Michael: [discussing evidence that links George Sr. to Saddam Hussein] If this information was so damaging, why didn’t you just shred it?
George Sr.: Well, Saddam owed us money.
Michael: And you didn’t realize that he wouldn’t pay?
George Sr.: Your mom had a good feeling about him.
Narrator: Gob, getting the feeling he could not return a completely frozen dead dove to a pet store and get the full refund the felt he was entitled to, decided to join him.
Georgia Tech is still paying former head coach Paul Hewitt, who they fired in March 2011. Hewitt is now at George Mason. But he managed to negotiate a $7.2 million buyout over five years. There have been major attendance problems in Atlanta, although the hope is that the new arena, McCamish Pavilion (opening Friday), helps reenergize the fans. And the team is certainly as bad as it ever was under Hewitt. Second-year head coach Brian Gregory has a lot of work to do.
2012 record/results: 11-20 overall, 4-12 ACC. Georgia Tech’s best win (per Ken Pomeroy’s rankings) was against NC State, which finished 35th. Naturally, the ACC eats its own.
Reason for optimism: Big men Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey are juniors now, and both ended their 2012 playing well. Miller averaged 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in Tech’s final ten games while Holsey added 10.7 points and 5.7 boards in that span. Last year’s leading scorer Glen Rice, Jr.’s departure is probably a good thing for this team, and they have some really good freshmen.
Reason for pessimism: Even without Rice, Georgia Tech returns over 80% of its scoring. But the Yellow Jackets averaged just 60.2 points last year. They have a senior point guard returning in Mfon Udofia, but that’s not necessarily a good thing: he had 88 assists to 85 turnovers last year. Jason Morris and Brandon Reed, Georgia Tech’s other two likely backcourt starters, didn’t shoot well either.
Tobias Fünke: Do you see me more as the respected dramatic actor or more of the beloved comic actor?
Carl Weathers: Whoa, whoa, whoa. There’s still plenty of meat on that bone. Now you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you’ve got a stew going.
Tobias Fünke: Yes, that’s fine, but I would like to focus on my acting, Mr. Weathers. I did give you my last $1,100.
Carl Weathers: Let me tell you a little story about acting. I was doing this Showtime movie, Hot Ice with Anne Archer, never once touched my per diem. I’d go to Craft Service, get some raw veggies, bacon, Cup-A-Soup… baby, I got a stew going.
Tobias Fünke: [pause] I think I’d like my money back.
George Sr.: [via satellite from prison] Sorry, some of my students are arguing the significance of the shankbone on the seder plate. But we do not – not wag our genitals at one another to make a point.
None of these quotes really fit Maryland this year, but Carl Weathers could really make an interesting stew with Maryland’s mixture of returning players, the late addition of Xavier transfer Dez Wells and some very talented freshmen. Okay, that’s a stretch.
2012 record/results: 17-15 overall, 6-10 ACC. Maryland deserves a special shout-out for not embarrassing the league in the non-conference last year. Their worst loss was at home to Illinois, a team that started 15-3 before losing 13 of its final 15.
Reason for optimism: Dez Wells. The sophomore averaged 9.8 points per game at Xavier, but he was just a freshman. By all accounts, he’s been dominant so far this year. Losing last year’s leading scorer Terrell Stoglin might seem like a big hole, but Stoglin had become more of a hindrance than a help by the end of last season. Sophomore Nick Faust hit double figures in nine of Maryland’s final 11 games. Seven-footer Alex Len has put on 30 pounds. Everyone seems ready to take the next step up from last year while incorporating a class of very talented freshmen into the mix.
Reason for pessimism: Is there enough talent around Wells for Maryland to be an NCAA Tournament team? Faust was fairly steady for a freshman, but Len was all over the place last year, and he was more down than up. This is not meant as a joke or sarcasm in any way: Stoglin literally took such a huge percentage of Maryland’s shots (37.8% when he was on the floor, per Pomeroy) that it could be difficult for his teammates to get used to being more involved. And while this year’s freshmen are good, they’re still freshmen.
Gob: My gut is telling me no… but my gut is also very hungry.
Lucille: What’s a Forget-Me-Now?
