ESPN Events: Pittsburgh

ACC back up to speed vs. Big Ten?

October, 23, 2013
Want a clue as to who will be in the National Championship game? Keep an eye on the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Since 1999, the two conferences have provided a participant in the National Championship game 15 times, eight times walking away with the crown. On four occasions, the ACC and Big Ten have had the entire stage to themselves, including last year, when Louisville, which joins the ACC next season, knocked off Michigan. As far as the Big Ten/ACC Challenge itself, the ACC has dominated over the years, holding a 10-3-1 series edge since the conferences started going mano-a-mano in 1999.

For the last four years, however, the conference has failed to achieve victory. The Big Ten has gone 3-0-1, including a resounding 8-4 thumping in 2011, its most lopsided win. This year, the ACC has called in some reinforcements to try and change its luck. The ACC’s addition of Syracuse, Pittsburgh (a participant in the Jimmy V Men’s Classic) and Notre Dame brings coaches Jim Boeheim, Jamie Dixon and Mike Brey to the sidelines. The trio holds a combined .574 winning percentage over the Big Ten, going a combined 39-29 over its current configuration.

The most formidable of the three is Boeheim, who has dominated the Big Ten, to the tune of a career 30-13 record (a .698 winning percentage). Brey, at 6-12, has not seen much of the conference and hasn’t really fared overly well, while Dixon’s exposure (3-4) is limited. But Brey and Dixon promise to pay dividends next season, when the Big Ten expands with the absorption of Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big East. Brey is 16-8 against the Big Ten’ers-to-be, having a .667 winning percentage against both Maryland (2-1) and Rutgers (12-6).

Dixon is winning at .700, with a combined 7-3 record. Throw in Boeheim’s 28-7 mark against the two schools—he’s been particularly harsh on the Scarlet Knights, with a career 26-5 record—and the ACC’s new kids are 88-34, a .721 success rate. Of the current Big Ten members, Michigan (7-4), who will play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Indiana (7-6), and Ohio State (5-2) have fared the best, while Penn State has struggled at 1-12.

Only Ohio State (4-2), Illinois (2-1), Minnesota (1-0) and Iowa (1-0) can claim a winning record against Boeheim. Indiana (1-0), Michigan (1-0), and Michigan State (1-0), have winning records against Dixon, while Michigan (3-0) and Indiana (5-2) have the lion’s share of the success over Brey. Penn State, Ohio State and Northwestern all 1-0, have each nicked Notre Dame’s head man for a loss.

In case this threesome can’t get the job done, the ACC will add further reinforcement next season when Louisville joins the fold. Louisville coach Rick Pitino is 25-9 against next year’s Big Ten, and is an impressive 10-4 against Big Ten heavyweights Indiana (6-4) and Ohio State (4-0). The only teams to get the better of Pitino are Purdue (1-3), a participant in the Old Spice Classic, and Iowa (1-2).

Numerical nuggets from the ACC (part II)

October, 15, 2013
Getting hungry for college basketball season? We’ve got some tasty morsels to whet your appetite. As ESPN Events continues to take a look at the different conferences, we’ve put together part two of our peek at the 15-team gauntlet that is the new ACC. With at least one team ranking in the AP’s final Top 10 in each of the past 53 years—last year they had two, No. 5 Duke and No. 10 Miami—the conference added No. 3 Syracuse this year and will add last year’s national champion Louisville next season. Following are some key numbers to consider for eight of the ACC schools. Think of it as an appetizer to what is sure to be a hearty, filling season. Bon appétit! "

North Carolina (25-11, 12-6, 3rd)
Last season’s team-high rebounding (ninth in the ACC) and second-place scoring averages of James Michael McAdoo. The 6-9, 230-pound junior forward, who led the team in scoring and rebounding in nine games, also led the team in steals (1.5 per game, fourth in the ACC and the best amongst returning players). He’s keeping alive a family tradition of excellence, as his second cousin, Naismith Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, led the team in scoring and rebounding his lone season in Chapel Hill (1972). Led by McAdoo, the Tar Heels will look to continue a trend of 25-win seasons, having done it seven times in the last nine years under Roy Williams. McAdoo and company will be on ESPN as part of the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament (Nov. 15 and 17) and will be primetime on Dec. 4 when they travel to East Lansing to play Michigan State as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

NC State (24-11, 11-7, T4th)
The number of returning starters for the Wolfpack. That’s not only saying goodbye to four starters but to 68.2 percent of the scoring and 69.5 percent of the rebounding (including the ACC’s leading rebounder Richard Howell). Fortunately, that one returning starter is 6-8 sophomore forward T.J. Warren. The ACC All-Freshman Teamer scored 12.1 points, second among ACC freshmen, and shot a conference-leading .622, including a team-high .519 from three. Warren, who scored 15 points on a team-best seven field goals in the Pack’s 76-56 loss to Oklahoma State in the final of last year’s Old Spice Classic, became only the fifth freshman ever to lead the ACC in field goal percentage.

