Archive for the ‘acc basketball’ Category

The Ram Connection

March 27, 2009

It’s probably obvious to most following the men’s basketball coaching search at Virginia that Jeff Capel is only 34.  After all, he was still playing in the ACC as recently as 1997.  Certainly that qualifies him as a young coach.  But is it obvious that Anthony Grant is eight years older at 42?  Obviously Grant is still a young coach by any standard, but unlike Capel he looks like he could easily run to the locker room, throw on a jersey, and become a player/coach if needed.

Capel does play regularly against country star Toby Keith, for whatever that’s worth, and “drives a trendy, black Cadillac Escalade, listens to Jay Z, orders movies from NetFlix and prefers a hoodies and jeans over collared shirts and khakis.”  He also strengthened his already-strong bond with his players last offseason when he turned down the South Carolina job (after getting a raise).

A quick look at their bios provides some interesting facts.  Grant started as a math teacher and assistant high school coach at a powerhouse in his native Miami before getting a head HS job across town.  After only one season in charge, he became an assistant at Stetson University in central Florida.  Following one season there, he moved to Marshall and then Florida under Billy Donovan, under whom he apprenticed for ten years.


Grant inherited a VCU program from the younger Capel that had averaged 20 wins/year in the four seasons under the latter with one NCAA appearance.  In Grant’s three seasons, they’ve averaged 25 wins/year and made the NCAAs twice (with some of Capel’s players).  Capel came to the job in Richmond with far less experience, having served as an assistant to his father for a year at ODU and on the VCU staff for just a year.  He famously became the youngest head coach in D-1 at 27 when promoted.


At Oklahoma, Capel inherited a team that averaged 28 wins/year under Kelvin Sampson, and made the NCAAs in nine of the latter’s ten seasons in Norman.  The run included three Sweet 16s, two Elite 8s, and a Final 4 trip in 2002.  Capel proceeded to go 16-15 in year one after Kelvin Sampson headed to Indiana.  Sampson left behind a scandal that led to probation as well as an empty cupboard thanks to recruits Scottie Reynolds & Damion James commiting elsewhere.  Capel’s 12 losses in year two (23-12) were also more than Sampson ever lost at OU, but at least they came after a 2nd round loss in the NCAA tournament.  Before long, Capel had signed blue-chip recruits Blake Griffin & Willie Warren, and will coach tonight against Syracuse for an Elite 8 birth.









Takeaways and Next Steps

March 16, 2009

The final chapter of the page-turner that was the 2008-09 Virginia basketball season has finally been written…  Worst winning percentage since 1966-67, fewest wins since 1969-70, worst ACC finish under Dave Leitao, and the first during his tenure with no postseason whatsoever (not the National Initiation Tournament, not the College Basketball Invitation, not the Postseason Torment).  11th in the ACC in wins and scoring offense & defense, 12th in 3-point percentage and FG percentage made & allowed.


Questions remain for the future of the program and the coach’s job security may now be among them.  Leitao has a 63-60 conference record but has not even come close to equaling his “perfect storm” season of 2006-07.  That year, Leitao’s charges won 11 ACC games to finish as regular season co-champs.  He benefited from a new gym, a down conference talent-wise and to experienced Gillen-recruits in his backcourt scoring nearly 40 points per game.  Since, the 2007 ACC COY has won just 9 ACC games – the worst two-year regular season conference stretch since 1997-99 when Jeff Jones’ last team won 3 ACC games and Gillen’s initial unit tallied 4 victories.


Jones only posted one season of fewer than 6 conference wins – his last.  Gillen was fired after his second – in year 7 – but was famously on the hot season after going 6-10 in each of the previous two years.  Virginia currently ranks 109th in RPI, which is actually an increase over last year’s final position, but attendance fell at a similar rate to home record (9-8 this year, 13-7 last).  What’s worse, Leitao appears to be a worse-than-advertised recruiter as the talent level has clearly dropped off.  His in-game coaching “is what it is” but that leaves much to be desired, especially on the offensive end and in terms of substitution patterns.  At best he is a fiery coach, but at worst he makes Al Groh look cheerful.  Unlike Groh, his abrasiveness at times finds its mark among his players as often as it does among fans & the media.


