ACC Running Diary: Your Six Saturday Games Through The Lens Of Our Experts

We’ve got you covered today on, as six conference basketball games highlight the Saturday hoops schedule. Beginning at noon, we’ll take you through an intriguing match-up between Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and also our first ranked conference game of the day, as #15 North Carolina hosts Georgia Tech. Feel free to join us and put your comments on the games below! We’d love to hear from you.


For Tech fans, it’s a relief to finally see Justin Bibbs looking like his usual self post-concussion. Prior to his first made shot tonight, Bibbs was 6 for his last 30 and really struggling overall. The bad news? He and Adam Smith combined to score 20 of the Hokies’ 25 points in the first half. It’s imperative that someone else score some buckets if there’s any hope for a comeback.

Mark Gottfried is not impressing me at all. His team needs to attack, attack, attack and they’re settling for outside shots. That’s great when they’re going in, but they’ve cooled off and the gap has closed (19-6 Tech run as I type). Why State isn’t using its massive size advantage to attack down low is beyond me. They could easily get Tech in quick foul trouble, but they continue to hang back.

Justin Cates

6:32 PM:

No Okafor, no problem for Duke. Justise Winslow had a day for the Blue Devils, scoring 20 points (17 in the first half) and 13 rebounds, while Quinn Cook dropped 28 points. If Duke’s perimeter players shoot like they did today in the NCAA Tournament, watch out. I hear you, Mercer fans, “Duke always chokes in March to a team they should beat!” I can’t see it this year, not with the balance they have down low and on the perimeter.

Notre Dame was able to cruise in the second half behind a huge day off the bench by Massachusetts native Bonzie Colson, who scored 16 points and 6 assists to help the Irish cruise to an 87-70 victory. Three point shooting continues to pace the Irish, who shot 7-13 from beyond the arc on the afternoon.

Some early observations from Virginia Tech and North Carolina State:

  • Tech continues to live and die by the three.
  • NC State will continue to try to impose their will by getting in the point and kicking it out to their three point shooters.
  • Unless Tech can find a way to get into the paint, the Wolfpack will wear down the Hokies and coast in the second half.

Mike McDaniel

5:22 PM:

Miami’s Tonye Jekiri missing that early stretch of the 2nd half turned out to be huge, as he almost matched Montrezl Harrell today, notching his own double-double. That game was won at the line, as Louisville had 12 extra attempts, made 7, and won by just 2. Louisville has the athleticism to match the early 1990s UNLV Running Rebels. If you were to use Harrell as your LJ, your Blackshear as an Augmon, and your backcourt of Rozier and Jones could match Greg Anthony and Anderson Hunt quite nicely, but they don’t play well as a unit. They are relying on pure athleticism at this point. But if they were deployed properly, they could be devastating. Those teams didn’t play much of a bench in Vegas either, and this team is clearly lacking in depth. At least depth Pitino trusts. Just 29 bench minutes at home against Miami is a head-scratcher.

It was funny the little tirade that Roy threw today about the ho-hum nature of the crowd during the UNC four corners tribute you embedded below. When the word dadgum gets thrown around, you know you’ve offended the very nature of the man.

Who is Benzie Colson? His vitals indicate he’s a New Bedford, Mass native who averages 10.8 mpg. He is the singular reason that Notre Dame is winning by seven against BC, with his 12 off the pine.

Duke handling Clemson at home, sans Jahlil Okafor. Justise Winslow is all over the place thus far as Duke is on pace to match their usual scoring pace (42 at the half). The big man’s ankle was a game-time decision, primarily made because Duke can outpace Clemson at home by 15 at the half without him.

The irrational confidence meter is spinning out of control as both teams are 3-of-17 from deep. Clemson’s green light is a bit more perplexing as they should be trying to slow the game down by tossing it into Landry Nnoko since Okafor has been replaced by Plumlee VII. Clemson basketball continues to befuddle me, and I’ve been watching it 30 years. You telling me a team with Elden Campbell and Dale Davis and Grayson Marshall shouldn’t win the ACC? Yes, I still live in 1989 sometimes.

Chuck Workman

4:34 PM:

That wasn’t a particularly well-played game, but it sure was tight down the stretch. I mentioned in my weekend preview that Angel Rodriguez needed to step up his play for Miami and return to being a reliable scoring option. He went the opposite direction finishing 1-of-12 from the field with just five points.

Montrezl Harrell was pretty terrific aside from this incredibly dumb play which earned him a flagrant 1 foul.

