Archive | December 2011

ACC Preview: Dec. 31

Virginia Tech (10-3) at Oklahoma State (7-5), 12:00 PM, ESPN2

Pistol Pete's head is way too big.

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.

The awesome Frank Eaton.

Samford (3-8) at Maryland (8-3), 2:00 PM, RSN

Spike the Bulldog recently got a much-needed makeover (the 'before' picture is on the left).

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

Lynx (a form of catamount) have been spotted recently in the Appalachian Mountains, and they are extremely rare.

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


ACC Preview: Dec. 30

Appalachian State (5-6) at Miami (7-4), 7:00 PM,

Who knew mountaineers also ride motorcycles?

With Reggie Johnson back in the lineup, Miami has shot 58% in two games compare to 39.9% in the nine games without him. What’s more impressive is Miami shot 35.5% from three without him and has shot 56.4% with him (albeit in a small sample size). Miami’s two-point accuracy is more important, though, and the Hurricanes are shooting 59% from two in the last two games after shooting 42.7% without him. Miami had only shot better than 50% from two once this season before Johnson; now, they’ve done it two straight games.

And Miami’s defense is improving with Johnson: opponents had shot 42.8% from the floor (48.1% from two-point range); since Johnson’s return, teams have shot 39.2% (35.9% from two). Purdue, Memphis and West Virginia all combined to shoot 62% from inside the arc in three close wins over Miami. Imagine what his impact might have been on those games?

Appalachian State is a tough-minded team under head coach Jason Capel, and they won’t just roll over for Miami. But they don’t have anyone that can handle Johnson.

Prediction: Miami 83, Appalachian State 67

Random: The mascot “Yosef” was originally known as “Dan’l Boone Yourself” (whatever that means). But in the spring of 1942, a printing error resulted in a picture of him being captioned as “Dan’l Boone Yoseff from Appalachian” and the name stuck. But it’s mountain speak for “yourself”, so it works.

Princeton (6-7) at Florida State (8-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

As Tiger mascots go, this costume is pretty awesome.

Michael Rogner over at Tomahawk Nation provided a somewhat humorous look at Florida State’s turnovers against Florida. He had the idea before the game, but he knew the Seminoles could have a low-turnover outing in Gainesville. Sadly, they did not (18 turnovers). Opponents have scored 26.7% of their points off of FSU’s turnovers. Without points off turnovers (which isn’t realistic, but still), FSU would be allowing 43.8 ppg. (As it is, they’re allowing 59.8).

On offense, FSU is 11th in the league in points per possession and last in loss of ball due to their turnovers. But in non-turnover possessions, the Seminoles are 8th in points per possession – still not great, but much better. (Duke already leads the league in points per possession and would by an even wider margin without turnovers at 1.19. Clemson would be the league’s worst offensive team at just 1.02.)

N.C. State edged Princeton at home earlier this year, 60-58 (albeit without Scott Wood for most of the game), but the Wolfpack scored their fewest points per possession this season (0.8). Princeton’s defense is pretty good, but Ken Pomeroy has their offense ranked 222nd nationally (their defense is 89th). Their slow style could frustrate the Seminoles, but Princeton should have even more problems scoring than FSU will.

Prediction: Florida State 62, Princeton 48

Random: Princeton briefly had a live tiger mascot when the father of a football player captured a Bengal tiger in India and brought it back. After what Princeton’s website calls “several weeks of community anxiety”, they decided to give the tiger to a zoo. Regardless, this human in a tiger costume should probably not have been doing this:

Towson (0-12) at Virginia (11-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Towson's mascot is an oddly-colored Tiger.

Last week, both K.T. Harrell and James Johnson announced that they were transferring from Virginia. Harrell’s case was particularly puzzling; he appeared to be right there with fellow freshman Joe Harris last year as the foundation to Virginia’s future. But after starting and playing 30 or more minutes in Virginia’s first four games, he saw his minutes abruptly drop to the 10-15 range, then 4 and 7 against Oregon and Seattle.

Harrell shot just 31% this season (19% from three), but as of the last time he saw extensive playing time (19 minutes against Green Bay), he had shot 15-of-40 from the floor and 4-of-15 from three. Not great, but it’s conceivable to think he would have turned it around. After his minutes were decreased (starting with Michigan), he shot 2-of-14 from the floor and 0-of-6 from three in five games. Virginia is 5-0 in those games, but the whole situation is just odd.

Jeff Eisenberg at Yahoo!’s The Dagger wrote that transfers won’t hurt Virginia this year, but will down the road. Four of Tony Bennett’s six 2010 recruits have transferred (Billy Baron, Will Regan, Harrell and Johnson). And it could still come back to haunt the Cavaliers down the road this season if there are any injuries. They have nine scholarship players right now and everyone has seen what an injury-riddled, short-handed Virginia team looks like. It looks like about half of the 2010-11 season. Which is to say, not great.

And with Virginia’s strength of schedule (also not very good) so far, the Cavaliers can’t afford any injuries that lead to bad ACC losses. Their NCAA Tournament chances will decline significantly if finish ACC play with fewer than 8-9 wins. The strength of schedule will not be helped by Towson, which has lost 31 straight games.

Prediction: Virginia 82, Towson 48

Random: Towson used to be known as the Golden Knights until 1961 because they used to hold a medieval-type Christmas dinner with people dressed in clothing of that era (including knight outfits).

Western Michigan (5-7) at Duke (10-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN2

This bronco just looks sad. And tired.

As noted in the Florida State-Princeton preview, Duke’s offense is leading the league by a large margin in terms of points per possession (0.99). Duke has averaged a point per possession or more in five of its 11 games this season; Clemson and FSU haven’t done that in any game so far. The concern for Duke has been its defense, which has improved in recent games but is still 7th in the league (0.85 allowed per game).

Duke did manage to hold UNC-G to 0.74 points per possession, its best defensive performance since Presbyterian. Duke is still forcing turnovers at a high clip, though (nearly 18%) and if it can cut down on its own turnovers (16.7% loss of ball, 8th in the league), it will become that much more dangerous.

Western Michigan has faced a tough schedule, but hasn’t really beaten anyone worth nothing. The Broncos have won four in a row against decent teams (Southern Illinois, Duquesne, Winthrop and Oakland). And the Broncos have faced tough road environments (at Purdue, at Gonzaga and at Detroit). But Duke is far better than those teams and this will be a much tougher environment.

