Two really interesting games on tap for Tuesday as UNC hosts Miami and Florida State visits Virginia Tech.
One of the themes of ACC basketball which we love (except when it works against Duke, which it hasn't in awhile) is despair: this conference is intensely competitive.Â When a team is struggling one of two things often happens - either a tremendous effort results or, when a team is truly struggling, the rest of the conference just kicks the crap out of it while it's down, and does so gleefully.
Florida State, we suspect, might be straddling that divide. Their offensive woes are truly depressing. For a team which was thought to have serious potential, they only managed 10 points at the half against Princeton and saw Clemson run out to a 32-10 first half lead.
It's just weird because that team has some talent and Leonard Hamilton is a good coach.
Virginia Tech is playing with much more cohesion and purpose and they're at home.Â So they should be favored, right?
Well, yeah. But if they lose this one, they're 0-2 in the ACC, and that's a problem.
But you can't overlook the hole FSU is in already and the urgency of their situation, and they did have that red hot performance against Auburn, going up 50-16 at halftime .
They also have a bit of a size advantage and certainly can defend as well as Tech can.Â So what to expect? Our best guess: a close game, within four points. Call it a toss-up.
And as for UNC and Miami, no question that UNC will be favored.Â But here's the thing about that game:
Miami matches up reasonably well with UNC, although it'd be better if Reggie Johnson were in perfect health.
In two games last season, the margin of UNC's victory was just five points. The last four were by just 16 points, all UNC wins.
The personnel is largely the same on both sides, though Miami adds Kenny Kadji, Trey McKinney Jones and Shane Larkin to the rotation, while UNC can now insert James Michael McAdoo, PJ Hairston and a healthy Reggie Bullock.Â Desmond Hubert lurks, though he hasn't gotten many minutes yet.
There is one significant difference of course, and that's putting Jim Larranaga in Frank Haith's seat.Â Haith has done a nice job at Mizzou thus far this season, but in seven years at Miami, he only made the NCAA tournament once and never finished higher than fifth in the ACC.Â It's not like he didn't have talent.
Larranaga, on the other hand, is used to battling against the odds.
If UNC lets their intensity wane, and Miami brings it, things could get interesting. And unlike a lot of teams, Miami has a lot of options for defending Harrison Barnes.
For whatever reason, and it's most likely Steve Donahue, we're much more receptive to BC with him in charge than we were with Al Skinner.
Skinner had some tough teams to be sure, but they were usually snarky and not easy to like even if you appreciated their intelligence, as we did. They were kind of stiff and remote.
Anyway, while a new coach always means a fresh start, this is just a pretty cool story: a program helped a kid with leukemia be part of the program. Maybe he's helping to introduce some fresh air into what Herb Sendek once called daytight compartments.
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