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Miami continues to win without Johnson during a tough stretch

by - Published January 17, 2013 in Columns

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Miami continued to do what they have done since Reggie Johnson fractured his left thumb in practice over three weeks ago. They had other players come up big, they survived a close call, and most of all, they won. Their 60-59 win at Boston College wasn’t very smooth or memorable, but it is a win and it is big for this team for multiple reasons.

Since Johnson went out, Kenny Kadji has taken his play to another level and Julian Gamble has been the biggest beneficiary of his minutes. Gamble has made the most of the extra minutes, although he wasn’t a big factor on Wednesday night as the Hurricanes went smaller at times to guard the Eagles’ lineup with four perimeter players. They’ve tried to get something out of both Raphael Akpejiori and freshman Tonye Jekiri as well, though neither has distinguished himself just yet as an offensive factor.

… Continue Reading

2011-12 ACC Post-Mortem

by - Published May 19, 2012 in Conference Notes

Kendall Marshall, Leslie McDonald, Dexter Strickland.

Those three Tar Heels were supposed to anchor the North Carolina backcourt entering the 2011-12 season. With Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston, the Tar Heels figured to have one of the deepest set of guards in the country to pair with a great front line led by Tyler Zeller and John Henson. And that’s before accounting for Harrison Barnes, projected to be one of the best wing players in the country.

But injuries decimated North Carolina’s backcourt, forcing coach Roy Williams to run with little-used freshman Stilman White and jack-of-all-trades Justin Watts in the team’s most important game of the season, an Elite Eight clash with Williams’ old squad, the Kansas Jawhawks, in St. Louis. … Continue Reading

Miami could make moves in the ACC

by - Published January 30, 2012 in Columns

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Miami couldn’t seem to shake Boston College no matter what they did. They led often, but the game was played within a ten-point window even as the Hurricanes were doing a better job of defending the young Eagles as the game wore on. Suddenly, with the game tied at 49, all that changed, as the Hurricanes went on a 14-0 run and turned what was a close game into a 76-54 rout. It all went right with what head coach Jim Larranaga has preached to this team.

“I thought our guys stayed very poised,” said Larranaga, currently in his first season at the school. “Early in the season, we tended to go our own way and tried to do it on our own. Tonight, I thought we stuck with some things and were able to fight through it, and our defense got better as the game progressed. They were at 49 for a long time.”

… Continue Reading

Miami Hurricanes 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 4, 2011 in Conference Notes

Miami Hurricanes (21-15, 6-10)


Editor’s note: This post was corrected to update information about Julian Gamble’s injury sustained in August. 



Projected starting five:

Sr. G Malcolm Grant
Jr. G Durand Scott
Jr. G Garrius Adams
So. C Kenny Kadji
Jr. C Reggie Johnson (when healthy)

Important departures:

Coach Frank Haith: 129-101 overall record, 43-69 ACC record in seven seasons at Miami.
Adrian Thomas: 9.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.8 apg

Percent returning scoring and rebounding:

Scoring: 87.2 percent
Rebounding: 89.8 percent


Trey McKinney Jones, junior shooting guard transferred from UMKC
Kenny Kadji, sophomore center transferred from Florida

Schedule highlights:

Best non-conference game: vs. Memphis
Toughest conference stretch: Feb. 6-11 (at Duke, vs. Virginia Tech, at Florida State)


Jim Larranaga is in for a rough ride. The University of Miami faces all kinds of uncertainty in the aftermath of the Nevin Shapiro investigation that uncovered dirty recruiting practices that primarily affected the Hurricanes football program but also implicated former coach Frank Haith. That might be more of Missouri’s problem in the long term. But Larranaga could be facing the prospects of leading a team on probation, depending on how everything falls out.

Until then, though, Larranaga has a chance to deliver a special season to Coral Gables. Miami has possibly the best backcourt in the ACC with senior guard Malcolm Grant and junior guard Durand Scott leading the way. Junior Garrius Adams is a talented wing player to help Grant and Scott stretch the court for the Canes’ interior big men: Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson. Kadji will need to take the primary lead inside until January while Reggie Johnson recovers from a knee injury sustained during a pickup game. The frontcourt suffered another blow when Julian Gamble tore his ACL in August, and he will likely miss the entire season. With a relatively favorable ACC schedule, the Hurricanes should be in decent position for a run toward the top of the standings by the time Johnson returns to the lineup.

Prediction: Third

Next: North Carolina Tar Heels

Back to ACC preview

Quick Hitters – April 22, 2011

by - Published April 22, 2011 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

A few quick hitters as we head into the holiday weekend:


  • Miami‘s hire of Jim Larranaga is an excellent one, and an interesting move for the 61-year-old coach. Larranaga was thought to be in his final job after turning down opportunities a few years ago, at a school where he could win every year and a conference in which he was the dean of coaches. The school paid him well and he made money as a motivational speaker after leading George Mason to the Final Four. But as one person pointed out, there’s no risk here. If things don’t work out and he is let go, he can retire in 4-5 years anyway and after picking up more money. … Continue Reading

Stable Tar Heels, Seminoles Have Good Reason for Optimism

by - Published April 11, 2011 in Columns

If roster and coaching stability means anything, fans in Tallahassee and Chapel Hill should be optimistic about the 2011-12 season.