Prediction: Duke 90, Western Michigan 65

Random: Western Michigan’s mascot, the Bronco, was named in 1939 by John Gill, who eventually became their head football coach. For giving the nickname, Gill earned a check for $10.00. I guess that was a lot of money in 1939?


Last week: 14-2

Season: 47-14

ACC Preview: Dec. 29

Campbell (8-5) at NC State (8-4), 7:00 PM, the

Campbell is the only Division-I school with a camel as its mascot, but they didn't have to name it "Gaylord".

Maybe the loss to Syracuse did spark something in N.C. State. The Wolfpack have won two straight and held their opponents to 39.4% shooting and 24% from three after allowing their first ten opponents to shoot 43.7% (40.3% from three). Northeastern averaged just 0.79 points per possession, which was NC State’s best defensive performance of the year.

In their remaining non-conference games, the Wolfpack need to build on those defensive performances. Even against awful ACC teams, they can lose if they don’t play better defense than they have so far.

Campbell is a solid team that wants to play at a fast tempo and put up points. Unfortunately for the Fighting Camels, NC State is a more talented team that wants to play much the same way. This game very much plays into NC State’s hands.

Prediction: NC State 97, Campbell 77

Random: The Fighting Camels before used to be known as the Hornets. “Camels” allegedly came from a statement made to the school’s founder (James Campbell) after a fire destroyed three buildings in 1900: “Your name’s Campbell; then get a hump on you! We’ve got work to do.” Campbell thought the man had called him a camel, so it stuck.

Elon (7-4) at No. 5/6 North Carolina (11-2), 7:00 PM, ESPNU

North Carolina has been criticized for its lack of focus and effort against inferior opponents, and a lot of it has been well-deserved. Besides field-goal shooting (Carolina shot just 43.5% against an awful Nicholls State team), free-throw shooting has been an issue. Carolina is on pace for one of the worst free-throw shooting seasons in 101 years of Carolina basketball at the moment (a hair over 64%).

But interestingly enough, Tar Heel Fan points out that in big games, the free-throw shooting has been considerably better:

“In the four games that everyone had circled on Carolina’s preseason calendar (Mich. St., Wisconsin, UK, and Texas), UNC is a pretty solid 68 for 92 (73.9%) from the free-throw line.  In the other 9 games, they are an awful 60.6% from the line.  Whether it is an increase in concentration, getting the right players to the line, or a fluke is yet to be determined, but it is certainly something the bears watching.”

But Carolina has to start building good, consistent habits, or else their bad ones will come back to haunt them at the wrong time. This game will be a test of whether North Carolina can stay focused for an entire game against an inferior opponent. Elon is a solid team, and has some pretty good wins (South Carolina, Princeton), but North Carolina should win very convincingly.

Prediction: UNC 97, Elon 61

Random: Elon used to be known as known as the Fighting Christians, but in 2000, they decided to change the name. A 1923 fire destroyed much of the campus, so the Phoenix mascot came from the University rising from the ashes.

Elon's Fighting Christian.

No. 24/23 Harvard (10-1) at Boston College (5-7), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Harvard's mascot...John Harvard. Weird.

Boston College is riding a two-game winning streak and has averaged over a point per possession in each of its last two games. The Eagles shot a season-high 55% against Sacred Heart in a ten-point win on December 21st. Players’ performances have become less erratic and minutes are evening out. But the rotation has been so nuts this season that according to BC Interruption, six Eagles have joined Club Trillion this year (a stat line of one minute played and and nothing else: 1,000,000,000).

(Club Trillion is also a reference to this guy, Mark Titus, a walk-on at Ohio State who started his Club Trillion blog. He now writes for Grantland.)

Harvard has won three straight against BC. The Crimson beat the Eagles right after BC knocked off the Tar Heels in 2009, giving Harvard its first win over a ranked team in program history. BC might be riding some momentum, but to merely keep it competitive against Harvard might be a victory for the Eagles.

Prediction: Harvard 73, Boston College 60

Random: John Harvard is a bizarre mascot, and the rendition of the school’s Puritan founder used today is beyond creepy (see above). The mascot at times in history was “John the Orangeman“, a man that used to sell fruit to the students and allegedly may have even scrounged up alcohol for them during prohibition.

Yale (8-2) at Wake Forest (8-4), 7:00 PM

Handsome Dan I lives on at Harvard, stuffed and sitting in a glass case.

Wake Forest has won two straight over Gardner-Webb and UNC-Wilmington, but hardly in impressive fashion. They’ve been out-rebounded by nearly five boards per game this season and their defense has been bad (in points per possession allowed, only Maryland and NC State are worse). Still, their offense trails only Duke, Virginia and North Carolina in points per possession and the Deacons have the third-lowest loss of ball percentage in the league (behind Miami and North Carolina).

Yale is tough to evaluate – the Bulldogs losses came to Quinnipiac and a surging Seton Hall, but they have no high-caliber wins. They are riding a six-game winning streak. It wouldn’t shock me if Wake lost, but going out on a limb (and considering the game is in Winston-Salem), Wake should have just enough to win.

Prediction: Wake Forest 73, Yale 70

Random: Before “The Game” (Harvard vs. Yale in football) in 1908, Harvard head coach Percy Haughton allegedly strangled a live bulldog in the locker roomwith his bare hands to motivate his players. Harvard won, 4-0. Handsome Dan XVII is the current mascot:

Georgia Tech (7-5) at Fordham (5-6), 8:00 PM, CBS College Sports

The Fordham Ram.

Just when you think Georgia Tech is good enough to win a game against a mediocre non-conference opponent at home, they lose to Mercer by six. The Yellow Jackets are an excellent defensive team so far this year, and head coach Brian Gregory has pointed out on multiple occasions how pleased he is with the progress on that side of the ball.

But on offense, only Clemson, Boston College and Florida State score fewer points per possession. And Georgia Tech is turning it over at a 19.4% clip, 10th in the league. They only average 14.9 a game but in low-possession affairs (around 77 per game), that’s too many. In losses, Georgia Tech turns it over on over 20% of its possessions.

Fordham actually has a pretty good defense and wants to play a high-possession game. The Rams are 46th in tempo per Ken Pomeroy while the Yellow Jackets are 203rd. But Georgia Tech’s defense should win out here – barely – if the Yellow Jackets can value the basketball.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 62, Fordham 53

Random: This story shows why you don’t mess with mascots


Last Week: 16-2

Overall: 43-13

ACC Preview: Dec. 23

Clemson (6-5) vs. Southern Illinois (3-6), 3:00 PM, ESPNU

Is this supposed to be menacing?

