Morning Five: 03.04.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 4th, 2015

morning5

  1. In a reminder that no program is immune from scandal, news came out on Monday morning that Rasheed Sulaimon, the only player ever dismissed by Mike Krzyzewski during his time at Duke, had been accused of sexual assault by two female students and that athletic department officials knew of the allegations in March 2014 (10 months before his dismissal). Neither of the women was willing to press charges reportedly for fear of a backlash similar to what Jameis Winston’s accuser experienced. Duke released a statement that essentially saying that federal law prevented it from discussing the case, which is about what we expected them to say while Krzyzewski offered three “no comment”s on a conference call. Duke has also said that the school and athletic department officials have done all that is required of them, which is technically true although they do seem to be using very broad definitions of laws and requirements as a means to not discuss the case. Plenty of people will be quick to attack Duke and Krzyzewski, but they are placed in a difficult situation. Should they have kicked Sulaimon off the team based on allegations from women who did not press charges or should they just let him play? The reported crimes if true are obviously horrific, but it is not much better to brand someone with the label of having sexually assaulted two women if he did not. As we have said before, this case will individually garner quite a bit of attention, but the bigger issue is the culture surrounding sexual assault that leads to women being afraid to press charges.
  2. With its win over West Virginia last night Kansas won the Big 12 regular season title for the 11th consecutive season. The Jayhawks were helped out by Iowa State’s comeback victory (or Oklahoma’s collapse) on Monday that gave them at least a share, but last night’s victory gave them the outright title. The streak, which is approaching the 13 straight Pac-8/-10 titles that John Wooden’s UCLA teams won from 1967 to 1979 (they also picked up a few national titles during that stretch) is probably underappreciated nationally even if basketball writers continue to mention it. While most casual fans remember seasons by what happens in the NCAA Tournament, the consistent excellence that Kansas has shown over the past 11 regular seasons is probably even more remarkable.
  3. With the season winding down many are focusing on Kentucky‘s place in history, but as John Gasaway notes in his Tuesday Truths there are several other teams having historic seasons. The most obvious of these is Virginia, which is in the midst of a historic 2-year run in the ACC, and if not for Duke scoring on 14 of its final 15 possessions in their comeback win (probably the most improbable run of the season) they would also be unbeaten. There are plenty of interesting figures in here including some teams who have put up better seasons statistically than you might suspect. Even if you aren’t someone who is into “numbers” it is an interesting and fairly simple look at how dominant certain teams have been.
  4. The idea of moving back the start of the college basketball season in order to allow it to start without having to compete with the college football is hardly a new one, but we are always surprised to see the visceral backlash it creates. While we love March Madness moving it back by a month (or more) would not necessarily make it worse. The idea of doing it to allow for more studying by student-athletes or to improve attendance by players leaving for the NBA Draft seems to be a much smaller factor especially since many of these players are on year-round academic plans and a relatively percent are actually involved in the NBA Draft process. The biggest issue involved in moving the NCAA Tournament back a month would be that it would no longer benefit from having little competition from other sports as it does in March. Instead it would be going up against The Masters, NBA Playoffs, and to a lesser degree spring training. If you want to use that as a rationale against moving the college basketball season back, we would be willing to hear that argument, but we don’t buy the idea of sticking to the current schedule just because of tradition.
  5. One of the many criticisms of the NCAA is how it preaches about the education of student-athletes and punishes them for poor academic performance, but typically lets schools slide when they try to circumvent the rules for their own gain. To that end the NCAA has put together a group of 20 college administrators to craft a proposal about how the NCAA should respond to such situations. This probably won’t (and shouldn’t) affect cases that are currently being investigated, but it should provide a warning to schools that they cannot manipulate their academic system just to improve their on-field performance. The actual enforcement of such a policy will be tricky because schools have a lot more to fight back against the NCAA than an individual student-athlete will, but this is at least a start.
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ACC M5: 03.03.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 3rd, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. Duke Chronicle: No doubt you’ve already heard but Duke‘s student newspaper dropped a bomb on the college basketball world with this article on Rasheed Sulaimon’s alleged involvement in two sexual assaults. First, this is tremendous reporting even thought it relies heavily on unnamed sources. Next, I don’t want to comment too much but this isn’t a good look for Duke. Don’t expect much clarification from the university or Coach K in coming weeks, but I do think a more detailed timeline will come out. Sulaimon is still enrolled at Duke, which makes me think we’ll get more information soon. My gut reaction is that the Duke athletic department really dropped the ball with this even if its administrators and staff didn’t do anything illegal.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: Great story from Donna Ditota on Rakeem Christmas, aptly nicknamed “the mayor of Syracuse” by teammate BJ Johnson. Christmas is a prime example of why it pays to return to school (well other than the untimely postseason ban). He went from the fourth, maybe fifth, option in the lineup to the go-to guy. He’s improved all of his per game stats without a huge drop in efficiency (and that doesn’t factor in all of the double-teams), and he’s one of the few seniors who has really improved his draft stock this year. Here’s to hoping his advanced age doesn’t scare away NBA teams.
  3. NBA Draft Blog: Speaking of seniors who have improved their draft stock, Ed Isaacson took a look at Jerian Grant‘s draft prospects after he graduates from Notre Dame. Grant also has the dreaded age problem, but he has played more man-to-man than Christmas and feels like a sneaky good pick late in the first round. He’s far from a sure thing at the next level, but he’s more athletic than people give him credit for and is a pure scorer. He’s been one of the most well-rounded offensive players in the country this season, and I think he would excel by coming off the bench for a good NBA team.
  4. CBSSports.com: The NCAA is looking to deflect blame in some of its most recent dealings with former student-athletes. This time it relates to Rashanda McCants (Rashad McCants’ sister) and former North Carolina football player Devon Ramsay, who are suing North Carolina and the NCAA. From an outsider’s perspective, this case involving theories of liability on academic fraud looks like a long shot, but strangely enough the NCAA’s APR rules could make it more responsible for its member schools’ academic curricula rather than less. A good metaphor is that of McDonald’s, a company with very strict guidelines for franchisees that led the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to label the company as a “joint employer” instead of a true franchise. You may recognize the NLRB from a 2014 story on Northwestern football players unionizing (something that obviously hasn’t yet come to fruition), but all of these cases may combine to slowly turn the tide of public opinion and ultimately break the NCAA’s back.
  5. Tar Heel Depot: Very cool idea for a running series. Bryan Ives reminds us all of Georgia Tech‘s Ishma’il Muhammad with an epic highlight video set to Ghostface. This is what blogging is all about.

