The ACC’s poor March performance is proof the conference was overrated

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There is no real way around it: The first weekend of the NCAA tournament was a total and complete disaster for the ACC.

Of the nine ACC teams that qualified for the Big Dance, only one of them remains: No. 1 seed North Carolina, who needed a late 12-0 run that was aided by a questionable no-call on a late collision involving Joel Berry II just to get past No. 8 seed Arkansas.

The ACC is the only power conference that has just a single team left in the tournament; the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC all have three teams remaining while the the Big East has two.

But that doesn’t really get to the core of just how bad it was for the ACC this weekend:

  • The ACC went 7-8 in the first weekend, with those eight losses coming by an average of 13.9 points. For comparison’s sake, the four No. 13 seeds lost by an average of 10.b points and the four No. 14 seeds lost by an average of 14.3 points.
  • There were 10 games decided by 20 or more points during the first weekend. Four of them involved No. 16 seeds getting beatdown. Three of them — No. 5 Virginia losing to No. 4 Florida, No. 3 Florida State losing to No. 11 Xavier and No. 8 Miami losing to No. 9 Michigan State — involved ACC teams losing.
  • There were only four top four seeds that lost this weekend, and three of them — No. 2 Duke, No. 2 Louisville and No. 3 Florida State — were from the ACC.
  • The ACC went 2-13 against the spread.

All this is coming from a conference that was, throughout the season, mentioned as not only the best in college basketball, but one of the best, top to bottom, of all-time.

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And, it should go without saying, that was not the case.

Generally speaking, it’s not really fair to judge a team based off of what happens in a knockout tournament like this, let alone judge an entire conference. Villanova’s run this season wasn’t any less impressive because they ran into an under-seeded Wisconsin team that matched up with them about as well as humanly possible. Those things happen in March, and it’s silly to make massive generalizations of an entire season based off of 40 minutes of basketball.

But this wasn’t just 40 minutes of basketball.

This was nine members of one conference all doing the same thing: playing below the level they should have played.

The question is ‘Why?’

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Well, part of it is that the conference won a bunch of games in November and December, which meant that teams like Wake Forest, Miami and Virginia Tech were propped up by the strength of the league. When Georgia Tech and Clemson aren’t bad losses on paper, the leagues computer numbers are going to be inflated.

That, in turn, made Notre Dame, Florida State and Virginia look better than they were. Don’t get me wrong, those three teams had incredible seasons. Notre Dame’s best big man stands 6-foot-5. Virginia had very limited perimeter weapons and lost the only front court piece that they had that could score in the post. Florida State was talented, but they were about as trustworthy as a used car salesman.

To be frank, it’s not all that shocking that those three teams failed to make it out of the first weekend.

The surprises came with Duke and Louisville.

The issue with Duke is that, at the end of the day, they were just a flawed basketball team. They didn’t have a point guard and they didn’t guard, and South Carolina had the pieces to be able to expose that. It wasn’t due to a lack of chemistry or internal strife or a power struggle for “control of the team.” Getting nothing out of Chase Jeter and Marques Bolden, and having Harry Giles III spend the year as a shell of his former self hurt, but I’m not sure what any of those three guys would have been able to do to help Duke run offense on Sunday night in a de-facto road game.

We probably should have seen that one coming.

If anyone from the league was on the wrong end of some poor madness luck, it was probably Louisville. The Cardinals ran into a Michigan team that hasn’t lost since their plane skidded off the runway en route to the Big Ten tournament in Washington D.C. The Cardinals dominated the glass, held Michigan to six threes and kept Derrick Walton Jr. from going off and still managed to lose despite holding a lead for much of the second half.

It happens, especially when you’re a team whose point guard play is subpar.

That was supposed to be a top three team in the ACC.

If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the league, than I don’t know if anything will.

And now we head to the Sweet 16 with just one ACC member left to carry the torch for the conference.

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Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.

No indictment for escort, staffer in Louisville sex scandal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict an escort and former Louisville men’s basketball staffer in a sex scandal that engulfed the program.

The Jefferson County grand jury decided Thursday there wasn’t enough evidence for charges of prostitution and unlawful transactions with a minor against Katina Powell and Andre McGee.

Powell wrote in a book published in 2015 that McGee hired her to provide dancers to perform sex acts for Cardinal recruits and players from 2010-2014.

The announcement by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office comes as the school awaits discipline in early June by the NCAA after an investigation.

Louisville has imposed its own penalties, including a postseason ban in 2015-16 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches.