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Dec. 31 ACC Previews

Dartmouth (2-8) at Boston College (7-5), 3:00 PM, ESPN3

KEGGY! YES. YES.

What to watch: The BC defense. The Eagles have looked better in that department lately, holding three of their last six opponents to 40% shooting or less (after doing that just twice in the first six games). Dartmouth is downright abysmal offensively – they’re 326th in the Ken Pomeroy rankings, but that hasn’t always mattered to the BC defense.

Random Dartmouth facts: Dartmouth’s “Keggy the Keg” mascot is unofficial (obviously), but it is seriously one of the best ever. Here’s a video of Keggy’s storied – and somewhat complex – history, including this gem: “There’s no one inside Keggy. Keggy’s inside every one of us.” Indeed, my friend:

Prediction: Boston College, 68-55. This should be a relatively easy win for the Eagles, but nothing ever seems to be for them.

UNCG (2-8) at No. 23 NC State (10-2), 5:00 PM, ESPNU

What to watch: NC State’s three-point defense. UNCG scores most of its points from beyond the arc (32.1%), and NC State’s three-point defense this season has been a bit spotty at times. The Wolfpack should score at such a pace that it won’t matter, but now’s the time to start locking down defensively, particularly on the perimeter.

Random UNCG facts: UNCG is coached by former Tar Heel Wes Miller, and he learned from one of the best in Roy Williams. He also learned to do a pretty good impression of him. Although last I checked, I don’t think Roy Williams could do this.

As a Greensboro native myself, only I’m allowed to laugh at my hometown. And who wouldn’t want to come visit after watching this video?

Greensboro is also the home of the one and only BDaht.

Prediction: NC State, 101-79. The up-tempo pace of UNCG should make this a high-scoring affair.

 

Overall: 113-30

Last week: 10-4

Dec. 29-30 ACC Previews

Santa Clara (11-2) at No. 1 Duke (11-0), 12:00 PM, ESPN2

In the 1960s, Santa Clara had a short-lived live Bronco mascot.

What to watch: Santa Clara’s Mark Trasolini versus Ryan Kelly. He’s not the Broncos’ leading scorer, but the 6-9 senior forward is the most efficient scorer, averaging 16.3 points on 57% shooting. In Santa Clara’s two losses, he has shot just 3-of-10 from the floor. In the last three games, he has averaged 23.7 points on over 68% shooting, adding 4-of-6 three-pointers, 7.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. Duke’s Ryan Kelly has held some good opposing big men (and versatile big men at that) to low point totals this year, and Duke’s going to need his defense yet again against a sneaky-good Santa Clara squad.

Random Santa Clara facts: In the mid-1960s, Santa Clara had a live bronco (briefly) that was so strong, he could pull a section of folded bleachers unassisted. The handler discovered this after he tied him to the bleachers while he went to get a hot dog, only to come back when he heard the crowd roaring as the bronco was running across the field). At least they were empty?

Prediction: Duke, 95-73. Both of Santa Clara’s losses have come in overtime, but their best win was over St. Louis early this year. Still, the Broncos have had a relatively easy time of it since and have dominated some decent teams. But this is at Duke, and the Blue Devils are rolling.

Western Michigan (8-4) at No. 23/25 NC State (9-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU

Wake up, buddy.

What to watch: The foul line. If there’s been an area to quibble with NC State offensively this year, it’s the free-throw shooting. The Wolfpack is one of the most efficient teams in the league offensively, and would probably hold the league’s top mark in that category if it could shoot free throws. NC State has hit the 70% mark from the line just three times this season and is shooting 64% on the year, good for 282nd nationally according to Ken Pomeroy. But their free-throw rate is top-50 nationally, and the offense is predicated on being aggressive and getting to the line. If State stops leaving points at the foul line, its offense – which is already scary good – will become even more so.

Random Western Michigan facts: WMU used to be known as the Hilltoppers, but that led to some understandable confusion with fellow Hilltopper schools. (Also, WMU expanded beyond the hills and their tops.) They adopted the Bronco in the late 1980s, and he looks….well….sleepy.

And if you needed to know anything about parking on WMU’s campus (and ridiculously short shorts), check out this 1982 video! (Side note: I think Buster Bronco finds this video HILARIOUS. No reason.)

Prediction: NC State, 87-63. Even if the Wolfpack shows up sluggish after the holiday break, Western Michigan isn’t the type of team that can take advantage of its weaknesses.

Delaware State (5-7) at Maryland (10-1), 12:30 PM, ESPN3

Too-Fly, indeed.

What to watch: Maryland’s turnovers. The Terrapins don’t force a lot of turnovers, and they don’t have to because their defense is good enough. But they can’t afford to keep turning it over, either. Maryland’s defense has the lowest loss of ball percentage in the league (12.7%), but their 0.746 PPP allowed is one of the best marks. Still, Maryland’s loss of ball on offense (18.82%) is only better than Wake Forest and Florida State so far this year. Maryland has shown a tendency to get sloppy at times this year. If they want to be an upper-echelon ACC team (and they’re more than capable of being just that), they won’t be able to get away with turning it over on nearly a fifth of their offensive possessions.

Random Delaware State facts: Delaware State has tweaked its mascot in recent years, and the current hornet iteration is known as “Too-Fly”. And he had a high standard of flyness to live up to:

Prediction: Maryland, 87-65. The Hornets did knock off in-state rival Delaware recently (side note: things have gone downhill from the Blue Hens since beating UVa). But half of their wins are against non-Division I opponents.

Florida State (7-4) vs. Tulsa (7-5), 2:00 PM, FSN (Sunrise, FL)

Tulsa’s old mascot, the Golden Hurricane, next to the new one: Captain Cane, a superhero that can “summon weather”. Sheesh.

What to watch: Has Michael Snaer flipped the switch? The senior guard sat out FSU’s win against Louisiana-Monroe due to “disciplinary reasons”, and whatever his head coach Leonard Hamilton did or said seems to have worked. He’s always been an elite defender, and it’s been obvious that he has struggled to take on his newfound role as an assertive scorer. But he has to do that for Florida State to win, and he did against Charlotte last week. He had 30 points on 8-of-19 shooting, his best shooting percentage since late November. In his last two games he has played in – Charlotte and Maine – he has taken 37 shots, a third of his season total. In FSU’s losses, he has shot nearly five fewer times on average than in FSU’s wins. And he’s going to have to keep it up as his young teammates come along.

Random Tulsa facts: The Golden Hurricane mascot used to be an actual hurricane. Now, it’s “Captain Cane”, who carries a a “hurricane-summoning sword” and wears “energy-sourcing thunder boots”. Well, okay then. The change was made when current UNC AD Bubba Cunningham was the AD at Tulsa.

Prediction: Florida State, 76-68. Without the loss to Mercer, maybe FSU wouldn’t seem like its struggling so much. The Seminoles would have then only lost to Minnesota and Florida since their season-opening loss to South Alabama. Sadly, Mercer ddi happen, and so did some struggles against Maine and Louisiana Monroe. Still, Tulsa hasn’t beaten anyone as good as FSU this year.

Holy Cross (7-5) at Boston College (6-5), 2:00 PM, ESPN3

NONE SHALL PASS!

What to watch: BC’s freshmen. Joe Rahon and Olivier Hanlan have combined to play nearly a third of BC’s available minutes this year (and attempt nearly a third of their shots), but neither have shot particularly well, especially lately. Obviously, both have to play but Hanlan is shooting just 16-of-51in the last four games and Rahon is shooting 7-of-31 in the last three. Both are going to continue to play a lot – and take a lot of shots – but at some point it would help the Eagles if they start, you know, making a few more.

Random Holy Cross facts: Why is Holy Cross known as the Crusaders? If you know anything about history, it’s fairly obvious. Let’s just watch some knight videos.

Now stand aside, worthy adversary. …. Runnin’ away, eh?

Also….NI! BRING HOLY CROSS PLAYERS A SHRUBBERY!

And then there’s this.

BC had just better make sure they choose, and choose wisely.

Prediction: Boston College, 61-55. When Boston College beat Providence last week, it was the highest-ranked Ken Pomeroy team (62nd) the Eagles had beaten since knocking off then-No. 24 FSU on February 8, 2012 (of course, BC won only nine games last season). So, progress?

No. 20/17 UNLV (11-1) at North Carolina (9-3), 2:00 PM, ESPN2

Candygram. (See below.)

What to watch: Carolina’s bigs versus UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebs will be shorthanded as forward Mike Moser should miss the game with a dislocated elbow (he’s listed as questionable), and he had 16 points and 18 rebounds in UNLV’s upset win over UNC last season. Freshman forward Anthony Bennett leads the nation’s rookies in scoring, averaging 19.5 points per game and 8.5 rebounds. They have plenty of other capable big men, including versatile Khem Birch, a Pitt transfer who can shoot three’s, and senior Quintrell Thomas. UNC’s rotating group of centers: Joel James, Desmond Hubert and Brice Johnson – haven’t been all that consistent or effective, and James Michael McAdoo has struggled against some big-time opponents. The Tar Heels will have their hands full with one of the best players in the nation in Bennett, not to mention his teammates.

