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The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

Archive for the category “Basketball”

UNC Hoops Talk Podcast: UK Preview!

In the UNC basketball preview of Kentucky, Dan DeWitt invited John Martin on to discuss the rivalry, keys to the game and some golden nuggets of information. For more on the UNC Hoops Talk podcast go here – iTunes and Stitcher.

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Duke Injuries in the Early 2016-17 Season

Duke has had amazingly bad luck with injuries so far this season. Its star-studded, four player freshman class have all suffered injuries. Frank Jackson has played through a foot injury.  Marques Bolden and Jayson Tatum had foot issues as well. And the most promising freshman, Harry Giles, has yet to take the court at all.

In addition, star Grayson Allen is suffering from a turf toe injury. He has played but not practiced, and his performance has been notably affected.

Despite all of this, Duke has prospered and is one great clutch shot from being undefeated.

The Blue Devils have leaned on a core of seniors Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson, junior Allen, sophomores Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter and freshman Jackson.

With so many injuries, the Blue Devils only went 6-7 deep into December.

However, the core has proved remarkably tough-minded and united. Jefferson, heretofore a reliable rebounder and defender, has emerged as a consistent offensive force. He’s averaging 15.6 ppg and 10.3 rpg. Additionally, his coach, the legendary Mike Krzyzewski, says that Jefferson is the team’s best communicator. After Duke’s victory over Michigan State, Spartan coach Tom Izzo was suitably impressed: “There’s a lot of prep work to dealing with those guards at Duke and any time you deal with them. Then all of the sudden, I think you’ve got to give Jefferson. To me, he has been a key guy for them right now. I think he does a lot of quiet, good things, and I really like him.”

Jones came out of high school with a reputation as an elite scorer but that hasn’t been the path he’s taken at Duke. Instead he’s emerged as the ultimate glue guy, one who can still score but who also fills in at point guard when needed and who almost always takes the other team’s best offensive talent.

Recently he gave a serious lesson to Michigan State’s Miles Bridges. The Spartan’s star freshman is clearly a major talent but the smaller Jones helped limit him to 11 points and 4-13 from the floor in the Duke victory.

He’s also become one of Coach K’s favorite players: “Great example for people playing any game is that when you are all about winning, you are really important, and Matt Jones is only about winning. He is a beautiful, beautiful kid and a great leader for us.”

Those two have built their resume over several years. Kennard has emerged much more quickly.

Duke’s big guard has emerged as a legitimate Player Of The Year candidate.

Who’s playing better?

Not many people. As Duke has had injury after injury, Kennard has consistently stepped up his game. And it’s not like he’s leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

Kennard does two things better than just about anyone in the country: first, he operates in a confined space brilliantly. It’s very hard to box him in. And secondly, he always knows pretty much exactly how much room he has in that space. He doesn’t need to fly to get a shot off over a taller player; he just understands the angles brilliantly. If you give him any room at all, he can get a shot off and odds are 50-50 (literally .500 right now) that it’s going in.

The best compliment you can give someone who plays basketball is to say they’re a basketball player, that they truly understand the game.

Jackson has shown huge potential so far. The 6-3 native of Utah is highly athletic. He can drive or shoot threes. Krzyewski is confident enough in him to have called three straight plays for Jackson against the Spartans – and Jackson delivered on all three.

Jeter, who last year played a bit scared, isn’t that anymore.  He’s filled in at center and done just fine.

He’s not a scorer yet, but his defense has been perfectly adequate and he’s becoming a better rebounder.

Deeper down the bench, Duke has two developing talents in Antonio Vrankovic and Javin DeLaurier.

Vrankovic is a true big man with a great feel for the game. He has played in several games and has shown great hands and a nose for the ball.

DeLaurier is an immensely talented athlete who is learning to become a basketball player.

Those guys have been useful when called up on but they’re at the end of the bench and about to get pushed further back because the injured freshmen are returning.

