Lindsay Funke: You’ll never be able to pull this off, Michael. You’re the good guy. This isn’t you.
Michael: It’s me now, Lindsay. It’s the me that can recline.
[he leans back and hits his head on the railing]
Lindsay Funke: I’m saying every time something starts to go well for you, you blow it.
Tobias Fünke: Nothing has ever gone well for me, and you know that.
NC State has not been the favorite in quite some time, and whenever it had a semblance of preseason hype, the team has fallen flat on its face (see 2008). In the fan base, a phenomenon of NC State….stuff has arisen: the concept that what can go wrong, will go wrong, in all sports. And sometimes, things no one would even think could go wrong, go wrong. Sheer terror has gripped NC State fans as they see that their team is the prohibitive favorite to win the league.
2012 record/results: 24-13 overall, 9-7 ACC, No. 11 seed in NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16 (L to No. 2 seed Kansas). Yes, NC State lost 13 games last year. But they lost to just two teams all season that finished outside Pomeroy’s top 50, and 11 of their 13 losses were to top-33 teams (eight to the top 20).
Reason for optimism: As the Wolfpack bought into what then first-year head coach Mark Gottfried was selling, they became a better defensive team by the end of the year and won six of their final eight games. Their only two losses were to top-10 teams North Carolina and Kansas, by a combined five points. Oh, and they return pretty much their entire core from last year: four of five starters, including point guard Lorenzo Brown, who should complete the transition he began last year from very good to elite.
Reason for pessimism: There’s little depth on this team, and the depth they do have they’re not likely to use. Big men Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie are still going to pick up questionable fouls, and when those one or both have to sit down, freshman T.J. Warren could come in along with…Thomas de Thaey? Jordan Vandenberg? Both are unproven, and not as good as last year’s go-to big man sub DeShawn Painter, who transferred. Senior small forward Scott Wood is the only reliable three-point shooter on the team, and he has struggled to get off his shot against more athletic defenders. Who else can make outside shots if he’s not hitting?
Michael: Maybe we were better off with me being businesslike and you being the good time useless party guy.
Gob: It got us this far. And I must say I miss the laughter. Oh God, how they used to laugh with me.
Michael: AT you. We have to figure out a way to hire everybody back. A meeting.
Gob: A party.
Michael: No, we just had a party.
Gob: Yeah but I didn’t get to have any fun.
Gob: [arms crossed] Then there’s me. The joker. The goofball. The magician.
[quickly makes a magician’s gesture with his hands]
Michael: I thought you were gonna do a little fireball there.
Gob: I was. It didn’t go off.
I have no idea why those quotes work for Virginia. They just do.
2012 record/results: 22-10 overall, 9-7 ACC, No. 10 seed in NCAA Tournament, First Round (L to No. 7 seed Florida). Virginia began the season 15-2 with one of their losses being a close one at Duke that convinced everyone the Cavaliers were for real. But they finished the season 7-8.
Reason for optimism: Head coach Tony Bennett will have Virginia playing pesky defense, as usual. UVa lost Mike Scott, who was one of the best players in the ACC last year, but they still have two starters left (wing Joe Harris and point guard Jontel Evans). Harris was always steady, but Evans had some very encouraging offensive performances last year. Bennett has brought in six freshmen, at least three of which should make a contribution.
Reason for pessimism: Scott was Virginia’s go-to guy last year. The only even semi-proven player on this roster is Harris, and even he averaged just 9.8 points in ACC play. Evans was far from consistent: somehow, he averaged 10.8 points in four games against FSU and UNC, but 7.6 against other ACC opponents. Akil Mitchell will have to replace Scott, and he found himself frequently in foul trouble last year. Through a combination of graduation and transfers, Virginia is dangerously thin.
Michael: You want to be in charge?
Michael: You want to deal with what I deal with? A sister who takes your money and throws it away. A mother who you can’t trust. A company whose founder may be on trial for treason. Is that what you want?
Gob: What kind of vacation time does it offer?
Lucille: The company is in danger.
Michael: What tipped you off? The falling profit margins or the fact that we’re a regular feature on Bill O’Reilly’s most ridiculous item of the day?
Gob: I’ve made a huge mistake.
Former Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg was on the hot seat, and his assistant coaches were jumping ship. On their way out, they gave exit interviews to Virginia Tech. James Johnson, who left to take the top assistant job at Clemson last year, was no different. Two months later, he was hired as the head coach at Virginia Tech to replace Greenberg, who supposedly (according to the aforementioned exit interviews) didn’t create a “family atmosphere” for his staff. Interesting. You wanted to be the boss, James Johnson? Well, good luck. I wonder if either he or the Virginia Tech administration thinks they’ve made a huge mistake yet.
2012 record/results: 16-17 overall, 4-12 ACC. The Hokies were 11-3 entering ACC season before the wheels fell off. They lost 12 games by fewer than ten points. Even their four ACC wins were decided by a total of six points.
