Erick Green, Virginia Tech
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Shane Larkin, Miami
Richard Howell, N.C. State
Joe Harris, Virginia
This was pretty straightforward, with respect to Seth Curry and Reggie Bullock, both of whom I thought deserved a spot. Ultimately, there wasn’t enough space.
Seth Curry, Duke
Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Kenny Kadji, Miami
Akil Mitchell, Virginia
Lorenzo Brown, N.C. State
P.J. Hairston, North Carolina
Devin Booker, Clemson
Ryan Anderson, Boston College
Quinn Cook, Duke
Michael Snaer, Florida State
Toughest omissions: Durand Scott (Miami), Dez Wells (Maryland), C.J. Harris (Wake Forest), C.J. Leslie (N.C. State), James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina), Alex Len (Maryland).
Full disclosure: I’m a big believer in tempo-free stats, and those omissions came from a combination of those and, you know, the eye test. I watched a lot of ACC games this year. Consistency also played a role, and defense.
Olivier Hanlan, Boston College
T.J. Warren, N.C. State
Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech
Toughest omissions: Devin Thomas (Wake Forest), Robert Carter Jr. (Georgia Tech), Joe Rahon (Boston College).
Daniel Miller, Georgia Tech
Julian Gamble, Miami
Durand Scott, Miami
Michael Snaer, Florida State
Tyler Thornton, Duke
Toughest omissions: Reggie Bullock (North Carolina), Jontel Evans (Virginia), Akil Mitchell (Virginia), Rod Hall (Clemson).
This was the most difficult category for me, and I don’t have a problem admitting that some of those picks might have been wrong.
Freshman of the Year: T.J. Warren, N.C. State.
Consistency and efficiency won the day here, as Warren edged Hanlan of BC. Sulaimon has recently hit the freshman wall, as most freshmen tend to, but he was taken out of the starting lineup and has generally looked frustrated while the other two are closing strongly. Warren was very good most of the year and is starting to hit his stride as a starter, which is part of what put him over the top for me.
Defensive Player of the Year: Julian Gamble, Miami.
I honestly had no idea what to do here, but Gamble has done a great job bothering opposing big men all year and has been very difficult to score against. And considering how much Miami’s defensive numbers have dropped since Gamble left the starting lineup/saw his minutes decrease in favor of Reggie Johnson only helped solidify that opinion. But I am very willing to admit I might have been wrong.
Coach of the Year: Jim Larranaga, Miami.
This seemed like a no-brainer until very recently, when it looked like Miami might not win the outright ACC regular-season title. Still, a weak ending to the season doesn’t take away from the body of work. And he has had this Miami team playing defense at a very high level, believing in each other and being unselfish. They’ve been very tough to beat most of this year, and he’s a big reason for that. Sure, they’re older, and experienced. But Frank Haith had older, tough-minded teams at Miami. They didn’t play like this.
(Side note: Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and Tony Bennett also did some nice things this season.)
Player of the Year: Erick Green, Virginia Tech.
A lot of my case was made for Green here, but I’ll add this: the ACC Player of the Year award is not the Most Valuable Player. If it were, I would have gone with Shane Larkin. Green averages nearly double the amount of points as Larkin, is more efficient and has a higher assist rate despite having MUCH worse teammates. Larkin’s a better defender, but not significantly.
I tend to err on the side of picking a POY from a winning ACC team, preferably a team that wins the league (or at least a top-five team). It takes a very strong effort from a guy on a last-place team (or close to last) to even merit consideration, much less win it. He has to be significantly ahead of the pack. And Green was that guy to me, based on a combination of statistics and my judgment from watching him.
He did all he could to make his teammates better (compared to another high-volume scorer from last year, about whom his coach said “I can’t coach him”). That, combined with no one else on the top-five teams jumping up to grab the award (at least in my estimation), led to my vote. Reasonable minds can disagree, of course.
Santa Clara (11-2) at No. 1 Duke (11-0), 12:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: Santa Clara’s Mark Trasolini versus Ryan Kelly. He’s not the Broncos’ leading scorer, but the 6-9 senior forward is the most efficient scorer, averaging 16.3 points on 57% shooting. In Santa Clara’s two losses, he has shot just 3-of-10 from the floor. In the last three games, he has averaged 23.7 points on over 68% shooting, adding 4-of-6 three-pointers, 7.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. Duke’s Ryan Kelly has held some good opposing big men (and versatile big men at that) to low point totals this year, and Duke’s going to need his defense yet again against a sneaky-good Santa Clara squad.
Random Santa Clara facts: In the mid-1960s, Santa Clara had a live bronco (briefly) that was so strong, he could pull a section of folded bleachers unassisted. The handler discovered this after he tied him to the bleachers while he went to get a hot dog, only to come back when he heard the crowd roaring as the bronco was running across the field). At least they were empty?
Prediction: Duke, 95-73. Both of Santa Clara’s losses have come in overtime, but their best win was over St. Louis early this year. Still, the Broncos have had a relatively easy time of it since and have dominated some decent teams. But this is at Duke, and the Blue Devils are rolling.
Western Michigan (8-4) at No. 23/25 NC State (9-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: The foul line. If there’s been an area to quibble with NC State offensively this year, it’s the free-throw shooting. The Wolfpack is one of the most efficient teams in the league offensively, and would probably hold the league’s top mark in that category if it could shoot free throws. NC State has hit the 70% mark from the line just three times this season and is shooting 64% on the year, good for 282nd nationally according to Ken Pomeroy. But their free-throw rate is top-50 nationally, and the offense is predicated on being aggressive and getting to the line. If State stops leaving points at the foul line, its offense – which is already scary good – will become even more so.
Random Western Michigan facts: WMU used to be known as the Hilltoppers, but that led to some understandable confusion with fellow Hilltopper schools. (Also, WMU expanded beyond the hills and their tops.) They adopted the Bronco in the late 1980s, and he looks….well….sleepy.
And if you needed to know anything about parking on WMU’s campus (and ridiculously short shorts), check out this 1982 video! (Side note: I think Buster Bronco finds this video HILARIOUS. No reason.)
Prediction: NC State, 87-63. Even if the Wolfpack shows up sluggish after the holiday break, Western Michigan isn’t the type of team that can take advantage of its weaknesses.
Delaware State (5-7) at Maryland (10-1), 12:30 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Maryland’s turnovers. The Terrapins don’t force a lot of turnovers, and they don’t have to because their defense is good enough. But they can’t afford to keep turning it over, either. Maryland’s defense has the lowest loss of ball percentage in the league (12.7%), but their 0.746 PPP allowed is one of the best marks. Still, Maryland’s loss of ball on offense (18.82%) is only better than Wake Forest and Florida State so far this year. Maryland has shown a tendency to get sloppy at times this year. If they want to be an upper-echelon ACC team (and they’re more than capable of being just that), they won’t be able to get away with turning it over on nearly a fifth of their offensive possessions.
Random Delaware State facts: Delaware State has tweaked its mascot in recent years, and the current hornet iteration is known as “Too-Fly”. And he had a high standard of flyness to live up to:
Prediction: Maryland, 87-65. The Hornets did knock off in-state rival Delaware recently (side note: things have gone downhill from the Blue Hens since beating UVa). But half of their wins are against non-Division I opponents.
Florida State (7-4) vs. Tulsa (7-5), 2:00 PM, FSN (Sunrise, FL)
What to watch: Has Michael Snaer flipped the switch? The senior guard sat out FSU’s win against Louisiana-Monroe due to “disciplinary reasons”, and whatever his head coach Leonard Hamilton did or said seems to have worked. He’s always been an elite defender, and it’s been obvious that he has struggled to take on his newfound role as an assertive scorer. But he has to do that for Florida State to win, and he did against Charlotte last week. He had 30 points on 8-of-19 shooting, his best shooting percentage since late November. In his last two games he has played in – Charlotte and Maine – he has taken 37 shots, a third of his season total. In FSU’s losses, he has shot nearly five fewer times on average than in FSU’s wins. And he’s going to have to keep it up as his young teammates come along.
