There were lot of games this weekend, 14 in total. I watched as much of them as I could and came up with these observations. Let me know below if you are seeing the same trends in the comments below as we approach the ACC regular season. We’ll start with Friday’s games:
Eastern Kentucky 72 @ #18 Miami (FL) 44
Friday night’s loss to the #93 Colonels has the Canes dropping fast in the RPI after their 2nd loss in a week (last Saturday UW-GB). The Canes didn’t share the ball at all, assisting on just nine baskets. The EKU squad went on a 22-2 run in the second half on the road and the Canes put up little resistance. EKU had just been handed a loss by East Tennessee State, and that team has tournament written all over it. They’ll likely challenge for the Southern Conference tournament. Miami in the meantime is playing sporadically, so their offense is out of synch and getting bogged down by good halfcourt defenses.
The Hurricanes lost by 28 points and didn’t even allow but four FTs. That’s incredible. I am a stats guy, but I couldn’t come up with the odds for the likelihood of this happening twice, but it would strike me as rare. The Canes made just 12 shots all game. Eight of them were from three point range. Allowing 14 made three point shots was indicative of defensive confusion on the Miami perimeter, and lax switching. When you combine those two things with a little bit of unicorns and sunshine from the opponent, you have the potential for blowouts like this. The Hurricanes have a game tonight against Providence in Brooklyn as part of the Brooklyn Holiday Hoops Festival. A short memory would be beneficial here.
Tonight’s opponent, the Friars, have already knocked off Notre Dame in a neutral site game, and the Hurricanes will likely enter the game sans ranking after starting the year in much higher esteem. Miami has some reorganizing to do in practice with regard to their guard rotation and then they might be able to talk March Madness, but what many were beginning to tout as a basketball school was reminded what a player like Shane Larkin (would be a senior) means in terms of being able to know going in which games were in pocket. This Miami team is not a lock for the round of 64, this game is stark evidence.
South Carolina Gamecocks 68 vs. Clemson Tigers 45
Frank Martin and USC-E got their first win against Clemson in three tries. They went on a 33-7 run after being tied at 30 apiece. Losing their 4th game out of conference with two to play before ACC play begins, the Tigers could have used this game against an RPI top 100 (USC-E was 79th going in) to help buttress what has been a weird RPI campaign to date
They have the highly-regarded wins vs LSU, Arkansas, and High Point. But then they have the loss to Winthrop. The upcoming games against Robert Morris and Oakland likely will mean little unless Clemson lost a 5th or 6th game. Wins in those two games are expected. This team seems to be on pace for similar results for last year, (23-13) and a decent NIT run. Watching KJ McDaniels have highlight-reel moments nightly for the Philadelphia 76ers makes you feel for Clemson some.
Embarrassingly USC-E had not played in 13 days. Clemson presumably should have been much crisper having played just 5 days ago. Clemson is likely going to need 11 ACC wins to get a bid, and I have column coming this week exploring how likely that is.
The Hilltoppers are usually pretty good. They make the NCAA tournament with regularity.They frustrated Montrezl Harrell into taking a swat at them, and getting himself a one-game vacation from the ACC for Louisville’s next game. Fortunately for everyone he will return in time for the Kentucky game next Saturday.
With Harrell neutralized, guard Terry Rozier had 32 points in a redux of his excellent performance against Indiana earlier this week. The Cardinals can get offense from a number of places, and as long as the pressure defense is upsetting teams, they’ll score. The Cards will miss Harrell in the Cal State-Northridge tuneup for Kentucky, where he’ll contend with the biggest front line he’ll see this season.
With Harrell and Chinanu Onauku unavailable the Cardinals allowed their opponents their best shooting day all year. Typically a team that keep you to 23% or less 3 point shooting, the Cards allowed double that. So the impact was noticeable. Had it been a better team Louisville might have had a worse outcome. With this ugliness behind us, let’s just get through this week as Christmas comes Saturday for one half of the Bluegrass State.
#7 Villanova Wilcats 82 vs Syracuse Orange 77 -OT
They had IT! It was right there for the taking, The Orange had control at the half, leading 43-31. Caleb Joseph, was taking slightly better care of the ball, and finding open shooters and cutters, Jim Boeheim had to be pleased after the way his team had looked on the road against Michigan, and at home against St Johns and La Tech. Even though they managed a win against La Tech, they still lost their third in four games.
The Orange got several really well balanced performances from their starting five and a perfect five-for-five from bench standout Tyler Roberson. Unfortunately, they had no answers on defense for the Villanova three-man combination of Javaughn Pinkston, Darrun Hilliard II, and backup guard Josh Hart.
An interesting statistical note: Villanova shot 32 free throws to Syracuse’s 18. Not to call it blatant home cooking, as Villanova is a slightly more physical team, but the disparity played a large role in the Wildcat win. With the win Villanova moved to 11-0, and Syracuse added a disappointing 4th loss. A strong strength of schedule will help keep Syracuse in the mix as long as they have an above-average conference season. Every once in a while Boeheim throws together an NIT campaign, and this year looks like it could be borderline.
