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Jan. 2 ACC Previews

No. 1 Duke (11-0) vs. Davidson (7-5), 7:00 PM, ESPN3 (Charlotte)

Wrong North Carolina team, but close enough.

What to watch: Duke’s three-point defense. Duke’s had some dicey moments in the past two games against Elon and Santa Clara, and all those moments have come courtesy of their opponents hitting three-pointers. Those teams combined to make 16-of-45 (35.6%) over the last two games after Duke held opponents to 29.7% in the first nine games. Davidson will have to hit three’s (a lot of them) to keep this game close, and the Wildcats are making 38.8% from beyond the arc this year.

Mason Plumlee. Not many teams have anyone that can guard the 6-10 big man, who’s playing as well as anyone in the country right now, but Davidson certainly doesn’t have more than one (6-10 Jake Cohen). Duke needs to feed Plumlee early and often and exploit that advantage. If there’s anything to nitpick with Plumlee’s game recently, it’s that he’s made just 21-of-37 free throws (56.8%) over the last four games, but he’s shooting so well from the field that it really hasn’t mattered much, and Davidson only has so many fouls to give anyway.

Random Davidson facts: Davidson earned the Wildcat nickname back in 1917 when just 22 football players traveled to Atlanta to play Auburn, a team that had outscored its first six opponents 141-6. Davidson was just 2-4, but somehow they won 21-7. Atlanta sportswriters dubbed them the Wildcats because of their “ferocity”. Davidson had a live wildcat until the late 1960s, and they used to feed it by putting live chickens in its cage. Can’t imagine why that wouldn’t fly today.

Prediction: Duke, 87-72. Davidson might keep it close for awhile – it’s pretty clear the Blue Devils are ready for ACC play at this point, and Bob McKillop is a good coach – but Duke should win this one relatively comfortably.

UT-Chattanooga (5-8) at Georgia Tech (9-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Don’t be fooled: this mockingbird will eat your face off.

What to watch: Robert Carter, Jr. The freshmen was inconsistent to start the year and had just two double-digit scoring games in the first seven. But he’s averaging 13.8 points on 63% shooting in the last four games to go with 7.8 rebounds. Carter gives Georgia Tech yet another good post player, but he can shoot from three and his diverse skill set is something Georgia Tech doesn’t really have right now anywhere else on the floor. The Yellow Jackets need all the offense they can get.

Random UT-Chattanooga facts: Now, this is how you transition from an offensive Indian mascot to a real one. Chattanooga was known as the Moccasins, but in 1996, they had to change their name. They shortened it to “Mocs” and a mockingbird is their mascot. The mockingbird head is shaped like the state of Tennessee. Yeah, it’s kind of a lame mascot. But hey, at least it makes sense and preserves the history of the old one.

Prediction: Georgia Tech, 77-54. The Yellow Jackets are starting to click, and Chattanooga is awful.

Xavier (6-5) at Wake Forest (6-5), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Um…..what? This is the Xavier Blue Blob.

What to watch: The Wake Forest defense. To say Xavier has been struggling offensively as of late would be putting it mildly, but the Musketeers have the talent to be able to turn it around. And Wake has had issues of its own defensively. Wake’s opponents are shooting 44% from the floor, and the Deacons have allowed 48% shooting in five losses.

The foul line. Wake’s free-throw rate, per Ken Pom, is second-best in the country. And it’s a good thing, too: the Deacons score over a quarter of their points from the foul line. But Xavier isn’t letting opponents get to the line much. Wake Forest has won just two games this year when it hasn’t made at least 20 free throws.

Random Xavier facts: Yes, Xavier has a Musketeer mascot named D’Artagnan (so creative). But the most famous mascot is the Blue Blob, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s beloved around campus despite having absolutely no meaning whatsoever.

And then Xavier head coach Chris Mack involved the Blue Blob in this very regrettable “Call Me Maybe” parody:

Prediction: Xavier, 65-59. Wake has struggled offensively against athletic opponents this year, and this game should be no different.

Florida State (8-4) at Auburn (5-7), 7:00 PM, Fox Sports South

Get some rest, Aubie. You deserve it.

