Cleveland State (6-2) at No. 25/24 NC State (5-2), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Maine at Florida State (4-4), ESPNU, 4:00 PM
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
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)
Virginia Tech (12-8, 1-4) at Maryland (12-7, 2-3), 2:30 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3
Maryland can build on some of the good things it did against Duke, but their unforced mistakes on offense really hurt them (missed free throws, silly turnovers). Oh, and the Terrapins don’t defend very well right now. Virginia Tech lost to BYU in a rare mid-season non-conference game, and have been declared off the bubble for the 5,000th time this year. Just when you count the Hokies out, they go and do something like beat Virginia on the road. Tech Hoops wrote an excellent piece examining the Hokies’ slow starts, but it really goes deeper into how they lack any offensive identity right now. They’re talented enough that if they form one, they could be dangerous for the top-tier ACC teams.
Stat to watch: Maryland’s offensive rebounds. The Terrapins are a pretty good offensive rebounding team – not great – but Virginia Tech has been awful in terms of opponents’ offensive rebounds allowed, particularly in ACC play: Virginia, a team that doesn’t get many offensive boards, had 13 (and 17 second-chance points). Virginia Tech could have won a lot more comfortably if not for that. North Carolina had 19 offensive rebounds and turned them into 21 second-chance points, the most Virginia Tech has allowed all year. Letting North Carolina get those second looks helped give the Tar Heels confidence and turned a close game into a blowout. Maryland has averaged 15 offensive rebounds in ACC home games (13 second-chance points) compared to 11 offensive boards in ACC road games (12.0 second-chance points). Duke ate Maryland alive on the interior, but the Hokies don’t have that kind of size or skill.
Most important players: Nick Faust, Maryland and Jarrell Eddie, Virginia Tech. Eddie was rather quiet in losses to Florida State and BC, but he appears to have reawakened just in time. The 6-7 sophomore has shot 12-of-29 (9-of-19 from three) in Virginia Tech’s last three games, averaging 9.0 points and a ridiculous 10.0 rebounds (he averaged 4.8 in the previous 17 games). He can be a matchup nightmare, and Virginia Tech really needs everything he’s giving them: three-point shooting, and now rebounding to go along with it – but he needs to provide it more consistently. Nick Faust had some nice moments against Duke but took a bad shot or two. Still, in ACC play his shooting is up to 40% (from 30% in the non-conference) and his two-point percentage is way up (46.2% compared to 36% out of conference). He’s gotten better ever since Pe’Shon Howard’s return allowed him to go back to his natural position at two-guard. Maryland really needs a complementary scorer for Terrell Stoglin to emerge. It may still be too early for Faust to do that, but he’s shown flashes of what made one ACC media member vote him Preseason Rookie of the Year at ACC: Operation Basketball in October.
Random stat: Virginia Tech has shot 51.1% from the floor in the second half of its home games this year but just 41.8% in the second half of its road games. The Hokies went from 8-of-31 shooting against BYU in the first half to a blistering 16-of-25 (64%) in the second. Overall in ACC games though, they have shot a combined 39.4% in the second half of their four losses compared to a 47.4% second half at Virginia.
Prediction: Maryland 71, Virginia Tech 62
Last week: 7-5
Season: 84-31 (21-12 ACC)
Georgia Tech (8-8, 1-1) at Maryland (11-4, 1-1), 4:00, ACC Network/ESPN3
Neither one of these teams has been particularly disappointing so far – Georgia Tech missed an opportunity against Duke, but knocked off a team it wasn’t supposed to beat in N.C. State. Maryland lost at N.C. State and struggled to beat Wake Forest, but everyone knew their team will take awhile to come together with some new pieces in place. Georgia Tech is a complete shocker, though, as the Yellow Jackets have found offense they couldn’t find in the non-conference.
