Around the ACC: Week 2

ACC action is now in full swing, and we just capped off the first full week of exciting games. We’ll be examining Duke’s victory over Clemson later today, but for now let’s look into the best games in the past week of ACC action.

January 10- Florida State @ Virginia Tech
Florida State 63, Virginia Tech 59
The Hokies dropped their second straight conference game with a 63-59 loss at home against Florida State. Bernard James led the way for the Seminoles with 18 points and 15 rebounds while Ian Miller added 15 points of his own off the bench. Erick Green carried the load for Virginia Tech, scoring a game-high 21 points but shooting just 5-of-14 from the floor. The Hokies were able to rally from a nine-point halftime deficit, but were ultimately doomed by their poor shooting. Virginia Tech shot just 30.5% from the field on the game. With the score at 61-59 with 17.8 seconds to play, the Hokies had a chance to tie the game, but Green was unable to convert. Two Florida State free throws sealed the victory, rebounding from a crushing 79-59 loss on the road to Clemson to open their ACC schedule.

January 11- Wake Forest @ Maryland
Maryland 70, Wake Forest 64
The Terrapins jumped out to an early lead, going into the half up 40-24, but Wake Forest was able to make a game of it in the second half. Guard Terrell Stoglin, who is the ACC’s leading scorer, came off the bench for just the second time this year and led Maryland with 20 points. However, these points came at a cost, as he shot just 6-of-18 from the field on the night. Travis McKie led the way for the Demon Deacons, tying a career-high 25 points. Wake Forest was able to pull within six at 60-54 with 5:35 remaining in the game, but could not get the deficit to any less than four in the game’s final moments as the Terps escaped with a win.

Mason Plumlee added this electrifying jam to this season's highlight reel against Virginia (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

January 12- Virginia @ Duke
Duke 61, Virginia 58
Despite a slow start and a late Virginia surge, Duke utilized a balanced scoring effort to knock of the 16th-ranked Cavaliers by a score of 61-58. Mason Plumlee was the Blue Devils’ top scorer with just 12 points, as Duke had four players in double figures on the game. After falling behind early, Duke was able to rally back and take a four-point lead into the half. Virginia controlled the pace throughout the game, employing its typical slow and steady half-court sets. The Blue Devils came out firing in the second half, expanding their lead to 53-42 with just under 10 minutes to play. Virginia hung around, as Mike Scott led all scorers with 23 points and added nine rebounds. Scott was significantly less effective in the second half than he was in the game’s opening minutes, scoring just seven points after halftime. Duke shot 52.2% from the floor on the game against the toughest defense in the ACC. Meanwhile they held Virginia to just 39.3% shooting from the field. Although Duke led throughout the second half, the Cavaliers were able to pull within three in the game’s waning moments and actually had multiple chances to tie the game, but could not convert on their long-range shots. The loss snapped Virginia’s previous 12-game winning streak.

January 12- Clemson @ Boston College
Boston College 59, Clemson 57
Many thought that Boston College wouldn’t win a game in ACC play this season. They proved the critics wrong in just their second ACC contest, winning a hard-fought home game 59-57 over Clemson. The Eagles were able to pull off the upset despite turning the ball over 15 times and getting out-rebounded by the Tigers 32-21 for the game. Dennis Clifford scored a game-high 15 points for Boston College. Guard Lonnie Jackson added 14 points of his own for the Eagles while Andre Young led Clemson with 12. The game was tight throughout, with both sides jockeying for position through the second half. Clifford broke the 56-56 tie when he nailed a jumper with 42 seconds remaining. Milton Jennings had a chance to tie the game from the free throw line for Clemson with just 8.7 seconds remaining, but he missed one of his two free throws and the Tigers did not earn another chance.

January 14- North Carolina @ Florida State
Florida State 90, North Carolina 57
We wrote a little bit on this game here immediately following its conclusion, but it was so nice we just had to write it twice. Florida State absolutely manhandled North Carolina in Tallahassee en route to a 90-57 win. The Seminoles had the upper hand from the opening tip as the Tar Heels shot just 37.3% for the game. Deividas Dulkys, who was averaging just 6.2 points per game for Florida State, ripped off a career-high 32 on 12-of-14 from the field, including 8-for-10 from beyond the arc. With the Seminoles holding a 30-point lead for most of the second half, this game was no contest to say the least.