What to watch: How far has Florida State’s defense come? Because Auburn’s offense is terrible. Florida State is so young that head coach Leonard Hamilton hasn’t been able to install all the defensive looks he usually uses. (This great piece by Michael Rogner from the Run The Floor blog takes a look at how gradually, Hamilton has trusted this team more and more defensively.) After holding just three of its first seven opponents to below 40% shooting, three of its last four opponents have shot below 40% (FSU has won four straight).

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Auburn isn’t great defensively, but they force a decent amount of turnovers (23%) and Florida State will turn it over against teams that aren’t good at forcing them. FSU has averaged 13.3 turnovers during this four-game winning streak after averaging 17 turnovers in the first eight. FSU tends to turn it over in bunches when it does happen, and they can’t do that in a road game against an opponent that won’t go away.

Random Auburn facts: The War Eagle has been explained before, so we’ll look at Aubie the Tiger’s origins. He was only around as a cartoon on the cover of the game programs for nearly 20 years starting in 1959. In 1979, they made him a real costume based on the older game programs and it’s been winning mascot national titles ever since. Auburn may or may not have had a live tiger mascot for at least one game.

Prediction: Florida State, 73-62. It would be way too predictable for Florida State to inexplicably lose this game for the second time in the last three years, right?

La Salle (9-2) at Miami (8-3), 9:00 PM, RSN

I have come to discover the New World! (And I’ve brought communicable diseases!)

What to watch: Can Miami beat a decent team without one of its starters? Before the Diamond Head Classic over Christmas, Miami’s one loss – early, to Florida Gulf Coast – was explained away by the absence of guard Durand Scott. Then, just before the Christmas tournament began, center Reggie Johnson broke his thumb and he will miss six weeks. The Hurricanes promptly lost both games. They’re going to be without him for a good chunk of ACC play and may lose some games during that time. After losses to Arizona and Indiana State (the former a blowout), they can’t afford to drop a home game to La Salle at this point if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.

Random La Salle facts: The Explorers are so named because of a Philadelphia sportswriter’s mistake (yeah, yeah): he thought the university was named after french explorer Sieur de La Salle. It’s named after St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle. Well, at least they have a cool mascot anyway. And you can’t think of explorers without thinking of conquering indigenous peoples, which is at least a little intimidating. Recently, though, they did try to make the explorer look like a superhero instead.

Prediction: Miami, 66-58. At some point, Miami’s going to have to win without some of its players in the lineup. Their other players are good enough to do it.

 

Last week: 10-4

Overall: 117-30

Dec. 10-14 ACC Previews

DECEMBER 10

Mississippi Valley State (0-5) at Virginia Tech (7-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

What to watch: Virginia Tech’s defense. The Hokies did a good job shutting down a struggling West Virginia offense last week, but they couldn’t keep the Mountaineers from getting offensive rebounds. Mississippi Valley State’s offense is actually terrible, but the Hokies have made some mediocre offenses look better than expected at times. They can only play defense to a certain level considering their lack of depth, but they need to be able to shut down teams like this.

Random Mississippi Valley State facts: The school is located in Itta Bena, Mississippi, which is one of the cooler names of a city ever. It comes from a Choctaw phrase “iti bina”, which means “forest camp”. And for a small town, it has some pretty famous former residents: former Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry and the great B.B. King.

Prediction: Virginia Tech, 84-57. Should be a nice recovery game for the Hokies.

DECEMBER 12

Monmouth (5-5) at Maryland (8-1), 8:00 PM, ESPN3

What to watch: Can Maryland win a bit prettier? As their head coach Mark Turgeon said after the 61-46 win over South Carolina State on Saturday, it’s still a win, but it wasn’t fun. After shooting 49% or better in five straight games, Maryland has shot 45% or worse in two of the last three games. The 37% against South Carolina State was their second-worst performance of the year. This game should give Maryland a chance to find get their offensive groove back.

Random Monmouth facts: Again…don’t pass up a chance to have an awesome mascot name. The Hawks could have been the Bisons, the Bees, the MaJiCians or even the Orange Fliers.

Prediction: Maryland, 92-66. Maryland is finally getting an up-tempo opponent in Monmouth, and if they can make a few shots, they should get things rolling again offensively.

