ACC Basketball Tournament: Maryland v Duke

Did Dez Wells just knock Duke off the No. 1 seed line?


Dez Wells is quickly becoming the talk of the ACC tournament.

After lighting up Wake Forest for 23 points in the opener, Wells went off on Friday night, torching Duke to the tune of 30 points on 9-13 shooting. He beat them down the floor in transition, he beat them off the dribble in the half court and he dunked on them when challenged at the rim.

And in the process, Wells took Maryland one step closer to an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament as he orchestrated an 83-74 win over the Blue Devils.

It goes without saying that the Terps needed to get this game if they wanted to have a chance to dance, but we’ll delve a bit deeper into what this means for their at-large hopes here.

The bigger issue is with Duke. The Blue Devils looked down right awful on the defensive end of the floor. Seth Allen and Pe’Shon Howard posted their best numbers in what seems like an eternity — they combined for 17 points and eight assists — and Jake Layman chipped in with 10 points and nine boards of his own. That’s a concern. Maryland is not a good team on the offensive end of floor, and they made the Blue Devils look like a church league team at times.

But that’s also to be expected. Duke’s concern has more to do with the NCAA tournament than it does the ACC tournament, while Maryland had the extra motivation of needing to beat a rival to keep their hopes alive of dancing. The Terps were playing with a different level of intensity, and that was evident from the tip; they jumped out to a 12-2 lead before Duke knew what hit them.

Having said that, there may be some consequences for this loss for Duke. They didn’t win the ACC regular season title. They got knocked out in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. Without any kind of league championship to their name, will the committee give this team a No. 1 seed?

I know the argument: this was their first loss with a healthy Ryan Kelly on the roster, and the biggest reason they didn’t win the ACC regular season title was that they were not the same team without him. Given just how dominant they were back in November and December, there’s a reason that many believed Duke to be a favorite for a No. 1 seed entering Championship Week.

But what happens if, for example, Kansas, Louisville and Indiana all win their conference tournaments. Three teams winning duel-conference titles, and none of them are the current No. 1 team in the country — Gonzaga

Would this loss be enough to drop Duke down a seed line?

I don’t think it will, but stranger things have happened.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”