Saturday Preview: Entering February, Stakes Are Raised

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 1st, 2014

Hello February! College hoops welcomes you into 2014’s second month with a mouth-watering slate of action. You may be sold at “Duke-Syracuse,” but there will be plenty of games that don’t set Carrier Dome attendance records worth watching. That’s not to say that your college basketball fan credentials will be confiscated if you aren’t settling in to your couch for some ACC on ESPN action at 6:30 PM ET today – because they will be – but here are some other storylines to watch on the first day of February.

Perfection Will Be Tested

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

For the first time since 1976, there are three teams 20-0 or better in college basketball, and all three are in action on Saturday. Wichita State shouldn’t have any issues with Evansville (3-6 in the MVC) at The Roundhouse (3:00 PM ET, ESPNU), but both Arizona and Syracuse face serious threats to their dreams of perfection. The Wildcats visit Berkeley to take on a Cal team (10:30 PM ET, P12 Nets) which had been undefeated at home up until Wednesday, when Arizona State squeezed out an overtime win over the Bears. If Mike Montgomery’s team is to add the signature victory of all signature victories to its resume, they will need senior Richard Solomon to have a big game against that impressive Arizona frontcourt. All the way across the country, Duke would be well-served to find a way to match up with the impressive frontcourt of their undefeated opponent. The Blue Devils are not a great rebounding team, but in their game with Syracuse (6:30 PM ET, ESPN), keeping the Orange (ninth nationally in OR%) off the offensive glass will be imperative for Coach K’s squad. On the other end, look for Jabari Parker to get plenty of touches out of the high post. A record crowd is expected at the Carrier Dome for this one, which obviously sounds like good news for Syracuse. Maybe not, though. The last time there was an attendance record set at the dome (last February, versus Georgetown), a do-it-all 6’8” forward named Otto Porter torched the Orange for 33 points and eight rebounds in a lopsided victory for the visitors. Can Parker induce a little déjà vu on Saturday, and end Syracuse’s perfect season while he’s at it?

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Breaking Down ACC Weekend #5 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 1st, 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 January 29, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features two heavyweight matchups featuring the four teams that are clearly the class of the conference thus far.

Saturday – Duke (17-4, 6-2 ACC) @ Syracuse (20-0, 7-0 ACC) – ESPN (6:30 PM)

Record Carrier Dome Crowd Awaits Duke. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Record Carrier Dome Crowd Awaits Duke.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Syracuse 72-68 (#3) Duke
Duke-Syr

A record Carrier Dome crowd is expected for Duke’s much-anticipated first trip to Syracuse. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be there as well, adding to the hoopla. Duke hopes it can continue to play as well as it has in the last five games. During that stretch, the Blue Devils’ much maligned defense has held opponents to an excellent 93 points per 100 possessions. Their most impressive win came Monday night on the road over Pittsburgh, whose only other conference loss came at the Carrier Dome in a close game. An unsung hero lately has been Duke’s Amile Jefferson, who is the only player in the ACC’s top three in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Syracuse just keeps rolling along, rarely blowing teams out but always executing extremely well down the stretch of games. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis has been amazing all season, but has even been more impressive in ACC play. Despite playing so many minutes, including going the full 40 in three of the last four games, Ennis seems to be at his best in the last five minutes of games. He does whatever the Orange needs him to do, and has become a more consistent scorer with double figure points in all seven ACC games. There will be a lot of talent on the floor, particularly at the forward spot, with each team having two versatile 6’8″ frontcourt players, C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant for Syracuse and Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood for Duke. Another key could be if either team’s sharp shooter, Trevor Cooney of the Orange or Andre Dawkins for the Blue Devils, gets free and knocks down multiple threes. Naturally, whenever a team plays Syracuse we have to look at how they will try and deal with that famously active zone defense. Duke has done pretty well against other zones but nobody plays it quite like the Orange. The Blue Devils will probably try and slide their forwards in and around the lane to use their quickness, but they will have to adjust to how well Syracuse reacts to the ball. Tempo will also play a big role, with Duke wanting to force the pace defensively, hoping to wear down the Orange and make them use their weaker bench. But other teams have tried to do that and found out that Ennis is hard to speed up.

