Tobacco Road Turnover

The Final Four has finally arrived, but for the second staight year, no team on Tobacco Road will be vying to cut down the nets this Monday. Instead, both Duke and UNC have shifted into offseason mode, which means a ton of chatter about early entry, recruiting, and projecting what next season’s squads will look like.

It’s safe to say that the top of the ACC next year will look very, very different.

On Monday, Duke officially said goodbye to Austin Rivers, ending an up-and-down season that, for better or for worse, revolved around Rivers. He became the stuff of legend on February 8th in Chapel Hill, but Duke struggled down the stretch and bowed out in Coach K’s first Round of 64 exit since 2007. Junior center Mason Plumlee still has yet to make a decision. This past season was Mason’s best yet, but he will likely not be a lottery selection in this year’s class. His decision will likely influence the decisions of recruits, like Amile Jefferson and Tony Parker. But until Mason chooses to go pro or not, we’ll have little to no idea what this Duke team will be like next year.

But Duke isn’t the only school with uncertainty lying ahead in 2012-2013. This afternoon, Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall announced their intentions to join Tyler Zeller as potential lottery selections in this year’s NBA draft.  Sophomore Reggie Bullock is the only remaining member of Carolina’s starting five who will be returning next year. It has been rumored that freshman James Michael McAdoo is also considering leaving early for the draft as well.

Many Duke fans are glad we'll never have to see these guys again. (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

As you can imagine, these losses will be a great loss for the Tar Heels in the team’s efforts to repeat as ACC regular season champions next year. Barnes, Marshall, Henson, and Zeller accounted for just over 68% of North Carolina’s scoring last season. Barnes, Henson, and Zeller also combined to form arguably the nation’s most formidable frontcourt. The three accounted for 54.9% of the Tar Heels’ rebounds in 2011, and were much of the reason why North Carolina was the top rebounding team in the country at 45.2 boards per game. You also can’t forget about the role Marshall played as a distributor, setting the ACC assists record while averaging 9.8 per contest. With Kendall gone and Stilman White headed on a religious mission for the next two years, Huckleberry Hound will probably look to senior Dexter Strickland and freshman Marcus Paige to take up point guard duties.

This decimation of Carolina’s roster is an interesting twist in what has been an eventful offseason for the ACC thus far.Even with a recruiting class of four players coming in next season, North Carolina is essentially starting from scratch. As Carolina looks to rebuild (or as the national media will say ad nauseum, ‘reload’) and with Duke’s roster in flux, N.C State seems primed for a run to the top of the league. The Wolfpack, fresh off of a Sweet 16 run, will add three McDonald’s All-Americans as freshmen (T.J Warren, Rodney Purvis, and Tyler Lewis) next season – with the possibility of adding a fourth in Amile Jefferson. The only current N.C State player considering the draft is C.J Leslie, but regardless of his decision, State will be very, very strong next season. If Plumlee does indeed enter the draft and Duke misses on its three remaining targets, it won’t be unexpected to see the balance of power shift away from the blues next year.

This is just the beginning to what looks to be an eventful offseason. We’ll know more and more about what the Blue Devils will look like in the coming weeks.

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P.S. Remember November 13, 2009, when Harrison Barnes promised to leave a legacy at UNC? That ‘legacy’ will include zero championships of any kind, zero Final Fours, and a losing record against Duke. That’s really something to Skype home about.

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Around the ACC: The Opening Weekend In Review

ACC conference play is finally underway, and every single game is crucial. Every ACC team was in action over the weekend for their first conference tilt, and the games did not disappoint. Let’s take a look back at the results from the first two days of the regular season contests:

Duke @ Georgia Tech
Duke 81, Georgia Tech 74
The Blue Devils hit the road for their first game of the ACC regular season, facing a well-coached Georgia Tech squad. Duke jumped out to an early 31-14 lead but the Yellow Jackets stormed back to within five at the half. The game was tight for the entirety of the second half as momentum shifted back and forth and Georgia Tech drew to within two points with less than four minutes to play. Glen Rice Jr. was huge down the stretch for the Yellow Jackets, converting shot after shot en route to his game-high 28 points. It was the Blue Devils, however, who were able to pull away in the end. Thanks to a stellar 14-of-14 from the line from Ryan Kelly, Duke was able to escape with a seven-point victory. (Note: Further analysis of this game can be found here and statistical analysis can be found here)