January 14- Virginia Tech @ Boston College
Boston College 61, Virginia Tech 59
Did I mention that Boston College wasn’t supposed to win an ACC game this year? Well they didn’t win just one last week, they won two. The Eagles pulled off the second-biggest upset of the week in the conference, going on the road to Blacksburg, one of the toughest places to play in the ACC, and knocking off the Hokies by a score of 61-59. Virginia Tech dropped to 0-3 on the year in the ACC with the loss, and it looks as though their NCAA tournament chances are already beginning to fade. Dennis Clifford scored a game-high 15 points for the Eagles while Virginia Tech was without its leading scorer, Erick Green. Forward Victor Davila picked up some of the slack, leading the Hokies with 14 points. The game close throughout, but Boston College was able to open up a 57-47 lead with just 3:40 to play. Virginia Tech was never really able to cut back into the lead, drawing to within two on Jarell Eddie’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. With the Eagles second-straight conference victory they improved to 7-10 on the season.

[table id=30 /]

Duke and Virginia: What to Watch For

A few weeks ago we took a look at Virginia in our ACC preview, and now it’s time for the Cavaliers to come to Cameron to take on Duke. Although the Blue Devils have been the victors of their last 39 games at home, this is not an opponent to take lightly. Virginia comes into the game with a stellar 14-1 record, won the first conference game, and are ranked 16th in the AP top 25. This should be the toughest test Duke faces at home all season before the Tar Heels come to town on March 3rd. The Blue Devils have struggled in their past two outings, so let’s see what they’ll need to do to beat the Cavaliers tonight.

1. Push the tempo
Virginia is a team that likes to play slow, and when I say slow, I mean slow. They are at their best when they grind out defensive games (The Hoos are ranked ninth in the nation in defensive efficiency according to KenPom. Duke is ranked fiftieth). Duke needs to do everything it can to keep Virginia on its toes and uncomfortable as possible, and that means push the ball. Inserting Quinn Cook into the starting lineup recently should help that. Cook’s quickness and playmaking ability allows Duke to move at a faster pace on the floor than when Tyler Thornton or Seth Curry are running the point. When it all comes down to it, Duke scores 82.1 points per game and Virginia allows 50.5 points a game– something’s gotta give. Duke has only won one game this year when it scored fewer than 70 points, so they are going to need to keep the game moving and push Virginia to do the same.

Mike Scott will be a tough matchup for the Blue Devils (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

2. Lock down Mike Scott
In a year where Duke and North Carolina are considered to be the upper echelon teams in the ACC, it’s hard to think the Conference Player of the Year will be anyone but a Blue Devil or a Tar Heel. But right now it seems as though Virginia’s Mike Scott is one of the frontrunners for the award. Scott is the go-to-guy in Virginia’s offense, averaging 16.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game this season. Most recently he paced the Cavaliers with 23 points and eight rebounds in their 52-51 victory over Miami on January 7th. Scott is a dangerous scorer and will look to take advantage of the Blue Devils inside. Duke has struggled with interior defense at times this season. If they want to enhance their chances of winning tomorrow, they need to make someone other than Mike Scott beat them.

3. Jump out to an early lead
There’s no better way to make Virginia play a more up-tempo game than forcing them to play from behind early. This was one area where Duke succeeded against Georgia Tech (though they would later relinquish the large lead they had built up in the early stages of the game). The first eight minutes of the game will be crucial ones for the Blue Devils, and will set the tone for the remainder of the contest. If Duke can knock down its shots and jump out to an early lead, it will put Virginia on its toes, but if the Cavaliers stay with the Blue Devils early or jump out to an early lead of their own, we could be in store for a long night in Cameron.

The Plumlee brothers have excelled in the paint as of late (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

4. Control the paint
There’s no two ways about it- Virginia is not a very big team. They have a 7-foot center in their starting lineup, but they have just one other player on their roster that is larger than 6-foot-8. At 6-8 himself, Mike Scott can play like a big man, but the size differential remains nonetheless. Duke needs to take opportunities to feed the ball down low to Miles and Mason Plumlee, who have played fantastic basketball while Duke has struggled as of late. The unsurprising chemistry between the brothers has really started to kick in, and facing a smaller Virginia lineup, they need to assert themselves early and often.

5. Austin Rivers needs to step up
Big players step up in big games, and after struggling in his past three contests you feel like Rivers might be due to break out tonight. It would certainly be a coming-out party for him to explode in a game in front of the home fans against another top 25 team. You can talk about Austin Rivers’ ego all you want, but fact is he is one of the hardest working basketball players in the country, so you know that after three straight subpar performances he is chomping at the bit to show the country what he can really do. If Duke can get the Austin Rivers we saw in December, they will be tough to take down on their home floor.

