Georgia (2-5) at Georgia Tech (4-2), 7:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: The three-point line. Georgia Tech has some players that can, in theory, make three-pointers. It’s not happening yet this year though, as the Yellow Jackets are shooting just 24.3 percent from beyond the arc. But they’re improving lately: in the last two games (a win over St. Mary’s and a loss at Illinois), they have shot 15-of-40 from three (37.5%) compared to 11-of-67 (16.4%) in the first four games.
Random Georgia facts: Georgia’s first mascot was not a bulldog, but a billy goat. It was adopted in 1892 and wore a hat with ribbons on his horns. Auburn fans chanted “shoot the billy goat” throughout the football game.
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 61-54. Georgia hung with Indiana for awhile earlier this year, but Georgia Tech is much improved this year and still looks like the better team.
Harvard (3-3) at Boston College (3-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: The foul line. The only games Boston College has won this season, it has averaged 30 free-throw attempts per game. But Harvard leads the nation in free throw attempts/field goal attempts. The Crimson also score 30.3% of their points from the foul line.
Random Harvard facts: John the Orangeman was actually Harvard’s first mascot. He sold fruit to the students at football games on a cart pulled by a donkey named Radcliffe in the late 1800’s.
Prediction: Harvard, 59-51. So…is Harvard good? Their resume reads a lot like a BC resume: wins over MIT, Manhattan and Fordham but losses to Massachusetts, St. Joseph’s and Vermont. The real problem, though, is that Boston College finds a way to lose to Harvard even when the Eagles are good.
No. 25 NC State (4-2) vs. Connecticut (6-1), 9:00 PM, ESPN, Madison Square Garden (Jimmy V Classic)
What to watch: NC State’s defense. The Wolfpack has had to face a lot of talented offenses so far this year, but even against some of the less-talented offenses (like UNC-Asheville), they’ve played subpar defense. UConn’s offense has struggled all year, but the Huskies don’t turn it over much and get to the foul line quite a bit. NC State can’t let UConn get going. The Huskies have three very good guards in Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun, all of whom are averaging double figures.
Calvin Leslie. When he shows up, NC State is very difficult to beat. In last year’s NCAA Tournament run, he was dynamic, engaged and a difference-maker. In some games this year, he’s been easily distracted for whatever reason and a virtual non-factor in some other games. NC State absolutely needs him in a game like this. He had arguably his best game of the year at Michigan – 16 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes – and even though he picked up four fouls, he helped the Wolfpack keep that game close.
Random UConn facts: Way too many live husky mascots met an early death after being hit by a car, and other UConn mascot facts.
Prediction: NC State, 77-68. Connecticut is puzzling. The Huskies barely beat Quinnipiac, Wake Forest, Stony Brook and New Hampshire. But then they beat Michigan State. And they did win all those games, to be fair. But NC State pretty much has to have this one, and it’s a very winnable game for them.
Florida (6-0) at Florida State (4-3), 7:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: The three-point line. Really, the only way for Florida State to have a chance to beat Florida is hit three-pointers and keep Florida from hitting theirs. The Gators have averaged 9.5 three-pointers made in the last two games and though they don’t always hit a high percentage, they will hit enough. Florida State, meanwhile, is making 39.1% of its three’s but has made just 11-of-33 in the last two games (both losses) and 16-of-54 (29.6%) in three losses compared to 29-of-61 (47.5%) in wins.
Random Florida facts: It’s a pretty simple mascot, but Florida could never quite seem to settle on the best look for its Gator. Including the above attempt, which is perhaps the most 70’s thing ever.
Prediction: Florida, 75-59. Um, so, Florida is good. Really good. The two best teams they’ve played this year, Wisconsin and Marquette, they’ve beaten mercilessly: 74-56 and 82-49, respectively. Florida State might not even be as good as either of those teams, and this is a rivalry game.
High Point (4-3) at Wake Forest (3-4), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: C.J. Harris and Travis McKie. Wake’s leading scorers have been struggling. In Wake’s last two games – both losses – Harris is 2-of-11 from the floor, 0-of-3 from three and just 4-of-4 from the foul line. Prior to the last two games, he had shot 22-of-43 and attempted 7.4 free throws per game. He has missed his last 11 three-pointers. Travis McKie is 5-of-19 from the floor in the last two games and has averaged 8.5 points. He had averaged 15.6 points on 45% shooting before that. Wake isn’t going to win many games without even one of them playing badly, much less both.
Random High Point facts: High Point’s panther mascot is one of the very few mascots where little to no history exists (at least in the immediately searchable internet). So, here’s a video?
Prediction: Wake Forest, 79-67. To be fair to Wake, they covered the spread against Richmond! In all seriousness, the Deacons fought in that game, which shows that they might still have it in them to win a game like this, against a team they should beat. High Point’s best loss this season was by 14 at Indiana State.
Tennessee (4-2) at Virginia (6-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Can Virginia’s big men keep it up? Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins have had great seasons so far, averaging 12.6 points and 7.8 points, respectively. In UVa’s biggest win this year against Wisconsin, the two combined for 68 minutes, 25 points and 17 rebounds. They’ve been a big reason UVa is on a five-game winning streak, but the Tennessee defense will provide a stiff test.
Random Tennessee facts: Tennessee’s bluetick coonhound dog mascot has always been a bit frisky, but not many dogs are brave (or stupid) enough to mix it up with a live bear. In 1957, that’s what happened and though Smokey II lived through it, he was supposedly never the same.
He still goes after players, though.
Prediction: Virginia, 58-49. The only team Tennessee has managed to pull away from for a convincing win this year was Oakland (they beat them 77-50). Everyone else – even Kennesaw State and UNC-Asheville – has hung with the Volunteers. In their two losses, Tennessee has a grand total of 81 points, including a 37-36 loss to Georgetown on Friday night that offended the basketball gods to their very core.
UMES (0-7) at Maryland (6-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Maryland’s freshmen. Shaquille Cleare has played a combined 14 minutes and in Maryland’s two closest games this year (Kentucky and George Mason), mostly because he picked up a combined five fouls in that span. Jake Layman hasn’t hit a three-pointer since November 12 (0-6 since) or any shot at all since November 20 (four games, 0-of-5). Charles Mitchell’s minutes have been fairly steady, and he has been rebounding well. Seth Allen has played well, but he had no assists and two turnovers in the George Mason win. And so if Maryland’s can’t build up a big enough lead for all of these freshmen to continue to develop, the Terrapins have bigger problems.