Boston College @ North Carolina
North Carolina 83, Boston College 60
The Tar Heels had little trouble handling the Eagles, who dropped to a miserable 5-10 on the year with the loss. North Carolina had their way with Boston College inside, dominating the Eagles on the offensive end and controlling the glass. The Tar Heels held a 41-27 rebounding advantage over Boston College. Harrison Barnes led the way for North Carolina with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting in only 27 minutes. Tyler Zeller added 20 points and eight rebounds and Kendall Marshall distributed the ball throughout the game to open teammates for a game-high 11 assists. North Carolina was also impressive on the defensive end, forcing Boston College to turn the ball over 19 times on the evening.

Miami @ Virginia
Virginia 52, Miami 51
The Cavaliers improved to 14-1 on the season with a tight one-point victory over the Hurricanes. As always, Virginia controlled the tempo and slowed the game down, turning it into a defensive struggle. The Cavaliers took a 26-17 lead into halftime, but Miami came storming back and took back the lead with 3:57 to play. Sammy Zeglinski hit a huge 3-pointer to put Virginia up by two and they would never relinquish their lead again. Mike Scott led Virginia with 23 points and eight rebounds while the Hurricanes relied on Kenny Kadji, who put up a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Miami had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds but Virginia’s defense held tight to make the final stop.

Florida State @ Clemson
Clemson 79, Florida State 59
There is no such thing as an easy road game in the ACC, so it’s not hard to believe that Clemson was able to protect its home floor against the Seminoles, but I don’t think anyone believed they could beat Florida State in emphatic fashion. The Tigers jumped out to an early lead, using a 20-0 run to catapult them to a 32-10 advantage. The Seminoles missed 10 straight shots from the field as Clemson built its early lead, and the rest was history. Clemson took a 14-point cushion into the half and coasted the rest of the way. Clemson’s Andre Young led all scorers with 18 points, thanks to 10-of-12 from the line, but the Tigers’ catalyst on the floor was Milton Jennings. Jennings shot 7-for-10 from the floor en route to 15 points and eight rebounds on the night. Florida State’s early-season struggles continue with yet another puzzling loss against a weaker opponent.

Virginia Tech @ Wake Forest
Wake Forest 58, Virginia Tech 55
Wake Forest provided the biggest surprise of ACC play’s opening night, knocking off Virginia Tech on its home floor. With the win, the Demon Deacons matched its ACC win-total from all of last season. This game was a back-and-forth struggle from the beginning. Wake Forest took 32-24 lead into the locker room at halftime, but Virginia Tech came storming back to take its first lead of the game at 53-52 with 1:18 to play. Wake Forest would respond, as C.J. Harris hit two 3-pointers in the game’s final minute to give Wake Forest a huge conference victory. Travis McKie paced the Demon Deacons with 12 points and 15 rebounds, while Virginia Tech was led by Erick Green’s 19 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. This loss could prove crucial to Virginia Tech come tournament time, as they are expected to be a bubble team yet again this season.

Maryland @ North Carolina State
North Carolina State 79, Maryland 74
In yet another tight contest, NC State knocked off Maryland by five points in Raleigh. The Wolfpack were led by C.J. Leslie’s 20 points and 11 rebounds. Leslie received ample support from guard Lorenzo Brown, who added 11 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists. NC State held a narrow three-point lead over Maryland with 8:09 to play, but an 11-0 run by the Wolfpack gave the Terrapins an uphill battle in the game’s final five minutes. Maryland was able to claw back into the contest thanks to the scoring ability of Terrell Stoglin, the leading scorer in the ACC. Stoglin’s 25 points led all scorers on the evening as the Terps were able to pull within four points with 26 seconds to play. It would be too little too late for Maryland, as NC State emerged triumphant.

[table id=29 /]

ACC play takes the day off on Monday and resumes tomorrow night when Miami travels to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina and Florida State and Virginia Tech both look to rebound from tough losses in Blacksburg.

