ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

The 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off Wednesday in Greensboro. This should be one of the more entertaining tournaments of recent years, as every team has something to play for from bottom to top. It’s startling that so many are dismissing Virginia, who just won their first outright ACC regular season championship in 33 years. Syracuse has been left for dead after once being projected to be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing four of their last six to close the regular season. Duke and North Carolina need late runs to continue to improve their seeding for the Big Dance. The lone likely bubble team in the conference, Pittsburgh, will seek to bolster its resume. Everyone else seeks to shock the world and win the whole thing to steal a tourney bid. Here is RTC’s ACC Tournament preview, with predicted champion included.

This year's ACC tournament field should be wide open.

This year’s ACC tournament field should be wide open.

The first round kicking off on Wednesday is a new wrinkle for a newly-enlarged conference, and there won’t be any big surprises there. Virginia Tech owns two wins (their only two conference wins) over Miami this year; that will change this time around. It’s very difficult for anyone to beat a team three times in the course of one season, and this isn’t a juggernaut squad by any means. Jim Larranaga’s team tops James Johnson’s. Maryland, fresh off of its stunning win over Virginia in the season’s final game, will keep their momentum rolling in knocking Wake Forest out on the first day. The Demon Deacons don’t win away from home, and that won’t change in Greensboro. Georgia Tech will continue the disastrous year that Boston College has endured by out muscling them inside with Daniel Miller and capping off the win with Trae Golden’s ace free-throw shooting.

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The Unofficial RTC ACC Superlatives

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 11th, 2014

While the more official hardware is beginning to be handed out, like Player and Coach of the Year and the All-ACC team’s, it’s worth looking at some more under-the-radar superlatives that players and coaches have earned through the course of the regular season on the precipice of ACC Tournament time in Greensboro.

Here are five awards that RTC found to be equally as important as some of their more official brethren:

Most Selfless Upperclassman: Joe Harris, Virginia.

His scoring dipped more than four points a game from a year ago as he watched Malcolm Brogdon become the go-to scorer and clutch player on the team, plummeting from preseason ACC Player of the Year prognostications seemingly from the first game’s opening tip. Nonetheless, Harris’ willingness to play team ball and enlarge his leadership role helped Virginia to their first outright ACC Title in 33 years and a current two-seed projection in the NCAA’s. Harris is a senior, so it’s rare for a player to back off in his final season and allow team success to trump personal statistics. Harris is still a force, but now knows he can operate in the background to help his team’s season become even more special.

Joe Harris' selflessness helped Virginia win the ACC regular season (UVAsports)

Joe Harris’ selflessness helped Virginia win the ACC regular season (UVAsports)

Best Coaching Job Outside of Charlottesville: Roy Williams, North Carolina.

Tony Bennett absolutely deserved the COY award for his unbelievable reclamation job with Virginia, but no one dealt with more adversity this year than Williams. Between the PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald saga, the academics issues brought to light by a former adviser, and the up-and-down start to the year with no set rotation and inconsistent effort, Williams had a ton on his plate in trying to get this team into postseason play. The Tar Heels won 12 conference games in a row, including a split with rival Duke, and own possibly the best non-conference wins of any team in the country. It’s arguably Williams’ best coaching job in Chapel Hill to date. Read the rest of this entry »

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College Basketball by the Tweets: Tony Romo, #cheerfortheears, Deonte Burton, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on March 11th, 2014

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Mr. Buffett may lose points for looking like a fair weather fan, counting his money in Omaha and only coming out to play when the Bluejays are on the verge of making a deep NCAA Tournament run, but any billionaire willing to be photographed with stickers on his face is cool in my book.

Joel Embiid Out For Big 12 Tournament

Like Syracuse in 2012 (Fab Melo) and Cincinnati in 2000 (Kenyon Martin), Final Four contender Kansas has lost an important big man at the worst possible time. Joel Embiid, ruled out of the Big 12 Tournament with his NCAA Tournament status unknown because of a stress fracture in his back, has offered up a handful of angles as to what it all means for Kansas. To the hot sports takes!

#cheerfortheears Reaches Its Appropriate Climax

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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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RTC Top 25: Week Sixteen

Posted by Walker Carey on March 3rd, 2014

With just one full week left in the regular season, things started to get very interested this past weekend. A total of 10 previously-ranked teams suffered setbacks on either Saturday or Sunday. The most noteworthy results of the week involved previously 19th-ranked Kentucky. John Calipari’s enigmatic squad, which was ranked first in the preseason edition of the RTC25, is now unranked after falling at home to Arkansas on Thursday and getting stunned at 11-18 South Carolina on Saturday. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 conference races were all decided on Saturday. #1 Florida grabbed the outright SEC crown by remaining unbeaten in conference play with a comfortable 18-point win over LSU in Gainesville. #4 Virginia clinched the ACC regular season title outright, as it moved to 16-1 in conference play with a dominating 19-point victory over #7 Syracuse. #6 Kansas wrapped up the regular season Big 12 title by besting #21 Oklahoma in Lawrence on Monday and taking advantage of losses by the conference’s second-place teams, #15 Iowa State and Texas, on Saturday. The outright regular season Pac-12 champion was determined on Sunday by virtue of #2 Arizona handily defeating Stanford in Tucson. With several major-conference crowns yet to be determined, the final week of the regular season promises to bring the intrigue that college basketball has become to be known for every season. The quick n’ dirty analysis of this week’s poll is after the jump.

