2008-09 Around the ACC: January 19th, 2009

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Last week at this time, there were just three undefeated teams in college
basketball, and two of them were ACC teams. This week, only one team remains
undefeated. #1 Pittsburgh lost over the weekend, and #3 Wake Forest knocked off
#9 Clemson on the road in the weekend’s biggest ACC game.

With Pitt’s loss, two ACC teams should be at the top of the polls. We could
see Duke or Wake Forest ranked #1 nationally, or we could see them both ranked
#1 in different polls. The two teams will meet on Wednesday, January 28. All
Wake Forest has to do is beat Virginia Tech on Wednesday to preserve their
undefeated status heading into the Duke game.

Before we get into the ACC standings and recap what’s happened in the last
week, let’s take a look at an interesting statistic. All ACC teams have played
three or four conference games thus far. In conference games, shooting
percentages have been very low. Here’s a look at shooting percentages, in
conference games only.

Goal %, Conference Only
Team Games Percentage

Wake Forest
3 50.3%

Virginia Tech
3 43.6%

3 41.7%

4 41.5%

Florida State
3 41.2%

3 41.1%

Georgia Tech
4 40.7%

3 40.6%

Boston College
4 40.2%

North Carolina
4 39.8%

NC State
3 39.3%

3 37.5%

Besides Wake Forest, no one is shooting the ball particularly well. Would you
have thought Virginia Tech would be #2 in their three ACC games in shooting
percentage, particularly with that Duke game (a 69-44 loss) included?

Now, back to the ACC standings.

Basketball Standings
Team Conf. Overall

Wake Forest
3-0 16-0

3-0 16-1

2-1 16-1

Florida State
2-1 15-3

Virginia Tech
2-1 12-5

North Carolina
2-2 16-2

2-2 13-4

1-2 12-5

NC State
1-2 10-5

1-2 7-7

Boston College
1-3 13-6

Georgia Tech
0-4 9-8

Some teams, such as Wake, Duke, Clemson and UNC, are NCAA tournament bound
barring some sort of meltdown. If the ACC gets six teams in the Big Dance this
year, then it looks like we’ll have four teams fighting for those last two
spots. Those teams are Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami and Maryland.

If Florida State goes 8-8 in ACC play, they should be in. They would have 21
overall wins, a high RPI, plus the ACC Tournament to add to their resume.
Maryland and Virginia Tech have the most work to do if they want to get back on
the bubble.

#1 Wake Forest (16-0, 3-0)

It was another great week for Wake Forest. First they easily beat Boston
College 83-63 on the road on Wednesday night, then they knocked off Clemson on
the road 78-68 on Saturday in a battle of the un-beatens.

The key to Wake Forest’s great season is their much-improved defense. Clemson
forced 19 turnovers and took 77 shots, but the Demon Deacons held the Tigers to
just a 33.8% mark from the field. If Wake can continue to play defense with this
much intensity for the rest of the season, they will be a very difficult team to

Wake Forest is still a very young team, with just one senior in their playing
rotation. They appear to be the most improved team in the ACC.

The Demon Deacons have just one game this week, on Wednesday night against
Virginia Tech in Winston-Salem. Wake will have to guard against a letdown, as
this game falls between two huge contests against Clemson and Duke.

Up Next: Virginia Tech (Jan. 21)

#2 Duke (16-1, 3-0)

Duke’s ACC record remained unblemished following a 70-56 win at Georgia Tech
on Wednesday night. The Blue Devils then knocked off Georgetown 76-67 in a big
ACC-Big East showdown in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Duke is
playing very well right now, and if they don’t get upset in their next two
games, they’ll have a huge matchup with Wake Forest on January 28 for the top
spot in the ACC.

As usual, Duke is a lock down defensive team. ACC opponents are shooting just
35.7% against the Blue Devils. However, Duke is shooting just 40.6% from the
field in ACC games, despite fielding a team of very good shooters. As the season
goes on, that percentage will go up, making them even more dangerous.

Wake Forest and Duke have two things in common, and both are good reasons why
they are at the top of the ACC. First, both teams rank first and second in ACC
in field goal percentage defense (conference games only). Second, last year’s
starting point guard (Greg Paulus for Duke, Ish Smith for Wake) is now coming
off the bench. That shows tremendous depth, and it also provides great
leadership coming off the bench.