#24 North Carolina Tar Heels 82 vs #12 Ohio State Buckeyes 74
UNC, like Syracuse, opened 43-31 to start the game, but unlike the Orange they held off the Buckeyes due to the inside presence of Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks. With Johnson scoring 18 and Meeks handling the dirty work with 13 rebounds and great rim protection, the Tar Heels, Joel James also had another efficient game for UNC with 8 pts in 10 minutes.
Marcus Paige had another inefficient shooting night, going 4-of-12, but did harass opposing guard D’Angelo Russell into 4-of-17 shooting himself (which was a common thread in both of the OSU losses, to Louisville, and now UNC). When plays break down the Montverde (FL) product has a tendency to go 1-on 5 for the Buckeyes.
This will go down as UNC’s third money win against the RPI, and the losses to Iowa, Butler, and at Kentucky won’t reflect poorly. UAB and William and Mary await before the ACC schedule cranks up.
Virginia Tech Hokies 64 vs The Citadel Bulldogs 61
This would have been a very bad ACC loss, the Citadel hasn’t won vs a P5 school since 1988-1989 (courtesy ESPN). The Hokies started listlessly, trailing 27-22 at the half. But in the second half, bench sparkplug Adam Smith scored 14 of 16 points. The Hokies narrowly avoided the Bulldogs tying at the buzzer, as freshman standout Justin Bibb got a partial block. The Citadel was led by guard Ashton Moore, who made seven threes, and only eight shots overall. The Citadel made 13 threes and just eight baskets inside the arc, an amusingly $&@-backward trend. The Hokies had been ranked in the top 15 in 3-pt% before the game but went 3-of-16 on the day.
VT has two games this week. Tonight vs VMI, and Presbyterian next Saturday. They have one last opportunity outside of the conference to impress the committee, against suddenly red-hot West Virginia who was ranked 22nd this week. They will face WVU towards the end of the week. WVU’s only loss was to a very tough LSU squad by a single point. They rank 32nd in the RPI, and after tonight’s game vs Wofford, they’ll be off until the VT game.
Florida State Seminoles 75 vs South Florida Bulldogs 62
Florida State moved to 6-5 with this win, but this team is one of just a few in the ACC who might not crack the .500 mark for the season. They still have two games against Florida and Mississippi State, and just one patsy in Stetson Cologne. If they have seven losses and are already starting the ACC season at 0-1, they would have to win at least 12 or 13 games in the league, and those would need to be the “right” 12 or 13 games.
The Seminoles blocked an amazing 15 shots on the night. Though they did let opposing two Corey Allen Jr. go for 31 in an effortless manner. They need to find a lock-down perimeter defender here soon, but at least for the first few ACC games they catch a break since they don’t face a real threat at that spot.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 65 vs. Vanderbilt Commodores 60
In a battle of two brutish front lines, the Jackets proved to be deeper down low. Charles Mitchell put up a 19/8 and guard Marquez Georges Hunt added 14, despite shooting just 4-of-15. The Jackets overcame a 33-25 halftime deficit. They return to action on Tuesday against Brian Gregrory’s former employer Dayton, and by playing an A-10 team, even a loss won’t hurt them.
Vanderbilt came in with a 6-2 record, but hadn’t had any wins of consequence. A SOS of 211, and an RPI of 144 isn’t raising any flags right now. The S in SEC stands for stink, and no matter what Kentucky does, it probably just won’t be going away this year.
Pittsburgh Panthers 81 vs Oakland Golden Grizzlies 77 – OT
I wasn’t aware that Pitt had had such difficulty in this match-up in prior years. Just two years ago they trailed by 18 points, before rallying. Saturday night, a balanced Pitt scoring attack had the starters scoring 69 of the team’s 81 points, and was led once again by James Robinson with 18. Per ESPN, Robinson led the comeback against Oakland two seasons ago also, so he has the magic touch when it come to facing Oakland.
Jamie Dixon’s club has three losses to varying opponents. The loss to Hawaii was unquestionably bad. But the loss to San Diego State, and then the loss at Assembly Hall in Indiana are easily forgiven. Pitt needs to make it to .500 in the league an win a a play-in game in the ACC and you should be looking at one of the last few in the tourney this year.
Florida Gators 63 v Wake Forest Demon Deacons 50
Florida at 7-4, should be ranked, but have undertaken a brutal schedule. and had some difficulty navigating some of those early season landmines. Remember this is a tournament runner-up from last year, having lost just twice before UCONN shocked the world. Games against FSU and UCONN (both winnable) should help increase Florida’s RPI, and have them in that 5-6 seed range when such things are announced.
