No. 4/3 Duke (25-4, 12-2) at Wake Forest (13-15, 4-10), 9:00 PM, ESPNU
For Duke, this game is all that’s standing in between Saturday’s Carolina game being for the regular-season ACC title. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, not only have they been playing well on the road, but Wake Forest is not good.
Keys to the game: The foul line. It’s not often opponents make more free throws than Duke attempts in Cameron, but Wake did just that in the first meeting, shooting 24-of-35 to Duke’s 16-of-23 from the charity stripe. Wake has a knack for getting to the foul line (and little else), and while Duke has depth to withstand foul trouble, they don’t want to send a team struggling offensively like Wake to the line repeatedly.
Random stat: Prior to the Carolina game, Duke averaged 53.4% shooting from two-point range on 34.9 attempts per game in league play. Since/including the Carolina game, Duke has shot 43.3% from two on 32.3 attempts.
Prediction: Duke 84, Wake Forest 61
Georgia Tech (10-18, 3-11) at Boston College (8-20, 3-11), 7:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Any notion of Steve Donahue getting a few Coach of the Year votes despite Boston College’s record went out the window after his Eagles were swept by Wake Forest this weekend. And those were two of BC’s worst losses this season, to a team that has more talent but has been awful. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, managed to win an ACC home game on Saturday. So there’s that.
Key to the game: Not being awful. The ACC has been bad, but the games have mostly been entertaining (even when slower-paced). There have been exceptions, though, and many have involved one of these two teams. These are two young teams with relatively new head coaches, and each team could use a good deal of positive momentum going forward. It would be nice to see this game be somewhat watchable.
Random stat(s): This was Georgia Tech’s first win without Glen Rice, Jr. in the lineup since the second game of the year (Delaware State). Rice has now missed six games due to suspension: the first three this year (Georgia Tech was 2-1) and the last three (1-2).
Prediction: Georgia Tech 66, Boston College 61
Maryland (16-12, 6-8) at No. 6 North Carolina (25-4, 12-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3
With Maryland coming off of a loss to Georgia Tech and Carolina needing only to win to face Duke for the regular-season title on Saturday, this has “trap game” written all over it. Maryland has just one road win this year,and Carolina’s only home loss in the last two years was to Duke a few weeks ago. But Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon has his Terrapins playing hard, and Carolina can’t afford to overlook this one.
Key to the game: Maryland’s bigs. James Padgett, Ashton Pankey and Alex Len combined for 23 points and 15 rebounds. Their defense doesn’t show up in the box score (Tyler Zeller and John Henson combined to shoot 15-of-29) but Maryland bothered their shots with their length. And most importantly, both Henson and Zeller were in foul trouble. If they can find the magic they had against North Carolina – and get Carolina’s bigs in foul trouble – they’ll make things interesting in Chapel Hill.
Random stat: Maryland shot 7-of-14 (50%) from three against Georgia Tech, but just 12-of-41 (29.3%) from two-point range. In their last two road games, Maryland has shot just 19-of-74 from inside the arc (25.7%) but 14-of-33 (42.4%) from three.
Prediction: North Carolina 88, Maryland 69
Miami (17-10, 8-6) at NC State (18-11, 7-7), 9:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Miami, now without Reggie Johnson, rode a mix of adrenaline and desperation to a win over Florida State and their fans rushed the court afterwards. They’ve been told they’re “in” the NCAA tournament now. That sets up well for NC State – Miami is prime for a letdown, but can the Wolfpack take advantage?
Keys to the game: NC State’s psyche. The little things seem to be going wrong for NC State right now, from shooting 38.5% from the foul line at Clemson (a season-low) to committing silly turnovers and ill-advised fouls. It’s not as if the Wolfpack isn’t playing hard, but they need to be smarter and just a bit more focused. They can win this game, but they have to believe that.
Random stat: Miami scored 11 points on its first 25 possessions against Florida State (0.44 points per possession). In the last 4:34 of the first half and all of the second half, Miami scored 67 points on 52 possessions (1.29 per possession).
Prediction: NC State 75, Miami 69
Virginia Tech (15-14, 4-10) at Clemson (15-13, 7-7), 9:00 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3
Clemson has won four of its last five games and is playing its best basketball. Virginia Tech has lost three of its last four games, but to three of the best teams. Clearly, both teams have navigated well through adversity and disappointment, and both have something to play for in terms of seeding.