Jayson Tatum was back for the Maine game in Durham but really debuted in Madison Square Garden vs. Florida in the Jimmy V Classic: he finished with 22 points and eight rebounds and showed a superbly well-rounded game. Unlike a lot of gifted offensive performers, he doesn’t mind playing defense at all.

He gives Duke another powerful offensive weapon.

And Bolden is back as well, though he’s not in game shape yet. However, the big Texan can rebound and defend and is an agile guy in the paint. He’s going to be a major factor.

Duke has now said that Giles is expected back “before Christmas” and what a present that will be for the Blue Devils.

Giles, who has had two serious knee injuries and a third procedure to clean up after the first one, has been compared to Chris Webber.

Webber was an incredible talent. If Giles is anywhere near that – and he may be a better defender – Duke is going to be incredibly potent.

In fact the real challenge may be in sorting out the rotation.

Krzyzewski traditionally prefers an eight-man rotation but with this much talent he may not be able to keep it that tight.

Duke still needs to get Allen healthy but the combination of experience and brilliant young talent means the sky is the limit for this team.

This post is sponsored by and supported by Lejeune Honda in Jacksonville, NC.

The Confidential’s ACC Basketball Preseason Rankings

The Confidential’s football top 15 rankings are a regular thing.  With basketball right around the corner, it is time to roll out a preseason ranking.  This is sure to fire up some folks–but, remember, no games have even been played yet.  And if bubble teams can make Final Fours every few years, even a middle of the pack team has a chance.  In any event, here are the preseason rankings:

  1. Duke. Duke is as stacked as ever, with top recruits and a lot of returning experience surrounding Grayson Allen.  More than enough ingredients for Coach K to bake a Final Four cake.     
  2. North Carolina.  The Tar Heels have lost considerable talent, but Virginia and Syracuse have lost a lot too.  It will probably be a step back, but don’t be surprised to see UNC in the hunt to win the ACC.
  3. Syracuse.  Huh?  Syracuse lost some players to the NBA off a team that barely eked into the Big Dance, but has had an influx of transfers to fill out the roster.  Hard to argue against that.
  4. Virginia.  The Wahoos are one of several teams battling for the #2 spot behind Duke, and a potential surprise to win it all.  One wonders if there will be a hangover from the difficult loss to Syracuse in the Big Dance last year.
  5. Louisville.  A very good team.  And even if it is not in November, Rick Pitino will find a way to make them even more dangerous by March.
  6. Florida StateThe second tier is led by Florida State, who is capable of threatening to rise to the top tier under Leonard Hamilton.
  7. MiamiThe Hurricanes take a step back this year, but don’t expect them to drop TOO far.  The Florida hoops teams are doing quite well of late.
  8. Notre DameThe Fighting Irish lost a great player, but still return three starters.
  9. Virginia TechSooner or later, Buzz Williams will have the Hokies making some noise.
  10. Clemson.  Clemson had a few nice upsets last year and will look to build on that this year.
  11. Wake Forest.  Danny Manning has things moving in the right direction.
  12. Pittsburgh.  The loss of Jamie Dixon will be felt this year.
  13. North Carolina State.  The offense will lag behind the defense this year.
  14. Georgia Tech.  Still rebuilding under Josh Pastner.
  15. Boston College.  Oh well.

Projected NCAA bids: BOLD.  Projected Post-Season bids: Italics.

What do you think?  How would you rank the top 5, top 10, and/or top 15? 

NBA Draft Recap

The Confidential notes that the ACC was well-represented in last week’s NBA draft.  Indeed, the following ACC players were drafted:

  • Duke’s Brandon Ingram went #2 to the Lakers
  • Florida State’s Malik Beasley went #19 to the Nuggets
  • Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson went #22 to the Hornets
  • North Carolina’s Brice Johnson went #25 to the Clippers
  • Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon went #36 to the Bucks
  • Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku went #37 to the Rockets
  • Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson went #45 to the Celtics
  • Syracuse’s Michael Gbinije went #49 to the Pistons
  • North Carolina’s Marcus Paige went #55 to the Nets

Thus, 9 of the 60 draftees were ACC products.  Of course, with 15 foreign players drafted, 9 of 45 college players drafted were from the ACC.  This is a solid 20%.  With college basketball being so much deeper than college football, this is an outstanding percentage for any conference.