Gob: They’re pills that create a sort of temporary forgettingness. So if somebody finds out how you do a trick, you just give ‘em one of these, and they forget the whole thing. It’s a mainstay of the magician’s toolkit, like how clowns always have a rag soaked in ether.
Every ACC reporter ever has been sucked into the Miami vortex. And we’ve all been burned by it, too. Yet every year, Forget-Me-Now pills cause some of us to slot them them too high – this year, it was fifth. Maybe this is the year. The Hurricanes have already shown why trusting them is dangerous by losing an exhibition game at home. Can Miami be elite? We’ll believe it when we see it.
2012 record/results: 20-13 overall, 9-7 ACC, NIT (L 2nd Round to Minnesota). Miami saved its worst for last, losing six of its final 11 games, including a 78-60 home loss in the NIT to Minnesota that was not as close as even that score would indicate. Miami’s best win over anyone not int he ACC last season, per Pomeroy’s rankings, was against No. 72 Massachusetts. Their six non-conference losses were all to teams inside the top 90 of Pomeroy’s rankings out of conference: but they were still losses.
Reason for optimism: There are always reasons for optimism when it comes to Miami basketball. This year, Miami returns most of its best players from a year ago, including mainstay Durand Scott and starting big men Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson. Speedy point guard Shane Larkin ended the year on a good note, averaging 12 points and 2.7 assists in the final three games. They have a ton of depth in all the important areas.
Reason for pessimism: From a personnel perspective? There aren’t any. Miami is capable of being as good as any other team in this conference, particularly considering the Duke, North Carolina and Florida State rosters this year. But will they? Despite having Kadji and Johnson, the Miami guards tend to ignore them: in Miami’s final two postseason losses last year, Johnson and Kadji combined for 24 shots in 85 minutes.
Tobias Fünke: Boy, I sure feel like a Mary without a Peter and a Paul.
Lindsay: [saying how stress can lead to drugs] … like the stress you put on George Michael, even when he gets an ‘A’.
Michael: *Minus*, and he knows an ‘A’ gets him ice cream.
North Carolina lost a lot to last year’s NBA draft, including over 66% of its scoring and four out of five starters. There’s enough young talent and veteran steadiness on this team for it to have a good year. But in Chapel Hill, expectations don’t change much – NCAA Tournament or bust – but even North Carolina fans understand that this team’s ceiling isn’t as high as past UNC teams. Rarely are there “freebie” years like this one.
2012 record/results: 32-6 overall, 14-2 ACC, No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament, Elite 8 (L to No. 2 seed Kansas). Obviously, Kentucky was playing very well last year and might have beaten North Carolina again anyway. But injuries cut Carolina’s title run short as point guard Kendall Marshall broke his wrist in the Round of 32 game against Creighton.
Reason for optimism: Carolina returns some of its best defensive players from last year (Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo). While the young Tar Heels wait for their offense to click, defense shouldn’t be an issue. McAdoo and P.J. Hairston weren’t needed as freshmen much until the end of last year, but both responded with some big names (particularly McAdoo, obviously). Carolina has a veteran backcourt with Strickland, Leslie McDonald (who redshirted last season after tearing his ACL), Bullock and Hairston.
Reason for pessimism: Their veterans have experience, but they’re largely complementary players. Even their young talent isn’t as elite as it has been in past years. There is no go-to scorer on this team and there may not be throughout the course of the season, which might mean that the Tar Heels are offensively challenged for long stretches. Carolina’s early-season schedule is brutal and could cause the team to lose confidence quickly. Oh, and freshman point guard Marcus Paige – who will be the starter – weighs 160 pounds soaking wet.
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)
Clemson (13-13, 5-7) at Georgia Tech (9-17, 2-10), 7:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Most important players: Andre Young, Clemson and Mfon Udofia, Georgia Tech. Andre Young went off the last time Clemson faced Georgia Tech, scoring 29 points on 9-of-12 shooting (7-of-9 from three). He’s made just 35.5% of his three’s since, but his 3-of-7 performance at Carolina on Saturday was his best in a road venue all season.
Without Glen Rice, Mfon Udofia has to do more scoring for Georgia Tech to win. His 15 points at Virginia Tech on Saturday were his most in nearly a month and nearly enough for the Yellow Jackets to win. Udofia has averaged 13.8 points in games without Rice and just 9.3 in games with Rice this year.
