Four ACC teams are in action tonight, including the top-ranked team in the nation, North Carolina. Here’s a preview of the match-ups:
Wofford (0-1) vs. #1 North Carolina (2-0), 7:00 PM ET on ESPN3.com
- The Wofford Terriers had a magical season last year, finishing 28-7 and reaching the second round of the NCAA Tourney. But, this year’s team figures to be in for a rebuilding season, as team leaders Karl Cochran (14.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG) and Lee Skinner (9.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG) both graduated. It should also be noted the Terriers are 0-22 against Top 25 opponents since joining the DI ranks in 1995.
- Despite being without injured point guard Marcus Paige, the Tar Heels have rolled through their first two opponents (Temple and Fairfield) with ease. Sophomore point guard Joel Berry has stepped up admirably for Paige, averaging 14.5 PPG, 4 RPG and 4 APG.
The Tar Heels should be able to beat the Terriers by a large margin, similar to their first two wins this season. Expect UNC to pound the rock inside to bigs Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson, as Wofford’s tallest starter stands at 6′ 7″. With their lack of size, the Terriers might show some zone looks and force the Tar Heels to shoot over the top of the defense.
UNC 87 Wofford 67
Richmond (1-1) vs. Wake Forest (2-0), 7:00 PM ET on ESPN3.com
- Richmond figures to be one of the better mid-major teams around. Coming into the season, ESPN ranked them as the 58th best team in the nation, which was six spots higher than Wake Forest (#64). The Spiders return all four starters and several contributors from a team that reached the NIT quarterfinals last season.
- Wake Forest is coming off a commedable 90-82 road win over Bucknell, in which the Demon Deacons erased a 13-point deficit in the second half to come out on top. The victory serves as a positive moment for a program that hasn’t had many in the last five years.
Richmond has the benefit of more depth, more impact upperclassmen, more pure scorers and a more experienced head coach on the sideline. I’d expect the Spiders to hit a good percentage of their three-pointers to counteract the size advantage of Wake Forest. With short rest and a short bench, the Demon Deacons could face fatigue issues late in the game.
Richmond 80 Wake Forest 75
IUPUI (1-1) vs. NC State (1-1), 7:00 PM ET on ESPN3.com
- Since former head coach Ron Hunter departed to take the coaching vacancy at Georgia State after the 2011 season, the IUPUI Jaguars have struggled to find success. Head Coach Jason Gardner, a ormer Arizona great, is in his second year at the helm. Nearly half the roster consists of transfers from other small DI programs.
- The NC St. Wolfpack started off the season with a head-scratching 17-point home loss to William & Mary. Making matters worse was junior guard Terry Henderson suffering an ankle injury, sidelining him for 6-8 weeks. Henderson, a WVU transfer, was expected to be one of the team’s top scorers known for his lethal 3PT shooting and accuracy on free throws.
Despite Henderson’s absence, the Wolfpack shouldn’t have much trouble with IUPUI (referred to as Ooey-Pooey if you live in Indiana). If they do, it could be a LONG season for Mark Gottfried’s bunch. A mid-level ACC team be able to take care of a Jaguars squad that is thin in the front-court, lacks quality shooters and is extremely foul-prone.
NC St. 77 IUPUI 67
Jacksonville State (2-1) vs. Virginia Tech (0-1), 7:00 PM ET on ESPN3.com
- JSU returns one starter (JaQuail Townser) from a team that wasn’t very good last season, finishing 12-19. A significant portion of the roster is made up of junior college transfers. ESPN ranks them #326 out of 351 DI programs.
- Virginia Tech is coming off an unfortunate 85-82 season-opening loss to Alabama State, a team they probably should have beaten by double digits. In fact, they were up by as much as 11 points late in the first half.
- One bright spot for the Hokies was the play of forward Zach LeDay, who finished with 26 points and 15 boards. However, it wasn’t enough to make up for team’s lack of intensity on the defensive end.
Virginia Tech should win this game pretty handily, but a lot of people said that about the Hokies’ first opponent of the season. The Hokies absolutely need better play from both Seth Allen and Justin Bibbs. Both were projected to be team leaders, yet they looked aloof at times in trying to score and in giving up too many easy baskets on defense. Head Coach Buzz Williams said he was disappointed in their play, going as far as questioning their effort as well. That’s troubling. I’ll be curious to see if LeDay can build off his season-opening performance as he was widely viewed as a role player coming into the season, and never really showed much when he was at South Florida. After coach Williams put the team through some intense practices, I’d expect the Hokies to be more aggressive and be more efficient from the free throw line.
Virginia Tech 80 Jacksonville St. 68