ACC Basketball: Wednesday Night Preview

Alrighty folks if you are reading this right now you are probably enjoying your morning cup of joe or sitting on your lunch break, but wherever you are, whatever you are doing, get ready for some serious ACC Wednesday Night Hoops.
Tonight’s games include the best rivalry in all of sports and it all begins on the Durham side of Tobacco Road, Louisville will be looking to jump up in the ACC standings in a match up against Syracuse and Boston College will attempt to get their second conference win of the season.

#9 Louisville vs. Syracuse

This past Saturday was a tough pill to swallow for the Cardinals, losing to the NC State Wolfpack. Rick Pitino was sure his team had this one in the bag considering the Wolfpack are 6-7 in conference play, but once again NC State showed that this is a tough league to come into and you cannot simply waltz your way to the top. This week the Cards will be hungry for a win and will try to squeak past Rakeem Christmas and the Syracuse Orange. Hey, just because Syracuse is not competing in postseason doesn’t mean they are not going to try and leave their mark, they are still thirsty and wanting to compete.

The keys to success in this game for Louisville will have to be their shooting. In Saturday’s game the Wolfpack held the Cards to 33% from the field and outscored them in the paint. The Cards are a physical team with some size on the inside, they know how to put a body down low and get the ball in the hoop. So if they want a chance against Christmas, they are going to have to force him to foul. They also need to find a way to get Terry Rozier open. This kid normally averages in double digits, but in Saturday’s game he only managed to score seven. Rozier will need to get everyone involved in the play and make sure the touches on the ball are profitable, meaning they get points. Which leads to rebounding. It is not enough just to put up shots and hope they go in but to capitalize on the missed shots. Montrezl Harrell is the third leading rebounder in the ACC so he needs to play like it. In the game against NC State he was flat footed and almost afraid to rebound the ball. I know NC State had 47 rebounds in the game to Louisville’s 37 but 10 is 10 and those missed rebounds are what cost them part of the game.

As for Syracuse they are sitting right on the heels of the top teams in the conference, but unfortunately they can sit there all they want but they are still out of the postseason. For Syracuse to win it is all about finishing the game. In Saturday’s match-up against Duke, the Orange came out and shot lights out from every inch of the court. They forced Duke to an early deficit and made them work to get  back into the game. Michael Gbinije was a huge factor early, just dialing it up from long range, which was a huge reason ‘Cuse was so successful. Do not think for a minute he will not spot the weak side and take advantage of it to get Christmas going. He is a key player in the paint and has the ability to really throw it down. In the game against Duke, the Blue Devils went at him hard right away and it worked, causing Christmas to pick up two fouls in the first half and score just 11 points on the night. So in this tough match-up Syracuse is going to have to be able to stop the runs, Louisville can be a scoring machine and will take advantage of Syracuse’s mistakes if they are not careful.

Final Thoughts

I have Louisville coming out on top in this one. If you look at any statistics these teams are pretty evenly matched up but it will come down to shooting. While Gbinije is an excellent shooter he cannot be the only player to make shots. Louisville also has aggressive play in the interior and will be able to easily rattle Christmas. I think in the rebounding game Syracuse will fair well but it’s offense that is going to win this game hands down.

Virginia Tech vs. Miami

The Hokies’ road troubles continued as they fell to the Clemson Tigers this past Saturday. They haven’t won on the road in their last eight attempts but maybe they will be able to snag a win in Coral Gables tonight.  You would have thought after beating Georgia Tech, the Hokies would have a little fire under their butts going into LittleJohn Coliseum.. but I guess the joke was on me. As for Miami they had a major win this season against highly ranked Duke and an impressive overtime win on Monday against BC by three gives them another notch in their belt.

Now if Virginia Tech wants to win they are going to have to do a few things: first find a way to play big with smaller guys. It will be tough to play against Miami if you cannot put a body on them. While yes, 6’3″ pseudo forward Malik Muller has some talent, he is not big enough to really get down low and put up shots in the paint. They are going to have to find a way to play big and the only way to do that is to get tough, spread the floor, get everyone involved and make smart decisions.

Miami… this is a win they most certainly need. They had a nice win over Boston College and are coming into this contest ready to play. If the odds are in their favor they could be sitting in prime position for the ACC tournament and a possible run in the NCAA tournament. The keys to success for Miami will be their big guy Tonye Jekiri. The biggest guy to come out on the floor during this game, he can make a real impact. The Hurricanes need to take advantage of the mismatch on the inside and utilize Jekiri a lot in this game. Why contest 3-point shots, which is not their strong suit, when you can give it to Jekiri who happens to be a pretty decent shooter? Finally get to the free throw line. As a team Miami shoots 73% from the charity stripe.