Random UMES facts: In the late 1940s, UMES still didn’t have a nickname and the newspapers were starting to call the team “The Fishermen”. That wouldn’t do, so they found some sort of convoluted way to come up with another mascot – the Hawk.
Prediction: Maryland 87-59. UMES is winless this season, but it has been close twice: 10-point losses to Arkansas Pine Bluff and Delaware State. Ouch.
Last week: 18-12
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. 8 Maryland (16-14, 6-10) vs. No. 9 Wake Forest (13-17, 4-12), 12:00 PM, ESPNU/ACC Network
This might seem like a no-brainer Maryland win, nine of Maryland’s ACC games were decided by fewer than ten points (12 by 15 or fewer) and their biggest win this year was a 16-pointer over Boston College. They beat Wake Forest by just six at home earlier this year. And Wake has won two of its last five games and played Duke close. A loss to Wake would be a devastating way to end the year for Maryland.
Key to the game: Which team’s post players will show up? In the last three games (all losses), Maryland’s Ashton Pankey, James Padgett and Alex Len have combined for 46 points on 18-of-45 shooting (10-of-27 from the foul line). Pankey in particularly has struggled; the freshman doesn’t have a basket in that span (0-of-11) and played just 14 minutes over the last two games.
But Maryland allowed the last two frontcourts they faced to score 101 points; just two players (Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott) had 69 by themselves. And Wake’s frontcourt is heating up: Carson Desrosiers, Travis McKie and Nikita Mescheriakov have averaged 39.5 points the last two games on 59% shooting. If Maryland’s frontcourt keeps getting outplayed as badly as it has been, this could be an early upset.
Random stat: Terrell Stoglin, who made All-ACC second team, has had a rough go of it in the last month or so. Prior to Maryland’s game at Duke, he was averaging 22.2 points on 43.6% shooting (54.3% from inside the arc) in ACC play. In the final seven games, he shot 32% and 28.2% from inside the arc, but he still averaged 20 points.
Prediction: Maryland 71, Wake Forest 66
No. 5 NC State (20-11, 9-7) vs. No. 12 Boston College (9-21, 4-12), 2:00 PM, ESPNU/ACC Network
NC State needs to win this game and at least one more to earn an NCAA Tournament berth. The Wolfpack has a nice draw to do that – Boston College won’t help, but a win over Virginia would and certainly a potential matchup with No. 1 seed North Carolina would give them a chance at a huge win. But it starts with this game, and Steve Donahue’s Boston College team won’t just roll over.
Key to the game: NC State’s execution. Obviously, the Wolfpack are more talented than Boston College. But the Eagles haven’t shown any quit all year and have played NC State close once (at their place). It’s a good thing that State appears to have found its confidence again. It’s not good if that confidence is misplaced and they think they can coast through this game. Boston College has no postseason beyond the ACC Tournament and they will play that way.
Random stat: Scott Wood shot 4-of-28 from the floor (4-of-20 from three) in NC State’s four-game losing streak in ACC play. But in their last two games (both wins), Wood shot 10-of-23 from the floor and 8-of-17 from three.
Prediction: NC State 77, Boston College 62
No. 7 Clemson (16-14, 8-8) vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech (15-16, 4-12), 7:00 PM, ESPNU/ACC Network
Both of these teams continue to fight hard through disappointment, but Virginia Tech just seems to lack confidence right now and Clemson has gained quite a bit of it. The Tigers are playing very well and could be a dangerous team going forward for anyone in their bracket, should they advance.
Key to the game: Rebounding. In two previous matchups with Virginia Tech, Clemson – not traditionally a great offensive rebounding team – collected 42.9% of its misses. Clemson didn’t shoot very well in either matchup (a combined 6-of-30 from three) but got second-chance points. And Virginia Tech got its share in the first meeting, but failed to get many in the second (nine second-chance points on six offensive rebounds). The Tigers have a big size advantage and should use it.
Random stat: These two teams are the unluckiest in the ACC (per Ken Pomeroy) and only five teams are unluckier in the nation.
Prediction: Clemson 59, Virginia Tech 55
No. 6 Miami (18-11, 9-7) vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech (11-19, 4-12), 9:00 PM, ESPNU/ACC Network
If Miami wins, it sets them up for a rematch with Florida State and the potential to get a win that would likely seal an NCAA Tournament berth. If they don’t, the Hurricanes are almost certainly out.
Keys to the game: Get Malcolm Grant rolling. Miami’s senior sharp-shooter has shot just 28.9% from three-point range since returning from the death of his older brother just prior to conference play. In his first 12 games back, he shot 18-of-79 (22.8%) from three. In the last five, he has shot 15-of-35 (42.9%) from three and 8-of-15 in the last two. Miami desperately needs him to consistently make three’s – in their ACC wins, he has shot 22-of-66 compared to 11-of-42 in losses.
Georgia Tech’s improved frontcourt. Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey combined to score just eight points in their first meeting with Miami this year. But Miller has been in double figures in eight of his last nine games and Holsey in six of eight. The duo has averaged 23.7 points on 57% shooting in their last three games. When Miami has let opposing ACC frontcourts score 23 or more, they are 1-6.
Random stat: Playing in Philips Arena isn’t necessarily a home court advantage for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are 3-7 there this year (3-5 in ACC play) and have averaged just 54.1 points. But they have won their last two games there (against Maryland and Wake Forest), averaging 66 points after averaging 51.1 points in their first eight games at Philips.
Prediction: Miami 75, Georgia Tech 61
Last week: 9-3
Season: 132-47 (68-28 ACC)
Wake Forest (11-11, 2-6) at N.C. State (16-7, 5-3), 1:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
By now, it’s pretty clear that the only way Wake Forest is going to win an ACC game against a team with legitimate talent is by slowing the pace to a crawl, hoping their opponent misses shots and they make some. Against North Carolina, they slowed it down and North Carolina missed shots, but the Deacons missed even more. And after a scare at Boston College on Wednesday, N.C. State understands now more than ever that they can’t take any of their remaining league games for granted. With its next stretch here, the Wolfpack should be 7-3 in the ACC before having three straight opportunities to knock off the top three teams in the league (Duke, Florida State and North Carolina, the latter two at home). But it has to get through this one first, and just because it won 76-40 in Winston-Salem a few weeks ago doesn’t mean the rematch will be easy. Although with the way Wake has been playing, it could be.