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.”

It's kind of gorgeous in real life.

Radford (3-10) at Maryland (6-3), 8:00 PM, ESPN3

The Radford Highlander.

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

Season: 41-13

ACC Preview: Dec. 22

Clemson (6-4) vs. UTEP (4-5) (Honolulu), 2:30 PM, ESPNU

Clemson will open the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu against UTEP. The Tigers have held their last two opponents to a combined 32.3% shooting and just 42.5 points per game. Clemson almost certainly wouldn’t beat Kansas State (the likely winner of its first-round game), but it would be nice for Clemson to get a win over a UTEP team that’s a fairly even matchup. Clemson doesn’t need to end up in the loser’s bracket and face another slate of mediocre to bad teams; it won’t get better that way.

UTEP has won two in a row (against Southern and McNeese State). Still, they hung in there with UNLV in Las Vegas (65-54 loss) and at Oregon (64-59 loss).

Prediction: Clemson 59, UTEP 57

Random: The first version of mascot “Paydirt Pete” was a mild-mannered miner that looks like he walked out of a Disney movie (see above). The current version is slightly meaner looking, but this older one is awesome:

Florida State (8-3) at Florida (9-2), 7:00 PM, ESPNU

Albert and Alberta are the only male-female mascot pair in the SEC.

Florida State had just 16 turnovers in a win over Loyola Marymount on Sunday, and it was their second-fewest in a game this year. Every ACC team averages fewer than FSU season low in turnovers (15). And FSU is starting to do what they do every year – namely, chuck up a ton of three’s. They’re averaging 22.8 attempts in the last four games (making 28.6%) after averaging 14.4 in the first seven (making 34.7%). Valuing the basketball and taking good shots will be key for the Seminoles in their toughest game yet.

According to Ken Pomeroy, Florida has the No. 1 offense in the nation, which likely cancels out even FSU’s defensive prowess, particularly if the Seminoles can’t score. The Gators’ only losses have come on the road to top five teams (by seven at Ohio State and by four at Syracuse). Florida looks like a much better team right now.

Prediction: Florida 77, Florida State 63

Random: Florida used to use a live alligator as its mascot (from 1957-70), but Albert I was found beaten to death and Florida State students kidnapped Albert II. They went through so many alligators that they eventually had to stop using live ones – thankfully.

Northeastern (3-6) at NC State (7-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

The Northeastern mascot, Paws.

NC State won a game with execution down the stretch and a fantastic play by the C.J.’s (Williams to Leslie) to beat St. Bonaventure 67-65 on Tuesday. The Wolfpack held onto the ball (just 11 turnovers) and held the Bonnies to just 40.7% shooting, the second-best defensive performance by the Wolfpack this year.

After a brutal schedule so far, NC State finally gets some breathing room in its final four non-conference games, starting with Northeastern. The Huskies started the season with wins against Boston, Southern Illinois and St. John’s, Northeastern has dropped five straight.

Prediction: NC State 85, Northeastern 61

Random: Northeastern’s first Husky (a real, live dog) arrived on campus in 1927, and they had a live dog as the mascot until 1989.

Mercer (7-5) at Georgia Tech (7-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Why does the bear have red eyes?

Glen Rice, Jr. had 21 points on just ten shots, but Georgia Tech beat an awful Alabama A&M team by just 11 points on Monday. Head coach Brian Gregory was not pleased. “For the first time, we did not build on what we had done in the past.. … That was 40 minutes of something that did not resemble the type of basketball that we need to play.”

Mercer has been pretty good, losing by four at Belmont and by three at surging Seton Hall. If the transitive property is any indication, their 14-point loss to Georgia on Tuesday (who Georgia Tech beat by 12) means Georgia Tech should win.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 64, Mercer 57

Random: According to the Mercer website, the Bears nickname originated in 1892 during a football game at Georgia. The Mercer players had long hair and handlebar mustaches and as one of them ran down the field, a spectator supposedly said, “Whence cometh that bear?”

Eastern Michigan (5-6) at Virginia Tech (9-3), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

The Eastern Michigan Eagle. A boring mascot choice.

Virginia Tech has now beaten two decent teams (Campbell and North Florida) by double digits and are riding a four-game win streak. In a terrible ACC, the Hokies could win 10-11 games and at least give themselves a chance to get in the NCAA Tournament. And with Dorenzo Hudson finally playing well (15.5 ppg in the last two on 11-of-21 shooting), the Hokies could put themselves right back on the NCAA Tournament bubble again, which I’m sure will thrill head coach Seth Greenberg.

Eastern Michigan is not terrible, but against major-conference opponents (Michigan State, Syracuse and Purdue), the Eagles have averaged 41.3 points.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 70, Eastern Michigan 48

Random: Eastern Michigan was one of many schools that needed to change its Indian-related mascot (the Hurons), and did so in 1991. But a lot of alumni are displeased about the change from the Hurons to something so common (Eagles) and have been fighting to restore the nickname. They say they have the support of relevant Indian tribes.

Miami (6-4) at UNC-Charlotte (7-2), 7:30 PM

Norm the Niner got a makeover this year to look a little more intimidating (meaner eyebrows, bigger muscles).

Reggie Johnson returned against Florida Atlantic with 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks in 36 minutes. Two years ago he couldn’t have handled that many minutes at full health, much less in his first game coming off a knee injury, so that’s a great sign.

Johnson’s return has helped fellow big man Kenny Kadji; he had attempted one three-pointer in his first seven games and has shot 6-of-7 in the last three games. Johnson has been encouraging Kadji to work on that shot. From “I know (Kadji’s) game … he’s an outstanding 15-foot three-point shooter so I know if teams double me, I can hit Kenny,” Johnson said.

Charlotte’s two losses were at Lamar (by 18) and at home to East Tennessee State (by 1). The 49ers have won five straight but their best win by far is Davidson (by 23). Miami is 0-3 on the road so far, but its tougher tests this season should be the difference.

Prediction: Miami 72, Charlotte 66

Random: “The 49ers” has always seemed like a random nickname for a North Carolina school. But when Bonnie Cone saved Charlotte from being shut down in 1949, that year – in addition to North Carolina’s own gold mining history – made the 49er the logical mascot. Although the old logo looks like a maniacal leprechaun:

Last week: 8-1

Season: 37-11

ACC Preview: Dec. 20-21

NC State (6-4) vs. St. Bonaventure (5-4), 7:00 PM, Rochester, NY (Blue Cross Arena)

St. Bonaventure's mascot from 1927 through the mid-90's was the Brown Indian. Yes, really.

