ACC Weekend Review: 02.01.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 1st, 2016

It was not a weekend of tight games in the ACC, with all but one of the seven contests featuring a final margin in double figures. Saturday’s heavyweight matchup between Virginia and Louisville turned out to be completely one-sided, as the visiting Cavaliers dominated from the outset in the nationally-televised game. N.C. State pulled off the biggest upset of the weekend by taking out Miami behind a remarkable performance from its star point guard. North Carolina easily dispatched Boston College, as expected; Florida State avenged an earlier loss by beating Clemson in Tallahassee; and Syracuse edged Georgia Tech in the only close contest on Saturday. Sunday featured two home wins for teams that remain a part of the crowded upper half of the ACC standings – Notre Dame easily handled Wake Forest, and Pittsburgh took care of Virginia Tech. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Malcolm Brogdon led the way in Virginia's domination over Louisville. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Malcolm Brogdon led the way in Virginia’s domination over Louisville.
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

  • Best Win: Just a short week ago, we still weren’t sure what to make of Tony Bennett’s team. They were clearly in a rut, having lost all three league road games, and they were facing a week with two more away games. For 39 minutes in Winston-Salem on Tuesday it appeared as if those woes away from home would continue. But a miracle comeback gave Virginia its first ACC road win and appears to have sparked something more. The Cavaliers manhandled the ACC’s second place team, 63-47, in a masterful defensive performance that held Louisville’s two leading scorers (Damion Lee and Trey Lewis) without a point in the first half (the pair finished with 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting). The Cardinals never challenged, allowing Virginia to cruise to its most impressive ACC performance of the year. Seniors Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill led the charge with 13 points each. If this weekend’s performance is any indication, it may be a bit premature to count out the Cavaliers with respect to a third consecutive ACC regular season title.

  • Worst Loss: Coming off last Monday’s big win over Duke, Miami received a lot of attention as a possible contender. But to reach that expectation, the Hurricanes will need to become a better team away from home. In an upset loss at N.C. State on Saturday, Miami’s effort was lacking — the Wolfpack, for example, held a +18 margin on the boards. They say that good defense travels, but that has not been the case here. Jim Larranaga‘s group ranks third overall in defensive efficiency, but the Hurricanes allowed opponents to score 1.21 points per possession in their three ACC road losses. It’s a bit surprising that such a veteran team isn’t more consistent, but up-and-down play has been this group’s trait for the last two seasons.
Jim Larranaga's Miami team had no answer for N.C. State's Anthony 'Cat' Barber. (Jerome Carpenter/WRAL Contributor)

Jim Larranaga’s Miami team had no answer for N.C. State’s Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber.
(Jerome Carpenter/WRAL Contributor)

  • Most Outstanding Player: The title of best player in the ACC is up for debate but there’s little doubt who is the most important player. Not only does NC State’s Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber lead the league in scoring, but the point guard also tops the conference in minutes played. Called upon to handle the ball, defend opposing point guards (perhaps the ACC’s strongest position) and score, you would expect Barber to wear down. The opposite appears to be happening, though, as the star junior has now topped 30 points in three of his last four outings. Barber torched the Hurricanes to the tune of 30 points on 10-of-18 shooting, and was a perfect 10-of-10 at the foul line (he’s hitting 94 percent in league play). He also passed for four assists and drew three charges in the second half. N.C. State may not finish high enough in the standings for Barber to earn serious ACC Player of the Year consideration, but he appears headed for first team All-ACC honors regardless.
  • Unsung Heroes: Jim Boeheim got an unexpected contribution from freshman Franklin Howard, who had a season-high six assists in Syracuse’s win over Georgia Tech. Howard also make several key plays down the stretch, hitting a game-tying free throw and grabbing two defensive rebounds during a crucial two-minute segment. Devon Bookert has been Leonard Hamilton’s steadiest bench player this season, and the senior guard came through again with a fine all-around effort in Florida State’s win over Clemson. In 21 minutes of action, Bookert scored nine points, grabbed four rebounds, dished five assists, and snatched three steals. Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey informed his team that little-used senior forward Austin Burgett would be in Sunday’s starting lineup as a reward for his stellar play in practice. Burgett made his coach’s decision look good with a career-high 14 points against Wake Forest, which included four threes. His 25 minutes of action came after only appearing for a total of eight minutes during the ACC season. Perhaps Brey has found some much-needed frontcourt depth heading into the second half of the league schedule.
  • Most Efficient Offense/Least Efficient Defense: The best offensive performance of the weekend came in the last game of the weekend, as Pittsburgh tallied 1.29 points per possession in its 90-71 win over Virginia Tech on Sunday night. The Panthers were surprisingly not very efficient from three-point land, making only 8-of-25 shots from deep (32%); but they more than made up for it inside the arc, hitting 28-of-43 twos (65%). Part of Pitt’s success in this game was due to the extra 17 field goal attempts it manufactured — the Panthers held a +11 turnover margin and grabbed three more offensive boards than the Hokies. In his first start of the year, junior Sheldon Jeter led the team in scoring with a career best 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the floor.
  • Most Efficient Defense/Least Efficient Offense: This was the Tony Bennett defense of old, as Virginia held Louisville to only 0.77 points per possession on Saturday, the worst offensive performance by the Cardinals in over five years. Louisville’s 47 points and field goal shooting of 32.7 percent represented its lowest outputs in those two metrics on the season. Rick Pitino did not look pleased in his all-white suit, as his team struggled against a defense that forced 18 turnovers and held his starters to a mere 20 points. Surprisingly, this was the first ACC opponent that Virginia has held under 1.00 points per possession this season, an occurrence that had become the norm for Bennett’s defense.
Upcoming Week – Four Games to Watch
  • Monday – North Carolina @ Louisville (9:00 ESPN)
  • Wednesday – Notre Dame @ Miami (7:00 ESPNU)
  • Saturday – Virginia @ Pittsburgh (12:00 ESPN3)
  • Saturday – North Carolina @ Notre Dame (7:00 ESPN)
Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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