This Weekend in the ACC: March 4Posted by Mick McDonald on March 4th, 2017
Here are a few things to keep your eye on around the ACC this weekend (all times Eastern).
Saturday, 2:00 PM: Notre Dame at Louisville The Fighting Irish have quietly fired off six straight victories (thanks in part to an incredibly soft portion of the schedule), but they now sit alone in second place and can lock down the #2 seed with a win at Louisville this afternoon. This version of Mike Brey’s squad is nearly unbeatable if it makes three-pointers at a high clip and protects the ball. Over the past six games, Notre Dame is shooting 38 percent from three-point range and averaging fewer than nine turnovers per game. In their first meeting with the Cardinals — a 77-70 win in South Bend — the Irish attempted a season-low 12 three-pointers (making five) but converted 22-of-25 attempts from the free throw line. They’ll need to knock down more long-range shots than that today if they want to walk out of the Yum! Center with a victory.
Saturday, 4:30 PM: Wake Forest at Virginia Tech. Wake Forest’s tournament resume has been beaten to death for having all the requisite components (good computer numbers; no bad losses; a solid performance in the best conference in the country) except a signature win. The Demon Deacons finally checked that box when they beat Louisville in Winston-Salem earlier this week. Today’s trip to Blacksburg is another good opportunity for Wake to earn a win over another likely NCAA Tournament team, and for John Collins to make his final statement for ACC Player of the Year. Collins has been terrific all season but the sophomore has taken it to another level recently. In his last six games, Collins is averaging 25.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting 65 percent from the field and 77 percent from the line. The big man leads the nation in Player Efficiency Rating (36.7) and paces the ACC in effective field goal percentage (61.9%) and Win Shares per 40 minutes (26.2). Against a Hokies team that doesn’t have a lot of size, look for Collins to finish off his incredible season with an exclamation point.
Saturday, 4:00 PM: Georgia Tech at Syracuse Get ready for lots of “Elimination Game!” talk surrounding this game. Both the Yellow Jackets and the Orange sit squarely on the bubble and the two teams are more similar than you may think. They both have a nice collection of home wins in ACC play. They both have a regrettable home non-conference loss (Ohio for Georgia Tech; St. John’s for Syracuse). And they both have a loss to one of the ACC’s bottom-feeders (NC State for Georgia Tech; Boston College for Syracuse). When the Yellow Jackets beat the Orange two weeks ago in Atlanta, Syracuse shot just 35 percent from the field, including an 8-of-30 performance from beyond the arc. Something to keep an eye on today: Georgia Tech loves to attack the rim but beware if they get to the free throw line: the Yellow Jackets are shooting just 67.6 percent from the charity stripe over the last 10 games.
Saturday, 8:00 PM: Duke at North Carolina While John Collins, Bonzie Colson and Donovan Mitchell will be making their final ACC Player of the Year statements earlier in the day, Luke Kennard and Justin Jackson will take the spotlight in prime time when the Blue Devils attempt to earn a season sweep of the Tar Heels. Kennard leads the ACC in scoring (19.8 PPG), Offensive Rating (132.3) and Win Shares (6.2), while Jackson is the best player on the team that won the ACC championship. This game is also crucial for North Carolina as it looks to lock itself in as the top seed in the South Region even before the ACC Tournament commences in Brooklyn . A win over Duke would probably give them some wiggle room to lose in the ACC Tournament and still capture that #1 seed.