Reggie Bullock. There weren’t many positives Carolina could take from its loss to Texas, but Carolina’s junior leader stepping up and attempting a season-high 17 shots should be one of them. He wasn’t great – he hit just six of those attempts – but he got to the line six times (also a season-high) and for the first time, he showed he’s willing to be the guy who steps up in big moments for Carolina. Just because he steps up doesn’t mean he’ll come through, or that Carolina will win. But someone has to be willing to do it consistently.

Random UNLV facts: UNLV adopted the Rebel nickname because they were “rebelling” against the flagship, Nevada-Reno. They adopted a shark mascot in honor of former head coach Jerry “The Shark” Tarkanian, but that has since gone away. But at least it gives us a chance to link these awesome videos!

The landshark eats someone.

Which also allows us to link this, one of the best SNL skits ever.

Prediction: UNLV, 77-72. The Tar Heels really need this win, but I haven’t seen anything from them so far to lead me to believe they’ll get it.

Virginia Tech (9-3) at BYU (9-4), 2:00 PM, ESPNU

“Cougar” not mean what it used to mean.

What to watch: Tempo. The Hokies want to go up-tempo, but can they really hang with a team like BYU? The Cougars are not a great team this year, but they’re good enough and still one of the fastest teams in the country. Virginia Tech has shown flashes of being good in transition, but the Hokies are dangerously thin and that sort of tempo might wear them down.

Anyone other than Erick Green. Seriously. Anyone. Here’s a stat comparison for you from the last three games:

A: 33-63 FG (52.4%), 4-15 3-pt (26.7%), 15-20 FT (75.0%), 85 points (28.3 ppg)

B: 36-114 FG (31.6%), 12-49 3-pt (24.5%), 22-38 FT (57.9%), 106 points (35.3 ppg)

“A” is Green. “B” is the rest of his teammates combined. Yeah. Cadarian Rains had a good game against Bradley, but was a combined 1-of-3 in the other two games sandwiching it. Robert Brown has made just four of his last 30 field-goal attempts and has ten points in the last four games. Jarrell Eddie has been up and down, but at least he’s hit double figures in three straight games. Freshman forward Marshall Wood broke his foot and while he wasn’t a huge contributor (5.8 points), he was averaging 18 minutes. The Hokies weren’t deep to begin with: Christian Beyer, a seldom-used reserve until recently, has seen 52 minutes in the last two games (he still has not made a field goal this year).

Random BYU facts: BYU is not going to change its Cougar mascot anytime soon, but it’s already being rejected as a high school mascot because of its offensive connotations. For those of you who don’t know what a cougar refers to, it’s…forget it, I’ll refer you to Urban Dictionary.

Prediction: BYU, 89-68. Just difficult to see the Hokies being able to win this one with as badly as their supporting cast has looked recently.

Fordham (3-9) at Georgia Tech (8-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

What to watch: Some semblance of an offense for Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech is one of the beat teams in the country defensively this year (statistically), but the offense is still coming around. As the From the Rumble Seat blog points out, Georgia Tech is starting to shoot better. But the Yellow Jackets being without Jason Morris (plantar fasciatis) and incorporating some new pieces hasn’t made it any easier, either. Georgia Tech doesn’t have a great win, but it doesn’t have a bad loss. Win these last two non-conference games, make some noise in the ACC and the Yellow Jackets could be looking at an NCAA Tournament bid. If they can get to even a decent level offensively, they could be tough to beat.

Random Fordham facts: The ram nickname came from an 1893 football game, when the students chanted “One dam, two dams, three dams, FORDHAM!” The Jesuit staff didn’t care for that kind of foul language, so they changed “dam” to “ram”. They’ve had live rams over the years, and in the late 1950′s, one of said rams lived in a “1,200-cubic-foot brick hut” built by Grace Kelly’s father. That same ram liked to enjoy “a lager or two” after games in his elaborate Ram Mansion.

Prediction: Georgia Tech, 84-55. Fordham is awful, but especially defensively. Georgia Tech should put up some points.

DECEMBER 30

Wofford (6-6) at Virginia (9-3), 1:00 PM, RSN

Still adorable.

What to watch: UVa’s big men. Virginia made just 38% of its two-pointers in the loss to Old Dominion, a season-low. A big reason for that is how much their starting frontcourt, Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins, struggled. Both have been much-improved this year, but Mitchell shot just 3-of-10 and had eight points (just his second time this season in single digits) and Atkins was 2-of-6 for four points, his fewest since November 12. Both of them combined shot worse from inside the arc than their teammates combined. Wofford is not a defensive juggernaut by any means, but the reason UVa had started to play so well this season was the improvement of Mitchell and Atkins. The Cavaliers will struggle to beat even decent teams like Wofford – and particularly in ACC play – if that doesn’t continue.

Random Wofford facts: We’ve covered the origin of the Terrier here before, and yes, it’s one of the cutest mascots around. So instead of that, here are Wofford students teaching rats to play basketball!

Prediction: UVa, 61-49. In an under-the-radar result, Wofford beat Xavier last Saturday. Virginia hasn’t looked very good as of late. But every time we want to count the Cavaliers out, they win a game they have to win, and this one qualifies.

Last week: 10-4
Overall: 106-28

Dec. 15-16 ACC Previews

East Carolina (6-1) at No. 21/18 North Carolina (7-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU

A drawing of the Pirate from 1934 (ECU wouldn’t have a pirate mascot until the 1980′s).

What to watch: Can UNC get to the free-throw line? It’s downright bizarre to see a North Carolina team struggle to get to the foul line like this one is, but the Tar Heels are 345th nationally (per Ken Pomeroy) in free-throw rate. ECU’s opponents have a very high free-throw rate and score 23% of their points from the foul line. Carolina hasn’t scored 23% of its points from the foul line in any game all year. Carolina hasn’t shot well from the line on the year – just 62% – but they’re going to need to be more aggressive to diversity their offense. In the last two games, despite having a size/athleticism advantage, Carolina has attempted 38% of its shots from three.

Random East Carolina facts: This is the first time ECU and North Carolina have played in the regular season since 1953, when Frank McGuire was still a relatively new coach at UNC. The teams are playing again because ECU is coached by former Tar Heel Jeff Lebo, who played point guard from 1986-89. … The Pirates started this season 5-0, and it’s only the second time they’ve done that since joining Division I.

Prediction: North Carolina, 85-61. It’s hard to know how good East Carolina is. They beat a pretty solid UNCG team and a decent Georgia State team on the road, but half of the Pirates’ wins are against non-Division I opponents. Before UNC’s final stretch of very tough non-conference games, the Tar Heels desperately need a confidence-boosting win here.

Georgia Southern (3-5) at Virginia Tech (8-1), 2:00 PM, ESPN3

Freedom the Eagle and his handler, James Spader?

What to watch: Anyone besides Erick Green. The junior point guard has nearly 30% of Virginia Tech’s points this season, but his teammates have still played well, which is a big reason Virginia Tech has gotten off to a good start. But in the last few games, one or both of his teammates have struggled and as a result, Virginia Tech has had its worst two shooting performances of the year. Green had 23 points against Mississippi Valley State on 8-of-13 shooting. His teammates combined for 47 points on 32% shooting (and just 1-of-11 from three). That can’t happen against a good team, and guys like Jarrell Eddie, Robert Brown and Cadarian Raines – who combined for 12 points on 4-of-20 shooting against MVSU – need to step up again and help ease Green’s burden.

Random Georgia Southern facts: Shocking that a school is allowed to have a live bald eagle mascot in this day and age, but Freedom is still with us. Of course, as live birds are want to do, he has flown away before.

Prediction: Virginia Tech, 74-52. Georgia Southern is one of the slower-tempo teams in the country, and they’re going to try to ugly it up against the Hokies. But it won’t be nearly enough.

Norfolk State (6-6) at No. 25 NC State (6-2), 4:00 PM, RSN

Not sure if that’s a mustache or a stiff upper lip.

What to watch: NC State’s focus. NC State is coming off of a week of taking their final exams, and they have a big game against Stanford looming on Tuesday. Norfolk State is not especially good at anything in particular, but the Spartans can get offensive rebounds and get to the line quite a bit. They’ve been scrappy against some good teams (a 13-point loss at Seton Hall and a 10-point loss at Illinois), so NC State’s going to have to stay disciplined to put them away comfortably, as they should.

Random Norfolk State facts: I could have scoured the internet for the exactly origins of the NSU Spartan mascot. Or I could just give you this video of the Spartan twerking. You’re welcome.

