Holiday Break: December 22, 2011

There are plenty of ACC games on tap for today.

#1 Syracuse hosts Tulane.

Clemson hosts UTEP in an early game.

Florida State travels to Florida in a big game.

Georgia Tech hosts Mercer.

North Carolina State hosts Northwestern in a pretty big game.

Virginia Tech hosts Eastern Michigan.

Miami travels to Charlotte.

7 games on the slate… how about 7 wins???

The Confidential’s Basketball Top 30 for December 21, 2011

With over 300 teams in college basketball, the top 25 is just not enough anymore.  Here is the Confidential’s Top 30 for December 13, 2011:

  1. Syracuse (12-0).  Survived North Carolina State and held off tourney perennial Bucknell.
  2. Ohio State (11-1).  Cruising along, even without Sullinger.  Conference play is here now though.  Indiana on Saturday.
  3. Kentucky (10-1).  So much talent.  Huge game versus Louisville in two Saturdays.
  4. North Carolina (10-2).  Really not too impressive to start the season.  If they lose to Texas tonight, going to have to drop them down to 10th place or so.  The benefit of the doubt is getting weaker.
  5. Duke (10-1).  A real tough schedule to begin the season, but December finishes without much of a test.  If Louisville beats Georgetown and Kentucky, they will be leapfrogged.
  6. Louisville (11-0).  The win over Memphis was nice, but not enough to jump over UNC or Duke.  Georgetown in 7 days though.  And then Kentucky.
  7. Missouri (11-0).  The Tigers are undefeated and have better wins than Baylor and Florida.
  8. Florida (9-2).  Big game against Florida State on Thursday.  Both teams need that win.
  9. Baylor (10-0).  Baylor needs a signature win to start leapfrogging teams ahead of it in the standings.  Not sure West Virginia is it.
  10. UConn (9-1).  That mystery loss to UCF remains perplexing.  The Big East schedule will sort things out.
  11. Georgetown (9-1).  The Hoyas need to take care of business against disappointing Memphis.
  12. Pittsburgh (11-1).  Conference play starts next week against Notre Dame.
  13. Kansas (7-3).  Brutal schedule and lots of good wins.  But need to beat Davidson to stay in the top 10.
  14. Xavier (8-1).  The suspensions hurt, but scoring 42 points against Oral Roberts?
  15. Marquette (10-1). Win over Wisconsin is nice, but losing to LSU is a red flag.
  16. Wisconsin (10-2).  Losses to UNC and Marquette hurt, but Wisconsin has rebounded with a win over UNLV.  And we now know that UNLV is very tough.
  17. Indiana (11-0).  Wins over Kentucky and Notre Dame now.  This team may be for real.
  18. Michigan State (10-2).  MSU may not be top 5, but they have only lost to the top 5.  10 in a row since then.
  19. UNLV (12-2).  Wins over North Carolina and at Illinois are very good signs.  Might be looking at the #3 or #4 seed in the West.
  20. Murray State (12-0).  May run the table.  Who is going to beat them?
  21. Harvard (9-1).  Like Murray State, hard to see where the next loss comes from.
  22. Illinois (11-1).  Once the Big 10 season kicks off, the real Illinois will reveal itself.  For better or for worse.
  23. Mississippi State (11-1).  The loss to Akron remains the only blip.  Some decent wins.
  24. Virginia (9-1).  Hard to tell on the Cavs, but the ACC schedule starting in January will tell the story.
  25. Michigan (9-2).  No shame in losing to Duke.  Still needs more good wins.
  26. Creighton (9-1).  Big game against Northwestern this week.
  27. Northwestern (10-1).  Big game against Creighton this week.
  28. San Diego State (10-2).  Only losses are to undefeated Baylor and 1-loss Creighton.
  29. Stanford (10-1).  Looking like the best of a down Pac-12.
  30. Minnesota (11-1).  Eleven wins is eleven wins.  We’ll see.

If the season ended today, all of these teams could be in the Big Dance.  Time will tell as to how it plays out though…

ACC Basketball Rankings: December 20, 2011

This is particularly complex with Pitt and Syracuse not yet in the ACC, but it can still be done.  Here is how we view the ACC basketball schools as of December 20, 2011:

1Syracuse (11-0)  The win over North Carolina State gives Syracuse that coveted win in a true road game.  Up this week?  Bucknell and surprising Tulane.

2. North Carolina (10-2) Win over Appalachian State does not move the dial.  Coasted in the second half too.

3. Duke (10-1) No games last week.  No reason to move them up or down.

4. Virginia (9-1) Other than Syracuse, Virginia had the best win of the week by taking down Oregon at Oregon.  Enough to crack the top 25.

