This Weekend in the ACC: February 18

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 18th, 2017

Here are a few things to keep your eye on around the ACC this weekend (all times Eastern):

Saturday, 12:00 PM: Clemson (14-11, 4-9) at Miami (17-8, 7-6) — This is an important game between two ACC bubble teams. The Tigers enter the weekend just 4-9 in conference play, but given a strong performance in non-conference action combined with a weak bubble nationally, they can probably sneak into the NCAA Tournament with an 8-10 league record. That means winning two of their three tricky remaining games (they also visit Virginia Tech and host Florida State), starting with Miami this weekend. The Hurricanes will be without starting point guard Ja’Quan Newton for the second straight game as he serves a three-game suspension, but Jim Larranaga‘s club should have enough defensive length to handle Clemson star Jaron Blossomgame. The key in this contest will be how, without the services of Newton, Miami chooses to defend the Tigers’ three-pronged backcourt attack of Shelton Mitchell, Avery Holmes and Marcquise Reed.

Jayson Tatum has led the Blue Devils turnaround. Can he now lead them back to the Final Four? (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Saturday, 1:00 PM: Wake Forest (15-11, 6-8) at Duke (21-5, 9-4) — Duke’s current six-game winning streak has renewed discussion of the Blue Devils as the ACC favorite. Freshman Jayson Tatum is a big reason why — the versatile forward is averaging 15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from three-point range during those six games. Playing mostly as a small four, Tatum is a match-up nightmare who has shown he can make clutch jump shots when Duke needs them. Look for Tatum to have a monster afternoon, as Wake Forest does not have a good defensive option to counter his quickness on the perimeter.

Saturday, 1:00 PM: Virginia Tech (18-7, 7-6) at Louisville (21-5, 9-4) — The Hokies have won two straight games, surviving a tricky road trip to Pittsburgh in their first full game without recently injured wing Chris Clarke. The sophomore’s ACL tear has forced head coach Buzz Williams to reduce his rotation to basically six players, with Khadim Sy starting but only providing spot minutes. A short bench can be a death sentence against a team like Louisville that loves to press and forces teams to work really hard to find open shots. As basically the only interior presence that Virginia Tech uses, can Zach LeDay stay out of foul trouble long enough to give the Hokies a shot at a monster resume win?

If Virginia wants to beat North Carolina, the Cavaliers will need to keep Kennedy Meeks off the offensive glass. (USATSI)

Saturday, 8:15 PM: Virginia (18-7, 8-5) at North Carolina (22-5, 10-3) —  Just one short week ago, this game looked like it could be the first of two match-ups to determine the ACC regular season champion. Then the Cavaliers squandered multiple opportunities in their loss last Sunday in Blacksburg and got Tatum’ed by Duke Wednesday night in Charlottesville. This is now a Virginia team in danger of finishing outside the ACC top four, in jeopardy of losing a possible double-bye in the ACC Tournament. There is no question that today’s game will come down to the offensive glass. The Tar Heels are the best offensive rebounding team in the country (42.5% offensive rebounding rate), whereas the Cavaliers rank among the top 10 nationally in defensive rebounding (23.2%). If North Carolina can earn their normal array of extra shots, they should be able to take care of business at home. If Virginia can figure out a way to keep Kennedy Meeks off the offensive glass and grind the game to a halt, they could have a chance to steal a monster victory on the road.

Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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