IUPUI (6-11) at Maryland (11-1), 3:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Charles Mitchell. Maryland’s freshman rebounding machine continues to develop, and he set new career highs in points (19) and rebounds (14) against Delaware State, in just 24 minutes. He hasn’t played more than 24 minutes all year, as he’s coming off the bench to spell senior James Padgett. But Mitchell’s productivity, particularly on the glass, has Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon considering a lineup change. Padgett has gone eight straight games without reachign double figures in scoring, and his season-high in rebounds is six.
Random IUPUI facts: In 1998, IUPUI changed its name from the “Metros” to the Jaguars. Jinx the Jaguar is “the perfect personification of IUPUI athletics – He is powerful, swift and confident.” I guess there’s not a mascot to symbolize mediocrity?
Prediction: Maryland, 77-54. The only thing that could slow the Terrapins in this one is boredom.
The Citadel (3-7) at Clemson (7-4), 4:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Milton Jennings. Clemson’s talented junior forward has either struggled or not played in every winnable game Clemson has lost this year (arguably, the Tigers are just not as good as Arizona, and Jennings was great in that game). Typically, he has shown a tendency to show up more against name opponents, but he had 15 points in just 22 minutes. He needs to be engaged at all times for Clemson to have success in the league this year.
Random Citadel facts: The history of Citadel’s live bulldog mascot is storied, but we’ve covered it before. But who knew there was a costumed mascot, too? It’s hard to know, since even a Google Image search doesn’t yield many results. Seriously, Citadel. You don’t need Spike.
Prediction: Clemson, 66-44. The Citadel is terrible: two of its three wins are against non-Division I teams, and the Bulldogs have lost six straight.
Last week: 10-4
Clemson (6-3) at Coastal Carolina (3-5), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Clemson’s offense. Coastal Carolina is not very good defensively, allowing nearly 44% shooting. But more importantly, the Tigers need to get going offensively. The Tigers actually started out the year doing pretty well in that department, but after averaging 74.5 points in their first two games, they averaged 59.3 in their next six (three losses). They seemingly got back on track against Florida A&M, scoring a season-high 80 points and shooting nearly 53 percent. Clemson is taking good care of the ball this season and playing pretty good defense – they just need to knock down a few shots.
Random Coastal Carolina facts: Does it seem odd that two South Carolina-based schools have a rooster for a mascot? It’s not a coincidence! Coastal Carolina is an affiliate of South Carolina, so it decided to pick a somewhat similar mascot: the Chanticleer, made famous in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Unfortunately, things don’t end so well for that rooster.
Prediction: Clemson, 73-58. It could be ugly – with Clemson, it too often is – but it should be a win.
Cornell (4-6) at No. 1 Duke (9-0), 7:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Marshall Plumlee. It’s been widely reported that the redshirt freshman big man, whose older brother Mason is having a breakout season, could make his Duke debut tonight. He had a stress fracture in his foot that has sidelined him until now. It will be difficult for him to permanently crack the rotation at this point in the season barring an injury to someone already in the rotation. But he has a lot of talent, and Duke could really use some depth in the frontcourt.
Random Cornell facts: Cornell is known as the Big Red, but their unofficial mascot is the Big Red Bear. It’s been around since 1905. Cornell is a pretty intelligent school, and unlike some, it only took them until 1939 to realize having a live bear is not a good idea. Touchdown I was the craziest – he climbed the goalposts, ran amok in an Atlantic City taffy shop and knocked the Penn mascot out with his paw.
Prediction: Duke, 92-59. Cornell has been competitive against everyone except Wisconsin and Stony Brook. But the Big Red is awful on offense, and not much better defensively.
Morgan State (3-4) at Virginia (8-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: A sneaky test for Virginia’s defense. The Bears aren’t a great team by any stretch, but they have some nice numbers this year. They rebound the ball offensively very well, get to the foul line a lot and make a lot of two-pointers. UVa has been getting better and better defensively all year, and that needs to continue for Virginia to go from being an okay ACC team to a very good one. (And by “very good”, I mean “has a legitimate chance to make the NCAA Tournament”).
Random Morgan State facts: Morgan State’s mascot is a bear. And it’s kind of insane.
How many bear mascots can do this?
Prediction: Virginia, 79-59. As UVa’s freshmen continue to get comfortable and their upperclassmen step up, the Cavaliers are getting better and better as the season goes.
No. 23/19 North Carolina (8-2) at Texas (6-4), 9:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: North Carolina’s offense. The Tar Heels have been stagnant at times offensively, and even though Texas has looked downright awful at times, their defense has been fairly consistent. They have the No. 1 effective field goal defense in the country per Ken Pomeroy, and they’re No. 3 in three-point defense (22.3% allowed) and fifth in two-point defense (37.6%). Carolina is shooting nearly 37% from the three-point line, but they’ve been a bit streaky. Against Butler, Carolina had three different droughts of three or more minutes where they scored two or fewer points. At Indiana – one of two true road games for Carolina this year – the Tar Heels were outscored by 23 points in 12:41 (a stretch that spanned both halves) and hit just two field goals in that span. Carolina shot 2-of-24 from the floor.
Forcing turnovers. North Carolina’s going to have to do this: Texas is turning it over on over a quarter of their possessions this year, and it’s a big reason the Longhorns have struggled so much. The Tar Heels have done a pretty good job of that this year, but when they haven’t – two games so far – the results were an Indiana loss and a close win over ECU. Forcing turnovers is also the one area where Texas hasn’t been dominant defensively as well. North Carolina can’t afford to give the ball away when Texas isn’t forcing a ton of turnovers as it is, especially since Texas’ defense seems to be making it difficult enough to score in the half-court already.
Random Texas facts: The live Longhorn mascot Bevo is bred to be docile, but he hasn’t always been. He once attacked an SMU cheerleader who tried to fend him off with his megaphone. In 1999, after Texas beat Nebraska, he was led across the field and did this:
Prediction: North Carolina, 63-54. Difficult to predict this one, especially since Texas head coach Rick Barnes always seems to find a way to beat North Carolina, even when the Tar Heels are arguably the better team. Last year, Carolina thumped Texas at home though. Neither team is remotely the same right now, but Carolina has looked like the better team thus far. Mostly because they haven’t lost to Chaminade.
Last week: 12-1
East Carolina (6-1) at No. 21/18 North Carolina (7-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Can UNC get to the free-throw line? It’s downright bizarre to see a North Carolina team struggle to get to the foul line like this one is, but the Tar Heels are 345th nationally (per Ken Pomeroy) in free-throw rate. ECU’s opponents have a very high free-throw rate and score 23% of their points from the foul line. Carolina hasn’t scored 23% of its points from the foul line in any game all year. Carolina hasn’t shot well from the line on the year – just 62% – but they’re going to need to be more aggressive to diversity their offense. In the last two games, despite having a size/athleticism advantage, Carolina has attempted 38% of its shots from three.
Random East Carolina facts: This is the first time ECU and North Carolina have played in the regular season since 1953, when Frank McGuire was still a relatively new coach at UNC. The teams are playing again because ECU is coached by former Tar Heel Jeff Lebo, who played point guard from 1986-89. … The Pirates started this season 5-0, and it’s only the second time they’ve done that since joining Division I.
Prediction: North Carolina, 85-61. It’s hard to know how good East Carolina is. They beat a pretty solid UNCG team and a decent Georgia State team on the road, but half of the Pirates’ wins are against non-Division I opponents. Before UNC’s final stretch of very tough non-conference games, the Tar Heels desperately need a confidence-boosting win here.
