Tag Archive | Basketball

My All-ACC Ballot

FIRST TEAM

Erick Green, Virginia Tech

Mason Plumlee, Duke

Shane Larkin, Miami

Richard Howell, N.C. State

Joe Harris, Virginia

This was pretty straightforward, with respect to Seth Curry and Reggie Bullock, both of whom I thought deserved a spot. Ultimately, there wasn’t enough space. 

SECOND TEAM

Seth Curry, Duke

Reggie Bullock, North Carolina

Kenny Kadji, Miami

Akil Mitchell, Virginia

Lorenzo Brown, N.C. State

THIRD TEAM

P.J. Hairston, North Carolina

Devin Booker, Clemson

Ryan Anderson, Boston College

Quinn Cook, Duke

Michael Snaer, Florida State

Toughest omissions: Durand Scott (Miami), Dez Wells (Maryland), C.J. Harris (Wake Forest), C.J. Leslie (N.C. State), James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina), Alex Len (Maryland).

Full disclosure: I’m a big believer in tempo-free stats, and those omissions came from a combination of those and, you know, the eye test. I watched a lot of ACC games this year. Consistency also played a role, and defense. 

ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM

Olivier Hanlan, Boston College

T.J. Warren, N.C. State

Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke

Marcus Paige, North Carolina

Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech

Toughest omissions: Devin Thomas (Wake Forest), Robert Carter Jr. (Georgia Tech), Joe Rahon (Boston College).

ALL-DEFENSE

Daniel Miller, Georgia Tech

Julian Gamble, Miami

Durand Scott, Miami

Michael Snaer, Florida State

Tyler Thornton, Duke

Toughest omissions: Reggie Bullock (North Carolina), Jontel Evans (Virginia), Akil Mitchell (Virginia), Rod Hall (Clemson). 

This was the most difficult category for me, and I don’t have a problem admitting that some of those picks might have been wrong.

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS

Freshman of the Year: T.J. Warren, N.C. State.

Consistency and efficiency won the day here, as Warren edged Hanlan of BC. Sulaimon has recently hit the freshman wall, as most freshmen tend to, but he was taken out of the starting lineup and has generally looked frustrated while the other two are closing strongly. Warren was very good most of the year and is starting to hit his stride as a starter, which is part of what put him over the top for me. 

Defensive Player of the Year: Julian Gamble, Miami.

I honestly had no idea what to do here, but Gamble has done a great job bothering opposing big men all year and has been very difficult to score against. And considering how much Miami’s defensive numbers have dropped since Gamble left the starting lineup/saw his minutes decrease in favor of Reggie Johnson only helped solidify that opinion. But I am very willing to admit I might have been wrong.

Coach of the Year: Jim Larranaga, Miami.

This seemed like a no-brainer until very recently, when it looked like Miami might not win the outright ACC regular-season title. Still, a weak ending to the season doesn’t take away from the body of work. And he has had this Miami team playing defense at a very high level, believing in each other and being unselfish. They’ve been very tough to beat most of this year, and he’s a big reason for that. Sure, they’re older, and experienced. But Frank Haith had older, tough-minded teams at Miami. They didn’t play like this. 

(Side note: Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and Tony Bennett also did some nice things this season.)

Player of the Year: Erick Green, Virginia Tech.

A lot of my case was made for Green here, but I’ll add this: the ACC Player of the Year award is not the Most Valuable Player. If it were, I would have gone with Shane Larkin. Green averages nearly double the amount of points as Larkin, is more efficient and has a higher assist rate despite having MUCH worse teammates. Larkin’s a better defender, but not significantly.

I tend to err on the side of picking a POY from a winning ACC team, preferably a team that wins the league (or at least a top-five team). It takes a very strong effort from a guy on a last-place team (or close to last) to even merit consideration, much less win it. He has to be significantly ahead of the pack. And Green was that guy to me, based on a combination of statistics and my judgment from watching him.

He did all he could to make his teammates better (compared to another high-volume scorer from last year, about whom his coach said “I can’t coach him”). That, combined with no one else on the top-five teams jumping up to grab the award (at least in my estimation), led to my vote. Reasonable minds can disagree, of course.

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All-ACC Voting

Mike Scott (left) and Tyler Zeller (right) have been First Team All-ACC locks since mid-January and the front-runners for ACC Player of the Year.

FIRST TEAM

Tyler Zeller, North Carolina

Mike Scott, Virginia

John Henson, North Carolina

Kendall Marshall, North Carolina

Harrison Barnes, North Carolina

I struggled the most with Harrison Barnes vs. Austin Rivers for first team. Rivers has been excellent, and clearly Duke’s most impactful player. But look at these ACC-only stats blindly:

Player A: 44.6% FG, 36.0% 3-PT, 59% FT, 15.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.3 TOPG

Player B: 43.2% FG, 33.9% 3-PT, 74% FT, 17.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.8 TOPG

Player B is Barnes, and the shooting differential is negligible enough that I think averaging 2.0 more points on a team that won the ACC is good enough for first team.

No one wants to be that person who has four North Carolina players on their first team. But the Tar Heels didn’t get any on first team last year, despite winning the league. And no player should be denied just because there are “too many Tar Heels” on the first team. That’s not a good enough reason.

Like it or not, those four guys have all had great years for the Tar Heels, who did win the league. Duke had a great shot at it, and had they won you would have had to put Rivers on there, despite Barnes’ better numbers.

I can see issues with putting Marshall on first team, but he’s Carolina’s MIP (Most Important Player). Without him, they’re screwed and with him, they’re excellent. He has talent around him, yes. But he makes them go. And he finished the year averaging 9.0 points in ACC play to go with 9.3 assists and 1.3 steals, scoring just five fewer points (144) than he has assists (149).

