Thursday, May 13, 2010

ACC News & Notes

Things are not so rosy for the Tarheels and Roy Williams. As Barry Jacobs points out it has been a rocky road since winning that national title last season. The frontcourt took a major hit with Ed Davis and the Wear twins departing. The Wear twins decision to transfer took Roy Williams by surprise, or at least that is the story in public, but I think the nasty twitter posts by UNC players about the Wear twins after the decision was public exposed the toxic atmosphere that permeated Chapel Hill last year. Not a single player on that team looked like they enjoyed playing basketball nor did they seem to like their teammates. Perhaps Larry Drew and the overrated John Henson formed a corrosive core on a team of individuals that never bonded. It didn’t help that Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson didn’t provide much leadership but then again Roy Williams is famous for making all kinds of promises to recruits so how could four year role players like those two lead of a bunch of freshman who clearly thought they were better than they were? Roy Williams has a talented group of players coming in to North Carolina but I’m not so sure that the fortunes of that team will improve as rapidly as some expect. The team next year will still be immature and selfish. As talented as the 2009 UNC squad was they also played well together, a essential ingredient to any basketball team if it is going to reach its potential.

Now that most of the ACC departures are done for the season it is easier to get a sense the landscape for next season.

Maryland is losing the best player of the post national title era in Greivis Vasquez. It isn’t possible to replace a player of his caliber. Also departing are the solid, if unspectacular, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne. Both Hayes and Milbourne were solid players who knew their role and didn’t usually try to do things they could not. The team next season will miss their experience far more than their talents. Veterans Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker will step into the vacated guard spots and along with Sean Mosley will provide a backcourt that is fairly mature give that Hayes and Vasquez started so many games the last four seasons. Milbourne will get replaced by either Dino Gregory or James Padgett. Neither can provide the level of offense that Milbourne did but both are probably better defenders and rebounders. The five incoming freshmen will provide depth and guards like Pe’Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin may see significant time right away. The team won’t be as talented on offense but will be significantly more athletic and defensive oriented which may mark a return to a more successful pressing full court style.

Jordan Williams is primed to take a leap into All-ACC play as a sophomore. You could argue he is the best low post player in the ACC with all the departures. If he can match some very high expectations then Maryland will be a in great shape.

 

Georgia Tech took a major blow when Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors departed for the NBA. The Yellow Jackets should have a pretty good backcourt, maybe the best in the ACC, but the low post will be smoke and mirrors.

Florida State lost Solomon Alabi and Ryan Reid on the interior. That may require Chris Singleton to move to the inside. Michael Snaer was impressive and the Seminoles have some highly rated recruits coming in so they figure to tread water.

Wake Forest, Virginia and Boston College have all been decimated through coaching changes or departures. The Deacons lost the most with Al-Farouq Aminu, Ish Smith, L.D. Williams and Chas McFarland all leaving. There is some talent on the roster with C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart but this could be a rough season with a new coach and a host of young players. Virginia lost Sylven Landesberg Tristan Spurlock and Jeff Jones. The Cavaliers have some solid role players like Mustapha Farrakhan and Sammy Zeglinski but lack experience and offensive firepower. I’d be surprised if they can match their 5-11 record from last season. BC was terrible last year but lost their best player and now has a new coach. With the departure of Al Skinner and Rakim Sanders it isn’t obvious how the Eagles will be competitive next year though they do have some experienced players.

Even with Malcolm Delaney returning Virginia Tech is not that much better than the mediocre bunch they were last year. Their record may improve as teams like Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Maryland fall back but fundamentally they won’t be a much better team. With players like Delaney and Jeff Allen there is a serious deficiency in leadership in Seth Greenberg’s squad. With high expectations going into the season it will be worth watching to see what happens if things go south early on.

Clemson must adjust to life without Trevor Booker who did a little of everything for them and Oliver Purnell who lifted them out of the ACC basement. Clemson has the raw talent to get back to being a player in the ACC but I don’t see them getting to the post season this year.

Overall the ACC figures to be weak again next season. Outside of Duke there isn’t a single team that has much of a chance to contend for a Final Four birth. In Gary Williams Maryland has a leader that can out coach almost every opponent in the league save the guy in Durham. That gives them a significant advantage going into an uncertain season.