Reason for optimism: Point guard Erick Green is a special player, and there is some experience around him. In fact, Virginia Tech will only have one scholarship freshman. Forward Cadarian Raines got a lot better last year, and neither Robert Brown nor Jarrell Eddie have been shy about trying to carry some of the scoring load. Their starting five is as good as any, but…
Reason for pessimism: …if any of them have to come out of the game for any reason – injury, foul trouble, anything – the Hokies will be in big trouble. There are only eight scholarship players on the roster. And the ones behind the starting five either aren’t very good, are unproven, or both.
Tobias Fünke: Come on, Lindsay. We’ve had some great times.
[a white screen appears with text reading: “Footage not found.”]
Michael: I burned it. Down to the ground.
George Sr.: There was money in that banana stand.
Michael: Well, it’s all gone now.
George Sr.: There was $250,000 lining the inside walls of the banana stand.
George Sr.: Cash, Michael. What the hell did you think I meant when I said…
George Sr.: [yells] There is money… in… the banana stand.
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik could make Ron Wellman look smart after all. It didn’t seem like a good hire three years ago, and the timing was strange considering former head coach Dino Gaudio had just made the NCAA Tournament. It seemed like an even worse hire when Bzdelik won just one ACC game in 2011 and showed just slight improvement last year with a 13-18 record. Wake Forest fans have had to cope with some pretty bad basketball along the way, and they’re still trying to rekindle fan interest. If Bzdelik’s freshman class is as advertised, though, it shouldn’t take long.
2011 record/results: 13-18 overall, 4-12 ACC. About the only good thing you can say about last year’s Wake Forest team is that it finished the non-conference schedule 9-5 with just two embarrassing losses (Arizona State and Wofford). Half of their ACC wins were against BC.
Reason for optimism: C.J. Harris and Travis McKie are one of the best returning duos in the country. And they might just finally have some help this year, particularly McKie, from a very highly-touted freshman class. Also, it can’t get worse for the Deacons than it’s been the last few years. Even if Wake struggles, the freshmen are good enough to start winning back the hearts and minds of Wake fans as they finally have a reason for hope.
Reason for pessimism: It’s essentially Harris, McKie, sophomore sharp-shooter Chase Fischer and a gang of freshmen at this point. McKie and Harris are great players, but it’s impossible to know how the freshmen will play on a given night. So, maybe it can get worse – at least before it gets better. They’re going to start a freshman at point guard (Codi Miller-McIntyre). Ken Pomeroy only has the Deacs projected for nine wins this year.
No. 22 Florida State (19-9, 10-4) at No. 24 Virginia (21-7, 8-6), 7:00 PM, ESPN2/ESPN3
Florida State can no longer win the league, and there may be a bit of an emotional letdown after two straight losses. With Miami’s loss, they’ve locked up third place but the Seminoles really need to finish strong. With games against Virginia and Clemson remaining, it won’t be easy. And Virginia would like to solidify its fourth-place standing – the Cavaliers will close the year at Maryland, but they could still fall out of fourth place pretty easily; Miami and NC State are both tied at 8-7 behind them.
Key to the game: Turnovers. In the first meeting, Virginia had an extremely uncharacteristic 20 turnovers (leading to 22 Florida State points). But Florida State had 19 turnovers of their own, nearly negating what Virginia did. Both of these teams have had turnovers creep up as a problem, but both have managed to calm it down in their biggest games. Each team will have to take care of the ball.
Each team’s stars. Mike Scott had a big game in the first meeting with 16 points, but he had seven turnovers and attempted just eight shots. Virginia will need more out of him, and he struggled against North Carolina’s length for just six points on 3-of-13 shooting. Virginia will need more out of him, but it won’t be easy against FSU’s length.
FSU’s Michael Snaer had eight points on 3-of-9 shooting and five turnovers the first time against Virginia. But his 54% shooting against Miami on Sunday was his first 50% shooting day since February 1st, which is a good sign for the Seminoles. He had been struggling, and Florida State needs him to take – and make – big shots.
Random stat: Feeding the post – something both the announcers and myself said Florida State should have done more of against Duke – doesn’t always work well for FSU. Michael Rogner at Tomahawk Nation breaks it down, possession by possession, and concludes:
For the game FSU executed 13 post entry possessions (not counting the numerous post entries that were kicked back out for the offense to reset), and they scored four times. That’s 8 points in 13 possessions, or 0.61 points per possession. When they didn’t post entry they scored 58 in 53 possessions, or 1.09 per possession. That’s a difference of 48%.
Prediction: Virginia 62, Florida State 57
Last week: 7-4
Season: 126-45 (62-22 ACC)
Clemson (13-13, 5-7) at Georgia Tech (9-17, 2-10), 7:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Most important players: Andre Young, Clemson and Mfon Udofia, Georgia Tech. Andre Young went off the last time Clemson faced Georgia Tech, scoring 29 points on 9-of-12 shooting (7-of-9 from three). He’s made just 35.5% of his three’s since, but his 3-of-7 performance at Carolina on Saturday was his best in a road venue all season.
Without Glen Rice, Mfon Udofia has to do more scoring for Georgia Tech to win. His 15 points at Virginia Tech on Saturday were his most in nearly a month and nearly enough for the Yellow Jackets to win. Udofia has averaged 13.8 points in games without Rice and just 9.3 in games with Rice this year.
