One night after being upset on the road by #8 Notre Dame, Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils stunningly announced that their junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon had been dismissed from the program.
Duke dismisses junior G Rasheed Sulaimon basketball program. Sulaimon averaged 7.5 PPG this season. pic.twitter.com/Sed8Kj4ZJc
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 29, 2015
Sulaimon is the first player to be dismissed from the program in Coach K’s 35 years at the school. Repeated violations of team rules, and an inability to, “consistently live up to the standards of being a basketball player at Duke,” are to blame for his removal from the team. Duke will be looking for added contributions from Matt Jones off of the bench in wake of Sulaimon’s dismissal. Jones is averaging 4.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game in his sophomore season, but should see an increase in minutes as a result of this unexpected roster shake-up.
They’ll need to figure out their bench situation in a hurry, because they have a huge game on Saturday.
Oh, and here’s the preview.
#4 Duke (17-3, 4-3, RPI: 8) Vs. #2 Virginia (19-0, 7-0, RPI: 3), 7:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN
- UVA Player To Watch: Justin Anderson
- 13.9 points per game on 50% shooting
- 4.4 rebounds per game
- 52% shooter from three
- Duke Player To Watch: Jahlil Okafor
- 18.7 points per game on 66% shooting
- 9.4 rebounds per game
- Coming off a 22 point, 17 rebound performance in loss against Notre Dame
- Virginia is 3rd in the ACC in field goal percentage at 47.3%, Duke is 11th in the conference in field goal percentage defense at 42.7%
- The Cavaliers are only giving up 49.2 points per game, which makes them the nation’s top ranked scoring defense
- Duke is 12th in the country in scoring offense at 81.2 points per game, matching them up quite evenly with Virginia
With Duke coming off of a tough loss against #8 Notre Dame in South Bend, coupled with the dismissal of veteran guard Rasheed Sulaimon, the Blue Devils will be attempting to overcome distractions and go on the road to play the best defense in the country, the Virginia Cavaliers. The Blue Devils will go to the post to Jahlil Okafor early and often in this game, in hopes that he will be able to outplay Virginia’s Anthony Gill on the block. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, boast two excellent wing scorers in Justin Anderson (13.9 ppg) and Malcolm Brogdon (13.3 ppg). Duke’s field goal percentage defense is one of the worst in the ACC, in large part due to the defensive inefficiencies of senior Quinn Cook, and freshman Tyus Jones. The duo of Cook and Jones will have to find a way to play well on both ends of the court in order to make up for the advantage that the ‘Hoos seem to have on paper on the perimeter. With Virginia playing at home, and Duke reeling, I’ll take the Cavaliers to remain perfect, even though Coach K will do everything in his power to prove me wrong.
Virginia 68 Duke 63
#13 North Carolina (17-4, 7-1, RPI: 10) Vs. #10 Louisville (17-3, 5-2, RPI: 19), 4:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN
- Tar Heels are 16th nationally in points per game, averaging 80.0 points per contest
- Additionally, UNC is the nation’s second-best rebounding team, as they pull down 43.4 boards per game.
- Louisville is 22nd in the country in points allowed, as they have only given up 58.5 points per game this season.
- The Cardinals have only lost three games, and none of the teams that defeated them were ranked worse than 18th (#1 Kentucky, #18 North Carolina, #4 Duke).
- The Cards are first in the ACC in turnover margin, and only two teams turnover the ball more than North Carolina (12.9) in the conference (Florida State, Wake Forest).
- Marcus Paige is battlng Plantar Fasciitis, but you wouldn’t know it by his play: 14.1 ppg, 4.2 apg, 2.6 rpg.
Roy says they’re still resting Marcus Paige during practices. Still dealing with the plantar fasciitis.
— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) January 30, 2015
Prediction This game went down to the wire in the first meeting on January 10th, as the Tar Heels were able to hold off the Cardinals, 72-71 in Chapel Hill. These teams are very evenly matched, as UNC’s Marcus Paige and Louisville’s Terry Rozier basically cancelling each other out. If Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks for the Tar Heels are able to contain Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell in the paint, Carolina should have an excellent chance to sweep the season series against the Cardinals. However, if Harrell can get established in the paint early in the game, I think that Louisville can use those easy buckets to set up the press, and run Roy Williams’ Tar Heels out of the gym. The law of averages needs to make an appearance at some point, as North Carolina has been flirting with disaster lately, and has struggled to put teams away late (See Florida State last Saturday), so I’ll take the Cardinals in another closely contested match-up. Louisville 80 North Carolina 76 #8 Notre Dame (20-2, 8-1, RPI: 26) Vs. Pittsburgh (13-8, 3-5, RPI: 96), 12:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN3.com Game Notes:
- ND’s Jerian Grant continued his stellar play against Duke, finishing with 23 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds in the upset on Wednesday.
Jerian Grant had 23 pts 12 assts but his best move was telling not to rush the court. That was big time. — Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) January 29, 2015
- Notre Dame is one of the best offenses in the country, scoring 81.6 points per game on 52.1% shooting as a team.
- Pittsburgh is coming off of perhaps one of the worst losses in the Jamie Dixon era, losing to Virginia Tech (9-11) in overtime in Blacksburg. The Hokies had an RPI of over 200 prior to the contest, and for a majority of the season, had the worst RPI among teams in the Power 5 conferences.
- Jamel Artis has been spectacular of late for Pitt, as the sophomore has scored at least 17 points in each of his last four games, bringing his overall point average to 11.1 points per game.
The Irish are coming off of their biggest win of the season at home against #4 Duke, so they have every reason to potentially be asleep at the switch on Saturday at noon against Pittsburgh. This is one of the best Notre Dame teams that Mike Brey has had in his 15 years in South Bend, and we will be able to learn a lot more about the Irish after Saturday, as we will have a good measure to how Notre Dame deals with success.
Pittsburgh struggled mightily to score against Virginia Tech, as they faced a 2-3 zone defense and shot the ball inconsistently throughout much of the game. Leading scorer Michael Young failed to get going, but Jamel Artis and Michael Robinson were able to shoulder the scoring load, even though they eventually fell short against one of the worst teams in the conference. The Panthers need to come out on Saturday afternoon with a little bit of motivation, as they will be at home playing against one of the nation’s best teams. However, I can’t see them scoring with the Irish, even though we can all recognize that this is a definite trap game for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame 78 Pittsburgh 67
Virginia Tech (9-11, 1-6, RPI: 195) Vs. Wake Forest (9-12, 1-7, RPI: 156), 2:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN3.com
- The Hokies won their first conference game of the season on Tuesday night against Pittsburgh in overtime, which also marked their first win in the month of January since 2012.
- Neither team is very good at taking advantage of the charity stripe. Tech is last in the ACC in free throw percentage (60.7%), while Wake Forest is 2nd to last (64.5%).
- Although they have not taken advantage of their trips to the line, the Demon Deacons are first in the conference, and in the top 10 nationally in free throw attempts, as they have already attempted almost 550 free throws this season.
- The difference in this game could be the rebounding, where Wake Forest sits near the top of the conference in rebounding margin, while the Hokies (-6.5) are dead last in the ACC in rebounding margin.
Adam Smith and the Hokies were finally able to pick up their first conference victory of the season on Tuesday night, but it wasn’t easy, as the game against Pittsburgh went to overtime, before Smith hit the game winning 3-pointer with less than 2 seconds remaining to clinch it for the Hokies. The Hokies are hoping to have their leading scorer Justin Bibbs back, as their star freshman has missed the last 4 games due to lingering concussion symptoms, and his return would really help Buzz Williams’ squad, which has been playing much better of late.
The Demon Deacons, on the other hand, have taken a swing and a miss at mediocrity, and now are one of the worst teams in the ACC, and are trending in the wrong direction, as they have lost four straight games to drop to a tie of dead last in the conference standings. Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas have both been respectable scorers for Wake, but as a team, the Demon Deacons are one of the worst shooting teams in the country, collectively shooting only 42.2% from the field, which is 248th nationally. With the way Virginia Tech’s zone defense has played recently, I think that Wake Forest will struggle to score, and as a result, look for the Hokies to win their second game in a row.
