Erick Green, Virginia Tech
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Shane Larkin, Miami
Richard Howell, N.C. State
Joe Harris, Virginia
This was pretty straightforward, with respect to Seth Curry and Reggie Bullock, both of whom I thought deserved a spot. Ultimately, there wasn’t enough space.
Seth Curry, Duke
Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Kenny Kadji, Miami
Akil Mitchell, Virginia
Lorenzo Brown, N.C. State
P.J. Hairston, North Carolina
Devin Booker, Clemson
Ryan Anderson, Boston College
Quinn Cook, Duke
Michael Snaer, Florida State
Toughest omissions: Durand Scott (Miami), Dez Wells (Maryland), C.J. Harris (Wake Forest), C.J. Leslie (N.C. State), James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina), Alex Len (Maryland).
Full disclosure: I’m a big believer in tempo-free stats, and those omissions came from a combination of those and, you know, the eye test. I watched a lot of ACC games this year. Consistency also played a role, and defense.
Olivier Hanlan, Boston College
T.J. Warren, N.C. State
Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech
Toughest omissions: Devin Thomas (Wake Forest), Robert Carter Jr. (Georgia Tech), Joe Rahon (Boston College).
Daniel Miller, Georgia Tech
Julian Gamble, Miami
Durand Scott, Miami
Michael Snaer, Florida State
Tyler Thornton, Duke
Toughest omissions: Reggie Bullock (North Carolina), Jontel Evans (Virginia), Akil Mitchell (Virginia), Rod Hall (Clemson).
This was the most difficult category for me, and I don’t have a problem admitting that some of those picks might have been wrong.
Freshman of the Year: T.J. Warren, N.C. State.
Consistency and efficiency won the day here, as Warren edged Hanlan of BC. Sulaimon has recently hit the freshman wall, as most freshmen tend to, but he was taken out of the starting lineup and has generally looked frustrated while the other two are closing strongly. Warren was very good most of the year and is starting to hit his stride as a starter, which is part of what put him over the top for me.
Defensive Player of the Year: Julian Gamble, Miami.
I honestly had no idea what to do here, but Gamble has done a great job bothering opposing big men all year and has been very difficult to score against. And considering how much Miami’s defensive numbers have dropped since Gamble left the starting lineup/saw his minutes decrease in favor of Reggie Johnson only helped solidify that opinion. But I am very willing to admit I might have been wrong.
Coach of the Year: Jim Larranaga, Miami.
This seemed like a no-brainer until very recently, when it looked like Miami might not win the outright ACC regular-season title. Still, a weak ending to the season doesn’t take away from the body of work. And he has had this Miami team playing defense at a very high level, believing in each other and being unselfish. They’ve been very tough to beat most of this year, and he’s a big reason for that. Sure, they’re older, and experienced. But Frank Haith had older, tough-minded teams at Miami. They didn’t play like this.
(Side note: Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and Tony Bennett also did some nice things this season.)
Player of the Year: Erick Green, Virginia Tech.
A lot of my case was made for Green here, but I’ll add this: the ACC Player of the Year award is not the Most Valuable Player. If it were, I would have gone with Shane Larkin. Green averages nearly double the amount of points as Larkin, is more efficient and has a higher assist rate despite having MUCH worse teammates. Larkin’s a better defender, but not significantly.
I tend to err on the side of picking a POY from a winning ACC team, preferably a team that wins the league (or at least a top-five team). It takes a very strong effort from a guy on a last-place team (or close to last) to even merit consideration, much less win it. He has to be significantly ahead of the pack. And Green was that guy to me, based on a combination of statistics and my judgment from watching him.
He did all he could to make his teammates better (compared to another high-volume scorer from last year, about whom his coach said “I can’t coach him”). That, combined with no one else on the top-five teams jumping up to grab the award (at least in my estimation), led to my vote. Reasonable minds can disagree, of course.
No. 1 Duke (11-0) vs. Davidson (7-5), 7:00 PM, ESPN3 (Charlotte)
What to watch: Duke’s three-point defense. Duke’s had some dicey moments in the past two games against Elon and Santa Clara, and all those moments have come courtesy of their opponents hitting three-pointers. Those teams combined to make 16-of-45 (35.6%) over the last two games after Duke held opponents to 29.7% in the first nine games. Davidson will have to hit three’s (a lot of them) to keep this game close, and the Wildcats are making 38.8% from beyond the arc this year.
Mason Plumlee. Not many teams have anyone that can guard the 6-10 big man, who’s playing as well as anyone in the country right now, but Davidson certainly doesn’t have more than one (6-10 Jake Cohen). Duke needs to feed Plumlee early and often and exploit that advantage. If there’s anything to nitpick with Plumlee’s game recently, it’s that he’s made just 21-of-37 free throws (56.8%) over the last four games, but he’s shooting so well from the field that it really hasn’t mattered much, and Davidson only has so many fouls to give anyway.
Random Davidson facts: Davidson earned the Wildcat nickname back in 1917 when just 22 football players traveled to Atlanta to play Auburn, a team that had outscored its first six opponents 141-6. Davidson was just 2-4, but somehow they won 21-7. Atlanta sportswriters dubbed them the Wildcats because of their “ferocity”. Davidson had a live wildcat until the late 1960s, and they used to feed it by putting live chickens in its cage. Can’t imagine why that wouldn’t fly today.
Prediction: Duke, 87-72. Davidson might keep it close for awhile – it’s pretty clear the Blue Devils are ready for ACC play at this point, and Bob McKillop is a good coach – but Duke should win this one relatively comfortably.
UT-Chattanooga (5-8) at Georgia Tech (9-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Robert Carter, Jr. The freshmen was inconsistent to start the year and had just two double-digit scoring games in the first seven. But he’s averaging 13.8 points on 63% shooting in the last four games to go with 7.8 rebounds. Carter gives Georgia Tech yet another good post player, but he can shoot from three and his diverse skill set is something Georgia Tech doesn’t really have right now anywhere else on the floor. The Yellow Jackets need all the offense they can get.
Random UT-Chattanooga facts: Now, this is how you transition from an offensive Indian mascot to a real one. Chattanooga was known as the Moccasins, but in 1996, they had to change their name. They shortened it to “Mocs” and a mockingbird is their mascot. The mockingbird head is shaped like the state of Tennessee. Yeah, it’s kind of a lame mascot. But hey, at least it makes sense and preserves the history of the old one.
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 77-54. The Yellow Jackets are starting to click, and Chattanooga is awful.
Xavier (6-5) at Wake Forest (6-5), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: The Wake Forest defense. To say Xavier has been struggling offensively as of late would be putting it mildly, but the Musketeers have the talent to be able to turn it around. And Wake has had issues of its own defensively. Wake’s opponents are shooting 44% from the floor, and the Deacons have allowed 48% shooting in five losses.