Keys to the game: Who can win a close game? Virginia Tech beat Clemson at home earlier this year, 67-65. Since, Virginia Tech is 2-4 and excluding a 16-point loss at Miami, five games have been decided by a total of 11 points. Clemson had six of its first eight games decided by seven or fewer points but since the loss in Blacksburg, the Tigers are 4-2, winning two by double digits and losing once by 22. They won by three in overtime against NC State on Saturday though. While both teams have struggled executing late in close games, Clemson seems like the more confident team. Tech Hoops took a look at Virginia Tech’s Erick Green and his struggles in “clutch” situations this year. Hint: it’s not good, and Virginia Tech needs more from him late.
Random stat: Duke attempted 46.2% of their shots from three-point range against Virginia Tech last Saturday. Only one Hokie opponent this season has attempted a higher percentage of their shots from beyond the arc (half of Boston College’s attempts were from three).
Prediction: Clemson 65, Virginia Tech 61
Last week: 7-4
Season: 123-44 (59-25 ACC)
Florida State (19-8, 10-3) at Miami (16-10, 7-6), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
Miami hasn’t beaten Florida State since 2009, losers of six in a row in the in-state rivalry. But this game is important for different reasons. With Virginia’s loss, Florida State has all but locked up a top four spot in the ACC Tournament – the Seminoles would have to lose out to lose that spot. But Virginia’s loss also opened the door for Miami to creep into the top five: the Hurricanes are tied with the Cavaliers in the loss column but with games at NC State and Boston College remaining, a win tonight would give them a leg up.
Key to the game: Remembering the inside game. Both Florida State and Miami have a tendency to ignore their excellent big men at times in favor of jacking up jump shots. FSU’s Bernard James had 18 points in the first meeting with Miami, tied for a season high. But Xavier Gibson and Okaro White combined for 10 points. And FSU forgot all their big men against Duke at times in the second half, which was particularly egregious when Duke’s entire front line was in foul trouble. But all the Seminole big men need to show up when called upon, particularly if Miami’s Reggie Johnson is still hobbled.
In the first meeting with FSU, Johnson and Kenny Kadji combined to attempt just 12 shots. Miami’s starting big men have attempted fewer than that just once in ACC play (against Clemson). Their 18 combined points against FSU were tied for their fewest in ACC play. Miami cannot win a game like this without Johnson and/or Kadji having a big game, but the Hurricanes attempted nearly 40% of their shots from three-point range against FSU the first time around. It’s hard to score inside on FSU, but MIami has to try.
Random stat: Florida State and Miami have the second and third-highest scoring benches, respectively, in the ACC. (Duke’s bench is No. 1 at 24.9 points a game overall and 25.6 ppg in the ACC.) Florida State’s bench is averaging 24.6 points on the year (24.2 in league play) and Miami’s averages 19.3 points (17.5 in ACC play).
Prediction: Florida State 71, Miami 67
Last week: 10-3
Season: 123-43 (59-24 ACC)
Virginia Tech (15-13, 4-9) at Duke (24-4, 11-2), 12:00 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3
All signs point to an epic showdown pitting Duke and North Carolina in the season finale, and Duke only has to beat Virginia Tech and Wake Forest to hold up their end of the bargain. Virginia Tech will fight hard, but at this point, the Hokies will be fortunate to make the NIT.
Key to the game: Ryan Kelly. Duke’s junior forward has quietly improved into one of Duke’s most critical players, and his line at Florida State wasn’t as good as his floor game. He made some critical plays when his team needed them the most, and he had some fantastic passes to set up his teammates for easy scores or free throws. Duke’s junior class (except Mason Plumlee) had been largely absent until recently, when Kelly, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins have all stepped up their games. Duke needs them to continue to do that because there’s not a ton of experience elsewhere on the roster.
Random stat: Virginia Tech hasn’t played as well as it could at times, but the Hokies have had 10 of their 13 ACC games decided by five points or fewer and are 4-6 in those games. Their only double-digit losses have come to North Carolina, Duke and Miami. If there’s a good sign for the Hokies, it’s that they’ve won three of their last five decided by five points or less after starting ACC play 1-5 in such games. But just one of those wins have come on the road (at Virginia).
