Despite the ACC/Big Ten Challenge debacle, there are still chances for the ACC to save face this weekend in important non-conference games.
12/3, 12:00 PM, CBS: North Carolina (6-1) at Kentucky (7-0)
North Carolina showed last year that it was capable of winning in a tough road environment, which is an understatement for the bedlam that will be Rupp Arena on Saturday. But the UNLV game – while it might be a lesson learned – isn’t exactly the best harbinger of what Carolina will do in this game. The Tar Heels finally played nearly 40 minutes of fantastic defense against Wisconsin, and taking out the final three minutes (which nearly cost the Tar Heels the game), Wisconsin scored 0.65 points per possession. This was an offense that Ken Pomeroy had as one of the most efficient in the country. Playing its style – a half-court, slow-down game, it still couldn’t beat the Tar Heel defense. Kentucky will likely be more up-tempo, and while Kendall Marshall did well against Jordan Taylor, he likely won’t have Dexter Strickland to help him with Doron Lamb. The dangerous Kentucky sophomore can make three-pointers seemingly at will, and Strickland will need to cover him. Marquis Teague, Kentucky’s freshman point guard, has been up and down for the Wildcats, and if he gets out of control, Carolina could sneak out a win here. As it stands, in that kind of environment and with the way Carolina’s offense will look (likely without their best three-point shooter P.J. Hairston as well), I don’t think they have the firepower to win. The Tar Heels may very well win the rematch – if there is one – in March. But I don’t see them winning this one.
Prediction: Kentucky 76, North Carolina 69
12/3, 1:00 PM, ESPN3: Richmond (5-2) at Wake Forest (5-2)
One of the four games I predicted incorrectly in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was Wake-Nebraska. I did think the Deacons were better this year, but not good enough to win a tough road game against Nebraska’s slow-down style. Richmond is a scrappy team with losses only to Davidson (by 13) and Illinois (by 9). This is exactly the kind of game Wake would not only lose, but lose handily last season. This game is the chance for the Deacons to prove this is a new team by winning this game, no matter what the final score is.
Prediction: Wake Forest 81, Richmond 78
12/3, 2:00 PM, CBS Sports Network: Georgia Tech (4-3) at Tulane (8-0)
Tulane has literally beaten no one (the Green Wave’s best win was against No. 260 San Diego; four wins have come against Ken Pomeroy’s bottom 15 teams in Division I). But Georgia Tech is reeling a bit after three losses to St. Joseph’s, LSU and Northwestern. The Yellow Jackets need to start scoring at some point, but they also need to get back to what made them look better earlier in the season – good defense. This would be a very embarrassing loss for the ACC. But at this point, no one really seems to be paying attention to the league anyway.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 59, Tulane 50
12/4, 3:30 PM, ESPNU: South Carolina (2-5) at Clemson (4-2)
South Carolina is terrible. If not for teams like Boston College and Utah, the Gamecocks might be the worst major-conference team in the country. But Clemson has already lost to Coastal Carolina and College of Charleston at home – it has to continue the positive momentum from the Iowa win and beat South Carolina.
Prediction: Clemson 58, South Carolina 45
12/4, 4:00 PM, Fox Sports: N.C. State (5-2) at Stanford (7-1)
This would be easier to predict if the Wolfpack had beaten Indiana at home on Wednesday, but they didn’t. They didn’t get a lot of breaks at the end of a tight one, but it was there for the taking. Now, it will be interesting to see how they regroup. They did well coming off the Vanderbilt loss, but this team under former coach Sidney Lowe never handled adversity well. Mark Gottfried seems to approach adversity better, but he still has a lot of bad habits to break, and this is one of them. Stanford’s only loss this year is to Syracuse in New York (by six), and this is a tough road trip for N.C. State. I don’t think they’re ready to win this one just yet.
Prediction: Stanford 82, N.C. State 73
12/4, 4:45 PM, MASN: Maryland (3-3) vs. Notre Dame (5-3) (Washington, D.C.)
This one is up for grabs for the Terrapins, who gave Illinois a surprisingly good game on Tuesday. Notre Dame has one good win this year (at home against Detroit) and was blown out by other good teams it has faced (Missouri and Gonzaga). In other words, they sound a lot like Maryland. And they just lost their best player, Tim Abromaitis, to a torn ACL. Maryland could really use a good game from Sean Mosley, who has been quiet, making 5-of-10 shots in the last two games and averaging just 5.5 points in 34.5 minutes. They need some offensive production from somewhere besides Terrell Stoglin, and the senior should be their best bet. He needs to be more assertive.
Prediction: Notre Dame 83, Maryland 77
12/4, 5:30 PM, Kansas State (4-0) at Virginia Tech (5-2)
Poor, poor Hokies. It’s just unbelievable. They have had bad luck, but they need Dorenzo Hudson to wake up in the worst way. The senior has a total of 15 points in the last three games and put up a goose egg at Minnesota. He has shot just 5-of-27 from the floor in those three games (he opened the year shooting 21-of-37) and has basically been a non-factor. Freshman Dorian Finney-Smith wasn’t much better, scoring just three points and pulling down a season-low six rebounds. Finney-Smith has scored in single digits three times this year and the Hokies are 1-2 in those games. Kansas State is undefeated but its best win is George Washington. Still, the Wildcats have four players averaging double figures and have held opponents to 33% shooting. The Wildcats don’t shoot well from three and are prone to offensive lapses themselves, so the Hokies could sneak one out here. And they really need it. Virginia Tech is more tested than the Wildcats, and it’s in Blacksburg, so I’ll reluctantly give it to them.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 64, Kansas State 61