Random stat: Georgia Tech has lost ten ACC games, including six on the road. They have lost by an average of 8.2 points in six ACC road games compared to 15.8 points at home. Georgia Tech has averaged 52.8 points in home ACC games compared to 64.6 points in road games.
Prediction: Clemson 66, Georgia Tech 53
Miami (16-9, 7-5) at Maryland (15-11, 5-7), 8:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
Maryland is a tough place to play, but if Miami wants to keep its NCAA tournament at-large hopes alive, the Hurricanes have to win.
Most important players: Durand Scott, Miami and Alex Len, Maryland. Durand Scott had his ACC high of 24 points (on 11-of-14 shooting) in the overtime win over Maryland in the first meeting, and he’s found his groove lately, averaging 16.5 points on 61% shooting in the last two. Maryland’s backcourt is that much thinner without Pe’Shon Howard, and Scott could have his way with the Terrapins.
Alex Len’s last good stretch for Maryland came against Miami and North Carolina, when he averaged 12.5 points on 64% shooting. In the four games since, he has eight total points on 36.4% shooting. Maryland needs more from the talented big man, and maybe he can find a spark against Miami.
Random stat: Maryland lost 71-44 at Virginia on Saturday, but the game was tied at 31 at halftime. Maryland scored just 13 second-half points and just 11 in the final 19:52. Maryland averaged 0.34 points per possession from the 19:52 mark until the 3:45 mark when head coach Mark Turgeon took out the starters in the second half and made just three field goals.
Prediction: Miami 74, Maryland 67
North Carolina (23-4, 10-2) at N.C. State (18-9, 7-5), 8:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
With all the hoopla surrounding the ejection of former NC State superstars Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta last Saturday (and their 1988-89 team being honored before the game), this will be the most hostile environment North Carolina has faced this year. But if the Wolfpack can’t persevere through in-game adversity, the atmosphere won’t matter.
Most important players: Lorenzo Brown, NC State and John Henson, North Carolina. Lorenzo Brown’s two games last week were a mixed bag, but the NC State point guard did the right things against Florida State and Duke: he attacked the basket and averaged 7.0 free throw attempts. Carolina has struggled at times to stop the dribble, and Brown must remember to attack the basket.
John Henson has held NC State’s C.J. Leslie to a combined 9-of-27 shooting in the last two State-Carolina games. And Leslie’s numbers have gotten worse, not better, every time he faces Carolina. Leslie’s propensity to try to take Henson one-on-one in the last meeting really hurt the Wolfpack, and if Henson continues to shut him down as he has, Carolina should win easily.
Random stat: Two out of NC State’s last three head coaches have won their first game against North Carolina at home: Les Robinson and Sidney Lowe. Robinson (1990-96) won three of his first four vs. UNC and four out of six home games against the Tar Heels. Sidney Lowe (2006-11) won his first game against Carolina at home but lost 11 straight after that. Since Robinson left prior to the 1996-97 season, State is 3-13 at home against Carolina.
Prediction: North Carolina 81, NC State 71
Virginia (20-6, 7-5) at Virginia Tech (15-12, 4-8), 9:00 PM, ESPNU
How Virginia Tech won the first meeting between these two teams earlier this year remains a mystery, but the exhausted Hokies likely won’t have enough magic to repeat that, and Virginia knows how much it needs this game.
Most important players: Mike Scott, Virginia and Dorian Finney-Smith, Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech big man Victor Davila will miss this game with an injury, meaning whatever formula the Hokies concocted for slowing Virginia star Mike Scott last time could be adversely affected. Scott is averaging 20.6 points in UVA’s ACC wins and 16 in losses, so the Hokies will have to find a way to slow him.
Virginia Tech freshman Dorian Finney-Smith wasn’t a factor in the first meeting with Virginia this year, but he is averaging 10.8 points in the last five games. His length and athleticism could be a factor on both ends for Virginia Tech, particularly against Virginia’s thin front line.
Random stat: Virginia’s slow style of play has been a big part of the reason for their excellent scoring defense, but the Cavaliers are one of many slow-tempo teams that have played in the ACC since the shot clock was instituted. And yet they have held 11 opponents under 50 points this year, the most by an ACC team in the shot clock era.
Prediction: Virginia 54, Virginia Tech 51
Last week: 7-4
Season: 115-40 (51-21 ACC)
Virginia (19-4, 6-3) at North Carolina (20-4, 7-2), 1:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
It’s impossible to know how that devastating buzzer-beating loss to Duke will affect North Carolina’s confidence, or just their overall psyche. But if they want to come out and beat an opponent by 20 to let off some steam, it likely won’t be this one. Virginia has lost four games by a combined ten points this season and the Cavaliers will slow the pace down as much as they can. It won’t be an easy game to play for an already-frustrated North Carolina team, and nothing about the talent disparity will make this an easy matchup for a scrappy but limited Virginia team. These teams will meet again in a few weeks, but both teams could really use this one for a variety of reasons.