The foul line. Wake’s free-throw rate, per Ken Pom, is second-best in the country. And it’s a good thing, too: the Deacons score over a quarter of their points from the foul line. But Xavier isn’t letting opponents get to the line much. Wake Forest has won just two games this year when it hasn’t made at least 20 free throws.
Random Xavier facts: Yes, Xavier has a Musketeer mascot named D’Artagnan (so creative). But the most famous mascot is the Blue Blob, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s beloved around campus despite having absolutely no meaning whatsoever.
And then Xavier head coach Chris Mack involved the Blue Blob in this very regrettable “Call Me Maybe” parody:
Prediction: Xavier, 65-59. Wake has struggled offensively against athletic opponents this year, and this game should be no different.
Florida State (8-4) at Auburn (5-7), 7:00 PM, Fox Sports South
What to watch: How far has Florida State’s defense come? Because Auburn’s offense is terrible. Florida State is so young that head coach Leonard Hamilton hasn’t been able to install all the defensive looks he usually uses. (This great piece by Michael Rogner from the Run The Floor blog takes a look at how gradually, Hamilton has trusted this team more and more defensively.) After holding just three of its first seven opponents to below 40% shooting, three of its last four opponents have shot below 40% (FSU has won four straight).
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Auburn isn’t great defensively, but they force a decent amount of turnovers (23%) and Florida State will turn it over against teams that aren’t good at forcing them. FSU has averaged 13.3 turnovers during this four-game winning streak after averaging 17 turnovers in the first eight. FSU tends to turn it over in bunches when it does happen, and they can’t do that in a road game against an opponent that won’t go away.
Random Auburn facts: The War Eagle has been explained before, so we’ll look at Aubie the Tiger’s origins. He was only around as a cartoon on the cover of the game programs for nearly 20 years starting in 1959. In 1979, they made him a real costume based on the older game programs and it’s been winning mascot national titles ever since. Auburn may or may not have had a live tiger mascot for at least one game.
Prediction: Florida State, 73-62. It would be way too predictable for Florida State to inexplicably lose this game for the second time in the last three years, right?
La Salle (9-2) at Miami (8-3), 9:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: Can Miami beat a decent team without one of its starters? Before the Diamond Head Classic over Christmas, Miami’s one loss – early, to Florida Gulf Coast – was explained away by the absence of guard Durand Scott. Then, just before the Christmas tournament began, center Reggie Johnson broke his thumb and he will miss six weeks. The Hurricanes promptly lost both games. They’re going to be without him for a good chunk of ACC play and may lose some games during that time. After losses to Arizona and Indiana State (the former a blowout), they can’t afford to drop a home game to La Salle at this point if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.
Random La Salle facts: The Explorers are so named because of a Philadelphia sportswriter’s mistake (yeah, yeah): he thought the university was named after french explorer Sieur de La Salle. It’s named after St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle. Well, at least they have a cool mascot anyway. And you can’t think of explorers without thinking of conquering indigenous peoples, which is at least a little intimidating. Recently, though, they did try to make the explorer look like a superhero instead.
Prediction: Miami, 66-58. At some point, Miami’s going to have to win without some of its players in the lineup. Their other players are good enough to do it.
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
Delaware (2-5) at No. 2 Duke (7-0), 2:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: The minutes of Duke’s bench. Duke has seven players that Mike Krzyzewski trusts right now: his starters, Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton. That’s it. Against Ohio State, freshmen Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy played a combined six minutes. Coach K will not play a freshman for the sake of letting him learn if he’s not doing the right things in practice or in games. Games like today give Murphy and Jefferson a chance to prove they deserve minutes. Duke could use the depth, but Krzyzewski is not going to manufacture it.
Random Delaware facts: Monte’ Ross was hired as Delaware’s head coach in 2006, and it was the first time since the 1994 season that Delaware wouldn’t be coached by a former Mike Krzyzewski assistant. Current Notre Dame head coach and Krzyzewski assistant Mike Brey coached at Delaware from 1995-00. Former Duke guard (and assistant) David Henderson took over from 2000-06. …. Delaware still hasn’t played a home game this season, and won’t until December 4.
Prediction: Duke, 95-72. After Duke’s previous four-game stretch, this should be a breeze.
Miami (4-1) at Massachusetts (3-2), 2:00 PM, CBS SN
What to watch: Reggie Johnson. The senior center did not play against Jacksonville a few weeks ago because of a “sore tailbone”. After scoring 22 points against Stetson in the season-opener, he has 23 points total in three games since. Miami can win without him being a force, but it would be a lot easier if he could be more consistent.
Random Massachusetts facts: UMass is quite the stepping stone job. John Calipari, who took UMass to its only Final Four, left to go to the Nets in 1996. Bruiser Flint succeeded him, resigned in 2001 and went to Drexel, where he’s been since. Travis Ford was hired in 2005, had a good year and was snatched up by Oklahoma State. Steve Lappas is an interesting exception, hired in 2001 but basically let go in 2005. He had just one winning season. Before UMass, he took over at Villanova for his mentor, Rollie Massimino, who stopped speaking to him as a result. Also, people don’t seem to think he has the voice for his current job, a basketball analyst/studio commentator for CBS Sports Network.
Prediction: Miami, 73-61. I guess.
No. 15/17 Oklahoma State (5-0) at Virginia Tech (6-0), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Erick Green and Marcus Smart. Both have been spectacular this year. Smart hasn’t had a game as good as the one he had against NC State a few weeks ago (20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists), but he’s still been very good. And it appears that Virginia Tech’s up-tempo offense suits Green well.He’s averaging 24.3 points on 51% shooting. He has always put up a lot of points, but often had to take a lot of shots.
Random Oklahoma State facts: Pistol Pete might have a freakishly large head and creepy expression, but the character he’s based on is beyond awesome. Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton(1860-1958) saw his father murdered by “lawless former Confederates” when he was eight years old, so he basically tracked them all down and killed them. And he killed two of them before he turned 17. He also used to pick up lumps of coal with his feet.
Prediction: Oklahoma State, 81-80. Virginia Tech can win, but their defense is probably not far enough along yet. It should at least be a very entertaining game.
Green Bay (3-3) at Virginia (5-2), 4:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: UVa’s point guard situation. Senior point guard Jontel Evans is still coming back from injury, but freshman Teven Jones also made a somewhat recent return to the lineup (after suspension). UVa is 4-0 with Jones, and the freshman is averaging 6.3 points, 2.5 assists and a steal per game. Evans played 16 minutes against Wisconsin and didn’t score or record an assist. It’s going to be a process for him before he’s fully healthy, but Jones should still factor into the rotation.
Random Green Bay facts: Until Elon came along and ruined it, Green Bay was the only school to use the Phoenix as its mascot. That became the team name in 1970 after a schoolwide vote. But the alleged runner-up name, “Fighting Tomatoes”, would’ve been ever better. … This is a personal game for UVa head coach Tony Bennett, as Green Bay is both his and his father Dick Bennett’s alma mater.