EXTRA (via Fought and Won One): Starting to piece together your all-ACC teams as the season comes to a close but want to be able to sort by all the different stats? Austin Johnson has you covered.

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ACC Stock Watch: 02.06.15 Edition

Posted by Lathan Wells on February 6th, 2015

Another week, another slate of terrific basketball from the ACC. While some teams seemingly riding high got a dose of reality this week (hello Virginia and Notre Dame), others showed their ability to overcome adversity (Duke), while others flew under the radar entirely (Clemson). This is this week’s ACC Stock Watch:

Trending Up

  • Duke. The Blue Devils showed the dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon was not going to be a distraction for them, as they went into John Paul Jones Arena Saturday and knocked off previously unbeaten Virginia. Avoiding a letdown after that big win in knocking off Georgia Tech at home was nice to see from such a young squad, too.
  • Louisville. The Cardinals had an impressive week, exacting revenge on North Carolina in an impressive comeback fashion at home and emerging victorious from a road trip at Miami. The offense is coming around, making Rick Pitino’s team look as if it may be peaking at the right time.
  • Clemson. How many casual ACC fans realize that the Tigers have reeled off four straight wins? Their demolition of NC State in Raleigh was particularly impressive on January 28th, but taking care of two teams they should defeat in Boston College and Florida State this week showed the team is still battling for a ticket to the Dance for Brad Brownell.
Sidy Djitte and Clemson smothered NC State on their way to another solid week (AP Sports)

Sidy Djitte and Clemson are riding a four-game winning streak in the ACC. (AP)

