IUPUI (6-11) at Maryland (11-1), 3:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Charles Mitchell. Maryland’s freshman rebounding machine continues to develop, and he set new career highs in points (19) and rebounds (14) against Delaware State, in just 24 minutes. He hasn’t played more than 24 minutes all year, as he’s coming off the bench to spell senior James Padgett. But Mitchell’s productivity, particularly on the glass, has Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon considering a lineup change. Padgett has gone eight straight games without reachign double figures in scoring, and his season-high in rebounds is six.
Random IUPUI facts: In 1998, IUPUI changed its name from the “Metros” to the Jaguars. Jinx the Jaguar is “the perfect personification of IUPUI athletics – He is powerful, swift and confident.” I guess there’s not a mascot to symbolize mediocrity?
Prediction: Maryland, 77-54. The only thing that could slow the Terrapins in this one is boredom.
The Citadel (3-7) at Clemson (7-4), 4:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Milton Jennings. Clemson’s talented junior forward has either struggled or not played in every winnable game Clemson has lost this year (arguably, the Tigers are just not as good as Arizona, and Jennings was great in that game). Typically, he has shown a tendency to show up more against name opponents, but he had 15 points in just 22 minutes. He needs to be engaged at all times for Clemson to have success in the league this year.
Random Citadel facts: The history of Citadel’s live bulldog mascot is storied, but we’ve covered it before. But who knew there was a costumed mascot, too? It’s hard to know, since even a Google Image search doesn’t yield many results. Seriously, Citadel. You don’t need Spike.
Prediction: Clemson, 66-44. The Citadel is terrible: two of its three wins are against non-Division I teams, and the Bulldogs have lost six straight.
Last week: 10-4
Mississippi Valley State (0-5) at Virginia Tech (7-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Virginia Tech’s defense. The Hokies did a good job shutting down a struggling West Virginia offense last week, but they couldn’t keep the Mountaineers from getting offensive rebounds. Mississippi Valley State’s offense is actually terrible, but the Hokies have made some mediocre offenses look better than expected at times. They can only play defense to a certain level considering their lack of depth, but they need to be able to shut down teams like this.
Random Mississippi Valley State facts: The school is located in Itta Bena, Mississippi, which is one of the cooler names of a city ever. It comes from a Choctaw phrase “iti bina”, which means “forest camp”. And for a small town, it has some pretty famous former residents: former Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry and the great B.B. King.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 84-57. Should be a nice recovery game for the Hokies.
Monmouth (5-5) at Maryland (8-1), 8:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Can Maryland win a bit prettier? As their head coach Mark Turgeon said after the 61-46 win over South Carolina State on Saturday, it’s still a win, but it wasn’t fun. After shooting 49% or better in five straight games, Maryland has shot 45% or worse in two of the last three games. The 37% against South Carolina State was their second-worst performance of the year. This game should give Maryland a chance to find get their offensive groove back.
Random Monmouth facts: Again…don’t pass up a chance to have an awesome mascot name. The Hawks could have been the Bisons, the Bees, the MaJiCians or even the Orange Fliers.
Prediction: Maryland, 92-66. Maryland is finally getting an up-tempo opponent in Monmouth, and if they can make a few shots, they should get things rolling again offensively.
Charlotte (9-0) at Miami (5-1), 7:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: Chris Braswell versus Miami’s front line. Charlotte struggled a lot last year, but the 49ers are undefeated and they are legit. Chris Braswell has been great, averaging 14.3 points and 7.0 rebounds this year. He’s rebounding 13% of available offensive rebounds and 19.7% of defensive rebounds. And teammate Willie Clayton is fifth in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. Miami’s Reggie Johnson has been even better as a rebounder, collecting 15.8% of offensive boards and 27% of defensive rebonds. He and Kenny Kadji have been good against some very good frontcourts this year, including Michigan State’s. They can’t sleep on the 49ers, though, particularly Braswell.
Random Charlotte facts: The mascot Norm the Niner stems not from any kind of gold-mining history. No, it’s because the school was saved from extinction in 1949. That’s literally it.