Prediction: NC State, 82-60. Norfolk State has hung around with some good opponents this year (a 13-point loss at Seton Hall and a 10-point loss at Illinois), but their best win is against Savannah State. So, yeah.

Florida A&M (4-6) at Clemson (5-3), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Just awesome.

What to watch: The defensive boards. Clemson has been excellent defensively in almost every area but that one, and it came back to haunt them against Arizona as they gave up 20 offensive rebounds while pulling down just 21 defensive boards. Clemson’s a relatively slow-paced team and not particularly explosive offensively, so they can’t afford to give up second and third opportunities to any team, even Florida A&M.

Random Florida A&M facts: Florida A&M has perhaps the No. 1 mascot in all the power rankings, a rattlesnake. Known as the Rattlers because their campus was once infested with them, they have (or had?) a costumed mascot named “Venom”. And then it mysteriously went missing. Two words you never want to see near each other? “Rattlesnake” and “missing”.

And from FAMU’s band, here’s “Hay” by Crucial Conflict:

Prediction: Clemson, 79-53. Florida A&M has four wins, and two of them are against teams called Edward Waters and Allen.

DECEMBER 16

New Hampshire (4-5) at Boston College (4-5), 1:00 PM, RSN

New Hampshire has had so many live wildcat mascots that they don’t even know where this stuffed-and-mounted one came from.

What to watch: BC’s three-point percentage. The Eagles are very reliant on the three-pointer, and New Hampshire is fourth in the country in three-point defense (22.4% allowed). BC scores nearly 30% of its points from three. If they end up losing, it’ll likely be because they couldn’t knock down outside shots.

Random New Hampshire facts: The Wildcats were very nearly called the Durham Bulls. Uh, that’s taken guys. But they have had a number of live wildcat mascots, a tradition that ended for good in the 1970s. Because it went about as well as you might expect.

With moderate success, the cats were controlled on the field with a chain leash and a stick, but none of the wildcats ever got used to the noise from the crowd or the band. The sight of the cringing, frightened animal was more distressing than inspiring to some of the football fans. … The last live wildcat, purchased in 1940, lived on campus for only a week before it died. The Blue Key vowed to replace it, but instead they took to heart the words from ‘A Student’ who wrote: “The well-intentioned persistence of Blue Key in attempting to keep a mascot not susceptible to domestication seems to many of us, in view of the net results, very unwise.”

Prediction: Boston College, 73-66. Please, BC. Seriously.

Last week: 12-1

Overall: 84-21

Dec. 8-9 ACC Previews

Cleveland State (6-2) at No. 25/24 NC State (5-2), 2:00 PM, ESPN3

When they were known as Fenn College, Cleveland State’s mascot was a Fox.

What to watch: NC State’s three-point defense. NC State’s opponents are scoring nearly 32% of their points from behind the arc, even if they aren’t hitting a high percentage (33.1%). But in the last four games (all either close wins or losses), opponents have hit nearly 38 percent. UConn hit the lowest percentage (34.8%), but NC State also fouled UConn on a three-pointer twice in the final 3:09 (UConn hit four of those six free throws). Counting those, UConn scored over 43% of their points on three-point attempts. Cleveland State is hitting 36.7% of its three’s, and the Vikings are a solid team. If NC State doesn’t guard the three-point line, Cleveland State could keep the game close the same way UNC-Asheville did.

Random Cleveland State facts: Cleveland State was known as Fenn College from 1923-64, and when it was Fenn College, they were the Fenn Foxes. Now, they’re the Vikings. Boo. More teams besides Marist should be named “Fox”.

Also, look at these pranksters!

Prediction: NC State, 82-64. NC State won a tough game against Connecticut that they might not have a year ago. After some early tests, the Wolfpack is ready to win a game like this convincingly against a decent team at home.

South Carolina State (4-4) at Maryland (7-1), 2:00 PM, ESPN3

What to watch: Pe’Shon Howard. Howard has had a great season in terms of assists (49) and turnovers (15), but the junior point guard hasn’t made a shot since November 20th. He’s shooting just 3-of-21 this season. He played just nine minutes in the rout of UMES, but head coach Mark Turgeon said he was dealing with a stomach issue. Turgeon’s lineup tweaks seem more experimental, but Howard ideally needs to become a scoring threat. Freshman Seth Allen and even starting guard Nick Faust ran the point some against UMES. Howard is the best option, but if injury or illness keeps him out – as it has before – he could get Wally Pipped.

Random South Carolina State facts: Bulldogs? Not a great mascot. But the South Carolina State band/dancers/whatever brings it, always. I’m not sure they’ll bring these girls with them, which is probably for the best if Maryland doesn’t want to get distracted.

And this is officially my favorite band ever. Pretty Brown Eyes!

Prediction: Maryland, 95-63. The best team South Carolina State has played so far is Albany.  They lost by 25 points. Also, Ken Pomeroy ranks 347 D-I schools. UMES is 345th. South Carolina State is 343rd.

St. Francis (NY) (2-4) at Boston College (3-5), 2:00 PM, ESPN3

Cutest mascot ever?

What to watch: Boston College’s defense. Just, any defense would be fine. Harvard was pretty anemic offensively before hosting BC, when they put up 79 points and shot 55% from the floor. BC isn’t forcing many turnovers, so the least the Eagles have to do is guard the ball better. Or, just, at all. Or they’ll lose, even a game like this one.

Random St. Francis (NY) facts: I couldn’t find the reason that the school chose the Terrier mascot in 1933. So instead, I give you this:

In case y’all haven’t heard, though, the Terriers are coming. Or they were in 2010-11.

Prediction: Boston College, 71-65. The only team that has made easy work of St. Francis so far is Illinois. Army, Norfolk State and Albany beat St. Francis by a combined 18 points. This won’t be an easy one for BC. But then again, what game is?

No. 2 Duke (8-0) vs. Temple (6-0), 3:15 PM, ESPN (East Rutherford)

What to watch: How elite has Duke’s perimeter become? Mason Plumlee has been terrific this season, but the reason Duke has been great is because he has help. Last year, Duke lost to Temple and the Owls had five in double figures (led by two-guard Khalif Wyatt’s 22 points). Duke saw 33 of its 73 points scored by Mason and Miles Plumlee, who had 16 and 17, respectively. But no Blue Devil could slow down any of Temple’s guards, who did whatever they wanted offensively. All five of Duke’s guards had 28 points on 9-of-30 shooting.

This year, Duke has balance on both ends of the court. Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook have taken a lot of pride in defending on the perimeter, and Seth Curry has gotten better at it but is still limited physically. If Duke is going to be one of the nation’s best teams – which they look like right now – they’ll have to handle yet another tough test.

Random Temple facts: We’ve highlighted the Owl mascot in this space before. Fortunately for Temple’s mascot, it doesn’t live in Colombia. Or else it would have been kicked by this soccer player.

Hooter the Owl does celebrate its birthday every year, and other mascots come to join. There are some weird mascots out there.

Prediction: Duke, 81-70. This is just another stop on the Duke basketball revenge tour.

Mississippi Valley State (0-4) at Virginia (7-2), 4:00 PM, ESPN3

A Delta Devil, which evidently means it has a green head.

What to watch: The UVa freshmen. While they helped carry the team early, they haven’t been as efficient of late and as a result, haven’t played as much. Evan Nolte and Justin Anderson combined to average 14.3 points in 48.3 minutes in UVa’s first six games, but in the last three, they’ve combined for 6.7 points in just 25.3 minutes. Mike Tobey has played a total of 20 minutes in the last three games (after averaging 13.3 in the first six) and has just five points. Really, only backup point guard Teven Jones has seen consistent minutes, and that’s only because of the injury to starter Jontel Evans. This is the type of game that can allow the freshmen to get back on track, because UVa will need them going forward.

Random Mississippi Valley State facts: South Carolina State isn’t the only school with a great band/dancers.

Known as “The Mack of the SWAC”, Mississippi Valley State’s band even did a halftime performance blindfolded.

Prediction: Virginia, 73-47. Mississippi State is 0-4 this year and their closest loss was by 13 to Northwestern. It’s that bad. Although for some reason, the Delta Devils aren’t giving themselves a break – they’ll face Virginia Tech next, and won’t play a game they’re expected to win until early 2013, which will also be their first home game. Ouch.

Virginia Tech (7-0) at West Virginia (3-3), 4:00 PM, ESPN2

How cute.

What to watch: Virginia Tech on the defensive glass. West Virginia retrieves nearly 41% of its available missed shots, while Virginia Tech is allowing opponents to get just 27.6% of their misses. Against their last two opponents, Virginia Tech has a defensive rebounding percentage of 75.3%, which is excellent. They’ll have to keep that up against the Mountaineers, who don’t often make their first attempt.

