By Mychal Hunter
The conference in currently on a three day hiatus for finals with no games scheduled until Saturday the 16th. As a whole the conference has performed well as far as records go but this weekend provides the opportunity for a couple of programs to show they are for real.
#22 Florida (6-3) at Clemson (8-1) (In Sunrise, FL)
This is a huge game for Brad Brownell’s team, which, let’s be honest, the beginning of this paragraph already informs you of the likely outcome of this contest. To date Clemson’s best win is against Ohio State in Columbus during the ACC/B10 Challenge. This will be the Tigers last opportunity for a quality out of conference win before league play starts in a couple weeks. Their upcoming game against South Carolina may look o.k. initially but I expect the Gamecocks to really struggle once SEC league play begins.
Clemson has a real chance here because they match-up extremely well with the Gators, who have struggled with teams that have above average front court play, falling to both Duke and Florida State while just squeaking by Cincinnati. Clemson also ranks 31st in adjusted defensive efficiency but they are allowing opponents to shoot 35.5% from deep, which ranks 209th in the country. The defense is good, but the perimeter defense is where you beat Florida and the Tigers are going to really have to tighten theirs up to stop Chiozza, Hudson, Allen and Koulechov. In Florida’s three losses they shot 16-64 from deep (25%), in their six wins they have shot 67-145 (46%), so their dependency on the deep ball is very Adam Dunn-esque.
If Clemson can lock down the Gators perimeter play, and defense is supposed to be Brownell’s forte (that rhymed) , while Thomas and Grantham hit the glass hard, I don’t see any reason why Clemson can’t win this game. Of course, there is the possibility that Brownell does something ridiculous, like get out to a four point lead and plays not to lose instead of just letting his team play.
Prediction: Clemson has the talent and personnel to win this game, but I have very little faith in their coaching. I think you’re going to see the Tigers lead this game most of the way and lose it in the last 5 minutes. Gators by 7.
Virginia Tech (9-1) at Kentucky (8-1) at Rupp Arena
This is the “do I know what I think I know?” game. I am going to tell you right now I am picking the Hokies to win this basketball game. This is not your typical Kentucky Wildcats/Lexington Semi-Pro basketball team, they don’t take (349th in the country) and they don’t make (345th) the three such as years past, they also don’t rebound (135th) or shoot free throws (247th) well. Kentucky is basically the Cam Newton of college basketball this year, you will see them win games on the ESPN bottom line, but if you actually watch them play you realize they aren’t that good.
Virginia Tech is one of the most impressive teams I have watched so far this season. Justin Robinson is a tremendous and underrated point guard who has the great luck to be surrounded by a trio of weapons in Bibbs, NAW and Ahmed Hill. Buzz Williams then has the ability to bring Chris Clarke off the bench who is fresher than the opposing teams starters while being more talented than almost any reserve in the country. If the Hokies get hot from deep they could possibly run away with this game.
Now, there is obviously a flip side to that coin. There is a reason that Kentucky is the #8 team in the country and John Calipari is a Hall of Famer. The Wildcats are long and strong (and down to get the friction on?) and can defend like few other teams in the country. Their height and athleticism lead to live ball turnovers and easy break away points. They also have the front court depth to just throw bodies at a Virginia Tech front line that is incredibly thin. Kerry Blackshear has got to stay on the floor and rebound the ball in this game. The 6-10 center played 32 minutes against Citadel early in the season but has only played 30 minutes or more 5 times in his career. Saturday’s game needs to be the sixth in my opinion. PJ Horne has played out of position very admirably at times this season but I think this Kentucky front court would eat him up.
Prediction: Pretty simple here, Virginia Tech makes triples and they win the game. It comes down to which team can impose their will, the Hokies need to make threes and the Wildcats want to pound it inside like a more athletic Ron Jeremy. The Wildcats have played one good power five team, Kansas, and lost. Virginia Tech will be the second best team they play and they are going to lose again. Virginia Tech by 11.