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Breaking Down ACC Weekend #4 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 25th, 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 January 22, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings.

Saturday: Florida State (13-5, 4-2 ACC) @ Duke (15-4, 4-2 ACC) – ESPN (12:00 PM)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#11) Duke 78-72 (#21) Florida State 

Jabari Parker Has Been More Aggressive Lately For Duke. (Photo: Ethan Hyman)

Jabari Parker Has Been More Aggressive Lately For Duke.
(Photo: Ethan Hyman)

This weekend’s kick-off game should be a great match-up between surging Duke and a Florida State team that has beaten every ACC team it has played not named Virginia. And don’t discount the Seminoles’ chances just because this game is at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Florida State already has two impressive road conference wins over Clemson and Miami, each by double figures. In a bit of a surprise, the Seminoles lead the ACC in three-point shooting (43.8%), with sophomore Devon Bookert leading the way with a league-leading 12-for-19 (63.2%). The Florida State defense is tough on opposing shooters and ranks #16 nationally in adjusted efficiency, but it has not been quite as stingy in league play. They will be facing a hot Duke team that remade its lineup, is using its bench more, and has had success with it — winning three straight. The Blue Devils got their first road win of the season on Wednesday over Miami and have averaged an outstanding 121.7 points per 100 possessions over the last three outings. Jabari Parker appears to be bouncing back from his mini-slump, averaging 20 points per game in the last two outings. As an indication of Parker’s aggressiveness lately, he shot 18 free throws in those two games after only attempting a total of 12 in his first four ACC games.

FSU-Duke

Stat Watch. Florida State has two glaring weaknesses: defensive rebounding and ball-handling. Even though Duke has been weak on the offensive boards for most of the year, they grabbed 15 of them against Miami. And in their last home game, the Devils forced N.C. State into 15 first half turnovers, so the key to the game will probably be how well Florida State takes care of the ball. If they can make the game depend on who shoots better, Florida State has the edge, with their defensive field goal shooting (38.3%) much stronger than Duke’s defense (45.3%).

Saturday – Pittsburgh (17-2, 5-1 ACC) @ Maryland (11-8, 3-3 ACC) – ESPN2 (6:00 PM)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Pittsburgh 73-65 (#66) Maryland

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Breaking Down ACC Weekend #3 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 17th, 2014

It’s the third weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. With every team except North Carolina having played at least four ACC games, we will now be using conference games only statistics along with team rankings 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 January 15, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Saturday – Pittsburgh (16-1, 4-0 ACC) @ Syracuse (17-0, 4-0 ACC) – ESPN (4:00 PM)

Syracuse's C.J. Fair and Pittsburgh's James Robinson Renew Their Rivalry in a New Conference. (Photo: bigstory.ap.org)

Syracuse’s C.J. Fair and Pittsburgh’s James Robinson Renew Their Rivalry in a New Conference.
(Photo: bigstory.ap.org)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Syracuse 66-61 (#8) Pittsburgh

Pitt-Syr2The best match-up of the weekend is ironically between these two ACC newcomers. Something has to give as Pittsburgh is leading the conference with 78.5 points per game in ACC play, while the Orange have the stingiest defense, allowing only 50.0 points per game. As he has all season, senior Lamar Patterson leads the way for the Panthers, averaging 20.0 PPG in ACC games. He will probably match up frequently with Syracuse’s All-America candidate C.J. Fair (17.1 PPG) in Pitt’s man-to-man defense. The battle at point guard may decide the game as Syracuse’s freshman sensation Tyler Ennis faces off with Pitt sophomore James Robinson. In conference games only, Ennis leads the league in assists (6.5 APG) and steals (3.0 SPG), while Robinson has the ACC’s best assist/turnover ratio (16/2).

Stat Watch. Pittsburgh leads the ACC by a huge margin in field goal percentage in conference games at 51.6 percent, while Syracuse is 10th at 40.9. Ball-handling will be important as these are the top two teams in the ACC in steals. It will also be interesting to see how many three-point shots Pittsburgh tries against the Orange zone, as they are last in the league in attempts, while Syracuse allows more than any other team.

