ACC Basketball: Word Of The Week Is Regression In A Top-Heavy League

We have another fun-filled weekend of ACC Hoops ahead of us, and without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about the full slate of conference games, with some predictions!

Virginia Tech (10-14, 2-9, RPI: 214) Vs. Clemson (14-10, 6-6, RPI: 89), 12:00 PM ET Saturday, for most of mid-atlantic

Game Notes

    • Tech’s Malik Muller has played well of late, and is coming off of one of his best performances of the season. In the team’s most recent win over Georgia Tech, Muller scored 17 points on 6-8 shooting, including the game winning three pointer with 12 seconds to play. He was also active defensively and disrupted a lot of interior passes. To many Hokie fans, who were in the dark about his abilities due to his overseas pedigree, he has improved as the season has progressed. He has demonstrated deceptive quickness, a nose for the ball, and is unafraid of the moment. Not bad for a 6’3″ power forward.
  • Hokies freshman guard Justin Bibbs was the most impressive player for Tech throughout the first half of the season. Since his return from a concussion however, Bibbs has struggled to get his feet back under him. Over his four games back since the injury, he is just 13-40 (32.5%) from the field. Dipping from tied for 2nd in the ORTG in SCACCHoops. Could just be hitting  the freshman wall as well.
  • Since rattling off four straight wins, the Tigers have dropped their last two to Miami and Notre Dame, trending from a bubble team to a likely NIT candidate in about a week and a half.
  • The Tigers’ scoring offense is 298th in the country, averaging only 62 points per game. Their work on the other end of the court is what keeps them in games though, as they are 37th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just over 60 points per game. This is how Coach Brownell opts to play, which is similar to the Seth Greenberg mentality that if every game is close, you have a chance to win at the end. Every time this team builds a lead, it dissipates as Clemson performs down to the competition, but the game ends up close.


The Hokies are coming into the game on Saturday carrying some momentum after a rare win on Monday against Georgia Tech. Victories have been pretty difficult to come by for this young Hokies squad, as Buzz Williams has used his 1st season in Blacksburg to try to build the foundation for the future. What better way to do so, than to have 58% of your team’s  minutes played exclusively by freshmen? Definitely an intriguing stat, and also a sign of growth and of the supposedly bright future ahead for the Hokies.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have had somewhat of an up and down year. Head coach Brad Brownell has had his squad in their fair share of close games throughout this season, including two games against Top 10 teams that were decided by 6 points or less (58-52 loss to #5 Louisville, and a 60-58 loss to #10 Notre Dame). The Tigers have a much better team than the Hokies on the defensive end of the floor, as their scoring defense ranks in the top quarter of the country. Additionally, the Tigers are at home against a Hokie squad that hasn’t won on the road all season. I have to take Clemson in this one, but it will be closer than some may think.

Let’s examine the history: 11 of 16 games in the ACC between these two clubs have wound up being won by five points or less. The Hokies lead the series narrowly 15-14, and are 8-8 against Clemson since joining the ACC. Eight of the games have been decided by one possession. Two season ending losses hurt the Hokies in ACC tourney seedings and the Selection Committee  had no problem holding that against some very competitive VT teams, particularly when former Coach Greenberg opted to attack the committee’s mental faculties. All we could ever say to that. was just to finish strong and beat inferior Clemson clubs. Alas….

This game looks no different in terms of philosophy and grind it out style. If VT’s shooting from three returns (difficult to predict considering LIttle John) they have a shot at winning a 3rd game in as many weeks. But LJC is a difficult venue for everyone. The hope here is that Landry Nnoko doesn’t dominate the paint. But with the Hokie perpetually undersized, they may have to waste the 10 fouls Christian Beyer and Shane Henry (“The Walking Whistle”)  have at their disposal.  Also interesting will be the number of guys they throw at All-ACC performer Jaron Blossomgame. No one man can lock him down on this VT team.