Prediction: Virginia, 71-45. The Cavaliers have looked better and better since some of their pieces have returned to the lineup, and the win at Wisconsin on Wednesday night was big.
UAB (4-3) at No. 14/13 North Carolina (5-2), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: UNC’s veterans. For the Tar Heels to have success this season, their older players must play better. In the blowout loss at Indiana, no one seemed able to step up and make a play. James Michael McAdoo struggled (4-of-15 shooting), but his three older teammates – Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald – combined to shoot 9-of-24 and 0-of-4 from three. Bullock and McDonald were just 3-of-14, and Bullock in particular has been a non-factor too much this year. He’s used to deferring, but he simply can’t anymore.
Random UAB facts: UAB’s mascot is a dragon named….Blaze. No really, that’s its name. But perhaps the best-loved mascot was Beauregard T. Rooster, who performed at games from 1979-92. The San Diego Chicken sued for some sort of infringement. Seriously.
Prediction: North Carolina, 81-67. UAB’s squad is coached by former North Carolina assistant Jerod Haase in his first year as a head coach. The Blazers have been competitive against some good teams, and they won’t be afraid. But UNC should win this game at least somewhat comfortably.
Wake Forest (3-3) at Richmond (5-2), 6:00 PM
What to watch: Can Wake Forest play any defense? All signs point to ‘no’. Wake’s opponents this year are shooting 46% and averaging 74.2 points (in low-possession games). Offensive juggernauts like William and Mary and Nebraska have torched the Deacons’ defense so far this season. So a team that actually is pretty good offensively in Richmond shouldn’t have many problems. But if Wake Forest wakes up defensively, this game could at least be close.
Random facts: The question everyone wants to know: why the Spiders? Well, because of legendary pitcher Puss Ellyson’s “lanky arms and stretching kick”, of course! Oh. Also, Richmond revamped the mascot’s appearance in 2011 because fans were complaining that the mascot didn’t have eight legs. They should have complained that it looked like a ladybug:
Prediction: Richmond, 72-58. Go ACC!
Clemson (4-2) at South Carolina (5-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Clemson’s newcomers. In the loss to Purdue, Clemson’s freshmen (Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper) and transfer DeMarcus Harrison combined to shoot 4-of-17 from the floor. Without Milton Jennings, an offensively-challenged Clemson squad can’t afford to have those guys disappear, even against a bad South Carolina team.
Random facts: The costumed rooster we see today, “Cocky”, is supposedly the son of the original, “Big Spur”. He was booed off the field in his first appearance because fans thought he was “not dignified enough”. Please, try to suppress your laughter. And South Carolina might have some of the most famous/successful mascot alums of all time (at least in the mascot world) – the original Cocky, John Routh, later became Billy the Marlin. Tommy Donavan went on to be Sir Purr for the Carolina Panthers.
Prediction: Clemson, 64-57. It wouldn’t shock me if Clemson dropped this one – they’ve lost to bad South Carolina teams before – but with the exception of the Purdue loss, Clemson has looked pretty good and competitive all year.
Mercer (3-4) at Florida State (4-2), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Michael Snaer. As he goes, so go the Seminoles. In their losses, he shot 5-of-20 (2-of-8 from three). In wins, he shot 46.3% (11-of-21 from three) and averaged 17.5 points. If he struggles and his teammates do too, this is the type of game FSU can lose. But if they’ve come as far as they seem to have come since their season-opening South Alabama loss, they should win this one easily.
Random facts: Mercer originally became known as the Bears when they played Georgia in a football game in 1892. The Mercer players had handlebar mustaches and long hair. When they came out on the field, a spectator said, “Whence cometh that bear?”
Prediction: Florida State, 84-69. This Mercer team almost beat Wake Forest at Wake earlier this year. The key word is “almost”.
Maryland (5-1) vs. George Mason (5-2), 5:00 PM (Washington, DC)
What to watch: Can Maryland ever force turnovers? Whether it’s through a combination of bad luck, defensive strategies or really careful opponents, Maryland is forcing just 9.8 turnovers a game (6.8 a game in the last four). If they’re ever going to force any, now is the time: George Mason is turning it over on 22.3% of its possessions, according to Ken Pomeroy, which is 227th nationally. They can win without forcing them, and it’s probably just a statistical anomaly, but it’s bizarre to say the least.
Random facts: The leading scorer in George Mason history was Carlos Yates, who was killed at age 27 in a drug-related shooting. And just so everyone knows that people have been writing borderline-controversial columns for a long time now, this guy seemed to think he was asking for it?
Prediction: Maryland, 72-60. The Terrapins were impressive in their dismantling of Northwestern on the road last week. George Mason is a pretty good team, but not a great one, and they should make relatively easy work of Paul Hewitt’s squad.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge: 6-6
Last week: 15-9
Virginia (4-2) at Wisconsin (4-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: ….. No seriously, while the pace of this game is not to my personal liking, it should be an intriguing matchup of styles between two slow-paced coaches who try to make it as difficult as possible on their opponents defensively while being as efficient as they can on offense. So we’ll see if that works out.
Random Wisconsin facts: Wisconsin used a live badger mascot in the 1940s, but – as you might imagine – with live animals, there are sometimes problems. Turns out, the badger didn’t like football and would often try to bite everyone in sight, even escaping its handlers a number of times. And so they replaced him with a raccoon named “Regdab” (which is “badger” backwards). There are no stories of it attacking anyone. But it was only a matter of time.
Prediction: Wisconsin, 45-38. I’m not trying to be funny with this prediction. Well, maybe a little. But how could this game go any other way?
Purdue (2-3) at Clemson (4-1), 7:15 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: How will Milton Jennings’ absence affect Clemson? The Tigers’ leading scorer might be running out of chances at Clemson – he’s been suspended multiple times in the past few years, and he’ll be suspended for tonight’s game after an arrest for marijuana possession. Without Jennings, there’s only one player 6-9 or taller available for Clemson – the 6-10 rarely-used freshman Landry Nnoko. Purdue has struggled this year, but they have plenty of big bodies – four are 6-9 or taller. Not to mention Clemson will have to find a way to replace his scoring.
Random Purdue facts: Creepy Purdue Pete is not Purdue’s official mascot. No, that’s a Boilermaker Special (a train). It’ resembles a Victoria-era locomotive that is still operated today. A miniature model of it still shows up at football games. And hey, not many mascots can say they’ve damaged a police car.
Prediction: Purdue, 63-55. Purdue has lost three games this year, but none of them were blowouts and both of their wins were by significant margins. Clemson without Milton Jennings is more likely than not a team that’s not capable of scoring enough points.