Like Groh, Leitao’s name is now beginning to pop up on the wrong lists in the national press.  An unexpected source – The Wall Street Journal – recently had DL listed as second-worst among the 25 (of 343) D-1 coaches identified as making more than $1 million with at least four years of tenure at their schools.  The WSJ ranked the 25 according to a three-year average of its Elite Value Score, “the amount of salary each school paid for every RPI point above 50.”  Leitao ($1.2mil) was behind Oliver Purnell ($1.0), Roy Williams ($2.0), Mike Krzyzewski ($2.2), and Gary Williams ($1.8), but ahead of Paul Hewitt ($1.3).


Still, the popular opinion for most of the season was that Leitao would be back next year, especially given the team’s youth and the money reaming on his contract in light of the current national & state economy.  However, speculation began to ramp up during last week’s Acc Tournament in Atlanta:


  • Over the weekend, Doug Doughty of the Roanoke Times suggested that Leitao may no longer be “safe” and is “not convinced the case is closed” on his return.
  • Similarly, Jeff White of The Richmond Times would “no longer be shocked” if a change were made this offseason.  He relayed an email from AD Craig Littlepage stating “Dave’s our coach” but not specifically referring to his future (as he had with Groh a few months prior).  White also reported on Sunday that “many influential donors, as well as some powerful people at U.Va., question whether he’s the man for the job.”
  • Just a day earlier, White stated that a 2009-10 team coached by Leitao would “likely” have a different staff of assistants and it is “uncertain” if all players with eligibility will be back.
  • In Friday morning’s Daily Progress, Jerry Ratcliffe indicated “sources have confirmed that the likes of Minnesota’s Tubby Smith would be attracted to an opening.”

Landesberg beyond 2009

January 23, 2009

I may be the only one who wants to ask this question publicly, but are we certain Virginia’s Sylven Landesberg will be a Cavalier beyond this season?


The rise and fall of the prodigious freshman over the past two months has been well-documented, but here is a quick recap…


28, 8, and 8 in his debut against VMI causes coach Dave Leitao to gush, “You flirt with a triple-double right out of the box, that tells you something. That answers a question or two.”  Double-digit points in his first eight games – including 20+ in seven of his first 11 – leads to five ACC Rookie of the Week awards.  Lengthy profiles appear in the local press, detailing his strict training regime in high school –including boxing and endless playground contests – which lead to a city championship & McDonald’s All-American honors.  No field goals and a season-low four points against Ivy League-Brown, while suffering from a “head cold,” followed by a bounce-back game in Blacksburg with 20 points on 7-11 shooting in a loss to VPI.  Horrible shooting performances net two and seven points in ACC losses to UNC at home and at Maryland on the road, respectively.


Over the first 11 games of the season – ten nonconference and an away tilt against Georgia Tech – Virginia one six and lost five, thanks in large part to Landesberg’s efforts.  Over the past two – both ACC losses – Landesberg has looked rather pedestrian, but his effect on the team result has been equally significant:






% of Team Pts







First 11 games











Last 2 games












The two recent performances have left doubts around Landesberg’s effectiveness in conference, especially given the lack of talent surrounding him on Virginia’s roster.  After dropping 26 on Georgia Tech in Atlanta earlier in the year, UNC and Maryland clearly had a plan to stop the freshman.  After doing just that, Carolina coach Roy Williams commented “He’s going to be a complete player.  There’s no question about that.  Right now his game is more driving the ball to the hole.  And so we were trying to make sure we cut off his driving lanes.”  Following the Maryland loss, Landesberg admitted Maryland ”did a good job of defending me, but I think I was a little out of it today.”  Leitao challenged his young star to “continue to adjust to a higher level of coaching a higher level of preparation and a higher level of execution by our opponents.  When you start out the season scoring the way he was scoring I think it sets up things.”


