Around the ACC: December 28, 2009

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There wasn’t a lot of action in the ACC over the last week, but most teams
did have one game before Christmas. Virginia Tech remains one of just three
teams in the conference with only one loss, and they’ve got one more warmup game
before playing a big non-conference game against Seton Hall.


Florida State (11-2, 1-0, RPI #43)

Florida State beat Tennessee-Martin 95-68 last Tuesday before heading home
for Christmas. Freshman wing Michael Snaer scored a career-high 18 points, as
FSU played their best game of the season offensively. The Noles have struggled
on the offensive end all year, but are hoping the win over the Skyhawks will
give them a spark.

Snaer and sophomore wing Deividas Dulkys are combining to average 17.5
points per game, solid production from young players. No one for FSU
averages more than 12.7 points per game. With no offensive star, scoring is a
group effort by the Seminoles. They are somewhat capped because of the lack of a
true go-to guy on the offensive end, but they are a major contender for the NCAA
tournament, thanks to their stellar defense.


Wake Forest (8-2, 1-0, RPI #51)

Wake Forest took the week off, but they will return to action tonight against
UNC Greensboro. After that, they have two challenging non-conference games
against Richmond and Xavier, and then the Demon Deacons will begin to face the
meat of their ACC schedule.


Boston College (8-4, 1-0, RPI #115)

Boston College knocked off in-state rival UMass 79-67 two days before
Christmas. This was a must-win for the Eagles, who had recently dropped
back-to-back home games against Harvard and Rhode Island.

The Eagles are an inside oriented team. Corey Raji averages 15.7 points and
8.3 rebounds per game, while Joe Trapani adds 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds. BC
is shooting less than 30% from three-point range, which is easily the worst mark
in the conference. Tyler Roche and Trapani are good outside shooters, but
everyone else is struggling right now.

BC needs Rakim Sanders to get back to form quickly. He has played in just
four games because of injury, and he’s shooting only 30% from the field. Once he
gets back to full speed, he will make the Eagles a better team.


Virginia Tech (10-1, 0-0, RPI #65 )

Virginia Tech pounded an overmatched Maryland-Baltimore County team 71-34
last Tuesday night. The 34 points scored by UMBC was the lowest point total in
the history of Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies are off to a 10-1 start, their best
start since the 1995-96 season when they opened 12-1.

Tech is playing good defense right now. They are allowing just 57.7 points
per game, which ranks second in the ACC. Opponents are shooting only 38.4%
against the Hokies. However, a quick scan of RealTimeRPI.com shows that Tech’s
strength of schedule is #253 nationally, which is the third easiest schedule in
the ACC thus far. Things won’t get any tougher this week, as Tech faces
Longwood, who ranks #305 in the RPI.

Malcolm Delaney continues to lead the ACC in scoring, but it has been Dorenzo
Hudson who has stepped up recently. Hudson has scored in double figures in three
of the last four games. He scored 10 or more points just once in the first seven
games. Tech’s chances of making the NCAA tournament will improve significantly
with a consistent third scorer, so Hudson needs to keep it up.


Duke (9-1, 0-0, RPI #1)

Duke has not played since December 19. They host Long Beach State and Penn
this week, their final warmup games before ACC play begins on January 3rd
against Clemson.


Clemson (11-2, 0-0, RPI #46)

Clemson beat a solid Western Carolina team 79-57 last Tuesday. Western
Carolina is ranked #17 in the RPI, with their only losses coming to Texas and
Clemson. This was a good win for the Tigers, who are off to their usual strong
start under head coach Oliver Purnell.

Clemson forward Trevor Booker is one of the top post threats in the ACC,
averaging 15 points and nine rebounds per game. His brother, freshman forward
Devin Booker, had 10 points and six rebounds in the win over Western Carolina.
The brothers combined to score 41 points on 15-of-17 shooting.

The Tigers return to action on Wednesday against South Carolina State. They
open their ACC schedule at Duke on Sunday night.


North Carolina (9-3, 0-0, RPI #54)

UNC got an easy 98-61 win over Marshall on Tuesday before taking a break for
the Holidays. The Tar Heels have losses to Syracuse, Texas and Kentucky, three
undefeated teams and possible future #1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. That type
of non-conference competition will only make Carolina more dangerous when ACC
play begins. It’s strong medicine for such a young team.