Stat to watch: Virginia’s production from anyone not named Mike Scott. There’s simply no way that the Cavaliers will have enough offense from Scott alone to beat the Tar Heels. So they will need some help from someone else, whether that be Joe Harris, Sammy Zeglinski, Jontel Evans, Malcolm Brogdon or a combination of all four. In Virginia’s first four ACC games, that wasn’t happening. Against Miami and Duke, just one player besides Scott hit double digits in either game and the other complementary players combined to shoot 10-of-46. Against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, two besides Scott hit double digits but the other complementary players shot 6-of-25. But in the last two games, it’s been better as Virginia had three besides Scott hit double figures against FSU and four against Wake Forest. In those two games, the non-Scott players combined to shoot 32-of-67. That’s the kind of production Virginia will need in Chapel Hill.
The reason this is important on North Carolina’s end is that in two of their four losses, it has been a lesser contributor providing an unexpected scoring outburst. Against UNLV, it was Chace Stanback emerging. Stanback hit more than doubled his season average with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting (4-of-11 from three). Oscar Bellfield hit 4-of-8 three’s and has done that just once since. For Florida State, it was Deividas Dulkys with 32 points on 12-of-14 shooting (it took him five games to equal that total and he has shot 8-of-21 from three since). This seems to deflate Carolina, but they can’t feel sorry for themselves just because things aren’t going their way or an opponent gets a lucky break or two. Carolina will need to make sure that even if a non-Mike Scott player starts going off, it won’t matter because they’ll adjust and find a way to slow him down. They have to be bigger than those moments.
Most important players: Mike Scott, Virginia and Reggie Bullock, North Carolina. Scott has 168 of Virginia’s 540 ACC points (31.1%) and ever since the Duke game (he had 23 of Virginia’s 61) teams have tried to focus on shutting him down. Virginia Tech did it successfully, holding him to just ten points (an ACC-low) but since then, he has 16 or more in every game and at least 18 in four of the last five. Against bigger front lines, like the one he’ll see on Saturday, he has had mixed success. He had 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting against Miami but racked up 23 on 10-of-19 against Duke. N.C. State’s length held him to 45% (his second-lowest percentage in league play) but he attempted 11 foul shots and had 18 points. Wake Forest has some shot-blockers inside and he went a perfect 9-for-9 from the floor. Scott has certainly proven he’s worthy of ACC Player of the Year consideration and a big game against North Carolina would all but lock that up for him.
Bullock has won five of the last ten defensive player of the game awards and all five have come in home games, including four of Carolina’s five ACC home games (Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Miami and Duke). Since he was taking over for Carolina’s best perimeter defender in Dexter Strickland, that’s quite an accomplishment. But the sophomore seems to be still learning to play on both ends at times. He has attempted just one free throw in ACC play and he has shot 13-of-38 from three (34%), attempting just 3.0 three’s per game in the last three (he had been averaging 4.8 attempts in ACC play). But if there’s good news, it’s that since becoming a starter, Bullock has averaged 8.7 points in three home games on 10-of-19 shooting (6-of-12 from three). But now, Bullock’s going to be asked to do even more on both ends as he will be the only healthy shooting guard remaining for the Tar Heels (P.J. Hairston will miss the game). Will he be able to be a factor offensively? Because the Tar Heels need him to be.
Random stat: Carolina leads the Virginia series 125-49, but in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels are 63-6. Virginia won its very first time in Chapel Hill in 1911 by an 18-15 score (Virginia head coach Tony Bennett pines for those slower-paced days). Since, Virginia has won at North Carolina in 1973 (beating the No. 3 Tar Heels) and 1981 (Virginia was No. 1 nationally and led by Ralph Sampson; Carolina was No. 12). That is the first and only time that Virginia has beaten a ranked North Carolina team in Chapel Hill. Virginia has also beaten North Carolina in 2000, 2002 and 2010: North Carolina was not ranked on any of those occasions, but VIrginia was No. 7 in 2002 and still only beat Carolina (which went 8-20 that year) by four.
Prediction: North Carolina 64, Virginia 57
Last week: 10-2
Season: 103-36 (39-17 ACC)
No. 16/18 Virginia (18-3, 5-2) at No. 21/24 Florida State (15-6, 5-1), 1:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
This matchup is easily the highlight of Saturday’s slate. Despite the perception that Florida State’s schedule is “easy” down the stretch, this is one of six losable games it has left. Since the Seminoles still have to travel to Virginia, they’d like to at least get the split, if not a sweep. Plus, they don’t want to slow their own momentum: they have never won seven straight ACC games and they’ve won six straight entering this game. On the other side, Virginia has already dropped two ACC games and has to face Florida State one more time and North Carolina twice in their final nine games. If they want to stay in contention for the league title, the Cavaliers need this one.
Stat to watch: Florida State’s three-point percentage. Virginia’s defense has been good, but the Cavaliers would much rather allow a lightly-contested three-point attempt than a wide-open lay-up. The pack line defense is designed to stop drives and double-team the post, so teams can generally make three’s against them. But that hasn’t been the case this year: Virginia is sixth nationally in three-point defense (allowing 27%). To be fair, Virginia has faced just four opponents all year that rank in the top 100 in three-point shooting. But all average 36% or better and Virginia Tech held them to a combined 18-of-71 (25.4%).