Stat to watch: Maryland’s offensive rebounds/trips to the foul line. Those two factors are pretty much the only reasons Maryland was able to escape Wake Forest on Wednesday night. The numbers were as ugly as you could imagine: 35% shooting and just 3-of-16 from three, but the Terrapins pulled down 21 offensive rebounds and got to the foul line 37 times (making 24). Of 70 points, 41 came from second chances and/or foul shots. Wake Forest committed 28 fouls, got to the line just 13 times and pulled down only ten offensive rebounds. Georgia Tech has out-rebounded opponents by about six this year but don’t allow many second looks. Georgia Tech has pounded opponents on the backboards by 8.5 per game and they will have to control the backboards against Maryland. Georgia Tech is also averaging 25 free-throw attempts per game in ACC play after averaging 14.5 in non-conference. Their opponents are averaging 22.5 fouls compared to 14.1 in non-conference.
Most important players: Pe’Shon Howard, Maryland and Glen Rice, Georgia Tech. The From the Rumble Seat blog wrote about Glen Rice, Jr.’s recent surge, complete with a chart showing how much his play has improved in ACC games. Rice hadn’t played as well on the road this season (11 at Tulane, 12 at Georgia and zero at Fordham) before scoring 22 at N.C. State on 7-of-10 shooting, his highest percentage made this year. But the key factor has been his three-point shooting: he has made 7-of-12 (58.3%) in two ACC games after making 13-of-45 (28.9%) in the non-conference.
Howard has averaged 4.8 assists (6.5 in ACC games) since his return, but he has averaged just 5.8 points and just 3.0 in ACC play. He’s also shooting just 1-of-13 from the floor in league play. He has shot 9-of-16 before that, and that’s more like what Maryland needs from him. He was 0-of-5 from the floor against Wake and just 1-of-8 at N.C. State. Terrell Stoglin has attempted 34 of Maryland’s 120 shots in ACC play so far and has 45 of their 144 points. Stoglin needs more help from his teammates on the perimeter, particularly against a stingy Georgia Tech defense.
Random stat: Via Testudo Times, since Howard and Alex Len have returned from injury, Maryland has outscored opponents by 43 points in the first half. In the second half, the Terrapins have been outscored by 11. Maryland has to learn to close games out as they are really improving and could make some noise in the ACC season.
Prediction: Maryland 72, Georgia Tech 67
Last week: 6-3 (4-2 ACC)
Season: 69-26 (8-6 ACC)
Wake Forest (10-5, 1-0) at Maryland (10-4, 0-1), 7:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
It’s hard to know what to make of Wake Forest’s surprising win over Virginia Tech on Saturday, particularly since the Hokies seem to have hit the skids. But the Deacons have two elite scorers and are capable of beating almost any ACC team if those two are on. Maryland seems to be getting better even after losing to N.C. State, but the Terrapins really need a third scorer to emerge for them (Alex Len will be an easy No. 2 behind Terrell Stoglin). Stoglin and Len accounted for half of Maryland’s scoring by themselves against N.C. State and 46% of it since Len’s return.
Stat to watch: Rebounding. Is Wake Forest now a good rebounding team? Or was its performance against Virginia Tech (42-31 edge in rebounding) an anomaly? “We have done every rebound drill imaginable known to mankind over the last several days, and we’ve done that all year long,” Wake head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. ”They had enough of getting their butts beat on the boards.” Maryland is out-rebounding opponents by +8.4 per game over the last eight; N.C. State out-rebounded them, but only by two. Maryland pulled down 13 offensive rebounds to 11 for N.C. State.
Most important players: Terrell Stoglin, Maryland and Travis McKie, Wake Forest. Stoglin leads the ACC and is sixth nationally in scoring for Maryland. The problem is that no one else is really stepping up to help him, and Stoglin doesn’t appear willing – or able – to involve others. “You look at the games Terrell has two or three assists, I guarantee you we probably won those games,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. He’s almost right: Maryland is 8-1 when Stoglin has two or more assists and 2-3 when he doesn’t. In two games against Wake last year, Stoglin averaged 3.5 points in 14.5 minutes, picking up three fouls in each game and making just 3-of-12 shots (0-of-5 three’s).
