Taking a trip around the internet to highlight a few stories.
Akula Wolf (BackingthePack.com)
Western Michigan Vs. NC State Preview: Lack Of Depth, Skilled Guards Likely To Doom Broncos
Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins is in his 10th season with the Broncos, and he has led the program to one NCAA tournament appearance (his first year), but he’s only had a pair of losing records in MAC play over the course of his tenure. So the Broncos have been competitive within their league, but they haven’t been able level-up into the national conversation–however briefly–like some other schools at the mid-major level. Hawkins deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done with what’s been available to him, but his teams just have not been very good in general.
In recent years, Hawkins’ offenses have improved in the rebounding and foul-drawing factors, which is crucial given how bad they’ve been at shooting and turning the ball over. Defensive rebounding will be important for NC State if it wants to get off to a quick start. Free throw rate is less an issue in a game against an undertalented team.
What stands out on paper about Western Michigan is that it doesn’t have much in the way of playmaking from the guard position. Which is not to say that State can rest easy on the perimeter; it’s just seems less likely that the Broncos will be able to create offense off the dribble, and that should help the Pack considerably.
Andrew Jones (FoxSports.com)
C.J. Leslie’s maturity raises N.C. State
The thing is, Leslie didn’t launch his new-and-improved self once Howell went to the bench. This process began several games ago and dates back to a two-point performance in a blowout loss to Oklahoma State in November.
Leslie, who leads the Pack with 15 points and is second with 7.5 rebounds per outing, has been in double figures in the seven games since, grabbing eight or more rebounds in five of those contests. Yet, it really wasn’t until the Stanford game last week where Leslie appeared completely invested in the game during every minute he was on the floor.
Even in a victory over Norfolk State on Dec. 15, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried jumped all over Leslie during a timeout because he just wasn’t playing with focus or intensity. He appeared almost aloof and disinterested on the court in stretches. And that wasn’t the first time.
But Gottfried, whose most compelling and public effort at changing the culture in the N.C. State program since taking over nearly two years ago has been his handling of Leslie, whom he refers to as Calvin, the player’s actual first name, had to try something different.
The former Alabama coach has understandably treated Leslie different from other players. No special treatment, but let’s face it, Leslie is a unique case.
Watching him give effort for a few minutes reveals the reality that he can dominate a game almost any time he wants, yet that want is sometimes buried so deep inside that not even Gottfried’s efforts can extract it to the surface. With respect to the coach, it’s generally up to Leslie.
That’s why Leslie’s recognition of the team’s needs in the 88-79 win over Stanford and the rout of the Bonnies was and is so important.
“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive,” he said after the St. Bonaventure game. “We have some important games coming up. We gave to be a little more serious. I’m not saying I wasn’t serious before, but it’s just time to buckle down and be ready to play.”
Robbie Pickeral (ESPN.com)
Conference Power Rankings: ACC
1. Duke: The 11-0 Blue Devils took the week off, but they remain the top team in the ACC, and nation. Mason Plumlee continues to lead the league in rebounding (11.5 per game), although his team ranks 11th in the league in rebounding margin (minus-0.3). Duke returns to the court Saturday versus Santa Clara.
2. NC State: Forward C.J. Leslie scored a career-high 33 points en route to the Wolfpack’s fifth straight win, over St. Bonaventure, last weekend. It marked the first time he has scored 20 or more points this season, as five NC State players are averaging double figures.
3. Maryland: The Terps allowed a 20-point lead to dwindle to three before beating Stony Brook last Friday. Maryland is fourth in the nation in both assists (18.6) and rebounds (44.4) per game.
4. North Carolina: The Tar Heels didn’t get much of a test during a blowout victory against McNeese State, but they will get one Saturday against No. 20 UNLV. Coach Roy Williams still wants a more balanced attack inside, but three different players have started at center over the past three games.
5. Virginia: Old Dominion had lost nine in a row before using a 21-4 second-half run to stun the Cavaliers — and maybe serve up a wake-up call?. “I hope they weren’t feeling [good about] themselves: ‘Hey, we won [eight] in a row,’” coach Tony Bennett said after the loss, according to The Washington Post. “I would hope that’s not the case, but if it was, this will certainly bring you back to reality.”
