ACC Stock Watch: 01.23.15 Edition

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 23rd, 2015

Some of the ACC’s squads righted the ship in a relatively quiet week, while still others affirmed their descent to the cellar of the conference standings. With six weeks remaining in the regular season, there is still plenty of time for teams to ascend or plummet, and we’ll continue to track their progress on a week-to-week basis. Below is this week’s ACC Stock Watch.

Trending Up

  • North Carolina. While the Tar Heels’ win over Virginia Tech was less than enthralling, their more impressive road win over a Wake Forest team that was competitive with both Duke and Louisville at home lends credence to the notion that they may be hitting their stride. However, mounting injuries in the backcourt are a concern for Roy Williams.
  • Duke. After the entire college basketball nation wondered what was wrong with the Blue Devils with consecutive losses to NC State and Miami, Duke responded with an impressive road win over Louisville and an easy dismantling of Pittsburgh on Monday night. Coach K may have found some defensive relief with the zone he’s employed much more heavily in the past two contests.
  • Justin Jackson, North Carolina. Jackson’s emergence over the last week has finally given everyone a glimpse into the player he can become: an efficient offensive threat to complement Marcus Paige on the perimeter. In wins over Virginia Tech and Wake Forest this week, he scored 33 points on a combined 11-of-18 shooting (3-of-6 from three).
Justin Jackson continued his impressive stretch for the Tar Heels in a win over Wake Forest (espn.com)

Justin Jackson continued his impressive stretch for the Tar Heels in a win over Wake Forest (espn.com)

  • Tyus Jones, Duke. The Blue Devils’ freshman point guard endured a rough initiation to ACC play but rebounded with two strong efforts this week. His 10-point, eight-assist performance in a hostile environment at Louisville was steady and important, but he really broke out with a 22-point effort against Pittsburgh, including four three-pointers. Jones made his recent freshman jitters appear to be just that, rebounding individually very nicely along with his team.
  • Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse. His week began by being named ACC Player of the Week on January 19 and ended with a demonstration on just how important he is to this Syracuse team. Riddled with foul trouble and available for only 23 minutes, the Orange’s big man still contributed 12 points and seven boards against Boston College. His absence made it possible for the Eagles to hang around in that game, showing once again that Jim Boeheim doesn’t have many options outside of his star center.

Flat

  • Clemson. Holding serve against Syracuse at home was nice, but losing to Florida State was something the Tigers couldn’t afford. Clemson still appears to be a team trending towards the bottom of the standings as its inconsistent offense remains a major issue.
  • Syracuse. 5-1 in the ACC and not trending up? Get back to me when the Orange actually beat a good team. While it was nice that Jim Boeheim’s team held on against Boston College with Rakeem Christmas barely on the floor (see above), this team had better improve dramatically before it enters the final phase of a lopsided schedule (its final seven games include Duke twice, Louisville, Virginia, and Notre Dame). Having one of the least productive benches in the country doesn’t bode well for the Orange’s NCAA Tourney chances.

Trending Down

  • Louisville. Perhaps the loss to Duke wasn’t unexpected with the Blue Devils coming off of consecutive defeats, but the Cardinals’ continued offensive struggles is a major concern. They’re still only shooting 42.7 percent as a team, and Rick Pitino can’t seem to find consistent shot-making from Chris Jones or Wayne Blackshear. Their admittedly outstanding defense can only carry them so far in a conference this loaded with offensive talent.
There are suddenly serious questions marks about Montrezl Harrell and the Cardinals (credit: adam creech)

There are suddenly serious questions marks about Montrezl Harrell and the Cardinals (credit: adam creech)

  • Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ 8-10 overall record and 0-5 ACC start aren’t a surprise, but with the recent announcement that leading rebounder Joey Van Zegeren is leaving the team, their outlook for the remainder of the season became even more bleak. The notion was that Buzz Williams could perhaps coax some surprises out of this roster, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
  • Georgia Tech. Now 0-6 in the ACC. And yes, Virginia is a great team, but scoring a mere 28 points for an entire game (12 in the second half)? Brian Gregory’s team may not be able to recover from such an awful start to the conference season. The Yellow Jackets are at or near the bottom in the ACC in both scoring and stopping their opponents from doing so. That translates to 0-6.
  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville. As we noted last week, it’s not just that his shots and productivity are down; but now the junior has been stripped of his captaincy by Rick Pitino (later clarified, to some extent, by Pitino on his radio show). Even if this maneuver was a mutual decision or some kind of motivational ploy, it’s not a good sign for the Cardinals if their star needs to tone down his act. Coupled with his earlier suspension for throwing an elbow, Harrell is on the precipice of becoming a bit of a malcontent to the detriment of his team’s success.
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ACC M5: 01.23.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 23rd, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. ESPN: Dana O’Neil penned a must-read profile of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski by talking with many of his longtime friends and family. It’s a long but great read. With Coach K getting a shot at 1,000 wins this weekend, there are plenty of profiles to go around. Pat Forde took a look back at Coach K’s first win, and in more normal M5 fare, Marshall Plumlee will be sworn in to the US Army today.
  2. Winston-Salem Journal: Tributes to Coach K are everywhere, including Winston-Salem, as Danny Manning told Dan Collins that the Demon Deacons aren’t a zone team and would stick to man-to-man even if they struggle with it. But the real reason Collins’ article is worth the click is for all the Wake Forest historical nuggets he hides inside it. I’ll side with Manning on his defensive trademark, though. Assuming a style of play that isn’t totally ludicrous, it’s good to work on molding your players into the type of team you want to coach. If he chose to play all zone, Manning might get a different type of player at Wake in the future (NBA teams often complain about prospects that play too much zone defense in college).
  3. Syracuse Post-Standard: Were we just talking about zone? Well, Syracuse plays a lot of zone. And is under NCAA investigation. If (and only if) the NCAA hands down or the Orange self-impose a postseason ban, they wouldn’t be allowed to compete in the ACC Tournament. That seems like a remote possibility at this point, but you’ll have better luck winning six-figure scratch-off prizes than predicting NCAA punishments. The other wrinkle is what a 14-team ACC Tournament would look like. If such a serious a punishment is coming, I’d expect more details to leak out first.
  4. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia looks like it will run away with the ACC this season. You don’t want to put too much stock in games against Georgia Tech, but the Cavaliers held Brian Gregory’s squad to a ridiculous output of 28 points, while the Cavaliers scored at least 28 points in both halves. Accompanying Virginia’s rise is something of a bandwagon effect. Apparently Cavaliers fans showed up in force at Boston College (which is common for Duke and North Carolina, but both programs have national followings). Tony Bennett has done something really special in Charlottesville. The questions now are: How far can this team go? And can it beat the 76ers hold on to its head coach when the next really big job opens?
  5. Card Chronicle: More details on the Montrezl Harrell situation. Apparently Harrell pulled himself out of the position after Rick Pitino rode him about being more positive. This is plausible and is probably the best-case scenario from a chemistry perspective, but I wouldn’t start celebrating just yet. In more tangible analysis, North Carolina’s Brice Johnson gave an honest and somewhat critical scouting report on Harrell to Lauren Brownlow.

EXTRA: He’s not in the ACC anymore, but Chris Collins joined the tribute to Coach K and absolutely lost it after a questionable no-call from the officials at last night’s Northwestern-Ohio State game.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume I

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 22nd, 2015

With approximately three weeks of conference play now in the books, it’s time to take a closer look at the ACC season. This is the first edition of a weekly look at the current ACC standings and team performances, focusing on which teams are playing better or worse than their records may indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting team or player stats and trends. Finally, we will forecast how the final standings may look, and what that means for ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Tuesday, January 20th.