The Truth About ACC Schedules

Here we sit, just days away from the beginning of the ACC’s regular season schedule. At Crazie-Talk we’ve done quite a bit of pondering about the ACC over the course of the last three weeks, going team by team around the conference and projecting the regular season standings come March. During this process something intriguing has jumped out at me, something I haven’t given much thought to until now- just because everyone is playing their ACC conference schedule doesn’t mean their schedules are all the same.

Allow me to elaborate. Unfortunately, not all ACC schedules are created equal. There once was a time when this was a case. The ACC expanded to nine teams in 1991. With the addition of Florid astate, the ACC was comprised of Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, and Wake Forest. These teams still played a 16 game regular season, a grueling round-robin that would pit every team against one another on two occasions, once at home and once on the road. These days are long gone. They ended in 2004, when Miami and Virginia Tech joined the conference from the Big East. The following year Boston College made the same jump.

There are currently 12 teams in the ACC, and the ACC conference schedule is still 16 games. Now I’m no math major, but there is no way to have 12 teams play a 16 game schedule where every team plays every other team in the conference the same amount of times. The way it is divided up, out of the 11 possible opponents in the conference (last time I checked a team cannot play itself), an ACC team will play five of them twice in a home and home format and six of them just once during the year (the ability to play a basketball game in two places at once has not been figured out yet, either). This will all change with the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse into the ACC in either 2013 or 2014, depending on the negotiation of their buyouts with the Big East. Following their entrance into the conference, the 14 teams in the ACC will all play 18 regular season games, further diluting the scheduling scenarios within the conference.

Some of these mascots will have a much harder time than others when conference schedules begin. (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Now if each team plays roughly half of its opponents just once and the other half twice, wouldn’t that make some teams’ schedules harder than others? The answer is yes, but it’s something that often gets overlooked when breaking down the conference. Using our ACC preview as a roadmap, we were able to break down every team in the conference’s schedule and figure out who has the toughest test this year, and we thought we’d share the results with you. By taking the rankings we assessed to the 12 ACC schools and giving additional weight to the schools a team plays twice, we were able to figure out the difficulty of each team’s schedule. For good measure, because a team cannot play itself, we weighed it against a team’s toughest possible schedule (lowly Boston College would theoretically be at a disadvantage because it cannot play itself twice like other schools can). Each team is linked to its respective preview, so feel free to take a look at those if you haven’t already (spoiler alert: we’ve already done 11 previews so by process of elimination and common sense, North Carolina, whose preview will be published tomorrow, is our projected #1 team). The teams are listed in reverse order, from least difficult schedule to most difficult schedule.

12. Georgia Tech
Projected ACC finish: 8th
Who they play once: Duke, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Who they play twice: Boston College, Clemson, Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest

11. Boston College
Projected ACC finish: 12th
Who they play once: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia
Who they play twice: Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

10. Wake Forest
Projected ACC finish: 10th
Who they play once: Florida State, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Who they play twice: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State

9. North Carolina State
Projected ACC finish: 6th
Who they play once: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Who they play twice: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Wake Forest

8. Clemson
Projected ACC finish: 10th
Who they play once: Boston College, Duke, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State
Who they play twice: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

7. Miami
Projected ACC finish: 9th
Who they play once: Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Boston College, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State

6. Virginia Tech
Projected ACC finish: 5th
Who they play once: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Virginia

5. Florida State
Projected ACC finish: 4th
Who they play once: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Clemson, Duke, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech

4. Duke
Projected ACC finish: 2nd
Who they play once: Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, Virginia
Who they play twice: Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

3. North Carolina
Projected ACC finish: 1st
Who they play once: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Duke, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina State, Virginia

2. Virginia
Projected ACC finish: 3rd
Who they play once: Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech

1. Maryland
Projected ACC finish: 7th
Who they play once: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia

Disagree with the order? Don’t think it’s a big deal? Have a better idea for a way to set up conference schedules? Let us know. Stay Crazie, my friends.

2011-2012 ACC Preview: #2 Duke

The 2011-2012 ACC season is about to begin. Over the next three weeks, Crazie Talk will preview each of the twelve ACC teams in order that we think they’ll finish this season – from the bottom up.

Let’s take a look at our projected ACC runner-up, the Duke Blue Devils.