Florida State and North Carolina figure to return at least 70 percent of their scoring from this year, and they have tenured ACC coaches at the helm. However, each team has a question mark that could decide whether the Seminoles and Tar Heels become stalwarts of the top 10 or bounce around the Top 25 polls. … Continue Reading

2010-11 ACC Preview

by - Published November 11, 2010 in Conference Notes

For the second consecutive year, an ACC team will open the season as defending national champ. And Duke has a real shot at delivering back-to-back titles for the second time in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s illustrious career. At least, the Blue Devils have a far better chance than North Carolina did last season after the Tar Heels were overhyped and then overmatched en route to coach Roy Williams’ worst season in a couple of decades.

Although critics poke the ACC for lacking the quantity of elite teams that the Big East boasts, the ACC has once again proven that its best teams are legitimate title contenders every year. Duke managed to fly under the radar last season as the media fawned over veteran-laden Kansas and John Calipari’s freshmen sensations at Kentucky. But in the end, a ruthlessly balanced team stormed through the post-season and beat Cinderella, aka Butler, in a thrilling championship game. The two will reprise that battle in December when they meet in New Jersey. … Continue Reading

2010 ACC Post-Mortem

by - Published May 5, 2010 in Conference Notes

Although several ACC squads had disappointing final results, Duke emerged as the national champ to reaffirm that the conference’s best is always a title contender.

When the season started, we expected Duke to emerge as a national championship contender if the Big Three – Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith – could lead the Blue Devils night in and night out without wearing down.

In November, that seemed like a tall order because the Blue Devils just didn’t have much depth behind those perimeter players. But Scheyer, Singler and Smith fulfilled their potential by carrying Duke to its fourth national championship under coach Mike Krzyzewski.

In the past, Duke has earned its reputation as one of the most hated teams in the country because the national media dwell on every game – much like the media painfully did this season with North Carolina as the Tar Heels crumbled without Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. But for some reason, there was no hype surrounding this Blue Devils squad. Somehow, Coach K’s team flew under the radar while Kansas, Kentucky and the entire Big East captured the majority of the national coverage.

In the end, Duke proved that its regular-season success wasn’t only the product of a down year in the ACC. The Blue Devils weren’t just the conference’s best team; they were the nation’s best team. Duke had to take down Cinderella – aka Butler – to claim that title. And in the process, the Blue Devils and Bulldogs delivered one of the most thrilling national title games of the past decade.

Few people seriously expected North Carolina to repeat as national champions. But they almost did – if you count the NIT winner as a national champion. After an utterly disastrous regular season that saw the Tar Heels fall apart because of injuries and inexperience, North Carolina pulled things together in the NIT to make a run to the championship game, which the Tar Heels lost to Dayton.

With North Carolina falling from the ACC’s elite, Maryland moved up the conference’s caste system. Fiery guard Greivis Vasquez sparked the Terrapins to a share of the regular-season title. Unfortunately, Maryland peaked about two weeks too early when the Terrapins won a thriller against the Blue Devils in College Park in early March. After that, Maryland failed to win two consecutive games, ending in a second-round defeat to No. 5-seed Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament.

Four other teams joined Duke and Maryland in the NCAA Tournament: Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Like Maryland, none of them won more than one game in the tournament.

Outside Duke, the conference lacked a second legitimate powerhouse. If that’s your definition of a down year, then yes, the ACC was down. But the bottom of the conference proved to be better than the cellar dwellers of nearly every other conference, as demonstrated by unlikely ACC Tournament runs by Miami and North Carolina State.

Here’s a recap of the 2009-10 season for ACC teams.

Final 2009-10 Standings

Team Overall ACC
Duke Blue Devils 35-5 13-3
Maryland Terrapins 24-9 13-3
Virginia Tech Hokies 25-9 10-6
Florida State Seminoles 22-10 10-6
Clemson Tigers 21-11 9-7
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 20-11 9-7
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 23-13 7-9
Boston College Eagles 15-16 6-10
North Carolina Tar Heels 20-17 5-11
North Carolina State Wolfpack 20-16 5-11
Virginia Cavaliers 20-17 5-11
Miami Hurricanes 20-13 4-12

ACC Tournament

The ACC Tournament was a harbinger of the NCAA Tournament, with five major upsets in 11 games. But at the end of the tournament, Duke was cutting down the nets.

The Blue Devils won their second-consecutive conference title and ninth since 1999 by beating No. 7-seed Georgia Tech 65-61. Duke’s difficult run against seemingly overmatched opponents – No. 9-seed Virginia, No. 12-seed Miami and the Yellow Jackets – prepared the Blue Devils for a hard-fought run to the national title in the NCAA Tournament. Georgia Tech sealed its bid to the NCAA Tournament with an impressive run that included an upset of No. 2-seed Maryland.

