It’s the regular season finale on Saturday across the ACC, with seven conference games highlighting the hoops action.
Miami (FL) (19-11, 9-8, RPI: 65) Vs. Virginia Tech (10-20, 2-15, RPI: 225), 12:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN3.com
It’s Senior Day in Blacksburg for Virginia Tech, who with their loss against Boston College on Monday night, secured their second straight twenty-loss campaign. The Hokies welcome Miami to the ‘Burg to square off with the Hurricanes for the first time this season, the Hokies have now played Miami at least twice in 11 of the last 15 years dating back the halcyon days of a 24 team Big East (or whatever it was); they’ve even played Miami three times twice, as Greensboro seeding cooperated and blessed us all with this must-see matchup. This will mark the 28th time they’ve met since Y2K. A Hokie fan can hope, one supposes, for a third meeting in the event the Hokies win a round or two in the ACCs, but those hopes appear bleak at the moment.
Speaking of hopes: Jim Larranaga’s club enters Saturday’s game with the Hokies looking to shore up their resume heading into the ACC Tournament next week. Although Miami is likely on the outside looking in on the bubble (currently situated in the first four out, that Eastern Kentucky loss at home by near 30 points is throwing the committee off their scent), a loss to Virginia Tech would without a doubt end any hopes they may have to playing in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large entry.
Sheldon McClellan is the player to watch for Miami, as he is averaging 15.1 points per game entering Saturday’s contest. He may have to take on a bit more of the scoring load in this game though, as backcourt mate Angel Rodriguez is doubtful for the contest with the Hokies with a badly sprained wrist. On Tech’s side, look for the offense to once again run through junior guard Adam Smith, who has been the Hokies’ most consistent offensive player all season, as he is averaging 14.1 points per game which leads the team in scoring. He will need to have a big game in order for Tech to pull off the upset.
I like Miami to win this one handily, as they have too much talent for the Hokies to overcome in Blacksburg. A dreary home environment without the students who are on break, won’t help the cause much either.
Miami (FL) 70 Virginia Tech 56
Syracuse (18-12, 9-8, RPI: 64) Vs. NC State (18-12, 9-8, RPI: 47), 12:00 PM ET Saturday, CBS
After Syracuse was nailed with NCAA sanctions on Friday afternoon, it will be interesting to see how they play in their season finale against NC State. The Wolfpack come in at 9-8 in the ACC, and unless they win two more games (maybe even three), they should not feel safe on Selection Sunday. The NC State SOS might be their saving grace, with the #2 stacked docket in the nation.
Realistically, the only way that NC State wins this game is if ace rim protector Beejay Anya stays out of foul trouble against All-ACC big Rakeem Christmas. He will be responsible for keeping tabs on Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas, who will be donning the Orange uniform for the last time on Saturday. If Anya can’t stay on the court, I think Syracuse finds a way to win this game. But with the deflating news hitting Syracuse hard yesterday, I’ll take the ‘Pack at home on Senior Day in Raleigh.
NC State 78 Syracuse 69
Pittsburgh (19-12, 8-9, RPI: 63) Vs. Florida State (15-15, 7-10, RPI: 119), 12:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN2
Good ole’ Pitt couldn’t handle their own hype late in the season. After a couple of big wins over #8 Notre Dame and #12 North Carolina landed the Panthers squarely on the bubble (second four out at their peak), they responded with losses to ACC bottom-feeder Wake Forest, as well as their chief competition for an at-large NCAA Tournament berth, Miami (FL).
Jamel Artis and Michael Young have been the one-two punch of late that coach Jamie Dixon was hoping for all season, but the team’s inability to consistently make the three-point shot has resulted in many close losses this season.
Florida State has continued their mediocre season, winning five out of seven in the month of February, before losing their last three games entering Saturday’s regular season finale against Pittsburgh. Xavier Rathan-Mayes has been the sole reason to tune in to Seminoles games this season, as he has posted respectable numbers of 14.3 points and 4.4 assists per game in his freshman campaign, and had an astounding 30 point effort the final five minutes in a last-gasp loss vs Miami. Leonard Hamilton’s club has some growing up to do entering next season, or he might be ready for a role on Axe Men (is that show even still on?)
I like Pitt to win this game because they are the better team, and also because they need this for positive momentum heading into the ACC tournament, where they will need to beat two of the top seeds in order to get back in the NCAA Tournament conversation. Don’t count out Jamie Dixon.
Pittsburgh 73 Florida State 64
Wake Forest (13-17, 5-12, RPI: 111) Vs. Boston College (11-18, 3-14, RPI: 160), 2:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN3.com
Two of the more irrelevant teams in the ACC face off in our 2:00 PM match-up, with Wake Forest heading to Chesnut Hill to take on Boston College. It has been a tough season for both clubs, offensively and defensively. The Eagles have the ACC leading scorer in guard Olivier Hanlan, commanding their offense at 19.4 points per game, but outside of Hanlan, BC only really gets consistent offensive production out of senior forward Aaron Brown, which has made it very tough for them to score this season.