Current Standings

Jan21ACCPPP

It’s no revelation that Tony Bennett’s Virginia team has been the best team in the league to date, holding a larger points per possession (PPP) margin over second place North Carolina than the Tar Heels have over the sixth-best team, Louisville. And the Cavaliers are doing it at both ends of the floor, leading the league in offensive and defensive efficiency. It’s hard to understand why many of the experts only seem to talk about Virginia’s defense — which is great by the way — seemingly blinded by the fact the this is an equally outstanding offensive team as well. Not just “also pretty good,” but… “Outstanding!” Syracuse fans should probably be hesitant based on the discrepancy between the Orange’s gaudy 5-1 ACC record and their possession-based performance. Note that they have benefited from playing the least challenging conference schedule thus far, facing six teams that populate the bottom of the standings. Eventually the ACC heavyweights will show up on the docket, and that record is likely to backslide. Georgia Tech’s situation — dead last in the standings, but eighth in PPP — is what happens when the Jackets lose games by margins of one, three, five, seven and seven points. Pittsburgh may be in a similar spot as its former Big East rival from upstate New York, sporting a fortunate .500 record given their easy schedule.

Advanced Stat of the Week: North Carolina’s Rebounding (Both)

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ACC Stock Watch: Conference Play Edition

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 16th, 2015

Conference play got under way for the ACC roughly two weeks ago, and the early games have lived up to their lofty billing in providing us with valuable insights. Some teams are clearly playing up to their potential and possibly even beyond it, while several others are already searching for answers for disturbing trends. Welcome to this week’s ACC Stock Watch, the first since the ACC’s teams started beating up on each other.

Trending Up

  • Virginia. It would be hard to imagine that a team entering ACC play at 12-0 could be trending up after just two weeks of action, but the Cavaliers have the look of a serious national title contender. The only team boasting both a defense and an offense among the top 10 in efficiency metrics, the Cavaliers have shown a keen ability to win games in a myriad of ways. It’s not just an elite defense carrying Tony Bennett’s team, as it showed in its awesome 89-80 double-overtime win over Miami two weeks ago. Virginia has already toppled the Hurricanes and Notre Dame and have shown no signs of slowing down.
  • North Carolina. With the best of the Tar Heels’ non-conference wins losing some luster (Ohio State, Florida), North Carolina badly needed a marquee win in conference play. Last weekend’s victory over Louisville qualified as such, and holding on to beat NC State in Raleigh on Wednesday night showed the team may have regained some of the toughness that was so sorely lacking. Could a 3-1 ACC start propel North Carolina to bigger things?
Marcus Paige and North Carolina are off to a very promising ACC start (newsobserver.com)

Marcus Paige and North Carolina are off to a very promising ACC start (newsobserver.com)

  • NC State. A 3-2 start in the ACC may not blow anyone away, but the Wolfpack’s demolition of Duke and their near-win over a surging North Carolina team shows Mark Gottfried’s group is capable of making some noise this year. Add in a blowout win over Pittsburgh an is there a reasonable argument that NC State belongs with the heavyweights?
  • Miami. There were plenty of questions about the direction in which the Hurricanes were heading when they closed the non-conference schedule by losing three of four. But Angel Rodriguez and company have answered the bell in the ACC, pushing Virginia to double-overtime and handling Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. With Notre Dame and NC State up next, we’ll know even more about Miami by this time next week.

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Morning Five: Christmas Eve 2014 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 24th, 2014