Random stat: Georgia Tech has lost ten ACC games, including six on the road. They have lost by an average of 8.2 points in six ACC road games compared to 15.8 points at home. Georgia Tech has averaged 52.8 points in home ACC games compared to 64.6 points in road games.
Prediction: Clemson 66, Georgia Tech 53
Miami (16-9, 7-5) at Maryland (15-11, 5-7), 8:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
Maryland is a tough place to play, but if Miami wants to keep its NCAA tournament at-large hopes alive, the Hurricanes have to win.
Most important players: Durand Scott, Miami and Alex Len, Maryland. Durand Scott had his ACC high of 24 points (on 11-of-14 shooting) in the overtime win over Maryland in the first meeting, and he’s found his groove lately, averaging 16.5 points on 61% shooting in the last two. Maryland’s backcourt is that much thinner without Pe’Shon Howard, and Scott could have his way with the Terrapins.
Alex Len’s last good stretch for Maryland came against Miami and North Carolina, when he averaged 12.5 points on 64% shooting. In the four games since, he has eight total points on 36.4% shooting. Maryland needs more from the talented big man, and maybe he can find a spark against Miami.
Random stat: Maryland lost 71-44 at Virginia on Saturday, but the game was tied at 31 at halftime. Maryland scored just 13 second-half points and just 11 in the final 19:52. Maryland averaged 0.34 points per possession from the 19:52 mark until the 3:45 mark when head coach Mark Turgeon took out the starters in the second half and made just three field goals.
Prediction: Miami 74, Maryland 67
North Carolina (23-4, 10-2) at N.C. State (18-9, 7-5), 8:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
With all the hoopla surrounding the ejection of former NC State superstars Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta last Saturday (and their 1988-89 team being honored before the game), this will be the most hostile environment North Carolina has faced this year. But if the Wolfpack can’t persevere through in-game adversity, the atmosphere won’t matter.
Most important players: Lorenzo Brown, NC State and John Henson, North Carolina. Lorenzo Brown’s two games last week were a mixed bag, but the NC State point guard did the right things against Florida State and Duke: he attacked the basket and averaged 7.0 free throw attempts. Carolina has struggled at times to stop the dribble, and Brown must remember to attack the basket.
John Henson has held NC State’s C.J. Leslie to a combined 9-of-27 shooting in the last two State-Carolina games. And Leslie’s numbers have gotten worse, not better, every time he faces Carolina. Leslie’s propensity to try to take Henson one-on-one in the last meeting really hurt the Wolfpack, and if Henson continues to shut him down as he has, Carolina should win easily.
Random stat: Two out of NC State’s last three head coaches have won their first game against North Carolina at home: Les Robinson and Sidney Lowe. Robinson (1990-96) won three of his first four vs. UNC and four out of six home games against the Tar Heels. Sidney Lowe (2006-11) won his first game against Carolina at home but lost 11 straight after that. Since Robinson left prior to the 1996-97 season, State is 3-13 at home against Carolina.
Prediction: North Carolina 81, NC State 71
Virginia (20-6, 7-5) at Virginia Tech (15-12, 4-8), 9:00 PM, ESPNU
How Virginia Tech won the first meeting between these two teams earlier this year remains a mystery, but the exhausted Hokies likely won’t have enough magic to repeat that, and Virginia knows how much it needs this game.
Most important players: Mike Scott, Virginia and Dorian Finney-Smith, Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech big man Victor Davila will miss this game with an injury, meaning whatever formula the Hokies concocted for slowing Virginia star Mike Scott last time could be adversely affected. Scott is averaging 20.6 points in UVA’s ACC wins and 16 in losses, so the Hokies will have to find a way to slow him.
Virginia Tech freshman Dorian Finney-Smith wasn’t a factor in the first meeting with Virginia this year, but he is averaging 10.8 points in the last five games. His length and athleticism could be a factor on both ends for Virginia Tech, particularly against Virginia’s thin front line.
Random stat: Virginia’s slow style of play has been a big part of the reason for their excellent scoring defense, but the Cavaliers are one of many slow-tempo teams that have played in the ACC since the shot clock was instituted. And yet they have held 11 opponents under 50 points this year, the most by an ACC team in the shot clock era.