So where does this leave the Landesbeg-Virgnia relationship?  Is there hope to salvage a successful individual season with 12 remaining conference games on the docket and a clear blueprint for stopping both Landesberg and the team now available?  How far will his scoring average (now at 16.6 per game) after road trips to Duke and UNC within the first seven days of February?  Is the ACC ROY award that was once thought to be a lock, now in jeopardy, especially given the play of UNC’s Ed Davis, BC’s Reggie (not that Reggie) Jackson, GT’s Iman (not that Iman) Shumpert, and Wake’s Al-Farouq Aminu?


Beyond this year, does it make sense from his perspective for Landesberg to stick around?  Would his development benefit from more talent around him?  There’s not much on Virginia’s roster currently, and not much coming in next year.  Will Landesberg develop into a better pro prospect by being “the man” on a bad team against a high level of competition, having the ball in his hands at all crucial times and being forced to create his own shot more often than not?


Or – gasp – would sacrificing a year to transfer to a better program do more for Landesberg in the long run?  Yes, Virginia’s great academics and cozy location were cited by both father & son after singing with Leitao, but does this become a long-term financial and career-focused decision now?  Some recent transfers have had success in the NBA draft & beyond, including:


  • Jason Williams (MarshallàFlorida) – 7th pick, 1998
  • Michael Bradley (KentuckyàVillanova) – 17th pick, 2001
  • Dahntay Jones (RutgersàDuke) – 20th pick, 2001
  • Dan Dickau (WashingtonàGonzaga) – 28th pick, 2002
  • Damien Wilkins (NCSUàGeorgia) – undrafted but signed, 2004
  • Orien Greene (FloridaàLouisiana-Lafayette): 53rd pick, 2005
  • James White (FloridaàCincinnati) – 31st pick, 2006
  • Dominic McGuire (CalàFresno State) – 47th pick, 2007


Virginia transfers, however, have not been so lucky.  Both Derrick Byars (VirginiaàVanderbilt) and Gary Forbes (VirginiaàUMass) are now playing in the NBDL.  Byars (42nd pick, 2007) scored 33 points last night for the Bakersfield Jam, while Forbes (undrafted, 2008 ) scored 30 himself in an earlier game as a member of the Sioux Falls Skyforce.


A one-and-done leap to the NBA by Landesberg now seems out the question after the most recent two-game stretch.  However, as recently as January 14th called him “one of, if not, the most productive freshman in the country” and “a very intriguing NBA prospect.”  The site praised his “smooth demeanor,” “savvy and aggressiveness,” saying his “ability to get to the basket is undeniable,” and he “puts pressure on the defense for 40 minutes and is always in attack mode.”  The conclusion drawn was that Landesberg “has a game that could translate to the next level if he continues to improve his all-around skill-level and polish and learns how to overcome his athletic limitations.”


Not exactly screaming for him to be a lottery-pick, but we’ve seen a familiar face jump early, be drafted

late, get knocked out of the league, only to come back and develop

 the beginnings

a great NBA career while also commenting on politics.


Not to mention guys in other sports who leave with what ended up being and what appears to be little hope of being drafted high.  The latter even went to high school with our man Sylven.


JUCO in ACC (ie Terps)

May 1, 2008

The Washington Times had an interesting blog entry on JUCO’s in the ACC this month, in light of Maryland’s signing of Tyree Evans.  Some highlights:

junior college transfers coming into the ACC since the 2001-02 season:

Florida State: 6

Maryland: 5 (well, now 6 with Evans)

Everybody else: 6

If you include the waning Big East years for Miami and Virginia Tech, those schools move up to five and four JUCO transfers, respectively.


