ACC Basketball: Definitely Terrible

C.J. Harris provided a bright spot in an otherwise dark two days for the ACC.

Well, that answers that question. The biggest margin the Big Ten had ever won the Big Ten/ACC Challenge by is one game. This year, it won 8-4. And it wasn’t that close.

Even in four wins, the average ACC margin of victory was 8.3 points while in eight losses, the margin of defeat was 12 points. ACC teams combined to shoot 42% and 33% from three. Four teams failed to crack 60 points and eight failed to exceed 65. ACC teams shot 29.5% from three in the eight losses and 39.7% in four wins.

The Big Ten shot 45% and 34% from three. It was from two-point range where they dominated, shooting nearly 50% (four teams shot better than 60%) while the ACC shot 46% from two (just four teams over 50%).

To call the games slow-paced would be putting it mildly; the ACC averaged 74.3 possessions and the Big Ten averaged 73.3. An early problem this season for many ACC teams has been turnovers – a failure to force them and committing too many, particularly in low-possession games. ACC teams that play slower need to take care of the ball better and at some point, they have to be able to score.

Big Ten teams were clearly more comfortable playing at a slower pace, averaging 0.91 points per possession (0.83 by the ACC) and 14.3% loss of ball (18.5% for the ACC). Four Big Ten teams exceeded one point per possession and six teams went over 0.9. Just two ACC teams went over 0.9 and no team was over 1.0. The ACC is certainly not going to be defined by its offensive prowess this year, so this was a bad sign.

These were November non-conference games that mean little to teams like North Carolina and Duke, who are going to make the NCAA Tournament easily and get a high seed. But what about the middle?

Pleasant Surprises

Clemson. The Tigers’ offense finally clicked, and they shot nearly 52% in a convincing 71-55 win at Iowa, which shot just 28.6 percent. If there is a negative for Clemson, it’s that it had 19 turnovers. Senior guard Andre Young is back on track with 19 points and Tanner Smith stuffed the stat sheet (14 rebounds, eight assists), but Trevor Booker and Milton Jennings need to give Clemson more down low. They combined for 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting and attempted no foul shots. Still, Clemson had to have this game and to win it handily is a good sign for the scrappy Tigers.

Virginia. It wasn’t surprising that Virginia (6-1) beat No. 15 Michigan, but it was surprising that they won by 11. Virginia’s defense will always be good, but if the Cavaliers can score, watch out. Michigan actually posted the best offensive performance against the ‘Hoos defense this year (0.89 points per possession), but Virginia’s 0.97 PPP was its third-best this year. Virginia also had a season-low 11% loss of ball; turnovers had been an issue in their low-possession offense (18% loss of ball on the season). If sophomore Joe Harris can be that good every night (18 points, seven rebounds, four steals) and freshman Malcolm Brogdon (16 points) can continue to develop, Virginia will make a strong push for an NCAA bid.

Wake Forest. Who knew the Deacons, who went 1-15 in the league last year, could win a road game against a major-conference team? It took a C.J. Harris lay-up (against admittedly awful help defense by Nebraska) to give Wake a 55-53 win in Omaha. Hopefully, no one watched most of this game. The Deacons had their fewest possessions of the year (62) but still managed to score 55 points. And Wake turned in its second-best defensive performance of the year, allowing just 0.77 points per possession. Carson Desrosiers was fantastic with a season-high 14 points to go with 12 rebounds and two blocks. The Deacs might just be a bit frisky this year – still with an NIT ceiling, but frisky nonetheless.

Maryland. N.C. State and Maryland were very nearly swapped in these categories, but the Wolfpack has looked good this year and Maryland had not. Maryland somehow managed to stay in this game with an undefeated Illinois team and arguably should have won the game. So only because they had been so terrible, it was a pleasant surprise that they were so close. Still, 15-of-25 from the foul line (60%) and 5-of-19 from three (26.3%) killed the Terps. Terrell Stoglin continues to do it all himself (or try to) as he had 25 points, but freshman Nick Faust struggled yet again with five points on 2-of-11 shooting. Maryland desperately needs some of its pieces back, but at least it showed it has some life.