Random Tulsa facts: The Golden Hurricane mascot used to be an actual hurricane. Now, it’s “Captain Cane”, who carries a a “hurricane-summoning sword” and wears “energy-sourcing thunder boots”. Well, okay then. The change was made when current UNC AD Bubba Cunningham was the AD at Tulsa.
Prediction: Florida State, 76-68. Without the loss to Mercer, maybe FSU wouldn’t seem like its struggling so much. The Seminoles would have then only lost to Minnesota and Florida since their season-opening loss to South Alabama. Sadly, Mercer ddi happen, and so did some struggles against Maine and Louisiana Monroe. Still, Tulsa hasn’t beaten anyone as good as FSU this year.
Holy Cross (7-5) at Boston College (6-5), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: BC’s freshmen. Joe Rahon and Olivier Hanlan have combined to play nearly a third of BC’s available minutes this year (and attempt nearly a third of their shots), but neither have shot particularly well, especially lately. Obviously, both have to play but Hanlan is shooting just 16-of-51in the last four games and Rahon is shooting 7-of-31 in the last three. Both are going to continue to play a lot – and take a lot of shots – but at some point it would help the Eagles if they start, you know, making a few more.
Random Holy Cross facts: Why is Holy Cross known as the Crusaders? If you know anything about history, it’s fairly obvious. Let’s just watch some knight videos.
Now stand aside, worthy adversary. …. Runnin’ away, eh?
Also….NI! BRING HOLY CROSS PLAYERS A SHRUBBERY!
And then there’s this.
BC had just better make sure they choose, and choose wisely.
Prediction: Boston College, 61-55. When Boston College beat Providence last week, it was the highest-ranked Ken Pomeroy team (62nd) the Eagles had beaten since knocking off then-No. 24 FSU on February 8, 2012 (of course, BC won only nine games last season). So, progress?
No. 20/17 UNLV (11-1) at North Carolina (9-3), 2:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: Carolina’s bigs versus UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebs will be shorthanded as forward Mike Moser should miss the game with a dislocated elbow (he’s listed as questionable), and he had 16 points and 18 rebounds in UNLV’s upset win over UNC last season. Freshman forward Anthony Bennett leads the nation’s rookies in scoring, averaging 19.5 points per game and 8.5 rebounds. They have plenty of other capable big men, including versatile Khem Birch, a Pitt transfer who can shoot three’s, and senior Quintrell Thomas. UNC’s rotating group of centers: Joel James, Desmond Hubert and Brice Johnson – haven’t been all that consistent or effective, and James Michael McAdoo has struggled against some big-time opponents. The Tar Heels will have their hands full with one of the best players in the nation in Bennett, not to mention his teammates.
Reggie Bullock. There weren’t many positives Carolina could take from its loss to Texas, but Carolina’s junior leader stepping up and attempting a season-high 17 shots should be one of them. He wasn’t great – he hit just six of those attempts – but he got to the line six times (also a season-high) and for the first time, he showed he’s willing to be the guy who steps up in big moments for Carolina. Just because he steps up doesn’t mean he’ll come through, or that Carolina will win. But someone has to be willing to do it consistently.
Random UNLV facts: UNLV adopted the Rebel nickname because they were “rebelling” against the flagship, Nevada-Reno. They adopted a shark mascot in honor of former head coach Jerry “The Shark” Tarkanian, but that has since gone away. But at least it gives us a chance to link these awesome videos!
The landshark eats someone.
Which also allows us to link this, one of the best SNL skits ever.
Prediction: UNLV, 77-72. The Tar Heels really need this win, but I haven’t seen anything from them so far to lead me to believe they’ll get it.
Virginia Tech (9-3) at BYU (9-4), 2:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Tempo. The Hokies want to go up-tempo, but can they really hang with a team like BYU? The Cougars are not a great team this year, but they’re good enough and still one of the fastest teams in the country. Virginia Tech has shown flashes of being good in transition, but the Hokies are dangerously thin and that sort of tempo might wear them down.
Anyone other than Erick Green. Seriously. Anyone. Here’s a stat comparison for you from the last three games:
A: 33-63 FG (52.4%), 4-15 3-pt (26.7%), 15-20 FT (75.0%), 85 points (28.3 ppg)
B: 36-114 FG (31.6%), 12-49 3-pt (24.5%), 22-38 FT (57.9%), 106 points (35.3 ppg)
“A” is Green. “B” is the rest of his teammates combined. Yeah. Cadarian Rains had a good game against Bradley, but was a combined 1-of-3 in the other two games sandwiching it. Robert Brown has made just four of his last 30 field-goal attempts and has ten points in the last four games. Jarrell Eddie has been up and down, but at least he’s hit double figures in three straight games. Freshman forward Marshall Wood broke his foot and while he wasn’t a huge contributor (5.8 points), he was averaging 18 minutes. The Hokies weren’t deep to begin with: Christian Beyer, a seldom-used reserve until recently, has seen 52 minutes in the last two games (he still has not made a field goal this year).
Random BYU facts: BYU is not going to change its Cougar mascot anytime soon, but it’s already being rejected as a high school mascot because of its offensive connotations. For those of you who don’t know what a cougar refers to, it’s…forget it, I’ll refer you to Urban Dictionary.
Prediction: BYU, 89-68. Just difficult to see the Hokies being able to win this one with as badly as their supporting cast has looked recently.
Fordham (3-9) at Georgia Tech (8-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Some semblance of an offense for Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech is one of the beat teams in the country defensively this year (statistically), but the offense is still coming around. As the From the Rumble Seat blog points out, Georgia Tech is starting to shoot better. But the Yellow Jackets being without Jason Morris (plantar fasciatis) and incorporating some new pieces hasn’t made it any easier, either. Georgia Tech doesn’t have a great win, but it doesn’t have a bad loss. Win these last two non-conference games, make some noise in the ACC and the Yellow Jackets could be looking at an NCAA Tournament bid. If they can get to even a decent level offensively, they could be tough to beat.
Random Fordham facts: The ram nickname came from an 1893 football game, when the students chanted “One dam, two dams, three dams, FORDHAM!” The Jesuit staff didn’t care for that kind of foul language, so they changed “dam” to “ram”. They’ve had live rams over the years, and in the late 1950’s, one of said rams lived in a “1,200-cubic-foot brick hut” built by Grace Kelly’s father. That same ram liked to enjoy “a lager or two” after games in his elaborate Ram Mansion.
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 84-55. Fordham is awful, but especially defensively. Georgia Tech should put up some points.
Wofford (6-6) at Virginia (9-3), 1:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: UVa’s big men. Virginia made just 38% of its two-pointers in the loss to Old Dominion, a season-low. A big reason for that is how much their starting frontcourt, Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins, struggled. Both have been much-improved this year, but Mitchell shot just 3-of-10 and had eight points (just his second time this season in single digits) and Atkins was 2-of-6 for four points, his fewest since November 12. Both of them combined shot worse from inside the arc than their teammates combined. Wofford is not a defensive juggernaut by any means, but the reason UVa had started to play so well this season was the improvement of Mitchell and Atkins. The Cavaliers will struggle to beat even decent teams like Wofford – and particularly in ACC play – if that doesn’t continue.
Random Wofford facts: We’ve covered the origin of the Terrier here before, and yes, it’s one of the cutest mascots around. So instead of that, here are Wofford students teaching rats to play basketball!
Prediction: UVa, 61-49. In an under-the-radar result, Wofford beat Xavier last Saturday. Virginia hasn’t looked very good as of late. But every time we want to count the Cavaliers out, they win a game they have to win, and this one qualifies.
Last week: 10-4
East Carolina (6-1) at No. 21/18 North Carolina (7-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Can UNC get to the free-throw line? It’s downright bizarre to see a North Carolina team struggle to get to the foul line like this one is, but the Tar Heels are 345th nationally (per Ken Pomeroy) in free-throw rate. ECU’s opponents have a very high free-throw rate and score 23% of their points from the foul line. Carolina hasn’t scored 23% of its points from the foul line in any game all year. Carolina hasn’t shot well from the line on the year – just 62% – but they’re going to need to be more aggressive to diversity their offense. In the last two games, despite having a size/athleticism advantage, Carolina has attempted 38% of its shots from three.
