No. 2 Duke (26-5) vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech (16-16), 7:00 PM, ESPN2/ACC Network/ESPN3
Duke probably dodged a bullet by not drawing Clemson in this game, but the Hokies did give Duke a scare in Durham not long ago. Still, Virginia Tech is so offensively limited that Duke should win this one easily.
Key to the game: Virginia Tech’s support players. Even with Ryan Kelly sitting out this game with an injury, Virginia Tech really doesn’t have much of a chance to win if Dorenzo Hudson and Erick Green are their only scoring threats. Last time Virginia Tech played Duke, Cadarian Raines chipped in 16 points and no one else offered much help. Jarrell Eddie had nine rebounds, but fouled out. Dorian Finney-Smith shot just 2-of-11 from the floor and 1-of-8 from the foul line. If only Green and Hudson are on, it makes the Hokies very easy to defend.
Random stat: Duke shot just 25% from three in their last meeting against Virginia Tech. It was their lowest mark since February 2nd.
Prediction: Duke 75, Virginia Tech 62
No. 3 Florida State (21-9) vs. No. 6 Miami (19-11), 9:00 PM, ESPN2/ACC Network/ESPN3
This one should be exciting, which means it will probably be terrible. But the bottom line is Florida State has as clear a path as it has ever had to win this Tournament for the first time, and Miami needs a win over a good team in the worst way.
Key to the game: Can Florida State shut down Miami’s bigs? Georgia Tech seemed to do that just fine, holding Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson to 12 points on 4-of-20 shooting. Johnson missed the second game against FSU, but Kadji had 15 points and Dequan Jones had a nice game as well. Florida State has so much length inside and Bernard James gives everyone trouble. If they can make Miami one-dimensional, the Seminoles should win easily.
Random stat: Miami averaged 1.01 points per possession in a home win over Florida State a few weeks ago. It was the second-highest average put up against FSU in ACC play – Clemson led the way in FSU’s ACC debut, putting up 1.04 points per possession against FSU.
Prediction: Florida State 73, Miami 61
*To save time, check out all of the ACC Tournament scenarios laid out in this graphic.
Clemson (16-13, 8-7) at No. 22 Florida State (20-9, 11-4), 12:00 PM, ESPN2/ESPN3
Florida State was locked into the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament prior to beating Virginia, but the Seminoles desperately needed that win after dropping three straight. A revenge win over Clemson, the only team to pound the Seminoles (by 20, in the ACC opener) in ACC play, would be huge for them as well. But Clemson has a lot of positive momentum, and the Tigers can be anywhere from a five to a seven-seed.
Key to the game: Florida State’s turnovers. The Seminoles have let that evil turnover bug bite them again, and they desperately need to exterminate it. Three of Florida State’s last four opponents have scored 20 or more points off of their turnovers (Virginia had 27) and Florida State has 18 in the last two games. The trouble is, Clemson is the best team in the league in forcing turnovers (ACC opponents average a 20.3% loss of ball) and FSU is already the most generous team in giving it back (19.1% loss of ball in league play).
Random stat: Florida State leads the series with Clemson 30-28 but since 2007, Clemson actually leads 7-4. Clemson has only won two of those games in Tallahassee, though, and is 2-3 at FSU since 2007 (but 5-1 at home).
Prediction: Florida State 64, Clemson 57
No. 24 Virginia (21-8, 8-7) at Maryland (16-13, 6-9), 2:00 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3
Maryland and Florida State were the only teams locked into their seeds headed into this weekend (Maryland is an eight-seed). But the Terrapins are reeling right now, and their head coach Mark Turgeon is far too competitive to allow his young team to get complacent. Virginia could be anywhere from the fourth to the seventh seed, and the Cavaliers really need to have this one after a heartbreaking loss at the buzzer to FSU.
Key to the game: Foul trouble. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon quipped that he needed to send Alex Len to the Tyler Zeller school of drawing fouls after his team’s loss to North Carolina. Well, most of his team seems to have already graduated with honors: Maryland is No. 1 in the league and fifth nationally in free-throw rate despite no real post threat. And the last thing Virginia can afford is foul trouble: not only is it the best/most efficient way for Maryland to score against their stingy defense, but it would also severely challenge the Cavaliers’ non-existent depth.
Random stat: Virginia has only allowed two teams to shoot above 50% this year: Duke and Florida State (on Thursday). Even with the high shooting percentage allowed, Virginia lost those two games by a combination of six points.
Prediction: Virginia 62, Maryland 56
NC State (19-11, 8-7) at Virginia Tech (15-15, 4-11), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
NC State could get anywhere from the fourth seed to the seventh seed depending on the outcome of this game: win, and it can’t fall below 6. This will be a very tricky game against a team that has been competitive all year. And the Hokies still have plenty to play for as well – big difference between being the 9 or the 10 seed.
Keys to the game: The three-point line. NC State has found road success in part because ACC opponents have shot 20.9% from three (compared to 42.3% at the RBC Center). In State’s road ACC wins, opponents have averaged just 2.5 made 3’s. Virginia Tech has shot 38.6% from three in home ACC games and 41.8% in home ACC wins. State will have to continue to defend the three-point line well as it’s the only well the Hokies can really get going.
The offensive glass. Good rebounding teams have basically been able to pound the offensive boards against Virginia Tech at will – the Hokies play good defense, but second-shot opportunities have hurt them. Still, they’ve given up just 22 second-chance points in their last four games combined after surrendering an average of 11.7. And State lives on second shots, collecting nearly 34% of their misses in league play and turning them into 12.1 points.