The Tar Heels have a big lineup, going 6-2, 6-5, 6-9, 6-10 and 6-10. They
started three true posts in their most recent game against Marshall, with the
ineffective wing Will Graves going to the bench. Graves is a solid bench player,
but not an every-night starter in the ACC. UNC’s length will be trouble for a
lot of ACC teams.

This team will go as far as post players Ed Davis and Deon Thompson take
them. Thompson and Davis are combining to score 31.1 points and grab 17.3
rebounds per game. The Tar Heels face Rutgers and Albany this week in Chapel
Hill.


Maryland (8-3, 0-0, RPI #94)

In the last week, Maryland has defeated Winston-Salem State 98-55 and Florida
Atlantic 72-59. The Terps have three losses to Cincinnati, Wisconsin and
Villanova, three good teams, but we are still left wondering exactly how good
this Maryland team is.

The best win Maryland has been able to get came over Eastern Kentucky, who is
ranked #133 in the RPI. Every time the Terps have faced quality competition,
they have been defeated. Greivis Vasquez started the season slow, but he’s
starting to round into form. Vasquez scored 26 points against Florida Atlantic
after dropping 27 on Winston-Salem State.

Maryland plays William & Mary this week. The Tribe is ranked #7 in the
RPI, and they haven’t lost since November 15. This is a good chance for the
Terps to pick up a quality win.


Virginia (6-4, 0-0, RPI #207)

Virginia is only 6-4 overall, despite playing the second easiest schedule in
the ACC so far. UVA beat NJIT 68-37 and Hampton 80-54 in two games last week.
The Hoos have beaten the teams they should beat, but they don’t have any quality
wins thus far.

Virginia has had some close losses. They were defeated by Stanford 57-52,
then lost to Penn State and Auburn by a combined four points. The Hoos are still
adjusting to the system of new head coach Tony Bennett, so things will take
time. They are improving, but this is still a team that will finish near the
bottom of the ACC this year.

Virginia takes on an 11-1 UAB team this week, and the Blazers just beat
Butler. It would be a big win if the Hoos could pull this one off.


Miami (12-1, 0-1, RPI #76)

Miami beat North Carolina A&T 80-59 last Monday night, giving head coach
Frank Haith his 100th career victory. Haith never had a head coaching job before
going to Miami, and he’s done a solid job with a program that has no history of
success.

The Hurricanes have Top 100 wins over South Carolina and Minnesota, but
nobody knows how good the Gamecocks or Golden Gophers are right now. They might
be NCAA tournament teams, or they might not. Like most of the rest of the ACC,
the jury is still out of Miami. However, their loss to Boston College puts them
near the bottom of the ACC standings at this point.

Miami hosts Bethune Cookman on Wednesday, and then travels to Pepperdine on
Sunday. The Canes should be 14-1 heading into ACC play.


Georgia Tech (9-2, 0-1, RPI #78)

The Yellow Jackets beat Kennesaw State 80-55 last Tuesday in the Thriller
Dome to run their record to 9-2. Georgia Tech has been starting three freshmen
recently. They are talented enough to beat teams like Kennesaw State, but they
lost their only ACC test thus far against Florida State. How will such young
players handle the grind of the ACC schedule?

If they don’t handle it well, the Yellow Jackets could find themselves with a
new coach next season. Ever since playing for the National Championship in 2003,
Georgia Tech has been steadily declining. There have been peaks and valleys, but
mostly valleys, and Paul Hewitt has been on the hot seat.

Hewitt will have three games against Winston-Salem State, Charlotte and
Georgia to get his team ready for ACC play, which begins in earnest on January
9th against Duke.


NC State (8-3, 0-1, RPI #60)

NC State has lost two consecutive games after starting the season 8-1. The
Wolfpack’s most recent loss came on the road 76-74 against a struggling Arizona
team. The Wildcats hit a last second buzzer beater to down NC State, who does
not have a Top 50 win so far this year.

Sydney Lowe is another ACC coach who is on the hot seat. If his team finishes
near the bottom of the ACC again this year, he could be out of a job. So far,
there is nothing to indicate that this is an NCAA tournament caliber team.

The Wolfpack play Winthrop and UNC Greensboro this week.

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