  • Wake Forest. Danny Manning’s team, so close in so many defeats this year, had a nice week in dispatching of Virginia Tech and defeating a talented (but hard-to-figure out) NC State team. More importantly than that is that the Demon Deacons may be regaining some of the home-court edge they lost during Jeff Bzdelik’s tenure.
  • Terry Rozier, Louisville. Rozier has four straight 20-point games, but his matching 22-point performances this week were huge for Louisville in overcoming the Tar Heels in overtime and winning the tough road test against the Hurricanes. He and Chris Jones continue to make life easier for Montrezl Harrell down low, and some argue Rozier is the Cardinals’ most dangerous offensive threat.
  • Justise Winslow, Duke. Whether or not it was accurate that Winslow was hitting the “freshman wall,” he broke out of it in fine fashion this week. With Jahlil Okafor hounded by Virginia’s double teams, Winslow willed the Blue Devils to victory with a 15-point, 11-rebound performance. He matched that effort with another stat-stuffer against the Yellow Jackets: 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, two steals. Some believe he’s the key cog in the Duke machine going forward.

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ACC M5: 02.02.15 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 2nd, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Welcome casual college basketball fans! Unfortunately you missed a hell of a weekend in the ACC. Seriously, this weekend was bonkers. Miami went out and totaled its NCAA Tournament resume with back-to-back bad losses, Duke scored on fourteen of its last fifteen possessions in one of the most impressive comebacks of year to knock off Virginia at home. And to all of the people saying this is proof “playing slow” lets opponents hang around, I say check the scoreboard (for all of the Cavaliers’ other games). Virginia is still a national title contender. They ran into a team that got hot and hit some crazy shots. Offensively, Duke matches up pretty well with Tony Bennett’s squad (good perimeter shooters and an All-American big who can pass well out of double teams). Now suddenly Duke goes from danger zone to being back in a pretty good place (at least in terms of getting a double-bye in the ACC Tournament), and Virginia has to worry about playing North Carolina. If the Tar Heels beat Virginia, maybe I’ll start worrying about the pack-line. But that Duke loss was just a team playing out of its mind.
  2. Durham Herald-Sun: Still no news about Rasheed Sulaimon‘s dismissal, which is good news. Duke is being pretty tight-lipped and the Matt Jones said the team would be “behind Rasheed 100%.” Coach K said it was a very difficult decision but wouldn’t say anything else. What remains to be seen will be how Sulaimon’s dismissal will affect the team’s chemistry. That win against Virginia was because Duke got hot at the right time. They played very well at the start and the end of the game. You can’t overstate the value of the win from a confidence standpoint because it allows the team to move on from Sulaimon’s departure. But I want to see how they react to the next loss.
  3. Louisville Courier-Journal: Speaking of big comebacks this weekend, Louisville came back from 18 down to steal a game against North Carolina. Montrezl Harrell looked like the man, going for 22 and 15 (and did this) while playing a big role in shutting the Tar Heels out of second-chance points in the second half. But the craziest stat was that Rick Pitino was 0-6 against the Tar Heels over his career (0-3 at Kentucky and 0-3 at Louisville).
  4. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: This was the most surprising result of the weekend for me. Pittsburgh isn’t good. This weekend had basketball gods written all over it. Louisville avenged its earlier loss to North Carolina with a huge comeback. Duke made up for blowing a double-digit second half lead at Notre Dame with the upset at Virginia (and double-digit second half comeback). And to finish everything, Steve Vasturia (the one who hit the dagger to do in Duke) missed a good look and allowed the Panthers to walk away big winners. I disagree that Pittsburgh is a NCAA Tournament team, but there’s still plenty of season left. What is certainly true is every team’s conference schedule is brutal this year.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: Trevor Cooney is chasing an impossible ACC record. He’s averaging more than 40 minutes a game in conference play. Somehow he’s still behind Georgia Tech’s Dennis Scott who averaged a ridiculous 40.3 minutes a game in 1990. Cooney has only sat for four minutes all of conference play. With his slim roster, don’t expect Jim Boeheim to sit Cooney now.
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Morning Five: 02.02.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 2nd, 2015