Clemson is capable of beating Duke without Jahlil Okafor, but they’re turning it over too often early. They already have five TOs not quite a quarter of the way through the game and they seem to be rushing so far. The Tigers need to stick to their game and use ball-control to keep the pace to their liking instead of playing into Duke’s hands by trying to race up and down the court.

I fully expect Olivier Hanlan to drop 30 points on Notre Dame this afternoon and the Irish will still come away with a victory. Should be a close one though.

Justin Cates

4:14 PM:

Miami loses a gigantic opportunity to add a quality win to their NCAA Tournament resume. It’ll be tough for the Hurricanes the rest of the way, as they will likely be on the bubble until Selection Sunday now. Montrezl Harrell had a monster day with 21 points and 14 rebounds to help overcome a dud of a performance from leading scorer Terry Rozier, who went 3-15 from the floor to finish with 6 points. It didn’t end up mattering though, as the Cardinals’ stout defense down the stretch helped to hold off the Hurricanes 55-53.

Clemson needs this game against #4 Duke more than anything to get themselves back on the tournament bubble. After falling to Georgia Tech on Monday night, the Tigers would like nothing more than to steal this one at Cameron Indoor, where Duke will try to avoid a hangover after a huge overtime win against the #15 Tar Heels on Wednesday night.

Also, Notre Dame will try to avoid an upset in Chesnut Hill as they take on Boston College. The fans at BC got creative for this one…

Mike McDaniel

3:32 PM:

Louisville was finally able to grab the lead by going on a 19-6 run to start the second half against the Hurricanes, but believe me, if Terry Rozier doesn’t get going for the Cardinals, I have a hard time seeing them win this game. Rozier is 1-9 from the floor with 2 points, even though he averages 18 points per game on the season. I’m still waiting to see Sheldon McClellan really try to take over the game for Miami, because we all know he is capable of doing so, and he can score in bunches if given the opportunity. It will definitely be something to watch down the stretch.

Mike McDaniel

2:52 PM:

Louisville is trailing at home to Miami. This is a must-win game for the Cards. Their final two games are against the Irish and the Cavaliers. If they don’t want to play on ACC Wednesday as the 5 seed, they need to get in gear. They shoot it horribly from deep and it’s because they space the floor miserably, and because Chris Jones is too undisciplined and selfish with the rock to share the ball with Terry Rozier, let alone Wayne Blackshear as well. What results is that Blackshear is too often standing alone on the perimeter as the other four crash the paint, and he is the only one to leak back in transition. For such a talented player Blackshear is far too passive, and underutilized. This is Pitino’s cross to bear.

Montrezl Harrell wanders outside far too often, and can only move to his right. He will go pro this year, and though he is physcially ready for 82 games, his skills remain limited. And whoever has the number 7 pick is going to have to cross their fingers they don’t have a Chris Wilcox or Tyrus Thomas on their hands. In a perfect world he’s Ben Wallace with an offensive game in three years. But Pitino is doing very little coaching up in order to advance that cause. He seems constantly at odds with Jones, and Jones and Rozier often sacrifice sound positional D for playing the passing lanes. Against a less savvy ballhandler this might work, but Miami’s diminutive backcourt has the quicks to beat the Louisville backcourt pressure.

Miami fans need to burn BankUnited Center to the ground so that the Canes have to play on the road the rest of the year. Just a suggestion. (Note: Please don’t commit arson in the name of college basketball fandom, unless its couches)

Chuck Workman

2:24 PM:

North Carolina is scary. If they get lenient referees in the NCAAs this is the kind of rugged team that makes Final Fours. I think the only way to beat them is with similar size and by playing a stout zone defense. They, like much of the ACC don’t shoot it that well, ranking 240th in 3pt efficiency, and only making 4.5 a game. Ordinarily a deep run by a team requires balance, but this year it might be UNC and Kentucky at some point, battling over rebounds in the paint. At that point, it comes down to Marcus Paige vs the Harrison twins, as the big front lines of each school neutralize other. Kentucky won early in the year at home 84-70 over UNC, but come spring-time at a neutral site, you have to like UNC’s chance to compete. Their Strength of Schedule is number two in the country.

I still don’t understand the come from ahead loss at Duke, and losing at Pitt shows they can lose anywhere. But a win like today’s demonstrated exactly what kind of devastating balance the Tar Heels possess. If they can get a consistent effort from JP Tokoto to go with double-double machine Brice Johnson (7 of his last 11 games), North Carolina can play with the best in the land.