Clemson 65   Virginia Tech 61

#12 North Carolina (18-6, 8-3, RPI: 9) Vs. Pittsburgh (16-9, 5-6, RPI: 67), 12:00 PM ET Saturday,

Game Notes

  • The Tar Heels overcame 30 points out of Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan, to beat the Eagles 79-68 to snap a three game losing streak. Carolina had three starters score in double figures, led by 21 points out of forward Isaiah Hicks.
  • North Carolina’s 42.8 rebounds per game is 2nd in Division I, while Pittsburgh’s 34.2 rebounds per game is 192nd in the country. If this is a problem for Pitt on the defensive end, UNC will win with ease.
  • The Panthers have won three out of their last four games, although they lost their most recent game to #9 Louisville, 69-56 on the road where they are just 1-6.
  • Pitt was beaten on the glass 39-29 in their game against the Cards, and if they are down 10 on the boards again on Saturday, they will have a ton of trouble against the Tar Heels, who feast on second chance points offensively with Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson and then JP Tokoto their to clean up what those two cannot.
  • Pitt is an impressive 12-2 at home. UNC needs to get in some extra shooting. That gym is weird and shooting sightlines are tough to get accustomed to.


North Carolina dropped two in a row to Louisville and Virginia, but were able to get back on track against Boston College with their 79-68 win earlier this week. Marcus Paige and company are beginning to hit their stride offensively, and will be a tough out in the conference tournament, as well as the NCAA Tournament in March. They have done a great job of spreading the wealth on the offensive end of late, even in their close losses to two of the top ten teams in the country. Their length and ability to rebound will give the Panthers trouble on Saturday, and could be the difference in the game.

Pitt needs contributions from all five starters if they want to stay in this game this weekend. The most important aspect perhaps, is their guards’ ability to rebound the ball. If they can get help from their backcourt on the glass, they have the athletes to stay in the game and possibly pull off a home upset. At the end of the day though, there is just too much to like about the Tar Heels, and the way that Roy Williams has his team playing here over the last month or so. Plus with a bye earlier this week this will be their first chance to play for the dearly departed Dean Smith who passed last weekend.

Of critical importance will be Pitt packing it in and forcing yet another poor shooting ACC team to beat them from deep. In this case, sharp shooter Nate Britt who has had a couple of decent games busting zones recently. Most notably against Syracuse and Louisville. I could see him getting a bit more run against Pitt who plays more wings than post players. Particularly if they find the right mix of Pitt players on the floor who won’t guard Nate as far out as they should. They’ll adjust quickly if a few of his shots find the twine.

North Carolina 80  Pittsburgh 68

Florida State (13-12, 5-7, RPI: 128) Vs. Georgia Tech (11-13, 2-10, RPI: 102), 2:30 PM ET Saturday,

Game Notes

  • Florida State had an opportunity to pull a home upset over #4 Duke on Monday, as Devon Bookert scored 23 points and dished out 6 assists in the narrow 73-70 loss.

  • Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who has been the ‘Noles best player for a majority of their games, scored only 5 points in the loss. More production out of him, and we are talking about a big time win for Florida State, not the narrow loss that ultimately ended up on their docket. Even thought it likely doesn’t move the dial for them in terms on an NCAA bid, they could have maybe made an NIT run on the strength of that Duke win alone.
  • The Yellow Jackets imploded defensively on Monday night in the last four minutes in Blacksburg, allowing the Hokies to go on a 17-5 run to key a rare victory for Virginia Tech. And this loss was highlighted by a +16 advantage on the offensive glass for GT.
  • DeMarco Cox is not pulling his weight as a starter since Coach Gregory moved productive transfer forward Charles Mitchell to the bench. The Hokies had few answers for Mitchell, but didn’t even honor Cox with the double team most times, opting to allow the defender to go one on one, even though the VT defender was giving up 50 lbs and six inches in some cases. It was a must, because you can’t leave Mitchell naked on the other side of the paint.
  • Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech’s leading scorer, is coming off of one of his worst games of the season, as he struggled to get to 11 points on 3-12 shooting. He will need to bounce back in a big way to get the Jackets the inside-outside balance necessary for GT to put together a complete game.
  • In what Managing Editor, Chuck Workman has dubbed the Gregory Greenlight, swingman Tadric Jackson CONNECTED!!!! on a three to move to 9-of-62 on the year. For those who are rubbing their eyes at that: That comes to 14.5%, or a true FG % of 21.5. This is……not efficient, for a player who averages just 11.7 minutes per game. Averaging 3 shots from 3 each game and rarely making one. If I were Gregory, I would lose sleep over what those 62 possessions could have accomplished. With so many close losses, there is a direct correlation .