Prediction: Miami, 75-69. This won’t be an easy game by any stretch. Charlotte’s best win is over Davidson, but it was at Davidson. Miami has had 13 days off and should be focused and ready heading into this one, or they’ll lose.
Last week: 14-2
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
*To save time, check out all of the ACC Tournament scenarios laid out in this graphic.
Clemson (16-13, 8-7) at No. 22 Florida State (20-9, 11-4), 12:00 PM, ESPN2/ESPN3
Florida State was locked into the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament prior to beating Virginia, but the Seminoles desperately needed that win after dropping three straight. A revenge win over Clemson, the only team to pound the Seminoles (by 20, in the ACC opener) in ACC play, would be huge for them as well. But Clemson has a lot of positive momentum, and the Tigers can be anywhere from a five to a seven-seed.
Key to the game: Florida State’s turnovers. The Seminoles have let that evil turnover bug bite them again, and they desperately need to exterminate it. Three of Florida State’s last four opponents have scored 20 or more points off of their turnovers (Virginia had 27) and Florida State has 18 in the last two games. The trouble is, Clemson is the best team in the league in forcing turnovers (ACC opponents average a 20.3% loss of ball) and FSU is already the most generous team in giving it back (19.1% loss of ball in league play).
Random stat: Florida State leads the series with Clemson 30-28 but since 2007, Clemson actually leads 7-4. Clemson has only won two of those games in Tallahassee, though, and is 2-3 at FSU since 2007 (but 5-1 at home).
Prediction: Florida State 64, Clemson 57
No. 24 Virginia (21-8, 8-7) at Maryland (16-13, 6-9), 2:00 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3
Maryland and Florida State were the only teams locked into their seeds headed into this weekend (Maryland is an eight-seed). But the Terrapins are reeling right now, and their head coach Mark Turgeon is far too competitive to allow his young team to get complacent. Virginia could be anywhere from the fourth to the seventh seed, and the Cavaliers really need to have this one after a heartbreaking loss at the buzzer to FSU.
Key to the game: Foul trouble. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon quipped that he needed to send Alex Len to the Tyler Zeller school of drawing fouls after his team’s loss to North Carolina. Well, most of his team seems to have already graduated with honors: Maryland is No. 1 in the league and fifth nationally in free-throw rate despite no real post threat. And the last thing Virginia can afford is foul trouble: not only is it the best/most efficient way for Maryland to score against their stingy defense, but it would also severely challenge the Cavaliers’ non-existent depth.
Random stat: Virginia has only allowed two teams to shoot above 50% this year: Duke and Florida State (on Thursday). Even with the high shooting percentage allowed, Virginia lost those two games by a combination of six points.
Prediction: Virginia 62, Maryland 56
NC State (19-11, 8-7) at Virginia Tech (15-15, 4-11), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
NC State could get anywhere from the fourth seed to the seventh seed depending on the outcome of this game: win, and it can’t fall below 6. This will be a very tricky game against a team that has been competitive all year. And the Hokies still have plenty to play for as well – big difference between being the 9 or the 10 seed.
Keys to the game: The three-point line. NC State has found road success in part because ACC opponents have shot 20.9% from three (compared to 42.3% at the RBC Center). In State’s road ACC wins, opponents have averaged just 2.5 made 3’s. Virginia Tech has shot 38.6% from three in home ACC games and 41.8% in home ACC wins. State will have to continue to defend the three-point line well as it’s the only well the Hokies can really get going.
The offensive glass. Good rebounding teams have basically been able to pound the offensive boards against Virginia Tech at will – the Hokies play good defense, but second-shot opportunities have hurt them. Still, they’ve given up just 22 second-chance points in their last four games combined after surrendering an average of 11.7. And State lives on second shots, collecting nearly 34% of their misses in league play and turning them into 12.1 points.
Random stat: A loss would give Virginia Tech just its second home losing season since joining the ACC and first since 2005-06. A win for NC State would give the Wolfpack five road wins in the ACC for the first time since 2004. From 2007-11 (Sidney Lowe’s tenure as head coach) NC State had seven total ACC road wins.
