Erick Green, Virginia Tech
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Shane Larkin, Miami
Richard Howell, N.C. State
Joe Harris, Virginia
This was pretty straightforward, with respect to Seth Curry and Reggie Bullock, both of whom I thought deserved a spot. Ultimately, there wasn’t enough space.
Seth Curry, Duke
Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Kenny Kadji, Miami
Akil Mitchell, Virginia
Lorenzo Brown, N.C. State
P.J. Hairston, North Carolina
Devin Booker, Clemson
Ryan Anderson, Boston College
Quinn Cook, Duke
Michael Snaer, Florida State
Toughest omissions: Durand Scott (Miami), Dez Wells (Maryland), C.J. Harris (Wake Forest), C.J. Leslie (N.C. State), James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina), Alex Len (Maryland).
Full disclosure: I’m a big believer in tempo-free stats, and those omissions came from a combination of those and, you know, the eye test. I watched a lot of ACC games this year. Consistency also played a role, and defense.
Olivier Hanlan, Boston College
T.J. Warren, N.C. State
Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech
Toughest omissions: Devin Thomas (Wake Forest), Robert Carter Jr. (Georgia Tech), Joe Rahon (Boston College).
Daniel Miller, Georgia Tech
Julian Gamble, Miami
Durand Scott, Miami
Michael Snaer, Florida State
Tyler Thornton, Duke
Toughest omissions: Reggie Bullock (North Carolina), Jontel Evans (Virginia), Akil Mitchell (Virginia), Rod Hall (Clemson).
This was the most difficult category for me, and I don’t have a problem admitting that some of those picks might have been wrong.
Freshman of the Year: T.J. Warren, N.C. State.
Consistency and efficiency won the day here, as Warren edged Hanlan of BC. Sulaimon has recently hit the freshman wall, as most freshmen tend to, but he was taken out of the starting lineup and has generally looked frustrated while the other two are closing strongly. Warren was very good most of the year and is starting to hit his stride as a starter, which is part of what put him over the top for me.
Defensive Player of the Year: Julian Gamble, Miami.
I honestly had no idea what to do here, but Gamble has done a great job bothering opposing big men all year and has been very difficult to score against. And considering how much Miami’s defensive numbers have dropped since Gamble left the starting lineup/saw his minutes decrease in favor of Reggie Johnson only helped solidify that opinion. But I am very willing to admit I might have been wrong.
Coach of the Year: Jim Larranaga, Miami.
This seemed like a no-brainer until very recently, when it looked like Miami might not win the outright ACC regular-season title. Still, a weak ending to the season doesn’t take away from the body of work. And he has had this Miami team playing defense at a very high level, believing in each other and being unselfish. They’ve been very tough to beat most of this year, and he’s a big reason for that. Sure, they’re older, and experienced. But Frank Haith had older, tough-minded teams at Miami. They didn’t play like this.
(Side note: Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and Tony Bennett also did some nice things this season.)
Player of the Year: Erick Green, Virginia Tech.
A lot of my case was made for Green here, but I’ll add this: the ACC Player of the Year award is not the Most Valuable Player. If it were, I would have gone with Shane Larkin. Green averages nearly double the amount of points as Larkin, is more efficient and has a higher assist rate despite having MUCH worse teammates. Larkin’s a better defender, but not significantly.
I tend to err on the side of picking a POY from a winning ACC team, preferably a team that wins the league (or at least a top-five team). It takes a very strong effort from a guy on a last-place team (or close to last) to even merit consideration, much less win it. He has to be significantly ahead of the pack. And Green was that guy to me, based on a combination of statistics and my judgment from watching him.
He did all he could to make his teammates better (compared to another high-volume scorer from last year, about whom his coach said “I can’t coach him”). That, combined with no one else on the top-five teams jumping up to grab the award (at least in my estimation), led to my vote. Reasonable minds can disagree, of course.
Santa Clara (11-2) at No. 1 Duke (11-0), 12:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: Santa Clara’s Mark Trasolini versus Ryan Kelly. He’s not the Broncos’ leading scorer, but the 6-9 senior forward is the most efficient scorer, averaging 16.3 points on 57% shooting. In Santa Clara’s two losses, he has shot just 3-of-10 from the floor. In the last three games, he has averaged 23.7 points on over 68% shooting, adding 4-of-6 three-pointers, 7.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. Duke’s Ryan Kelly has held some good opposing big men (and versatile big men at that) to low point totals this year, and Duke’s going to need his defense yet again against a sneaky-good Santa Clara squad.
Random Santa Clara facts: In the mid-1960s, Santa Clara had a live bronco (briefly) that was so strong, he could pull a section of folded bleachers unassisted. The handler discovered this after he tied him to the bleachers while he went to get a hot dog, only to come back when he heard the crowd roaring as the bronco was running across the field). At least they were empty?
Prediction: Duke, 95-73. Both of Santa Clara’s losses have come in overtime, but their best win was over St. Louis early this year. Still, the Broncos have had a relatively easy time of it since and have dominated some decent teams. But this is at Duke, and the Blue Devils are rolling.
Western Michigan (8-4) at No. 23/25 NC State (9-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: The foul line. If there’s been an area to quibble with NC State offensively this year, it’s the free-throw shooting. The Wolfpack is one of the most efficient teams in the league offensively, and would probably hold the league’s top mark in that category if it could shoot free throws. NC State has hit the 70% mark from the line just three times this season and is shooting 64% on the year, good for 282nd nationally according to Ken Pomeroy. But their free-throw rate is top-50 nationally, and the offense is predicated on being aggressive and getting to the line. If State stops leaving points at the foul line, its offense – which is already scary good – will become even more so.
Random Western Michigan facts: WMU used to be known as the Hilltoppers, but that led to some understandable confusion with fellow Hilltopper schools. (Also, WMU expanded beyond the hills and their tops.) They adopted the Bronco in the late 1980s, and he looks….well….sleepy.
And if you needed to know anything about parking on WMU’s campus (and ridiculously short shorts), check out this 1982 video! (Side note: I think Buster Bronco finds this video HILARIOUS. No reason.)
Prediction: NC State, 87-63. Even if the Wolfpack shows up sluggish after the holiday break, Western Michigan isn’t the type of team that can take advantage of its weaknesses.
Delaware State (5-7) at Maryland (10-1), 12:30 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Maryland’s turnovers. The Terrapins don’t force a lot of turnovers, and they don’t have to because their defense is good enough. But they can’t afford to keep turning it over, either. Maryland’s defense has the lowest loss of ball percentage in the league (12.7%), but their 0.746 PPP allowed is one of the best marks. Still, Maryland’s loss of ball on offense (18.82%) is only better than Wake Forest and Florida State so far this year. Maryland has shown a tendency to get sloppy at times this year. If they want to be an upper-echelon ACC team (and they’re more than capable of being just that), they won’t be able to get away with turning it over on nearly a fifth of their offensive possessions.
