ACC Weekend Preview #10

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 7th, 2014

It’s the final weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of March 5, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features some important matchups that will determine seeding in next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Saturday – North Carolina (23-7, 13-4 ACC) @ Duke (23-7, 12-5 ACC) – ESPN (9:00 PM)

Marcus Paige Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina's Winning Streak. (Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Marcus Paige’s Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina’s Winning Streak.
(Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#8) Duke 80-72 (#23) North Carolina

nc-duke

While neither of these teams have played their best basketball lately, North Carolina has managed to keep winning (12 straight) while Duke took a bad loss on Wednesday at Wake Forest. In that one Duke collapsed down the stretch, much like they did in earlier ACC road losses at Clemson and North Carolina. On the other hand, the Tar Heels have made enough plays to win three straight close games against teams with losing conference records. North Carolina’s improved offense has dipped lately, having its two worst offensive efficiency games during the winning streak in the last two contests. But the Tar Heel defense has remained solid, holding four of their last five opponents under 1.00 points per possession. Duke is mired in a team wide shooting slump which continued with a miserable 6-of-27 effort from three on Wednesday night. And unlike many Blue Devil teams of the past, the defense is not elite enough to overcome such shooting woes. Duke has been unbeaten at home since losing at the end of the 2012 season to North Carolina. If they want to stay unbeaten at home this year, the Blue Devils probably need to have a comfortable lead late. If it comes down to team toughness and resiliency, the Tar Heels may have the edge.

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ACC M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 6th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. ESPN: If you don’t read anything else today, read this Tommy Tomlinson piece on Dean Smith. It’s well-written and heartbreaking.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: In more upbeat news, Wake Forest knocked off Duke at the Joel last night. This was the first time since 2009 that the Demon Deacons have beaten Duke, North Carolina and NC State at home. It shouldn’t be enough to save Jeff Bzdelik’s job, but it does give Travis McKie some return on his four-year investment in the program. Duke’s offense sputtered against Wake Forest’s zone down the stretch, allowing the Demon Deacons to effectively close out the game on a late 17-0 run. Another side note is that Coach K experienced some dizziness during the game and opted for Steve Wojciechowski to take his place at the press conference podium after the loss.
  3. Syracuse Post-Standard: If you ever wonder why Patrick Stevens gets paid the big bucks, it’s because he’s a saint for breaking out all the possible iterations of the ACC Tournament heading into the final weekend. While the scenarios are complex, they’re slowly narrowing. The top of the league is much more set than the bottom (at this point, all of the byes and double-byes are clinched). But Notre Dame and Georgia Tech are a complete mess.
  4. Washington Post: Drama in College Park. as Charles Mitchell got into a heated discussion with assistant Scott Spinelli. The explosion feels out of character, as Mitchell normally appears to be an easy-going guy on the bench. Suffice to say that it will be handled in house.
  5. USA Today: Man, a lot of people who had Syracuse as an overall #1 seed last week are singing a different tune this week. I won’t get on board that train, although the Orange are certainly not doing themselves seeding favors or otherwise by losing to Georgia Tech.
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ACC Weekend Preview #9

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 28th, 2014

It’s the next to last weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 26, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features a battle for first place, with the winner likely headed to the ACC Tournament in Greensboro as the top seed.

Saturday – Syracuse (26-2, 13-2 ACC) @ Virginia (24-5, 15-1 ACC) – ESPN (4:00 PM)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title. (Photo: VirginiaSports.com)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title.
(VirginiaSports.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#4) Virginia 58-53 (#10) Syracuse

Syr-Va

This match-up will probably decide the ACC regular season title. Virginia could be the least publicized 15-1 major conference team ever. With Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina getting most of the national attention, the Cavaliers have methodically taken care of business and rolled through conference play. They also seem to be on the upswing, winning their last two games by over 20 points after three straight single-digit victories. Malcolm Brogdon continues to be a model of consistency. It’s almost unreal to look at his game-by-game scoring totals. Not only has he scored in double figures in every ACC game, but he has scored in the 12- to 17-point range in 14 of the 16 games. And in the other two contests, he had 11 once and — you guessed it — 18 in the other. The good news for Syracuse is that Jerami Grant is expected to play in the game. The sophomore missed the entire second half of Monday’s contest at Maryland with a lower back issue. In that game, the Orange won another nail-biter, bringing their record in close games (decided by five points or less) to a rather fortunate 6-1. For Syracuse to get Virginia in a close one, it better shoot much better than the team has lately. In the last four games, the Orange have averaged an extremely low effective field goal percentage (39.0). That doesn’t match up well with Virginia’s league-best defense.

