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


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