Posted on: May 24, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 12:00 pm

Conference Catch-ups: The ACC

Posted by Jeff Borzello

It may still feel like the Final Four just ended, but for most schools, the offseason is now more than two months old. With that in mind, all of us at the blog are going to take this week to give you what we’re calling “Conference Catch-Ups.” The motive is to recap the biggest storylines in college basketball’s offseason so far, plus keep your appetite whetted in what is the longest offseason in major American sports.

Previous Conference Catch-ups: Big East, Pac-12 

The Big Stories

New faces on the sidelines: The ACC took more turns in the coaching carousel than any major conference in the country. It started before the season ended, when Georgia Tech and Paul Hewitt parted ways after 11 seasons. Dayton’s Brian Gregory was hired to replace him. Frank Haith left Miami (Fl.) for the Missouri job, with the Hurricanes reaching into the CAA for George Mason’s Jim Larranaga. North Carolina State wasn’t lucky with their search, getting turned down by multiple coaches before going with former Alabama head man Mark Gottfried to replace Sidney Lowe. Obviously the most high-profile of the changes came at Maryland, where Gary Williams abruptly retired after 22 seasons in College Park. Mark Turgeon came over from Texas A&M to replace Williams. Overall, one-third of the programs in the conference will have a new face at the helm.

North Carolina is preseason No. 1: With Kentucky losing Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins to the NBA, the clear-cut favorite going into the preseason should be North Carolina. The Tar Heels return Harrison Barnes, who came on strong in the latter half of the season. John Henson and Tyler Zeller also come back in the frontcourt, while Kendall Marshall will get a chance to run the show for a full season. Five-star recruits James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston will get a chance to make an impact off the bench.

Duke loses top three players, needs to reload: When Kyrie Irving, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith were healthy and hitting on all cylinders, Duke was the best team in the country. Now, all three are gone and Mike Krzyzewski is left with . . . well, a pretty good team. Coach K brings in a tremendous recruiting class, led by top-three prospect Austin Rivers, McDonald’s All-Americans Quinn Cook and Marshall Plumlee, as well as top-30 recruit Michael Gbinije. Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins will still snipe from 3-point range, while Ryan Kelly and Mason and Miles Plumlee return down low. Don’t cry for the Dukies.

Where did everyone go? Despite North Carolina’s frontcourt trio all returning, the ACC was hit hard by graduation and the NBA draft. All five players on the all-ACC first team will be gone, as well as two players on the second team and three players on the third team. Including the top five honorable mention vote-getters, only seven of the top 20 players in the conference are returning next season.

The Great Unknown

What does the future hold for Maryland? Under Gary Williams, the Terrapins were widely-regarded as one of the top programs in college basketball but never consistently made deep runs in the NCAA tournament. They had not reached the Sweet 16 since 2003 after winning a national championship in 2002. With Williams retiring and Mark Turgeon taking over, it will be interesting to see what happens in College Park. Maryland is considered one of the best jobs in the country due to its fertile recruiting base. Turgeon has already made a splash in that regard, hiring Kansas State assistant Dalonte Hill for Washington D.C. and keeping Bino Ransom for Baltimore. 

NBA Draft report

The ACC had its wins and losses when it came to early-entries and the NBA draft. It did take some serious hits, with Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Florida State’s Chris Singleton and Boston College’s Reggie Jackson all leaving early with near-guarantees that they will each be drafted in the first round. Moreover, Maryland’s Jordan Williams and Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert also made the leap to the NBA draft.

While the conference certainly had headline departures, plenty of talent also made the decision to return. As mentioned earlier, North Carolina’s frontcourt trio of Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller are all coming back to college despite being projected as first-round picks. Reggie Johnson of Miami (Fl.) entered his name into the draft pool without an agent, but pulled out at the last minute to return to South Beach.