The high-flying Blue Devils are greatly improved from the beginning of the season, and look to silence their critics. (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

2011-2012 Record: 12-2

Key Wins:
November 22- Duke 82, Michigan 75
November 23- Duke 68, Kansas 61

Tough Losses:
November 29- Ohio State 85, Duke 63
January 4- Temple 78, Duke 73

Starting Lineup:[table id=27 /]The Good: This team is full of offensive weapons. Duke boasts the seventh-best scoring offense in the country at 82.8 points per game. They can hit shots from all over the floor and are shooting 50.5% from the floor on the year, good for fifth in the nation. The Blue Devils have arguably the best backcourt in the country, and their guards account for one of the best shooting trios in recent Duke history. Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, and Andre Dawkins are shooting a combined 42.3% from beyond the arc this year. Their frontcourt is also significantly improved and has been dominant in recent games, headlined by junior Mason Plumlee, who has averaged 11.5 points and 9.7 rebounds on the year thanks to a new array of post moves. The Blue Devils have also played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. They’ve faced three opponents that are ranked in the top 16 of the AP Top 25, defeating two of them. This was a great test for this young team, and will serve them well as they head into conference play.

The Bad: Though they are much improved on the offensive end, Duke has struggled at times with interior defense this season. This was most evident against Kansas and Ohio State, when they allowed Kansas’s Thomas Robinson to go for 16 points and 15 rebounds and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger went for 21 and eight boards. To make matters worse, the Blue Devils have had lapses inside against some of their weaker opponents. Even when the game is out of reach, this is not something you like to see a talented team make a habit. The Blue Devils have also struggled from the free throw line this season, something they cannot afford to continue as they enter their ACC schedule. Duke has shot 67.9% from the foul line this season, which is significantly below their typical standards. The Blue Devils have been one of the better free throw shooting teams in the country in years past, and haven’t shot below 68% from the line on a season since 1997-1998. Duke’s woes from the lines this year have been headlined by Mason Plumlee, who despite making significant improvements in the post this season, is shooting an abysmal 38.5%. Austin Rivers didn’t seem to get the memo that Duke guards don’t miss free throws, shooting just 69.6% from the stripe. He has vowed that he will be shooting 80% from the line by the end of the year.

The Crazie: The craziest thing about this year’s Duke team is that it is continuing to come together before our very eyes. The Blue Devils lost three huge pieces of last year’s team, and has had to rebuild on the go thus far. This team was able to win at the beginning of the year based on talent alone, but in the last few games you’ve been able to see them really getting into a rhythm. It appears this team is not done making adjustments, either. When they were struggling earlier in the season, they opted for Tyler Thornton to start over sharp shooter Andre Dawkins, and now it appears that relatively soon freshman Quinn Cook will take over for Thornton as the team’s starting point guard. This is a team that is still building its image and getting comfortable playing together, but it’s remarkable how quickly they’ve gotten to this point.

Player We Love To Hate: This is a Duke blog…we’re going to skip this one.

The Bottom Line: Everyone knew the ACC was going to come down to Duke and North Carolina this year. Overall, the Tar Heels are a more experienced team and will ultimately take the regular season crown, but it should be much closer than many people expect. Duke will give North Carolina a significant challenge, and they should split their games this year, with each team winning on its home floor. The Blue Devils shouldn’t have much trouble handling the rest of the ACC competition, though they might drop a tough road game or two. They drew one of the more difficult road schedules in the conference this year, playing away at Florida State, Maryland, and Virginia Tech, which are likely the three toughest road games in the ACC outside the state of North Carolina. Although they seem to be written off by many of the “experts” for this year, this young and inexperienced team should surprise some people and contend as with Cook at point guard they continue to gel.

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Crazie-Talk’s 2011-2012 ACC Preview:

Boston College | Wake Forest | Clemson | Miami | Georgia Tech | Maryland

North Carolina State | Virginia Tech | Florida State | Virginia | Duke | North Carolina

ACC Hoops Schedule Released…Go Get 'Em

Thank you sir, may I have another? (Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

The Atlantic Coast Conference finally released the 2010-11 men’s basketball schedule today on their official website. And for those of you bored by our conference’s football offerings before the season has even begun, this is big news.

The ACC brass are stoked that the conference will be on television a record 182 times this upcoming year. Fans of the Big East and other power conferences complain that the ACC gets preferential treatment despite being a “weak” league. Right, a conference that has won five of the last ten natty champers is pitiful.