^Notre Dame (25-10, 11-7, 6th)
The assist-to-turnover ratio for Notre Dame’s three-guard starting combo of seniors Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton. The trio was a big reason Notre Dame led the Big East and finished second in the nation with a 1.49-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio. Grant is the team’s leading returning scorer (13.3 ppg last season) and is tied in assists (5.5) with Atkins, tops amongst returning players. Connaughton is the squad’s leading rebounder (4.7 rpg). The Irish look to make it five straight NCAA Tournament appearances and seven in eight years, and hope to continue the streak of having played in the postseason in each of coach Mike Brey’s 14 years at the helm. The trio, which combined for 49 points and 15 assists in the 104-101, five-overtime thriller against Louisville last year, can be seen on ESPN in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 3, when they battle Iowa.

^Pittsburgh (24-9, 12-6, 4th)
The number of consecutive 20-win seasons for the Panthers, who boast a .769 winning percentage in that span (319-96) and are one of seven schools to make it to the NCAA Tournament in 11 of 12 years. The last 10 of those dozen seasons have come under the guidance of coach Jamie Dixon. Last year’s was one of the most dramatic, as they dropped three of their first four conference games, yet still finished 12-6. Ironman Lamar Patterson was a big reason why, and he’ll be big this season. Having made 66 consecutive starts, the 6-5 senior forward is the team’s leading returning scorer (10.0 ppg) and is second in rebounding (4.3 rpg). He showed his stuff in last year’s NIT Season Tip-Off, averaging a team-high 15 points and pulling down 7.5 rebounds. He’s as unselfish as they come, handing out 2.8 assists, and is as secure with the ball, sporting a career 1.81:1 assists-to-turnover ratio. The Panthers will show their stuff in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 3, hosting Penn State, and will participate in the Jimmy V Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Dec. 17, taking on Cincinnati.

^Syracuse (30-10, 11-7, 5th)
The career point total for Syracuse 6-8 senior forward C.J. Fair. A Second-Team All-Big East selection last season, Fair is one of only three ACC players to start the season with at least 1,000 career points. He was the leading scorer for last season’s Big East Tournament runner-up and Final Four entrant, and his 14.5 ppg last season more than triples the output of the next leading returnee, 6-9 junior center/forward Rakeem Christmas (4.5). His 7.0 rpg also are a team high amongst returnees. The seemingly indestructible Fair played in all 40 games last season and put in 34.8 minutes per game. He and Christmas (1.8 blocks per game) will lead three returning starters and six of Syracuse’s top nine scorers in adding on to the D-I-record 43 consecutive winning seasons. The Orange will be fun to watch and can be seen in this year’s EA Sports Maui Invitational (Nov. 25-27) on ESPN, opening with Minnesota (5:30 p.m. on ESPN2), then, a week later hosting Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on ESPN.

Virginia (23-12, 11-7, T4th)
The points allowed by Virginia’s smothering defense last season. That led the ACC and ranked fifth in the nation. The Cavaliers held opponents under 60 points 26 times in 35 games in recording back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1992 and ’93. The Wahoos also return 87.8 percent of their scoring and 86.1 percent of their rebounding, as well as key senior leaders 6-6 guard Joe Harris and 6-8 forward Akil Mitchell. Harris was First-Team All-ACC last year; the only returnee among them, he’s the second-leading active scorer (1,255 points) and was fourth in the conference in both scoring (16.3 ppg) and three-point shooting (.468). Mitchell poured in 13.1 ppg, grabbed 8.9 rpg, and had 12 double-doubles. So, yes, Virginia, ACC title contention is possible. You can check out the Cavs on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 when they host VCU as part of ESPN’s 24-Hour Hoops Marathon.

Virginia Tech (13-19, 4-14, 12th)
The free-throw percentage of 6-7 senior forward Jarell Eddie. While the team shot a little over 70 percent for the season, Eddie was the second-most reliable shooter from the charity stripe in the ACC—only Wake Forest’s C.J. Harris (.847) was better. The Hokies had two of the four top foul shooters in the conference, as Erick Green connected at 81.6 percent. Eddie is the leading returning scorer at 12.6 ppg, about half of what Green scored last season in leading the nation in scoring. The Hokies are a host school in the 2013 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on ESPN, taking on USC Upstate at noon on Nov. 9, and Western Carolina at 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 15. They’ll also take on Michigan State at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., at 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 22.

Wake Forest (13-18, 6-12, 10th)
33 percent:
The percentage of Wake Forest’s losses last year by six or fewer points. That includes one-point losses to Georgia Tech and at Virginia Tech. The Demon Deacons, who also knocked off then-No. 2 Miami, and No. 18 NC State, return four starters, who comprise 70 percent of last year’s offense and 88 percent of its rebounding, the most in the conference. Leading the way is 6-7 senior forward Travis McKie, a two-time Honorable Mention All-ACC performer, and the conference’s active leader in points (1,344), points per game (14.2), rebounds (680), starts (94) and double-doubles (16).

^ 2012-13 record in the Big East