SECOND TEAM

Terrell Stoglin, Maryland

Michael Snaer, Florida State

C.J. Leslie, NC State

Kenny Kadji, Miami

Austin Rivers, Duke

THIRD TEAM

C.J. Harris, Wake Forest

Mason Plumlee, Duke

Erick Green, Virginia Tech

Seth Curry, Duke

Lorenzo Brown, NC State

Honorable mentions: Travis McKie, Wake Forest; Andre Young, Clemson; Durand Scott, Miami.

ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM

Austin Rivers, Duke

Nick Faust, Maryland

Ryan Anderson, Boston College

Dorian Finney-Smith, Virginia Tech

Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia

Honorable mentions: Trey McKinney-Jones, Miami; Shane Larkin, Miami; Alex Len, Maryland; Lonnie Jackson, Boston College

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Austin Rivers, Duke (This should be unanimous).

ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM

Jontel Evans, Virginia

Michael Snaer, Clemson

Bernard James, Florida State

John Henson, North Carolina

Tyler Zeller, North Carolina

Honorable mentions: Michael Snaer, Florida State; C.J. Leslie, NC State.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: John Henson, North Carolina.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Leonard Hamilton, Florida State.

*No, the Seminoles didn’t win the league. Yes, they were picked to finish in the top four. But this is Florida State’s fourth consecutive 10-win ACC season and their 12 league wins tied a school record. And he did this without a dominant scorer or ball-handler, turning them into a top 25 team after a very rough start. The Boston College loss gave me second thoughts, but when I saw the way he was able to rally his team at Virginia after the ejection of Bernard James, I was very impressed. 

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tyler Zeller, North Carolina.

ACC Weekend Preview: Dec. 11

Boston College (2-7) vs. Stony Brook (3-4), 12/11, 5:00 PM (No TV, thankfully)

Last in the ACC in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive and defensive rankings (and points per possession scored/allowed), Boston College has to thank the basketball gods for Utah. The 1-7 Utes are easily the worst major-conference team in the country, but BC is trying to make it competitive. And why not? The Eagles haven’t been competitive in many other basketball-related contests.

Boston College blog Soaring to Glory has an interesting look at BC’s season thus far (if games were ten minutes, the Eagles might be undefeated!). If there is a bright side, BC has cut way back on its turnovers (just 11.5 per game in the last two after averaging 16 in the first seven). So there’s that. Oh, and 40% from three against Providence was BC’s best percentage since the season-opener.

Boston College was competitive with Providence but fell apart in the second half, a trend for the Eagles all year. And their shooting from inside the arc against the Friars (9-of-31, 29%) was their season low and perhaps a program low moment in a deeper sense. That is just awful. North Carolina’s length and athleticism hass held just one opponent to a mark that low (Evansville, 28.2%).

BC head coach Steve Donahue has used a different lineup in almost every game to see what works (10 different starters in nine games), and this is a team that will get better throughout the year once he finds the best mix. But that means one, maybe two ACC wins. And as of right now, it’s not helping the Eagles find a rhythm.

The Stony Brook Seawolves have lost by 30 at Indiana, by 11 at Sacred Heart, by five at Northwestern and by three at Eastern Illinois. Ken Pomeroy has Boston College ranked at 266th and Stony Brook at 146th.

Prediction: Stony Brook 66, Boston College 57

Random: A Seawolf is not a real animal – that we know of. It is, however, a “mythical sea creature of the Tlingit tribe, said to bring good luck to all those fortunate enough to see it.” I don’t think Boston College will feel that way when they meet multiple Seawolves on Sunday.

A seawolf.

Florida State (6-3) vs. UNCG (2-7), 12/11, 1:00 PM, RSN

Jeremy Lundblad from ESPN’s College Basketball Nation Blog had an interesting tidbit on Florida State’s turnover issues. As he pointed out, the Seminoles played Charleston Southern, whose average player height was around 6-2 while FSU is the third-tallest team in the country (average nearly 6-7). Yet the Seminoles had 21 turnovers (23.6% loss of ball) and are averaging 18.2 per game, 327th in the country. It’s been a team effort – of the eight Seminoles averaging at least 15 minutes, six average at least two turnovers a game. Only point guard Jeff Peterson (1.8) and Terrance Shannon (1.3) are under that mark. Even Deividas Dulkys, an experienced player, has had issues – he had a team-high six turnovers in 20 minutes against Charleston Southern.

This wouldn’t be as bad if the Seminoles’ pace allowed for these kinds of turnover issues, but tempo-free, they are last in the ACC with a nearly 22% loss of ball. That’s over a fifth of FSU’s possessions that don’t even result in a shot attempt. The Seminoles haven’t had a 25% or higher loss of ball but they have flirted with it, notching 22% or more six times in nine games so far. The lowest loss of ball they have had is 17.4% in the season-opener against Jacksonville; six ACC teams have a lower season average.

If you take out all the possessions that FSU has turned it over on offense, they average 1.03 points per possession. Unfortunately, those wasted possessions count too. And that’s why FSU is 11th in the league in points per possession, ahead of only Boston College. Fortunately for the Seminoles, its defense is still fantastic, leading the league in PPP allowed (0.67) and ranking second in loss of ball forced (20.9%). And they will be playing UNC-G on Sunday and have a chance to develop some good habits before point guard Ian Miller hopefully returns to the team in January. The Spartans have been scrappy in the past, but not this year.

Prediction: Florida State 83, UNC-G 56

Random: UNC-G must be masochistic, because the Spartans have traveled to Tennessee, Georgetown, Boone and Cullowhee (all losses), not to mention losing two in the Greensboro Coliseum twice to nearby foes North Carolina A&T and Elon. The Spartans have wins over UNC-Pembroke and Towson. Former Tar Heels Wes Miller and J.B. Tanner are on the UNC-G staff.

N.C. State (5-3) vs. North Carolina Central (5-4), 12/11, 3:00 PM, RSN

N.C. State’s defense hasn’t been great, but fouls have become a bigger problem. Opponents are averaging 25 free throw attempts per game on 20.0 N.C. State fouls. Even Lorenzo Brown fouled out against Stanford; he had five fouls for the season entering that game. Forward Richard Howell has had three or more fouls in six of N.C. State’s eight games and even the heady C.J. Williams has fouled out (against Vanderbilt).

