Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

A happy New Year to all of you out in ACC-land. In lieu of full season previews this year, we're going through the ACC to look at some New Year's Resolutions for teams as they head into 2008.

Boston College: More shots for Corey Raji. The 6'5" freshman has been an extremely efficient scorer in his 20 min/g this year, shooting an astounding .742 efg% behind 70.8% from 2 and 57.1% from 3.
Will it be kept? No reason why not. Ty Rice and Rakim Sanders will still take a lot of shots, but there's not really any other option better than Raji. Raji's effectiveness will almost certainly go down some as the season wears on, but if it stays even close to this level, he'll be a very valuable offensive threat for the Eagles.

Clemson: Pretend the ACC opponents are not in the ACC. Over the last 3 years, Clemson is 37-3 in the non-conference season, but it hasn't translated into ACC success or a tournament bid. Clemson has again put itself in good position with a strong non-conference performance, but needs to follow through in conference play this year to get back into the NCAAs.
Will it be kept? Maybe. Clemson gets a big test early - 3 of the first 4 conference games are against UNC, NC St, and at Duke. The conference schedule is again not kind to the Tigers, and there's a greater than zero chance that if they struggle early, they may not be able to recover and get the 9-11 conference wins they can. But this Clemson team certainly has the talent to succeed and return to the tournament for the first time in years.

Duke: Take the damn ball! Duke's success on defense this year has been most strongly correlated to its ability to turn its opponents over. The only three games that Duke allowed about a point per possession are also the only three games that the opponent didn't cough the ball up more than 20% of the time. Duke's return to a more fast-breaking style of basketball has generally meant that these turnovers turn into easy offense for the Devils, so turning the opponent over has benefits for both the offense and the defense.
Will it be kept? Highly likely. The Devils have a disruptive perimeter defense and lots of ACC teams are not particularly adept at holding onto the ball.

Florida State: Get healthy. Ryan Reid, Casaan Breeden, and Julian Vaughn are all hurt, resulting in FSU starting former walk-on Matt Zitani against Georgia Tech. The Noles are down to seven players, 5 of whom are guards, and four of whom are 6'3" or smaller.
Will it be kept? I actually don't know - I can't find what the injury status of Reid, Breeden, and Vaughn are. But if they don't get them back, it's going to be a long season for FSU.

Georgia Tech: Play some defense. The Jackets have been very generous on the defensive end, giving up more than a point per possession in 8 of their 12 games, and letting opponents shoot extremely well from the floor.
Will it be kept? Not likely. None of the players are defensive stalwarts, and not having Dickey inside has really hurt. Tech appears to be in for some serious defensive struggles all season.

Maryland: Fix the offense. Maryland's offense has had serious problems so far this year. They're worst in the ACC in turnovers, second to last in shooting, and second to last in offensive efficiency. The defense has been solid, but the offensive inability is going to keep Maryland losing.
Will it be kept? Doubtful, although there is some precedent for it. Last year the offense came on like gangbusters at the end of the season after struggling early. Of course, last year they had DJ, Jones, and Ibekwe, who, as Rick Pitino would say, aren't walking through that door.

Miami: Keep hitting the glass. Miami's offensive success rests primarily on its ability to gather offensive boards. It gives them easy second chance opportunities, and also helps them get to the line, both of which they do as well as anyone in the conference.
Will it be kept? Absolutely - it was their one offensive strength last year and with the return of Anthony King this year in addition to Graham and Collins, they have three frontcourt studs to vacuum up the offensive boards.

North Carolina: Teach QT to hold onto the ball. With Bobby Frasor hurt, Thomas is the only true point guard the Heels have to back up Ty Lawson. Thomas has been extremely turnover prone in his 4 seasons with the Heels. If they can't rely on him to take care of the ball, it'll be hard for the Heels to sit Lawson down for any meaningful periods of time, and given his frenetic pace of play, he could get gassed late with too many minutes.
Will it be kept? Hard to say. Thomas has done nothing to inspire confidence over his career. Of course, if Lawson can play 34 minutes and/or Ellington can handle the point well enough, it may not matter.

North Carolina State: Run Costner and McCauley through the wayback machine. Neither Brandon Costner nor Ben McCauley has played as well this season as in '07, and their drop-off has contributed to some of State's early struggles. They need to round back into last-season's form for the Pack to be the top flight team that many thought they would be. This is particularly true now that Farnold Degand is down for the season with a torn ACL.
Will it be kept? More likely for Costner than McCauley. Coach Lowe clearly views Big Ben as the odd man out in the post rotation with Costner and Hickson, and he may just be the kind of guy who is less effective when his playing time is limited.

Virginia: Find a rotation. Virginia has played 12 guys at least five minutes per game, and that doesn't include Solomon Tat or Tunji Soroye (a starter last year) who played their first minutes of the season against Hartford. While it's nice to have this many usable players, being able to settle into a predictable rotation is necessary for the team to develop consistency on the offensive end. Singletary, Diane, and Joseph are a good three to build around, but Leitao needs to figure out which of his other guys will actually be contributors come conference play.
Will it be kept? Starting to look like it. Mike Scott has earned himself a spot in the starting lineup (although Soroye's return may displace him) and both Calvin Baker and Jeff Jones will get consistent minutes. But I don't know if Leitao has sorted out who he wants from the group of Jamil Tucker, Will Harris, Tat, Soroye, Laurynas Mikalauskas, Ryan Pettinella, and Jerome Meyinsse, and there just aren't enough minutes to go around for Virginia to be playing all 7 on a regular basis.

Virginia Tech: Get help from the bench. No team lost as much as Virginia Tech between last season and this one, and the Hokie bench is thin. Backups Hank Thorns, Terrell Bell, Lewis Witcher, and JT Thompson do not contribute much - collectively just 13 points and 8 rebounds each game. This has left Deron Washington, Jeff Allen, and AD Vassallo with too big a burden to shoulder.
Will it be kept? There is some small hope. Dorenzo Hudson, not used at all in the first 9 games, has given the Hokies nearly 10 points a game over the last 3. But it's doubtful that any of the others will step up as big scorers.

Wake Forest: Stop shooting 3s. Wake is under 30% from beyond the arc, but devote nearly 38% of their shots to the 3. Their most accurate outside shooter is Ish Smith, and that is not a good sign. Particularly problematic have been James Johnson (who has had an otherwise fantastic freshman season thus far) and LD Williams, who are a combined 19 for 83.
Will it be kept? Probably not. The Deacons have some guys who love to shoot the long ball - Harvey Hale, Jamie Skeen, Williams, Johnson - and so the attempts are likely going to stay near the current average of 22.75/game. Wake can only hope that Skeen, Williams, and Hale all see their percentages rise to where they were last season.

This Writer: Work less, post more.
Will it be kept? Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?


Zach Smith said...

Good stuff, I definitely agree with what you said about Wake. I commented further on it on my Wake blog, but basically coach Gaudio wants us to average a point every posession, and if we can't make 1/3 of our three's then we aren't accomplishing that by shooting them. Something needs to change.

Unfortunately you're right that it probably never will.

Jane Elizabeth said...

You need to write more, especially now that 3 of the best sites have shut down, i.e., DaveSez, BigTenWonk and the KenPom blog. (but not his site). You have one of the best understandings of what makes a team successful, even for a Duke grad.