DECEMBER 14

Charlotte (9-0) at Miami (5-1), 7:00 PM, RSN

Because when you think of mining for gold, you think of Charlotte.

What to watch: Chris Braswell versus Miami’s front line. Charlotte struggled a lot last year, but the 49ers are undefeated and they are legit. Chris Braswell has been great, averaging 14.3 points and 7.0 rebounds this year. He’s rebounding 13% of available offensive rebounds and 19.7% of defensive rebounds. And teammate Willie Clayton is fifth in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. Miami’s Reggie Johnson has been even better as a rebounder, collecting 15.8% of offensive boards and 27% of defensive rebonds. He and Kenny Kadji have been good against some very good frontcourts this year, including Michigan State’s. They can’t sleep on the 49ers, though, particularly Braswell.

Random Charlotte facts: The mascot Norm the Niner stems not from any kind of gold-mining history. No, it’s because the school was saved from extinction in 1949. That’s literally it.

Prediction: Miami, 75-69. This won’t be an easy game by any stretch. Charlotte’s best win is over Davidson, but it was at Davidson. Miami has had 13 days off and should be focused and ready heading into this one, or they’ll lose.

 

Last week: 14-2

Overall: 81-21

Dec. 1-2 ACC Previews

Delaware (2-5) at No. 2 Duke (7-0), 2:00 PM, RSN

Hi. I'm in Delaware.

Hi. I’m in Delaware.

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

https://i0.wp.com/mit.zenfs.com/214/2011/04/UMass-Mascot.jpg

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

Pistol Pete is always watching.

Pistol Pete is always watching.

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

In the 60's and 70's, everybody was all about some papier-mâché mascots.

In the 60’s and 70’s, everybody was all about some papier-mâché mascots.

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

RIP, Beauregard T. Rooster.

RIP, Beauregard T. Rooster.

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

The new and improved Richmond Spider. At least it has all its legs?

The new and improved Richmond Spider. At least it has all its legs?

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:

https://i0.wp.com/realtalkthemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Richmond-Spiders-Mascot.jpg

Prediction: Richmond, 72-58. Go ACC!

DECEMBER 2

Clemson (4-2) at South Carolina (5-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU

Big Spur was initially South Carolina's mascot, but the tail was a hazard.

Big Spur was initially South Carolina’s mascot, but the tail was a hazard.

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

https://i1.wp.com/mercercluster.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/toby1-1024x682.jpg

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)

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon forced freshman guard Jake Layman to cut off his awesome long hair.

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon forced freshman guard Jake Layman to cut off his awesome long hair. Don’t worry, Jake. He can’t block your shine.

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
Overall: 57-18

ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Day 2

Virginia (4-2) at Wisconsin (4-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN2

When a live badger proved too dangerous, Wisconsin temporarily replaced it with a raccoon. Sure, that seems safer.

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

Try not to let this clown-like head of an old version of Purdue Pete haunt your nightmares. I really wish it didn’t carry a weapon.

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

A Sparty cartoon by Chris Morris of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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

Illinois was forced to retire this mascot in 2007, but he continues to show up in an unofficial capacity.

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

Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers made a rather interesting fashion choice during the Puerto Rico Tip-Off earlier this month, but he’s got an interesting backstory.

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

Uh….I guess the current Buckeye is much better looking?

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

Overall: 54-15

ACC Football: Week 13 Previews

Georgia Tech (6-5, 5-3) at No. 3/3 Georgia (10-1, 7-1), 12:00 PM, ESPN

Um….not cool, random Georgia Tech fan.

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

This mascot fight was likely more competitive than the UVa-Virginia Tech rivalry has been recently.

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

Hey, did you guys know Jimmy Graham (above) used to play basketball?

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

Frank Spaziani and Tom O’Brien, long-time friends, will face off again to close out the season.

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

In 2008, with Maryland’s Ronnie Tyler making catches like this in a rain-slogged game, Carolina didn’t stand a chance.

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

FSU and Florida get into it before a game in 1998.

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

A riveting battle of small, brainy private schools that have to scratch and claw for football relevance.

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

So, this happened.

