The two teams in the conference that wear orange and blue have officially taken over. The conference doesn’t belong to North Carolina and Duke this season, it is Syracuse and Virginia that have taken the ACC by storm. Both are teams refusing to lose aside Virginia’s four point loss at Duke. This week was a great one for the ACC with the thriller in Syracuse and Virginia’s gritty win at Pittsburgh yesterday.
In what might be the best ACC game of the season, CJ Fair and Jerami Grant’s Orange withstood an incredible effort by Jabari Parker, Amile Jefferson, and of course, Rasheed Sulaimon. When Sulaimon sunk that three at the buzzer in front of the largest on-campus crowd in the history of college basketball, 35,446 people went dead silent. Duke, who at this point was playing without Jabari Parker, had quieted the loudest college basketball venue in the country. And an exciting overtime followed topping off an incredible game. A few things to note about the game is that Parker picked up his fourth foul halfway through the second half and fouled out on an offensive foul. He finished one rebound shy of yet another double-double. CJ Fair and Jerami Grant were sensational. Fair finished with a game-high 28 points on 12-20 shooting while Grant finished with a double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds. He shot a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line. Also not to be at all overlooked was the 14 points and nine assists from Tyler Ennis, who also shot a perfect 8-8 from the stripe.
The day after Syracuse proved their dominance in the conference, they are the unanimous number one in the country after Arizona’s loss at California, Virginia went to Pittsburgh and defeated a tough Panther team at an incredibly tough place to win. This game was the complete opposite of Cuse and Duke. They scored half as many points, but the defenses in this game were incredible. It was like watching a pitcher’s duel in baseball and like Syracuse’s win over Duke, went down to the buzzer when Malcolm Brogdon’s three gave the Cavaliers the 48-45 win. Joe Harris and the Virginia defense held Lamar Patterson to just 3-14 shooting and 10 points. Any team that wants to learn how to contain Patterson, one of the conference’s best players, they will watch this tape repeatedly. And finally after this win Virginia cracks its way into the top-25, currently sitting at 20.
There were only two other teams besides Virginia and Syracuse to win both of their games this week and they were North Carolina and Maryland. Finally something good to write about both of these teams. For North Carolina, their wins at Georgia Tech and at home against NC State give them four wins in their last five games, bringing them up to the middle of the pack in the conference. Marcus Paige had a great game against the Yellow Jackets with 19 points, seven assists, and five rebounds and followed it up with a solid game against the Wolfpack on Saturday. But it was James Michael McAdoo’s 16 points and 13 rebounds that really helped the Tar Heels defeat rival NC State.
For Maryland, it was Dez Wells buzzer-beating three ball that helped the Terps beat Miami at Comcast Center Wednesday night. In the game Wells picked up two fouls in the first three minutes which limited his first half minutes where he was held scoreless. In the second half he dropped 21 points to give him the game’s high and none were bigger than the last second three. Maryland did their best impression of their 2001 loss to Duke in which the Blue Devils scored 10 points in the last minute. With 1:30 left the Terps led the Hurricanes by nine, but missed three straight front-ends of one-and-one free throws, allowing Miami to tie the game with seven seconds left before Wells hit his three. Following the 74-71 win over Miami, the Terps did something they have struggled mightily with season, they won on the road. Maryland was again led by Dez Wells, who came off the bench for just the second time in his Terps career. His 19 points and zero turnovers were crucial in the win for the Terps. If Maryland wants to stay relevant they will need to keep winning the games they are supposed to win, they’ll face North Carolina (see below) and Florida State this week.
Florida State hurt themselves big time this past week losing both of their games, first at NC State and then at home against Clemson. They dropped to the bottom half of the conference. With the win over the Seminoles in their only game of the week, Clemson helped keep themselves in the top five of the conference behind just Syracuse, Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Duke. Clemson has a must-win home game against Georgia Tech before they travel to the Carrier Dome on Sunday.
This coming week on paper looks like a slow week in the ACC with only one matchup between two of the top five teams in the country. So here are the top two games to pay attention to.
Clemson at Syracuse: Sunday at 6pm (ESPNU) – Like the Virginia win at Pittsburgh, this good matchup draws just an ESPNU broadcast because of its ACC Sunday games contract. For some reason the conference has struggled with getting the appropriate games on the appropriate network. As mentioned a few lines up this is the only game between the top teams in the conference but it shouldn’t be too close. Clemson has had themselves a nice little run early in the season, but only have the one signature win over Duke at home. They lost by 33 at Pittsburgh last week and followed that up with a 19 point loss to UNC. Syracuse is just too good at this point in the season. But the reason this game will be fun to watch is to see the matchup of CJ Fair and KJ McDaniels. Both these guys play a similar game and if McDaniels can shut down Fair, the Tigers have an outside chance at a huge upset. Plus who doesn’t want to watch the number one team in the country play? (Prediction: Cuse 86-71)
Maryland at North Carolina: Tuesday at 8pm (ACC Network) – I never thought two weeks ago that this game would have some sort of importance but it really does. Maryland is in 6th place in the conference and have won two straight while North Carolina has won four of five to put them just one spot below Mark Turgeon’s Terps. These two teams play completely different styles of basketball, but I expect that to change in this game. Both love to run at a fast pace and both can become extremely sloppy. The turnover number in this game combined could be near 40. For Maryland to win, they will need to get their bigs going. They’ll have a tough time with McAdoo who is playing better in the last two weeks than he had all season. The Terps will need to make their free throws because UNC commits a lot of fouls, (Note: Maryland is really bad a free throws, really bad). The Terps rank 301st from the line largely in part to their bigs shooting just 51%. For North Carolina to win they will have to contain Dez Wells and Jake Layman who have combined for 66 points in the last two games. They’ll also have to get another good game from Marcus Paige. The Paige-Seth Allen matchup is sure to be fun one to watch. One last thing to note is that this is the last time these two will ever meet in ACC play at the Dean Dome. (Prediction: North Carolina 76-74)
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