Ball Reversal: ACC/Big Ten ChallengePosted by zhayes9 on November 30th, 2010
Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.
Monday night proved one thing for sure: anything can happen in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Who had a Virginia team that was humiliated by Washington in Maui last week leaving the Barn against undefeated Minnesota with a triumphant victory? Hot shooting from Joe Harris and the entire Cavalier lot (10-13 from downtown) paved the way for Tony Bennett’s biggest win since moving cross country to Charlottesville and gave the ACC an unexpected boost to kick off the Challenge. With five other marquee games on the docket the next two nights, now is a better time than ever to introduce my second installment of Ball Reversal, dissecting what each team needs to do to pick up a portfolio-building win in late November. Without further ado:
Tuesday- Ohio State at Florida State, 7:30 PM (ESPN)
How Ohio State wins: Match defense with defense. There’s one thing Florida State does incredibly well and that’s defend the heck out of you. They finished first in the nation in defensive efficiency last season, second in two-point field goal defense and fourth in block percentage. Through six games this season, the Seminoles are on pace to rival those impressive totals: fourth in defensive efficiency, seventh in two-point percentage defense and second in block percentage. Florida head coach Billy Donovan’s game plan against the Seminoles was to match FSU’s lockdown defense with a 2-3 zone to force FSU to go away from their strengths and take outside jumpers. Florida then won the contest on the free throw line, scored just enough on the offensive end and marched out of Tallahassee with an impressive road win. It would be prudent for Thad Matta to trot out his best defensive lineup down the stretch against a Florida State team that has ranked in the lower portion in most offensive categories the last two seasons. If the Buckeyes get enough stops, their incredible talent level and scoring ability should provide enough ammo for a key road win.
How Florida State wins: Keep the Buckeyes out of the paint. Ohio State’s statement victory at Florida a few weeks ago looked like a layup drill for a good portion of the game, a combination of an effective pass break and halfcourt teamwork resulting in easy opportunities for Jared Sullinger and other Buckeyes for the entire second half. Ohio State has been tremendous inside the arc all year along, ranking seventh in two-point percentage. Where they’re slightly suspect–although one would anticipate William Buford’s 27% mark from deep to increase sooner than later–is behind the three-point line where they’re 96th in the nation in marksmanship. Along with stellar defense, Leonard Hamilton’s teams are perennially very tall and very long. Chris Singleton, Bernard Young and Xavier Gibson do the honors on this year’s squad. FSU should try to frustrate Sullinger as much as possible with this trio’s length and take chances with Jon Diebler, David Lighty and William Buford shooting contested threes. If successful, the Noles have an outside chance to pull off an upset and avoid two straight home losses against ranked teams.
Tuesday- North Carolina at Illinois, 9:30 PM (ESPN)
How North Carolina wins: More production from their preseason All-American. This one is fairly obvious and doesn’t take any efficiency stats to calculate: the Heels need a coming out party by Harrison Barnes (and the first half against Hofstra doesn’t qualify). Unfair expectations or not, Barnes came into this season as the far-and-away #1 freshman prospect, projected number one overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, a preseason All-American and savior of the Tar Heels program. So far, Barnes hasn’t totally figured it out at the collegiate level. Through six games, he’s averaging 12/6/2 on 35% FG and 33% from three, respectable totals for a really good freshman but clearly below expectations. Barnes is UNC’s best player and to avoid picking up their third loss in seven contests he needs to perform admirably on this considerable stage, utilizing his versatility, smooth jumper, rebounding prowess, passing ability and that all-around repertoire that has wowed so many basketball evaluators over the last couple of years. This Illinois game and the meeting with Kentucky on Saturday are crucial: with every defeat, the pressure in Chapel Hill only mounts.
How Illinois wins: Take advantage of UNC’s perimeter-oriented bigs. As talented as North Carolina may be, this is really an ideal matchup for the Fighting Illini. Illinois is vulnerable when their lanky forwards Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis have to spend too much time in the paint defending bulky, strong, powerful big men. Tisdale and Davis are more suited playing more of a perimeter, face-up game than getting dirty in the post. Luckily for them, Carolina’s bigs are very similar. John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes are incredibly skilled and talented, but none of them are known as bruisers down low. Tisdale and Davis should be able to spend a lot more time in their comfort zone excelling in the mid-range game and knocking down jumpers and are much less likely to fall into foul trouble. Tisdale, specifically, hasn’t been able to stay on the floor at much as he’d like this season. He fouled out in a combined 38 minutes in the two 2K Sports Classic games against Pittsburgh’s plethora of bigs and Maryland’s Jordan Williams, two matchup nightmares. The style in which the Carolina forwards operate does not pose the same problem.