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ACC M5: 02.27.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 27th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. The Agony (via Air Balled Free Throw) and The Ecstasy (via Tar Heel Blog): Life wouldn’t be complete without both perspectives on one of the best ACC games of the season. Only Syracuse’s win over Duke in the Carrier Dome topped North Carolina eking out a win over NC State last night. Of course there was weird officiating, but the fun was watching Marcus Paige and T.J. Warren trade buckets down the stretch (both finished with career-high nights). Voting for first-team All-ACC will be brutal this year.
  2. Fayetteville Observer: Speaking of TJ Warren, Bret Strelow brings up an interesting fact. Warren is likely to be the first player from the Triangle to make first-team all-conference in two decades. Strelow looks at Warren’s ascent from sixth man to possible ACC Player of the Year. Here’s hoping that NC State gets another shot at the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament in two weeks.
  3. Syracuse Post-Standard: Patrick Stevens is watching the bubble. Historically he’s done an excellent job in picking the NCAA Tournament field, so definitely pay close attention to his work. NC State’s loss probably pushes the Wolfpack into longshot territory for the moment. I only see five (maybe six if a couple of the top tier lose in the conference tournament) ACC teams making the Big Dance as of right now. The question is whether NC State, Florida State, Clemson or Pittsburgh will nab another spot by finishing strong. There just aren’t many great wins on the resumes of NC State or Pittsburgh, but there are some real head-scratching losses for Clemson and Florida State.
  4. Raycom Sports: This is old(ish) news, but with the ACC Tournament around the corner it makes sense to talk about now. The ACC decided it would be a good idea to put Miami between Duke and North Carolina’s fan sections this year in Greensboro Coliseum. That’s a sliver of a buffer. And the Florida State-Boston College crescent is the only thing keeping the Tar Heels from becoming a Duke-NC State sandwich. What really stands out about the seating chart is how small Pittsburgh‘s section turned out to be. Welcome to the ACC!
  5. Winston-Salem Journal: In case Wake Forest fans want to forget the present in favor of better times (read: postseason times), there’s a new book out on Bones McKinney, the baptist preacher and head coach who led the the Demon Deacons to the Final Four a half-century ago.
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ACC M5: 02.26.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 26th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Akil Mitchell‘s offense is starting to come around. His defense has been elite all season, but his offense has taken a major step back from last year. His numbers still don’t match the double-double machine he was, but his shooting splits (not counting the free throw line) are almost identical to 2012-13. The good news is that his rebounding is back at an elite level. This year the Cavaliers don’t need him to shoulder nearly the same offensive load, but he’s absolutely critical for the Cavaliers on the boards.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: So the ratings are back from Syracuse-Duke and it’s safe to say the ACC will want these two schools to play multiple times a year. ESPN’s broadcast on Saturday night outdrew Lebron versus Durant two nights earlier, making it the highest rated sports event of the week (on cable). It also nearly doubled the ratings for North Carolina-Duke last Thursday night, which were admittedly split between ESPN and the local networks. Also, please enjoy more Jim Boeheim memes in the bottom slideshow.
  3. Charlotte Observer: Tyler Lewis finally has the starting point guard job at NC State. When Cat Barber started earlier this season, it looked like Lewis might be destined to become a role player coming off the bench. But as Barber’s freshman mistakes mounted, Mark Gottfried started going to Lewis more often. Lewis still can’t keep opposing guards in front of him, but there’s no denying that the Wolfpack’s offense looks best when he’s at the helm. He needs to improve his defense to keep the job in the long term because Barber will assuredly improve his consistency as he gets older.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: Don’t look now but Marshall Plumlee is looking like a talented basketball player. It’s weird to say that there weren’t high expectations for a McDonalds All-American, but Plumlee never got much attention last season or for much of this one. Plumlee isn’t likely to see a huge boost in minutes next year (unless the Blue Devils want to go massive with him and Jahlil Okafor on the floor), but he already looks like a totally different player. He’s become much more confident, and therefore, effective. His shot-blocking and rebounding could end up being the Zoubekian post presence many have suggested that the Blue Devils need to make it to the Final Four.
  5. Blogger So Dear: Wake Forest showed some fight last night, playing spoiler at a sparsely attended game in Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons beat Clemson, probably putting the Tigers on the wrong side of the bubble for good (barring a miraculous ACC Tournament run). Most importantly Jeff Bzdelik’s team showed a spark in the second half that had been missing the last couple of games. His team hasn’t quit yet, and still has an outside shot of finishing .500 with winnable games against Boston College and Miami (though that’s on the road) coming up.
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Rushed Reaction: #24 North Carolina 105, Wake Forest 72

