Six ACC games on tap Saturday with a couple that should be outstanding: Virginia Tech visits NC State, Georgia Tech heads down to FSU, Miami braves John Paul Jones to lose to Virginia (more on that in a minute), Notre Dame is at BC and Syracuse will be hosted by Jeff Capel and Pitt.
Oh and UNC and Louisville tangle again.
If we were still in the Dean Smith era we would bet the rent money on UNC. We won’t do that now but there’s no question that UNC, like Duke, understands games like this and knows what it takes to win.
It’s a mark of institutional memory or, if you prefer, a program’s DNA. Kansas has it as does Villanova and, for the most part, Virginia.
We would take UNC here but with a couple of caveats: 1) Roy Williams is not Dean Smith and as competitive as Williams is, and as much Kansas nice as Dean took through life, the fact is that the man was a snarling, vicious competitor.
That’s not an insult - so is Mike Krzyzewski. These guys compete with a level of ferocity that few people even understand. No knock on Dean.
The genial face slipped occasionally and we saw raw comments from Smith like “Mr. Choke,” or his inviting Rick Barnes to hit him.
As Vic Bubas once told Coach K, most coaches are miserable, even, he said, Dean.
We digress, but that’s why there would be no doubt in our mind that Smith’s UNC would win.
Caveat #2): UNC will be without Leaky Black and Sterling Manley.
Like Bill Self at Kansas, Ol’ Roy likes a traditional lineup and he can’t have one this year. He’s adapted better than Self has but it’s not the kind of lineup he prefers.
Garrison Brooks and Luke Maye aren’t bad but they’re not Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, for instance.
There is a lot of athleticism available though and expect UNC to be powerfully motivated after getting crushed by Louisville in Chapel Hill earlier.
We don't know what else is going to happen but we’d be fairly confident of this: UNC won’t go 3-22 from three point range again. This could be a legitimately great game and as a bonus, whoever loses falls into second place in the ACC.
State-Virginia Tech might be great too but the Hokies might be missing Justin Robinson. PJ Horne is still out and that leaves VT down to seven scholarship players and this hasn’t been a great road team anyway. Desperation always makes ACC basketball special and the Hokies may hit that in this game so stay tuned.
We don't think that Florida State will lose to Georgia Tech but we admire the stubborn D the Yellow Jackets have employed. However, Jose Alvarado was injured in the UNC game last time out and we’re not sure he’s going to play or if he’s 100% if he is. That’s a devastating blow if he’s out for any length of time.
When we said this above - Miami braves John Paul Jones to lose to Virginia - it occurred to us how deeply that idea has taken root around the ACC and that’s a huge advantage for Virginia.
Virginia’s defense has been compared to a boa constrictor and we like to call Tony Bennett college basketball’s leading endodontist.
A lot of people have just begun to assume that Virginia is going to strangle whoever the opponent is and one that becomes conventional wisdom, it also tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a huge advantage.
That said, it’s hard to see how Miami wins this one. The ‘Canes are just too thin and with too many holes to overcome Virginia at Virginia.
Notre Dame and BC is mostly irrelevant but could still be entertaining. The Irish core won’t really come into its own until next year but they still compete hard. BC has Ky Bowman and several other guys who are capable of big nights if not consistently. This one could surprise.
Finally, Syracuse and Pitt. The Orange won last time and after a great start the ACC has given Pitt a reality check. The Panthers have only won twice in January and only one of the six losses was close. Pitt is playing hard though and the fans are invested again. It might be another loss but this team isn’t going to give up.
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SATURDAY'S ACC ACTION
|St. John's @ Duke||12:00||ESPN|
|Virginia Tech @ NC State||12:00||ACCNE|
|Georgia Tech @ Florida State||12:00||ACCNE|
|Miami @ Virginia||2:00||ACCNE|
|UNC @ Louisville||2:00||ESPN|
|Notre Dame @ BC||2:00||ACCNE|
|Syracuse @ Pitt||6:00||ESPN2|
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