Osby was the first one-time junior college transfer to average double figures in the league since Devin Smith did so for Virginia in 2004-05. Other successful JUCOs this decade: Florida State’s Tim Pickett and Maryland’s Ryan Randle and Jamar Smith.

it certainly makes you wonder why a program like Maryland — which did, as coach Gary Williams will point out, win a national championship this decade — needs to go this route and find quick fixes rather than reel in an extra guy each year from high school.

Five ACC schools (Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest) have not added a JUCO since 2001-02, so far as I can tell.

Neither Virginia’s Dave Leitao or N.C. State’s Sidney Lowe has used the JUCO route. The only junior college transfer to come to Virginia Tech under Seth Greenberg is Marcus Travis, and Travis was both a walk-on and a Blacksburg native. Clemson’s lone JUCO under Oliver Purnell was a one-year stint by Lamar Rice, and Miami’s Frank Haith has added a junior college player in back-to-back years.

It seems odd the Terps would be occupying the same spot in a basketball matter as Florida State, no disrespect to Dave Cowens, Charlie Ward or the 1972 Seminoles intended. Yet that’s how it is, reinforced by the reality Evans and his checkered history are en route to College Park.

The scoreboard listed above is most telling. A recent national champion probably shouldn’t be on there.

Then again, it probably shouldn’t have three NIT appearances in four years, either.

ACC in NCAA: Staying In

March 27, 2008

For the second year in a row, UNC is the sole ACC participant in the Sweet Sixteen.  This comes after 27 consecutive seasons with 2 or more conference representatives making it out of the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend.  In fact, it would be three years without multiple teams if expansion had not brought in BC a few years back:


2008: UNC  2007: UNC  2006: BC, Duke, 2005: Duke, UNC, NCSU  2004: Duke, GT, Wake  2003: Duke, Maryland  2002: Duke, Maryland  2001: Duke, Maryland  2000: Duke, UNC  1999: Duke, Maryland  1998: Duke, Maryland, UNC  1997: Clemson, UNC  1996: GT, Wake  1995: Maryland, UNC, Virginia, Wake  1994: Duke, Maryland  1993: FSU, UNC, Virginia, Wake  1992: Duke, FSU, GT, UNC  1991: Duke, UNC  1990: Clemson, Duke, GT, UNC  1989: Duke, UNC, NCSU, Virginia  1988: Duke, UNC  1987: Duke, UNC  1986: Duke, GT, UNC, NCSU  1985: GT, Maryland, UNC, NCSU  1984: Maryland, UNC, Virginia, Wake  1983: UNC, NCSU, Virginia  1982: UNC, Virginia  1981: UNC, Virginia  1980: Clemson, Duke, Maryland

Naturally, the media has lined up to take shots at the conferences and its fall from grace.  David Teel takes his shots at the conference in Wednesday’s Daily Press, arguing the problem is more individual than collective: 

Maryland has earned one NCAA bid in the last four years as Gary Williams struggles with rampant staff turnover; Georgia Tech has failed to gain traction under Paul Hewitt, and North Carolina State ran off a quality coach in Herb Sendek.

Clemson progressed this season, but coach Oliver Purnell never has won an NCAA tournament game; Virginia regressed and faces an iffy future without Sean Singletary; Virginia Tech has a two-time ACC coach of the year in Greenberg but hasn’t made consecutive NCAA appearances since 1985 and ’86.

If Dino Gaudio coaches as well as he recruits, Wake Forest has a chance to rebuild; Boston College enjoyed seven straight postseason bids, six of them NCAA, before this year’s decline; Florida State is mired in mediocrity, while Miami fights institutional apathy.

Which leaves the most curious case: Duke.

Since winning the 2001 national championship, the Blue Devils have not defeated a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament. Moreover, Duke has lost to a lower seed in six of the last seven years.

Once the masters of March, the Blue Devils dropped five of their final 11 games this year, eight of their final 12 last year.

Duke desperately needs a serviceable big man, and its fans are entitled to question whether coach Mike Krzyzewski’s three-year involvement with the 2008 Olympic team has compromised the Blue Devils.

