Opening Weekend in the ACC: Early Goals For All 15 Teams

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

As we welcome back college basketball this weekend, all 15 ACC schools will be in action, with several suiting up more than once. While teams like Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisville have Final Four aspirations as their ultimate objective, others like Boston College and Georgia Tech would probably be content with a winning record. Whatever the preseason expectation level of each team, there are some specific things each would like to accomplish right out of the gate. Here’s our best guess of what each ACC school’s coaching staff will be focused on this weekend.

ACC schools are presented in alphabetical order. (opponent’s preseason KenPom ranking in parenthesis)

Boston College: Find out who can play.

  • Friday Nov. 11, 7:00 ET vs. Nicholls State (#321): The Eagles have a plethora of new players, including three transfers and four freshmen. Jim Christian has watched all of them perform in the preseason, but he will be anxious to see which newcomers can emerge as dependable options when the real games begin.

Clemson: Start building the resume.

Clemson's Brad Brownell has an improved offense and a surprisingly big home court edge in ACC play. (Bart Boatwright/

Clemson’s Brad Brownell needs a much better performance in non-conference play this year than the 7-5 mark posted by the Tigers a year ago. (Bart Boatwright/

  • Friday Nov. 11, 7:00 ET vs. Georgia (#58): A horrible performance in the non-conference portion of the Tigers’ schedule cost them dearly last year. One of those resume scars was a blowout loss to Georgia in Athens. The Bulldogs are the highest rated opponent on the ACC docket this weekend, so a revenge win by Clemson would represent a great start for Brad Brownell.

Duke: Stop losing players to injuries.

  • Friday  Nov. 11,  7:00 ET vs. Marist (#241)
  • Saturday Nov. 12,  5:30 ET vs. Grand Canyon (#187): Sure, Mike Krzyzewski would like to see his team play well. But with all the injured Blue Devils’ freshmen — Harry Giles (knee), Jayson Tatum (foot), and Marquise Bolden (leg) — the immediate priority is to survive the weekend healthily and distribute the minutes evenly. With Kansas looming in the Champions Classic on Tuesday evening in New York City, staying fresh after playing back-to-back games on opening weekend is a must.

Florida State: Show that Old Seminole pressure D.

  • Saturady Nov. 12, 1:00 ET vs. Charleston Southern (#286): It’s been a few years since Leonard Hamilton has had a defense similar to the ones that were the backbone of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. At least at the outset of the season, this appears to be the best combination of athleticism and depth of any Seminoles’ squad since 2012.

Georgia Tech: Just get a win for some confidence.

Josh Pastner Enters Georgia Tech With a Major Rebuild Ahead (USA Today Images)

Josh Pastner Enters Georgia Tech With a Major Rebuild Ahead (USA Today Images)

  • Friday Nov. 11, 8:00 ET  vs. Tennessee Tech (#267): The first five games on the Yellow Jackets’ schedule are winnable home contests. That’s a good thing, because Josh Pastner’s talent-shy group will need some confidence to survive the following three-game stretch on the road — at Penn State; at Tennessee; at VCU.

Louisville: Find out who the stars are.

  • Friday Nov. 11, 7:00 ET vs. Evansville (#144): We know that the Cardinals have explosive potential among the sophomore class. Rick Pitino would like to see Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel get out of the gate quickly and become used to being his new go-to guys.

Miami: Get strong leadership from Davon Reed and Ja’Quan Newton. 

  • Friday Nov. 11, 7:00 ET vs. Western Carolina (#298): Jim Larranaga is concerned with replacing the leadership of his three departed senior starters. Reed and Newton will be in new roles this season, and their coach wants to see if they are ready to handle the responsibility of leading the Hurricanes.

North Carolina: Establish young bench players. 

  • Friday Nov. 11, 9:00 ET @ Tulane (#233)
  • Sunday Nov. 13, 4:00 ET vs. Chattanooga (#97): Four ACC schools are playing twice this weekend but the Tar Heels are the only of that quartet that will venture away from home. Roy Williams may learn a lot about his young reserves right away this year with a road opener followed by a quick trip home to play a sneaky good Chattanooga team.

N.C. State: Avoid a repeat of last year’s opener.

Mark Gottfried hopes N.C. State will not repeat the nightmare that was last year's opener. (

Mark Gottfried hopes that N.C. State does not experience another first game debacle. (

  • Friday Nov. 11, 7:00 ET vs. Georgia Southern (#140)
  • Sunday Nov. 13, 2:00 ET vs. St. Francis, NY (#324): On opening night last year, the Wolfpack laid a huge egg — getting run out of PNC Arena by 17 points against William & Mary. That game also featured a season-ending injury to Terry Henderson. Things should go much better for Mark Gottfried this time around, with super-frosh Dennis Smith making his debut in Raleigh.

Notre Dame: Show solid play at the center and point guard spots.

  • Saturday Nov. 12, Noon ET vs. Bryant (#307): Replacing Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson is the key issue for Mike Brey this year. This will be the first glimpse at how extensive the dropoff will be for the Irish at those two key spots. Juniors Martin Geben and Matt Farrell will get the first crack to fill those massive voids.

Pittsburgh: Transition Jamel Artis into a productive point guard.

  • Friday Nov. 11, 7:00 ET vs. Eastern Michigan (#87): Kevin Stallings’ plan to make Artis the quarterback of the Panthers’ attack may be a work in progress. In Pitt’s exhibition win over Pitt-Johnstown last week, Artis shot well (6-of-7 on threes) but had zero assists on the night.

Syracuse: Blend new faces and define roles.

  • Friday Nov. 11, 7:00 ET vs. Colgate (#245): There are several newcomers who need to be integrated into the Orange’s lineup. Jim Boeheim usually excels at putting all the pieces together in this kind of situation.

Virginia: See who wants to score.

Ton (USA TODAY Sports)

Tony Bennett Must Replace Some Very Big Shoes in Charlottesville (USA TODAY Sports)

  • Friday Nov. 11, 7:00 ET @ UNC Greensboro (#174): The Cavaliers should fare better than they did in last year’s first away games when they fell to George Washington. Tony Bennett will be looking to see who can replace some of Malcolm Brogdon’s offense — 18.2 PPG last year.

Virginia Tech: Show what a difference a year can make.

  • Friday Nov. 11, 9:00 ET vs. Nicholls State (#345): Last year, no ACC team improved over the course of the season as dramatically as Virginia Tech. On opening night last November, Buzz Williams’ team lost at home to Alabama State. Later, the same group of Hokies reeled off six straight wins over ACC opponents. Expect this year’s opener to be quite a bit different than it was last year.

Wake Forest: Develop confidence of young post players.

  • Friday Nov. 11, 7:30 ET vs. Radford (#282)
  • Sunday Nov. 13, 2:00 ET vs. Bucknell (#189): To have a chance to move up the ACC ladder, Danny Manning will need his young big men — John Collins (sophomore), Doral Moore (sophomore) and Sam Japhet-Mathias (freshman) — to grow up fast. Look for the Deacs to try to involve them often this weekend to speed up their development.
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