No. 13/14 Michigan State (5-1) at Miami (3-1), 7:30 PM, ESPN
What to watch: How will Shane Larkin play on a national stage? Shooting guard Durand Scott is back in the lineup for Miami after a three-game suspension, but even before his return, Larkin has been great. The sophomore point guard is averaging 17.3 points on 58% shooting, dishing out 4.5 assists per game. He is averaging 3.5 turnovers, but he’s upped his minutes to over 36 a game and he’s had to carry the load offensively as essentially the Hurricanes’ most consistent player so far. He’ll be facing off against Michigan State’s junior point guard Keith Appling, who’s the Spartans’ best player. He’s averaging 16.8 points and shooting 47% from the floor, and he’ll be a tough cover for Larkin. But Larkin will challenge Appling as well.
Random Michigan State facts: “Sparty” is perhaps best known for his cameo in one of the best “This is SportsCenter” ads, where he helps carry Kerri Strug across the newsroom.
Oh, and Draymond Green (who graduated last year after a productive eight-year stint at Michigan State) earns points for admitting that as a kid, he was terrified of Sparty.
Prediction: Michigan State, 74-61. Hmm. A Tom Izzo-coached team going into a far-from-intimidating road environment, against a team that has already lost to Florida Gulf Coast? Yeah, I’ll take the Spartans, even in a down year.
Georgia Tech (4-1) at No. 22 Illinois (7-0), 9:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: Georgia Tech’s veterans. Ask North Carolina how it worked out for them last night when they went into a hostile road environment and their veterans didn’t play well. Georgia Tech’s veterans have been fine – Mfon Udofia is averaging 10.2 points and Kammeon Holsey is averaging 10.6 – but Daniel Miller, Brandon Reed and Jason Morris have been virtually invisible this season. Miller in particular, who ended last season well, is averaging 5.6 points on less than 50% shooting. The Yellow Jacket freshmen have been impressive, but it would be asking a lot of them to carry the team at Illinois this early in their careers.
Random Illinois facts: Everyone knows Illinois as the Fighting Illini, and while that is still their official mascot, they no longer use the official manifestation (Chief Illiniwek). When the NCAA began cracking down on Indian mascots, Illinois got the dreaded “hostile and abusive” tag and was forced to get rid of it in 2007. There is some controversy about whether or not the mascot offended the local Sioux tribe, who it was intended to honor, and the students have continued to keep the mascot alive as best they can at sporting events.
Prediction: Illinois, 71-59. The Illini are ranked this season after cruising through the Maui Invitational field. Their best win so far is Butler, but other than a one-point win over Gardner-Webb a few days after getting back to the mainland, they’ve beaten everyone convincingly. Georgia Tech has improved quite a bit, as they showed by hanging with Cal and knocking off St. Mary’s last week in Anaheim, but they’re not ready to win this game yet.
Boston College (2-4) at Penn State (3-2), 9:15 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: How healthy is Ryan Anderson? BC’s leading scorer has struggled on a sprained ankle the last few weeks, and it’s shown in BC’s results. After blowing out FIU and narrowly losing to a then-ranked Baylor team, the Eagles looked great, and so did Anderson. They’ve lost three of four since, including a game to Charleston that he didn’t play in due to the injury and a home game to Bryant (he shot 4-of-14). If he’s not healthy enough for BC to beat a team like Bryant – at home – he’s certainly not going to be capable of helping carry the Eagles to a win at Penn State.
Random Penn State facts: Penn State’s head coach Patrick Chambers might look like your typical middle-aged coach, but he’s pretty hardcore. About ten years ago, he was jumped in a bar and stabbed in the neck with a broken vodka bottle. He still has the bag of bloody clothes and shoes he was wearing the night it happened, and he’s been known to break it out on occasion and show it to his players.
Prediction: Penn State, 61-53. I’m sorry, Boston College. I still have a deep amount of affection for you, but I can no longer trust you.
No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) at No. 2 Duke (6-0), 9:30 PM, ESPN
What to watch: How far has Duke’s defense really come? The Buckeyes have the No. 5 offense in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy. Last year, Duke went up to Columbus and allowed Ohio State to shoot over 59% in an 83-65 loss, providing the first indication that their defense might not be up to normal Duke standards. Ohio State has always had one of the more efficient offenses in the country and plenty of athleticism in its lineup, and this year is no different. Louisville and Kentucky are the best teams Duke has played – Louisville is offensively-challenged at times, and Kentucky was/is inexperienced. This will be probably the toughest defensive test Duke will face heading into ACC play.
Quinn Cook vs. Aaron Craft. Duke’s sophomore point guard’s confidence is sky-high right now; the reigning ACC Player of the Week averaged 13.7 points, 4.8 assists and two steals per game in Duke’s three games in the Bahamas. Duke beat three very good teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis, and his knack for making big plays in key moments had a lot to do with that. He’s turning those flashes of potential into something consistent, and Duke feeds off his energy. But Ohio State feeds off of senior point guard Aaron Craft, too. A notoriously annoying defender, Craft is a coach’s son and all the normal clichés apply. Cook held his own just fine against Louisville’s Peyton Siva, and Craft will test him mentally as well.
Random Ohio State facts: Ohio State adopted the Buckeye (a type of nut from Ohio’s state tree) in 1965, and the first costume was made of papier-mâché that was basically an enormous head (see above picture). In 1975, a reworking of the costume with “a prune-like head” was unveiled, but booed off the field. The redesign was essentially the creepy Buckeye we see today.
Prediction: Duke, 85-78. It’s very difficult to win in Cameron, and the Blue Devils are a much better defensive team than they were a year ago. Even if they struggle at times to get stops, the momentum of the home crowd often helps them pick up their defensive intensity another notch. This team is full of enthusiastic defenders anyway, and they’ll feed off of the crowd to get stops in key moments.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Day 1: 3-3
Last week: 21-6
Georgia Tech (6-5, 5-3) at No. 3/3 Georgia (10-1, 7-1), 12:00 PM, ESPN
Moments in Georgia-Georgia Tech history: Georgia Tech’s first-ever football game was against Georgia, and the visiting Yellow Jackets were quite literally chased out of Athens as projectiles were thrown at their heads, according to Wikipedia. It’s a legitimate rivalry that has been stopped more than once because of bad blood between the two schools, but it hasn’t been competitive lately. Georgia Tech has won just one of the last 11 meetings.
Uh, this might be a good reason why. Tackle please?
“We’re gonna take your silver britches to the ground”
Honestly, is this hype video really necessary at this point?
Prediction: Georgia, 52-24. Is any explanation really necessary? Georgia Tech’s offense is clicking, but its defense is still suspect at best. This will be our Coastal Division champ on display. Go ACC!
Virginia (4-7, 2-5) at Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
Moments in Virginia-Virginia Tech history: Interestingly enough, per Wikipedia, Virginia leads the series between the two teams in most sports except football (Tech leads 51-37-5). From 1984-98, Virginia went 9-6 against Virginia Tech. Ever since, the Hokies have won 12 of the last 13 with the only Virginia win coming in 2003. The last close loss came in 2008 when Virginia Tech won 17-14 at home. Since, Virginia Tech has won by a combined score of 117-20 in the last three games.