While this may be one of the least exciting games of the weekend, it will provide us with a closely contested match-up. Both of these teams have had their own set of trials and tribulations throughout the season on both ends of the court, but the team that finds a way to make one more play down the stretch should walk away with a victory.

Georgia Tech has had more consistency out of their entire team offensively this season, while the Seminoles have largely relied on Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Devin Bookert to carry them on both ends of the court. For this reason alone, I’ll give the edge on Saturday to the hometown Yellow Jackets, but it will be a close game. And one might argue the Jackets are due: four of their losses have come by one bucket or in double-OT to ND, where they erased two five-point leads at the end of regulation and the 1st OT. They just lack that winning instinct. Being at home may well be the difference.

Georgia Tech 67   Florida State 65

Wake Forest (12-13, 4-8, RPI: 134) Vs. #2 Virginia (22-1, 10-1, RPI: 3), 2:30 PM ET Saturday,

Game Notes

  • Wake Forest is coming off of an upset win over Miami on Wednesday night, 72-70. Though as the ACC middle class is regressing towards the mean, so it qualifies less as an upset than it might have at the beginning of league play.
  • Both teams had struggled at home this year (11 combined losses to varying levels of competition) so Wake was fortunate to get out of there with the narrow win.
  • Virginia escaped on the road at N.C. State 51-47, in their first game without star player Justin Anderson, who is out for a month with a hand injury. But honestly, that just means more touches for Anthony GIll and Malcolm Brogdon. The guess here is that Bennett has them adapted already to continue until Anderson can return.
  • As is the case with most opponents UVA plays, Wake Forest will need to try to find a way to score on the Cavaliers defense. Wake presents the 90th ranked scoring offense in the country, putting them in the top fourth of the country in that category, but this is the best defense they will play all season, even without Justin Anderson.
  • UVA has 11 wins this season while holding their opponent to 51 points or less. Wake’s two pronged attack (sometimes 3) is going to need to exercise patience and battle inside to get UVA’s Darion Atkins and Mike Tobey into some foul trouble. Perhaps sharpshooting big man Konstantinos Mitoglou might decide to take his game inside the arc (95 of his 171 attempts have come from behind the arc). Devin Thomas, smooth as he is, gives up too many inches to manage by himself, though he is an impressive rebounder and finisher in the paint despite his “slight” build (comparatively).
  • This may be the chance for Malcolm Brogdon to make a final push to retain his first team ACC status. Before he went down Justin Anderson was siphoning some of those votes for himself. I would have doubted there was room for them both on the first team. If UVA continues to perform well while Anderson convalesces, then Brogdon can reclaim his spot, and to some degree London Perrantes will deserve some consideration for a 3rd team nod.


Virginia is the much better team, and there really is nothing to dispute in this game. Nobody can score effectively on the Cavaliers, so while one may point to the deficiencies they have offensively, it doesn’t matter if you can’t score. ‘Hoos will win big in this one. The main question will be whether Codi Miller-McIntyre from Wake can play Perrantes to a draw. If he manages to harass the sopohomore some and work the passing lanes, this game could be close, though at the JPJ, not many expect it. And as the season has progressed Danny Manning has improved greatly. A 15 pt UVA victory may as well be 30.