No. 11-seed North Carolina State and No. 12-seed Miami provided the biggest upsets of the conference tournament. The Wolfpack opened the tournament by nipping No. 6-seed Clemson 59-57 and then beating No. 3-seed Florida State 58-52. The Hurricanes overcame a bad ACC regular season by upsetting No. 5-seed Wake Forest and No. 4-seed Virginia Tech. Duke was the only team seeded No. 6 or better to win even a single conference tournament game.

Hoopville’s All-ACC Awards

Player of the Year: Jon Scheyer, Duke

Rookie of the Year: Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech

Defensive Player of the Year: Solomon Alabi, Florida State

Coach of the Year: Gary Williams, Maryland

First-Team All-ACC:

Jon Scheyer, Duke

Greivis Vasquez, Maryland

Kyle Singler, Duke

Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest

Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech

Second-Team All-ACC:

Sylven Landesberg, Virginia

Nolan Smith, Duke

Tracy Smith, North Carolina State

Trevor Booker, Clemson

Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech

Third-Team All-ACC:

Joe Trapani, Boston College

Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech

Jeff Allen, Virginia Tech

Ed Davis, North Carolina

Solomon Alabi, Florida State

Season Highlights

8 Things We Saw Coming

1. Duke won a share of the regular season championship and then dominated the conference tournament.

2. Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Maryland joined the Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament.

3. But none of those four advanced far in the tournament.

4. Virginia struggled under new coach Tony Bennett, who put the brakes on the Cavaliers’ pace to one of the slowest tempos in the conference.

5. Miami dropped toward the bottom of the conference with an influx of young talent, such as Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant.

6. Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez went head-to-head with Duke’s best player, Jon Scheyer, for the conference’s Player of the Year award.

7. Virginia Tech established one of the best backcourts in the country with Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson – and the juniors look ready to dominate next season if Delaney backs out of the NBA Draft.

8. Florida State’s defensive prowess was remarkably better than the team’s offensive prowess, and it was just enough to carry the Seminoles to an NCAA Tournament bid.

8 Things We Thought We’d See

1. North Carolina was supposed to compete for second place in the conference, but instead finished tied for second worst.

2. The Tar Heels seemed ready to compete with seniors like Marcus Ginyard in the lineup. But Ginyard couldn’t stay healthy for a second consecutive season, and injuries helped derail the Tar Heels’ season.

3. We expected Duke’s highly-touted freshman recruit Mason Plumlee to be a factor. He ended up with 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in 14.1 minutes per game.

4. Likewise, Clemson’s Milton Jennings saw even less time, averaging 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11.2 minutes per game.

5. Wake Forest is usually an offensive juggernaut. But the Demon Deacons struggled on offense despite the presence of a veteran point guard, Ishmael Smith, and talented post players like Al-Farouq Aminu, Chas McFarland and Tony Woods.

6. Georgia Tech point guard Iman Shumpert focused on playing under more control. But the Yellow Jackets couldn’t significantly cut down on their turnovers, committing 16.4 turnovers per game this season compared to 16.8 last season.

7. Usually tough and consistent Boston College remained tough but was anything but consistent, losing five ACC games by double digits.

8. The ACC is traditionally a showcase for electric offense. But only three teams finished in the top 40 in offensive efficiency.

8 Things We Didn’t See Coming

1. Once again, North Carolina stunk. Yes, expectations were too high. Yes, injuries always hurt. But this team looked lost and occasionally apathetic, which utterly baffled coach Roy Williams.

2. Wake Forest exceeded expectations on defense, which had been the team’s bugaboo for several years.

3. Despite the strong defense and a return to the NCAA Tournament, the Demon Deacons axed Dino Gaudio because of his lack of post-season success.

4. Clemson and Boston College also had to find new coaches after Oliver Purnell shockingly bolted for DePaul and the Eagles parted ways with Al Skinner.

5. On the court, the midseason maturation of Duke’s Brian Zoubek was the unlikely catalyst for the Blue Devils’ ascension from contender to champion.

6. Virginia Tech once again proved that you cannot discount a Seth Greenberg-coached team, which finished third in the conference.

7. Quite a few ACC teams – namely, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech – channeled their inner Big 10 spirit and devoted far more energy to defense than offense.

8. Maryland jumped from the middle of the pack to near the top of the ACC thanks to another dominating season from Vasquez and just enough support from the rest of the team to consistently beat down ACC foes.

Teams of the Rise

Virginia Tech

We should just leave the Hokies in this category each season, unless Greenberg take another job.

Virginia Tech finished third in the ACC this season and just missed the NCAA Tournament because of a weak non-conference schedule and lack of quality wins. If Greenberg lines up more worthy non-conference foes, the Hokies will build a stronger résumé for the 2011 tournament. They certainly will have the lineup to do so.

The Hokies lose only Lewis Witcher to graduation. A veteran lineup anchored by Delaney – assuming he doesn’t stay in the NBA Draft – Hudson, Jeff Allen, J.T. Thompson and Terrell Bell could become the favorite to challenge Duke for next season’s conference championship.

Florida State

The Seminoles remain here as long as Alabi decides to return to school instead of entering the NBA Draft. If he comes back to Tallahassee, the Seminoles will remain one of the best defensive teams in the country. And they have to get better on offense, right?

