By Charlie Manolakis
Tough week last week if you were root, root, rooting for the home team. ACC teams were 6-8 on their home court and five of those losses came by 14 points or more. Virginia rolled to two of those road wins by a margin of 47 points, Georgia Tech blew away Boeheim in the Carrier Dome and Louisville ran the Tar Heels off Roy Williams Court.
Hearts were also broken in Atlanta, where the Yellow Jackets came up just 3 points shy of what could have been their second massive victory, this time against the Hokies. In Tallahassee, where Florida State may have beaten Zion’s eye, but couldn’t hold off the rest of the Blue Devils in the end (or guard a single baseline out of bounds play, even if Cam Reddish only made them pay when it counted the most).
It wasn’t all bad though. A shorthanded Notre Dame side who lost TJ Gibbs just prior to tip-off rode huge nights from John Mooney and Prentiss Hubb to their first ACC win of the year. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh showed tremendous poise holding on for the upset OT win against Louisville last Wednesday night.
Things seem to have stabilized a bit for the home sides, as they’ve won 4 of 5 the last two nights, including big wins for Pitt over Florida State and Wake Forest over State. But oh, that fifth. Syracuse may well have given us the road stunner of this young season, walking into Cameron as 17-point underdogs, hitting one of the most absurd full court shots you’ll ever see, and leaving with a 95-91 OT victory against the #1 ranked Blue Devils. Sure they played most of the night without Cam Reddish or Tre Jones, but if you’re Duke you still have the likely first two NBA draft picks on the floor. Despite the headlines about Zion’s 35 points, Frank Howard was the best player on the court Monday night. If RJ Barrett or Jack White could have hit the broad side of a barn against the Orange, Duke would still be at the top of the ACC with Virginia heading into their first meeting this weekend.
Speaking of Virginia…wow. Shoutout to Mychal for almost nailing the beatdown we witnessed in Charlottesville last night on this week’s podcast (“I wouldn’t be shocked to see VT beat anybody in the country. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Virginia go in there and make 15 threes and beat them by 25, and Ahmed Hill goes 1-9, and Blackshear fouls out and only plays 19 minutes”). 24 hours, 12/23 deep balls, 4 Blackshear fouls, and a 22-point whooping later, I suppose we at least owe Ahmed Hill a little credit for putting up 14 on a 5/12 night. But man, oh man. Say what you want about mid-Atlantic 16 seeds that rhyme with UMBC…Tony Bennett’s team is scary good. They’re now 47-3 over the last two seasons (24-1 against the rest of the ACC!), and this year they finally have a top 5 offense to match their defense. They also still can’t stop shooting 40+% from deep.
Saturday night can’t get here fast enough, but fortunately we have a few more tonight to hold us over until then. In the spirit of integrity, I’ll admit it’s been a rough 48 hours for the picks I would have had for you all (2-3, 3-2 ATS). But as I couldn’t have taken credit for going 5-0 after the fact, I’ll leave those out of the totals—I guess unless enough of you just want to watch the world (and my numbers) burn and yell at me to throw ‘em in anyways. But hey, thanks as always for reading, feel free to strap in with us for what’s sure to be another exciting night in the ACC and look for more later this week as we gear up for a big-time weekend slate.
Picks to date: 18-5
Against the KenPom “spread”: 12-10-1
Wednesday January 16:
#116 Boston College at #23 Louisville, 7pm
KenPom projection: Louisville 78, BC 66
The Cardinals couldn’t have asked for a better response to dropping one against Pitt than last weekend’s 21-point win in Chapel Hill. The question now for Chris Mack’s squad is whether after the highs and lows of a tough non-conference slate and a 2-1 start in the league, they’re ready to start delivering consistently at the level they’ve shown in impressive wins against Miami and Carolina. Tonight will be a great barometer against a Boston College side that’s certainly better than their 0-3 record and is desperately hunting that first win after coming up just short in South Bend over the weekend. I’m not sure the Eagles have an answer for Jordan Nwora on the wing, but I also can’t wait to see whether Christen Cunningham can handle Ky Bowman or how Malik Williams and Nik Popovic match up down low.
Pick: I like Louisville to move to 3-1 here, but I’m not totally on board yet with them continuing to roll dominantly to a top 4 or 5 spot in the league. It’s certainly not out of the question, as they’ve already surpassed everyone’s expectations for Mack’s first year with some huge wins in the first half of the season, but I’ll take BC +12 tonight.
#62 Georgia Tech at #47 Clemson, 9pm
KenPom projection: Clemson 67, GT 61
After feeling like Brad Brownell and his Tigers had finally turned a corner last season, Clemson has really struggled out of the gate in 2019, particularly on the offensive end. They have still yet to beat a top-100 opponent. Unfortunately for the Tigers, coming off a drubbing against UVA, scoring the ball won’t get any easier tonight with Georgia Tech coming to town touting the #10 defense in the country. Through 3 games against Wake, VT, and Syracuse, the only opponent the Jackets haven’t been able to contain was an unconscious Brandon Childress who couldn’t get anything going inside, but shot 70% from downtown. For all the talent on the Hokies and Orange, neither was able to reach 60 points against GT (and the Hokies barely made it to 50). To Clemson’s credit, the Tigers have been much stronger on the defensive end of the floor, so get ready to take the under here with two of KenPom’s top 25 defenses going head to head. If LSU beating Alabama 9-6 in OT is your kind of football (looking at you, Greg Sankey), then this is your game to watch tonight.
Pick: Georgia Tech has shown they have more than enough this year to walk out of Littlejohn with a win if they can sustain the stifling defense they’ve been playing. Clemson is due to bounce back at some point, but I don’t think tonight is that night. Jackets +5, and a nice road win to bring back to Atlanta.