McKie and C.J. Harris have had to carry Wake Forest this year, and it’s gotten them some wins (Nebraska, High Point, Texas Tech) they might not have had otherwise. McKie had his worst shooting performance in nearly two months against Virginia Tech (43%) but it was his rebounding that saved the day. McKie had 15 boards, easily a season high, and his six offensive rebounds were more than he had averaged to that point (5.8). Wake will need him to keep rebounding that well the rest of the year. McKie has played two games against Maryland and averaged 11.5 points on 43% shooting. Wake will need more from McKie if it wants to win this one.
Random Stat: Maryland is 4-3 in ACC home openers since expansion. Maryland hasn’t started 2-0 in the league since expansion and has finished either 7-9 or 8-8 five of the last seven seasons. The Terrapins were 10-6 in 2007, though, winning their final seven ACC games. This team is capable of a run like that. Wake Forest is just 2-5 in road openers since expansion.
Prediction: Maryland 67, Wake Forest 64
Last week: 6-3 (4-2)
Season: 66-22 (5-3)
No. 5 Duke (12-2) at Georgia Tech (7-7), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
Overview: Duke is coming off of a 78-73 loss to Temple in Philadelphia. Georgia Tech ended the non-conference with three straight losses to Mercer, Fordham and Alabama (73-48). Duke has won three straight and 27 of the last 30 over Georgia Tech (11 of 13 on the road). Duke is 0-2 on the road but Georgia Tech is 0-2 at Phillips Arena and 5-2 in games played in Atlanta.
Stat to watch: Turnovers. Georgia Tech’s last three opponents (all of which beat them) have averaged 21 points off of 16.3 Georgia Tech turnovers; points off turnovers accounted for 30% of their points. Duke has averaged 16.8 points off of 14.7 turnovers forced. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, is forcing just 11.7 turnovers per game (15.5% loss of ball) and is scoring 12.0 ppg off of those turnovers. The Yellow Jackets haven’t had more than 20 points off turnovers all year and have averaged just 10.8 in their last 12 games. Duke has struggled with turnovers at times, averaging 13.7 per game (16.6% loss of ball, fifth in the ACC). But opponents have averaged just 11.9 points off of their turnovers and Temple had to score 21 off of 16 Duke turnovers to win.
Key players: Austin Rivers (Duke) and Glen Rice, Jr. (Georgia Tech). Both Rivers and Rice have this in common: no one on either team can guard them. But Rice has been awful of late, scoring single digits in three of his last five games (including none in a loss at Fordham) and averaging 2.5 points in the last two games on 2-of-10 shooting (1-of-6 from three). Rivers is coming off arguably his worst game against Temple. He had 12 points but he shot just 3-of-11 from the floor (a season worst 1-of-8 from two) and had two assists to three turnovers. Against Duke’s major conference opponents (plus Temple), Rivers has shot 38.6% and 44.9% in all other games. He’s going one-on-one too much and all his teammates tend to stand around and watch. Georgia Tech is terrible, but they are hard to score against. If Duke has issues in this game, it will be because there is more standing around and watching.
Prediction: Duke 79, Georgia Tech 60
Virginia Tech (11-3) at Wake Forest (9-5), 12:00 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3
Overview: Virginia Tech has won six in a row, most recently at Oklahoma State on New Year’s Eve. Wake Forest lost to Wofford on January 2nd without C.J. Harris, snapping a three-game win streak. Virginia Tech has won five straight and eight of the last ten against Wake since joining the ACC.
Stat to watch: Free-throw attempts. Each team has traditionally relied heavily on getting to the foul line. Wake is averaging 24.8 attempts and has scored over a quarter of their points from the charity stripe. The fewest free throws Wake has attempted 20 or more eight times and 30 or more three times. Virginia Tech’s opponents have attempted 18 foul shots per game. The Hokies are attempting 21 free throws a game and making 75 percent of them. In the last six games, they have shot 81% after shooting 71% in the first eight games. Wake’s opponents are attempting 19.1 free throws per game.
