The week of Thanksgiving is always a big one for college basketball fans, with tons of tournaments and quality match-ups. Five ACC teams are in action tonight:
Ohio (3-1) vs. Florida State (3-1), 4:00 PM ET (Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands)
- The Bobcats are much improved from last season’s ten-win campaign for the simple fact that two impact transfers became eligible this season. Sophomore point guard Jaaron Simmons (19 PPG, 8.3 APG, 44% 3PT) and junior forward Kenny Kaminski (13.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG) have done wonders for the team thus far. The Bobcats’ lone loss this season was by just 2 points to a very underrated Tulsa team.
- The Seminole’s premier 2015 recruiting class is already paying major dividends as freshman guards Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley are both averaging an astounding 19.5 PPG. Their emergence has taken pressure off sophomore guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who has become more of a distibutor (7.0 APG) as opposed to a lead scorer.
Despite all of FSU’s backcourt talent, they have shown that they can be vulnerable, as was evident in their 82-77 loss to Hofstra last week. Ohio has the ability to knock down the three-ball, but their lack of size and propensity to turn the ball over gives FSU the slight edge.
FSU 77 Ohio 71
Wake Forest (2-1) vs. #14 Indiana (3-0), 5:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (Maui Invitational)
- The Demon Deacons are coming off a disappointing 91-82 home loss to Richmond last Wednesday. Despite holding a significant edge in the rebounding category (39 to 23), Wake Forest gave up the game due to poor free throw shooting (58 percent) and too many turnovers (20).
- The Hoosiers are living up to their top-15 ranking thus far, as the team has combined to average 92 points per game and is shooting at a 43 percent clip from beyond the arc.
If Wake Forest gave up 91 points to a decent, yet unspectacular Richmond squad, think about how much of a challenge is in store for them against IU, a team loaded with pure scorers and NBA prospects. I could certainly see the Demon Deacons holding a sizable edge in rebounding, but don’t think they’ll be able to capitalize on it.
IU 96 Wake Forest 80
NC State (2-1) vs. Arizona State (2-1), 9:00 PM ET in ESPN3.com (Legends Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
- While the Wolfpack are down a man in guard Terry Henderson (ankle surgery), true freshman Maverick Rowan has made up for Henderson’s absence. The 6’7″ wing, who was ranked as the #30 recruit in ESPN’s 2015 recruiting rankings, is averaging 15 PPG. He needs to improve his shooting and rebounding, but Rowan has a bright future ahead of him.
- The Sun Devils have a new coach on the sidelines in Bobby Hurley, replacing Herb Sendek who was canned after nine seasons. Hurley’s debut didn’t go very swimmingly, as ASU lost to Sacramento St. They won their next two games, but the opponents (Belmont and Kennesaw St.) don’t give us any indication if this team is good or not. They do return four starters from last season, but the team’s lack of size and perimeter shooters could prove to be problematic.
NC State’s seven-man rotation is a bit of a concern, but they’re talent pretty easily exceeds what the Sun Devils are working with. Also, Mark Gottfried’s coaching experience is a plus compared to Hurley’s. Growing pains are a fact of life for a young coach taking over a team in year one at a new school.
NC State 75 ASU 70
Massachusetts (2-1) vs. Clemson (3-0), 9:30 PM ET in ESPN3.com (MGM Grand Main Event Tourney in Las Vegas)
- UMass is off to a solid start, due in large part to the contributions and leadership they’ve gotten from senior guards Jabarie Hinds (22.3 PPG, 6.0 APG) and Trey Davis (16.3 PPG). The Minuteman are described by opposing coaches as a team that “plays with a lot of energy.”
- Clemson is likewise off to a nice start to the season, thanks to a smothering defense and the emergence of junior forward Jaron Blossomgame (17.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG). College Basketball guru Ken Pomeroy has the Tigers ranked as the 41st best team in the nation.
Something’s got to give. UMass is averaging 81 points per game, while Clemson is allowing just 47 points per game. I’m tempted to lean towards the Tigers, based on their ability to rebound the ball, block shots and defend beyond the arc. Also, Clemson has played very smart with the basketball in their hands, not committing silly turnovers.
Clemson 77 UMass 70
Northwestern (3-0) vs. #9 North Carolina (3-1), 9:30 PM ET on ESPN2 (Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City)
- The Wildcats haven’t really been tested this season, but the guard-oriented team has a solid group of players led by sophomore point guard Bryant McIntosh. The New Castle, IN. native is scoring at an outrageous clip (21.3 PPG, 56% FG, 88% FT, 56% 3PT) while being a solid distributor (6.3 APG). His mid-range floater and overall quickness are a few of his trademarks.
- The Tar Heels were most recently upset by Northern Iowa 71-67, even though they led by 16 points early in the second half. It was a game where the Tar Heels sorely missed senior point guard Marcus Paige, as he provides a calming presence in games that go down to the wire. The loss magnifies the fact that Roy Williams’ coached teams tend to suffer early season setbacks to inferior opponents.
Even though Paige will be out, I find it hard to believe that a team as talented as UNC will lose two consecutive games in a similar fashion. Northwestern is a solid, balanced team, but their numbers are inflated due to their lack of competition. Also, UNC’s Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson will present matchup nightmares, giving Carolina the edge.
UNC 78 Northwestern 71