ACC Weekend Preview: February 9

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 8th, 2019

It’s a busy weekend around the ACC, including the #1 vs. #2 rematch we’ve all been waiting for in Charlottesville. Rush the Court ACC writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) gets you prepped. (All rankings via KenPom)

Saturday, February 9

Clemson Needs a Win and Virginia Tech Visits on Saturday (USA Today Images)

#9 Virginia Tech (18-4, 7-3) at #35 Clemson (14-8, 4-5). This feels like the kind of game Clemson needs to win if it realistically hopes to make the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers’ current resume has no meat on the bone, so an opportunity to beat a top 10 KenPom team is one they can’t squander. They’ll need to take advantage of a Virginia Tech club without much interior size, which means feeding Elijah Thomas (29.6 PER, 65.9% eFG) like they did in their win over Wake Forest last Sunday (23 points on 10-of-11 FG). What cannot happen is that Thomas instead gets into foul trouble, like he did on Wednesday night at Georgia Tech (seven points in 17 minutes). Given the Hokies’ firepower from the outside, it’s difficult to envision a Clemson victory without another monster performance from its big man.

#42 NC State (16-7, 4-6) at #75 Pittsburgh (12-11, 2-8). My, how things can change in just a week. Only 10 days ago, NC State was *this close* to taking down Virginia. After losing in overtime, however, the Wolfpack followed up with embarrassing displays on both offense (24 points in a home loss to Virginia Tech) and defense (allowing 113 to North Carolina in Chapel Hill). So what we have is something that feels like an important game for Kevin Keatts, one in which he really needs a breakout performance from Torin Dorn. The senior shot just 35.3 percent from the field and made only one three-pointer in the last two games, but the bigger issue is that Dorn hasn’t played well since conference play began. In league games only, Dorn (14.3 PER, 41.9% eFG) has been much worse than his overall numbers (20.8 PER, 50.7 eFG%) — if the Wolfpack expect to turn things around, it starts with their small-ball four recovering his groove.

The Mack Daddy Continues to Impress in Year 1 at Louisville (USA Today Images)

#13 Louisville (17-6, 8-2) at #21 Florida State (17-5, 5-4). Everyone knew Chris Mack would get the job done at Louisville in due time, but few observers expected him to be this good this soon. Mack is a veritable lock for ACC Coach of the Year, and he will be in the running for the national award as well. He’s facilitated Jordan Nwora‘s development into a likely first-team all-ACC performer and he’s helped players like Dwayne Sutton (57.9% eFG this year, up from 51.7% last year) find and embrace their roles. Further, he’s allowed Connecticut transfer Steven Enoch to become an absolute beast in the post (59.9% eFG, 116.3 ORtg, 95.8 DRtg). If Mack can perform such miracles with this roster — in year one — what will he do when the loaded classes start arriving next season? The rest of the ACC shudders to think.

#2 Duke (20-2, 8-1) at #1 Virginia (20-1, 8-1). This is the rematch we’ve been waiting for since Duke wrapped up a two-point win in Durham three weeks ago. This version will feature Blue Devils point guard Tre Jones, who has since returned from a shoulder injury and been as steady as usual. Other than a sloppy five-turnover game against St. John’s last weekend, Jones has made just two turnovers in Duke’s other three games. His shooting remains an issue (27.3% from three-point range since his return), but he isn’t asked to do much of that in Mike Krzyzewski’s offense. While the Duke point guard will play, Virginia’s Ty Jerome missed the Cavaliers’ win over Miami last weekend with a back injury and his status for tomorrow’s game is still up in the air. Tony Bennett needs to have Jerome in the lineup — it’s not only a matter of his monster numbers (119.4 ORtg, 84.7 DRtg) but he is also the unquestioned leader of the team on the floor. With or without Jerome, expect Virginia’s defense to force Duke into more jump shots this time around after R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson attacked the basket throughout the Blue Devils’ win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Mick McDonald (64 Posts)


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