Posted by nvr1983 on February 22nd, 2014

rushedreactions

Here are our observations after North Carolina crushed Wake Forest, 105-72:

  1. UNC will be an extremely difficult out in March. This shouldn’t be too much a surprise after their early season victories against Michigan State, Louisville, and Kentucky, but for much of the season the Tar Heels were dogged by the perception that they were inconsistent and for good reason. Mixed in with their big early wins the Tar Heels also had some awful losses–at home against Belmont and Miami and on the road against UAB and Wake Forest. Since their loss at Virginia on January 20, the Tar Heels have won nine straight and are starting to display the type of consistency that they will need to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Some of their win streak can be attributed by the current weak state of the ACC, but it also includes wins against Duke and Pittsburgh. Current bracket projections have the Tar Heels being anything between a #5 and #8 seed after this week they should be somewhere near the top of that range.
  2. Jeff Bzdelik needs a real estate agent. I know that the Wake Forest administration showed a lot of faith in Bzdelik by firing Dino Gaudio, who had taken them to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, to hire Bzdelik, who was 36-58 in three seasons at Colorado. With nearly three seasons in the books in Winston-Salem, Bzdelik is approaching 30 games under .500. Ron Wellman talked about culture when he hired Bzdelik, but we doubt that he was thinking of this type of culture at the time. At this point we would be shocked if Bzdelik returned next season so the question really is who will replace him. The two names that get thrown around for every power conference vacancy are Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland, but we cannot see either of them going to Wake Forest with the options they will have in front of them. Perhaps the most interesting potential candidate we have heard is Jeff Capel, who has experience at Oklahoma and knows the ACC well sitting alongside Mike Krzyzewski. We obviously have our reservations about hiring a retread who went 27-36 A.B. (after Blake Griffin departed), but he would be a relatively safe hire and one with some decent credentials.
  3. Roy Williams seems much more relaxed. Early in the season there were rumors that this might be Roy’s last year. Those were obviously premature particularly with what appears to be an outstanding freshman class coming in. Still everybody who followed the Tar Heels could clearly tell that this team and this season was taking a toll on Roy. The turnaround in how the Tar Heels are playing has led to Roy’s mood to improve significantly (shocking). Although Williams is certainly not young at 63 years old, we would be looking at some of his colleagues in the ACC to retire before we would expect Roy to do so.

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ACC Weekend Preview #8

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 21st, 2014

It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 19, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Saturday – Syracuse (25-1, 12-1 ACC) @ Duke (21-6, 10-4 ACC) – ESPN (7:00 PM)

Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski's Teams Played a Classic Three Weeks Ago. (Photo: Raleigh News & Observer / Getty Images)

Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski’s Teams Played a Classic Three Weeks Ago.
(Photo: Raleigh News & Observer / Getty Images)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#5) Duke 70-65 (#9) Syracuse

