ACC Weekend Review: 02.08.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 8th, 2016

After Friday afternoon’s bombshell announcement that Louisville was self-imposing a postseason ban, the attention returned to the play on the floor for fourteen ACC schools this weekend. In a rarity, five league road teams were favored in the seven matchups, but only three managed to extract victories. In the marquee contest, Notre Dame continued its recent run of superiority over the ACC’s two most storied programs, as the Irish rallied for a big upset win in South Bend over North Carolina in ESPN’s prime time game on Saturday night. Earlier in the day, Virginia Tech also pulled off a mild surprise as the Hokies edged Clemson in Blacksburg, significantly damaging the Tigers’ postseason hopes in the process. In other action, the ACC’s two leading scorers dueled in Durham, with Grayson Allen and Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber putting on a show as Duke defeated N.C. State for the second time this year. Here are some of the highlights from a busy weekend around the ACC.

Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste celebrate Notre Dame's upset win over North Carolina. (Getty Images)

Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste celebrate Notre Dame’s upset win over North Carolina. (Getty Images)

  • Best Win: Things did not look good for Mike Brey’s team early Saturday night. The Tar Heels built a 15-point first half lead while the Irish went ice-cold from the floor and Marcus Paige found his long lost shooting touch. But Notre Dame hung around long enough for its veteran leaders to take over the game in the second half, eventually winning 80-76. Surprisingly, they beat North Carolina at its own game by turning 20 offensive rebounds into a +10 Irish advantage in second-chance points. It also didn’t hurt that Notre Dame only committed two turnovers in the game while forcing 13. The Irish also made 15 more free throws than Roy Williams’ team. Notre Dame has now won six of its past seven meetings with the legendary Tobacco Road duo of North Carolina and Duke. UNC, after opening conference play with eight straight victories, has now dropped two in a row and fallen into a first place tie with Louisville.
  • Worst Loss:  In a matchup of the most surprising ACC teams so far in conference play, Virginia Tech won its fifth league game in a mild upset over Clemson, 60-57. Brad Brownell’s team had a rough shooting day (35.1 percent FG) for the second time in three outings, and it caused them to take a loss to a team rated outside the nation’s top 100, one that could be problematic in the Tigers’ bid to earn an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. According to KenPom, Clemson now projects to finish 11-7 in the league – a record that probably won’t be good enough to overcome a miserable non-conference campaign.
Grayson Allen sliced through the N.C. State defense for 28 points for the second time this season. (Gerry Browne/AP Photo)

For the second time this season, Grayson Allen sliced through the N.C. State defense for 28 points. (Gerry Browne/AP Photo)

  • Most Outstanding PlayerIn a matchup of the league’s most prolific scorers, Grayson Allen edged Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber in points (28 to 25) as the Blue Devils held off NC State 88-80 in Durham. If it seems like deja vu, that’s because these longtime rivals battled exactly two weeks prior in Raleigh and the results were almost identical. In that game, the Blue Devils won by an 88-78 count and they were led by Allen, who had – you guessed it – 28 points. Once again, Allen had a very efficient offensive performance, hitting six of 11 shots from the floor (including four 3-pointers) and making good on all 12 trips to the foul line.
  • Unsung Heroes: Louisville freshman Deng Adel made the most of his opportunity with star Damion Lee out of action against Boston College. Adel had season-highs in minutes (34), points (13) and rebounds (7) in the Cardinals’ rout of the Eagles. Florida State starting center Boris Bojanovsky had perhaps his best ACC game of the season, scoring 11 points and grabbing seven boards in the Seminoles’ road win at Wake Forest. It may be a stretch to call Luke Kennard unsung, but the Duke freshman came into Saturday in a shooting slump, having made only three of last 19 three-pointers. So, Kennard’s 26 points and six three-pointers off the bench were a welcome improvement in the Blue Devils’ win over N.C. State.
  • Most Efficient Offense/Least Efficient Defense: Florida State took advantage of the most generous defense in the ACC, scoring 1.30 points per possession in its 20-point road win over Wake Forest. The Seminoles have struggled with turnovers in the past, but on Saturday they only gave it away six times (a season low). The newly discovered ball security, combined with 50 percent shooting from the field, enabled Leonard Hamilton’s team to dominate the second half after a close opening stanza.
  • Most Efficient Defense/Least Efficient Offense: What else would you expect when the ACC’s best defense faces off with the league’s worst offense? Both units played to form as Louisville held Boston College to only 0.72 points per possession on the way to a 79-47 easy home victory. The Eagles committed 18 turnovers against the Cardinals’ pressure and only managed to make one free throw on the day (in four attempts). Despite the competition, it was somewhat surprising that Rick Pitino’s players were able to perform at their normally high level, just one day after finding out their season will not include any postseason play.
Upcoming Week – Four Games to Watch
  • Monday – Louisville @ Duke (7:00 ESPN)
  • Saturday – Virginia @ Duke (4:30 ESPN)
  • Sunday – Pittsburgh @ North Carolina (1:00 ESPN3)
  • Sunday – Miami @ Florida State (6:30 ESPNU)
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