morning5

  1. San Diego State senior forward Dwayne Polee II, averaging 8.4 points per game, was discharged from San Diego hospital less than 24 hours after collapsing on the court during a game against UC Riverside. Polee was cleared to resume normal activities, but has not been cleared to play basketball yet. Polee presumably underwent the typical tests that a person who has a syncopal event undergoes (EKG, telemetry, etc) and might even have to wear an event monitor, but we are not sure how much more testing the medical staff at San Diego State will require before allowing him to play basketball again. Given the number of tragedies we have seen in college basketball in recent years, we cannot fault them for being conservative.
  2. The past few months have been rough for Michigan both on the football field and basketball court, but they did have at least one positive thing happen on Monday night when Austin Hatch scored his first point as a college basketball player. Hatch, who survived two plane crashes that killed his entire immediate family, had scored a point in an exhibition game earlier this year, but this was his first official point. Hatch’s free throw elicited a standing ovation and capped off a much-needed 72-56 win for a struggling Michigan team against Coppin State. Hopefully this is the first of many points and appearances for Hatch.
  3. Wake Forest picked up a minor victory as Mitchell Wilbekin had his suspension reduced to three games by the NCAA. Wilbekin’s suspension had been six games, but the decrease means that he will be able to play against Duke and Louisville, which frankly probably won’t affect the outcome of either game. Although the school had previously said they disagreed with both the infraction and the length of the previous suspension they did say that they were pleased that the NCAA was “willing to listen to our reasons for supporting a lesser penalty”. With the reduced suspension, Wilbekin will just have to miss one more game (Richmond) before returning on December 31 against Princeton.
  4. The case involving Oklahoma strength and conditioning coach Jozsef Szendrei probably won’t get much attention in the post-Nevin Shapiro/Penn State world, but the alleged violations seem pretty blatant. According to a report, Szendrei was caught distributing cash provided by a booster to the players while they were at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Szendrei was apparently caught before he could distribute the cash ($100 per player) to every player and the school compliance officer “got everything back” so it appears that neither the school nor the media consider it to be a serious issue. However, in much the same way that Shapiro paying for a player’s meal (or other minor expenses) could be construed as a failure at an administrative level so should this type of issue where a booster was able to do something like this. Szendrei claims this was a one-time thing and it appears that the school is sticking with the story that everything was fixed, but for a school with Oklahoma’s recent history of NCAA violations (under both Kelvin Sampson and Jeff Capel) you have to wonder if they might need to be a little more strict with who they let near their players.
  5. With the huge Kentucky-Louisville game looming on Saturday, Dana O’Neill took a look at strength of some of the biggest rivalries in college basketball. While we share her concern about losing some of the sport’s best rivalries we often think that too many people overlook the new rivalries that have been created with conference realignment. It seems like after all the complaining about significant rivalries being lost to conference realignment many of those games have managed to be rescheduled even if only temporarily for now.
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Morning Five: 12.22.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 22nd, 2014