Florida State was just abysmal offensively for much of the season, committing nearly 17 turnovers per game. The Seminoles struggled as a team to hit shots when they didn’t turn it over. From three-point range, Florida State shot only 33.5 percent, and from the free throw line, the Seminoles were only 64.4 percent.

North Carolina

Thanks to a run to the NIT championship game, the Tar Heels salvaged a disastrous season and inspired hope for next season.

In particular, Larry Drew II finally looked capable of running the Tar Heels’ offense, which should be more powerful next season. Freshmen Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland must become better long-range shooters. If they don’t, incoming freshmen Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall will challenge them for playing time. One reason the Tar Heels struggled this season is teams didn’t need to respect their outside shooting. That shouldn’t be true next season, which will open the lane for Ed Davis (if he returns, as he declared for the NBA Draft), Tyler Zeller, the Wear twins and John Henson.

With so much talent on this roster, it’s hard to imagine that North Carolina won’t be on the rise from a 10th-place finish.

Teams on the Decline


The Terrapins took advantage of their window of opportunity. With the implosion in Chapel Hill, there was a gaping void after Duke at the top of the standings, and Maryland stepped up to fill it.

But with the graduation of Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne, the Terrapins will lose three players who averaged at least 30 minutes per game and accounted for 54.7 percent of the team’s scoring and 67.3 percent of the team’s assists.

Coach Gary Williams has been reluctant to trust his bench in recent seasons. He won’t have a choice next season when those bench players become starters.


Coach Tony Bennett will get a fresh start after his first season with the Cavaliers because seven players who began the season are leaving the program.

Although Bennett has an opportunity to shape this team as he desires, it’s hard to imagine the Cavaliers improving significantly without Sylven Landesberg, who averaged 17.3 points per game for a team that struggled to score. He accounted for more than one-quarter of the team’s points.

Besides Landesberg, Bennett will need to replace the production of Calvin Baker, Jerome Meyinsse, Soloman Tat, Jeff Jones and Tristan Spurlock.

Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons shocked everyone by firing Dino Gaudio and replacing him with Jeff Bzdelik. Yes, Gaudio had failed to win an NCAA Tournament game despite having three NBA first-round draft picks pass through Winston-Salem, assuming Aminu goes early in this year’s draft.

But Gaudio was attracting great high school players and winning many of the in-state recruiting battles. His teams peaked too early in the season twice. But at least they found a way to the top.

Bzdelik prefers a slower pace than Wake Forest is accustomed to playing. And the Demon Deacons will need to find a new point guard to learn that offense because Ishmael Smith is graduating. He’s taking several key teammates with him, as Chas McFarland, David Weaver and L.D. Willams have also finished their playing careers as Demon Deacons, while Aminu is bolting the team for NBA money.

Despite some talented young players, this team figures to go through at least one season of growing pains under a new coach.

Next Season

Entering this season, many experts figured that Duke and North Carolina would contend for the conference title, but they were likely a year away from challenging for a national championship. Duke proved the experts wrong by taking the national title this year. And they might be the front-runner to do it again next season.

The Blue Devils return Singler and Smith, in addition to talented young big men like Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Sharpshooter Seth Curry will be eligible after transferring from Liberty, and Andre Dawkins will step into the point guard role. If he struggles, Krzyzewski can turn to freshman Kyrie Irving, who is an electric recruit out of New Jersey. The Blue Devils also are adding Joshua Hairston and Tyler Thornton to a solid recruiting class.

Besides Duke, Virginia Tech and Florida State should build on their success from this past season to fill out the conference’s elite. Wake Forest and North Carolina will have plenty of talent on their roster to possibly join those three, but both teams have plenty of issues to overcome.

In Raleigh, coach Sidney Lowe must elevate the Wolfpack to the top half of the conference or he almost certainly will be looking for a new job after next season. Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt might also be on the hot seat if the Yellow Jackets significantly regress – a likely scenario with the losses of Favors and Lawal to the NBA.

If you want a very early sleeper pick to reach the NCAA Tournament, assuming its only 65 teams and not 96, look south to Miami. Coach Frank Haith has reloaded that roster with talented young guards who figure to make their mark next season.

And if the NCAA Tournament expands to 96 teams, look for the ACC to place every single team in the tournament unless expansion includes a rule that teams must have at least a .400 winning percentage in your conference – or something like that.

Miami (FL): Hurricanes Suspend Rios Again

by - Published January 13, 2009 in Newswire

Miami coach Frank Haith indefinitely suspended sophomore guard Eddie Rios for the second time this season because of a lack of communication and a violation of team rules. Haith suspended Rios Dec. 2 for another team rules violation and reinstated him two games later. Rios averages 4.7 points per game and shoots better than 43 percent from three-point range.

ACC Notebook – Starting the Conference Grind

by - Published January 4, 2009 in Conference Notes

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As we begin to enter the grinding two months of conference play, the ACC appears to be one of the top conferences in the country. The conference has two undefeated teams remaining – and neither one is named Duke or North Carolina. Four teams are ranked in national polls, with Boston College likely to make an appearance soon after a huge win at Chapel Hill.