Prediction: NC State 69, Virginia Tech 65
Last week: 7-4
Season: 129-47 (65-28 ACC)
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 (8-17, 3-8) at Maryland (14-10, 4-6), 9:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
Maryland competed well for parts of the Duke game but were essentially blown out in the second half. With two games against Virginia, one at North Carolina and one home vs. Miami remaining, this game and at Georgia Tech are Maryland’s only likely wins left. The Terrapins aren’t exactly coming into this one on an emotional high: their 18-point loss Saturday was their biggest margin of defeat since November 20th (Iona). Boston College continues to compete hard no matter what, and the young Eagles played arguably their best road game in ACC play at Virginia Tech on Sunday. But beating an angry Maryland team on the road is probably too tall of an order. If Maryland takes them for granted, though, the Terps could be in trouble.
Stat to watch: Rebounding. Both of these teams are coming off of humiliating rebounding performances this weekend. Duke out-rebounded Maryland 48-33 and pulled down 44.7% of available offensive rebounds, turning those 24 boards into 21 points. Maryland had been getting more offensive rebounds until the last two games (it has averaged 7.0 in that span and opponents have a combined defensive rebounding percentage of 77.8%. Fortunately for Maryland, Boston College doesn’t get a lot of offensive rebounds anyway. Unfortunately for Maryland, Boston College is pretty good generally on the defensive glass (68.5% in conference play). But the Eagles allowed Virginia Tech to get 54.5% of available offensive rebounds, and the Hokies turned those 18 offensive boards into 22 second-chance points. Those were the most offensive rebounds and second chance points allowed this year by BC in regulation. In a close game, that can make all the difference. Maryland has the personnel to rebound much more effectively than BC, but it hasn’t always been about personnel for BC this year when it comes to how competitive they are. Maryland will have to give its best effort in all areas, but particularly on the boards.
Most important players: Terrell Stoglin, Maryland and Matt Humphrey, Boston College. Terrell Stoglin had a bad game at Duke with just 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting and was benched late in the second half. Immediately afterwards, he Tweeted, “Loved sittin that bench today. [Smh] wow [sic]”. The talented sophomore has often tried to carry the team on his back offensively and that sometimes leads to questionable shot selection, which is why he was benched in the first place. Kevin Cowherd of the Baltimore Sun provides great perspective on how challenging this has been for Maryland head coach Mark Turgeonand how well Turgeon has handled it. It will be important to see Stoglin and Turgeon clearly back on the same page in this game.
Matt Humphrey has tied his longest streak of double-digit scoring games in a row with five, and he has been the most consistent part of BC’s office in ACC play. But like Stoglin, he’s not always efficient and is averaging 41% shooting on 10 attempts per game in league play. He has cut down on his three-pointers and is hitting a higher percentage of them, both of which are good signs. If the talented transfer can play within the offense and continue to improve his floor game, as he has recently (3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game in the last three), BC will continue to improve offensively.
Random stat: Not exactly random – or a stat – but Maryland will honor Ernie Graham before the game by putting his jersey in the Comcast Center rafters. Per Maryland’s official website, Graham still holds the school record for points in a game (44 against N.C. State in 1978). He played for the Terps when that rivalry with N.C. State was particularly strong, so that’s quite an accomplishment. Graham is 13th on Maryland’s all-time scoring list and 16th in assists.
Prediction: Maryland 77, Boston College 66
Last week: 7-4
Season: 108-39 (44-20 ACC)
Maryland (14-9, 4-5) at Duke (20-4, 7-2), 4:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3
Duke and Maryland are both coming off of emotional wins, although Duke’s was just a tad more high-profile. Maryland got its first road win of the year after eight straight road losses dating back to last season. Duke knocked off North Carolina on a buzzer-beater, and the Blue Devils’ jubilance – though obviously understandable – makes for an interesting emotional challenge with a Maryland team coming to town that will be eager to knock them off. Not that Duke would overlook the Terrapins, but the Blue Devils have lost two ACC home games in four tries this year and Maryland knows that Duke is still riding that emotional high from Wednesday night. The Blue Devils will have to maintain the focus and intensity they showed not only in the closing minutes in Chapel Hill, but also for much of the game at Maryland earlier this year as well.
