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ACC Roundball Roundup - 11/30

Catching up on the early season happenings in the ACC

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Florida Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Now that football season is all but over, it’s time for college basketball to get ready to center stage. After a fantastic week of Thanksgiving Tournaments and with the ACC/Big Ten Challenge all but completed and the ACC’s victory assured, what better time to catch up with the goings on around the rest of the ACC?

#1 Duke Blue Devils (9-0)

11/10 - defeated Elon 97-68
11/11 - defeated Utah Valley 99-69
11/14 - defeated #2 Michigan State 88-81 in the Champions Classic
11/17 - defeated Southern 78-61
11/20 - defeated Furman 92-63
11/23 - defeated Portland State 99-81 in PK80
11/24 - defeated Texas 85-78 in OT in PK80
11/26 - defeated #7 Florida 87-84 in PK80
11/29 - defeated Indiana 91-81

The preseason number #1 Duke Blue Devils have been every bit as good as advertised in the first part of the 2017-18 season. Duke started the season with the rare non-Tournament back-to-back, earning a pair of easy wins over Elon and Utah Valley that made Coach Krzyzewski the first coach to win 1,000 games at one school. Coach K then took his team to Chicago for the annual Champions Classic, this year a matchup against preseason #2 Michigan State. Despite losing top ranked freshman Marvin Bagley III early in the game, the Devils hung on thanks to Grayson Allen’s 37 points. After two more easy wins, Duke headed west for the PK80 Tounrmanet. They had to come from behind in all three games but were able to leave Portland with the Motion Bracket Championship.

Through 8 games, the Blue Devils had the top offense in the country, per KenPom. They are lead by freshman phenom Marvin Bagley III, who has shown why he became the top ranked prospect in the 2017 recruiting class the minute he reclassified from 2018. He’s long, insanely athletic, is a decent shooter, and plays with more control then most freshman. He’s averaging 22.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, and that includes the Michigan State game where he only played 10 minutes. He’s the real deal and will tear up the ACC. If Duke has any weakness, it might their depth. Four players (Bagley, Allen, Trevon Duval, and Gary Trent Jr.) are averaging at least 31 minutes per game.

#5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-0)

11/11 - defeated DePaul 72-58
11/13 - defeated Mount St. Mary’s 88-62
11/16 - defeated Chicago State 105-66
11/20 - defeated Chaminade 83-56 in the Maui Invitational
11/21 - defeated LSU 92-53 in the Maui Invitational
11/22 - defeated #6 Wichita State 67-66 in the Maui Invitational

The Fighting Irish are on of the big winners early in the 2017-18 season, climbing all the way up to #5 in the AP poll after winning the Maui Invitational Championship. Before heading to Hawaii, Notre Dame opened the season with a short trip into Chicago to take on DePaul. It was only a four point game at halftime, but the Irish were able to pull away for a comfortable win. After a pair of easy home wins, Mike Brey’s team boarded a plane for Maui. ND easily took care of host Chaminade and LSU before facing off against Wichita State in the Maui Invitational Championship Game. The Shockers took a 37-23 lead into the locker rooms and lead by as much as 16 but senior F Martinas Geben’s free throws with 2.3 seconds left sealed the comeback and tournament championship for Notre Dame.

Early in the season, Notre Dame’s offense has been one of the most dynamic in the country, led by National Player of the Year candidate Bonzie Colson, who is averaging a double-double with 20.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. The Irish will close out the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tonight in East Lansing in a top 5 matchup against #3 Michigan State.

#10 Miami Hurricanes (6-0)

11/10 - defeated Gardner-Webb 77-45
11/12 - defeated Navy 89-55
11/16 - defeated Florida A&M 90-59
11/22 - defeated La Salle 57-46
11/25 - defeated North Florida 86-65
11/29 - defeated Minnesota 86-81

Jim Larranaga’s Miami Hurricanes were much hyped in the preseason and haven’t given any reason to doubt the hype so far. Against much lesser competition, the Hurricanes stormed out to a 5-0 start to the season. Miami had no problem putting away Gardner-Webb, Navy, FAMU, or UNF, winning all four in blowouts. In a strange, semi-away game in prized freshman recruit Lonnie Walker IV’s hometown of Reading, PA the Canes struggled mightily in early before pulling away from La Salle late in the game.