Prediction: Duke 76, Virginia Tech 59
Boston College (8-19, 3-10) at Wake Forest (12-15, 3-10), 1:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
I wrote at the beginning of conference play that if Boston College head coach Steve Donahue won five ACC games, I’d vote for him as Coach of the Year. He’s still wins two away but has Wake Forest and Georgia Tech as two of his remaining games. Watching BC play, they’re obviously well-coached but execution can only take you so far: experience and talent matter. Wake Forest has been pretty much the exact opposite of BC and yet they’re more talented, which is why they handled the Eagles in Chestnut Hill earlier this year. In theory, they should again.
Key to the game: Boston College’s three-point shooting. The Eagles aren’t going to win many games if they don’t hit three’s. And they’ve hit 10-of-33 in their last two games, losing both by double digits. Last time against Wake, they hit just 4-of-21 3′s (19%, their lowest percentage in ACC play). Maybe with a few days to rest, they’ll be able to knock some down in Winston-Salem. But Wake’s had time off too and it’s clear they’re still mentally engaged.
Random stat: Believe it or not, there are scenarios that exist for BC to get an eight-seed in the ACC Tournament (courtesy of BC Interruption). If you are so inclined, click here.
Prediction: Wake Forest 69, Boston College 59
Maryland (16-11, 6-7) at Georgia Tech (9-18, 2-11), ACC Network split/ESPN3
Maryland still has an outside shot at a top-four seed in the ACC Tournament, but with games against Virginia and Carolina remaining, it’s not likely. Still, the Terrapins need to build on their positive momentum after a huge comeback win over Miami and they have to beat Georgia Tech, who has looked awful lately.
Key to the game: James Padgett’s development. With Alex Len and Ashton Pankey going through freshmen inconsistencies, Padgett has been perhaps the most consistent big man for Maryland this year. Padgett is 17th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and in the last three games, he is averaging 12.3 points per game. In Maryland’s ACC wins, Padgett has averaged 12.2 points in Maryland’s six ACC wins and 6.6 in ACC losses. The Terrapins really need him to develop.
Random stat: Georgia Tech is now averaging 50.2 points per game at home in ACC play. Since their home opener against Duke when they scored 74 points, Georgia Tech has not scored more than 52 points and has averaged 45.4 points in that span.
Prediction: Maryland 66, Georgia Tech 49
NC State (18-10, 7-6) at Clemson (14-13, 6-7), ACC Network split/ESPN3
As crazy as it may sound, this game could help determine fourth place in the conference standings. All five of the teams fighting for that spot (with records between 8-5 and 6-7) have tough remaining schedules. If NC State wants to have any shot at an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, it likely has to win out. Clemson is playing better lately and it’s a tough place to play, so it won’t be easy.
Keys to the game: Closing strong. Taking out a 22-point loss to North Carolina, Clemson’s ACC losses have all come by seven points or less. Clemson has just really struggled at making key plays late in close games, whether it be making foul shots or making a big basket when they really need it. NC State, on the other hand, is 2-2 in games decided by five points or less in league play (6-3 overall). But the Wolfpack’s confidence has really been hurt with its three-game losing streak, and that could turn the tide in Clemson’s favor, particularly at home.
Scott Wood. NC State’s junior sharp-shooter has been anything but lately, making just 3-of-22 shots over the last three games (all losses) and just 3-of-15 three’s. He seems visibly frustrated, not to mention exhausted. But NC State needs him: he has averaged 16.7 points in State’s seven ACC wins and just 8.3 in losses. Maybe with a few days off, he will have his legs back under him.
Random stat: While four of Clemson’s six league wins have come against the bottom three teams in the league (Wake Forest and Georgia Tech), Their other two wins have come against the No. 3 team (FSU) and No. 4 team (Virginia). And of NC State’s five wins, six have come against the bottom three teams.
Prediction: N.C. State 67, Clemson 65
North Carolina (24-4, 11-2) at Virginia (21-6, 8-5), 4:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3
Charlottesville has traditionally been a house of horrors for North Carolina, but the Tar Heels showed impressive focus on the road at NC State on Tuesday. Virginia had a nice road win as well but the Cavaliers are extremely hobbled right now. Virginia doesn’t match up well with Carolina, but that doesn’t always matter in hostile road environments.