Georgia Southern (3-5) at Virginia Tech (8-1), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Anyone besides Erick Green. The junior point guard has nearly 30% of Virginia Tech’s points this season, but his teammates have still played well, which is a big reason Virginia Tech has gotten off to a good start. But in the last few games, one or both of his teammates have struggled and as a result, Virginia Tech has had its worst two shooting performances of the year. Green had 23 points against Mississippi Valley State on 8-of-13 shooting. His teammates combined for 47 points on 32% shooting (and just 1-of-11 from three). That can’t happen against a good team, and guys like Jarrell Eddie, Robert Brown and Cadarian Raines – who combined for 12 points on 4-of-20 shooting against MVSU – need to step up again and help ease Green’s burden.
Random Georgia Southern facts: Shocking that a school is allowed to have a live bald eagle mascot in this day and age, but Freedom is still with us. Of course, as live birds are want to do, he has flown away before.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 74-52. Georgia Southern is one of the slower-tempo teams in the country, and they’re going to try to ugly it up against the Hokies. But it won’t be nearly enough.
Norfolk State (6-6) at No. 25 NC State (6-2), 4:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: NC State’s focus. NC State is coming off of a week of taking their final exams, and they have a big game against Stanford looming on Tuesday. Norfolk State is not especially good at anything in particular, but the Spartans can get offensive rebounds and get to the line quite a bit. They’ve been scrappy against some good teams (a 13-point loss at Seton Hall and a 10-point loss at Illinois), so NC State’s going to have to stay disciplined to put them away comfortably, as they should.
Random Norfolk State facts: I could have scoured the internet for the exactly origins of the NSU Spartan mascot. Or I could just give you this video of the Spartan twerking. You’re welcome.
Prediction: NC State, 82-60. Norfolk State has hung around with some good opponents this year (a 13-point loss at Seton Hall and a 10-point loss at Illinois), but their best win is against Savannah State. So, yeah.
Florida A&M (4-6) at Clemson (5-3), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: The defensive boards. Clemson has been excellent defensively in almost every area but that one, and it came back to haunt them against Arizona as they gave up 20 offensive rebounds while pulling down just 21 defensive boards. Clemson’s a relatively slow-paced team and not particularly explosive offensively, so they can’t afford to give up second and third opportunities to any team, even Florida A&M.
Random Florida A&M facts: Florida A&M has perhaps the No. 1 mascot in all the power rankings, a rattlesnake. Known as the Rattlers because their campus was once infested with them, they have (or had?) a costumed mascot named “Venom”. And then it mysteriously went missing. Two words you never want to see near each other? “Rattlesnake” and “missing”.
And from FAMU’s band, here’s “Hay” by Crucial Conflict:
Prediction: Clemson, 79-53. Florida A&M has four wins, and two of them are against teams called Edward Waters and Allen.
New Hampshire (4-5) at Boston College (4-5), 1:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: BC’s three-point percentage. The Eagles are very reliant on the three-pointer, and New Hampshire is fourth in the country in three-point defense (22.4% allowed). BC scores nearly 30% of its points from three. If they end up losing, it’ll likely be because they couldn’t knock down outside shots.
Random New Hampshire facts: The Wildcats were very nearly called the Durham Bulls. Uh, that’s taken guys. But they have had a number of live wildcat mascots, a tradition that ended for good in the 1970s. Because it went about as well as you might expect.
With moderate success, the cats were controlled on the field with a chain leash and a stick, but none of the wildcats ever got used to the noise from the crowd or the band. The sight of the cringing, frightened animal was more distressing than inspiring to some of the football fans. … The last live wildcat, purchased in 1940, lived on campus for only a week before it died. The Blue Key vowed to replace it, but instead they took to heart the words from ‘A Student’ who wrote: “The well-intentioned persistence of Blue Key in attempting to keep a mascot not susceptible to domestication seems to many of us, in view of the net results, very unwise.”
Prediction: Boston College, 73-66. Please, BC. Seriously.
Last week: 12-1
Cleveland State (6-2) at No. 25/24 NC State (5-2), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: NC State’s three-point defense. NC State’s opponents are scoring nearly 32% of their points from behind the arc, even if they aren’t hitting a high percentage (33.1%). But in the last four games (all either close wins or losses), opponents have hit nearly 38 percent. UConn hit the lowest percentage (34.8%), but NC State also fouled UConn on a three-pointer twice in the final 3:09 (UConn hit four of those six free throws). Counting those, UConn scored over 43% of their points on three-point attempts. Cleveland State is hitting 36.7% of its three’s, and the Vikings are a solid team. If NC State doesn’t guard the three-point line, Cleveland State could keep the game close the same way UNC-Asheville did.
Random Cleveland State facts: Cleveland State was known as Fenn College from 1923-64, and when it was Fenn College, they were the Fenn Foxes. Now, they’re the Vikings. Boo. More teams besides Marist should be named “Fox”.
Also, look at these pranksters!
Prediction: NC State, 82-64. NC State won a tough game against Connecticut that they might not have a year ago. After some early tests, the Wolfpack is ready to win a game like this convincingly against a decent team at home.
South Carolina State (4-4) at Maryland (7-1), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Pe’Shon Howard. Howard has had a great season in terms of assists (49) and turnovers (15), but the junior point guard hasn’t made a shot since November 20th. He’s shooting just 3-of-21 this season. He played just nine minutes in the rout of UMES, but head coach Mark Turgeon said he was dealing with a stomach issue. Turgeon’s lineup tweaks seem more experimental, but Howard ideally needs to become a scoring threat. Freshman Seth Allen and even starting guard Nick Faust ran the point some against UMES. Howard is the best option, but if injury or illness keeps him out – as it has before – he could get Wally Pipped.
Random South Carolina State facts: Bulldogs? Not a great mascot. But the South Carolina State band/dancers/whatever brings it, always. I’m not sure they’ll bring these girls with them, which is probably for the best if Maryland doesn’t want to get distracted.
And this is officially my favorite band ever. Pretty Brown Eyes!
Prediction: Maryland, 95-63. The best team South Carolina State has played so far is Albany. They lost by 25 points. Also, Ken Pomeroy ranks 347 D-I schools. UMES is 345th. South Carolina State is 343rd.
St. Francis (NY) (2-4) at Boston College (3-5), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Boston College’s defense. Just, any defense would be fine. Harvard was pretty anemic offensively before hosting BC, when they put up 79 points and shot 55% from the floor. BC isn’t forcing many turnovers, so the least the Eagles have to do is guard the ball better. Or, just, at all. Or they’ll lose, even a game like this one.
Random St. Francis (NY) facts: I couldn’t find the reason that the school chose the Terrier mascot in 1933. So instead, I give you this:
In case y’all haven’t heard, though, the Terriers are coming. Or they were in 2010-11.
Prediction: Boston College, 71-65. The only team that has made easy work of St. Francis so far is Illinois. Army, Norfolk State and Albany beat St. Francis by a combined 18 points. This won’t be an easy one for BC. But then again, what game is?
No. 2 Duke (8-0) vs. Temple (6-0), 3:15 PM, ESPN (East Rutherford)
What to watch: How elite has Duke’s perimeter become? Mason Plumlee has been terrific this season, but the reason Duke has been great is because he has help. Last year, Duke lost to Temple and the Owls had five in double figures (led by two-guard Khalif Wyatt’s 22 points). Duke saw 33 of its 73 points scored by Mason and Miles Plumlee, who had 16 and 17, respectively. But no Blue Devil could slow down any of Temple’s guards, who did whatever they wanted offensively. All five of Duke’s guards had 28 points on 9-of-30 shooting.
This year, Duke has balance on both ends of the court. Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook have taken a lot of pride in defending on the perimeter, and Seth Curry has gotten better at it but is still limited physically. If Duke is going to be one of the nation’s best teams – which they look like right now – they’ll have to handle yet another tough test.
