ACC Game On: 11.21.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 21st, 2011

ACC Game On will periodically review recent games involving ACC teams and take a look forward to key upcoming matchups.

This weekend, the top of the conference rolled while the bottom of the conference struggled and we got a clearer picture of the abilities and limitations of a number of the teams in the ACC. Thursday morning, every team in the conference was undefeated, but by Sunday night, half of the conference had already dropped games. For the most part, this divide clarifies the current haves and have-nots. North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, and Miami all held steady, handily winning their games. Joining the undefeated teams are Virginia Tech, who has an extended hiatus until taking on Syracuse, and somewhat surprisingly, Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have so far had an admittedly easy schedule, but making it through an easy schedule without an upset is something that has challenged Wake’s ACC brethren.

On Friday, Boston College lost to Holy Cross in what wasn’t even really an upset, but is certainly disappointing nonetheless for Eagles fans. Playing without Patrick Heckmann (tweaked ankle), the leading scorer against New Hampshire, BC’s offense faltered while the defense remained as porous as ever. Holy Cross shot over 50% from the field and from beyond the arc. As it stands, Boston College looks like it will have serious trouble stopping any team from scoring.

Florida State Looked Great This Weekend, While Boston College Looked Terrible

Maryland played twice this weekend, winning the game they should have won, against Colorado, but losing to an Iona team that had already come pretty close to upsetting Purdue. For the Terrapins, turnovers look to be a real problem going forward. Against Iona, Maryland committed twenty-six miscues compared to Iona’s ten. Combine the poor offensive execution with allowing the Gael’s to shoot 55.2% from the field and it’s a recipe for disaster.

The most surprising losses of the weekend came from two teams that were expected to do reasonably well in the ACC this year. Virginia lost to lowly Texas Christian in the Paradise Jam, and their bounce-back victory against Drexel was marred by the fact that the Dragons, a team that was expected to be pretty good this year, had already lost to Norfolk State in their tournament opener. Clemson‘s loss was a little less shocking, considering that the College of Charleston has made a habit of surprising at least one power conference team every year for the past few years. Still, this was a home game for Clemson, and while a loss is a loss, a home loss to College of Charleston looks much worse than if the Tigers had lost on the road.

One victorious performance that’s worth applauding is the job that Florida State did against South Alabama. While I understand that South Alabama doesn’t exactly have the most high-powered offense in the world, the job that the Seminoles did is impressive nonetheless.  Leonard Hamilton’s squad held the Jaguars to 23.5% from the field and o% from beyond the arc. That’s not a fluke caused by South Alabama’s reticence to shoot the three; the Jaguars launched twenty-four threes and didn’t make a single one of them. Florida State’s defense really is that good. The offense is coming along too, as long as we ignore their perimeter shooting. In this matchup, the Seminoles shot  52.1% from the field and got to the free throw line thirty times. Florida State has yet to be truly tested against high quality opposition, but so far, this team looks really good.

Second Shot At An Upset

  • Texas vs North Carolina State at 6:30 PM on

The Wolfpack came tantalizingly close to being the second team to upset a very well-regarded Vanderbilt team, but fell short. Thanks to the out-of-his-mind-balling of Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham (who scored thirty-seven points against Texas),  North Carolina State has their own chance to notch a big-time win against Texas. Despite the previous game’s loss, N.C. State looked good out on the court. C.J. Leslie has returned from his suspension as a scoring machine off the bench, while Richard Howell provides a solid anchor in the front court and Lorenzo Brown‘s all-round play helps the team in myriad ways. Obviously, the team could use Scott Wood‘s offensive firepower, but right now, the team seems to really be clicking. Texas is a tough team, but they aren’t as good as the Vanderbilt team that the Wolfpack nearly beat. If N.C. State wants to make a statement, they’ll have plenty of other shots in non-conference play (Indiana, Stanford, and Syracuse are on the schedule), but beating Texas is a good place to start.

The Undercard

  • Tennessee vs #6 Duke at 5:30 PM on ESPN2

In the opening round of the Maui Invitational, a battle-tested Duke gets something of a warm-up game against Tennessee. It’s not that the Volunteers are bad; they aren’t. It’s just that Duke has already been tested with games against Belmont and Michigan State, while Tennessee has been feasting on cupcakes like UNC Greensboro and Louisiana-Monroe in the comfy confines of Knoxville. While Tennessee was quite convincing in their defeat of the ninth best team in the Southern Conference and the worst team in the Sun Belt Conference, playing Duke on a neutral court is an incredible change in relative difficulty. Tennessee has some gifted players, but it’s going to be challenging for the Volunteers to be suitably prepared for this radical shift in quality.

Who Is Virginia?

  • Virginia vs Drake at 3:30 PM

It’s hard to say that you have a handle on any team so early in the season, but at this point, there are few teams that I feel less sure about than Virginia.  The Cavaliers looked good on paper, and, yes, on the court, for three out of four of their initial games. Mike Scott is the real deal and his team has mostly been able to support the senior big man. What do we do about the loss to Texas Christian, though? TCU was one of the worst teams in the country last year, and they were pretty handily beaten by Norfolk State on Sunday. What does this loss mean in terms of evaluating Virginia? For now, it seems like the most reasonable thing to do is to write the game off as a fluke and keep a close eye on the Cavaliers. The first step for Virginia to move past the loss is to convincingly beat a turnover-prone Drake team. If Norfolk State can do it, Virginia should also be able to do it. Of course, since Norfolk State beat TCU where the Wahoos couldn’t, maybe I should just walk away from this argument with a shrug and the hope that we’ll know more about who Virginia is tomorrow than we do today.

For Fans Only

  • Massachusetts at Boston College at 7:00 PM on ESPN3.COM

Despite playing at home, Boston College needs to know that they are the underdog in this game and that they will continue to be the underdog in nearly every game they play this season. Massachusetts struggles to score, but against the virtually non-existent Eagles defense, that might not be much of a problem.  The normally explosive Boston College offense seemed downright puttering against Holy Cross and if they want to have a chance against the Minutemen’s stout defense, this young team is going to have to re-discover how to put points on the board in a hurry. This showdown might very well be the most evenly matched game on tonight’s slate, but the combination of BC’s ineptness on defense and Massachusetts struggles on offense means that no matter how close the score, this game will probably be hard to watch.

KCarpenter (269 Posts)

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