Key players: C.J. Harris (Wake) and Dorian Finney-Smith (Va. Tech).Harris sat out Wake’s loss to Wofford with a groin injury, but he is expected to play. And Wake needs him: even missing a game, he has a fourth of Wake’s points. Harris has struggled in three career games against Virginia Tech, averaging 9.7 points on 9-of-23 shooting. If he struggles again, Virginia Tech will win easily. And they may anyway. Finney-Smith is just the kind of piece that Virginia Tech’s offense needs. The willowy 6-7 forward has rebounded consistently; he has seven or more rebounds in 10 games and four double-digit efforts. He has struggled shooting (35% overall and 2-of-11 in the last two games), but Wake Forest shouldn’t put up much resistance defensively if he wants to get back in rhythm.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 83, Wake Forest 72
Boston College (5-9) at No. 3/4 North Carolina (13-2), 2:30 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3
Overview: Boston College has lost two straight to Harvard (by 21) and Rhode Island (in double overtime). Of six Eagles averaging 20 or more minutes, five are freshmen. North Carolina rolled over cupcakes in four of its last five games and has won seven straight. The Tar Heels have won a record 26 straight in the Smith Center. Carolina freshman James Michael McAdoo sprained his left ankle in practice on Wednesday and is doubtful.
Stat to watch: Possessions. The only way the Eagles have any sort of a chance is to slow this game down. Last year, BC allowed Carolina its highest points per possession of the year (1.2 in a 106-74 win) and lowest (0.66 in a 48-46 Carolina win) in the same season. That’s because BC tried to play with Carolina in the first meeting (96 possessions) and set the game back decades with a snail-like pace in the rematch (67 possessions). It was the lowest-possession game for Carolina all season (73) and BC’s 67 were the fewest by an opponent.
Key players: Matt Humphrey, BC and Reggie Bullock, UNC. Humphrey is BC’s lone upperclassmen seeing significant playing time, and though he’s now coming off the bench, he’s the Eagles’ most potent offensive threat. Bullock made 6-of-9 shots (4-of-7 3′s) in Carolina’s blowout win at BC last year and just 1-of-4 shots (0-of-1 3′s) in the narrow win at home. This year, he’s averaging 9.3 points and shooting 41% from three (and 66% from two).
Prediction: North Carolina 86, Boston College 55
Florida State (9-5) at Clemson (8-6), 4:00 PM, ESPN2
Overview: Florida State stumbled down the stretch of its non-conference schedule, getting blown out at Florida and losing at home to Princeton in triple overtime. Clemson edged East Tennessee State on New Years’ Day, but went 1-2 in the Diamond Head Classic over Christmas with losses to UTEP and Hawaii. FSU is 0-2 o the road (at Florida and Michigan State) but Clemson is 4-3 at home with losses to College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina and South Carolina.
Stat to watch: Each team’s turnovers. Both teams have struggled with hanging onto the ball: Clemson is 9th in loss of ball (17.4%) while FSU is 12th (21.6%). Their defenses both thrive on forcing turnovers as FSU is 2nd with 19.9% loss of ball forced and Clemson is 3rd (19.3%). Florida State thrives on those turnovers (16.9 per game forced), converting them into 17.4 points. Clemson’s opponents have managed just 11.3 points off of 13.1 Clemson turnovers per game. But Clemson hasn’t capitalized on turnovers, either: the Tigers have managed 12.4 points per game on 14.1 forced.
Key players: Michael Snaer (Florida State) and Andre Young (Clemson). Snaer’s last two games have reminded everyone why the junior was so highly regarded out of high school: he has averaged 20.5 points on 13-of-25 shooting. He’s been consistent scoring-wise this year with 13.6 points per game and hitting double figures in 11 of 14 games. But for FSU to be a top-three team in the league, he has to become unstoppable. And he’s capable. Andre Young of Clemson is likely exhausted from carrying Clemson offensively this year. And for the Tigers to have a chance, he’ll have to do it again: Clemson has won three of the last four meetings and Young has averaged 12.8 points and hit 11-of-30 three’s in those four games.