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)

ACC Football Outside the Triangle: Week 12 Previews

No. 10 Florida State (9-1, 6-1) at Maryland (4-6, 2-4), 12:00 PM, ESPNU

This is C.J. Brown, who was expected to be Maryland’s starter this year. Four QB’s later, Maryland will have to take on one of the best defenses in the country. Good luck, Shawn Petty!

Moments in Florida State-Maryland history: Florida State leads the series 20-2 (8-2 at the Byrd-muda Triangle).

From one of Maryland’s two wins over FSU, this one in 2006. Why does it always come down to a field goal for FSU?

This was a bigger win, though. In 2004, No. 5 FSU lost at Maryland. One of many bad days for Chris Rix.

Shawn Petty, you’re brave.

I guess this shouldn’t have been a flag, either?

Prediction: Florida State, 44-12. With a win, Florida State clinches the Atlantic Division. And with a loss, Florida State ensures the death of the ACC. The Seminoles haven’t played well on the road once this year, and this would be a great time to put together a convincing win against a hapless Maryland team that seemingly has a season-ending injury every hour.

Virginia Tech (4-6, 2-4) at Boston College (2-8, 1-5), 12:30 PM, ACC Network

Chase Rettig, meet Bruce Taylor. You might be reintroduced this week.

Moments in Virginia Tech-Boston College history: The teams had never played until 1993 when the Big East started a full round-robin schedule. They played every year until 2004, when Virginia Tech joined the ACC and BC wasn’t in yet. They’ve played every year since as cross-divisional rivals. Virginia Tech leads the all-time series 14-6 (6-3 at BC), but since both joined the league, it’s a little narrower (6-3 overall for the Hokies and 1-2 in Chestnut Hill).

Just to remind everyone that Michael Vick used to be able to do this.

In the name of equal time, here’s a ridiculous throw from Matt Ryan in 2006:

Random funny shot of a VT band member:

Prediction: Virginia Tech, 31-17. Virginia Tech is the only team in the Coastal without a road win. That’s about to change this week.

Miami (5-5, 4-3) vs. South Florida (3-6, 1-4, Big East), 3:00 PM, RSN

The last time South Florida went to Miami in 2010, they beat the Hurricanes 23-20 in overtime and helped get Randy Shannon fired.

Moments in Miami-South Florida history: Miami leads this series 3-1 (2-1 at home) and won the first two pretty convincingly (27-7 in 2005, 31-10 in 2009). But the last two have gone down to the wire: South Florida won 23-20 in 2010 in an overtime thriller, and last year, Miami won 6-3. Yep, a baseball score. Miami had 316 total yards but just 57 rushing, and quarterback Jacory Harris didn’t throw one interception. Wait, how was that game that close?

This was the game-winning field goal last year for Miami. FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!

Miami fan videos never disappoint. This is a preview of last year’s USF game. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this guy is reading. Still, a good effort.

The 2010 USF win got Randy Shannon fired.

Prediction: Miami, 31-23. Because the ACC needs this.

Wake Forest (5-5, 3-5) at No. 3 Notre Dame (10-0), 3:30 PM, NBC

Notre Dame will look to go 3-0 against the ACC, which could be just one less ACC win than the potential winner of the Coastal Division. Go ACC!

Moments in Wake Forest-Notre Dame history: It’s hard to believe, but Notre Dame and Wake Forest have only met once prior to this year and that was last year. Wake actually led 17-10 at halftime, but Notre Dame scored twice in the third and took a 24-17 lead, which was the final. Wake had its chances, twice making it inside the Notre Dame 10-yard line in the second half but coming away with no points. Wake really should have won that game, but they didn’t. And they won’t this year.

“SOMEBODY TACKLE!”

Did you guys know that Notre Dame and Wake Forest aren’t only playing on the field, but also in this fake thing called The Energy Bowl? This is a real thing. And there’s some environmental smack from the leprechaun about the sustainability of Wake Forest’s motorcycle. SICK BURN!

The Notre Dame team does a “Trick Shot Monday” video every week, and this week is no different. I wonder if the Notre Dame brass know that this is essentially beer pong?