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Wake Forest’s Jeff Bzdelik: Make Sure to Leave Home Without Him

Posted by JPriz on January 12th, 2014

From growing up playing basketball through college to observing many coaches over the last few years, it is my contention that a coach never strays too far from his roots, and you can look to one’s history to get a sense of the present. One coaching profile I read recently was on Alabama football head coach, Nick Saban, who gained his attention to detail from washing cars at his father’s dealership. If the car wasn’t completely streak-free, he had to wash the entire car again.

Jeff Bzdelik Simply Cannot Win Games on the Road (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Jeff Bzdelik Simply Cannot Win Games on the Road (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The same can be said for Wake Forest’s head coach Jeff Bzdelik. The guy simply can’t win on the road, and hasn’t been able to win on the road for the past several years, tracing back to his time at Colorado. He is quite literally 2-50 in conference road games during that stretch. OK, so the facts are out there, the guy clearly can’t win on the road. But why can’t he win on the road? I think the answer lies in Bzdelik’s history, one that has plenty of twists and turns. Here is a man who has been near greatness, and has taken credit for it. When he isn’t near greatness, he has been completely unable to win games, with the exception of his anomalous tenure at Air Force.

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Breaking Down ACC Weekend #2 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 11th, 2014

It’s the second weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. 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 January 8, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Saturday – North Carolina (10-5, 0-2 ACC) @ Syracuse (15-0, 2-0 ACC) – ESPN (12:00 PM)

CJ Fair and Others Returned to School and We All Will Benefit

CJ Fair and the Orange Look to Add to North Carolina’s Losing Streak

Pomeroy Prediction: (#5) Syracuse 75-64 (#34) North Carolina

UNC-Syr

There’s some chatter that it would be typical of this year’s up and down Tar Heels team to pull off another monumental upset in the Carrier Dome. But North Carolina has actually been more consistent lately, only in a bad way. The Heels do not look like a confident team right now. Still, Roy Williams has shown in the past (including this season) that he can motivate a team out of a slump. At least they appear to have one clear advantage on the offensive end they could exploit – offensive rebounding. Unfortunately for the Heels, the same is true on the other end with Syracuse hitting the offensive glass hard this season. Taking care of the ball will also be crucial against the long and active Syracuse zone. It will be interesting to see how many three-pointers each team takes. Neither likes to shoot many, but they both allow opponents to fire a bunch. Finally, a good start by the Heels (see: the Michigan State game) is important, but with the way the Orange has come back from big early deficits, even that may not be enough.

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ACC M5: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 10th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. ESPN and One Foot Down: Major team swag news as Darren Rovell reports that Notre Dame will be moving from Adidas to Under Armour after this year. In a weird way the move shows just how self involved the Fighting Irish are when it comes to these sorts of things. There was a minor uproar when Michigan became Adidas’s “flagship” deal a few years back, so it appears Notre Dame headed towards a smaller pond. Seriously, if this deal isn’t massive, I don’t understand it. But hey, this means the ACC will maintain two Under Armour schools (Boston College is the only other once Maryland leaves) to go with two Adidas schools once Louisville joins.
  2. Blogger So Dear: A statistical breakdown of Winston-Salem’s very own Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? That’s right, Wake Forest has outscored its last ten conference opponents by 49 points at home, going 7-3 in the process. Ken Pomeroy expected that the Demon Deacons would be outscored by 40, meaning the team overachieved by a whopping 89 points (8.9 points a game). Meanwhile on the road the team is 0-10 in its last such games on the road. Opponents have outscored Jeff Bzdelik‘s squad by 161 points (16.1 a game) over the stretch which 46 points worse than Ken Pomeroy predicted. So Wake Forest’s current home-road differential is a 13.5 points a game more than what would be predicted by statistical models. That’s insane.
  3. Greensboro News-Record: Good stuff breaking down North Carolina‘s struggles to start conference play, but I can’t help but wonder whether the skid has more to do with Marcus Paige returning to earth. Paige literally carried this team through non-conference play. Every time they needed a bucket he was there. But at Wake Forest and against Miami Paige had two of his worst games of the season. Also if you’re looking for another good take on Roy Williams’ struggles this season, Brian Barbour has you covered.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: Good work by Luke DeCock who agrees that Jabari Parker‘s mini-slump is nothing to be concerned with going forward. But wait. Did he notice that Parker and Paige had their two worst games at the same points? In all seriousness, Parker will be just fine once his jump shots start falling again. One (unrelated) thing I’m interested to see is how more teams playing more zone will affect the game in the long run. I think Syracuse’s zone is partially effective because opponents don’t play it very often. But with nearly everyone playing at least a little zone this season, I wonder if that will hurt the Orange against teams like Duke and North Carolina (though the Tar Heels haven’t exactly lit up the zones they’ve played).
  5. Tomahawk Nation: With focus turned back to basketball, Florida State rebounded from its home beat down from Virginia with a win at Littlejohn Coliseum. Their defense was suffocating, exposing a Clemson offense gorged on non-conference cupcakes. Even more impressive is the Seminoles were only 1-11 from three. My only other takeaway is there’s a huge drop-off for Brad Brownell’s team after KJ McDaniels. He was the only player who had any offensive success.

