Around the ACC: Down the Stretch They Come

Pittsburgh mercifully has just one game remaining in its 2017-18 slog, a road tilt against Notre Dame. If the Irish (17-12, 7-9) win on Wednesday, it will leave Pitt with the unfortunate distinction of being just the seventh team in ACC history to go winless for an entire season in conference play.

Pittsburgh has managed just an 8-22 overall record, and the 0-17 mark in ACC play has come in consecutive games. The Panthers haven’t been on the right side of the scoreboard since a 63-59 squeaker against Towson back on December 23.

Pitt is currently tied for 348th in the nation in points per game (62.2), 338th in rebounds (31.3), and 232nd in assists (12.3). Out of the the 17 ACC losses, only three have come by single-digit margins.

If you wish to be optimistic, there are some things you can point to. The Panthers have been playing a starting lineup that consists entirely of freshmen for much of the season. The roster includes 11-newcomers and had just three players with any Division I experience entering the season.

There’s also the situation at Boston College to consider.

In 2015-16 the Eagles “achieved” the same 0-18 record in the ACC, but coach Jim Christian was given time for a full rebuild. After a nine-win season the following year, The Eagles (16-13, 6-10) have put together a nice roster and a winning record that includes an early-season upset of Duke.

This season was always expected to be a rough ride after the massive roster turnover that accompanied Jamie Dixon leaving and Kevin Stallings coming on board. The pressure for athletic director Heather Lyke to make a change is high, but given the $10 million buyout Stallings would be owed if fired following this season and the youth of the roster, it’s a reasonably safe bet to assume he’ll get another crack at it.

Duke Once Again Saves Best For Last

It seems that almost every season in the middle of the year, Duke basketball has questions. They always have an incredibly talented roster, but the constant run of one-and-done players has left the team chemistry percolating at different boiling points. This year’s squad was no different, but predictably they have come together despite a major injury to reveal a dominant finished product.

Freshman Marvin Bagley III has missed four recent games due to what the team called a “mild right knee sprain.” In his absence the No. 5 Blue Devils (24-5, 12-4) clamped down on defense and got the best play of the season from senior Grayson Allen.

Bagley returned last weekend against Syracuse and posted 19 points and seven rebounds. The defensive intensity continued with Duke holding Syracuse (18-11, 7-9) to just 44 points. It marked the first time in school history that the Blue Devils have won while holding four consecutive ACC opponents to 60 points or fewer in a game.

Duke looks to keep things rolling against Virginia Tech, this time in Blacksburg. The Hokies (20-9, 9-7) had an up-and-down week, first knocking off No. 15 Clemson then losing a winnable game Saturday against Louisville. Tech is among the many ACC squads fighting to ensure not only an NCAA Tournament berth, but trying to get decent seeding when they get there. A home date with Duke on national television is a fantastic opportunity for Buzz Williams’ team.

NC State Keeps Winning

The Wolfpack have put together a remarkable turnaround in the latter portions of the conference slate. State (20-9, 10-6) has won four straight culminating in a 92-72 thumping of No. 25 Florida State Sunday night in Tallahassee.

Incredibly, the Wolfpack held Florida State to 0-of-15 shooting from three-point range. It marks the best perimeter defense from State all season, and is indicative of the more active overall team defense the team has played lately.

Not only does State now appear headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2014-15 season, but they could receive a double bye in the ACC Tournament by finishing in fourth place in the regular season standings.

Currently, they sit with the same 10-6 conference record as Clemson and with games remaining against Georgia Tech and Louisville, the ‘Pack stands a strong chance to make it happen.
Follow me on Twitter @BestCates and follow @InsideTheACC for more Atlantic Coast Conference coverage.

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