There is plenty of college basketball on the docket around the ACC this evening, as teams across the conference continue to inch closer to finally playing against one another as they finish competing against their non-conference foes. With six games in action tonight, including #13 Miami, there will be numerous storylines to watch. Let’s take a look at each individual match-up.
Liberty (3-11) Vs. Notre Dame (8-3), 5:00 PM on ESPNU
- Notre Dame is not ranked too highly statistically in many categories on the offensive or defensive ends of the floor. However, the Irish have done a great job at taking care of the basketball, as they average only 9.8 turnovers per game as a team, which is tied for fifth in the country.
- Notre Dame is ranked 70th in college basketball in scoring offense, as they average 79.6 points per game. Liberty, on the other hand, has struggled to put the ball in the basket this season, as they are only averaging 62.9 points per game, which ranks 337th in the country.
The Irish don’t make a ton of mistakes on the offensive end of the floor, as they rarely allow the opposition to get free points off of turnovers. Additionally, the Notre Dame offense can spread you out and score both inside and out. Unless Liberty can find a way to force the Irish into some mistakes, I don’t see them making this one competitive.
Notre Dame 84 Liberty 62
Duquesne (10-2) Vs. Georgia Tech, 7:00 PM ET on ESPN3.com
- Georgia Tech has been strong on the glass this season, ranking 37th in the country in rebounding at 41.7 per game as a team.
- As impressive as Georgia Tech has been on the glass, Duquesne has been almost equally as good, averaging 40.4 rebounds per game, which is tied for 56th in college basketball.
Throughout the non-conference schedule so far, Duquesne has established themselves as one of the more impressive squads in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Dukes are an extremely deep roster, with 11 players averaging 7.0 minutes per game or more, and seven of those players averaging at least 6.3 points per game. Senior guards Derrick Colter and Micah Mason will be two players that are capable of giving the Yellow Jackets fits. The two have combined for 34.6 points and 8.7 assists per game thus far this season.
Additionally, Georgia Tech’s defense has struggled to get going throughout their non-conference slate, as they have given up an average of 68.8 points per game, which is good for 128th in the country. Ultimately, I do not think that their defense will be able to stymie the balanced offensive attack of Duquesne, which is averaging nearly 83 points per game to date. I like the Dukes to go into Atlanta and pull off an unlikely upset this evening.
Duquesne 77 Georgia Tech 72
Wake Forest (8-3) Vs. LSU (7-4), 7:00 PM ET on ESPNU
- What can’t LSU wing Ben Simmons do? The sure-fire number one overall prospect in next June’s NBA Draft has been fantastic in his freshman season at LSU. Simmons is averaging a robust 19.1 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game on 56% shooting from the floor.
- Wake Forest has scurried out to an 8-3 mark thanks to stellar play from senior forward Devin Thomas. Thomas is averaging 16.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game this season.
Without question, LSU’s Ben Simmons will be the best player on the court this evening. However, the better team top-to-bottom throughout this season so far has been Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons already own wins against #13 Indiana, Arkansas, and a UCLA team that has upset former top-ranked Kentucky. They will need to strap it up defensively moving forward, as they have struggled at times allowing 78.7 points per game, which is tied for 307th in the country. This will be more key come conference play, as LSU does not have a real threat offensively outside of Ben Simmons. As long as he is somewhat contained, Wake Forest should win this game tonight.
Wake Forest 75 LSU 66
Florida State (9-2) Vs. Florida (8-3), 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2
- Florida State has progressed this season into a more consistent offensive team than they were a year ago, averaging 82.9 points per game which is ranked 35th nationally. A big reason why they have had so much better success this season has been due to the freshman duo of guards Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon. Beasley leads the team in scoring currently at 17.3 points per game, while Bacon is not far behind at 17.2 per contest.
- Florida senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith, formerly of the ACC’s Virginia Tech Hokies, has gotten off to a fantastic start for the Gators this season, as he has averaged 14.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
This game is quite simple to predict, mostly because one team has been much more consistent on defense than the other. We know by now that both teams can score with one another. However, the way that the Gators play defense cannot be underestimated this evening. They have only given up around 61 points per game this season, which is ranked 17th in the country. Florida State may have a slightly better offense statistically, but their defense has not been nearly as good, as they have given up around 70 points per game, which is 150th in the country. This game will be very close, but Florida is at home, and has a roster laden with veterans who should be able to get the job done in the annual rivalry affair.
Florida 75 Florida State 71
Northeastern (8-4) Vs. NC State (9-3), 7:00 PM ET on ESPN3.com
- Northeastern is 8-4, but does hold one of the best non-conference wins in all of college basketball this season, as they upset then-ranked #15 Miami on November 27th, 78-77. Senior guard David Walker has been much of the reason why Northeastern has endured such early success in 2015. Walker is averaging 19.9 points on 48% shooting from the floor.
- NC State has been able to rebound the ball with great success this season, as they rank 11th in college basketball while averaging 43.1 boards per game as a team.
This game could be close because of Northeastern’s proven ability to grind games out against tough competition. However, the issue with the Huskies in this match-up is that they have been unable to rebound at the same level that NC State has throughout the non-conference schedule. Northeastern is 209th in the country at a mere 36.4 rebounds per game, so narrowing the deficit on the boards against the aforementioned terrific rebounding NC State bunch will be paramount to keeping this game close. As this game wears on though, I expect the rebounding gap to be too much to overcome, especially if it means more possessions for dynamic Wolfpack guard, Cat Barber, who is averaging 22.6 points per game.
NC State 79 Northeastern 67
Princeton (7-3) Vs. #13 Miami (FL) (10-1), 7:00 PM ET on ESPN3.com
- Despite one slip-up against Northeastern in late November, Miami has been extremely efficient on both ends of the floor en route to their 10-1 start and top 15 national ranking. The Hurricanes have averaged 86.1 points per game, while only allowing an average of 66.6 points per game on defense through the first 11 games.
- According to ESPN, Princeton is averaging 76.6 points per game, which is their highest mark through 10 games on that end of the floor since the 1971-1972 season. The Tigers have lost 23 of their last 24 games against top 25 opponents.
The Princeton defense is allowing nearly 70 points per game this season, which is 129th in the country entering play. This is not particularly encouraging news when considering the offensive attack of Miami. Princeton is talented enough to hang around for a while and not get completely embarrassed on the road, but the Hurricanes should be able to assert themselves in the second half behind guards Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez to pull away late and win handily.
Miami (FL) 80 Princeton 64