morning5

  1. We are not sure what made John Feinstein decide to file a column on Saturday recommending that a switch from the “one-and-done” model to the baseball model of drafting, but it certainly generated quite a bit of attention.  If you aren’t familiar with the baseball model, it essentially lets players enter the draft after high school and if they are selected they can enter become a professional baseball player (even if it is at the minor league level). If they choose not to go the professional route, they are not eligible until they have completed their junior year of college or are 21 years old. As you can imagine, the reaction has mostly been negative for a variety of reasons including the fact that baseball has a well-developed minor league system, which every player is expected to go through before playing for the MLB team that drafted them whereas nearly every first round pick is expected to play for their NBA team immediately. While we agree that the the NCAA/NBA policy regarding early entry, Feinstein’s analysis is too rudimentary to be enforced.
  2. Normally the dismissal of a junior who comes off the bench would not be newsworthy (at least if it did not involve an arrest or NCAA violation), but when it involves Duke it certainly is. Late Thursday, Duke announced that Mike Krzyzewski had dismissed junior Rasheed Sulaimon from the team for being “unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program”. While we don’t know what exactly Sulaimon did for Krzyzewski to make him the first player dismissed from the program–it was reportedly a series of events–but it must have occurred after their loss at Notre Dame. What it appears to have come down to is that Sulaimon’s production (10 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2 assists per game during his career, but declining over the years with less playing time) was not worth the headache. For its part Duke bounced back without Sulaimon for an improbable come-from-behind victory at Virginia on Saturday. As for Sulaimon we are not sure where he will end up next, but what once appeared to be a potential NBA career now looks more like one that will be spent overseas.
  3. While Sulaimon’s dismissal may have been a bigger story in terms of headlines, the bigger news in terms of impact on the court came when Virginia Commonwealth guard Briante Weber tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee ending his college career. Weber suffered the injury late in a loss on Saturday against Richmond. It goes without saying that losing their defensive leader, who is just 12 short of the NCAA all-time leader, is a huge blow to VCU and its famed HAVOC defense. Perhaps even more importantly the Rams have now lost their point guard and leader on the court. While VCU is more well-equipped to handle this than you would expect from an Atlantic-10 team, but it certainly puts  a cap on their ceiling.
  4. Illinois‘ hopes of making the NCAA Tournament this year already appeared pretty dim and the news that they have indefinitely suspended Rayvonte Rice and Aaron Crosby makes that seem even less likely. The timing of the suspension is interesting because both players have been injured with Rice having already missed seven games and Crosby having missed three games, but according to the school both are ready to return. The school would not elaborate on what the players did, but missing Ricer (17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game) and Crosby (7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game) for much longer would eliminate whatever slim hopes they have of making it to the NCAA Tournament.
  5. It has been a rough year at Bradley. The team 7-15 including 2-7 in the Missouri Valley and their coach has to pay $1.2 million to his old school for leaving early. On Thursday morning their leading scorer–Warren Jones–was arrested at a strip club for using an older teammate’s ID and underage drinking. In addition to Jones (13.9 points per game), there were also citations levied against Ka’Darryl Bell (7.5 points per game) and Omari Grier (8.2 points per game). The extra salary will probably help Geno Ford sleep easier at night, but it has been a rough few weeks for him.
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Rasheed Sulaimon’s Dismissal is Shocking For Several Reasons

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 30th, 2015

Yesterday’s news that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski had dismissed junior Rasheed Sulaimon from the team came as a shock on a multitude of levels. First, Krzyzewski had never dismissed a player from the program during his entire tenure in Durham. Second, the Blue Devils had just played the night before, a hard-fought loss to an excellent Notre Dame team in which Sulaimon played 12 minutes off the bench, with a trip to undefeated Virginia on the docket Saturday. Third, it capped a remarkable fall from grace for the once-promising Sulaimon that no one outside of the program saw coming.