Stat to watch: Two-point field goal percentage. Maryland’s Mark Turgeon has made no secret about what his game plan was the first time around, and he’ll likely stick to a similar version of it this time. “I’d rather (Mason) Plumlee score 22 than give up 15 3’s any day,” Turgeon said. “I thought that if we guarded that way (in the first meeting), we would win but we weren’t good enough offensively to win.” Against Maryland, Duke shot 62% from inside the arc which is their highest percentage in ACC play when attempting at least 30 two’s. Duke shot 50% from two against North Carolina, but attempted 26 shots which is tied for their fewest such attempts in ACC play. Duke drained 14-of-36 three’s against the Tar Heels – their most three’s attempted and made this year (the game before, their 31 attempts against Miami had been a season-high). But Duke isn’t just going to forget what their advantage is against Maryland, and it’s their inside game. Maryland held Duke’s guards to just 21 points on 8-of-27 shooting (1-of-12 from three) but allowed Duke’s bigs to score 44 points on 71% shooting.
Maryland is going to need to shoot better from inside the arc, though. The Terrapins made just 43.2% of their two’s against Duke. Maryland’s bigs shot 5-of-14 (36%), the lowest percentage Duke has allowed to an opposing ACC frontcourt this year. Duke has allowed five of its nine ACC opponents to shoot 50% or better from inside the arc and six to have 30 or more points in the paint, but Maryland did neither, shooting just 43.2% from two (the lowest allowed by Duke in league play) and scoring 28 points in the paint. Maryland is going to have to make those higher-percentage shots against Duke because while they have been shooting three’s better (8-of-11 at Clemson and 15-of-28 in their last two ACC wins combined) they shoot just 34% on the year and 35% in ACC play. Even against North Carolina’s lengthy inside presence, they had 36 points in the paint, their most in league play so far. They need to channel whatever it is that allowed them to do that against Duke.
Most important players: Terrell Stoglin, Maryland and Austin Rivers, Duke. This could be the matchup of the weekend, especially considering the games that each are coming off. Stoglin quietly had his most efficient game of the year to date with 27 points on just 11 shots, draining 4-of-6 three’s and nine of his 11 field goal attempts. He had to take 21 shots to get 20 points against North Carolina in the previous game and 26 shots for 33 points against Miami in the game before that. Stoglin was brilliant against Clemson, but it won’t be nearly as easy against Duke. Prior to his 16-point performance against Duke in the earlier meeting, Stoglin had a total of 11 points in three games against the Blue Devils on 4-of-24 shooting. He is still without a made three against Duke (0-of-11). He was just 2-of-7 from the foul line in the first meeting this year and he’ll have to be ready to knock those down. He has made 17-of-19 in the last three games and is shooting 75% on the year (73.3% in league play). It’s not always easy to hit them in Cameron, though.
Everyone with a TV knows that Rivers hit the game-winner for Duke against North Carolina, and he’s certainly riding as high as anyone. In the first half, he was going one-on-one a bit too much and taking some ill-advised shots (though some were going in). But he settled down in the second half and made perhaps the most important play of his – and Duke’s – season to date with a three-pointer as time expired. His ten three-pointers attempted were a season-high, but so were his six made three’s. He averages 10 shot attempts in Duke’s wins and 15 in their losses, and he had 16 against North Carolina in a near-loss. But more than at any other time this year, his 29 points off of those 16 shots (compared to 73 off 60 shots in Duke’s four losses) against North Carolina show that he is learning to be efficient, which is scary. He just can’t get over-exuberant and let his confidence spill over into making bad plays.