Scott Wood is the main culprit, averaging 3.1 fouls per game. Taking out Princeton (he played two minutes before getting hurt), he has averaged 3.7 fouls. While he might feel the fouls are bad calls (which he makes known to the officials, and that certainly isn’t helping), he constantly puts himself in bad positions. His fifth foul against Indiana was a questionable flagrant foul call, but considering he has three or more fouls in five of the six games he has finished this year, at some point it becomes a pattern. He fouled out against Stanford on another questionable double foul call, but he put himself in a position to get that whistle as well. Wood has made 20-of-35 three’s this year (57%) while his teammates have combined to shoot 18-of-76 (23.6%).

At the beginning of the year, unsure of how N.C. State would look, this felt like a game the Wolfpack could win narrowly or even lose. It’s worth noting that N.C. Central is 7th nationally in field goal percentage (52.2%).  Central is really improving, dropping games at Wake (by 14), at Wagner (by four) and at UNC-Charlotte (by 16). But they have just one Division-I victory and N.C. State is more talented overall, particularly offensively. This should be a confidence-rebuilding game for N.C. State but if they don’t take Central seriously with weapons like Kansas State transfer Dominique Sutton (17.3 ppg, 65% shooting) and Ray Willis (17.1 ppg, 56% shooting), they could be in trouble.

Prediction: NC State 88, NCCU 63

Random: Central head man LaVelle Moton has a very entertaining Twitter feed (@LaVelleMoton). A lot of former area players have relationships with him, and he even sent this YouTube link to North Carolina’s Sean May to poke a little fun at Raymond Felton. He’s worth a follow, with plenty of motivational Tweets and he has a lot of thoughts on basketball, including this about David Stern vetoing the Chris Paul trade:

@LeVelleMoton David Stern “No one man should have all that Power”…(Kanye Voice)

Virginia Tech (6-3) vs. Norfolk State (6-3), 12/11, 4:00 PM

After disappointing back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Kansas State, it felt like Virginia Tech might lose at Rhode Island. But head coach Seth Greenberg’s teams don’t quit and the Hokies won, 78-67. They still are bound for the NCAA Tournament bubble yet again with no more high-profile non-conference win chances left.

From Tech Hoops, Erick Green came off the bench for the first time this year against Rhode Island because of “the manner in which he was carrying himself.” Despite that, the junior had 24 points off the bench on 10-of-14 shooting. He has been by far Tech’s most efficient offensive threat, averaging 17.1 points on 49% shooting (50% from three). He has shot below 50% just twice this year.

Dorenzo Hudson has been strug-uh-ling this year, shooting 39% (25% from three). It’s puzzling – he averaged 17.8 ppg in the first four games and was shooting 21-of-37 (nearly 57%) and 5-of-13 from three, also averaging 6.8 free-throw attempts per game. Since, he has 30 total points in the last five games (6.0 per game) and has shot 10-of-42 from the field, 2-of-15 from three and has 10 free-throw attempts in five games. They need him because the perimeter will have to carry this team.

Norfolk State seems like a pushover opponent, but the Spartans reached the finals of the Paradise Jam (in which Virginia lost to TCU), losing to No. 11 Marquette by two points. Since, the Spartans have won three of four, but committed 34 turnovers in a loss at home to Elizabeth City State.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 75, Norfolk State 53

Random: Rucker Park legend Pee Wee Kirkland and NBA star Bob Dandridge played together at Norfolk State in the 70’s.

ACC Weekend Preview: Dec. 10

ACC teams are 67-36 so far (and that’s only after an 8-1 week…A-C-C!), and teams not named North Carolina or Duke are 52-33. Without Virginia’s 7-1 start, the other nine teams are 45-32. Ew. Conference pride is on the line!

Duke (8-1) vs. Washington (4-3), CBS, 12:00 PM, Madison Square Garden

Washington would be considered elite if not for losses at St. Louis (by 13) and at Nevada (in overtime). Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln… But the Huskies gave No. 11 Marquette all it could handle in a 79-77 loss on Tuesday in the Garden. With just a few weak non-conference games left, not to mention an awful Pac-12 schedule, Duke is Washington’s last chance at a quality win.

Duke’s defense is eighth in the league in points per possession defense but fourth in loss of ball forced (18.4%), and that’s where the it can do damage against the Huskies. Duke averages 17.7 points off of 15.5 opponent turnovers; the Blue Devils started the year averaging 21 points off turnovers in its first four games. Beginning in Maui, that number dropped to 14.3. But the rejuvenated Blue Devils turned 17 Colorado State turnovers into 18 points, and that’s what they need to do again on Saturday.

The Blue Devils (as of December 4th) are 244th nationally in field goal percentage defense. Duke’s three-point defense has been pretty good, as they held the nation’s top three-point shooting team, Colorado State, to 4-of-11 (36.4%) on Wednesday. But opponents are attempting just 14 three’s a game compared to 43.4 two-pointers (of which Duke opponents make 48%). BCS conference foes have shot 51.6% inside the arc.

Washington can shoot from two (49.5%) or three (40.8%). Sophomores C.J. Wilcox (47.7% 3FG%) and Terrence Ross (37.8% 3FG%) can both go nuts from beyond the arc. Against North Carolina in last year’s second round of the NCAA Tournament, Ross led his team with 19 points off the bench in just 24 minutes. C.J. Wilcox added 11 points (3-of-5 from three) in just 19 minutes. Duke will have a long day if it stops penetration as poorly as the Tar Heels did at times in that game.

Duke will have an advantage on the interior, especially if  7-foot Washington center Aziz N’Diaye gets in foul trouble. He hasn’t fouled out yet this year (albeit in just 24.3 mpg). Against North Carolina last year, N’Diaye picked up four fouls in 20 minutes but still managed to pull down 11 rebounds.

