This was an important week for the two big North Carolina schools who both bounced back from a rough first 2 weeks. Duke got a big win against Virginia at home last Monday and then dominated NC State, but both of those games were at home. As for North Carolina, they won their only game of the week against a weak Boston College squad. But the biggest game of the week was Syracuse’s last minute against Pitt on Saturday at the Carrier Dome. In an extremely low scoring game for two good defensive teams, Syracuse was able to hold off Lamar Patterson and company at home. Syracuse held Pittsburgh to just 38 percent from the floor while shooting 51 percent themselves. Cuse only played seven players but got balanced scoring with four in double figures. This was definitely the toughest test early in conference play for Syracuse who remain the number two team in the country. Syracuse just one game this week on the road at Miami.
But there are plenty of nice surprises early in the season and none is bigger than Clemson who just keeps on winning. The Tigers have surprised teams coming out strong at 4-1 in conference play but they have a tough week up ahead (see below). This past week Brad Brownell’s squad beat Virginia Tech on the road followed by a solid win at home against Wake Forest. KJ McDaniels has been a huge asset for the Tigers as he continues to dominate ACC opponents scoring 14 against VT and then a double-double 15 points and 12 rebounds in the Wake game. Another reminder that Clemson was ranked 14th in the preseason rankings.
Pittsburgh and Virginia will continue to flood the top of the conference standings until Duke finally finds its stride. Both teams are 4-1 with losses to Syracuse and Duke respectively, and both on the road. Maryland, Duke, and Florida State round out the top half of the conference. Maryland won its only game of the week against Notre Dame at home in their best played game all season. Duke got that huge win over Virginia at Cameron Indoor and Florida State lost to Virginia in their first game after losing to Duke. So clearly the upper half of the conference will continue to jumble around until one or two teams decide to give Syracuse a run.
NC State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Boston College have all started at a dismal 1-4. Boston College was ranked 8th in preseason and has been the worst team statistically in the conference and they’ll get their shot to turn things around with games against two of their fellow basement dwellers in a row this week. Miami, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame are all sitting at 2-3 but have shown that they have the potential to win big games in conference play but haven’t been consistent enough to make it into the top half of the conference.
So with last week being a much more neutral week than the week before lets take a look at some of the big match-ups this week:
1. Clemson at Pittsburgh – Tuesday: 8pm (ACC Network) The winner of this game will move up to 5-1 in ACC play and more importantly keep them within a game of Syracuse. Again the big matchup will consist of players that have been mentioned in this section of my ACC reviews, KJ McDaniels against Lamar Patterson. Patterson held CJ Fair to just 13 points and 6 rebounds, while scoring a game high 18 points and hitting three triples within a 65 second span to keep Pitt right with Cuse. KJ McDaniels is a strong guard who can cover most guards and small forwards in the country and he’ll get his chance to shut down one of the ACC’s best. This game is the first of two meetings between the two teams and its in Pittsburgh which is why I like Pitt to narrowly escape Clemson. Prediction (65-61 Pitt)
2. Florida State at Duke-Saturday: Noon (ACC Network) Both teams have winnable games before this matchup at Cameron Indoor with FSU hosting Notre Dame and Duke playing its only road game in a four game stretch at Miami. If they both win, they’ll both be 4-2 heading into this one with Florida State’s only two losses both coming at the hands of Virginia. Jabari Parker is already tied for the Duke freshman record of games with 20 points with Gene Banks. His defense hasn’t been fantastic but offensively he is as good as it gets in the ACC. But what I am looking forward to is the matchup between Rodney Hood and Okaro White who both love working in the paint, but also work well 15 feet away from the basket. For Florida State to win at Cameron they are going to have to shoot like they did against Maryland last week and White is going to have to help shut down Hood who is averaging 17.9 points per game. Prediction (Duke 75-68)