Prediction: Virginia 54, Virginia Tech 51
Last week: 7-4
Season: 115-40 (51-21 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)
Boston College (7-15, 2-6) at Georgia Tech (8-14, 1-7), 1:00 PM, ESPNU
Who would have thought that Georgia Tech would have a worse ACC record at this point than Boston College? Many (including me) thought BC wouldn’t win an ACC game this year and if it did, it would be Wake Forest at home (which it lost). The young Eagles continue to fight, but they have three of their next four on the road and host Florida State after this game. The Yellow Jackets have played well in their last two losses, but the fact is they’ve lost seven straight and 11 of the last 12. At some point, it’s going to become discouraging. If it hasn’t already.
Stat to watch: Rebounding. Both teams have struggled with rebounding throughout the year, but both have shown some improvements recently. Georgia Tech was getting out-rebounded by 2.0 a game in its first four ACC games and opponents held a 43-40 edge on the offensive glass, outscoring them in second-chance points 39-37. In the last four games, of which it’s fair to say three have been closer than expected, Georgia Tech has out-rebounded opponents by 2.5 boards a game and holds a +4.0 edge on the offensive glass. Georgia Tech is outscoring opponents in second-chance points 50-36 in the last four games. Georgia Tech has improved its defensive rebounding percentage from 67.7% in the first four ACC games to a ridiculous 75.7% in the last four games. And that’s facing some pretty good rebounding teams in North Carolina and Florida State, too.
It’s good for a team struggling to score to be able to get some second looks, but Boston College doesn’t always allow many. The Eagles are actually fifth in defensive rebounding percentage in ACC games only and in the last two games, they have out-rebounded their opponents (Miami and N.C. State). Their defensive rebounding percentage has fallen some (down to 68.8% from 70.5%) but the Eagles are taking some chances on the offensive glass: their percentage has soared from 18% to 32.1% in the last two. And with the way their offense is struggling, why not attack the offensive boards a little more? Boston College’s ten second-chance points against N.C. State were its most since December 18th.
Most important players: Brandon Reed, Georgia Tech and Lonnie Jackson, Boston College. Reed is a high-volume shooter (7.4 attempts in 24 minutes a game) and for the first time in awhile, some actually went in at Florida State on Wednesday. He had been in a shooting slump the likes of which it’s hard to imagine: in the Yellow Jackets’ last 11 games, he had shot 22-of-77 (28.6%) from the floor and 9-of-33 (27.3%) from three. He was even worse in ACC play, shooting 8-of-37 (21.6%) from the floor and 3-of-17 (17.6%) from three. But he caught fire against Florida State with 18 points (a season-high) on 5-of-10 shooting and 4-of-8 from three. It tied his most three’s made in a game and was his best shooting performance percentage-wise since December 10th against Savannah State. Particularly with Glen Rice, Jr. out indefinitely with turf toe, the Yellow Jackets need him to score.
Jackson is intriguing: when he showed potential early in the season, BC head coach Steve Donahue quickly trusted him with a lot more minutes and he hasn’t looked back. And every statistic has gone up for Jackson in ACC play after the non-conference, except for his shooting (down from 45.2% to 33.3%) and his three-point shooting (down to 32.4% from 46.4%). But he’s playing more (30.9 minutes compared to 23.3) which explains some of that, and his improvement in other areas makes up for it. He’s scoring more points (8.5 to 7.1 pre-conference) because he’s getting to the foul line more, over 3.0 times a game in league play. And he’s averaging 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals in ACC play compared to 1.8 assists and less than a steal out of conference.
Random stat: Georgia Tech has lost five in a row at home (one at the Arena in Gwinnett against Mercer and now four in a row in Philips Arena). Georgia Tech’s longest losing at home streak prior to this one was in 1981 when Georgia Tech lost 10 in a row at home. The Yellow Jackets did have a win against Division II Newberry sandwiched into those ten straight home losses, but even if you start a new losing streak after that win, they lost their 13 final games of that season and seven of those were at home.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 68, Boston College 61
Last week: 12-0
Season: 96-31 (32-12 ACC)
Georgia Tech (8-8, 1-1) at Maryland (11-4, 1-1), 4:00, ACC Network/ESPN3
Neither one of these teams has been particularly disappointing so far – Georgia Tech missed an opportunity against Duke, but knocked off a team it wasn’t supposed to beat in N.C. State. Maryland lost at N.C. State and struggled to beat Wake Forest, but everyone knew their team will take awhile to come together with some new pieces in place. Georgia Tech is a complete shocker, though, as the Yellow Jackets have found offense they couldn’t find in the non-conference.