6. Miami: Without big man Reggie Johnson (jammed thumb), the Hurricanes skidded to a 1-2 finish in the Diamond Head Classic, beating Hawaii before losing to No. 4 Arizona, then Indiana State. Wednesday’s game against La Salle will mark their final test before ACC play.
Jerry Palm (CBSSports.com)
Predicting the 2013 men’s NCAA tournament
Here is a look at the first projected bracket of the season. Only Kansas remains from the preseason No. 1 seeds. Of the others, Indiana and Louisville are not far behind, but Kentucky is down to a 10-seed. Duke is the overall No. 1 in this bracket.
There is no bubble report yet though. It’s too early. That will start with the next bracket, which will be shortly after the BCS title game.
NC State, Duke recruits meet Friday in high school tournament
Two players committed to Triangle-area colleges will meet face-to-face Friday night at the HighSchoolOT Holiday Invitational.
On Thursday, guard Anthony “Cat” Barber” scored 6 of his 26 points Thursday in overtime to lead the Hampton (Va.) Crabbers over Cuthbertson, 61-59, in front of a crowd clad in North Carolina State University red. Matt Jones, of DeSoto, Texas, and soon to be a Duke University Blue Devil, had 17 points and 4 assists in leading his team past Kinston, 57-50.
The duo will meet in the 7:20 p.m. game at Broughton High School’s Holliday Gymnasium.
Joe Ovies (WRALSportsfan.com)
The dominant local topics of 2012
Honorable mentions: Tom O’Brien fired by NC State. Duke becomes bowl eligible after beating North Carolina. Lehigh bounces Duke out of the NCAA Tournament. Kendall Marshall’s wrist. Julius Peppers’ college transcript found on a North Carolina server. Lorenzo Brown called for a charge on Kendall Marshall in ACC Tournament. David Amerson burnt by Tennessee. Bryn Renner takes nasty hit against Wake Forest. Giovani Bernard’s ankle.
1. Wolfpack Unlimited
Had Karl Hess ejected a pair of random fans, it never becomes a story. Telling Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta to vacate their seats during a February ACC contest between NC State and Florida State was obviously going to draw a few more eyeballs. That’s easy to figure out in the moment, but nobody could have predicted the ripple effect still being felt today.
In retrospect, the ACC did itself no favors in the way they handled Hess’ ejection of high profile former players. First they released a vague explanation involving procedural matters followed by a more substantive explanation and public reprimand of Hess. The ACC then pulled Hess from NC State’s next home game against Miami and reassigned him to another conference game, which essentially acted as a form of suspension and prolonged the inevitable return.
NC State stoked the flames further with their “Wolfpack Unlimited” stunt and their continued use of the incident for cheap pops on the pep rally/booster circuit.
Despite working the Duke’s regular season closer against North Carolina, Hess was still chapped enough that he decided the ACC Tournament wasn’t worth his time. His officiating colleagues offered up a small level of protest when they showed up in Atlanta with “K.H.” on their shoes penned on masking tape.
You’d think this story was done, but it likely isn’t. Check Twitter before the start of any game involving ACC teams and you’ll likely find a “where is Karl Hess” hashtag in your timeline. Real closure will be provided once Hess works another game inside PNC Arena.
Dec. 27, 2012
Game Time: Noon
Western Michigan (8-4) vs. No. 23 NC State (9-2)
SERIES RECORD: First Meeting
LAST MEETING: N/A
This is the second Mid-American Conference school the Wolfpack has faced this season. NC State opened the season against Miami of Ohio, also of the MAC, posting a 97-59 victory. The Wolfpack is 5-1 all-time against MAC opponents.
NC State will be looking to extend its current winning streak to six games, which would match its longest victory streak since winning six straight from Dec.8, 2011 to Jan. 8, 2012. The Pack can also extend its home winning streak to eight games dating back to last season’s Miami game on Feb. 29, 2012. At home this season, State is averaging 87.2 points per game, while holding its opponents to 69.3 points per contest. It is also shooting .571 from the floor, while holding its opposition .402 from field. Overall, the Pack leads the nation in field goal percentage with a mark of .534.
Juniors C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown both can reach career milestones in Saturday’s contest. Leslie needs four points to reach 1,000 in his NC State career, while Brown just needs five to eclipse the 900-point plateau.
