We Need To Talk About Virginia Forward Akil Mitchell…

Posted by KCarpenter on December 31st, 2012

You can be forgiven if you don’t know much about Akil Mitchell other than the fact that he is a forward who plays for Virginia. In his first two years in the ACC, Mitchell was a role player backing up and complementing a veteran frontcourt stacked with the likes of Mike Scott and Assane Sene.  He played 22 MPG last year and averaged 4.1 PPG and 4.4 RPG. Those are decent numbers and all improvements over an even smaller role in his freshman year. However, with the departure of star player Scott, Mitchell has stepped into the limelight and performed magnificently. In 28 MPG this season, the 6’8″ forward is averaging 13.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG with a pair of assists and a steal a game thrown in for good measure. This is a remarkable improvement and currently Mitchell sits at fourth in the ACC in rebounds per game while he is just outside of the top 10 in scoring average. What makes this achievement all the more impressive is the tempo at which Virginia plays.

Akil Mitchell Has Made a Huge Leap This Season

Akil Mitchell Has Made a Huge Leap This Season

As in recent years, Virginia plays at a mind-numbingly slow pace. There are only four teams in Division I that play slower than the Cavaliers, and Tony Bennett‘s team is clearly the tortoise of the conference. So what? This means that Mitchell’s per game production actually underrates how good the forward has been for his team. He’s a top five player in the conference in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage as well as a top five player in offensive efficiency for players who use at least 24% of their team’s possessions. This isn’t an issue of a player who just needed more minutes or a more featured role: Mitchell took a big leap this year, improving in all of his tempo-free metrics even as he took on more responsibility for the offense.

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ACC Summer Recess: Virginia Cavaliers

Posted by KCarpenter on July 30th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Virginia.

Where They Stand Now

Bennett Will Need to Find Some Replacements Next Season

Heading down the stretch, it looked like Virginia was poised to have a moment. Mike Scott was easily one of the two best players in the conference and there was an instant where it looked like the Cavaliers might have the juice to win the ACC. A team that played insanely tough defense just couldn’t find enough offense, though, losing two of its last three games, dropping one to North Carolina State in the first game of the ACC Tournament and getting totally obliterated by Florida in its NCAA Tournament opener. It was a crushingly disappointing end to one of the best seasons of Virginia basketball in years.

Who’s Leaving

In terms of seniors, Virginia is losing its bedrock in Scott, who was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the early second round after a storied career in Charlottesville. Also hurting their frontcourt depth, seven-footer Assane Sene, was injured and then left the team at the very end of the season, though he would have otherwise presumably graduated and moved on anyway. Finally, the Cavaliers lose Sammy Zeglinski, a reliable veteran guard. During last season, the transfer plague that has dogged Virginia struck again, sending K.T. Harrell to Auburn and James Johnson to San Diego State.

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ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting Virginia vs. Florida

Posted by KCarpenter on March 16th, 2012

This is a tough draw for Virginia. Florida is a very good team for a #7 seed, and that more than offsets the advantage Virginia could have theoretically gained as an unusually good #10 seed. In this match-up the NCAA did something that fans of contrasting styles love: pitting an elite offensive team against an elite defensive team. By Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency rankings, Florida has the second best offense in the country after Missouri while Virginia has the 104th. On defense, Virginia ranks 5th in efficiency while Florida ranks 121st. Virginia’s star is an elite post player in Mike Scott, while Florida relies on it’s triumvirate of guards (Bradley Beal, Kenny Bonyton, and Erving Walker) to rain down threes from the perimeter. Polar opposites of each other in terms of focus, both teams share an affinity for slow pace and play their starters heavy minutes. So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Well, in this case, the news doesn’t look particularly good for Virginia.

How Will Donovan Contain Mike Scott?

Of all the teams in the country, few match the statistical profile of Virginia as well as Florida’s SEC brother, Alabama. Like Virginia, Alabama is a defensive-minded team that struggles to score efficiently with a post-centered attack. The Gators played Alabama twice this year, once in the regular season and once in the conference tournament and walked away with the victory both times. It’s tempting to attribute these victories, like many of Florida’s victories, to hot three-point shooting, but the Crimson Tide actually did a pretty good job against the Gators, holding them to only 28.6% and 33.3% from behind the arc. Yet Florida won, by making enough threes, getting enough offensive rebounds, and forcing enough turnovers to get the win. Does the same fate await Virginia?