Random Delaware State facts: Delaware State has tweaked its mascot in recent years, and the current hornet iteration is known as “Too-Fly”. And he had a high standard of flyness to live up to:
Prediction: Maryland, 87-65. The Hornets did knock off in-state rival Delaware recently (side note: things have gone downhill from the Blue Hens since beating UVa). But half of their wins are against non-Division I opponents.
Florida State (7-4) vs. Tulsa (7-5), 2:00 PM, FSN (Sunrise, FL)
What to watch: Has Michael Snaer flipped the switch? The senior guard sat out FSU’s win against Louisiana-Monroe due to “disciplinary reasons”, and whatever his head coach Leonard Hamilton did or said seems to have worked. He’s always been an elite defender, and it’s been obvious that he has struggled to take on his newfound role as an assertive scorer. But he has to do that for Florida State to win, and he did against Charlotte last week. He had 30 points on 8-of-19 shooting, his best shooting percentage since late November. In his last two games he has played in – Charlotte and Maine – he has taken 37 shots, a third of his season total. In FSU’s losses, he has shot nearly five fewer times on average than in FSU’s wins. And he’s going to have to keep it up as his young teammates come along.
Random Tulsa facts: The Golden Hurricane mascot used to be an actual hurricane. Now, it’s “Captain Cane”, who carries a a “hurricane-summoning sword” and wears “energy-sourcing thunder boots”. Well, okay then. The change was made when current UNC AD Bubba Cunningham was the AD at Tulsa.
Prediction: Florida State, 76-68. Without the loss to Mercer, maybe FSU wouldn’t seem like its struggling so much. The Seminoles would have then only lost to Minnesota and Florida since their season-opening loss to South Alabama. Sadly, Mercer ddi happen, and so did some struggles against Maine and Louisiana Monroe. Still, Tulsa hasn’t beaten anyone as good as FSU this year.
Holy Cross (7-5) at Boston College (6-5), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: BC’s freshmen. Joe Rahon and Olivier Hanlan have combined to play nearly a third of BC’s available minutes this year (and attempt nearly a third of their shots), but neither have shot particularly well, especially lately. Obviously, both have to play but Hanlan is shooting just 16-of-51in the last four games and Rahon is shooting 7-of-31 in the last three. Both are going to continue to play a lot – and take a lot of shots – but at some point it would help the Eagles if they start, you know, making a few more.
Random Holy Cross facts: Why is Holy Cross known as the Crusaders? If you know anything about history, it’s fairly obvious. Let’s just watch some knight videos.
Now stand aside, worthy adversary. …. Runnin’ away, eh?
Also….NI! BRING HOLY CROSS PLAYERS A SHRUBBERY!
And then there’s this.
BC had just better make sure they choose, and choose wisely.
Prediction: Boston College, 61-55. When Boston College beat Providence last week, it was the highest-ranked Ken Pomeroy team (62nd) the Eagles had beaten since knocking off then-No. 24 FSU on February 8, 2012 (of course, BC won only nine games last season). So, progress?
No. 20/17 UNLV (11-1) at North Carolina (9-3), 2:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: Carolina’s bigs versus UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebs will be shorthanded as forward Mike Moser should miss the game with a dislocated elbow (he’s listed as questionable), and he had 16 points and 18 rebounds in UNLV’s upset win over UNC last season. Freshman forward Anthony Bennett leads the nation’s rookies in scoring, averaging 19.5 points per game and 8.5 rebounds. They have plenty of other capable big men, including versatile Khem Birch, a Pitt transfer who can shoot three’s, and senior Quintrell Thomas. UNC’s rotating group of centers: Joel James, Desmond Hubert and Brice Johnson – haven’t been all that consistent or effective, and James Michael McAdoo has struggled against some big-time opponents. The Tar Heels will have their hands full with one of the best players in the nation in Bennett, not to mention his teammates.
Reggie Bullock. There weren’t many positives Carolina could take from its loss to Texas, but Carolina’s junior leader stepping up and attempting a season-high 17 shots should be one of them. He wasn’t great – he hit just six of those attempts – but he got to the line six times (also a season-high) and for the first time, he showed he’s willing to be the guy who steps up in big moments for Carolina. Just because he steps up doesn’t mean he’ll come through, or that Carolina will win. But someone has to be willing to do it consistently.
Random UNLV facts: UNLV adopted the Rebel nickname because they were “rebelling” against the flagship, Nevada-Reno. They adopted a shark mascot in honor of former head coach Jerry “The Shark” Tarkanian, but that has since gone away. But at least it gives us a chance to link these awesome videos!
The landshark eats someone.
Which also allows us to link this, one of the best SNL skits ever.
Prediction: UNLV, 77-72. The Tar Heels really need this win, but I haven’t seen anything from them so far to lead me to believe they’ll get it.
Virginia Tech (9-3) at BYU (9-4), 2:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Tempo. The Hokies want to go up-tempo, but can they really hang with a team like BYU? The Cougars are not a great team this year, but they’re good enough and still one of the fastest teams in the country. Virginia Tech has shown flashes of being good in transition, but the Hokies are dangerously thin and that sort of tempo might wear them down.
Anyone other than Erick Green. Seriously. Anyone. Here’s a stat comparison for you from the last three games:
A: 33-63 FG (52.4%), 4-15 3-pt (26.7%), 15-20 FT (75.0%), 85 points (28.3 ppg)
B: 36-114 FG (31.6%), 12-49 3-pt (24.5%), 22-38 FT (57.9%), 106 points (35.3 ppg)
“A” is Green. “B” is the rest of his teammates combined. Yeah. Cadarian Rains had a good game against Bradley, but was a combined 1-of-3 in the other two games sandwiching it. Robert Brown has made just four of his last 30 field-goal attempts and has ten points in the last four games. Jarrell Eddie has been up and down, but at least he’s hit double figures in three straight games. Freshman forward Marshall Wood broke his foot and while he wasn’t a huge contributor (5.8 points), he was averaging 18 minutes. The Hokies weren’t deep to begin with: Christian Beyer, a seldom-used reserve until recently, has seen 52 minutes in the last two games (he still has not made a field goal this year).
Random BYU facts: BYU is not going to change its Cougar mascot anytime soon, but it’s already being rejected as a high school mascot because of its offensive connotations. For those of you who don’t know what a cougar refers to, it’s…forget it, I’ll refer you to Urban Dictionary.
Prediction: BYU, 89-68. Just difficult to see the Hokies being able to win this one with as badly as their supporting cast has looked recently.