Basketball fairs well in down economy

Maryland basketball finished 7th in the nation in average attendance this past season (same as in 2009) and 2nd in the ACC with 16,792 fans per game. Attendance did drop 1.5% from 2009 and for the first time in many years there was not a sellout of season tickets. In fact there were tickets to the North Carolina and Duke home games available as late as January. Still, in a year when the economy has been in the toilet, unemployment is near double digits and there doesn’t seem to be much good news about a recovery I think a modest drop like that is fairly good news. Basketball season tickets are a fairly large outlay of money for an average fan compared to the modest few hundred dollars for football tickets. I think that shows the strength of Maryland basketball’s fanbase. That has an unfortunate side effect of turning every poor game or recruiting miss into a Hindenburg level disaster in the eyes of some fans but the advantages to Maryland and the athletic department of such a lucrative local following are tremendous. It would behoove AD Debbie Yow to keep that in mind when dealing with the needs of the basketball program. It would probably be a good thing for head coach Gary Williams to consider that while he may put up with an undue amount of scrutiny because of such a large group of fans he could be still coaching at Boston College. Al Skinner got fired there after becoming the winningest coach in their program’s history despite a shamefully apathetic fanbase that only had 5,317 fans per game even though BC was coming off a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

 

Team 2009 Avg. Attendance 2010 Avg. Atten. % Change
Boston College

5548

5317

-4.2

Clemson

8476

9465

11.7

Duke

9314

9314

0

Florida State

7897

7336

-7.1

Georgia Tech

7477

7979

6.7

Maryland

17048

16792

-1.5

Miami

4537

4713

3.9

UNC

21035

17786

-15.4

N.C. State

13456

13184

-2.0

Virginia

10219

10141

-0.8

Virginia Tech

9414

9290

-1.3

Wake Forest

12182

11833

-2.9

 

I guess UNC fans deserve their bandwagon reputation. I know their season was a disaster but a 15% drop coming off a championship? Embarrassing. Florida State went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in years and the attendance still dropped over 7%. How would Gary react to that? It will be interesting to see what happens to Clemson now that Purnell has moved on. He did succeed in igniting some interest in Tiger’s basketball.

 

As a whole the ACC dropped from 3rd in the nation in average attendance to 5th, behind the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 and Big East. It was the only conference in the top five that had attendance decline over last season. That can’t be good for the new TV deal. Interesting to note that the teams at the bottom of the league in attendance are all expansion teams. Starting with Virginia Tech at 8th and going through to pitiful Miami, which has fewer fans than places like Oral Roberts and Evansville, it is a group of football schools. Not all that surprising I suppose.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Early 2010 BB schedule

It has been leaked that Maryland will visit Penn State in the Big Ten ACC challenge. That puts most of the questions regarding the 2010 basketball schedule to rest. As of now the major opponents are:

Villanova (in Philadelphia)

Notre Dame at the BB&T

Coaches vs Cancer in New York

  • Maryland will play two of the three “host” teams: Texas, Illinois and Pitt
  • Terps will also play two mid-major squads at home from the group of College of Charleston, Louisiana Tech, Navy, Rhode Island, Seattle, Toledo, UC Irvine, University of Illinois Chicago
  • The obvious choices would be Navy, College of Charleston or Rhode Island. In 2006 Maryland played Vermont and Hampton in the “regional” rounds at Comcast Center.

Penn State (away)

Maryland also gets a return game from UNC Greensboro.

All in all it is a decent out of conference schedule. The Penn State game is a bit of an insult given that Maryland went 13-3 last season and was an ACC regular season champion. ESPN obviously decides these things but perhaps Gary Williams thought the schedule was already plenty tough with a roster that will be stocked with freshmen.

The ACC Schedule is already set:

Home Away
Duke Duke
Virginia Virginia
Boston College Boston College
Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
Wake Forest Wake Forest
Clemson Georgia Tech
Florida State North Carolina
N.C. State Miami

 

I think that is a very favorable schedule for the Terps. Six games against probably bottom dwellers Virginia, BC and Wake Forest is a great way to start. Road games against a rebuilding Georgia Tech squad and two teams in UNC and Miami that have talent but are coming off poor seasons isn’t too bad either. The Terps have a real opportunity to get back to the NCAA tournament for the third straight season even losing the best player of the post National Title era.