Up Next: NC State (Jan. 20), Maryland (Jan. 24)

#9 Clemson (16-1, 2-1)

Clemson dropped a tough home game to undefeated Wake Forest 78-68 on
Saturday. There is no shame in that loss, as Wake is very good. The Tigers are
still poised to have an excellent season, and they are a virtual shoe-in for the
NCAA tournament at this point.

This is a typical Oliver Purnell coached team. They throw players at you in
waves, pressure the basketball and force turnovers. For the season, the Tigers
have forced 312 turnovers. Even in the loss to Wake Forest, Clemson forced 19
Demon Deacon turnovers. That kept them in the game, despite a poor shooting

Things won’t get any easier for Clemson. They’ll travel to the Dean Dome on
Wednesday night to take on UNC. The Tigers have never won a basketball game in
Chapel Hill.

Up Next: at UNC (Jan. 21), Georgia Tech (Jan. 25)

Florida State (15-3, 2-1)

Florida State is looking good this year, despite no one expecting them to.
The ‘Noles beat NC State and Maryland in the last week, and have big games at
Miami and Virginia coming up this week. At this point in the season, they look
like a serious contender for an NCAA tournament spot.

Not only does Florida State have an excellent record, but they have an
excellent spot in the RPI. The ‘Noles are currently #20 in the RPI (according to
RealTimeRPI.com). They have 15 wins and just three losses against the 31st
toughest schedule in the nation. They have Top 25 victories over Cal and
Florida. This is a team that is putting together a very impressive resume.

They could get even better as they continue to work JUCO transfer Derwin
Kitchen into the lineup. Kitchen enrolled in December and has played in just
eight games, but he’s already FSU’s third-leading scorer. The cousin of former
VT guard Jamon Gordon, he brings many of the same attributes to the court that
Gordon brought.

Up Next: at Miami (Jan. 21), at Virginia (Jan. 24)

Virginia Tech (12-5, 2-1)

Despite inconsistent play in their out-of-conference schedule, Seth
Greenberg’s team is playing its best basketball as ACC play heats up. The Hokies
have won seven of their last eight games, including three in a row. This past
week, Tech beat Richmond 62-48, and then knocked off Boston College 79-71. They
took care of business in their short home stand, winning all three games.

Going back to their win over Virginia on January 10, the Hokies are playing
their best basketball of the season right now. Jeff Allen finally got back on
track against Boston College, finishing with 30 points and nine rebounds. It was
the best Allen has played all season, and he’ll have to continue his
performances of the Hokies want to work their way back into the NCAA tournament
picture. Right now, they are on the outside looking in.

Still, the Hokies aren’t playing as well as they are capable of playing. If
they want to beat Wake Forest on Wednesday night, they’ll have to get better.
Luckily they are catching Wake Forest between the Demon Deacons’ huge games
against Clemson and Duke. This is a potential letdown game for Wake, and it
gives Tech a chance to grab a win against a Top 50 RPI team.

Up Next: at Wake Forest (Jan. 21), at Miami (Jan. 25)

#6 North Carolina (16-2, 2-2)

After losing their first two conference games of the season, the Tar Heels
got back to their winning ways in two wins over Virginia (83-61) and Miami
(82-65). UNC is still an excellent team, and they’ve played much better defense
over the last two games.

Because of some injuries, the Tar Heels aren’t quite as deep right now as
many thought they would be. Marcus Ginyard, their most effective defender, is
out with an injury. He’s not a great scorer, but he is still a major loss. Four
Tar Heels played over 30 minutes in the most recent game against Miami. It
doesn’t look like Roy Williams has great confidence in his bench, with the
exception of Ed Davis and Bobby Frasor.

The Tar Heels have just one game this week, at home against Clemson on
Wednesday night. The Tigers have never won in Chapel Hill.

Up Next: Clemson (Jan. 21)

Miami (13-4, 2-2)

Miami did what they were expected to do this week. They narrowly beat
Maryland 62-60 at home on Wednesday night, and then they dropped an 82-65 game
at UNC on Saturday night. The Hurricanes are still in good shape, and they have
two home games coming up against Florida State and Virginia Tech.