Fordham (3-9) at Georgia Tech (8-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Some semblance of an offense for Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech is one of the beat teams in the country defensively this year (statistically), but the offense is still coming around. As the From the Rumble Seat blog points out, Georgia Tech is starting to shoot better. But the Yellow Jackets being without Jason Morris (plantar fasciatis) and incorporating some new pieces hasn’t made it any easier, either. Georgia Tech doesn’t have a great win, but it doesn’t have a bad loss. Win these last two non-conference games, make some noise in the ACC and the Yellow Jackets could be looking at an NCAA Tournament bid. If they can get to even a decent level offensively, they could be tough to beat.
Random Fordham facts: The ram nickname came from an 1893 football game, when the students chanted “One dam, two dams, three dams, FORDHAM!” The Jesuit staff didn’t care for that kind of foul language, so they changed “dam” to “ram”. They’ve had live rams over the years, and in the late 1950’s, one of said rams lived in a “1,200-cubic-foot brick hut” built by Grace Kelly’s father. That same ram liked to enjoy “a lager or two” after games in his elaborate Ram Mansion.
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 84-55. Fordham is awful, but especially defensively. Georgia Tech should put up some points.
Wofford (6-6) at Virginia (9-3), 1:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: UVa’s big men. Virginia made just 38% of its two-pointers in the loss to Old Dominion, a season-low. A big reason for that is how much their starting frontcourt, Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins, struggled. Both have been much-improved this year, but Mitchell shot just 3-of-10 and had eight points (just his second time this season in single digits) and Atkins was 2-of-6 for four points, his fewest since November 12. Both of them combined shot worse from inside the arc than their teammates combined. Wofford is not a defensive juggernaut by any means, but the reason UVa had started to play so well this season was the improvement of Mitchell and Atkins. The Cavaliers will struggle to beat even decent teams like Wofford – and particularly in ACC play – if that doesn’t continue.
Random Wofford facts: We’ve covered the origin of the Terrier here before, and yes, it’s one of the cutest mascots around. So instead of that, here are Wofford students teaching rats to play basketball!
Prediction: UVa, 61-49. In an under-the-radar result, Wofford beat Xavier last Saturday. Virginia hasn’t looked very good as of late. But every time we want to count the Cavaliers out, they win a game they have to win, and this one qualifies.
Last week: 10-4
Clemson (6-3) at Coastal Carolina (3-5), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Clemson’s offense. Coastal Carolina is not very good defensively, allowing nearly 44% shooting. But more importantly, the Tigers need to get going offensively. The Tigers actually started out the year doing pretty well in that department, but after averaging 74.5 points in their first two games, they averaged 59.3 in their next six (three losses). They seemingly got back on track against Florida A&M, scoring a season-high 80 points and shooting nearly 53 percent. Clemson is taking good care of the ball this season and playing pretty good defense – they just need to knock down a few shots.
Random Coastal Carolina facts: Does it seem odd that two South Carolina-based schools have a rooster for a mascot? It’s not a coincidence! Coastal Carolina is an affiliate of South Carolina, so it decided to pick a somewhat similar mascot: the Chanticleer, made famous in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Unfortunately, things don’t end so well for that rooster.
Prediction: Clemson, 73-58. It could be ugly – with Clemson, it too often is – but it should be a win.
Cornell (4-6) at No. 1 Duke (9-0), 7:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Marshall Plumlee. It’s been widely reported that the redshirt freshman big man, whose older brother Mason is having a breakout season, could make his Duke debut tonight. He had a stress fracture in his foot that has sidelined him until now. It will be difficult for him to permanently crack the rotation at this point in the season barring an injury to someone already in the rotation. But he has a lot of talent, and Duke could really use some depth in the frontcourt.
Random Cornell facts: Cornell is known as the Big Red, but their unofficial mascot is the Big Red Bear. It’s been around since 1905. Cornell is a pretty intelligent school, and unlike some, it only took them until 1939 to realize having a live bear is not a good idea. Touchdown I was the craziest – he climbed the goalposts, ran amok in an Atlantic City taffy shop and knocked the Penn mascot out with his paw.
Prediction: Duke, 92-59. Cornell has been competitive against everyone except Wisconsin and Stony Brook. But the Big Red is awful on offense, and not much better defensively.
Morgan State (3-4) at Virginia (8-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: A sneaky test for Virginia’s defense. The Bears aren’t a great team by any stretch, but they have some nice numbers this year. They rebound the ball offensively very well, get to the foul line a lot and make a lot of two-pointers. UVa has been getting better and better defensively all year, and that needs to continue for Virginia to go from being an okay ACC team to a very good one. (And by “very good”, I mean “has a legitimate chance to make the NCAA Tournament”).
Random Morgan State facts: Morgan State’s mascot is a bear. And it’s kind of insane.
How many bear mascots can do this?
Prediction: Virginia, 79-59. As UVa’s freshmen continue to get comfortable and their upperclassmen step up, the Cavaliers are getting better and better as the season goes.
No. 23/19 North Carolina (8-2) at Texas (6-4), 9:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: North Carolina’s offense. The Tar Heels have been stagnant at times offensively, and even though Texas has looked downright awful at times, their defense has been fairly consistent. They have the No. 1 effective field goal defense in the country per Ken Pomeroy, and they’re No. 3 in three-point defense (22.3% allowed) and fifth in two-point defense (37.6%). Carolina is shooting nearly 37% from the three-point line, but they’ve been a bit streaky. Against Butler, Carolina had three different droughts of three or more minutes where they scored two or fewer points. At Indiana – one of two true road games for Carolina this year – the Tar Heels were outscored by 23 points in 12:41 (a stretch that spanned both halves) and hit just two field goals in that span. Carolina shot 2-of-24 from the floor.
Forcing turnovers. North Carolina’s going to have to do this: Texas is turning it over on over a quarter of their possessions this year, and it’s a big reason the Longhorns have struggled so much. The Tar Heels have done a pretty good job of that this year, but when they haven’t – two games so far – the results were an Indiana loss and a close win over ECU. Forcing turnovers is also the one area where Texas hasn’t been dominant defensively as well. North Carolina can’t afford to give the ball away when Texas isn’t forcing a ton of turnovers as it is, especially since Texas’ defense seems to be making it difficult enough to score in the half-court already.
Random Texas facts: The live Longhorn mascot Bevo is bred to be docile, but he hasn’t always been. He once attacked an SMU cheerleader who tried to fend him off with his megaphone. In 1999, after Texas beat Nebraska, he was led across the field and did this:
Prediction: North Carolina, 63-54. Difficult to predict this one, especially since Texas head coach Rick Barnes always seems to find a way to beat North Carolina, even when the Tar Heels are arguably the better team. Last year, Carolina thumped Texas at home though. Neither team is remotely the same right now, but Carolina has looked like the better team thus far. Mostly because they haven’t lost to Chaminade.