Random stat: A loss would give Virginia Tech just its second home losing season since joining the ACC and first since 2005-06. A win for NC State would give the Wolfpack five road wins in the ACC for the first time since 2004. From 2007-11 (Sidney Lowe’s tenure as head coach) NC State had seven total ACC road wins.
Prediction: NC State 69, Virginia Tech 65
Last week: 7-4
Season: 129-47 (65-28 ACC)
Georgia Tech (9-16, 2-9) at Virginia Tech (14-12, 3-8), 3:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Really, not much to say about this game. Neither team is likely going to see any kind of a postseason, and both teams lost games they easily could/should have won in the past week. But, Virginia Tech was short-handed and played well at Florida State. The Hokies are tough to beat at home, and Georgia Tech has found it tough to win anywhere if it can’t win at Wake.
Stat to watch: Virginia Tech’s shooting percentage. Georgia Tech has only had one more day to rest than Virginia Tech, but the Hokies played their hearts out with seven healthy scholarship players in Tallahassee, and their second-half percentages showed it. They couldn’t make free throws down the stretch and shot just 4-of-11 from the foul line in the second half, including 3-of-10 in the final 2:12 (and the front end of two 1-and-1’s). They actually shot better in the second half from the floor (9-of-25) but worse from three (2-of-9). In the final 14:02, the Hokies hit just 2-of-15 shots and 0-of-7 three-pointers. Georgia Tech is not an especially fast-paced team, but the Yellow Jackets will make you work for good shots. Not sure if Virginia Tech will have the stamina – mentally or physically – to be able to do it again.
Most important players: Dorenzo Hudson, Virginia Tech. Hudson is a senior, and it’s clear he’s giving it his all but he’s having to do too much. He took 12 shots at Florida State and made two (both three-pointers) and was 0-of-6 inside the arc. He didn’t score in the second half after a brilliant first half. The Hokies are short-handed, and so they need both Hudson and Erick Green to score more. Both are trying, but it’s just not enough right now. Maybe Hudson will find a spark of extra energy at home.
Note: This was written before it was announced today that Glen Rice, Jr. was suspended again, and he was my Georgia Tech player to watch.
Random stat: The unluckiest team in the ACC per Ken Pomeroy is still Clemson, but neither Georgia Tech nor Virginia Tech are too far behind. While Clemson is 344th in “Luck”, Georgia Tech is 334th and Virginia Tech is 324th.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 63, Georgia Tech 54
Last week: 7-4
Season: 111-39 (47-20 ACC)
Virginia Tech (11-7, 0-4) at Virginia (15-2, 2-1), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
The in-state rivals meet again. Last year, Virginia Tech lost twice to the Virginia; in the second meeting, Mike Scott was out for UVA. With that win, Virginia Tech might have made the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Hokies are almost certainly out of the NCAA Tournament and Virginia is in but needs wins like these to ensure a good seed. Virginia Tech might be desperate, but that likely won’t be enough. Virginia needs to maintain its high level of focus that it showed Thursday in a throttling of Georgia Tech.
Stat to watch: Rebounding. Virginia Tech has been out-rebounded by an average of nine per game in ACC play. After the Hokies narrowly out-rebounded Boston College in a loss, they let North Carolina pound them to the tune of 51-28 on the backboards (including a 19-11 edge on the offensive glass). In close losses, Virginia Tech has given up 49 second-chance points off of those 13.0 offensive rebounds per game by their opponents – 12.3 points per game just on second chances. North Carolina beat them by 14 points and had 21 second-chance points. Only Wake and BC failed to really hurt Virginia Tech with second-chance points (just 14 combined) but they had 19 offensive rebounds between them, meaning in a slow, deliberate game, Virginia Tech just lost another 30 seconds at least. If the Hokies give up chances like that against Virginia and allow the Cavaliers to milk more clock, they may not break 50. And they may not anyway.
Virginia has been excellent on the glass, out-rebounding Duke and Georgia Tech in its last two games by an average of +14 (Duke was just +5, but still). The Cavaliers have a 38-25 edge in offensive rebounds as well, and they are turning their offensive boards into 45 points (15.0 per game) in second-chance looks while allowing opponents to score just 6.7 second-chance point per game. That’s what Virginia does to you – they frustrate you, make you impatient and then force you into a bad shot, promptly retrieving your miss and making you defend for 30 seconds while they search for a great look. It’s maddening, and it’s what has made the Cavaliers so good this year. Will they be as dominant on the glass without Assane Sene, their center who is out for six weeks? That remains to be seen, but Virginia Tech has been awful on the glass against all ACC opponents this year. If Virginia limits them to one-and-done on offense, they will win by 15 or more.
Most important players: Sammy Zeglinski, Virginia and Dorenzo Hudson, Virginia Tech. Ah, Dorenzo Hudson. What to make of the mercurial senior? He was brilliant in the first half against North Carolina, hitting 5-of-5 shots (4-of-4 three’s) and had 16 of the Hokies’ 39 points at the break. Without him, his team shot 9-of-30 (30%) in the first half. In the second half, he did disappear, literally – he had zero points, and his team had just 29 second-half points. He was 0-of-4 from the floor (0-of-2 from three) and his team would have been better without him (33.3% with him to 38% without him). That’s the kind of up-and-down year it’s been for Hudson thus far, all summed up in one game. He can carry the Hokies, but he can also hurt them. And it’s been like that against Virginia as well: in the two wins over Virginia that Hudson has played in, he has shot 13-of-27 (4-of-6 from three) and averaged 16.5 points. In the two losses, he has shot 5-of-16 (2-of-8 from three) and averaged 6.0 points. That seems more like his year to date. But everyone, including Hudson himself, knows he’s capable of more.