Virginia will be on the road facing a hot-shooting Florida State team, but the Cavaliers have allowed just 8-of-50 shooting from three (16%!!) in three ACC road games compared to 25-of-71 (35.2%) allowed in four ACC home games. Florida State has shot 45.6% from three in ACC home games compared to 38.7% on the road. The Rush the Court blog took a look at FSU’s offensive surge and they think it’s sustainable. I tend to agree at this point. But this will be a big test.
Florida State has really caught fire from the three-point line, and that – plus a decrease in turnovers – has made their offense come together. In the last five games, the Seminoles have made 47.1% of their three’s and average 8.2 made three’s per game (on 17.4 attempts). In the 16 games before that, they shot 30.2% from three and averaged 5.4 made three’s (on 17.8 attempts). Maybe it’s because of FSU’s early opponents that they struggled from three: Florida State has played one team ranked higher than Virginia in three-point defense, and that’s Virginia Tech (allowing 25.9%). But the Seminoles have played ten games against the top 100 teams in three-point defense, including four ACC opponents (Virginia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina and Duke), against which they shot a combined 43.3%. All four teams allow 32.6% or less on the year.
Most important players: Michael Snaer, Florida State and Mike Scott, Virginia. In a game like this, it only makes sense that it comes down to what each teams’ best player can do. Michael Snaer is on a real tear for Florida State, hitting double figures in five straight games and making 11-of-14 three’s over the last three games. Going back to the closing seconds of the first half at Duke, he’s now made 11 of his last 13 tries and didn’t miss one over three halves of basketball (including the Wake win). He started a new streak by making four straight three’s in the second half against Georgia Tech. In the non-conference, 47% of his field goal attempts were three’s. In conference, that dropped to 37.7%, and it has helped his all-around game. He’s averaging more assists, more steals and has cut way down on his turnovers while improving his field goal percentage dramatically (40.9% out of league to 52% in league). His three-point percentage has been a factor in FSU’s wins and losses: in six losses, he has shot 7-of-27 (25.9%) and in 15 wins, he has made 32-of-69 (46.4%). And that includes a 1-of-5 outing against North Carolina. He has averaged 10 points on 44% shooting (2-of-7 from three) in two games against Virginia in his career.
Mike Scott continues to be brilliant in ACC play, now averaging 19 points a game – something that is practically unthinkable in Virginia’s slow-paced offense – on 53% shooting. There’s no understanding how important he is to the team: in the three occasions in league play that he has shot less than 50% from the floor, Virginia has two one-point wins (Miami and N.C. State) and a two-point loss (Virginia Tech). The assumption has been that Scott will have problems with Florida State’s length, and he very well might. But he has played against long teams before, like Duke, and he was 10-of-19 from the floor in that game for 23 points. But Scott has struggled against the Seminoles in his career, averaging 6.7 points on 8-of-19 shooting. But he has improved every year he’s faced them: he didn’t play last year (he was out with an injury) but as a sophomore, he had 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting in 33 minutes. Particularly with Assane Sene in to help out down low, it will be Scott’s toughest challenge to date.
Random stat: Virginia has won some close games – seemingly every game comes down to the final few minutes – but the Cavaliers are 4-3 in games decided by five points or less and 3-0 in games decided by 5-9 points. Virginia was 2-3 in games decided by five or less but has won two straight by that margin (by one at N.C. State last Saturday and by four over Clemson at home on Wednesday).
Prediction: Florida State 64, Virginia 61
Last week: 12-0
Season: 96-31 (32-12 ACC)
Virginia (16-3, 3-2) at NC State (15-6, 4-2), 8:00 PM, ESPN2/ESPN3
This has become a huge game for both teams, as both are fighting for that top-four ACC spot. Duke, North Carolina and Florida State are all 4-1 in the league, and if these two teams want to keep pace, they need to win. Virginia let Boston College hang around, but they ultimately won 66-49 after a late run. N.C. State will have a stiff test: can it bounce back after being routed by their arch rival, or do they have an emotional letdown? Virginia found offense against Boston College at home on Thursday, but will it last?
Stat to watch: “Garbage” points (points off turnovers/second-chance points). In theory, these are points scored after mistakes by an opponent, Yes, one team can force an opponent into those mistakes, but some teams thrive on them more than others. Virginia’s defense is so stingy that it doesn’t let you get many of those types of points. The Cavaliers’ ACC opponents have averaged just 11 such points a game; opponents have turned 6.4 offensive boards a game into just 4.4 second-chance points. Duke and Miami combined to turn 20 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points; since, Virginia has allowed 12 (total) offensive rebounds in three games and just eight second-chance points. The Cavaliers were having some trouble with turnovers and they have averaged just 8.8 in ACC play (7.7 in wins, 10.5 in losses). Opponents have scored 5.5 points per game off of those turnovers. The Cavaliers don’t attack the offensive glass much but in ACC play, they’ve averaged 11 offensive rebounds and 13.2 second-chance points.
Against North Carolina, N.C. State had just 20 such points, their lowest total since Syracuse (18). N.C. State hasn’t allowed its opponents, particularly in ACC play, to do much of that type of scoring either but Miami had 18 points off turnovers and 12 points off offensive rebounds in a win that the Wolfpack should have had a bit more handily. If N.C. State can’t get second-chance points or points off turnovers, it will have a hard time scoring a lot of points against Virginia’s set half-court defense.