Prediction: Notre Dame, 34-3. Notre Dame hasn’t looked great lately, allowing a season-high 26 points (in three overtimes) to Pitt two weeks ago and only beating a bad Boston College team 21-6 last week. But Wake Forest has looked even worse, and its sputtering offense against Notre Dame’s dominant defense is an awful matchup.

Week 11: 4-2 (3-2 ACC)

TOTAL: 52-19 (24-13 ACC)

Nov. 16 ACC Previews

Boston College (1-1) vs. Dayton (1-1), 2:30 PM, ESPNU (Charleston Classic)

So…Dayton’s mascot is the Little Caesar’s guy?

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)

Even the UMass Minuteman is irritated that Andy Roddick didn’t live up to his potential.

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)

Jonathan II, an Alaskan Husky, meets Rhode Island’s ram.

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)

A Cougar that’s asleep, I guess.

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

Blackbird singing in the dead of night…

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

Long Beach State’s home venue, the Walter Pyramid…

…or the Luxor in Las Vegas?

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

Overall: 21-3

Nov. 13-14 ACC Previews

NOVEMBER 13

No. 9/8 Duke (1-0) vs. No. 3 Kentucky (1-0), 9:30 PM, ESPN (Atlanta, GA)

Should have guarded the inbounds pass, Rick.

What to watch: Who runs the point? NC State transfer Ryan Harrow will miss this game for Kentucky with the flu, so it looks like walk-on Jarrod Paulson will see a lot of time again. Against Maryland, he was great. But can he do it again? And for Duke, Quinn Cook is not listed as a projected starter and didn’t start the opener. Tyler Thornton takes better care of the ball than Cook generally, but he’s not as much of a potential game-changer. It will be interesting to see how that rotation develops.

Is Mason Plumlee ready to assert himself? Kentucky’s bigs are inexperienced, and Maryland’s frontcourt dominated them on the backboards last Friday. Nerlens Noel was the No. 1 recruit in the country, but Plumlee is athletic enough and certainly savvy enough to get the better of that matchup. He’s “the guy” this year for Duke, and this is his time to show why.

Will Alex Murphy play? This question speaks for itself. And if the redshirt freshman – who was a healthy scratch from Duke’s opener due to “match-ups”, per Krzyzewski – does play, where will his confidence level be?

Random Duke-Kentucky facts: They’ve played just five times in the Coach K era, and Duke is 4-1 in those games. And yet this is being billed as a rivalry game. It’s a bit one-sided in that Kentucky fans still have a lot of bitterness towards Duke stemming from the 1992 Elite 8 loss. A lot of the hatred from Kentucky fans stems from the fact that Christian Laettner didn’t miss a shot, including hitting this game-winner…

…but it didn’t help that this moment came earlier.

Chris Farley as Christian Laettner. No, seriously.

This guy hates Duke almost as much as he loves Jagermeister. But a Duke football shirt?

Prediction: Duke, 67-61.

Delaware (1-1) at Virginia (1-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3 (NIT Season Tip-Off)

Blue Hen, or Gray Hen? You be the judge.

What to watch: Joe Harris. Joey Hoops has literally accounted for 30% of Virginia’s scoring so far this season. He’s going to need some help at some point, but he’s been very efficient. Can he keep carrying that load until Malcolm Brogdon and Jontel Evans come back?

Random Delaware facts: According to the Delaware website, the Fightin’ Blue Hen comes from the Revolutionary War, when the Delaware regiment started putting on cockfights with the Kent County Blue Hen.

Prediction: Virginia, 57-49.

Florida Gulf Coast (0-1) at Miami (1-0), 7:05 PM (Fort Myers, FL)

What to watch: Miami’s defense. Allowing 79 points to Stetson on 44% shooting (42% from three) to go with 20 assists on 28 field goals for the Hatters? Yeah, that’s not very good.

Random Florida Gulf Coast facts: Florida Gulf Coast’s mascot is an eagle, because – per the University website – “The Eagle serves to identify not only the physical environment of Southwest Florida but also the University’s relationship with it.” Okay. He did hit a halfcourt shot and win free books for a year:

Prediction: Miami, 91-68.

NOVEMBER 14

Presbyterian (0-1) at Georgia Tech (1-0), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

This guy played football for Presbyterian, and he was on “The Bachelorette” this summer.