Zeglinski has had a nightmarish time against Duke over his career, and it continued earlier this season in Durham where he shot 0-of-8 to make him 9-of-48 (18.8%) against Duke in six games. He has also played six games against Virginia Tech, and it hasn’t been much better against the Hokies: 10-of-42 (23.8%) and 6-of-26 from three (23.1%, still better than 1-of-22 – or 4.5% – he has shot against Duke). He’s come through in big moments for the Cavaliers this year, scoring 11 in a tough win at Seattle and 20 in a squeaker against Towson, following that up with 17 at LSU in the Cavaliers’ final non-conference game. The problem is Zeglinski hasn’t even totaled 17 points yet (he has 16) in three ACC games. His 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting at Georgia Tech were a nice start, and he’ll need to build on that – without Assane Sene, Virginia’s rotation just got that much thinner.
Random stat: Virginia leads the all-time series 81-52 and 8-7 since Virginia Tech joined the league. Virginia leads 32-12 at Virginia but Virginia Tech has won two of the last four (after going 40 years without winning in Charlottesville: hello, UNC football!). Virginia also leads 5-2 at home since the Hokies joined the ACC.
Prediction: Virginia 65, Virginia Tech 59
Last week: 6-5
Season: 78-29 (16-10 ACC)
Virginia Tech (11-5, 0-2) at Boston College (6-10, 1-1), 3:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
This about as must-win as it gets for Virginia Tech. Boston College is barely two days removed from an unexpected win over Clemson and Virginia Tech has been off since Tuesday. If Virginia Tech is not going to go in the tank the rest of the ACC season, it absolutely has to win this game, preferably convincingly. But Boston College is a young team that seemingly gains confidence with every game. This is a game that looked a lot more certain for the Hokies a week ago.
Stat to watch: Three-point shooting. Tech Hoops broke down Virginia Tech’s three-point shooting, and it’s pretty daunting: the Hokies are 1-4 this year when shooting a worse percentage from three than their opponents and 10-1 when shooting better. Even in the Hokies’ last 18 ACC games dating back to last year, it holds true: they are 0-8 when opponents shoot better from three and 10-0 when they shoot better. The Hokies were shooting 38% from three entering league play and in just two games, their overall percentage is already down to 36%. They have shot just 8-of-34 (23.5%) in ACC play in two close losses. Their 2-of-12 performance against Florida State was a season-low.
Boston College’s offense revolves around the three-pointer, and will as long as Steve Donahue is the head coach. In the last six games, BC has shot 38.5% from three compared to 31.7% in the first ten. The 42.1% mark against Clemson was their third-best this year. And maybe it’s luck, but BC’s three-point defense has held ACC opponents to 10-of-33 (30.3%) after allowing 34.3% in the non-conference. Whichever team is shooting three’s better should win this one, and lately, that team has been Boston College.
Most important players: Dorenzo Hudson, Virginia Tech and Matt Humphrey, Boston College. Hudson has been invisible so far this ACC season – and most of the entire season – for Virginia Tech. He had been coming back to form in Virginia Tech’s last four non-conference games, averaging 14.3 points on 47.5% shooting. But in his first two ACC games, he has averaged just 8.0 points on 26.1% shooting (0-of-7 from three). Considering he’s taken 23 of Virginia Tech’s 117 shots in league play (and seven of their 34 three’s), things would get a lot easier for the Hokies if he could start making some.
Matt Humphrey earned his way back into BC’s starting lineup after scoring 14 at North Carolina, just his second double-figure effort since November. In the last three games, he has shot 12-of-24 (50%) and 6-of-14 from three (42.9%). It’s not that outstanding, but prior to that he had shot 39-of-134 (29.1%) and 27.8% from three. BC absolutely needs him to be a consistent scorer, and he has been lately. Perhaps the best part of his recent improvement is that he’s facilitating more for others: eight of his 23 assists this season have come in the last three games.
Random Stat: Virginia Tech hasn’t started 0-3 in ACC play since 2006 when the Hokies went 14-16 overall and 4-12 in conference. The Hokies lost their first three games that season to Duke, Florida State and North Carolina by a combined 11 points. Their 12 league losses that season came by an average of 5.6 points; just two were by double digits. Sadly, this season has paralleled that one in that the Hokies’ first two losses have come by a total of seven points.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 72, Boston College 65
Last week: 6-3 (4-2)
Season: 68-24 (7-5)
Record to date: 11-3
Strength so far: Free-throw shooting. The Hokies are 26th nationally in free-throw shooting (74.8%).
Needs improvement: Drawing fouls. Virginia Tech’s free throw rate is pretty good (38.8, 124th nationally) but it is their lowest ranking in that category since 2006. Last year’s team had a 40.7 rating and the 2010 group’s rate was 42.9. Erick Green seems like he should draw more fouls, but he draws just 4.0 per 40 minutes. Malcolm Delaney drew 6.8 fouls in 2010 (32nd nationally) and 5.3 in 2011. The Hokies shoot foul shots well and so much of their offensive identity is designed around getting to the line. In three losses, the Hokies have averaged early ten fewer attempts (13.3) than in wins (23.1).