EXTRA: Georgia Tech has decided to bribe students for showing up to men’s and women’s basketball games this year with a point system where students will be awarded prizes ranging from t-shirts and gift cards to the grand prize of a PlayStation 4.

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Is Wake Forest’s Victory Over UNC a Stepping Stone or an Aberration?

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 6th, 2014

After Wake Forest’s upset win over North Carolina on Sunday night, it’s easy to conveniently revert to the narrative of the “Jekyll and Hyde” performances of UNC at this point in the season. Lost in the conversation could be how big the win could prove for Jeff Bzdelik’s Demon Deacons, a team that may not have dealt with the roster and eligibility concerns of the Heels but have been a program in flux since he took over three years ago and has struggled to resurrect a disenchanted fan base. The momentum this win could carry would be huge for a basketball program that has unquestionably fallen on hard times since the shocking death of Skip Prosser in 2007. The question is whether last night’s win was the work of a team simply motivated to win its conference home opener against an historic rival, or whether the Deacons are finally turning a corner to better and brighter things.

Devin Thomas

Effort and enthusiasm from players like Devin Thomas could mean a statement year for Coach Bzdelik and Wake Forest (credit: accbasketball.com)

The sustainability of Wake’s winning ways can certainly be debated, just as much as the oft-maligned Bzdelik’s ability to reinvigorate its fan base. Wake is coming off of a relatively weak non-conference slate — the Demon Deacons entered the game at 10-3 — and the atmosphere for its ACC opener at the Joel was somewhat disappointing with a strong UNC presence in the stands. Still, a win over the Tar Heels represents a quality victory — perhaps Wake’s second-best in the Bzdelik era behind a win over Miami last season — but certainly not a shocking one given UNC’s own struggles this season. Early foul trouble on James Michael McAdoo and J.P. Tokoto and an inordinate number of sloppy turnovers doomed UNC’s chances at a second half comeback, putting some of the onus on Carolina for the loss rather than Wake Forest manufacturing the victory.