What to watch: Presbyterian’s turnovers. It could have just been a fluke, but Georgia Tech forced Tulane into just four turnovers on Friday.

Random Presbyterian facts: One of their former football players was on “The Bachelorette”. He got in a a bit of trouble for saying he wanted a “trophy wife”.

Prediction: Georgia Tech, 81-57.

Last week: 11-1

Overall: 16-1

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.

ACC Basketball 2012-13 Season Previews, Part 2

GEORGIA TECH

Michael: [discussing evidence that links George Sr. to Saddam Hussein] If this information was so damaging, why didn’t you just shred it?

George Sr.: Well, Saddam owed us money.

Michael: And you didn’t realize that he wouldn’t pay?

George Sr.: Your mom had a good feeling about him.

______

Narrator: Gob, getting the feeling he could not return a completely frozen dead dove to a pet store and get the full refund the felt he was entitled to, decided to join him.

Georgia Tech is still paying former head coach Paul Hewitt, who they fired in March 2011. Hewitt is now at George Mason. But he managed to negotiate a $7.2 million buyout over five years. There have been major attendance problems in Atlanta, although the hope is that the new arena, McCamish Pavilion (opening Friday), helps reenergize the fans. And the team is certainly as bad as it ever was under Hewitt. Second-year head coach Brian Gregory has a lot of work to do.

2012 record/results: 11-20 overall, 4-12 ACC. Georgia Tech’s best win (per Ken Pomeroy’s rankings) was against NC State, which finished 35th. Naturally, the ACC eats its own.

Reason for optimism: Big men Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey are juniors now, and both ended their 2012 playing well. Miller averaged 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in Tech’s final ten games while Holsey added 10.7 points and 5.7 boards in that span. Last year’s leading scorer Glen Rice, Jr.’s departure is probably a good thing for this team, and they have some really good freshmen.

Reason for pessimism: Even without Rice, Georgia Tech returns over 80% of its scoring. But the Yellow Jackets averaged just 60.2 points last year. They have a senior point guard returning in Mfon Udofia, but that’s not necessarily a good thing: he had 88 assists to 85 turnovers last year. Jason Morris and Brandon Reed, Georgia Tech’s other two likely backcourt starters, didn’t shoot well either.

MARYLAND

Tobias Fünke: Do you see me more as the respected dramatic actor or more of the beloved comic actor?

Carl Weathers: Whoa, whoa, whoa. There’s still plenty of meat on that bone. Now you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you’ve got a stew going.

Tobias Fünke: Yes, that’s fine, but I would like to focus on my acting, Mr. Weathers. I did give you my last $1,100.

Carl Weathers: Let me tell you a little story about acting. I was doing this Showtime movie, Hot Ice with Anne Archer, never once touched my per diem. I’d go to Craft Service, get some raw veggies, bacon, Cup-A-Soup… baby, I got a stew going.

Tobias Fünke: [pause] I think I’d like my money back.

_____

George Sr.: [via satellite from prison] Sorry, some of my students are arguing the significance of the shankbone on the seder plate. But we do not – not wag our genitals at one another to make a point.

None of these quotes really fit Maryland this year, but Carl Weathers could really make an interesting stew with Maryland’s mixture of returning players, the late addition of Xavier transfer Dez Wells and some very talented freshmen. Okay, that’s a stretch.

2012 record/results: 17-15 overall, 6-10 ACC. Maryland deserves a special shout-out for not embarrassing the league in the non-conference last year. Their worst loss was at home to Illinois, a team that started 15-3 before losing 13 of its final 15.

Reason for optimism: Dez Wells. The sophomore averaged 9.8 points per game at Xavier, but he was just a freshman. By all accounts, he’s been dominant so far this year. Losing last year’s leading scorer Terrell Stoglin might seem like a big hole, but Stoglin had become more of a hindrance than a help by the end of last season. Sophomore Nick Faust hit double figures in nine of Maryland’s final 11 games. Seven-footer Alex Len has put on 30 pounds. Everyone seems ready to take the next step up from last year while incorporating a class of very talented freshmen into the mix.