If Virginia Tech shows up making plays like this – you know, where their offensive players are blocking someone on the opposing team – it should be an interesting game.
The Hitler videos never get old.
At least UVa owns Virginia Tech in Quidditch.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 23-17. It was all there for Virginia a little over a week ago. Beat UNC, beat Virginia Tech, eliminate your rival from going to a bowl and earn bowl eligibility yourself. But the Cavaliers were thumped at home last Thursday by the Tar Heels, taking them out of bowl eligibility. And Virginia Tech barely escaped a bad Boston College team to keep themselves alive for a bowl. All they have to do is beat a disappointed Virginia team to earn another bowl berth.
Miami (6-5, 4-3) at Duke (6-5, 3-4), 12:30 PM, ACC Network
Moments in Miami-Duke history: Duke was right there in 2009, leading 13-10 at the half. Miami trailed 16-13 at the end of the third, but Miami scored twice before a pick-six by Thaddeus Lewis ended it, and ended Duke’s hope of bowl eligibility that season.
I’m sure there are clips available of Devin Hester doing this to pretty much every ACC team. But this one, against Duke in 2005, is ridiculous.
Demarcus Van Dyke intercepts a Sean Renfree pass that Conner Vernon – normally Mr. Reliable – tipped. From the last time Miami was in Durham, Duke lost this one 28-13 in 2010 and this was one of four second-quarter turnovers for Duke, which finished with seven…
…But at least this Duke fan enjoyed the game.
Prediction: Duke, 36-31. This is a really tough call. Knowing they’re not eligible for the Coastal Division crown, will the Miami players pack it in? Duke is more than capable of beating almost anyone at home, save Clemson or Florida State. Miami is neither. But they do have the talent to beat Duke, and they’ll either be angry or despondent and lifeless. Duke, on the other hand, still has won just one game in November under Cutcliffe ever (and none this year). And the Blue Devils know they can’t win the Coastal Division anymore, either. Both teams are playing for pride (and Duke for a better bowl).
Boston College (2-9, 1-6) at NC State (6-5, 3-4), 3:00 PM, ESPN3
Moments in Boston College-NC State history: Obviously, Tom O’Brien as the former head coach of Boston College makes this one more significant for a variety of reasons. Unlike Butch Davis’ bizarro hold over his former school, Miami (Davis lost just once to his former team), BC has had the opposite effect on O’Brien. He’s 1-4 against his former school. NC State’s first win in the series under O’Brien came two years ago at home when NC State won 44-17. But last year after beating UNC, NC State lost 14-10 at a bad Boston College team.
How should NC State be expected to contend with all this BC cuteness?
I don’t think this needs any introduction. Just enjoy.
Guys….don’t do the wave. Please.
Prediction: NC State, 44-27. I wanted to pick NC State to NC State last week (and by that, I mean beat Clemson). Since that didn’t happen, I can’t pick them go to NC State this week. Although a huge part of me wants to do that. Also, Boston College has to be crushed after letting a winnable game against Virginia Tech get away from them.
Maryland (4-7, 2-5) at North Carolina (7-4, 4-3), 3:00 PM, RSN
Moments in Maryland-North Carolina history: Queen Elizabeth visited College Park (yes, you read that correctly) in 1957 for a UNC-Maryland football game. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that there is absolutely no way that could ever happen again.
As UNC’s Willie Parker is taking 20 years to turn upfield, he is caught by the shoestrings for a safety.
In perhaps the second-worst loss of the Butch Davis era, Maryland quarterback Chris Turner – hardly known as a running threat – made a nine-yard run late in the game on 4th and 5.
Prediction: North Carolina 48, Maryland 13. North Carolina isn’t going to want to pour it on in the name of defending all things ACC, since Maryland just announced they’re leaving the conference. But they’re going to pour it on because Maryland has 80,000 injuries right now and Carolina is going to want to end the season on a good note. And because Maryland football players have been dealing with this ACC stuff all week on top of everything else.
No. 10/5 Florida State (10-1, 7-1) vs. No. 6/6 Florida (10-1, 7-1), 3:30 PM, ABC
Moments in Florida-Florida State history: Florida leads the series 33-21-2, but it seems to be a series of runs, as it were. Florida won six in a row from 2004-09, but Florida State had won five of six from 1998-03. Now, the Seminoles are rolling again and have won two straight under Jimbo Fisher. In one of the biggest controversies in the history of the rivalry, FSU and Florida fans still dispute to this day whether FSU wide receiver Lane Fenner actually caught the ball or not in 1966. It was called no catch, and Florida hung on, 22-19.
“The Choke at Doak” – can it really be called that if Florida didn’t lose? I’m just saying. I’m just stunned it didn’t involve a missed field goal.
Maybe this is why the FSU people are mad at the ACC today? The “Swindle in the Swamp” is a thing that supposedly happened that involved ACC refs giving FSU favorable calls. I guess the league doesn’t do this anymore?
And hey…it’s not always the players that end up fighting.
Prediction: Florida State, 37-21. Florida has a great record, but the Gators have hardly blown anyone away. Even last week against Jacksonville State, they won just 23-0. And that was their third-largest margin of victory this season behind a 38-0 rout of Kentucky and a 44-11 beating of South Carolina. Every other game – including a season-opening win over Bowling Green – has been by 20 or fewer points. Florida State hasn’t been much more impressive outside of its stadium, but in the friendly confines of the Doak, the Seminoles have been downright dominant. Expect that to continue.
Wake Forest (5-6, 3-5) vs. Vanderbilt (7-4, 5-3), 3:30 PM, ESPNU
Mascot facts: Vanderbilt is known as the Commodores because of the nickname given to their benefactor, Cornelius Vanderbilt. (There’s no such naval rank as commodore anymore, for what it’s worth.)
Also…uh….this is weird. The Commodore punches someone in the face for basically no reason. And it’s all the more disturbing because of that perpetual smile on his face:
Prediction: Vanderbilt, 31-17. Vanderbilt is quietly a very hot team right now, having won five straight and six of their last seven. Their best win in that stretch? Maybe at Missouri? But still, wins are wins and Wake Forest could use a few. The Deacons are reeling; their last two losses have come by a combined score of 75-6.
No. 12/9 Clemson (10-1, 7-1) vs. No. 13/12 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN
Moments in Clemson-South Carolina history: The longest uninterrupted series in the South will meet again on Saturday for the Hardee’s Trophy. Clemson leads it 65-40-4 but you wouldn’t know it based on recent results: Clemson has lost three straight and none have been particularly close. In fact, Clemson has a total of 37 points in their last three meetings with South Carolina. If South Carolina wins, they will tie their longest streak in the rivalry of four straight (from 1951-54).
This brawl was so bad in 2004 that both schools decided to ban themselves from the postseason. This was of course back when doing such a thing in the ACC wasn’t a big deal.
This 1983 brawl came first, though.