Syr-Du

A little of the shine came off this weekend’s national spotlight game, when Syracuse suffered its first defeat of the season Wednesday night, and then Duke stumbled Thursday night in Chapel Hill. It wasn’t surprising that the Orange finally lost one, given all the narrow victories they’ve had lately, but it is shocking that the culprit was Boston College, and also that the loss happened in the Carrier Dome. The fact that average teams keep taking Syracuse to the wire is probably of bigger concern right now. It’s quite possible that this depth-shy Syracuse team is starting to wear down a bit. Even though they play a zone defense which uses less energy than man-to-man, the heavy minutes played may be affecting the Orange’s starters. In ACC play, Syracuse has four players logging over 35 minutes per game. Duke also looked like a tired team Thursday. The Blue Devils’ normally high powered offense had no juice in the second half of that game, going a stretch of almost nine minutes without a field goal. Much of the credit should go to North Carolina’s defense and the outstanding Smith Center crowd, but when Duke did get an open look, they usually came up short -probably due to tired legs. So, we should not expect either team to repeat the offensive display from the first meeting, when each scored at an astounding rate – both over 1.30 points per possession. With their fourth game in eight days, the Blue Devils may have to depend on the Cameron Crazies and a bunch of minutes from the bench, to get over the energy hump.

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ACC M5: 02.18.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 18th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Testudo Times: I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about what qualifications earns a coach a spot in the Hall of Fame, but put me down for Gary Williams regardless. Some of the reasons are here, courtesy of Dave Tucker: he won a national championship in the second of back-to-back Final Four appearances; his teams went to 11 straight NCAA Tournaments; and he has the third most ACC wins behind Coach K and Dean Smith. Also of note is how he rebuilt Maryland from the ground up after the school was (arguably unjustly) leveled with NCAA sanctions. Seems like an open-and-shut case to me.
  2. Baltimore Sun: Devin Thomas‘s older sister Alyssa is one of Maryland’s best players ever. She also may have played a role in Devin becoming the interior force we now know by beating him in one-on-one as kids (she was faster, so he had to get physical). More interesting is that Thomas almost joined his sister at Maryland until Gary Williams retired and the coach in charge of his recruitment left. Think about a Charles Mitchell – Devin Thomas frontcourt. Hello 100% rebounding rate.
  3. Blue Devil Lair: Here’s a look at some efficiency stats that suggest Duke is on track for the Final Four. Duke and Creighton sit in elite efficiency territory and are doing it essentially with offense alone. That’s probably the most interesting part of the equation, as while teams with gaudy efficiency differentials tend to make the final weekend, it generally takes a more balanced team than the Bluejays or Blue Devils to get those margins. What’s also worth noting is that efficiency margins are likely to drop as the season progresses (and the teams you play get better), so Duke’s numbers may be inflated compared with what they’ll look like at the end of the season.
  4. Hampton Roads Pilot: Speaking of teams with gaudy efficiency stats, Virginia will almost certainly retain its top spot in Tuesday Truths today. Which begs to question. Just what happened at Tennessee? Was it a wake-up call? An outlier of all outliers (on both ends of the floor)? A horrible match0up? We’ll never know, but that game makes many people very wary of Virginia as a top tier team in the ACC. Beating Syracuse March 1 would go a long way in easing people’s doubts (and could lock up the regular season “title”), but I’m not sure I’ll ever get past that beatdown.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: Interesting interview from Donna Ditota with Jim Boeheim. While he opens by acknowledging Syracuse’s vulnerability, it’s clear Boeheim has very positive feelings about this team. He noted Baye Moussa Keita’s injury might turn out to be a blessing, as it’s helped Rakeem Christmas accept a bigger role. And then he broaches winning a national championship with limited depth, which–while a natural response to a question on depth–bears significance because of Boeheim’s normal self-deprecating tone.

EXTRA: Duke conspiracy theorists have more ammo, as the conference announced the official did make a mistake in the second half of the eventual 1-point Blue Devil win against Maryland.