Seth Curry had been the steady one for Duke, but he shot just 7-of-24 in the last three games. Andre Dawkins showed up and had 15 first-half points off the bench against Colorado State before going out with back spasms, and his status is uncertain. Austin Rivers is really starting to get it, scoring a very efficient 17 points on nine shots.

Andrew Jones of Fox Sports wrote this about the freshman: “…The 6-5 slasher can get to the rim with the dribble … maybe more effectively than most players in the ACC. But an issue with him entering this night was that once he decided he was taking the ball to the hole he would cut off all other options. Twice in the first half, however, Rivers got near the rim only to kick it out to Tyler Thornton for a jumper and Andre Dawkins for a 3-pointer. … As Rivers matures and adds this to his repertoire, Duke will grow.”

Washington is missing is what Isaiah Thomas brought last year – a point guard that can make plays for himself and others. They have other elite perimeter players, but at point, Abdul Gaddy is not an offensive threat and Tony Wroten, Jr. is very talented but erratic.Washington is capable of winning, but it’s hard to imagine Duke losing to an unranked team that is talented but flawed, especially in Madison Square Garden.

Prediction: Duke 82, Washington 77

Random: From Lorenzo Romar’s info page on GoHuskies.com:

“The loss to North Carolina in the third round of the NCAAs 2½ months ago was as frustrating and regrettable a defeat as Romar has had at Washington. If not for multiple meltdowns that cost the Huskies the lead and the game to the shaky Tar Heels that Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., they would have been favored to advance to the Elite Eight and past a Marquette team UNC blew out days later in the Round of 16.”

Why don’t you just start up an “overrated” chant? The Tar Heels didn’t play their best game and Washington was fantastic late in the year, but they were a 7-seed and had a 24-11 record for a reason. The Tar Heels were a No. 2 seed. And “as frustrating and regrettable a defeat” as Romar has had at Washington? Does this ring a bell?

Clemson (4-3) at Arizona (6-3), 12/10, 4:00 PM, FSN

Arizona impressed the college basketball world in a 78-72 overtime loss at No. 12 Florida on Wednesday. The Wildcats had been disappointing with losses to Seattle Pacific (in an exhibition), Mississippi State and San Diego State. This seemed like a game the Tigers could win earlier in the year, but Clemson just dropped their third game to an inferior in-state opponent – at home – in a loss to South Carolina. Greg Wallace (@aimclemson on Twitter) from Orange and White wrote about Clemson’s scoring struggles. The Tigers have cracked 70 just twice and have a season-high of 73, averaging 64.4 for the year.

While Andre Young has been fantastic, the 5-9 senior can’t do it alone. In Clemson’s three losses, he has shot 12-of-35 and 7-of-26 from three, averaging 12.7 points. In wins, Young shot 20-of-33 (12-of-19 from three), averaging 15.3 points. He’s taken fewer shots in Clemson’s wins, because he can be more efficient without having to carry the load. But he has 19 of Clemson’s 42 made three’s this year and someone needs to step up there too.

Milton Jennings and Devin Booker have been disappointing. Jennings is a McDonald’s All-American averaging 10.4 points, but he has nine in the last two games on 4-of-13 shooting. He accounted for nearly half of Clemson’s turnovers against South Carolina (he had five; the Tigers had 11). Booker is averaging 9.8 points but hasn’t hit double digits in the last four games, averaging 6.3 field goal attempts. He had averaged 10 shots a game in Clemson’s first four games and he needs to be more assertive.

The Tigers don’t have many options. Without Demontez Stitt’s ability to drive to the hoop and make plays for himself or teammates, Clemson simply lacks playmakers. Arizona is missing some key pieces, but I still don’t see how Clemson can score enough to keep pace with on the road.

Prediction: Arizona 70, Clemson 59

Random: Arizona is 264th in tempo, 19 spots BELOW Herb Sendek’s famously slow Arizona State offense. Clemson, by the way, is 284th in tempo.

Georgia Tech (5-4) at Savannah State (3-6), 12/10, 6:00 PM

Georgia Tech is 11th in the league (per Ken Pomeroy) in offensive efficiency. The puzzling part has been the inconsistency – Georgia Tech has shot 51.8% in five wins (50% or better in all five) and 38.5% in four losses. The Yellow Jackets probably should slow down on the three-pointers (29% on the year) and they might be a more efficient offensive club, because they have some pieces.

The sophomores are key for Georgia Tech: Kammeon Hosley had 12 points against Georgia in a season-high 32 minutes. Brandon Reed snapped a four-game shooting slump (7-of-34, 3-of-19 from three) with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Jason Morris has been coming on, averaging 16 points in the last three games (shooting 6-of-11 from three).

If there’s a concern, it’s Glen Rice, Jr. He’s averaging 14.1 points on 50% shooting but is just 2-of-12 from three in the last three games after starting 6-of-14. He needs to drive more as he is shooting nearly 61% from inside the arc, but he tends to keep jacking up three-pointers. This team is not good enough offensively for him to be inefficient. He can be such a lethal scorer at times, but his 31% shooting from three is not the reason.

But this kind of stuff from new head coach Brian Gregory (via From the Rumble Seat) is awesome. The Yellow Jackets don’t have a two-game winning streak since the first two games and could really use a convincing win to keep momentum going. Savannah State has three losses by a combined nine points (the other three by a combined 74 points) and three wins by a combined 25 points.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 78, Savannah State 57

Random: Savannah State head coach Horace Broadnax inherited a mess of a program in 2005 that had gone 0-28 in 2004. The 13-18 season in 2008 was the most D-I wins by Savannah State ever. Broadnax was a point guard for Georgetown from 1983-86, a run that included a national title in 1984.