- Alex Johnson (from Cal State Bakersfield) to North Carolina State


- Dallas Elmore (from Boston College)

- Ryan Harrow (from North Carolina State)

- Will Regan (from Virginia)

- Ari Stewart (from Wake Forest) to USC

- Manny Atkins (from Virginia Tech) to Georgia State

My commentary in 20 words or less

Boston College: Steve Donahue will have his hands full next season, as he brings back just 7.9 points and three returnees.

Clemson: Brad Brownell surprised many in his first season, but Milton Jennings and Devin Booker have to take a step forward.

Duke: The Blue Devils lose plenty, but freshman Austin Rivers will immediately be one of the top scorers in the country.

Florida State: When a team as bad offensively as FSU loses its top two scorers, returning to the Sweet 16 seems ambitious.

Georgia Tech: Brian Gregory could hit speed bumps in his first year; the Jackets are going to get dominated in the paint.

Maryland: The Terrapins will be fun to watch as a program in the next few years; next season’s a stepping stone.

Miami: The move by Jim Larranaga to Miami raised some eyebrows, but Durand Scott and Reggie Johnson are a formidable duo.

North Carolina: The preseason No. 1 team in the country, the Tar Heels will make headlines for the right reasons next season.

North Carolina State: Another program that will be fun to keep an eye on – Mark Gottfried is making his mark on Tobacco Road.

Virginia: Tony Bennett has this team on the precipice of a big year, but it’s still unclear when exactly that’s happening.

Virginia Tech: Next season, the Hokies won’t be good enough to be disappointed on Selection Sunday yet again.

Wake Forest: Coming off a one-win ACC season, there’s nowhere to go but up. We think.

Photos: US Presswire

Posted on: May 17, 2011 3:12 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 3:42 pm

Big Ten/ACC Challenge tilts are set

Posted by Matt Norlander

Already hungry for anything game-related? Good. Because ESPN tossed out its roster for November's annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge lineup this afternoon. Let's examine, shall we?

First, here's which team got which:

Date Game
Tue, Nov 29 Miami at Purdue
  Northwestern at Georgia Tech
  Illinois at Maryland
  Michigan at Virginia
  Clemson at Iowa
  Duke at Ohio State
Wed, Nov 30 Indiana at North Carolina State
  Penn State at Boston College
  Florida State at Michigan State
  Virginia Tech at Minnesota
  Wake Forest at Nebraska
  Wisconsin at North Carolina

For the first time in a long time, ESPN's chosen to have just two days dedicated to the affair. In the past, the Challenge got off with a whimper, a Tuesday night game between also-rans preceded Wednesday and Thursday entrees. The reason for the change: With Nebraska joining the Big Ten, every team can be involved in the Challenge, so it's now feasible and logical to lump the thing in two days, six games per night. Though, it was a little cool to see one conference take the early leg up with that meaningless-yet-not-meaningless game. As you can see, the Huskers got treated nicely in their first foray, receiving Wake Forest on Nov. 30.

(If you want the history behind the Challenge, with team records, etc., we've got you covered.)

Duke-Ohio State is obviously the big one, with Wisconsin-North Carolina hardly playing second fiddle. Illinois-Maryland is one I'll be interested to see, and Florida State-Michigan State could also have some value, as I think we're all interested to see how the Spartans fare after the rocky 2010-11 campaign. Hmm ... what else ... Indiana-North Carolina State provides a game with two fanbases that may already be angst-ridden by Thanksgiving. For entertainment's sake, that wouldn't be such a bad thing.

But, overall, if I can be frank: I'm not too excited about these games or the potential right now. The ACC is so down, and the Big Ten, though it's keeping most of its talent in house, won't be nearly as well-rounded as it was last year. Look at the teams involved -- there are a lot of houses without walls and carpet yet. Much building being done -- not that I won't embrace this eventually. It's exciting to see games set in stone for 2011-12, but I'll reserve my giddy until we creep closer to the fall and these teams seem more tangible.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Tags: ACC, Big Ten
Posted on: March 22, 2011 11:05 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 11:18 pm

ACC teams win when it counts

Posted by Eric Angevine

We've read all about how the Big East flamed out in this year's tournament. 9 out of 11 teams out before the Sweet 16. This from a conference that supposedly had one of the best regular seasons in college hoops history.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, on the other hand, was supposedly in a down year. It's a defensible position. The fourth-best team in the conference was Clemson, a team that might not have made the dance last season when it was a 65-team affair. The bottom of the league was absolutely miserable, with former contenders like Miami, Wake Forest, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Maryland falling below .500 in league play.

