Around the ACC: January 4, 2010

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Two ACC teams squared off in their first conference game of the season, while
the rest of the league got their final warmups in before beginning ACC play in
earnest this week. The week featured home losses to foes from smaller
conferences, a dramatic halfcourt buzzer beater, and a big win in Cancun for the
Hokies.


#5 Duke (12-1, 1-0, RPI #3)

The preseason favorite Duke Blue Devils find themselves atop the conference
standings after blowing out Clemson 74-53 in the ACC opener for both teams. It
was a typical Coach K win. Duke played extremely tough defense, holding Clemson
to just 32.7% from the field, including 16.7% in the first half. The Blue Devils
jumped out to a 30-12 halftime lead, and the Tigers never stood a chance.

The Clemson win followed two wins over Long Beach State (84-63) and Penn
(114-55). Any week when you blow out three opponents, including one Top 25 team,
is a good week. Duke is playing like the best team in the ACC right now, but UNC
will have a chance to challenge them if the Tar Heels can get better guard play.

Duke will play Iowa State in Chicago this Wednesday, and then travel to
Georgia Tech for a big conference game on Saturday.


#18 Florida State (12-2, 1-0, RPI # 50)

The Seminoles improved their stellar record to 12-2 by beating Alabama
A&M 81-34 on New Year’s Eve. Deividas Dulkys scored 19 points, and Florida
State played smothering defense to blowout the Bulldogs. Alabama A&M scored
just 10 points in the second half on 4-of-22 shooting.

FSU could be the best overall defensive team in the ACC. The Noles are first
in the conference in scoring defense (57.1 ppg) and first in field goal
percentage defense (34%). They are also second in rebounding margin (+8.6),
first in blocked shots (7.3) and second in steals (8.9). They have a lot of
height in their frontcourt, and despite losing first round pick Toney Douglas to
the NBA, this team could be better than they were a year ago.

Florida State hosts Texas A&M Corpus Christi tonight, and then travels to
Maryland for Sunday night ACC basketball.


Wake Forest (11-2, 1-0, RPI #30)

Wake Forest played a dramatic game on Sunday, defeating Xavier 96-92 in
double overtime in the Skip Prosser Classic in Winston-Salem. Point guard
Ishmael Smith scored a career-high 28 points, while Al-Farouq Aminu added 26.
C.J. Harris, who is averaging 11.9 points per game as a freshman, added 15
points for the Demon Deacons.

It was the second Top 50 RPI win of the week for Wake Forest. The Demon
Deacons also defeated a very good Richmond team 74-68 in overtime on New Year’s
Eve. The Spiders had previously beaten Florida, Mississippi
State, Missouri and Old Dominion. Wake now has three Top 50 wins in the
non-conference portion of their schedule, including a win over Gonzaga.

Wake Forest returns to action this Saturday when they play at Miami.


Boston College (9-5, 1-0, RPI #112)

BC’s most recent loss came to Maine, 52-51 on Saturday. The Eagles managed
just 51 points against Maine just days after defeating South Carolina 85-76.
Rakim Sanders, back from his injury, seemed healthy while scoring 22 points
against the Gamecocks. However, he had just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting
against Maine.

Boston College remains near the top of the ACC standings as a result of their
win over Miami, but this has not been an impressive basketball team recently.
The Eagles have lost three of their last six games, and all three losses have
been at home. One of the losses, to Rhode Island, is not a killer, but home
losses to Harvard and Maine are the type that will keep you out of the NCAA
tournament.

The Eagles got off to a bad start last year and were able to rally, but they
can’t afford anymore bad losses. They host NJIT on Tuesday night.


Virginia Tech (12-1, 0-0, RPI #60)

It was a good week and a bad week for Virginia Tech. The Hokies blew out
Longwood 85-50 on Wednesday, but they lost Malcolm Delaney in the opening minute
of that game with a sprained ankle. Tech was considered a longshot to beat a
high-scoring Seton Hall team without Delaney, but Dorenzo Hudson scored 41
points and the Hokies pulled the 103-94 overtime upset in Cancun.

Erick Green and Hudson have spent time at point guard since Delaney’s injury,
and they have both performed well. Green scored 15 against Longwood and seven
against Seton Hall, and he also had some good defensive plays in both games.
Hudson was 20-of-21 from the free throw line against Seton Hall, and his
confidence and ball handling have improved.

Delaney was still in a walking boot on Saturday night, and his status remains
uncertain. Tech returns to action this Sunday night when they take on UNC in the
Dean Dome.


#9 North Carolina (11-3, 0-0, RPI #49)

UNC picked up two more wins over the last week, beating Rutgers 81-67 and
Albany 87-70. The Tar Heels could have played better in both games, and they’ve
looked more impressive in losses to Texas and Kentucky than they have in some of
their wins over weaker competition.