Miami (5-3) at West Virginia (5-2), 12/10, 7:00 PM, ESPN2

Miami fans will need to have patience with the team under new head coach Jim Larranaga. There’s a lot of personnel missing still, and he had to start small by changing the culture of shoelaces (h/t The Sporting News). The Hurricanes are holding opponents to 64.1 points (on 41% shooting), but Miami is shooting 39% from the floor and averaging 67.4 points.

The Hurricanes are shooting 35% from three, but since making 10-of-23 against Rutgers (43.5%), they have shot over 40% just once. And they have yet to shoot over 50% overall this season. Miami has cracked 70 points three times this year and in those games, it has made 25-of-58 three’s (43.1%) and have needed 27.7 trips to the foul line. Those kinds of calls likely won’t continue in physical conference play.

Their two best guards, Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, have made 31-of-84 (36.9%). But the two combine to shoot just 31-of-98 (31.6%) from TWO-point range. Last year, Grant shot nearly 42% from both two and three while Scott shot 46% from two (40% from three). Their combined assist average is also done from 6.4 last year between them to 5.1 this year (but their turnovers are down from 5.3 to 3.0).

Junior transfer Trey McKinney Jones has become more consistent, but Florida transfer Kenny Kadji has been all over the map – in back-to-back losses at Ole Miss and Purdue, he played a total of 13 minutes and had one rebound and two points. Since, he has played 25 minutes in each of the last two games and has averaged 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. He has picked up more than two fouls just once this season. When Reggie Johnson comes back (supposedly sometime in December, per Category Six), Miami will have a talented frontcourt that

Unfortunately, Miami and West Virginia are meeting at the wrong time for the Hurricanes. West Virginia didn’t have a good win until beating Kansas State in Wichita in double overtime Thursday night. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, it’s a short turnaround for the Mountaineers. But it probably won’t be enough in a tough road environment.

Prediction: West Virginia 66, Miami 62

Random: 

Deniz Kiliicli deserves props for his magnificent beard. He looks remarkably like:

North Carolina (7-2) vs. LBST (4-4), 12/10, 7:00 PM, ESPN3

It's too bad the world hates offense/scoring, or else this game would be on real TV.

North Carolina did not mess around with Evansville on Tuesday night, beating the Purple Aces 97-48. While the offense was good, the defense was better – Evansville’s 0.545 points per possession were a season low. It’s a good sign despite the inferior opponent, because Carolina has slept-walked on defense at times, allowing even Tennessee State (0.82 PPP) and UNC-Asheville (0.88) to score efficiently. And Carolina had been just +2.5 in rebounding this year despite its height advantage over most teams, so throttling Evansville 62-30 on the backboards was good as well. Reggie Bullock has made 7-of-15 three’s in the last three games. He loves the Smith Center nets best of all, making 14-of-25 three’s in four home games. Having potentially two three-point threats with Bullock and P.J. Hairston makes the offense more dynamic, particularly when the two play together.

Last year, the Tar Heels squeaked by Long Beach State, 96-91, in Carolina’s 2010-11 defensive nadir. The Beach shot nearly 51% and – fortunately for the Tar Heels – only 32% from three (10-of-31). They made 27-of-42 two-pointers (over 64%) and against Carolina’s front line, that’s inexcusable. Larry Drew II had 13 points, eight assists and two turnovers. John Henson and Tyler Zeller combined to shoot 6-of-15 from the floor. Carolina was out-rebounded 37-35. Long Beach forward T.J. Robinson had 31 points on 13-of-19 shooting while dynamic point guard Casper Ware added 22.

Long Beach State has four wins this year; three against Idaho, Boise State and BYU Hawaii. But their other win came at Pittsburgh, in a thrilling game that temporarily made The Beach America’s darlings. Unfortunately, they lost at San Diego State (in overtime) and at Montana (by two), in addition to at Louisville (by 13) and at Kansas (by eight). I don’t think The Beach has enough to hang with the Tar Heels for too long, but if Carolina has one of its patented zombie-esque performances, it could be in trouble.

Prediction: UNC 101, The Beach 79

Random: Luke Winn from SI.com had a great chart of all Tyler Zeller’s second-half offensive touches in the second half at Kentucky. It’s color-coded based on the result of the play (made field goal, missed field goal, pass out, turnover) and an interesting look at how much more quickly he was double-teamed in the second half.

Wake Forest (6-3) at Seton Hall (7-1), 12/10, 8:00 PM

I’m not sure why Wake Forest (6-3) played at the Millis Center (announced crowd: 1,801; capacity: 1,700) in High Point, but the Deacons escaped, 87-83. High Point had nearly knocked off Purdue on the road earlier this year, and had a chance to get a huge win over Wake Forest but fell just short.

C.J. Harris is an offensive machine; he is averaging 18.6 points (he has 20 or more in five games) on 51% shooting from both the field and three-point range. Travis McKie has averaged 18.8 points on 50% shooting (41% from three). If those two can get more consistent help from their teammates, Wake Forest is going to end up beating a team or two it shouldn’t. Wake gets 7-foot senior center Ty Walker back from suspension against Seton Hall, and the Deacs are 2-0 on the road this year.

But Seton Hall has won four straight and their only loss came by seven to Northwestern. They don’t have any amazing wins, but they have beaten the teams they should. With the firepower of Herb Pope (the leading scorer in the Big East at 21.4 ppg), I don’t see Wake keeping up on the scoreboard, especially since Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard is a Rick Pitino guy who preaches aggressive defense.

Prediction: Seton Hall 83, Wake Forest 77

Random: Wake Forest includes plus/minus stats in their game notes and in the blowout loss to Arizona State, Harris was -27 and McKie was -21. Without that game, Harris would be +44 and McKie +47 on the season. What voodoo did you do, Herb Sendek? …. And did you know Travis McKie is the first Virginian to play for Wake since Josh Shoemaker (1998-2001)? It feels like Carolina and Duke have had at least five each from Virginia since 2001.

Season record: 10-9

ACC Basketball: Not Terrible?

The ACC's new slogan: Not as bad as you think.