Erick Green. Can he keep carrying the Hokies? He was in foul trouble early against Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech trailed as a result. In 26 minutes, he had 28 points and seven rebounds, picking up just one more foul the rest of the way. He’s been phenomenal. But is it asking too much of him to continue being this brilliant? We’ll find out.

Random West Virginia facts: In 1998, a University of Miami assistant coach announced he was suing West Virginia for a 1996 incident where he was hit on the head with a trash can. He alleged that the university failed to adequately protect the visiting team. The injury was reported originally as a bruise, but the lawsuit said he was “severely and permanently” injured. He and West Virginia settled. That assistant coach? Randy Shannon.

Prediction: Virginia Tech, 71-65. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I think the Hokies – should they still healthy – can beat anyone they play this year. West Virginia is a tough place to play, but the Mountaineers have not looked very good so far.

Seton Hall (6-2) at Wake Forest (4-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Groucho Marx, the Pirate.

What to watch: Seton Hall’s three-point percentage. The Pirates are making 38.9% of their three-pointers, 39th in the country, and scoring 36.6% of all their points from three. Wake Forest has been mediocre at best defending the three, but they’ve been better lately: Wake’s last four opponents have made 29.2% of their three’s. If Seton Hall goes crazy from three, Wake will be in danger of being blown out at home. But what else is new, I guess?

Random Seton Hall facts: As usual, the original nickname is often better than the current one: Seton Hall was known as the Villagers for awhile. And as usual, a sportswriter’s random naming of the team is the one that stuck.

Prediction: Seton Hall, 72-59. Seton Hall doesn’t have any great wins or awful losses, but Wake Forest has no good wins and some awful losses.

UNC Wilmington (4-4) at Georgia Tech (5-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

So basically a sailor version of Big Bird with some green was UNC-Wilmington’s mascot back in the day.

What to watch: Can Georgia Tech score? The Yellow Jackets are fantastic defensively yet again, but at some point, they’re going to have to put up points. They finally started hitting some three-pointers against Georgia, which is a good sign. But they only hit 7-of-27 two-point attempts, which is beyond terrible, and had just ten points in the paint. They’re going to have to develop something consistent on offense that ensures they won’t be in any 40-point affairs this year.

Random UNC Wilmington facts: The sea hawk mascot has gone through a lot of changes over the years, but the late 80′s version (see above) was probably my favorite. Although this one is also strong:

Prediction: Georgia Tech, 79-52. They’re hitting three-pointers now – the rest will come.

East Tennessee State (2-4) at No. 20/16 North Carolina (6-2), 7:30 PM, ESPN3

The tired Pirate.

What to watch: North Carolina’s defense. UAB is an up-tempo squad that presented some matchup problems for North Carolina, but the Tar Heels still allowed the Blazers to score 84 points, the most they have allowed this year. UNC’s last four opponents have combined to shoot 45-of-106 (42.5%) from three and average 0.89 points per possession. In Carolina’s first four games, opponents shot 24% from three and averaged 0.65 points per possession. Obviously, the caliber of opponent was significantly different in the first four games than in the last four. But if this UNC team – which will be hot and cold offensively all year – doesn’t make defense a priority, they’re going to lose some games they shouldn’t. Not this one, but prioritizing defense starts in games like this.

Random East Tennessee State facts: It makes perfect sense that a pirate would be the mascot of a land-locked school in Tennessee. After all, an old pirate supposedly hid some of his gold there in a creek once. A creek that went all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. There’s a new pirate in town, and he has a blue face.

Prediction: North Carolina, 82-59. Fortunately for the Tar Heels, East Tennessee State is pretty bad offensively. They’ve had a week off, and while they may be rusty at first, they should still play good, hard-nosed defense.

No. 8 Arizona (6-0) at Clemson (5-2), ESPN2, 8:00 PM

RIP, Rufus.

What to watch: Clemson’s three-point defense. Arizona is scoring 33.7% of its points from three and making 41.7% of its three-point attempts, and they take a lot. Clemson is allowing just 30% shooting from three, but they haven’t played a great-shooting team so far. Still, Brad Brownell’s teams traditionally play very good defense, but Purdue went to Clemson and made 8-of-18 three’s (44.4%) in one of Clemson’s two losses. They’ll have to at least contest Arizona’s three’s to have a chance to knock off the Wildcats at home.

Clemson’s changing roster. Starting guard T.J. Sapp decided to transfer earlier this week. Will freshmen Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper be able to step up and fill that role, since they had already been getting the majority of Sapp’s minutes? Milton Jennings is expected to return to the lineup after a suspension. Will he be able to have an impact?

Random Arizona facts: Rufus, the first wildcat mascot, came to campus in 1915. The freshman football team raised the money ($9.91) to buy him. A little over a year later, though, this happened:

…while endeavoring to perform gymnastic stunts in the limbs of a tree to which he was tied, Rufus Arizona… fell and was hung.

Welp.

Prediction: Arizona, 79-64. The Wildcats haven’t really beaten anyone good yet, and they’ve only played one team away from home. But they’ve beaten most opponents fairly handily and been incredibly efficient offensively. It would take quite the effort by Clemson to knock off Arizona, and they’re not nearly ready enough to do that.

DECEMBER 9

Maine at Florida State (4-4), ESPNU, 4:00 PM

‘Sup. (I will pretend this is a Maine black bear and that I didn’t just Google “funny bears”).

What to watch: FSU giving up extra possessions. Charting possessions using offensive rebounds as a possession (as I do), over 36% of FSU’s opponent’s possessions have come off of FSU turnovers or opponent offensive rebounds. Opponents have turned those into 0.96 points per possession. Florida scored 0.59 points per possession on possessions not off an FSU turnover or a Florida offensive rebound, but turned their offensive rebounds and FSU turnovers (35 total) into 46 points (1.3 per possession). Giving up a lot of opportunities to opponents has really hurt FSU so far, even against bad teams.

Random Maine facts: The Maine fight song was a No. 1 hit in 1930!

Prediction: Florida State, 84-61. No, seriously FSU. You need to win this one big.

 

Last week: 14-2

Overall: 71-20

Dec. 4-5 ACC Previews

Georgia (2-5) at Georgia Tech (4-2), 7:00 PM, ESPNU

Uga IV might have gone to the Heisman ceremony with Herschel Walker, but Uga V was in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, and did this.

What to watch: The three-point line. Georgia Tech has some players that can, in theory, make three-pointers. It’s not happening yet this year though, as the Yellow Jackets are shooting just 24.3 percent from beyond the arc. But they’re improving lately: in the last two games (a win over St. Mary’s and a loss at Illinois), they have shot 15-of-40 from three (37.5%) compared to 11-of-67 (16.4%) in the first four games.

Random Georgia facts: Georgia’s first mascot was not a bulldog, but a billy goat. It was adopted in 1892 and wore a hat with ribbons on his horns. Auburn fans chanted “shoot the billy goat” throughout the football game.

Prediction: Georgia Tech, 61-54. Georgia hung with Indiana for awhile earlier this year, but Georgia Tech is much improved this year and still looks like the better team.

Harvard (3-3) at Boston College (3-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Freakiest mascot of all time. Has to be.

What to watch: The foul line. The only games Boston College has won this season, it has averaged 30 free-throw attempts per game. But Harvard leads the nation in free throw attempts/field goal attempts. The Crimson also score 30.3% of their points from the foul line.

Random Harvard facts: John the Orangeman was actually Harvard’s first mascot. He sold fruit to the students at football games on a cart pulled by a donkey named Radcliffe in the late 1800′s.

Prediction: Harvard, 59-51. So…is Harvard good? Their resume reads a lot like a BC resume: wins over MIT, Manhattan and Fordham but losses to Massachusetts, St. Joseph’s and Vermont. The real problem, though, is that Boston College finds a way to lose to Harvard even when the Eagles are good.

No. 25 NC State (4-2) vs. Connecticut (6-1), 9:00 PM, ESPN, Madison Square Garden (Jimmy V Classic)

Sad dog.

What to watch: NC State’s defense. The Wolfpack has had to face a lot of talented offenses so far this year, but even against some of the less-talented offenses (like UNC-Asheville), they’ve played subpar defense. UConn’s offense has struggled all year, but the Huskies don’t turn it over much and get to the foul line quite a bit. NC State can’t let UConn get going. The Huskies have three very good guards in Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun, all of whom are averaging double figures.

Calvin Leslie. When he shows up, NC State is very difficult to beat. In last year’s NCAA Tournament run, he was dynamic, engaged and a difference-maker. In some games this year, he’s been easily distracted for whatever reason and a virtual non-factor in some other games. NC State absolutely needs him in a game like this. He had arguably his best game of the year at Michigan – 16 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes – and even though he picked up four fouls, he helped the Wolfpack keep that game close.

Random UConn facts: Way too many live husky mascots met an early death after being hit by a car, and other UConn mascot facts.

