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My All-ACC Ballot

FIRST TEAM

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. 

SECOND TEAM

Seth Curry, Duke

Reggie Bullock, North Carolina

Kenny Kadji, Miami

Akil Mitchell, Virginia

Lorenzo Brown, N.C. State

THIRD TEAM

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. 

ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM

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).

ALL-DEFENSE

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.

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS

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.

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Dec. 8-9 ACC Previews

Cleveland State (6-2) at No. 25/24 NC State (5-2), 2:00 PM, ESPN3

When they were known as Fenn College, Cleveland State’s mascot was a Fox.

What to watch: NC State’s three-point defense. NC State’s opponents are scoring nearly 32% of their points from behind the arc, even if they aren’t hitting a high percentage (33.1%). But in the last four games (all either close wins or losses), opponents have hit nearly 38 percent. UConn hit the lowest percentage (34.8%), but NC State also fouled UConn on a three-pointer twice in the final 3:09 (UConn hit four of those six free throws). Counting those, UConn scored over 43% of their points on three-point attempts. Cleveland State is hitting 36.7% of its three’s, and the Vikings are a solid team. If NC State doesn’t guard the three-point line, Cleveland State could keep the game close the same way UNC-Asheville did.

Random Cleveland State facts: Cleveland State was known as Fenn College from 1923-64, and when it was Fenn College, they were the Fenn Foxes. Now, they’re the Vikings. Boo. More teams besides Marist should be named “Fox”.

Also, look at these pranksters!

Prediction: NC State, 82-64. NC State won a tough game against Connecticut that they might not have a year ago. After some early tests, the Wolfpack is ready to win a game like this convincingly against a decent team at home.

South Carolina State (4-4) at Maryland (7-1), 2:00 PM, ESPN3

What to watch: Pe’Shon Howard. Howard has had a great season in terms of assists (49) and turnovers (15), but the junior point guard hasn’t made a shot since November 20th. He’s shooting just 3-of-21 this season. He played just nine minutes in the rout of UMES, but head coach Mark Turgeon said he was dealing with a stomach issue. Turgeon’s lineup tweaks seem more experimental, but Howard ideally needs to become a scoring threat. Freshman Seth Allen and even starting guard Nick Faust ran the point some against UMES. Howard is the best option, but if injury or illness keeps him out – as it has before – he could get Wally Pipped.

Random South Carolina State facts: Bulldogs? Not a great mascot. But the South Carolina State band/dancers/whatever brings it, always. I’m not sure they’ll bring these girls with them, which is probably for the best if Maryland doesn’t want to get distracted.

And this is officially my favorite band ever. Pretty Brown Eyes!

Prediction: Maryland, 95-63. The best team South Carolina State has played so far is Albany.  They lost by 25 points. Also, Ken Pomeroy ranks 347 D-I schools. UMES is 345th. South Carolina State is 343rd.

St. Francis (NY) (2-4) at Boston College (3-5), 2:00 PM, ESPN3

Cutest mascot ever?

What to watch: Boston College’s defense. Just, any defense would be fine. Harvard was pretty anemic offensively before hosting BC, when they put up 79 points and shot 55% from the floor. BC isn’t forcing many turnovers, so the least the Eagles have to do is guard the ball better. Or, just, at all. Or they’ll lose, even a game like this one.

Random St. Francis (NY) facts: I couldn’t find the reason that the school chose the Terrier mascot in 1933. So instead, I give you this:

In case y’all haven’t heard, though, the Terriers are coming. Or they were in 2010-11.

Prediction: Boston College, 71-65. The only team that has made easy work of St. Francis so far is Illinois. Army, Norfolk State and Albany beat St. Francis by a combined 18 points. This won’t be an easy one for BC. But then again, what game is?

No. 2 Duke (8-0) vs. Temple (6-0), 3:15 PM, ESPN (East Rutherford)

What to watch: How elite has Duke’s perimeter become? Mason Plumlee has been terrific this season, but the reason Duke has been great is because he has help. Last year, Duke lost to Temple and the Owls had five in double figures (led by two-guard Khalif Wyatt’s 22 points). Duke saw 33 of its 73 points scored by Mason and Miles Plumlee, who had 16 and 17, respectively. But no Blue Devil could slow down any of Temple’s guards, who did whatever they wanted offensively. All five of Duke’s guards had 28 points on 9-of-30 shooting.

This year, Duke has balance on both ends of the court. Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook have taken a lot of pride in defending on the perimeter, and Seth Curry has gotten better at it but is still limited physically. If Duke is going to be one of the nation’s best teams – which they look like right now – they’ll have to handle yet another tough test.

Random Temple facts: We’ve highlighted the Owl mascot in this space before. Fortunately for Temple’s mascot, it doesn’t live in Colombia. Or else it would have been kicked by this soccer player.

Hooter the Owl does celebrate its birthday every year, and other mascots come to join. There are some weird mascots out there.

Prediction: Duke, 81-70. This is just another stop on the Duke basketball revenge tour.

Mississippi Valley State (0-4) at Virginia (7-2), 4:00 PM, ESPN3

A Delta Devil, which evidently means it has a green head.

What to watch: The UVa freshmen. While they helped carry the team early, they haven’t been as efficient of late and as a result, haven’t played as much. Evan Nolte and Justin Anderson combined to average 14.3 points in 48.3 minutes in UVa’s first six games, but in the last three, they’ve combined for 6.7 points in just 25.3 minutes. Mike Tobey has played a total of 20 minutes in the last three games (after averaging 13.3 in the first six) and has just five points. Really, only backup point guard Teven Jones has seen consistent minutes, and that’s only because of the injury to starter Jontel Evans. This is the type of game that can allow the freshmen to get back on track, because UVa will need them going forward.

Random Mississippi Valley State facts: South Carolina State isn’t the only school with a great band/dancers.

Known as “The Mack of the SWAC”, Mississippi Valley State’s band even did a halftime performance blindfolded.