Random stat: Duke leads the all-time series 111-61 and while this used to be a matchup that would eventually rival Carolina and Duke, it hasn’t been all that competitive lately. Duke has won four in a row and 10 of the last 11 dating back to 2008. Maryland’s only win came in 2010 and it clinched the ACC regular-season crown for the Terrapins. Maryland’s last win at Cameron came in 2007, but the Terrapins have won four times there since 2000, second only to North Carolina (five times). Still, Duke has taken the last four meetings in Cameron by an average of 20.3 points. Maryland’s seven-
Prediction: Duke 88, Maryland 77
Last week: 10-2
Season: 103-36 (39-17 ACC)
Maryland (13-9, 3-5) at Clemson (11-11, 3-5), 7:00 PM, ESPNU
Despite all the tough losses, Clemson continues to play hard and the Tigers have lost only one ACC game at home so far (to Duke). If Clemson wants to be in the hunt for a top-four ACC Tournament seed, the Tigers have to win their next two games (Maryland at home and Wake Forest on the road). Maryland hasn’t won a road game this season but the Terrapins have been competitive. Frankly, they’ve been competitive in every game under head coach Mark Turgeon. The loss to North Carolina has to be disappointing, but his young team has bounced back from tough defeats multiple times already this year. Winning in Clemson would be a tough task, though.
Stat to watch: Turnovers. Clemson’s offense has struggled mightily to score in the halfcourt, but it has done well when forcing turnovers. And so playing two teams that are not turnover-prone (Virginia and Virginia Tech), they are left with two close losses. Virginia and Virginia Tech combined for just a 14.5% loss of ball compared to Clemson forcing 21.6% in its first six ACC games. But those games were on the road and at home, Clemson has been forcing turnovers in bunches in ACC play. Clemson’s four home ACC opponents have averaged just 0.78 points per possession and 21.5% loss of ball compared to 1.04 points per possession allowed and 18.2% loss of ball on the road.
Maryland has taken pretty good care of the ball all year, averaging just 13 turnovers a game (that goes up to 14 in ACC play). They’ve slipped a bit recently: Maryland has averaged 16 turnovers in the last three games. The Terrapins had just 13 against North Carolina, Still, they were ill-timed: six of Maryland’s turnovers came in a six-minute second-half stretch that allowed Carolina to go on an 18-9 run and take a seven-point lead with 9:24 to go. In the other 34 minutes, Maryland turned it over just seven times and Carolina scored only four points off of those turnovers. They had 14 points off turnovers in just that six-minute span.
Maryland’s other problem is that they can’t force turnovers or capitalize on them when they do. From the 13:52 mark of the first half until the 19:02 mark of the second, Maryland turned seven Carolina turnovers into 11 points. In the other 25 minutes, Maryland turned Carolina’s seven turnovers into no points. Against Miami and Duke, Maryland forced a total of 25 turnovers. They turned those into 18 points (0.72 points per possession) and turned it back over nine times, nearly a 36% loss of ball on those possessions. In all other possessions in both games, Maryland averaged 0.92 points per possession and had just a 13.9% loss of ball. The Terrapins need to be a bit more aggressive and then take advantage of turnovers when they do happen.
Most important players: Alex Len, Maryland and K.J. McDaniels, Clemson. Maryland freshman Alex Len had understandably looked uncomfortable in ACC play, but he has averaged 12.5 points on 9-of-14 shooting in the last two games against North Carolina and Miami, adding 4.0 blocks and 8.0 rebounds. In the previous five ACC games, he had averaged 2.6 points on 30.8% shooting and 3.2 rebounds. The Washington Post’s Liz Clarke detailed the reasons for Len’s resurgence, including head coach Mark Turgeon simplifying things for the talented 7-footer. Against North Carolina, Len wasn’t bothered much by Carolina’s length but Clemson’s 7-foot-2 Catalin “Bobo” Baciu could give Len some problems, although Len’s confidence seems to be at an all-time high.
Clemson freshman K.J. McDaniels is not your typical Clemson player this year. The Tigers are mostly ordinary athletically and limited offensively, making good, solid plays but nothing spectacular (especially as Milton Jennings has been sidelined/limited). McDaniels is the notable exception. It’s not just his 33 points in 75 minutes of ACC action (or his 14 in a season-high 28 minutes at Virginia Tech). It’s his high-flying dunks, his shot-blocking (he had five at Virginia Tech) and his play-making ability that has Clemson fans optimistic. From the Shakin the Southland blog:
K.J. McDaniels dunks at will. The kid has phenomenal athleticism. And he’s so smooth and under control … He played a great, great game and will continue to see significant minutes. Clemson fans should be giddy about this kid. His ceiling is ridiculously high.