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ACC Tournament: When The Season Comes Down To A Coin Flip

Posted by mpatton on March 9th, 2012

Winning close games isn’t all about skill. Certainly the best team will come out on top more often than not. But when a game is decided in the final possession–or even the final minute–skill is trumped by chance. It certainly helps if a 90% foul shooter goes to the line to ice a game, but he still misses every one out of ten free throws. He’s not taking ten, he’s taking one. That’s why winning really close games is as much a matter of luck as it is skill.

Now, after splitting a series of two coin flips with NC State, Virginia may be looking at a trip to the NIT. The Cavaliers won the first meeting in Raleigh by a point. The Wolfpack came back and won the rubber match in Atlanta by three. Virginia got outplayed in the second half. CJ Leslie continued his torrid stretch with the best performance of the ACC Tournament, going 9-11 from the field for 19 points to go with a game-leading 14 rebounds. Two monster threes to answer Cavalier runs from Lorenzo Brown  (one with 16:44 left in the game after Virginia cut the lead to one and one seven minutes later after it cut the lead to three) complimented Leslie’s performance and propelled the Wolfpack to victory.

Mike Scott Deserves A Chance To Dance.

I’m going to make two cases: why you should pull for the Selection Committee to call Virginia’s name this weekend, and why I think they should.

Starting with the second argument, Virginia’s profile isn’t scintillating but it’s solid. The most glaring part of Virginia’s profile are the three RPI 100-2oo losses (to TCU, against Virginia Tech and at Clemson). They also own a 3-6 record against the RPI top-50 (updating NC State’s ranking), and a 4-0 record against teams ranked 51-100. That’s a relatively weak profile that has enough meat on it to be in the 11-12 conversation. Now factor in the eye test: the Cavaliers’ style isn’t pretty, but they played Duke to a one possession game on the road, North Carolina to a one possession game at home and Florida State twice to a one possession game. That’s four games (against the ACC’s top three teams) decided by one possession. Close wins shouldn’t count for much, but when we’re talking about a borderline team I think they should count for something.

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ACC Afternoon Five: ACC Tournament Friday Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on March 9th, 2012

After a chalky Thursday (outside of Virginia Tech’s big win over Clemson), we get to the good stuff. Friday is when the stakes get higher and the going gets good. Today is critical for NC State and Miami, with Maryland and Virginia Tech hanging around to play spoiler, and everyone else with their eye on the big prize: the championship.

  1. New York Times: Karl Hess drama continues with the story of how Hess, infamous for ejecting two NC State legends from an RBC Center crowd against conference protocol, turned down a chance to referee the ACC Tournament. Though while Hess may be absent, his presence is still being felt. The three referees who officiated the first game of the tournament wore pieces of masking tape on their shoes with the initials “KH.”
  2. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Virginia, a team that had been decimated early in the season by defections has seen it’s depth take a few more hits this week. Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia’s freshman sixth man, underwent surgery for a broken foot on Wednesday and is out for the rest of the season. The Cavaliers had been hoping that Assane Sene, their senior center might be able to return for the tournament, but such hopes were dashed earlier this week when Tony Bennett suspended him for the rest of the season for a violation of team rules. The already shallow Cavaliers may have a tough time sustaining a tournament run with this further blow to bench depth.
  3. Washington Post: While Seth Greenberg‘s Hokies managed the only upset of the day against Clemson, Greenberg’s heart seems to be divided. Post writer John Feinstein details the troubles that have beset Greenberg’s brother, Brad. After NCAA infractions as coach at Radford, Brad Greenberg was unceremoniously drummed out of college coaching, thanks to the dreaded show-cause clause. Now in effective exile coaching in the Venezuelan league, Seth can’t help but feel for his beloved brother.
  4. News and Observer: Leonard Hamilton won a much deserved award for ACC Coach of the Year, but how did he end up rebuilding a dying a program? A system based on sound defensive principles as well as time and luck seem to be the simple recipe that led to slow but sure rise of Florida State. Leonard Hamilton seems like a good coach and even better person. It’s hard not to root for his continued success.
  5. CBS Sports: Though most of the action in the conference is in the tournament, Maryland made some waves on the recruiting trail yesterday. Securing the services of Charles Mitchell, the Terrapins look to greatly shore up their front line with a recruiting class that now features three top-100 recruits. Mitchell joins fellow forwards Shaq Cleare and Jake Layman in the wave of young men that should be descending on College Park to bolster the Terps’ front line.
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ACC Game On: 02.21.12