Most important player: Dorenzo Hudson. The senior guard has struggled on and off this season and is averaging 11.8 points, but in losses it’s been particularly bad: 30% shooting (22% from three) and 6.7 points. In wins, he has shot 43% and averaged 13.2 points. He’s played much better recently, averaging 14.3 points on 48% shooting in his last four games, which is a good sign. And hopefully for the Hokies, the situation that involved former Hokie kicker Cody Journell robbing Hudson’s house resulting in Hudson and his roommates getting into an altercation with Journell and friends afterwards will not get any worse. To read about that craziness, click here.
Reason for optimism: The emergence of multiple offensive threats. Erick Green has been consistent all year, leading the team in scoring with 15.5 points per game on 49.3% shooting. Hudson is more than capable of getting back on track and still averages 11.8 points. Jarrell Eddie has broken out, averaging 9.6 points and shooting 49.4% (52.5% from three, 21-of-40). Freshmen Robert Brown and Dorian Finney-Smith have been up and down but have shown plenty of flashes; Brown averages 8.6 points; Finney-Smith has three double-doubles and seven double-digit scoring outings.
Reason for pessimism: Inconsistent offensive options. Hudson, Brown and Finney-Smith have all been erratic enough to think a bad night from any (or all) could mean a Hokie loss, even to a bad ACC team. Plus, Seth Greenberg’s Hokies always seem to find the banana peel.
Surprising stat: Virginia Tech leads the nation in three-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 24.1% from three.
Most likely wins (7): @Wake (1/7), @BC (1/14), Clemson (2/4), BC (2/12), Ga. Tech (2/18), UVA (2/21), NCST (3/4)
Most likely losses (3): UNC (1/19), @UVA (1/22), @Duke (2/25),
Toss-ups (6): FSU (1/10), @Maryland (1/28), @FSU (2/16), Duke (2/2), @Miami (2/9), @Clemson (3/1)
Best-case scenario: 12-4. This team has played a pretty tough schedule competitively.
Worst-case scenario: 7-9. The ACC is too terrible for them to lose more, but this would be a disappointing record.
Clemson (6-4) vs. UTEP (4-5) (Honolulu), 2:30 PM, ESPNU
Clemson will open the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu against UTEP. The Tigers have held their last two opponents to a combined 32.3% shooting and just 42.5 points per game. Clemson almost certainly wouldn’t beat Kansas State (the likely winner of its first-round game), but it would be nice for Clemson to get a win over a UTEP team that’s a fairly even matchup. Clemson doesn’t need to end up in the loser’s bracket and face another slate of mediocre to bad teams; it won’t get better that way.
UTEP has won two in a row (against Southern and McNeese State). Still, they hung in there with UNLV in Las Vegas (65-54 loss) and at Oregon (64-59 loss).
Prediction: Clemson 59, UTEP 57
Random: The first version of mascot “Paydirt Pete” was a mild-mannered miner that looks like he walked out of a Disney movie (see above). The current version is slightly meaner looking, but this older one is awesome:
Florida State (8-3) at Florida (9-2), 7:00 PM, ESPNU
Florida State had just 16 turnovers in a win over Loyola Marymount on Sunday, and it was their second-fewest in a game this year. Every ACC team averages fewer than FSU season low in turnovers (15). And FSU is starting to do what they do every year – namely, chuck up a ton of three’s. They’re averaging 22.8 attempts in the last four games (making 28.6%) after averaging 14.4 in the first seven (making 34.7%). Valuing the basketball and taking good shots will be key for the Seminoles in their toughest game yet.
According to Ken Pomeroy, Florida has the No. 1 offense in the nation, which likely cancels out even FSU’s defensive prowess, particularly if the Seminoles can’t score. The Gators’ only losses have come on the road to top five teams (by seven at Ohio State and by four at Syracuse). Florida looks like a much better team right now.
Prediction: Florida 77, Florida State 63
Random: Florida used to use a live alligator as its mascot (from 1957-70), but Albert I was found beaten to death and Florida State students kidnapped Albert II. They went through so many alligators that they eventually had to stop using live ones – thankfully.
Northeastern (3-6) at NC State (7-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
NC State won a game with execution down the stretch and a fantastic play by the C.J.’s (Williams to Leslie) to beat St. Bonaventure 67-65 on Tuesday. The Wolfpack held onto the ball (just 11 turnovers) and held the Bonnies to just 40.7% shooting, the second-best defensive performance by the Wolfpack this year.
After a brutal schedule so far, NC State finally gets some breathing room in its final four non-conference games, starting with Northeastern. The Huskies started the season with wins against Boston, Southern Illinois and St. John’s, Northeastern has dropped five straight.
Prediction: NC State 85, Northeastern 61
Random: Northeastern’s first Husky (a real, live dog) arrived on campus in 1927, and they had a live dog as the mascot until 1989.
Mercer (7-5) at Georgia Tech (7-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
Glen Rice, Jr. had 21 points on just ten shots, but Georgia Tech beat an awful Alabama A&M team by just 11 points on Monday. Head coach Brian Gregory was not pleased. “For the first time, we did not build on what we had done in the past.. … That was 40 minutes of something that did not resemble the type of basketball that we need to play.”
Mercer has been pretty good, losing by four at Belmont and by three at surging Seton Hall. If the transitive property is any indication, their 14-point loss to Georgia on Tuesday (who Georgia Tech beat by 12) means Georgia Tech should win.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 64, Mercer 57
Random: According to the Mercer website, the Bears nickname originated in 1892 during a football game at Georgia. The Mercer players had long hair and handlebar mustaches and as one of them ran down the field, a spectator supposedly said, “Whence cometh that bear?”