Final Predictions

I see Miami coming out on top in this match-up. I think this game will all come down the free throw line. Sheldon McClellan shoots very well from the line and can make those critical free throws when they need them the most. VT will need to find a way to avoid fouling him, but if they do they better pray to the Hokie Gods that he is really off his game.

Boston College vs. Florida State

With only a few games left and the NCAA tournament knocking on the door we know for sure that BC will not be going to the big dance let alone the big dance’s brother the NIT. Florida State needs some serious mishaps for them to get asked into the NCAA tourney. I am not seeing too much impact on this game, but none the less Boston College needs this more than anyone.

The Eagles are looking to snap their six game losing streak and end the season with more than one conference victory, but by the looks of things that next victory will be hard to come by. They have struggled on offense and clearly on defense, so it will be interesting to see if they can piece it all together. Here are the keys to winning this game: make stops. In a few key games this year the Eagles lost because they couldn’t stop runs when they needed to. They would put up quality shots, pass the ball well but they would get in funks and find themselves down fast. Against UNC they jumped out on top quickly but then Carolina turned around with nine unanswered points and never looked back. So the key to this game is making the stops, you are up, you have the ability to stop the runs, so do it. They have a few big guys on the inside so they can easily dominate the paint. They will also need to get Olivier Hanlan involved as much as they can. He is the go-to kid for this team and will be their best shot at staying in the game on the offensive end. Hanlan is the second leading scorer in the ACC right now, despite BC’s not so impressive record, so get this kid the ball and let him work his magic.

As for Florida State they need to do what they do best which is rebound the ball. Compared to the rest of the ACC, they are not doing that well, but Montay Brandon can get the job done. He has a clear advantage over Dennis Clifford, so Brandon will need to crash the boards. The only thing that Leonard Hamilton will need to figure out is how to get all of his players to play the game. In their last match up three of their guys on the floor struggled in the field and were held either scoreless or to minimum benefit to the team. Their freshman star,  Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who scored 35 points against Carolina needs to get his mojo back. If he can do that, FSU will come out on top.

Final Prediction

No doubt in my mind FSU will come out on top in this game. They have the momentum going in and nothing is going to stand in their way. They have won five of their last eight games in conference play and will be looking to improve to 7-7 with only three games remaining after tonight. The key to winning the game will come down to defense. BC needs to be able to make stops while FSU needs to dominate the boards.

#4 Duke vs. #15 North Carolina

I saved the best for last… the battle on Tobacco Road. If I did not have to be to work by 2 a.m. in the morning you better believe my sports-obsessed self would be glued to the television screen. One of the best rivalries in all of sports, this is better than the Yankees and the Red Sox. There is nothing like being separated by eight miles and having two distinct shades of blue. Do you know which blue you are going to bleed? I know which one I am but I won’t tell you- just follow me on Twitter to figure it out.

First let me start by saying that legendary sportscaster Dick Vitale will not be calling this game. Can we just for one minutes try and think what this game will be like without him on the mike? The man has been calling this game since 1979 and now the “diaper dandy” will be watching from home. Disappointing to say the least but Jay Bilas and Dan Shumlan will do a decent job.

Here are Duke’s Keys to the Game:

– Jahlil Okafor: this kid has been on fire since he first pulled on that uniform. He is a no-nonsense player and does what he does best, get down in the post and put the ball in the hoop. He needs as many touches as possible. UNC has been struggling to defend on the interior so Okafor has to recognize early, then take advantage of the weakness and slam it home.

– Defense: While Okafor is the only big guy on the interior, the Blue Devils have managed to hold their opponents to shooting just 46% from the field. Coach K plays a tough man-to-man defensive style but will occasionally throw in the zone for something different. I do not recommend the zone in this game but I will let Coach K make the call.

UNC’s Keys to the Game:

– Playing Down the Stretch: this is where UNC shines as they are definitely a second half team. They have been in this position enough times to know not to rush the shots, play your game and keep your composure.

-Kennedy Meeks: Their big man on the inside will definitely be a key part in the success of the Heels. Despite not having the height he will be able to compete against Okafor. He has the size to put a body on him and force Okafor to move his feet in many different directions. He will be able to silence the Duke all-star for stretches of the game, which could wreak havoc for Duke.

Final Prediction

I am giving the edge to Duke in this one. I have a lot of reasons but I think at this point in the season Duke is just the stronger team. They have a lot of momentum going into tonight’s game and will be looking to pressure UVA who currently holds the number one spot in the conference. With Okafor playing like he is and the guards Cook and Jones being the commander-in-chiefs on the court, there is no way they will not win. The game will be close, I have no doubt about that, but when it comes down to it Duke will prevail at Cameron. I mean honestly they thrive in the comfort of their own home and those Crazies will make sure the Heels don’t play their game.

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