Get to Know Staats Battle
Sophomore walk-on Staats Battle of the NC State Men’s Basketball team talks about his role on the team, and getting along with his friends and teammates.
Get to Know Jay Lewis
Senior walk-on, Jay Lewis, of the NC State Men’s Basketball team takes a moment to talk about his role on the team.
NC State held its first practice since arriving in Nashville Thursday afternoon at Father Ryan High School in Nashville. Afterwards, selected players and Coach Bible met with the media.
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
Mark Gottfried relishes challenges in recruiting
“We are going to recruit the players we think that we want, regardless of who else is recruiting them,” Gottfried said. “We feel we have a lot to sell at NC State. I’m not going to back down from anybody just because somebody else is recruiting them. I’m not just talking about North Carolina or Duke. It could be Kansas or Kentucky or whomever.”
NC State edged Kansas, Alabama and Louisville for senior point guard signee Anthony Barber of Hampton (Va.) High. Indiana and NCSU waged battle over center signee BeeJay Anya of Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic, and Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy post signee Kyle Washington picked the Wolfpack over Ohio State, Washington and Iowa State, among others.
“We are going to try and get involved with those kids that we feel like we would like to have in our program,” Gottfried said. “You miss a lot, too. That’s part of the process – you aren’t going to get everybody.”
Gottfried noted that recruiting comes down to forging a bond with the player and the people around him, and explaining what the NC State basketball experience will be like.
“In recruiting, my belief has always been it’s my job, and our job as a staff, to paint a picture of what our program is going to look like while you are in it,” Gottfried said.
“How is this going to look for you? Are we going to win? Are we going to be a top-20 team? Can we make a Final Four? Can we play in marquee games like the Jimmy V [Classic Dec. 4 against UConn] and get national exposure?”
Ryan Tice (TheWolfpacker.com)
Mike Glennon not looking past Music City Bowl
The 6-foot-6, 232-pound fifth-year senior leaves quite a legacy behind on the football field and earned a pair of degrees, including a Master’s in Liberal Arts, during his time in Raleigh. He leads the ACC and ranks 11th in the country with an average of 304.0 passing yards per game, the second-best mark in school history, in addition to 30 touchdowns, which makes him the first in Wolfpack annals to tally at least that number in multiple seasons. Glennon and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, who also accomplished the feat this year, are the only players in ACC history to ever do so.
Despite just two years as the starter, the Centreville, Va., native ranks third on the Wolfpack’s career list for 300-yard games (7) and touchdown passes (62), trailing only NFL starters Russell Wilson and Philip Rivers, while he ranks fourth in passing yards (7,028), completions (611), attempts (1,016), completion percentage (.601) and total offense (6,787). He ranks fifth in career passer rating (132.87).
Glennon ranks third nationally in passing yards on third down this year with 1,017. In the red zone, he is equally effective, going 30-of-52 (.577) for 202 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception.
“I came here in win a championship, we obviously didn’t do that, but from an academic, social and football standpoint, I did most of what I wanted to do,” he said. “I just would’ve liked to have won a few championships, but overall, I thought I had a real good experience here.”
Both coaches and talent evaluators, like Kiper, see a bright future ahead for Glennon, who is being compared to quarterbacks like the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan, a pupil of Tom O’Brien and Dana Bible, the Pack’s offensive coordinator and acting head coach in the bowl game, at Boston College.
Kiper ranks Glennon as the No. 3 senior quarterback available in the upcoming draft, while ESPN’s Scouts, Inc. ranks him as the No. 34 overall available prospect with a grade of 88 percent.
He’s got the size, he’s got the arm,” Kiper said. “He’s got the mobility within the framework of the pocket, the maneuverability in the pocket. He didn’t have a great supporting cast around him. I would say Mike Glennon has a very good chance to emerge as maybe a top-15 pick and certainly be the first quarterback off the board.”
“I’ve been very fortunate to coach Mike,” Bible said. “He’s a youngster that came to us six years ago in the recruiting process. The truth of the matter is, he recruited us as much as we recruited him. He had a plan from the very beginning. He and Coach O’Brien also had a plan, the plan has played true. He’s developed into a heck of a college player and — I don’t have a crystal ball — but I believe that he has a great future. I just feel really fortunate to have a chance to have coached him.”