Eastern Michigan (5-6) at Virginia Tech (9-3), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
Virginia Tech has now beaten two decent teams (Campbell and North Florida) by double digits and are riding a four-game win streak. In a terrible ACC, the Hokies could win 10-11 games and at least give themselves a chance to get in the NCAA Tournament. And with Dorenzo Hudson finally playing well (15.5 ppg in the last two on 11-of-21 shooting), the Hokies could put themselves right back on the NCAA Tournament bubble again, which I’m sure will thrill head coach Seth Greenberg.
Eastern Michigan is not terrible, but against major-conference opponents (Michigan State, Syracuse and Purdue), the Eagles have averaged 41.3 points.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 70, Eastern Michigan 48
Random: Eastern Michigan was one of many schools that needed to change its Indian-related mascot (the Hurons), and did so in 1991. But a lot of alumni are displeased about the change from the Hurons to something so common (Eagles) and have been fighting to restore the nickname. They say they have the support of relevant Indian tribes.
Miami (6-4) at UNC-Charlotte (7-2), 7:30 PM
Reggie Johnson returned against Florida Atlantic with 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks in 36 minutes. Two years ago he couldn’t have handled that many minutes at full health, much less in his first game coming off a knee injury, so that’s a great sign.
Johnson’s return has helped fellow big man Kenny Kadji; he had attempted one three-pointer in his first seven games and has shot 6-of-7 in the last three games. Johnson has been encouraging Kadji to work on that shot. From hurricanesports.com: “I know (Kadji’s) game … he’s an outstanding 15-foot three-point shooter so I know if teams double me, I can hit Kenny,” Johnson said.
Charlotte’s two losses were at Lamar (by 18) and at home to East Tennessee State (by 1). The 49ers have won five straight but their best win by far is Davidson (by 23). Miami is 0-3 on the road so far, but its tougher tests this season should be the difference.
Prediction: Miami 72, Charlotte 66
Random: “The 49ers” has always seemed like a random nickname for a North Carolina school. But when Bonnie Cone saved Charlotte from being shut down in 1949, that year – in addition to North Carolina’s own gold mining history – made the 49er the logical mascot. Although the old logo looks like a maniacal leprechaun:
Last week: 8-1
Nicholls State (4-7) at UNC (9-2), 7:00 PM, ESPNU
Four years ago to the day, North Carolina slept-walk through a win over Nicholls State in the Smith Center, 88-78. The Tar Heels allowed 14-of-28 shooting from beyond the arc and Carolina could never quite pull away. The players were as somber in postgame interviews as they would be after a loss.
It was the kind of Roy Williams postgame press conference that sportswriters love, featuring quotes like: “It wasn’t a very good game for us. You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist or a basketball coach to figure that out.” When asked whether his team was tired: “They may be tired of me but they will be a hell of a lot more tired of me tomorrow (in practice).”
This is the type of game that Carolina has to dominate from start to finish. They have really only done that once, against Evansville. Nicholls State’s best win is over Louisiana-Monroe, ranked 308th of 345 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. Nicholls is 333rd, the lowest-ranked opponent the Tar Heels will face.
Prediction: North Carolina 95, Nicholls State 66
Random: “Nicholls” comes from former Louisiana governor Francis T. Nicholls, who was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during World War II. He lost his left arm in the Shenandoah Valley and his left foot in the Battle of Chancellorsville.
UNC-Greensboro (2-9) at Duke, 7:00 PM, RSN
Austin Rivers and Seth Curry were going to split the duties as Duke’s primary ballhandler but the two have combined for 56 assists to 47 turnovers. It’s been reserves Tyler Thornton (19.2 mpg) and freshman Quinn Cook (8.7 mpg) that have looked the most like “true” point guards. Without Curry or Rivers, both of whom fouled out late against Washington, Cook came in and steadied the ship, as he has done all year.
But Duke has so much depth in its backcourt and each player has a different strength. If the Blue Devils can get just a bit better defensively, particularly on the perimeter, they will cruise through most of ACC play and easily lock up a top-two NCAA Tournament seed.
UNC-G has lost six in a row after new head coach (former Tar Heel) Wes Miller lost his first game against ECU on Friday, 71-62. UNCG led 50-40 with 11:19 to go but an 18-4 run by ECU over the next 5 minutes gave the Pirates a four-point lead. UNC-G’s best result of the year was a 15-point loss at Florida State where the Spartans forced 26 turnovers. That won’t happen in Durham.
Prediction: Duke 89, UNC-G 60
Random: Gerry Austin, a former ACC referee who went on to the NFL from 1982-2007, went to UNC-G. Austin refereed the 1993 NFL Wild Card round between Buffalo and Houston (Oilers), when Frank Reich engineered a 32-point comeback.
North Florida (5-6) at Virginia Tech (8-3), 7:00 PM, theACC.com
Virginia Tech’s 85-60 win over Campbell was impressive, particularly as they held the nation’s No. 1 three-point shooting team to 1-of-12 from three. But the best part was senior Dorenzo Hudson had his best performance since the third game of the season, scoring 15 points (snapping a six-game single-digit streak) on 46% shooting.
And Jarrell Eddie’s recent surge might not be a fluke; the sophomore saw limited minutes last season but is averaging 25.7 this year and is averaging 10.1 points. In the last three games – all Virginia Tech wins – the 6-7 guard/forward has averaged 16.7 points on 16-of-22 shooting and 9-of-11 from three.