Prediction: Virginia, 73-47. Mississippi State is 0-4 this year and their closest loss was by 13 to Northwestern. It’s that bad. Although for some reason, the Delta Devils aren’t giving themselves a break – they’ll face Virginia Tech next, and won’t play a game they’re expected to win until early 2013, which will also be their first home game. Ouch.

Virginia Tech (7-0) at West Virginia (3-3), 4:00 PM, ESPN2

How cute.

What to watch: Virginia Tech on the defensive glass. West Virginia retrieves nearly 41% of its available missed shots, while Virginia Tech is allowing opponents to get just 27.6% of their misses. Against their last two opponents, Virginia Tech has a defensive rebounding percentage of 75.3%, which is excellent. They’ll have to keep that up against the Mountaineers, who don’t often make their first attempt.

Erick Green. Can he keep carrying the Hokies? He was in foul trouble early against Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech trailed as a result. In 26 minutes, he had 28 points and seven rebounds, picking up just one more foul the rest of the way. He’s been phenomenal. But is it asking too much of him to continue being this brilliant? We’ll find out.

Random West Virginia facts: In 1998, a University of Miami assistant coach announced he was suing West Virginia for a 1996 incident where he was hit on the head with a trash can. He alleged that the university failed to adequately protect the visiting team. The injury was reported originally as a bruise, but the lawsuit said he was “severely and permanently” injured. He and West Virginia settled. That assistant coach? Randy Shannon.

Prediction: Virginia Tech, 71-65. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I think the Hokies – should they still healthy – can beat anyone they play this year. West Virginia is a tough place to play, but the Mountaineers have not looked very good so far.

Seton Hall (6-2) at Wake Forest (4-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Groucho Marx, the Pirate.

What to watch: Seton Hall’s three-point percentage. The Pirates are making 38.9% of their three-pointers, 39th in the country, and scoring 36.6% of all their points from three. Wake Forest has been mediocre at best defending the three, but they’ve been better lately: Wake’s last four opponents have made 29.2% of their three’s. If Seton Hall goes crazy from three, Wake will be in danger of being blown out at home. But what else is new, I guess?

Random Seton Hall facts: As usual, the original nickname is often better than the current one: Seton Hall was known as the Villagers for awhile. And as usual, a sportswriter’s random naming of the team is the one that stuck.

Prediction: Seton Hall, 72-59. Seton Hall doesn’t have any great wins or awful losses, but Wake Forest has no good wins and some awful losses.

UNC Wilmington (4-4) at Georgia Tech (5-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

So basically a sailor version of Big Bird with some green was UNC-Wilmington’s mascot back in the day.

What to watch: Can Georgia Tech score? The Yellow Jackets are fantastic defensively yet again, but at some point, they’re going to have to put up points. They finally started hitting some three-pointers against Georgia, which is a good sign. But they only hit 7-of-27 two-point attempts, which is beyond terrible, and had just ten points in the paint. They’re going to have to develop something consistent on offense that ensures they won’t be in any 40-point affairs this year.

Random UNC Wilmington facts: The sea hawk mascot has gone through a lot of changes over the years, but the late 80’s version (see above) was probably my favorite. Although this one is also strong:

Prediction: Georgia Tech, 79-52. They’re hitting three-pointers now – the rest will come.

East Tennessee State (2-4) at No. 20/16 North Carolina (6-2), 7:30 PM, ESPN3

The tired Pirate.

What to watch: North Carolina’s defense. UAB is an up-tempo squad that presented some matchup problems for North Carolina, but the Tar Heels still allowed the Blazers to score 84 points, the most they have allowed this year. UNC’s last four opponents have combined to shoot 45-of-106 (42.5%) from three and average 0.89 points per possession. In Carolina’s first four games, opponents shot 24% from three and averaged 0.65 points per possession. Obviously, the caliber of opponent was significantly different in the first four games than in the last four. But if this UNC team – which will be hot and cold offensively all year – doesn’t make defense a priority, they’re going to lose some games they shouldn’t. Not this one, but prioritizing defense starts in games like this.

Random East Tennessee State facts: It makes perfect sense that a pirate would be the mascot of a land-locked school in Tennessee. After all, an old pirate supposedly hid some of his gold there in a creek once. A creek that went all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. There’s a new pirate in town, and he has a blue face.

Prediction: North Carolina, 82-59. Fortunately for the Tar Heels, East Tennessee State is pretty bad offensively. They’ve had a week off, and while they may be rusty at first, they should still play good, hard-nosed defense.

No. 8 Arizona (6-0) at Clemson (5-2), ESPN2, 8:00 PM

RIP, Rufus.

What to watch: Clemson’s three-point defense. Arizona is scoring 33.7% of its points from three and making 41.7% of its three-point attempts, and they take a lot. Clemson is allowing just 30% shooting from three, but they haven’t played a great-shooting team so far. Still, Brad Brownell’s teams traditionally play very good defense, but Purdue went to Clemson and made 8-of-18 three’s (44.4%) in one of Clemson’s two losses. They’ll have to at least contest Arizona’s three’s to have a chance to knock off the Wildcats at home.

Clemson’s changing roster. Starting guard T.J. Sapp decided to transfer earlier this week. Will freshmen Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper be able to step up and fill that role, since they had already been getting the majority of Sapp’s minutes? Milton Jennings is expected to return to the lineup after a suspension. Will he be able to have an impact?

Random Arizona facts: Rufus, the first wildcat mascot, came to campus in 1915. The freshman football team raised the money ($9.91) to buy him. A little over a year later, though, this happened:

…while endeavoring to perform gymnastic stunts in the limbs of a tree to which he was tied, Rufus Arizona… fell and was hung.

Welp.

Prediction: Arizona, 79-64. The Wildcats haven’t really beaten anyone good yet, and they’ve only played one team away from home. But they’ve beaten most opponents fairly handily and been incredibly efficient offensively. It would take quite the effort by Clemson to knock off Arizona, and they’re not nearly ready enough to do that.