Keys to the game: North Carolina on the offensive glass. The Tar Heels dominated the backboards against a Virginia team that typically doesn’t allow opponents to do that, and you’d better believe UVA head coach Tony Bennett will emphasize that to his team in the rematch. Virginia is very difficult to score on, particularly on a first-shot opportunity, but Carolina is starting to take better shots as opposed to just forcing up looks and rebounding their misses as they did against Virginia.
Virginia’s three-point shooting. North Carolina is going to give up some open looks from three, but the Cavaliers have to knock them down. Lately they’ve been doing that, hitting 15-of-35 three’s (42.9%) in their last two games. Prior to that, Virginia had made just 48-of-171 three’s (28.1%) in league play. Carolina’s ACC opponents have made 33.8% of their three’s but the two teams that have beaten them in league play (Florida State and Duke) had to combine to shoot 26-of-63 (41.3%) from beyond the arc. Virginia may not have to make that many, but they’ll have to make more than they did in Chapel Hill (3-of-16, 18.8 percent).
Random stat: North Carolina posted its third-highest offensive efficiency number this season (per Ken Pomeroy) against NC State on Tuesday. But the Tar Heels allowed an offensive efficiency of 110.9, the fifth-highest it has allowed this year (the other four higher offensive efficiencies allowed by Carolina resulted in losses). It’s a big swing for NC State, which posted a 77.2 rating in Chapel Hill, its lowest of the year.
Prediction: North Carolina 68, Virginia 59
Last week: 10-3
Season: 120-41 (56-22 ACC)
No. 5/4 Duke (23-4, 10-2) at No. 15/16 Florida State (19-7, 10-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3
This game marks the first time the first matchup of top 15 teams in Florida State’s Donald L. Tucker Civic Center since February 27, 1993 (No. 6 FSU lost to No. 3 North Carolina). Tonight’s game won’t decide the ACC title (Florida State still has trips to Miami and Virginia remaining while Duke still has North Carolina), but it will make it a much more uphill climb for the loser.
Keys to the game: Containing Ian Miller. Florida State’s talented sophomore guard has had an up-and-down year, but he has hit double figures in four straight games now. He got to the basket seemingly at will against NC State on Saturday, and Duke has had trouble slowing down or stopping those kinds of players all year. Miller has pulled some disappearing acts in ACC play as well, and he had just seven points in 15 minutes at Duke the first time around, but if he’s got his confidence going and can get to the basket, Duke could be in trouble.
Slowing Duke’s perimeter scoring. Only Boston College’s dynamic trio of Jordan Daniels, Lonnie Jackson and Matt Humphrey have had more points against FSU this year than Duke’s primary backcourt scorers (Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins). BC beat FSU on the strength of their performance, and Duke nearly did too. But Duke’s three combined to shoot just 38% from the floor and 9-of-22 from inside the arc. Most opposing big men have been neutralized by FSU, so Duke’s perimeter scorers will have to be effective and efficient. FSU likely can’t withstand an offensive barrage from those three, either.
Random stat: There’s been an assumption that Duke has somehow played better defensively on the road than they have at home in league play. That’s not necessarily true: Duke only allows three more points (65.8 at home, 68.8 on the road) but exactly the same field goal percentage at home and on the road (43.1%) in league play. The main difference? Duke’s opponents have attempted 20.8 free throws and made just 63.2% in the Blue Devils’ road ACC games while at Cameron, opponents attempt 22.5 free throws and make 68.9 percent.
Prediction: Duke 77, Florida State 71
Last week: 7-4
Season: 115-40 (51-21 ACC)
Clemson (13-13, 5-7) at Georgia Tech (9-17, 2-10), 7:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Most important players: Andre Young, Clemson and Mfon Udofia, Georgia Tech. Andre Young went off the last time Clemson faced Georgia Tech, scoring 29 points on 9-of-12 shooting (7-of-9 from three). He’s made just 35.5% of his three’s since, but his 3-of-7 performance at Carolina on Saturday was his best in a road venue all season.
Without Glen Rice, Mfon Udofia has to do more scoring for Georgia Tech to win. His 15 points at Virginia Tech on Saturday were his most in nearly a month and nearly enough for the Yellow Jackets to win. Udofia has averaged 13.8 points in games without Rice and just 9.3 in games with Rice this year.
