College hoops take center stage

Feb 9, 2010 5:03 PM

Feist Facts by Jim Feist |

Rating the conferences, best teams

With the Super Bowl in the rear view mirror, the next big event on the sports stage is college basketball’s season-ending tournaments.

Since 1997, college basketball’s national champion has come from several different conferences: the Pac 10 (Arizona), SEC (Kentucky and Florida), Big 10 (Michigan State), the ACC (Duke, Maryland, North Carolina), Big 12 (Kansas) and the Big East (U-Conn, Syracuse).

Over the next few weeks, let’s examine some of the top hoop teams in each conference, starting this week with the ACC.

Duke: Coach Mike Krzyzewski has another talented team that is flexing its ACC muscles again. This is an athletic team behind the backcourt of junior guard Nolan Smith (18 ppg) and 6-5 senior Jon Scheyer (18.7 ppg), the leading scorers. They like the uptempo game averaging 82 ppg.

The frontcourt is better this season with 6-8 junior Kyle Singler (16.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and 6-10 sophomore Miles Plumlee. While everyone thinks of Duke as a run-and-gun, three-point team, note that the defense has been outstanding, allowing 62.7 ppg. The main concern is that they lost four of their first five true road games. Last week they were favored at Georgetown, but lost 89-77. They have a big showdown this weekend at rival Maryland.

Maryland: The Terrapins have excellent experience, height and balance for Coach Gary Williams. The big backcourt sports 6-6 senior Greivis Vasquez (17.5 ppg) and 6-4 sophomore Sean Mosley, and a deep frontcourt with 6-7 senior Landon Milbourne and freshmen center Jordan Williams. Unlike Duke, they have a winning record on the road.

Maryland center Jordan Williams was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Rookie of the Week last week. Williams averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in a win against Miami and a loss to Clemson. After a rough start against the number, Maryland is on a 6-1 ATS run.

Wake Forest: Wake has a workhorse in the frontcourt in 6-9 sophomore Al-Farouq Aminu (16 ppg, 11 rpg). Teamed with 7-foot senior Chas McFarland (7.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg), they can crash the glass with anyone. The Demon Deacons have been stepping up the defense lately, with a 4-0 run under the total the last two weeks.

Last week they beat Miami allowing 39% shooting! This backcourt is sharp with C.J. Harris and Ishmael Smith, as well. They are not a bad road team, but do have trouble stepping up in competition, as in blowout losses to Georgia Tech and Duke, both on the road.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have used home court and defense (61 ppg allowed) to stay in the thick of the ACC race behind coach Tony Bennett. Entering the season, he said that his first year would be about teaching players the Bennett-Ball style of basketball – tough, pack-line defense, limiting turnovers and playing with intensity on every possession. They have.

This is not a big team, with a guard-oriented lineup behind sophomore Sylven Landesberg (17 ppg). Against NC State, Virginia fell behind by 10 points in the second half before rallying to victory. Virginia closed out by making 17 consecutive free throws down the stretch. The Cavs are the second-best team in the conference at making free throws, converting at a 75 percent rate. That helps in tight games, going 3-1 ATS their last four times as a dog.

Florida State: The Seminoles have been getting it done with defense, allowing 60 ppg, and a big frontcourt of 7-foot-1, 250-pound sophomore center Solomon Alabi (13 ppg, 7 rpg) and 6-9 soph Chris Singleton (11 ppg, 7.8 rpg). That defense explains a 9-5 run under the total.

The Seminoles, though, have stumbled after a hot start, going 3-3 SU, 1-5 ATS since mid-January. Florida State leads the ACC in field goal defense. In a win over BC last week, they held Boston College to 43.6 percent shooting – the 57th straight opponent below 50 percent.

Georgia Tech: Like Florida State, the Yellow Jackets like to force the ball into the low post with 6-9 junior Gani Lawal (14.5 ppg, 9 rpg) and 6-10 freshman Derrick Favors (11.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg).

They can play defense, as when they beat Duke, 71-67, last month. Georgia Tech has been on a 6-1 run under the total. They’ve been a team of extremes at times, as well, playing three straight games decided by a basket, but also have blowout wins over USC and Wake Forest.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Jim Feist