ACC Opening Weekend Previews: November 9-10

NOVEMBER 9

Stetson at Miami, 5:30 PM, ESPN3

The Stetson mascot was quite literally a hat (with eyelashes?) in 1978.

What to watch: Miami’s big men. Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji combined for 39 minutes, ten shot attempts, five free-throw attempts, five rebounds and eight turnovers in the Hurricanes’ exhibition loss to Saint Leo. It goes without saying that can’t become a trend.

Random Stetson facts: The Hatter mascot recently got a makeover, since the previous Mad Hatter with “crazy Doc Brown hair and large teeth” scared the children. Now, it’s this guy:

Prediction: Miami, 78-63.

Gardner-Webb at No. 11 North Carolina, 7:00 PM, RSN

What to watch: Marcus Paige. The freshman point guard is going to be the guy this year for North Carolina no matter how he plays. So he’s going to need to play better than he did in Carolina’s exhibition against Shaw (six points, 2-of-7 shooting, one assist and three turnovers). He’s going to have some growing pains, but he needs to start gaining some confidence.

Random Gardner-Webb facts: I suppose Gardner-Webb’s version of the Bulldog – the “Runnin” Bulldog – differentiates it somewhat from the 7,500 other schools that use it. He does give dancing tours of campus, so there is that.

Prediction: North Carolina, 87-63.

Georgia State at No. 8 Duke, 7:00 PM, ESPNU

Pounce the Panther.

What to watch: Duke’s offense. Georgia State was one of the best defensive teams in the country last year. Though the Panthers lost four of five starters, Duke’s offense has struggled some in the exhibition season and this game should be an indicator of where Duke really is offensively. Duke has potential to be a very good offensive team, but they lack a true scorer. Who – if anyone – can step up to fill that role, or will it be a team effort?

Random Georgia State facts: Georgia State chose the Panther mascot supposedly based on the Florida Panther, which was once native to Georgia. Of course it was.

Prediction: Duke, 84-62.

Miami (Ohio) at No. 6 NC State, 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Swoop the RedHawk.

What to watch: NC State’s rotation. Even in an exhibition game, NC State played nine people ten or more minutes and just seven played over 15 minutes. Jordan Vandenberg and Thomas de Thaey were thought to be rotation players in the post, but they saw a combined 25 minutes of action. NC State needs them to be productive, but head coach Mark Gottfried won’t play them just for the sake of having depth. Their minutes tonight should indicate how much he trusts them right now.

Random Miami (Ohio) facts: The RedHawks were actually the Redskins up until 1997, when they changed hteir name. Of course, the original nickname in 1928 was “Big Red-Skinned Warriors”. Oops. “RedHawk” was chosen over “the Miamis” and the ThunderHawks”. The Miami’s?

Prediction: NC State, 94-75.

Radford at Wake Forest, 7:00 PM, ESPN3

The Radford Highlander mascot is just awesome.

What to watch: The Wake Forest freshmen. Codi Miller-McIntyre, Tyler Cavanaugh and Devin Thomas will all start tonight, and plenty of other freshmen will see time. Radford is far from a juggernaut, but a convincing Wake Forest win might mean that the youngsters are ready to at least make Wake competitive.

Random Radford facts: The Highlander is a reference to Radford’s Scottish heritage. But I prefer to think it is a reference to this classic (HAPPY HALLOWEEN, LADIES!):

Prediction: Wake Forest, 76-61.

South Alabama at No. 25 Florida State, 7:00 PM, ESPN3

A spotted Jaguar in a suit, riding a bicycle. What’s not to love?

What to watch: Florida State’s turnovers. It’s always been an issue for the Seminoles, even against lesser opponents. In two exhibition games, Florida State had 25 assists to 33 turnovers, and starting point guard Ian Miller had eight turnovers. FSU has to cut back on that this year because they have less of a margin for error on both ends of the floor right now.

Random South Alabama facts: A few years ago, the USA cheerleaders were asked to stop leading a popular cheer after made free throws, which was, “USA, South in your mouth!” By all indications, they still do it.

