ACC Non-Conference Games: 10 to Watch

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 9th, 2017

As the opening of the regular season draws near, it’s a good time to closely examine the schedules of all 15 ACC squads and pick out the 10 most interesting non-conference match-ups. The following list excludes any potential games in early season tournaments as well as the ACC/Big Ten Challenge contests — we’ll take a in-depth look at those separately in later posts. This group of 10 games are listed in chronological order (all game times are ET) — mark your calendars now.,

  • November 10 (Friday) – Georgia Tech vs. UCLA (Shanghai, China) – ESPN, 11:30 PM. The Yellow Jackets are traveling over 7,500 miles from Atlanta to tip off Josh Pastner’s second year at the helm. This game shapes up as an interesting battle between one of the nation’s best offenses from a year ago (UCLA – #2 KenPom Offensive Rating) and one of the stingiest defenses (Georgia Tech – #6 KenPom Defensive Rating). A big key to settling this game will be the individual match-up of two excellent returning seniors in the post, with Georgia Tech’s Ben Lammers (9.9% block rate in 2016-17) attempting to stop the smooth mid-range game of UCLA’s Thomas Welsh (132.2 Offensive Rating). Unfortunately for Pastner, he’ll be without two of his starters — Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson have been suspended indefinitely for breaking NCAA rules — while it’s unclear what the game time status will be for UCLA’s LiAngelo Ball and friends after their shoplifting incident at a Hangzhou Louis Vuitton store.

Tom Izzo will be looking for his second win in 12 tries versus Mike Krzyzewski in this year’s Champions Classic. (Chris Trotman)

  • November 14 (Tuesday) – Duke vs Michigan State (Champions Classic – Chicago) – ESPN, 7:00 PM. This could be college basketball’s marquee non-conference match-up of the season, with both squads ranked in virtually everyone’s preseason top four (including the newly released RTC16). Duke may have an edge in raw talent but the Spartans boast National Player of the Year favorite Miles Bridges and a host of other experienced players to surround him. Next week’s game may be Tom Izzo’s best chance in years to beat his friend and rival Mike Krzyzewski. For Coach K to extend his success against Izzo — the Duke head coach holds a 10-1 career advantage — the Blue Devils will need Grayson Allen to end his personal slump in this annual event. Allen has only managed a total of 18 points on 23 percent shooting in Duke’s last two appearances (both losses) in the Champions Classic.

  • November 20 (Monday) – North Carolina at Stanford – ESPN2, 11:30 PM. On the way out to Portland to play in the PK80 event during Thanksgiving weekend, Roy Williams will stop off in the Bay Area to see an old friend — former Kansas and UNC assistant Jerod Haase, now in his second year as Stanford’s head coach. Haase hopes to duplicate the result of his previous visit from his mentor — his UAB team in 2014 beat the visiting Tar Heels in Birmingham. The experienced front line of the Cardinal should be a good early test for North Carolina’s new frontcourt.
  • December 2 (Saturday) – Syracuse vs Kansas (Hoophall Invitational – Miami) – ESPN, 5:30 PM. Jim Boeheim is facing a likely rebuilding year after losing six of the Orange’s top seven scorers from a year ago. Although Syracuse will be a heavy underdog in this game, a competitive showing against the talented Jayhawks would at least give hope to Orange fans that the year won’t be a complete disaster.
  • December 3 (Sunday) – Seton Hall at Louisville – ESPN2, 4:00 PM. Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard worked out this home-and-home series with his former boss, but even without Rick Pitino on the Louisville sideline, it still represents an intriguing match-up between two very talented teams. Willard’s veteran squad will be the first major test for Cardinals’ interim head coach David Padgett — the Pirates return star big man Angel Delgado and two other senior starters.
  • December 4 (Monday) – Florida State at Florida – ESPN2, 9:00 PM. The last four meetings in this intrastate rivalry have been decided by five points or fewer, with the Seminoles taking the last three games of the series. After losing his top three guys, Leonard Hamilton’s team is expected to take a dip in the ACC standings, but a tough road trip against a strong Gators’ squad may be a good indicator of just how far that drop will be.

Bob Huggins and Tony Bennett will meet for the third straight season. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

  • December 5 (Tuesday) – Virginia at West Virginia – ESPNU, 7:00 PM. This should be a great match-up of two of the nation’s top defensive coaches, although their approaches in achieving lockdown status are significantly different. In last year’s 66-57 win in Charlottesville, Bob Huggins’ chaotic press forced Virginia into a 23.1 percent turnover rate while the Mountaineers found good looks against Tony Bennett’s pack line defense, making 52.8 percent of their two-pointers. This will be the third straight season that these two perennially strong programs have met — Virginia won a neutral court meeting in New York in 2016.
  • December 16 (Saturday) – Virginia Tech at Kentucky – ESPN2, 2:00 PM. It seems as if Buzz Williams has decided to improve his program’s non-conference schedule this year after suffering through a very bad slate last season (#341 KenPom). In addition to the Hokies’ visit to Rupp Arena, they also have a road tilt at Mississippi in early December.
  • December 16 (Saturday) – Notre Dame vs Indiana (Crossroads Classic – Indianapolis) – FOX, 2:30 PM. Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey is 3-6 lifetime against the Hoosiers, with only one win in the three prior meetings between these schools in the Crossroads Classic. New Indiana head coach Archie Miller will have some good young talent on hand for his first year in Bloomington, but the Irish will likely have the two best players on the floor here —  seniors Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell.
  • December 29 (Friday) – Louisville at Kentucky – CBS, 1:00 PM. This annual war of the bluegrass should still be among the nation’s most intense games of the season even without the heavyweight coaching match-up of Pitino versus John Calipari. Last year the Cardinals broke a four-game losing streak in the series, but they have never beaten Calipari in Lexington (0-4). To break through for a victory in Rupp Arena, Louisville will need to shoot well in what is likely to be a defensive slugfest.
Brad Jenkins (327 Posts)

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