With just two months to Selection Sunday, ACC squads begin jockeying for position in the conference in earnest. Several teams need to make a strong run to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Several others figure to earn tops seeds in the tournament, while the conference’s bottom feeders hope to spoil everyone else’s plans.

As of the beginning of January, the ACC looks like it could easily earn six or seven NCAA Tournament invitations. North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest look like locks to be in the tournament. Clemson is a strong team that does not have a lot of meaty wins. But the Tigers should make plenty of noise in the ACC – especially if they can end an 0-for-forever losing streak in Chapel Hill Jan. 21. Clemson plays the type of tough defense that can frustrate the Tar Heels, as Boston College demonstrated.

Speaking of Boston College, the Eagles have only two losses to their name and one monster victory against North Carolina. Right now, that would put them in the tournament. In fact, preseason ACC darling Miami is in a more tenable position than the Eagles are because they have two home losses in addition to a third loss at a neutral site. And the Hurricanes best win is at a schizophrenic Kentucky team. Miami has a favorable ACC schedule – but that also means the Hurricanes have fewer opportunities to prove their worth. They can ill afford to go 0-5 against Clemson, North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest in the five meetings against those squads.

Meanwhile, teams like Florida State, Maryland and North Carolina State are off to a strong start even though they lack many high-profile wins. The Terrapins possibly have the best win of the three thanks to a blowout of Michigan State in Orlando. However, each of those teams needs to win nine or 10 conference games to have a legitimate shot at the NCAA Tournament. The odds are that at least one of them will come through.

Toward the bottom, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech each have five losses already. However, they play hard and have plenty of talent to remain competitive. If these are the worst teams in the conference, the ACC promises to be a slugfest, with no team guaranteed victory. Already, two road teams have stolen conference wins from their hosts. Even North Carolina is not immune.

By the time the conference season is over, the ACC could produce a slew of teams stuck at 9-7, 8-8 or 7-9 with only one or two teams with 12 wins or more. Let the fun begin.

Clemson Tigers (14-0, 1-0)

Of the three remaining undefeated ACC teams, Clemson gets the least respect. The Tigers’ best wins are against Illinois and Miami – both of which were on the road. Clemson has won all but four games by at least 10 points. The Tigers hold opponents to barely 42 percent shooting from the field, while the Tigers shoot nearly 50 percent on offense. Opponents turn the ball over more than once every four possessions under the Tigers’ unrelenting defensive pressure. Junior forward Trevor Booker averages 2.5 blocks per game, one of three Tigers who block at least one shot per game. In short, the Tigers are a rock-solid defensive team, and they are ready to take on the rigors of the ACC.

As impressive as Clemson’s defense is, the Tigers’ offense is even more efficient. Clemson boasts a top 10 offense, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistical ratings. The team’s shot selection has been excellent, reflected by the team’s 49.9 percent field goal shooting and 37.5 percent three-point shooting. Even the team’s free throw shooting has improved after being an Achilles’ heel in past seasons. Senior swing man K.C. Rivers is the leading scorer, averaging 15.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. But coach Oliver Purnell has nine players who can step in and contribute at both ends of the court, and he rotates them freely throughout the game. The Tigers are built for success, and they will quickly find out if they can hang near the top of the ACC after they play Wake Forest, North Carolina and Duke in a two and a half week stretch at the end of January and early February.

Upcoming games:

  • Jan. 6 vs. Alabama
  • Jan. 10 vs. North Carolina State
  • Jan. 17 vs. Wake Forest

Duke Blue Devils (12-1, 1-0)

The most noteworthy roster change in the early season is the promotion of sophomore guard Nolan Smith to the starting lineup. He took senior Greg Paulus’ position, giving the Blue Devils possibly the best sixth man in the conference. The Blue Devils’ offense has featured more motion, which takes advantage of Duke’s guard-heavy lineups. None of Duke’s guards averages more than 2.6 assists per game, but as a team, the Blue Devils are dishing out 15.5 assists per game.

Duke is cruising along this season at 12-1 while remaining a highly ranked team. However, with the Tar Heels attracting all the attention, the Blue Devils have an opportunity to play spoiler during conference play. Duke has one of the most efficient offenses and defenses and is cruising following an early December setback at Michigan. In that game, the Blue Devils jacked up 33 three-point attempts and hit only seven. For a team that does not shoot the ball particularly well from beyond the arc (32.1 percent) or rely on the long shot for scoring (just 22.6 percent of its total points), the Michigan loss appears to be an instructive aberration for Duke. In a 92-51 beating of Loyola, Md., Duke was again cold from three-point range, shooting only 8.3 percent. However, the Blue Devils attempted only 12 three-pointers and finished with a 54.5 percent overall shooting percentage.

Upcoming games:

  • Jan. 7 vs. Davidson
  • Jan. 10 at Florida State
  • Jan. 14 at Georgia Tech
  • Jan. 17 vs. Georgetown

Boston College Eagles (13-2, 1-0)

Boston College’s non-conference run might not have produced any résumé-building wins, but the Eagles’ first ACC win was a dandy. The Eagles traveled to Chapel Hill as massive underdogs and left with a fairly easy win. Coach Al Skinner simply convinced his team to outmuscle the Tar Heels for 40 minutes. Led by senior superstar Tyrese Rice, who is averaging 16.7 points, 6.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game for the Eagles, the Eagles denied North Carolina easy shots. They also took care of the ball, committing only 10 turnovers.