DECEMBER 9

Maine at Florida State (4-4), ESPNU, 4:00 PM

‘Sup. (I will pretend this is a Maine black bear and that I didn’t just Google “funny bears”).

What to watch: FSU giving up extra possessions. Charting possessions using offensive rebounds as a possession (as I do), over 36% of FSU’s opponent’s possessions have come off of FSU turnovers or opponent offensive rebounds. Opponents have turned those into 0.96 points per possession. Florida scored 0.59 points per possession on possessions not off an FSU turnover or a Florida offensive rebound, but turned their offensive rebounds and FSU turnovers (35 total) into 46 points (1.3 per possession). Giving up a lot of opportunities to opponents has really hurt FSU so far, even against bad teams.

Random Maine facts: The Maine fight song was a No. 1 hit in 1930!

Prediction: Florida State, 84-61. No, seriously FSU. You need to win this one big.

 

Last week: 14-2

Overall: 71-20

Duke: Alex Murphy Adjusting to a New Role

It hasn’t been easy for Alex Murphy to adjust to life on the bench. His limited playing time has been somewhat of a surprise, because the redshirt freshman was a preseason starter and someone who Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski compared favorably to former Duke star Kyle Singler.

He has been a healthy scratch twice this year, including in the season-opener against Georgia Southern. He had played a total of 14 minutes all season in five games, and never more than six minutes. His first game action was against Kentucky. The most noteworthy event of his two minutes in that game was Kentucky’s Alex Poythress dunking on him.

The short stints started to wear on him. “For me, it was just a mental thing, just going out there and playing as hard as I can as soon as I get out there,” Murphy said. “It’s not coming in the game worrying about, all right, I have to hit a three or I have to get a shot off. The little things like deflecting a ball, taking a charge grabbing an offensive or defensive rebound: focusing on those things has helped me sort of play looser and not worry about having to hit a shot or something like that.”

But he saw 21 minutes of action against Delaware on Saturday, scoring a career-high ten points to go with seven rebounds, a steal and an emphatic block. At first, every moment seemed to be a make-or-break for him. In the first half, he played eight minutes, missed two three-pointers and got one rebound. On his first touch of the second half, he was whistled for a travel. He looked at his feet and back at the referee in disbelief, crestfallen.

The crowd was on edge waiting for him to make a play. Some of the Cameron Crazies screamed out spontaneously, “Hit Murph!” or “Get Murph a shot!” Whenever a shot would miss, or he’d turn it over, one would yell, “It’s all right, Murph! Keep your head up!” But he scored his first points as a Blue Devil with 11:21 remaining to give Duke a 38-point lead, and the roof over Cameron Indoor Stadium nearly ripped clean off.

And the Crazies aren’t his only advocates. Point guard Quinn Cook has never been reluctant to talk on or off the court, and he’s been in Murphy’s ear constantly, along with junior guard Tyler Thornton. “You always want to let him know that he’s big for us. We need him,” Cook said. “When we’re not telling him that, his confidence could go down or anything could happen, or he could probably doubt himself.

“Me and Tyler especially have been on him: just keep working, we really need you. We’ve been his biggest cheerleaders. It’s good for him to really get his confidence up this game. … Just to get him out there and get him showing a glimpse of what he can do every day is a big thing. He’s leaving this game better.”

It’s still worth pointing out that Krzyzewski is not going to manufacture depth. He has about seven guys that he feels are ready to play – his normal starters, Josh Hairston and Thornton – and that’s about it. Murphy and Amile Jefferson, a freshman who also saw 21 minutes (and had 12 points), both had nice games against Delaware. But for Krzyzewski it doesn’t mean anything beyond that at this point.

Duke’s remaining non-conference schedule will have some games like this Delaware game where those two could, in theory, see some playing time. But that’s not necessarily going to be the case. “For me, the main guys to develop are Mason (Plumlee), Ryan (Kelly), Seth (Curry). This is not like an AAU team or whatever. You have to make sure your group understands its role,” Krzyzewski said.

“Mason’s role this year is different than last year. He has to get a lot of minutes. To see Alex and Amile and Josh (Hairston) play so well today, that’s great. But it doesn’t mean that we’re going to get this wave of substitutions and stuff like that.”

Krzyzewski said that all of his players follow a different developmental path, but that he is always honest with all of them about where they are. “They all have development to go through, and they have to develop under people that they trust. And if you tell them the truth all the time, they have a better chance of trusting you,” Krzyzewski said.

“Each guy is on his own race of becoming better. They’re running their individual races while we’re collectively running a race. The collective race is much more important than your individual race, and you can’t compare your race with another guy.

“Ryan Kelly hardly played his freshman year. Ryan Kelly is a heck of a player right now, and has been. So the example of doing it that way, making sure that they know that we believe in them and we do believe in the kid.”

His approach seems to be working. Jefferson, who has never shown the visible uncertainty of Murphy during his minutes, said that neither player has let it affect them. Both knew that because Seth Curry missed the game with an ankle injury, they might see more time. And both were ready.

“We’re both two confident guys. I don’t think we’ve lost confidence,” Jefferson said. “We might have been a little frustrated at times, but we kept our heads and we know that when our number’s called, we can get out there and make things happen. We’ve just got to keep working and keep knowing that one day, your number will be called and you’ve got to be ready.”

____

It’s difficult to properly capture the biting, acerbic wit of Krzyzewski because it’s impossible to transcribe the dryness of his humor. (The background needed for some of this exchange was this question asked earlier by a reporter: “How hard is it, even for a legendary coach, to get players that have been told since they probably were in junior high that they’re destined for greatness to become role players and to respond?”)

Reporter: How would you assess your team’s defense?

Krzyzewski: Good, real good. How would you do it?

Reporter: I think real good.

Krzyzewski: Yeah, me too. So we’re in agreement. You have no conflict with a legendary coach. Was it easy for you accept that from me?

Reporter: Absolutely.

Krzyzewski: Then it was easy for me to have this talk like this in front of everybody. I’m just trying to show you, that’s how I would do it. I go in and say, ‘Do you realize you’re playing for a legendary coach?’ (Laughter.) No, I don’t do that.