Sulaimon's (left) ouster qualified as shocking news and further depleted a now-thin Blue Devils roster (USAToday)

Sulaimon’s (left) ouster qualified as shocking news and further depleted a now-thin Blue Devils roster (USAToday)

Reports have surfaced suggesting that the decision to dismiss Sulaimon was a culmination of a multitude of events and that last season’s benching when the Blue Devils battled Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge should serve as a starting point. Sulaimon was benched for simply not doing what was asked of him in that instance, but body language has always been an issue for the Houston native as well. He often pouted on the court when whistled for fouls and has at times been seen restraining himself from celebrating his teammates on the bench. Still, because Sulaimon had never been otherwise suspended or even publicly chastised by Krzyzewski, it’s reasonable to wonder what happened in the aftermath of Wednesday’s loss in South Bend to make life without Sulaimon a necessity.

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ACC M5: 01.30.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 30th, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer and Durham Herald-Sun: Duke very abruptly dismissed Rasheed Sulaimon from the team yesterday. There aren’t any details beyond that other than to say that it wasn’t related to academic or legal problems. But it appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s underselling how huge this dismissal is because Duke isn’t deep and does not appear to be struggling with chemistry issues (at least not during games). Sulaimon was doing well as a defensive specialist who also ran the team when the other two point guards weren’t performing well. My guess is that Coach K gave Sulaimon an ultimatum at some point last season (probably after his one-game hiatus that wasn’t officially a suspension) and Sulaimon finally struck out. It’s amazing to think that Sulaimon is the first player Krzyzewski has ever dismissed from his team.
  2. Washington Post: This article does a fair job of explaining why John Feinstein is the last man ranking Virginia ahead of Kentucky in the AP poll. Weirdly enough, I think both of those teams are much more similar than people let on. The main difference is that Kentucky doesn’t have to worry about teams outside of the top 50 by virtue of its depth and length, while a hot-shooting Virginia Tech team gave the Cavaliers quite a scare. Furthermore, Kentucky has the unique ability to crush a good opponent into oblivion. I expect both teams to lose to a good (at least average-height) team that gets hot from long range because they can be outscored. That said, I think Feinstein enjoys being a voting outlier and that’s why he’s still voting for Virginia even after its close call in Blacksburg.
  3. College Basketball Talk: Jerian Grant is really, really good. He allows Notre Dame to run offense instead of plays because he’s a tremendous playmaker and competitor. Rob Dauster does a good job in showing how important he is to the Notre Dame attack. Grant is terrific, and he’s probably got the inside track on ACC Player of the Year unless the Irish take a February nosedive. I admit I need to watch more of Mike Brey’s team (which should be a pleasure), because based on the statistics, the Duke victory was somewhat anomalous in terms of his usage, a little low for a Player of the Year contender.
  4. Louisville Courier-Journal: Don’t look now, but Louisville‘s defense in ACC play has actually been worse than its offense. That’s bonkers. A lot of the credit goes to the rise of guard Terry Rozier, who has been tremendous in conference bouts. He’s not turning it over nearly as much as he was and he’s scoring at a really impressive clip. Chris Jones has also risen to the occasion, turning into a legitimate offensive weapon rather than a liability.
  5. Raleigh & Co.: Here’s a satirical case to get rid of NC State head coach Mark Gottfried. While I agree that the Wolfpack should hold onto him, this team has dug a hole for itself with its three-game losing streak (Clemson at home???). What remains to be seen is whether Gottfried can sustain a consistent, high level program or whether his teams are always talented but never meet expectations (often in a good way). If he gets this year’s group to the NCAA Tournament, I’ll be pretty solidly on the side of Gottfried sustaining a high level over time.
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Tonight’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge Main Event: Previewing Duke at Wisconsin

Posted by Alex Moscoso and Brad Jenkins on December 3rd, 2014

As the ACC and the Big Ten teams get together on the hardwood this week, ACC and Big Ten microsites writers Alex Moscoso and Brad Jenkins have teamed up to break down the match-up between Wisconsin and Duke, the main event on the final night of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Frontcourt

Alex Moscoso: Duke has a special player in center Jahlil Okafor, the likely #1 overall pick in next year’s NBA Draft. But as far as the best frontcourt in basketball, I submit there’s no unit with a better combination of talent and experience than the Badgers’ group of Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker. All three will play in the Association and are familiar with one another’s tendencies from a full year together on the floor. For the season, they’re combining to average 42.9 PPG (57.5 percent of the team’s output) and 20.6 RPG. While Kaminsky and Dekker are likely to be Naismith finalists, Hayes has also garnered widespread acclaim for his improved play as a sophomore – specifically, his newfound ability to hit the deep ball on occasion (35.7%) and better defensive play in the post. His transformation from talented prospect to contributing factor has made this frontcourt almost invulnerable. The trio will certainly have its hands full with the athletic duo of Okafor and Justise Winslow, but the Wisconsin big men should wear these young Blue Devils out by hitting some threes and forcing them to guard the entire half-court – from the rim out to the three-point line.

