ACC conference tournament preview

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The question we all had about the ACC in the preseason had to do with fourth place.

We knew Duke and UNC would be fighting for the regular season title, which they did. And we know that Florida State had the horses to make some noise in the league, which they did. What we didn’t know was who, out of the rest of the conference, would get their act together enough to be considered the fourth best team in the league.

And while Virginia staked their claim early on in the season, by the end of the year they seemed much closer to the pack than they did the leaders. What’s more is that the Cavs needed an overtime victory over Maryland in the last game of the regular season just to ensure that they wouldn’t be sitting on the bubble heading into the conference tournament.

The question that we need to ask here is whether or not this is a league capable of getting more than four teams into the tournament. And the way things seem now, that’s probably not all that likely of an occurrence.

Obviously, anyone can get hot and make a run to the tournament title. The more likely scenario is that either NC State or Miami wins a pair of games and makes their case to receive an at-large bid strong enough that they move past the likes of Texas and Northwestern and Seton Hall. That might take a trip to the semis and a strong showing once they get there.

The Bracket

Where: Atlanta

When: March 8th-March 11th

Final: March 11th, 1 p.m. ESPN

Favorite: North Carolina

Thanks to a 33 point whooping that UNC took at Florida State back in January, the Tar Heels have fallen a bit off of the national radar. While it seems weird to say that UNC isn’t getting the attention that they deserve, it seems like North Carolina gets left out when we discuss legitimate national title contenders more than they should. The fact of the matter is that North Carolina has as much talent on their roster as anyone in the country, and that includes Kentucky, and as they showed against Duke in Durham on the last day of the regular season, when they are clicking, they are going to be a scary, scary team to go up against.

And if they lose?: Duke

The Blue Devils are a flawed basketball team. We know this. But they are also one that can be dangerous. They have size inside in the Plumlees, they have a number of players on their perimeter that are knockdown three point shooters and they have a star in Austin Rivers that has proven himself capable of taking a game over. They struggle to defend on the perimeter and they don’t have a point guard capable of creating off of the dribble, but when their threes are going down and Austin Rivers is playing well, the Blue Devils are a good basketball team.

Other contenders?: I really think that Florida State has a shot of winning the ACC Tournament. If chalk holds, they’ll be getting matched up with a Duke team they beat in Cameron this season. Once they get to the title game, anything can happen. They’ve already beaten UNC once. Why can’t they do it again?

Sleeper: Miami

The Hurricanes are a confounding team. They have a trio of talented players in their back court, they have a hoss on the block in Reggie Johnson and they have one of the country’s most improved players in power forward Kenny Kadji. The problem? Everything has come together for the ‘Canes just once this season, when they won at Duke.

Deeper sleepers: I don’t think UVA has enough pieces to win this tournament, especially with Assane Sene dismissed from the team. And I don’t think that NC State is going to be able to make a run to the title. But Mike Scott is legit, as is the CJ Leslie-Lorenzo Brown duo for the Wolfpack.

Studs:

Kendall Marshall, UNC: Marshall might be the most irreplaceable player in the country.

Mike Scott, UVA: Basketball purists will love Scott’s game. He lives on his fadeaway jumper and he’s one of the most efficient scorers in the conference.

Michael Snaer, Florida State: Snaer is finally starting to show signs of being the player that was a McDonald’s all-american coming out of high school.

Austin Rivers, Duke: You know about him by now. He makes some bad decisions with the ball, but he’s a fearless penetrator with the stones to take and make a big shot.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.