The Ospreys’ six losses this year are to Alabama (then ranked 19th), Florida (then 7th), Ohio State (then 3rd), Miami, at Kansas State in overtime and at Auburn. That’s a tough schedule, but Virginia Tech is better.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 68, North Florida 61
Ozzie and Harriet are the two osprey mascots for North Florida. Per the UNF website, Ozzie’s weight is “a few pounds short of elevator limit”, his height is 7’2” and his motto is “awesome by association”.
Alabama State (2-7) at Clemson (5-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
Clemson’s defensive-oriented 60-40 win over in-state foe Winthrop on Saturday was much-needed. The Tigers had lost their previous three games against in-state opponents. Travis Sawchik from the Charleston Post and Courier wrote about the increasing contributions of Clemson’s freshmen. Rod Hall, T.J. Sapp, K.J. McDaniels and Bernard Sullivan combined to shoot 5-of-11 from the floor (3-of-5 from three).
One of Alabama State’s wins came on the road against Isiah Thomas’s Florida International squad. But the Hornets lost two of their next three to Stephen F. Austin and St. Louis, scoring a combined 83 points in both games.
Prediction: Clemson 72, Alabama State 56
Random: Per Wikipedia, singer Clarence Carter is among Alabama State’s notable alumni, which allows me to link this.
Alabama A&M (2-4) at Georgia Tech (6-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
The Yellow Jackets played well in wins over Georgia and Savannah State. Against Savannah State, Glen Rice, Jr. played 27 minutes and had a season-low six points on just five shots; he hadn’t attempted fewer than 10 all season. Head coach Brian Gregory has been playing him some at the point guard spot. It’s not a natural position for Rice, who is used to being a wing scorer.
“When he plays (point guard), he becomes even more focused and more concentrated on what needs to be done,” Gregory said. “That’s helped him when he moves back to the wing spot where now his job sometimes is simple, we need him to score some points. But he is making better decisions al the way around because of his time at the time point.”
Alabama A&M is much worse than Savannah State; the Bulldogs have averaged 48.7 points in losses to Alabama, South Alabama and Michigan.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 75, Alabama A&M 51
Random: Alabama A&M’s notable alumni include Robert Mathis (of the Indianapolis Colts), John Stallworth (NFL Hall of Famer) and Ruben Studdard (former American Idol winner).
Last week: 8-1
While this slow weekend schedule in terms of non-conference games won’t do much to enhance the ACC’s image, it can improve its awful non-conference record (75-39). And N.C. State has the opportunity to pull off a huge upset at home against No. 1 Syracuse.
Florida Atlantic (4-6) vs. Miami (5-4), Sunrise, Fla., 12:00 PM, FSN
Miami had a rough weekend as it lost its second straight non-conference game, this time at West Virginia. It’s easy to harp on Reggie Johnson’s absence as the reason for Miami’s struggles. But his impact has been felt: two of Miami’s last four opponents have shot better 63% from two-point range. But big man Kenny Kadji has progressed well, averaging 12 points in the last three games on 65% shooting. And Johnson may return on Saturday,per The Palm Beach Post.
Florida Atlantic is 4-6, but the Owls have lost just twice by double digits and just once by more than 20 (at Kansas). They nearly upset Washington in Seattle only to fall by six points. Last week, FAU lost 75-68 at No. 16 Mississippi State but led in the second half. Miami has been on a bad skid lately and and if the Hurricanes aren’t careful, they’ll lose this one, too.
Prediction: Miami 71, Florida Atlantic 61
Random: Florida Atlantic coach Mike Jarvis should eventually join Lefty Driesell as one of two coaches to win 100 or more games at four different schools. He’s already one of eight head coaches to have 100 or more wins at three schools (Boston, George Washington, St. John’s). Jarvis is 364-201 and 45-59 at FAU.
Campbell (8-2) at Virginia Tech (7-3), 4:00 PM, ESPN3
The Tech Hoops blog posted notes from Seth Greenberg’s radio show, including the head coach defending the playing time of seniors Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila. Davila was never supposed to be an offensive threat and has seen his playing time reduced, but Hudson is averaging 30.8 minutes and 10.8 points on 38% shooting (23% from three). He hasn’t shot over 33.3% in a game since November 23rd (13-of-52 in six games since). Greenberg said that he wants Hudson to be more aggressive on offense. With a week off, maybe he will be.
Campbell has some firepower, but lost on Wednesday on the road by 11 to…Houston Baptist. Ew. For a more detailed preview of the Camels, check out Tech Hoops’ write-up. With a week to prepare, the Hokies should win.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 83, Campbell 75
Random: Despite its record, Campbell is 206th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. The Camels have won at Iowa but that is their best win. Three wins have come over non Division-I teams and the average ranking of a team they have beaten is 252.7. Houston Baptist, one of Campbell’s losses, is 327th.
Winthrop (4-6) at Clemson (4-4), 4:30 PM, RSN
In the loss at Arizona last Saturday, Clemson set offense back decades by scoring 47 points and shooting 37% from two-point range (31.7% overall). The Tigers are averaging a paltry 13 free throw attempts per game and had just five at Arizona. Andre Young had 17 points, but big men Devin Booker and Milton Jennings combined to shoot 5-of-16 from the floor, scoring just 13 points in 52 minutes with nether recording a steal or a block.
Clemson’s defense is struggling; they allowed 51% shooting to Arizona to and 42% to South Carolina. College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina combined to shoot 50% in wins over Clemson. Winthrop beat Presbyterian earlier this week, and the Blue Hose beat South Carolina, which beat Clemson. By transitive property, Clemson could lose. But it won’t.
Prediction: Clemson 62, Winthrop 51
Random: Patrick Finley at the Arizona Daily Star wrote a nice article on Clemson’s Tanner Price, who reaches out to children with cancer with “Tanner’s Totes”.