No doubt, that's bad news. The ACC is a blast to watch when several teams are in contention throughout the season.  But can we call it a down year when the league's top three teams have been so good in the postseason? North Carolina, Duke and Florida State finished 1,2,3 in the ACC standings, and all three have made it to the Sweet 16. Each made it to this point by employing a different strategy.

North Carolina, typically known for running opponents out of the gym, has become more comfortable in the half-court set with Kendall Marshall dispatching pinpoint entry passes to Tyler Zeller and John Henson. When things get a little tight on the interior, Harrison Barnes can light it up from outside, and Leslie McDonald sees spot duty as a shooter as well. Dexter Strickland can score, but functions best as a defensive stopper.

Duke, on the other hand, is guard central. No other team in the nation can match the rotation of Nolan Smith, Seth Curry, Kyrie Irving and Andre Dawson. Kyle Singler is once again scoring, rebounding and passing at a high level. If the Blue Devils have a weakness, it's the minimal production down low. As we saw last season, a dominant big man is not necessary for Coach K to win the big one.

Florida State may be the most surprising team to appear in this position. Head coach Leonard Hamilton is hardly a household name, in spite of his 25-year career, which includes two Big East coach of the year citations from his time with Miami, and one from the ACC in 2009. This is his second Sweet 16 appearance. FSU has been largely underrated this season because it wins games with defense in spite of offensive lapses, and because star player Chris Singleton missed the final six games of the ACC season. With Singleton back, the Seminoles upset Texas A&M and absolutely drilled Notre Dame, winning 71-57. It was by far the biggest win put up by any of the league's three Sweet 16 participants.

Odds are, at least one of the three will make it to a regional final. It helps that no ACC teams had to play one another, but that'll happen when you get a measly four teams in. Then again, three out of four in the Sweet 16 makes quality over quantity sound like a pretty good deal.

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: March 13, 2011 3:22 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2011 3:38 pm

Welcome to the Dance, Duke Blue Devils

Yes, it does seem a bit funny to welcome the defending national champs to the Big Dance, which they basically own until proven unworthy, but that's how we roll. You win an auto bid, you get the treatment.

Duke ran UNC out of the gym from the beginning, but Carolina fought the lead down to single digits in the second half before Nolan Smith took the game in hand and closet out the 75-58 victory that should lead to a top seed for the Blue Devils. Smith had 20 points and 10 assists. Seth Curry and Kyle Singler pitched in 11 points apiece, and Miles Plumlee, Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly each scored 9.

That balance should once again serve the defending champs well as they attempt to visit Houston and make it a national title repeat.

The Vitals

Player to watch: Nolan Smith. He has the ball in his hands on almost every play, and he makes excellent decisions. His line in the ACC championship illustrates that very well. When he didn't score it himself, he pitched the ball to someone who could.

Record: 30-4 (13-3)
Colors: Blue and white
Kenpom rating: 2
RPI: 4
Best win: North Carolina (twice)
Worst loss: Florida State
Interesting fact: Does Duke have any real weaknesses? They're a mediocre defensive rebounding team. That's about it.
Last tourney appearance: Not much. Just messed around and got another national championship.

Posted by Eric Angevine
Posted on: March 12, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 8:16 pm

Get ready for round 3 of Duke vs. North Carolina

Well, the big game we've all been waiting for is here for its third incarnation this season. Those are always the best years.