And Krzyzewski, now feeling it, kept rolling.

Reporter: You were talking about Alex Murphy.

Krzyzewski: You were talking about him.

Reporter: (Runs through Murphy’s numbers.) If you could maybe describe a little bit about how you feel about his play.

Krzyzewski: No, I feel good about everybody’s play. Everybody played well today. Everybody. Everybody. Not one guy played less well than another guy. They were terrific together.

The good times continued to roll, one after the other.

Reporter: Touching on the subject of Mason Plumlee and his development into his senior season, over the past couple of years, there’s been some criticism on (big man coach Steve Wojciechowski) Wojo. Do you feel like getting his due of credit for his development?

Krzyzewski: (Laughs.) Well, Wojo’s one of the best coaches in the world. You can ask – for the seven years that we’e worked with all the best players in the world, ask any of those guys if they wouldn’t want Wojo to coach them.

Reporter: Oh, and I’m not criticizing.

Krzyzewski: No, I’m just saying. So when somebody doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about and says something, why would you pay attention to it? Why would I pay attention to it?

Reporter: Do you feel like he’s getting his due credit?

Krzyzewski: He’s getting credit from me. I don’t know how if his wife feels good about him, what their relationship – I don’t know about that. He’s getting great credit from me. We’re a program that is scrutinized closely, and we’re okay. We’re big boys.

Nov. 13-14 ACC Previews

NOVEMBER 13

No. 9/8 Duke (1-0) vs. No. 3 Kentucky (1-0), 9:30 PM, ESPN (Atlanta, GA)

Should have guarded the inbounds pass, Rick.

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)

Blue Hen, or Gray Hen? You be the judge.

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.

NOVEMBER 14

Presbyterian (0-1) at Georgia Tech (1-0), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

This guy played football for Presbyterian, and he was on “The Bachelorette” this summer.

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

Overall: 16-1

ACC Basketball 2012-13 Season Previews, Part 1

The ACC is as underrated as a conference as Arrested Development was a television show. Okay, maybe not. But since Arrested Development was brilliant in making fun of its characters, the most appropriate way to preview a league we all love is by making fun of it.

BOSTON COLLEGE

2011 record/results: 9-22 overall, 4-12 ACC. All four ACC wins came by a combined 12 points. But one of those wins was over Florida State. (Never forget.)

Lucille Austero: Today at lunch, you were ashamed to be with me.

Gob: No. I was ashamed to be seen with you. I like being with you.

_____

Lucille: Buster. Thank God you’re back. There’s no shame in being a coward.

Buster: A coward? I’m not a coward. Would a coward have THIS?

[holds out a stuffed seal]

Lucille: What the hell is that?

Buster: These are my awards, Mother. From Army. The seal is for marksmanship and the gorilla is for sand racing.

We all secretly love Boston College. A team that played almost all freshman last year managed to defy the odds and…okay, they didn’t defy the odds. Their non-conference losses last year were embarrassing, but they’re still the plucky underdogs.

Reason for optimism: It can’t get any worse, right? BC returns 75% of its scoring and 70% of its minutes played, even with the transfers of Matt Humphrey and Gabe Moton. The Eagles were really young last year, but all of their freshmen got experience. Big men Ryan Anderson and Dennis Clifford had some nice moments, particularly Anderson. As usual, BC will have a plethora of guards that will shoot plenty of 3’s. Maybe they will even make some!

Reason for pessimism: The Eagles are still young with just one junior (the rarely-used Danny Rubin), eight sophomores and four freshmen. And though those freshmen got a lot of playing time, they weren’t a super-talented group anyway. At times, they were physically overwhelmed by their ACC foes. And unless Boston College has a weight room filled with miracles, that’s not likely to change much.

CLEMSON

Gob: Is that George Michael’s girlfriend? What is she funny or something?

Michael: I’m sure Egg is a great person.

George Michael Bluth: It’s… it’s Ann.

_____

George Michael: Uh, Uncle GOB, the $20?

George Oscar ‘Gob’ Bluth: A magician never reveals his secrets.

George Michael: I don’t need the secret, I need…

[GOB is gone]

George Michael: Wow, that’s so much like stealing.

Clemson can beat you and leave you scratching your head wondering how exactly that just happened, and where your $20 went. There’s nothing particularly attractive about Clemson’s style, but sometimes it simply works. Clemson is still the ACC’s equivalent of George Michael’s plain girlfriend, Ann.

2011 record/results: 16-15 overall, 8-8 ACC. The Tigers beat two of the ACC’s better teams (Florida State and NC State) at home in spite of going 8-6 in the non-conference with losses at home to Charleston and Coastal Carolina. ACC! ACC!

Reason for optimism: Under head coach Brad Brownell, Clemson’s defense makes it hard on even some of their much more talented opponents to score. Seniors Devin Booker and Milton Jennings have all the physical skills to take that next step forward, and sophomores like K.J. McDaniels and T.J. Sapp showed flashes.

Reason for pessimism: Clemson lost two of its most important pieces from a year ago in Andre Young and Tanner Smith, and last year’s freshmen, in limited minutes, certainly didn’t prove they could fill that void. Clemson is relying on two mercurial big men in Jennings and Booker to carry the offensive load with an inexperienced point guard in sophomore Rod Hall trying to get them the ball.

DUKE

[Tobias has painted himself blue]

Tobias Funke: I blue myself.

Michael Bluth: There has got to be a better way to say that.

_____

[Tobias creating buzz around the water cooler]

Tobias Fünke: That Funke is some kind of something. Boy, this Funke is all anybody’s ever talking about. So sick and tired of hearing about how brilliant that Funke is. Overrated.

_____

Lucille: Oh, George, I should have never doubted you. Even when you slept with my sister it was for a good reason.

George Sr.: Got her to stop drinking, didn’t it?