Appalachian State (4-5) at North Carolina (8-2), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
The Tar Heels had their best shooting performance in six games against Long Beach State last week (51.5%). Carolina had its worst defensive performances of the year, allowing 47% shooting and its second-highest point total allowed (78). Former Tar Heel Jason Capel will come back to Chapel Hill on Saturday night as the head coach of Appalachian State. His team has been competitive, losing by just 14 at Minnesota, but also has losses to East Tennessee State (twice) and East Carolina (by 20). But Capel’s team has struggled to score, averaging 52 points in the last two games. Carolina really won’t be tested until Texas comes to the Smith Center next Wednesday.
Prediction: North Carolina 102, Appalachian State 69
Random: Former Ohio State benchwarmer Mark Titus is writing at Grantland and in his top 12 rankings, he eviscerates Carolina’s collective defensive effort. While complimenting the effort of guys like Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock and Justin Watts, he says it’s Harrison Barnes’s lack of consistent effort that holds the Tar Heels back:
Harrison Barnes … is one of the five best players in America. He should set the tone for the Heels, but he’s so blatantly disinterested in defense that I literally started laughing at one point while watching the Kentucky game. For most of the game he stood straight up on defense, got lost on screens, didn’t close out hard to shooters, played no help-side defense, showed no understanding of helping the helper, allowed his man to dribble penetrate way too easily, and didn’t seem to care about blocking out. Outside of UConn’s Jeremy Lamb and … Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas, there isn’t a guy in college basketball I’d rather watch on offense than Barnes, but his lack of defensive effort was a huge disappointment. It’s keeping him from being a truly special player, and keeping Carolina from being a dominant team.
Syracuse (10-0) at N.C. State (6-3), 6:30 PM, ESPN2
Akula Wolf over at Backing the Pack wrote a nice preview (complete with funny pictures). The key to this game will be Scott Wood – against the Orange’s long and active zone, he will have to knock down three’s. He has 25 of N.C. State’s 45 made three-pointers this year, and while he shoots 57% from three, his teammates shoot 20-of-90 (22.2%). Wood has to stay out of foul trouble, something he hasn’t been able to do in the Wolfpack’s most important games to date.
The Wolfpack will also have to take care of the ball – Syracuse likes to get out in transition. As Luke Winn points out in his latest power rankings, sixth-man guard Dion Waiters is great at getting steals. N.C. State has turned it over an average of just 15 times a game in three losses but opponents have averaged 20 points off of those miscues.
This is Syracuse’s first true non-conference road game in 1,092 days (per Joe Lunardi of ESPN bracketology). Besides beating Florida at home, the Orange really haven’t been tested. But N.C. State isn’t good enough yet on defense to win a game like this, even at home.
Prediction: Syracuse 85, N.C. State 79
Random: N.C. State is 5-25 all-time against the nation’s No. 1 team; the last win came over Duke in 2004 in the RBC Center. The Wolfpack have beaten No. 1 North Carolina three times (they were not ranked any of those times). The other win over No. 1 came in the 1983 national championship against Houston.
Last Week: 9-1
Season Record: 19-10
Boston College (2-7) vs. Stony Brook (3-4), 12/11, 5:00 PM (No TV, thankfully)
Last in the ACC in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive and defensive rankings (and points per possession scored/allowed), Boston College has to thank the basketball gods for Utah. The 1-7 Utes are easily the worst major-conference team in the country, but BC is trying to make it competitive. And why not? The Eagles haven’t been competitive in many other basketball-related contests.
Boston College blog Soaring to Glory has an interesting look at BC’s season thus far (if games were ten minutes, the Eagles might be undefeated!). If there is a bright side, BC has cut way back on its turnovers (just 11.5 per game in the last two after averaging 16 in the first seven). So there’s that. Oh, and 40% from three against Providence was BC’s best percentage since the season-opener.
Boston College was competitive with Providence but fell apart in the second half, a trend for the Eagles all year. And their shooting from inside the arc against the Friars (9-of-31, 29%) was their season low and perhaps a program low moment in a deeper sense. That is just awful. North Carolina’s length and athleticism hass held just one opponent to a mark that low (Evansville, 28.2%).
BC head coach Steve Donahue has used a different lineup in almost every game to see what works (10 different starters in nine games), and this is a team that will get better throughout the year once he finds the best mix. But that means one, maybe two ACC wins. And as of right now, it’s not helping the Eagles find a rhythm.
The Stony Brook Seawolves have lost by 30 at Indiana, by 11 at Sacred Heart, by five at Northwestern and by three at Eastern Illinois. Ken Pomeroy has Boston College ranked at 266th and Stony Brook at 146th.
Prediction: Stony Brook 66, Boston College 57
Random: A Seawolf is not a real animal – that we know of. It is, however, a “mythical sea creature of the Tlingit tribe, said to bring good luck to all those fortunate enough to see it.” I don’t think Boston College will feel that way when they meet multiple Seawolves on Sunday.
Florida State (6-3) vs. UNCG (2-7), 12/11, 1:00 PM, RSN
Jeremy Lundblad from ESPN’s College Basketball Nation Blog had an interesting tidbit on Florida State’s turnover issues. As he pointed out, the Seminoles played Charleston Southern, whose average player height was around 6-2 while FSU is the third-tallest team in the country (average nearly 6-7). Yet the Seminoles had 21 turnovers (23.6% loss of ball) and are averaging 18.2 per game, 327th in the country. It’s been a team effort – of the eight Seminoles averaging at least 15 minutes, six average at least two turnovers a game. Only point guard Jeff Peterson (1.8) and Terrance Shannon (1.3) are under that mark. Even Deividas Dulkys, an experienced player, has had issues – he had a team-high six turnovers in 20 minutes against Charleston Southern.