NC State’s power conference opponents have scored 0.985 points per possession while the non-majors have scored 0.82. NC State’s offensive production has been steady: 0.91 vs. major-conference foes and 0.92 against non-majors. It’s the defense that’s letting them down. While State’s schedule has been tougher than most, its 0.906 points per possession allowed is the worst in the ACC.

A good sign for an already good NC State offense has been the emergence of C.J. Williams, who averaged 21.3 points in the last three games on 57% shooting (7-of-18 from three).

The Pack faces St. Bonaventure in Rochester rather than at the Reilly Center (which has a 5,780-seat capacity). But this will not be an easy game. (For a more comprehensive preview, check out Backing the Pack.) If the Wolfpack comes into this game with a lack of confidence or focus, they will lose. But the Bonnies don’t have enough offense to exploit State’s defensive woes.

Prediction: NC State 69, St. Bonaventure 65

Random: When St. Bonaventure changed its mascot, it went to a sort of weird imitation of the Philly Fanatic called the Bona Fanatic. It was so disliked that students actually attacked the mascot, injuring the people inside the suit. It barely survived a year before changed to the Bona-Wolf.

The universally-loathed Bona Fanatic.


Texas (9-2) at North Carolina (10-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN2

Texas's first mascot was not a steer, but in fact, a dog named "Piggy" (see below).

Carolina has lost two straight to Texas (2010 and 2011). Dexter Strickland and Tyler Zeller each averaged 15 points in those two games. If Carolina wants to answer questions about their toughness, beating Texas would go a long way. The Longhorns have out-rebounded Carolina 100-78 in the past two matchups (45-25 on the offensive glass).

Texas was just +0.7 in rebounding margin in its first seven games this year; it is +16.8 in the last four. The Tar Heels out-rebounded Nicholls 72-26 (!) on Monday, but a lot of that was their length and athleticism (plus missing a lot of shots). Carolina hasn’t faced this good a rebounding team since Michigan State, which out-rebounded Carolina 49-34. That can’t happen against Texas, a team that can make shots.

Texas was allowing more points than most Rick Barnes’ teams do to start the year, beating Rhode Island 100-90 before losing 100-95 in overtime to Oregon State. The Longhorns then had an epic collapse against NC State; Texas led 65-47 with 11:43 to play and surrendered 28-2 Wolfpack run. Texas has won seven straight since.

Prediction: North Carolina 83, Texas 75

Random: Texas’s first mascot was a pit bulldog named “Piggy”. The dog went to classes with students and supposedly growled at the mention of rival Texas A&M. It died after being hit by a car. It’s been Bevo (a Longhorn steer) since 1916. According to Wikipedia, the first Bevo met an unfortunate fate – he was eaten at the football banquet.

Virginia (9-1) at Seattle (2-7), 10:00 PM

The Redhawk: Makes you want to play Angry Birds.

A win at Oregon finally got the attention of the AP voters, who ranked Virginia 24th. It’s the first time the Cavaliers have been ranked since November 2007.

Virginia has allowed its last three opponents to shoot 50% or better from two-point range, and three of the last four to shoot 44% or better overall. But even in its low-possession style, it’s amazing how often Virginia forces turnovers (their 20.5% loss of ball forced is second in the ACC). Virginia trails only FSU in that category and in points per possession allowed (0.695).

Seattle hasn’t won since November 28th when they beat Evergreen State. They have lost five straight, three to pretty good teams (Stanford, Harvard and Utah State). But Virginia looks better than all three of those teams.

Prediction: Virginia 75, Seattle 50

Random: This was another school where the mascot was originally offensive (Maroons until 1938, Chieftains until 2000). The Chieftains nickname was to honor the college’s namesake, Chief Seattle.

Chief Seattle.

UNC-Wilmington (3-6) at Wake Forest (7-4), 7:00 PM,

Sammy C. Hawk.

Wake Forest looked more like last year’s version against Gardner-Webb, letting the Bulldogs hang around and only winning by eight. Wake turned it over 15 times in a low-possession game (their most since November 16th). According to Wake Forest’s game notes, Sunday marked the first time Wake had out-rebounded anyone this season (35-34). Ty Walker’s return is already helping, though (he had nine boards in just 23 minutes).

UNC-Wilmington lost its first five games of the season (four by a combined 19 points) before winning two in a row at Illinois State and at Liberty. But VCU blew them out on Saturday, 87-64.

Prediction: Wake Forest 79, UNC-Wilmington 67

Random: UNC-W’s mascot Sammy C. Hawk had a blog. On his profile, it says he is evidently a Virgo and his occupation is “Fierce Intimidator”.

Sacred Heart (6-7) at Boston College (4-7), 7:00 PM

Sacred Heart's Big Red the Pioneer: Exhibit A as to why mascots scare children.

Hard to know what to make of Boston College’s two-game winning streak. The Eagles’ opponents (Stony Brook and Bryant) were bad, but BC beat them by 35 points combined. BC’s first two wins were by a combined six points. And the Eagles may have a go-to scorer emerging as freshman Lonnie Jackson won ACC Rookie of the Week for his 26 points (7-of-11 from three) against Bryant.

Sacred Heart is not as bad as those teams, but still bad. The Pioneers have lost four of their last five to Central Connecticut State, Yale, Holy Cross and Notre Dame (by 39).

Prediction: Boston College 66, Sacred Heart 59

Random: While Indian mascots/nicknames have understandably been fazed out in college sports, evidently, “pioneer” mascots have come under fire. The University of Denver’s mascot Denver Boone was retired after 30 years due to “a lack of gender inclusiveness” and its offensiveness to Native Americans.

Last week: 8-1

Season: 32-11

ACC Preview: Dec. 19

Nicholls State (4-7) at UNC (9-2), 7:00 PM, ESPNU

Former Louisiana governor Francis T. Nicholls (you can see his left arm missing).

Four years ago to the day, North Carolina slept-walk through a win over Nicholls State in the Smith Center, 88-78. The Tar Heels allowed 14-of-28 shooting from beyond the arc and Carolina could never quite pull away. The players were as somber in postgame interviews as they would be after a loss.

It was the kind of Roy Williams postgame press conference that sportswriters love, featuring quotes like: “It wasn’t a very good game for us. You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist or a basketball coach to figure that out.” When asked whether his team was tired: “They may be tired of me but they will be a hell of a lot more tired of me tomorrow (in practice).”