Larranaga is still working out Miami’s rotation, playing 9 players at least 15 minutes per game, with only sophomore PG Bruce Brown topping 30 mpg. Brown has given the Canes a little bit of everything so far, chipping in 9.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 5.4 apg, and 1.8 spg. C Dewan Huell has also been a bright spot, leading the team in scoring at 13.4 ppg while pulling down 7.2 rebounds and shooting over 70% from the field and anchoring another fantastic ACC defense.

#13 North Carolina Tar Heels (6-1)

11/10 - defeated Northern Iowa 86-69
11/15 - defeated Bucknell 93-81
11/20 - defeated Stanford 96-72
11/23 - defeated Portland State 102-78 in PK80
11/24 - defeated Arkansas 87-68 in PK80
11/26 - lost to #4 Michigan State 45-63 in PK80
11/29 - defeated Michigan 86-71

The defending champions started their season with a pair of nice resume building wins against Northern Iowa and Bucknell, both solid mid-majors that will compete for post season berths. The Heels then headed west for Thanksgiving weekend and the PK80 tournament, making a quick pit stop in Palo Alto on the way to play Stanford. In Portland, UNC had little trouble beating Portland State and Arkansas but was held to just 45 points and the lowest shooting percentage in school history (24.6%) against Michigan State in the Victory bracket championship game. Returning home to Chapel Hill, the Heels got back on track against Sparty’s in-state rival, knocking off Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

NCAA Tournament hero Luke Maye has been the star for UNC so far in 2017-2018. The junior forward has stepped into his own as a focal point of the offense, pouring in 19.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per heading into last night’s game. He has been very effective on both sides of the ball and is showing the capability to shoot from anywhere on the court. Alongside Maye, the senior guard duo of Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson has been excellent, combining for 26.2 points and 7.3 assists per game.

#17 Louisville Cardinals (4-1)

11/12 - defeated George Mason 72-61
11/17 - defeated Omaha 87-78
11/21 - defeated Southern Illinois 84-42
11/24 - defeated St. Francis (PA) 84-72
11/28 - lost to Purdue 57-66

The new look Louisville Cardinals started the David Padgett era with four wins over fairly easy competition. The Cardinals found themselves down against George Mason about halfway through the second half but rallied to an eventual 11 point win. Omaha was kind of the opposite scenario, where Louisville jumped out to a big lead before letting the Mavericks cut into the lead near the end of the game. The Cards followed those wins up with a blowout of Southern Illinois and a comfortable win against St. Francis (PA). Louisville’s first real test came on Tuesday when they traveled to West Lafayette for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Purdue and Louisville went back and forth for most of the game before the Boilermakers pulled away late for the win.

Louisville has been led by junior F Deng Adel, who is scoring 16.6 ppg while playing nearly 35 minutes per. Senior PG Quentin Snider has really struggled to find his shooting stroke, scoring just 7.2 ppg on 29/24/67 shooting splits a year after averaging 12.4 on 39/37/72. The Cardinals’ strong point this season has been their defense, which has been anchored by the big man duo of Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud. The two have combined to make Louisville one of the best teams in the country defending the paint.

