Around the ACC: December 21, 2009

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Two Sunday night ACC games highlighted another week of basketball, with Wake Forest and Florida State starting 1-0 in conference play. Only three ACC teams have just one overall loss, and Virginia Tech is one of them.

Florida State (10-2, 1-0)

Florida State had a good week, beating Auburn 76-72 and then knocking off Georgia Tech on the road 66-59 in overtime. Despite the graduation of Toney Douglas, FSU is still a strong team. They are offensively challenged at time, but their defense is excellent.

Led by a frontcourt that goes 6-9, 6-8 and 7-1, and bringing a 6-11 player off the bench, Florida State uses their length to play impressive defense. The talented frontcourt of Georgia Tech couldn’t get much going against the height of the Noles. Solomon Alabi averages 13 points per game to lead FSU, so despite not having a big time offensive player, this appears to be a solid team because of their defensive prowess.

Florida State plays Tennessee Martin on Tuesday, and will then get a break until New Year’s Eve when they face Alabama A&M.

Wake Forest (8-2, 1-0)

Wake Forest defeated NC State 67-59 on Sunday night in Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons continued to do what they’ve done best throughout the non-conference portion of their schedule: play good defense.

NC State shot just 33% against Wake Forest, and for the season Wake’s opponents are shooting only 35.7% from the field. That includes a 24.2% mark from three-point range. Those numbers will go up as Wake plays more ACC games, but the Demon Deacons are winning with defense right now.

The Demon Deacons don’t play again until December 28, when they play UNC Greensboro.

Boston College (7-4, 1-0)

Boston College beat Bryan 72-46 on Sunday. That was their only game of the week, and they’ll return to action on Wednesday against in-state rival UMass. The Eagles have lost four games to St. Joe’s, Northern Iowa, Harvard and Rhode Island. Only one of those is a bad loss, the home loss to Harvard. BC started slow last year, but still rallied to make the NCAA tournament.

Sophomore Reggie Jackson has done a good job filling in for the departed Tyrese Rice. Through 11 games, Jackson is averaging 13.9 points and seven rebounds per game, while dishing out a team-high 49 assists.

However, Rice was the type of player who could put a team on his back and carry them to victory, and BC doesn’t appear to have a player like that this year.

Duke (9-1, 0-0)

The Duke Blue Devils beat Gardner-Webb 113-68 on Tuesday, and then trounced #15 Gonzaga 76-41 on Saturday afternoon. Duke put on a defensive masterpiece against Gonzaga, holding them to just 41 points and limiting the Bulldogs to just 27.8% shooting, including a 10% mark from three-point range. No one on Gonzaga’s team scored in double figures. It was Gonzaga’s lowest point total since 1984.

Nolan Smith had 24 points for Duke, while Jon Scheyer added 20. Kyle Singler only had nine, but it didn’t matter. When you play defense like Duke does, not a lot of teams are going to be able to beat you.
Right now, Duke looks like the best team in the ACC. They don’t play again until December 29 when they host Long Beach State.

Virginia Tech (9-1, 0-0)

Virginia Tech continued their winning ways on Saturday night, defeating Charleston Southern 73-50 on a snowy night in Blacksburg. The Hokies have now won six games in a row, which is the longest winning streak in the ACC. Their next two opponents have combined to go 2-18 this year, so Tech should have an eight game winning streak heading into their January 2nd matchup with Seton Hall.

The Hokies have scored over 74 points just once this year, and they aren’t going to win any high-scoring shootouts. However, they allow just 60.2 points per game, which ranks third in the ACC. That stat should be taken with a grain of salt, however. Tech’s strength of schedule ranks #203 nationally, and only three ACC teams have played an easier schedule. The Hokies have faced just two Top 100 teams (Temple and Georgia) and are 1-1 in those games.

Malcolm Delaney continues to score at a high clip. After dropping 26 points on Charleston Southern, Delaney is averaging 22 points per game. The next closest scorer in the ACC is Duke’s Jon Scheyer, who averages 18.2 points per game.

The Hokies return to action on Tuesday night when they host Maryland-Baltimore County, who is winless on the season.