Prediction: Florida State 64, Clemson 57
Miami (9-4) at No. 21/23 Virginia (13-1), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
Overview: Virginia has won 11 in a row (its longest winning streak since 1992-93) and is 13-1 for the first time since 1981-82. Miami has won four in a row, all four since the return of center Reggie Johnson from a foot injury. These Miami-Virginia games always seem to be close, and this one will be no exception.
Stat to watch: Miami’s three-point percentage. Virginia allows just 26.8% from three, 2nd in the ACC and 8th nationally. Miami has made 39% of its three-pointers, 2nd in the league and 27th nationally. Michigan is the best three-point shooting team Virginia has faced (37.3%) while the best three-point defense Miami has faced is No. 39 Massachusetts (29.5%). Virginia allowed Michigan to shoot 10-of-22 from three (a season-high) and Miami shot 8-of-17 (47.1%) against Massachusetts.
Key players: Mike Scott (Virginia) and Kenny Kadji (Miami). Scott has been on a tear, averaging 16 points on 62% shooting to go with 9.0 rebounds. But he hasn’t faced the kind of big men he will see on Saturday. Kenny Kadji has given opposing big men problems on both ends, and he could do that again: the junior transfer is averaging 18 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks the last four games. Scott didn’t play in the two losses to Miami last year, but he was 0-of-7 in a loss at Miami in 2010.
Prediction: Virginia 65, Miami 62
Maryland (10-3) at NC State (11-4), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
Overview: Maryland has won seven straight games (albeit some squeakers) against bad teams. N.C. State has won five in a row since losing to Syracuse by an average of 19.6 ppg. Maryland has won nine straight against N.C. State; the Wolfpack’s last win was February 7, 2006. Maryland leads the all-time series, 76-72.
Stat to watch: Defense: Will there be any? N.C. State and Maryland are 11th and 12th respectively in points per possession allowed and loss of ball percentage forced. N.C. State allows 41.7% shooting (38% from three) and 69 points a game. Maryland has allowed 43% shooting (32% from three) and 68.1 points per game.
Key players: Terrell Stoglin (Maryland) and Richard Howell (N.C. State).Stoglin carried Maryland in its stretch without Alex Len and Pe’Shon Howard, scoring nearly a third of their points. He’s been just as good since, averaging 20 in the last three games and 21.2 on the season on 43% shooting. Stoglin tore up the Wolfpack in College Park last year with 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting to go with nine assists and one turnover. He had just nine points in the ACC Tournament rematch. Howell has really come on for N.C. State, averaging 13.8 points and 13.8 rebounds in State’s last four games on 57% shooting. Besides Len, Maryland doesn’t have a big man that can guard Howell one-on-one and Len likely isn’t ready for that, either.
Prediction: NC State 82, Maryland 73
Last week: 6-3
Record to date: 10-3
Strength so far: Ball security. Maryland turned it over 26 times against Iona in a blowout loss in Puerto Rico four games into the season. Since, the Terrapins have averaged just 12.5 turnovers in nine games.
Needs improvement: Free-throw shooting. Maryland gets to the foul line a ton (27.6 times a game), but makes just 64.9%, which is just ahead of Carolina for 11th in the league. In three losses, Maryland has shot 38-of-67 (56.7%) from the charity stripe. Though their percentages have improved recently, in narrow escapes over terrible teams like Florida International and Radford, Maryland has shot 42-of-64 (65.6%).
Most important player: Alex Len. In three games, he is averaging 14 points in 24.7 minutes on 78.9% shooting. That is not a misprint. He’s also averaging 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. There are reasons for concern – he’s averaging 3.3 turnovers – and the opponents aren’t exactly murderer’s row. But neither is the ACC, and he has looked the part so far. How quickly he can adjust to college basketball will determine how good a season Maryland can have in league play, because he’s a difference-maker.
Reason for optimism: Len/Pe’Shon Howard are back. In the three games with both back (Len was serving an NCAA suspension and Howard was rehabbing a broken foot), Maryland has shot 80-of-162 (49.4%); the Terps had 223-of-521 (42.8%) before that. In four games with Howard back, Maryland has held opponents to 39% shooting compared to 42.9% in the first nine games. Since Len’s return, Maryland has averaged 76 ppg compared to 67.4 ppg before that.