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell was cautiously optimistic about the freshman on Monday, which is understandable. He’s seen the other freshmen like T.J. Sapp and Rod Hall have great games and then fade away. But McDaniels has shown a gear that those other two haven’t, and he appears to be an elite talent. “He’s a little bit like a young fawn sometimes. He doesn’t always have his legs under him and the speed of the game at times can put him a little bit behind, but I think the game has slowed down a little bit for him here in the last month or so,” Brownell said. “He’s shown signs of doing some really good things and other times have looked very average. We’re just hoping that there’s going to be some consistency in his game.”
Random stat(s): Ken Pomeroy’s “Luck” rankings can be found here, but suffice to say that Maryland is No. 1 in the ACC and sixth nationally in Luck (+.122). Pomeroy’s system has not thought much of Maryland all season as their highest ranking has been since 2012 began is 135th, where it is now. But they will be facing the unluckiest team in not just the ACC, but also the entire country, tonight in Clemson (-.142). Pomeroy’s calculations love the Tigers: they are 91st in his rankings and the lowest they have been ranked is 106th.
Prediction: Clemson 69, Maryland 61
Last week: 10-2
Season: 100-33 (36-14 ACC)
Wake Forest (10-5, 1-0) at Maryland (10-4, 0-1), 7:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
It’s hard to know what to make of Wake Forest’s surprising win over Virginia Tech on Saturday, particularly since the Hokies seem to have hit the skids. But the Deacons have two elite scorers and are capable of beating almost any ACC team if those two are on. Maryland seems to be getting better even after losing to N.C. State, but the Terrapins really need a third scorer to emerge for them (Alex Len will be an easy No. 2 behind Terrell Stoglin). Stoglin and Len accounted for half of Maryland’s scoring by themselves against N.C. State and 46% of it since Len’s return.
Stat to watch: Rebounding. Is Wake Forest now a good rebounding team? Or was its performance against Virginia Tech (42-31 edge in rebounding) an anomaly? “We have done every rebound drill imaginable known to mankind over the last several days, and we’ve done that all year long,” Wake head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “They had enough of getting their butts beat on the boards.” Maryland is out-rebounding opponents by +8.4 per game over the last eight; N.C. State out-rebounded them, but only by two. Maryland pulled down 13 offensive rebounds to 11 for N.C. State.
Most important players: Terrell Stoglin, Maryland and Travis McKie, Wake Forest. Stoglin leads the ACC and is sixth nationally in scoring for Maryland. The problem is that no one else is really stepping up to help him, and Stoglin doesn’t appear willing – or able – to involve others. “You look at the games Terrell has two or three assists, I guarantee you we probably won those games,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. He’s almost right: Maryland is 8-1 when Stoglin has two or more assists and 2-3 when he doesn’t. In two games against Wake last year, Stoglin averaged 3.5 points in 14.5 minutes, picking up three fouls in each game and making just 3-of-12 shots (0-of-5 three’s).
McKie and C.J. Harris have had to carry Wake Forest this year, and it’s gotten them some wins (Nebraska, High Point, Texas Tech) they might not have had otherwise. McKie had his worst shooting performance in nearly two months against Virginia Tech (43%) but it was his rebounding that saved the day. McKie had 15 boards, easily a season high, and his six offensive rebounds were more than he had averaged to that point (5.8). Wake will need him to keep rebounding that well the rest of the year. McKie has played two games against Maryland and averaged 11.5 points on 43% shooting. Wake will need more from McKie if it wants to win this one.
Random Stat: Maryland is 4-3 in ACC home openers since expansion. Maryland hasn’t started 2-0 in the league since expansion and has finished either 7-9 or 8-8 five of the last seven seasons. The Terrapins were 10-6 in 2007, though, winning their final seven ACC games. This team is capable of a run like that. Wake Forest is just 2-5 in road openers since expansion.
