Warren could be one of the most talented players in the conference, but there is an enormous amount of departed experience to replace in Raleigh. Mark Gottfried‘s talented group of freshmen will be expected to contribute early and often.
11. Florida State (27): The Seminoles need last year’s newcomers to all make a big leap this year even to stay in the upper middle of the ACC. The key is getting back to elite team defense, though Okaro White is one of the better returning offensive wings in the ACC.
12. Miami (23): The best thing returning for the Hurricanes is head coach Jim Larranaga, an expert at putting pieces together to form a solid team. Unfortunately, the pieces leave a lot to be desired. Belgian star Manu Lacomte may surprise ACC fans, though.
13. Wake Forest (19): For the first time since coming to Winston-Salem Jeff Bzdelik has experience, but do the Demon Deacons have the talent to finish above .500 and save his job? Conference expansion didn’t help.
14. Clemson (11): A bad team is going to get worse as the program takes what is probably charitably going to be called “a rebuilding year.” Tune in for KJ McDaniels, whose shot-blocking makes him a good pick for ACC defensive player of the year.
15. Virginia Tech (6): Erick Green is gone, and there isn’t anyone stepping up to replace him on a team destined to rest in the ACC cellar this year. Things could be ugly for James Johnson‘s second season in Blacksburg.
In the third and final segment of RTC ACC’s Twitter must-follow series, we take a further look at the remaining eight teams in the ACC. This list is not all encompassing but a quick look at some of the more prominent accounts to follow for news and insight on teams around the ACC. This may include coaches, players, writers, and/or bloggers. So without any further delay, Rush the Court brings you the part three finale of our ACC Twitter rundown (click here for Part I and Part II).
Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech finds himself in the ‘Alumni Spotlight’
Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 4th, 2013
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: I’m no expert, but it certainly sounds like Jamie Dixon spends some time on KenPom.com. That may also explain his ability to crack the offensive efficiency code. The one constant among Dixon’s teams at Pittsburgh the last 10 seasons is that of good offensive rebounding. The Panthers always crash the glass hard, which makes up for less-than-stellar three-point shooting and an occasionally porous defense. Interestingly, Dixon’s teams have generally scored over 70 points per game. Three of the last four haven’t, but there are plenty of examples of high scoring Panther teams in the last decade of basketball.
The State: Clemson isn’t an easy job to begin with — just ask Rick Barnes — and ACC expansion didn’t make it any easier. Clemson has a storied football program, and basketball has always taken a backseat to the gridiron. Luckily for Brad Brownell, the Clemson athletic department appears to be moving forward with its plans to renovate Littlejohn Coliseum. Unfortunately, that infrastructure commitment doesn’t add experience or talent to his young roster. Brownell is a very good Xs-and-Os coach, and I think he’s gotten the most out of his teams during his tenure, but if he doesn’t start attracting more talent, his seat on a renovated sideline bench will start getting warm.
Washington Post: I’m betting James Johnson knows Brownell’s pain. Thanks to a late personnel decision by the Virginia Tech athletic department, Johnson started well behind his ACC coaching brethren. Johnson lifts weights, runs and plays (concussion-inducing) games of racquetball to keep himself focused. Virginia Tech is going to be bad again this season, and to make matters worse, Johnson will have to watch budding star and former commitment Montrezl Harrell at Louisville and former player Dorian Finney-Smith at Florida. When all is said and done, both of those guys will play in the NCAA Tournament while Virginia Tech and Johnson will not. But rebuilding takes time.
Fox Sports: North Carolina’s NCAA issues forced the Tar Heels to play some bizarre lineups in its exhibition against UNC-Pembroke last week. However, my guess is that Roy Williams isn’t too upset, as it’s still very clear that he’s trying to figure out who to put at the five spot. With frosh Kennedy Meeks joining sophomores Joel James and Brice Johnson, it’s not a matter of a lack of height or manpower. Those three all have a long way to go. They aren’t the polished Sean Mays, Tyler Hansbroughs or even Tyler Zellers of old North Carolina teams. Williams needs at least one of the group to step up to avoid having to play “small ball” again this season with James Michael McAdoo playing away from his natural position.
Fayetteville Observer: Here is one player per team who probably isn’t a household name but hold’s the key to his team’s success. The two I’ll plug the hardest here are Devon Bookert – the sophomore point guard from Florida State — and Mike Tobey – Virginia’s skilled sophomore big man. Bookert had a sneaky good freshman campaign last year that got lost in his team’s mediocre finish and Michael Snaer’s heroics. Tobey also flew under the radar thanks to Akil Mitchell’s breakout season and Joe Harris transforming into one of the best players in the league. Here’s the difference: Bookert gives Florida State the chance to be OK; Tobey gives the Cavaliers the chance to be great.
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Saturday afternoon gave us this beauty from Boulder, and a good old-fashioned RTC as a result.