Reason for pessimism: How bad Maryland was before Len and Howard returned. The two players have helped quite a bit, but they can only do so much. That was evidenced by Maryland squeaking out a 70-62 win over Cornell on January 3rd. Even with Len, Maryland allowed Samford and Cornell to shoot a combined 33-of-56 from two-point range (58.9%). And Maryland will still have to get used to their new-look team, which will take more than three non-conference games. It could be bumpy early in the ACC season.
Surprising stat: Terrell Stoglin has averaged 21.2 points this season on 43% shooting (42% from three) despite being Maryland’s only offensive threat for most of the season. It’s gone under the radar, particularly with all the hoopla surrounding the return of Howard and Len, on a national landscape. He’s been excellent.
Most likely wins (3): Wake (1/11), Ga. Tech (1/15), BC (2/16), Wake (2/18),
Most likely losses (7): @NCST (1/8), @FSU (1/17), UNC (2/4), Duke (1/25), @Duke (2/11), @UVA (2/18), @UNC (2/29)
Toss-ups (6): Va. Tech (1/28), @Miami (2/1), @Clemson (2/7), Miami (2/21), @Ga. Tech (2/25), UVA (3/4)
Best-case scenario: 9-7
Worst-case scenario: 5-11 (Don’t see Maryland losing more than two toss-ups even in worst-case scenario.)
Cornell (4-8) at Maryland (9-3), 8:00 PM, ESPN3
Testudo Times wrote about how Maryland has (and will continue to) improve with the recent additions of Alex Len and Pe’Shon Howard, including how the tempo will increase with added depth.The numbers definitely bear that out – Maryland had shot 50% or better just once before Len came back. In his two games so far, the Terps have shot 56-of-110 (51%) and averaged 79 points. Before that, they were shooting 42.8% and averaging 67.4 points.
Yes, it’s a small sample size. But with Len, Maryland has its first two double-digit wins over anyone this season. It had beaten Mount St. Mary’s (309th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings) and Radford (315th, the lowest-ranked team Maryland has faced) by a combined eight points. It has beaten Albany (187th, the highest-ranked team Maryland has played since December 4th) and Samford (295th) by a combined 23 points. It’s an improvement, and that’s all you can ask for if you’re a Maryland fan.
Cornell’s best win was against Lehigh, and the Big Red have lost three in a row (although they lost by a combined 11 points at Illinois and Penn State in that span). Cornell shoots a ton of three’s, Maryland’s three-point defense isn’t terrible (33.5%). Also, Cornell’s opponents get to the foul line a lot and that’s where Maryland has lived this year; its ratio of attempts to field goal attempts (53.2) is 4th nationally.
Prediction: Maryland 79, Cornell 66
Random: Cornell has been known as the Big Red since 1905, but the bear has a long history as a university symbol. In 1915, they had a live bear cub named “Touchdown” at games. Touchdown even traveled with the team. Since 1939, they’ve changed it to a student in a bear costume.
Alabama (10-3) at Georgia Tech (7-6), 9:00 PM ESPNU
Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory pointed out after the Mercer loss that the Yellow Jackets are playing hard, but it hasn’t been enough. (The Yellow Jackets went on to lose at Fordham.) It likely won’t be enough tonight as this game is an awful matchup for Georgia Tech. Alabama’s offense isn’t great, but they are shooting 52.7% from inside the arc (just 27.4% outside it). But Georgia Tech has not allowed an opponent
The Yellow Jackets just can’t score. In their last six games against teams (of which they have lost three), they have shot 44% and 29% from three, averaging 62.5 points. So it doesn’t matter that they are holding opponents to 35% shooting and 58.2 points in that same span. And in their three most recent losses, getting to the foul line has been a huge issue: Georgia Tech has averaged 12 attempts (just 6.7 makes) while opponents have averaged 25.3 attempts (17.7 makes).