 

ACC Basketball: League-wide Early-Entry Update

After a dominating March (other than the final game), the A.C.C. was one heck of a basketball conference in 2015-2016.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that so much talent inevitably leads to a departure of such high-skilled talent.  For a few, it is graduation.  For the underclassmen, however, it is the temptation of the NBA.  Here is the latest update on what ACC players are leaving:

      • Abdul Malik Abu 6-8 240 PF NC State So.
      • Anthony Barber 6-2 185 PG NC State Jr.
      • VJ Beachem 6-8 200 SF Notre Dame Jr.
      • Malik Beasley 6-5 195 SG Florida St. Fr.
      • Jaron Blossomgame 6-7 220 SF Clemson Jr.
      • Brandon Ingram 6-9 195 SF Duke Fr.
      • Demetrius Jackson 6-1 194 PG Notre Dame Jr.
      • Chinanu Onuaku 6-10 245 C Louisville So.
      • Xavier Rathan Meyes 6-2 190 PG Florida St. So.

The sad part, of course, is that several of the players on this list are not even likely to be drafted at all.  One can only hope that it is worth it ultimately.  It is easy to criticize, but being able to get paid a living wage to play basketball is not the worst thing in the world either.

There are still a few players to keep an eye on.  Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson and North Carolina’s Justin Jackson had deep March runs and could be drafted in the first round (albeit the latter half).  If you are fans of those schools, you might want to hold off on expectations for 2016-2017 that include them.

If you hear any news before we do, please do not hesitate to share here or on Twitter.

ROSTER TURNOVER IN NC STATE’S GOTTFRIED ERA

GottfriedWith the news last week that NC State would lose 3 of their key players from this past season, the tactics of coach Mark Gottfried were once again called into question. It’s become a pattern now. Every year, the team finishes better than expected with one player leading the way, but it’s the exodus of talent that follows causes fans to pause. Why are so many players leaving, year after year? Let’s take a look at the roster turnover in the Gottfried era

.Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 11.46.56 AM

Gottfried’s first season in Raleigh left nothing but high expectations for the next one. A young team that certainly overachieved lost very little headed to the next season. CJ Williams graduated, but the duo of Brown and Leslie looked promising to the next season. Raymond and Harris played very few minutes, so their transfers aren’t a huge deal, but Painter’s departure was curious. He quickly announced that he was transferring to be closer to his family, but that did little to stop the speculation that followed. It still seems like a legitimate reason, but skeptics will point to this being the beginning of a trend

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 11.47.24 AM

The second year is what many point to when they criticize Gottfried. For perhaps the only time in his career at NC State, he actually had all the pieces. He had a deep roster with plenty of talent, but yet suffered an early exit from the NCAA tournament. Losing an 8/9 game usually isn’t too disappointing, but the way this team ended the season left many wanting more. The disappointing season and disfunction among the team made the draft announcements from Brown and Leslie a little less surprising. The bigger surprise came from Rodney Purvis when he announced he was going to UConn. The freshman probably didn’t play as much as he would have liked, but you would assume with six players leaving he could expect more playing time in the future. Thaey’s transfer is a whole other issue, one that Sports Illustrated already covered. Still, each of the three early departures were out of the blue and leaving fans  confused.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 11.47.47 AM