The ACC is the last major conference without a loss this year (22-0). The season is barely a week old, but last year at this point, the ACC was 19-5 with awful losses to Stetson, VCU (both by Wake Forest) and Kennesaw State (Georgia Tech). This year, the league is beating who it should, which is more than some conferences can say.

The average team ranking in each conference, average ranking of opponent in wins and losses by each conference is below (rankings courtesy of Ken Pomeroy):

  • ACC (22-0):       Avg. ranking: 58.8; Avg. opponent rank (wins): 193.6; Avg. opp. rank (losses): N/A
  • Big 10 (20-2):    Avg. ranking: 40.4; Avg. opponent rank (wins): 239.8; Avg. opp. rank (losses): 3.5
  • Big East (30-3): Avg. ranking: 57.3; Avg. opponent rank (wins): 241.9, Avg. opp. rank (losses): 61.3
  • Big 12 (17-2):     Avg. ranking: 59.5, Avg. opponent rank (wins): 244.9; Avg. opp. rank (losses): 62.5
  • SEC (19-5):        Avg. ranking: 70.4; Avg. opponent rank (wins): 214;  Avg. opp. rank (losses): 110.2
  • Pac 12 (18-6):    Avg. ranking: 83.5, Avg. opponent rank (wins): 208.8; Avg. opp. rank (losses): 102.3

The ACC has a difficult trek back to the dominance it once had over the rest of college basketball. The perception of it won’t change overnight, or even in one season. But here are some teams that have a chance to get some big wins for the ACC in the next 10 days:

  1. Maryland. The Terrapins are playing in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic, which starts tomorrow, and face an athletic No. 16 Alabama squad in the first round. Maryland had a hard time with UNC-Wilmington, but the Terrapins will get better as the year goes along under new head coach Mark Turgeon.
  2. Virginia Tech. The Hokies advanced to the semifinals of the Preseason NIT, where they face No. 5 Syracuse in Madison Square Garden on November 23rd. Virginia Tech is banged up and lacks a true go-to scorer, but that balance has been beneficial so far in a 3-0 start. An upset seems unlikely, but head coach Seth Greenberg’s teams have done it before.
  3. Florida State. The first two rounds of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas shouldn’t be challenging for the No. 25 Seminoles. But they could face No. 4 Connecticut in the title game on November 26th. The Seminoles are good enough defensively to win, but UConn is also excellent on defense. Florida State still has a chance to steal one if it’s a low-scoring affair.
  4. Duke. The Maui Invitational field is loaded, and the No. 6 Blue Devils could conceivably beat two ranked teams. Duke will face either No. 10 Memphis or No. 17 Michigan in the semis and then No. 12 Kansas (should they advance) in the championship game on November 24th.
  5. N.C. State. The Wolfpack will play in the Legends Classic in the Meadowlands starting with No. 18 Vanderbilt on November 19th. Should N.C. State win, it would likely face Texas on November 21st; he Longhorns are unranked but still a name program. Wins like those would add to the already-positive momentum that Mark Gottfried has generated by signing a top-five recruiting class.

ACC teams have had some inexplicable losses in recent years that have hurt the league’s reputation almost as much as failing to win big games has. Florida State lost at Auburn last year while Virginia lost at home to Seattle. Miami lost to UCF and Rutgers. Boston College lost to Harvard (for the third straight year) and Yale, both at home. (Wake Forest’s plethora of awful losses aren’t really worth mentioning.) We’ll call this the “Don’t Embarrass Us, Please” group:

  1. Virginia. The Cavaliers have managed to find one of the least competitive holiday tournament: The Paradise Jam in St. Thomas. Virginia with a healthy Mike Scott needs to beat TCU in the first round on November 19th and should beat Norfolk State or Drexel in the next round. No. 21 Marquette would be its likely opponent in the championship game, but the ACC needs wins in those first two.
  2. Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets will go to the Charleston Classic (starting November 17th) and face St. Joseph’s followed by VCU or Seton Hall. Georgia Tech is 2-0 under new head coach Brian Gregory, but there are plenty of teams in the Charleston field that would potentially be terrible losses (St. Joseph’s, Western Kentucky or even Seton Hall and LSU).
  3. Clemson. The Tigers host College of Charleston on November 19th and Coastal Carolina on November 22nd. Neither team is a “cupcake” (Charleston is 133rd, Coastal 163rd per Ken Pom), but particularly considering both games are in Littlejohn Coliseum, these are must-wins.
  4. Miami. The Hurricanes travel to Ole Miss on November 25th. Ole Miss (2-0) is not a bad team, but Miami has a lot of talent and could make the NCAA Tournament under new head coach Jim Larranaga. With non-conference games at Purdue, at West Virginia and Memphis looming, the Ole Miss game is a must.
  5. North Carolina. The No. 1 Tar Heels will play in the Las Vegas Invitational (November 25-26) in a surprisingly weak field. Carolina can’t lose to South Carolina (lost to Elon yesterday), Southern Cal (lost at home to Nebraska) or even UNLV, arguably the second-best team in the field.

Wake Forest should be better this year, but a November 19th home matchup against improved North Carolina Central is scary. The Deacons travel to Orlando for the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving and will play Dayton on November 24th followed by Arizona State or Fairfield, the latter of which has embarrassing loss potential.

Boston College nearly lost to New Hampshire at home and could lose at Holy Cross or to UMass. The Eagles will play in the ESPN 76 Classic in Anaheim and could lose to first-round foe St. Louis on November 24th. BC has to feel pretty good if it can win two of those three games. The rest of the field in Anaheim isn’t great, but neither is Boston College.

Considering there are four new head coaches and three in Year 2, the perception was that the league would be terrible, and it still might be. But maybe the coaching carousel has stopped spinning long enough for some of the “other” programs (not Carolina and Duke) to finally develop consistency.

North Carolina, on a boat!


Kendall Marshall Tweeted this picture of the team touring the USS Carl Vinson on Wednesday.