#18 Virginia Cavaliers (7-0)

11/10 - defeated UNC Greensboro 60-48
11/13 - defeated Austin Peay 93-49
11/17 - defeated VCU 76-67
11/19 - defeated Monmouth 73-53
11/23 - defeated Vanderbilt 68-42 in the NIT Tipoff
11/24 - defeated Rhode Island 70-55 in the NIT Tipoff
11/27 - defeated Wisconsin 49-37

Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers are off to a great start and look to be in peak UVA form early in the season. Virginia is ranked 3rd in Ken Pomery’s rankings and boast the nation’s top defense and slowest tempo according to the website’s metrics. All is going according to plan. UVA has actually faced a fairly difficult schedule for this early in the season. They opened the season with a pair of easy wins against mid-majors then went on the road to play in-state rival VCU. The Cavaliers needed every bit of sophomore G Kyle Guy’s 29 points to get out of the Siegel Center with a win. After returning home and taking care of Monmouth, the Cavaliers headed to Brooklyn for the NIT Tipoff, where they easily defeated Vandy and Rhode Island, both top 75 teams, to claim the tournament championship. On Monday, UVA’s defensive prowess was on full display, holding Wisconsin to just 37 points.

Kyle Guy has been the star so far for Virginia, leading the team with 16.0 ppg and shooting 43% from beyond the arc. While Guy is lighting up the scoreboard, senior F Isaiah Wilkins has done just about everything else, leading the team with 6.7 rpg and contributing 1.9 apg, 1.1 spg, and 1.1 bpg.

Boston College Eagles (5-3)

11/10 - defeated Maine 85-65
11/12 - defeated South Carolina State 91-52
11/14 - defeated Sacred Heart 73-53
11/18 - lost to Texas Tech 64-75 in the Hall of Fame Tipoff
11/19 - defeated La Salle 82-61 in the Hall of Fame Tipoff
11/22 - defeated Colgate 83-79
11/25 - lost to Providence 66-86
11/29 - lost to Nebraska 62-71

Boston College is a team still working on building into something and, so far, 2017-18 has gone as expected. The Eagles have won the games they were supposed to win, often in blow out fashion, but haven’t been able to hang with the two likely NCAA Tournament teams on their scheduled. BC opened up the season by hosting a trio of teams ranked in the bottom 50 of the KenPom rankings and handled them exactly as an ACC team should, beating each by at least 20 points. They then headed to the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic, where they couldn’t quite hang with a rising Texas Tech team but blew out La Salle in the consolation match. Since the Classic, the Eagles have struggled a bit, winning a close game against Colgate at home before getting blown out at Providence.

Heading into last night’s game, the Eagles were led by the dynamic guard duo of Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson. Bowman, a sophomore point guard, has stepped up his scoring load from a year ago, leading the team with 15.4 ppg even while struggling from distance, shooting just 29% from 3. Robinson, meanwhile, has actually shot better behind the arc than inside it (43% from 3, 41% from 2). Aside from that duo, senior F Deontae Hawkins was averaging a double-double through BC’s first 7 games with 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.

Clemson Tigers (6-1)

11/10 - defeated Western Carolina 85-57
11/12 - defeated North Carolina A&T 87-63
11/16 - defeated Ohio 81-76 in the Charleston Classic
11/17 - defeated Hofstra 78-59 in the Charleston Classic
11/19 - lost to Temple 60-67 in the Charleston Classic
11/24 - defeated Texas Southern 84-77
11/29 - defeated Ohio State 79-65

The Tigers opened the season with a pair of fairly easy wins against two low major North Carolina schools. In the Charleston Classic, Clemson had to sweat out their opening round game against Ohio. They needed every bit of F/C Elijah Thomas’s 17 points and 15 rebounds to hang on to the win. After easily beating Hofstra, the Tigers faced their first top 100 team, dropping a close game to Temple. After returning home to defeat Texas Southern, the Tigers traveled up to Columbus, Ohio for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, coming away with a big nonconference win against the Buckeyes.

Clemson’s best offensive player this season has been senior F Donte Grantham, who has averaged 16.0 ppg while shooting a blistering 69.8% from the field and 47.6% from 3. Holding down the defensive end is junior F/C Elijah Thomas. Thomas has been plenty good on the offensive end (13.0 ppg) but has really shined protecting the paint. Heading into Wednesday’s games, Thomas ranked 10th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, helping him average 9.2 boards per game.