As Boston College enters the ACC slate, the Eagles are playing solid basketball after losing two in a row in November to Saint Louis and Purdue by a combined 10 points. The Eagles don’t beat themselves, committing only 12.7 turnovers per game. They attack the glass, averaging better than 40 rebounds per game and shoot well, at 46 percent from the field. Transfer Joe Trapani has been a boon for Skinner and has become the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.1 points per game. He also adds 6.6 rebounds per game, one of three Eagles to average more than six rebounds per game.

Upcoming games:

  • Jan. 7 vs. Harvard
  • Jan. 10 vs. Miami
  • Jan. 14 vs. Wake Forest
  • Jan. 17 at Virginia Tech

Virginia Cavaliers (6-5, 1-0)

The youth movement is in full effect in Charlottesville, with three freshmen and sophomores receiving at least 28 minutes per game. The ring leader is freshman swing man Sylven Landesberg, who is quickly sewing up ACC rookie of the year honors. Landesberg is averaging 19.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field and better than 80 percent from the free throw line. Landesberg helped give the Cavaliers an 88-84 overtime win against Georgia Tech to open ACC play. He scored 26 points in 41 minutes, including six in overtime.

Despite the exciting future of Landesberg, the Cavaliers do not figure to fare well in the grind of ACC play. Virginia has struggled against the likes of Radford, Liberty, Auburn and VMI, winning two and losing two. Although Sammy Zeglinski, Mike Scott and Landesberg form a solid nucleus for coach Dave Leitao to build around, they account for more than 55 percent of the team’s scoring this season. In addition, the team commits too many turnovers, nearly 15 per game. In conference play, the lack of experienced scorers and ball handlers figures to cause problems for Virginia.

Upcoming schedule:

  • Jan. 6 vs. Brown
  • Jan. 10 at Virginia Tech
  • Jan. 15 vs. North Carolina

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (13-0, 0-0)

A schedule featuring only one ranked team has helped the Demon Deacons run to an13-0 start. The team’s best win is an 87-74 victory against Baylor in the 76 Classic championship in Anaheim. However, the Demon Deacons’ play justifies their top 10 ranking. Wake Forest ranks in the top five in rebounding and shooting percentage and in the top 10 in scoring. Sophomore guard Jeff Teague leads the Demon Deacons’ attack with 19.6 points and 4.2 assists per game. On a team that does not rely on three-point shooting, Teague is shooting better than 50 percent from beyond the arc.

The key to Wake Forest’s success is shot selection. The Demon Deacons are shooting better than 51 percent from the field, and the team gets more than 62 percent of its scoring inside the arc, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistics. Wake Forest has three monsters in the post: junior Chas McFarland, sophomore James Johnson and freshman Al-Farouq Aminu, who combine to average 36.7 points and 23.6 rebounds per game. All three players shoot at least 50 percent from the field.

The only loss Wake Forest has suffered this season is junior forward Jamie Skeen, who opted to transfer. Skeen was declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, and he decided to transfer. He averaged 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last season, but he likely would not get as much playing time this season.

Upcoming games:

  • Jan. 11 vs. North Carolina
  • Jan. 14 at Boston College
  • Jan. 17 at Clemson

Florida State Seminoles (13-2, 0-0)

The young Seminoles are an enigma entering conference play. Offensively, the lineup filled with freshmen and sophomores frequently struggles, scoring only 67.1 points per game and committing 16.6 turnovers per game. However, coach Leonard Hamilton has this group playing great defense. Only three opponents have scored more than 70 points, and the Seminoles won two of those games. Nine opponents failed to reach 60 points, including six of the last seven. If Florida State can continue to hold most opponents to 40 percent shooting or worse, the Seminoles have a chance to win some ugly games against the conference’s high-powered offenses.

When Florida State needs points, the Seminoles usually turn to senior guard Toney Douglas. Hamilton’s senior leader is averaging 18.4 points per game, the only Seminole to average double figures. He also averages 35.2 minutes per game. Douglas likely must continue to carry the load until Hamilton’s latest star-studded recruiting class progresses on offense. Freshman Chris Singleton and sophomore transfer Derwin Kitchen have been the most consistent players from that recruiting class, combining to average 17.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Singleton is becoming a reliable long-range threat, shooting 40.5 percent from three-point territory, while Kitchen is deadly inside the arc, shooting 59.4 percent from the field.

Upcoming schedule:

  • Jan. 10 vs. Duke
  • Jan. 13 at North Carolina State
  • Jan. 17 vs. Maryland

Maryland Terrapins (11-2, 0-0)

Last season, Maryland’s lack of depth left the Terrapins exhausted at the end of games and down the final stretch of the season. The starting five played 76.9 percent of the game and accounted for 85.6 percent of the team’s scoring. Cliff Tucker was the No. 1 reserve, averaging 4.1 points in 15.8 minutes per game. The Terrapins are off to an 11-2 start this season partially because junior guards Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes don’t have to do everything for coach Gary Williams. This season’s starting five plays 66.9 percent of the game and scores 77.7 percent of the points. Tucker remains a top reserve, but he is more efficient when he’s in the game, averaging 5.2 points in 12.8 minutes per game.