Random East Carolina facts: This is the first time ECU and North Carolina have played in the regular season since 1953, when Frank McGuire was still a relatively new coach at UNC. The teams are playing again because ECU is coached by former Tar Heel Jeff Lebo, who played point guard from 1986-89. … The Pirates started this season 5-0, and it’s only the second time they’ve done that since joining Division I.
Prediction: North Carolina, 85-61. It’s hard to know how good East Carolina is. They beat a pretty solid UNCG team and a decent Georgia State team on the road, but half of the Pirates’ wins are against non-Division I opponents. Before UNC’s final stretch of very tough non-conference games, the Tar Heels desperately need a confidence-boosting win here.
Georgia Southern (3-5) at Virginia Tech (8-1), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Anyone besides Erick Green. The junior point guard has nearly 30% of Virginia Tech’s points this season, but his teammates have still played well, which is a big reason Virginia Tech has gotten off to a good start. But in the last few games, one or both of his teammates have struggled and as a result, Virginia Tech has had its worst two shooting performances of the year. Green had 23 points against Mississippi Valley State on 8-of-13 shooting. His teammates combined for 47 points on 32% shooting (and just 1-of-11 from three). That can’t happen against a good team, and guys like Jarrell Eddie, Robert Brown and Cadarian Raines – who combined for 12 points on 4-of-20 shooting against MVSU – need to step up again and help ease Green’s burden.
Random Georgia Southern facts: Shocking that a school is allowed to have a live bald eagle mascot in this day and age, but Freedom is still with us. Of course, as live birds are want to do, he has flown away before.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 74-52. Georgia Southern is one of the slower-tempo teams in the country, and they’re going to try to ugly it up against the Hokies. But it won’t be nearly enough.
Norfolk State (6-6) at No. 25 NC State (6-2), 4:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: NC State’s focus. NC State is coming off of a week of taking their final exams, and they have a big game against Stanford looming on Tuesday. Norfolk State is not especially good at anything in particular, but the Spartans can get offensive rebounds and get to the line quite a bit. They’ve been scrappy against some good teams (a 13-point loss at Seton Hall and a 10-point loss at Illinois), so NC State’s going to have to stay disciplined to put them away comfortably, as they should.
Random Norfolk State facts: I could have scoured the internet for the exactly origins of the NSU Spartan mascot. Or I could just give you this video of the Spartan twerking. You’re welcome.
Prediction: NC State, 82-60. Norfolk State has hung around with some good opponents this year (a 13-point loss at Seton Hall and a 10-point loss at Illinois), but their best win is against Savannah State. So, yeah.
Florida A&M (4-6) at Clemson (5-3), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: The defensive boards. Clemson has been excellent defensively in almost every area but that one, and it came back to haunt them against Arizona as they gave up 20 offensive rebounds while pulling down just 21 defensive boards. Clemson’s a relatively slow-paced team and not particularly explosive offensively, so they can’t afford to give up second and third opportunities to any team, even Florida A&M.
Random Florida A&M facts: Florida A&M has perhaps the No. 1 mascot in all the power rankings, a rattlesnake. Known as the Rattlers because their campus was once infested with them, they have (or had?) a costumed mascot named “Venom”. And then it mysteriously went missing. Two words you never want to see near each other? “Rattlesnake” and “missing”.
And from FAMU’s band, here’s “Hay” by Crucial Conflict:
Prediction: Clemson, 79-53. Florida A&M has four wins, and two of them are against teams called Edward Waters and Allen.
New Hampshire (4-5) at Boston College (4-5), 1:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: BC’s three-point percentage. The Eagles are very reliant on the three-pointer, and New Hampshire is fourth in the country in three-point defense (22.4% allowed). BC scores nearly 30% of its points from three. If they end up losing, it’ll likely be because they couldn’t knock down outside shots.
Random New Hampshire facts: The Wildcats were very nearly called the Durham Bulls. Uh, that’s taken guys. But they have had a number of live wildcat mascots, a tradition that ended for good in the 1970s. Because it went about as well as you might expect.
With moderate success, the cats were controlled on the field with a chain leash and a stick, but none of the wildcats ever got used to the noise from the crowd or the band. The sight of the cringing, frightened animal was more distressing than inspiring to some of the football fans. … The last live wildcat, purchased in 1940, lived on campus for only a week before it died. The Blue Key vowed to replace it, but instead they took to heart the words from ‘A Student’ who wrote: “The well-intentioned persistence of Blue Key in attempting to keep a mascot not susceptible to domestication seems to many of us, in view of the net results, very unwise.”
Prediction: Boston College, 73-66. Please, BC. Seriously.
Last week: 12-1
Cleveland State (6-2) at No. 25/24 NC State (5-2), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: NC State’s three-point defense. NC State’s opponents are scoring nearly 32% of their points from behind the arc, even if they aren’t hitting a high percentage (33.1%). But in the last four games (all either close wins or losses), opponents have hit nearly 38 percent. UConn hit the lowest percentage (34.8%), but NC State also fouled UConn on a three-pointer twice in the final 3:09 (UConn hit four of those six free throws). Counting those, UConn scored over 43% of their points on three-point attempts. Cleveland State is hitting 36.7% of its three’s, and the Vikings are a solid team. If NC State doesn’t guard the three-point line, Cleveland State could keep the game close the same way UNC-Asheville did.
Random Cleveland State facts: Cleveland State was known as Fenn College from 1923-64, and when it was Fenn College, they were the Fenn Foxes. Now, they’re the Vikings. Boo. More teams besides Marist should be named “Fox”.
Also, look at these pranksters!
Prediction: NC State, 82-64. NC State won a tough game against Connecticut that they might not have a year ago. After some early tests, the Wolfpack is ready to win a game like this convincingly against a decent team at home.
South Carolina State (4-4) at Maryland (7-1), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Pe’Shon Howard. Howard has had a great season in terms of assists (49) and turnovers (15), but the junior point guard hasn’t made a shot since November 20th. He’s shooting just 3-of-21 this season. He played just nine minutes in the rout of UMES, but head coach Mark Turgeon said he was dealing with a stomach issue. Turgeon’s lineup tweaks seem more experimental, but Howard ideally needs to become a scoring threat. Freshman Seth Allen and even starting guard Nick Faust ran the point some against UMES. Howard is the best option, but if injury or illness keeps him out – as it has before – he could get Wally Pipped.
Random South Carolina State facts: Bulldogs? Not a great mascot. But the South Carolina State band/dancers/whatever brings it, always. I’m not sure they’ll bring these girls with them, which is probably for the best if Maryland doesn’t want to get distracted.
And this is officially my favorite band ever. Pretty Brown Eyes!
Prediction: Maryland, 95-63. The best team South Carolina State has played so far is Albany. They lost by 25 points. Also, Ken Pomeroy ranks 347 D-I schools. UMES is 345th. South Carolina State is 343rd.
St. Francis (NY) (2-4) at Boston College (3-5), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Boston College’s defense. Just, any defense would be fine. Harvard was pretty anemic offensively before hosting BC, when they put up 79 points and shot 55% from the floor. BC isn’t forcing many turnovers, so the least the Eagles have to do is guard the ball better. Or, just, at all. Or they’ll lose, even a game like this one.
Random St. Francis (NY) facts: I couldn’t find the reason that the school chose the Terrier mascot in 1933. So instead, I give you this:
In case y’all haven’t heard, though, the Terriers are coming. Or they were in 2010-11.
Prediction: Boston College, 71-65. The only team that has made easy work of St. Francis so far is Illinois. Army, Norfolk State and Albany beat St. Francis by a combined 18 points. This won’t be an easy one for BC. But then again, what game is?