Duke was picked to finish second in the league, but the Blue Devils are fine with lower expectations – in fact, they’ll gladly let NC State carry the load of preseason hype for once, rather than just them and North Carolina. But doubt Mike Krzyzewski at your own peril – he always seems to get it done. Even some of the worst Duke teams under Coach K (since the 80’s) have gone on to at least make the NCAA Tournament.

2011 record/results: 27-7 overall, 13-3 ACC, No. 2 seed in NCAA Tournament, First Round (L to 15-seed Lehigh). According to Ken Pomeroy’s final rankings, five of Duke’s seven losses were to teams outside the top 20 (three to teams ranked 46 or worse). It’s no coincidence that Duke finished 70th in defense per Pomeroy, its worst finish since 2009 (20th).

Reason for optimism: Coach K is a pretty good reason. But another? Senior big man Mason Plumlee is ready to take the next step and become a dominant player, versatile forward Ryan Kelly is healthy, and they have two freshmen – shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon, and forward Amile Jefferson – ready to inject a shot of energy and talent into the program.

Reason for pessimism: Even if Duke’s defense is improved, they still have to score. There’s a lot of young talent on this team, but no one is as good a scorer as Austin Rivers was last year. Senior Seth Curry is dealing with a foot injury, and Krzyzewski said he likely won’t be fully healthy all year. Sophomore Quinn Cook will take over the point guard duties, and he’s talented but unproven.

FLORIDA STATE

Gob: Zero hour, Michael. It’s the end of the line. I’m the firstborn. I’m sick of playing second fiddle. I’m always third in line for everything. I’m tired of finishing fourth. Being the fifth wheel. There are six things I’m mad about, and I’m taking over.

_____

Lucille Austero: Do you like ham?

Carl Weathers: No.

[pause]

Carl Weathers: I love it.

_____

Narrator: Michael was having brunch with Sally Sitwell at a restaurant called Skip Church’s Bistro. In addition to brunch, the restaurant was known for an item on the menu called the “Skip’s Scramble”, an omelet that contained everything on the menu. Do not order the Skip’s Scramble.

Florida State won the ACC tournament last year for the first time in program history. It was just the second time in 19 years that a team from outside North Carolina won it. FSU has been picked in preseason polls below its actual finish for four straight years now, and the Seminoles are tired of it. At ACC Media Day, Michael Snaer said that if FSU were Duke or North Carolina, everyone would assume they would be good this year instead of picking them fourth. Head coach Leonard Hamilton brings in a plethora of long, athletic players that need some work offensively. But at times, FSU’s rotation has been more of a “Skip’s Scramble” – everyone plays at least ten minutes, only one player scores more than 10 points and everyone gets at least one turnover.

2012 record/results: 25-10 overall, 12-4 ACC, No. 3 seed in NCAA Tournament, Second Round (L to 6-seed Cincinnati). Seven of FSU’s losses were to Pomeroy top-50 teams. But three were to No. 93 Princeton, No. 76 Clemson and No. 259 Boston College.

Reason for optimism: Snaer is great, and point guard Ian Miller can be when he wants to be. It was only two exhibition games, but forward Okaro White appeared ready to be the complementary scorer to Snaer. Junior forward Terrance Shannon is finally healthy. There are some exciting young players. With all the scoring options (four of their top five scorers from a year ago return), the offense is much less likely to go into one of its patented droughts.

Reason for pessimism: As usual, FSU has a lot of big bodies (including three seven-footers), but they’re projects. The Seminoles have always struggled with turnovers and outside shooting, and they don’t have anyone on the roster that has proven they can do either one reliably. Miller doesn’t always defend as well as he needs to, and White has been unreliable at best. A hodgepodge of scoring options hasn’t mattered in past years when FSU’s offense has bogged down: why should this year be any different?

Duke at Boston College

Duke (22-4, 9-2) at Boston College (8-18, 3-9), 6:00 PM, ESPNU

Boston College freshman forward Ryan Anderson has had some really good games lately.

All Duke has to do is beat a pretty bad Boston College team (albeit on the road) to keep pace with North Carolina and Florida State atop the ACC. Duke has to be feeling good about itself after two comeback wins in an eight-day span over in-state rivals. And BC doesn’t have the horses to compete in a game like this just yet.

Stat to watch: Does Duke’s offense get bogged down in the black hole that is Conte Forum? Duke has been excellent on the road this year, perhaps even better than at home, but they’ve also had hostile opposing crowds to help them coalesce behind a common goal. And other ACC teams have struggled at BC: the Eagles have won three out of six ACC home games and came close against NC State. In those games, BC’s opponents averaged 58.0 points and 39.3% shooting. In their other eight ACC games, opponents shot 46.6% and averaged 71.3 points. Duke has to bring the focus it has had in other road games and not let BC’s slow pace – or quiet atmosphere – distract them.

Most important players: Ryan Anderson, Boston College and Seth Curry, Duke. Boston College’s Ryan Anderson struggled most of the season, but the 6-8 freshman has averaged 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in the last three games on 54% shooting. He’ll face a tough test today against a big Duke front line, but he is certainly a bright spot going forward for the Eagles.

Duke’s Seth Curry has averaged 20.5 points in the last four games on 50% shooting and hit 14-of-29 three’s. In his first seven league games, he averaged 11.4 points on 36.6% shooting and made just 7-of-33 three’s. And he’s been at his best during Duke’s comeback wins.

Random stat: Courtesy of BC Interruption, the “Linsanity” surrounding New York Knicks breakout star (and Harvard alum) Jeremy Lin is not a new phenomenon to BC fans. BC took a lot of flak for losing to Harvard in 2009 and 2010, both teams led by Lin, who averaged 26 points on 69.2% shooting and added 12 assists and six steals in two games. (Note: Boston College has lost at home for four years in a row, and Lin has played in two out of the four.) But in 2010 and 2011, it hasn’t been Lin killing them: it’s been sophomore Laurent Rivard, averaging 10.9 points over his career and 20.5 against Boston College. Maybe he’ll be the next NBA sensation someday.