Prediction: Florida State, 77-59.

Tulane at Georgia Tech, 7:00 PM, ESPN3 

Riptide, the Rastafarian Pelican. I guess you can’t actually have a green wave as a mascot.

What to watch: Um, how about if Georgia Tech wins? The Yellow Jackets were so bad last year that they lost games like this – in fact, they literally did lose this game at Tulane a year ago, 57-52. Ken Pomeroy has Tulane 110th in his preseason rankings, and this is no gimme. But if Georgia Tech is even going to be decent this year, they need to win this one.

Random Tulane facts: Tulane was known as the “Greenbacks” and the “Greenies” before the “Green Wave” nickname stuck in the 1920’s. The pelican riding the wave had been used as a symbol in the past, but so had Gumby. The pelican stuck in 1998.

Prediction: Georgia Tech, 65-57.

Virginia at George Mason, 7:00 PM

An unidentified animal creature known as the Mason Maniak. For some reason, it’s wearing Indiana’s warm-up pants.

What to watch: Virginia’s freshmen. The Cavaliers, because of injuries and suspensions, are going to be starting three freshmen (Justin Anderson, Mike Tobey and Taylor Barnette). Barnette will have to run the point guard against a pretty good opponent, and he doesn’t have any experience.

Random George Mason facts: George Mason really experimented with its mascots over the years. They still use the Patriot, and they also use this….thing named Gunston:

Prediction: George Mason, 61-53.

No. 3 Kentucky vs. Maryland, 8:30 PM, ESPN (Brooklyn, NY)

This was Kentucky’s last live bobcat mascot. Can’t imagine why that didn’t go well.

What to watch: Dez Wells. Maryland was projected to have a good year anyway, but the announcement on Wednesday that Wells won his NCAA appeal and would be immediately eligible changed the Terrapins’ expectations. It’s too early to judge how good they will be based on how they play against the defending national champs, but his impact should be obvious tonight.

Random Kentucky facts: Kentucky has three mascots: The Wildcat (a student), Scratch (a kid-friendly version) and a live Bobcat named Blue. They used to have a live mascot at games, but that stopped about 50 years ago. Here’s the Wikipedia quote about today’s Blue:

▪ Blue — A live bobcat (note that in American English, “wildcat” generally refers to this particular mammal). He lives at the state-operated Salato Wildlife Education Center near the state capital of Frankfort. Unlike the school’s two costumed mascots, he never attends games, because bobcats are very shy by nature and do not react well with large crowds.

Uh, right.

Prediction: Kentucky, 79-64.

NOVEMBER 10

East Tennessee State at Virginia Tech, 2:00 PM, ESPN3

East Tennessee State has always been the Buccaneers, but Pepper the Parrot cropped up in 1980 (see below).

What to watch: Virginia Tech’s offense. Despite a ridiculously thin roster, first-year head coach James Johnson has said that he wants to push the tempo. I suppose anything is faster than the offense Seth Greenberg ran, but it seems like an odd choice considering his personnel. It will be interesting to see how it looks.

Random East Tennessee State facts: Here was the description given to Pepper the Parrot:

“Once upon a time, on one of the deserted Canary Island, there lived a giant parrot named Pepper. Like most parrots, he had aspirations of playing in the NBA and perhaps having his own line of breakfast cereals. But the big bird had one problem. He wanted to make people happy, but there were no people where he lived. So Pepper packed his suitcase and left his island home. As he flew across the ocean, he was swept up in a hurricane. Pepper, being the strong parrot that he is, fought the storm. Finally, though, he became exhausted and was forced to land. He fell asleep on a sandy beach. When he awoke, he saw a rainbow in the sky. He followed the rainbow to its end at ETSU’s blue and yellow Memorial Center. Since that fateful day, Buccaneer fans have laughed and cheered with Pepper, making him a very happy bird.”

Prediction: Virginia Tech, 72-59.

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