morning5

  1. Cincinnati‘s loss on Saturday took a back seat to the bigger news that Mick Cronin would be out indefinitely after being diagnosed with an “unruptured aneurysm” during a workup for persistent headaches. Cronin, who turned around a program that appeared to be in disarray when he started there, has led the Bearcats to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances after failing to do so in his first four years at the job. With Cincinnati being one of the top medical centers in the country we would assume this will be a fairly quick work-up although that does not necessarily mean Cronin will be back any quicker than he otherwise would be.
  2. After a rough past few months Southern Methodist finally got some good news when they found out that Markus Kennedy had been cleared to play prior to their game against Michigan. Kennedy, an All-AAC performer who averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season, had been ruled academically ineligible for the first semester. In his first game back, Kennedy had five points and three rebounds in ten minutes of action during SMU’s 11-point win at Michigan.
  3. If Rick Pitino was worried about keeping his Louisville team focused with two games remaining before their showdown on December 27 against Kentucky he may have found his solution with Montrezl Harrell‘s one-game suspension. Harrell, the Cardinals’ All-American junior forward who was averaging 16.7 points and 10 rebounds per game this season, was ejected from Saturday’s win at Western Kentucky for throwing a punch. While we never expected Harrell to miss the Kentucky game as a result of this suspension he got off about as light as he and Pitino could have hoped for given the circumstances.
  4. At this point we are ready to call Fred Hoiberg the John Calipari of transfers as he seems to be almost as successful in landing big-name transfers as Calipari is at picking up McDonald’s All-Americans. His latest addition is Marquette transfer Deonte Burton who committed to Iowa State. Burton, a consensus top-100 recruit, averaged 6.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore after being expected to see more playing time this season. With Marquette’s strong incoming class it appeared less likely that Burton would see a big increase in his playing time in coming years so the decision makes sense. As for Iowa State, they seem to be reloading on transfers every year with no apparent end in sight.
  5. Mitchell Wilbekin, who had been averaging 7.6 points per game this season, has been suspended for six games for an undisclosed NCAA violation. Interestingly the first game Wilbekin missed was Saturday’s loss to Florida, his older brother Scottie’s former team. For their part, Wake Forest will appeal the ruling saying that they disagree with the NCAA both in terms of the violation and the length of the suspension. Wilbekin’s suspension means that he will miss the team’s first two ACC games, which are against Louisville and Duke that we would consider likely losses except that they are in Winston-Salem.
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ACC M5: 12.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on December 12th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: In this piece, Andrew Carter talks about North Carolina’s Marcus Paige, who’s trying to regain the shooting form that made him a preseason All-American. With his accuracy numbers (35.5% FG) significantly down compared to last year, you have to wonder if Paige is feeling the pressure of being North Carolina’s only viable perimeter threat this season. He probably needs to regain that touch soon if the Tar Heels want to hang with top-ranked Kentucky in Lexington on Saturday (12 ET – CBS). While Kentucky is a bad match-up for most any team, they are a really bad match-up for teams that score almost exclusively from two-point baskets in the paint. Currently, North Carolina ranks 14th in the country in percentage of its points derived from two-pointers, while Kentucky leads the nation in defending two-point attempts, allowing only 30 percent. It would help the Tar Heels’ cause if forward Brice Johnson played well, but don’t count on it. A look at Johnson’s game-by-game statistics so far this year reveals a disturbing trend. In contests against the team’s four worst opponents, Johnson has solid numbers (16.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 61% FG); but against the team’s four top-40 opponents, his production has basically been cut in half (7.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 32% FG).
  2. South Bend Tribune & Seminoles.com: Notre Dame visits Florida State on Saturday (8pm ET – ESPN2) in an early conference match-up between two teams that appear to be moving in opposite directions. The Irish (9-1) are off to nice start and entered the AP Top 25 earlier this week. The Notre Dame offense has been on a tear, averaging 85.1 points per contest while leading the country in field goal shooting (56.2%). On the other hand, the Seminoles (4-4) have been one of the more disappointing teams in the ACC. But in fairness to Leonard Hamilton’s squad, it has been beset by injuries to their two primary guards. After missing two-and-a-half games, Aaron Thomas returned to action last week and looked back in top form, with 22 points in Florida State’s 96-73 victory over Central Florida. Hamilton hopes to get starting point guard Devon Bookert back for the Notre Dame game, after he missed the previous five games due to a foot injury.
  3. Fox Sports: In a game that didn’t get a lot of attention, Clemson rallied for a big overtime home win over #18 Arkansas this past Sunday evening. With all the hoopla surrounding the new NCAA football playoff selection coupled with a normal NFL Sunday, many didn’t notice that the Tigers gained their second win this season over an SEC squad (the other was LSU). Ironically, Clemson’s next two games are also against SEC members, Auburn and South Carolina. In Sunday’s win, Brad Brownell’s guys showed flashes of the defense we have come to expect from Clemson, holding the potent Razorbacks to a season low in points and points per possession (1.04 PPP). In each of Brownell’s first four years at the helm, the Tigers have ranked among the nation’s top-60 in adjusted defensive efficiency, but even after Sunday’s strong performance, Clemson only ranks 121st this year.
  4. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Jamie Dixon was happy to welcome Cameron Wright back to action last Friday in the Panthers’ 76-62 win over crosstown rival Duquesne. Wright only played a token minute, but after a week of practice the senior wing should be ready for more minutes this weekend when the Panthers host St. Bonaventure on Saturday. Dixon hopes that Wright’s return will have a positive impact on the Pitt defense, normally a program strength but an inconsistent liability so far this year. In each of the Panthers’ three losses, opponents torched the Pitt defense by scoring over 1.2 points per possession, a mark only bested by three Panther opponents during all of last season.
  5. Winston-Salem Journal: In a bit of a surprise on Tuesday, sophomore guard Miles Overton informed Danny Manning that he would be leaving the Wake Forest program, effective immediately. It wouldn’t have been as big of a shock if the announcement had come about a week earlier, as Overton had only logged 49 minutes of playing time in the Deacons’ first six games. But last week, he saw a lot more action, scoring 22 points in 40 minutes combined in his last two games. In any case, by leaving now, Overton can transfer to another school for the spring semester, and be eligible to play again next December.
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ACC Exam Week: Grading Out the 15 Schools

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 11th, 2014

It’s Exam Week in the Atlantic Coast Conference, so what better time than the present to analyze the basketball aptitude of the 15 member institutions? Below we present three groupings: the teams representing the head of the class; those with the potential to improve on their early season results; and the disappointments. There’s no sliding scale to our grading system, so the teams were evaluated on how they have performed no matter their preseason expectations (sorry, tough professor).

