Around the ACC: Weekend Preview for February 2-3

Sure, the Super Bowl is this weekend.  Don’t forget about the super ACC basketball games leading up to your football festivities, though.

Clemson at Boston College:  This could be a close, compelling game.  Clemson has struggled on the road, sitting at 1-2 in ACC games away from Littlejohn Coliseum. However, the Eagles are riding a five game losing streak.

Devin Booker has struggled recently for the Tigers, but K.J. McDaniels and Milton Jennings have stepped up to get Clemson back-to-back wins. McDaniels has scored at least 15 points in each of the Tigers’ last three games. Meanwhile, Jennings had a 28 points, 14 rebound outburst Virginia Tech.  Jennings followed it up with nine points and nine rebounds against Georgia Tech, which would have been better if he hadn’t fouled out for the second time this season.

If Booker can return to form, that could spell trouble for the Eagles.  Boston College has an opposing two-point field goal percentage for 48.2%, which jumps up to 50.9% when only including ACC games.  The Eagles can also score inside, with Olivier Hanlan’s driving ability and Ryan Anderson operating at the rim, but Boston College would have to get some defensive stops to have a shot at the win.

Virginia Tech at North Carolina: Virginia Tech showed a flash of promise Wednesday, putting a double-digit lead up against undefeated Miami before faltering in the second half.  The Hokies hope to put together 40 minutes against a North Carolina team reeling from a setback during an 82-70 win against Boston College

The Tar Heels will return Leslie McDonald, who has not played since the Virginia game on January 6 due to a knee injury followed by a three-game suspension.  However, they will likely be without P.J. Hairston, a sharpshooting reserve guard averaging 17.8 points over the last five games.  Hairston suffered a concussion in a mid-air collision with Dexter Strickland in the first half against the Eagles.

North Carolina is at its best when knocking down threes.  Without Hairston, they will look for big games from McDonald and Reggie Bullock against a susceptible Virginia Tech perimeter defense.  The Hokies have allowed ACC opponents to shoot 40.4% beyond the arc and score more than a third of their points on three-pointers.

Virginia Tech has seen better play over the past week from Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines.  We know Erick Green will provide offense for the Hokies, but the question has often been who else can help. A breakout game for either Eddie or Raines against the Tar Heels could be big for Virginia Tech.

Duke at Florida State: Duke picked up its first road win of the season this week, defeating the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.  Now they will press their luck against a Seminoles team that has traditionally played well against the Blue Devils.

Over the last three seasons, Florida State is 3-2 against the Duke, including a win in last season’s ACC Tournament semifinals.  They have been a bit turnover-happy this year, but did a much better job of protecting the ball in their win against Maryland.  They’ll need a repeat performance of that ball security against Duke, who took advantage of a similarly turnover-happy Terrapins team last weekend.

Wake Forest at Maryland: The Demon Deacons will be looking for their first road ACC win against the Terrapins, who are 3-1 at home in the conference.

The Terrapins will have a chance to dominate Wake Forest on the glass, which could benefit them heavily in the game.  Maryland averages 10.6 more rebounds than their ACC opponents, while Wake Forest is 11th in the conference in rebound margin at -1.3 rebounds per game.

There had been some discussion this year as to who would be the third option on offense for Wake Forest. Devin Thomas has established himself as that guy, getting to double digit scoring in four of his last five games while also averaging 9.4 rebounds per game over that stretch.

Miami at NC State: One week after College Gameday was in Raleigh, the national spotlight will return to PNC Arena, as the Hurricanes and Wolfpack meet on CBS.

Miami had a brief scare against Virginia Tech, but, as they have all season, they overcame the obstacle to pick up yet another ACC win to remain undefeated in conference play.  This stands in contrast to NC State, who can take an easy win like last week’s game against North Carolina and make it an obstacle.

NC State is 4-0 at home, including wins against rivals Duke and North Carolina, so an unbeaten streak will end on Saturday for one of these two teams.  While I gripe about their inconsistency, they have proven they can take to another level against big-time opponents on their home floor, and the ACC-leading Hurricanes certainly fit that billing.

The Wolfpack is another team that struggles at times to defend the three-point shot.  With Kenny Kadji, Shane Larkin, Trey McKinney Jones, and Durand Scott all capable of stretching defenses with their perimeter shooting, they can create some serious matchup issues for NC State.

Virginia at Georgia Tech: Sunday’s ACC basketball contest has been conveniently moved from a night-time slot to 3:00 PM eastern, which I’m sure has absolutely nothing to do with a certain professional football game that evening.  While Atlanta natives wish they had other plans, hopefully they will stop by McCamish Pavilion to see the Yellow Jackets take on a Virginia team that has won four straight games.

For the home team to pick up the win, Georgia Tech will have to solve the stifling Cavalier defense.  The Yellow Jacket offense is certainly improving, making 54% of its shots in an 82-62 win over Wake Forest and getting strong showings from Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey in a close loss at Clemson.  However, Virginia’s defense poses a much greater challenge.

Virginia has seen strong contributions from their freshmen during their current winning streak.  Georgia Tech has some key freshmen as well in Marcus-Georges Hunt and Robert Carter.  As is usually the case with the Cavaliers, this will likely be a low-scoring, defensive battle.  It could be decided by which team’s freshmen can handle the pressure of either playing on the road (Virginia) or facing a strong defensive team (Georgia Tech).


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