Virginia Tech 66 Wake Forest 60
Boston College (9-10, 1-6, RPI: 119) Vs. Clemson (12-8, 4-4, RPI: 81), 12:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN3.com
- BC enters the game losers of 6 out of their last 8, and 7 out of 10.
- Clemson has won 2 straight, and 4 out of their last 6 games.
- Scoring will be at a premium in this one. Clemson is the worst offense in the ACC at 63.1 ppg. while Boston College is the third worst offense at 65 ppg.
- The Tigers hold a distinct advantage on the defensive end, as they boast the conference’s third best scoring defense at 61.3 ppg. while the Eagles give up nearly 4 points more per game, and sit in the middle of the pack in the ACC in this category.
Outside of Olivier Hanlan, the Eagles cannot score. Outside of Jaron Blossomgame, the Tigers can’t score.
So who has the better defense? Clemson; which is why I think they will win this game with ease at home, but don’t worry Eagles fans, Hanlan will make some noise in this one to try to keep BC in it.
Clemson 65 Boston College 53
N.C. State (13-9, 4-5, RPI: 59) Vs. Georgia Tech (10-10, 1-7, RPI: 80), 12:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN3.com
- N.C. State 100th nationally in field goal percentage at 45.1% as a team, while Georgia Tech is 273rd in the country at 41.4%.
- N.C. State is 5th in the ACC in 3-point % at 36.9%, while Georgia Tech is dead last at a despicable 25.5% as a team.
- GT holds the distinct advantage on defense, allowing only 62.9 ppg to N.C. State’s 65.1 ppg.
- The Wolfpack have lost three straight games, while Georgia Tech is fresh off of a 20-point road win against Miami
Georgia Tech went completely out of their way to put up an unprecedented clobbering of a top 25 team in Miami on Wednesday night, 80-60. Take it from the Hurricanes…league play can be a daunting proposition, as a team can be upset on any given night. North Carolina state is the better basketball team, but has unexpectedly sputtered recently, losing three straight games and showing deficiencies on the defensive end. Will Georgia Tech make the ‘Pack pay for lack of defensive awareness for the fourth game in a row? We will ultimately find out on Saturday, but I think N.C. State’s guards in Lacey, Turner, and Barber will be a little too much for the Jackets to overcome in this one.
N.C. State 74 Georgia Tech 71
#23 Miami (FL) (14-6, 4-3, RPI: 44) Vs. Florida State (11-10, 3-5, RPI: 133), 12:30 PM ET Sunday, ESPNU
- Miami (FL) continued their consistently inconsistent play, after getting blown out at home by Georgia Tech
- Florida State freshman guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes is averaging 22 points and 6 rebounds over his last four outings, providing the ‘Noles with a much needed offensive spark
- Florida State is last in the conference in 3-point attempts per game, while Miami is second in attempts per game. This could be the turning point in a close game, which would favor Miami potentially pulling away.
- The Seminoles average 13.5 turnovers per game, Miami only turns it over 10.2 times per game
So which Miami team will show up on Sunday? That it the biggest question. At times, Miami has shown shades of the ACC contending team of two years ago, but lack of sound defense and poor shooting at times have made the Hurricanes look average to below average. The Hurricanes’ second-leading scorer Angel Rodriguez was held scoreless in the 20 point rout at the hands of the Jackets on Wednesday, and the likelihood of that happening again is slim.
Angel Rodriguez tonight: 0 pts, 0-for-8, 0-for-5 from deep, four turnovers. Last 4 games: 5-for-35 shooting, 10 turnovers.
— Matt Porter (@mattyports) January 29, 2015
However, with the defensive issues that have plagued Miami most of the season, it becomes easier and easier to pick against the Hurricanes, especially when squaring off against one of the elite scorers of the conference of late. While I expect Xavier Rathan-Mayes to put together another extremely efficient offensive outing for the Seminoles, Miami is the better team, and should get up for this game, since it is an in-state rivalry. ‘Canes by 10.
Miami (FL) 74 Florida State 64