Top of the Class

  • Duke has earned nothing shy of an A+ thus far, playing like a team that’s clearly a national title contender. The freshmen and veteran holdovers have meshed beautifully, and the Blue Devils’ 8-0 record includes a quality win over Michigan State as well as a very impressive defeat of fellow contender Wisconsin on the road.
  • Louisville is having no problem representing its new conference in an 8-0 start, save for a head-scratching 45-33 win over Cleveland State. Knocking off Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge as well as wins over Minnesota and Indiana leave the Cardinals looking like a contender for the crown too. Montrezl Harrell has been as good as advertised, and the long-awaited emergence of Wayne Blackshear makes this a very dangerous team.
  • Notre Dame sure missed Jerian Grant down the stretch last season. Now that its leading man is back from suspension, the Irish have started off hot. They’re a one-point loss to Providence from being 10-0 and they can present a quality win by virtue of besting Michigan State. Four double-figure scorers contribute to the 10th highest-scoring offense in the country at 85.1 points per game.
Coach Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish are thrilled to have Jerian Grant back (USAToday Sports)

Coach Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish are thrilled to have Jerian Grant back (USAToday Sports)

  • Could Virginia actually be better than last year’s conference championship-winning team? The Cavaliers have let Justin Anderson loose, and he has been nothing short of a star to pair along with Malcolm Brogdon. They’re still one of the best defensive teams in the country and have shown they can win playing multiple styles, counting road wins over Maryland and VCU already on the resume.
  • Miami is probably the pleasant surprise of the conference thus far, sporting a 9-1 record and earning a spot few saw coming in the national rankings. We’ll excuse the hiccup against Wisconsin-Green Bay (the same team that nipped Virginia early last year) since the Hurricanes have already beaten Florida and Illinois. Transfers Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan have allowed the other players who were asked to do too much last season to return to more comfortable supporting roles.

Those With Potential

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Morning Five: 12.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 10th, 2014