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ACC M5: 02.17.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 17th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Atlantic Coast Confidential: So first, about the Syracuse-NC State game. Neither team deserved to win. You can’t claim you deserve to win if you turn the ball over twice in the last 30 seconds. Nor can you stake much on getting bailed out on a foul call. I want to spend a few words talking about Trevor Cooney’s foul on TJ Warren. It may have been the right call. Good arguments have been made that it was (notably, he traveled after the foul but before shooting). But that doesn’t mean the rule is dumb. Reasonable minds disagree, but Warren had an open layup and Cooney just threw his arm at the ball with no angle to make a play. The contact changed Warren’s timing (resulting in the aforementioned theoretical travel). The clear-path rule should be adopted to some degree at the college level because it’s ridiculous to reward a desperation play like Cooney’s. Moving forward, I’m a little concerned that Syracuse’s regression may come at the wrong time (see the 2010 team for another example). That’s not to say it will, just that I hope people aren’t just paying lip service to the Orange because they’re undefeated. This is a really good team, maybe the best Jim Boeheim has ever coached.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: In moral-boosting NC State stories, good stuff from Joe Giglio on David Thompson (in honor of the 1974 national championship team). Thompson probably tops the list of players I’d like to get a time machine to both go back to see them play and bring back to see them play in today’s game (runner up is probably Wilt Chamberlain). Thompson is one of those athletes (Bo Jackson is the paradigm) who’s reached an almost mythical status where I’d believe nearly any fabled athletic feat (at least related to leaping ability in Thompson’s case) someone told me.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: With Wake Forest continuing its quest to play on the first Wednesday in ACC Tournament history Dan Collins has seen enough of the Jeff Bzdelik era. Had Bzdelik arrived a couple of years later, he might have been able to usurp Les Robinson’s honorary nickname of shame for the conference tournament’s opening day, but I’d be surprised if Wake Forest keeps Bzdelik after this season. Bzdelik’s players may have too, as they’re still talking the talk, but the losses appear to be weighing them down as a group.
  4. Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State kept its NCAA hopes alive by winning at Wake Forest. But there’s still a lot of work left to do, and the team knows it. I think Florida State is in if it wins four of its last five games. Two are gimmes (home against Georgia Tech and at Boston College). But there’s a surging North Carolina team and a trip to increasingly desperate Pittsburgh, not to mention undefeated Syracuse all on the horizon.
  5. BC Heights: Legendary Boston College basketball SID Dick Kelley died last week from ALS. Austin Tedesco–sports editor of the student newspaper–penned a few stories about how Kelley continued to mentor him, even into the later stages of his illness. Anytime you hang around Conte Forum long enough you start hearing stories like these. as Kelley’s manner was just infectious. As a side note, Kelley was the first SID to credential this website as a legitimate entity. He will be missed.
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ACC Weekend Preview #7

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 14th, 2014

It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 12, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features four games that involve the top eight teams in the standings.

Saturday – Pittsburgh (20-5, 8-4 ACC) @ North Carolina (16-7, 6-4 ACC) – CBS (1:00 PM)

Roy Williams Has The Tar Heels Pointed In The Right Direction. (Photo: USAToday.com)

Roy Williams Has The Tar Heels Pointed In The Right Direction.
(Photo: USAToday.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#27) North Carolina 69-68 (#15) Pittsburgh

Pit-NC

Pittsburgh is coming off that emotionally crushing last second loss to Syracuse on Tyler Ennis’s 35 footer Wednesday night, making the Panthers o-for-4 in games against the top three teams in the league. With no more opportunities for a huge signature win, this game on the road against the red-hot Tar Heels looks like Pittsburgh’s last chance for a regular season win that may impress the NCAA Selection Committee. The Syracuse game was the second time the Panthers lost at home on a last second three pointer, with the other delivered by Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon. But don’t feel too sorry for Pittsburgh – they also have two overtime wins over ACC bottom dwellers Miami and Virginia Tech. Not only has North Caroliona won five straight conference games, but they have been impressive doing so, winning all by double digits. The Tar Heels have even begun to show improvement from the free throw line. They have only bested the 73 percent mark in four games all season, but three of those have been in their last four outings. With Wednesday’s weather related cancellation of the Duke game, North Carolina should be the fresher team physically for sure. But the current mental state of the Pittsburgh team is what may swing the game in the direction of the Tar Heels. After Wednesday’s major disappointment, the toughness and resiliency of the Panthers will be tested.

Stat Watch. Tempo will be very important in this one, with Pittsburgh (61 possessions per game) preferring a slower pace and North Carolina (67 PPG) wanting to speed things up. North Carolina hopes that being the fresher team shows up on the boards, where both teams normally excel. If Pittsburgh loses that battle, it will be awfully hard to see them winning, unless they have an unusually good shooting performance against the stout Tar Heel defense.