Random Temple facts: We’ve highlighted the Owl mascot in this space before. Fortunately for Temple’s mascot, it doesn’t live in Colombia. Or else it would have been kicked by this soccer player.
Hooter the Owl does celebrate its birthday every year, and other mascots come to join. There are some weird mascots out there.
Prediction: Duke, 81-70. This is just another stop on the Duke basketball revenge tour.
Mississippi Valley State (0-4) at Virginia (7-2), 4:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: The UVa freshmen. While they helped carry the team early, they haven’t been as efficient of late and as a result, haven’t played as much. Evan Nolte and Justin Anderson combined to average 14.3 points in 48.3 minutes in UVa’s first six games, but in the last three, they’ve combined for 6.7 points in just 25.3 minutes. Mike Tobey has played a total of 20 minutes in the last three games (after averaging 13.3 in the first six) and has just five points. Really, only backup point guard Teven Jones has seen consistent minutes, and that’s only because of the injury to starter Jontel Evans. This is the type of game that can allow the freshmen to get back on track, because UVa will need them going forward.
Random Mississippi Valley State facts: South Carolina State isn’t the only school with a great band/dancers.
Known as “The Mack of the SWAC”, Mississippi Valley State’s band even did a halftime performance blindfolded.
Prediction: Virginia, 73-47. Mississippi State is 0-4 this year and their closest loss was by 13 to Northwestern. It’s that bad. Although for some reason, the Delta Devils aren’t giving themselves a break – they’ll face Virginia Tech next, and won’t play a game they’re expected to win until early 2013, which will also be their first home game. Ouch.
Virginia Tech (7-0) at West Virginia (3-3), 4:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: Virginia Tech on the defensive glass. West Virginia retrieves nearly 41% of its available missed shots, while Virginia Tech is allowing opponents to get just 27.6% of their misses. Against their last two opponents, Virginia Tech has a defensive rebounding percentage of 75.3%, which is excellent. They’ll have to keep that up against the Mountaineers, who don’t often make their first attempt.
Erick Green. Can he keep carrying the Hokies? He was in foul trouble early against Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech trailed as a result. In 26 minutes, he had 28 points and seven rebounds, picking up just one more foul the rest of the way. He’s been phenomenal. But is it asking too much of him to continue being this brilliant? We’ll find out.
Random West Virginia facts: In 1998, a University of Miami assistant coach announced he was suing West Virginia for a 1996 incident where he was hit on the head with a trash can. He alleged that the university failed to adequately protect the visiting team. The injury was reported originally as a bruise, but the lawsuit said he was “severely and permanently” injured. He and West Virginia settled. That assistant coach? Randy Shannon.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 71-65. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I think the Hokies – should they still healthy – can beat anyone they play this year. West Virginia is a tough place to play, but the Mountaineers have not looked very good so far.
Seton Hall (6-2) at Wake Forest (4-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Seton Hall’s three-point percentage. The Pirates are making 38.9% of their three-pointers, 39th in the country, and scoring 36.6% of all their points from three. Wake Forest has been mediocre at best defending the three, but they’ve been better lately: Wake’s last four opponents have made 29.2% of their three’s. If Seton Hall goes crazy from three, Wake will be in danger of being blown out at home. But what else is new, I guess?
Random Seton Hall facts: As usual, the original nickname is often better than the current one: Seton Hall was known as the Villagers for awhile. And as usual, a sportswriter’s random naming of the team is the one that stuck.
Prediction: Seton Hall, 72-59. Seton Hall doesn’t have any great wins or awful losses, but Wake Forest has no good wins and some awful losses.
UNC Wilmington (4-4) at Georgia Tech (5-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Can Georgia Tech score? The Yellow Jackets are fantastic defensively yet again, but at some point, they’re going to have to put up points. They finally started hitting some three-pointers against Georgia, which is a good sign. But they only hit 7-of-27 two-point attempts, which is beyond terrible, and had just ten points in the paint. They’re going to have to develop something consistent on offense that ensures they won’t be in any 40-point affairs this year.
Random UNC Wilmington facts: The sea hawk mascot has gone through a lot of changes over the years, but the late 80’s version (see above) was probably my favorite. Although this one is also strong:
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 79-52. They’re hitting three-pointers now – the rest will come.
East Tennessee State (2-4) at No. 20/16 North Carolina (6-2), 7:30 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: North Carolina’s defense. UAB is an up-tempo squad that presented some matchup problems for North Carolina, but the Tar Heels still allowed the Blazers to score 84 points, the most they have allowed this year. UNC’s last four opponents have combined to shoot 45-of-106 (42.5%) from three and average 0.89 points per possession. In Carolina’s first four games, opponents shot 24% from three and averaged 0.65 points per possession. Obviously, the caliber of opponent was significantly different in the first four games than in the last four. But if this UNC team – which will be hot and cold offensively all year – doesn’t make defense a priority, they’re going to lose some games they shouldn’t. Not this one, but prioritizing defense starts in games like this.
Random East Tennessee State facts: It makes perfect sense that a pirate would be the mascot of a land-locked school in Tennessee. After all, an old pirate supposedly hid some of his gold there in a creek once. A creek that went all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. There’s a new pirate in town, and he has a blue face.
Prediction: North Carolina, 82-59. Fortunately for the Tar Heels, East Tennessee State is pretty bad offensively. They’ve had a week off, and while they may be rusty at first, they should still play good, hard-nosed defense.
No. 8 Arizona (6-0) at Clemson (5-2), ESPN2, 8:00 PM
What to watch: Clemson’s three-point defense. Arizona is scoring 33.7% of its points from three and making 41.7% of its three-point attempts, and they take a lot. Clemson is allowing just 30% shooting from three, but they haven’t played a great-shooting team so far. Still, Brad Brownell’s teams traditionally play very good defense, but Purdue went to Clemson and made 8-of-18 three’s (44.4%) in one of Clemson’s two losses. They’ll have to at least contest Arizona’s three’s to have a chance to knock off the Wildcats at home.
Clemson’s changing roster. Starting guard T.J. Sapp decided to transfer earlier this week. Will freshmen Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper be able to step up and fill that role, since they had already been getting the majority of Sapp’s minutes? Milton Jennings is expected to return to the lineup after a suspension. Will he be able to have an impact?
Random Arizona facts: Rufus, the first wildcat mascot, came to campus in 1915. The freshman football team raised the money ($9.91) to buy him. A little over a year later, though, this happened:
…while endeavoring to perform gymnastic stunts in the limbs of a tree to which he was tied, Rufus Arizona… fell and was hung.
Prediction: Arizona, 79-64. The Wildcats haven’t really beaten anyone good yet, and they’ve only played one team away from home. But they’ve beaten most opponents fairly handily and been incredibly efficient offensively. It would take quite the effort by Clemson to knock off Arizona, and they’re not nearly ready enough to do that.
Maine at Florida State (4-4), ESPNU, 4:00 PM
What to watch: FSU giving up extra possessions. Charting possessions using offensive rebounds as a possession (as I do), over 36% of FSU’s opponent’s possessions have come off of FSU turnovers or opponent offensive rebounds. Opponents have turned those into 0.96 points per possession. Florida scored 0.59 points per possession on possessions not off an FSU turnover or a Florida offensive rebound, but turned their offensive rebounds and FSU turnovers (35 total) into 46 points (1.3 per possession). Giving up a lot of opportunities to opponents has really hurt FSU so far, even against bad teams.
Random Maine facts: The Maine fight song was a No. 1 hit in 1930!
Prediction: Florida State, 84-61. No, seriously FSU. You need to win this one big.