Frank Kaminsky (yes, it's true) exploded for 43 points on Tuesday. (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky  and the Badgers “are coming” for Duke on Wednesday night, in what is one of the best non-conference games this season. (Getty)

Brad Jenkins: To say this is a match-up of Duke’s young talent versus Wisconsin’s veteran frontcourt is an oversimplification. The Badgers’ big guys are not only experienced but they are extremely skilled and more athletic than most realize. Duke’s two freshman starters up front, Okafor and Winslow, are both considered one-and-doners, and they play the game with a physical and mental maturity rarely seen in college rookies. On the one hand, Okafor has good footwork around the basket that should force Wisconsin into more double-teaming than normal. On the other hand, Winslow is a bit of a wild card in this game, as the Badgers don’t have a player who can match his combination of size and athleticism on the wing. The veteran Dekker, a tall forward with decent lateral quickness, will probably get the assignment, but he has been nursing a nagging ankle injury and may not be at 100 percent. Look for Winslow to aggressively attack the Badgers off the dribble as a way to create offense when the Blue Devils are otherwise stymied. Wisconsin normally protects the defensive glass as well as any team in the country, but watch out for Amile Jefferson on the weak side if Okafor demands major attention. So far this season, the 6’9” junior ranks third nationally with a 21.9 percent offensive rebounding rate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Duke Gets a Passing Chemistry Grade… So Far

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 18th, 2014

Duke has been very impressive so far this season, winning handily over Presbyterian on Friday and stomping Fairfield on Saturday. Both of those games were played in the cozy confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium, but before the Blue Devils face their first stiff challenge of the young season against Michigan State tonight in the Champions Classic (ESPN 7:00 ET), let’s look at what we have learned about Duke so far.

Freshman Justise Winslow Has Been Aggressively Attacking the Basket in Duke's Early Games. (Mark Dolejs - USA Today Sports)

Justise Winslow Has Been Aggressively Attacking the Basket in Duke’s Early Games. (Mark Dolejs – USA Today Sports)

  • Jahlil Okafor is the real deal, but so is Justise Winslow. Okafor has been every bit as good as everyone expected. In the first two games of his career, the Chicago big man has averaged 18.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game while making an outstanding 17-of-20 shots from the field — these proficient numbers earned him the first ACC Freshman of the Week award this season. In the future, Okafor’s primary competition for that honor may be his teammate Winslow, who is also playing very well on both ends of the floor. He has scored on frequent aggressive drives and shown a better than advertised outside shooting touch, going 3-of-5 on three-point shots. He also gives Duke an athletic lockdown wing defender, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Durham since Nate James. A great thing about being on press row in Cameron Indoor is how close you are to the action — up close, the maturity of Winslow in both physique and focus in his eyes is obvious when he’s in a defensive stance. That’s why he’s already been showing up in a handful of 2015 NBA mock drafts as a first-rounder. In fact, the whole freshmen class has an impressive level of maturity. Point guard Tyus Jones is off to a solid ball-handling start — passing for 12 assists while only committing three turnovers — and Grayson Allen is excelling in Duke’s up-tempo style with his great athleticism.

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ACC Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2014

Over the last two weeks, we have previewed each team individually to go with several more articles to get you ready for ACC basketball (first tip: 6:00 PM ET in Durham). Links to the previews can be found in each of the preseason power rankings listed below. Also look for our preseason conference awards which will publish later today.