Alabama has the No. 10 defense according to Ken Pomeroy. Georgia Tech has faced two top-50 defenses (LSU and Tulane, losing to both) and averaged 50 points, shot 37% and attempted a total of 15 foul shots. They also had 36 turnovers. Alabama is holding opponents to 25.7% from thee and 40.8% from two, their 40.1% effective field goal percentage defense is third nationally.
The Crimson Tide is 7-1 at home and 3-2 away from home. Alabama had lost three of four contests to Georgetown, Dayton and Kansas State before turning it around, beating Oklahoma State and Jacksonville since. And they’ve averaged 70.5 points, a scoring bonanza for them. It will be more than enough for the Tide.
Prediction: Alabama 65, Georgia Tech 49
Random: It’s hard to have a Crimson Tide mascot, so Alabama has been represented by an elephant officially since 1979. In 1930, Atlanta Journal writer Everett Strupper wrote: “At the end of the quarter, the earth started the tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, ‘Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,’ and out stamped this Alabama varsity.” … They were known as the Red Elephants by sportswriters after that. They had a real elephant for a time, too:
Yesterday: 2-2. I got my ACC Fail wrong in picking Virginia to lose rather than Wake Forest (in fairness, had I known C.J. Harris would miss the Wake Forest game, I would have picked Wofford). I’m sorry, Virginia.
Last week: 12-3
Virginia Tech (10-3) at Oklahoma State (7-5), 12:00 PM, ESPN2
Virginia Tech’s offense has quietly been its calling card this season. It hasn’t always been pretty to watch the normally defensive-minded Hokies struggle through an offensive halfcourt possession, but this year’s group seems much more competent. Tech Hoops takes a look at the reasons Virginia Tech’s offense has been playing so well.
Virginia Tech beat Oklahoma State earlier this year in the Preseason NIT, 59-57. The Cowboys have been a bad offensive team this year, but they have the talent to get it going, and they don’t really have a bad loss (Stanford, Pittsburgh, New Mexico and Alabama).
It’s hard to trust the Hokies since they continually disappoint when they have a chance for a big win. And Oklahoma State’s defense is the best Virginia Tech has faced in nearly a month. Considering Oklahoma State will have revenge on their minds for the rare non-conference rematch and it will be in Stillwater, it’s probably too much to overcome fro Virginia Tech.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 61, Virginia Tech 55
Random: If you’ve always thought Oklahoma State’s “Pistol Pete” mascot had a weird head/face, you aren’t alone. But it’s because he’s meant to resemble Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton, who was a true cowboy whose whole life was like a Western movie. At eight years old, he saw his father killed by Confederate vigilantes and went on to seek revenge against them.
Samford (3-8) at Maryland (8-3), 2:00 PM, RSN
Maryland got its first double-digit win of the season last week against a pretty decent Albany team, and this team might be clicking finally. Pe’Shon Howard played in his second game of the season and though he has nine turnovers in two games, he’s shooting 67% and averaging nine points. Freshman big man Alex Len made his Maryland debut and had 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 27 minutes, adding two blocks.
Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times (he’s a Twitter must-follow, @D1scourse) wrote about new head coach Mark Turgeon finally having the “luxury of depth”. Turgeon, who was an assistant under Roy Williams at Kansas, shows some of his former boss’s irascible tendencies with this quote:
“Nick (Faust) shoots two air balls. When you have six scholarship guys, it’s like, ‘Hey, your’e all right buddy.’ He shoots two air balls when you have nine [you say] ‘Quit shooting the ball. Drive it.’ There’s a big difference. You can coach different, which is fun.”
Prediction: Maryland 83, Samford 66
Random: Samford didn’t have a live bulldog mascot for three decades until 2008, when it got Libby. Sadly, she passed away in September and was replaced by Rex. But here she was:
More Random: Alex Len’s awesome T-shirt:
Western Carolina (7-6) at NC State (9-4), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
After a three-game stretch starting with North Carolina Central when he only scored one point, NC State’s Lorenzo Brown has really come on offensively in the last two games. Brown has averaged 20 points on 12-of-24 shooting in the last two games. And his assist totals have picked up – Brown is averaging 6.7 assists per game this year and 8.5 in the last four games.