Last week: 14-2
Delaware (2-5) at No. 2 Duke (7-0), 2:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: The minutes of Duke’s bench. Duke has seven players that Mike Krzyzewski trusts right now: his starters, Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton. That’s it. Against Ohio State, freshmen Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy played a combined six minutes. Coach K will not play a freshman for the sake of letting him learn if he’s not doing the right things in practice or in games. Games like today give Murphy and Jefferson a chance to prove they deserve minutes. Duke could use the depth, but Krzyzewski is not going to manufacture it.
Random Delaware facts: Monte’ Ross was hired as Delaware’s head coach in 2006, and it was the first time since the 1994 season that Delaware wouldn’t be coached by a former Mike Krzyzewski assistant. Current Notre Dame head coach and Krzyzewski assistant Mike Brey coached at Delaware from 1995-00. Former Duke guard (and assistant) David Henderson took over from 2000-06. …. Delaware still hasn’t played a home game this season, and won’t until December 4.
Prediction: Duke, 95-72. After Duke’s previous four-game stretch, this should be a breeze.
Miami (4-1) at Massachusetts (3-2), 2:00 PM, CBS SN
What to watch: Reggie Johnson. The senior center did not play against Jacksonville a few weeks ago because of a “sore tailbone”. After scoring 22 points against Stetson in the season-opener, he has 23 points total in three games since. Miami can win without him being a force, but it would be a lot easier if he could be more consistent.
Random Massachusetts facts: UMass is quite the stepping stone job. John Calipari, who took UMass to its only Final Four, left to go to the Nets in 1996. Bruiser Flint succeeded him, resigned in 2001 and went to Drexel, where he’s been since. Travis Ford was hired in 2005, had a good year and was snatched up by Oklahoma State. Steve Lappas is an interesting exception, hired in 2001 but basically let go in 2005. He had just one winning season. Before UMass, he took over at Villanova for his mentor, Rollie Massimino, who stopped speaking to him as a result. Also, people don’t seem to think he has the voice for his current job, a basketball analyst/studio commentator for CBS Sports Network.
Prediction: Miami, 73-61. I guess.
No. 15/17 Oklahoma State (5-0) at Virginia Tech (6-0), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Erick Green and Marcus Smart. Both have been spectacular this year. Smart hasn’t had a game as good as the one he had against NC State a few weeks ago (20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists), but he’s still been very good. And it appears that Virginia Tech’s up-tempo offense suits Green well.He’s averaging 24.3 points on 51% shooting. He has always put up a lot of points, but often had to take a lot of shots.
Random Oklahoma State facts: Pistol Pete might have a freakishly large head and creepy expression, but the character he’s based on is beyond awesome. Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton(1860-1958) saw his father murdered by “lawless former Confederates” when he was eight years old, so he basically tracked them all down and killed them. And he killed two of them before he turned 17. He also used to pick up lumps of coal with his feet.
Prediction: Oklahoma State, 81-80. Virginia Tech can win, but their defense is probably not far enough along yet. It should at least be a very entertaining game.
Green Bay (3-3) at Virginia (5-2), 4:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: UVa’s point guard situation. Senior point guard Jontel Evans is still coming back from injury, but freshman Teven Jones also made a somewhat recent return to the lineup (after suspension). UVa is 4-0 with Jones, and the freshman is averaging 6.3 points, 2.5 assists and a steal per game. Evans played 16 minutes against Wisconsin and didn’t score or record an assist. It’s going to be a process for him before he’s fully healthy, but Jones should still factor into the rotation.
Random Green Bay facts: Until Elon came along and ruined it, Green Bay was the only school to use the Phoenix as its mascot. That became the team name in 1970 after a schoolwide vote. But the alleged runner-up name, “Fighting Tomatoes”, would’ve been ever better. … This is a personal game for UVa head coach Tony Bennett, as Green Bay is both his and his father Dick Bennett’s alma mater.
Prediction: Virginia, 71-45. The Cavaliers have looked better and better since some of their pieces have returned to the lineup, and the win at Wisconsin on Wednesday night was big.
UAB (4-3) at No. 14/13 North Carolina (5-2), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: UNC’s veterans. For the Tar Heels to have success this season, their older players must play better. In the blowout loss at Indiana, no one seemed able to step up and make a play. James Michael McAdoo struggled (4-of-15 shooting), but his three older teammates – Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald – combined to shoot 9-of-24 and 0-of-4 from three. Bullock and McDonald were just 3-of-14, and Bullock in particular has been a non-factor too much this year. He’s used to deferring, but he simply can’t anymore.
Random UAB facts: UAB’s mascot is a dragon named….Blaze. No really, that’s its name. But perhaps the best-loved mascot was Beauregard T. Rooster, who performed at games from 1979-92. The San Diego Chicken sued for some sort of infringement. Seriously.
Prediction: North Carolina, 81-67. UAB’s squad is coached by former North Carolina assistant Jerod Haase in his first year as a head coach. The Blazers have been competitive against some good teams, and they won’t be afraid. But UNC should win this game at least somewhat comfortably.
Wake Forest (3-3) at Richmond (5-2), 6:00 PM
What to watch: Can Wake Forest play any defense? All signs point to ‘no’. Wake’s opponents this year are shooting 46% and averaging 74.2 points (in low-possession games). Offensive juggernauts like William and Mary and Nebraska have torched the Deacons’ defense so far this season. So a team that actually is pretty good offensively in Richmond shouldn’t have many problems. But if Wake Forest wakes up defensively, this game could at least be close.
Random facts: The question everyone wants to know: why the Spiders? Well, because of legendary pitcher Puss Ellyson’s “lanky arms and stretching kick”, of course! Oh. Also, Richmond revamped the mascot’s appearance in 2011 because fans were complaining that the mascot didn’t have eight legs. They should have complained that it looked like a ladybug:
Prediction: Richmond, 72-58. Go ACC!
Clemson (4-2) at South Carolina (5-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Clemson’s newcomers. In the loss to Purdue, Clemson’s freshmen (Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper) and transfer DeMarcus Harrison combined to shoot 4-of-17 from the floor. Without Milton Jennings, an offensively-challenged Clemson squad can’t afford to have those guys disappear, even against a bad South Carolina team.
Random facts: The costumed rooster we see today, “Cocky”, is supposedly the son of the original, “Big Spur”. He was booed off the field in his first appearance because fans thought he was “not dignified enough”. Please, try to suppress your laughter. And South Carolina might have some of the most famous/successful mascot alums of all time (at least in the mascot world) – the original Cocky, John Routh, later became Billy the Marlin. Tommy Donavan went on to be Sir Purr for the Carolina Panthers.
Prediction: Clemson, 64-57. It wouldn’t shock me if Clemson dropped this one – they’ve lost to bad South Carolina teams before – but with the exception of the Purdue loss, Clemson has looked pretty good and competitive all year.
Mercer (3-4) at Florida State (4-2), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Michael Snaer. As he goes, so go the Seminoles. In their losses, he shot 5-of-20 (2-of-8 from three). In wins, he shot 46.3% (11-of-21 from three) and averaged 17.5 points. If he struggles and his teammates do too, this is the type of game FSU can lose. But if they’ve come as far as they seem to have come since their season-opening South Alabama loss, they should win this one easily.
Random facts: Mercer originally became known as the Bears when they played Georgia in a football game in 1892. The Mercer players had handlebar mustaches and long hair. When they came out on the field, a spectator said, “Whence cometh that bear?”
Prediction: Florida State, 84-69. This Mercer team almost beat Wake Forest at Wake earlier this year. The key word is “almost”.
Maryland (5-1) vs. George Mason (5-2), 5:00 PM (Washington, DC)
What to watch: Can Maryland ever force turnovers? Whether it’s through a combination of bad luck, defensive strategies or really careful opponents, Maryland is forcing just 9.8 turnovers a game (6.8 a game in the last four). If they’re ever going to force any, now is the time: George Mason is turning it over on 22.3% of its possessions, according to Ken Pomeroy, which is 227th nationally. They can win without forcing them, and it’s probably just a statistical anomaly, but it’s bizarre to say the least.