This wouldn’t be as bad if the Seminoles’ pace allowed for these kinds of turnover issues, but tempo-free, they are last in the ACC with a nearly 22% loss of ball. That’s over a fifth of FSU’s possessions that don’t even result in a shot attempt. The Seminoles haven’t had a 25% or higher loss of ball but they have flirted with it, notching 22% or more six times in nine games so far. The lowest loss of ball they have had is 17.4% in the season-opener against Jacksonville; six ACC teams have a lower season average.
If you take out all the possessions that FSU has turned it over on offense, they average 1.03 points per possession. Unfortunately, those wasted possessions count too. And that’s why FSU is 11th in the league in points per possession, ahead of only Boston College. Fortunately for the Seminoles, its defense is still fantastic, leading the league in PPP allowed (0.67) and ranking second in loss of ball forced (20.9%). And they will be playing UNC-G on Sunday and have a chance to develop some good habits before point guard Ian Miller hopefully returns to the team in January. The Spartans have been scrappy in the past, but not this year.
Prediction: Florida State 83, UNC-G 56
Random: UNC-G must be masochistic, because the Spartans have traveled to Tennessee, Georgetown, Boone and Cullowhee (all losses), not to mention losing two in the Greensboro Coliseum twice to nearby foes North Carolina A&T and Elon. The Spartans have wins over UNC-Pembroke and Towson. Former Tar Heels Wes Miller and J.B. Tanner are on the UNC-G staff.
N.C. State (5-3) vs. North Carolina Central (5-4), 12/11, 3:00 PM, RSN
N.C. State’s defense hasn’t been great, but fouls have become a bigger problem. Opponents are averaging 25 free throw attempts per game on 20.0 N.C. State fouls. Even Lorenzo Brown fouled out against Stanford; he had five fouls for the season entering that game. Forward Richard Howell has had three or more fouls in six of N.C. State’s eight games and even the heady C.J. Williams has fouled out (against Vanderbilt).
Scott Wood is the main culprit, averaging 3.1 fouls per game. Taking out Princeton (he played two minutes before getting hurt), he has averaged 3.7 fouls. While he might feel the fouls are bad calls (which he makes known to the officials, and that certainly isn’t helping), he constantly puts himself in bad positions. His fifth foul against Indiana was a questionable flagrant foul call, but considering he has three or more fouls in five of the six games he has finished this year, at some point it becomes a pattern. He fouled out against Stanford on another questionable double foul call, but he put himself in a position to get that whistle as well. Wood has made 20-of-35 three’s this year (57%) while his teammates have combined to shoot 18-of-76 (23.6%).
At the beginning of the year, unsure of how N.C. State would look, this felt like a game the Wolfpack could win narrowly or even lose. It’s worth noting that N.C. Central is 7th nationally in field goal percentage (52.2%). Central is really improving, dropping games at Wake (by 14), at Wagner (by four) and at UNC-Charlotte (by 16). But they have just one Division-I victory and N.C. State is more talented overall, particularly offensively. This should be a confidence-rebuilding game for N.C. State but if they don’t take Central seriously with weapons like Kansas State transfer Dominique Sutton (17.3 ppg, 65% shooting) and Ray Willis (17.1 ppg, 56% shooting), they could be in trouble.
Prediction: NC State 88, NCCU 63
Random: Central head man LaVelle Moton has a very entertaining Twitter feed (@LaVelleMoton). A lot of former area players have relationships with him, and he even sent this YouTube link to North Carolina’s Sean May to poke a little fun at Raymond Felton. He’s worth a follow, with plenty of motivational Tweets and he has a lot of thoughts on basketball, including this about David Stern vetoing the Chris Paul trade:
@LeVelleMoton David Stern “No one man should have all that Power”…(Kanye Voice)
Virginia Tech (6-3) vs. Norfolk State (6-3), 12/11, 4:00 PM
After disappointing back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Kansas State, it felt like Virginia Tech might lose at Rhode Island. But head coach Seth Greenberg’s teams don’t quit and the Hokies won, 78-67. They still are bound for the NCAA Tournament bubble yet again with no more high-profile non-conference win chances left.
From Tech Hoops, Erick Green came off the bench for the first time this year against Rhode Island because of “the manner in which he was carrying himself.” Despite that, the junior had 24 points off the bench on 10-of-14 shooting. He has been by far Tech’s most efficient offensive threat, averaging 17.1 points on 49% shooting (50% from three). He has shot below 50% just twice this year.
Dorenzo Hudson has been strug-uh-ling this year, shooting 39% (25% from three). It’s puzzling – he averaged 17.8 ppg in the first four games and was shooting 21-of-37 (nearly 57%) and 5-of-13 from three, also averaging 6.8 free-throw attempts per game. Since, he has 30 total points in the last five games (6.0 per game) and has shot 10-of-42 from the field, 2-of-15 from three and has 10 free-throw attempts in five games. They need him because the perimeter will have to carry this team.
Norfolk State seems like a pushover opponent, but the Spartans reached the finals of the Paradise Jam (in which Virginia lost to TCU), losing to No. 11 Marquette by two points. Since, the Spartans have won three of four, but committed 34 turnovers in a loss at home to Elizabeth City State.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 75, Norfolk State 53