This is the type of game that Carolina has to dominate from start to finish. They have really only done that once, against Evansville. Nicholls State’s best win is over Louisiana-Monroe, ranked 308th of 345 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. Nicholls is 333rd, the lowest-ranked opponent the Tar Heels will face.

Prediction: North Carolina 95, Nicholls State 66

Random: “Nicholls” comes from former Louisiana governor Francis T. Nicholls, who was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during World War II. He lost his left arm in the Shenandoah Valley and his left foot in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

UNC-Greensboro (2-9) at Duke, 7:00 PM, RSN

Austin Rivers and Seth Curry were going to split the duties as Duke’s primary ballhandler but the two have combined for 56 assists to 47 turnovers. It’s been reserves Tyler Thornton (19.2 mpg) and freshman Quinn Cook (8.7 mpg) that have looked the most like “true” point guards. Without Curry or Rivers, both of whom fouled out late against Washington, Cook came in and steadied the ship, as he has done all year.

But Duke has so much depth in its backcourt and each player has a different strength. If the Blue Devils can get just a bit better defensively, particularly on the perimeter, they will cruise through most of ACC play and easily lock up a top-two NCAA Tournament seed.

UNC-G has lost six in a row after new head coach (former Tar Heel) Wes Miller lost his first game against ECU on Friday, 71-62. UNCG led 50-40 with 11:19 to go but an 18-4 run by ECU over the next 5 minutes gave the Pirates a four-point lead. UNC-G’s best result of the year was a 15-point loss at Florida State where the Spartans forced 26 turnovers. That won’t happen in Durham.

Prediction: Duke 89, UNC-G 60

Random: Gerry Austin, a former ACC referee who went on to the NFL from 1982-2007, went to UNC-G. Austin refereed the 1993 NFL Wild Card round between Buffalo and Houston (Oilers), when Frank Reich engineered a 32-point comeback.

North Florida (5-6) at Virginia Tech (8-3), 7:00 PM,

A real-life osprey.

Virginia Tech’s 85-60 win over Campbell was impressive, particularly as they held the nation’s No. 1 three-point shooting team to 1-of-12 from three. But the best part was senior Dorenzo Hudson had his best performance since the third game of the season, scoring 15 points (snapping a six-game single-digit streak) on 46% shooting.

And Jarrell Eddie’s recent surge might not be a fluke; the sophomore saw limited minutes last season but is averaging 25.7 this year and is averaging 10.1 points. In the last three games – all Virginia Tech wins – the 6-7 guard/forward has averaged 16.7 points on 16-of-22 shooting and 9-of-11 from three.

The Ospreys’ six losses this year are to Alabama (then ranked 19th), Florida (then 7th), Ohio State (then 3rd), Miami, at Kansas State in overtime and at Auburn. That’s a tough schedule, but Virginia Tech is better.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 68, North Florida 61


Ozzie the Osprey.

Ozzie and Harriet are the two osprey mascots for North Florida.  Per the UNF website, Ozzie’s weight is “a few pounds short of elevator limit”, his height is 7’2” and his motto is “awesome by association”.

Alabama State (2-7) at Clemson (5-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Clemson’s defensive-oriented 60-40 win over in-state foe Winthrop on Saturday was much-needed. The Tigers had lost their previous three games against in-state opponents. Travis Sawchik from the Charleston Post and Courier wrote about the increasing contributions of Clemson’s freshmen. Rod Hall, T.J. Sapp, K.J. McDaniels and Bernard Sullivan combined to shoot 5-of-11 from the floor (3-of-5 from three).

One of Alabama State’s wins came on the road against Isiah Thomas’s Florida International squad. But the Hornets lost two of their next three to Stephen F. Austin and St. Louis, scoring a combined 83 points in both games.

Prediction: Clemson 72, Alabama State 56

Random: Per Wikipedia, singer Clarence Carter is among Alabama State’s notable alumni, which allows me to link this.

Alabama A&M (2-4) at Georgia Tech (6-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

The Yellow Jackets played well in wins over Georgia and Savannah State. Against Savannah State, Glen Rice, Jr. played 27 minutes and had a season-low six points on just five shots; he hadn’t attempted fewer than 10 all season. Head coach Brian Gregory has been playing him some at the point guard spot. It’s not a natural position for Rice, who is used to being a wing scorer.

“When he plays (point guard), he becomes even more focused and more concentrated on what needs to be done,” Gregory said. “That’s helped him when he moves back to the wing spot where now his job sometimes is simple, we need him to score some points. But he is making better decisions al the way around because of his time at the time point.”

Alabama A&M is much worse than Savannah State; the Bulldogs have averaged 48.7 points in losses to Alabama, South Alabama and Michigan.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 75, Alabama A&M 51

Random: Alabama A&M’s notable alumni include Robert Mathis (of the Indianapolis Colts), John Stallworth (NFL Hall of Famer) and Ruben Studdard (former American Idol winner).

Last week: 8-1

Season: 27-11

ACC Weekend Preview: Dec. 18

Bryant (1-9) at Boston College (3-7), 1:00 PM, RSN

Matt Humphrey is the only Boston College player to get consistent playing time.

Boston College’s fairly easy win over Stony Brook last weekend was a nice surprise. Stony Brook shot just 29%, which was Boston College’s best defensive performance of the year (as were the 51 points allowed). The most encouraging part was that BC shot just 24% from three and still won easily. The Eagles might just be gaining a bit of confidence, which should mean a relatively easy win over an awful Bryant team.

Prediction: Boston College 66, Bryant 58

Random: It’s hard for players to get comfortable when their minutes aren’t stable. Matt Humphrey is the only Eagle who has played at least 20 minutes in all ten games. It’s not like BC’s games have been all that different, and the pattern is settling down a bit, but certainly it’s nice for players – particularly freshmen – to know they have some stability in terms of their playing time.

Gardner-Webb (6-6) at Wake Forest (6-4), 1:00 PM, ESPN3

Wake Forest shouldn’t be ashamed of losing at Seton Hall, which is arguably the Big East’s most improved team. But Wake’s 54 points were a season-low, as was its 12.5% from three-point range. Wake’s interior defense has also been bad all year and was again last week, allowing Seton Hall to shoot 59% from two-point range. Perhaps with shot-blocker Ty Walker’s recent return from suspension, that will improve some.