Virginia 64   Wake Forest 50

North Carolina St. (14-11, 5-7, RPI: 62) Vs. #9 Louisville (20-4, 8-3, RPI: 10), 4:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN

Game Notes 

  • Full-Court pressure defense and efficient offensive play is the name of the game for Louisville. They rank near the top of the country in nearly every defensive category, and are 75th nationally in points per game. With one more good long swingman besides Anton Gill, they could press more. But as is, Coach Pitino has shortened his bench as his Centers have proven inept.
  • Louisville’s leading scorer Terry Rozier is averaging 21 points per game (leading ACC scoring on the year) over his last five games, and the team has gone 4-1 in that stretch. And there is no shame at losing at UVA, even if the game was comfortably going in UVA’s favor.
  • N.C. State has had a rough time getting anything going of late. Once one of my trendy picks to be a dangerous tournament team, the Wolfpack have since lost 5 out of their last 6 games, currently putting them on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament in March.
  • The Pack made a 10 seed last year with a .500 record in the league and have played one of the more difficult SOS out there. So they have that on their side. But if some upsets occur in the conference tourneys, they would be likely hosting an NIT game. They need to pretty much go 5-1 and make the ACC semis to call themselves a lock. But this is nothing new to them. Sometimes they get this done. Perhaps you’ve seen the ESPN 30 for 30 on Survive and Advance. They have certainly faced tougher odds.
  • After this they get a week off to lick their wounds, before facing their easiest stretch in months.
  • The Wolfpack defense has failed them of late. The nation’s 170th ranked scoring defense has given up at least 80 points in three out of their last six losses. (Granted those 3 losses were by a combined six points to UNC, GT, and Notre Dame, two top 15 teams, and two in OT)
  • Moving to 5-8 vs Louisville puts NC State in a bad spot where they need to finish strong and win some ACC tourney games. This game is the key to their season for all intents.


This is a trap game for Louisville. N.C. State has been searching for another big win since their January 11th upset over then-ranked #2 Duke. The Wolfpack have been close to pulling another upset on a couple of occasions, losing by 2 to #15 North Carolina, by 3 in overtime to #8 Notre Dame, and by 4 on Wednesday to #2 UVA. While N.C. State has lost plenty of games that they shouldn’t have lost lately, they have been so close to pulling another upset for a second signature win. This is probably a must-win game for the Wolfpack, especially if they want to be considered a bubble team in a couple of weeks for the tournament.

Louisville has the defense to slow down North Carolina State’s hot shooting. They pressure defensively to try to turn you over and get easy baskets, and the ‘Pack will have to be ready, and with Trevor Lacey in charge that might be avoidable. While Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner have the ability to help shoot the Wolfpack to an upset, it will be difficult to try to get up and down the court for 40 minutes and then make threes in the halfcourt to try to win the game. Ultimately, I think that the ‘Pack will be worn down, especially in the second half, and Louisville will pull away late for at least a ten point win. Which would be similar to the Cards effort against Pittsburgh. The key for the Pack will be to force Harrell off the block where Pitino doesn’t set him up enough anyway, force him left, and pass out of the double team to the horrendous three point shooting the Cards sport. Also working the ball into BJ Anya and Kyle Washington in order to engage Harrell and the clumsy Louisville bigs and earn the bonus earlier might be in their best interest. The rim protection at NC State is top-notch also, so contesting those wayward drives from Jones and Rozier might go a long way to keeping this competitive.

The Cards, in spite of their gaudy record, still have a suspect bench. Don’t run an offense to accentuate their best players, and PG Chris Jones (while intense, and physical on the ball on defense) goes off the reservation too much. Louisville’s lack of discipline could be their undoing, but as usual their talent 1-7 in the rotation is enough to beat most everyone. As a matter of fact I have seen each of their losses, and the blame can be directed at the bench in three of those.

Louisville 78   North Carolina State 65

#4 Duke (21-3, 8-3, RPI: 5) Vs. Syracuse (16-8, 7-4, RPI: 59), 6:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN

Game Notes

  • If Duke opens up a can of butt-whip and nobody is around to hear it, did it happen? Interest at the Carrier Dome is likely waning in the wake of the sanctions announced last week. Duke is a comfortable favorite, and winners of 7 of their last 10 after that undefeated start.The Blue Devils are one of the hottest teams in the country over the last month, as they are 7-1 since January 13th, which includes wins over #6 Louisville, #2 Virginia, and #10 Notre Dame.
  • No matter how much you prepare to stop Jahlil Okafor, you can really only hope to slow him down. His 18.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per game leads the team in both categories, as he solidifies himself as the probable #1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft in June. Though with top incoming Freshman Chase Jeter coming in, none of us will likely recognize the difference.
  • Syracuse is now 1-1 since the announcement of their postseason ban, as the NCAA investigates possible violations that date back to the 2007 season. This team could have found itself in the dance with a strong finish, but Fab Melo not obeying rules a few years back takes precedent over 15 kids lives in 2015. Perfectly reasonable. #DEATH TO THE NCAA
  • Rakeem Christmas is the go-to player for the Orange, as he is averaging a stat line similar to Okafor’s, at 18.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He is ready to contribute at the pro level. He compares to Dale Davis IMO, of the old Indiana Pacers. He should be a double-double guy next year as a lucky team’s rookie.


As Duke continues their quest for a conference championship and potential #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament next month, it is safe to say that the Blue Devils have all of their goals still in front of them. Syracuse, unlike Duke, is virtually playing for nothing the rest of the season due to their postseason ban. While Okafor and Christmas should cancel each other out in this game, Duke has more talent around Okafor than Syracuse has around Christmas, which should lead to a close win on the road. The Orange should show up for this one, making it a tighter game than it should be.

Editor’s Note: Grayson Allen and his shooting might be fun to watch late in the game, he’ll pull from anywhere. The Notre Dame game was eye-opening. Do we all have a new JJ Redick to root against? Between him and ‘Cuse shooting guard Trevor Cooney, a shot from the Sudan is not out of the realm of possibilities. 

Duke 80    Syracuse 74

Miami (FL) (15-9, 5-6, RPI: 65) Vs. Boston College (9-14, 1-10, RPI: 142), 6:30 PM ET Sunday, ESPNU

Game Notes

    • Miami is living up to their moniker as the most inconsistent-sometimes-good-sometimes-pull-your-hair-out-bad-team in the ACC. They have lost five out of their last seven since upsetting then-ranked #4 Duke on January 13th. It would take two wins vs Duke to countermand the loss at home to Eastern Kentucky who we watched struggle in conference last weekend.
    • Boston College continues their struggle to find wins, although their leading scorer Olivier Hanlan has scored 15 points or more in his last four games. Aaron Bown does his best to play 2nd fiddle but is nowhere near the efficient producer that Hanlan has developed into, and is famous for the dreaded 7-of-16 shooting performance decried by so many analytical minds in the game today.
  • Miami finally saw the old, better Angel Rodriguez against Wake Forest. Rodriguez, who has struggled mightily of late, tallied 15 points in the loss to the Demon Deacons, which is the first time he has been in double digits in the last three weeks, when he scared UVA to death in that Overtime tilt in Coral Gables.


While Miami has been up and down for the better part of the last month or so, Boston College has been consistently bad for the entire season. That is reason alone to pick against the Eagles, even though they are at home. Angel Rodriguez needs to show up and play well defensively at the very least to contain Olivier Hanlan, who as I’ve said in every Boston College game preview, will be the only factor in keeping the Eagles in it. Hanlan will  get his points, but Jim Larranaga’s squad should have enough in the tank on the road to get the win.

Keeping in mind that the smallish quick backcourt on Miami might pose problems for BC defenders. Any penetration and Center Tonye Jekiri is going to capitalize over Steve Clifford. Jahlil Okafor got that BC big man into foul trouble, frustrated BC into a flagrant foul and shot around  FTs (approx). It would be smart for Miami to employ that physical style. Also the ball-screens that worked vs Duke were infallible. If they get that kind of execution, BC will have a bad afternoon. Not that they have many great ones to compare to this year.

Miami 68   Boston College 61  (and hey thanks ACC/John Swofford for making this the Sunday focus, perhaps next year for our very selfish purposes they could opt out of games and switch the best matchups in like NBC does at the end of the NFL season, they call it flex scheduling, perhaps the Roger Goodell bot might be able to assist with the concept). 

Enjoy the games and stay warm this weekend folks. And stay tuned to Inside The ACC, where you get your money’s worth every time out!

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