Stat to watch: Maryland’s offensive rebounds/trips to the foul line. Those two factors are pretty much the only reasons Maryland was able to escape Wake Forest on Wednesday night. The numbers were as ugly as you could imagine: 35% shooting and just 3-of-16 from three, but the Terrapins pulled down 21 offensive rebounds and got to the foul line 37 times (making 24). Of 70 points, 41 came from second chances and/or foul shots. Wake Forest committed 28 fouls, got to the line just 13 times and pulled down only ten offensive rebounds. Georgia Tech has out-rebounded opponents by about six this year but don’t allow many second looks. Georgia Tech has pounded opponents on the backboards by 8.5 per game and they will have to control the backboards against Maryland. Georgia Tech is also averaging 25 free-throw attempts per game in ACC play after averaging 14.5 in non-conference. Their opponents are averaging 22.5 fouls compared to 14.1 in non-conference.
Most important players: Pe’Shon Howard, Maryland and Glen Rice, Georgia Tech. The From the Rumble Seat blog wrote about Glen Rice, Jr.’s recent surge, complete with a chart showing how much his play has improved in ACC games. Rice hadn’t played as well on the road this season (11 at Tulane, 12 at Georgia and zero at Fordham) before scoring 22 at N.C. State on 7-of-10 shooting, his highest percentage made this year. But the key factor has been his three-point shooting: he has made 7-of-12 (58.3%) in two ACC games after making 13-of-45 (28.9%) in the non-conference.
Howard has averaged 4.8 assists (6.5 in ACC games) since his return, but he has averaged just 5.8 points and just 3.0 in ACC play. He’s also shooting just 1-of-13 from the floor in league play. He has shot 9-of-16 before that, and that’s more like what Maryland needs from him. He was 0-of-5 from the floor against Wake and just 1-of-8 at N.C. State. Terrell Stoglin has attempted 34 of Maryland’s 120 shots in ACC play so far and has 45 of their 144 points. Stoglin needs more help from his teammates on the perimeter, particularly against a stingy Georgia Tech defense.
Random stat: Via Testudo Times, since Howard and Alex Len have returned from injury, Maryland has outscored opponents by 43 points in the first half. In the second half, the Terrapins have been outscored by 11. Maryland has to learn to close games out as they are really improving and could make some noise in the ACC season.
Prediction: Maryland 72, Georgia Tech 67
Last week: 6-3 (4-2 ACC)
Season: 69-26 (8-6 ACC)
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
ACC teams are 67-36 so far (and that’s only after an 8-1 week…A-C-C!), and teams not named North Carolina or Duke are 52-33. Without Virginia’s 7-1 start, the other nine teams are 45-32. Ew. Conference pride is on the line!
Duke (8-1) vs. Washington (4-3), CBS, 12:00 PM, Madison Square Garden
Washington would be considered elite if not for losses at St. Louis (by 13) and at Nevada (in overtime). Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln… But the Huskies gave No. 11 Marquette all it could handle in a 79-77 loss on Tuesday in the Garden. With just a few weak non-conference games left, not to mention an awful Pac-12 schedule, Duke is Washington’s last chance at a quality win.
Duke’s defense is eighth in the league in points per possession defense but fourth in loss of ball forced (18.4%), and that’s where the it can do damage against the Huskies. Duke averages 17.7 points off of 15.5 opponent turnovers; the Blue Devils started the year averaging 21 points off turnovers in its first four games. Beginning in Maui, that number dropped to 14.3. But the rejuvenated Blue Devils turned 17 Colorado State turnovers into 18 points, and that’s what they need to do again on Saturday.