Random facts: The leading scorer in George Mason history was Carlos Yates, who was killed at age 27 in a drug-related shooting. And just so everyone knows that people have been writing borderline-controversial columns for a long time now, this guy seemed to think he was asking for it?
Prediction: Maryland, 72-60. The Terrapins were impressive in their dismantling of Northwestern on the road last week. George Mason is a pretty good team, but not a great one, and they should make relatively easy work of Paul Hewitt’s squad.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge: 6-6
Last week: 15-9
Virginia (4-2) at Wisconsin (4-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: ….. No seriously, while the pace of this game is not to my personal liking, it should be an intriguing matchup of styles between two slow-paced coaches who try to make it as difficult as possible on their opponents defensively while being as efficient as they can on offense. So we’ll see if that works out.
Random Wisconsin facts: Wisconsin used a live badger mascot in the 1940s, but – as you might imagine – with live animals, there are sometimes problems. Turns out, the badger didn’t like football and would often try to bite everyone in sight, even escaping its handlers a number of times. And so they replaced him with a raccoon named “Regdab” (which is “badger” backwards). There are no stories of it attacking anyone. But it was only a matter of time.
Prediction: Wisconsin, 45-38. I’m not trying to be funny with this prediction. Well, maybe a little. But how could this game go any other way?
Purdue (2-3) at Clemson (4-1), 7:15 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: How will Milton Jennings’ absence affect Clemson? The Tigers’ leading scorer might be running out of chances at Clemson – he’s been suspended multiple times in the past few years, and he’ll be suspended for tonight’s game after an arrest for marijuana possession. Without Jennings, there’s only one player 6-9 or taller available for Clemson – the 6-10 rarely-used freshman Landry Nnoko. Purdue has struggled this year, but they have plenty of big bodies – four are 6-9 or taller. Not to mention Clemson will have to find a way to replace his scoring.
Random Purdue facts: Creepy Purdue Pete is not Purdue’s official mascot. No, that’s a Boilermaker Special (a train). It’ resembles a Victoria-era locomotive that is still operated today. A miniature model of it still shows up at football games. And hey, not many mascots can say they’ve damaged a police car.
Prediction: Purdue, 63-55. Purdue has lost three games this year, but none of them were blowouts and both of their wins were by significant margins. Clemson without Milton Jennings is more likely than not a team that’s not capable of scoring enough points.
No. 13/14 Michigan State (5-1) at Miami (3-1), 7:30 PM, ESPN
What to watch: How will Shane Larkin play on a national stage? Shooting guard Durand Scott is back in the lineup for Miami after a three-game suspension, but even before his return, Larkin has been great. The sophomore point guard is averaging 17.3 points on 58% shooting, dishing out 4.5 assists per game. He is averaging 3.5 turnovers, but he’s upped his minutes to over 36 a game and he’s had to carry the load offensively as essentially the Hurricanes’ most consistent player so far. He’ll be facing off against Michigan State’s junior point guard Keith Appling, who’s the Spartans’ best player. He’s averaging 16.8 points and shooting 47% from the floor, and he’ll be a tough cover for Larkin. But Larkin will challenge Appling as well.
Random Michigan State facts: “Sparty” is perhaps best known for his cameo in one of the best “This is SportsCenter” ads, where he helps carry Kerri Strug across the newsroom.
Oh, and Draymond Green (who graduated last year after a productive eight-year stint at Michigan State) earns points for admitting that as a kid, he was terrified of Sparty.
Prediction: Michigan State, 74-61. Hmm. A Tom Izzo-coached team going into a far-from-intimidating road environment, against a team that has already lost to Florida Gulf Coast? Yeah, I’ll take the Spartans, even in a down year.
Georgia Tech (4-1) at No. 22 Illinois (7-0), 9:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: Georgia Tech’s veterans. Ask North Carolina how it worked out for them last night when they went into a hostile road environment and their veterans didn’t play well. Georgia Tech’s veterans have been fine – Mfon Udofia is averaging 10.2 points and Kammeon Holsey is averaging 10.6 – but Daniel Miller, Brandon Reed and Jason Morris have been virtually invisible this season. Miller in particular, who ended last season well, is averaging 5.6 points on less than 50% shooting. The Yellow Jacket freshmen have been impressive, but it would be asking a lot of them to carry the team at Illinois this early in their careers.
Random Illinois facts: Everyone knows Illinois as the Fighting Illini, and while that is still their official mascot, they no longer use the official manifestation (Chief Illiniwek). When the NCAA began cracking down on Indian mascots, Illinois got the dreaded “hostile and abusive” tag and was forced to get rid of it in 2007. There is some controversy about whether or not the mascot offended the local Sioux tribe, who it was intended to honor, and the students have continued to keep the mascot alive as best they can at sporting events.
Prediction: Illinois, 71-59. The Illini are ranked this season after cruising through the Maui Invitational field. Their best win so far is Butler, but other than a one-point win over Gardner-Webb a few days after getting back to the mainland, they’ve beaten everyone convincingly. Georgia Tech has improved quite a bit, as they showed by hanging with Cal and knocking off St. Mary’s last week in Anaheim, but they’re not ready to win this game yet.
Boston College (2-4) at Penn State (3-2), 9:15 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: How healthy is Ryan Anderson? BC’s leading scorer has struggled on a sprained ankle the last few weeks, and it’s shown in BC’s results. After blowing out FIU and narrowly losing to a then-ranked Baylor team, the Eagles looked great, and so did Anderson. They’ve lost three of four since, including a game to Charleston that he didn’t play in due to the injury and a home game to Bryant (he shot 4-of-14). If he’s not healthy enough for BC to beat a team like Bryant – at home – he’s certainly not going to be capable of helping carry the Eagles to a win at Penn State.
Random Penn State facts: Penn State’s head coach Patrick Chambers might look like your typical middle-aged coach, but he’s pretty hardcore. About ten years ago, he was jumped in a bar and stabbed in the neck with a broken vodka bottle. He still has the bag of bloody clothes and shoes he was wearing the night it happened, and he’s been known to break it out on occasion and show it to his players.
Prediction: Penn State, 61-53. I’m sorry, Boston College. I still have a deep amount of affection for you, but I can no longer trust you.
No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) at No. 2 Duke (6-0), 9:30 PM, ESPN
What to watch: How far has Duke’s defense really come? The Buckeyes have the No. 5 offense in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy. Last year, Duke went up to Columbus and allowed Ohio State to shoot over 59% in an 83-65 loss, providing the first indication that their defense might not be up to normal Duke standards. Ohio State has always had one of the more efficient offenses in the country and plenty of athleticism in its lineup, and this year is no different. Louisville and Kentucky are the best teams Duke has played – Louisville is offensively-challenged at times, and Kentucky was/is inexperienced. This will be probably the toughest defensive test Duke will face heading into ACC play.
Quinn Cook vs. Aaron Craft. Duke’s sophomore point guard’s confidence is sky-high right now; the reigning ACC Player of the Week averaged 13.7 points, 4.8 assists and two steals per game in Duke’s three games in the Bahamas. Duke beat three very good teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis, and his knack for making big plays in key moments had a lot to do with that. He’s turning those flashes of potential into something consistent, and Duke feeds off his energy. But Ohio State feeds off of senior point guard Aaron Craft, too. A notoriously annoying defender, Craft is a coach’s son and all the normal clichés apply. Cook held his own just fine against Louisville’s Peyton Siva, and Craft will test him mentally as well.