Prediction: Duke 67, Boston College 54

Last week: 7-4

Season: 115-40 (51-21 ACC)

Duke at North Carolina, Part 1

Duke (19-4, 6-2) at North Carolina (20-3, 7-1), 9:00 PM, ESPN/ACC Network/ESPN3

Harrison Barnes (right) is going to be a tough defensive matchup for Duke now that Kyle Singler (left) has graduated.

There are a lot of reasons that this is the best rivalry in sports, most of which are intangible. But here are some anyway: in 22 of the last 31 years, either Carolina or Duke has been in the Final Four. In seven of the last 31 years, either Duke or North Carolina has won a national championship (including four of the last 11 years). In that same span, Carolina and Duke have faced off 50 times and 22 have been top-ten battles (tonight makes 23 of the last 51). North Carolina holds a slim 12-10 edge in that span. This is the 133rd straight meeting with at least one team ranked in the top 25 and in 50 of the last 66 meetings, both teams have been ranked. At least one of the two teams has been ranked in 150 of 153 meetings since the ACC was born in 1953-54.

Duke needs to win this one to keep pace with Florida State and have a chance to pass the Seminoles when they go to Tallahassee February 23. A North Carolina win would allow the Tar Heels to be in great position to win the league if Florida State should falter even once. North Carolina is entering a very tough stretch though, hosting Virginia on Saturday and traveling to Miami next Wednesday. Miami desperately needs that win, and Virginia could catch Carolina on an emotional rebound. Duke has Maryland and N.C. State at home, both of which will be eager to knock off Duke in Cameron now that the Blue Devils have shown that’s possible. Every other team in the ACC will be aching to knock off one of these two teams down the stretch for a “resume” win but tonight, it’s all about what it usually is for these two: fighting for the ACC regular-season crown and NCAA tournament top-level seeding.

Stat to watch: The offensive glass. North Carolina is 17-0 when out-rebounding their opponent and 3-3 when it is out-rebounded, but more importantly Carolina is 14-0 when it has more offensive rebounds than opponents and 4-3 when their opponent has more. North Carolina has found itself in battles this year when it can’t keep opponents off of the offensive glass. UNLV, Kentucky and Florida State combined for a 39.1% offensive rebounding percentage against Carolina (all other opponents combined for 26.2%). Carolina has held some pretty good rebounding teams off the glass (Miami, which had 20 offensive boards at Duke, had just five against Carolina; N.C. State had just six offensive rebounds) but Maryland’s 13 were Carolina’s second-most allowed in ACC play. Carolina has held four ACC opponents to just 30 offensive rebounds in the Smith Center while pulling down 53 themselves.

Duke is 11-1 when it out-rebounds an opponent and 8-3 when being out-rebounded. The Blue Devils have been pretty good on the offensive glass, rebounding 34.6% of their misses on the road and 35.7% at home. The Blue Devils have averaged 12.5 second-chance points on the road and 12.3 at home. Duke has actually rebounded better on the road, allowing 35.7% offensive rebounding percentage in league road games compared to 37.5% at home. But defensive rebounding has been a problem for Duke all year and it showed against Miami as the Blue Devils allowed 20 offensive rebounds to the beefy Hurricanes. They are going to have to be disciplined and box out the Tar Heels, because North Carolina will miss its first shot quite a bit but they average 15.4 points off of offensive rebounds in ACC play.

Most important players: Seth Curry, Duke and Harrison Barnes, North Carolina. Harrison Barnes showed how good he can be at times defensively last year with his work on Kyle Singler, holding the former Duke star to 11-of-45 shooting (24.4%) and 2-of-17 from three, letting him average just 9.7 points. He also helped force him into seven turnovers. Unfortunately, it tired him out so much that he shot just 16-of-40 (40%) and 4-of-13 from three himself. Singler did a nice job on Barnes as well, particularly in the first meeting in Durham where Barnes had just nine points on 3-of-8 shooting and was a virtual non-factor on the offensive end. But Singler isn’t there anymore, and there’s talk of the 6-foot-4 Austin Rivers or the 6-foot-5 Andre Dawkins guarding Barnes. Duke slowing Barnes is key to this game for them. Barnes is hobbled with an ankle injury right now (which showed in his season-low 25% shooting from two-point range against Maryland), but as usual, he came through late and made big baskets from Carolina. Before his ankle injury, he was averaging 18.5 points on 49.4% shooting in ACC play. He has averaged 15.5 on 33.3% shooting in the last two games with the ankle tweak.

Seth Curry was the star for Duke against North Carolina last season, averaging 17.7 points in three games on 58.1% shooting (11-of-21 – 52.4% – from three). He added 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and four turnovers in 33.0 minutes. The only reason Duke was in the game in Chapel Hill last year was Curry’s efficient 20 points on 13 shots (6-of-11 three’s). So it’s probably terrible news for North Carolina fans that the junior is starting to find his rhythm offensively. He had a team-high 22 points against Miami, his most since December 30th, on 7-of-13 shooting (4-of-7 from three). He also had four assists, three steals and no turnovers in 39 minutes. But in Duke’s other three losses, he had 25 points combined on 9-of-29 shooting (31%) and 4-of-17 from three. Curry struggled guarding Kendall Marshall at times last year, but Tyler Thornton will likely help some with that. And if Curry finds himself guarded by Marshall, as he was often last year, he should be able to take advantage of that matchup as well. But if he no-shows, Duke may have a tough time.

Random stat(s): When the first Duke-Carolina game of the year is at North Carolina, the Tar Heels are 0-4 under Roy Williams so far. The last time Carolina won the first matchup of the year at home was February 5, 1998. …. Duke is generally pretty good coming off of losses, but under Roy Williams, Carolina has faced Duke in those circumstances five times and is 3-2 in those games.

(The following stats come from the excellent Duke Basketball Statistical Database): For Duke, the usual suspects hold individual game highs for Duke vs. UNC, except for one: Kevin Billerman, who has the record for most assists against the Tar Heels (14). …. North Carolina has a random one, too: most blocks in a Carolina-Duke game? The 6-foot-6 Danny Green (2006-09), with seven in Durham in 2008. … Most offensive rebounds against North Carolina in a game? It’s a tie between Elton Brand, Shane Battier and…Erik Meek (each had 7).