 

 

Bold Prediction:
The best homecourt advantage in college basketball will rear its head tonight. Duke keeps Virginia at a distance for much of the game, with Mason Plumlee pacing the Devils between the blocks.

Duke 75, Virginia 65

Around the ACC: The Opening Weekend In Review

ACC conference play is finally underway, and every single game is crucial. Every ACC team was in action over the weekend for their first conference tilt, and the games did not disappoint. Let’s take a look back at the results from the first two days of the regular season contests:

Duke @ Georgia Tech
Duke 81, Georgia Tech 74
The Blue Devils hit the road for their first game of the ACC regular season, facing a well-coached Georgia Tech squad. Duke jumped out to an early 31-14 lead but the Yellow Jackets stormed back to within five at the half. The game was tight for the entirety of the second half as momentum shifted back and forth and Georgia Tech drew to within two points with less than four minutes to play. Glen Rice Jr. was huge down the stretch for the Yellow Jackets, converting shot after shot en route to his game-high 28 points. It was the Blue Devils, however, who were able to pull away in the end. Thanks to a stellar 14-of-14 from the line from Ryan Kelly, Duke was able to escape with a seven-point victory. (Note: Further analysis of this game can be found here and statistical analysis can be found here)

Boston College @ North Carolina
North Carolina 83, Boston College 60
The Tar Heels had little trouble handling the Eagles, who dropped to a miserable 5-10 on the year with the loss. North Carolina had their way with Boston College inside, dominating the Eagles on the offensive end and controlling the glass. The Tar Heels held a 41-27 rebounding advantage over Boston College. Harrison Barnes led the way for North Carolina with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting in only 27 minutes. Tyler Zeller added 20 points and eight rebounds and Kendall Marshall distributed the ball throughout the game to open teammates for a game-high 11 assists. North Carolina was also impressive on the defensive end, forcing Boston College to turn the ball over 19 times on the evening.

Miami @ Virginia
Virginia 52, Miami 51
The Cavaliers improved to 14-1 on the season with a tight one-point victory over the Hurricanes. As always, Virginia controlled the tempo and slowed the game down, turning it into a defensive struggle. The Cavaliers took a 26-17 lead into halftime, but Miami came storming back and took back the lead with 3:57 to play. Sammy Zeglinski hit a huge 3-pointer to put Virginia up by two and they would never relinquish their lead again. Mike Scott led Virginia with 23 points and eight rebounds while the Hurricanes relied on Kenny Kadji, who put up a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Miami had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds but Virginia’s defense held tight to make the final stop.

Florida State @ Clemson
Clemson 79, Florida State 59
There is no such thing as an easy road game in the ACC, so it’s not hard to believe that Clemson was able to protect its home floor against the Seminoles, but I don’t think anyone believed they could beat Florida State in emphatic fashion. The Tigers jumped out to an early lead, using a 20-0 run to catapult them to a 32-10 advantage. The Seminoles missed 10 straight shots from the field as Clemson built its early lead, and the rest was history. Clemson took a 14-point cushion into the half and coasted the rest of the way. Clemson’s Andre Young led all scorers with 18 points, thanks to 10-of-12 from the line, but the Tigers’ catalyst on the floor was Milton Jennings. Jennings shot 7-for-10 from the floor en route to 15 points and eight rebounds on the night. Florida State’s early-season struggles continue with yet another puzzling loss against a weaker opponent.

Virginia Tech @ Wake Forest
Wake Forest 58, Virginia Tech 55
Wake Forest provided the biggest surprise of ACC play’s opening night, knocking off Virginia Tech on its home floor. With the win, the Demon Deacons matched its ACC win-total from all of last season. This game was a back-and-forth struggle from the beginning. Wake Forest took 32-24 lead into the locker room at halftime, but Virginia Tech came storming back to take its first lead of the game at 53-52 with 1:18 to play. Wake Forest would respond, as C.J. Harris hit two 3-pointers in the game’s final minute to give Wake Forest a huge conference victory. Travis McKie paced the Demon Deacons with 12 points and 15 rebounds, while Virginia Tech was led by Erick Green’s 19 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. This loss could prove crucial to Virginia Tech come tournament time, as they are expected to be a bubble team yet again this season.

