ACC Weekend Preview: December 16-17

Posted by Mick McDonald on December 15th, 2017

There wasn’t much ACC action this week but the weekend promises a double-header in the Sunshine State, an ancient Big East rivalry renewed, and a pair of huge road tests (all ratings are via KenPom and statistics are through the games of December 14).

Saturday, December 16

Syracuse and Georgetown Pick Up Their Ancient Rivalry This Weekend (USA Today Images)

  • Syracuse (#56) at Georgetown (#95). An old Big East rivalry will be renewed as Georgetown has now finished the MEAC portion of its schedule. This is the toughest test of the season to date for the Hoyas, as their 8-0 start has come against a schedule that ranks dead last nationally. Syracuse star Tyus Battle has scored 20 or more points in three straight games, as the sophomore appears to have taken the leap that many expected — his PER (15.2 to 23.6) and Offensive Rating (116.4 to 123.1) have both significantly improved from last season.
  • Virginia Tech (#28) at Kentucky (#14). In what feels like a major statement game for Buzz Williams, the Hokies will travel to Lexington to take on a young and mostly untested Kentucky team. This Virginia Tech squad plays a very similar style to Kansas, which beat the Wildcats at the Champions Classic earlier this season. The Jayhawks won that game despite shooting just 8-of-28 from distance. The Hokies (96.2 PPG), on the other hand, are the highest scoring team in college basketball and rely heavily on three-point shooting (46.8% 3FG, second nationally) while mostly playing away from the basket. If Virginia Tech wishes to pull the upset at Rupp Arena tomorrow, it will need to convert double-figure three-pointers while shooting a high percentage.

  • Oklahoma State (#55) vs. Florida State (#24). The Seminoles are shooting 58.2 percent from the field this year, ranking 19th-best in college basketball, and much of that is due to the improvement of junior wing Terrance Mann. We knew the key for Leonard Hamilton’s team this season was someone stepping up as a lead scorer, and Mann has so far fulfilled that role nicely. He leads the Seminoles in scoring (15.6 PPG) while shooting 64.5% from the field. He also isn’t afraid to get his teammates involved, putting up a career-best 17.5% assist percentage to date. If Mann can continue his transformation into a go-to scorer, Florida State’s array of high-energy and athletic role players make for a dangerous squad.
  • Clemson (#33) vs. Florida (#21). Clemson heads to South Florida to take on the Gators in the Orange Bowl Classic (Oklahoma State-Florida State will precede this game), hoping to hand Florida its third loss against an ACC team this season. The Tigers have been patiently waiting for Donte Grantham to explode and he appears to have finally put it all together this season. The senior is leading the team in scoring (a career-best 16.0 PPG) while being insanely efficient (73.6% eFG). How has he become so dangerous? After shooting just 32 percent from three-point range during his first three seasons, he is making 38.7 percent so far this season — forcing defenders to respect his jumper.

Sunday, December 17

Last Year’s Tough Game Against Tennessee Resulted in a Victory (USA Today Images)

  • North Carolina (#9) at Tennessee (#22). A tricky road test for the Tar Heels will wrap up meaningful ACC action this weekend. A big question for Roy Williams this year was how he would use his freshmen big men to mix in with Luke Maye in the frontcourt. So far, Garrison Brooks is starting and receiving the most minutes (17.7 MPG), while reserves Sterling Manley (12.5 MPG) and Brandon Huffman (6.6 MPG) are getting less time. The two bench players have fared much better, as Manley and Huffman are both averaging nearly 22 points and 17 rebounds per 40 minutes of action. Brooks (16.1% DRB, 9.7% ORB) has also been out-performed on the glass by Manley (29.9% DRB, 14.6% ORB) and Huffman (26.8% DRB, 17.3% ORB). Tennessee holds opponents to just 38.3 percent shooting from the field (30th nationally), so it will be imperative for North Carolina to control the glass if they want to leave Knoxville with a victory. It will be interesting to see if Williams begins to give his two reserve big men minutes at the expense of Brooks.
Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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