No. 2 Duke (8-0) vs. Temple (6-0), 3:15 PM, ESPN (East Rutherford)
What to watch: How elite has Duke’s perimeter become? Mason Plumlee has been terrific this season, but the reason Duke has been great is because he has help. Last year, Duke lost to Temple and the Owls had five in double figures (led by two-guard Khalif Wyatt’s 22 points). Duke saw 33 of its 73 points scored by Mason and Miles Plumlee, who had 16 and 17, respectively. But no Blue Devil could slow down any of Temple’s guards, who did whatever they wanted offensively. All five of Duke’s guards had 28 points on 9-of-30 shooting.
This year, Duke has balance on both ends of the court. Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook have taken a lot of pride in defending on the perimeter, and Seth Curry has gotten better at it but is still limited physically. If Duke is going to be one of the nation’s best teams – which they look like right now – they’ll have to handle yet another tough test.
Random Temple facts: We’ve highlighted the Owl mascot in this space before. Fortunately for Temple’s mascot, it doesn’t live in Colombia. Or else it would have been kicked by this soccer player.
Hooter the Owl does celebrate its birthday every year, and other mascots come to join. There are some weird mascots out there.
Prediction: Duke, 81-70. This is just another stop on the Duke basketball revenge tour.
Mississippi Valley State (0-4) at Virginia (7-2), 4:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: The UVa freshmen. While they helped carry the team early, they haven’t been as efficient of late and as a result, haven’t played as much. Evan Nolte and Justin Anderson combined to average 14.3 points in 48.3 minutes in UVa’s first six games, but in the last three, they’ve combined for 6.7 points in just 25.3 minutes. Mike Tobey has played a total of 20 minutes in the last three games (after averaging 13.3 in the first six) and has just five points. Really, only backup point guard Teven Jones has seen consistent minutes, and that’s only because of the injury to starter Jontel Evans. This is the type of game that can allow the freshmen to get back on track, because UVa will need them going forward.
Random Mississippi Valley State facts: South Carolina State isn’t the only school with a great band/dancers.
Known as “The Mack of the SWAC”, Mississippi Valley State’s band even did a halftime performance blindfolded.
Prediction: Virginia, 73-47. Mississippi State is 0-4 this year and their closest loss was by 13 to Northwestern. It’s that bad. Although for some reason, the Delta Devils aren’t giving themselves a break – they’ll face Virginia Tech next, and won’t play a game they’re expected to win until early 2013, which will also be their first home game. Ouch.
Virginia Tech (7-0) at West Virginia (3-3), 4:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: Virginia Tech on the defensive glass. West Virginia retrieves nearly 41% of its available missed shots, while Virginia Tech is allowing opponents to get just 27.6% of their misses. Against their last two opponents, Virginia Tech has a defensive rebounding percentage of 75.3%, which is excellent. They’ll have to keep that up against the Mountaineers, who don’t often make their first attempt.
Erick Green. Can he keep carrying the Hokies? He was in foul trouble early against Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech trailed as a result. In 26 minutes, he had 28 points and seven rebounds, picking up just one more foul the rest of the way. He’s been phenomenal. But is it asking too much of him to continue being this brilliant? We’ll find out.
Random West Virginia facts: In 1998, a University of Miami assistant coach announced he was suing West Virginia for a 1996 incident where he was hit on the head with a trash can. He alleged that the university failed to adequately protect the visiting team. The injury was reported originally as a bruise, but the lawsuit said he was “severely and permanently” injured. He and West Virginia settled. That assistant coach? Randy Shannon.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 71-65. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I think the Hokies – should they still healthy – can beat anyone they play this year. West Virginia is a tough place to play, but the Mountaineers have not looked very good so far.
Seton Hall (6-2) at Wake Forest (4-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Seton Hall’s three-point percentage. The Pirates are making 38.9% of their three-pointers, 39th in the country, and scoring 36.6% of all their points from three. Wake Forest has been mediocre at best defending the three, but they’ve been better lately: Wake’s last four opponents have made 29.2% of their three’s. If Seton Hall goes crazy from three, Wake will be in danger of being blown out at home. But what else is new, I guess?
Random Seton Hall facts: As usual, the original nickname is often better than the current one: Seton Hall was known as the Villagers for awhile. And as usual, a sportswriter’s random naming of the team is the one that stuck.
Prediction: Seton Hall, 72-59. Seton Hall doesn’t have any great wins or awful losses, but Wake Forest has no good wins and some awful losses.
UNC Wilmington (4-4) at Georgia Tech (5-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Can Georgia Tech score? The Yellow Jackets are fantastic defensively yet again, but at some point, they’re going to have to put up points. They finally started hitting some three-pointers against Georgia, which is a good sign. But they only hit 7-of-27 two-point attempts, which is beyond terrible, and had just ten points in the paint. They’re going to have to develop something consistent on offense that ensures they won’t be in any 40-point affairs this year.
Random UNC Wilmington facts: The sea hawk mascot has gone through a lot of changes over the years, but the late 80’s version (see above) was probably my favorite. Although this one is also strong:
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 79-52. They’re hitting three-pointers now – the rest will come.
East Tennessee State (2-4) at No. 20/16 North Carolina (6-2), 7:30 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: North Carolina’s defense. UAB is an up-tempo squad that presented some matchup problems for North Carolina, but the Tar Heels still allowed the Blazers to score 84 points, the most they have allowed this year. UNC’s last four opponents have combined to shoot 45-of-106 (42.5%) from three and average 0.89 points per possession. In Carolina’s first four games, opponents shot 24% from three and averaged 0.65 points per possession. Obviously, the caliber of opponent was significantly different in the first four games than in the last four. But if this UNC team – which will be hot and cold offensively all year – doesn’t make defense a priority, they’re going to lose some games they shouldn’t. Not this one, but prioritizing defense starts in games like this.
Random East Tennessee State facts: It makes perfect sense that a pirate would be the mascot of a land-locked school in Tennessee. After all, an old pirate supposedly hid some of his gold there in a creek once. A creek that went all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. There’s a new pirate in town, and he has a blue face.
Prediction: North Carolina, 82-59. Fortunately for the Tar Heels, East Tennessee State is pretty bad offensively. They’ve had a week off, and while they may be rusty at first, they should still play good, hard-nosed defense.
No. 8 Arizona (6-0) at Clemson (5-2), ESPN2, 8:00 PM
What to watch: Clemson’s three-point defense. Arizona is scoring 33.7% of its points from three and making 41.7% of its three-point attempts, and they take a lot. Clemson is allowing just 30% shooting from three, but they haven’t played a great-shooting team so far. Still, Brad Brownell’s teams traditionally play very good defense, but Purdue went to Clemson and made 8-of-18 three’s (44.4%) in one of Clemson’s two losses. They’ll have to at least contest Arizona’s three’s to have a chance to knock off the Wildcats at home.
Clemson’s changing roster. Starting guard T.J. Sapp decided to transfer earlier this week. Will freshmen Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper be able to step up and fill that role, since they had already been getting the majority of Sapp’s minutes? Milton Jennings is expected to return to the lineup after a suspension. Will he be able to have an impact?
Random Arizona facts: Rufus, the first wildcat mascot, came to campus in 1915. The freshman football team raised the money ($9.91) to buy him. A little over a year later, though, this happened:
…while endeavoring to perform gymnastic stunts in the limbs of a tree to which he was tied, Rufus Arizona… fell and was hung.
Prediction: Arizona, 79-64. The Wildcats haven’t really beaten anyone good yet, and they’ve only played one team away from home. But they’ve beaten most opponents fairly handily and been incredibly efficient offensively. It would take quite the effort by Clemson to knock off Arizona, and they’re not nearly ready enough to do that.
Maine at Florida State (4-4), ESPNU, 4:00 PM
What to watch: FSU giving up extra possessions. Charting possessions using offensive rebounds as a possession (as I do), over 36% of FSU’s opponent’s possessions have come off of FSU turnovers or opponent offensive rebounds. Opponents have turned those into 0.96 points per possession. Florida scored 0.59 points per possession on possessions not off an FSU turnover or a Florida offensive rebound, but turned their offensive rebounds and FSU turnovers (35 total) into 46 points (1.3 per possession). Giving up a lot of opportunities to opponents has really hurt FSU so far, even against bad teams.