Maryland @ North Carolina State
North Carolina State 79, Maryland 74
In yet another tight contest, NC State knocked off Maryland by five points in Raleigh. The Wolfpack were led by C.J. Leslie’s 20 points and 11 rebounds. Leslie received ample support from guard Lorenzo Brown, who added 11 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists. NC State held a narrow three-point lead over Maryland with 8:09 to play, but an 11-0 run by the Wolfpack gave the Terrapins an uphill battle in the game’s final five minutes. Maryland was able to claw back into the contest thanks to the scoring ability of Terrell Stoglin, the leading scorer in the ACC. Stoglin’s 25 points led all scorers on the evening as the Terps were able to pull within four points with 26 seconds to play. It would be too little too late for Maryland, as NC State emerged triumphant.

[table id=29 /]

ACC play takes the day off on Monday and resumes tomorrow night when Miami travels to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina and Florida State and Virginia Tech both look to rebound from tough losses in Blacksburg.

The Truth About ACC Schedules

Here we sit, just days away from the beginning of the ACC’s regular season schedule. At Crazie-Talk we’ve done quite a bit of pondering about the ACC over the course of the last three weeks, going team by team around the conference and projecting the regular season standings come March. During this process something intriguing has jumped out at me, something I haven’t given much thought to until now- just because everyone is playing their ACC conference schedule doesn’t mean their schedules are all the same.

Allow me to elaborate. Unfortunately, not all ACC schedules are created equal. There once was a time when this was a case. The ACC expanded to nine teams in 1991. With the addition of Florid astate, the ACC was comprised of Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, and Wake Forest. These teams still played a 16 game regular season, a grueling round-robin that would pit every team against one another on two occasions, once at home and once on the road. These days are long gone. They ended in 2004, when Miami and Virginia Tech joined the conference from the Big East. The following year Boston College made the same jump.

There are currently 12 teams in the ACC, and the ACC conference schedule is still 16 games. Now I’m no math major, but there is no way to have 12 teams play a 16 game schedule where every team plays every other team in the conference the same amount of times. The way it is divided up, out of the 11 possible opponents in the conference (last time I checked a team cannot play itself), an ACC team will play five of them twice in a home and home format and six of them just once during the year (the ability to play a basketball game in two places at once has not been figured out yet, either). This will all change with the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse into the ACC in either 2013 or 2014, depending on the negotiation of their buyouts with the Big East. Following their entrance into the conference, the 14 teams in the ACC will all play 18 regular season games, further diluting the scheduling scenarios within the conference.

Some of these mascots will have a much harder time than others when conference schedules begin. (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Now if each team plays roughly half of its opponents just once and the other half twice, wouldn’t that make some teams’ schedules harder than others? The answer is yes, but it’s something that often gets overlooked when breaking down the conference. Using our ACC preview as a roadmap, we were able to break down every team in the conference’s schedule and figure out who has the toughest test this year, and we thought we’d share the results with you. By taking the rankings we assessed to the 12 ACC schools and giving additional weight to the schools a team plays twice, we were able to figure out the difficulty of each team’s schedule. For good measure, because a team cannot play itself, we weighed it against a team’s toughest possible schedule (lowly Boston College would theoretically be at a disadvantage because it cannot play itself twice like other schools can). Each team is linked to its respective preview, so feel free to take a look at those if you haven’t already (spoiler alert: we’ve already done 11 previews so by process of elimination and common sense, North Carolina, whose preview will be published tomorrow, is our projected #1 team). The teams are listed in reverse order, from least difficult schedule to most difficult schedule.

12. Georgia Tech
Projected ACC finish: 8th
Who they play once: Duke, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Who they play twice: Boston College, Clemson, Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest

11. Boston College
Projected ACC finish: 12th
Who they play once: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia
Who they play twice: Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

10. Wake Forest
Projected ACC finish: 10th
Who they play once: Florida State, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Who they play twice: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State

9. North Carolina State
Projected ACC finish: 6th
Who they play once: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Who they play twice: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Wake Forest

8. Clemson
Projected ACC finish: 10th
Who they play once: Boston College, Duke, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State
Who they play twice: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

7. Miami
Projected ACC finish: 9th
Who they play once: Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Boston College, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State

6. Virginia Tech
Projected ACC finish: 5th
Who they play once: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Virginia

5. Florida State
Projected ACC finish: 4th
Who they play once: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Clemson, Duke, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech

4. Duke
Projected ACC finish: 2nd
Who they play once: Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, Virginia
Who they play twice: Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

3. North Carolina
Projected ACC finish: 1st
Who they play once: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Duke, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina State, Virginia

2. Virginia
Projected ACC finish: 3rd
Who they play once: Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech

1. Maryland
Projected ACC finish: 7th
Who they play once: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Who they play twice: Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia

Disagree with the order? Don’t think it’s a big deal? Have a better idea for a way to set up conference schedules? Let us know. Stay Crazie, my friends.