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (58): Everyone knows about the freshmen, and they are sensational. But are Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon ready to put together a consistent season from start to finish? That answer may determine whether the Blue Devils are Final Four-bound or facing another early departure from the Tourney.
Virginia Cavaliers T2. Virginia (53): Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell didn’t light up the scoreboard in Charlottesville, but their leadership and savvy was key in Virginia’s magical run last year. Can Anthony Gill and Justin Anderson assume larger roles and keep Tony Bennett‘s team in the national limelight?
North Carolina Tar Heels T2. North Carolina (53): Everyone knows about Marcus Paige, and the Tar Heels should be better at the line and from three with the addition of some talented freshmen in the backcourt and on the wing. Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks have to bring it every night in the paint for this team to reach its potential.
LouisvilleLogo 4. Louisville (52): The Cardinals probably have as good a shot as any of the top four. While they will have to learn how to play a new set of conference opponents in unfamiliar arenas, the ACC will have to adjust to Rick Pitino’s style of pressure defense with multiple schemes. Most of the key contributors are now gone from the 2012-13 National Championship squad, but the program brings a culture used to winning at the highest level.
Syracuse Orange 5. Syracuse (42): There are a lot of questions about the Orange after Tyler Ennis’ and Jerami Grant’s early departures. Jim Boeheim has a talented team that won’t be an easy out, but there are a lot of questions about how the offense will run with another freshman, Kaleb Joseph, at the helm.
Florida State Seminoles 6. Florida State (38): The Seminoles haven’t been their usual defensive selves the past two seasons, but this year Leonard Hamilton has three experienced big men along with a cadre of long perimeter players. Aaron Thomas may be the most underrated player in the ACC, which bodes well for things in Tallahassee this year.
Pittsburgh Panthers 7. Pittsburgh (37)Jamie Dixon has a tradition of replacing departed stars with veterans. For Pitt to win games against the ACC’s elite, Cameron Wright and James Robinson must continue that trend and get some help, maybe a year earlier than the norm, from the talented sophomore class. One would think they are due for a healthier year than last, when midseason injuries really set the team back.
NC State Wolfpack 8. NC State (34): T.J. Warren is gone, so this team has to find its offense by committee. Tyler Lewis is too, so Cat Barber will have to be efficient and also seek his own shot. The maturation of a young frontcourt will be key. Mark Gottfried has historically impressed with low expectations.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 9. Notre Dame (32): It won’t be a surprise if Zach Auguste makes a big jump in production as a junior, but beyond that is nothing but unproven post players. With the perimeter filled with talent and experience, keeping Auguste healthy and out of foul trouble may be the key as the Irish try to make a dramatic jump in the standings. Jerian Grant is a contender for ACC Player of the Year.
Miami Hurricanes 10. Miami (25): Arguably the best coaching job in the country last year happened in Coral Gables. If Jim Larranaga gets this team to improve, the Hurricanes will be significantly better than many expect. Manu Lacomte needs to make the leap and lead a young team in a very tough conference.
Clemson Tigers 11. Clemson (18): Brad Brownell showed that even without a ton of obvious roster talent, the Tigers will be competitive — especially on defense. This season he has to prove that again without K.J. McDaniels. It’s unclear who the go-to player will be, so Clemson’s offense could hold this team back.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 12. Wake Forest (17): Wake may be ready for a solid rise in the ACC standings as early as next year. This year will be a challenge, but momentum could be built towards a good 2015-16 season. Juniors Devin Thomas on the inside and Cody Miller-McIntyre in the backcourt will dictate how good this team is.
Boston College 13. Boston College (12): A year and coach removed from last year’s disappointing effort leave a lot of questions in Chestnut Hill. Olivier Hanlan will always be worth the price of admission, but he may not have enough supporting cast to escape the dregs of the ACC unless Dennis Clifford can finally stay healthy.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 14. Georgia Tech (10): It’s really hard to see Brian Gregory surviving as coach here if the Yellow Jackets don’t make the postseason this season. It’s also hard to see this Georgia Tech team finishing in the top half of the ACC, which is what it would probably take to get that NCAA bid — or even a trip to the NIT. The odds of Gregory being in Atlanta after March 2015 are not very good.
Virginia Tech Hokies 15. Virginia Tech (6): Virginia Tech will again be among the cellar-dwellers in the ACC, but at least it has come cachet with the hiring of Buzz Williams. They’ll be serviceable in the backcourt with Devin Wilson returning, but it will be a year or two before we can evaluate the viability of the Hokies as competitive in the conference.

