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ACC Roundup - Pitino Blows A Gasket

Is the pressure getting to him?

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Rick Pitino had an explosive press conference on New Year's Day.
Rick Pitino had an explosive press conference on New Year's Day.
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

ACC conference play gets going this weekend with some intriguing matchups: Georgia Tech visits UNC, State goes up to Virginia Tech, Syracuse takes a break from winter and heads down to Miami, Duke jets up to BC while Virginia hosts Notre Dame. Pitt has a bon-bon with Maryland Eastern Shore in town.

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It wouldn't shock us if the Yellow Jackets pulled the upset. UNC is clearly the better team but Tech defends well, shoots the three well this year and has something that UNC lacks: a hard-nosed inside presence.

When he was at Maryland and even last year, Mitchell was erratic. Remember his last trip to Duke as a Terrapin? It was Mitchell who had a chippie, and Mitchell who fell to the floor as it rolled off the rim, preserving a win for Duke.

No more.

Mitchell has remade his body and is now an official badass. He's having a great year.

UNC has talent, but so far, no one has stepped up and been as solid as Mitchell has been. This is a very different team from what we've seen lately at Tech. And for the last few years, UNC has been notably erratic overall, but especially defensively and from outside.

We'd expect FSU to beat Clemson. Both teams are solid defensively, but the 'Noles have a ton of scoring.

Can Cat Barber keep it going at Virginia Tech? If not, State is in big trouble, although maybe not at Cassel: Virginia Tech has serious health and injury issues.

The Mike Hopkins interregnum is drawing to a close but we expect Miami will add one more loss to his resume.

This year's Notre Dame is, clearly, not like last year's brilliant edition, but Virginia is still Virginia. We don't see an upset here.

Louisville and Wake Forest take the stage Sunday, and while folks around here will be watching to see how much progress Wake has made, Rick Pitino will be the focus.

That became inevitable after his comments to the media Friday.

You get the feeling that a lot of pent-up stuff came out. Add to that Pitino's comments on being 63 and not really caring what anyone thinks anymore and you get...this.

Naturally, Kentucky partisans reacted.

Tonight one of the ACC’s more interesting early matchups occurs at Tallahassee when Florida State hosts North Carolina. Each team has reached double-digit wins. Each has two losses and is undefeated at home. The squads are surprisingly similar from a statistical standpoint in areas from scoring to defense, free throw accuracy to rebounding margin.

Where they differ most glaringly on the stat sheet is in their facility handling the ball. The Tar Heels had 1.84 assists for every turnover through this season’s first 14 games, best in the ACC. Florida State stood 13th among the league’s 15 members with one more assist than miscue, a 1.01 ratio.

Neither one of those levels is apt to endure; based on recent history, both ratios are inordinately high.

Last year at this time eight ACC clubs had more turnovers than assists, FSU among them. This season only Virginia Tech and Wake Forest were below breakeven as the new year began.

Producing more turnovers than assists is a Florida State tradition – its teams haven’t enjoyed a positive ratio in that category since Pat Kennedy’s last year as head coach. That was in 1997, also the final season of Dean Smith’s illustrious North Carolina coaching career and five years before Leonard Hamilton arrived at FSU.

Hamilton hoped for better this year with senior perimeter performers Devon Bookert and Monte Brandon, juco transfer Brandon Allen, freshman Terance Mann and sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes, converted from voracious shooter to discriminating playmaker.

"I think that we’ve elevated our skill level," Hamilton said this past fall. He conceded his previous squads "have not had great decisionmakers, we maybe have not had tremendous skill." With improved understanding and more adept shot creators "we might not have to pass the ball as much to get good shots because we have guys who can make better shots. I’m hoping that’s the case."

So far, so good.

As for North Carolina, passing to set up a basket is part of the Smith catechism. But 1.84 assists per turnover is over the top – better ballhandling efficiency than any ACC team in at least a decade.

FSU, UNC Team Ratios of Assists to Turnovers, Last Decade
(2016 Season Through Jan. 1)
Season FSU Rank in ACC UNC Rank in ACC
2016 1.01 13 1.84 1
2015 0.79 15 1.37 4
2014 0.75 15 1.29 6
2013 0.77 12 1.39 1
2012 0.76 12 1.45 1
2011 0.78 11 1.16 5
2010 0.84 11 1.02 5
2009 0.77 12 1.45* 1
2008 0.72 12 1.17* 1
2007 0.84 12 1.33 1