rtc25 03.03.14

Quick n’ Dirty Analysis:

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Whats Trending: Tom Izzo Dancing, Baylor Getting Baptized, Marcus Paige, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on February 28th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Tom Izzo… Pony… Ride It

So Tom Izzo apparently appears in a new Werner Ladders TV commercial. That’s clever and funny and all, but SB Nation‘s Brian Floyd already made the remix for us because that is how he rolls… just laying beats over video and hitting the “UPLOAD TO YOUTUBE” button.


Yes, that would be the renowned R&B hit “Pony” by Ginuwine.

Baylor Bears Get Baptized

No for real. This is not a euphemism for getting shown up on defense while your opponent throws one down in your face. A handful of Baylor Bears were actually baptized last week. Isaiah Austin captured it all.

Scottie Wilbekin Celebrates Like A Soccer Player

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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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Challenging the Narrative: Marcus Paige Has “Unpredictable” North Carolina Rolling

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 28th, 2014

College basketball media coverage is predictable. Early in the season, teams become associated with certain narratives. As teams evolve over the course of the season, the narratives may seem less and less apt, but we do our best to hang on to them as long as possible. Some teams don’t change enough to warrant a reconsideration of the way they’re written and talked about. Others change so much, and so quickly, that by February we can’t possibly attempt to re-apply the labels we slapped on them in November and December. Let’s run through some examples.

Since falling to 1-4 in the ACC, North Carolina has rolled off 10 straight wins (Getty Images).

Since falling to 1-4 in the ACC, North Carolina has rolled off 10 straight wins. (Getty Images)

  • Iowa: “KenPom likes ‘em, but they can’t win the close games.”
  • Michigan State: ‘Boy, if this team ever gets healthy, it’s winning it all. Mark it down.”
  • Kentucky: “So much talent, but not enough leadership.”
  • Louisville: “Pitino’s guys can really play, but without Chane Behanan, that frontcourt is going to be an issue come March.”
  • And, my personal favorite, North Carolina: “I have no idea what to expect from this team on a nightly basis.”

The origin of the unpredictability the Heels have become known for this season is easy to pinpoint. Over its first nine games of the season, Carolina beat then-No. 1 Michigan State, then-No. 11 Kentucky, and then-No. 3 Louisville. It also lost at home to Belmont (ranked #73 in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings at the time) and on the road against UAB (#66). This mix of great wins and baffling losses didn’t sit well with us narrative architects. How does one go about describing a team that’s so unpredictable? It was maddening. That’s how Carolina earned its reputation as the most unpredictable team in the country. Trust Carolina at your own peril, was the thought. The only thing we thought we knew about the Heels was how much we didn’t know. Which is to say, a lot.

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Morning Five: 02.28.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 28th, 2014

morning5

  1. With the season winding down, UCLA appears to be looking at a fairly high seed (we have seen anywhere from 4-7 in brackets), but we have to wonder about them going forward after Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, the team’s two best players were suspended for last night’s game against Oregon. The outcome of last night’s game isn’t nearly as important as the suspensions–one game each for “violating team rules”. That could certainly mean a lot of things, but it has to make you wonder about the mindset of Anderson (14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game) and Adams (17.2 points per game) heading into March.
  2. It has been a few weeks since we had heard much about the North Carolina academic scandal so we were a bit surprised to see that Business Week had decided to make it this week’s cover story. For those who have followed this story there is not anything particularly shocking in the story, but it will only serve to further damage the school’s reputation. At this point it seems unlikely that either the NCAA or any governing body will take significant action against the school and you can argue that print media is dying, but having that cover on newsstands across the world certainly won’t help North Carolina’s brand.
  3. For the Tar Heel fans who might be feeling a little down after yet another mainstream media source took a shot at the school for their handle of the academic scandal, Grantland has a feature on a topic–the 2005 title team–that should serve as a way to perk you up. Except that it is about how the key players on that team failed to live up to expectations. We don’t mind to pile on Tar Heel fans today, but it is an interesting topic particularly when you consider that you can make a strong case for that team being one of the top teams since 2000. Oh, and if you want to know if Illinois fans are still upset about losing that title game check out the comment section.
  4. Bill Self might not want to play Wichita State, but that does not mean he does not appreciate what they are doing. When asked about the Shockers, Self reiterated his stance that he would continue to schedule games to help his program not others. This certainly won’t endear him to Wichita State fans, but Self did come out in support of the Shockers as a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they are undefeated when Selection Sunday rolls around. Honestly, we don’t understand how anybody could believe that the Selection Committee would pass on an undefeated team much less one that made it to the Final Four last year (yes, we know the last part shouldn’t matter).
  5. By now you should know that we basically link Luke Winn’s Power Rankings almost every week. It’s not that Luke pays us (that would be a nice gift though), but it is because it is one of the few columns that we learn something new from every week. This week the two things that jump out at us are the block matrix that Luke created and how Xavier Thames‘ usage and production has decreased recently. The part of the block matrix that jumped out at us is how underrated Chris Obekpa is as a defender. He won’t generate the headlines that Joel Embiid does mainly because of Obekpa’s limited offensive repertoire, but these numbers suggest that he might be able to find his way onto a NBA roster some day. As for Thames, being on the East Coast we do not get to see as much of him as we would like, but the graph showing his drop in usage and production is instructive if you are trying to figure out what is wrong with San Diego State.
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Rushed Reactions: North Carolina 85, N.C. State 84 (OT)