 

For my prediction, check out Part 2.

St. John’s at Duke

St. John’s (9-11) at Duke (17-3), 12:00 PM, ESPN

St. John's freshman Moe Harkless, pictured scoring two of his 32 points in his Big East debut against Providence on December 27th.

Duke had a nice win on Thursday against a Maryland team that is always fired up for the Blue Devils. They played their best road game of the year at Maryland (a 13-point win) and could go into a tough ACC stretch with a lot of confidence. After St. John’s, the Blue Devils have four days off before traveling to Virginia Tech, followed by a home game against Miami and then at North Carolina on February 8th. The Red Storm are very, very young and it shows in their results: wins over teams as good as Cincinnati and West Virginia, losses to teams as bad as Northeastern and Detroit. Winning in Cameron Indoor Stadium seems like way too tall an order for this young group.

Stat to watch: St. John’s field goal percentage (or Duke’s defense). Duke has obviously had some shaky defensive outings this year but they seem to be improving in general on that end, and it certainly showed at times on Wednesday night at Maryland. But Florida State shot over 60% in the second half against Duke at home, and the Blue Devils can’t afford to let St. John’s get in any kind of rhythm offensively. St. John’s has shot 50% or better just five times this year (they are 4-1 in those games). They’re a young team, but they’re talented and if the Red Storm hit a few shots early, they could get a shot of confidence that might make this closer than it should be.

Most important players: Seth Curry, Duke and Moe Harkless, St. John’s. Curry had a really nice start to the season for Duke, but the junior has been a no-show in ACC play, particularly in Duke’s road games (he’s averaging 10.7 points on the road but on 30% shooting). Just watching him on the court, it doesn’t feel like he’s had the same impact as he had earlier this year. It’s almost like even when he’s scoring, he’s still just a complementary player. He’s shot just 6-of-25 in the last two games and is in a six-game slump from three, hitting just 6-of-29 (21%) in six ACC games. Duke has been very good this year but a bit shaky against inferior ACC foes. If the Blue Devils can get Curry going in this game, it would be a great sign for them going forward.

Moe Harkless not only leads St. John’s in scoring but also the Big East in freshmen scoring (16.0 ppg). The 6-8 swingman (he’s listed as a guard/forward but is the tallest starter) also leads the Red Storm in rebounding with 8.6 a game and is the only St. John’s player to have started every game this year. In Big East games only, Harkless has been even better with 18.1 points per game on 51% shooting to go with 9.1 rebounds a game. He also has a team-high 19 blocks in conference games. He’s athletic and a bit of a slasher, which could give Duke trouble.

Random stat: St. John’s is literally the most inexperienced team in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy, with an average of just 0.56 years.

Prediction: Duke 82, St. John’s 62

Last week: 7-5

Season: 84-31 (21-12 ACC)

Duke: ACC Outlook

Austin Rivers has been great, but someone on Duke needs to get his teammates more involved.

Record to date: 12-2

Strength so far: Inside game. Mason Plumlee has averaged 11.9 points and 9.9 rebounds on 63% shooting and his brother Miles has added 7.3 points (on 67% shooting) and 6.5 boards in 17.9 minutes a game. They have over 45% of Duke’s rebounds (230, or 16.4 per game) and 66% of their blocks (46 of 68). Mason has 29 assists (fourth on the team) and the two have committed just 49 fouls between them (3.5 per game). If there’s a knock on either, it’s their foul shooting: Mason is shooting 40% (32-of-80) and Miles 22-of-34 (65%). Duke is shooting 68% from the line as a team and it would be 77% without them. Still, they’ve had a huge impact and given Duke the kind of balance it hasn’t had in years.

Needs improvement: Defense. Already, Duke has allowed opponents to shoot 43.9%, which would be the worst it has allowed since 2003 (44.4%). Luke Winn did his weekly power rankings, at SI.com, and he broke out some stats from Synergy Sports Technology:

My dig through Synergy Sports Technology’s stats yielded two noticeable ways in which the Blue Devils are struggling to contain opponents:

• Their transition defense has dropped from 0.835 PPP (which put them in the 95th percentile last year) to 1.000 PPP (in the 64th percentile).

• They’ve struggled to contain pick-and-roll ballhandlers, too, going from 0.638 PPP (90th percentile) to 0.822 PPP (28th percentile).

While it’s a problem, there aren’t too many teams in the ACC that can hurt Duke from an offensive standpoint. But it’s a problem, particularly on the perimeter, for Duke and will likely continue to be one against teams with good guard play.

Most important player: Austin Rivers. He’s had a pretty good freshman campaign so far, averaging 15.1 points on 44.2% shooting (42.3% from three). The only issue is he has just 30 assists (one more than Mason Plumlee) to 32 turnovers, adding 12 steals, one block and 2.6 rebounds. Despite perceptions about Austin Rivers’ ball-hogging, five Duke players have taken between 96-156 shots this season and those five have between 102-212 points each. As a point of comparison, J.J. Redick took nearly a third of Duke’s shots in 2006 and had over a third of their points.

Reason for optimism: The Blue Devils’ offense is good enough to outscore most ACC tams. Duke has faced some of the better offenses in college basketball (seven of the top 38), so their defensive numbers are a bit skewed. And the Blue Devils won’t see many more offenses like that (just four ACC offenses rank in the top 50 and six in the top 100).

Reason for pessimism: No one is creating shots for others. Rivers and Seth Curry, Duke’s primary ball-handlers through 14 games, have combined for 72 assists and 71 turnovers. Mark Watson over at Blue Devil Nation talked about the rest of the Duke players standing around and watching, waiting for someone to make a play against Temple. Too much 1-on-1 play, as Watson pointed out, has been an issue and has led to some of Duke’s struggles with turning the ball over.