Right now, the inside duo of Ed Davis and Deon Thompson is carrying this
team. After losing Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green, perimeter play is
the weakness this year. The Tar Heels don’t have any big time scorers in the
backcourt, and the ACC is generally a guard oriented conference.

However, UNC does have a lot of height, and they’ve still got plenty of
talent. This will be a team that improves gradually as the season progresses.
The Tar Heels play at the College of Charleston on Monday, and then host
Virginia Tech on Sunday night.


Maryland (9-4, 0-0, RPI #87)

Maryland became the second ACC team to lose to William & Mary at home
this year, falling to the Tribe 83-77 on Wednesday night. They followed that up
with a 93-67 pasting of UNC Greensboro on Sunday. Though the loss to William
& Mary seems bad on paper, the Tribe is #2 in the RPI (per RealTimeRPI.com)
and they haven’t lost since November, beating Wake Forest, Maryland, Richmond
and Virginia Commonwealth in the process.

At this point, it’s impossible to say how good Maryland is. The Terps’ best
win came against Fairfield, #122 in the RPI. They have lost every game they’ve
played against Top 50 competition.

We’ll have a better idea about Maryland after they crank up ACC play this
week. They host Florida State this Sunday night.


Virginia (7-4, 0-0, RPI #156)

Virginia has had some close losses so far this year under head coach Tony
Bennett, but they finally came through with a big win this week, beating #24 UAB
72-63 in Charlottesville. The Hoos played good perimeter defense, limiting the
Blazers to just 14.3% from three-point range. It is the first big win of the
Tony Bennett era.

UVA is averaging just 70 points per game, but they are limiting their
opponents to only 59.3 points per game. Defense has always been a Tony Bennett
specialty, and the Hoos are doing a good job so far. However, competition will
take a step up once ACC play begins.

Virginia has now won three games in a row, and they’ll seek their fourth
consecutive victory over Texas-Pan American on Tuesday night. They will then
travel to Raleigh to take on NC State on Saturday.


Miami (14-1, 0-1, RPI #92)

Miami continued to feast on cupcakes this week, beating Bethune Cookman 73-55
and Pepperdine 86-63. Though the Canes have a gaudy 14-1 record, they are 0-1 in
ACC play, and their strength of schedule ranks #333 in the nation, which is dead
last in the ACC.

Miami is shooting well through their first 15 games of the season. The Canes
are shooting 49.5% from the field and 40.4% from three-point range. Senior guard
James Dews is leading the team, averaging 12.7 points per game. Dews has stepped
up his game now that Jack McClinton is no longer with the team.

The Canes are dangerous, but will probably have just one quality
non-conference win when it’s all said and done. They need ACC wins to make the
NCAA tournament, and they’ll get their chance for their first on Saturday when
they host Wake Forest.


#20 Georgia Tech (11-2, 0-1, RPI #63)

Georgia Tech defeated Winston-Salem State 78-43 on December 29, and then beat
Charlotte 76-67 on the road on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets look like a quality
team, but with so many freshmen in the playing rotation, it’s hard to say how
this team will respond when ACC play begins. They failed their first test,
losing at home to Florida State in December, but they’ve got 15 more chances to
get it right.

The Yellow Jackets play at Georgia on Tuesday night in their final
non-conference primer. Then they’ll be staring an 0-2 start in the ACC right in
the face when they host Duke on Saturday.


Clemson (12-3, 0-1, RPI #48)

Clemson had looked like a good offensive team all season, until they traveled
to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday. The Tigers scored just 12 first half points
and had a terrible shooting night in a 74-53 blowout loss. It wasn’t the type of
start in ACC play that Oliver Purnell envisioned, though losing to Duke on the
road is no shame.

The loss puts Clemson near the bottom of the ACC standings, but they aren’t
likely to stay there for long. The Tigers have a quality team and should finish
in the top half of the ACC standings and make the NCAA tournament yet again.

Clemson will get this week off, then return to action on Saturday when they
host Boston College.


NC State (10-4, 0-1, RPI #85)

Things can’t get much worse for the Wolfpack. NC State lost to Florida 62-61
in overtime when Chandler Parson threw in a three-quarter court shot at the
buzzer. It’s a tough way to lose a basketball game, as Virginia Tech fans can
attest.

NC State beat Winthrop (68-52) and UNC Greensboro (89-67) earlier in the
week. With a win over Holy Cross on Wednesday, the Wolfpack will give themselves
11 non-conference victories. With a good year in the ACC, they’ll have a chance
to make the NCAA tournament, but at this point they have to be considered a long
shot.

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