Random Maine facts: The Maine fight song was a No. 1 hit in 1930!
Prediction: Florida State, 84-61. No, seriously FSU. You need to win this one big.
Last week: 14-2
Delaware (2-5) at No. 2 Duke (7-0), 2:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: The minutes of Duke’s bench. Duke has seven players that Mike Krzyzewski trusts right now: his starters, Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton. That’s it. Against Ohio State, freshmen Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy played a combined six minutes. Coach K will not play a freshman for the sake of letting him learn if he’s not doing the right things in practice or in games. Games like today give Murphy and Jefferson a chance to prove they deserve minutes. Duke could use the depth, but Krzyzewski is not going to manufacture it.
Random Delaware facts: Monte’ Ross was hired as Delaware’s head coach in 2006, and it was the first time since the 1994 season that Delaware wouldn’t be coached by a former Mike Krzyzewski assistant. Current Notre Dame head coach and Krzyzewski assistant Mike Brey coached at Delaware from 1995-00. Former Duke guard (and assistant) David Henderson took over from 2000-06. …. Delaware still hasn’t played a home game this season, and won’t until December 4.
Prediction: Duke, 95-72. After Duke’s previous four-game stretch, this should be a breeze.
Miami (4-1) at Massachusetts (3-2), 2:00 PM, CBS SN
What to watch: Reggie Johnson. The senior center did not play against Jacksonville a few weeks ago because of a “sore tailbone”. After scoring 22 points against Stetson in the season-opener, he has 23 points total in three games since. Miami can win without him being a force, but it would be a lot easier if he could be more consistent.
Random Massachusetts facts: UMass is quite the stepping stone job. John Calipari, who took UMass to its only Final Four, left to go to the Nets in 1996. Bruiser Flint succeeded him, resigned in 2001 and went to Drexel, where he’s been since. Travis Ford was hired in 2005, had a good year and was snatched up by Oklahoma State. Steve Lappas is an interesting exception, hired in 2001 but basically let go in 2005. He had just one winning season. Before UMass, he took over at Villanova for his mentor, Rollie Massimino, who stopped speaking to him as a result. Also, people don’t seem to think he has the voice for his current job, a basketball analyst/studio commentator for CBS Sports Network.
Prediction: Miami, 73-61. I guess.
No. 15/17 Oklahoma State (5-0) at Virginia Tech (6-0), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Erick Green and Marcus Smart. Both have been spectacular this year. Smart hasn’t had a game as good as the one he had against NC State a few weeks ago (20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists), but he’s still been very good. And it appears that Virginia Tech’s up-tempo offense suits Green well.He’s averaging 24.3 points on 51% shooting. He has always put up a lot of points, but often had to take a lot of shots.
Random Oklahoma State facts: Pistol Pete might have a freakishly large head and creepy expression, but the character he’s based on is beyond awesome. Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton(1860-1958) saw his father murdered by “lawless former Confederates” when he was eight years old, so he basically tracked them all down and killed them. And he killed two of them before he turned 17. He also used to pick up lumps of coal with his feet.
Prediction: Oklahoma State, 81-80. Virginia Tech can win, but their defense is probably not far enough along yet. It should at least be a very entertaining game.
Green Bay (3-3) at Virginia (5-2), 4:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: UVa’s point guard situation. Senior point guard Jontel Evans is still coming back from injury, but freshman Teven Jones also made a somewhat recent return to the lineup (after suspension). UVa is 4-0 with Jones, and the freshman is averaging 6.3 points, 2.5 assists and a steal per game. Evans played 16 minutes against Wisconsin and didn’t score or record an assist. It’s going to be a process for him before he’s fully healthy, but Jones should still factor into the rotation.
Random Green Bay facts: Until Elon came along and ruined it, Green Bay was the only school to use the Phoenix as its mascot. That became the team name in 1970 after a schoolwide vote. But the alleged runner-up name, “Fighting Tomatoes”, would’ve been ever better. … This is a personal game for UVa head coach Tony Bennett, as Green Bay is both his and his father Dick Bennett’s alma mater.
Prediction: Virginia, 71-45. The Cavaliers have looked better and better since some of their pieces have returned to the lineup, and the win at Wisconsin on Wednesday night was big.
UAB (4-3) at No. 14/13 North Carolina (5-2), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: UNC’s veterans. For the Tar Heels to have success this season, their older players must play better. In the blowout loss at Indiana, no one seemed able to step up and make a play. James Michael McAdoo struggled (4-of-15 shooting), but his three older teammates – Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald – combined to shoot 9-of-24 and 0-of-4 from three. Bullock and McDonald were just 3-of-14, and Bullock in particular has been a non-factor too much this year. He’s used to deferring, but he simply can’t anymore.
Random UAB facts: UAB’s mascot is a dragon named….Blaze. No really, that’s its name. But perhaps the best-loved mascot was Beauregard T. Rooster, who performed at games from 1979-92. The San Diego Chicken sued for some sort of infringement. Seriously.
Prediction: North Carolina, 81-67. UAB’s squad is coached by former North Carolina assistant Jerod Haase in his first year as a head coach. The Blazers have been competitive against some good teams, and they won’t be afraid. But UNC should win this game at least somewhat comfortably.
Wake Forest (3-3) at Richmond (5-2), 6:00 PM
What to watch: Can Wake Forest play any defense? All signs point to ‘no’. Wake’s opponents this year are shooting 46% and averaging 74.2 points (in low-possession games). Offensive juggernauts like William and Mary and Nebraska have torched the Deacons’ defense so far this season. So a team that actually is pretty good offensively in Richmond shouldn’t have many problems. But if Wake Forest wakes up defensively, this game could at least be close.
Random facts: The question everyone wants to know: why the Spiders? Well, because of legendary pitcher Puss Ellyson’s “lanky arms and stretching kick”, of course! Oh. Also, Richmond revamped the mascot’s appearance in 2011 because fans were complaining that the mascot didn’t have eight legs. They should have complained that it looked like a ladybug:
Prediction: Richmond, 72-58. Go ACC!
Clemson (4-2) at South Carolina (5-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Clemson’s newcomers. In the loss to Purdue, Clemson’s freshmen (Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper) and transfer DeMarcus Harrison combined to shoot 4-of-17 from the floor. Without Milton Jennings, an offensively-challenged Clemson squad can’t afford to have those guys disappear, even against a bad South Carolina team.
Random facts: The costumed rooster we see today, “Cocky”, is supposedly the son of the original, “Big Spur”. He was booed off the field in his first appearance because fans thought he was “not dignified enough”. Please, try to suppress your laughter. And South Carolina might have some of the most famous/successful mascot alums of all time (at least in the mascot world) – the original Cocky, John Routh, later became Billy the Marlin. Tommy Donavan went on to be Sir Purr for the Carolina Panthers.
Prediction: Clemson, 64-57. It wouldn’t shock me if Clemson dropped this one – they’ve lost to bad South Carolina teams before – but with the exception of the Purdue loss, Clemson has looked pretty good and competitive all year.
Mercer (3-4) at Florida State (4-2), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Michael Snaer. As he goes, so go the Seminoles. In their losses, he shot 5-of-20 (2-of-8 from three). In wins, he shot 46.3% (11-of-21 from three) and averaged 17.5 points. If he struggles and his teammates do too, this is the type of game FSU can lose. But if they’ve come as far as they seem to have come since their season-opening South Alabama loss, they should win this one easily.
Random facts: Mercer originally became known as the Bears when they played Georgia in a football game in 1892. The Mercer players had handlebar mustaches and long hair. When they came out on the field, a spectator said, “Whence cometh that bear?”
Prediction: Florida State, 84-69. This Mercer team almost beat Wake Forest at Wake earlier this year. The key word is “almost”.