Stat to watch: Wake Forest’s three-point shooting. For once, you shouldn’t watch this statistic because of N.C. State’s three-point defense, which has actually improved significantly. This is more of an indictment of Wake’s offense and how much the Deacons have struggled to hit three’s in ACC play. In the non-conference, Wake hit 36% of its three’s, averaging 5.7 made three’s per game. In ACC play, Wake has hit just 25% and averaged 4.0 makes. In 11 wins this season, Wake his made 40.8% of its three’s compared to just 22.3% in 11 losses. In the ACC, it’s been even worse: the Deacons have made 20.6% of their three’s in league losses compared to 38.7% in two wins. Wake’s worst outing this season? A 2-of-20 performance against N.C. State in the 76-40 loss on January 14th.
C.J. Harris is Wake’s best shooter but he’s in a bit of a slump, making just 9-of-27 (33.3%) in league play. Still, he has over a quarter of Wake’s made three’s and along with Travis McKie (who has made just 6-of-25) those two have accounted for 47% of Wake’s made three’s in league play. Before conference play, those two accounted for half of Wake’s made three’s but they hit 46.5% combined. Tony Chennault and Chase Fischer have made three’s here and there, but the Deacons need them to step up and make a few more to take some pressure off of McKie and Harris. If they can, Wake might have somewhat of a chance. They’re certainly more offensively talented in general than Georgia Tech, which managed to beat N.C. State in Raleigh.
Most important players: Lorenzo Brown, N.C. State and Travis McKie, Wake Forest. McKie continues to play hard despite some frustrating outings, but last time he faced N.C. State, he was ejected after hitting Scott Wood with an elbow. It was unlike McKie to do that, but he was clearly frustrated. He’ll have to be able to contain that this time around. Against the league’s best teams, it’s been a mixed bag: he was 1-of-5 against N.C. State, 1-of-13 against Florida State and 2-of-11 against North Carolina. But he was 6-of-12 at Duke and 8-of-14 at Maryland, so it’s clear he can do it. And even when his shot isn’t falling, he’s really improved his rebounding: he’s averaging 10 rebounds in ACC play and 10.8 in the last five games (12.5 in the last two). But he had just four against N.C. State in thee last meeting. He’ll need to keep hitting the boards hard and eventually his shot will fall.
It’s not so much that Lorenzo Brown is playing badly, it’s how the sophomore point guard has looked while doing it. He doesn’t seem nearly as confident on the floor and at times, he seems unsure of his exact role in the offense in terms of how often he needs to assert himself as a scorer. He began ACC play averaging 13.3 points on 48% shooting, adding 32 assists (8.0 per game) to just 11 turnovers. But in the last four games, Brown has averaged 7.3 points on 35.5% shooting, adding 23 assists (5.8 per game) to 19 turnovers (4.8 per game). Brown is an excellent player and it showed in particular with his 20-point outing at Wake Forest in the first meeting this year. Even North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall, much less of a scoring threat generally than Brown, tore apart the Wake defense for 14 points on Wednesday. If Brown can’t get back on track in this game, it will be a bad omen for the rest of his – and State’s – season.
Random stat: N.C. State’s Richard Howell was whistled for just two fouls at Boston College on Wednesday, dropping his foul per game average to 3.3. But he is still on pace to at least challenge a rather dubious record of fouls in a season. Per Stephen Schramm at the Fayetteville Observer, the N.C. State single-season record is held by former point guard Ilian Evtimov, of all people (he had 110 fouls in 2005). The career record (372) is held by Cozell McQueen.
Prediction: N.C. State 82, Wake Forest 61
Last week: 12-0
Season: 96-31 (32-12 ACC)
Wake Forest (11-9, 2-4) at Clemson (10-9, 2-3), 12:00 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3
Both Clemson and Wake Forest have tough stretches coming up and could really use this win. Clemson plays three of its next four (after Wake) on the road, including at Virginia and Virginia Tech. Wake will host North Carolina on Tuesday (at home), at NC State and then at Virginia. The Deacons have fought back to look at least competent against superior ACC foes even after awful performances, but at some point, the bad play might start to snowball.
Stat to watch: Wake’s turnovers. Wake Forest had taken care of the basketball prior to ACC play, but their 12.5 turnovers per game has shot up to 14.7 a game in league play. And in two of their worst losses (N.C. State and Florida State), they turned it over 17 and 18 times respectively. Wake is just not dynamic enough offensively to win turning it over as much as they have been. They weren’t really forcing turnovers before league play, and they’re forcing even fewer now: ACC opponents average just 10.7 turnovers. The most turnovers any league opponent has had against them was 13 (Duke). Wake’s opponents have scored 15 or more points off Wake turnovers in four of six games while Wake has done that just twice and averages 10.0 points off turnovers in league play. That’s not a good sign for Wake going into the Clemson game – the Tigers force turnovers in bunches, particularly at home. In home wins, Clemson has forced 17.1 turnovers per game compared to 13.5 in all other games. Clemson has taken pretty good care of the ball all year, particularly in ACC play (just 12.6 turnovers per game).
Most important players: Travis McKie, Wake Forest and Andre Young, Clemson. When Clemson has won ACC games, Young has shot 12-of-18 from the floor, 9-of-13 from three and 14-of-17 from the foul line, averaging 23.5 points. In three losses, he’s averaged 10.7 points on 34% shooting (20% from three) and has attempted just two free throws (making them both). He has had to carry Clemson all year from a scoring perspective and while Clemson has won some games without him playing his best, they’re a much more dangerous team when he’s on.
Travis McKie had a really tough time against Florida State. And that’s probably putting it mildly. The sophomore had three points (one off his season low of two against N.C. State) on 1-of-13 shooting. He played well in the loss at Maryland (25 points). Since then, Wake has lost three ACC games and McKie has shot 8-of-30 from the floor and averaged 7.0 points in those games, adding 4.0 turnovers and 3.0 fouls. He fouled out of the Florida State game and was ejected from the N.C. State game after a flagrant foul. He’s been visibly frustrated, which is understandable, but quite frankly Wake is not going to win many games when he doesn’t play well.
