Conference Catch-ups: The ACC


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Over the course of this week, we will spend a few minutes catching you up on how some of the best conferences in the country currently look. With conference play starting up, its time to get into the basketball spirit.

Favorite: North Carolina

Is it just me, or does it feel like no one is talking about North Carolina as a title contender anymore? That may be a bit of an overstatement, but since UNC lost to UNLV and Kentucky in the span of a week, it feels like they have become the forgotten juggernaut. Do they have flaws? Of course. Kendall Marshall can’t guard a door frame. Harrison Barnes has a tendency to become nothing but a jump shooter. Neither John Henson nor Tyler Zeller have the kind of physical strength inside to bang with a guy like Jared Sullinger. But that almost feels nitpicky when you are talking about a team that has the amount of talent on their roster that the Tar Heels do.

And-1: Obviously, Duke is the second best team in this conference, and its really not even close. And while the Blue Devils have, essentially, had the last month off, it is worth noting how much development guys like Austin Rivers and Mason Plumlee have shown, even just this season. Rivers is starting to get his shot selection and decision making in check, while Plumlee has shown flashes of being the shot blocking and rebounding force that we’ve been waiting for four years to see out of him and his brother. The x-factor for Duke’s season, however, may end up being a different freshman: Quinn Cook. Over the past two games, Cook has scored 22 points on 12 shots and handed out 17 assists without turning the ball over. As good as Seth Curry and Rivers are, neither of them are a true point guard. Cook is. Will he see more minutes as a result?

Biggest Surprise: NC State

Frankly, there hasn’t really been a surprise team in the ACC this season. No one is really out performing expectations given that the league, as a whole, is down once you get past the top two. I’ll give the nod to NC State, however, simply because I think this team has a chance to sneak up on people this year. CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown are both talented enough to one day make an all-ACC team, Scott Wood can flat out shoot and Mark Gottfried does have some size at his disposal.

And-1: I’m going to put in a disclaimer here saying that I think a surprise is going to come out of College Park now that Maryland has Pe’Shon Howard and Alex Len healthy. I think Terrell Stoglin is absolutely terrific as the lead guard for this group, and I have also been impressed with the play of James Padgett up front. With Sean Mosley providing experience, Howard giving Stoglin some help as a playmaker and Len playing like, well, a guy that is destined for the NBA, the Terps have the pieces to sneak up on folks this year.

Biggest Disappointment: Florida State

I think that I consistently expect more out of the Seminoles than they are capable of giving me. Simply put: this team cannot score. At all. Michael Snaer is not the player I thought he was going to develop into, Florida State is incapable of shooting the ball and downright horrid and protecting it (they are 331st in the country in turnover percentage). I love their front line — particularly Bernard James — and Ian Miller has provided some scoring punch now that he is eligible, but I am almost to the point where writing this group off seems like a better idea that counting on them to be able to create enough open shots to win a meaningful game.

And-1: While Clemson is probably more deserving of being called a disappointment, I am going to talk about Virginia Tech here instead. Its not necessarily because I think Seth Greenberg’s team is underperforming so horrifically — at 11-3 with no bad losses, they aren’t — but because I desperately want to see this team finally break through and get into the NCAA Tournament. To do so, Tech is going to have to win a game against UNC or Duke. Do they have the horses to pull off that kind of upset? I like Erick Green and I love Dorian Finney-Smith, but I think Tech needs to get more consistent scoring out of Dorenzo Hudson.

Something left to prove: Virginia

I am just not sure what to make of this team yet. They are terrific defensively, playing a packed-in man-to-man that almost looks like a zone with the amount of help-side defense they provide. They control the tempo and take an opponent out of their rhythm the same way that Bo Ryan does at Wisconsin. They have a star in Mike Scott at the four. But their only quality win is over Michigan at home and they have a loss to TCU on their resume. The Cavs travel to Duke on January 12th. I think we’ll know more on the 13th.

And-1: I think Miami has the potential to be a sleeping giant in the ACC. We all know about how good their back court is and we all know that Reggie Johnson is a double-double machine at the center spot. But how about the play of Kenny Kadji? Coming off of a 30 point and 12 rebound effort against UNC-Greensboro, Kadji has been terrific playing as an athletic, stretch four. He can run the floor, he can finish above the rim and he is shooting lights-out from beyond the arc, which opens up the paint for Johnson to operate on the block. Now if someone can just convince this group to play some defense.

Player of the Year: Mike Scott, UVA

Here’s my thinking: he’s taken a team that no one has expected too much out of and led them to a top 25 ranking and the third spot in our ACC power ranking while averaging 16.0 ppg and 9.0 rpg on a team that is 338th nationally in pace. That, and the kids on Tobacco Road are going to split their votes.

All-Conference Team:

POY: Mike Scott, UVA
G: Kendall Marshall, UNC
G: Austin Rivers, Duke
F: Harrison Barnes, UNC
F: Travis McKie, Wake Forest
C: John Henson, UNC

Power Rankings:

1. UNC
2. Duke
3. Virginia
4. Miami
5. Virginia Tech
6. Florida State
7. NC State
8. Maryland
9. Clemson
10. Wake Forest
11. Georgia Tech
12. Boston College


UConn adds former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from transfer portal

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STORRS, Conn. — National champion UConn added some shooting depth to its roster Friday, announcing the signing of former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from the transfer portal.

Spencer, who graduated last month with a year of eligibility remaining, averaged 13.2 points in his only season in New Jersey. The 6-foot-4 guard, who played his first three seasons at Loyola of Maryland, shot 44.4% from the floor, including 43.4% from 3-point range.

“Cam is the perfect addition to our basketball program,” UConn Coach Dan Hurley said. “He brings a unique combination of high-level skill and feel for the game, with a fierce competitiveness that has allowed him to enjoy a terrific college basketball career thus far.”

The Huskies lost their top 3-point scoring threat, sophomore Jordan Hawkins, to the NBA draft, along with wing Andre Jackson Jr. and post Adama Sanogo.

Guard Tristen Newtown gave the Huskies a boost last month when he withdrew his name from the draft pool and returned to Storrs.

The Huskies began summer workouts this week, welcoming a top recruiting class led by 6-6 point guard Stephon Castle, a McDonald’s All-American from Georgia. The class also includes 6-7 wing Jayden Ross and 6-4 guard Solomon Ball from Virginia, 6-7 wing Jaylin Stewart from Seattle, Washington, and 7-foot center Youssouf Singare from New York.

“I think that some of my strengths will stand out in UConn’s style of play,” Spencer said. “They have a lot of great movement and they play so well together, with great chemistry. I think that I can come in and hopefully contribute to that.”

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.