5. Pittsburgh (10-1)  Not really tested this past week.  Only a game against South Carolina State.

6. Virginia Tech (9-3)  Two wins over overmatched foes is not nearly enough to break into the top 5.

7. Florida State (8-3)  As with most ACC teams, the Seminoles had an easy week with two rather easy opponents.

8North Carolina State (6-4) The Wolfpack held their own against Syracuse for most of the game.  Syracuse was just too much in the end.

9. Georgia Tech (7-4) No wins of significance in the past week.

10. Maryland (6-3) Maryland is starting to string some wins together.  As the difficulty level increases, so to will Maryland’s rank here.

11. Wake Forest (7-4)  The Demon Deacons climb a spot after beating George Washington.  This was one of the more impressive wins of the week.

12. Miami (6-4) But it took overtime for Miami to hold off Florida Atlantic.  Not a good sign.

13. Clemson (6-4)  Beat up a few creampuffs to get to 6-4.  Could be worse. 

14. Boston College (4-7)  Things are getting better for the Eagles.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know!

Weekend ACC Basketball Recap: December 19, 2011

While the big news of the weekend was Syracuse defending its #1 ranking on the road against North Carolina State, there were plenty of other noteworthy results.

On Saturday, Miami survived a double-overtime thriller against Florida Atlantic, 93-90.  The big news for Miami was the return of Center Reggie Johnson, who made his season debut after undergoing right knee surgery in June, and filled up the box score: 15 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and five assists.  Three other players chipped in 15 points or more for the Hurricanes, led by Kenny Kadji’s 21 points.  With the win, Miami nudges up to 6-4.

Surprisingly, the next closest game of the day on Saturday was #5 North Carolina’s 97-82 victory over Appalachian State.  To be fair, the Tar Heels jumped out to a 16-point lead at halftime and coasted to the win.  Tyler Zeller scored 31 points and added 10 rebounds.  North Carolina is now 9-2.

In other Saturday games, Clemson improved to 5-4 by defeating Winthrop 60-40.  Virginia Tech defeated Campbell 85-60 to get to 8-3 overall.  It should also be noted that future ACC member, #15 Pittsburgh, defeated South Carolina State 69-55.  The Panthers are now 10-1.

On Sunday, the ACC went 4 for 4.  The big game was Virginia’s 67-54 road victory over Oregon.  The Ducks went into the game with a 6-2 record, with losses to only BYU and Vanderbilt.  But the Cavaliers continued their good early season performance by holding Oregon to 42.6% shooting.  Virginia also dominated the boards, capturing a 39-24 edge.  Mike Scott led Virginia with 17 points and 13 rebounds.  Virginia is now 9-1 on the season and poised to move into the top 25.

Florida State improved to 8-3 with a 77-61 victory over Loyola Marymount.  Once again, the ACC team dominated the boards as the Seminoles crashed the boards for a ridiculous 49 to 32 edge.  The teams helped those numbers by shooting below average, 49 for 123 between the two teams.  Bernard James led the Seminoles with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

In other Sunday action, Wake Forest defeated Gardner-Webb 67-59 to get to 7-4.  And how about those Boston College Eagles, who got their fourth win on the season with a 20-point romp over Bryant, 75-55.  That’s two wins in a row.

#1 Syracuse Picks Up Win AT North Carolina State

In a preview of future ACC basketball games to come, the #1 Syracuse Orange traveled to North Carolina State on Saturday and left with an impressive 88-72 victory.  With the win, Syracuse assures itself of retaining the #1 ranking for at least another week.  More importantly, this team showed the country that it can respond well to adversity in a fairly hostile environment.  As the 2011 portion of the 2011-2012 schedule comes to a close, this Syracuse team is absolutely legit.

Of course, the big news leading up to the game was that Syracuse was playing its first true road game.  For whatever reason, media types do not hesitate to hammer on Syracuse for not playing enough “true road games” in December.  Perhaps the reason is that most Syracuse fans react as if their grandmothers were accused of being terrorists.  It is perfectly logical that a Big East team would hold back a bit on the out-of-conference scheduling because of the grueling nature of the Big East schedule.  That makes the Syracuse early season schedule a legitimate discussion point when weighing a December Syracuse squad against already battle-tested squads.  It is the nature of the beast more than a media conspiracy.

But the win over North Carolina State should put some of this debate to rest.  Syracuse was punched hard by North Carolina State hard in the first portion of both halves.  North Carolina State jumped out to a 12-4 lead to begin the game.  At the beginning of the second half, North Carolina State went on a crowd-fueled 17-3 run to start the second half.  The Wolfpack shot better than Syracuse, out-rebounded Syracuse, and had a 21-10 assist advantage.  And they still lost by 16.