The cupboard looked pretty bare with Brown and Leslie gone, but T.J. Warren quickly changed fans’ perception of the team. Warren was no slouch his freshman year, but as he moved into his role as the Wolfpack’s star player, he showed his true potential. Of course, that got the NBA interested, and to Warren’s credit, he’s made a solid pro career to this point. The transfer to Tyler Lewis to Butler was also understandable, as the sophomore saw fewer and fewer minutes as Anthony “Cat” Barber blossomed into the star point guard he would become in years after. Overall this year was probably the least surprising of any. Sure the two departures were a bit sudden, but both seemed reasonable.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 11.48.02 AM

Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey was the supposed to be the key addition and the shooter that NC State needed. He turned out to be all of that and more. Essentially, Lacey became TJ Warren part 2. His similar playing style gave him a similar role on the team. Barber and Anya found their roles, and other players like Lee, Turner, and the Martins contributed for a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Next year seemed promising, with most of the talent returning. Yet, Lacey quickly declared for the draft and soon after, Kyle Washington transferred to Cincinnati. Both were unexpected, and while the verdict is still out on Washington, Lacey hasn’t made  much of his pro career.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 11.48.17 AM

A down recruiting year along with the late departures of Lacey and Washington left NC State with just 12 players on the roster. This will probably be considered the worst team of the Gottfried era, since they didn’t make any tournament and finished very low in the ACC. However, the one bright spot was Cat Barber. One year removed from being a supporting member, Barber took over the ACC as one of the conference’s top players. With little support, the team didn’t win many games. After the season ended, Barber announced he would enter the draft and while he hasn’t singed an agent, sources indicate that he’s likely gone. It’s a little puzzling, seeing as Barber would likely be a frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year, but he’s likely taking a cue from his former teammates (Warren and Lacey). Shortly after that announcement, news came that the Martin twins intended to transfer. This was the strange announcement. Most reports say that Cody was going to see less playing time due to incoming transfers, and wanted to find somewhere where both brothers could play. Still, you’d think they’d at least wait a year to see how their playing time is effected. The new transfers are anything but sure things, and it’s quite possible both brother could’ve seen lots of minutes. Abdul-Malik Abu is also reported to be exploring his draft options, but most feel that he will return.

Final Thoughts

So where does this leave us? Well, throughout Mark Gottfried’s tenure at NC State, we’ve seen a troubling trend of top talent leaving early. It’s sort of a “glass half empty/full” situation. On the bright side, Gottfried has been exceptional at replacing talent and bringing in new stars. The fact that there is a new star each year is impressive, and a testament to his recruiting ability. On the other hand, why are these players in such a hurry to get out? If any of the players had stayed just one more year, they’d be paired with another star to make an exceptional team. But maybe it’s a good thing, maybe Barber would have taken points away from Lacey. We’ll never know, but it’s clear that Gottfried can bring talent in, but can’t seem to hold on to it. Next year will be a very pivotal year. If the newcomers are as good as advertised and the team makes another tournament run, then we can revisit if this “strategy” is working. If these newcomers struggle, then you have to start questioning whether Gottfried is the right man for the job. What are your thoughts? Is this just another example of one-and-done’s hurting the college games? Why are so many NC State players leaving?

The ACC in the Final Four

With North Carolina defending its #1 seed against Syracuse, who went from bubble to Houston, it is yet another season with the ACC being well-represented in the Final Four.  How often has the ACC had a representative?  Well, here is your answer (champions in bold, current members that were not in the ACC at the time in italics, former members that were in the ACC at that time in strikethrough):