Here are some of the highlights of what promises to be another exciting year in ACC basketball. As the season draws closer, we will be back with full team previews. But for now, check out five of the best non-conference matchups before the New Year.

NOVEMBER 15: Miami at Memphis

Young Memphis Tigers coach Josh Pastner breathed a big sigh of relief when the best recruit of his short tenure, Will Barton, was declared eligible on August 20. I’m really impressed with what Pastner has been able to do in Calipari’s stead (how much he “learned” from the former Memphis coach remains to be seen). Miami’s sparkplug Durand Scott nearly beat Duke by himself in last year’s ACC Tournament, and young big man Reggie Johnson will fill in nicely for departing beast Dwayne Collins, who finally graduated. Look for Memphis to come out on top on sheer talent, but I’m impressed that Frank Haith has the cojones to schedule this type of game.

DECEMBER 1: Duke v. Michigan State

This game continues to lose its luster, as the Spartan guards are dropping like flies. First it was the transfer of Chris Allen to Iowa State after being kicked off the team in East Lansing. More recently, the twenty-year-old Korie Lucious, hero of the Maryland game, was caught over the legal limit while driving. Tom Izzo is probably my second favorite NCAA coach, mostly because he doesn’t put up with stuff like this. Lucious will likely be suspended for the first half of the season at the least. That leaves more of the burden on Kalin Lucas, who is rehabbing his torn ACL, and 2010 Big Dance star Durrell Summers. Yet this will be billed as the best game of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. Look for Kyrie Irving to get after it against Lucas—a player to whom he has been compared in the past. I had hoped Duke would face MSU at full strength; nonetheless, Izzo is a gamer and this could be the highlight of Duke’s early season schedule.

DECEMBER 1: Virginia Tech vs. Purdue

Perhaps this is the year that Virginia Tech lives up to expectations. Many pundits think it’s a battle for second place in the conference between the Hokies and the Heels. Much of that advance praise for VT rests on do-it-all guard Malcolm Delaney, who wisely chose to return for his final year. Meanwhile, Purdue returns everyone but hard nosed point guard Chris Kramer. Pat Forde even put them ahead of Duke in his preseason rankings (but he has a hard time with such predictions). This would be a statement game for Seth Greenberg’s program—which returns everyone—and until I see Robbie Hummel play as well as he did pre-torn ACL, I think the Hokies have a good shot. Just don’t let Jeff Allen loose on JaJuan Johnson…that won’t end well.

DECEMBER 4: North Carolina vs. Kentucky

In a battle of the teams I hate the most, UNC and UK face off yet again in this home and home series. Recently, ESPN’s sometimes knowledgeable college hoops blogger Eamon Brennan stated that UK has a slight edge in this matchup. It’s tough to say. Both teams have the same problem: a lack of proven size. Kentucky’s frontline is thin: 6’8” frosh Terrence Jones, Florida transfer Eloy Vargas, and perhaps Turkish semi-pro Enes Kanter, if he is ruled eligible. UNC has the sometimes healthy Tyler Zeller, the “wet noodle” John Henson, and Mr. Barnes, who’s supposed to be a guard anyway. I think the game hinges on Kanter’s eligibility. If he plays, he will be too much to handle down low, and combined with UK’s superior guard play led by Brandon Knight, I think Kentucky squeezes this one out. Look for UNC’s season to be a reverse of last year’s: a slow start with a more productive second half.

DECEMBER 4: N.C. State at Syracuse

The ‘Cuse shocked a lot of people last year by reaching #1, but that’s mostly because people weren’t familiar with Wes Johnson and/or didn’t have respect for the Orange’s experience. Now most of that depth is gone, and for once in his life, Sidney Lowe has something to be excited about in Raleigh. All the hype has been loaded on CJ Leslie, but we think incoming point guard Ryan Harrow will determine State’s success as much as anyone. The frontcourt favors the ‘Cuse (remember the name Fab Melo), but the Wolfpack have an early chance to prove that they belong in the same breath as Duke and UNC for the first time since, I don’t know…Julius Hodge?


Look for our ACC Rundowns as the season draws closer. And be sure to follow us on Twitter.