The difference between the teams is that Syracuse’s 2-3 zone is manned by players who bring a defensive intensity that has not been matched in several years.  Syracuse forced 18 turnovers and was outstanding in converting them into points.  The Orange relied on turnovers and three-point shooting to go on a 20-0 run in the first half.  The Orange relied on turnovers and penetration with the dribble to finish the game on a 38-22 run.

As has become the pattern, Syracuse’s depth was also a significant factor.  While Brandon Triche was suffering from an off night, super-sub Dion Waiters stepped in to lead the team with 22 points.  Meanwhile, subs CJ Fair and James Southerland added 22 more points off the bench and used their length on the defensive end.  Meanwhile, senior starters Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph scored 37 points, went 5 for 10 from three-point range, and added 9 rebounds.  You never know who is going to step up tallest for Syracuse.  When Triche and Fab Melo can have pedestrian games and it does not matter, that is impressive.

For North Carolina State, they will have to take solace in playing the #1 team closely for substantial portions of the game.  Senior guard CJ Williams certainly did his part, going 9 for 13 from the field en route to a career-high 25 points.  Point guard Lorenzo Brown led the team with 13 assists and 6 rebounds.

Good News for Maryland & Boston College Football

After tough 2011 football seasons, the Maryland Terrapins and Boston College Eagles received some good off-season news.   After finishing their seasons a combined 6-18, there was little to cheer about in 2011.  But the good news is thatnine of their football players were granted medical redshirts by the ACC conference.

For Maryland, four players will get a medical redshirt.  According to umterps.com:

Maryland was notified Friday by the Atlantic Coast Conference office that wide receiver Tyrek Cheeseboro, defensive back Matt Robinson, defensive lineman Isaiah Ross and linebacker Kenny Tate were approved for medical hardship waivers.  

The three defensive players began the season as starters for Randy Edsall.  Tate, pictured below, was an all-ACC player in 2012.

Meanwhile, the Boston College athletics website is reporting that five players were granted medical redshirts.  The websites noted that the following five players had their medical hardship waivers approved: Montel Harris, Kaleb Ramsey, Ifeanyi Momah, C.J. Jones and Connor Wujciak.  The big name on this list is Harris, as noted by Boston College:

Harris, a senior running back who was the 2011 ACC preseason Player of the Year, missed the first three games of the season, then played in two games (vs. UMass and Wake Forest), sustaining a season-ending knee injury against the Demon Deacons. Before his injury, Harris broke the BC all-time rushing record with a 26-yard rush in the fourth quarter. He will have one year of eligibility remaining.

For both programs, they need as many playmakers as possible in every season moving forward.  So this news is really some good news after otherwise dreary 2011 campaigns.

Bowl Predictions: First 3 ACC bowl games

It’s time for bowl predictions for the first 3 ACC bowl games, which will feature North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Florida State.  Although it will still be a while before the ACC bowl season kicks off, it is still bowl season eve, as a few mid-majors will get things started on Saturday.  Without further adieu, here are the first thee predictions.

On December 26, the North Carolina Tar Heels (7-5) will travel to Shreveport, Louisiana to take on Missouri (7-5).  This will be an interesting game as Missouri will bring the #11 rushing game in FBS into a game against the #14 rushing defense in North Carolina.  Something will have to give there.  If you look deeper at Missouri, you see a team that lost at Arizona State… and then to tough Big XII foes Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Kansas State.  Not a bad loss there.  Of course, no great wins either.  Similarly, the Tar Heels really did not upset any team all year.  At the same time, all of their losses were to bowl teams.  There is not a lot jumping off the page in terms of distinguishing these teams.  The overall toughness of the Big XII suggests that Missouri will be more battle tested.  Prediction: Missouri 28-North Carolina 17.

On December 27, North Carolina State ambles into Charlotte for its Belk Bowl matchup against Louisville.  Both teams finished 7-5 on the season.  However, Louisville started the season 2-4, only to finish strong with a 5-1 second-half.  This also occurred right around the time that Louisville switched offensive coordinators and Freshman QB Teddy Bridgewater stepped up his game.  Louisville’s defense was very tough all year.  The teams had two common opponents.  Cincinnati beat North Carolina State 44-14, but only beat Louisville 25-16.  On the other hand, North Carolina beat Louisville 14-7, but lost to North Carolina State 13-0.  Charlie Strong has put together an outstanding coaching staff at Louisville and will have several weeks to prepare.  Still, the Confidential thinks that North Carolina State will end up with a de facto home field advantage.  And they were 6-1 at home this year, losing only to Georgia Tech.  Prediction: North Carolina State 24-Louisville 20. 

