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.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.