Posted by KCarpenter on February 21st, 2012

In-State Rivalry Rematches

  • North Carolina at North Carolina State at 8:00 PM on ACC Network or ESPN3.com
  • Virginia at Virginia Tech at 9:00 PM on ESPNU

NC State Could Really Use This Win (Star-News)

When North Carolina State played the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, the game turned into a 19-point rout thanks to North Carolina’s domination on the boards. In Raleigh, the Wolfpack will take a stand to try to avenge the January loss and to make a statement that will guarantee them a shot at March Madness. Right now, NC State sits right on the bubble with no wins better than Texas and Miami. A victory over North Carolina would go a long way towards ensuring that the Wolfpack goes dancing. At home, Mark Gottfried’s team will have an edge with what will surely be a raucous home crowd fired up by “Hessgate” and the natural rivalry. NC State is a very good rebounding team and the fluke bad performance in the previous meeting of these teams is largely owed to the foul trouble and limited mintes of Richard Howell, by far the team’s best rebounder. If Howell and all the other key pieces can stay on the floor, the Wolfpack very well might walk away with a signature win.

In an otherwise disappointing season, Virgina Tech’s upset of Virginia stands as a clear highlight for the Hokies. For the Cavaliers, the game was their first without starting center Assane Sene and the loss seemed to demonstrate how much they missed him. In the rematch at Blacksburg, Virginia seeks to settle the score and prove that the loss was a fluke and that they have adjusted to life without Sene. The Tar Heel and Wolfpack showdown might get more attention, but there’s liable to be plenty of heat (if not speed) in the clash between these two in-state rivals.

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Night Line: Virginia Falling Fast, Failing to Score

Posted by EJacoby on February 15th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Remember when Virginia played Duke to a one-possession game at Cameron Indoor Stadium in mid-January, then followed that up with a 32-point road win at Georgia Tech and was ranked No. 15 in the succeeding AP Poll? That Cavaliers team looks completely different from the one that scored just 48 points in a 12-point loss on Tuesday night at Clemson to fall to 6-5 in the ACC. What once looked like a surging team with top four NCAA seed potential has turned into a squad in a bit of a free fall. UVA has not only lost starting center Assane Sene to injury, but also three of its last four games and four of their last eight overall to drop to sixth place in the ACC. Virginia needs to turn things around if they want to make the Big Dance with a chance to win in the postseason. They’ll have that opportunity with both North Carolina and Florida State coming into John Paul Jones Arena in the next two weeks.

Virginia Has Had Trouble Making Shots Recently (AP Photo/J. Bounds)

Back on January 16, the then-No. 15 Cavaliers were not only on a nice winning streak but also had developed a strong identity as a slow-paced, defensive team that was difficult to execute against. Their average game includes 60.5 possessions, one of the 20 slowest tempos in the nation. Led by fifth-year senior Mike Scott, who has developed into one of the best all-around forwards in the country, Virginia had the goods to beat opponents in a grind-it-out style that came down to whose offense could be most efficient in the half court. At 15-2, the results showed that they were making it work. However, the downside to that style of play given the tempo is always the potential to allow teams to hang in a game. And when you’re not executing well enough on your own end of the court, then the style can turn ugly in a hurry. That is exactly what has happened to Virginia.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.11.12 – 02.12.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 10th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Plenty of top 25 games are on Saturday’s slate while conference races heat up and bubble teams look for key wins.

#20 Virginia at #5 North Carolina – 1:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

  • Coming off the crushing home loss to Duke on Wednesday, how will the Tar Heels respond? Without P.J. Hairston (sore foot) in the lineup, things could get a little dicey for #5 UNC. Hairston’s absence severely limits Carolina’s already thin back court depth. This game is going to be all about pace. Virginia plays at one of the slowest paces in the nation while North Carolina is one of the fastest teams. Point guard Kendall Marshallhas to get his team running as much as they can but we’ve seen time and time again how it is much easier to slow a game down than it is to speed it up. Wisconsin did this effectively at the Dean Dome earlier this season and you’re going to see the same blueprint from Virginia. The Cavaliers do a great job defending the three-point arc so UNC will likely get almost all of its points from inside or the free throw line. The Tar Heels are among the bottom five teams in America in terms of threes attempted to begin with and get 61.8% of their points from two-point range on average. Marshall and his teammates must be able to penetrate and move the ball well against Virginia’s strong half court defense.