Random stat: Georgia Tech has lost ten ACC games, including six on the road. They have lost by an average of 8.2 points in six ACC road games compared to 15.8 points at home. Georgia Tech has averaged 52.8 points in home ACC games compared to 64.6 points in road games.
Prediction: Clemson 66, Georgia Tech 53
Miami (16-9, 7-5) at Maryland (15-11, 5-7), 8:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
Maryland is a tough place to play, but if Miami wants to keep its NCAA tournament at-large hopes alive, the Hurricanes have to win.
Most important players: Durand Scott, Miami and Alex Len, Maryland. Durand Scott had his ACC high of 24 points (on 11-of-14 shooting) in the overtime win over Maryland in the first meeting, and he’s found his groove lately, averaging 16.5 points on 61% shooting in the last two. Maryland’s backcourt is that much thinner without Pe’Shon Howard, and Scott could have his way with the Terrapins.
Alex Len’s last good stretch for Maryland came against Miami and North Carolina, when he averaged 12.5 points on 64% shooting. In the four games since, he has eight total points on 36.4% shooting. Maryland needs more from the talented big man, and maybe he can find a spark against Miami.
Random stat: Maryland lost 71-44 at Virginia on Saturday, but the game was tied at 31 at halftime. Maryland scored just 13 second-half points and just 11 in the final 19:52. Maryland averaged 0.34 points per possession from the 19:52 mark until the 3:45 mark when head coach Mark Turgeon took out the starters in the second half and made just three field goals.
Prediction: Miami 74, Maryland 67
North Carolina (23-4, 10-2) at N.C. State (18-9, 7-5), 8:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
With all the hoopla surrounding the ejection of former NC State superstars Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta last Saturday (and their 1988-89 team being honored before the game), this will be the most hostile environment North Carolina has faced this year. But if the Wolfpack can’t persevere through in-game adversity, the atmosphere won’t matter.
Most important players: Lorenzo Brown, NC State and John Henson, North Carolina. Lorenzo Brown’s two games last week were a mixed bag, but the NC State point guard did the right things against Florida State and Duke: he attacked the basket and averaged 7.0 free throw attempts. Carolina has struggled at times to stop the dribble, and Brown must remember to attack the basket.
John Henson has held NC State’s C.J. Leslie to a combined 9-of-27 shooting in the last two State-Carolina games. And Leslie’s numbers have gotten worse, not better, every time he faces Carolina. Leslie’s propensity to try to take Henson one-on-one in the last meeting really hurt the Wolfpack, and if Henson continues to shut him down as he has, Carolina should win easily.
Random stat: Two out of NC State’s last three head coaches have won their first game against North Carolina at home: Les Robinson and Sidney Lowe. Robinson (1990-96) won three of his first four vs. UNC and four out of six home games against the Tar Heels. Sidney Lowe (2006-11) won his first game against Carolina at home but lost 11 straight after that. Since Robinson left prior to the 1996-97 season, State is 3-13 at home against Carolina.
Prediction: North Carolina 81, NC State 71
Virginia (20-6, 7-5) at Virginia Tech (15-12, 4-8), 9:00 PM, ESPNU
How Virginia Tech won the first meeting between these two teams earlier this year remains a mystery, but the exhausted Hokies likely won’t have enough magic to repeat that, and Virginia knows how much it needs this game.
Most important players: Mike Scott, Virginia and Dorian Finney-Smith, Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech big man Victor Davila will miss this game with an injury, meaning whatever formula the Hokies concocted for slowing Virginia star Mike Scott last time could be adversely affected. Scott is averaging 20.6 points in UVA’s ACC wins and 16 in losses, so the Hokies will have to find a way to slow him.
Virginia Tech freshman Dorian Finney-Smith wasn’t a factor in the first meeting with Virginia this year, but he is averaging 10.8 points in the last five games. His length and athleticism could be a factor on both ends for Virginia Tech, particularly against Virginia’s thin front line.
Random stat: Virginia’s slow style of play has been a big part of the reason for their excellent scoring defense, but the Cavaliers are one of many slow-tempo teams that have played in the ACC since the shot clock was instituted. And yet they have held 11 opponents under 50 points this year, the most by an ACC team in the shot clock era.