The Blue Devils (as of December 4th) are 244th nationally in field goal percentage defense. Duke’s three-point defense has been pretty good, as they held the nation’s top three-point shooting team, Colorado State, to 4-of-11 (36.4%) on Wednesday. But opponents are attempting just 14 three’s a game compared to 43.4 two-pointers (of which Duke opponents make 48%). BCS conference foes have shot 51.6% inside the arc.
Washington can shoot from two (49.5%) or three (40.8%). Sophomores C.J. Wilcox (47.7% 3FG%) and Terrence Ross (37.8% 3FG%) can both go nuts from beyond the arc. Against North Carolina in last year’s second round of the NCAA Tournament, Ross led his team with 19 points off the bench in just 24 minutes. C.J. Wilcox added 11 points (3-of-5 from three) in just 19 minutes. Duke will have a long day if it stops penetration as poorly as the Tar Heels did at times in that game.
Duke will have an advantage on the interior, especially if 7-foot Washington center Aziz N’Diaye gets in foul trouble. He hasn’t fouled out yet this year (albeit in just 24.3 mpg). Against North Carolina last year, N’Diaye picked up four fouls in 20 minutes but still managed to pull down 11 rebounds.
Seth Curry had been the steady one for Duke, but he shot just 7-of-24 in the last three games. Andre Dawkins showed up and had 15 first-half points off the bench against Colorado State before going out with back spasms, and his status is uncertain. Austin Rivers is really starting to get it, scoring a very efficient 17 points on nine shots.
Andrew Jones of Fox Sports wrote this about the freshman: “…The 6-5 slasher can get to the rim with the dribble … maybe more effectively than most players in the ACC. But an issue with him entering this night was that once he decided he was taking the ball to the hole he would cut off all other options. Twice in the first half, however, Rivers got near the rim only to kick it out to Tyler Thornton for a jumper and Andre Dawkins for a 3-pointer. … As Rivers matures and adds this to his repertoire, Duke will grow.”
Washington is missing is what Isaiah Thomas brought last year – a point guard that can make plays for himself and others. They have other elite perimeter players, but at point, Abdul Gaddy is not an offensive threat and Tony Wroten, Jr. is very talented but erratic.Washington is capable of winning, but it’s hard to imagine Duke losing to an unranked team that is talented but flawed, especially in Madison Square Garden.
Prediction: Duke 82, Washington 77
Random: From Lorenzo Romar’s info page on GoHuskies.com:
“The loss to North Carolina in the third round of the NCAAs 2½ months ago was as frustrating and regrettable a defeat as Romar has had at Washington. If not for multiple meltdowns that cost the Huskies the lead and the game to the shaky Tar Heels that Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., they would have been favored to advance to the Elite Eight and past a Marquette team UNC blew out days later in the Round of 16.”
Why don’t you just start up an “overrated” chant? The Tar Heels didn’t play their best game and Washington was fantastic late in the year, but they were a 7-seed and had a 24-11 record for a reason. The Tar Heels were a No. 2 seed. And “as frustrating and regrettable a defeat” as Romar has had at Washington? Does this ring a bell?
Clemson (4-3) at Arizona (6-3), 12/10, 4:00 PM, FSN
Arizona impressed the college basketball world in a 78-72 overtime loss at No. 12 Florida on Wednesday. The Wildcats had been disappointing with losses to Seattle Pacific (in an exhibition), Mississippi State and San Diego State. This seemed like a game the Tigers could win earlier in the year, but Clemson just dropped their third game to an inferior in-state opponent – at home – in a loss to South Carolina. Greg Wallace (@aimclemson on Twitter) from Orange and White wrote about Clemson’s scoring struggles. The Tigers have cracked 70 just twice and have a season-high of 73, averaging 64.4 for the year.
While Andre Young has been fantastic, the 5-9 senior can’t do it alone. In Clemson’s three losses, he has shot 12-of-35 and 7-of-26 from three, averaging 12.7 points. In wins, Young shot 20-of-33 (12-of-19 from three), averaging 15.3 points. He’s taken fewer shots in Clemson’s wins, because he can be more efficient without having to carry the load. But he has 19 of Clemson’s 42 made three’s this year and someone needs to step up there too.
