John Swofford

The new ACC basketball setup and its impact on television

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It’s been discussed on multiple occasions to this point in the offseason: the new ACC and it’s possible impact on the college basketball landscape.

Adding Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse to a conference that has perennial powers Duke and North Carolina, not to mention other historically successful programs, has many believing that the conference could very well be the best that college basketball has to offer. And that’s without Louisville, which joins the conference in 2014.

But what impact will the conference have on television? College basketball ratings don’t often approach those of college football, given the number of games in a season and the resulting number of options for viewers.

In an interview by Jon Solomon of AL.com, ESPN senior vice president of sports programming Burke Magnus feels that the new ACC has the potential to “redefine what’s possible in college basketball” from a fan interest standpoint.

“I think what the ACC has created could in many ways redefine what’s possible in college basketball in terms of fan interest. When you have the likes of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Louisville joining Tobacco Road along with their other basketball brands, there are real possibilities there. We’re going to move them into our franchise Big Monday slot with the Big 12 so they’ll have early games on Monday nights.

“I think there will be so many meaningful games between those ACC teams that it will almost be a somewhat daily conversation for basketball fans. We all know football in many ways drives the enterprise. But college basketball, we continue to invest in it. It’s a critical part of our program mix from November to the end of March. It’s an innings eater. There’s a lot of it on, but at the same time we could use more of it that really moves the meter in a meaningful way with college football-like numbers.”

This doesn’t come as a surprise, because for all the complaining about the loss of traditional rivalries due to conference realignment there are also new match-ups that immediately catch the eye.

The ACC will certainly see a ratings boost given the prospect of match-ups such as Duke/Syracuse and (down the line) Louisville/North Carolina. But just as important will be the status as programs that have resided in the middle portion (or lower) of the ACC standings in recent years.

Obviously someone has to lose the games that will be played but if all 15 schools carry their weight, Magnus’ words may come to fruition.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.