Random stat: Clemson’s last win over Wake last year was the first Clemson win over Wake since the 1997-98 season. It’s particularly surprising since Clemson has been pretty good since 2006 and Wake has been terrible in that span (except for 2009-10) and Clemson has only beaten Wake twice in seven meetings between 2006-11 (both wins were in overtime). The 2007 Tigers even lost to a Wake team that finished 15-15, 5-11 in the ACC, so it was big for last year’s team to beat a truly terrible Wake team, even at home. Clemson needs to do the same this year.
Prediction: Clemson 72, Wake Forest 57
Last week: 7-5
Season: 84-31 (21-12 ACC)
Wake Forest (10-5, 1-0) at Maryland (10-4, 0-1), 7:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
It’s hard to know what to make of Wake Forest’s surprising win over Virginia Tech on Saturday, particularly since the Hokies seem to have hit the skids. But the Deacons have two elite scorers and are capable of beating almost any ACC team if those two are on. Maryland seems to be getting better even after losing to N.C. State, but the Terrapins really need a third scorer to emerge for them (Alex Len will be an easy No. 2 behind Terrell Stoglin). Stoglin and Len accounted for half of Maryland’s scoring by themselves against N.C. State and 46% of it since Len’s return.
Stat to watch: Rebounding. Is Wake Forest now a good rebounding team? Or was its performance against Virginia Tech (42-31 edge in rebounding) an anomaly? “We have done every rebound drill imaginable known to mankind over the last several days, and we’ve done that all year long,” Wake head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “They had enough of getting their butts beat on the boards.” Maryland is out-rebounding opponents by +8.4 per game over the last eight; N.C. State out-rebounded them, but only by two. Maryland pulled down 13 offensive rebounds to 11 for N.C. State.
Most important players: Terrell Stoglin, Maryland and Travis McKie, Wake Forest. Stoglin leads the ACC and is sixth nationally in scoring for Maryland. The problem is that no one else is really stepping up to help him, and Stoglin doesn’t appear willing – or able – to involve others. “You look at the games Terrell has two or three assists, I guarantee you we probably won those games,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. He’s almost right: Maryland is 8-1 when Stoglin has two or more assists and 2-3 when he doesn’t. In two games against Wake last year, Stoglin averaged 3.5 points in 14.5 minutes, picking up three fouls in each game and making just 3-of-12 shots (0-of-5 three’s).
McKie and C.J. Harris have had to carry Wake Forest this year, and it’s gotten them some wins (Nebraska, High Point, Texas Tech) they might not have had otherwise. McKie had his worst shooting performance in nearly two months against Virginia Tech (43%) but it was his rebounding that saved the day. McKie had 15 boards, easily a season high, and his six offensive rebounds were more than he had averaged to that point (5.8). Wake will need him to keep rebounding that well the rest of the year. McKie has played two games against Maryland and averaged 11.5 points on 43% shooting. Wake will need more from McKie if it wants to win this one.
Random Stat: Maryland is 4-3 in ACC home openers since expansion. Maryland hasn’t started 2-0 in the league since expansion and has finished either 7-9 or 8-8 five of the last seven seasons. The Terrapins were 10-6 in 2007, though, winning their final seven ACC games. This team is capable of a run like that. Wake Forest is just 2-5 in road openers since expansion.
Prediction: Maryland 67, Wake Forest 64
Last week: 6-3 (4-2)
Season: 66-22 (5-3)
Record to date: 9-5
Strength so far: Getting to the foul line. Wake is averaging 24.8 free throws a game and has scored a quarter of its points at the line. Wake averages 27.3 attempts in wins and 20.2 attempts in losses.
Needs improvement: Rebounding. Wake is 11th in the league in both defensive rebounding percentage and offensive rebounding percentage. The Deacons have been out-rebounded by 4.6 per game, and they rebound just 25.3% of their misses, 326th in the nation. Opponents are averaging over four more possessions a game because of Wake’s poor rebounding on both ends. Wake’s last two opponents – Yale and Wofford – pulled down a combined 34 offensive rebounds and scored 32 points off of them (out of 127). Wake beat Yale by one and lost to Wofford by four.
Most important player: Tony Chennault. Wake desperately needs a third scorer, and Chennault has the best potential to be that. He has averaged 11.4 points and has eight double-figure scoring games and 12 with eight or more points. But the sophomore guard is averaging 3.0 fouls per game, limiting his minutes to 29.6, along with just 2.8 assists. If he can get his assists up (just 2.8 per game) and keep his scoring up, he could really help the Deacons.
Reason for optimism: Travis McKie and C.J. Harris. One of these groups is McKie and Harris combined, the other is their team combined:
A: 161-309 FG, 40-86 3FG, 132-174 FT, 494 points
B: 169-420 FG, 40-136 3FG, 115-173 FT, 493 points
Group A is McKie and Harris, who have outscored the rest of their teammates combined and are shooting 52.1% (46.5% from three), attempting over half of Wake’s free throws. They average 35.3 points. WIthout them, Wake is shooting 40% and 29.4% from three, averaging 35.2 points. With dynamic players like that, Wake could win a few it shouldn’t.
Reason for pessimism: Terrible defense. Wake is allowing 49.6% shooting from inside the arc (43.4% overall from the field). Nearly 20% of the points Wake has allowed have been second-chance points after failing to box out on the defensive end. The ACC’s offenses are bad, but any team can score if you continue to give them multiple chances.
Surprising stat: A ridiculous 12.8% of Wake Forest’s shot attempts have been blocked. St. John’s (13%) and Penn State (13.4%) are the only major-conference teams to have a higher percentage blocked. Teams that have had a lower percentage blocked include Samford (12.6%), Columbia (12.2%) and Texas A&M Corpus Christi (11.7%).
Most likely win/s (1): Ga. Tech (2/15)
Most likely losses (13): Va. Tech (1/7), @Maryland (1/11), NCST (1/14), @Duke (1/19), @BC (1/21), FSU (1/25), @Clemson (1/28), UNC (1/31), @NCST (2/4), @UVA (2/8), @Miami (2/18), Duke (2/28), @Ga. Tech (3/3)
Toss-ups (2): Clemson (2/11), BC (2/25)
Best-case scenario: 4-12.