Milton Jennings and Devin Booker have been disappointing. Jennings is a McDonald’s All-American averaging 10.4 points, but he has nine in the last two games on 4-of-13 shooting. He accounted for nearly half of Clemson’s turnovers against South Carolina (he had five; the Tigers had 11). Booker is averaging 9.8 points but hasn’t hit double digits in the last four games, averaging 6.3 field goal attempts. He had averaged 10 shots a game in Clemson’s first four games and he needs to be more assertive.
The Tigers don’t have many options. Without Demontez Stitt’s ability to drive to the hoop and make plays for himself or teammates, Clemson simply lacks playmakers. Arizona is missing some key pieces, but I still don’t see how Clemson can score enough to keep pace with on the road.
Prediction: Arizona 70, Clemson 59
Random: Arizona is 264th in tempo, 19 spots BELOW Herb Sendek’s famously slow Arizona State offense. Clemson, by the way, is 284th in tempo.
Georgia Tech (5-4) at Savannah State (3-6), 12/10, 6:00 PM
Georgia Tech is 11th in the league (per Ken Pomeroy) in offensive efficiency. The puzzling part has been the inconsistency – Georgia Tech has shot 51.8% in five wins (50% or better in all five) and 38.5% in four losses. The Yellow Jackets probably should slow down on the three-pointers (29% on the year) and they might be a more efficient offensive club, because they have some pieces.
The sophomores are key for Georgia Tech: Kammeon Hosley had 12 points against Georgia in a season-high 32 minutes. Brandon Reed snapped a four-game shooting slump (7-of-34, 3-of-19 from three) with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Jason Morris has been coming on, averaging 16 points in the last three games (shooting 6-of-11 from three).
If there’s a concern, it’s Glen Rice, Jr. He’s averaging 14.1 points on 50% shooting but is just 2-of-12 from three in the last three games after starting 6-of-14. He needs to drive more as he is shooting nearly 61% from inside the arc, but he tends to keep jacking up three-pointers. This team is not good enough offensively for him to be inefficient. He can be such a lethal scorer at times, but his 31% shooting from three is not the reason.
But this kind of stuff from new head coach Brian Gregory (via From the Rumble Seat) is awesome. The Yellow Jackets don’t have a two-game winning streak since the first two games and could really use a convincing win to keep momentum going. Savannah State has three losses by a combined nine points (the other three by a combined 74 points) and three wins by a combined 25 points.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 78, Savannah State 57
Random: Savannah State head coach Horace Broadnax inherited a mess of a program in 2005 that had gone 0-28 in 2004. The 13-18 season in 2008 was the most D-I wins by Savannah State ever. Broadnax was a point guard for Georgetown from 1983-86, a run that included a national title in 1984.
Miami (5-3) at West Virginia (5-2), 12/10, 7:00 PM, ESPN2
Miami fans will need to have patience with the team under new head coach Jim Larranaga. There’s a lot of personnel missing still, and he had to start small by changing the culture of shoelaces (h/t The Sporting News). The Hurricanes are holding opponents to 64.1 points (on 41% shooting), but Miami is shooting 39% from the floor and averaging 67.4 points.
The Hurricanes are shooting 35% from three, but since making 10-of-23 against Rutgers (43.5%), they have shot over 40% just once. And they have yet to shoot over 50% overall this season. Miami has cracked 70 points three times this year and in those games, it has made 25-of-58 three’s (43.1%) and have needed 27.7 trips to the foul line. Those kinds of calls likely won’t continue in physical conference play.
Their two best guards, Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, have made 31-of-84 (36.9%). But the two combine to shoot just 31-of-98 (31.6%) from TWO-point range. Last year, Grant shot nearly 42% from both two and three while Scott shot 46% from two (40% from three). Their combined assist average is also done from 6.4 last year between them to 5.1 this year (but their turnovers are down from 5.3 to 3.0).
Junior transfer Trey McKinney Jones has become more consistent, but Florida transfer Kenny Kadji has been all over the map – in back-to-back losses at Ole Miss and Purdue, he played a total of 13 minutes and had one rebound and two points. Since, he has played 25 minutes in each of the last two games and has averaged 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. He has picked up more than two fouls just once this season. When Reggie Johnson comes back (supposedly sometime in December, per Category Six), Miami will have a talented frontcourt that
Unfortunately, Miami and West Virginia are meeting at the wrong time for the Hurricanes. West Virginia didn’t have a good win until beating Kansas State in Wichita in double overtime Thursday night. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, it’s a short turnaround for the Mountaineers. But it probably won’t be enough in a tough road environment.