Williams must hope that his youngsters on the bench can improve throughout the season to help Maryland avoid another late-season fade, which has been a trend in recent years. Sophomore reserves Braxton Dupree and Dino Gregory offer tough interior play. Each player averages 3.5 rebounds per game in about 15 minutes per game. Freshmen Sean Mosley and Jin-Soo Kim have struggled on offense. Each freshman shoots worse than 38 percent from the field. However, they are talented athletes who promise to make a significant impact on the court at some point during their career. Vasquez and Hayes hope that happens sooner rather than later.

Upcoming games:

  • Jan. 7 vs. Morgan State
  • Jan. 10 vs. Georgia Tech
  • Jan. 14 at Miami
  • Jan. 17 at Florida State

North Carolina State Wolfpack (9-3, 0-0)

North Carolina State has battled injuries to several backcourt players in the early stages of this season. Sophomore Javier Gonzalez has been out for the past two weeks with a sprained ankle, and junior Trevor Ferguson is out until late January with a broken finger. Ferguson leads the Wolfpack in three-point shooting, making 41.5 percent of his shots from long range. Another junior, Farnold Degand, returned to action in early December after recovering from tendonitis in his left knee, which he injured last season.

Despite the injuries, North Carolina State is off to a solid 9-3 start partially thanks to the resurgence of junior forward Brandon Costner. In a sensational freshman season, Costner averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 37.9 percent from three-point range and 47.4 percent from the field. However, last season, Costner struggled throughout the entire season. His shooting dramatically declined, as he shot only 30.5 percent from beyond the arc and 36.2 percent overall. As a result, his scoring average dipped to 8.5 points per game.

Costner’s confidence also took a hit last season, and his rebounding suffered, as he averaged only 4.6 rebounds per game. So far, Costner appears to have channeled his freshman form and is once again a dominant player, averaging 14.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game with 37.0 percent three-point shooting and 50 percent overall shooting. In a thrilling 68-66 loss at Florida, Costner scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and he was 9-of-11 from the field.

Upcoming games;

  • Jan. 10 at Clemson
  • Jan. 13 vs. Florida State
  • Jan. 17 vs. Georgia Tech

North Carolina Tar Heels (13-1, 0-1)

Early in the season, North Carolina looked unbeatable despite dealing with several injuries. Senior forward Tyler Hansbrough missed four games because of a stress condition that required rest. He also twisted an ankle in a win at Santa Barbara. In addition to missing their All-American, the Tar Heels played without freshman center Tyler Zeller and senior defensive specialist Marcus Ginyard. Zeller broke his wrist late in the Nov. 18 game against Kentucky when he was fouled from behind on a breakaway layup.

Despite winning every non-conference game by at least 15 points, the Tar Heels could not find any offensive consistency in their first ACC game of the season, losing an 85-78 shocker to Boston College in Chapel Hill. The Eagles frustrated North Carolina’s offense throughout the game, limiting transition opportunities and harassing Hansbrough. The All-American finished 6-of-15 from the field. As a team, the Tar Heels shot only 38.4 percent from the field and 55.6 from the free throw line. North Carolina’s success has been based on high percentage shooting and a pressure defense that forces turnovers. Boston College showed that if a team can deny those elements, the Tar Heels can be beaten, even at home.

Upcoming games:

  • Jan. 7 vs. College of Charleston
  • Jan. 11 at Wake Forest
  • Jan. 15 at Virginia
  • Jan. 17 vs. Miami

Miami Hurricanes (10-3, 0-1)

The Hurricanes enter ACC play with a solid record and high expectations. However, Miami has whiffed on its few opportunities to make a statement with a high-profile victory. In three losses to Ohio State, Connecticut and Clemson, the Hurricanes have struggled to find offensive consistency, scoring less than their 75.9 points per game average. Against Connecticut and Ohio State, the Hurricanes shot less than 40 percent from the field. Against Clemson, the Hurricanes could not handle the Tigers’ defensive pressure, committing 22 turnovers and failing to convert free throws (12-of-27).

The Hurricanes sport solid efficiency numbers, according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, as the No. 28 offense and No. 30 in defense in efficiency. However, five blowouts with at least 20-point margins of victory help mask some of Miami’s deficiencies. Specifically, Miami’s offense almost entirely relies on strong games by senior guard Jack McClinton and junior forward Dwayne Collins. They are the only players averaging more than 20 minutes per game who shoot anywhere near 50 percent from the field. Collins is an effective post scorer, averaging 11.1 points per game on 62.3 percent shooting from the field – which is the best shooting percentage in the conference. McClinton remains the star, averaging 17.1 points per game on 48.3 percent shooting, including 45.9 percent from three-point range. But no other Hurricane is a reliable scoring threat. If you take out McClinton and Collins, the rest of the team shoots 39.8 percent from the field. That’s not going to get the job done in conference play.