Last week: 12-1
Cleveland State (6-2) at No. 25/24 NC State (5-2), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Maine at Florida State (4-4), ESPNU, 4:00 PM
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
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
Delaware (2-5) at No. 2 Duke (7-0), 2:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: The minutes of Duke’s bench. Duke has seven players that Mike Krzyzewski trusts right now: his starters, Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton. That’s it. Against Ohio State, freshmen Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy played a combined six minutes. Coach K will not play a freshman for the sake of letting him learn if he’s not doing the right things in practice or in games. Games like today give Murphy and Jefferson a chance to prove they deserve minutes. Duke could use the depth, but Krzyzewski is not going to manufacture it.
Random Delaware facts: Monte’ Ross was hired as Delaware’s head coach in 2006, and it was the first time since the 1994 season that Delaware wouldn’t be coached by a former Mike Krzyzewski assistant. Current Notre Dame head coach and Krzyzewski assistant Mike Brey coached at Delaware from 1995-00. Former Duke guard (and assistant) David Henderson took over from 2000-06. …. Delaware still hasn’t played a home game this season, and won’t until December 4.
Prediction: Duke, 95-72. After Duke’s previous four-game stretch, this should be a breeze.
Miami (4-1) at Massachusetts (3-2), 2:00 PM, CBS SN
What to watch: Reggie Johnson. The senior center did not play against Jacksonville a few weeks ago because of a “sore tailbone”. After scoring 22 points against Stetson in the season-opener, he has 23 points total in three games since. Miami can win without him being a force, but it would be a lot easier if he could be more consistent.
Random Massachusetts facts: UMass is quite the stepping stone job. John Calipari, who took UMass to its only Final Four, left to go to the Nets in 1996. Bruiser Flint succeeded him, resigned in 2001 and went to Drexel, where he’s been since. Travis Ford was hired in 2005, had a good year and was snatched up by Oklahoma State. Steve Lappas is an interesting exception, hired in 2001 but basically let go in 2005. He had just one winning season. Before UMass, he took over at Villanova for his mentor, Rollie Massimino, who stopped speaking to him as a result. Also, people don’t seem to think he has the voice for his current job, a basketball analyst/studio commentator for CBS Sports Network.
Prediction: Miami, 73-61. I guess.
No. 15/17 Oklahoma State (5-0) at Virginia Tech (6-0), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Erick Green and Marcus Smart. Both have been spectacular this year. Smart hasn’t had a game as good as the one he had against NC State a few weeks ago (20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists), but he’s still been very good. And it appears that Virginia Tech’s up-tempo offense suits Green well.He’s averaging 24.3 points on 51% shooting. He has always put up a lot of points, but often had to take a lot of shots.
Random Oklahoma State facts: Pistol Pete might have a freakishly large head and creepy expression, but the character he’s based on is beyond awesome. Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton(1860-1958) saw his father murdered by “lawless former Confederates” when he was eight years old, so he basically tracked them all down and killed them. And he killed two of them before he turned 17. He also used to pick up lumps of coal with his feet.
Prediction: Oklahoma State, 81-80. Virginia Tech can win, but their defense is probably not far enough along yet. It should at least be a very entertaining game.
Green Bay (3-3) at Virginia (5-2), 4:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: UVa’s point guard situation. Senior point guard Jontel Evans is still coming back from injury, but freshman Teven Jones also made a somewhat recent return to the lineup (after suspension). UVa is 4-0 with Jones, and the freshman is averaging 6.3 points, 2.5 assists and a steal per game. Evans played 16 minutes against Wisconsin and didn’t score or record an assist. It’s going to be a process for him before he’s fully healthy, but Jones should still factor into the rotation.
Random Green Bay facts: Until Elon came along and ruined it, Green Bay was the only school to use the Phoenix as its mascot. That became the team name in 1970 after a schoolwide vote. But the alleged runner-up name, “Fighting Tomatoes”, would’ve been ever better. … This is a personal game for UVa head coach Tony Bennett, as Green Bay is both his and his father Dick Bennett’s alma mater.
Prediction: Virginia, 71-45. The Cavaliers have looked better and better since some of their pieces have returned to the lineup, and the win at Wisconsin on Wednesday night was big.
UAB (4-3) at No. 14/13 North Carolina (5-2), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: UNC’s veterans. For the Tar Heels to have success this season, their older players must play better. In the blowout loss at Indiana, no one seemed able to step up and make a play. James Michael McAdoo struggled (4-of-15 shooting), but his three older teammates – Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald – combined to shoot 9-of-24 and 0-of-4 from three. Bullock and McDonald were just 3-of-14, and Bullock in particular has been a non-factor too much this year. He’s used to deferring, but he simply can’t anymore.
Random UAB facts: UAB’s mascot is a dragon named….Blaze. No really, that’s its name. But perhaps the best-loved mascot was Beauregard T. Rooster, who performed at games from 1979-92. The San Diego Chicken sued for some sort of infringement. Seriously.
Prediction: North Carolina, 81-67. UAB’s squad is coached by former North Carolina assistant Jerod Haase in his first year as a head coach. The Blazers have been competitive against some good teams, and they won’t be afraid. But UNC should win this game at least somewhat comfortably.
Wake Forest (3-3) at Richmond (5-2), 6:00 PM
What to watch: Can Wake Forest play any defense? All signs point to ‘no’. Wake’s opponents this year are shooting 46% and averaging 74.2 points (in low-possession games). Offensive juggernauts like William and Mary and Nebraska have torched the Deacons’ defense so far this season. So a team that actually is pretty good offensively in Richmond shouldn’t have many problems. But if Wake Forest wakes up defensively, this game could at least be close.
Random facts: The question everyone wants to know: why the Spiders? Well, because of legendary pitcher Puss Ellyson’s “lanky arms and stretching kick”, of course! Oh. Also, Richmond revamped the mascot’s appearance in 2011 because fans were complaining that the mascot didn’t have eight legs. They should have complained that it looked like a ladybug:
Prediction: Richmond, 72-58. Go ACC!
Clemson (4-2) at South Carolina (5-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Clemson’s newcomers. In the loss to Purdue, Clemson’s freshmen (Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper) and transfer DeMarcus Harrison combined to shoot 4-of-17 from the floor. Without Milton Jennings, an offensively-challenged Clemson squad can’t afford to have those guys disappear, even against a bad South Carolina team.