Surprising stat: Duke’s opponents have scored 62% of their points from two-point range; only two teams allow a higher percentage scored from two. That’s because Duke’s opponents score just 20% of their points from three (327th nationally) and 17.8% from the foul line (276th).

Most likely wins (12): @GT (1/7), UVA (1/12), @Clemson (1/15), Wake (1/19), @Maryland (1/25), FSU (1/21), Miami (2/5), Maryland (2/11), NCST (2/16), @BC (2/19), Va. Tech (2/25), @Wake (2/28)

Most likely losses (2): @UNC (2/8)

Toss-ups (2): @Virginia Tech (2/2), @FSU (2/23), UNC (3/4)

Best-case scenario: 14-2.

Worst-case scenario: 12-4.

ACC Preview: Jan. 4

Auburn (10-3) at Florida State (8-5), 7:00 PM, ESPN3

Aubie the Tiger is in the now-defunct Mascot Hall of Fame. Mr. Met and the San Diego Chicken are fine, but KC Wolf for the Chiefs? The Rockets mascot Clutch the Bear? Eh.

Rush the Court asked the question we’re all asking ourselves: is Florida State good? I will get more into that in ACC previews coming up later this week. But this is FSU’s worst non-conference start since 2005 when the Seminoles were 8-5 leading into ACC play. (They went 12-19 overall.)

If there’s a concern that hasn’t been discussed ad nauseum (an appropriate phrase when talking about FSU”s offense), it’s rebounding. FSU’s defense is 6th nationally (per Ken Pomeroy). They rank in the top 41 of all but two defensive categories, and one is offensive rebounding percentage allowed (33.3%, 200th nationally).

FSU simply has too many athletes and plays defense far too well to be giving up multiple opportunities. Teams are averaging just 8.4 second-chance points, but Michigan State had 12 second-chance points and Florida had 14. While the bad teams weren’t able to capitalize on the second chances FSU gave them, good teams will always make you pay.

Fortunately for them, Auburn isn’t very good. The Tigers are 10-3 but their wins have come against teams with an average ranking of 268.7 and they haven’t beaten a team ranked higher than 133rd. Only two wins have come over the top 100 teams. Their losses certainly aren’t bad, though (Seton Hall, Long Beach State and UTEP).

Prediction: Florida State 71, Auburn 59

Random: Auburn’s official mascot is Aubie the Tiger, but they are more known for their “War Eagle” cry and the eagle that flies around the stadium. The most popular story of its origin? In 1892, a veteran of the Civil War who was at a game had an eagle with him that he found on a battlefield. The eagle “suddenly broke free and began … circling the playing field.” Supposedly as this was happening, Auburn “began a steady march toward the Georgia end zone for a thrilling victory.” They saw it as a good omen and started chanting “War Eagle!” At the end of the game, the eagle crashed into the field and died.

Delaware State (4-8) at NC State (10-4), 7:00 PM, theACC.com

Delaware State's Hornet mascot. Not great.

N.C. State has been improving its defense in this recent stretch of non-conference games (Northeastern, Campbell and West Carolina), which represent three of the six worst-rated teams they have faced this year. That should continue against Delaware State, the lowest-ranked team the Wolfpack has faced or likely will face at 287 (though Boston College is 274 right now).

State’s offense – which was already good – is improving; it has 20 or more assists in four of the last five games. After having problems with turnovers, the Wolfpack have committed 12.3 per game in the last four. But Campbell and Syracuse both shot 50% or better against NC State (Syracuse shot a 57%, the highest allowed by State). Their defensive effort needs to be as good as it was against Northeastern and Western Carolina, opponents they held to an average of 57 points on 34.4% shooting.

Delaware State has lost five straight, although they only lost at Georgia by seven on December 30th. But they lost at George Washington by 18 and their only Division I wins are over Eastern Kentucky and Maryland Eastern Shore.

Prediction: NC State 89, Delaware State 62

Random: Delaware State’s mascot is the Hornet, and there is no information from Delaware State about its origin. But I did find this from Spawn of M Zone, which says that the 1942 football team rode around in a bus nicknamed “the Green Hornet”.

Duke (12-1) at Temple (9-3), 7:00 PM, ESPN2

Hooter the Owl is feisty; he picked up a technical foul at a basketball game in 2001.

Freshman point guard and reigning ACC Rookie of the Week Quinn Cook had a rough start against UNCG on December 19th. He entered the game and turned it over twice in about nine seconds; he was benched quickly. But including the remainder of that game and Duke’s last two games, he has 21 straight assists without a turnover in 21.0 minutes per game, scoring 12.0 ppg.

Eight different Blue Devils have scored off his assists in the last three games. The biggest beneficiaries have been Mason Plumlee (four dunks/lay-ups) and Josh Hairston (four of of his five baskets in the last two games are off Cook assists). Andre Dawkins has made just seven baskets in the last three games and Cook has assisted four of them, including two of his four made three-pointers. Seth Curry had been in a three-point shooting slump (4-of-16 in a four-game stretch) and in the last two games, Cook has assisted on two of his six made three’s (in 11 attempts).

This will be Duke’s toughest opponent arguably since facing Ohio State. Temple matches up pretty well with Duke on paper. The Owls’ three-point defense is fifth nationally (allowing just 25.6%) and their three-point shooting is 40th (38.5%). The Owls have an experienced backcourt. In the last five games (including Texas and Villanova), Temple has turned it over 55 times (11.0 per game) and opponents have 15 total steals (3.0 per game). The Owls forced 74 turnovers (14.8 per game) on 42 steals (8.2 per game) and scored 17.6 points off turnovers per game in their last five.

Prediction: Duke 85, Temple 72

Random: In 1882, Temple founder Dr. Russell Conwell came to Pennsylvania to lead the Grace Baptist Church and <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_University#Beginnings”>began tutoring working class people late at night (because of their schedules) in the basement of the church (known as the Baptist Temple)</a>. These students were dubbed “the night owls” (which is where the mascot comes from).

 

Last week: 12-3

Season: 59-18

 

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