Prediction: NC State, 77-68. Connecticut is puzzling. The Huskies barely beat Quinnipiac, Wake Forest, Stony Brook and New Hampshire. But then they beat Michigan State. And they did win all those games, to be fair. But NC State pretty much has to have this one, and it’s a very winnable game for them.

DECEMBER 5

Florida (6-0) at Florida State (4-3), 7:00 PM, ESPN2

Go…Benevolent Dragons?

What to watch: The three-point line. Really, the only way for Florida State to have a chance to beat Florida is hit three-pointers and keep Florida from hitting theirs. The Gators have averaged 9.5 three-pointers made in the last two games and though they don’t always hit a high percentage, they will hit enough. Florida State, meanwhile, is making 39.1% of its three’s but has made just 11-of-33 in the last two games (both losses) and 16-of-54 (29.6%) in three losses compared to 29-of-61 (47.5%) in wins.

Random Florida facts: It’s a pretty simple mascot, but Florida could never quite seem to settle on the best look for its Gator. Including the above attempt, which is perhaps the most 70′s thing ever.

Prediction: Florida, 75-59. Um, so, Florida is good. Really good. The two best teams they’ve played this year, Wisconsin and Marquette, they’ve beaten mercilessly: 74-56 and 82-49, respectively. Florida State might not even be as good as either of those teams, and this is a rivalry game.

High Point (4-3) at Wake Forest (3-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

What to watch: C.J. Harris and Travis McKie. Wake’s leading scorers have been struggling. In Wake’s last two games – both losses – Harris is 2-of-11 from the floor, 0-of-3 from three and just 4-of-4 from the foul line. Prior to the last two games, he had shot 22-of-43 and attempted 7.4 free throws per game. He has missed his last 11 three-pointers. Travis McKie is 5-of-19 from the floor in the last two games and has averaged 8.5 points. He had averaged 15.6 points on 45% shooting before that. Wake isn’t going to win many games without even one of them playing badly, much less both.

Random High Point facts: High Point’s panther mascot is one of the very few mascots where little to no history exists (at least in the immediately searchable internet). So, here’s a video?

Prediction: Wake Forest, 79-67. To be fair to Wake, they covered the spread against Richmond! In all seriousness, the Deacons fought in that game, which shows that they might still have it in them to win a game like this, against a team they should beat. High Point’s best loss this season was by 14 at Indiana State.

Tennessee (4-2) at Virginia (6-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

What to watch: Can Virginia’s big men keep it up? Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins have had great seasons so far, averaging 12.6 points and 7.8 points, respectively. In UVa’s biggest win this year against Wisconsin, the two combined for 68 minutes, 25 points and 17 rebounds. They’ve been a big reason UVa is on a five-game winning streak, but the Tennessee defense will provide a stiff test.

Random Tennessee facts: Tennessee’s bluetick coonhound dog mascot has always been a bit frisky, but not many dogs are brave (or stupid) enough to mix it up with a live bear. In 1957, that’s what happened and though Smokey II lived through it, he was supposedly never the same.

He still goes after players, though.

Prediction: Virginia, 58-49. The only team Tennessee has managed to pull away from for a convincing win this year was Oakland (they beat them 77-50). Everyone else – even Kennesaw State and UNC-Asheville – has hung with the Volunteers. In their two losses, Tennessee has a grand total of 81 points, including a 37-36 loss to Georgetown on Friday night that offended the basketball gods to their very core.

UMES (0-7) at Maryland (6-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Quick: guess which mascot was supposed to be a "new and improved" version.

Quick: guess which mascot was supposed to be a “new and improved” version.

What to watch: Maryland’s freshmen. Shaquille Cleare has played a combined 14 minutes and in Maryland’s two closest games this year (Kentucky and George Mason), mostly because he picked up a combined five fouls in that span. Jake Layman hasn’t hit a three-pointer since November 12 (0-6 since) or any shot at all since November 20 (four games, 0-of-5). Charles Mitchell’s minutes have been fairly steady, and he has been rebounding well. Seth Allen has played well, but he had no assists and two turnovers in the George Mason win. And so if Maryland’s can’t build up a big enough lead for all of these freshmen to continue to develop, the Terrapins have bigger problems.

Random UMES facts: In the late 1940s, UMES still didn’t have a nickname and the newspapers were starting to call the team “The Fishermen”. That wouldn’t do, so they found some sort of convoluted way to come up with another mascot – the Hawk.

Prediction: Maryland 87-59. UMES is winless this season, but it has been close twice: 10-point losses to Arkansas Pine Bluff and Delaware State. Ouch.

 

Last week: 18-12

Overall: 64-20

ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Day 2

Virginia (4-2) at Wisconsin (4-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN2

When a live badger proved too dangerous, Wisconsin temporarily replaced it with a raccoon. Sure, that seems safer.

What to watch: ….. No seriously, while the pace of this game is not to my personal liking, it should be an intriguing matchup of styles between two slow-paced coaches who try to make it as difficult as possible on their opponents defensively while being as efficient as they can on offense. So we’ll see if that works out.

Random Wisconsin facts: Wisconsin used a live badger mascot in the 1940s, but – as you might imagine – with live animals, there are sometimes problems. Turns out, the badger didn’t like football and would often try to bite everyone in sight, even escaping its handlers a number of times. And so they replaced him with a raccoon named “Regdab” (which is “badger” backwards). There are no stories of it attacking anyone. But it was only a matter of time.

Prediction: Wisconsin, 45-38. I’m not trying to be funny with this prediction. Well, maybe a little. But how could this game go any other way?

Purdue (2-3) at Clemson (4-1), 7:15 PM, ESPNU

Try not to let this clown-like head of an old version of Purdue Pete haunt your nightmares. I really wish it didn’t carry a weapon.

What to watch: How will Milton Jennings’ absence affect Clemson? The Tigers’ leading scorer might be running out of chances at Clemson – he’s been suspended multiple times in the past few years, and he’ll be suspended for tonight’s game after an arrest for marijuana possession. Without Jennings, there’s only one player 6-9 or taller available for Clemson – the 6-10 rarely-used freshman Landry Nnoko. Purdue has struggled this year, but they have plenty of big bodies – four are 6-9 or taller. Not to mention Clemson will have to find a way to replace his scoring.

Random Purdue facts: Creepy Purdue Pete is not Purdue’s official mascot. No, that’s a Boilermaker Special (a train). It’ resembles a Victoria-era locomotive that is still operated today. A miniature model of it still shows up at football games. And hey, not many mascots can say they’ve damaged a police car.

Prediction: Purdue, 63-55. Purdue has lost three games this year, but none of them were blowouts and both of their wins were by significant margins. Clemson without Milton Jennings is more likely than not a team that’s not capable of scoring enough points.

No. 13/14 Michigan State (5-1) at Miami (3-1), 7:30 PM, ESPN

A Sparty cartoon by Chris Morris of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

What to watch: How will Shane Larkin play on a national stage? Shooting guard Durand Scott is back in the lineup for Miami after a three-game suspension, but even before his return, Larkin has been great. The sophomore point guard is averaging 17.3 points on 58% shooting, dishing out 4.5 assists per game. He is averaging 3.5 turnovers, but he’s upped his minutes to over 36 a game and he’s had to carry the load offensively as essentially the Hurricanes’ most consistent player so far. He’ll be facing off against Michigan State’s junior point guard Keith Appling, who’s the Spartans’ best player. He’s averaging 16.8 points and shooting 47% from the floor, and he’ll be a tough cover for Larkin. But Larkin will challenge Appling as well.

Random Michigan State facts: “Sparty” is perhaps best known for his cameo in one of the best “This is SportsCenter” ads, where he helps carry Kerri Strug across the newsroom.

Oh, and Draymond Green (who graduated last year after a productive eight-year stint at Michigan State) earns points for admitting that as a kid, he was terrified of Sparty.

Prediction: Michigan State, 74-61. Hmm. A Tom Izzo-coached team going into a far-from-intimidating road environment, against a team that has already lost to Florida Gulf Coast? Yeah, I’ll take the Spartans, even in a down year.

Georgia Tech (4-1) at No. 22 Illinois (7-0), 9:00 PM, ESPN2

Illinois was forced to retire this mascot in 2007, but he continues to show up in an unofficial capacity.

What to watch: Georgia Tech’s veterans. Ask North Carolina how it worked out for them last night when they went into a hostile road environment and their veterans didn’t play well. Georgia Tech’s veterans have been fine – Mfon Udofia is averaging 10.2 points and Kammeon Holsey is averaging 10.6 – but Daniel Miller, Brandon Reed and Jason Morris have been virtually invisible this season. Miller in particular, who ended last season well, is averaging 5.6 points on less than 50% shooting. The Yellow Jacket freshmen have been impressive, but it would be asking a lot of them to carry the team at Illinois this early in their careers.

