ACC Weekend Preview: February 24-25

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 24th, 2018

With just two regular season weekends remaining in ACC play, there is still much to be determined. Teams are battling to finish among the top four and receive the corresponding double-bye in the ACC Tournament, and there are a handful of bubble teams that need wins to boost their resumes. (All rankings via KenPom.)

Saturday, February 24

Louisville Might be in Trouble (USA Today Images)

  • Louisville (#38) at Virginia Tech (#28). This is an absolutely monster game for David Padgett‘s Cardinals. Louisville has exactly one win — at Florida State — worth bragging about, and if the season ended today, the Cardinals would be headed to the NIT. They had big chances to add important wins in their past two games, but Louisville responded with one of their worst defensive performances of the year (122.4 Defensive Rating against North Carolina) and one of their worst offensive performances of the year (77.8 Offensive Rating against Duke). In their 94-86 victory against Virginia Tech earlier this year, the Cardinals posted a (non-Pitt) season-high effective field goal conversion rate of 63.6 percent. If this team wants to make the NCAA Tournament, it will need similar offensive performances down the stretch, beginning this weekend in Blacksburg.
  • Boston College (#82) at Miami (#40). Boston College is much improved in Jim Christian’s fourth year at the helm, and much of that improvement is from the absolutely incredible year junior guard Jerome Robinson is having in Chestnut Hill. Robinson, presumably a unanimous First Team All-ACC selection next month, is the second-leading scorer in the league (20.5 PPG). He’s been even better in ACC games, averaging 24.7 points per game and putting up a 123.4 Offensive Rating. Most importantly, Robinson and running mate Ky Bowman have made Eagles basketball fun to watch. If both return next year, this team will be in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

  • Syracuse (#51) at Duke (#3). After six consecutive games with a Defensive Rating of 95 or higher, Duke has now improved its rating (89.7, 85.1 and 77.8) in three straight wins while playing almost entirely zone defense (and entirely without Marvin Bagley.) Even while putting up those positive defensive numbers, Duke’s opponents have shot 41.7 percent from three-point range. While much of three-point defense is attributable to luck, this zone has allowed some wide open looks for opponents. They’ll now take on a Syracuse team that seems to have figured out how to score, logging four straight games with an Offensive Rating over 100. While the Orange are shooting just 32.3 percent from three for the season (309th nationally), they’re making 38.5 percent in their last five games. They’ll need to stay hot from long distance if they want to hang with the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Sunday, February 25

  • Florida State (#26) at NC State (#49). People who followed Kevin Keatts at UNC-Wilmington knew he would turn things around relatively quickly at NC State. But this quickly? Keatts has the Wolfpack headed toward an NCAA Tournament berth in his first season in Raleigh, and they are probably the favorites to become the #4 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament given a favorable closing schedule. While their defense is atrocious, this is a fun team to watch that can score against most everyone. Point guard Markell Johnson leads the ACC in assists (7.8 APG) and assist percentage (42.8%) this season. While Johnson deserves credit for powering an outstanding offense, he absolutely needs to cut down on his turnovers. In ACC games, Johnson owns a 31.7 percent turnover rate, which is a recipe for disaster in an NCAA Tournament environment.
Mick McDonald (47 Posts)

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