Prediction: Virginia 54, Virginia Tech 51
Last week: 7-4
Season: 115-40 (51-21 ACC)
Duke (22-4, 9-2) at Boston College (8-18, 3-9), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
All Duke has to do is beat a pretty bad Boston College team (albeit on the road) to keep pace with North Carolina and Florida State atop the ACC. Duke has to be feeling good about itself after two comeback wins in an eight-day span over in-state rivals. And BC doesn’t have the horses to compete in a game like this just yet.
Stat to watch: Does Duke’s offense get bogged down in the black hole that is Conte Forum? Duke has been excellent on the road this year, perhaps even better than at home, but they’ve also had hostile opposing crowds to help them coalesce behind a common goal. And other ACC teams have struggled at BC: the Eagles have won three out of six ACC home games and came close against NC State. In those games, BC’s opponents averaged 58.0 points and 39.3% shooting. In their other eight ACC games, opponents shot 46.6% and averaged 71.3 points. Duke has to bring the focus it has had in other road games and not let BC’s slow pace – or quiet atmosphere – distract them.
Most important players: Ryan Anderson, Boston College and Seth Curry, Duke. Boston College’s Ryan Anderson struggled most of the season, but the 6-8 freshman has averaged 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in the last three games on 54% shooting. He’ll face a tough test today against a big Duke front line, but he is certainly a bright spot going forward for the Eagles.
Duke’s Seth Curry has averaged 20.5 points in the last four games on 50% shooting and hit 14-of-29 three’s. In his first seven league games, he averaged 11.4 points on 36.6% shooting and made just 7-of-33 three’s. And he’s been at his best during Duke’s comeback wins.
Random stat: Courtesy of BC Interruption, the “Linsanity” surrounding New York Knicks breakout star (and Harvard alum) Jeremy Lin is not a new phenomenon to BC fans. BC took a lot of flak for losing to Harvard in 2009 and 2010, both teams led by Lin, who averaged 26 points on 69.2% shooting and added 12 assists and six steals in two games. (Note: Boston College has lost at home for four years in a row, and Lin has played in two out of the four.) But in 2010 and 2011, it hasn’t been Lin killing them: it’s been sophomore Laurent Rivard, averaging 10.9 points over his career and 20.5 against Boston College. Maybe he’ll be the next NBA sensation someday.
Prediction: Duke 67, Boston College 54
Last week: 7-4
Season: 115-40 (51-21 ACC)
Clemson (13-12, 5-6) at North Carolina (22-4, 9-2), 4:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3
The Streak is now a nationally-known entity: Clemson has never won in Chapel Hill in 55 tries. Both teams claim its not in their heads (as they should), but it’s a pretty insane record. At some point, it will end. Clemson is playing well right now and after a dominating road win at Wake Forest last weekend, it’s not as if the Tigers lack confidence. And they are actually averaging more points per possession in ACC play than North Carolina is right now. The Tar Heels need to win to keep pace atop the league, but they also need to find some kind of a rhythm offensively.
Stat to watch: North Carolina’s two-point percentage. The Tar Heels can’t seem to hit a three-pointer to save their lives right now, but they’ve been fairly dominant in the paint and have scored 61.8% of their points from inside the arc (ninth nationally) compared to 17.8% from three (339th nationally). But Clemson doesn’t allow many points from two: their opponents shoot 45.9% from inside the arc. ACC that have beaten Clemson have shot 42.1% from three and scored 33.4% of their points from beyond the arc compared to 22.9% of their points from three and 28.9% shooting in Clemson’s ACC wins. North Carolina has shot better than 42.1% from three just twice in ACC play but in those games, they scored 23% of their points in those two games combined from three. The Tar Heels are going to have to get some offensive balance at some point, and it might have to start today.
Most important players: Tanner Smith, Clemson and Harrison Barnes, North Carolina. Harrison Barnes has been dealing with a sprained ankle, but he said Friday that he was at about 90% and it showed against Miami. As he did many times last year, Barnes simply took over the second half and was dominant, finishing with 23 points on 19 shots. It was the most shots he has attempted this year, but he was efficient for the most part, shooting 47.4 percent. He also made 3-of-7 three’s, his most three’s in a game since January 29th. The Tar Heels have been ice cold from the perimeter, but if Barnes can knock down some three-pointers – while also driving to the basket for a lay-up or a pull-up jumper, it will at least keep defenses honest. In three games against Clemson, Barnes has averaged 24.3 points on 59% shooting, including his personal career high of 40 in the ACC Tournament semifinal win last year.