morning5

  1. Most people think of December as a time to spend with family, but it is also one of the most popular times of the year for players to announce that they will be transferring. This typically happens when players go home for Christmas break and presumably have friends and family telling them how much better they are than the starters. This year, a few players go an early jump on transferring as they aren’t even waiting for the end of the semester. at Marquette, sophomores Deonte Burton and John Dawson will be transferring leaving the Golden Eagles with just eight scholarship players. While Dawson is a seldom-used reserve, Burton was a top-50 recruit in the class of 2013, but has played less than expected and with Marquette’s highly-touted incoming class he probably felt it was best to move on. At Wake Forest, sophomore guard Miles Overton will also be transferring. While Overton, only averaged 3.4 points per game during his time there he did have a 14-point and 8-point game in the past two weeks.
  2. Louisville finally received word from the NCAA about freshman Shaqquan Aaron as it was announced that he will be suspended for nine games (30 percent of the regular season) of which he has already missed eight including last night’s win over Indiana. The NCAA ruled that Aaron’s family had received “extra benefits related to housing” along with other undisclosed things. Aaron, a borderline top-30 recruit last year, will have to sit out Sunday’s game against UNC-Wilmington before making his debut against Western Kentucky on December 20.
  3. Kansas junior forward Jamari Traylor (3.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game) will not play in tonight’s game against Georgetown after being suspended following his arrest early on Sunday morning for interfering with a police officer. The details around the incident are unclear, but Traylor was arrested with a Kansas football player following a fight where someone was assaulted with the police still investigating the matter. Based on Bill Self’s comments it appears that Traylor was a bystander, who was arrested for essentially not complying with a police officer rather than being an active participant in the assault.
  4. One of the common complaints with early-season schedules is the fact that many teams play meaningless games to boost their records presumably to make both coaches (hello, bonus money) and athletic directors look better. Fortunately some programs appreciate the importance of playing big-name programs for the good of both their own program and the sport. So whenever we see schools scheduled is big-time match-ups we appreciate it. As such we have to applaud both Kentucky and UCLA, the two most historically significant programs in the sport, for agreeing to play a home-and-home in 2015 and 2016. The schools, which will play each other this season in the CBS Sports Classic on December 20 in Chicago will play at Pauley Pavilion on December 3, 2015 and Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016. While it is hard to believe, this will be the first time that either program has played at the other’s home arena.
  5. Speaking of Kentucky, one of the remarkable things about the team (outside of how talented they are and their platoon system) is just how dominant their defense has been. As Gary Parrish points out, this Kentucky team has a chance to be one of the best defensive teams in college basketball history. This is certainly high praise, but the numbers, which admittedly don’t go that far back, seem to support the argument. While this Kentucky team might lack the signature defender like previous Kentucky teams had with Anthony Davis or Nerlens Noel or looking even further back Georgetown with Patrick Ewing, they do have much more length (at least in terms of numbers/depth) than almost any team that we can remember. So while it is still very early to be asking the undefeated question, the one thing the Wildcats have in their favor is a defense that will probably require a team getting very hot from beyond the arc to make an upset a realistic possibility.
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ACC M5: 12.08.14 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 8th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. WralSportsFan: The first conference game of the year took place in Raleigh on Saturday night with N.C. State defeating Wake Forest by a score of 78-65. Mark Gottfried continues to get good production from his two SEC transfers — former LSU player Ralston Turner led the way with 21 points, while former Alabama player Trevor Lacey scored 15 points and dished out six assists. It’s clear that Gottfried’s SEC roots as a player and former head coach at Alabama have helped him establish ties with his old league, giving him good name recognition with potential transfers there. This game was also the ACC debut for Danny Manning, who watched his Deacons struggle offensively, scoring only 65 points in a fairly high-tempo, 72-possession game. A big key to the Wolfpack’s win was keeping Wake off of the offensive boards, really the only thing it has done well this year (35 percent offensive rebounding rate). The Demon Deacons grabbed only 21.4 percent of their misses on this night, easily their worst performance of the year.
  2. New York Post: In a meeting of two traditional Big East rivals, St. John’s beat Syracuse, 69-57, for its first win in the Carrier Dome since 1999. This game came down to shooting, with the Red Storm outscoring the Orange by 18 points on three-pointers and by 10 from the foul line. As Jim Boeheim said after the game, “We’re either going to make shots against good teams or we’re gonna lose. It’s not that complicated.” As usual, the Syracuse defense will keep most opponents’ scoring under control, but it’s really hard to win games while shooting just 20.8 percent from deep, Syracuse’s season average. The most obvious player who can turn that number around is junior guard Trevor Cooney, who was 0-of-4 from behind the arc on Saturday. Perhaps he is feeling pressure as the focus of every defense, so others like Michael Gbinije (3-of-21 on the year) need to step up and knock down some jumpers.
  3. CBS Sports: Miami suffered a surprising 68-55 home loss to Green Bay on Saturday afternoon in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes got off to a terrible start and turned to a zone defense after falling behind by 11 points in the game’s first 13 minutes. After the game, head coach Jim Larranaga said that was the first time this season that he had felt forced to use the zone. Ironically, it was right about this point in the season last year that Larranaga, a traditional man-to-man defensive coach, installed a match-up zone that turned around Miami’s struggling season. This weekend, though, it was the Hurricanes’ offense that failed to produce, with Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan combining to go 9-of-31 from the field. It’s also possible that Miami took the Phoenix too lightly, which was a big mistake against a team that ranks #23 nationally in defensive efficiency.
  4. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Tech continued Saturday’s trend of ACC schools getting upset at home due to offensive struggles, falling to USC-Upstate by five points. Although the Yellow Jackets still have a decent 6-2 record, their offensive deficiencies may not be fixable. Against the Spartans, Georgia Tech struggled from the foul line (11-of-20) and three-point line (3-of-21), while also committing 17 turnovers. A look at their season stats shows that this particular performance wasn’t too far from the team’s norm. The Yellow Jackets currently rank outside of the nation’s top-300 in both free throw (62%) and three-point shooting (27%), and they aren’t much better at ball handling either, ranking #223 in turnover percentage.
  5. Syracuse.com: In this piece from Patrick Stevens, he discusses the difference in effort at Boston College this year under new coach Jim Christian. It appears that the program’s culture now includes tougher mental fortitude, enabling the Eagles to handle game adversity much better than in previous years. On Friday night, the Eagles bested a pretty good Providence squad by nine at Conte Forum, holding off a second half charge from the Friars. Providence, already claiming wins over Florida State and Notre Dame this year, became the second KenPom top-85 team (along with New Mexico) Boston College has beaten this season. By comparison, the Eagles had a dismal 0-6 record against top-85 non-conference opponents last year.
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Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Which League Has the Upper Hand?