Wake, in rebuilding stages, has lost four of five. They allowed 17 steals to the Gators, with a lot of lazy long passes, and throwing skip passes too low across the zone. Coach Danny Manning didn’t make adjustments (or the adjustments didn’t take, either way it was difficult to discern). Dorrian Finney-Smith led UF with 16 pts and 6 rebounds.
Wake is going to face Richmond, Bucnell, and Princeton. Two of these being very deliberate teams. It will be a lesson in patience at a minimum. Everyone knows that Wake will be lucky to win more than 10-11 games this year, they may as well see as many looks as they can and get some experience against a variety of systems. This weekend in Gotham they saw the full court press, next they will see deliberate offenses and difficult 2-3 zones.
#22 West Virginia Mountaineers 83 vs NC State Wolfpack 69
Trevor Lacey did all he could to help the Pack on Saturday. He scored 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting, and the rest of them even shot 12-of-21. It was the turnovers, and a reciprocation on D that caused the NC State downfall.
The Pack allowed 22 more shots to the Mountaineers on Saturday, mainly by virtue of nine extra turnovers (23-14) and the five extra offensive rebounds. The Pack shot 14 extra FTs (35-21, but missed all of the extra 14….the ‘Neers missed 7 of the 21, so it’s not the accuracy but the discrepancy that bears more interest).
The NC State lost to Wofford, and that road game to Purdue. This game would have been nice to have in pocket for March, but even getting through the out of conference with all but two wins would have only still served as a a nice start. They still have the ACC to navigate, and for the littlest brother on Tobacco Road, that’s been plenty hard enough for around 30 years now.
#21 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 94 vs Purdue Boilermakers 63
The state rivals played in Indianapolis to appease the masses. When the game was over, only Notre Dame was appeased. Senior Pat Connagughton had 19 points on a less than stellar shooting night, but augmented that by grabbing 14 rebounds, which is more than one would expect from his someone his size. He helped off-set a rare poor night from ACC player-of-the-year front-runner Jerian Grant (just 10 points). Grant, though, figured out that early on that his wings were going 18-for-33 and dished out nine assists, a couple more than usual.
Purdue tried to match the high-octane Irish offense early on, and trailed only 46-39 at the half. But Mike Brey’s team came storming out of the locker room and won the second half 48-24. This convincing win didn’t help ACC-mate NC State, who lost at Purdue in the ACC-B1G challenge by five. The NCAA selection committee doesn’t like to see that kind of delta by two teams from the same conference that close together in the calendar.
#6 Virginia Cavaliers 76 vs Harvard Crimson 27
This is getting ridiculous. UVA held the Crimson Knights of Rutgers to 26 points, just a couple weeks ago, and now Harvard to 27. KenPom said pace would be down this year, and it has been, but then you see teams like Duke and Notre Dame and even the likes of BYU putting up 80+ and executing.
Teams cannot execute against UVA. They never take their hands down and their hands are quick. They cause the ballhandlers to turn twice before they cross the timeline without fail, cutting every so slightly into the opposition’s possession time. I mocked Shaka Smart and his “Havoc” defense by calling the UVA system “Passive strangulation”. I think we’ll stick with that, but sometimes we might have to agree that the level of passivity sometimes varies.
The undefeated Cavs at 11-0 owned the boards on Sunday with a 45-25 advantage, and everyone got some run, as 15 players got off the pine. Harvard made just eight shots on the day, and was 8-for-50 all told. Yes, that math is correct: 16% FG. The Crimson were so rattled that they couldn’t even make their shots at the charity stripe, shooting jut 9-of-22.
Most notable assist of the game in a game full of them? UVA total assists 21 Harvard 1.
University Southern California Trojans 75 @ Boston College Eagles 71
This is the kind of home win a program like BC needed. A P5 school with three questionable losses (Army, Akron, Portland St.) and the kind of schedule that will only see it’s 153 RPI sink. The Trojans are trending upwards with five wins in their last six games now, but let’s face facts, they aren’t in the upper tier of the Pac12 right now.
Oddly in a building with befuddling sight lines for opposing shooters, the Trojans shot 70% in the first half. All-ACC performer Olivier Hanlan shot just 6-for-21 from the field, though he did shard the ball well, distributing eight assists. The Eagles look to be improved in many ways from last year when they finished 2nd to last in the ACC at 4-14 (with two wins over 2-16 cellar-dweller VT).
Tonight’s games: Stetson-Florida St, Northern Illinois-Notre Dame, Bucknell-Wake Forest, Colgate-Syracuse, Oakland-Clemson, VMI-VT, Miami-Providence.
We’ll be back tomorrow with a smaller roundup for you folks. Since there are only seven games instead of 14.
Stay with us here at ITA as the ACC basketball season heats up. I can be followed on @insidetheacc on Twitter and we have a Facebook page as well.
Thanks for reading and have a great Monday!