Three ACC teams are in action tonight as Georgia Tech is on their home court to face Tennessee, Miami hosts Louisiana-Lafayette and #6 Virginia travels on the road to play George Washington.
Can all three ACC squads get off to 2-0 starts?
Tennessee (1-0, ranked #68 by ESPN) at Georgia Tech (1-0, ranked #92 by ESPN), 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU
- If you haven’t paid close attention to this past offseason’s coaching carousal, the Volunteers have a new leader in Rick Barnes. The longtime Texas Longhorns head coach (reached 16 NCAA Tournaments in 17 years in Austin) replaced Donnie Tyndall, who was fired after one season because of unethical conduct dating back to his time at Southern Miss. The Volunteers have had four coaches in six years. The Volunteers squeaked by UNC-Asheville 82-78 in their first game last Friday.
- The Yellow Jackets are coming off a dominated 116-81 win over Cornell. They showed off their depth and scoring acumen as seven players finished in double figures, including former Virginia Tech standout Adam Smith (13 points). However, the scoring output may be a bit misleading as they beat a team ranked #315 out of 351 teams, according to ESPN.
While Barnes is a much bigger name in the coaching realm than Georgia Tech’s Brian Gregory, the Yellow Jackets’ coach has the benefit of an experienced roster loaded with juniors, seniors and graduate transfers. Facing a team that has undergone coaching turnover and is still trying to find it’s identity favors the home team.
Georgia Tech 74 Tennessee 68
Louisiana-Lafayette (1-0, ranked #113 by ESPN) at Miami (1-0, ranked #47 by ESPN), 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN3.com
- While UL-Lafayette is an underdog against the Hurricanes, the Ragin’ Cajuns might have the best NBA prospect on the floor in 6-11 C Shawn Long. The big man was named Sun Belt Preseason Player of the year and is viewed as a potential first-round 2016 NBA Draft pick by several media scouts. Despite being a center, the senior Long stands out for his ability to knock down three-pointers and break down opponents with his dribble.
- While Miami took down UT Rio Grande Valley 86-59 in their home opener, it took the ‘Canes a little while to get going before they pulled away in the second half. One reason for the sluggish start was the poor shooting output of lead guard Angel Rodriguez, who finished with a dreadful 5 points (2-10 from the field, 1-7 3PT attempts).
We’ve already witnessed several upsets in the opening weekend of the college basketball season. I’m going to call for another one here. The Ragin’ Cajuns are the favorite to win the Sun Belt, thanks to the fact they return the conference’s best player. Not only that, but they also return seven of their top eight scorers from a team that went 22-14. Combine that with a notoriously inconsistent Miami team and you have the recipe for an upset. It’s also not a good sign that Rodriguez continues to hurt his team with his shooting ability, or lack thereof.
UL-Lafayette 78 Miami 72
#6 Virginia Cavaliers (1-0) at George Washington Colonials (1-0, ranked #72 by ESPN), 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- Not much can be gleaned that we already know about the Cavaliers after they decimated a bad Morgan State (#341 by ESPN) team by 38 points last week. Cavs fans should be confident in the fact that they don’t always need Malcolm Brogdon (5 points) and London Perrantes (6 points) to have huge games, as guards Darius Thompson and Devon Hall picked up the slack with with 12 and 13 points, respectively.
- The Colonials are big and experienced, with many contributors back from a team that went 22-13 and reached the second round of the NIT. Senior power forward Kevin Larsen is a load to keep off the glass with his 6′ 10″, 260 lb. frame. He scored a career-high 24 points and added 11 boards in GW’s 85-76 win over Lafayette College.
Both of these teams like to play at a slow, methodical pace. However, George Washington lacks the great equalizer in college basketball (three-point shooting ability) to make up for the talent discrepancy they’ll face against UVA. I’d expect the Cavs to use their suffocating defense and athletic wing players to make a run down the stretch.
#6 Virginia 75 George Washington 63