Mike Krzyzewski

CBT Weekly Roundtable: Figuring out the ACC

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In a new series here on College Basketball Talk, every Friday we’re going to have a discussion about some of the hot topics in college basketball. The inaugural installment focuses on the ACC, the now 15-team conference that some stated was the greatest conference ever assembled before a game had been played. Now that we’ve seen the teams in action, who’s the favorite to win the regular season crown? And who else can make a run at challenging for the title? 

Rob Dauster: The ACC, especially the teams at the top, started out the season in fairly ugly fashion, with Duke losing to Kansas, UNC losing to Belmont and Virginia losing at home to VCU. But over the last couple weeks, Duke bounced back with a win over Michigan, Syracuse won the Maui and UNC has proven they’re going to be Team Schizophrenia this year.

Who’s your pick for winning the league? Right now, I’m still riding with Duke, especially if Marshall Plumlee can find a way to be as effective over 15-20 minutes as he was on Tuesday in six minutes. I think Syracuse is right there with the Blue Devils as well, and I’d probably slot North Carolina 4th and Notre Dame, UVA and Florida State from 5-to-7 in some order. Here’s the sleeper though: Pitt. They’re the third best team best team in the league, period.

Raphielle Johnson: I like Duke, especially with Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker on the wings and an improved point guard in Quinn Cook running the show. But who are they going to defend? The Blue Devils have put forth better efforts in their last three games, and they won’t be as bad as they were against either ECU or Vermont as the season wears on. That being said, those who are thinking that a player who isn’t even averaging ten minutes per game could potentially be the “rim protector” the Blue Devils need may not be thinking clearly.

Enter Syracuse, who has no such issues on the defensive end of the floor. Their 2-3 zone has length on the wings, and what starting guards Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney lack in that department they’ve made up for with sheer activity. And offensively this is a group that will only get better, especially as Cooney improves after struggling last season. C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant are two high-level forwards, and I don’t think we’ve seen the best out of Michael Gbinije either. This should definitely be a fun race to watch, but I’m taking Syracuse to win it with Duke, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Virginia and North Carolina next in line.

RD: I don’t think Duke necessarily needs a rim protector to be good enough to win the ACC, especially if they are going to defend on the perimeter the way they did against Arizona and Michigan. The Blue Devils game-plan well to take away what their opponents want to do and have a long track of success executing those game plans. That’s not to discredit Syracuse, because I think they’re awesome this year, but writing Duke off is just dumb, especially if Marshall Plumlee can find a way to build on the game he just played.

Seriously, though, Pitt! I’m telling you, this team is legit. Outside of Casey Prather and Xavier Thames, I can’t think of another senior that is having a more pleasantly surprising season that Lamar Patterson. Frankly, if the season ended today, he’d be an all-american. He’s been that good.

RJ: Point taken regarding Duke, and I’m with you on Pittsburgh. Outside of the one hiccup in which they landed in the CBI (and ended up winning it), the Panthers have been a consistent factor under Jamie Dixon. I don’t think that changes in the ACC, with Patterson and Talib Zanna leading the way in the front court. But here’s another name for you: Cameron Wright. He may not be the most improved player in the ACC (Maryland’s Jake Layman and Syracuse’s Jerami Grant), but Wright’s name will come up in those discussions as the season wears on. He’s given Pitt the perimeter scorer they needed with Tray Woodall graduating, and that also relieves a little of the weight on James Robinson’s shoulders.

But here’s something else I want to touch on. Prior to the season Boston College and Georgia Tech were two teams expected to show signs of improvement this season, but it can be argued that their W/L records won’t be the greatest indicator based on the strength of the ACC. Now that we’ve played some games, it’s become evident that the Eagles would have trouble guarding stationary objects. Can they turn things around before the start of league play? I like the offensive pieces, but I’m not sure they can based upon how they defend.

RD: I’ve given up on BC. Eight games into the season. Awesome.