Travis McKie has been ridiculous (18.6 ppg on 50% shooting, 40% from three), adding 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 35 minutes a game. But C.J. Harris’s improvement is worth noting, per Rush the Court:

Last year, according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Harris posted a 93.6 offensive efficiency rating while taking 15.6% of the team’s shots. This year? Harris has an offensive efficiency rating of 117.7 while taking 25.1% of his teams shots. That’s an insane improvement. So now, not only does Wake Forest have the conference’s second-leading scorer, but it also has the conference’s third leading scorer (17.9 PPG). It might have sounded crazy this time last year, or even two months ago, but Wake Forest easily has the most productive scoring tandem in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Gardner-Webb is not very good, so the dynamic duo should do some more stat-padding on Sunday.

Prediction: Wake Forest 85, Gardner-Webb 65

Random: Gardner-Webb beat Alice Lloyd College earlier this season, and the name seemed strange. Good ‘ole Google and/or Wikipedia: it is located in the Kentucky mountains and their athletic programs are NAIA. Seventy-five percent of Alice Lloyd graduates are the first in their families to earn a college degree.

Loyola Marymount (6-4) at Florida State (7-3), 3:00 PM, ESPNU

So much for cutting down on turnovers. Florida State is averaging 19 a game and have coughed it up 47 times in their last two games, leading to 34 points by their opponents. Without those, Charleston Southern and UNC-G would have combined to score just 77 points. That’s not realistic, but considering the athletic Seminoles are shooting 46% on the year, it’s beyond irritating to think about their offensive potential without all the silly turnovers.

Another under-the-radar concern for FSU is its rebounding. The Seminoles have allowed opponents to average 14.7 offensive rebounds per game and are just +5.0 overall on the backboards. With their height and length, that should be a bigger margin. FSU out-rebounded UNC-G just 35-33 and allowed the Spartans to get 17 offensive boards.

Loyola Marymount beat UCLA in the L.A. Sports Arena early this season and also has a win over then-No. 23 St. Louis. Two of Loyola’s losses have been to pretty good teams, Harvard and Middle Tennessee State. But the Lions also have losses to Columbia and North Texas. Ultimately, FSU’s defense will be way too much.

Prediction: Florida State 73, Loyola Marymount 57

Random: Considering Loyola Marymount basketball is still best known for its success between 1985-1990 under Paul Westhead, it’s appropriate to plug ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary Guru of Go. The movie is mostly about Hank Gathers’ untimely death in the 1989-90 season and how Westhead’s team responded to make an improbable NCAA Tournament run, but it’s also about Westhead’s unconventional style. One of the more underrated 30 for 30 films.

Virginia (8-1) at Oregon (6-2), 5:30 PM

No wonder Oregon is a tough place to play - opponents are distracted by the horrendous court design.

Virginia is arguably playing as well as anyone in the ACC so far (against a non-conference schedule Pomeroy ranks 308th). Since the Michigan win, UVA has made quick work of its lesser foes. After losing to TCU, Virginia won six straight by an average of 18.8 points. In the Cavaliers’ last game (on December 6th), George Mason shot the highest percentage allowed by UVA all year (47.5%) and scored just 48 points.

Oregon’s two losses have both come on the road to pretty good teams (Vanderbilt and BYU), but the Ducks were beaten soundly in both games. Oregon doesn’t have any great wins (the best is Nebraska), but Eugene is a tough place to play. Minnesota transfer guard Devoe Joseph recently became eligible and has averaged 15.5 points in two games. The Ducks’ front line has ACC connections: Kyle’s little brother E.J. Singler (13 ppg, 1.0 bpg) and Wake Forest transfer Tony Woods (7.8 ppg, 1.8 bpg).

Last season, Virginia went to Stanford for its first true road game and was crushed 81-60 (with Mike Scott, who leads the team in scoring this year but missed most of last year with an injury). This is Virginia’s first true road game of 2011-12 and it just seems like a games the Cavaliers will lose. Considering ACC basketball has been such a disappointment this year, this just feels like the right pick.

Prediction: Oregon 65, Virginia 62

Random: Starting on December 20th, Oregon will host the ironically-named Global Sports Hoops Showcase. The field: Oregon, North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin. Last year’s field was Auburn, Samford, Campbell and Middle Tennessee State. Scouring the web as to what makes this global, or even a showcase, I found nothing.

Last Week: 9-1

Season Record: 19-10

ACC Weekend Preview: Dec. 17

While this slow weekend schedule in terms of non-conference games won’t do much to enhance the ACC’s image, it can improve its awful non-conference record (75-39). And N.C. State has the opportunity to pull off a huge upset at home against No. 1 Syracuse.

Florida Atlantic (4-6) vs. Miami (5-4), Sunrise, Fla., 12:00 PM, FSN

Kenny Kadji's improvement bodes well for Miami's frontcourt when Reggie Johnson returns.

Miami had a rough weekend as it lost its second straight non-conference game, this time at West Virginia. It’s easy to harp on Reggie Johnson’s absence as the reason for Miami’s struggles. But his impact has been felt: two of Miami’s last four opponents have shot better 63% from two-point range. But big man Kenny Kadji has progressed well, averaging 12 points in the last three games on 65% shooting.  And Johnson may return on Saturday,per The Palm Beach Post.

Florida Atlantic is 4-6, but the Owls have lost just twice by double digits and just once by more than 20 (at Kansas). They nearly upset Washington in Seattle only to fall by six points. Last week, FAU lost 75-68 at No. 16 Mississippi State but led in the second half. Miami has been on a bad skid lately and and if the Hurricanes aren’t careful, they’ll lose this one, too.

Prediction: Miami 71, Florida Atlantic 61

Random: Florida Atlantic coach Mike Jarvis should eventually join Lefty Driesell as one of two coaches to win 100 or more games at four different schools. He’s already one of eight head coaches to have 100 or more wins at three schools (Boston, George Washington, St. John’s). Jarvis is 364-201 and 45-59 at FAU.

Campbell (8-2) at Virginia Tech (7-3), 4:00 PM, ESPN3

Best mascot ever?

The Tech Hoops blog posted notes from Seth Greenberg’s radio show, including the head coach defending the playing time of seniors Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila. Davila was never supposed to be an offensive threat and has seen his playing time reduced, but Hudson is averaging 30.8 minutes and 10.8 points on 38% shooting (23% from three). He hasn’t shot over 33.3% in a game since November 23rd (13-of-52 in six games since). Greenberg said that he wants Hudson to be more aggressive on offense. With a week off, maybe he will be.