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 27th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

North Carolina's Marcus Paige Outdueled N.C. State's T.J. Warren. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige Outdueled N.C. State’s T.J. Warren.
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  1. North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and N.C. State’s T.J. Warren put on a show for the ages. The two stars seemingly traded baskets for the entire second half and overtime of this one. After being held to four points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first half, Paige exploded for 31 more after the break, the last two coming on a game-winning driving layup with less than a second to go. Warren was equally unstoppable, finishing with a game-high 36 points that included two free throws that tied the game and forced the extra session with two seconds left in regulation. To put these performances in perspective, the previous scoring high in an ACC game this year was the 34 put up by Warren in a home game with Wake Forest, so this one game now has the top two individual scoring totals of the season. Paige was red-hot from the perimeter, hitting 7-of-10 from three after halftime. Most of the bombs seemed to come just when North Carolina looked to be in trouble, with perhaps the biggest coming in overtime to cut a six-point Wolfpack lead in half with 2:40 to go. The Tar Heels tried multiple defenders and three different zone defenses to corral Warren down the stretch, but nothing seemed to slow down the ACC’s leading scorer as he scored 19 of N.C. State’s last 27 points in the final nine minutes of action.
  2. N.C. State Looks Headed To The NIT. The Wolfpack lost another chance to get an eye-popping win much like they did at Syracuse 15 days earlier. Not only do they lack a marquee win, but N.C. State is now winless in eight games against the RPI top 50. Even if the Wolfpack wins out to go 10-8 in the ACC regular season, their best win will have been over Pittsburgh, which is currently #45 in the RPI. With that resume it would likely take at least a run to the ACC Tournament finals for N.C. State to get any consideration from the NCAA Selection Committee. But considering the Wolfpack’s modest preseason expectations, even an NIT bid would be a positive thing for such a young team. Read the rest of this entry »
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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: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 25th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. GoHeels.com: It may get a little dusty, so make sure to grab the tissues before reading Adam Lucas’ story on Meredith Stapleton‘s trip to see North Carolina beat Duke. Sometimes sports fandom eclipses the event itself. This qualifies. It’s a moving and expertly written story that captures exactly what the game meant for one fan among over 20,000 others.
  2. Sports Illustrated: Seth Davis talked with Tony Greene, the referee who made the controversial call in the Syracuse-Duke game before ejecting Jim Boeheim. Unsurprisingly, officials around the country sent messages of support to him afterward. That doesn’t mean he got the call right, though. Davis and Greene don’t discuss the call itself, although he lauds Greene for his demeanor after ejecting Boeheim. That said, how many refs act differently? Their job is to keep their cool, especially after throwing someone out.
  3. Baltimore Sun: Speaking of Boeheim, he was in top salty form after the Orange eked out a win last night at Maryland. After the game, Mark Turgeon noted that he thought a foul should have been called with under 10 seconds left that would have sent the Terrapins to the line down one. Boeheim had this to say: ”They shot 27 free throws. If anybody is going to complain about the officiating, I’m going to complain. And I think I did enough of that Saturday. Five times that we saw them going to the basket that there was no foul and there was a foul called five times. You want to talk about one play? I’ll talk about five times. If they didn’t turn it over 18 times, they wouldn’t have had to worry about that.” Unfortunately for everyone in attendance, he didn’t drop the mic.
  4. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: If Pittsburgh is going to take its program to the next level, Jamie Dixon needs better players. There’s no denying that he’s a great coach and one of the best developers of talent in the ACC. But you just can’t win it all without five-star recruits. Interestingly, it appears Dixon is doing his best to bring more life to his recruiting. Whether that’s because of the rule changes, conference realignment, or at the athletic department’s behest, we’ll never know.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: Good look at foul differentials across the ACC. North Carolina had the biggest road-home swing, with a -24 foul differential on the road and an equal and opposite number at home. Syracuse, unsurprisingly has the best home differential. Maryland is the worst at home and on the road. One thing I’d like to see removed from the analysis is garbage-time fouls, which likely skew away splits (where you’re more likely to be losing at the end of games).

EXTRA: I’ll leave you with this, courtesy of Bomani Jones.

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