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ACC M5: 01.06.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 6th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Winston-Salem Journal and Raleigh News & Observer: In honor of Wake Forest‘s best win of the Jeff Bzdelik era, here are a couple of posts on the Demon Deacons. Dan Collins gives some context to the Wake Forest-North Carolina rivalry (and a good reminder of how awesome Randolph Childress was). Speaking of Childress, I can’t help thinking he’s played a role in Codi Miller-McIntyre‘s leap this season. He also should prove an asset recruiting, as he seems to have the charisma Bzdelik is missing.
  2. State of the U: Good catch-up with Miami assistant coach Michael Huger on where the Hurricanes are and where they need to improve in conference play. Huger pointed to the team’s need for a leader to step up, also saying “Davon Reed is trying to emerge as that guy.” The fact is this team has a ceiling because of its youth and its talent (though I–and Syracuse–underestimated them coming into conference play). But if Jim Larranaga and his staff can get this group to start gelling, this will be a strong core to build around going forward.
  3. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Bad news out of Atlanta as Robert Carter Jr. is sitting out indefinitely to undergo knee surgery. Brian Gregory noted the time table could be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on the severity of the tear. The news is a particularly big blow because Carter obviously worked hard in the off-season to improve his conditioning, which will suffer with an extended time away from the team. Carter’s absence will most affect the team’s proficiency on the boards and protecting the rim as his likely replacement Kammeon Holsey is a significantly worse shot-blocker.
  4. Charlottesville Daily Progress: North Carolina isn’t the ACC’s only puzzling team: Virginia is also a total enigma. The Cavaliers don’t have any really good wins (well, at least they didn’t until dismantling Florida State in Tallahassee), but they’re statistically solid (35-point beatdown to Tennessee notwithstanding). While I had no idea what to think of the Tar Heels coming into the season (or now), I felt positive that Virginia would be a contender in the ACC. The team’s non-conference schedule all but emptied its bandwagon, but the win against the Seminoles has me with one foot back in.
  5. Durham Herald-Sun and CBS Sports: Good story from Steve Wiseman on Andre Dawkins, who’s earned his spot in Duke’s rotation not just with his lights out three-point shooting but also an improved presence on the defensive end of the floor. Dawkins still isn’t a good defender, but his effort and execution are vastly improved over previous seasons. Also while on the subject of the Blue Devils, I think Coach K made the right call benching Jabari Parker. Yes, Parker was the best player on the floor, but he had been forcing things all night, and it’s important for him to understand when to take a step back. That said, in the future (especially more important games), I think Parker should stay in because he’s the best player on the floor and opposing teams will have to guard him as such.
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Breaking Down ACC Weekend #1 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 3rd, 2014

It’s the first weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcome of the game. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of January 1, 2014. The games are presented in the order that they will be played this weekend (all times EST).

Saturday – Pittsburgh (12-1) @ N.C. State (10-3) – ACC Network (12:00 PM)

Jamie Dixon Has His Panthers Back to Playing Pittsburgh Basketball (US Presswire)

Jamie Dixon And Pittsburgh Kick Off the First Weekend of ACC Conference Play vs N.C. State in Raleigh (US Presswire)

  • Pittsburgh Offensive Efficiency – 114.1 (#24 in the NCAA)
  •         N.C. State Defensive Efficiency – 100.4 (#110)
  •         N.C. State Offensive Efficiency – 109.5 (#66)
  •         Pittsburgh Defensive Efficiency – 92.5 (#11)

What to Watch For: In its first ACC conference game ever, Pitt looks to have a strong edge on the offensive end of the court. In particular, look for the Panthers to try to exploit the Wolfpack on the boards. Pitt comes in 11th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, while N.C. State is 237th in defensive rebounding percentage. Another area to watch is the mismatch in free throw attempts. N.C. State ranks near the bottom of the NCAA in free throw attempts, while Pitt rarely fouls. In fact, the Panthers actually had a game earlier this year against Cal Poly in which Pitt did not commit a single first half foul.

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ACC Preview Revisited – Part Three

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 3rd, 2014

As we continue to revisit our ‘ACC Mega-Preview’, here is the third part of our recap with the bottom five projected teams profiled below. Keep in mind that the teams are ranked here based on the RTC preseason ACC rankings. The analysis of each determines whether each team was ranked too high or low at the start of the season.

To review Part One and Part Two of this feature, click through the links.

11). Florida State Seminoles (9-3)