The Hurricanes only have two double figure scorers. Guard Jack McClinton
leads the way with 17.2 points per game, while forward Dwayne Collins averages
11.8. Behind McClinton and Collins, Miami has a number of role players who are
capable of putting up points on any given night.

Miami is a good basketball team that will be in the NCAA tournament picture
until the very end. However, they don’t appear to be improved from last season.

Up Next: Florida State (Jan. 21), Virginia Tech (Jan. 25

Maryland (12-5, 1-2)

After another week of games, Maryland has now lost three of their last four.
Their one win was a victory over Georgia Tech, who is winless in ACC play. The
Terps’ three losses were narrow defeats at the hands of Morgan State (66-65),
Miami (62-60) and Florida State (76-73). The FSU loss came in overtime, which
makes things even more frustrating.

Right now, Maryland does not have the look of an NCAA tournament team. The
Terps lack interior players so badly that point guard Greivis Vasquez is the
team’s leading rebounder. Their current starting lineup features four perimeter
players. Dave Neal generally starts at the “center” spot for the Terps,
but even he seems more content to shoot three-pointers at times.

Three of Maryland’s next four games are at home. If they hope to be in the
mix at the end of the season, they need to do well over the next four games.

Up Next: Virginia (Jan. 20), at Duke (Jan. 24)

NC State (10-5, 1-2)

NC State finally picked up an ACC win on Saturday. However, it wasn’t without
a struggle. The Wolfpack had to come from behind at home to force overtime
against winless Georgia Tech, where they eventually won the game 76-71. The
victory broke a 3-game losing streak.

At this point, NC State doesn’t appear to be a team that is going to make a
run at an NCAA tournament berth. 10 different players have started three or more
games, which shows that Sidney Lowe is struggling to find his ideal lineup. He
knows his big three of Courtney Fells, Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley, but
there are still major issues at point guard.

NC State is staring a 1-3 start in conference play right in the face. They
play at Duke on Tuesday night, and they’ll have to bring their A-game to have a

Up Next: at Duke (Jan. 20), at Boston College (Jan. 24)

Virginia (7-7, 1-2)

Virginia had the weekend off following their 83-61 home loss to North
Carolina on Thursday night. The Hoos are barely clinging to a .500 record. They
are starting three freshmen, which will make for some very long nights as they
get into the meat of their ACC schedule.

The Hoos look like a longshot to make any kind of postseason play this year.
Their next three games are against Maryland, Florida State and Duke, and two of
them are on the road.

Up Next: at Maryland (Jan. 20), Florida State (Jan. 24)

Boston College (13-6, 1-3)

Since upsetting North Carolina on January 4, Boston College has lost four
straight games. They were beaten 83-63 at home by Wake Forest on Wednesday, then
lost to Virginia Tech 79-71 in Blacksburg on Saturday afternoon.

BC’s biggest problem is on the defensive end. They have allowed 76 or more
points in each of their last six games, including 82 in a 12-point home loss to
Harvard. Though the Eagles still have a good overall record, it doesn’t look
like they are going to be able to notch a lot of wins in ACC play.

The Eagles lack a true post player. Josh Southern lacks athleticism, while
Joe Trapani is more of a combo forward. BC’s best back to the basket player is
probably 6-5, 225 guard Rakim Sanders, who has success on the inside when
matching up with smaller guards.

Up Next: at Georgia Tech (Jan. 20), NC State (Jan. 24)

Georgia Tech (9-8, 0-4)

Georgia Tech recently gained a commitment from one of the top five recruits
in the class of 2009, Derrick Favors. Whether or not Paul Hewitt is around to
coach Favors looks more unlikely by the day. The Yellow Jackets fell to 0-4 in
conference play following a 70-56 loss to Duke and a 76-71 road loss to NC State
in overtime.

Three of Georgia Tech’s four conference losses have come to UVA, Maryland and
NC State. Each of those three teams has failed to defeat any other ACC opponent
this year. Thus far, Tech is the whipping boy of the conference.

Up Next: Boston College (Jan. 20), at Clemson (Jan. 25)

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