North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall said it was the Tar Heels’ goal to make the Wolfpack go deep into the shot clock, and the tactic seemed to make State go one-on-one too much. “When you get a team like State that has to go deep into their shot clock, it may be a little bit harder for them,” Marshall said. “They’re a team that spreads out across the floor and they like to utilize all their players, and if they have to depend on one player to make a play, it may be a little tougher on them.” Virginia is a much slower-paced team than North Carolina and in N.C. State’s three slowest games this year in terms of possessions they are 3-0, but beat Princeton, St. Bonaventure and North Carolina Central by a combined nine points. They’ll have to make their possessions count tonight.
Most important players: Lorenzo Brown, N.C. State and Mike Scott, Virginia. Brown has played very good basketball this season, but not in Chapel Hill on Thursday night. He had nine points, but three were on a banked-in 94-footer at the halftime buzzer (which was still a remarkable shot). But he didn’t hit any two-point baskets and had six assists to five turnovers. Still, a game like that is part of the growth process for Brown, and he should be much better against Virginia. And N.C. State needs him: Brown actually has 12 assists and nine turnovers in the Wolfpack’s two ACC losses (along with shooting 36.8%, 25% from two). In four ACC wins, he has shot 48.7% (52% from two) and has 32 assists to just 12 turnovers. He also needs to get to the foul line more: he was averaging 4.3 attempts before ACC play and 2.3 in conference. He’s averaged 3.7 in the first three ACC games and has made just three trips in the last three games.
Everything goes through Mike Scott for the Cavaliers, and that was enough of a load for him before Assane Sene’s injury. He has played two games without Sene with mixed results: Virginia Tech held him to ten points on 4-of-9 shooting in a loss and in Thursday’s win over BC, Scott had 18 on 7-of-11 shooting. But BC doesn’t have the personnel to limit him. This game will be the big test for Scott – N.C. State’s bigs are more than capable of defending Scott, particularly if he’s the only post threat. If he can go off, even if Virginia loses, then the Cavaliers will likely be fine until Sene’s return. If he can’t and he’s limited as he was against Virginia Tech, then Virginia could not only lose this one, but a few more afterwards.
Random stat: Virginia has won the last three meetings, but they’re still not close to their longest streak of seven in a row from 1994-95 through 1997-98. N.C. State won the second and third meetings in 1998 to break the streak and went on to win 11 of the next 16. But since 2007, N.C. State is just 2-6 against Virginia and their last win came in 2009 at home. The last two times N.C. State has faced a ranked Virginia team, they have won. In 2001, the Wolfpack knocked off No. 6 Virginia at home and in 2002, N.C. they beat No. 8 Virginia at home, 85-68.
Prediction: Virginia 62, N.C. State 61
Last week: 7-5
Season: 84-31 (21-12 ACC)
Boston College (7-12, 2-3) at Virginia (15-3, 2-2), 9:00 PM, ESPNU
Both of these teams thrive in low-scoring affairs: Boston College is 4-3 when holding opponents under 60 and Virginia is 14-2 in such games. The From Old Virginia blog sums up best what this game means to the Cavaliers after their ugly loss at home to Virginia Tech:
That was so bad I don’t even wanna talk about the (Georgia Tech) game any more. It’s like that happened in October. That’s how quickly you go from “on a roll” to “oh man, I know Boston College is terrible and we really should win, but actually we have to otherwise everyone will be legitimately questioning this team’s ability to do anything right.” In other words, don’t lose to Boston College.
Stat to watch: Virginia’s runs. Or lack of runs. Or lack of scoring. Every team to beat Boston College this year (comfortably, at least) has gone on some sort of a run as the befuddled Eagles can do little to stop them. When the Eagles have been able to keep it close is when they have been the most dangerous. On the road at Virginia, an excellent defensive team, this shouldn’t be an issue. But it could be as the Cavaliers might play excellent defense, but lately just cannot score in bunches. Against Virginia Tech, they went on stretches of 4:57, 4:04, 5:44 (spanning both halves) and 4:00 without a field goal. Those were all separate stretches. In a 40-minute game. From the 8:22 mark to the 0:50 mark of the second half, the Cavaliers had just four points and one field goal in a 7:32 stretch. They had five different stretches without a field goal totaling 18:41 (nearly half the game). Virginia kept it close because of its defense. But ultimately, it has to score too. And stretches without field goals are not uncommon: even in a 70-point outing against Georgia Tech, they had a 4:56 stretch and a 3:18 stretch with a field goal. At Duke, they had five stretches of at least three minutes without a field goal that totaled 17:37. Against Boston College, they shouldn’t have much trouble but if they can’t score, they might.
