ACC Tournament Thursday Previews
No. 8 Maryland (16-14, 6-10) vs. No. 9 Wake Forest (13-17, 4-12), 12:00 PM, ESPNU/ACC Network
This might seem like a no-brainer Maryland win, nine of Maryland’s ACC games were decided by fewer than ten points (12 by 15 or fewer) and their biggest win this year was a 16-pointer over Boston College. They beat Wake Forest by just six at home earlier this year. And Wake has won two of its last five games and played Duke close. A loss to Wake would be a devastating way to end the year for Maryland.
Key to the game: Which team’s post players will show up? In the last three games (all losses), Maryland’s Ashton Pankey, James Padgett and Alex Len have combined for 46 points on 18-of-45 shooting (10-of-27 from the foul line). Pankey in particularly has struggled; the freshman doesn’t have a basket in that span (0-of-11) and played just 14 minutes over the last two games.
But Maryland allowed the last two frontcourts they faced to score 101 points; just two players (Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott) had 69 by themselves. And Wake’s frontcourt is heating up: Carson Desrosiers, Travis McKie and Nikita Mescheriakov have averaged 39.5 points the last two games on 59% shooting. If Maryland’s frontcourt keeps getting outplayed as badly as it has been, this could be an early upset.
Random stat: Terrell Stoglin, who made All-ACC second team, has had a rough go of it in the last month or so. Prior to Maryland’s game at Duke, he was averaging 22.2 points on 43.6% shooting (54.3% from inside the arc) in ACC play. In the final seven games, he shot 32% and 28.2% from inside the arc, but he still averaged 20 points.
Prediction: Maryland 71, Wake Forest 66
No. 5 NC State (20-11, 9-7) vs. No. 12 Boston College (9-21, 4-12), 2:00 PM, ESPNU/ACC Network
NC State needs to win this game and at least one more to earn an NCAA Tournament berth. The Wolfpack has a nice draw to do that – Boston College won’t help, but a win over Virginia would and certainly a potential matchup with No. 1 seed North Carolina would give them a chance at a huge win. But it starts with this game, and Steve Donahue’s Boston College team won’t just roll over.
Key to the game: NC State’s execution. Obviously, the Wolfpack are more talented than Boston College. But the Eagles haven’t shown any quit all year and have played NC State close once (at their place). It’s a good thing that State appears to have found its confidence again. It’s not good if that confidence is misplaced and they think they can coast through this game. Boston College has no postseason beyond the ACC Tournament and they will play that way.
Random stat: Scott Wood shot 4-of-28 from the floor (4-of-20 from three) in NC State’s four-game losing streak in ACC play. But in their last two games (both wins), Wood shot 10-of-23 from the floor and 8-of-17 from three.
Prediction: NC State 77, Boston College 62
No. 7 Clemson (16-14, 8-8) vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech (15-16, 4-12), 7:00 PM, ESPNU/ACC Network
Both of these teams continue to fight hard through disappointment, but Virginia Tech just seems to lack confidence right now and Clemson has gained quite a bit of it. The Tigers are playing very well and could be a dangerous team going forward for anyone in their bracket, should they advance.
Key to the game: Rebounding. In two previous matchups with Virginia Tech, Clemson – not traditionally a great offensive rebounding team – collected 42.9% of its misses. Clemson didn’t shoot very well in either matchup (a combined 6-of-30 from three) but got second-chance points. And Virginia Tech got its share in the first meeting, but failed to get many in the second (nine second-chance points on six offensive rebounds). The Tigers have a big size advantage and should use it.
Random stat: These two teams are the unluckiest in the ACC (per Ken Pomeroy) and only five teams are unluckier in the nation.
Prediction: Clemson 59, Virginia Tech 55
No. 6 Miami (18-11, 9-7) vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech (11-19, 4-12), 9:00 PM, ESPNU/ACC Network
If Miami wins, it sets them up for a rematch with Florida State and the potential to get a win that would likely seal an NCAA Tournament berth. If they don’t, the Hurricanes are almost certainly out.
Keys to the game: Get Malcolm Grant rolling. Miami’s senior sharp-shooter has shot just 28.9% from three-point range since returning from the death of his older brother just prior to conference play. In his first 12 games back, he shot 18-of-79 (22.8%) from three. In the last five, he has shot 15-of-35 (42.9%) from three and 8-of-15 in the last two. Miami desperately needs him to consistently make three’s – in their ACC wins, he has shot 22-of-66 compared to 11-of-42 in losses.
Georgia Tech’s improved frontcourt. Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey combined to score just eight points in their first meeting with Miami this year. But Miller has been in double figures in eight of his last nine games and Holsey in six of eight. The duo has averaged 23.7 points on 57% shooting in their last three games. When Miami has let opposing ACC frontcourts score 23 or more, they are 1-6.
Random stat: Playing in Philips Arena isn’t necessarily a home court advantage for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are 3-7 there this year (3-5 in ACC play) and have averaged just 54.1 points. But they have won their last two games there (against Maryland and Wake Forest), averaging 66 points after averaging 51.1 points in their first eight games at Philips.
Prediction: Miami 75, Georgia Tech 61
Last week: 9-3
Season: 132-47 (68-28 ACC)