Worst-case scenario: 1-15.
Rhode Island (2-12) at Boston College (5-8), 1:00 PM, ESPN3
BC Interruption’s post on the Eagles’ loss to Harvard highlighted an odd choice in playing time distribution: Jordan Daniels was left on the bench for 15 of 20 second-half minutes. Daniels was 3-of-5 in the first half (2-of-2 from three) for a team-high nine points in 15 minutes. In the second half, he saw stints of 2:28, 0:48 and 1:22 and missed two shots and had a turnover.
Playing time aside, Boston College led 22-19 with 7:45 to go in the first half. The Eagles got turnover-happy, turning it over four straight times and going nearly three minutes without a shot attempt. It was a trend as the Eagles would have 10 total turnovers over the next 12:19 of game action (spanning both halves).
Rhode Island isn’t very good, particularly offensively. But Rhode Island has some athletes inside who get offensive rebounds (10th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage) and block shots (74th in block percentage).
Prediction: Rhode Island 76, Boston College 69
Random: Rhode Island’s blue is not the same as Carolina blue. Rhody’s blue came from their former basketball coach/chemistry teacher. Frank Keaney came up with his own shade of blue in his laboratory and the school adopted it. Recently, the school changed to a darker shade of blue now called “Rhody Blue”. Rhode Island named their official mascot the ram in 1923, while Rameses made his first appearance at Carolina in 1924. That one seems to be a coincidence. Rhode Island hasn’t had a live ram since 1974, but at least they’ve updated their costumes since this:
Virginia (12-1) at LSU (10-3), 7:00 PM, CSS
Virginia’s non-conference schedule has been called into question as people evaluate their legitimacy as a top-25 team, but the Cavaliers have generally dominated those weaker opponents. Most ACC schools can’t say that. That wasn’t the case against Towson, a team that hasn’t won a game in over a calendar year. Virginia made just 33.3% of its two-point tries, their lowest mark this season.
Virginia also had a season-low eight points in the paint and allowed Towson to score 15 points off of their 10 turnovers. Towson shot nearly 56% from inside the arc against Virginia’s vaunted defense (the highest percentage allowed this year).
Maybe it was just a blip for the Cavaliers. Head coach Tony Bennett said it best after the game: “When we play well, I think we can play with a lot of teams in the country and be successful,” Bennett said. “When we’re off and we’re not sharp and some of the things aren’t right, we become very susceptible and any team can play with us.”
LSU, who has knocked off previously undefeated Marquette this season, is at least decent. And considering what a disappointment the ACC has been in non-conference road games, not to mention the fact that UVA barely survived a road game at Seattle this year, this seems like Virginia’s second loss.
Prediction: LSU 66, Virginia 58
Random: LSU adopted its “Tiger” nickname in 1896 in honor of Louisiana’s Confederate heritage. Robert E. Lee’s Louisiana troops in Northern Virginia became known as the tigers (because of their bravery). Mike the Tiger – the live version – has been around LSU since 1935. LSU also has a person wearing a tiger costume, but they place the real tiger’s cage right by the visitor’s locker room in the football stadium so that they have to walk right by it.
Wofford (7-6) at Wake Forest (9-4), 7:00 PM, RSN
Rebounding has become a big concern for Wake Forest. In its previous two games, Wake had out-rebounded Gardner-Webb and UNC-Wilmington after not out-rebounding any opponent in its first ten games. But the Deacons were out-rebounded by Yale 43-32 and 17-7 on the offensive glass. Yale rebounded nearly half of its missed field goals and converted them into 16 second-chance points. Opponents have out-rebounded them by 5.0 per game on the season and are averaging four more possessions a game because of the offensive rebounds.
It’s puzzling that they’ve had so much trouble on the boards in general. The Deacons have two 7-footers seeing significant minutes (Ty Walker and starting center Carson Desrosiers) to go with starters Travis McKie (6-7) and Nikita Mescherlakov (6-8). You’d think sheer luck would lead to more rebounds falling their way.
Wofford isn’t good, so it shouldn’t be a problem in this game. If it is, a Wake team that seemed to be improving might end up being just as bad as it was last year in the ACC season.
Prediction: Wake Forest 79, Wofford 63
Random: The 1909 Wofford baseball team adopted a Pit Bull Terrier named Jack and that was the inspiration for the Terrier mascot. Now, their live representation of a terrier is a Boston Terrier that they call Blitz; he/she actually attends some road games as well:
UNC-G (2-12) at Miami (8-4), 9:00 PM, RSN
Miami is rolling right now. The Hurricanes have shot 54% or better against its last three opponents after failing to do so all season. They’re also finally getting contributions off their bench as it is averaging 25 bench points in the last three games, finally taking some pressure off their main scorers.
One of the bench contributors is DaJuan Jones. He has played just two games since returning from suspension, and he is quietly making almost as much of an impact as Reggie Johnson, who returned one game before he did. Jones has 18 points and 14 rebounds in 39 minutes on 7-of-14 shooting. Jones came into the season averaging 13.7 career minutes and averaging 4.3 points on 43% shooting.
Prediction: Miami 85, UNC-G 61
Random: UNC-G’s mascot was not covered here when the Spartans faced Duke, but not much to say about him. However, they did recently change its name to “Spiro” after taking fan submissions. It used to be a real person in the costume:
Last week: 12-3
Bryant (1-9) at Boston College (3-7), 1:00 PM, RSN
Boston College’s fairly easy win over Stony Brook last weekend was a nice surprise. Stony Brook shot just 29%, which was Boston College’s best defensive performance of the year (as were the 51 points allowed). The most encouraging part was that BC shot just 24% from three and still won easily. The Eagles might just be gaining a bit of confidence, which should mean a relatively easy win over an awful Bryant team.
Prediction: Boston College 66, Bryant 58
Random: It’s hard for players to get comfortable when their minutes aren’t stable. Matt Humphrey is the only Eagle who has played at least 20 minutes in all ten games. It’s not like BC’s games have been all that different, and the pattern is settling down a bit, but certainly it’s nice for players – particularly freshmen – to know they have some stability in terms of their playing time.
