Tony Bennett

ACC unveils schedule, defending champion Virginia gets Duke, UNC once apiece

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While the 15 ACC schools knew who they would be playing well in advance of Wednesday’s announcement, what they didn’t know is how their entire schedules would look for the 2014-15 season. The conference removed that suspense, releasing the composite schedule (non-conference and conference games; .pdf file here) which begins with 14 games on November 14. There are still a few spots to fill in the non-conference portion of the slate, including who Syracuse will be playing in their opener, but the full conference schedule is accounted for.

In larger conferences, which teams meet twice within league play tends to be of high importance. Reigning ACC champion Virginia will play fellow contenders Duke (January 31 in Charlottesville) and North Carolina (February 2 in Chapel Hill) just once, and among their home-and-home opponents is league newcomer (and expected contender) Louisville. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers, who return three starters led by guard Malcolm Brogdon, will play three of their final four league games on the road with two of those games being at Syracuse (March 2) and at Louisville (March 7).

As usual Duke and North Carolina will meet twice, with the first game between the two being played on February 18 in Durham. The return match will be played on March 7 in Chapel Hill, and the home team won both meetings in 2013-14. Also of note this season is that the ACC tournament will start a day early, beginning on Tuesday, March 10 with the title game to be played Saturday, March 15. The ACC title game returns to Saturday night for the first time since 1981.

Some of the other conference games on the ACC schedule that offer up intrigue are:

– Louisville at North Carolina, January 10: The Cardinals will have two league games under their belt before this one, which could be a matchup of teams ranked in the Top 10.

– NC State at Miami, January 22: Yes the Wolfpack lost T.J. Warren, but they’ve got a very talented freshman class that includes the Martin twins and forward Abdul Malik-Abu. Miami will be deeper than they were last season thanks to a combination of eligible transfers and recruits. Doubt this is a matchup of Top 10 teams, but it’s one that could be important when resumes get compared in March.

– Syracuse at Pittsburgh, February 7: Last season’s meeting at the Peterson Events Center supplied one of the best finishes of the season, as Tyler Ennis’ shot from just inside of half court kept the Orange undefeated. Will Jim Boeheim need his latest freshman point guard (Kaleb Joseph) to do the same?

– Duke at Syracuse, February 14: Their two meetings last season were unforgettable, with a blocked dunk attempt saving the game for Syracuse at the Carrier Dome and Jim Boeheim’s ejection being the final act in Duke’s win at Cameron. What will happen this time around? They’ll meet again on February 28 in Durham.

– Pittsburgh at Virginia, February 16: The Panthers and Cavaliers met just once last year, with a Malcolm Brodgon three-pointer being the difference in Pittsburgh. Will there be a similar finish this time around? Pitt does have to account for the graduation of Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, but they should once again be an NCAA tournament team.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.