Duke and UNC will meet for a third time with the ACC auto bid on the lineNorth Carolina (26-6, 14-2) got here the hard way, needing big shots from Tyler Zeller in two consecutive games to survive and advance. The good news is that freshman Harrison Barnes has begun to deliver on his preseason promise with regularity in the postseason.

The knock on Barnes has always been that he seems to float through games. When the Heels were losing, and he was struggling to learn the UNC offense, it made him look lazy and disinterested. Like everyone on the team, he was at least somewhat thrown off course by the too-long experiment with Larry Drew II as the primary ballhandler. When Kendall Marshall took over, the entire UNC team found easier sledding, and Barnes' in-game movements began to look more like unflappable confidence and economy of motion.

Marshall has been a revelation as well. Similar to Barnes, his expression rarely changes when he's on the floor. He looks like a veteran, and perhaps by this point in the season, he is. He clearly understands how to run Roy Williams' team properly, using the various pieces as they should be used.

Carolina's true strength this season has been inside play, which was a severe area of concern in the wake of an offseason transfer to UCLA by the massive Wear twins. Turns out, Tyler Zeller and John Henson complement one another so well that the lack of depth hasn't been much of an issue. 6-foot-9 grad student Justin Knox -- who transferred from Alabama in order to bolster the UNC depth chart -- gets about 15 minutes per game, and that has been more than sufficient so far.

For Duke (29-4, 13-3), the good news has been that all toe injuries are not created equal. Freshman Kyrie Irving is still out, but senior Nolan Smith was able to play through. Smith stepped on another player's foot in Friday night's quarterfinal win over Maryland, and didn't return for much of the second half. He got a shot in the offending digit before the semifinal revenge game with Virginia Tech, and played well, scoring 27 points to go with 6 assists in the relatively easy 77-63 victory.

Smith's primary sidekick is sharpshooter Seth Curry, who had to sit out Duke's championship season after transferring from Liberty University the prior year. Curry's forte is the jump shot, and range is no problem. The sophomore shot 43 percent from three point land over the course of the season. Dont' let his sleepy expression fool you: this kid wants to see what the Final Four is like from the vantage point of the court.

For a brief stretch, dating back to Duke's 79-73 home win over the Tar Heels, senior forward Kyle Singler appeared to be in a slump. No more. He may have yielded the title of team MVP to Smith, but Singler is back to his old ways; bamboozling opposing forwards with his strength, skill and shooting stroke. In the ACC tourney thus far, he has gone for 29 points and 9 rebounds vs. Maryland, and then 13 points and 11 rebounds against Virginia Tech. He looks ready to lead his team to the promised land once again.

In something of a bizarro twist, a fast-paced championship game may actually favor Duke, with its quick, penetrating guards, rather than the usually speedy Tar Heels. Roy Williams will try to establish his big men early and hope for another great game from Marshall and Barnes, while Coach K has the luxury of putting the ball in the hands of two proven senior leaders.

ACC tournament bracket

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Eric Angevine

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 12, 2011 7:11 pm
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Posted on: March 12, 2011 10:20 am
Edited on: March 12, 2011 10:21 am

Conference tourney reset: ACC semifinals

Erick Green may have saved Tech's seasonThe seeding held largely true to form, as the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 seeds will appear in the semifinals on March 12. A dramatic evening also slipped the No. 6 Virginia Tech Hokies into the field of four contenders, leaving Florida State to await Selection Sunday in street clothes.

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 Clemson, 1:00 p.m. ET

The Tar Heels swept the in-season version of this matchup, though the final score at Littlejohn was very close. In fact, that win was the beginning of an eight-game win streak for the Heels. An aberration of that contest was the absence of strong play from Clemson senior Jerai Grant, which seems unlikely to be repeated. Grant combines with Demontez Stitt to provide valuable senior leadership for the Tigers, but we've seen freshmen turn up the heat for Carolina over the past few weeks. Kendall Marsahall's level-headed leadership was on display in Friday's narrow win over Miami, in which he drove the lane and dropped the ball off to Ty Zeller for a last-second win in a game that could have easily eliminated the Heels. In Greensboro, the crowd will be dressed in Carolina blue, and that could be a real difference-maker.