Gardner-Webb (6-6) at Wake Forest (6-4), 1:00 PM, ESPN3
Wake Forest shouldn’t be ashamed of losing at Seton Hall, which is arguably the Big East’s most improved team. But Wake’s 54 points were a season-low, as was its 12.5% from three-point range. Wake’s interior defense has also been bad all year and was again last week, allowing Seton Hall to shoot 59% from two-point range. Perhaps with shot-blocker Ty Walker’s recent return from suspension, that will improve some.
Travis McKie has been ridiculous (18.6 ppg on 50% shooting, 40% from three), adding 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 35 minutes a game. But C.J. Harris’s improvement is worth noting, per Rush the Court:
Last year, according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Harris posted a 93.6 offensive efficiency rating while taking 15.6% of the team’s shots. This year? Harris has an offensive efficiency rating of 117.7 while taking 25.1% of his teams shots. That’s an insane improvement. So now, not only does Wake Forest have the conference’s second-leading scorer, but it also has the conference’s third leading scorer (17.9 PPG). It might have sounded crazy this time last year, or even two months ago, but Wake Forest easily has the most productive scoring tandem in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Gardner-Webb is not very good, so the dynamic duo should do some more stat-padding on Sunday.
Prediction: Wake Forest 85, Gardner-Webb 65
Random: Gardner-Webb beat Alice Lloyd College earlier this season, and the name seemed strange. Good ‘ole Google and/or Wikipedia: it is located in the Kentucky mountains and their athletic programs are NAIA. Seventy-five percent of Alice Lloyd graduates are the first in their families to earn a college degree.
Loyola Marymount (6-4) at Florida State (7-3), 3:00 PM, ESPNU
So much for cutting down on turnovers. Florida State is averaging 19 a game and have coughed it up 47 times in their last two games, leading to 34 points by their opponents. Without those, Charleston Southern and UNC-G would have combined to score just 77 points. That’s not realistic, but considering the athletic Seminoles are shooting 46% on the year, it’s beyond irritating to think about their offensive potential without all the silly turnovers.
Another under-the-radar concern for FSU is its rebounding. The Seminoles have allowed opponents to average 14.7 offensive rebounds per game and are just +5.0 overall on the backboards. With their height and length, that should be a bigger margin. FSU out-rebounded UNC-G just 35-33 and allowed the Spartans to get 17 offensive boards.
Loyola Marymount beat UCLA in the L.A. Sports Arena early this season and also has a win over then-No. 23 St. Louis. Two of Loyola’s losses have been to pretty good teams, Harvard and Middle Tennessee State. But the Lions also have losses to Columbia and North Texas. Ultimately, FSU’s defense will be way too much.
Prediction: Florida State 73, Loyola Marymount 57
Random: Considering Loyola Marymount basketball is still best known for its success between 1985-1990 under Paul Westhead, it’s appropriate to plug ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary Guru of Go. The movie is mostly about Hank Gathers’ untimely death in the 1989-90 season and how Westhead’s team responded to make an improbable NCAA Tournament run, but it’s also about Westhead’s unconventional style. One of the more underrated 30 for 30 films.
Virginia (8-1) at Oregon (6-2), 5:30 PM
Virginia is arguably playing as well as anyone in the ACC so far (against a non-conference schedule Pomeroy ranks 308th). Since the Michigan win, UVA has made quick work of its lesser foes. After losing to TCU, Virginia won six straight by an average of 18.8 points. In the Cavaliers’ last game (on December 6th), George Mason shot the highest percentage allowed by UVA all year (47.5%) and scored just 48 points.
Oregon’s two losses have both come on the road to pretty good teams (Vanderbilt and BYU), but the Ducks were beaten soundly in both games. Oregon doesn’t have any great wins (the best is Nebraska), but Eugene is a tough place to play. Minnesota transfer guard Devoe Joseph recently became eligible and has averaged 15.5 points in two games. The Ducks’ front line has ACC connections: Kyle’s little brother E.J. Singler (13 ppg, 1.0 bpg) and Wake Forest transfer Tony Woods (7.8 ppg, 1.8 bpg).
Last season, Virginia went to Stanford for its first true road game and was crushed 81-60 (with Mike Scott, who leads the team in scoring this year but missed most of last year with an injury). This is Virginia’s first true road game of 2011-12 and it just seems like a games the Cavaliers will lose. Considering ACC basketball has been such a disappointment this year, this just feels like the right pick.
Prediction: Oregon 65, Virginia 62
Random: Starting on December 20th, Oregon will host the ironically-named Global Sports Hoops Showcase. The field: Oregon, North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin. Last year’s field was Auburn, Samford, Campbell and Middle Tennessee State. Scouring the web as to what makes this global, or even a showcase, I found nothing.
Last Week: 9-1
Season Record: 19-10
ACC teams are 67-36 so far (and that’s only after an 8-1 week…A-C-C!), and teams not named North Carolina or Duke are 52-33. Without Virginia’s 7-1 start, the other nine teams are 45-32. Ew. Conference pride is on the line!
Duke (8-1) vs. Washington (4-3), CBS, 12:00 PM, Madison Square Garden
Washington would be considered elite if not for losses at St. Louis (by 13) and at Nevada (in overtime). Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln… But the Huskies gave No. 11 Marquette all it could handle in a 79-77 loss on Tuesday in the Garden. With just a few weak non-conference games left, not to mention an awful Pac-12 schedule, Duke is Washington’s last chance at a quality win.
Duke’s defense is eighth in the league in points per possession defense but fourth in loss of ball forced (18.4%), and that’s where the it can do damage against the Huskies. Duke averages 17.7 points off of 15.5 opponent turnovers; the Blue Devils started the year averaging 21 points off turnovers in its first four games. Beginning in Maui, that number dropped to 14.3. But the rejuvenated Blue Devils turned 17 Colorado State turnovers into 18 points, and that’s what they need to do again on Saturday.
The Blue Devils (as of December 4th) are 244th nationally in field goal percentage defense. Duke’s three-point defense has been pretty good, as they held the nation’s top three-point shooting team, Colorado State, to 4-of-11 (36.4%) on Wednesday. But opponents are attempting just 14 three’s a game compared to 43.4 two-pointers (of which Duke opponents make 48%). BCS conference foes have shot 51.6% inside the arc.
