ACC Weekend Preview: January 19

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 18th, 2019

This weekend is highlighted by a monster showdown in Durham, but there are some tricky road trips as well for teams near the top of the standings. Rush the Court ACC microsite writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) gets you ready for the weekend ahead in the ACC. (All rankings via KenPom)

Saturday, January 19

Roy Williams Needs His Freshmen to Produce (USA Today Images)

#10 North Carolina (13-4, 3-1) at #72 Miami (9-7, 1-3). Did we finally see the Nassir Little coming-out party? The stud freshman has been spent plenty of time on Roy Williams’ bench so far this season, but in the Tar Heels’ recent win over Notre Dame, Little scored 11 second-half points on 5-of-8 shooting along with six boards. Part of the equation for this North Carolina team being successful was Little becoming an immediate star. The Heels also need Coby White to get back on track. In the Tar Heels’ four ACC contests to date, White’s Offensive Rating is down eight points and his turnover percentage is up six points to nearly 24 percent. He’ll try to find his footing in Coral Gables as he matches up with Miami dynamo Chris Lykes, someone who is posting a 133.3 Offensive Rating and a 27.3 PER.

#32 NC State (14-3, 2-2) at #75 Notre Dame (11-6, 1-3). Oh, what a loss in Winston-Salem will do for an ACC team’s outlook. The Wolfpack were feeling pretty good about themselves in early ACC play after a successful non-conference campaign followed by a competitive home loss to North Carolina. Then Kevin Keatts‘ squad dropped the one game you cannot lose in the ACC this season. NC State three-point shooting, which was so strong through the first 13 games of the year (41.4%) has dropped to just 29.9 percent in ACC play. Given the way the Wolfpack plays, they are going to be in considerable trouble if they can’t start making more shots from long-distance. NC State heads to South Bend to take on a struggling Fighting Irish club. Even though it’s been a disappointing season for Mike Brey’s team so far, how about a little love for John Mooney? He is quietly putting up a monster season (30.2 PER, 130.6 ORtg), averaging a double-double and shooting nearly 46 percent from three-point range.

#66 Pittsburgh (12-5, 2-2) at #37 Syracuse (12-5, 3-1). Who knows what to make of this Syracuse team — last weekend the Orange lost at home by double-figures to Georgia Tech, and two days later they beat Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Bet on or against them at your own risk. One thing we know about the Orange is that their offense can disappear, especially if Tyus Battle has an off night. That’s why it is so encouraging to see how Elijah Hughes has played recently. Over his last six games, he’s averaging 16.8 points per game and shooting 38.5 percent from long-distance. He’ll face off with Panthers’ freshman Trey McGowens, who has been terrific so far for Jeff Capel in ACC play. In those four games, McGowens (27.3 PER, 119.8 Offensive Rating) is averaging 21.8 PPG and making nearly 44 percent of his shots from long range. It’s always critical to be able to make threes against the Syracuse zone, and over their last three games, Pittsburgh is shooting a healthy 40 percent from downtown.

#1 Virginia (16-0, 4-0) at #2 Duke (14-2, 3-1). If you aren’t making time to watch this game on Saturday evening, we aren’t sure what to tell you. Virginia (ranked fourth on offense, second in defense) and Duke (fifth on offense, fourth on defense) are the only two teams in the country that rank among the top five nationally in both metrics. Tempo will be important in this game, as Virginia ranks dead last (353rd) nationally while Duke (seventh) always wants to push the pace. A big part of that for the Blue Devils is point guard Tre Jones, who suffered a separated AC joint in his shoulder in Monday’s loss. According to the latest chatter, Jones is recovering better than expected and hasn’t yet been ruled out for this game. There’s not much better than Zion Williamson (ninth nationally in Offensive Rating) taking on a pack-line defense that features Braxton Key (76.7 Defensive Rating, best in the country) and DeAndre Hunter (86.6 Defensive Rating). If this game comes down to the wire, keep an eye on Ty Jerome (24.1 PER, 41.2% from long-range), who hit the game-winner in Durham last season and is never afraid of the moment.

Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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