ACC Weekend Review: 01.11.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 11th, 2016

The ACC currently has five teams that rank among KenPom’s top 10, but two of that group fell on the road in the second weekend of conference play. On Saturday afternoon, Georgia Tech finally won a close ACC game by knocking off Virginia in Atlanta. Clemson also pulled off a solid upset by beating Louisville in the Tigers’ makeshift home gym this year – Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Syracuse put up a good fight in Jim Boeheim’s return on Saturday before wilting down the stretch at home against North Carolina. In other action, Duke blew out Virginia Tech in Cameron Indoor Stadium; Miami cruised at home over Florida State; and red-hot Pittsburgh won a shootout over Notre Dame in South Bend. Wake Forest got its first conference win last night by holding off N.C. State in Winston-Salem. Here are some of the other highlights from the weekend in the ACC.

Brian Gregory finally got over the hump with Georgia Tech's big win over Louisville. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Brian Gregory finally got over the hump with Georgia Tech’s big win over UVA. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

  • Best Win: It’s been a long time coming for Georgia Tech fans, but Brian Gregory’s team was able to close out a tough conference opponent for the first time in a long while. After suffering through a brutal stretch of tight ACC defeats last season, the Yellow Jackets started this year in similar fashion, dropping their first two games on the road. But those demons were exorcised Saturday in McCamish Pavilion as Georgia Tech outplayed two-time defending ACC regular season champion Virginia. The Jackets flashed their newfound long-range marksmanship by making 8-of-15 three-point tries, including three straight during a crucial 11-0 spurt when the score was tied with six minutes to play. Georgia Tech also owned the glass, finishing +12 in rebounding margin for the game. For Virginia, this loss, coming just days after a shocking defeat at Virginia Tech, completes the Cavaliers’ roughest week of ACC play in a very long time.

  • Worst Loss: When a good team logs a +22 rebound edge and holds its opponent to 33 percent field goal shooting, it will usually feel pretty good about its chances. But Louisville was unable to convert those advantages into a win against Clemson on Sunday, falling instead to a team rated #90 by KenPom coming into the game. The Cardinals managed only 35 percent shooting from the field, which included a frigid performance from beyond the arc (3-of-23), and Rick Pitino’s team also gave away 17 turnovers and committed 29 fouls. The Tigers made them pay for all the poor play, making 32 of its 44 free throw attempts and holding on down the stretch to get the key win. Pitino has to hope that his team’s season low output of 0.91 points per possession was just a minor blip and not foreshadowing of future offensive struggles.
Michael Young scored 25 points to lead Pitt to a road ACC win over NotreDame. (Photo: Robert Franklin)

Michael Young scored 25 points to lead Pitt to a road ACC win over Notre Dame. (Photo: Robert Franklin)

  • Most Outstanding Player: Few outside of western Pennsylvania have taken notice, but Pitt’s Michael Young is putting up all-ACC numbers so far this season. In Saturday’s win over Notre Dame in South Bend, Young led the way with 25 points, making seven of his 11 field goal attempts and 11 of 14 free throws. That kind of efficiency is something the junior forward has accomplished all season — he currently ranks first in the nation in KenPom’s offensive rating metric for high usage players. He also ranks among the ACC’s top five in scoring (17.5 PPG), field goal shooting (59.7%) and free throw shooting (85.7%). If the Panthers continue their winning ways into the heart of the conference season, more notoriety will certainly come Young’s way.
  • Unsung Heroes: This week we will honor three junior forwards who came off the bench to help lead their teams to victory, with each posting season-high point totals. Georgia Tech would not have pulled off its upset win over Virginia if Quinton Stephens had not torched the Cavaliers by making all four of his three-point attempts, including two huge conversions during the Yellow Jackets’ late surge. Stephens finished with 16 points in 24 minutes and also grabbed five defensive rebounds. Pitt’s Sheldon Jeter provided a big offensive spark for the Panthers in South Bend, finishing with 18 points and making all six of his free throw attempts. He is shooting 93 percent from the line this season — 30 percentage points better than his career average entering the year. Finally, Isaiah Hicks continued his recent trend of excellence, scoring 21 points in just 22 minutes to help North Carolina rally to defeat Syracuse Saturday night. Hicks made all five of his shots from the floor and hit 11-of-13 free throws while also grabbing eight rebounds. This performance makes eight double-figure scoring games for Hicks in his last nine outings, and probably makes him the frontrunner to win this year’s ACC Sixth Man of the Year award.
  • Most Efficient Offense/Least Efficient Defense: It’s certainly no shock that the Pittsburgh-Notre Dame matchup produced the highest offensive ratings of the weekend. Both teams boast outstanding offenses while both defenses are statistically among the worst for Power 5 league teams. True to form, this game produced the two best team offensive performances of the weekend. Pitt triumphed by scoring 86 points in only 63 trips for a rate of 1.37 points per possession. The Panthers shot 50 percent from the field, made 10-of-19 shots from three-point range and only turned the ball over seven times. The Irish lost despite scoring 1.30 points per possession on 54.2 percent field goal shooting with only three turnovers.
  • Most Efficient Defense/Least Efficient Offense: Fresh off an emotional victory over archrival Virginia, Virginia Tech could not put it back together against Duke on Sunday. The Blue Devils held the Hokies to a dismal 0.79 points per possession, which included a 1-of-12 shooting performance from behind the arc and 15 turnovers. In particular, Virginia Tech’s starting backcourt failed miserably — Seth Allen and Justin Bibbs combined for only six points on 2-of-13 shooting from the floor. The Blue Devils also showed some surprising rim-protecting skills by blocking eight shots in the game, led by freshman Brandon Ingram with six. Ingram has started to figure out how to use his length on the defensive end, as he now ranks among the ACC top-10 in both steals and blocks.
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