Wake Forest has been competitive throughout most of the games they have played this season, but they are a work in progress under first year coach Danny Manning, who is attempting to rebuild the program from the ground up. Their leading scorer is Codi Miller-McIntyre aka Scantron Nightmare, who leads the team in points at 13.9 per game. He will try to take Wake into the ACC Tournament on a winning note with his play on Saturday afternoon. He is flanked by Devin Thomas, who ran somewhat hot and cold down the stretch after an eye-opening ACC debut vs Louisville. Wake would likely be two-three games better this year if not for poor FT shooting, and Thomas was a chief culprit. CMM wasn’t much better and those were the only two Deacs getting to the line. It’s tough to pay a ton of attention to this game due to the minor implications in the grand scheme of things, but I’ll take Wake Forest in a close game on the road.
Wake Forest 66 Boston College 64
Clemson (16-13, 8-9, RPI: 95) Vs. #12 Notre Dame (25-5, 13-4, RPI: 25), 4:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN3.com
How will the Tigers keep up with Notre Dame’s scoring attack on Saturday? The Tigers are ranked 298th in the country in scoring offense, and the Irish come into the regular season finale at the top of nearly every single offensive category nationally. ND’s Jerian Grant will do everything in his power to make sure the Irish don’t slip up heading into the ACCs next week, and this will be one of his last real opportunities to solidify his chances at ACC Player of the Year.
The Tigers rely heavily on forward Jaron Blossomgame, who averages 12.8 points per game to lead this offensively deprived ball club. Brad Brownell’s bunch will lean on stout defense to attempt to slow down ND’s shooters, but it is hard to see this bunch ultimately pulling off an upset on Senior Day in South Bend. Look for Jerian Grant to go out with a bang, as the Irish will win comfortably in the friendly confines of the Purcell Pavillion.
Notre Dame 84 Clemson 71
#2 Virginia (28-1, 16-1, RPI: 3) Vs. #16 Louisville (23-7, 11-6, RPI: 22), 6:30 PM ET Saturday, ESPN
We’d be remiss if we didn’t congratulate the Wahoos for locking up their 2nd consecutive ACC regular season title. Can they make it two straight ACC tourneys? If they did, would the Earth spin off of it’s axis? This game here is just for show, with neither team at full-strength, and both likely to still be licking their wounds come Round of 64.
Editor’s Note: It will be 64 by Thursday at high noon dadgummit, you whippersnappers get off my lawn with your 68 or 75 and a half or however many teams make it now!- CW
Virginia’s Justin Anderson, who has been injured for the better part of the last month with a broken hand, suffered a setback this week when developing appendicitis and receiving an appendectomy on Thursday to remedy the problem. Although Anderson was expected to return on Saturday to play against Louisville, he will miss the game due to the procedure, and is hoping to be back in time for the NCAA Tournament. He will be monitored closely by the ‘Hoos training staff, and if it comes to it, Coach Tony Bennett will likely hold him out of the first weekend in favor of extra rest.
Louisville seems like they are still reeling from the dismissal of point guard Chris Jones, as they have been inconsistent on offense and defense since his suspension became permanent. Louisville struggled to get anything going against Notre Dame earlier this week, with their defensive weaknesses on the perimeter becoming more prominent as that contest wore on. They don’t play their bench! They’ve played their bench less than 40 minutes (one position’s full complement of minutes) in a number of games I’ve watched, and their one-time trio of Harrell, Terry Rozier, and the departed Jones, and hot/cold swingman Wayne Blackshear combined to average 146 of 200 minutes in ACC play. Leaving just 54 minutes on the table, 40 of which were usually eaten by the impotent big man rotation, and just 15 minutes to give youngsters like Anton Gill, Shaqquan Aaron, and Quentin Snider in a futile attempt to find perimeter bench scoring.
At that pace, one might argue that U of L should just bow out of the ACC ASAP and rest up their big three for the NCAA tournament rigors that’ll involve playing games within 48 hours of each other.
On Saturday, look for Virginia’s suffocating scoring defense to expose the offensively deprived Cardinals, leading to a comfortable win for the ‘Hoos on the road leading into the conference tournament next week.
Virginia 64 Louisville 52
#3 Duke (27-3, 14-3, RPI: 6) Vs. #19 North Carolina (21-9, 11-6, RPI: 12), 9:00 PM ET Saturday, ESPN
The highlight of the day in the ACC is one of college basketball’s all-time greatest rivalries taking place in Chapel Hill between Duke and North Carolina. If this game is anything like the February 18th overtime thriller won by Duke, then we will all be in for a treat in the second go around on Saturday night. Ultimately, all this game will impact is NCAA seeding, not a league championship as has been the case so many times before. Entertainment value and intensity will be high, and it is the marquee game of the day, featuring the two ACC teams positioned best to make a run at the crown this April. In other words, typical Duke/UNC.
If Duke is upset by UNC in this game, the Blue Devils will inevitably be knocked off of their projected #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would only be regained if they found a way to win the ACC Championship next weekend. North Carolina is most likely sitting on a four-seed at this point, and a win would propel them into a #3 seed, while a loss will likely not damage their seeding.
How will Carolina counter Jahlil Okafor? They did a good job of rolling with the punches in the first meeting, which was a dogfight for the full 45 minute contest. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson give the ‘Heels a big body to lean him up against all night long. If Marcus Paige can have an impactful game, I think the Tar Heels have a great shot to win this game on their home floor. However, I believe that Duke’s Justise Winslow is the X-Factor, and could decide this game on his own, swinging a close contest in favor of the Blue Devils. Quin Cook has been unstoppable as of late, hitting every big momentum shot Coach K serves up. The Tar Heel backcourt is where the test will come on Saturday night.
Duke 86 North Carolina 83