Random Illinois facts: Everyone knows Illinois as the Fighting Illini, and while that is still their official mascot, they no longer use the official manifestation (Chief Illiniwek). When the NCAA began cracking down on Indian mascots, Illinois got the dreaded “hostile and abusive” tag and was forced to get rid of it in 2007. There is some controversy about whether or not the mascot offended the local Sioux tribe, who it was intended to honor, and the students have continued to keep the mascot alive as best they can at sporting events.

Prediction: Illinois, 71-59. The Illini are ranked this season after cruising through the Maui Invitational field. Their best win so far is Butler, but other than a one-point win over Gardner-Webb a few days after getting back to the mainland, they’ve beaten everyone convincingly. Georgia Tech has improved quite a bit, as they showed by hanging with Cal and knocking off St. Mary’s last week in Anaheim, but they’re not ready to win this game yet.

Boston College (2-4) at Penn State (3-2), 9:15 PM, ESPNU

Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers made a rather interesting fashion choice during the Puerto Rico Tip-Off earlier this month, but he’s got an interesting backstory.

What to watch: How healthy is Ryan Anderson? BC’s leading scorer has struggled on a sprained ankle the last few weeks, and it’s shown in BC’s results. After blowing out FIU and narrowly losing to a then-ranked Baylor team, the Eagles looked great, and so did Anderson. They’ve lost three of four since, including a game to Charleston that he didn’t play in due to the injury and a home game to Bryant (he shot 4-of-14). If he’s not healthy enough for BC to beat a team like Bryant – at home – he’s certainly not going to be capable of helping carry the Eagles to a win at Penn State.

Random Penn State facts: Penn State’s head coach Patrick Chambers might look like your typical middle-aged coach, but he’s pretty hardcore. About ten years ago, he was jumped in a bar and stabbed in the neck with a broken vodka bottle. He still has the bag of bloody clothes and shoes he was wearing the night it happened, and he’s been known to break it out on occasion and show it to his players.

Prediction: Penn State, 61-53. I’m sorry, Boston College. I still have a deep amount of affection for you, but I can no longer trust you.

No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) at No. 2 Duke (6-0), 9:30 PM, ESPN

Uh….I guess the current Buckeye is much better looking?

What to watch: How far has Duke’s defense really come? The Buckeyes have the No. 5 offense in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy. Last year, Duke went up to Columbus and allowed Ohio State to shoot over 59% in an 83-65 loss, providing the first indication that their defense might not be up to normal Duke standards. Ohio State has always had one of the more efficient offenses in the country and plenty of athleticism in its lineup, and this year is no different. Louisville and Kentucky are the best teams Duke has played – Louisville is offensively-challenged at times, and Kentucky was/is inexperienced. This will be probably the toughest defensive test Duke will face heading into ACC play.

Quinn Cook vs. Aaron Craft. Duke’s sophomore point guard’s confidence is sky-high right now; the reigning ACC Player of the Week averaged 13.7 points, 4.8 assists and two steals per game in Duke’s three games in the Bahamas. Duke beat three very good teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis, and his knack for making big plays in key moments had a lot to do with that. He’s turning those flashes of potential into something consistent, and Duke feeds off his energy. But Ohio State feeds off of senior point guard Aaron Craft, too. A notoriously annoying defender, Craft is a coach’s son and all the normal clichés apply. Cook held his own just fine against Louisville’s Peyton Siva, and Craft will test him mentally as well.

Random Ohio State facts: Ohio State adopted the Buckeye (a type of nut from Ohio’s state tree) in 1965, and the first costume was made of papier-mâché that was basically an enormous head (see above picture). In 1975, a reworking of the costume with “a prune-like head” was unveiled, but booed off the field. The redesign was essentially the creepy Buckeye we see today.

Prediction: Duke, 85-78. It’s very difficult to win in Cameron, and the Blue Devils are a much better defensive team than they were a year ago. Even if they struggle at times to get stops, the momentum of the home crowd often helps them pick up their defensive intensity another notch. This team is full of enthusiastic defenders anyway, and they’ll feed off of the crowd to get stops in key moments.

 

ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Day 1: 3-3

Last week: 21-6

Overall: 54-15

ACC Football: Week 13 Previews

Georgia Tech (6-5, 5-3) at No. 3/3 Georgia (10-1, 7-1), 12:00 PM, ESPN

Um….not cool, random Georgia Tech fan.

Moments in Georgia-Georgia Tech history: Georgia Tech’s first-ever football game was against Georgia, and the visiting Yellow Jackets were quite literally chased out of Athens as projectiles were thrown at their heads, according to Wikipedia. It’s a legitimate rivalry that has been stopped more than once because of bad blood between the two schools, but it hasn’t been competitive lately. Georgia Tech has won just one of the last 11 meetings.

Uh, this might be a good reason why. Tackle please?

“We’re gonna take your silver britches to the ground”

Honestly, is this hype video really necessary at this point?

Prediction: Georgia, 52-24. Is any explanation really necessary? Georgia Tech’s offense is clicking, but its defense is still suspect at best. This will be our Coastal Division champ on display. Go ACC!

Virginia (4-7, 2-5) at Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4), 12:00 PM, ESPNU

This mascot fight was likely more competitive than the UVa-Virginia Tech rivalry has been recently.

Moments in Virginia-Virginia Tech history: Interestingly enough, per Wikipedia, Virginia leads the series between the two teams in most sports except football (Tech leads 51-37-5). From 1984-98, Virginia went 9-6 against Virginia Tech. Ever since, the Hokies have won 12 of the last 13 with the only Virginia win coming in 2003. The last close loss came in 2008 when Virginia Tech won 17-14 at home. Since, Virginia Tech has won by a combined score of 117-20 in the last three games.

If Virginia Tech shows up making plays like this – you know, where their offensive players are blocking someone on the opposing team – it should be an interesting game.

The Hitler videos never get old.

At least UVa owns Virginia Tech in Quidditch.

Prediction: Virginia Tech, 23-17.  It was all there for Virginia a little over a week ago. Beat UNC, beat Virginia Tech,  eliminate your rival from going to a bowl and earn bowl eligibility yourself. But the Cavaliers were thumped at home last Thursday by the Tar Heels, taking them out of bowl eligibility. And Virginia Tech barely escaped a bad Boston College team to keep themselves alive for a bowl. All they have to do is beat a disappointed Virginia team to earn another bowl berth.

Miami (6-5, 4-3) at Duke (6-5, 3-4), 12:30 PM, ACC Network

Hey, did you guys know Jimmy Graham (above) used to play basketball?

Moments in Miami-Duke history: Duke was right there in 2009, leading 13-10 at the half. Miami trailed 16-13 at the end of the third, but Miami scored twice before a pick-six by Thaddeus Lewis ended it, and ended Duke’s hope of bowl eligibility that season.

I’m sure there are clips available of Devin Hester doing this to pretty much every ACC team. But this one, against Duke in 2005, is ridiculous.

Demarcus Van Dyke intercepts a Sean Renfree pass that Conner Vernon – normally Mr. Reliable – tipped. From the last time Miami was in Durham, Duke lost this one 28-13 in 2010 and this was one of four second-quarter turnovers for Duke, which finished with seven…

…But at least this Duke fan enjoyed the game.

Prediction: Duke, 36-31. This is a really tough call. Knowing they’re not eligible for the Coastal Division crown, will the Miami players pack it in? Duke is more than capable of beating almost anyone at home, save Clemson or Florida State. Miami is neither. But they do have the talent to beat Duke, and they’ll either be angry or despondent and lifeless. Duke, on the other hand, still has won just one game in November under Cutcliffe ever (and none this year). And the Blue Devils know they can’t win the Coastal Division anymore, either. Both teams are playing for pride (and Duke for a better bowl).

Boston College (2-9, 1-6) at NC State (6-5, 3-4), 3:00 PM, ESPN3

Frank Spaziani and Tom O’Brien, long-time friends, will face off again to close out the season.

Moments in Boston College-NC State history: Obviously, Tom O’Brien as the former head coach of Boston College makes this one more significant for a variety of reasons. Unlike Butch Davis’ bizarro hold over his former school, Miami (Davis lost just once to his former team), BC has had the opposite effect on O’Brien. He’s 1-4 against his former school. NC State’s first win in the series under O’Brien came two years ago at home when NC State won 44-17. But last year after beating UNC, NC State lost 14-10 at a bad Boston College team.

How should NC State be expected to contend with all this BC cuteness?

I don’t think this needs any introduction. Just enjoy.

Guys….don’t do the wave. Please.

Prediction: NC State, 44-27. I wanted to pick NC State to NC State last week (and by that, I mean beat Clemson). Since that didn’t happen, I can’t pick them go to NC State this week. Although a huge part of me wants to do that. Also, Boston College has to be crushed after letting a winnable game against Virginia Tech get away from them.