Michael Lananna (accsports.com)
ACC Freshman Watch, Dec. 27
We’re back with our second ACC Freshman Watch post. Every other week we’ll update the rankings, but each week we’ll be sure to update the stats on all qualifying (at least 10.0 mpg and 5.0 ppg) ACC freshmen.
Today is a stats-only update. Players are listed in order of scoring averages. Check last week’s Freshman Watch for our initial rankings.
Jim Young (accsports.com)
ACC Hoops Power Rankings, Dec. 24
1. Duke (11-0, No. 1 RPI)
The obvious story line for the Blue Devils’s strong start has been the improved play of senior big man Mason Plumlee. And certainly Plumlee deserves kudos for taking a big leap forward in his play (his ORating has risen 14 points this season).
But I’d like to sing the praises of Quinn Cook. Quick, name me a Duke Final Four team that didn’t have a top-notch point guard. And no, don’t try to slip in 2010 – Jon Scheyer played fantastic at the point that season.
Duke’s got that potential again because Cook is filling the point guard role so ably.
The highest assist percentage (percentage of teammates’ field goals assisted while the player is in the game) in last year’s starting five for the Blue Devils was 16.1, by Seth Curry. Translation: that’s a lot of one-on-one ball being played.
Last year Cook shared the ball plenty (31.5 Asst.%), but he didn’t get much run. This year Cook’s minute have gone WAY up, he’s still spreading the ball around (32.4 Asst %) and, while he doesn’t shoot a ton, he’s doing that well also (54.0 effective field goal %).
In a totally related story, Duke as a team is dishing out over four more assists per game (16.6 to 12.4) than last year.
Previous ranking: No. 1
This week’s schedule: vs. Santa Clara, Dec. 29
2. N.C. State (9-2, No. 5 RPI)
Maybe it’s because of State’s recent history of failing to live up to preseason hype (the 2007-08 season comes to mind) or the season when Mark Gottfried’s Alabama team reached No. 1 then went into a tailspin. Whatever the case, I think many of us – and I’m including myself here – were too harsh on the Wolfpack for its early “struggles.”
And really, is having a dog game against an Oklahoma State team (No. 20 in RPI) that’s no slouch and then losing at Michigan (No. 3 RPI) by seven really “struggling?”
I say no. And so does the Wolfpack’s gaudy RPI (No. 5). Since we last did these rankings, State added a solid win over Stanford (No. 52 RPI) to its resume.
Previous ranking: No. 3
This week’s schedule: vs. Western Michigan, Dec. 29
3. Maryland (10-1, No. 46 RPI)
Before all you Terps fans get mad at me for dropping them in the power rankings and accuse me of being bitter about the whole Big Ten thing, let me just explain.
Early power rankings are by their nature very fluid. Since there’s no head-to-head competition among teams and the opponents played can be an apples to oranges comparison, a lot of the time I have to go on feel and how good (or bad) a team looked, even while winning.
Also, strength of schedule and quality wins plays a role. And right now Maryland’s got an SOS of 216 and its best RPI win is over George Mason (No. 47). So for now, that slides them below N.C. State.
Previous ranking: No. 2
This week’s schedule: vs. Delaware State, Dec. 29
4. Miami (8-2, No. 10 RPI)
I thought about giving the Hurricanes the No. 2 spot in these rankings before their Sunday night game against Arizona. Then I watched that game and … felt differently.
I didn’t expect Miami to knock off the Wildcats, certainly not without Reggie Johnson. But I was disappointed by what I saw from the Canes. A lot of one-on-one moves by Shane Larkin and Durand Scott on offense and not much else. A ton of dribbling and long-range shooting and not much movement. It was ugly.
Does getting Johnson back remedy that situation? Or do we write it off as just Arizona’s defense taking Miami’s offense out of its game? I’m not sure, but I’m a little concerned.
Previous ranking: No. 4
This week’s schedule: vs. Indiana State, Dec. 25
5. UNC (9-3, No. 50 RPI)
I don’t feel good about putting UNC here. I really don’t. That performance at Texas was dreadful. And the Tar Heels’ best win so far is over … McNeese State (No. 98 RPI) . But the two teams that were directly behind UNC is these rankings, Virginia Tech and UVa. Well … they had some …. issues. More on them in a bit.