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 6 Virginia Tech, 3:00 p.m. ET

The Hokies and their coach probably haven't been sleeping very well recently, but at least this time out, it's because they've been celebrating. Virginia Tech moved well off the NCAA tourney bubble with a dramatic last-second win over No. 3 Florida State on Friday. That set up a rematch with Duke, a team they beat head-to-head in February. One area in which the Hokies have improved is passing, as the end of the quarterfinal game showed. Malcolm Delaney, the team's best scorer, found Erick Green for an open jumper in the final seconds instead of forcing up a shot himself. Duke, on the other hand, could be breaking in a new backcourt starter, with Nolan Smith nursing a toe injury that kept him out of much of the second half of Duke's 87-71 victory over Maryland in the quarters. Kyle Singler scored 29 as the Devils pulled away from the Terps, and he'll have to come up big again if Smith can't go.

ACC tournament bracket

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Eric Angevine

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: March 11, 2011 9:32 am

Tourney reset: ACC quarterfinals

The hoped-for ACC championship game would rematch Duke-Carolina.The ACC tournament's opening day was not without drama, but it lacked any big surprises. The March 11 games should tell us more about how the seeding will fall into place for the NCAA tournament as well as which of the surviving teams are truly ready to keep step at the Big Dance.

No. 9 Miami vs. No. 1 North Carolina, 12:00 p.m. ET

Anyone watching the final minute of the Virginia/Miami game would have been tempted to write the Cavaliers into the next line of the bracket in ink. Tony Bennett's squad then proceeded to give up a ten-point lead in a 40-second stretch of bad in-bounds passes and slippery fingers that defied the imagination, eventually losing in overtime. That is to say that Miami was given a gift, but the things that worked against an inexperienced, smallish team in the first round are not likely to do much to slow down college basketball's hottest team. Look for Zeller and Henson inside and plenty of it.

No. 4 Clemson vs. No. 5 Boston College, 2:00 p.m.

Here's where the real intrigue starts. Quite often, BC has looked like the more tournament-ready of these two teams this season. Last night's game (caveat: against the league's hands-down worst team) was one of those nights. The Eagles were led by Reggie Jackson's 27 points, but Joe Trapani and Biko Paris each topped the 20-point mark as well. Cory Raji nabbed 11 rebounds. That offensive balance is threatening, but Clemson has the advantage of an extra day of rest. The Tigers won the two teams' only meeting during the regular season, 77-69, but had to withstand a furious rally by the Eagles along the way. For this game to turn out the same way, Demontez Stitt (14.1 ppg) and Jerai Grant (12.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) must show the same senior leadership they did in the earlier meeting.

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Maryland, 7:00 p.m.

This is one of those classic ACC rivalries where the outcome is rarely predetermined by seeding or record. Coach K vs. Gary Williams may not currently have the shine of K vs. Roy Williams, but it's historically been a tough one. The Terps got here by swamping N.C. State 75-67 with Jordan Williams putting up a 16 point, 13 rebound performance. The interior has been an area of concern for the Blue Devils, who nonetheless have more options than Maryland on the inside. Odds are, this game will turn on the spectacular play of Duke's Nolan Smith (21.6 ppg, 5.2 apg), who knows only too well that a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament is open after Pitt fell early in Big East play this week.

No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 6 Virginia Tech

Lots of intrigue in this one. Will Chris Singleton come back for the Seminoles? Will he be effective if he does so? Is Virginia Tech really a tournament team? FSU is securely in the field, but can likely improve by a couple of seed lines by winning through to the semis and showing off a fully recovered Singleton. That perception that they have the key piece of the team back is possibly more important than the actual result. For Tech, it's the same stuff, different year. On the bubble and unable to make an airtight case for inclusion. Now is unequivocally the time to prove that they are the team that upset Duke on February 26 and not the team that was swept by in-state rival Virginia.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Eric Angevine

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com