    How Will Marshall & The Tar Heels Respond To Tuesday's Last Second Loss?

  • Virginia’s biggest strengths are its defense and play of forward Mike Scott. At 60.3% from the field, Scott is among the best interior players in the nation, but will have to receive some help from a thin UVA front line in this game. Led by Tyler Zeller and John Henson, North Carolina has a ton of height up front that could give Scott a lot of problems. With Assane Sene still out with an ankle injury, the burden of helping Scott against UNC’s imposing front line falls to Akil Mitchell. His presence will be needed more on the defensive end to limit Zeller and Henson but Virginia is not going to win if Scott doesn’t score. Mitchell must be enough of a threat to prevent quick double teams on Scott, allowing him to maneuver around the UNC trees. Defensively, Virginia will look to pack its defense in and prevent Marshall from penetrating and dishing to Zeller and Henson. Making opponents take tough shots is something Virginia does really well and the Cavaliers will need to do it again. Harrison Barnes will likely oblige but Mitchell and Scott must force Zeller and Henson into shots outside the paint or falling away from the basket. If you allow those guys to receive the ball in the paint, you’re finished.
  • Even though Virginia will likely slow the game down to a pace of its liking, the Cavaliers still must score the basketball. Sammy Zeglinski is five for his last 19 from the floor over the past three games and Jontel Evans has to have a good game at the point guard position. Virginia can’t turn the ball over and fuel the Carolina transition attack. It would also help if Joe Harris was knocking down triples, especially if Zeglinski can’t get out of his funk. Keep an eye on rebounding. North Carolina did a great job against Duke, showing some toughness on the glass that we haven’t always seen this year. Virginia is fourth nationally in defensive rebounding percentage but the Cavs really struggle on the offensive end. If the shots aren’t falling, Virginia will have a lot of one and done possessions if it can’t do a better job on the offensive glass. Good rebounding also helps a team control tempo and that’s exactly what Virginia needs to do in order to win this game on the road.

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ACC Morning Five: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 2nd, 2012

Before we get started, Ken Pomeroy offered a very good counter to the flood of compliments about Frank Haith‘s coaching against Texas. It’s worth a read, and I totally agree with it (I’d also add that Rick Barnes’ teams aren’t known for their in-game adjustments).

  1. Winston-Salem Journal: The ACC is struggling with attendance. While Wake Forest reported nearly 13,000 on hand for the North Carolina game, multiple reporters brought light to the large number of empty seats in Lawrence Joel Coliseum. Against North Carolina that shouldn’t happen, even in a bad season. Down in Coral Gables, a “numbers-cruncher” (for the record, I have no idea what that means) counted 1,800 fans on hand to watch Miami take on NC State (the reported attendance was 4,371). The modest attendance was juxtaposed with a horrid shooting night for both teams, with neither able to hit 35% from the field.
  2. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Virginia Tech has a philosophy against Duke: “When you play Duke, first and foremost, you’ve got to match their intensity.” Additionally, “You also have to play through mistakes.” The philosophy worked last season, though both teams looked very different. Seth Greenberg’s squad was anchored by Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen and the Blue Devils had Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. This year Duke’s biggest advantage is inside play, but Erick Green will cause the Blue Devils major problems on the perimeter. There’s no question that Duke is more talented overall, but if the Hokies stick with their philosophy, this road game could be a major challenge for the Blue Devils.
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Bret Strelow caught up with Austin Rivers to talk about Mike Krzyzewski’s criticism after the St. John’s game. Rivers admits the Blue Devils need to work on fighting throughout the whole game and never “letting up” like they did against the Red Storm. I actually agree with Rivers about their defensive struggles. With better communication and overall grit (not giving up), I think this is a solid (not great) defensive team. The question is whether it can keep up the intensity on the defensive end — especially when faced with adversity (like against Ohio State).
  4. Cavalier Daily: Apparently, there used to be a joke about Assane Sene and his lack of coordination. Those jokes dried up a little bit this year. First, Sene improved a lot over the offseason. Second, Mike Scott joined the team and took over the interior offense (saving Sene from from overuse on the offensive end). Now, instead of being the butt of the joke, Virginia students are hoping Sene’s ankle heals up for a run in the NCAA Tournament.
  5. Fox Sports Carolinas: Brad Brownell has a tough decision. Milton Jennings was supposed to be the next big thing at Clemson. He was the school’s first McDonald’s All-American in nearly two decades, but he’s never quite lived up to his potential. Should Jennings have done so, Clemson would be much more dangerous and it would get Brownell lots of street cred in South Carolina with recruits. Here’s to hoping Jennings figures things out, on and off the court. The ACC is better off with a good Clemson team.

