ACC Opening Game Reactions

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 7th, 2019

No conference launched the college basketball season quite like the ACC, with seven league games already in the books by Wednesday evening, in addition to Duke taking down Kansas in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. Here’s are five things that stood out over the opening two nights of ACC action.

Cole Anthony Blew Everyone Away on Wednesday Night (USA Today Images)

Cole Anthony is the real deal. Attention to everyone who did not put Cole Anthony on your preseason first-team All-American teams: You were silly and this is just the beginning of how silly you will look. After a slow start in the season opener against Notre Dame, Anthony took over in the second half, finishing with 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists on 12-of-24 shooting, including 6-of-11 from long-range. The performance was even more critical given that the Tar Heels were short-handed with Brandon Robinson on the shelf. A star is born in Chapel Hill. Now let’s just see if someone can get him some new glasses.

Should we be more worried about Duke’s offense? The Blue Devils notched a big win Tuesday over Kansas in the Champions Classic, but there are definitely concerns about Duke’s offense. The Jayhawks gifted the Devils 26 turnovers, but they still shot just 35.9 percent from the field and didn’t put the game away until the very end. Additionally, Duke made just eight of its 24 three-point attempts. Tre Jones was 0-of-4 from long range and Jack White and Alex O’Connell (2-of-9 combined) didn’t provide an offensive spark off the bench. The good news? There is plenty of time for Mike Krzyzewski to build an offense around Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt and Cassius Stanley.

Samuell Williamson is the freshman not enough people are talking about. Louisville was very impressive in its road win in Coral Gables on Tuesday night. Jordan Nwora had 23 points and 12 rebounds; Dwayne Sutton and Ryan McMahon each added 16 points; and Steven Enoch notched a double-double. But perhaps the most interesting story was the terrific play of freshman Samuell Williamson. While the wing was a highly-rated recruit, he hasn’t yet received a lot of national attention. That needs to change. His debut resulted in 13 points and five rebounds on excellent 6-of-9 shooting. He is a long and athletic puzzle piece who provides Chris Mack with a unique weapon off the bench.

Who says the bottom of the conference is weak? Virginia Tech lost its coach and nearly the entire roster from last season’s Sweet Sixteen team. Georgia Tech was slapped with a postseason ban. Pittsburgh is still working on resuscitating the Pitt of old. Truthfully, there wasn’t much optimism for any of these teams heading into the season; yet, all collected huge ACC wins in their openers. Mike Young got 30 from redshirt freshman Landers Nolley on 12-of-23 shooting as the Hokies went on the road and took down Clemson. Similarly, 22 points from Michael Devoe and 20 (along with 14 rebounds) from James Banks III helped the Yellow Jackets squeeze out an overtime win over short-handed NC State. Meanwhile, Jeff Capel’s club shot just 31 percent from the floor, but made 22 free throws and locked down Florida State defensively to hang on for a tight win at the Oakland Zoo.

The reigning National Champions are going to have to win with their frontcourt. It was Tony Bennett’s backcourt that led the Virginia program to its first national title. This year, it will be his big men that decides how far it will go. In the Cavaliers’ season-opening win at Syracuse, they displayed their muscle up front. Mamadi Diakite (12 points on 6-of-10 shooting) and Jay Huff (11 points, 11 rebounds, 5-of-5 from the field) provided all the offense Virginia needed on an otherwise dismal offensive night (shooting just 4-of-24 from long range and turning it over 15 times). The pair also create a nightmare for opponents trying to score around the rim, and if the three-point defense holds up (Syracuse shot 5-of-28 from three-point range), it could be a long year for opposing offenses. What else is new?

Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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