Campbell  has some firepower, but lost on Wednesday on the road by 11 to…Houston Baptist. Ew. For a more detailed preview of the Camels, check out Tech Hoops’ write-up. With a week to prepare, the Hokies should win.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 83, Campbell 75

Random: Despite its record, Campbell is 206th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. The Camels have won at Iowa but that is their best win. Three wins have come over non Division-I teams and the average ranking of a team they have beaten is 252.7. Houston Baptist, one of Campbell’s losses, is 327th.

Winthrop (4-6) at Clemson (4-4), 4:30 PM, RSN

In the loss at Arizona last Saturday, Clemson set offense back decades by scoring 47 points and shooting 37% from two-point range (31.7% overall). The Tigers are averaging a paltry 13 free throw attempts per game and had just five at Arizona. Andre Young had 17 points, but big men Devin Booker and Milton Jennings combined to shoot 5-of-16 from the floor, scoring just 13 points in 52 minutes with nether recording a steal or a block.

Clemson’s defense is struggling; they allowed 51% shooting to Arizona to and 42% to South Carolina. College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina combined to shoot 50% in wins over Clemson. Winthrop beat Presbyterian earlier this week, and the Blue Hose beat South Carolina, which beat Clemson. By transitive property, Clemson could lose. But it won’t.

Prediction: Clemson 62, Winthrop 51

Random: Patrick Finley at the Arizona Daily Star wrote a nice article on Clemson’s Tanner Price, who reaches out to children with cancer with “Tanner’s Totes”.

Appalachian State (4-5) at North Carolina (8-2), 6:00 PM, ESPNU

Jason Capel took over at Appalachian State in 2010; at the time, he was the youngest head coach in Division I.

The Tar Heels had their best shooting performance in six games against Long Beach State last week (51.5%). Carolina had its worst defensive performances of the year, allowing 47% shooting and its second-highest point total allowed (78). Former Tar Heel Jason Capel will come back to Chapel Hill on Saturday night as the head coach of Appalachian State. His team has been competitive, losing by just 14 at Minnesota, but also has losses to East Tennessee State (twice) and East Carolina (by 20). But Capel’s team has struggled to score, averaging 52 points in the last two games. Carolina really won’t be tested until Texas comes to the Smith Center next Wednesday.

Prediction: North Carolina 102, Appalachian State 69

Random: Former Ohio State benchwarmer Mark Titus is writing at Grantland and in his top 12 rankings, he eviscerates Carolina’s collective defensive effort. While complimenting the effort of guys like Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock and Justin Watts, he says it’s Harrison Barnes’s lack of consistent effort that holds the Tar Heels back:

Harrison Barnes … is one of the five best players in America. He should set the tone for the Heels, but he’s so blatantly disinterested in defense that I literally started laughing at one point while watching the Kentucky game. For most of the game he stood straight up on defense, got lost on screens, didn’t close out hard to shooters, played no help-side defense, showed no understanding of helping the helper, allowed his man to dribble penetrate way too easily, and didn’t seem to care about blocking out. Outside of UConn’s Jeremy Lamb and … Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas, there isn’t a guy in college basketball I’d rather watch on offense than Barnes, but his lack of defensive effort was a huge disappointment. It’s keeping him from being a truly special player, and keeping Carolina from being a dominant team.

Syracuse (10-0) at N.C. State (6-3), 6:30 PM, ESPN2

Even through thick glasses, Jim Boeheim makes the best incredulous face ever.

Akula Wolf over at Backing the Pack wrote a nice preview (complete with funny pictures). The key to this game will be Scott Wood – against the Orange’s long and active zone, he will have to knock down three’s. He has 25 of N.C. State’s 45 made three-pointers this year, and while he shoots 57% from three, his teammates shoot 20-of-90 (22.2%). Wood has to stay out of foul trouble, something he hasn’t been able to do in the Wolfpack’s most important games to date.

The Wolfpack will also have to take care of the ball – Syracuse likes to get out in transition. As Luke Winn points out in his latest power rankings, sixth-man guard Dion Waiters is great at getting steals. N.C. State has turned it over an average of just 15 times a game in three losses but opponents have averaged 20 points off of those miscues.

This is Syracuse’s first true non-conference road game in 1,092 days (per Joe Lunardi of ESPN bracketology). Besides beating Florida at home, the Orange really haven’t been tested. But N.C. State isn’t good enough yet on defense to win a game like this, even at home.

Prediction: Syracuse 85, N.C. State 79

Random: N.C. State is 5-25 all-time against the nation’s No. 1 team; the last win came over Duke in 2004 in the RBC Center. The Wolfpack have beaten No. 1 North Carolina three times (they were not ranked any of those times). The other win over No. 1 came in the 1983 national championship against Houston.

Last Week: 9-1

Season Record: 19-10

ACC Weekend Preview: Dec. 11

Boston College (2-7) vs. Stony Brook (3-4), 12/11, 5:00 PM (No TV, thankfully)

Last in the ACC in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive and defensive rankings (and points per possession scored/allowed), Boston College has to thank the basketball gods for Utah. The 1-7 Utes are easily the worst major-conference team in the country, but BC is trying to make it competitive. And why not? The Eagles haven’t been competitive in many other basketball-related contests.

Boston College blog Soaring to Glory has an interesting look at BC’s season thus far (if games were ten minutes, the Eagles might be undefeated!). If there is a bright side, BC has cut way back on its turnovers (just 11.5 per game in the last two after averaging 16 in the first seven). So there’s that. Oh, and 40% from three against Providence was BC’s best percentage since the season-opener.

Boston College was competitive with Providence but fell apart in the second half, a trend for the Eagles all year. And their shooting from inside the arc against the Friars (9-of-31, 29%) was their season low and perhaps a program low moment in a deeper sense. That is just awful. North Carolina’s length and athleticism hass held just one opponent to a mark that low (Evansville, 28.2%).

BC head coach Steve Donahue has used a different lineup in almost every game to see what works (10 different starters in nine games), and this is a team that will get better throughout the year once he finds the best mix. But that means one, maybe two ACC wins. And as of right now, it’s not helping the Eagles find a rhythm.

The Stony Brook Seawolves have lost by 30 at Indiana, by 11 at Sacred Heart, by five at Northwestern and by three at Eastern Illinois. Ken Pomeroy has Boston College ranked at 266th and Stony Brook at 146th.