Florida State Seminoles (6-0)

11/14 - defeated George Washington 87-67
11/17 - defeated Fordham 67-43 in the Jamaica Classic
11/19 - defeated Colorado State 90-73 in the Jamaica Classic
11/22 - defeated Kennesaw State 98-79
11/24 - defeated The Citadel 113-78
11/28 - defeated Rutgers 78-73

The Seminoles are off to a solid start in 2017, taking care of business against a relatively soft opening slate. Florida State got things started by blowing out George Washington then headed to Jamaica for a pair of games against mid-majors. Leonard Hamilton’s team had little trouble in paradise, easily dispatching Fordham and Colorado State behind a defense that forced 45 turnovers between the two games. FSU returned stateside for a pair of easy wins over the Thanksgiving holiday before traveling up to New Jersey for a trickier game against Rutgers in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The ‘Noles rode a strong performance off the bench from sophomore guard CJ Walker (24 points, 4 steals) to get the win for the ACC.

Through six games, Florida State’s best player has been junior guard Terrance Mann, the team’s lone returning starter. Mann has averaged 15.3 ppg on 66.7% shooting. Star freshman M.J. Walker has been somewhat quiet overall, but did explode for 22 points against Colorado State and is shooting 48% from 3-point range on the season. FSU will take a step up in competition next when they travel to Gainesville to take on #6 Florida on Monday, the first team they’ll play ranked inside the KenPom top 100.

NC State Wolfpack (6-2)

11/10 - defeated VMI 102-67
11/12 - defeated Charleston Southern 78-56
11/14 - defeated Bryant 95-72
11/16 - defeated Presbyterian 86-68
11/22 - defeated #2 Arizona 90-84 in the Battle 4 Atlantis
11/23 - lost to Northern Iowa 60-64 in the Battle 4 Atlantis
11/24 - lost to Tennessee 58-67 in the Battle 4 Atlantis
11/29 - defeated Penn State 85-78

Under new head coach Kevin Keatts, the Wolfpack have had mixed results to start the 2017-18 campaign. They started the season with a pair of blowout wins against over matched VMI and Charleston Southern teams. The day of their game against Bryant, the Pack got great news when the NCAA reveresed it’s decision and made star freshman Braxton Beverly eligible to play. Beverly didn’t play much in against Bryant or Presbyterian (both easy wins) but was a huge factor (20 points, including some big baskets down the stretch) in NC State’s upset of then #2 Arizona. The rest of the Battle 4 Atlantis didn’t go quite as well as State dropped games against Northern Iowa and Tennessee. Returning stateside, NCST took down Penn State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge behind sophomore center Omer Yurtseven’s double-double.

NC State has leaned heavily on Baylor graduate transfer Allerik Freeman, who leads the team with 15.9 ppg while also contributing 6.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, and 1.4 spg and playing over 36 minutes per game. Yurtseven has also been a major impact player, averaging 11.1 points and 6.3 rpg but emerging as one of the best offensive rebounders in all of college basketball.

Pittsburgh Panthers (3-4)

11/10 - lost to Navy 62-71
11/13 - lost to Montana 78-83 in OT
11/15 - defeated UC Santa Barbara 70-62
11/20 - lost to Penn State 54-85 in the Legends Classic
11/21 - lost to Oklahoma State 67-73 in the Legends Classic
11/25 - defeated Lehigh 80-68
11/28 - defeated High Point 71-63

Pittsburgh’s 2017-2018 season has been just about as disastrous as everyone predicted. The Panthers opened the season with a pair of losses to solid mid-major schools (ranked between 150 and 200 in KenPom) before getting their first win against a similarly ranked school. The competition stepped up during the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, New York and the Panthers did not respond well initially, getting blown out by instate rival Penn State. In the consolation game, Pitt held their own but ended up dropping the game against Oklahoma State (in an interesting coincidence, Pitt’s football team also lost to both these teams in their non-conference slate). Returning home to Petersen Events Center, Pitt managed to notch a pair of much-needed wins to move to 3-4 on the season.