Posted by mpatton on December 2nd, 2014

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge wasn’t the original inter-conference, made-for-TV battle, but it’s still the best. It represents a clash of styles, histories (especially with most of the Big East now in the ACC) and talent between two of the top basketball leagues in the country. The ACC dominated the Challenge from its inception, winning the first 10 meetings from 1999-2008, but the Big Ten is in the middle of a furious comeback by winning three in a row from 2009-11 before the ACC managed to eke out a couple of ties. This season the challenge expanded to a whopping 14 games, and on paper it looks like it will be another close one.

Frank Kaminsky and the Badgers (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Frank Kaminsky and the Badgers Headline the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Monday (Big Ten leads 2-0)

The Challenge started on Monday night, with Big Ten schools coming away victorious in two blockbuster middling match-ups. Florida State and Clemson have disappointed to start the season, so their losses to Nebraska and Rutgers weren’t surprising. But it’s not like those two schools have looked like powerhouses either. It’s also important to note that both games took place on ACC turf, which means the ACC needs to steal at least two road games of its own in order to break even the rest of the way. That these were considered toss-ups is also somewhat troubling. Regardless, let’s look at the remainder of the schedule.

Tuesday

  • Pittsburgh at Indiana (7:00 PM ESPN2): Recent history says this match-up will be awesome, but this season has been a disappointment so far for both teams. Jamie Dixon’s Panthers took an unexpected loss to Hawaii on its way to the Maui Invitational; likewise, the Hoosiers lost a shocker at home to Eastern Washington. Over the course of the season, Pittsburgh appears to be the better team, but without Durand Johnson (suspended for the season) and the game in Bloomington, there are plenty of questions. Prediction: Pittsburgh
  • Minnesota at Wake Forest (7:00 PM ESPNU): Look at this game on paper and it looks like a blowout. The Demon Deacons have finished near the bottom of the ACC during the last four years, and they’re also coming off a loss to Delaware State (at home). But Minnesota looks beatable here — especially if Codi Miller-McIntyre plays up to his potential. The Gophers are more experienced, but Danny Manning’s team should be able to pull off a couple of a head-scratching wins this season at home (I mean, Jeff Bzdelik pulled the feat last year), so this game isn’t as straightforward as it looks. Prediction: Wake Forest

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Back and Forth: Best of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Posted by David Harten on December 2nd, 2014

For the past 15 years, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge has done its part to give the college basketball community some great early season games. But as you scroll through the annals of the event’s fun history, it’s not chock-full of historic moments. Don’t get me wrong — there were a number of great games to choose from, but aside from the hardcore college basketball aficionado (/raises hand), it’s tough to isolate a few stand alone plays or performances to define this stable of yearly games between two of the country’s best conferences. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the bottom line is that the Challenge has not been an event known for so many great moments as much as great basketball.

Fourteen Years of ACC/Big Ten Challenges Have Produced Some Great Moments

Fifteen Years of ACC/Big Ten Challenges Have Produced a Few Great Moments

Still, there have been a few. Here are some of those moments and games.

5) 11/29/06 – Purdue 61, No. 25 Virginia 59: Crump For The Win. Tarrance Crump only averaged 5.0 points per game and shot 41 percent from the field in his two seasons with the Boilermakers, but the floater he hit with 1.8 seconds left in the Challenge game to give Purdue the win over a ranked Virginia team may have been the biggest shot of his career. His game-winning shot was set up after Virginia’s Sean Singletary hit two free throws to tie the game with 29 seconds remaining. The win was notable in that it was Purdue’s first over a ranked non-conference opponent at home in 21 years. (Challenge result: 8-3 ACC.)

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