Upcoming games:

  • Jan. 5 vs. Florida Atlantic
  • Jan. 10 at Boston College
  • Jan. 14 vs. Maryland
  • Jan. 17 at North Carolina

Virginia Tech Hokies (9-5, 0-1)

Like last year, the Hokies enter conference play needing to win 10 or 11 games to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament after a lackluster non-conference run. Virginia Tech missed opportunities to pick up big wins against Xavier and Wisconsin. Before losing by 25 points in Durham to the Blue Devils, Virginia Tech had not lost by more than four points, continuing last season’s trend of struggling to win tight games. As usual, coach Seth Greenberg’s team plays tough defense and has held 12 opponents to 70 points or fewer.

However, unlike past Hokie teams, this Virginia Tech squad is not forcing as many turnovers. And they continue last season’s trend of making more turnovers on offense, averaging 14.5 turnovers per game. Senior swing man A.D. Vassallo, sophomore guard Malcom Delaney and sophomore Jeff Allen have been the only consistent offensive contributors so far. They combine to average 49.6 points per game, or nearly 70 percent of the team’s 71.4 points per game. Greenberg uses a 10-man rotation, but he just can’t rely on anyone outside the big three to deliver consistent offense. Until the Hokies find a more balanced offense, they’ll struggle to avoid long scoring droughts.

Upcoming games:

  • Jan. 10 vs. Virginia
  • Jan. 14 vs. Richmond
  • Jan. 17 vs. Boston College

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-5, 0-1)

Georgia Tech has struggled early in the season mostly because of a depleted backcourt. The Yellow Jackets lost senior guard D’Andre Bell before the season started because of a spinal injury that required surgery. Senior guard Lewis Clinch missed the first seven games because he was academically ineligible for the first semester. And most recently, sophomore point guard Maurice Miller missed seven games after suffering a concussion and nasal fracture in Georgia Tech’s 66-60 loss to Illinois-Chicago.

With struggles in the backcourt, Georgia Tech has predictably struggled in several critical areas. The Yellow Jackets commit nearly 16 turnovers per game while shooting only 30 percent from three-point range and 58.6 percent from the free throw line. However, sophomore forward Gani Lawal has emerged as a stud for coach Paul Hewitt. Lawal averages 17.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game while contributing more than a steal and block per game on defense. Senior forward Alade Aminu teams with Lawal in the post and contributes 13.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. However, for Georgia Tech to succeed in the ACC, the team needs Miller to recover quickly, Clinch to get up-to-speed on the court soon, and freshman Iman Shumpert to reduce his 3.5 turnovers per game.

Upcoming games:

  • Jan. 6 vs. Georgia
  • Jan. 10 at Maryland
  • Jan. 14 vs. Duke
  • Jan. 17 at North Carolina State


Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Your Phil of Hoops

NC State is not making it easy on themselves

March 1, 2015 by


North Carolina State appears to have put themselves in a good position for the NCAA Tournament, but they aren’t making this easy on themselves.

Saturday Notes – February 28, 2015

March 1, 2015 by


We look back at a very busy Saturday, one that was full of big games that included some conferences closing out their regular season with plenty of drama.

Saturday Notes – February 21, 2015

February 22, 2015 by


A busy Saturday saw a lot of results that shook up conference standings, including a three-way tie developing in one of them, and some at-large hopes took a hit as well.

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Recruiting Coverage

2015 Boston Winter Invitational: What to expect

January 23, 2015 by


The Boston Winter Invitational is coming up on Sunday at UMass-Boston. Here is a look at some of what to expect in the four prep school games that are on the schedule.

2015 Spalding Hoophall Classic – Monday notes

January 21, 2015 by


Monday was the big day despite having just five games, as all were big matchups and most were nationally televised. There was plenty of talent in these games, and some big names played well.

2015 Spalding Hoophall Classic – Sunday notes

January 19, 2015 by


It was a bad weather day outside, but fortunately we play the games indoors. Prep schools took center stage on a busy Sunday with some good talent and good games all the way to the end.

2015 Spalding Hoophall Classic – Saturday notes

January 18, 2015 by


The Spalding Hoophall Classic picked up on Saturday, with a few good games, a couple of blowouts, then the best game of the day at the end. There was also plenty of good talent in each game.

2015 Hoop Dreams Mag Prep Classic – Sunday notes

January 14, 2015 by


Sunday was the day for a trip a little down the road from Saturday’s destination to check out some prep school action. We take a look at some notes from the day’s games in the Hoop Dreams Mag Prep Classic.

2014 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
Sept 10: Commonwealth Academy
Sept. 11: St. Andrew's
Sept. 12: Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 16: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 17: Brooks School
Sept. 21: Holderness School
Sept. 23: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 24: South Kent School and Kent School
Sept. 25: Williston Northampton
Sept. 28: Wilbraham and Monson Academy and Suffield Academy
Sept. 30: New Hampton
Oct. 5: Worcester Academy
Oct. 7: Brimmer and May
Oct. 8: Cushing Academy
Oct. 9: Tilton
Oct. 12: Tabor Academy and Rivers School
Oct. 14: The Master's School
Oct. 16: Vermont Academy

You can also find them all right here.