Tanner Smith is quietly having one of the hottest stretches of any ACC player this year, and that’s not an exaggeration. He’s averaging 16.5 points on 13-of-18 shooting (4-of-8 from three). He’s also averaging 4.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 3.5 rebounds in that span. Smith is a do-everything type of player for Clemson, and always has been able to give the Tigers a boost in an area of need, whether it be rebounding, steals or even blocks. But now, the Tigers need offense and he has come through. He has also had some success against the Tar Heels: he averaged 12.5 points in two games against Carolina last year (he went out of the first matchup early with an injury after just nine minutes). More importantly, though, he hit 6-of-11 three’s over those two games and absolutely killed North Carolina at times with his ability to knock those down.
Random stat: Clemson has had plenty of chances in the last few years in Chapel Hill, even in the last few years. The Tigers lost by double digits to the 2002 team but fell in Chapel Hill by just two in 2003. Then in 2008, Clemson led for much of the game but fell in double overtime. In 2011, Clemson lost by ten but the final score was deceptive as it was close throughout.
Prediction: North Carolina 81, Clemson 69
Last week: 7-4
Season: 111-39 (47-20 ACC)
Georgia Tech (9-16, 2-9) at Virginia Tech (14-12, 3-8), 3:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Really, not much to say about this game. Neither team is likely going to see any kind of a postseason, and both teams lost games they easily could/should have won in the past week. But, Virginia Tech was short-handed and played well at Florida State. The Hokies are tough to beat at home, and Georgia Tech has found it tough to win anywhere if it can’t win at Wake.
Stat to watch: Virginia Tech’s shooting percentage. Georgia Tech has only had one more day to rest than Virginia Tech, but the Hokies played their hearts out with seven healthy scholarship players in Tallahassee, and their second-half percentages showed it. They couldn’t make free throws down the stretch and shot just 4-of-11 from the foul line in the second half, including 3-of-10 in the final 2:12 (and the front end of two 1-and-1′s). They actually shot better in the second half from the floor (9-of-25) but worse from three (2-of-9). In the final 14:02, the Hokies hit just 2-of-15 shots and 0-of-7 three-pointers. Georgia Tech is not an especially fast-paced team, but the Yellow Jackets will make you work for good shots. Not sure if Virginia Tech will have the stamina – mentally or physically – to be able to do it again.
Most important players: Dorenzo Hudson, Virginia Tech. Hudson is a senior, and it’s clear he’s giving it his all but he’s having to do too much. He took 12 shots at Florida State and made two (both three-pointers) and was 0-of-6 inside the arc. He didn’t score in the second half after a brilliant first half. The Hokies are short-handed, and so they need both Hudson and Erick Green to score more. Both are trying, but it’s just not enough right now. Maybe Hudson will find a spark of extra energy at home.
Note: This was written before it was announced today that Glen Rice, Jr. was suspended again, and he was my Georgia Tech player to watch.
Random stat: The unluckiest team in the ACC per Ken Pomeroy is still Clemson, but neither Georgia Tech nor Virginia Tech are too far behind. While Clemson is 344th in “Luck”, Georgia Tech is 334th and Virginia Tech is 324th.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 63, Georgia Tech 54
Last week: 7-4
Season: 111-39 (47-20 ACC)
Wake Forest (12-14, 3-9) at Miami (15-9, 6-5), 1:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Despite the loss to North Carolina, Miami is still in very good shape going forward, and this is certainly a very winnable game – a must-win, really, if Miami is to have any NCAA Tournament hopes. Wake Forest managed to get its first win in nearly a month against Georgia Tech, but it was a hideous game and the Deacons have won just one road game since beating High Point at the buzzer on December 7th.
Stat to watch: The foul line. This is pretty much the only statistic that Wake Forest excels in, both offensively and defensively. And it’s one of the only statistical areas that Miami has really struggled with in ACC play, in almost every game. Wake Forest still has one of the highest free-throw rates in the country (42.7 ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts, 32nd nationally) and allows just a 31.2 ratio (58th nationally). Miami got to the line a lot before league play, and for some reason, adding a lightning-quick point guard and a physically-imposing big man has translated to fewer free throw attempts. The Hurricanes are 10th in the league in free throw rate (25.7). They’ll have to find a way to get to the line or at the very least keep Wake Forest off it.