ACC in NCAA: Getting In

March 27, 2008

Much has been made about the ACC only receiving 4 bids to this year’s NCAA Tournament, and VPI coach Seth Greenberg certainly attempted to make the case for his team being included as the fifth.  As Virginia fans everywhere pointed out, he erroneously politicked on the grounds of top 65 (total number of bids including guaranteed) status, rather than top 34 (at-large bids) status.


VPI finished the season with an RPI ranking of #52 and a regular-season ACC record of 9-7.  8-8 Miami (#34 RPI) received a bid, while 8-8 Maryland (#85) did not.  Greenberg had to have felt his victory over Miami and near-miss against top overall seed UNC in the ACC Tournament strengthened his case.

History suggests that the 9-7 in-conference may have been enough.  Last year, when the ACC had the top RPI rankings among conferences (as they did again this year), 7 bids were extended.  All teams with double-digit regular-season ACC win totals (5) received bids, just as they did this year (3).  Both 8-8 Duke (#15 RPI) and 8-8 Georgia Tech (#52) received invitations, despite neither winning an ACC Tournament game.

One area that certainly didn’t help Greenberg’s cause was VPI’s nonconference schedule.  In Saturday’s Washington Post, John Feinstein brought this to light in his column entitled “If You’re Not 1 of 65, Please Don’t Whine”:

Check out some of Virginia Tech’s nonconference games: Elon, Eastern Washington, UNC Asheville (a decent team but the game was, of course, at Cassell Coliseum), UNC Greensboro, Liberty, Charleston Southern. Heck, maybe Greenberg should have demanded a bid as the Big South champion. Take out those games and Virginia Tech was 13-13.

Virginia Tech’s non-conference strength of schedule is ranked 137th nationally using the RPI methodology, but that is still higher than Miami (143), Clemson (183), NC State (202), Virginia (216), Wake Forest (264).  Wake’s OOC slate included home games with Fairfield, NC Central, Winston Salem State, South Carolina Upstate, Bucknell, South Florida, Air Force, and Presbyterian.  Feinstein also points this out about Duke:

Here’s another stat for you: Duke, which clearly wasn’t a bubble team, played zero nonconference games on an opponent’s true home court. It did play Temple at Wachovia Center and Davidson at Charlotte Bobcats Arena, but true nonconference road games? Zero.

Maryland is Maryland

March 26, 2008

With Duke in DC for the NCAA Tournament, the Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg broached the topic of Maryland fans with some of the Duke players in his blog.  Here are a few of the responses he received:

  • Steve Johnson (walk-on) on the toughest venue to play in: “Definitely Maryland. They were loud before the game, during the game, after the game. You’ve got guys sitting on the baseline yelling. Just a crazy crowd. Some stuff was pretty offensive, but you could just tell they hated us. You could easily tell. And UNC was kind of like that. Not as vulgar language, though.”
  • Gerald Henderson: “Probably Maryland. I don’t know, they must just really hate us over there, because whenever we get on the court, it’s like the devil’s coming in there. Well, the Devils are coming in there. It’s just, I don’t know, they really hate us over there, get on us from shootaround till the end of the game. I don’t know what it is. I guess we beat them enough in the past that they come with this hatred for us, but it’s pretty intense.”
  • Kyle Singler: “I’d say Maryland’s probably the most hostile place. The fans are into it, and there’s just so many of them. I think that’s just the main part of it, And they’ve got posters with pictures of you. The fans are nasty, and there’s so many of em.”
  • DeMarcus Nelson: “I’d probably say Maryland. Their fans, there isn’t anything they won’t say. It’s a great environment for us to play in.”

Duke fans have for years chanted “we’re not rivals” or “not our rivals” during home Maryland games for years, but actually add a bit more creativity this year, when they held sings stating the following:

Maryland B-Ball Graduation Rate… 0%

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