By Mychal Hunter
I think it is safe to say that we already know that UVA and Duke are the top two teams in the conference. Regardless of the NC State loss, Duke has the look of a top 5 team offensively but that defense needs some serious work. Virginia however looks to be firing on all cylinders getting another victory last night over a Syracuse team that is seemingly broken on the offensive end over the last three games.
While the score from last night’s game was 68-61, a modest margin of victory for the Wahoos, the game was never really in doubt. Frank Howard, the ACC’s most improved player, single handily kept the Orange in the game in the first half making some really tough shots but was basically shut down by Kyle Guy in the second half where he was held in check until the final few minutes. Howard ended the game with 18 points but he combined with Syracuse season leading scorer Tyus Battle to go 12-36 from the field and 4-16 from deep, Battle going 0-7 from deep.
Virginia found the key to that 2-3 zone that has been so effective this season for the Orange in the form of redshirt freshman DeAndre Hunter who had 15 points in 27 minutes. The young wing player was the most effective Virginia player at the foul line location in the middle of that zone in the first half and made the Orange pay on more than one occasion with mid-range jumpers. Kyle Guy then scored 13 of his 22 in the second half to keep the Cavaliers on the path to victory.
This Syracuse team is now averaging less than 60 points per game over its last three contests and appears to be a bit lost after a conference schedule opening win over Virginia Tech.
UNC was able to avoid any further disappointment by not only holding serve at home but winning in convincing fashion, destroying Boston College by 30 in Chapel Hill. The Heels shot 50% from the floor and hung 50 points on the Eagles in the first half. Boston College was once again able to make double digit triples in this game but Luke Maye chewed up an undermanned Eagles front court for 32 and 18 snapping out of his mini slump. Carolina was an astounding +31 on the glass and had 23 offensive rebounds. That is Roy Williams basketball.
As we move into another busy Wednesday where over half the league is in action, the slate appears to be pretty innocuous but there are some interesting things to keep in mind.
Duke has lost 5 ACC true road games in a row
Yeah, going back to last year the Blue Devils have now dropped five in a row on ACC opponents home courts and will be in Pittsburgh tonight. While that match-up certainly makes me think that this streak is about to be toast, combine that streak with the Devils being an 18 point favorite and Duke’s propensity to play really bad defense, there may be some wagers to be placed on the Panthers if you’re feeling frisky.
Georgia Tech is favored by a single point at home against a depleted Irish squad
I anticipated this line opening closer to -3.5 or -4.5, it will be interesting to see where the public money goes on this one. Matt Farrell will once again be out tonight leaving Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish extremely shorthanded and while GT and ND have a pretty good rivalry going the last three years or so, I think the Jackets could be a double digit winner here. In the Irish’s last game everyone not named TJ Gibbs went 1-19 in the first half en route to a road win at Syracuse in which they only scored 51 points. Overall GT has played very well at home under Pastner and after the Miami win McCamish is expected to be sold out tonight and have a good student showing on hand. The Georgia Tech defense should be jacked up and ready to go and aided by the return of freshman Curtis Haywood who saw some time in the Yale game.
Can Virginia Tech get back on track?
This seems like a dream match-up for the Hokies, who travel to Winston Salem to take on the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. The Deacs are notoriously poor on defense over the last five years or so and in 2017-18 are 284th in three pointers allowed which obviously plays right into Virginia Tech’s hands. Now, lately the Hokies have struggled from deep, going 16-65 in their last three games, good for 24.6%. This is a game that VPI needs to have, I am incredibly interested in watching this contest.
Can Florida State or Louisville be consistent?
Both teams come into the best match-up of the evening alternating wins and losses in their last four games. FSU has the obvious advantage of playing at home in this one but I am not overly confident in the pick. Louisville has the talent to go in and blow up this game but the ‘Noles are a more cohesive unit. A loss would also put FSU in a 1-3 hole to start ACC play which they will no doubt be amped up to avoid. I said in last weekends podcast that I don’t think Louisville is a tournament team this year and I think that opinion will be solidified tonight.