Maryland (5-1) vs. George Mason (5-2), 5:00 PM (Washington, DC)
What to watch: Can Maryland ever force turnovers? Whether it’s through a combination of bad luck, defensive strategies or really careful opponents, Maryland is forcing just 9.8 turnovers a game (6.8 a game in the last four). If they’re ever going to force any, now is the time: George Mason is turning it over on 22.3% of its possessions, according to Ken Pomeroy, which is 227th nationally. They can win without forcing them, and it’s probably just a statistical anomaly, but it’s bizarre to say the least.
Random facts: The leading scorer in George Mason history was Carlos Yates, who was killed at age 27 in a drug-related shooting. And just so everyone knows that people have been writing borderline-controversial columns for a long time now, this guy seemed to think he was asking for it?
Prediction: Maryland, 72-60. The Terrapins were impressive in their dismantling of Northwestern on the road last week. George Mason is a pretty good team, but not a great one, and they should make relatively easy work of Paul Hewitt’s squad.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge: 6-6
Last week: 15-9
Lindsay Funke: You’ll never be able to pull this off, Michael. You’re the good guy. This isn’t you.
Michael: It’s me now, Lindsay. It’s the me that can recline.
[he leans back and hits his head on the railing]
Lindsay Funke: I’m saying every time something starts to go well for you, you blow it.
Tobias Fünke: Nothing has ever gone well for me, and you know that.
NC State has not been the favorite in quite some time, and whenever it had a semblance of preseason hype, the team has fallen flat on its face (see 2008). In the fan base, a phenomenon of NC State….stuff has arisen: the concept that what can go wrong, will go wrong, in all sports. And sometimes, things no one would even think could go wrong, go wrong. Sheer terror has gripped NC State fans as they see that their team is the prohibitive favorite to win the league.
2012 record/results: 24-13 overall, 9-7 ACC, No. 11 seed in NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16 (L to No. 2 seed Kansas). Yes, NC State lost 13 games last year. But they lost to just two teams all season that finished outside Pomeroy’s top 50, and 11 of their 13 losses were to top-33 teams (eight to the top 20).
Reason for optimism: As the Wolfpack bought into what then first-year head coach Mark Gottfried was selling, they became a better defensive team by the end of the year and won six of their final eight games. Their only two losses were to top-10 teams North Carolina and Kansas, by a combined five points. Oh, and they return pretty much their entire core from last year: four of five starters, including point guard Lorenzo Brown, who should complete the transition he began last year from very good to elite.
Reason for pessimism: There’s little depth on this team, and the depth they do have they’re not likely to use. Big men Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie are still going to pick up questionable fouls, and when those one or both have to sit down, freshman T.J. Warren could come in along with…Thomas de Thaey? Jordan Vandenberg? Both are unproven, and not as good as last year’s go-to big man sub DeShawn Painter, who transferred. Senior small forward Scott Wood is the only reliable three-point shooter on the team, and he has struggled to get off his shot against more athletic defenders. Who else can make outside shots if he’s not hitting?
Michael: Maybe we were better off with me being businesslike and you being the good time useless party guy.
Gob: It got us this far. And I must say I miss the laughter. Oh God, how they used to laugh with me.
Michael: AT you. We have to figure out a way to hire everybody back. A meeting.
Gob: A party.
Michael: No, we just had a party.
Gob: Yeah but I didn’t get to have any fun.
Gob: [arms crossed] Then there’s me. The joker. The goofball. The magician.
[quickly makes a magician’s gesture with his hands]
Michael: I thought you were gonna do a little fireball there.
Gob: I was. It didn’t go off.
I have no idea why those quotes work for Virginia. They just do.
2012 record/results: 22-10 overall, 9-7 ACC, No. 10 seed in NCAA Tournament, First Round (L to No. 7 seed Florida). Virginia began the season 15-2 with one of their losses being a close one at Duke that convinced everyone the Cavaliers were for real. But they finished the season 7-8.
Reason for optimism: Head coach Tony Bennett will have Virginia playing pesky defense, as usual. UVa lost Mike Scott, who was one of the best players in the ACC last year, but they still have two starters left (wing Joe Harris and point guard Jontel Evans). Harris was always steady, but Evans had some very encouraging offensive performances last year. Bennett has brought in six freshmen, at least three of which should make a contribution.
Reason for pessimism: Scott was Virginia’s go-to guy last year. The only even semi-proven player on this roster is Harris, and even he averaged just 9.8 points in ACC play. Evans was far from consistent: somehow, he averaged 10.8 points in four games against FSU and UNC, but 7.6 against other ACC opponents. Akil Mitchell will have to replace Scott, and he found himself frequently in foul trouble last year. Through a combination of graduation and transfers, Virginia is dangerously thin.
Michael: You want to be in charge?
Michael: You want to deal with what I deal with? A sister who takes your money and throws it away. A mother who you can’t trust. A company whose founder may be on trial for treason. Is that what you want?
Gob: What kind of vacation time does it offer?
Lucille: The company is in danger.
Michael: What tipped you off? The falling profit margins or the fact that we’re a regular feature on Bill O’Reilly’s most ridiculous item of the day?
Gob: I’ve made a huge mistake.
Former Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg was on the hot seat, and his assistant coaches were jumping ship. On their way out, they gave exit interviews to Virginia Tech. James Johnson, who left to take the top assistant job at Clemson last year, was no different. Two months later, he was hired as the head coach at Virginia Tech to replace Greenberg, who supposedly (according to the aforementioned exit interviews) didn’t create a “family atmosphere” for his staff. Interesting. You wanted to be the boss, James Johnson? Well, good luck. I wonder if either he or the Virginia Tech administration thinks they’ve made a huge mistake yet.
2012 record/results: 16-17 overall, 4-12 ACC. The Hokies were 11-3 entering ACC season before the wheels fell off. They lost 12 games by fewer than ten points. Even their four ACC wins were decided by a total of six points.
Reason for optimism: Point guard Erick Green is a special player, and there is some experience around him. In fact, Virginia Tech will only have one scholarship freshman. Forward Cadarian Raines got a lot better last year, and neither Robert Brown nor Jarrell Eddie have been shy about trying to carry some of the scoring load. Their starting five is as good as any, but…
Reason for pessimism: …if any of them have to come out of the game for any reason – injury, foul trouble, anything – the Hokies will be in big trouble. There are only eight scholarship players on the roster. And the ones behind the starting five either aren’t very good, are unproven, or both.
Tobias Fünke: Come on, Lindsay. We’ve had some great times.
[a white screen appears with text reading: “Footage not found.”]
Michael: I burned it. Down to the ground.
George Sr.: There was money in that banana stand.
Michael: Well, it’s all gone now.
George Sr.: There was $250,000 lining the inside walls of the banana stand.
George Sr.: Cash, Michael. What the hell did you think I meant when I said…
George Sr.: [yells] There is money… in… the banana stand.
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik could make Ron Wellman look smart after all. It didn’t seem like a good hire three years ago, and the timing was strange considering former head coach Dino Gaudio had just made the NCAA Tournament. It seemed like an even worse hire when Bzdelik won just one ACC game in 2011 and showed just slight improvement last year with a 13-18 record. Wake Forest fans have had to cope with some pretty bad basketball along the way, and they’re still trying to rekindle fan interest. If Bzdelik’s freshman class is as advertised, though, it shouldn’t take long.
2011 record/results: 13-18 overall, 4-12 ACC. About the only good thing you can say about last year’s Wake Forest team is that it finished the non-conference schedule 9-5 with just two embarrassing losses (Arizona State and Wofford). Half of their ACC wins were against BC.
Reason for optimism: C.J. Harris and Travis McKie are one of the best returning duos in the country. And they might just finally have some help this year, particularly McKie, from a very highly-touted freshman class. Also, it can’t get worse for the Deacons than it’s been the last few years. Even if Wake struggles, the freshmen are good enough to start winning back the hearts and minds of Wake fans as they finally have a reason for hope.
