ACC Tournament Preview

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The ACC was weird this season.

Miami won the league. Think about that. Miami. That, alone, is enough to leave you scratching your head.

But there’s more to it. Duke was the best team in the country heading into conference play and looks like they are right back in that conversation now that Ryan Kelly is back on the floor, but they still managed to lose four games in ACC play and don’t have a ton of depth if Kelly or Seth Curry happen to aggravate their nagging injuries. North Carolina went from being a bubble team to being the hottest team in the conference to being a team that got drubbed by Duke at home. NC State has been nothing but a disappointment given the amount of talent on their roster.

And after that, there’s not much of anything. Virginia can beat anyone in the league and lose to anyone in the league. Maryland knocked off Duke and has been really bad is just about every other game. Florida State would be abysmal if it wasn’t for Michael Snaer’s four game-winners this year.

Not quite what we expected heading into the season.

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The Bracket

Where: Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro)

When: March 14-17

Final: March 17th, 1:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Favorite: Duke

With all due respect to ACC regular season champ Miami, Duke was the best team in the country before Ryan Kelly was injured. They haven’t lost since Kelly came back, proving that his foot was fine with a 36 point performance in a win over Miami in his first game. Throw in the fact that the Dukies will be playing in front of a favorable crowd in Greensboro, it’s not difficult to imagine them making a run through the conference.

If there is a concern about this Duke team, it’s that they are still a bit beat up. Seth Curry doesn’t practice because of a leg injury that he’s been dealing with all season long. Kelly’s foot issues aren’t going to get any better when they have to play three games in three days. Will those nagging injuries end up costing the Blue Devils?

And if they lose?: Miami

The Hurricanes were the most dominant team in the ACC until the final two weeks of the regular season, when their defense, which was one of the best in the country, all of a sudden lost the ability to get stops. The Hurricanes have a big, veteran front line and one of the ACC’s best guard duos in Shane Larkin and Durand Scott. There’s a reason they won the league’s regulars season title, but it will be interesting to see if they can get their season turned around.

Other contenders: North Carolina has been playing much better since Roy Williams made the decision to go with a smaller lineup and play James Michael McAdoo at the center spot. It’s created mismatches for guys like Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston, and with more room to operate, Marcus Paige has suddenly found his confidence. NC State is another team to keep an eye on simply because they are insanely talented, but until they prove they can win with that talent, they are going to be a question mark.

Sleeper: Virginia

It’s difficult to trust the Cavaliers because of the number of bad teams that they’ve lost to this season. It’s also difficult to write them off because of the number of good teams that they’ve beaten this season. Joe Harris might be the nation’s best kept secret, and since UVA is playing with their tournament hopes on the line, there’s a good chance that a run can be made.

Deeper sleeper: Maryland?

Honestly, I don’t think there’s anyone outside the top five that can make a run in this event, but I’ll go with Maryland for a couple of reasons: 1) they have a lottery pick in the middle in Alex Len, and 2) they are the only team that still has bubble aspirations outside of the top five. Is that enough to make it happen?

Studs:

– Erick Green, Virginia Tech: Green was the best player in the ACC this season, so it is a shame that he was stuck playing on a Virginia Tech team that no one paid attention to all season long. He can flat out score, and given the load that he has to carry for the Hokies to be competitive, his efficiency is off the charts.

– Shane Larkin, Miami: Larkin is probably the league’s Player of the Year for teams that actually mattered in this year’s race. Just an all-around great point guard.

– Joe Harris, Virginia: Harris is a lot of fun to watch. He’s terrific using screens, he’s an excellent shooter and Tony Bennett likes to have him move around quite a bit offensively.

CBT Prediction: I think Miami will end up winning the ACC tournament, knocking off Duke in a rematch in the final where Curry and Kelly see only limited minutes.

You can find Rob 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.