(All you have to do is Google “On a Boat” and you’ll get the reference, if you don’t already. Warning: the video/audio is NSFW.)

A lot of hype leading up to Carolina’s season-opener against Michigan State has surrounded the odd circumstances of the game. (USA Today wrote a comprehensive guide to the game, available here.) It’s in San Diego on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier that buried Osama bin Laden at sea. It’s Veteran’s Day; soldiers and President Obama will be there in person. Supermodel and Carolina fan Brooklyn Decker will attend and play a game of H.O.R.S.E. at halftime.

Despite all that, Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall said yesterday that the only celebrity in attendance who could make him nervous is Anchorman star Will Ferrell. Tar Heel Fan posted the brilliant Top Gun Quote Guide to the Carrier Classic, and in that vein, let’s take a look at this weekend through the movie Anchorman, avoiding the easy go-to quote: “Stay classy, San Diego.”

Brian Fantana: They’ve done studies, you know. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.

With wind potentially being an issue (Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo says it might blow some of his team’s errant shots in the basket), look for the bigs on each team to take the higher-percentage shots. After Kendall Marshall entered the lineup, John Henson took on a bigger role in the offense, and his scoring went up as a result (from 10.4 points to 12.8). His field goal percentage went down (from 53.5 to 47.7) and his free-throw percentage went up (from 36.2%!! to 58.9). But he was inconsistent on offense, at times getting the ball stripped and taking bad shots. Tyler Zeller was the mainstay, scoring 10 or more points in 32 of Carolina’s 37 games and shooting nearly 55 percent.

Michigan State forward Draymond Green averaged 12.6 points in 2011 and was one of 10 D-I players to lead his team in both rebounding (8.6 per game) and assists (4.1). The senior added a three-point shot to his game last year and made around 37 percent. But Green has seen his share of foul trouble and while Michigan State has some talented players behind him, there’s no one with his experience and savvy. Henson and Zeller made some very good post players into non-factors last year, but the they will need to score as well.

Frank Vitchard: [public news anchor cuts off Frank’s arm] Ah! I did not see that one coming!

The Tar Heels might feel that way if guard Brandon Wood, a graduate student transfer from Valparaiso, goes off. Carolina should see it coming though as Wood dropped 30 points in Chapel Hill, three years ago nearly to the day. He made 12-of-19 shots (6-of-10 three-pointers) and drove to the basket at will. The Tar Heels beat Valpo by 11, but it was the first harbinger of the bad season to come in 2010. It’s unclear how Wood will fit into the Spartans’ offense, and Dexter Strickland is much more capable of defending a player like that now, but Wood is an x-factor for the Spartans offensively.

As for potential Tar Heel surprises, there aren’t many. It might be a tad shocking if a Carolina team that shot 32.8% from the 3-point line last year starts hitting a ton of 3’s in windy conditions. Michigan State will try to limit the Tar Heels to those kinds of shots and if they go in, so be it. Only John Henson raining 3’s could be a real shock to Michigan State, not to mention the rest of the college basketball world.

Ron Burgundy: Veronica and I are trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it’s jogging or yogging. it might be a soft ‘j’. I’m not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It’s supposed to be wild.

Carolina is known for its running game, and Michigan State is not going to want to let the Tar Heels get going in transition. But lay-ups and dunks are higher-percentage shots (Captain Obvious here), so Carolina will try to force tempo. In 2011, Carolina was near the top of every defensive category (per Ken Pomeroy) except for steal percentage, and it’s hard to start fast breaks without steals or turnovers. The Tar Heels were 7th in the ACC last year in both steals per game and turnover margin. It’s going to be hard to score inside on Carolina, but the Tar Heels have to get more turnovers to make things easier on themselves offensively.

Ron Burgundy: I’m proud of you fellas. You all kept your head on a swivel, and that’s what you gotta do when you find yourself in a vicious cock fight.

Roy Williams touched on this during Tuesday’s press conference when he said that the Tar Heels will have to learn to face adversity and rise above it. And while the elements present some adversity on Friday, the real trouble comes when Carolina gets on a plane right after the game and flies overnight to Asheville for a 4:00 game on Sunday. UNC-Asheville is coming off of an NCAA Tournament season a year ago and returns four of five starters. The Bulldogs are already making contingency plans in the event of a win over the Tar Heels.

A quick turn-around after an emotional game on Friday makes Sunday’s game seem like a trap. But if the Tar Heels are elite, they have to win games like this. “I hope … some success will give them a little confidence in being able to handle the different scenarios, different situations, different arenas, not having your home crowd to make you play better or faster defensively,” Williams said. “But we have a pretty good team, and so I think we should challenge them. If it was like 2006 or 2010, I would have been scared stiff. We’ll see how we respond.”

A New-Look Duke Team

Austin Rivers fields questions from the media.

The Duke players held media availability earlier this week, and they were obviously asked a lot about head coach Mike Krzyzewski ultimately breaking the all-time wins record, likely against Michigan State on November 15th. But Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Miles Plumlee had some interesting things to say about how this team is coming together. It’s odd to think about Duke without Nolan Smith or Kyle Singler, and while this young team might have a few early stumbles, it should right itself quickly in a pretty bad ACC and could be peaking at the right time.

Duke opens the season with Belmont tonight at home, and Belmont is legit (the Bruins, 30-5 last year, were the trendy 13-over-4 upset pick in last year’s NCAA Tournament – they lost to Wisconsin). Belmont rolled through the Atlantic Sun last year but didn’t beat any “name” teams, losing twice at Tennessee (by nine and by one) and once at Vanderbilt (a 9-point loss). But going into Cameron Indoor is not the same as going to Tennessee or Vanderbilt, and though Belmont is a solid team, I don’t see them being much closer than 10-12 points.

Seth Curry transferred to Duke from Liberty, a Big South team, so said he knows that there are some good teams on the mid-major level. Curry’s big brother Stephen Curry has been giving him some advice about his new role as Duke’s primary ball-handler this year (“He has a lot of time on his hands with the lockout, so we talk a lot,” the younger Curry said).

Neither Curry nor freshman sensation Austin Rivers are pure point guards, but it will be interesting to see how that dynamic develops. “In walking situations, I’ll bring it up pretty much every time, just getting us into our offense,” Curry said. “That’s what I’ve been doing in practice. On a miss or a turnover, (whoever is) closer to the ball can just push it up the floor so we can get it up as quick as possible. (Rivers) likes to attack in transition and get to the hole, so that’s good for him to push the ball while the defense isn’t set.”

Opposing fans have already labeled Rivers as cocky and arrogant, in part because of some of Twitter comments over the last year, but he doesn’t come across that way. He was self-deprecating when evaluating his defense: “The first game (against Bellarmine), I played like a freshman and we don’t have time for that – I don’t have time for that – just because of our schedule. … That first game really told me what I needed to do. I came back in the second game focusing on pressuring my guy. That’s one thing I think I improved on is my defense.”

He talked more than once about how others perceive him, so it’s clear he’s conscious of that. And he seems very gung-ho about all things Duke, especially defense: “I actually like to play defense. Whether people really saw it or not in AAU and high school, it’s just because probably you didn’t really have to back then. … That’s how you win games. Coach K knows just about everything about winning and that’s one of the things he believes in, so I believe in it. … When you have assistant coaches like (Steve Wojciechowski) who was Defensive National Player of the Year, you’re going to play defense. If not, you’re not going to play.”

The Blue Devils have five scholarship players 6-8 or taller and seem ready to use them. Miles Plumlee, who seems ready for a big year, sees the change already: “Even in practice, there’s much more of an effort to get it down low. It feels great to be a part of the offense and it’s not always for us to score. We’re kicking it back out and getting a lot of great three’s in practice. It’s much balanced on offense this year than it has been in recent years.”

Other notes:

-Ryan Kelly said his beard is Zoubek-approved. He also said he grew it initially out of “laziness”, but added that the three women in his life – his mom, his girlfriend and his sister – all liked the look, so it stayed.

Ryan Kelly (and his beard).

-Andre Dawkins gave an interesting answer when asked if he’d rather be preseason No. 1 or under the radar (by Duke standards): “I kind of like being preseason No. 1. I think it’s good with the amount of young guys we have on our team, but from our standpoint, our expectations are the same year in and year out. Our end goal is to win a national championship so regardless of what other people think we can do, we’re going to work extremely hard every day to win a national championship.”

N.C. State vs. Flagler

C.J. Leslie

C.J. ("Calvin") Leslie talks to the media after the Flagler win.

There aren’t too many concrete take-aways from a 102-61 beatdown of a team called Flagler, but N.C. State certainly looked good, particularly on offense. Scott Wood – who had 26 points (and made 6-of-8 3’s) – said you shouldn’t expect 102 points every night, though: “We probably shot over 55% from the field. Most nights, it’s probably not going to be that high. We were joking on the court because – I think Semi-Pro is that the movie where it’s corn dogs for everybody.”

(It was indeed “corn dogs, for all these people!” (to be exact) from Will Ferrell’s Semi-Pro. I’ve never seen that movie, but the best quote I could find from it was: “It’s just like the Titanic but it’s full of bears!”)

Mark Gottfried’s up-tempo offense seemed to work well most of the time. There were a few turnovers (14) but the Wolfpack shot nearly 57%,  had 24 assists on 37 field goals and ended up with 31 fast break points. C.J. Williams, coming off a broken hand, played a solid all-around game as did graduate student Alex Johnson and Belgian frosh Thomas de Thaey. Freshman Tyler Harris and junior DeShawn Painter scored 20 of the Wolfpack’s 55 bench points, and Gottfried complimented both of them after the game. “Offensively, (Harris) let the game come to him. He didn’t get in a hurry and try to shoot real quick; he had a little poise. One thing you tell all those guys if you’re not a guy that’s in those top 5-6 guys, take your two minutes and turn two into four, turn four into six, turn six into eight. He helped himself tonight. DeShawn Painter helped himself with solid minutes. That’s what you like to see from guys like that.”

That’s the key for this team. NC State has a talented core but its bench is certainly unproven. If Harris and Painter, who combined for 20 points in 26 minutes on 9-of-11 shooting, can provide reliable support, that would be huge.

Lorenzo Brown looked pretty good in his first game as the Wolfpack’s full-time starting point guard. He had eight assists (with six turnovers) and looked in control more often than not, even at a faster tempo. He and Scott Wood had a nice groove together as well  as Brown assisted on three of Wood’s six three-pointers. C.J. Leslie (just doesn’t feel right to call him Calvin, does it?) had some up and down moments but finished with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting (and 6-of-8 from the foul line, which is encouraging after last year’s 54.2%). The dynamic between Leslie and Gottfried is already fascinating, but it appears for now that he is on board, per Gottfried: “He wants to be good, bottom line. I think that he’s very eager and willing to make changes and play harder and play better and be more responsible. That’s kind of this whole concept with him. I thought tonight he gave great energy. But it’s every player, it’s not just him. We single him out a lot, but we all as a group have to make sure we’re going to play extremely hard every night, whether it’s him – it doesn’t matter who it is – or they won’t play. That’s something he’s learning.”

Here’s what Leslie had to say:

The Wolfpack opens things up with UNC-Asheville Friday night, and it will be a tougher test than many teams will open with but certainly not too much for them to handle. They are much more talented than UNC-Asheville but Sidney Lowe teams have let lesser opponents hang around. This is not a Sidney Lowe team and it’s Mark Gottfried’s first real game as a head coach since January 2009, so it will be interesting to see how the Wolfpack looks against a legit team. I think they’ll win fairly convincingly, and they’ll win even more convincingly on Sunday when they host Morehead State (sans Kenneth Faried).

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