Reason for pessimism: It’s essentially Harris, McKie, sophomore sharp-shooter Chase Fischer and a gang of freshmen at this point. McKie and Harris are great players, but it’s impossible to know how the freshmen will play on a given night. So, maybe it can get worse – at least before it gets better. They’re going to start a freshman at point guard (Codi Miller-McIntyre). Ken Pomeroy only has the Deacs projected for nine wins this year.
Okay, I went through and actually predicted this game by game because I’m either insane or…no, just insane. My ACC ballot was based on those predictions.
1. Florida State (14-4)*
2. Duke (14-4)*
3. NC State (13-5)**
4. UNC (13-5)**
5. Miami (13-5)**
6. Maryland (9-9)
7. Clemson (7-11)
8. Wake Forest (6-12)
9. Virginia (5-13)
10. Boston College (5-13)
11. Virginia Tech (4-14)
12. Georgia Tech (3-15)
*Duke and Florida State only face off against each other once, and I have Florida State winning. Ergo, Florida State wins the ACC regular-season. (But not the Tournament. I think NC State will win that. Since that’s the actual ACC winner, I figured I might as well go ahead and call that one, too.)
**Those 3-4-5 teams finish with the same record, so I just sort of arbitrarily ordered them because I didn’t feel like going back and looking at tiebreakers.
ACC Player of the Year: Michael Snaer, Florida State. NC State’s Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie and maybe even Richard Howell will make a run at this. I think Miami’s Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji might also have something to say about this. But Snaer is a man on a mission, and while those other teams will be more offensively balanced, Snaer will be FSU’s best player on both ends of the floor.
ACC Rookie of the Year: T.J. Warren, NC State. Call it a hunch.
All-ACC First Team:
Michael Snaer, Florida State
Lorenzo Brown, NC State
Erick Green, Virginia Tech
Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Mason Plumlee, Duke
(Honestly, they said “last call for ballots” and I panicked, writing down the first five or so names I could think of that I had been considering. But in hindsight, I think it’s a good list.)
No. 4/3 Duke (25-4, 12-2) at Wake Forest (13-15, 4-10), 9:00 PM, ESPNU
For Duke, this game is all that’s standing in between Saturday’s Carolina game being for the regular-season ACC title. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, not only have they been playing well on the road, but Wake Forest is not good.
Keys to the game: The foul line. It’s not often opponents make more free throws than Duke attempts in Cameron, but Wake did just that in the first meeting, shooting 24-of-35 to Duke’s 16-of-23 from the charity stripe. Wake has a knack for getting to the foul line (and little else), and while Duke has depth to withstand foul trouble, they don’t want to send a team struggling offensively like Wake to the line repeatedly.
Random stat: Prior to the Carolina game, Duke averaged 53.4% shooting from two-point range on 34.9 attempts per game in league play. Since/including the Carolina game, Duke has shot 43.3% from two on 32.3 attempts.
Prediction: Duke 84, Wake Forest 61
Georgia Tech (10-18, 3-11) at Boston College (8-20, 3-11), 7:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Any notion of Steve Donahue getting a few Coach of the Year votes despite Boston College’s record went out the window after his Eagles were swept by Wake Forest this weekend. And those were two of BC’s worst losses this season, to a team that has more talent but has been awful. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, managed to win an ACC home game on Saturday. So there’s that.
Key to the game: Not being awful. The ACC has been bad, but the games have mostly been entertaining (even when slower-paced). There have been exceptions, though, and many have involved one of these two teams. These are two young teams with relatively new head coaches, and each team could use a good deal of positive momentum going forward. It would be nice to see this game be somewhat watchable.
Random stat(s): This was Georgia Tech’s first win without Glen Rice, Jr. in the lineup since the second game of the year (Delaware State). Rice has now missed six games due to suspension: the first three this year (Georgia Tech was 2-1) and the last three (1-2).
Prediction: Georgia Tech 66, Boston College 61
Maryland (16-12, 6-8) at No. 6 North Carolina (25-4, 12-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3
With Maryland coming off of a loss to Georgia Tech and Carolina needing only to win to face Duke for the regular-season title on Saturday, this has “trap game” written all over it. Maryland has just one road win this year,and Carolina’s only home loss in the last two years was to Duke a few weeks ago. But Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon has his Terrapins playing hard, and Carolina can’t afford to overlook this one.
Key to the game: Maryland’s bigs. James Padgett, Ashton Pankey and Alex Len combined for 23 points and 15 rebounds. Their defense doesn’t show up in the box score (Tyler Zeller and John Henson combined to shoot 15-of-29) but Maryland bothered their shots with their length. And most importantly, both Henson and Zeller were in foul trouble. If they can find the magic they had against North Carolina – and get Carolina’s bigs in foul trouble – they’ll make things interesting in Chapel Hill.
Random stat: Maryland shot 7-of-14 (50%) from three against Georgia Tech, but just 12-of-41 (29.3%) from two-point range. In their last two road games, Maryland has shot just 19-of-74 from inside the arc (25.7%) but 14-of-33 (42.4%) from three.
Prediction: North Carolina 88, Maryland 69
Miami (17-10, 8-6) at NC State (18-11, 7-7), 9:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Miami, now without Reggie Johnson, rode a mix of adrenaline and desperation to a win over Florida State and their fans rushed the court afterwards. They’ve been told they’re “in” the NCAA tournament now. That sets up well for NC State – Miami is prime for a letdown, but can the Wolfpack take advantage?
Keys to the game: NC State’s psyche. The little things seem to be going wrong for NC State right now, from shooting 38.5% from the foul line at Clemson (a season-low) to committing silly turnovers and ill-advised fouls. It’s not as if the Wolfpack isn’t playing hard, but they need to be smarter and just a bit more focused. They can win this game, but they have to believe that.
Random stat: Miami scored 11 points on its first 25 possessions against Florida State (0.44 points per possession). In the last 4:34 of the first half and all of the second half, Miami scored 67 points on 52 possessions (1.29 per possession).
Prediction: NC State 75, Miami 69
Virginia Tech (15-14, 4-10) at Clemson (15-13, 7-7), 9:00 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3
Clemson has won four of its last five games and is playing its best basketball. Virginia Tech has lost three of its last four games, but to three of the best teams. Clearly, both teams have navigated well through adversity and disappointment, and both have something to play for in terms of seeding.
Keys to the game: Who can win a close game? Virginia Tech beat Clemson at home earlier this year, 67-65. Since, Virginia Tech is 2-4 and excluding a 16-point loss at Miami, five games have been decided by a total of 11 points. Clemson had six of its first eight games decided by seven or fewer points but since the loss in Blacksburg, the Tigers are 4-2, winning two by double digits and losing once by 22. They won by three in overtime against NC State on Saturday though. While both teams have struggled executing late in close games, Clemson seems like the more confident team. Tech Hoops took a look at Virginia Tech’s Erick Green and his struggles in “clutch” situations this year. Hint: it’s not good, and Virginia Tech needs more from him late.
Random stat: Duke attempted 46.2% of their shots from three-point range against Virginia Tech last Saturday. Only one Hokie opponent this season has attempted a higher percentage of their shots from beyond the arc (half of Boston College’s attempts were from three).
Prediction: Clemson 65, Virginia Tech 61
Last week: 7-4
Season: 123-44 (59-25 ACC)
Boston College (8-16, 3-7) at Virginia Tech (13-11, 2-7), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
Just when you think Virginia Tech is out…well, the Hokies are still out. But when you think they’ve given up on the season and are too discouraged to keep fighting, they get a nice win. The Hokies still haven’t won more than one ACC game in a row, but they are 1-3 at home with losses only to Duke, North Carolina and Florida State. Boston College, meanwhile, has notched all three ACC wins at home and had perhaps the unlikeliest win of the ACC season with a 64-60 victory over FSU on Wednesday, a game the Eagles controlled throughout. The pesky Eagles won’t go away without a fight, but if Virginia Tech does fight it should win easily.