Clemson (10-2, 0-0)

The Clemson Tigers had two easy wins this week. First they beat ECU 80-63, and then they blew out College of Charleston 94-55. The Tigers have played great defense all season, but their offense has been up and down. They put up a lot of points against overmatched opponents like College of Charleston, but they scored just 60 against Texas A&M, 70 against Butler, 74 against Illinois and 72 against South Carolina. Against solid competition, the Tigers look human offensively.

Clemson goes 10-deep and they have just two players who score in double figures, Trevor Booker and Tanner Smith. The Tigers are only a 64.9% free throw shooting team, which has been typical during the Oliver Purnell era. However, this looks to be Purnell’s deepest team and he should have them back in the NCAA tournament.

The Tigers return to action on Tuesday when they host Western Carolina in what could be a good game. Western Carolina has lost just once this year, and that was a season opening loss to Texas, possibly the best team in the country. The last time Western Carolina played, they won at Louisville 91-83.

North Carolina (8-3, 0-0)

The Tar Heels traveled to Arlington, TX to take on the Texas Longhorns in a neutral site game. UNC led for part of the first half, but eventually fell 103-90. Like most young teams, UNC is struggling defensively against good competition, though they did manage to hold Kentucky to 68 points.

Roy Williams has challenged his young team, as the Tar Heels have played Ohio State, Syracuse, Michigan State, Kentucky and Texas in non-conference play. They have managed to win two of those games, and their strength of schedule will help them on Selection Sunday.

UNC will be more ready for ACC play because of the schedule they’ve faced. However, they’ve still got four games against overmatched teams before the Hokies come calling in the Dean Dome on January 10.

Maryland (6-3, 0-0)

Maryland has not played since a December 12th matchup with Eastern Kentucky. They will finally return to action on Tuesday when they host Winston-Salem State.

Virginia (4-4, 0-0)

UVA has not played since December 7. They were scheduled to play UNC Wilmington on Saturday night, but the game was postponed because of a heavy snowstorm. The Cavs host NJIT tonight in their first game in two weeks. Overall, UVA has played just one game since a November 30th matchup with Penn State.

Miami (11-1, 0-1)

Miami beat Stetson 69-49, and then knocked off Florida Atlantic 87-69 in their two games this week. The Canes have lost just once, but unfortunately for them that was their ACC opener against Boston College.

Miami has an impressive record, but a low RPI ranking despite it. The Canes have beaten four teams who rank #300 or worse in the RPI. They have defeated South Carolina and Minnesota, but those teams may or may not finish in the Top 50 of the RPI. Miami will have to depend on ACC play to get those much-needed Top 50 wins for NCAA tournament consideration.
The Canes host North Carolina A&T tonight at 7:30pm.

Georgia Tech (8-2, 0-1)

Georgia Tech started three freshmen against Florida State on Sunday night, and they could never get much going against the Noles’ impressive defense. The Yellow Jackets fell at home 66-59 in a low-scoring game.

Georgia Tech shot just 32.7% from the field against Florida State, and had trouble knocking down the open jumper all night. Star freshman forward Derrick Favors, rated by many as the #1 recruit in the nation, was limited to just eight points.

The Yellow Jackets are a talented basketball team, but they have no quality wins. In their only two games against Top 50 opponents, they lost to Dayton and Florida State. They should get better as the season goes on because of their youth, but Georgia Tech has a habit of underachieving under Paul Hewitt.

GT returns to action on Tuesday against Kennesaw State.

NC State (8-2, 0-1)

NC State fell to Wake Forest 67-59 on Sunday night. The Wolfpack couldn’t get much going offensively, shooting just 33.9% from the field. They turned the ball over 16 times, and had just eight assists. Point guard Javier Gonzalez had 18 points, but star forward Tracy Smith was limited to just 11 after getting into foul trouble.

NC State was not expected to be a very good team this year. Their talent level is questionable in the starting lineup, and they don’t have much scoring pop off their bench. Wolfpack reserves combined for just seven points against Wake Forest.

The Wolfpack play again on Wednesday at Arizona, who is struggling this year with a 4-5 record.

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