They are NCAA bound, but look to be in a terse battle for the ACC tourney’s double-bye as the #4 team with newcomer Louisville. Continued play like this, and the emotional side stories (deaths of Dean Smith and Stuart Scott) to the season may catapult the Tar Heels to greater heights than they originally anticipated.

In other news, Syracuse rallied and faded down the stretch against Pitt, and upstate New York grew even bleaker in February than usual.

Chuck Workman

1:30 PM:

I find the Pittsburgh story compelling. If they win today, they should be favorites in all four of their final games. Home vs BC, @Wake, home vs Miami, @FSU. With 21 wins going into the ACCs, but absolutely zero wins of note, along with a horrible home loss to VT, Jamie Dixon may be joining former Hokie coach in declaring the Selection Committee “certifiably insane.”

This matchup definitely reflects two teams headed in opposite directions. While Syracuse began quickly by feasting on a weak early conference schedule, Pittsburgh is set to finish strong. Syracuse could lose all their remaining games, and with little to play for but pride and each other, I have a hard time seeing them finish better than .500.

Right now Pitt is at an RPI of 53, but are expected to dip to 67. That seems counterintuitive. I think Pitt is in the last four in, particularly if they can make the ACC semis. Right now they look like the tallest midget in the room.

Today a job opened up in the ACC down in Atlanta I think. Though GT hadn’t lost a game to anyone besides UVA by more than 10, the fact that GT hasn’t won more than 16 games with Gregory and won’t this year marks the end of his tenure. In other news, the Yellow Jackets’ Tadric Jackson has now made 9-of-65 threes….and one in each of his last two games. Do I smell stew?

Chuck Workman

1:15 PM:

The ‘Heels are shooting 63% from the field and are overwhelming Georgia Tech right now by 25 points as the second half gets under way. The Yellow Jackets are having a ton of trouble defending Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson, who have 12 points each for the Tar Heels.

Pitt and Syracuse is the game that should now be watched with a keen eye, as Syracuse has only made 7 field goals in the game, and are shooting 27% from the floor. Pittsburgh’s Chris Jones has come out of nowhere in this one, hitting four threes off of the bench to lead the way with 14 points for the Panthers. If Syracuse wants to win this game, they need to try to get Rakeem Christmas more involved. He has 10 points and no fouls, so he should be on the floor for most of the second half. He’s the one guy who Pittsburgh will have a lot of trouble defending, because quite frankly they don’t have a big man that can stay in front of him.

Mike McDaniel

1:04 PM:

I thought I’d pop on and add this video of a very cool tribute to the late Dean Smith from his former assistant Roy Williams.

I’m getting the Cuse-Pitt game up here in snowy New York and frankly, it’s hard to watch. Whenever these teams get together they revert back to Big East style play and just start punching each other in the mouth — Tyler Roberson literally took an elbow to the face and had to leave the game in the first half. Trevor Cooney is mired in one of the worst shooting slumps I’ve seen and these team’s have combined for four or five airballs already. Not a well-played half.

Justin Cates

12:27 PM:

As we move both games to the under 12 media timeout, it appears as though Trevor Cooney is hurt for Syracuse. He hasn’t moved around well and has missed a couple of wide open shots, including a layup. The Orange are really struggling from the field as a team, as they are 3-16 shooting nearly midway through the first half.

Georgia Tech has pulled within six of the Tar Heels, as Marcus Georges-Hunt has scored 9 quick points, including hitting 2-2 from beyond the arc. UNC will have to tighten up the defense on him, because he can get going in a hurry.

Mike McDaniel

12:15 PM: 

Well that answers that question. Georgia Tech comes out flat, and the ‘Heels seem invigorated by the presence of their home crowd for the first time in 19 days. UNC’s Marcus Paige is taking Tech freshman Travis Jorgenson to school early on, as it’s an 11-3 lead for the Tar Heels as we enter the first media timeout in Chapel Hill.

Not much to report from Pitt and ‘Cuse yet, as both teams are trying to dig in and get established on offense. It’s been a slow start for both teams as it’s 6-3 Pitt at the first MTO of the ballgame.

Mike McDaniel

12:04 PM: 

The number one thing to watch early on is how Georgia Tech’s offense performs against UNC after effectively sinking the tournament hopes of Clemson on Monday night. Can they play the same way against the Tar Heels today? Additionally, how will UNC react after the tough overtime loss to Duke on Wednesday. We’ll find out as the ‘Heels return home for the first time in nearly three weeks.

Meanwhile, how motivated will Syracuse come out and play against Pitt? The fans will be in it, but will the dreariness of a postseason ban begin to wear on them as we come closer to March? We will see.

Mike McDaniel



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