Prediction: Maryland 67, Wake Forest 64
Last week: 6-3 (4-2)
Season: 66-22 (5-3)
Cornell (4-8) at Maryland (9-3), 8:00 PM, ESPN3
Testudo Times wrote about how Maryland has (and will continue to) improve with the recent additions of Alex Len and Pe’Shon Howard, including how the tempo will increase with added depth.The numbers definitely bear that out – Maryland had shot 50% or better just once before Len came back. In his two games so far, the Terps have shot 56-of-110 (51%) and averaged 79 points. Before that, they were shooting 42.8% and averaging 67.4 points.
Yes, it’s a small sample size. But with Len, Maryland has its first two double-digit wins over anyone this season. It had beaten Mount St. Mary’s (309th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings) and Radford (315th, the lowest-ranked team Maryland has faced) by a combined eight points. It has beaten Albany (187th, the highest-ranked team Maryland has played since December 4th) and Samford (295th) by a combined 23 points. It’s an improvement, and that’s all you can ask for if you’re a Maryland fan.
Cornell’s best win was against Lehigh, and the Big Red have lost three in a row (although they lost by a combined 11 points at Illinois and Penn State in that span). Cornell shoots a ton of three’s, Maryland’s three-point defense isn’t terrible (33.5%). Also, Cornell’s opponents get to the foul line a lot and that’s where Maryland has lived this year; its ratio of attempts to field goal attempts (53.2) is 4th nationally.
Prediction: Maryland 79, Cornell 66
Random: Cornell has been known as the Big Red since 1905, but the bear has a long history as a university symbol. In 1915, they had a live bear cub named “Touchdown” at games. Touchdown even traveled with the team. Since 1939, they’ve changed it to a student in a bear costume.
Alabama (10-3) at Georgia Tech (7-6), 9:00 PM ESPNU
Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory pointed out after the Mercer loss that the Yellow Jackets are playing hard, but it hasn’t been enough. (The Yellow Jackets went on to lose at Fordham.) It likely won’t be enough tonight as this game is an awful matchup for Georgia Tech. Alabama’s offense isn’t great, but they are shooting 52.7% from inside the arc (just 27.4% outside it). But Georgia Tech has not allowed an opponent
The Yellow Jackets just can’t score. In their last six games against teams (of which they have lost three), they have shot 44% and 29% from three, averaging 62.5 points. So it doesn’t matter that they are holding opponents to 35% shooting and 58.2 points in that same span. And in their three most recent losses, getting to the foul line has been a huge issue: Georgia Tech has averaged 12 attempts (just 6.7 makes) while opponents have averaged 25.3 attempts (17.7 makes).
Alabama has the No. 10 defense according to Ken Pomeroy. Georgia Tech has faced two top-50 defenses (LSU and Tulane, losing to both) and averaged 50 points, shot 37% and attempted a total of 15 foul shots. They also had 36 turnovers. Alabama is holding opponents to 25.7% from thee and 40.8% from two, their 40.1% effective field goal percentage defense is third nationally.
The Crimson Tide is 7-1 at home and 3-2 away from home. Alabama had lost three of four contests to Georgetown, Dayton and Kansas State before turning it around, beating Oklahoma State and Jacksonville since. And they’ve averaged 70.5 points, a scoring bonanza for them. It will be more than enough for the Tide.
Prediction: Alabama 65, Georgia Tech 49
Random: It’s hard to have a Crimson Tide mascot, so Alabama has been represented by an elephant officially since 1979. In 1930, Atlanta Journal writer Everett Strupper wrote: “At the end of the quarter, the earth started the tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, ‘Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,’ and out stamped this Alabama varsity.” … They were known as the Red Elephants by sportswriters after that. They had a real elephant for a time, too:
Yesterday: 2-2. I got my ACC Fail wrong in picking Virginia to lose rather than Wake Forest (in fairness, had I known C.J. Harris would miss the Wake Forest game, I would have picked Wofford). I’m sorry, Virginia.
Last week: 12-3