Random Ohio State facts: Ohio State adopted the Buckeye (a type of nut from Ohio’s state tree) in 1965, and the first costume was made of papier-mâché that was basically an enormous head (see above picture). In 1975, a reworking of the costume with “a prune-like head” was unveiled, but booed off the field. The redesign was essentially the creepy Buckeye we see today.
Prediction: Duke, 85-78. It’s very difficult to win in Cameron, and the Blue Devils are a much better defensive team than they were a year ago. Even if they struggle at times to get stops, the momentum of the home crowd often helps them pick up their defensive intensity another notch. This team is full of enthusiastic defenders anyway, and they’ll feed off of the crowd to get stops in key moments.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Day 1: 3-3
Last week: 21-6
Georgia Tech (6-5, 5-3) at No. 3/3 Georgia (10-1, 7-1), 12:00 PM, ESPN
Moments in Georgia-Georgia Tech history: Georgia Tech’s first-ever football game was against Georgia, and the visiting Yellow Jackets were quite literally chased out of Athens as projectiles were thrown at their heads, according to Wikipedia. It’s a legitimate rivalry that has been stopped more than once because of bad blood between the two schools, but it hasn’t been competitive lately. Georgia Tech has won just one of the last 11 meetings.
Uh, this might be a good reason why. Tackle please?
“We’re gonna take your silver britches to the ground”
Honestly, is this hype video really necessary at this point?
Prediction: Georgia, 52-24. Is any explanation really necessary? Georgia Tech’s offense is clicking, but its defense is still suspect at best. This will be our Coastal Division champ on display. Go ACC!
Virginia (4-7, 2-5) at Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
Moments in Virginia-Virginia Tech history: Interestingly enough, per Wikipedia, Virginia leads the series between the two teams in most sports except football (Tech leads 51-37-5). From 1984-98, Virginia went 9-6 against Virginia Tech. Ever since, the Hokies have won 12 of the last 13 with the only Virginia win coming in 2003. The last close loss came in 2008 when Virginia Tech won 17-14 at home. Since, Virginia Tech has won by a combined score of 117-20 in the last three games.
If Virginia Tech shows up making plays like this – you know, where their offensive players are blocking someone on the opposing team – it should be an interesting game.
The Hitler videos never get old.
At least UVa owns Virginia Tech in Quidditch.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 23-17. It was all there for Virginia a little over a week ago. Beat UNC, beat Virginia Tech, eliminate your rival from going to a bowl and earn bowl eligibility yourself. But the Cavaliers were thumped at home last Thursday by the Tar Heels, taking them out of bowl eligibility. And Virginia Tech barely escaped a bad Boston College team to keep themselves alive for a bowl. All they have to do is beat a disappointed Virginia team to earn another bowl berth.
Miami (6-5, 4-3) at Duke (6-5, 3-4), 12:30 PM, ACC Network
Moments in Miami-Duke history: Duke was right there in 2009, leading 13-10 at the half. Miami trailed 16-13 at the end of the third, but Miami scored twice before a pick-six by Thaddeus Lewis ended it, and ended Duke’s hope of bowl eligibility that season.
I’m sure there are clips available of Devin Hester doing this to pretty much every ACC team. But this one, against Duke in 2005, is ridiculous.
Demarcus Van Dyke intercepts a Sean Renfree pass that Conner Vernon – normally Mr. Reliable – tipped. From the last time Miami was in Durham, Duke lost this one 28-13 in 2010 and this was one of four second-quarter turnovers for Duke, which finished with seven…
…But at least this Duke fan enjoyed the game.
Prediction: Duke, 36-31. This is a really tough call. Knowing they’re not eligible for the Coastal Division crown, will the Miami players pack it in? Duke is more than capable of beating almost anyone at home, save Clemson or Florida State. Miami is neither. But they do have the talent to beat Duke, and they’ll either be angry or despondent and lifeless. Duke, on the other hand, still has won just one game in November under Cutcliffe ever (and none this year). And the Blue Devils know they can’t win the Coastal Division anymore, either. Both teams are playing for pride (and Duke for a better bowl).
Boston College (2-9, 1-6) at NC State (6-5, 3-4), 3:00 PM, ESPN3
Moments in Boston College-NC State history: Obviously, Tom O’Brien as the former head coach of Boston College makes this one more significant for a variety of reasons. Unlike Butch Davis’ bizarro hold over his former school, Miami (Davis lost just once to his former team), BC has had the opposite effect on O’Brien. He’s 1-4 against his former school. NC State’s first win in the series under O’Brien came two years ago at home when NC State won 44-17. But last year after beating UNC, NC State lost 14-10 at a bad Boston College team.
How should NC State be expected to contend with all this BC cuteness?
I don’t think this needs any introduction. Just enjoy.
Guys….don’t do the wave. Please.
Prediction: NC State, 44-27. I wanted to pick NC State to NC State last week (and by that, I mean beat Clemson). Since that didn’t happen, I can’t pick them go to NC State this week. Although a huge part of me wants to do that. Also, Boston College has to be crushed after letting a winnable game against Virginia Tech get away from them.
Maryland (4-7, 2-5) at North Carolina (7-4, 4-3), 3:00 PM, RSN
Moments in Maryland-North Carolina history: Queen Elizabeth visited College Park (yes, you read that correctly) in 1957 for a UNC-Maryland football game. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that there is absolutely no way that could ever happen again.
As UNC’s Willie Parker is taking 20 years to turn upfield, he is caught by the shoestrings for a safety.
In perhaps the second-worst loss of the Butch Davis era, Maryland quarterback Chris Turner – hardly known as a running threat – made a nine-yard run late in the game on 4th and 5.
Prediction: North Carolina 48, Maryland 13. North Carolina isn’t going to want to pour it on in the name of defending all things ACC, since Maryland just announced they’re leaving the conference. But they’re going to pour it on because Maryland has 80,000 injuries right now and Carolina is going to want to end the season on a good note. And because Maryland football players have been dealing with this ACC stuff all week on top of everything else.
No. 10/5 Florida State (10-1, 7-1) vs. No. 6/6 Florida (10-1, 7-1), 3:30 PM, ABC
Moments in Florida-Florida State history: Florida leads the series 33-21-2, but it seems to be a series of runs, as it were. Florida won six in a row from 2004-09, but Florida State had won five of six from 1998-03. Now, the Seminoles are rolling again and have won two straight under Jimbo Fisher. In one of the biggest controversies in the history of the rivalry, FSU and Florida fans still dispute to this day whether FSU wide receiver Lane Fenner actually caught the ball or not in 1966. It was called no catch, and Florida hung on, 22-19.
“The Choke at Doak” – can it really be called that if Florida didn’t lose? I’m just saying. I’m just stunned it didn’t involve a missed field goal.
Maybe this is why the FSU people are mad at the ACC today? The “Swindle in the Swamp” is a thing that supposedly happened that involved ACC refs giving FSU favorable calls. I guess the league doesn’t do this anymore?
And hey…it’s not always the players that end up fighting.
Prediction: Florida State, 37-21. Florida has a great record, but the Gators have hardly blown anyone away. Even last week against Jacksonville State, they won just 23-0. And that was their third-largest margin of victory this season behind a 38-0 rout of Kentucky and a 44-11 beating of South Carolina. Every other game – including a season-opening win over Bowling Green – has been by 20 or fewer points. Florida State hasn’t been much more impressive outside of its stadium, but in the friendly confines of the Doak, the Seminoles have been downright dominant. Expect that to continue.
Wake Forest (5-6, 3-5) vs. Vanderbilt (7-4, 5-3), 3:30 PM, ESPNU
Mascot facts: Vanderbilt is known as the Commodores because of the nickname given to their benefactor, Cornelius Vanderbilt. (There’s no such naval rank as commodore anymore, for what it’s worth.)
