Three Takeaways from Weekend #1 in the ACC

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 13th, 2017

The ACC fared well on the opening weekend of college basketball, with only one school suffering a surprising loss as Wake Forest fell to Georgia Southern in Winston-Salem on Friday night. As is usually the case, most of the other league teams opened the season by beating inferior opponents. Here are three takeaways from the league’s first weekend of action.

1) North Carolina: No Joel Berry. No Problem.

Luke Maye was the star in North Carolina’s convincing season opening win over Northern Iowa.
(Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

Despite not having All-America point guard Joel Berry II (broken hand) and another starter — transfer Cameron Johnson (sprained neck) — in the lineup, North Carolina didn’t miss a beat in its 86-69 win over Northern Iowa on Friday night at the Smith Center. Freshman Jalek Felton and Seventh Woods combined for 14 points and three assists while splitting time running the team, but the Tar Heels’ primary playmaking came from the wing as Theo Pinson and Kenny Williams each logged five assists. As long as Berry is out — and maybe even when he returns — Pinson will often initiate the offense.

The most encouraging thing from the Tar Heels’ opener was the surprising performance of their untested frontline. Junior Luke Maye showed that he’s ready for a breakout season after posting 26 points and 10 rebounds on 11-of-16 shooting. Maybe even more important than Maye’s unforeseen outburst was the play of two relatively unheralded freshman big men, Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley. The post duo combined for 23 points and 14 rebounds in 32 minutes of action. If Roy Williams can get that kind of production from his frontcourt, he can afford to maintain his preferred style of inside-out play this season.

2) Duke: Marvin Bagley Looks Like the Real Deal.

Marvin Bagley is Worth a Smile (USA Today Images)

Duke had very high expectations for this year’s crop of talented freshmen and so far they are living up to the hype. Marvin Bagley showed why he was the consensus #1 recruit entering college basketball this season, beginning his collegiate career with two monster games. The bouncy forward averaged 24.5 points and 10.0 boards per game in Duke’s two blowout wins over Elon (97-68) and Utah Valley (99-69) this weekend. It also appears as if point guard Trevon Duval is giving Mike Krzyzewski exactly what he needs from that position, totaling 20 assists with just one turnover in 51 minutes of action. By comparison, Frank Jackson didn’t record 20 assists until his 13th game last season. Big man Wendell Carter may also be better defensively than anyone expected — he’s already blocked six shots in 43 minutes for a robust 15.5 percent block rate. Finally, freshman wing Gary Trent, Jr. is off to a hot shooting start, averaging 17.0 points per game on 53.8 percent shooting from deep. Duke’s lone senior, Grayson Allen, has started the year quietly on fire — making 10 of his 15 three-point attempts — and inviting no controversy to date.

In addition to two victories to start the season, Duke had two more things to celebrate over the weekend. On Friday the program secured a commitment from the nation’s top-ranked player in the class of 2018, Canadian wing R.J. Barrett. And Saturday’s victory against Utah Valley was the 1,000th of Krzyzewski’s Duke career (he notched 73 more with Army from 1975-80). Next up for the #1 Blue Devils will be a much anticipated match-up with #2 Michigan State in the Champions Classic in Chicago on Tuesday night. Expect the Blue Devils’ freshmen to experience some growing pains against the deep and experienced Spartans — this will represent a major upgrade in competition after the first two easy affairs.

3) Louisville: Cardinals look Shaky in David Padgett’s Debut.

David Padgett Got Off to a Winning but Shaky Start at Louisville (USA Today Images)

One of the constants of Rick Pitino’s former tenure at Louisville was that his teams routinely destroyed inferior competition. That was not the case at the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday afternoon as Louisville rallied late to beat George Mason in David Padgett’s first game as the head coach. After all the program has been through this preseason — new scandal; new coach — the Cardinals’ nerves may have contributed to their slow start. To Padgett’s credit, with starters V.J. King and Ray Spalding struggling to combine for just seven points on 1-of-9 shooting, he turned to freshmen Darius Perry and Jordan Nwora for backup. The two combined to make all six of their three-point attempts with Perry icing the win at the foul line (8-of-8). It’s way too early to know what will happen with this team over the course of a long season, but if the Cardinals struggle again soon (their next outing is Friday versus Nebraska-Omaha), the rest of the ACC will certainly take notice.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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