Not a bad form tackle, but he probably will be flagged for a late hit.
The catch…or the push-off? You decide.
Well done, Clemson fan.
Prediction: Clemson, 41-30. Every time we think Clemson is going to Clemson, they don’t. Generally speaking, Clemson’s season has already been wrapped up one way or the other heading into that game. That doesn’t mean the Tigers still don’t want to beat their rivals – they do – but there’s a lot more on the line for Clemson this year than in years past. South Carolina has won two straight since losing star tailback Marcus Lattimore to a gruesome knee injury, but they struggled with Wofford a week ago and barely put away a bad Tennessee team the week of Lattimore’s injury. They seem to be a team living on reputation at the moment in terms of the polls.
Last week: 5-2 (3-2 ACC)
TOTAL: 57-21 (27-15 ACC)
No. 10 Florida State (9-1, 6-1) at Maryland (4-6, 2-4), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
Moments in Florida State-Maryland history: Florida State leads the series 20-2 (8-2 at the Byrd-muda Triangle).
From one of Maryland’s two wins over FSU, this one in 2006. Why does it always come down to a field goal for FSU?
This was a bigger win, though. In 2004, No. 5 FSU lost at Maryland. One of many bad days for Chris Rix.
Shawn Petty, you’re brave.
I guess this shouldn’t have been a flag, either?
Prediction: Florida State, 44-12. With a win, Florida State clinches the Atlantic Division. And with a loss, Florida State ensures the death of the ACC. The Seminoles haven’t played well on the road once this year, and this would be a great time to put together a convincing win against a hapless Maryland team that seemingly has a season-ending injury every hour.
Virginia Tech (4-6, 2-4) at Boston College (2-8, 1-5), 12:30 PM, ACC Network
Moments in Virginia Tech-Boston College history: The teams had never played until 1993 when the Big East started a full round-robin schedule. They played every year until 2004, when Virginia Tech joined the ACC and BC wasn’t in yet. They’ve played every year since as cross-divisional rivals. Virginia Tech leads the all-time series 14-6 (6-3 at BC), but since both joined the league, it’s a little narrower (6-3 overall for the Hokies and 1-2 in Chestnut Hill).
Just to remind everyone that Michael Vick used to be able to do this.
In the name of equal time, here’s a ridiculous throw from Matt Ryan in 2006:
Random funny shot of a VT band member:
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 31-17. Virginia Tech is the only team in the Coastal without a road win. That’s about to change this week.
Miami (5-5, 4-3) vs. South Florida (3-6, 1-4, Big East), 3:00 PM, RSN
Moments in Miami-South Florida history: Miami leads this series 3-1 (2-1 at home) and won the first two pretty convincingly (27-7 in 2005, 31-10 in 2009). But the last two have gone down to the wire: South Florida won 23-20 in 2010 in an overtime thriller, and last year, Miami won 6-3. Yep, a baseball score. Miami had 316 total yards but just 57 rushing, and quarterback Jacory Harris didn’t throw one interception. Wait, how was that game that close?
This was the game-winning field goal last year for Miami. FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!
Miami fan videos never disappoint. This is a preview of last year’s USF game. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this guy is reading. Still, a good effort.
The 2010 USF win got Randy Shannon fired.
Prediction: Miami, 31-23. Because the ACC needs this.
Wake Forest (5-5, 3-5) at No. 3 Notre Dame (10-0), 3:30 PM, NBC
Moments in Wake Forest-Notre Dame history: It’s hard to believe, but Notre Dame and Wake Forest have only met once prior to this year and that was last year. Wake actually led 17-10 at halftime, but Notre Dame scored twice in the third and took a 24-17 lead, which was the final. Wake had its chances, twice making it inside the Notre Dame 10-yard line in the second half but coming away with no points. Wake really should have won that game, but they didn’t. And they won’t this year.
Did you guys know that Notre Dame and Wake Forest aren’t only playing on the field, but also in this fake thing called The Energy Bowl? This is a real thing. And there’s some environmental smack from the leprechaun about the sustainability of Wake Forest’s motorcycle. SICK BURN!
The Notre Dame team does a “Trick Shot Monday” video every week, and this week is no different. I wonder if the Notre Dame brass know that this is essentially beer pong?
Prediction: Notre Dame, 34-3. Notre Dame hasn’t looked great lately, allowing a season-high 26 points (in three overtimes) to Pitt two weeks ago and only beating a bad Boston College team 21-6 last week. But Wake Forest has looked even worse, and its sputtering offense against Notre Dame’s dominant defense is an awful matchup.
Week 11: 4-2 (3-2 ACC)
TOTAL: 52-19 (24-13 ACC)
Boston College (1-1) vs. Dayton (1-1), 2:30 PM, ESPNU (Charleston Classic)
What to watch: BC’s three-point shooting. The Eagles got going from three somewhat against Baylor, hitting 10-of-26 (38.5%), but they’ve made just 27.9% on the year. Meanwhile, their opponents have made 21-of-50 (42%). BC can’t afford to continue to be outscored like that from three.
Random Dayton facts: Dayton is coached by former NC State point guard Archie Miller. But the Flyer mascot – whose name is Rudy Flyer – comes from that whole thing where Ohio thinks they were first in flight just because the Wright Brothers are from there and built the plane there. Okay, that’s fine I guess. But the flight thing happened in North Carolina, so let’s get that part straight.
Prediction: Boston College, 75-66.
No. 6 NC State (2-0) vs. Massachusetts (2-0), 5:00 PM, ESPN2/U/3 (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
What to watch: The running game. Both of these teams are fine with going up-tempo, and that should keep NC State engaged on both ends. The Wolfpack got out to a big lead last night but seemed to lose interest defensively late in the game, per their head coach, in a slow-paced affair. Massachusetts will have to be wary of when they run against NC State, because if they try to out-run the Wolfpack, they’ll lose. UMass creates more possessions with pressure defense (at times full-court), so NC State will have to make good decisions.
Chaz Williams versus Lorenzo Brown. Brown will be nearly half a foot taller than the diminutive UMass point guard, but Williams has never let size get in the way. The junior averaged 16.9 points and 6.2 assists last season and he’s up to 7.5 assists this year. Like Brown, he’s a good rebounder (4.4 a game last year, 5.0 this year). Also like Brown, he’ll turn it over from time to time but has a knack for getting steals. Brown became a much better defender last season, but this will be his biggest challenge yet on both sides of the ball.
Random UMass facts: You’d think that UMass would have been the Minutemen for most of its history, but no – they were the Redmen until 1972.
Prediction: NC State, 89-71.
Wake Forest (1-0) vs. No. 23/UR Connecticut (2-0), 6:30 PM, CBS SN (Paradise Jam)
What to watch: Turnovers. Wake Forest shot 64% against Radford in their season-opening win, but only won by 12 points, in large part because they turned it over 18 times. Radford had 22 of their 67 points off of Wake’s turnovers. UConn has made opponents pay for turnovers, turning 31 turnovers into 39 points in two games. This isn’t a great matchup for Wake anyway, and they can’t afford to give away possessions.