Louisville (7-2) at Memphis (7-2) in NYC for the Gotham Classic
I touched on this game a couple times recently as kind of a litmus test for the Cardinals. Memphis is not great, but they are the best team remaining on Louisville’s schedule before conference play where the game is not being played in Kentucky.
I am not going to spend a ton of time on this game but I do want to see if Louisville can continue its impressive play from their last three halves of basketball. Memphis has only defeated one quality team this year, that being Albany out of the America East. The Tigers are a guard dominant team that does not rebound well and does not shoot it well from the outside, those two factors should play directly into the Cardinals hands. Quentin Snider will have the opportunity for a big game and for David Padgett’s sake, I hope he seizes it.
Prediction: Mahmoud and Spaulding are going to have a field day on the glass in this game while Adel, Snider and King should be the beneficiaries of quite a few break away opportunities. Louisville should win this game by 12+.
Oklahoma State (7-2) at Florida State (9-0) (In Sunrise, FL)
I will admit, I have watched about 18 seconds of Oklahoma State basketball this year. I know that Jeffrey Carroll is a really talented player but this is very different team from last year. I really expected Davon Dilliard to break out for the Cowboys this year but instead he has been relegated to a minimal role that I can only assume is attributed to an offseason foot injury. The junior has yet to log more than 13 minutes in a game. Carroll is having a far less productive year so far this season as well, down nearly 20% on his fg% and down about five points per game so far.
Florida State is rolling right now, avoiding any sort of let down after bitch slapping Florida in Gainesville, the ‘Noles went on to beat both Loyola (MD) and Tulane. Those aren’t exactly impressive wins but after huge wins teams tend to take a large step back in the following nights. Watch for Braian Angola in this game, the 6’6 wing scorer has scored double digits in 5 of his last 6 games hitting 14 of his last 32 triples. I will also be looking for CJ Walker to bounce back after a really poor showing in the Tulane game in which he went 1-8 and had only one assist.
The way the Seminoles are playing defense right now (16th in opponents field goal percentage) when compared to Oklahoma States’s offense (198th in FG%) is pretty telling as to the potential outcome here. Terrance Mann and Jeffrey Carroll is a fantastic match-up if Carroll is up to it. I am not sure if he is injured or just not flourishing under Mike Boynton.
Prediction: I think the Seminoles runaway with this one. I don’t see Oklahoma State having the offense to hang around for what is basically a home game for FSU. Did I just say I don’t think someone has the offensive chops to hang with a Leonard Hamilton team? Jesus, what is the world coming to? FSU by 14.
OTHER GAMES ON THE SLATE:
Davidson travels to John Paul Jones to take on the French in UVA’s first game since their loss in Morgantown. Obviously, Virginia is not fantastic to watch due to their pace but if you want to see a fantastic match-up, it doesn’t get much better than Peyton Aldridge and Isaiah Wilkins. This is not a game Tony Bennett’s club can sleep on, Davidson is a very good club that played both Nevada and UNC pretty well.
The Battle of Indiana is really only intriguing to see if Notre Dame has finally righted the ship after the Michigan State debacle. My stubbornness is still not allowing me to believe that Indiana is any good so I am expecting a Notre Dame win, but the Irish have looked pretty lackluster in their two games against inferior opponents after that loss to Sparty.
Syracuse is traveling the nations cesspool to take on Georgetown in a game that will feature about as much love as a Hatfield and McCoy reunion. Georgetown’s piss poor excuse for a schedule is the only reason the Hoyas are undefeated. Syracuse gonna whoop dat ass.
Pittsburgh has a game, but noone gives a shit. Seriously, they had less than 2500 people in the stands of an arena that holds over 12,000 for their recent home game against High Point. There are actually people on reddit who still say running off Jamie Dixon was the best course of action. Then again, there are still people out there that think the world is flat and some others think America’s freedoms are comparable to Joseph Stalin’s reign in the Soviet Union. Seriously, look up real fascism you fucking millennial idiots.
The world is full of stupid people.
Remember to drink plenty of water with your bourbon this weekend. You don’t want to end up FDAU.
Also, ACC power rankings will be pushed until Sunday so I can include the results of this weekends slate.