Miscellaneous Power Rankings Notes:

  • Coach K reloadsDuke was the top choice again this year with another one-and-done big man, but the Blue Devils weren’t the unanimous pick. Virginia and Louisville both got a first place vote.
  • Clear Contenders: North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia (in some order) rounded out everyone’s top four, marking a distinct upper tier in the conference.
  • Media/Microsite solidarity: For the second season in a row, no teams differed from the preseason media poll by more than two spots.
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ACC Preview: Duke’s Burning Question

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 11th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Can Duke’s veterans adapt to, and excel in, new roles?

All of the pre-season talk, and rightfully so, concerning Duke has been focused on the incoming freshman class Mike Krzyzewski has assembled. Jahlil Okafor, the most dominant incoming true center the Blue Devils have procured in some time, has garnered numerous accolades already in being named pre-season ACC Freshman of the Year by the ACC media and even the Associated Press pre-season Player of the Year. Freshman Tyus Jones, part of a “package deal” recruitment with Okafor, looks to be the starting point guard when the season begins this week. And wing Justise Winslow showed the defensive prowess expected of him, along with the scoring acumen, in the exhibition season to also merit a spot in the starting lineup.

Quinn Cook will have to acclimate to playing without the ball in his hands more often this year (SI)

Quinn Cook will have to acclimate to playing without the ball in his hands more often this year (SI)

While the freshman class is a sterling one, this team still maintains a number of veterans who will be familiarizing themselves with new roles. Senior Quinn Cook, one of the team’s two captains, was the starting point guard for most of last season and surely thought he’d seize the reins this year prior to Jones’ commitment. He’s now likely relegated to a spot coming off the bench and occasionally playing off the ball when he and Jones are on the court together. Cook, to his credit, has said all the right things about occasionally deferring to a freshman, but it’s still going to be a challenge to acclimate to the mindset of providing offense off of the bench, oftentimes from the off-guard position.

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Notes From Duke’s Closed Practice: Freshmen Shine, Veterans Lethargic

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 22nd, 2014

Duke opened it’s 11th practice of the year to media and guests from the Duke Children’s Hospital yesterday, and based on their performance during the semi-closed practice at Cameron Indoor Stadium, its highly regarded freshmen class may just live up to the hype. While far from finished products, each of Mike Krzyzewski‘s four newcomers showed enough positive play to suggest that they might make up the core of this year’s Blue Devils squad. ACC referees officiated the scrimmage portion of practice, which was broken into four 10-minute segments with limited rest between each session. Some players switched teams after the first two quarters but the last two sessions featured the same lineups. We will use this space to analyze the play of each of the new Blue Devils and make some other general observations about the team, knowing that this represents only a one-day snapshot and the start of the regular season is still three weeks away.

Freshman Jahlil Okafor has Great (Big) Hands (rushthecourt.net)

Freshman Jahlil Okafor has Great (Big) Hands
(rushthecourt.net)

FRESHMEN

  • Jahlil Okafor – Reports of Okafor’s improved body and conditioning appear to be true. His feet were quick; he ran the court well; and he did not noticeably tire during the entire 40 minutes of scrimmage play. The most impressive thing with him, though, is his hands, which he uses in a similar manner to the great Tim Duncan. Passes and rebounds stick to Okafor’s mitts like glue. While at the free throw line, it was especially noticeable that the ball looks like a grapefruit in his hands. He mostly had his way inside, but there were times when he struggled to finish at the rim with Marshall Plumlee bodied up against him.
  • Tyus Jones – The touted young point guard played almost exactly as his reputation indicated — he wasn’t flashy with the ball but he was very efficient in running the team. He will have to adjust to playing hard defense over extended periods of time, and like most youngsters, Jones will need to become more vocal on both ends of the floor. But the greatest measure of a point guard is always the scoreboard, and in that respect Jones was outstanding, with his team winning each 10 minute session by around 10 points.

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