On December 29, Florida State and Notre Dame will square off in a rematch of some great battles of the 1990′s.  However, these aren’t your older brother’s Notre Dame and Florida State teams.  Both teams head to Orlando with 8-4 records.  Nevertheless, these are two of the so-called “Kings” of college football.  Florida State will present Notre Dame with a very stingy defense that is 6th in the country.  Where Florida State struggles is offense, slotting in the bottom half.  Notre Dame is just outside the top quartile in both of those categories.  This is a very tough game to predict, but Notre Dame’s propensity for turnover implosions seems like the deciding factor here.  Prediction: Florida State 21–Notre Dame 13.

These are three very tough games.  (Already got the excuses ready).  Feel free to share your agreement or disagreement.  Just do so before the game ends…

 

ACC Hoops to Go to 18 Games in 2012-2013

The ACC has decided to switch from 16-game model to an 18-game model.  According to the ACC’s official website:

“Our member institutions have been talking about this increase for awhile and knowing our league will be expanding to 14 in the future, we’ve decided to move to an 18-game conference schedule next year, regardless of our membership number,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “The additional conference games create a more equitable schedule and we’ve received significant feedback from our fans for more conference games.”

This will apply to both men’s and women’s basketball.

The questions are already being raised as to whether this is a good move or not.  Some are concerned that this will lead to Duke scaling back its ordinarily challenging out-of-conference slate.  Naturally, there must be a quantity reduction with this move.  So the only real question is whether and how it impacts the quality of the out-of-conference scheduling.

Again, this change will apply without regard to whether Syracuse and Pittsburgh are part of the ACC.

Notably, the Pac-12 has already implemented the 18-game schedule for its 12 teams.  Of course, when it had 10 teams, the 18-game slate allowed for a true round-robin.  The Pac-12 did not have to add games when it expanded by two teams.

In the end, until the league can get up to 16 teams (we’re looking at you Notre Dame), 18 games will be a bit cumbersome.  But, with 16 teams and two 8-team divisions, playing each team in your division twice and 1/2 of the teams in the other divisions works out to a very nice…. 18 games.

Where Does Pittsburgh Football Go From Here?

As noted yesterday, Todd Graham fled Pittsburgh his head coaching position at Pittsburgh yesterday to take the same position for Arizona State.  The question is–where does Pitt go from here?

Before even addressing who the next coach should be, there is the business of anger management.  The blogosophere is none-too-pleased with Mr. Graham.  The folks over at Cardiac Hill did not hold anything back:

Now comes the hard part, Todd. The part where we part ways. Parting is such sweet sorrow, isn’t it? I’ll be watching you out in Arizona State, Todd. Don’t get me wrong – there’s no way I’ll root for one of your teams. You’ve joined my list of people I’ll love to see fail. That’s because, Todd, you’re the worst type of person.

You’re a fraud.

We don’t expect to hear back from you … unless it’s by email, that is.

So there’s that.  Meanwhile, other bloggers put the blame squarely on Pittsburgh athletic director Steve Pederson for what will now end up being four head coaches in one 12 month period (off in the distance, Nebraska fans are struggling to not say “we told you so”).

Next up is the question of who coaches Pitt in their upcoming bowl game.  It looks like defensive coordinator Keith Patterson will get that particular job.

Only after that does the question turn to who gets to be the head coach for the next 30 years 5 years 1 year.  Can Pitt get one full year out of a head coach before he gets arrested or flees?  Let’s hope so.  Here is an early list of potential candidates in no particular order or level of seriousness:

  • Jim Tressel.  Why not?  He is unemployed.  From the same general area.  Pitt is a AQ job and is headed to the ACC.  Seems like a good fit.  Except for that whole NCAA issue looming.
  • Dave Wannstedt.  Oh yeah, Pitt fired him.  Nevertheless, the fan base seems pretty interested in having him take over as A.D.  Interesting.
  • Tom Clements.  “Packers’ QB coach, long history in western Pennsylvania,” as per ESPN’s list of Penn State candidates.
  • Tom Bradley.  C’mon, Western Pennsylvania roots and zero.zero chance of being the Penn State head coach.
  • Johnny Majors.  You do the math.  Coached Pitt from 1973 to 1976.  Coached Pitt from 1993 to 1996.  Why can’t he coach from 2013 to 2016?  If only it was 2013.
  • Russ Grimm.  Former player and coach for the Arizona Cardinals.
  • Keith Patterson.  A solid bowl game win and who knows what happens.  A jilted team can get emotional and plea for an assistant to be hired full-time.  Right West Virginia?
  • Everyone else.  See this uber-exhaustive list prepared by a Pitt blogger.  The key names here are Paul Rhoads (Pitt coaching ties) and Mario Christobal (rising star in coaching).

This will be interesting to watch play out.  Will Pitt get cautious and make a very conservative selection?  Will Pederson feel the pressure mounting and make a splash by throwing a ton of money at a name?  Time will tell…