Washington can shoot from two (49.5%) or three (40.8%). Sophomores C.J. Wilcox (47.7% 3FG%) and Terrence Ross (37.8% 3FG%) can both go nuts from beyond the arc. Against North Carolina in last year’s second round of the NCAA Tournament, Ross led his team with 19 points off the bench in just 24 minutes. C.J. Wilcox added 11 points (3-of-5 from three) in just 19 minutes. Duke will have a long day if it stops penetration as poorly as the Tar Heels did at times in that game.
Duke will have an advantage on the interior, especially if 7-foot Washington center Aziz N’Diaye gets in foul trouble. He hasn’t fouled out yet this year (albeit in just 24.3 mpg). Against North Carolina last year, N’Diaye picked up four fouls in 20 minutes but still managed to pull down 11 rebounds.
Seth Curry had been the steady one for Duke, but he shot just 7-of-24 in the last three games. Andre Dawkins showed up and had 15 first-half points off the bench against Colorado State before going out with back spasms, and his status is uncertain. Austin Rivers is really starting to get it, scoring a very efficient 17 points on nine shots.
Andrew Jones of Fox Sports wrote this about the freshman: “…The 6-5 slasher can get to the rim with the dribble … maybe more effectively than most players in the ACC. But an issue with him entering this night was that once he decided he was taking the ball to the hole he would cut off all other options. Twice in the first half, however, Rivers got near the rim only to kick it out to Tyler Thornton for a jumper and Andre Dawkins for a 3-pointer. … As Rivers matures and adds this to his repertoire, Duke will grow.”
Washington is missing is what Isaiah Thomas brought last year – a point guard that can make plays for himself and others. They have other elite perimeter players, but at point, Abdul Gaddy is not an offensive threat and Tony Wroten, Jr. is very talented but erratic.Washington is capable of winning, but it’s hard to imagine Duke losing to an unranked team that is talented but flawed, especially in Madison Square Garden.
Prediction: Duke 82, Washington 77
Random: From Lorenzo Romar’s info page on GoHuskies.com:
“The loss to North Carolina in the third round of the NCAAs 2½ months ago was as frustrating and regrettable a defeat as Romar has had at Washington. If not for multiple meltdowns that cost the Huskies the lead and the game to the shaky Tar Heels that Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., they would have been favored to advance to the Elite Eight and past a Marquette team UNC blew out days later in the Round of 16.”
Why don’t you just start up an “overrated” chant? The Tar Heels didn’t play their best game and Washington was fantastic late in the year, but they were a 7-seed and had a 24-11 record for a reason. The Tar Heels were a No. 2 seed. And “as frustrating and regrettable a defeat” as Romar has had at Washington? Does this ring a bell?
Clemson (4-3) at Arizona (6-3), 12/10, 4:00 PM, FSN
Arizona impressed the college basketball world in a 78-72 overtime loss at No. 12 Florida on Wednesday. The Wildcats had been disappointing with losses to Seattle Pacific (in an exhibition), Mississippi State and San Diego State. This seemed like a game the Tigers could win earlier in the year, but Clemson just dropped their third game to an inferior in-state opponent – at home – in a loss to South Carolina. Greg Wallace (@aimclemson on Twitter) from Orange and White wrote about Clemson’s scoring struggles. The Tigers have cracked 70 just twice and have a season-high of 73, averaging 64.4 for the year.
While Andre Young has been fantastic, the 5-9 senior can’t do it alone. In Clemson’s three losses, he has shot 12-of-35 and 7-of-26 from three, averaging 12.7 points. In wins, Young shot 20-of-33 (12-of-19 from three), averaging 15.3 points. He’s taken fewer shots in Clemson’s wins, because he can be more efficient without having to carry the load. But he has 19 of Clemson’s 42 made three’s this year and someone needs to step up there too.
Milton Jennings and Devin Booker have been disappointing. Jennings is a McDonald’s All-American averaging 10.4 points, but he has nine in the last two games on 4-of-13 shooting. He accounted for nearly half of Clemson’s turnovers against South Carolina (he had five; the Tigers had 11). Booker is averaging 9.8 points but hasn’t hit double digits in the last four games, averaging 6.3 field goal attempts. He had averaged 10 shots a game in Clemson’s first four games and he needs to be more assertive.
The Tigers don’t have many options. Without Demontez Stitt’s ability to drive to the hoop and make plays for himself or teammates, Clemson simply lacks playmakers. Arizona is missing some key pieces, but I still don’t see how Clemson can score enough to keep pace with on the road.
Prediction: Arizona 70, Clemson 59
Random: Arizona is 264th in tempo, 19 spots BELOW Herb Sendek’s famously slow Arizona State offense. Clemson, by the way, is 284th in tempo.
Georgia Tech (5-4) at Savannah State (3-6), 12/10, 6:00 PM
Georgia Tech is 11th in the league (per Ken Pomeroy) in offensive efficiency. The puzzling part has been the inconsistency – Georgia Tech has shot 51.8% in five wins (50% or better in all five) and 38.5% in four losses. The Yellow Jackets probably should slow down on the three-pointers (29% on the year) and they might be a more efficient offensive club, because they have some pieces.
The sophomores are key for Georgia Tech: Kammeon Hosley had 12 points against Georgia in a season-high 32 minutes. Brandon Reed snapped a four-game shooting slump (7-of-34, 3-of-19 from three) with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Jason Morris has been coming on, averaging 16 points in the last three games (shooting 6-of-11 from three).
If there’s a concern, it’s Glen Rice, Jr. He’s averaging 14.1 points on 50% shooting but is just 2-of-12 from three in the last three games after starting 6-of-14. He needs to drive more as he is shooting nearly 61% from inside the arc, but he tends to keep jacking up three-pointers. This team is not good enough offensively for him to be inefficient. He can be such a lethal scorer at times, but his 31% shooting from three is not the reason.