Olivier Hanlon and Ryan Anderson are still two of the best players in the ACC, but there just isn’t the kind of toughness up and down that roster that will allow them to compete in a league as strong as the ACC.

And while we’re here … look, you shouldn’t have listened to anyone who told you that this year’s ACC was going to be the best conference of all time. If you did, that’s your fault. Maybe one year, when Syracuse, Duke, Louisville and North Carolina all are having a top ten-caliber season, we can revisit this conversation. Until then, no.

But that doesn’t mean the ACC isn’t good this year. I mean, this is still the ACC. Florida State beat the brakes off VCU. North Carolina, a team that I think will struggle to finish in the top four of the conference, has beaten Louisville on a neutral court and won at Michigan State. This is still a tough league.

RJ: I agree with your point on the “best of all time” talk. I know people were excited about the programs the ACC was adding, but that’s crazy talk based upon the fact that the league had yet to play a season in its new form. And while I get your point about the high-level programs needing to have top-ten caliber seasons, I’m not sure they’re the ones who will ultimately determine how great this league is. I know March and national polls are what most people use to determine strength in college basketball but hear me out. We know (mostly) what we’re going to get from a Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina or Louisville, and programs such as Notre Dame and Pittsburgh are solid as well. But if this league is to be the “best ever” it’ll take the improvement of the programs in the middle and lower portions of the league pecking order.

Yes they’re going to take losses in conference play, but the number of “bad” losses outside of the ACC can’t be what they’ve been in recent years. For example Georgia Tech, with the amount of talent in the Atlanta area, needs to take steps in the right direction and Wake Forest needs to do enough to get its fans to stop buying billboard space calling for the jobs of their head coach and AD. That all takes time, and that’s why there shouldn’t have been so much chatter about this being the best league ever during the preseason. But is also means that the folks who immediately jumped to bury the league last month need to exercise restraint as well. Let’s allow it all to play out, and it’ll definitely be fun to watch.

RD: Agreed.

And when North Carolina ends up winning the ACC title over Notre Dame and Virginia, we’ll just pretend this conversation never happened.

South Carolina star to miss Monday night game

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks drives to the basket defended by Tyler Lydon #20 of the Syracuse Orange in the second half during the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Sindarius Thornwell will not play on Monday against Seton Hall, according to a report from ESPN. South Carolina will be playing the Pirates in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Thornwell was suspended indefinitely from the team last weekend. Frank Martin discussed the suspension on the radio on Thursday.

“He’s been with us at practice, he’ll travel with us, he’s excited about our team, his role on the team,” he said. “Sindarius is one of my favorite guys I’ve ever come across. He messed up and it is what it is. He’s like a son to me. He messed up and he’s owned up to his mess up.”

“Outside of that, I’m not going to get into anything else. He has my full support. Our job is to prepare our team to play, we don’t prepare individual players to play. It’s no different to someone rolling an ankle. We’re down because of a bad decision. We’ll be fine.”

Josh Hart leads No. 1 Villanova past No. 23 Notre Dame

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 10: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats drives to the basket as Bonzie Colson #35 and Martinas Geben #23 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defend during the first half of a college basketball game at Prudential Center on December 10, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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Josh Hart put on a show on Saturday as the senior willed No. 1 Villanova to a 74-66 win over No. 23 Notre Dame.

The matchup of unbeatens in New Jersey was tight throughout, but Hart put together one of the best performances any player will have all season, finishing with a career-high 37 points, 11 rebounds and four assists as Hart looked completely unstoppable.

With most of Villanova’s roster struggling on the offensive end, Hart took it upon himself to take over the second half. The Wildcats (10-0) only shot 25 percent (4-for-16) from three-point range but Hart’s aggressiveness attacking the basket was the difference. Hart finished 10-for-14 from the field and went 14-for-14 from the free-throw line as he put together the signature performance that could eventually help land him Player of the Year honors.