Maryland (4-7, 2-5) at North Carolina (7-4, 4-3), 3:00 PM, RSN

In 2008, with Maryland’s Ronnie Tyler making catches like this in a rain-slogged game, Carolina didn’t stand a chance.

Moments in Maryland-North Carolina history: Queen Elizabeth visited College Park (yes, you read that correctly) in 1957 for a UNC-Maryland football game. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that there is absolutely no way that could ever happen again.

As UNC’s Willie Parker is taking 20 years to turn upfield, he is caught by the shoestrings for a safety.

In perhaps the second-worst loss of the Butch Davis era, Maryland quarterback Chris Turner – hardly known as a running threat – made a nine-yard run late in the game on 4th and 5.

Prediction: North Carolina 48, Maryland 13. North Carolina isn’t going to want to pour it on in the name of defending all things ACC, since Maryland just announced they’re leaving the conference. But they’re going to pour it on because Maryland has 80,000 injuries right now and Carolina is going to want to end the season on a good note. And because Maryland football players have been dealing with this ACC stuff all week on top of everything else.

No. 10/5 Florida State (10-1, 7-1) vs. No. 6/6 Florida (10-1, 7-1), 3:30 PM, ABC

FSU and Florida get into it before a game in 1998.

Moments in Florida-Florida State history: Florida leads the series 33-21-2, but it seems to be a series of runs, as it were. Florida won six in a row from 2004-09, but Florida State had won five of six from 1998-03. Now, the Seminoles are rolling again and have won two straight under Jimbo Fisher. In one of the biggest controversies in the history of the rivalry, FSU and Florida fans still dispute to this day whether FSU wide receiver Lane Fenner actually caught the ball or not in 1966. It was called no catch, and Florida hung on, 22-19.

“The Choke at Doak” – can it really be called that if Florida didn’t lose? I’m just saying. I’m just stunned it didn’t involve a missed field goal.

Maybe this is why the FSU people are mad at the ACC today? The “Swindle in the Swamp” is a thing that supposedly happened that involved ACC refs giving FSU favorable calls. I guess the league doesn’t do this anymore?

And hey…it’s not always the players that end up fighting.

Prediction: Florida State, 37-21. Florida has a great record, but the Gators have hardly blown anyone away. Even last week against Jacksonville State, they won just 23-0. And that was their third-largest margin of victory this season behind a 38-0 rout of Kentucky and a 44-11 beating of South Carolina. Every other game – including a season-opening win over Bowling Green – has been by 20 or fewer points. Florida State hasn’t been much more impressive outside of its stadium, but in the friendly confines of the Doak, the Seminoles have been downright dominant. Expect that to continue.

Wake Forest (5-6, 3-5) vs. Vanderbilt (7-4, 5-3), 3:30 PM, ESPNU

A riveting battle of small, brainy private schools that have to scratch and claw for football relevance.

Mascot facts: Vanderbilt is known as the Commodores because of the nickname given to their benefactor, Cornelius Vanderbilt. (There’s no such naval rank as commodore anymore, for what it’s worth.)

Also…uh….this is weird. The Commodore punches someone in the face for basically no reason. And it’s all the more disturbing because of that perpetual smile on his face:

Prediction: Vanderbilt, 31-17. Vanderbilt is quietly a very hot team right now, having won five straight and six of their last seven. Their best win in that stretch? Maybe at Missouri? But still, wins are wins and Wake Forest could use a few. The Deacons are reeling; their last two losses have come by a combined score of 75-6.

No. 12/9 Clemson (10-1, 7-1) vs. No. 13/12 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN

So, this happened.

Moments in Clemson-South Carolina history: The longest uninterrupted series in the South will meet again on Saturday for the Hardee’s Trophy. Clemson leads it 65-40-4 but you wouldn’t know it based on recent results: Clemson has lost three straight and none have been particularly close. In fact, Clemson has a total of 37 points in their last three meetings with South Carolina. If South Carolina wins, they will tie their longest streak in the rivalry of four straight (from 1951-54).

This brawl was so bad in 2004 that both schools decided to ban themselves from the postseason. This was of course back when doing such a thing in the ACC wasn’t a big deal.

This 1983 brawl came first, though.

Not a bad form tackle, but he probably will be flagged for a late hit.

The catch…or the push-off? You decide.

Well done, Clemson fan.

Prediction: Clemson, 41-30.  Every time we think Clemson is going to Clemson, they don’t. Generally speaking, Clemson’s season has already been wrapped up one way or the other heading into that game. That doesn’t mean the Tigers still don’t want to beat their rivals – they do – but there’s a lot more on the line for Clemson this year than in years past. South Carolina has won two straight since losing star tailback Marcus Lattimore to a gruesome knee injury, but they struggled with Wofford a week ago and barely put away a bad Tennessee team the week of Lattimore’s injury. They seem to be a team living on reputation at the moment in terms of the polls.

Last week: 5-2 (3-2 ACC)

TOTAL: 57-21 (27-15 ACC)

ACC Football Outside the Triangle: Week 12 Previews

No. 10 Florida State (9-1, 6-1) at Maryland (4-6, 2-4), 12:00 PM, ESPNU

This is C.J. Brown, who was expected to be Maryland’s starter this year. Four QB’s later, Maryland will have to take on one of the best defenses in the country. Good luck, Shawn Petty!

Moments in Florida State-Maryland history: Florida State leads the series 20-2 (8-2 at the Byrd-muda Triangle).

From one of Maryland’s two wins over FSU, this one in 2006. Why does it always come down to a field goal for FSU?

This was a bigger win, though. In 2004, No. 5 FSU lost at Maryland. One of many bad days for Chris Rix.

Shawn Petty, you’re brave.

I guess this shouldn’t have been a flag, either?

Prediction: Florida State, 44-12. With a win, Florida State clinches the Atlantic Division. And with a loss, Florida State ensures the death of the ACC. The Seminoles haven’t played well on the road once this year, and this would be a great time to put together a convincing win against a hapless Maryland team that seemingly has a season-ending injury every hour.

Virginia Tech (4-6, 2-4) at Boston College (2-8, 1-5), 12:30 PM, ACC Network

Chase Rettig, meet Bruce Taylor. You might be reintroduced this week.

Moments in Virginia Tech-Boston College history: The teams had never played until 1993 when the Big East started a full round-robin schedule. They played every year until 2004, when Virginia Tech joined the ACC and BC wasn’t in yet. They’ve played every year since as cross-divisional rivals. Virginia Tech leads the all-time series 14-6 (6-3 at BC), but since both joined the league, it’s a little narrower (6-3 overall for the Hokies and 1-2 in Chestnut Hill).

Just to remind everyone that Michael Vick used to be able to do this.

In the name of equal time, here’s a ridiculous throw from Matt Ryan in 2006:

Random funny shot of a VT band member:

Prediction: Virginia Tech, 31-17. Virginia Tech is the only team in the Coastal without a road win. That’s about to change this week.

Miami (5-5, 4-3) vs. South Florida (3-6, 1-4, Big East), 3:00 PM, RSN

The last time South Florida went to Miami in 2010, they beat the Hurricanes 23-20 in overtime and helped get Randy Shannon fired.

Moments in Miami-South Florida history: Miami leads this series 3-1 (2-1 at home) and won the first two pretty convincingly (27-7 in 2005, 31-10 in 2009). But the last two have gone down to the wire: South Florida won 23-20 in 2010 in an overtime thriller, and last year, Miami won 6-3. Yep, a baseball score. Miami had 316 total yards but just 57 rushing, and quarterback Jacory Harris didn’t throw one interception. Wait, how was that game that close?

This was the game-winning field goal last year for Miami. FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!

Miami fan videos never disappoint. This is a preview of last year’s USF game. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this guy is reading. Still, a good effort.

The 2010 USF win got Randy Shannon fired.

Prediction: Miami, 31-23. Because the ACC needs this.

Wake Forest (5-5, 3-5) at No. 3 Notre Dame (10-0), 3:30 PM, NBC

Notre Dame will look to go 3-0 against the ACC, which could be just one less ACC win than the potential winner of the Coastal Division. Go ACC!

Moments in Wake Forest-Notre Dame history: It’s hard to believe, but Notre Dame and Wake Forest have only met once prior to this year and that was last year. Wake actually led 17-10 at halftime, but Notre Dame scored twice in the third and took a 24-17 lead, which was the final. Wake had its chances, twice making it inside the Notre Dame 10-yard line in the second half but coming away with no points. Wake really should have won that game, but they didn’t. And they won’t this year.

“SOMEBODY TACKLE!”

Did you guys know that Notre Dame and Wake Forest aren’t only playing on the field, but also in this fake thing called The Energy Bowl? This is a real thing. And there’s some environmental smack from the leprechaun about the sustainability of Wake Forest’s motorcycle. SICK BURN!

The Notre Dame team does a “Trick Shot Monday” video every week, and this week is no different. I wonder if the Notre Dame brass know that this is essentially beer pong?