FSU's defense has given Leonard Hamilton reason to smile again

FSU’s defense has given Leonard Hamilton reason to smile again

  • Signature wins: #10 VCU, #22 UMass
  • Signature losses: #14 Michigan, #15 Florida
  • Reasons for optimism: Florida State has tangled with a very difficult schedule thus far and responded well above its preseason perception. Thanks to their talented trio of Ian Miller, Aaron Thomas and Okaro White, Florida State has outdone expectations through a return to their days of defensive dominance under defensive whiz and head coach Leonard Hamilton. The emergence of massive center Boris Bojanovsky as a formidable interior presence has helped anchor the frontline, and by playing hard-nosed basketball against a very competitive early slate of opponents before conference play begins, FSU has set itself up well to overachieve and claw its way into the crowded ACC picture.
  • Reasons for pessimism: It will be tough for Florida State to keep up its scorching shooting percentages through conference play, and the rhythm it has built may break down over the wear and tear of consistently equivalent and superior teams in the ACC. While the Seminoles rank highly in field goal percentage, they don’t have a long-range threat on the roster who can consistently knock down threes when they are zoned. If one of their big three gets into foul trouble, which has happened to White already this season (he is averaging 3.2 personal fouls per contest), they will struggle to replace a player of his offensive importance.
  • Forecast: Florida State has a bright season ahead, likely beating some solid opponents and losing a few very close games to stronger foes. Without star recruit Xavier Rathan-Mayes and missing out on the Andrew Wiggins sweepstake, most folks thought Hamilton’s team would struggle to keep its head above water this season. It has proved many people wrong with its tenacious defensive principles intact and a solid well-rounded scoring attack. Florida State has firmly leapfrogged several teams projected in front of it and can be expected to challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid by continuing on this trajectory. 

12). Miami Hurricanes (8-5)

  • Signature wins: Arizona State
  • Signature losses: George Washington
  • Reasons for optimism: Not much was expected of this Miami team after losing almost all of its squad from an historic 2012-13 season. Losing the likes of ACC POY Shane Larkin, Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson, and Durand Scott would weigh on any team, but Jim Larranaga’s group has looked more formidable than expected. Behind the strong play of Rion Brown, Garrius Adams and Donnavan Kirk, Miami won’t set the world on fire this season but has a good team that could upset some more talented squads in conference play. They are certainly athletic, physical, and well-coached and will not back down from any challenge. Read the rest of this entry »
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Weekend Storylines: Exams Over, But Tests on the Court Just Beginning

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 28th, 2013

Here’s to hoping that this week brought you plenty of holiday cheer, because it surely did not supply you (or anyone else!) with much quality college basketball. Entertaining Diamond Head Classic final aside, this week was as slow as the college basketball season gets. Don’t despair, however, because Santa has delivered a Saturday chalk-full of college hoops. Two big-time rivalry games occupy the prime real estate on this weekend’s marquee, but there’s plenty of substance, albeit understated, sprinkled throughout Saturday’s docket of action. Here’s a quick primer on the big games in Syracuse and Lexington, plus a few other worthwhile narratives to monitor on this busy Saturday.

For The First Time In Over Three Decades, Syracuse And Villanova Will Meet As Non-Conference Opponents

For The First Time In Over Three Decades, Syracuse And Villanova Will Meet As Non-Conference Opponents

A Couple Of Old Big East Friends

In the world of college basketball, eleven months is far from an eternity, but my, oh my; how things have changed since the last time Villanova and Syracuse locked horns! What was a Big East conference game last January will be an ACC versus (new) Big East affair today (2PM EST, CBS), and with both teams set to embark on their maiden voyages in the new leagues next week, the Carrier Dome will serve as the clinic for anyone needing one final dose of Big East nostalgia. Subplots abound in this game, but I’ll be especially interested to see how Villanova attacks the Syracuse zone. The Wildcats haven’t been a bad offensive team to this point in the season, but the Cats’ statistical breakdown on the offensive end puzzles. Villanova is 18th best in the country in two-point field goal percentage (55.1%), also shoots the ball pretty well from the stripe (72.2%), but struggles from beyond the arc (204th nationally in 3P% at 32.7%). With those splits, you’d expect Jay Wright’s team to focus their efforts inside the three-point line. So far, however, they’ve done the exact opposite – the Wildcats are 7th in the country when it comes to percentage of field goal attempts from three-point range (45.7%). Will the chucking continue against an Orange zone that begs opponents to settle for deep shots (43.1% of Syracuse opponent’s field goal attempts are threes), or can the Wildcats throw aside this bit of statistical dissonance and find a way to get quality interior looks against the zone? Remains to be seen, but expect 30,000+ to get a first-hand view of the answer.

Battle For The Bluegrass 

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