Most important players: Trey McKinney-Jones, Miami and C.J. Harris, Wake Forest. McKinney-Jones is a just a freshman, so he has an excuse for making silly plays now and again. But at times, those plays have really hurt Miami and they did against North Carolina. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting (3-of-5 from three) but also tied for the team lead with four turnovers. In the second half, he was 1-of-5 (1-of-3 from three) for three points and added three turnovers in 14 minutes. Two of his turnovers came in a 56-second span when North Carolina was making a run to retake the lead. But he mixed in some nice plays, like a lob to Rion Brown for a dunk. But his turnovers led to four of Carolina’s 11 points off turnovers in the second half. It would be great if he could build some consistency and continue to improve his decision-making against Wake, a team that hasn’t offered much defensive resistance.
Harris has not hit many field goals against Miami in his career – in four career games, his most field goals is three – but at home in a loss to Miami last year, he had 24 points because he hit 17-of-18 foul shots. He hit 3-of-3 field goal attempts (1-of-1 three-pointers). That’s an insane amount of free throws and Harris averages 8.3 attempts from the foul line against Miami in his career. The Hurricanes have struggles at times with keeping opponents off the line, and Harris is excellent at getting to the line. Harris had his fist single-digit scoring effort of the season against Georgia Tech (eight points) and was just 2-of-8 from the field, tied for his worst shooting performance of the year. When he has four or fewer free-throw attempts, he has averaged 12.4 points compared to 16.7 with more than four attempts, so Miami has to keep him off the line.
Random stat: Miami big man Reggie Johnson is shooting nearly the same percentage from two (55.1%) as he is from three (50.0%, of 3-of-6).
Prediction: Miami 76, Wake Forest 58
Last week: 7-4
Season: 111-39 (47-20 ACC)
Maryland (15-10, 5-6) at Virginia (19-6, 6-5), 1:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
Things are looking pretty bleak for Virginia right now. Not only are they in danger of finishing outside the top four of the ACC, but the Cavaliers are also in potential danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. Three of their final five games are very winnable, though (twice against Maryland and at Virginia Tech), but they still have home dates against North Carolina and Florida State. That means Virginia needs to win games like the Maryland contest because if the Cavaliers lose nine or more games, it might get dicey.
Stat to watch: Turnovers. Virginia plays at far too slow a pace to be turning it over as much as it has recently. In two of its last three losses, Virginia has had a loss of ball of 28% or higher, including a season-high 29% at Clemson (18 turnovers in 62 possessions) and 28.6% at Florida State (20 turnovers in 70 possessions). But Maryland doesn’t force many, and if Virginia executes its offense well and Mike Scott can get going for the Cavaliers, it’s going to be tough for Maryland without Virginia miscues. Maryland has started to get careless with the ball as well, turning it over 28 times in 146 possessions (19.2% loss of ball) in the last two games. Virginia will make opponents pay for mistakes, so Maryland will have
Most important players: Sammy Zeglinski, Virginia and Nick Faust, Maryland. Virginia’s senior shooting guard has been in what would euphemistically be called a shooting slump. He has made 14-of-58 three’s in ACC play and since a 6-of-9 stretch against Boston College and NC State, he has shot just 4-of-31 in five games (12.9%). Particularly with swingman Joe Harris nursing a broken (non-shooting) hand, the Cavaliers have to have more production from Zeglinski. But Zeglinski has shot 13-of-26 (50%) from the floor and 11-of-18 from three in his last three game against Maryland, averaging 14 points. Maybe he can recapture some of that magic on Saturday.
Maryland’s Nick Faust has really come on for Maryland lately with 29 points in the last two games, and against BC he added four rebounds, six assists and five steals in 35 minutes. He also guarded BC’s best player Matt Humphrey and held him to his lowest scoring output in nearly a month. He’s averaging 10.5 points in the last three games. Maryland will need that from him against a Virginia team that’s hard to score on, particularly if it keys on Terrell Stoglin.
Random stat: Maryland has scored 25.6% of its points this season from the foul line, which is fifth nationally, and in ACC play they’ve scored 25.9% of their points from the charity stripe, which leads the league.
Prediction: Virginia 63, Maryland 57
Last week: 7-4
Season: 111-39 (47-20 ACC)