Prediction: West Virginia 66, Miami 62
Deniz Kiliicli deserves props for his magnificent beard. He looks remarkably like:
North Carolina (7-2) vs. LBST (4-4), 12/10, 7:00 PM, ESPN3
North Carolina did not mess around with Evansville on Tuesday night, beating the Purple Aces 97-48. While the offense was good, the defense was better – Evansville’s 0.545 points per possession were a season low. It’s a good sign despite the inferior opponent, because Carolina has slept-walked on defense at times, allowing even Tennessee State (0.82 PPP) and UNC-Asheville (0.88) to score efficiently. And Carolina had been just +2.5 in rebounding this year despite its height advantage over most teams, so throttling Evansville 62-30 on the backboards was good as well. Reggie Bullock has made 7-of-15 three’s in the last three games. He loves the Smith Center nets best of all, making 14-of-25 three’s in four home games. Having potentially two three-point threats with Bullock and P.J. Hairston makes the offense more dynamic, particularly when the two play together.
Last year, the Tar Heels squeaked by Long Beach State, 96-91, in Carolina’s 2010-11 defensive nadir. The Beach shot nearly 51% and – fortunately for the Tar Heels – only 32% from three (10-of-31). They made 27-of-42 two-pointers (over 64%) and against Carolina’s front line, that’s inexcusable. Larry Drew II had 13 points, eight assists and two turnovers. John Henson and Tyler Zeller combined to shoot 6-of-15 from the floor. Carolina was out-rebounded 37-35. Long Beach forward T.J. Robinson had 31 points on 13-of-19 shooting while dynamic point guard Casper Ware added 22.
Long Beach State has four wins this year; three against Idaho, Boise State and BYU Hawaii. But their other win came at Pittsburgh, in a thrilling game that temporarily made The Beach America’s darlings. Unfortunately, they lost at San Diego State (in overtime) and at Montana (by two), in addition to at Louisville (by 13) and at Kansas (by eight). I don’t think The Beach has enough to hang with the Tar Heels for too long, but if Carolina has one of its patented zombie-esque performances, it could be in trouble.
Prediction: UNC 101, The Beach 79
Random: Luke Winn from SI.com had a great chart of all Tyler Zeller’s second-half offensive touches in the second half at Kentucky. It’s color-coded based on the result of the play (made field goal, missed field goal, pass out, turnover) and an interesting look at how much more quickly he was double-teamed in the second half.
Wake Forest (6-3) at Seton Hall (7-1), 12/10, 8:00 PM
I’m not sure why Wake Forest (6-3) played at the Millis Center (announced crowd: 1,801; capacity: 1,700) in High Point, but the Deacons escaped, 87-83. High Point had nearly knocked off Purdue on the road earlier this year, and had a chance to get a huge win over Wake Forest but fell just short.
C.J. Harris is an offensive machine; he is averaging 18.6 points (he has 20 or more in five games) on 51% shooting from both the field and three-point range. Travis McKie has averaged 18.8 points on 50% shooting (41% from three). If those two can get more consistent help from their teammates, Wake Forest is going to end up beating a team or two it shouldn’t. Wake gets 7-foot senior center Ty Walker back from suspension against Seton Hall, and the Deacs are 2-0 on the road this year.
But Seton Hall has won four straight and their only loss came by seven to Northwestern. They don’t have any amazing wins, but they have beaten the teams they should. With the firepower of Herb Pope (the leading scorer in the Big East at 21.4 ppg), I don’t see Wake keeping up on the scoreboard, especially since Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard is a Rick Pitino guy who preaches aggressive defense.
Prediction: Seton Hall 83, Wake Forest 77
Random: Wake Forest includes plus/minus stats in their game notes and in the blowout loss to Arizona State, Harris was -27 and McKie was -21. Without that game, Harris would be +44 and McKie +47 on the season. What voodoo did you do, Herb Sendek? …. And did you know Travis McKie is the first Virginian to play for Wake since Josh Shoemaker (1998-2001)? It feels like Carolina and Duke have had at least five each from Virginia since 2001.
Season record: 10-9