Brown’s play, along with that of his very improved teammate C.J. Williams, gives the Wolfpack consistent perimeter scoring options besides Scott Wood. Wood has been in a “slump” (by his standards), making just 8-of-25 three’s in the last four games after starting the year making 25-of-44 before that. But Brown has made 4-of-5 three-pointers in that span and Williams has made 5-of-12 3′s.
NC State has to have someone besides Wood be a three-point threat. It would be huge for NC State if Williams or Brown (or even transfer graduate student Alex Johnson, who has made 6-of-8 in that span) could emerge as a three-point shooter that defenses have to respect.
Prediction: NC State 91, Western Carolina 76
Random: Western Carolina’s mascot is original and awesome (a Catamount). But it’s fortunate they chose that one in 1933. The alternate was a Mountain Boomer, which is a small ground squirrel (it is difficult to catch, at least).
Last week: 14-2
This season: 50-15
Clemson (6-5) vs. Southern Illinois (3-6), 3:00 PM, ESPNU
Clemson finds itself in the consolation round of the Diamond Head Classic is it lost 61-48 to UTEP yesterday. The Tigers went nearly six minutes without a point and 6 1/2 without a field goal to start the game; Clemson led 40-38 at the 13:19 mark of the second half, but didn’t hit a field goal again until 1:32 remained. UTEP had a 20-5 run in that span with all of Clemson’s points coming at the foul line. The offense is just brutal to watch as all the Tigers play hard, but they just can’t buy a bucket against big, athletic teams.
Two of Clemson’s freshmen (Rod Hall and T.J. Sapp) combined for two points on 0-of-12 shooting (0-of-4 from three). K.J. McDaniels, the other freshman, played a season-high 21 minutes and had 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting. He has made 5-of-10 three’s in Clemson’s last four games. It would be nice if McDaniels emerged as a consistent complementary three-point threat to Andre Young, who struggled yesterday on 1-of-9 shooting (0-of-6 from three).
Southern Illinois has lost to Ohio Dominican, Northeastern and Western Michigan, among others. The Salukis have beaten only Chicago State, Northern Illinois and SIU-Edwardsville. If Clemson doesn’t win this game, it might end up in the bottom three of the ACC this year. Fortunately for the Tigers, Southern Illinois’ offense has been much uglier all year long and even traditionally.
Prediction: Clemson 48, Southern Illinois 39
Random: The Saluki nickname comes from the southern Illinois region being known as “Little Egypt”, and salukis were the royal dog of Egypt. Historian Baker Brownell wrote that in the early 1800′s, there was a drought in Illinois and the wheat fields dried up. But in southern Illinois, there was rain and good crops and “from the north came people seeking corn and wheat as to Egypt of old.”
Radford (3-10) at Maryland (6-3), 8:00 PM, ESPN3
Point guard Pe’Shon Howard will return tonight for Maryland, and not a moment too soon. Patrick Stevens from the Washington Times writes about the biggest winners from Howard’s return. According to Stevens (and head coach Mark Turgeon), Freshman Nick Faust, who has struggled all year, could be the biggest be biggest benefactor. And he needs it – Faust has had to play out of position at point guard all year and is shooting just 29% (19% from three), averaging 7.1 points, 2.4 assists and 2.8 turnovers in 31.4 minutes.
Howard will probably take some time to get reacclimated to the game and his teammates, but Radford is a good opponent to do that against. For a detailed preview of this game from a Maryland fan perspective, check out this one at Testudo Times – fans aren’t taking Radford for granted after Maryland barely squeaked one out against Mount St. Mary’s. But Radford has lost nine in a row and has wins only over Delaware, Shenandoah and Central Penn College.
Prediction: Maryland 85, Radford 67
Random: Radford earns major points for its awesome mascot, the Highlander (a Scottish warrior from the highlands). It also honors the Scottish heritage of the area. And it’s a good thing they kept the Highlander and got rid of this:
Last week: 14-2