Prediction: Stony Brook 66, Boston College 57

Random: A Seawolf is not a real animal – that we know of. It is, however, a “mythical sea creature of the Tlingit tribe, said to bring good luck to all those fortunate enough to see it.” I don’t think Boston College will feel that way when they meet multiple Seawolves on Sunday.

A seawolf.

Florida State (6-3) vs. UNCG (2-7), 12/11, 1:00 PM, RSN

Jeremy Lundblad from ESPN’s College Basketball Nation Blog had an interesting tidbit on Florida State’s turnover issues. As he pointed out, the Seminoles played Charleston Southern, whose average player height was around 6-2 while FSU is the third-tallest team in the country (average nearly 6-7). Yet the Seminoles had 21 turnovers (23.6% loss of ball) and are averaging 18.2 per game, 327th in the country. It’s been a team effort – of the eight Seminoles averaging at least 15 minutes, six average at least two turnovers a game. Only point guard Jeff Peterson (1.8) and Terrance Shannon (1.3) are under that mark. Even Deividas Dulkys, an experienced player, has had issues – he had a team-high six turnovers in 20 minutes against Charleston Southern.

This wouldn’t be as bad if the Seminoles’ pace allowed for these kinds of turnover issues, but tempo-free, they are last in the ACC with a nearly 22% loss of ball. That’s over a fifth of FSU’s possessions that don’t even result in a shot attempt. The Seminoles haven’t had a 25% or higher loss of ball but they have flirted with it, notching 22% or more six times in nine games so far. The lowest loss of ball they have had is 17.4% in the season-opener against Jacksonville; six ACC teams have a lower season average.

If you take out all the possessions that FSU has turned it over on offense, they average 1.03 points per possession. Unfortunately, those wasted possessions count too. And that’s why FSU is 11th in the league in points per possession, ahead of only Boston College. Fortunately for the Seminoles, its defense is still fantastic, leading the league in PPP allowed (0.67) and ranking second in loss of ball forced (20.9%). And they will be playing UNC-G on Sunday and have a chance to develop some good habits before point guard Ian Miller hopefully returns to the team in January. The Spartans have been scrappy in the past, but not this year.

Prediction: Florida State 83, UNC-G 56

Random: UNC-G must be masochistic, because the Spartans have traveled to Tennessee, Georgetown, Boone and Cullowhee (all losses), not to mention losing two in the Greensboro Coliseum twice to nearby foes North Carolina A&T and Elon. The Spartans have wins over UNC-Pembroke and Towson. Former Tar Heels Wes Miller and J.B. Tanner are on the UNC-G staff.

N.C. State (5-3) vs. North Carolina Central (5-4), 12/11, 3:00 PM, RSN

N.C. State’s defense hasn’t been great, but fouls have become a bigger problem. Opponents are averaging 25 free throw attempts per game on 20.0 N.C. State fouls. Even Lorenzo Brown fouled out against Stanford; he had five fouls for the season entering that game. Forward Richard Howell has had three or more fouls in six of N.C. State’s eight games and even the heady C.J. Williams has fouled out (against Vanderbilt).

Scott Wood is the main culprit, averaging 3.1 fouls per game. Taking out Princeton (he played two minutes before getting hurt), he has averaged 3.7 fouls. While he might feel the fouls are bad calls (which he makes known to the officials, and that certainly isn’t helping), he constantly puts himself in bad positions. His fifth foul against Indiana was a questionable flagrant foul call, but considering he has three or more fouls in five of the six games he has finished this year, at some point it becomes a pattern. He fouled out against Stanford on another questionable double foul call, but he put himself in a position to get that whistle as well. Wood has made 20-of-35 three’s this year (57%) while his teammates have combined to shoot 18-of-76 (23.6%).

At the beginning of the year, unsure of how N.C. State would look, this felt like a game the Wolfpack could win narrowly or even lose. It’s worth noting that N.C. Central is 7th nationally in field goal percentage (52.2%).  Central is really improving, dropping games at Wake (by 14), at Wagner (by four) and at UNC-Charlotte (by 16). But they have just one Division-I victory and N.C. State is more talented overall, particularly offensively. This should be a confidence-rebuilding game for N.C. State but if they don’t take Central seriously with weapons like Kansas State transfer Dominique Sutton (17.3 ppg, 65% shooting) and Ray Willis (17.1 ppg, 56% shooting), they could be in trouble.

Prediction: NC State 88, NCCU 63

Random: Central head man LaVelle Moton has a very entertaining Twitter feed (@LaVelleMoton). A lot of former area players have relationships with him, and he even sent this YouTube link to North Carolina’s Sean May to poke a little fun at Raymond Felton. He’s worth a follow, with plenty of motivational Tweets and he has a lot of thoughts on basketball, including this about David Stern vetoing the Chris Paul trade:

@LeVelleMoton David Stern “No one man should have all that Power”…(Kanye Voice)

Virginia Tech (6-3) vs. Norfolk State (6-3), 12/11, 4:00 PM

After disappointing back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Kansas State, it felt like Virginia Tech might lose at Rhode Island. But head coach Seth Greenberg’s teams don’t quit and the Hokies won, 78-67. They still are bound for the NCAA Tournament bubble yet again with no more high-profile non-conference win chances left.

From Tech Hoops, Erick Green came off the bench for the first time this year against Rhode Island because of “the manner in which he was carrying himself.” Despite that, the junior had 24 points off the bench on 10-of-14 shooting. He has been by far Tech’s most efficient offensive threat, averaging 17.1 points on 49% shooting (50% from three). He has shot below 50% just twice this year.

Dorenzo Hudson has been strug-uh-ling this year, shooting 39% (25% from three). It’s puzzling – he averaged 17.8 ppg in the first four games and was shooting 21-of-37 (nearly 57%) and 5-of-13 from three, also averaging 6.8 free-throw attempts per game. Since, he has 30 total points in the last five games (6.0 per game) and has shot 10-of-42 from the field, 2-of-15 from three and has 10 free-throw attempts in five games. They need him because the perimeter will have to carry this team.

Norfolk State seems like a pushover opponent, but the Spartans reached the finals of the Paradise Jam (in which Virginia lost to TCU), losing to No. 11 Marquette by two points. Since, the Spartans have won three of four, but committed 34 turnovers in a loss at home to Elizabeth City State.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 75, Norfolk State 53

Random: Rucker Park legend Pee Wee Kirkland and NBA star Bob Dandridge played together at Norfolk State in the 70’s.

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