Also…uh….this is weird. The Commodore punches someone in the face for basically no reason. And it’s all the more disturbing because of that perpetual smile on his face:
Prediction: Vanderbilt, 31-17. Vanderbilt is quietly a very hot team right now, having won five straight and six of their last seven. Their best win in that stretch? Maybe at Missouri? But still, wins are wins and Wake Forest could use a few. The Deacons are reeling; their last two losses have come by a combined score of 75-6.
No. 12/9 Clemson (10-1, 7-1) vs. No. 13/12 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN
Moments in Clemson-South Carolina history: The longest uninterrupted series in the South will meet again on Saturday for the Hardee’s Trophy. Clemson leads it 65-40-4 but you wouldn’t know it based on recent results: Clemson has lost three straight and none have been particularly close. In fact, Clemson has a total of 37 points in their last three meetings with South Carolina. If South Carolina wins, they will tie their longest streak in the rivalry of four straight (from 1951-54).
This brawl was so bad in 2004 that both schools decided to ban themselves from the postseason. This was of course back when doing such a thing in the ACC wasn’t a big deal.
This 1983 brawl came first, though.
Not a bad form tackle, but he probably will be flagged for a late hit.
The catch…or the push-off? You decide.
Well done, Clemson fan.
Prediction: Clemson, 41-30. Every time we think Clemson is going to Clemson, they don’t. Generally speaking, Clemson’s season has already been wrapped up one way or the other heading into that game. That doesn’t mean the Tigers still don’t want to beat their rivals – they do – but there’s a lot more on the line for Clemson this year than in years past. South Carolina has won two straight since losing star tailback Marcus Lattimore to a gruesome knee injury, but they struggled with Wofford a week ago and barely put away a bad Tennessee team the week of Lattimore’s injury. They seem to be a team living on reputation at the moment in terms of the polls.
Last week: 5-2 (3-2 ACC)
TOTAL: 57-21 (27-15 ACC)
NC State (6-4, 3-3) at No. 11 Clemson (9-1, 6-1), 3:30 PM, ABC/ESPN2)
NC State senior quarterback Mike Glennon is able to fit passes through seemingly non-existent holes in the defense, but his wide receivers have dropped a lot of passes in the last three games and much of the season.
Glennon has insisted that the drops don’t bother him, and he can’t let it – as his head coach Tom O’Brien said, if he doesn’t get rid of the ball quickly, he’ll get killed. He doesn’t have time to wonder if a guy is going to catch the ball; he just has to let it go.
“A couple guys who had the drops made some good catches early (against Wake Forest),” O’Brien said. “I said this to two of the guys on the sidelines: ‘You guys drop the easy balls and you make hard catches, so we’re just going to have to get you in tough positions because your concentration level must be higher’.”
O’Brien won’t admit it, but he has to feel that way on some level about his team in general the last three seasons, particularly this one. The Wolfpack will drop a ball that’s right in their hands (the Virginia game at home with the Atlantic Division still up for grabs), but then make a Randy Moss-like grab in triple coverage (like beating Florida State).
Under O’Brien, NC State is 8-5 against top-25 teams (2-0 against the top 10) and 31-29 in all other games against unranked foes. The Wolfpack started out 4-4 last year but went 4-1 in its final five games with wins over North Carolina, Clemson and Maryland. And even in that Maryland game, it wasn’t easy: they had to overcome a huge deficit.
But his team, like his wide-receiving corps, thrives when things aren’t easy. And going to Death Valley to face an uber-talented Clemson team is far from it. “I don’t think that this team will be intimidated or afraid to go let everything go in this football game,” O’Brien said. “We’re in a situation, we’ve got a lot to play for, and you always want to be challenged. Challenge yourself and if Clemson’s the best or near the best in the conference, let’s go see what we can do.”
NC State’s dismantling of Wake Forest last week only seemed to make the 33-6 loss to Virginia the previous week that much more frustrating for the players. Even they seem to recognize that seemingly different teams show up from game to game, and they never seem to know which one is coming.
“Last week, we had a great team win and everything but we want to be able to do that consistently, week in and week out,” cornerback Dontae Johnson said. “Our next opponent is Clemson and hopefully, the NC State team that showed up last week will be ready to play again this week.”
Even from quarter to quarter, the Wolfpack can look like a different team. NC State has given up 97 first-quarter points and 126 in the other three quarters combined this year. At times, the first-quarter holes have been too deep.
“We can’t be the two different teams like we’ve been showing. We’ve go to be able to play consistently all four quarters. We can’t come out hot, then die in the second quarter and then come play in the third quarter,” left guard R.J. Mattes said. “We’ve got to play a straight four quarters. We can’t let the foot of the gas if we’re ahead and we can’t give up if we’re behind. We’ve just got to keep playing our game and executing our offense and defense the way it’s drawn up.”
The protean Wolfpack does seem to consistently show up against ranked opponents; they’ve beaten four of the last five top 25 teams they’ve faced. But none of those games have been on the road. The only top-25 road game NC State has won under O’Brien was at No. 25 North Carolina in 2008.
Clemson is more than capable of beating NC State on talent alone, even if the best possible NC State squad shows up in Death Valley on Saturday. But Mattes and the Wolfpack know that squad has to make the trip, or else they’ll be in danger of getting blown out. And they’ve still just won one division road game under O’Brien, a narrow win at Maryland this year.
“When we’re playing a top-25 team like Clemson, we’re always going to come out ready. It’s motivation because you can’t come out dead against a team like that, otherwise you’ll just get stomped,” Mattes said. “So we’ve got to come out ready like we did against Florida State and hopefully play good on all cylinders and win the game.”
Moments in NC State-Clemson history: Every year since 1971, the schools have met in the Textile Bowl (it has a trophy and everything), but the series dates back to 1899. Clemson had won seven in a row – the longest streak by either team – before NC State snapped that last year with a 37-13 win at home. Clemson leads the all-time series 51-28-1 (22-11 at home). The Tigers have won 12 straight home games dating back to last season, which is a school record for consecutive home wins.
Tobais Palmer scores a 43-yard touchdown to put NC State up 37-6 on Clemson last year.
Our very own Jeff Gravley of WRAL did this classic 80’s montage of the 1987 NC State-Clemson game (State won, 30-28). “WE PLAY FOR KEEPS!”
Look who’s in town, you guys! It’s Clemson Tom! “Your stadium’s gray, like your soul.”
In the name of equal time, this is Clemson Tom a year ago after the loss to NC State.
This is what Dabo Swinney said after the 2009 win over NC State. Tweet that.
Prediction: NC State, 41-34. Because I just don’t know anymore.
Boston College (1-1) vs. Dayton (1-1), 2:30 PM, ESPNU (Charleston Classic)
What to watch: BC’s three-point shooting. The Eagles got going from three somewhat against Baylor, hitting 10-of-26 (38.5%), but they’ve made just 27.9% on the year. Meanwhile, their opponents have made 21-of-50 (42%). BC can’t afford to continue to be outscored like that from three.
Random Dayton facts: Dayton is coached by former NC State point guard Archie Miller. But the Flyer mascot – whose name is Rudy Flyer – comes from that whole thing where Ohio thinks they were first in flight just because the Wright Brothers are from there and built the plane there. Okay, that’s fine I guess. But the flight thing happened in North Carolina, so let’s get that part straight.
Prediction: Boston College, 75-66.
No. 6 NC State (2-0) vs. Massachusetts (2-0), 5:00 PM, ESPN2/U/3 (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
What to watch: The running game. Both of these teams are fine with going up-tempo, and that should keep NC State engaged on both ends. The Wolfpack got out to a big lead last night but seemed to lose interest defensively late in the game, per their head coach, in a slow-paced affair. Massachusetts will have to be wary of when they run against NC State, because if they try to out-run the Wolfpack, they’ll lose. UMass creates more possessions with pressure defense (at times full-court), so NC State will have to make good decisions.