EXTRA: Andy Glockner’s newest bracket is out! Only four ACC teams made the cut (NC State was close). Duke sits on the top seed line with a very interesting potential match-up against UNC Asheville and its dynamic backcourt of JP Primm and Matt Dickey. North Carolina finds itself as a #3 seed in Ohio State’s region. The good news is that the Tar Heels would potentially face Missouri in the Sweet Sixteen. Sign me up. Florida State actually gets some pretty good match-ups, though UNLV would be a really tough game. Virginia gets the unsavory task of facing the Buckeyes in the “third” round. The moral of the story is that fake brackets are fun.

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ACC Game On: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on January 31st, 2012

It was a lazy Sunday in the ACC when North Carolina dominated a hapless Georgia Tech team and Miami handled Boston College. I’d like to say today’s slate looks more competitive, but that wouldn’t really be honest. Still, watching two teams that are on a roll and two teams that are trying to figure things out may be instructional. Let’s go with that: tonight’s slate will be instructional.

The Dynamic Duo vs. The Legion of Doom

  • #5 North Carolina at Wake Forest at 9:00 PM

It’s becoming more than abundantly clear that with the possible exception of Ty Walker, Wake Forest has no offense outside of Travis McKie and C.J. Harris. It’s a shame, because McKie and Harris are seriously good players, but the rest of the team’s inability to provide much of any support has doomed this year’s Wake Forest team. Yes, this year is definitely better than last year and I suspect Wake Forest has at least one big upset they will pull off before the end of the season, but barring a break-out from some other player on the team, Wake Forest is just not very good. Meanwhile, Reggie Bullock is working out all too well in a starting line-up that is just starting to get scary. Consider this: at the beginning of the season, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall were all legitimate All-ACC players. Reggie Bullock, in terms of offensive efficiency as well as defensive efficiency, is beating all four. Meanwhile Stilman White seems to be adjusting well to his limited extra minutes, P.J. Hairston‘s shooting slump seems to be over and Desmond Hubert is picking up any slack in James Michael McAdoo’s game. I’m still thoroughly skeptical of the “Justin Watts as point guard” experiment, but I certainly prefer it to the minutes he was playing at power forward. In short, North Carolina looks really good right now and Wake Forest may have already hit its ceiling which didn’t seem very high in the first place.

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ACC Game On: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on January 26th, 2012

Well, Maryland managed to defend the honor of newly-christened Gary Williams Court for about 30 minutes before succumbing to the temptations of lousy help defense. Beating the Terps doesn’t look like a great win on paper, but it’s a great win for a Duke team that still seems occasionally unsure of their own identity. Virginia Tech lost to Brigham Young thanks to poor offensive execution and despite a relatively strong game defensively. It was a game that came down to the last play, but the Hokies just couldn’t pull it out. Florida State put up a command performance in stomping Wake Forest with the wicked defense of the Seminoles holding star player Travis McKie to a pitiful 1-of-13 shooting night. Couple that with an over 50% shooting night from the field and the Florida State juggernaut looks as hot as ever.

A Cold War Goes Hot

An NC State vs. UNC Game That Means Something? It's Been a While...