Reason for pessimism: Is there enough talent around Wells for Maryland to be an NCAA Tournament team? Faust was fairly steady for a freshman, but Len was all over the place last year, and he was more down than up. This is not meant as a joke or sarcasm in any way: Stoglin literally took such a huge percentage of Maryland’s shots (37.8% when he was on the floor, per Pomeroy) that it could be difficult for his teammates to get used to being more involved. And while this year’s freshmen are good, they’re still freshmen.

MIAMI

Gob: My gut is telling me no… but my gut is also very hungry.

______

Lucille: What’s a Forget-Me-Now?

Gob: They’re pills that create a sort of temporary forgettingness. So if somebody finds out how you do a trick, you just give ’em one of these, and they forget the whole thing. It’s a mainstay of the magician’s toolkit, like how clowns always have a rag soaked in ether.

Every ACC reporter ever has been sucked into the Miami vortex. And we’ve all been burned by it, too. Yet every year, Forget-Me-Now pills cause some of us to slot them them too high – this year, it was fifth. Maybe this is the year. The Hurricanes have already shown why trusting them is dangerous by losing an exhibition game at home. Can Miami be elite? We’ll believe it when we see it.

2012 record/results: 20-13 overall, 9-7 ACC, NIT (L 2nd Round to Minnesota). Miami saved its worst for last, losing six of its final 11 games, including a 78-60 home loss in the NIT to Minnesota that was not as close as even that score would indicate. Miami’s best win over anyone not int he ACC last season, per Pomeroy’s rankings, was against No. 72 Massachusetts. Their six non-conference losses were all to teams inside the top 90 of Pomeroy’s rankings out of conference: but they were still losses.

Reason for optimism: There are always reasons for optimism when it comes to Miami basketball. This year, Miami returns most of its best players from a year ago, including mainstay Durand Scott and starting big men Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson. Speedy point guard Shane Larkin ended the year on a good note, averaging 12 points and 2.7 assists in the final three games. They have a ton of depth in all the important areas.

Reason for pessimism: From a personnel perspective? There aren’t any. Miami is capable of being as good as any other team in this conference, particularly considering the Duke, North Carolina and Florida State rosters this year. But will they? Despite having Kadji and Johnson, the Miami guards tend to ignore them: in Miami’s final two postseason losses last year, Johnson and Kadji combined for 24 shots in 85 minutes.

NORTH CAROLINA

Tobias Fünke: Boy, I sure feel like a Mary without a Peter and a Paul.

_____

Lindsay: [saying how stress can lead to drugs] … like the stress you put on George Michael, even when he gets an ‘A’.

Michael: *Minus*, and he knows an ‘A’ gets him ice cream.

North Carolina lost a lot to last year’s NBA draft, including over 66% of its scoring and four out of five starters. There’s enough young talent and veteran steadiness on this team for it to have a good year. But in Chapel Hill, expectations don’t change much – NCAA Tournament or bust – but even North Carolina fans understand that this team’s ceiling isn’t as high as past UNC teams. Rarely are there “freebie” years like this one.

2012 record/results: 32-6 overall, 14-2 ACC, No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament, Elite 8 (L to No. 2 seed Kansas). Obviously, Kentucky was playing very well last year and might have beaten North Carolina again anyway. But injuries cut Carolina’s title run short as point guard Kendall Marshall broke his wrist in the Round of 32 game against Creighton.

Reason for optimism: Carolina returns some of its best defensive players from last year (Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo). While the young Tar Heels wait for their offense to click, defense shouldn’t be an issue. McAdoo and P.J. Hairston weren’t needed as freshmen much until the end of last year, but both responded with some big names (particularly McAdoo, obviously). Carolina has a veteran backcourt with Strickland, Leslie McDonald (who redshirted last season after tearing his ACL), Bullock and Hairston.

Reason for pessimism: Their veterans have experience, but they’re largely complementary players. Even their young talent isn’t as elite as it has been in past years. There is no go-to scorer on this team and there may not be throughout the course of the season, which might mean that the Tar Heels are offensively challenged for long stretches. Carolina’s early-season schedule is brutal and could cause the team to lose confidence quickly. Oh, and freshman point guard Marcus Paige – who will be the starter – weighs 160 pounds soaking wet.

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