Prediction: Notre Dame, 34-3. Notre Dame hasn’t looked great lately, allowing a season-high 26 points (in three overtimes) to Pitt two weeks ago and only beating a bad Boston College team 21-6 last week. But Wake Forest has looked even worse, and its sputtering offense against Notre Dame’s dominant defense is an awful matchup.

Week 11: 4-2 (3-2 ACC)

TOTAL: 52-19 (24-13 ACC)

Nov. 16 ACC Previews

Boston College (1-1) vs. Dayton (1-1), 2:30 PM, ESPNU (Charleston Classic)

So…Dayton’s mascot is the Little Caesar’s guy?

What to watch: BC’s three-point shooting. The Eagles got going from three somewhat against Baylor, hitting 10-of-26 (38.5%), but they’ve made just 27.9% on the year. Meanwhile, their opponents have made 21-of-50 (42%). BC can’t afford to continue to be outscored like that from three.

Random Dayton facts: Dayton is coached by former NC State point guard Archie Miller. But the Flyer mascot – whose name is Rudy Flyer – comes from that whole thing where Ohio thinks they were first in flight just because the Wright Brothers are from there and built the plane there. Okay, that’s fine I guess. But the flight thing happened in North Carolina, so let’s get that part straight.

Prediction: Boston College, 75-66.

No. 6 NC State (2-0) vs. Massachusetts (2-0), 5:00 PM, ESPN2/U/3 (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)

Even the UMass Minuteman is irritated that Andy Roddick didn’t live up to his potential.

What to watch: The running game. Both of these teams are fine with going up-tempo, and that should keep NC State engaged on both ends. The Wolfpack got out to a big lead last night but seemed to lose interest defensively late in the game, per their head coach, in a slow-paced affair. Massachusetts will have to be wary of when they run against NC State, because if they try to out-run the Wolfpack, they’ll lose. UMass creates more possessions with pressure defense (at times full-court), so NC State will have to make good decisions.

Chaz Williams versus Lorenzo Brown. Brown will be nearly half a foot taller than the diminutive UMass point guard, but Williams has never let size get in the way. The junior averaged 16.9 points and 6.2 assists last season and he’s up to 7.5 assists this year. Like Brown, he’s a good rebounder (4.4 a game last year, 5.0 this year). Also like Brown, he’ll turn it over from time to time but has a knack for getting steals. Brown became a much better defender last season, but this will be his biggest challenge yet on both sides of the ball.

Random UMass facts: You’d think that UMass would have been the Minutemen for most of its history, but no – they were the Redmen until 1972.

Prediction: NC State, 89-71.

Wake Forest (1-0) vs. No. 23/UR Connecticut (2-0), 6:30 PM, CBS SN (Paradise Jam)

Jonathan II, an Alaskan Husky, meets Rhode Island’s ram.

What to watch: Turnovers. Wake Forest shot 64% against Radford in their season-opening win, but only won by 12 points, in large part because they turned it over 18 times. Radford had 22 of their 67 points off of Wake’s turnovers. UConn has made opponents pay for turnovers, turning 31 turnovers into 39 points in two games. This isn’t a great matchup for Wake anyway, and they can’t afford to give away possessions.

Random Connecticut facts: UConn decided to get a mascot in the 1930s because they were inspired by a story of Rhode Island’s ram mascot being kidnapped. The husky was selected by a student poll. Jonathan IV was notoriously feisty: he once bit Yale’s bulldog mascot on the nose and would growl when an opposing basketball team scored on UConn.

Prediction: Connecticut, 75-69.

Clemson (1-0) at Furman, (1-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

What to watch: The Clemson freshmen. Four saw at least 16 minutes, and three of them combined for 26 points in 57 minutes. Last year, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell couldn’t trust his freshmen for extended minutes. He may not have a choice this year, so this young group is going to have to come along quickly.

Random Furman facts: For awhile, the Furman football team was “the Hurricane” and the baseball team was the Hornets. Only the basketball team was the Paladins, and they were dubbed that by a sportswriter. It was adopted for all teams in 1961.

Prediction: Clemson, 76-57.

Florida State (1-1) vs. BYU (2-0), 7:00 PM, TruTV (Coaches vs. Cancer)

A Cougar that’s asleep, I guess.

What to watch: Florida State’s defense. According to Ken Pomeroy, Florida State’s defense is 48th in the country. That’s a respectable ranking for most, but not a team like Florida State that’s perennially in the top 10. BYU is more than capable of putting up very good offensive numbers, so FSU is going to have to get this fixed, and quickly. The Seminoles have allowed 72 points per game to two subpar teams on 46% shooting and 47% from three.

Random BYU facts: It’s still Hammer Time at BYU, evidently. But the Cosmo the Cougar, can break it down.

Prediction: BYU, 82-71.

Jacksonville (1-1) at Miami (1-1), 7:00 PM, RSN

What to watch: Miami looks to go 2-1 against the Atlantic Sun. That’s right – their first three opponents are from the Atlantic Sun. Miami struggled with Stetson and lost to Florida Gulf Coast because they couldn’t defend them inside the arc (40 points in the paint) or on the backboards (the Canes were out-rebounded 40-32). Starting shooting guard Durand Scott will serve the final game of his suspension against Jacksonville, and he had nothing to do with either of those ugly stats from the Miami loss.

Random Jacksonville facts: The dolphin became the official mascot in 1947, and a 59-year-old live dolphin – Nellie – is the live mascot (she lives in St. Augustine).

Prediction: Miami, 83-75.

Long Island (0-2) at Maryland (1-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Blackbird singing in the dead of night…

What to watch: Long Island is an up-tempo team that thrives on getting to the foul line, and the Blackbirds are as good of a team as Maryland will see before the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. The Terps were sloppy at times against Morehead State, and they can’t afford to let down too much in this one.

Random Long Island facts: Long Island used to be known as the Blue Devils, but then they dressed all in black and a local reporter wrote they reminded him of a blackbird.

Prediction: Maryland, 84-68.

No. 11 North Carolina (2-0) at Long Beach State (1-1), 11:05 PM, ESPNU

Long Beach State’s home venue, the Walter Pyramid…

…or the Luxor in Las Vegas?

What to watch: How will the young Tar Heels handle the road? Carolina has looked good at times and shaky at others. Now, they’ll be in a very difficult environment facing a team coming off of a program-changing season a year ago. The 49ers are not going to just roll over for UNC, and they’ll have to tough their way through it.

Random Long Beach State facts: They’re the 49ers, but the baseball team doesn’t use this mascot. Instead, they’ve dubbed themselves the Dirtbags. It stems from 1989, when the lack of a field meant infielders often had to use a local all-dirt Pony League field to practice, thus rejoining their teammates covered in dirt. And that’s easily the most flattering definition of dirtbag ever.

Oh, and also, Long Beach State has a senior guard named Peter Poppageorge. They could dominate an all-name team tournament: Branford Jones, Deng Deng, Gatete Djuma?

Prediction: North Carolina, 75-64.

Last week’s picks: 10-2

Overall: 21-3

Nov. 15 ACC Previews

Boston College (1-0) vs. No. 16/17 Baylor (2-0), 3:00 PM, ESPNU (Charleston Classic)

“This seems like a good idea,” said no one.

What to watch: Last year, BC didn’t play any opponent as good as Baylor until they traveled to North Carolina for their ACC opener. This year, they get an athletic, talented Baylor team in Game 2. No one should reasonably expect them to win, but they could keep it respectable.

Random Baylor facts: In 1914, the bear just beat out mascots like buffalo, antelope and bookworm in a University vote. They’ve had live bear mascots since 1917.

Prediction: Baylor, 92-74.

No. 6 NC State (1-0) vs. Penn State (1-0), 5:00 PM, ESPN2 (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)

Where are you going, creepy lion?

What to watch: Foul trouble. Against a decent opponent, it’s possible NC State will have a few guys pick up a few early fouls. Who does Mark Gottfried trust to come in and give the Wolfpack good minutes? We’re going to start finding that out this week.

Random Penn State facts: In the 1920′s, when Penn State first had a costumed mascot, they went with the African lion look (see above) instead of today’s style (which is an actual mountain lion).

Prediction: NC State, 85-63.

VMI (1-2) at Virginia Tech (2-0), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

My new favorite mascot, Moe the Kangaroo.

What to watch: A high-possession VMI team against a Virginia Tech squad that’s looking to go up-tempo this year? (Grabs popcorn.)

Random VMI facts: Some VMI cheerleaders thought that a kangaroo would be a cool mascot, so they got a live one in 1947. In 1954, Virginia Tech (then VPI) students kidnapped Moe before their game against VMI and in retaliation, they kidnapped a VPI freshman. Both were released onto the field at the football game. So awesome.

Prediction: Virginia Tech, 102-79.

Last week: 11-1

Overall: 18-3

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