Wednesday- NC State at Wisconsin, 7:15 PM (ESPN2)
How NC State wins: Win the free throw battle. How did Notre Dame pull off a massive second half comeback against normally unflappable Wisconsin? They lived at the charity stripe and prevented the Badgers from taking advantage of a spot on the floor where they rank third in the country with an 81% mark. The Irish attempted free throws on 52.3% of their possessions while the Badgers attempted just four freebies in forty minutes of action. This has been the case for Wisconsin early this season, ranking 318th in the nation in free throw attempts for every field goal attempt. NC State, meanwhile, find themselves 63rd in the same category. If the athletically superior Wolfpack forces Wisconsin to take outside jumpers just as Notre Dame did during the last ten minutes of the Old Spice championship game, Sidney Lowe may be able to accomplish what only a handful of coaches have pulled off: defeat Bo Ryan at the Kohl Center.
How Wisconsin wins: Frustrate NC State’s youth with Bo Ryan basketball. Wisconsin is known for their methodical, plodding and ultimately successful swing offense and stellar defense, a style that limits possessions and often frustrates opponents into turnovers while the Badgers keep their composure. From sophomores Scott Wood, DeShawn Painter and Richard Howell to freshmen Ryan Harrow, C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown, there is plenty of inexperience that logs vital minutes for Sidney Lowe. NC State also has scored 77 or more points in every game but one this season, so they’re used to utilizing their athleticism effectively in a more fast-paced game. If the Badgers keep the contest at a snail’s pace and coax these young NC State players into mistakes playing on their first national stage, Wisconsin’s two early losses will seem like a thing of the past.
Wednesday- Purdue at Virginia Tech, 7:30 PM (ESPN)
How Purdue wins: Let Malcolm Delaney play Superman. In both of Virginia Tech’s early losses to Kansas State and UNLV, Delaney hasn’t played poorly. In fact, the reigning ACC leading scorer has scored 52 points combined in the two games. So how did the Rebels easily dispatch of the Hokies despite Seth Greenberg’s star going for 30 points on 9-14 FG and 7-9 from three? Jeff Allen fell into foul trouble, Dorenzo Hudson put up a donut and the rest of the Virginia Tech team combined for just 29 points. Rather than double Delaney and allow Allen, Hudson or Terrell Bell ample room to operate, Matt Painter would be smart to place a single defender on Delaney, let the Hokies star get his 27-30 points and force Virginia Tech into a one man show. The Hokies are much more effective and dangerous playing a team-oriented game.
How Virginia Tech wins: Keep their thin frontcourt out of foul trouble. It’s going to be difficult. The Boilermakers best player happens to be their center JaJuan Johnson. Due to a season-ending injury to J.T. Thompson, an unfortunate heart condition for Allan Chaney and an injury to Cadarian Raines (although he did play his first minutes, albeit brief, of the season over the weekend in Anaheim), Seth Greenberg’s frontline is low on capable bodies. If fill-ins Victor Davila, Jarell Eddie and others can stay on the floor, Johnson might be contained. This puts pressure on E’Twaun Moore to deliver the goods for Purdue, especially considering a third weapon hasn’t really stepped up yet for the Boilermakers in place of Robbie Hummel. The most likely candidate, junior point guard Lewis Jackson, is averaging just 2.8 PPG. The Hokies frontcourt fell into the foul trouble trap against Kansas State. They can’t afford to do the same against Johnson and let another marquee win opportunity go by the wayside.
Wednesday- Michigan State at Duke, 9:30 PM (ESPN)
How Michigan State wins: Get Mason Plumlee into foul trouble. If there was one flaw for Duke heading into this season, it was a slightly suspect frontcourt. The talent was evident, but Plumlee wasn’t an integral part of the Blue Devils run to the national title last March and nobody was sure of his impact. A 25/12/5 blk performance against Marquette last Monday answered any lingering doubts regarding Plumlee’s capabilities this season. If Spartan big men Draymond Green, Delvon Roe, Garrick Sherman and Derrick Nix can somehow lure Plumlee into two early fouls, though, they may have a fighting chance. There’s a dropoff from Plumlee to his brother Miles and Ryan Kelly in the Duke frontcourt. As explosive and fantastic as Duke’s guards and wings may be, Michigan State may be able to win if Duke’s backcourt has a rare off night shooting the basketball. Take away Plumlee’s versatility, athleticism, ability on the break and rebounding down low and the Blue Devils are much more vulnerable to the upset.
How Duke wins: Transition, transition, transition. Without Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas coupled with the addition of Kyrie Irving, Duke made it known they are going to run with more frequency than they did in the second part of last season. Their personnel is simply more suited to do so. Irving is a jet in the backcourt, excelling in the transition game where he can find Seth Curry or Andre Dawkins for open threes and Mason Plumlee is a big man that can beat most opposing forwards down the floor. Michigan State, meanwhile, has been dismal avoiding turnovers early in the season, coughing up the basketball in almost one fourth of their offensive possessions. If the State guards Kalin Lucas, Korie Lucious and Durrell Summers turn the ball over against Duke’s pressure man defense and allow Irving to run and create, the Blue Devils will light up the Cameron Indoor scoreboard and run away with another statement victory. Irving really shone against Kansas State pushing the tempo against Jacob Pullen and converting easy buckets on the other end.