Random facts: The costumed rooster we see today, “Cocky”, is supposedly the son of the original, “Big Spur”. He was booed off the field in his first appearance because fans thought he was “not dignified enough”. Please, try to suppress your laughter. And South Carolina might have some of the most famous/successful mascot alums of all time (at least in the mascot world) – the original Cocky, John Routh, later became Billy the Marlin. Tommy Donavan went on to be Sir Purr for the Carolina Panthers.
Prediction: Clemson, 64-57. It wouldn’t shock me if Clemson dropped this one – they’ve lost to bad South Carolina teams before – but with the exception of the Purdue loss, Clemson has looked pretty good and competitive all year.
Mercer (3-4) at Florida State (4-2), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Michael Snaer. As he goes, so go the Seminoles. In their losses, he shot 5-of-20 (2-of-8 from three). In wins, he shot 46.3% (11-of-21 from three) and averaged 17.5 points. If he struggles and his teammates do too, this is the type of game FSU can lose. But if they’ve come as far as they seem to have come since their season-opening South Alabama loss, they should win this one easily.
Random facts: Mercer originally became known as the Bears when they played Georgia in a football game in 1892. The Mercer players had handlebar mustaches and long hair. When they came out on the field, a spectator said, “Whence cometh that bear?”
Prediction: Florida State, 84-69. This Mercer team almost beat Wake Forest at Wake earlier this year. The key word is “almost”.
Maryland (5-1) vs. George Mason (5-2), 5:00 PM (Washington, DC)
What to watch: Can Maryland ever force turnovers? Whether it’s through a combination of bad luck, defensive strategies or really careful opponents, Maryland is forcing just 9.8 turnovers a game (6.8 a game in the last four). If they’re ever going to force any, now is the time: George Mason is turning it over on 22.3% of its possessions, according to Ken Pomeroy, which is 227th nationally. They can win without forcing them, and it’s probably just a statistical anomaly, but it’s bizarre to say the least.
Random facts: The leading scorer in George Mason history was Carlos Yates, who was killed at age 27 in a drug-related shooting. And just so everyone knows that people have been writing borderline-controversial columns for a long time now, this guy seemed to think he was asking for it?
Prediction: Maryland, 72-60. The Terrapins were impressive in their dismantling of Northwestern on the road last week. George Mason is a pretty good team, but not a great one, and they should make relatively easy work of Paul Hewitt’s squad.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge: 6-6
Last week: 15-9
Virginia (4-2) at Wisconsin (4-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: ….. No seriously, while the pace of this game is not to my personal liking, it should be an intriguing matchup of styles between two slow-paced coaches who try to make it as difficult as possible on their opponents defensively while being as efficient as they can on offense. So we’ll see if that works out.
Random Wisconsin facts: Wisconsin used a live badger mascot in the 1940s, but – as you might imagine – with live animals, there are sometimes problems. Turns out, the badger didn’t like football and would often try to bite everyone in sight, even escaping its handlers a number of times. And so they replaced him with a raccoon named “Regdab” (which is “badger” backwards). There are no stories of it attacking anyone. But it was only a matter of time.
Prediction: Wisconsin, 45-38. I’m not trying to be funny with this prediction. Well, maybe a little. But how could this game go any other way?
Purdue (2-3) at Clemson (4-1), 7:15 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: How will Milton Jennings’ absence affect Clemson? The Tigers’ leading scorer might be running out of chances at Clemson – he’s been suspended multiple times in the past few years, and he’ll be suspended for tonight’s game after an arrest for marijuana possession. Without Jennings, there’s only one player 6-9 or taller available for Clemson – the 6-10 rarely-used freshman Landry Nnoko. Purdue has struggled this year, but they have plenty of big bodies – four are 6-9 or taller. Not to mention Clemson will have to find a way to replace his scoring.
Random Purdue facts: Creepy Purdue Pete is not Purdue’s official mascot. No, that’s a Boilermaker Special (a train). It’ resembles a Victoria-era locomotive that is still operated today. A miniature model of it still shows up at football games. And hey, not many mascots can say they’ve damaged a police car.
Prediction: Purdue, 63-55. Purdue has lost three games this year, but none of them were blowouts and both of their wins were by significant margins. Clemson without Milton Jennings is more likely than not a team that’s not capable of scoring enough points.
No. 13/14 Michigan State (5-1) at Miami (3-1), 7:30 PM, ESPN
What to watch: How will Shane Larkin play on a national stage? Shooting guard Durand Scott is back in the lineup for Miami after a three-game suspension, but even before his return, Larkin has been great. The sophomore point guard is averaging 17.3 points on 58% shooting, dishing out 4.5 assists per game. He is averaging 3.5 turnovers, but he’s upped his minutes to over 36 a game and he’s had to carry the load offensively as essentially the Hurricanes’ most consistent player so far. He’ll be facing off against Michigan State’s junior point guard Keith Appling, who’s the Spartans’ best player. He’s averaging 16.8 points and shooting 47% from the floor, and he’ll be a tough cover for Larkin. But Larkin will challenge Appling as well.
Random Michigan State facts: “Sparty” is perhaps best known for his cameo in one of the best “This is SportsCenter” ads, where he helps carry Kerri Strug across the newsroom.
Oh, and Draymond Green (who graduated last year after a productive eight-year stint at Michigan State) earns points for admitting that as a kid, he was terrified of Sparty.
Prediction: Michigan State, 74-61. Hmm. A Tom Izzo-coached team going into a far-from-intimidating road environment, against a team that has already lost to Florida Gulf Coast? Yeah, I’ll take the Spartans, even in a down year.
Georgia Tech (4-1) at No. 22 Illinois (7-0), 9:00 PM, ESPN2
What to watch: Georgia Tech’s veterans. Ask North Carolina how it worked out for them last night when they went into a hostile road environment and their veterans didn’t play well. Georgia Tech’s veterans have been fine – Mfon Udofia is averaging 10.2 points and Kammeon Holsey is averaging 10.6 – but Daniel Miller, Brandon Reed and Jason Morris have been virtually invisible this season. Miller in particular, who ended last season well, is averaging 5.6 points on less than 50% shooting. The Yellow Jacket freshmen have been impressive, but it would be asking a lot of them to carry the team at Illinois this early in their careers.
Random Illinois facts: Everyone knows Illinois as the Fighting Illini, and while that is still their official mascot, they no longer use the official manifestation (Chief Illiniwek). When the NCAA began cracking down on Indian mascots, Illinois got the dreaded “hostile and abusive” tag and was forced to get rid of it in 2007. There is some controversy about whether or not the mascot offended the local Sioux tribe, who it was intended to honor, and the students have continued to keep the mascot alive as best they can at sporting events.