Stat to watch: The free-throw line. Boston College beat Virginia Tech in the first meeting on the strength of attempting 28 free throws, their second-most attempts this season. At home in league play, the Eagles average 19.8 free throw attempts (23.7 in three ACC wins, all at home) but on the road, the Eagles average just 7.8 attempts (in ACC losses, just 11.3 attempts). Virginia Tech has traditionally kept opponents off the foul line, but their ACC opponents have averaged 21 free-throw attempts and all but one have shot 67% or better from the line, which is just bad luck. But the 28 free-throw attempts the Hokies allowed BC to take in the first meeting are the second-most they’ve allowed in ACC play. After allowing Maryland to take 32, though, they’ve held Duke, Clemson and Miami to an average of just 16.7 attempts, which is a good start to limiting that.
Virginia Tech has traditionally relied on getting to the foul line, but not this team, and it hasn’t always helped when they do get there. They attempted an ACC-season high 28 free throws at Boston College and made 21, but scored just 59 total points. And since, the Hokies have attempted nine or fewer foul shots in three of its last six ACC games. That’s hard to imagine, but it’s somewhat a function of how bogged down their offense has become. They’ll need to be more active and get to the line, even though Boston College doesn’t always allow you to get there. Only three ACC teams (including Virginia Tech) have attempted 20 or more foul shots against the eagles, and in the last five games, BC’s opponents are averaging just 13.6 attempts. If the Eagles can keep the Hokies from getting easy points on the foul line, they could have a shot.
Most important players: Jordan Daniels, Boston College and Erick Green, Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech’s best player, Erick Green, missed the first game against Boston College. Of course, the Hokies have lost five of seven since that contest, but they don’t have a functional offense without him. Green has 25 straight games with 10 or more points, the longest streak among ACC players, despite how much his offense is sputtering. He has struggled some in recent games but he has somehow managed to shoot 40% or better in six of the eight ACC games he has played in. His biggest concerns are three-point shooting and his assist/turnover ratio. In the last three games, he has hit just 2-of-10 three’s and has three assists to six turnovers. In his first five league games, he hit 9-of-24 three’s and had 17 assists to five turnovers. He’s been carrying the load – he had 17 of Virginia Tech’s 49 points in a loss at Miami – but the Hokies at least need him to be more careful with the ball.
Jordan Daniels, meanwhile – wow. The freshman should be coming into this game with a ton of confidence, as he had a career-high 21 points against one of the best defenses in the nation (FSU) in BC’s upset win on Wednesday. Daniels was efficient, too: he did all that up just 21 shots, and he added five assists, three steals and one turnover in 36 minutes (also a career high). But as most freshmen are, Daniels is different on the road. He has averaged just 4.5 points on 29.2% shooting (25% from three) and has seven assists to seven turnovers in 23.3 minutes per game on the road in the ACC. But at home, he has averaged 10.5 points on 46% shooting (46.2% from three) and has 19 assists to eight turnovers in 28.3 minutes. At some point, Daniels is going to have to take his show on the road, if you will (see what I did there).
Random stat: Maybe if Virginia Tech had been able to knock off Boston College in the last few years, it would have made the NCAA Tournament. But the Hokies trail the all-time series with Boston College 7-14 and 5-8 since both joined the ACC in 2006. BC has won five of the last six and four in a row against the Hokies. But Virginia Tech leads the series 5-4 in Cassell Coliseum and the Hokies had won four straight at home until BC knocked off the Hokies in Blacksburg, 76-61, last year.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 65, Boston College 58
Last week: 10-2
Season: 106-37 (42-18 ACC)
Duke (18-3, 5-1) at Virginia Tech (12-9, 1-5), 7:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3
This is absolutely a decisive stretch of Virginia Tech’s season, and a win over Duke would be enormous. They host Duke, Clemson and Boston College in their next four games with a game at Miami in the mix. None are easy, but four of their final six ACC games are against the top four teams in the league and two of those are on the road. They need to go at least 3-1 in this stretch or even 4-0 to finish in the top half of the league. It’s a tricky game for Duke in a sense, but it’s much less so now that Duke lost in Blacksburg last season. The Blue Devils will be ready, especially since their head coach Mike Krzyzewski was not pleased with their second-half performance against St. John’s on Saturday.
Stat to watch: A tale of two halves. It’s not exactly a statistic, but the teams have struggled in different halves of games in ACC play. Virginia Tech has been downright awful in most first halves and amazing in the second half. Duke has been dominant in the first half and struggled for parts of second halves. Since ACC play began, the Hokies have hit just 31.7% of their shots in the first half of their last seven games and 29.5% of their three’s, averaging 25.7 points. In the second half, they have shot 45.5% (35.4% from three) and averaged 36.7 points. The problem is that while their opponents haven’t done much in the first half either (39% shooting and 27.9 points) they have in the second half (41.5% shooting and 35.3 points), so Virginia Tech’s second-half surges haven’t been enough.
In the last two games (BYU and Maryland) the problem has been even worse: the Hokies shot a combined 25% in the first half (averaging 22 points) compared to 56% shooting and 46.5 points in the second half. If Virginia Tech can manage to come out firing from the opening tip tonight, they might have a chance. But the second-half surges haven’t been – and won’t be – enough.
In Duke’s last seven games, they have had similar problems and the only time they didn’t was against Virginia (they were bad in the first half and excellent in the second). So taking out Virginia, in six of Duke’s last seven, Duke has averaged 38.5 points on 44% shooting while holding opponents to 30.9 points on 42% shooting in the first half. But the Blue Devils have allowed opponents to average 40.3 second-half points on 49.1% shooting (Duke has averaged 40.7 on 47.9% shooting).
The only thing that has saved Duke is foul shots: they have shot 17 more than their opponents and made 79.4% in those second halves compared to just 56.2% by opponents. But certainly Duke might get into a situation where they can’t get to the line or players miss foul shots, so they need to close out games better, especially on the defensive end.
Most important players: Erick Green, Virginia Tech and Andre Dawkins, Duke. With senior guard Dorenzo Hudson struggling, Green has taken it upon himself to be “the man” in the Hokie backcourt and not a moment too soon. With Virginia Tech down eight points at Maryland with 1:09 to go, Green scored six points and assisted on another two baskets (worth five points), making him responsible for 11 points in a one-minute span. Of course, in the previous 39 minutes he had 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting and two assists. His field-goal percentage has gone down since he’s become more aggressive, though (he’s shot 44% in ACC play), but he’s averaging 18 points and has shot 45% or better in four of six league games. He’s had a mixed history against Duke: in two meetings last year, Green averaged 14.5 points on 43% shooting but made just 2-of-12 three’s and picked up four fouls in each matchup. His team can’t afford that this time.
Four of Andre Dawkins’ 11 double-digit scoring efforts have come in ACC play. In four of Duke’s road games this year, though, Dawkins has shot a combined 2-of-15 (2-of-12 from three) and scored just nine points. His two single-digit scoring days in ACC play were on the road (at Georgia Tech and at Maryland) and the only two games he hasn’t scored in this year have been road losses (at Ohio State and at Temple). The one exception was at Clemson, were Dawkins had his best ACC game to date: 24 points on 7-of-12 shooting (5-of-9 from three), adding two assists, a steal and two blocks in 27 minutes. Duke will need that kind of game from Dawkins in Blacksburg. Dawkins has shot just 3-of-14 against Virginia Tech in three career games and 3-of-12 from three, averaging 3.7 points. He fouled out of the most recent meeting in the 2011 ACC Tournament.
Random stat: In every set of game notes issued by a school, they have a random set of stats like like “Duke has such-and-such a record in January” or “Duke has such-and-such a record when scoring 70 or more points”. In Duke’s game notes, it says that under Mike Krzyzewski, Duke is 73-4 when shooting 60% or better. (I don’t know what’s more amazing: that the Blue Devils have shot 60% or better 77 times, or that they lost four of those games.) Even more remarkable? Duke is 380-10 when holding opponents to less than 40 percent.
Prediction: Duke 77, Virginia Tech 69
Last week: 12-0
Season: 95-31 (31-12 ACC)