Most important players: Mike Scott, Virginia and Jordan Daniels, Boston College. Mike Scott was harassed into a very un-Scott performance on Sunday night, 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting (his lowest percentage and point total since the Towson game). Virginia Tech doesn’t have a ton of size, but without Assane Sene, the Hokies weren’t worried about anyone else on the interior besides Scott and sold out to stop him. It worked. A lot of people doubted Virginia because of their near-miss against Towson (a team that is still winless) at home, and Scot had a season-low seven points in that one. Virginia needs him to score, but opponents know that. The question becomes whether Boston College is good enough to take advantage of it. Probably not, but this will be a problem at least until Sene returns.
In his weekly teleconference Monday, Boston College head coach Steve Donahue admitted he might have pulled point guard Jordan Daniels from the North Carolina game a bit too early. It appears to have worked: since then, he has averaged 9.5 points on 41% shooting (50% from three) and has added 3.0 assists. He was the lone bright spot for BC against Wake as he scored an ACC-high 12 points, adding a season-high five assists and committing no turnovers for the first time in a full ACC game. He will be in yet another tough road environment, and he did hit 3-of-6 three’s at N.C. State in his most recent road game, so it will be interesting to see what the freshman can do against a very tough defense.
Random stat: Per Ken Pomeroy, Boston College was the 29th-most experienced team in the nation last year (average age 2.31 years). This year, the Eagles – not surprisingly – have dropped to 343rd (out of 345 teams), with their average equalling 0.59 years. The two teams with less experience? Nicholls State (344th) and St. John’s (345th). The bottom five teams have a combined 41-59 record.
Prediction: Virginia 65, Boston College 53
Last week: 7-5
Season: 82-31 (19-12 ACC)
Virginia (14-2, 1-1) at Georgia Tech (8-9, 1-2), 8:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
Pretty simple: if Virginia is going to be a top-tier ACC team, it needs to win this game. It’s not a make-or-break game for the Cavaliers, but really good ACC teams win games like this more often than not, particularly coming off of losses with a long lay-off.
Stat to watch: Virginia’s three-point shooting. The Cavaliers haven’t been great at shooting three’s all year, but have been fairly steady for the most part with a few very good games sprinkled in. The Cavaliers were 0-of-5 once this year but their 3-of-16 performance (18.8%) against Duke was their second-worst number of the year. All they need to do is make about 35% or more when Mike Scott is playing as well as he is down low and their defense is as smothering as it has been. They still could have beaten Duke despite shooting so poorly, but they will certainly make things easier on themselves in ACC play if they can make a few more. So far, they’re just 7-of-29. Georgia Tech’s three-point defense has been good all year and in ACC play, holding ACC opponents to 31 percent. It would be good for Virginia to have a nice day from three on the road against a good three-point defense.
Most important players: Joe Harris, Virginia and Mfon Udofia, Georgia Tech. Udofia is really the only other player Georgia Tech has besides Glen Rice that can create his own shot, and when he’s good, Georgia Tech has been good. In a close loss to Duke and a win over N.C. State, Udofia shot 11-of-17 (5-of-7 from three) and hit 9-of-14 foul shots, averaging 18 points. In the loss at Maryland, he had four points on 2-of-8 shooting and didn’t get to the line. He has the athleticism to give Virginia trouble, but he has to be more consistent. Harris had a very nice game at Duke (14 points) but he has hit just 2-of-6 three’s in ACC play. Virginia doesn’t need him to hit a bunch of three’s per se, but he’s looking like the best secondary option to take the load off of Mike Scott. He needs to begin asserting himself as someone that defenses have to worry about all the time because right now, they’re mostly concentrating on Scott. His three-point shooting and scoring ability will help open things up a bit more for Scott down low.
Random stat: Georgia Tech is just 2-6 against Virginia in their last eight meetings (dating back to 2007) and their only two wins have come on the road (in 2007) and at a neutral site (in the 2008 ACC Tournament). Georgia Tech has lost four straight in the series but still leads it, 38-33.
Prediction: Virginia 63, Georgia Tech 55
Last week: 6-5
Season: 72-27 (11-8 ACC)
Virginia (14-1, 1-0) at Duke (13-2, 1-0), 9:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3
This has been a popular upset pick, but Virginia’s style is not as bad a matchup with Duke as some people think it is. Duke is fine with playing a slower tempo, and Virginia doesn’t have the type of players that can exploit Duke’s struggling defense (quick and athletic), particularly on the perimeter. But Virginia will be anxious to prove it is for real and Tony Bennett-coached teams rarely hurt themselves with silly mistakes, even in hostile environments. If Duke crushes Virginia, it’s a sign that the ACC is even worse than it appears.
Stat(s) to watch: Duke’s three-point percentage/Duke’s offensive rebounds. Virginia wants to force Duke to take jump shots, but Duke has no problem doing that. Virginia is holding opponents to 27% from three, 11th in the nation; Duke is shooting 41.7% from three, 7th nationally. Virginia also doesn’t allow opponents many extra looks – they’re eighth nationally in offensive rebounding percentage allowed. Virginia’s opponents have averaged 6.7 second-chance points on 7.9 offensive rebounds while Duke is averaging 12 second-chance points off 11 offensive rebounds. Duke has shot well from three all year but is shooting just 12-of-36 (33.3%) in its last two games. UVA has held its last four opponents to 19-of-71 from three (26.8%), including hot-shooting Miami. If Duke doesn’t shoot well from three AND can’t get its own misses, Virginia could win. Even then, the Cavaliers will have to shoot well themselves and hope they don’t get into foul trouble.