Notre Dame (9-1) put together a strong first half to jump out to a 41-36 halftime lead but the Irish’s offense didn’t perform at the same level in the second half. The first half saw a tremendous effort from junior point guard Matt Farrell as he torched the Villanova defense for 12 points and six assists in the game’s opening half.

Villanova’s defense made halftime adjustments and did a much better job of defending ball screens and forcing turnovers as Farrell and Notre Dame’s offense was slowed down in the second half. Farrell finished with 18 points but he didn’t pick up any assists in the second half as he finished with six. Steve Vasturia also added 18 points for Notre Dame while Bonzie Colson chipped in 11 points.

This win was a good one for Villanova because they were able to beat a tough opponent when most of the roster wasn’t performing up to standard expectations. The Wildcats definitely don’t want to rely on Hart that much during most games but the Villanova defense deserves credit for performing better in the second half after looking very poor at times during the first. Eric Paschall also provided a really nice lift for Villanova off the bench as he went 4-for-4 from the field, finishing with eight points and giving good energy on the defensive end.

Free-throw shooting was also an important factor in this one as Villanova was 20-for-22 from the charity stripe. With their ability to close out games at the line while having perhaps college basketball’s best closer in Hart, Villanova is looking like the toughest defending national champion we’ve seen since the back-to-back Florida titles 10 years ago.

Alleged victim of Carlton Bragg Jr. assault held in jail

Douglas County Sheriff
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Carlton Bragg Jr.’s battery case took an interesting twist Saturday morning.

On Friday afternoon, a 19-year old woman was arrested at the same address that Bragg was arrested. She was charged with suspicion of battery at 4:42 p.m., after Bragg’s appearance in court, and it was filed under the same case number as Bragg’s. The Kansas City Star is reporting that the woman is Bragg’s girlfriend.

According to Douglas County Sheriff’s records, the woman is still in custody.

NBC Sports is not identifying the woman as she has not yet been charged with a crime.

Bragg was charged with battery, a misdemeanor, Friday afternoon after an early morning arrest. He was accused of striking his girlfriend and pushing her down stairs. He has been suspended indefinitely by Kansas head coach Bill Self and will not play in Saturday afternoon’s game at Phog Allen Fieldhouse against Nebraska.

Self commented on Bragg’s status during a pregame radio appearance on Saturday.

(H/t: Jesse Newell)

Oklahoma State adds 2017 commitment from guard Amauri Hardy

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Oklahoma State added an important commitment from one of the best available Class of 2017 guards on Friday as Amauri Hardy pledged to the Cowboys.

The 6-foot-2 Hardy is regarded by some recruiting services as a top-100 player as he gives head coach Brad Underwood a key commitment for Oklahoma State. A quick scoring guard who plays with a lot of energy, Hardy had a solid summer with The Family as the Michigan native offers up some insurance for Oklahoma State at guard.

Since Phil Forte is exhausting his eligibility after this season and sophomore point guard Jawun Evans is having a monster year and could go pro, having Hardy’s commitment is a good backup plan. If Evans does return for his junior season, Hardy can provide valuable backup minutes while also being able to play a bit off the ball alongside Evans.

Hardy joins four-star guard Zach Dawson and three-star forward Latravian Glover in Oklahoma State’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

VIDEO: Taylor University celebrates 20th anniversary of Silent Night tradition

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Taylor University celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Silent Night Game on Friday night.

The Division III school in Upland, Indiana has one of the best traditions in college sports as Taylor has its fanbase stay completely silent until the team scores its 10th point of the game. Upon scoring the team’s 10th point, the Taylor students go ballistic as they storm the court and temporarily stop the game. Dressing up in all sorts of group costumes, the Taylor students bring out some of the best ideas you’ll see from any college fanbase in the country.

As for the game, Taylor jumped out to a 37-9 lead on Lincoln Christian University and never looked back as they won 99-68. The win moves Taylor’s record to 20-0 all-time in Silent Night games.

Jake Heggeland was the game’s high scorer with 18 points for Taylor while Evan Crowe broke the Taylor silence for the second consecutive year.