Also, in that win over McNeese, I saw a glimpse of what UNC could be this season, if it stops trying to be what it usually is.
Just about every UNC squad I can recall has had an inside-out attack, built around dumping the ball in the low post to an effective back-to-the-basket scorer. But that player doesn’t exist on this team. James Michael McAdoo has an effective turnaround jumper, to be sure, but he usually likes to turn and face and needs some space to operate.
Fortunately for the Tar Heels, they’ve got enough shooting – UNC leads the ACC in 3-pointers made- to spread out the floor and make things very tough for defenses. I think if they they make shooting 3’s one of their primary objectives – and not the shot they take when nothing else works – the Heels can be pretty potent on offense.
Defense? Well I’m afraid that’ll be a recurring problem all season long.
Previous ranking: No. 5
This week’s schedule: vs. UNLV, Dec. 29
6 Georgia Tech (8-2, No. 99 RPI)
No team illustrates the difficulty of making non-conference judgments about team better than the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech has no bad losses, just a neutral court loss to Cal (No. 42 RPI) and a hard-fought loss at Illinois (No. 9). But the Jackets have no great wins to write home about either, unless you’re really high on St. Mary’s. (No. 97)
So again, we have to resort to feel. And as I’ve mentioned before, I like the fact that this Georgia Tech team has depth, power down low (+5.4 rebounding margin) and can defend (35.2 percent defensive field goal percentage, 2nd in ACC). Granted, I’m not crazy about the Yellow Jackets’ offensive issues, but I think adding Stacey Poole – and to a lesser extent, little brother Solomon – at the semester break could give a much-neeed infusion of perimeter scoring.
Previous ranking: No. 9
This week’s schedule: vs. Fordham, Dec. 29
Jwff Eisenberg (Yahoo Sports)
ACC reset: Duke overtakes Tobacco Road rivals to emerge as clear favorite
Conference favorite: Duke has overtaken Tobacco Road neighbors North Carolina and NC State thanks to Mason Plumlee emerging as a national player of the year candidate, Quinn Cook solidifying the point guard position and Rasheed Sulaimon injecting badly needed athleticism at wing. The top-ranked Blue Devils have the nation’s best resume so far, boasting wins over Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, VCU and Minnesota.
Who else could win it: There’s no reason to give up on preseason favorite NC State, which has recovered from an ugly 20-point loss to Oklahoma State in November and should take an 11-2 record into conference play. The Wolfpack boast one of the nation’s most potent offenses, with five players averaging 11 or more points per game and the entire team shooting 53.4 percent from the field.
Biggest disappointment: It’s a two-horse race between North Carolina and Florida State. The Tar Heels’ 9-3 record hides that they’ve lost by double digits to all three quality opponents they’ve faced and their best win is over either UAB or East Carolina. They aren’t defending consistently, nor are they scoring efficiently enough when 3-pointers aren’t falling and they aren’t dominating the offensive glass. Florida State’s early struggles are also easy to explain: The Seminoles aren’t defending at the same elite level as past years, which has contributed to early losses to Mercer and South Alabama.
Best freshman: Even though Rasheed Sulaimon has played with steadiness beyond his years for Duke, it’s hard not to go with NC State’s T.J. Warren. The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 13.5 points on 68.1 percent shooting and has chipped in 3.9 rebounds per game as well. Not bad for a kid who isn’t in NC State’s starting lineup and wasn’t even the most heralded freshman on his own team entering the season.
Three fearless predictions:
• 1. Duke will not make it through the month of January with its unbeaten record intact. A Jan. 12 road game at NC State looks daunting, as does a trip to Miami 11 days later. Both those teams have the size to at least attempt to defend Plumlee one-on-one in the paint and the perimeter athleticism to create problems for Duke on both ends.
• 2. North Carolina loses at least six ACC games and flirts with missing the NCAA tournament. Not only are the Tar Heels down this season by their lofty standards, they have a brutally difficult conference slate. The four ACC teams North Carolina faces only once next season are Wake Forest, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Clemson, all of which are projected to finish in the bottom half of the league.