ACC Game On: 11.23.11 EditionPosted by KCarpenter on November 23rd, 2011
ACC Game On will periodically review recent games involving ACC teams and take a look forward to key upcoming matchups.
Identities are finally coming into focus. Duke and North Carolina each had breakthrough epiphany moments, while Clemson was upset for the second time in a row. Miami also managed to win against Florida Gulf Coast in a performance that I would classify as “okay,” though that’s about all I can say about a game where the ten-point winner shot 32.1% from the field. Back to more intriguing topics.
Duke looked really good against a Michigan team that had just pounded a talented Memphis team the day before. A clever defensive plan (basically smaller guys aggressively fronting) kept Tim Hardaway, Jr., from impacting the game until near the end of the second half. Meanwhile, Austin Rivers, despite putting up impressive scoring numbers in past contests, finally put on a thorough demonstration of the skill he brings to the table, scoring aggressively, efficiently, and with more than a little panache. This performance augurs well for Duke’s future, especially considering how well the team was playing before Rivers’ breakout. For efficiency fans, I’d like to direct you to Ryan Kelly, who scored 17 points on six shots, and Seth Curry who scored 17 points on seven shots. That’s some ridiculously efficient scoring.
Five time zones away, North Carolina, took a step toward becoming the juggernaut that people whispered about in the offseason. Reggie Bullock led all scorers with 23 points in a performance where he made six out of seven three-pointers and contributed four rebounds, two assists, and a steal in a measly eighteen minutes of play. He didn’t foul or turn the ball over. It was a sterling performance off the bench and one that promises good things for a Tar Heel team that had struggled to reliably hit three-pointers. Of course, Bullock took a back seat to the other command performance of the game: Kendall Marshall‘s 15-assist night. In the first four games of this season, Marshall has had more 15-assist games than any other Tar Heel in history. On nights like these, when Marshall is in passing-Nirvana, the Carolina offense seems fluid and unstoppable: everyone is open. UNC played so well, that John Henson‘s double-double with six assists and four blocks is the third story of this game.
Meanwhile, Clemson tried to bounce back from the College of Charleston loss, but failed to beat Coastal Carolina who managed to sink the Tigers with a last second tip-in. This is the second loss in a row at home to a South Carolina mid-major. Incidentally, it’s also the second loss in a row to a former ACC head coach. More substantially, it’s a bad omen for Clemson. The Tigers’ bread and butter in seasons past was hard-nosed defense, but the Chanticleers shot 47.8% from the field. Worse, it seems that Clemson can’t count on reliable contributions on offense from anyone but Andre Young. Right now Clemson is going to have to do some soul-searching to try to figure out its identity. Since a backpacking trip around Europe to really find itself seems out of the question, the Tigers are more likely to find themselves in a number of grueling practices.
The Heavyweight Bout
- Kansas vs. Duke at 10:00 PM on ESPN
Two participants from the Champions Classic square off each other in Maui for a match that pits two of the most storied programs in college basketball against each other. While both of these teams started the season a notch below the top four national contenders, a demonstrative win by either team would do a lot to garner the same kind of consideration that Ohio State, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Connecticut have received. Both teams are dealing with the loss of their core contributors from the past season, but the Jayhawks and Blue Devils have too much talent to let a few NBA defections keep them down.
A Challenger Approaches
- Virginia Tech vs. Syracuse at 9:30 PM on ESPN2
There are two very good teams that have been hanging near the top of the polls but haven’t yet been truly tested. Wisconsin and Syracuse have beaten up on the little guys fairly effectively, but just haven’t faced a quality opponent yet. That comes to an end for Syracuse tonight. In the early going, Virginia Tech has performed admirably with freshman phenomenon Dorian Finney-Smith helping to lead the way. Do you know who currently leads the ACC in rebounds? Well, okay, given the past sentence it’s pretty easy to guess. Still, the point remains, in a league with John Henson, Bernard James, and an unseemly number of Plumlees, the freshmen point forward leads the conference in rebounds while also leading his team in assists. As a team, the Hokies have shown a remarkable aptitude on the defensive end that has helped them dominate opponents. Syracuse offers a more potent attack than anything the Hokies have faced, but on the other hand, Virginia Tech presents a stronger defense than any that the Orange has gone up against this season. Syracuse at Madison Square Garden should win this game, but Virginia Tech has a chance to deliver the ACC’s first really big upset of the season (sorry, N.C. State and Texas).
- Siena at Georgia Tech at 7:00 PM on ESPNU
It’s hard for me to get excited over these low-stakes non-conference games, but here you go: A team that has already lost to Saint Joseph’s against a team that has already lost to St. Bonaventure. Georgia Tech will look to bounce back from a pair of Charleston Classic losses against a Siena team looking to win its first game of the season against a power conference foe. GT should be able to win this game, but they also should have been able to beat Louisiana State. Georgia Tech needs to avoid losing this game more than they need to win it, but that’s not exactly powerful motivation for a young team with a new coach and no real home arena, so for the sake of inspiring the Yellowjackets, let’s say that they need to win this game to begin the long climb back towards respectability. That also wasn’t inspiring. Sorry, Brian Gregory.