Random Connecticut facts: UConn decided to get a mascot in the 1930s because they were inspired by a story of Rhode Island’s ram mascot being kidnapped. The husky was selected by a student poll. Jonathan IV was notoriously feisty: he once bit Yale’s bulldog mascot on the nose and would growl when an opposing basketball team scored on UConn.
Prediction: Connecticut, 75-69.
Clemson (1-0) at Furman, (1-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: The Clemson freshmen. Four saw at least 16 minutes, and three of them combined for 26 points in 57 minutes. Last year, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell couldn’t trust his freshmen for extended minutes. He may not have a choice this year, so this young group is going to have to come along quickly.
Random Furman facts: For awhile, the Furman football team was “the Hurricane” and the baseball team was the Hornets. Only the basketball team was the Paladins, and they were dubbed that by a sportswriter. It was adopted for all teams in 1961.
Prediction: Clemson, 76-57.
Florida State (1-1) vs. BYU (2-0), 7:00 PM, TruTV (Coaches vs. Cancer)
What to watch: Florida State’s defense. According to Ken Pomeroy, Florida State’s defense is 48th in the country. That’s a respectable ranking for most, but not a team like Florida State that’s perennially in the top 10. BYU is more than capable of putting up very good offensive numbers, so FSU is going to have to get this fixed, and quickly. The Seminoles have allowed 72 points per game to two subpar teams on 46% shooting and 47% from three.
Random BYU facts: It’s still Hammer Time at BYU, evidently. But the Cosmo the Cougar, can break it down.
Prediction: BYU, 82-71.
Jacksonville (1-1) at Miami (1-1), 7:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: Miami looks to go 2-1 against the Atlantic Sun. That’s right – their first three opponents are from the Atlantic Sun. Miami struggled with Stetson and lost to Florida Gulf Coast because they couldn’t defend them inside the arc (40 points in the paint) or on the backboards (the Canes were out-rebounded 40-32). Starting shooting guard Durand Scott will serve the final game of his suspension against Jacksonville, and he had nothing to do with either of those ugly stats from the Miami loss.
Random Jacksonville facts: The dolphin became the official mascot in 1947, and a 59-year-old live dolphin – Nellie – is the live mascot (she lives in St. Augustine).
Prediction: Miami, 83-75.
Long Island (0-2) at Maryland (1-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Long Island is an up-tempo team that thrives on getting to the foul line, and the Blackbirds are as good of a team as Maryland will see before the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. The Terps were sloppy at times against Morehead State, and they can’t afford to let down too much in this one.
Random Long Island facts: Long Island used to be known as the Blue Devils, but then they dressed all in black and a local reporter wrote they reminded him of a blackbird.
Prediction: Maryland, 84-68.
No. 11 North Carolina (2-0) at Long Beach State (1-1), 11:05 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: How will the young Tar Heels handle the road? Carolina has looked good at times and shaky at others. Now, they’ll be in a very difficult environment facing a team coming off of a program-changing season a year ago. The 49ers are not going to just roll over for UNC, and they’ll have to tough their way through it.
Random Long Beach State facts: They’re the 49ers, but the baseball team doesn’t use this mascot. Instead, they’ve dubbed themselves the Dirtbags. It stems from 1989, when the lack of a field meant infielders often had to use a local all-dirt Pony League field to practice, thus rejoining their teammates covered in dirt. And that’s easily the most flattering definition of dirtbag ever.
Oh, and also, Long Beach State has a senior guard named Peter Poppageorge. They could dominate an all-name team tournament: Branford Jones, Deng Deng, Gatete Djuma?
Prediction: North Carolina, 75-64.
Last week’s picks: 10-2
No. 9/8 Duke (1-0) vs. No. 3 Kentucky (1-0), 9:30 PM, ESPN (Atlanta, GA)
What to watch: Who runs the point? NC State transfer Ryan Harrow will miss this game for Kentucky with the flu, so it looks like walk-on Jarrod Paulson will see a lot of time again. Against Maryland, he was great. But can he do it again? And for Duke, Quinn Cook is not listed as a projected starter and didn’t start the opener. Tyler Thornton takes better care of the ball than Cook generally, but he’s not as much of a potential game-changer. It will be interesting to see how that rotation develops.
Is Mason Plumlee ready to assert himself? Kentucky’s bigs are inexperienced, and Maryland’s frontcourt dominated them on the backboards last Friday. Nerlens Noel was the No. 1 recruit in the country, but Plumlee is athletic enough and certainly savvy enough to get the better of that matchup. He’s “the guy” this year for Duke, and this is his time to show why.
Will Alex Murphy play? This question speaks for itself. And if the redshirt freshman – who was a healthy scratch from Duke’s opener due to “match-ups”, per Krzyzewski – does play, where will his confidence level be?
Random Duke-Kentucky facts: They’ve played just five times in the Coach K era, and Duke is 4-1 in those games. And yet this is being billed as a rivalry game. It’s a bit one-sided in that Kentucky fans still have a lot of bitterness towards Duke stemming from the 1992 Elite 8 loss. A lot of the hatred from Kentucky fans stems from the fact that Christian Laettner didn’t miss a shot, including hitting this game-winner…
…but it didn’t help that this moment came earlier.
Chris Farley as Christian Laettner. No, seriously.
This guy hates Duke almost as much as he loves Jagermeister. But a Duke football shirt?
Prediction: Duke, 67-61.
Delaware (1-1) at Virginia (1-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3 (NIT Season Tip-Off)
What to watch: Joe Harris. Joey Hoops has literally accounted for 30% of Virginia’s scoring so far this season. He’s going to need some help at some point, but he’s been very efficient. Can he keep carrying that load until Malcolm Brogdon and Jontel Evans come back?
Random Delaware facts: According to the Delaware website, the Fightin’ Blue Hen comes from the Revolutionary War, when the Delaware regiment started putting on cockfights with the Kent County Blue Hen.
Prediction: Virginia, 57-49.
Florida Gulf Coast (0-1) at Miami (1-0), 7:05 PM (Fort Myers, FL)
What to watch: Miami’s defense. Allowing 79 points to Stetson on 44% shooting (42% from three) to go with 20 assists on 28 field goals for the Hatters? Yeah, that’s not very good.
Random Florida Gulf Coast facts: Florida Gulf Coast’s mascot is an eagle, because – per the University website – “The Eagle serves to identify not only the physical environment of Southwest Florida but also the University’s relationship with it.” Okay. He did hit a halfcourt shot and win free books for a year:
Prediction: Miami, 91-68.
Presbyterian (0-1) at Georgia Tech (1-0), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Presbyterian’s turnovers. It could have just been a fluke, but Georgia Tech forced Tulane into just four turnovers on Friday.
