ACC Weekend Preview: January 20-21

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 19th, 2018

The slate admittedly feels a little light this weekend around the ACC, but that is usually when chaos reigns. We’ll take a look at a monster game in Blacksburg and the team at the top of the ACC standings trying to win its second road contest in a row.

Saturday, January 20

Can the Close Game Maestro Keep It Going?(USA Today Images)

Florida State (#27) at Virginia Tech (#49). This is exactly the kind of game Virginia Tech needs to win if it realistically wants to make the NCAA Tournament this season. The Hokies’ best win so far this year is… Washington? At Ole Miss? At Wake Forest? There is basically nothing very compelling on a resume that also includes a neutral court loss to Saint Louis (#170). The key for Buzz Williams’ team in this game is for the Hokies to find their shooting stroke from three-point range. It was their identity earlier this season, but they are making just 31.3 percent from long distance through five ACC games. No player has seen their shooting plummet more than senior Justin Bibbs. The normally sweet-stroked southpaw has never shot worse than 41 percent from distance during his career, but he stands at just 23.1 percent in ACC play so far this season.

Notre Dame (#25) at Clemson (#13). The Irish have now dropped three straight games, including a brutal, double-overtime home loss to Louisville on Tuesday night. While the team is still without the services of star forward Bonzie Colson, they did get point guard Matt Farrell back in the lineup on Tuesday. If the Irish are going to rally through the rest of the ACC schedule without Colson, Farrell has to be the star for Mike Brey‘s team. This weekend he will match up with another star guard who doesn’t get enough recognition for his excellent play: Clemson’s Marcquise Reed. The junior is shooting nearly 41 percent from three-point range this season and 86 percent from the line. He was excellent in the Tigers’ recent close loss at North Carolina, scoring 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-6 threes. With both teams playing excellent defense throughout, the gunning guard that gets hot down the stretch could decide this game.

Sunday, January 21

Miami (#30) at NC State (#67). Jim Larranaga’s club is going to regret letting a late lead at home slip away on Monday night against Duke. The Hurricanes’ NCAA Tournament resume is surprisingly light for such a talented Top 25 team. They have already dropped a road game at Georgia Tech and simply cannot afford to do the same thing on Sunday in Raleigh.  A big mystery this year is the disappearance of Ja’Quan Newton. The senior guard has never been a superstar for Miami, but he was a solid cog in the machine over the last two seasons. This year he is shooting an abysmal 13.3 percent from three-point range and contributing just a 94.5 Offensive Rating. Combine Newton’s issues with a team that really struggles shooting when opponents pack in the defense, and you have a team that is prone to long scoreless stretches. The Hurricanes will need to avoid those problems if they want to pick up a much-needed road win.

Virginia (#3) at Wake Forest (#90). The Cavaliers took care of business at Georgia Tech on Thursday to earn their second conference road win, and they’ll look to make it 3-0 on the road Sunday when they head to Winston-Salem. Against a team like Wake Forest that prefers to play small, expect to see Tony Bennett continue to deploy DeAndre Hunter at the four even more frequently. The redshirt freshman has been outstanding recently. Over his past five games, he is averaging 11.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 70 percent from the field and maintaining his excellent defense. When you add Hunter’s versatility to a guy like Isaiah Wilkins, who is one of the best defenders in the country, it makes Virginia’s defense even more scary, if that’s possible.

Mick McDonald (67 Posts)

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