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ACC M5: 02.13.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 13th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. CBS Sports and ESPN: A couple of interesting tidbits from after Syracuse‘s miracle win last night at Pittsburgh. First, according to the Panther players after the game, they forced the Orange to take the shot they wanted. And truthfully, if you go back a couple possessions, I’m pretty sure they were fine with CJ Fair’s long three and step-back 15-footer too. Even more impressive is Tyler Ennis‘ resume in the last five minutes of one-possession games and overtime: he’s 8-of-9 from the field, 14-of-14 from the free throw line, with six assists and no turnovers. Ennis lives for the moment. It’s amazing (and lucky). But the best make their own luck, and it’s starting to look like Ennis is one of the best.
  2. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Here’s where I’m going to jump on the Internet bandwagon. Jamie Dixon shouldn’t have used his last timeout — the one he called after making a free throw to go up one with 4.4 seconds left. The one that let Syracuse set up a final play. Unless a Pittsburgh player was woefully out of position or Syracuse happened to be in the perfect formation to get an easy shot, I would have kept that timeout. But when it comes down to it, Pittsburgh played well enough to win and just caught a bad break. Unfortunately, that bad break probably puts the Panthers in the bubble conversation (although with its record, I think the Panthers are a shoo-in barring an epic collapse).
  3. AP (via Winston-Salem Journal): Wake Forest athletic director and chairman of the Selection Committee Ron Wellman (hey, at least he doesn’t have to worry about a conflict of interest anytime soon) announced some changes in how the NCAA seeds its teams that will matter for bracketologists. The two big ones are allowing rematches earlier in the tournament and having “more latitude in assigning teams to sites closer to their homes.” The second point runs counter to Wellman’s goal of honoring seed lines. If you honor the seeds and locations, you’re going to end up with ones in home regions for eights, which is beyond stupid.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: Duke vs. North Carolina was postponed last night, but that doesn’t mean we won’t talk about both teams. Here’s a good look at Marcus Paige from Bret Strelow. Paige, a little like Ennis, doesn’t have gobs of natural athleticism, but they both seem to make the game slow down. That’s essentially where the similarities end, though — Ennis is a distributor who morphs into an unstoppable machine in the final five minutes, while Paige is the first offensive option all game long.
  5. Washington Post: Terrific short (18 minutes) documentary on the dying Maryland-Duke rivalry, focusing on the back-to-back national championships in 2001 and 2002. The Duke title year (2001) was when the rivalry came into its own with four (yes, four) absolutely tremendous, unforgettable games. I’ve mostly come to accept the Terrapins leaving for the Big Ten at this point, but work like this definitely makes me think twice. For a good stretch in the 2000s, the Maryland-Duke games were on an unparalleled level. There’s still a level of vitriol that runs between the schools that made for unbelievable atmospheres.
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NC State Surges in ACC Standings, Possible Bubble Talk?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 12th, 2014

After starting conference play with an uninspiring 1-4 record, N.C. State has quietly climbed back up the standings. After dispatching Wake Forest 82-67 on Tuesday night in Raleigh, the Wolfpack have now jumped into a tie for sixth place in the ACC with a 6-5 mark. By winning five of its last six games, Mark Gottfried’s team is again starting to get some attention as a possible NCAA Tournament candidate, and that alone is a nice accomplishment in what was viewed as a major rebuilding year in Raleigh. While the surge is certainly great news for Wolfpack fans, there’s still a lot of work to be done for N.C. State to move itself on to the right side of the bubble.

ACC Leading Scorer T.J. Warren Leads N.C. State. (Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

ACC Leading Scorer T.J. Warren Leads N.C. State.
(Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Back on January 5, Wake Forest edged the Wolfpack on a late driving layup by Codi Miller-McIntyre, but last night N.C. State made sure the latest contest between the old Tobacco Road rivals did not come down to a similar situation. Behind T.J. Warren’s 34 points and 10 rebounds, the Wolfpack broke open the game late in the first half. Warren led the surge with 23 first half points on 10-on-14 shooting, marking the fourth time this year that the sophomore has topped 20 points in a half. When asked about his star player in the postgame press conference, Gottfried noted, “He’s got a knack to score in such a variety of ways. I think it’s unique.” That was certainly true on Tuesday as he scored on mid-range jumpers, offensive putbacks, and even connecting on 3-of-5 threes, matching his best long-range performance of the season.

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