ACC Weekend Preview: Opening Weekend

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 10th, 2017

Teams around the ACC tip off their regular seasons this weekend with a host of games that will start the canvas to what will undoubtedly be a competitive and unpredictable conference slate. Here are the key games this weekend that will whet your appetite for the season ahead:

Friday, November 10

  • Northern Iowa (KenPom #129) at North Carolina: The Tar Heels begin the season without star point guard Joel Berry II, but the senior point guard is expected back for the PK80 event in Portland, Oregon, later this month. Until then, games like these are good opportunities for some of the younger guards like Brandon Robinson and Seventh Woods to gain some experience. Keep an eye out for freshman Jalek Felton, especially in Berry’s absence, to leap onto the scene. Northern Iowa is part of a wide-open Missouri Valley landscape that no longer includes Wichita State, but a meticulous style of play and 6’10” senior Bennett Koch (57% eFG last season) could give a young North Carolina front line some issues.

Can Bryant Crawford and a talented but crowded backcourt ease the loss of John Collins? (AP)

  • Elon (KenPom #106) at Duke: Our first chance to see Duke’s highly-touted freshman class comes against an Elon team expected to compete for the CAA championship. How will Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter co-exist in the frontcourt? Is Trevon Duval the point guard Mike Krzyzewski has been searching for since Tyus Jones left campus? Will there be any further Grayson Allen drama? Tonight gives us our first opportunity to overreact wildly. Keep an eye on Elon’s Tyler Siebring, a 6’8” forward who led the Phoenix in scoring a year ago and shot nearly 40 percent from three.

  • Georgia Southern (KenPom #105) at Wake Forest: Our first look at Danny Manning’s Demon Deacons in the post-John Collins era comes with a decent test. Georgia Southern returns perhaps the best backcourt in the Sun Belt, featuring Tookie Brown and Ike Smith, both of whom averaged over 17 points per contest last season. It will be interesting to see how Manning balances a talented but crowded backcourt that includes potential All-ACC guard Bryant Crawford.
  • Georgia Tech vs. UCLA (KenPom #29): Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson will not play in the Yellow Jackets’ season opener in China this weekend — easily the toughest test of any ACC team until next week. Where will Josh Pastner look for offense with those two stalwarts out of the lineup? Our guess is with 6’9” freshman Moses Wright, who posted a double-double in Georgia Tech’s final exhibition game. This game will also feature a terrific match-up down low: Georgia Tech’s Ben Lammers, an elite post defender, against UCLA’s Thomas Welsh, a highly efficient scorer with a sweet mid-range jumper.

Saturday, November 11

  • Notre Dame at DePaul (KenPom #119): The Fighting Irish tip off their season by traveling to Chicago to face DePaul in its brand new downtown arena. While most of the focus will be on preseason All-American forward Bonzie Colson (for good reason), make sure to get a look at 6’6” freshman D.J. Harvey as well. He will play a key role for Mike Brey‘s team as the season rolls on. While the new arena is terrific news for the long-dormant DePaul program in the long run, the Blue Demons could once again be facing a rocky year. Former Virginia coach Dave Leitao’s squad is the only Big East team outside of KenPom’s preseason top 80. Don’t be surprised if junior guard Eli Cain puts up big numbers for a bad team.

Sunday, November 12

The season has finally arrived for David Padgett’s Cardinals. (Michael Clevenger/Courier-Journal)

  • George Mason (KenPom #169) at Louisville: There may not be a single team in the country more desperate for the season to start than the Cardinals. They will have to wait until Sunday to take the floor, where a George Mason team that is expected to finish near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 will await. There are many open questions about interim head coach David Padgett’s style, and this will be our first opportunity to watch him in action. Expect a heavy dose of Anas Mahmoud in the post, as the Cards will look to run their offense inside-out. Does a breakout season that many are predicting for V.J. King begin here? What about Deng Adel? Don’t miss Dave Paulsen’s 5’11” guard Otis Livingston II, who is just a ton of fun to watch.
Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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