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
(All you have to do is Google “On a Boat” and you’ll get the reference, if you don’t already. Warning: the video/audio is NSFW.)
A lot of hype leading up to Carolina’s season-opener against Michigan State has surrounded the odd circumstances of the game. (USA Today wrote a comprehensive guide to the game, available here.) It’s in San Diego on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier that buried Osama bin Laden at sea. It’s Veteran’s Day; soldiers and President Obama will be there in person. Supermodel and Carolina fan Brooklyn Decker will attend and play a game of H.O.R.S.E. at halftime.
Despite all that, Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall said yesterday that the only celebrity in attendance who could make him nervous is Anchorman star Will Ferrell. Tar Heel Fan posted the brilliant Top Gun Quote Guide to the Carrier Classic, and in that vein, let’s take a look at this weekend through the movie Anchorman, avoiding the easy go-to quote: “Stay classy, San Diego.”
Brian Fantana: They’ve done studies, you know. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.
With wind potentially being an issue (Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo says it might blow some of his team’s errant shots in the basket), look for the bigs on each team to take the higher-percentage shots. After Kendall Marshall entered the lineup, John Henson took on a bigger role in the offense, and his scoring went up as a result (from 10.4 points to 12.8). His field goal percentage went down (from 53.5 to 47.7) and his free-throw percentage went up (from 36.2%!! to 58.9). But he was inconsistent on offense, at times getting the ball stripped and taking bad shots. Tyler Zeller was the mainstay, scoring 10 or more points in 32 of Carolina’s 37 games and shooting nearly 55 percent.
Michigan State forward Draymond Green averaged 12.6 points in 2011 and was one of 10 D-I players to lead his team in both rebounding (8.6 per game) and assists (4.1). The senior added a three-point shot to his game last year and made around 37 percent. But Green has seen his share of foul trouble and while Michigan State has some talented players behind him, there’s no one with his experience and savvy. Henson and Zeller made some very good post players into non-factors last year, but the they will need to score as well.
Frank Vitchard: [public news anchor cuts off Frank's arm] Ah! I did not see that one coming!
The Tar Heels might feel that way if guard Brandon Wood, a graduate student transfer from Valparaiso, goes off. Carolina should see it coming though as Wood dropped 30 points in Chapel Hill, three years ago nearly to the day. He made 12-of-19 shots (6-of-10 three-pointers) and drove to the basket at will. The Tar Heels beat Valpo by 11, but it was the first harbinger of the bad season to come in 2010. It’s unclear how Wood will fit into the Spartans’ offense, and Dexter Strickland is much more capable of defending a player like that now, but Wood is an x-factor for the Spartans offensively.
As for potential Tar Heel surprises, there aren’t many. It might be a tad shocking if a Carolina team that shot 32.8% from the 3-point line last year starts hitting a ton of 3′s in windy conditions. Michigan State will try to limit the Tar Heels to those kinds of shots and if they go in, so be it. Only John Henson raining 3′s could be a real shock to Michigan State, not to mention the rest of the college basketball world.
Ron Burgundy: Veronica and I are trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it’s jogging or yogging. it might be a soft ‘j’. I’m not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It’s supposed to be wild.
Carolina is known for its running game, and Michigan State is not going to want to let the Tar Heels get going in transition. But lay-ups and dunks are higher-percentage shots (Captain Obvious here), so Carolina will try to force tempo. In 2011, Carolina was near the top of every defensive category (per Ken Pomeroy) except for steal percentage, and it’s hard to start fast breaks without steals or turnovers. The Tar Heels were 7th in the ACC last year in both steals per game and turnover margin. It’s going to be hard to score inside on Carolina, but the Tar Heels have to get more turnovers to make things easier on themselves offensively.
Ron Burgundy: I’m proud of you fellas. You all kept your head on a swivel, and that’s what you gotta do when you find yourself in a vicious cock fight.
Roy Williams touched on this during Tuesday’s press conference when he said that the Tar Heels will have to learn to face adversity and rise above it. And while the elements present some adversity on Friday, the real trouble comes when Carolina gets on a plane right after the game and flies overnight to Asheville for a 4:00 game on Sunday. UNC-Asheville is coming off of an NCAA Tournament season a year ago and returns four of five starters. The Bulldogs are already making contingency plans in the event of a win over the Tar Heels.
A quick turn-around after an emotional game on Friday makes Sunday’s game seem like a trap. But if the Tar Heels are elite, they have to win games like this. “I hope … some success will give them a little confidence in being able to handle the different scenarios, different situations, different arenas, not having your home crowd to make you play better or faster defensively,” Williams said. “But we have a pretty good team, and so I think we should challenge them. If it was like 2006 or 2010, I would have been scared stiff. We’ll see how we respond.”