Several ACC Takeaways From Opening Night

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 7th, 2018

Opening night of the 2018-19 season was a total success for the ACC as league members swept their nine opponents last evening by convincing double-figure margins. Here are some takeaways from the three most prominent contests played by conference squads Tuesday night.

DUKE’S NEWCOMERS EXCEEDED THE HYPE

Zion Williamson and his fellow freshmen lived up to their immense hype in Duke’s big win over Kentucky. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

It doesn’t sound possible after all the preseason buzz surrounding the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, but Duke‘s rookies were even better than advertised in a 118-84 thrashing of top-five Kentucky. This game represented a mismatch in talent from the outset, as Duke’s celebrated trio of RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish combined to finish with 83 points on 56.6 percent shooting. Barrett and Williamson, in particular, were amazing in transition, but they also scored much more easily in the half-court against a bevy of long and athletic Wildcats. At least for one glorious night in early November, Mike Krzyzewski’s squad had all of the answers to its preseason questions surrounding outside shooting (12-26 3FG), defense (Kentucky lingered around 1.0 PPP most of the game) and depth (eight Blue Devils saw double-figure minutes). After years of struggling to find a true point guard to orchestrate the offense, Duke looks like it has a diamond in Tre Jones, who finished with seven assists and zero turnovers. Even junior Jack White came off the bench to play 30 solid minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing a game-high 11 boards. Yes, it’s only one game — but if the Blue Devils can stay healthy, their potential is downright scary.

FLORIDA STATE’S DEFENSE IS LEGIT

Duke wasn’t the only ACC team to dominate a highly regarded team from the SEC last night, as Florida State used a strong second half start to pummel Florida, 81-60. Leonard Hamilton‘s team utilized old school defense to fuel its NCAA Tournament run to the Elite Eight last March, and it was more of the same against the Gators in holding their rival to a frigid 37.0 percent from the field and forcing 16 miscues. The Seminoles weren’t bad on the other end of the floor (1.12 PPP), either, especially considering they are currently without leading scorer Phil Cofer (broken foot). Florida State converted a robust 11-of-23 from three-point land, with PJ Savoy leading the way in nailing 5-of-7 from deep. Normally, Hamilton’s teams usually take some time to gel, but it looks like Florida State is already set to roll this year. If this is the ACC’s seventh best team (per the ACC Media preseason poll), then the league is in outstanding shape relative to the rest of college basketball.

NORTH CAROLINA HANDLED GAME PRESSURE ON THE ROAD

Garrison Brooks looked much improved in North Carolina’s opening night win at Wofford. (Michaela Stutts/The Daily Tar Heel)

As the only ACC team playing a true road game on opening night, North Carolina found itself in a real dogfight midway through the second half at Wofford. After allowing the home team to make a three-pointer fueled run to tie the game, Roy Williams’ club responded with a 32-21 run of its own to put the game away, gaining a measure of revenge for last year’s shocking loss in Chapel Hill. It has been a surprise to many observers that Williams elected to bring stud freshman Nassir Little off the bench, but the Heels’ starting frontcourt made that decision look good on Tuesday night — Luke Maye (24 points) did his thing; sophomore Garrison Brooks (20 points) looked much improved; and Cameron Johnson (17 points) led the second half surge with three clutch three-point bombs. North Carolina gave up more made threes (357) than any other team in the nation last year, but the Tar Heels held Wofford to an ice cold 9-of-36 shooting from distance on this evening. Leading the perimeter defense was senior Kenny Williams, who harassed Terriers’ star Fletcher Magee (7-23 FG) all night long. Freshman point guard Coby White struggled early — no points and three turnovers in the first half — but turned things around in the second half, scoring eight points and playing error-free basketball after halftime. The two positions of concern for Williams heading into this year were center and point guard, so the contributions of Brooks and White in a road win is a positive first step.

Brad Jenkins (333 Posts)


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One response to “Several ACC Takeaways From Opening Night”

  1. Kentucky got knocked down early and couldn’t recover. They are a talented team and it will be interesting to see how they regroup from such a shellacking. Keep up the nice work!

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