Random Presbyterian facts: One of their former football players was on “The Bachelorette”. He got in a a bit of trouble for saying he wanted a “trophy wife”.
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 81-57.
Last week: 11-1
Stetson at Miami, 5:30 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Miami’s big men. Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji combined for 39 minutes, ten shot attempts, five free-throw attempts, five rebounds and eight turnovers in the Hurricanes’ exhibition loss to Saint Leo. It goes without saying that can’t become a trend.
Random Stetson facts: The Hatter mascot recently got a makeover, since the previous Mad Hatter with “crazy Doc Brown hair and large teeth” scared the children. Now, it’s this guy:
Prediction: Miami, 78-63.
Gardner-Webb at No. 11 North Carolina, 7:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: Marcus Paige. The freshman point guard is going to be the guy this year for North Carolina no matter how he plays. So he’s going to need to play better than he did in Carolina’s exhibition against Shaw (six points, 2-of-7 shooting, one assist and three turnovers). He’s going to have some growing pains, but he needs to start gaining some confidence.
Random Gardner-Webb facts: I suppose Gardner-Webb’s version of the Bulldog – the “Runnin” Bulldog – differentiates it somewhat from the 7,500 other schools that use it. He does give dancing tours of campus, so there is that.
Prediction: North Carolina, 87-63.
Georgia State at No. 8 Duke, 7:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Duke’s offense. Georgia State was one of the best defensive teams in the country last year. Though the Panthers lost four of five starters, Duke’s offense has struggled some in the exhibition season and this game should be an indicator of where Duke really is offensively. Duke has potential to be a very good offensive team, but they lack a true scorer. Who – if anyone – can step up to fill that role, or will it be a team effort?
Random Georgia State facts: Georgia State chose the Panther mascot supposedly based on the Florida Panther, which was once native to Georgia. Of course it was.
Prediction: Duke, 84-62.
Miami (Ohio) at No. 6 NC State, 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: NC State’s rotation. Even in an exhibition game, NC State played nine people ten or more minutes and just seven played over 15 minutes. Jordan Vandenberg and Thomas de Thaey were thought to be rotation players in the post, but they saw a combined 25 minutes of action. NC State needs them to be productive, but head coach Mark Gottfried won’t play them just for the sake of having depth. Their minutes tonight should indicate how much he trusts them right now.
Random Miami (Ohio) facts: The RedHawks were actually the Redskins up until 1997, when they changed hteir name. Of course, the original nickname in 1928 was “Big Red-Skinned Warriors”. Oops. “RedHawk” was chosen over “the Miamis” and the ThunderHawks”. The Miami’s?
Prediction: NC State, 94-75.
Radford at Wake Forest, 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: The Wake Forest freshmen. Codi Miller-McIntyre, Tyler Cavanaugh and Devin Thomas will all start tonight, and plenty of other freshmen will see time. Radford is far from a juggernaut, but a convincing Wake Forest win might mean that the youngsters are ready to at least make Wake competitive.
Random Radford facts: The Highlander is a reference to Radford’s Scottish heritage. But I prefer to think it is a reference to this classic (HAPPY HALLOWEEN, LADIES!):
Prediction: Wake Forest, 76-61.
South Alabama at No. 25 Florida State, 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Florida State’s turnovers. It’s always been an issue for the Seminoles, even against lesser opponents. In two exhibition games, Florida State had 25 assists to 33 turnovers, and starting point guard Ian Miller had eight turnovers. FSU has to cut back on that this year because they have less of a margin for error on both ends of the floor right now.
Random South Alabama facts: A few years ago, the USA cheerleaders were asked to stop leading a popular cheer after made free throws, which was, “USA, South in your mouth!” By all indications, they still do it.
Prediction: Florida State, 77-59.
Tulane at Georgia Tech, 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Um, how about if Georgia Tech wins? The Yellow Jackets were so bad last year that they lost games like this – in fact, they literally did lose this game at Tulane a year ago, 57-52. Ken Pomeroy has Tulane 110th in his preseason rankings, and this is no gimme. But if Georgia Tech is even going to be decent this year, they need to win this one.
Random Tulane facts: Tulane was known as the “Greenbacks” and the “Greenies” before the “Green Wave” nickname stuck in the 1920’s. The pelican riding the wave had been used as a symbol in the past, but so had Gumby. The pelican stuck in 1998.
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 65-57.
Virginia at George Mason, 7:00 PM
What to watch: Virginia’s freshmen. The Cavaliers, because of injuries and suspensions, are going to be starting three freshmen (Justin Anderson, Mike Tobey and Taylor Barnette). Barnette will have to run the point guard against a pretty good opponent, and he doesn’t have any experience.
Random George Mason facts: George Mason really experimented with its mascots over the years. They still use the Patriot, and they also use this….thing named Gunston:
Prediction: George Mason, 61-53.
No. 3 Kentucky vs. Maryland, 8:30 PM, ESPN (Brooklyn, NY)
What to watch: Dez Wells. Maryland was projected to have a good year anyway, but the announcement on Wednesday that Wells won his NCAA appeal and would be immediately eligible changed the Terrapins’ expectations. It’s too early to judge how good they will be based on how they play against the defending national champs, but his impact should be obvious tonight.
Random Kentucky facts: Kentucky has three mascots: The Wildcat (a student), Scratch (a kid-friendly version) and a live Bobcat named Blue. They used to have a live mascot at games, but that stopped about 50 years ago. Here’s the Wikipedia quote about today’s Blue:
▪ Blue — A live bobcat (note that in American English, “wildcat” generally refers to this particular mammal). He lives at the state-operated Salato Wildlife Education Center near the state capital of Frankfort. Unlike the school’s two costumed mascots, he never attends games, because bobcats are very shy by nature and do not react well with large crowds.
Prediction: Kentucky, 79-64.
East Tennessee State at Virginia Tech, 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Virginia Tech’s offense. Despite a ridiculously thin roster, first-year head coach James Johnson has said that he wants to push the tempo. I suppose anything is faster than the offense Seth Greenberg ran, but it seems like an odd choice considering his personnel. It will be interesting to see how it looks.
Random East Tennessee State facts: Here was the description given to Pepper the Parrot:
“Once upon a time, on one of the deserted Canary Island, there lived a giant parrot named Pepper. Like most parrots, he had aspirations of playing in the NBA and perhaps having his own line of breakfast cereals. But the big bird had one problem. He wanted to make people happy, but there were no people where he lived. So Pepper packed his suitcase and left his island home. As he flew across the ocean, he was swept up in a hurricane. Pepper, being the strong parrot that he is, fought the storm. Finally, though, he became exhausted and was forced to land. He fell asleep on a sandy beach. When he awoke, he saw a rainbow in the sky. He followed the rainbow to its end at ETSU’s blue and yellow Memorial Center. Since that fateful day, Buccaneer fans have laughed and cheered with Pepper, making him a very happy bird.”
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 72-59.