Chaz Williams versus Lorenzo Brown. Brown will be nearly half a foot taller than the diminutive UMass point guard, but Williams has never let size get in the way. The junior averaged 16.9 points and 6.2 assists last season and he’s up to 7.5 assists this year. Like Brown, he’s a good rebounder (4.4 a game last year, 5.0 this year). Also like Brown, he’ll turn it over from time to time but has a knack for getting steals. Brown became a much better defender last season, but this will be his biggest challenge yet on both sides of the ball.
Random UMass facts: You’d think that UMass would have been the Minutemen for most of its history, but no – they were the Redmen until 1972.
Prediction: NC State, 89-71.
Wake Forest (1-0) vs. No. 23/UR Connecticut (2-0), 6:30 PM, CBS SN (Paradise Jam)
What to watch: Turnovers. Wake Forest shot 64% against Radford in their season-opening win, but only won by 12 points, in large part because they turned it over 18 times. Radford had 22 of their 67 points off of Wake’s turnovers. UConn has made opponents pay for turnovers, turning 31 turnovers into 39 points in two games. This isn’t a great matchup for Wake anyway, and they can’t afford to give away possessions.
Random Connecticut facts: UConn decided to get a mascot in the 1930s because they were inspired by a story of Rhode Island’s ram mascot being kidnapped. The husky was selected by a student poll. Jonathan IV was notoriously feisty: he once bit Yale’s bulldog mascot on the nose and would growl when an opposing basketball team scored on UConn.
Prediction: Connecticut, 75-69.
Clemson (1-0) at Furman, (1-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: The Clemson freshmen. Four saw at least 16 minutes, and three of them combined for 26 points in 57 minutes. Last year, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell couldn’t trust his freshmen for extended minutes. He may not have a choice this year, so this young group is going to have to come along quickly.
Random Furman facts: For awhile, the Furman football team was “the Hurricane” and the baseball team was the Hornets. Only the basketball team was the Paladins, and they were dubbed that by a sportswriter. It was adopted for all teams in 1961.
Prediction: Clemson, 76-57.
Florida State (1-1) vs. BYU (2-0), 7:00 PM, TruTV (Coaches vs. Cancer)
What to watch: Florida State’s defense. According to Ken Pomeroy, Florida State’s defense is 48th in the country. That’s a respectable ranking for most, but not a team like Florida State that’s perennially in the top 10. BYU is more than capable of putting up very good offensive numbers, so FSU is going to have to get this fixed, and quickly. The Seminoles have allowed 72 points per game to two subpar teams on 46% shooting and 47% from three.
Random BYU facts: It’s still Hammer Time at BYU, evidently. But the Cosmo the Cougar, can break it down.
Prediction: BYU, 82-71.
Jacksonville (1-1) at Miami (1-1), 7:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: Miami looks to go 2-1 against the Atlantic Sun. That’s right – their first three opponents are from the Atlantic Sun. Miami struggled with Stetson and lost to Florida Gulf Coast because they couldn’t defend them inside the arc (40 points in the paint) or on the backboards (the Canes were out-rebounded 40-32). Starting shooting guard Durand Scott will serve the final game of his suspension against Jacksonville, and he had nothing to do with either of those ugly stats from the Miami loss.
Random Jacksonville facts: The dolphin became the official mascot in 1947, and a 59-year-old live dolphin – Nellie – is the live mascot (she lives in St. Augustine).
Prediction: Miami, 83-75.
Long Island (0-2) at Maryland (1-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Long Island is an up-tempo team that thrives on getting to the foul line, and the Blackbirds are as good of a team as Maryland will see before the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. The Terps were sloppy at times against Morehead State, and they can’t afford to let down too much in this one.
Random Long Island facts: Long Island used to be known as the Blue Devils, but then they dressed all in black and a local reporter wrote they reminded him of a blackbird.
Prediction: Maryland, 84-68.
No. 11 North Carolina (2-0) at Long Beach State (1-1), 11:05 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: How will the young Tar Heels handle the road? Carolina has looked good at times and shaky at others. Now, they’ll be in a very difficult environment facing a team coming off of a program-changing season a year ago. The 49ers are not going to just roll over for UNC, and they’ll have to tough their way through it.
Random Long Beach State facts: They’re the 49ers, but the baseball team doesn’t use this mascot. Instead, they’ve dubbed themselves the Dirtbags. It stems from 1989, when the lack of a field meant infielders often had to use a local all-dirt Pony League field to practice, thus rejoining their teammates covered in dirt. And that’s easily the most flattering definition of dirtbag ever.
Oh, and also, Long Beach State has a senior guard named Peter Poppageorge. They could dominate an all-name team tournament: Branford Jones, Deng Deng, Gatete Djuma?
Prediction: North Carolina, 75-64.
Last week’s picks: 10-2
Buffalo (0-1) at Florida State (0-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Florida State’s three-point defense. If you’re going to knock off a team like Florida State, and you’re a team like South Alabama, it helps to make 9-of-15 three-pointers. And if you’re a team like Florida State that relies on its defense, that can’t happen.
Random Buffalo facts: They’re not the Buffalo Bills…..they’re the Buffalo Bulls. Even the note on the top of their Wikipedia page says “Not to be confused with Buffalo Bills”. Oh, and Elizabeth Taylor and one of her 15 husbands, Mike Todd, donated the first live mascot to Buffalo in 1957.
Prediction: Florida State, 71-60.
Fairfield (1-0) at Virginia (0-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3 (NIT Season Tip-Off)
What to watch: Virginia’s defense. The Cavaliers allowed George Mason to shoot 53% from the floor in a narrow loss last Friday. That’s not the Virginia we’re used to seeing. UVa did struggle against more athletic opponents last year from time to time – Fairfield is not one of those such opponents – but their defense was good enough to hold down the less talented teams. If it’s the Virginia defense we’re used to, they should shut down Fairfield tonight.
Random Fairfield facts: Imagine that: a mascot that actually means something associated with the University or its location.
Prediction: Virginia, 68-46.
Presbyterian (0-0) at Clemson (0-0), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Milton Jennings. The senior has admitted that he has played disinterested basketball from time to time. But in Clemson’s exhibition win, he had 14 points, eight rebounds and two steals in 26 minutes. If Clemson’s going to win games this year, he needs to stay interested against all opponents.
Random Presbyterian facts: Presbyterian used to have an annual rivalry game with Newberry College, where they played for a derby. The prize stems from a huge brawl after a 1946 basketball game when a Newberry student stole the derby off the head of a Presbyterian student.
Prediction: Clemson, 72-49.
Rhode Island (0-1) at Virginia Tech (1-0), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Virginia Tech’s rebounding. In an impressive 80-62 win in the opener over East Tennessee State, the only blemish was being out-rebounded 39-37. The Hokies don’t have a ton of size, but they should be able to handle the boards against smaller opponents, or they’ll be in big trouble when they get to the tougher portion of their schedule.
Random Rhode Island facts: There’s an entire Wikipedia section devoted to Rhode Island’s similarities to North Carolina, everything from the mascot to the color to the fight song. You be the judge.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 84-61.
Morehead State (1-0) at Maryland (0-1), 8:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: Alex Len. He was unstoppable against Kentucky. But the sophomore had some good games last year – he had a two-game stretch against Miami and North Carolina where he averaged 11.5 points and 8.0 rebounds – but he totaled 41 points in his final ten games, including two games with no points. He looks like a different player – if he continues playing like that, he’ll prove that he is.
Random Morehead State facts: Morehead State’s mascot is an eagle named Beaker. And one time, this happened:
Prediction: Maryland, 81-52.
Last week: 11-1