Prediction: Illinois, 71-59. The Illini are ranked this season after cruising through the Maui Invitational field. Their best win so far is Butler, but other than a one-point win over Gardner-Webb a few days after getting back to the mainland, they’ve beaten everyone convincingly. Georgia Tech has improved quite a bit, as they showed by hanging with Cal and knocking off St. Mary’s last week in Anaheim, but they’re not ready to win this game yet.
Boston College (2-4) at Penn State (3-2), 9:15 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: How healthy is Ryan Anderson? BC’s leading scorer has struggled on a sprained ankle the last few weeks, and it’s shown in BC’s results. After blowing out FIU and narrowly losing to a then-ranked Baylor team, the Eagles looked great, and so did Anderson. They’ve lost three of four since, including a game to Charleston that he didn’t play in due to the injury and a home game to Bryant (he shot 4-of-14). If he’s not healthy enough for BC to beat a team like Bryant – at home – he’s certainly not going to be capable of helping carry the Eagles to a win at Penn State.
Random Penn State facts: Penn State’s head coach Patrick Chambers might look like your typical middle-aged coach, but he’s pretty hardcore. About ten years ago, he was jumped in a bar and stabbed in the neck with a broken vodka bottle. He still has the bag of bloody clothes and shoes he was wearing the night it happened, and he’s been known to break it out on occasion and show it to his players.
Prediction: Penn State, 61-53. I’m sorry, Boston College. I still have a deep amount of affection for you, but I can no longer trust you.
No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) at No. 2 Duke (6-0), 9:30 PM, ESPN
What to watch: How far has Duke’s defense really come? The Buckeyes have the No. 5 offense in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy. Last year, Duke went up to Columbus and allowed Ohio State to shoot over 59% in an 83-65 loss, providing the first indication that their defense might not be up to normal Duke standards. Ohio State has always had one of the more efficient offenses in the country and plenty of athleticism in its lineup, and this year is no different. Louisville and Kentucky are the best teams Duke has played – Louisville is offensively-challenged at times, and Kentucky was/is inexperienced. This will be probably the toughest defensive test Duke will face heading into ACC play.
Quinn Cook vs. Aaron Craft. Duke’s sophomore point guard’s confidence is sky-high right now; the reigning ACC Player of the Week averaged 13.7 points, 4.8 assists and two steals per game in Duke’s three games in the Bahamas. Duke beat three very good teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis, and his knack for making big plays in key moments had a lot to do with that. He’s turning those flashes of potential into something consistent, and Duke feeds off his energy. But Ohio State feeds off of senior point guard Aaron Craft, too. A notoriously annoying defender, Craft is a coach’s son and all the normal clichés apply. Cook held his own just fine against Louisville’s Peyton Siva, and Craft will test him mentally as well.
Random Ohio State facts: Ohio State adopted the Buckeye (a type of nut from Ohio’s state tree) in 1965, and the first costume was made of papier-mâché that was basically an enormous head (see above picture). In 1975, a reworking of the costume with “a prune-like head” was unveiled, but booed off the field. The redesign was essentially the creepy Buckeye we see today.
Prediction: Duke, 85-78. It’s very difficult to win in Cameron, and the Blue Devils are a much better defensive team than they were a year ago. Even if they struggle at times to get stops, the momentum of the home crowd often helps them pick up their defensive intensity another notch. This team is full of enthusiastic defenders anyway, and they’ll feed off of the crowd to get stops in key moments.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Day 1: 3-3
Last week: 21-6
Georgia Tech (6-5, 5-3) at No. 3/3 Georgia (10-1, 7-1), 12:00 PM, ESPN
Moments in Georgia-Georgia Tech history: Georgia Tech’s first-ever football game was against Georgia, and the visiting Yellow Jackets were quite literally chased out of Athens as projectiles were thrown at their heads, according to Wikipedia. It’s a legitimate rivalry that has been stopped more than once because of bad blood between the two schools, but it hasn’t been competitive lately. Georgia Tech has won just one of the last 11 meetings.
Uh, this might be a good reason why. Tackle please?
“We’re gonna take your silver britches to the ground”
Honestly, is this hype video really necessary at this point?
Prediction: Georgia, 52-24. Is any explanation really necessary? Georgia Tech’s offense is clicking, but its defense is still suspect at best. This will be our Coastal Division champ on display. Go ACC!
Virginia (4-7, 2-5) at Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
Moments in Virginia-Virginia Tech history: Interestingly enough, per Wikipedia, Virginia leads the series between the two teams in most sports except football (Tech leads 51-37-5). From 1984-98, Virginia went 9-6 against Virginia Tech. Ever since, the Hokies have won 12 of the last 13 with the only Virginia win coming in 2003. The last close loss came in 2008 when Virginia Tech won 17-14 at home. Since, Virginia Tech has won by a combined score of 117-20 in the last three games.
If Virginia Tech shows up making plays like this – you know, where their offensive players are blocking someone on the opposing team – it should be an interesting game.
The Hitler videos never get old.
At least UVa owns Virginia Tech in Quidditch.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 23-17. It was all there for Virginia a little over a week ago. Beat UNC, beat Virginia Tech, eliminate your rival from going to a bowl and earn bowl eligibility yourself. But the Cavaliers were thumped at home last Thursday by the Tar Heels, taking them out of bowl eligibility. And Virginia Tech barely escaped a bad Boston College team to keep themselves alive for a bowl. All they have to do is beat a disappointed Virginia team to earn another bowl berth.
Miami (6-5, 4-3) at Duke (6-5, 3-4), 12:30 PM, ACC Network
Moments in Miami-Duke history: Duke was right there in 2009, leading 13-10 at the half. Miami trailed 16-13 at the end of the third, but Miami scored twice before a pick-six by Thaddeus Lewis ended it, and ended Duke’s hope of bowl eligibility that season.
I’m sure there are clips available of Devin Hester doing this to pretty much every ACC team. But this one, against Duke in 2005, is ridiculous.
Demarcus Van Dyke intercepts a Sean Renfree pass that Conner Vernon – normally Mr. Reliable – tipped. From the last time Miami was in Durham, Duke lost this one 28-13 in 2010 and this was one of four second-quarter turnovers for Duke, which finished with seven…
…But at least this Duke fan enjoyed the game.
Prediction: Duke, 36-31. This is a really tough call. Knowing they’re not eligible for the Coastal Division crown, will the Miami players pack it in? Duke is more than capable of beating almost anyone at home, save Clemson or Florida State. Miami is neither. But they do have the talent to beat Duke, and they’ll either be angry or despondent and lifeless. Duke, on the other hand, still has won just one game in November under Cutcliffe ever (and none this year). And the Blue Devils know they can’t win the Coastal Division anymore, either. Both teams are playing for pride (and Duke for a better bowl).