Disappointments

Virginia Tech. Minnesota was in its first game without its best player (forward Trevor Mbakwe, who tore his ACL). It was a road game at a tricky venue, but the Hokies can’t afford to lose winnable non-conference games as they did, 58-55, on Wednesday. But, when your best player (Erick Green) falls off of an elevated court after blocking a shot and bangs his shoulder into some sort of metal staircase, you might just be snake-bitten. Still, the Hokies made just 12-of-36 2-point baskets (33.3%) and allowed Minnesota to make 22-of-35 (63%) without its best interior player. That can’t happen. The Hokies are back in dangerous bubble territory now, even with a weak ACC.

Miami. The 4-2 Hurricanes haven’t had a particularly awful loss yet, and losing 76-65 at Purdue (ranked 12th by Ken Pomeroy) is a pretty good one as losses go. But knowing how great Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott can be, it’s hard to imagine that this team has yet to shoot over 47% from two-point range against any opponent and is averaging just 67 points on 40% shooting. Reggie Johnson or not, the big man doesn’t hit all the Hurricanes’ two-pointers. Scott in particular has struggled, shooting just 33% on the year, while Malcolm Grant is averaging 17.5 points on 39% shooting (but 40% from three). Miami needs other scoring options to step up, or they just need to give the ball to Grant and Scott all the time.

N.C. State. This seems a bit harsh, since the Wolfpack fought hard and continue to be one of the most entertaining teams in the league to watch. But this game was there for the taking and they lost, 86-75. Now, aside from narrow losses to Vanderbilt and Indiana, the only good non-conference win N.C. State has is Texas, and it took an improbable 18-point comeback to get that one. The flagrant foul on Scott Wood at the end of this game was questionable at best, but Indiana shot 48% from the floor and nearly 54% from three. State is 4-0 when holding opponents under 75 and 0-2 in two games when it allowed exactly 86 points. The Wolfpack defense has to improve, and fast. But the Wolfpack’s 48% shooting on the season while averaging 17.1 assists to just 13 turnovers is a pleasant development.

Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have struggled on offense all year long but had played good defense. To lose 76-60, even at home, to a good Northwestern team isn’t disappointing. But to do it while allowing the Wildcats to shoot score a point per possession and shoot 62% from two-point range is disappointing, particularly considering Georgia Tech had allowed just 37% from inside the arc to that point. Georgia Tech’s offense has been bad, and it can’t survive a bad game from Glen Rice, Jr. (10 points on 5-of-15 shooting). It was disappointing to see Georgia Tech play so poorly on defense, considering how much they’ll need to rely on it this year.

Ugh.

Florida State. There’s no other word to describe what Florida State would call an offense. Throwing up on itself? “Disappointment” is too mild a word – this is a team many thought would be the third-best in the league and a potential top-25 club. To perform the way it did in East Lansing is brutal for the ACC. Florida State scored just 49 points in a 75-possession game for a 24% loss of ball. Isolating the final 9:47 of the second half, Florida State scored seven points on 21 possessions while missing 13 shots and turning it over four times. In that same span, Michigan State scored 21 points on 21 possessions, missing eight shots and turning it over once. In the first part of the second half, FSU had scored 16 points on 18 possessions (with seven turnovers) while Michigan State had 14 points on 21 possessions (with six turnovers). The FSU defense alone isn’t enough anymore. This team has to learn to score, somehow.

Boston College. I’ll let Conrad Kaczmarek from BC Interruption take it away on the 62-54 loss to Penn State:

WHAT IS MATT HUMPHREY DOING? HE IS THE ONLY “VETERAN” PLAYER ON THIS TEAM AND I AM YET TO SEE ANY SORT OF LEADERSHIP FROM HIM. ENTERING WEDNESDAY’S GAME HE WAS SHOOTING 27% FROM THE FIELD. TWENTY SEVEN. DOES HE DEFER TO OTHER PLAYERS WHILE HE TRIES TO GET INTO A GROOVE? NO. HE SHOOTS ELEVEN MORE TIMES INCLUDING EIGHT THREE-POINTERS. HE MADE FOUR OF HIS ELEVEN SHOTS (36%) AND THAT BRINGS HIS SHOOTING PERCENTAGE UP. I HAD TO RESTRAIN MYSELF FROM LETTING OUT AN AUDIBLE MOAN EVERY TIME HE SHOT THE BALL.

That about sums it up. Boston College can’t get any worse. It’s just not possible. So, there’s that.
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