2011-2012 ACC Preview: #3 Virginia

The 2011-2012 ACC season is about to begin. Over the next three weeks, Crazie Talk will preview each of the twelve ACC teams in order that we think they’ll finish this season – from the bottom up.

Let’s take a look at our projected 3rd-place finishers, the Virginia Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers are off to a hot start this year, but will their success carry into ACC season? (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

2011-2012 Record: 13-1

Key Wins:
November 29- Virginia 70, Michigan 58
December 18- Virginia 67, Oregon 54

Tough Losses:
November 18- TCU 57, Virginia 55

Starting Lineup:[table id=26 /]Last Year Against Duke:
January 15, 2011 at Duke- Duke 76, Virginia 60
February 16, 2011 in Charlottesville- Duke 56, Virginia 41

This Year Against Duke:
January 12, 2012 at Duke

The Good: The Cavaliers are the toughest defensive team in the ACC. Opponents are scoring just 50.3 points per game against them this season. They have allowed more than 58 points on just one occasion, and have held opponents to less than 50 points six times this year. Virginia is also one of the better free throw shooting teams in the conference, converting on 73.3% of its opportunities from the charity stripe. They are not afraid to grind out games and win ugly, but have not played many particularly close games this year. Virginia’s smallest margin of victory this season is six points, and the Cavaliers are winning by an average of 17.1 points per game.

The Bad: This team is not very tested, facing just one ranked opponent thus far. Although they are off to a 12-1 start, the Cavaliers’ record is a bit deceiving on the surface, considering some of their wins have come against teams like South Carolina State, Green Bay, Longwood, Seattle, and Maryland-Eastern Shore. This is also not a team built to play in a shootout. They convert efficiently from the inside, but are not an outside shooting team by any means- senior guard Sammy Zeglinski is the only threat on the entire roster to hit from deep. This could become an issue when playing against the top teams in the conference.

The Crazie: Virginia has one of the tougher ACC schedules. They only play Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Miami, four of the bottom five teams in our ACC preview, one time each. Meanwhile, they’re faced with two matchups against Maryland, Virginia Tech, Florida State, and North Carolina teams placed 7th, 5th, 4th, and 1st in our preview. This should provide for some difficult road tests for the Cavaliers while other teams will get the luxury of playing an extra game against conference bottom-feeders. Luckily for the Cavaliers, they have a fairly experienced team. Only one freshman plays in the top eight of Virginia’s rotation. This experience should mean plenty during ACC season but won’t mean much come tournament time. The Cavaliers haven’t made any sort of postseason appearance since 2007-2008.

Player We Love To Hate: Mike Scott. The Blue Devils did not see Scott in either matchup with Virginia last year as he battled injuries, but he has reasserted himself as one of the top big men in the ACC this season. Scott currently ranks fifth in the conference in scoring with 16.3 points per game and fourth in rebounding with 9.0 per game. He leads the conference in field goal shooting, shooting 62.4% from the floor. Scott is also no liability from the foul line, shooting an 80% clip on the season. Although he is only 6-foot-8, Scott plays a bigger game than his actual size, so he can cause trouble for opposing big men with his ability to get up and down the floor.

The Bottom Line: A team that plays defense this well shouldn’t have much trouble putting away most of the weaker competition in the ACC this year. They’re a threat to win just about any game, but could suffer from a fairly difficult conference schedule. Their toughness should prevail, and as long as they play their brand of basketball the Cavaliers should see a successful season. There’s very little doubt that this year’s Virginia team will be the first to receive a bid to the NCAA tournament since 2006-2007, and with the Cavs already breaking into the top-25 at this point in the year, there’s a good chance their seed won’t be too shabby either.

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Crazie-Talk’s 2011-2012 ACC Preview:

Boston College | Wake Forest | Clemson | Miami | Georgia Tech | Maryland

North Carolina State | Virginia Tech | Florida State | Virginia | Duke | North Carolina