Boston College (2-9, 1-6) at NC State (6-5, 3-4), 3:00 PM, ESPN3
Moments in Boston College-NC State history: Obviously, Tom O’Brien as the former head coach of Boston College makes this one more significant for a variety of reasons. Unlike Butch Davis’ bizarro hold over his former school, Miami (Davis lost just once to his former team), BC has had the opposite effect on O’Brien. He’s 1-4 against his former school. NC State’s first win in the series under O’Brien came two years ago at home when NC State won 44-17. But last year after beating UNC, NC State lost 14-10 at a bad Boston College team.
How should NC State be expected to contend with all this BC cuteness?
I don’t think this needs any introduction. Just enjoy.
Guys….don’t do the wave. Please.
Prediction: NC State, 44-27. I wanted to pick NC State to NC State last week (and by that, I mean beat Clemson). Since that didn’t happen, I can’t pick them go to NC State this week. Although a huge part of me wants to do that. Also, Boston College has to be crushed after letting a winnable game against Virginia Tech get away from them.
Maryland (4-7, 2-5) at North Carolina (7-4, 4-3), 3:00 PM, RSN
Moments in Maryland-North Carolina history: Queen Elizabeth visited College Park (yes, you read that correctly) in 1957 for a UNC-Maryland football game. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that there is absolutely no way that could ever happen again.
As UNC’s Willie Parker is taking 20 years to turn upfield, he is caught by the shoestrings for a safety.
In perhaps the second-worst loss of the Butch Davis era, Maryland quarterback Chris Turner – hardly known as a running threat – made a nine-yard run late in the game on 4th and 5.
Prediction: North Carolina 48, Maryland 13. North Carolina isn’t going to want to pour it on in the name of defending all things ACC, since Maryland just announced they’re leaving the conference. But they’re going to pour it on because Maryland has 80,000 injuries right now and Carolina is going to want to end the season on a good note. And because Maryland football players have been dealing with this ACC stuff all week on top of everything else.
No. 10/5 Florida State (10-1, 7-1) vs. No. 6/6 Florida (10-1, 7-1), 3:30 PM, ABC
Moments in Florida-Florida State history: Florida leads the series 33-21-2, but it seems to be a series of runs, as it were. Florida won six in a row from 2004-09, but Florida State had won five of six from 1998-03. Now, the Seminoles are rolling again and have won two straight under Jimbo Fisher. In one of the biggest controversies in the history of the rivalry, FSU and Florida fans still dispute to this day whether FSU wide receiver Lane Fenner actually caught the ball or not in 1966. It was called no catch, and Florida hung on, 22-19.
“The Choke at Doak” – can it really be called that if Florida didn’t lose? I’m just saying. I’m just stunned it didn’t involve a missed field goal.
Maybe this is why the FSU people are mad at the ACC today? The “Swindle in the Swamp” is a thing that supposedly happened that involved ACC refs giving FSU favorable calls. I guess the league doesn’t do this anymore?
And hey…it’s not always the players that end up fighting.
Prediction: Florida State, 37-21. Florida has a great record, but the Gators have hardly blown anyone away. Even last week against Jacksonville State, they won just 23-0. And that was their third-largest margin of victory this season behind a 38-0 rout of Kentucky and a 44-11 beating of South Carolina. Every other game – including a season-opening win over Bowling Green – has been by 20 or fewer points. Florida State hasn’t been much more impressive outside of its stadium, but in the friendly confines of the Doak, the Seminoles have been downright dominant. Expect that to continue.
Wake Forest (5-6, 3-5) vs. Vanderbilt (7-4, 5-3), 3:30 PM, ESPNU
Mascot facts: Vanderbilt is known as the Commodores because of the nickname given to their benefactor, Cornelius Vanderbilt. (There’s no such naval rank as commodore anymore, for what it’s worth.)
Also…uh….this is weird. The Commodore punches someone in the face for basically no reason. And it’s all the more disturbing because of that perpetual smile on his face:
Prediction: Vanderbilt, 31-17. Vanderbilt is quietly a very hot team right now, having won five straight and six of their last seven. Their best win in that stretch? Maybe at Missouri? But still, wins are wins and Wake Forest could use a few. The Deacons are reeling; their last two losses have come by a combined score of 75-6.
No. 12/9 Clemson (10-1, 7-1) vs. No. 13/12 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN
Moments in Clemson-South Carolina history: The longest uninterrupted series in the South will meet again on Saturday for the Hardee’s Trophy. Clemson leads it 65-40-4 but you wouldn’t know it based on recent results: Clemson has lost three straight and none have been particularly close. In fact, Clemson has a total of 37 points in their last three meetings with South Carolina. If South Carolina wins, they will tie their longest streak in the rivalry of four straight (from 1951-54).
This brawl was so bad in 2004 that both schools decided to ban themselves from the postseason. This was of course back when doing such a thing in the ACC wasn’t a big deal.
This 1983 brawl came first, though.
Not a bad form tackle, but he probably will be flagged for a late hit.
The catch…or the push-off? You decide.
Well done, Clemson fan.
Prediction: Clemson, 41-30. Every time we think Clemson is going to Clemson, they don’t. Generally speaking, Clemson’s season has already been wrapped up one way or the other heading into that game. That doesn’t mean the Tigers still don’t want to beat their rivals – they do – but there’s a lot more on the line for Clemson this year than in years past. South Carolina has won two straight since losing star tailback Marcus Lattimore to a gruesome knee injury, but they struggled with Wofford a week ago and barely put away a bad Tennessee team the week of Lattimore’s injury. They seem to be a team living on reputation at the moment in terms of the polls.
Last week: 5-2 (3-2 ACC)
TOTAL: 57-21 (27-15 ACC)
North Carolina (6-4, 3-3) at Virginia (4-6, 2-4), Thursday, 7:30 PM, ESPN
There’s not much you can say if you’re Carolina, coming off a game where your offense scored 50 points and the defensive surrendered 68. The stink of the Georgia Tech dismantling still lingers around this team, and probably will for quite some time. But the Tar Heels don’t have a lot of time to dwell on it. (Although I attempted to make some sense of the pointsplosion here).
Last week was embarrassing, to be sure. But there after facing the unconventional triple-option offense, there’s not a lot to take away from the game tape defensively. So why not just set it on fire (metaphorically speaking, of course)?
So with a short week ahead of them, trying to defend a pro-style offense that is decidedly nothing like the triple-option, that’s what the Tar Heels did. Even Virginia head coach Mike London said they wouldn’t use the tape.
“You don’t as much look at the Georgia Tech game as far as defensively for them because it’s a different style,” London said. “Anyone that plays Georgia Tech and has to defend that offense, sometimes you don’t always look at how the other defense is playing because you have to play it different.”
