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, theACC.com

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

Random:

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

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