ACC Weekend Preview: December 29-31

Posted by Mick McDonald on December 29th, 2017

Finally, a full slate of ACC play has arrived! While we break down a few key match-ups heading into the last weekend of 2017, we can’t forget a huge non-conference game as well this afternoon. (All stats through games of December 28. All rankings via KenPom.)

Friday, December 29

David Padgett Gets His First Taste of Kentucky as a Head Coach (USA Today Images)

  • Louisville (#33) at Kentucky (#19). This game will always be big for both programs in the Bluegrass State, but what is on the line this year from a resume perspective also happens to matter. Kentucky’s home win over Virginia Tech is probably the best victory either team owns, and both could use another substantive non-conference win before the calendar flips to the new year. Keep an eye on how Kentucky chooses to attack Louisville’s defense today. The Cardinals allow opponents to shoot just 41.4 percent from two-point range (11th nationally), featuring two of the best shot-blockers (Anas Mahmoud, 15.5% block rate; Ray Spalding, 8.4% block rate) in college basketball. While most teams tend to lean on the three-point shot against David Padgett‘s group, that is not Kentucky’s strength. While the Wildcats shoot a solid 36.0 percent on the season from long range, they have only attempted 161 threes, or roughly 15 per game (348th nationally).

Saturday, December 30

  • Florida State (#27) at Duke (#4). The Blue Devils have played just one game — a rout of Evansville — since their surprising early December loss at Boston College. To avoid an 0-2 start in ACC play, Duke needs to once again avoid falling in love with the three-pointer. In that loss to the Eagles, Mike Krzyzewski’s team made just 8-of-30 three-point attempts. It spent long portions of the game ignoring its massive size advantage in the post in the forms of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter, opting instead to fire away at will. If Florida State hopes to copy Boston College’s winning game plan, the Seminoles will need athletic guards Braian Angola-Rodas (42.4% 3FG) and M.J. Walker (46% 3FG) to shoot it well from distance against a defense that does a solid job defending it (34.9% 3FG).

  • Boston College (#86) at Virginia (#3). The first-place Eagles head to Charlottesville to deliver what is certain to be an interesting match-up with Virginia. Tony Bennett’s pack-line defense can be exploited by explosive guards who can beat their men off the dribble and convert tough shots. Boston College has three of those players in Ky Bowman (113.8 ORtg), Jerome Robinson (116.1 ORtg) and Jordan Chatman (135.8 ORtg). Virginia normally focuses its offense around Kyle Guy and Devon Hall, but given the Eagles’ relative lack of size, it will be interesting to see if Bennet pushes to get Isaiah Wilkins (58.5% eFG) or Mamadi Diakite (58.9% eFG) going. Keep an eye on Virginia freshman De’Andre Hunter as well — he’s been somewhat hit-and-miss this year, but this could be an opportunity to produce offensively by posting up smaller defenders.

Sunday, December 31

  • Virginia Tech (#38) at Syracuse (#50). We know the calendar won’t quite have turned to 2018 yet on Sunday, but it feels like it will have big 2018 NCAA Tournament implications. Both teams’ non-conference schedules were relatively light and both figure to finish in the middle of the ACC pack. Head-to-head games like this one can ultimately become separators when the Selection Committee is picking through the bubble teams. Virginia Tech shoots and converts so many threes (43.7%, second nationally) that it would be reasonable to assume the Hokies will be a nightmare for the Syracuse zone. However, the length of the Orange’s defense could be more disruptive against the smaller Hokies than expected. Syracuse is also usually vulnerable to offensive rebounding, but Virginia Tech comes in as one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country. It will be interesting to see how Buzz Williams chooses to guard Syracuse wing Tyus Battle, who has been outstanding through the first seven weeks of the regular sesason.
Mick McDonald (57 Posts)


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