North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora pointed out that miscues on offense and special teams led directly to 24 of Georgia Tech’s 68 points. But the triple-option offense hasn’t been the only one to dissect Carolina’s defense. After not allowing 500 yards of total offense all year, UNC has allowed at least 500 for three straight games – 510 to Duke, 534 to NC State and 588 to Georgia Tech.
Just as Carolina’s defense is headed in the wrong direction, UVa’s offense has found itself. Since the bye week, the quarterback rotation of Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims (which London admitted was “random” rather than alternating from series to series) has seemingly made both better.
Rocco has completed 41-of-60 passes for 383 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the last two games while Sims is 19-of-24 for 203 yards, one touchdown and no picks. The two combined for 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions before that.
It will be a challenge for the Carolina defense. At this point in the season, there’s obviously no possibility of a bowl or even of finishing with the best record in the Coastal Division. As right guard Jonathan Cooper told his teammates before the NC State game, they’re playing for pride and for each other. They’d better have plenty of both if they want to win in Charlottesville.
Moments in North Carolina-Virginia history: North Carolina vs. Virginia, aka “The Oldest Rivalry in the South”, will renew for the 117th time. The two first played in 1892 and have met continuously since 1919. UNC leads 58-54-4, but Virginia leads 24-22 at home (odd that isn’t a bigger lead, considering UNC didn’t win there from 1983-2008).
Virginia has a strong Thursday night history: the Cavaliers have played on Thursday just once since 2006 (a 28-21 win at Miami last year) but are 6-5 overall (3-1 at home). The Cavaliers haven’t lost a home Thursday night game since 1997 (28-17 to No. 16 Auburn).
UNC is 5-4 on Thursday night, but its last Thursday night trip to Virginia essentially sealed former head coach John Bunting’s fate. Carolina lost 23-0 to a 2-5 UVa team, gaining 11 first downs and 182 total yards. Former Tar Heel and current New York Giant Hakeem Nicks – then a freshman – caught a third of Carolina’s completed passes from Joe Dailey and Cam Sexton for 40 yards, nearly half UNC’s passing total (84).
From the Jarrett House North blog, this song was written in the late 1800’s by a UVa student and it’s called “Oh, Carolina”:
See the Tar Heels, how they’re running
Turpentine from every pore.
They can manufacture rosin,
But they’ll never, never score.
This remains perhaps the worst loss of the Butch Davis era: in 2008, No. 18 UNC lost in overtime at Virginia. UVa was 3-3 entering the game and had lost to UConn by 35, Duke by 28 and USC by 45. Carolina was coming off three straight wins over Miami, UConn and Notre Dame.
Not to pile on ACC officiating….but this remains one of the biggest facepalm-inducing moments in recent officiating history.
Sorry to do this to you, Carolina fans. It’s 1996 at UVa, which remains probably the most painful loss in UNC football history.
From UNC’s win in Charlottesville in 2010. This pretty much set the tone.
Prediction: Virginia, 33-27. If Virginia can win out, they will be bowl-eligible. They have Virginia Tech next week and the Hokies are as vulnerable as they’ve ever been, but Virginia has to get this one first. Virginia is rolling, UNC is reeling and its defense is seemingly getting worse just as UVa’s offense is clicking. Bad, bad timing for the Tar Heels.
Week 11: 4-2 (3-2 ACC)
TOTAL: 52-19 (24-13 ACC)
No. 9/8 Duke (1-0) vs. No. 3 Kentucky (1-0), 9:30 PM, ESPN (Atlanta, GA)
What to watch: Who runs the point? NC State transfer Ryan Harrow will miss this game for Kentucky with the flu, so it looks like walk-on Jarrod Paulson will see a lot of time again. Against Maryland, he was great. But can he do it again? And for Duke, Quinn Cook is not listed as a projected starter and didn’t start the opener. Tyler Thornton takes better care of the ball than Cook generally, but he’s not as much of a potential game-changer. It will be interesting to see how that rotation develops.
Is Mason Plumlee ready to assert himself? Kentucky’s bigs are inexperienced, and Maryland’s frontcourt dominated them on the backboards last Friday. Nerlens Noel was the No. 1 recruit in the country, but Plumlee is athletic enough and certainly savvy enough to get the better of that matchup. He’s “the guy” this year for Duke, and this is his time to show why.
Will Alex Murphy play? This question speaks for itself. And if the redshirt freshman – who was a healthy scratch from Duke’s opener due to “match-ups”, per Krzyzewski – does play, where will his confidence level be?
Random Duke-Kentucky facts: They’ve played just five times in the Coach K era, and Duke is 4-1 in those games. And yet this is being billed as a rivalry game. It’s a bit one-sided in that Kentucky fans still have a lot of bitterness towards Duke stemming from the 1992 Elite 8 loss. A lot of the hatred from Kentucky fans stems from the fact that Christian Laettner didn’t miss a shot, including hitting this game-winner…
…but it didn’t help that this moment came earlier.
Chris Farley as Christian Laettner. No, seriously.
This guy hates Duke almost as much as he loves Jagermeister. But a Duke football shirt?
Prediction: Duke, 67-61.
Delaware (1-1) at Virginia (1-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3 (NIT Season Tip-Off)
What to watch: Joe Harris. Joey Hoops has literally accounted for 30% of Virginia’s scoring so far this season. He’s going to need some help at some point, but he’s been very efficient. Can he keep carrying that load until Malcolm Brogdon and Jontel Evans come back?
Random Delaware facts: According to the Delaware website, the Fightin’ Blue Hen comes from the Revolutionary War, when the Delaware regiment started putting on cockfights with the Kent County Blue Hen.
Prediction: Virginia, 57-49.
Florida Gulf Coast (0-1) at Miami (1-0), 7:05 PM (Fort Myers, FL)
What to watch: Miami’s defense. Allowing 79 points to Stetson on 44% shooting (42% from three) to go with 20 assists on 28 field goals for the Hatters? Yeah, that’s not very good.
Random Florida Gulf Coast facts: Florida Gulf Coast’s mascot is an eagle, because – per the University website – “The Eagle serves to identify not only the physical environment of Southwest Florida but also the University’s relationship with it.” Okay. He did hit a halfcourt shot and win free books for a year:
Prediction: Miami, 91-68.
Presbyterian (0-1) at Georgia Tech (1-0), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Presbyterian’s turnovers. It could have just been a fluke, but Georgia Tech forced Tulane into just four turnovers on Friday.
Random Presbyterian facts: One of their former football players was on “The Bachelorette”. He got in a a bit of trouble for saying he wanted a “trophy wife”.
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 81-57.
Last week: 11-1