Most important players: Ryan Kelly, Duke and Sammy Zeglinski, Virginia. Mike Scott is Virginia’s best player, and it’s not close. Joe Harris has been great this year and had some nice games against Duke as well last year. But Zeglinski has been awful against Duke over his career, shooting 9-of-40 from the floor (22.5%) and 1-of-17 from three. UVA doesn’t stand a chance without good nights from its perimeter scorers, particularly Zeglinski.
Ryan Kelly has learned to draw fouls at a much higher rate this season (which Rush the Court wrote about here) and he’s Duke’s wild card in this game. Mike Scott is capable of guarding Kelly inside and outside, but Kelly has shown a propensity to draw fouls and that could limit Scott as well. Virginia just doesn’t have a lot of big bodies, particularly the types of big bodies that can handle Kelly defensively. Kelly saved Duke against Georgia Tech with a season-high 21 points (14-of-14 from the foul line).
Random stat: Of 12 ACC teams, two (Miami and Boston College) have never beaten Duke in Cameron. Of the non-expansion teams, Virginia has the second-longest drought: their last win there came January 14, 1995 (Clemson’s was January 4, 1995). Duke has won 43 straight at home since losing to Carolina in 2009. Four ACC teams won in Cameron in 2007 but since 2008, Duke has won by fewer than ten points in a home ACC game just three times. Duke’s average margin of victory in ACC road games since 2008 is just +4.5.
Prediction: Duke 68, Virginia 60
Last week: 6-3 (4-2)
Season: 67-23 (6-4)
Record to date: 13-1
Strength so far: That pack-line defense. Five opponents have had their least efficient offensive outing of the season against Virginia (including their best opponent to date, Michigan). Their scoring defense (50.4 ppg allowed) can’t be chalked up to slow pace; the Cavaliers are second in points per possession allowed (0.72) and FIRST in loss of ball percentage forced (20.2%). When you only get 60-70 possessions a game and you’re turning it over even 12-15 times, it’s too many against Virginia, which will limit your possessions by making sure you don’t get offensive rebounds.
Needs improvement: Consistency. It’s hard to say that about a 13-1 team, but for Virginia to lose to TCU is bad. Narrowly beating Seattle on the road is excusable, considering the circumstances. Squeaking by Towson, arguably the worst Division-I team, a group riding a 34-game losing streak, is awful. Especially at home. Last year’s team – albeit without Mike Scott – gave Wake Forest its only ACC win last year and blew a TEN-POINT LEAD with 43 seconds left in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
Most important player: Mike Scott. If Virginia finishes in the top 3-4 in the league and he continues on this pace, he could win ACC Player of the Year. He’s fifth in scoring (16 ppg), first in field goal percentage (61.9%), 4th in rebounding (9.0 rpg) and 7th in free-throw percentage. Scott has done this in a slow-paced offense for which he attempts 68.1% of their total shots when he’s on the floor and plays 72.7% of available minutes.
Reason for optimism: Multiple perimeter scoring options. Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogdon and Sammy Zeglinski give Virginia three perimeter players who can score fairly reliably. That, combined with Scott on the interior and the stingy Cavalier defense, should result in a lot of ACC wins.
Reason for pessimism: Lack of depth. Scott, Harris and Zeglinski all average double figures, but the other two starters – Jontel Evans and Assane Sene average 6.0 and 5.2 points, respectively. K.T. Harrell was seventh in scoring, but he transferred. That leaves only Akil Mitchell (3.5 points, 18.0 minutes), Darion Atkins (2.9 points, 8.7 minutes) and Paul Jesperson (1.7 points, 6.3 minutes). Maybe one of them could emerge as a fourth scorer, but it’s not likely. If any of the top four scorers get hurt, Virginia is in trouble.
Surprising stat: This is from the blog From Old Virginia, which pretty much nails the Cavaliers’ situation:
UVA’s non-conference strength of schedule is 261st right now, worst among the RPI top 50. …. My best guess is that an 8-8 record in-conference would send us to Hokieland – that dark place where you sit in front of the TV (or worse, Jumbotron) on Selection Sunday and never hear your name … We don’t wanna be Greenberged. Our schedule does not put us in a happy place, because we get all the crap teams just once. … And if UNC and Duke are losses, that makes us 5-3 with eight tossups. …. Assuming I’m right about the other half of the schedule, even 4-4 would get us to the tournament. Worse than 4-4 in those eight games, and you’re really sweating Selection Sunday.
Most likely wins (9): Miami (1/7), @Ga. Tech (1/19), Va. Tech (1/22), BC (1/26), Clemson (1/31), Wake (2/8), @Clemson (2/14), Maryland (2/18), FSU (3/1)
Most likely losses (3): @Duke (1/12), @UNC (2/11), @Va. Tech (2/21)
Toss-ups (4): @NCST (1/28), @FSU (2/4), UNC (2/25), @Maryland (3/4)
Best-case scenario: 13-3.
Worst-case scenario: 7-9. (But only with an injury to a rotation player.)