But this kind of stuff from new head coach Brian Gregory (via From the Rumble Seat) is awesome. The Yellow Jackets don’t have a two-game winning streak since the first two games and could really use a convincing win to keep momentum going. Savannah State has three losses by a combined nine points (the other three by a combined 74 points) and three wins by a combined 25 points.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 78, Savannah State 57
Random: Savannah State head coach Horace Broadnax inherited a mess of a program in 2005 that had gone 0-28 in 2004. The 13-18 season in 2008 was the most D-I wins by Savannah State ever. Broadnax was a point guard for Georgetown from 1983-86, a run that included a national title in 1984.
Miami (5-3) at West Virginia (5-2), 12/10, 7:00 PM, ESPN2
Miami fans will need to have patience with the team under new head coach Jim Larranaga. There’s a lot of personnel missing still, and he had to start small by changing the culture of shoelaces (h/t The Sporting News). The Hurricanes are holding opponents to 64.1 points (on 41% shooting), but Miami is shooting 39% from the floor and averaging 67.4 points.
The Hurricanes are shooting 35% from three, but since making 10-of-23 against Rutgers (43.5%), they have shot over 40% just once. And they have yet to shoot over 50% overall this season. Miami has cracked 70 points three times this year and in those games, it has made 25-of-58 three’s (43.1%) and have needed 27.7 trips to the foul line. Those kinds of calls likely won’t continue in physical conference play.
Their two best guards, Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, have made 31-of-84 (36.9%). But the two combine to shoot just 31-of-98 (31.6%) from TWO-point range. Last year, Grant shot nearly 42% from both two and three while Scott shot 46% from two (40% from three). Their combined assist average is also done from 6.4 last year between them to 5.1 this year (but their turnovers are down from 5.3 to 3.0).
Junior transfer Trey McKinney Jones has become more consistent, but Florida transfer Kenny Kadji has been all over the map – in back-to-back losses at Ole Miss and Purdue, he played a total of 13 minutes and had one rebound and two points. Since, he has played 25 minutes in each of the last two games and has averaged 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. He has picked up more than two fouls just once this season. When Reggie Johnson comes back (supposedly sometime in December, per Category Six), Miami will have a talented frontcourt that
Unfortunately, Miami and West Virginia are meeting at the wrong time for the Hurricanes. West Virginia didn’t have a good win until beating Kansas State in Wichita in double overtime Thursday night. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, it’s a short turnaround for the Mountaineers. But it probably won’t be enough in a tough road environment.
Prediction: West Virginia 66, Miami 62
Deniz Kiliicli deserves props for his magnificent beard. He looks remarkably like:
North Carolina (7-2) vs. LBST (4-4), 12/10, 7:00 PM, ESPN3
North Carolina did not mess around with Evansville on Tuesday night, beating the Purple Aces 97-48. While the offense was good, the defense was better – Evansville’s 0.545 points per possession were a season low. It’s a good sign despite the inferior opponent, because Carolina has slept-walked on defense at times, allowing even Tennessee State (0.82 PPP) and UNC-Asheville (0.88) to score efficiently. And Carolina had been just +2.5 in rebounding this year despite its height advantage over most teams, so throttling Evansville 62-30 on the backboards was good as well. Reggie Bullock has made 7-of-15 three’s in the last three games. He loves the Smith Center nets best of all, making 14-of-25 three’s in four home games. Having potentially two three-point threats with Bullock and P.J. Hairston makes the offense more dynamic, particularly when the two play together.
Last year, the Tar Heels squeaked by Long Beach State, 96-91, in Carolina’s 2010-11 defensive nadir. The Beach shot nearly 51% and – fortunately for the Tar Heels – only 32% from three (10-of-31). They made 27-of-42 two-pointers (over 64%) and against Carolina’s front line, that’s inexcusable. Larry Drew II had 13 points, eight assists and two turnovers. John Henson and Tyler Zeller combined to shoot 6-of-15 from the floor. Carolina was out-rebounded 37-35. Long Beach forward T.J. Robinson had 31 points on 13-of-19 shooting while dynamic point guard Casper Ware added 22.
Long Beach State has four wins this year; three against Idaho, Boise State and BYU Hawaii. But their other win came at Pittsburgh, in a thrilling game that temporarily made The Beach America’s darlings. Unfortunately, they lost at San Diego State (in overtime) and at Montana (by two), in addition to at Louisville (by 13) and at Kansas (by eight). I don’t think The Beach has enough to hang with the Tar Heels for too long, but if Carolina has one of its patented zombie-esque performances, it could be in trouble.
Prediction: UNC 101, The Beach 79
Random: Luke Winn from SI.com had a great chart of all Tyler Zeller’s second-half offensive touches in the second half at Kentucky. It’s color-coded based on the result of the play (made field goal, missed field goal, pass out, turnover) and an interesting look at how much more quickly he was double-teamed in the second half.
Wake Forest (6-3) at Seton Hall (7-1), 12/10, 8:00 PM
I’m not sure why Wake Forest (6-3) played at the Millis Center (announced crowd: 1,801; capacity: 1,700) in High Point, but the Deacons escaped, 87-83. High Point had nearly knocked off Purdue on the road earlier this year, and had a chance to get a huge win over Wake Forest but fell just short.
C.J. Harris is an offensive machine; he is averaging 18.6 points (he has 20 or more in five games) on 51% shooting from both the field and three-point range. Travis McKie has averaged 18.8 points on 50% shooting (41% from three). If those two can get more consistent help from their teammates, Wake Forest is going to end up beating a team or two it shouldn’t. Wake gets 7-foot senior center Ty Walker back from suspension against Seton Hall, and the Deacs are 2-0 on the road this year.
But Seton Hall has won four straight and their only loss came by seven to Northwestern. They don’t have any amazing wins, but they have beaten the teams they should. With the firepower of Herb Pope (the leading scorer in the Big East at 21.4 ppg), I don’t see Wake keeping up on the scoreboard, especially since Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard is a Rick Pitino guy who preaches aggressive defense.
Prediction: Seton Hall 83, Wake Forest 77
Random: Wake Forest includes plus/minus stats in their game notes and in the blowout loss to Arizona State, Harris was -27 and McKie was -21. Without that game, Harris would be +44 and McKie +47 on the season. What voodoo did you do, Herb Sendek? …. And did you know Travis McKie is the first Virginian to play for Wake since Josh Shoemaker (1998-2001)? It feels like Carolina and Duke have had at least five each from Virginia since 2001.
Season record: 10-9