  • North Carolina State at North Carolina at 7:00 PM on ESPN

In Chapel Hill, this game hasn’t meant much in the Roy Williams‘ era. The heat from a once-vicious rivalry cooled as the Wolfpack drifted further and further into irrelevance. Now, NC State fans are always hot for this game, but the recent history of this match-up has left Chapel Hill fans indifferent. But for the first time in a long while, Tar Heel fans are nervous. Quietly, Mark Gottfried has developed a powerful and versatile balanced attack. Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, C.J. Williams, and Scott Wood all have a legitimate case for being the ACC break-out players of the year (ignoring Terrell Stoglin), each making massive strides in their respective games. Meanwhile C.J. Leslie still remains an immensely talented wild card, capable of taking over a game at both ends, though his inconsistency remains an issue. They match up well with the Tar Heels, having a combination of size and speed to counter North Carolina’s usual advantages in this area. Still, North Carolina is a great team and as well as the Wolfpack matches up on the perimeter, it’s unclear if their is a frontcourt answer to the Tyler Zeller and John Henson tandem. Also, a real concern: the Wolfpack’s three-point defense has been abysmal and with Reggie Bullock getting the start alongside Harrison Barnes, an early barrage of perimeter shots could break NC State’s back early. I think this game will be close, but the Tar Heels take this one. The real intrigue for this game is how it sets the stage for what’s almost certain to be the dramatic second meeting in Raleigh.

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Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 23rd, 2012

  1. It was a fall from grace of epic proportions, but no matter where you stand on the culpability of Joe Paterno with respect to what he did or did not do about Jerry Sandusky’s alleged crimes a decade ago, his passing on Sunday morning in State College, Pennsylvania, was met with sadness and reflection among those in the college athletics universe. Even though lung cancer is what ultimately felled him, it’s safe to say that the events of the last few months were instrumental in his death beyond any physical ailment. As Bill Reiter writes in a thoughtfully constructed piece, if it’s possible to die from a broken heart, Paterno probably did. Prior to Sunday afternoon’s basketball game between Penn State and Indiana in Bloomington, both teams observed a moment of silence to remember a man whose life was filled with countless successes but one notable and egregious failure (see the video here).
  2. While on the subject of failure, is the case against former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine for child molestation falling apart? Zach Tomaselli, the person who set the investigation into Fine in motion with his allegations about the coach molesting him on a basketball road trip as a 13-year old, stated over the weekend that he “doctored emails and frequently lied” to try to make his case against Fine sound better. He went on to say that he plans to ask the Syracuse police department to drop the investigation against Fine, and that he will withdraw his civil suit against the ousted coach as soon as this week. Tomaselli was the only accuser whose claims still fell within the statute of limitations, so it may result that without his cooperation, the Syracuse authorities may not have enough evidence to prosecute. Where might that leave the university in terms of exposure to a countersuit from Fine for wrongful termination?
  3. Syracuse was without its sophomore center on Saturday when the Orange visited Notre Dame and it will be without him tonight as well at Cincinnati. Fab Melo, the anchor in the post of Jim Boeheim’s exceptional 2-3 zone, was suspended by the university for academic issues and it’s unclear if or when he will be allowed to return to the team. Andy Katz reported Saturday that SU is hopeful that Melo will be back in time for next weekend’s game at the Carrier Dome against West Virginia, so speculation has run rampant that he’s currently doing some additional course work to satisfy the requirements of whatever class is holding him back. Obviously, Melo has been a pleasant surprise this year, blocking three shots per game and making the Orange zone even more difficult than usual to penetrate. Syracuse will need him to return soon if they are to have any hope of getting to the Final Four again for the first time in nine seasons.
  4. There was some bad ACC injury news over the weekend affecting two of the teams vying for the top of that league. North Carolina shooting guard Dexter Strickland‘s knee injury, suffered on Thursday night in a game against Virginia Tech, was confirmed as an ACL tear on Friday and he will miss the rest of this season. His loss on the offensive end can be absorbed by the bench, but his defensive capabilities at the position as well as the spot duty he provides for point guard Kendall Marshall is more concerning. A couple hundred miles north of Chapel Hill, Virginia starting center Assane Sene will miss the next six weeks of action with a broken bone in his right ankle experienced during Thursday night’s win over Georgia Tech. Sene’s importance to the Cavaliers will also mostly be felt on the defensive end, and if Sunday’s first game without him is any indication — a two-point loss to ACC-winless Virginia Tech in Charlottesville — the Wahoos will need to figure out a way to replace him fast.
  5. In case you missed it, Saturday was one of the wildest days of college basketball we’ve had this year. Three of the top four teams in the AP poll lost, headlined by Notre Dame’s giant-killing defeat of Syracuse in South Bend, Missouri’s impressive display of offensive power at Baylor, and Florida State’s game-winning three at the buzzer to end Duke’s home court winning streak at 45. For some of our thoughts on these games and others, check out our BGTD: Selected Thoughts edition from Saturday evening.
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