ACC Weekend Preview: February 3

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 3rd, 2018

While all eyes will be on Minneapolis tomorrow, the ACC gives us some important action for its bubble teams today. (All rankings via KenPom.)

Saturday, February 3

Are the Pack Back? (USA Today Images)

  • Notre Dame (#35) at NC State (#65). The Wolfpack are riding high (as our Matt Auerbach outlined this week) after their huge overtime win in Chapel Hill last weekend. If NC State hopes to snag an eventual NCAA Tournament bid, it still needs to pick things up on the defensive end. In nine ACC games, Kevin Keatts’ defense is allowing teams to shoot a healthy 49.2 percent from the field, the worst such mark in the conference. In fact, NC State does not have a single rotation player with a Defensive Rating below 108.0. It’s uncertain whether the Wolfpack will be able to fix this issue, especially given that the cause of it is also what has made them so effective offensively this year. First, the blossoming of Omer Yurtseven into an offensive star has resulted in more minutes, but he is hopeless when pulled away from the basket and forced to guard in space. Secondly, Keatts has been playing two of his three smaller guards (Braxton Beverly, Markell Johnson and Lavarr Batts, Jr.) on the floor together. This leads to defensive mismatches, specifically against the less-physical Beverly. It will be interesting to see how the Pack perform against a Notre Dame team that will be deliberate and wants to limit possessions without injured star Bonzie Colson.
  • Miami (#32) at Virginia Tech (#39). The Hokies have won three straight games to surge back into the NCAA Tournament discussion. The key all season for Buzz Williams’ team has been making threes, and his guys have gotten their shooting stroke back lately. During this three-game winning streak, Virginia Tech is making 42.2 percent from long-range and nailing nearly 13 threes per game. In their eight prior games, the Hokies made just 30.4 percent from distance and correspondingly went 4-4. They’ll look to stay hot against Miami, who will be without star Bruce Brown for the foreseeable future. The match-up to look for  in this game is down low — can Miami’s Dewan Huell (116.6 ORtg, 54.8% eFG) get the offensively-challenged Hurricanes some easy baskets against a Virginia Tech front line that only features Kerry Blackshear?

  • Virginia (#2) at Syracuse (#46). Is this the spot where Virginia finally drops its first conference game? The length of the Syracuse zone and the location (Carrier Dome) have traditionally given the Cavaliers some trouble. In fact, Virginia shot a season-low 37.7 percent from the field in their meeting in Charlottesville earlier this year (a 68-61 win). Keep an eye on which player Tony Bennett decides to use in the high post against the zone. He has usually started with Isaiah Wilkins, but Wilkins has been struggling in making the necessary foul line jumper. Bennett usually calls on De’Andre Hunter for instant offense, but don’t be surprised if he instead uses a big guard like Ty Jerome or Devon Hall as he did against Duke. Both make great decisions and have a nice touch against taller defenders. They’ll need precision out of that spot if they want to leave Syracuse with a perfect ACC record.
  • Florida State (#25) at Louisville (#30). The Cardinals will look for a season sweep in this series after posting a victory in Tallahassee on January 10. In that game, Louisville got 15 points and six rebounds from Ray Spalding, and he has continued to perform at a high level for David Padgett‘s team in the interim. Over his past 11 games, Spalding is averaging 12.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per-game, while also blocking nearly two shots per contest. In conference games, he owns a 25.0 PER and 92.6 Defensive Rating. While his talent is undeniable, Spalding can sometimes get lost on the court and you’ll question why he isn’t doing more. If Louisville wants to make the most out of this strange season, the Cardinals need him to assert himself even more on offense.
Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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