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ACC Roundup

Showdown at the JPJ Corral

Shown here against Miami, Joe Harris plays at home for the last time Saturday, in his biggest game as a Cavalier.
Shown here against Miami, Joe Harris plays at home for the last time Saturday, in his biggest game as a Cavalier.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In Saturday's ACC action, four games of mediocre interest and consequence and one really big one.

Saturday's Games
Teams Times TV
Miami vs. NC State 12:00 ACCN
Pitt vs. Notre Dame 2:00 ESPN2
UNC vs. Virginia Tech 2:30 ACCN
Syracuse vs. Virginia 4:00 ESPN
BC vs. Wake Forest 4:00 RSN
Virginia 15-1 24-5
Syracuse 13-2 26-2
Duke 12-4 23-6
North Carolina 11-4 21-7
Pittsburgh 9-6 21-7
Clemson 8-7 17-10
North Carolina State 7-8 17-11
Florida State 7-8 16-11
Maryland 7-8 15-13
Notre Dame 6-10 15-14
Wake Forest 5-10 15-13
Miami (FL) 5-10 14-14
Georgia Tech 4-11 13-15
Boston College 3-12 7-21
Virginia Tech 2-13 9-18
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Miami visits Raleigh after State's very difficult loss to UNC, while Virginia Tech hopes for a letdown from UNC as the Heels trek up to Blacksburg, Pitt hopes to survive a trip to Notre Dame where the Irish could put a serious dent in Pitt's NCAA prospects, and BC heads down to Winston-Salem where the Deacs hope to win two in a row for the first time in a while.

But all eyes will be on the Virginia-Syracuse game in Charlotte, where the ACC regular season title is on the line.

It's the biggest game in Charlottesville in, well, a really long time.

On top of everything else, it's Senior Day for Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, who have done as much as anyone to build Virginia's program back to prominence.

It's going to be a really interesting clash of styles. Neither team is particularly flashy, though Syracuse is more forceful offensively.

But it's on defense that things get interesting. Syracuse puts the vaunted 2-3 up against Virginia's Pack Line scheme.

Both teams have really frustrated opponents, but Virginia may have done a better job of it. Since losing to Duke, the 'Hoos have not allowed more than 67 points (BC), and that was a significant exception. In Virginia's winning streak, opponents have been held to 48.3 ppg.

Overall, in conference games, Virginia is allowing just 53.1 ppg while Syracuse is giving up 56.3.

Somewhat surprisingly, at least to us, Virginia is better offensively: the Cavaliers are putting up 66.8 ppg to 62.4.

This tends to support our earlier observation that while Syracuse is having a great year, in person the offense is almost stodgy.

Certainly CJ Fair can score with little trouble, as can Jerami Grant. Trevor Cooney is deadly if you let him get open while Rakeem Christmas is primarily a defender.

A lot of this game however is likely to come down to the point guard dual.

Tyler Ennis has rightly earned acclaim for his brilliant point guard play, with one NBA scout going so far as to say he'd take him ahead of Kyrie Irving.

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London Perrantes hasn't gotten nearly as much attention, but Virginia's win streak started when he moved into the starting lineup and he has 107 assists to just 29 turnovers on the season. That works out to just about one a game.

The other big advantage Virginia has is depth. In the last few weeks, Syracuse has often gone just six deep. That's better now that Baye-Moussa Keita is back in action, but not much: against Maryland, the 'Cuse used Keita and Michael Gbinije, and Tyler Roberson for five minutes. That may not have been entirely by choice, since Gbinije fouled out and Fair and Christmas both finished with four.

Against Miami, Virginia played an almost ludicrous ten guys off the bench. Now that's because it was a blowout, but even if you cut out the irrelevant guys, you still have a bench of Darion Atkins, Anthony Gill, Evan Nolte and Justin Anderson, and that's a lot more than Syracuse has to turn to.

Given everything, we'd favor Virginia, if slightly, although anyone who plays Syracuse has to be wary of Ennis in the last four minutes of the game.

We're not going to go so far as to say that Virginia Tech will upset UNC, but we will say that we saw a team with a heart when it was in Cameron. That game might be a lot tougher than it looks on paper.