With almost an entirely new roster, Pitt has been led by senior F Ryan Luther, who is averaging 13.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. JUCO transfer Jared Wilson-Frame (14 ppg, 41% from 3) and freshman PG Marcus Carr (10 ppg, 3.8 apg) have also been major contributors.

Syracuse Orange (6-0)

11/10 - defeated Cornell 77-45
11/14 - defeated Iona 71-62
11/18 - defeated Texas Southern 80-67
11/20 - defeated Oakland 74-50
11/22 - defeated Toledo 72-64
11/27 - defeated Maryland 72-70

Syracuse got their 2017-18 campaign off to a solid start with five fairly comfortable wins against mid-major competition. Iona and Toledo were both able to keep it close but ultimately, couldn’t hang with the Orange. Against Iona, G Tyus Battle exploded for 28 points, 23 of which came in the second half, helping Syracuse to maintain their advantage. The Orange’s first game against major competition came on Monday as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. In a tightly contested game, Battle led the way again, hitting a key three and two free throws in the game’s final minute to give Syracuse the two point win.

On the season, Battle has been the unquestioned leader of a fairly inexperienced roster. The sophomore guard is pouring in 19.7 ppg on nearly 50% shooting from the field. Battle is playing over 30 mpg, as is PG Frank Howard and freshman F Oshae Brissett. Howard is averaging 15.7 points and 6.0 assists per game, while Brissett is nearly averaging a double-double with 12.2 points and 9.8 rebounds.

Virginia Tech Hokies (6-1)

11/10 - defeated Detroit Mercy 111-79
11/12 - defeated The Citadel 132-93
11/16 - lost to Saint Louis 71-77 in the 2K Classic
11/17 - defeated Washington 103-79 in the 2K Classic
11/21 - defeated Houston Baptist 99-73
11/25 - defeated Morehead State 96-63
11/28 - defeated Iowa 79-55

Virginia Tech has started the season on a major offensive tear, scoring over 100 points 3 times, and over 90 two more, on their way to a 6-1 record. The Hokies started the season by destroying a pair of cupcakes, including a 132 point offensive show against The Citadel. After stumbling against Saint Louis in Madison Square Garden as part of the 2K classic, VT got right back to scoring in bunches, blasting Washington, Houston Baptist, Morehead State, and Iowa. None of those teams are great, but Iowa is a solid mid-tier Big Ten team that VT put away early.

The Hokies boast a balanced attack, with five players averaging in double figures scoring and seven players playing at least 19 minutes per game. Leading the way is senior G Justin Bibbs with 19.8 ppg on 59/45/93 shooting (FG%/3FG%/FT%). Junior F Ahmed Hill is right behind Bibbs, averaging 19.6 ppg and shooting a scorching 54% from deep while taking 6.5 three pointers per game.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-4)

11/10 - lost to Georgia Southern 83-85
11/14 - lost to Liberty 66-79
11/17 - lost to Drake 74-77 at the Paradise Jam
11/18 - defeated Quinnipiac 72-55 at the Paradise Jam
11/19 - lost to Houston 73-78 at the Paradise Jam
11/24 - defeated UNC Greensboro 81-75
11/28 - defeated Illinois 80-73

If Pitt isn’t off to the worst start in the ACC, it’s probably Wake Forest. The Deacons dropped four of their first five games, including two on their home court. Georgia Southern is a solid low major team this year (KenPom #99) but losing to Liberty at home by 13 is a really bad look for an ACC school. Following it up with a loss to Drake and a 6th place finish as one of two Power Conference schools at the Paradise Jam is almost as bad. However, since Thanksgiving the Deacons have started to put things together with a pair of hard fought wins against UNCG and Illinois. They’ll have a few weeks to continue building as a team before hitting ACC play.

Junior PG Bryant Crawford has been the clear leader on this team, averaging 16.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game. His shot has taken a bit of a step back from last year, but should recover in time. Sharpshooter Keyshawn Woods has been Crawford’s main running mate, scoring 15.3 ppg while shooting 43% from beyond the arc.