2016: North Carolina, Syracuse

2015: Duke

2013: Syracuse, Louisville

2012: Louisville

2010: Duke

2009: North Carolina

2008: North Carolina

2005: North Carolina, Louisville

2004: Duke, Georgia Tech

2003: Syracuse

2002: Maryland

2001: Duke, Maryland

2000: North Carolina

1999: Duke

1998: North Carolina

1997: North Carolina

1996: Syracuse

1995: North Carolina

1994: Duke

1993: North Carolina

1992: Duke

1991: Duke, North Carolina

1990: Duke, Georgia Tech

1989: Duke

1988: Duke

1987: Syracuse

1986: Louisville, Duke

1984: Virginia

1983: North Carolina State

1982: North Carolina, Louisville

1981: North Carolina, Virginia

1980: Louisville

1978: Duke, Notre Dame

1977: North Carolina

1975: Syracuse, Louisville

1974: North Carolina State

1972: North Carolina, Florida State, Louisville

1969: North Carolina

1968: North Carolina

1967: North Carolina

1966: Duke

1964: Duke

1963: Duke

1962: Wake Forest

1959: Louisville

1957: North Carolina

ACC was formed in 1953

1950: North Carolina State

1946: North Carolina

1941: Pittsburgh

As you can see, the ACC and Final Four go together quite nicely.  Even limiting it to conference affiliation at the time of the Final Four, that is 33 ACC schools in 35 Final Fours from 1981 to 2016.  Pretty.  Darn.  Impressive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confidential Bracket Contest Update!

The ACC will have one team playing for it all next Monday.  As a fan of an ACC school (presumably), did you have two ACC schools in the Final Four?  If you did, Syracuse probably was not one of them.  But that is what it is this year.  And with such unexpected results, the standings are as follows:

Standings

Rank
Owner
Bracket
Correct Picks
Points
Bonus Pts
Total Pts
1
43
118
27
145
2
40
115
22
137
3
38
100
34
134
4
41
118
14
132
4
40
120
12
132
6
38
113
17
130
7
37
109
18
127
8
39
111
15
126
8
39
109
17
126
10
39
116
9
125
10
38
111
14
125
12
39
106
18
124
13
37
111
11
122
14
38
104
17
121
15
38
96
24
120
16
36
107
12
119
17
36
109
9
118
18
35
94
21
115
19
37
114
114
20
35
100
12
112

2016 Confidential Bracket Contest Update: After Round 2

The big news is that six–count them…. six–ACC schools are in the Sweet Sixteen.  Whatever label is put on the SEC for football, the ACC’s basketball dominance is even greater.  This makes sense in a league with outstanding coaching from top to bottom (well, Boston College… sigh).  Congrats to the league for making itself into a true hoops powerhouse.  In any event, here is the top 25 in the Confidential’s Bracket Contest:

Standings

Rank
Owner
Bracket
Correct Picks
Points
Bonus Pts
Total Pts
1
37
85
27
112
2
34
77
34
111
3
34
79
22
101
4
34
76
24
100
5
34
78
18
96
5
32
72
24
96
7
34
80
14
94
8
33
76
17
93
8
33
76
17
93
10
31
73
18
91
11
30
68
22
90
12
31
72
17
89
13
32
73
15
88
14
31
73
14
87
14
30
66
21
87
16
32
74
12
86
17
32
75
9
84
18
31
71
12
83
18
29
65
18
83
20
30
70
11
81
21
28
63
17
80
21
30
69
11
80
23
29
67
12
79
24
29
66
12
78
25
29
68
9
77

Confidential Bracket Contest Update: After Round 1

Round 1 is now complete.  If you want to check the complete standings… here is the link.  Otherwise, Allen’s Astonishing Bracket has now slid ahead of Clemson McBrackets by one point.

Here is the current top 25:

Standings

Rank
Owner
Bracket
Correct Picks
Points
Bonus Pts
Total Pts
1
25
50
30
80
2
26
52
27
79
3
26
52
24
76
4
24
48
24
72
5
24
48
21
69
6
24
48
18
66
7
23
46
18
64
8
22
44
18
62
8
22
44
18
62
10
23
46
15
61
10
23
46
15
61
10
23
46
15
61
13
21
42
15
57
13
21
42
15
57
15
22
44
12
56
15
22
44
12
56
15
22
44
12
56
18
21
42
12
54
19
20
40
12
52
19
20
40
12
52
19
20
40
12
52
22
21
42
9
51
22
21
42
9
51
24
20
40
9
49
25
19
38
9
47

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