ACC Weekend Preview: January 12

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 11th, 2019

ACC play is in full swing and Rush the Court’s ACC microsite writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) is here to get you set for a busy Saturday of hoops. (All rankings via KenPom)

Saturday, January 12

Kyle Guy Leads Virginia into Clemson (USA Today Images)
  • #2 Virginia (14-0, 2-0) at #40 Clemson (10-5, 0-2). First to 50 wins? Expect a defensive struggle at Littlejohn Coliseum tomorrow afternoon, as two of the best defensive teams in the country get together (Virginia ranks third, Clemson 24th, per KenPom). The good news for anyone hoping for some offense? Each team has a dynamic guard who comes into this game on fire. Virginia’s Kyle Guy is averaging more than 19 points per game over his last four outings while shooting 61.5 percent from long-distance and 62 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Clemson’s Marcquise Reed is also putting up just over 19 PPG in the same span while making 46.7 percent of his threes and adding 5.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. This is a monster opportunity for Brad Brownell’s Tigers, which otherwise look headed for the bubble. The key for his squad may be turnovers. Clemson has given the ball away 16 or more times in five straight contests after doing so just once in their first 10 games. Given how few possessions there will be tomorrow, Clemson cannot afford to squander any opportunities to score against Tony Bennett’s defense.
  • #39 Louisville (10-5, 1-1) at #6 North Carolina (12-3, 2-0). The two leading scorers for Louisville and North Carolina may be two of the most underappreciated players in the entire ACC. Cameron Johnson gave every Tar Heel fan a scare when he left Tuesday’s game against NC State with what initially looked like a serious knee injury. Luckily it was cramping instead, because he’s been the best player on Roy Williams’ squad this season. The seniior leads the team with 16.2 points per game but is also backing it up with excellent efficiency numbers (24.5 PER, 127.5 ORtg). His flexibility allows the Tar Heels to play big or small, and his size makes him a tough cover for opposing defenders. For the Cardinals, Jordan Nwora (17.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG) is having the breakout season Louisville fans have been waiting on from V.J. King since he stepped on campus. There are still lots of questions about Chris Mack’s inaugural team in Louisville, but Nwora (27.6 usage rate) has answered the call as a go-to-scorer.
  • #87 Pittsburgh (11-4, 1-1) at #23 NC State (13-2, 1-1). Everyone knows Jeff Capel will turn things around at Pittsburgh eventually, but the Panthers’ improvement in just his first year is stark. Pittsburgh finished last season ranked 227th overall, per KenPom, with the nation’s 166th-best defense. Following their overtime win against Louisville earlier this week, however, Capel’s team is already up to 87th overall, supported by the 43rd-best defense. Pittsburgh has done a terrific job defending the three-point line this year (which, yes, involves a certain amount of luck), allowing its opponents to make just 28.4 percent and ranking among the top 20 nationally in that metric. They’ll need to keep the defensive pressure up if they want to earn a second straight ACC victory, as the Wolfpack shoot a robust 39.9 percent (12th nationally) from long distance.
  • #1 Duke (13-1, 2-0) at #19 Florida State (13-2, 1-1). Zion Williamson has been even better than expected this year (his astonishing 43.1 PER still looks like a typo.) RJ Barrett and Tre Jones have been about as good as expected. The big surprise for Mike Krzyzewski’s freshman class has been how much Cam Reddish has struggled. His 95.5 Offensive Rating is by far the lowest of any Duke regular, as is his 14.3 PER. It’s clear what his role on the team should be. Given the star-power of Williamson and how much Barrett dominates the ball, Reddish needs to embrace becoming a three-and-D type player. Given Duke’s lack of three-point shooting prowess (32.2 percent, 266th nationally), the Blue Devils could really stand to have Reddish focus on being a lights-out shooter. The problem is that he’s currently making just 33.7 percent from long-range and things don’t appear to be getting much better (18.8 percent in his last three games). While you’re oohing and aahing over every move Williamson makes in Tallahassee this weekend, keep an eye on Reddish. He may be the key to Duke cutting down the nets in April.
Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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