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ACC Roundup - A Down Year? Maybe. Intensely Competitive League? Always

It’s hardwired into the DNA

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse
Jeff Capel’s Pitt team is suddenly struggling.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

In Saturday’s ACC Action, Wake Forest beat Miami 66-54, Notre Dame popped Pitt 84-58, Georgia Tech knocked off Florida State 76-65 and Virginia Tech took down Virginia 65-51.

We thought there was a chance that Virginia Tech might pull it off but we expected Virginia to win.

We thought that Virginia was back to being, well, Virginia, and to an extent they were. But not against the Hokies, and certainly not in the second half where Virginia Tech shot 61 percent against the vaunted Pack Line.

A bit like Mike Tyson in his heyday, Virginia tends to convince teams they’re going to lose before the game starts because their defense is so good. The Hokies had a 19-0 run against the Cavs to finish them off.

Keve Alıma shot 10-15, racked up 29 points and abused Virginia’s defense inside. He also had 10 boards.

The Hokies also outscored Virginia from the line 14-4.

That was a highly impressive win by Virginia Tech, which was without Tyrece Radford, who is suspended indefinitely following a DUI and weapons charges.

We also didn’t expect Georgia Tech to take Florida State. What we saw of FSU’s defense against Miami was highly impressive. In the words of former Clemson coach Cliff Ellis, they were agile, hostile and mobile.

Against Georgia Tech, FSU couldn’t hold on to the ball, committing 20 turnovers. Moses Wright had six steals and Jose Alvarado had five.

The Yellow Jackets moved ahead late in the second half and never let the ‘Noles back in it.

Neither team was particularly good offensively, but this was always going to be about defense.

Not so in Pittsburgh where Notre Dame shot 13-24 from three point range, outscoring the Panthers by 15 on threes. And Pitt was wretchedly bad from the floor, hitting just 23-73 for 31.5 percent. Take Justin Champagnie out of it and the rest of the team was just 15-53.

We thought the big guys might hurt Pitt but it was the perimeter game. Nate Laszewski and Juwan Durham combined for 21 points and 12 boards, solid but hardly great.

Xavier Johnson fouled out with 11:28 left which can’t have helped.

Not that much would have. After the game, Jeff Capel called his team’s effort “deplorable” and “embarrassing in every sense of the word.”

Somewhat to our surprise, Notre Dame has quietly won three out of its last four games.

Miami has lost Elijah Olaniyi, Earl Timberlake, Chris Lykes Rodney Miller Jr. and Sam Waardenburg to injuries then dismissed Matt Cross earlier this week.

Then, near the end of the game, Isaiah Wong left with an ankle injury of his own. It’s not clear yet how serious it is but he’s emerged as a fine ACC player. That’s potentially a devastating loss.

So it wasn’t any great surprise that Wake Forest won. We’ve been impressed by how well the Deacs have played for new coach Steve Forbes and this game just seemed like easy money. We just couldn't see how Miami could keep up with such a thin roster.

Still, the ‘Canes started well, going up 7-0 but Wake took over late in the second half and there was nothing Miami could do. It’s too much to overcome on a regular basis.

So on Saturday, the ACC race took several interesting twists: Duke may have re-emerged, the optimism about Virginia and FSU may be overstated, Pitt’s youth and inconsistency re-emerged and Wake Forest and Notre Dame have shown they still have a competitive desire despite their issues.

On Sunday, we’ll see how State adjusts to life without Devon Daniels as the Pack travels up to Syracuse for the conference’s Sunday night game.

Daniels tore an ACL last game so someone else will have to step up. Our money? It’s on Shakeel Moore. The 6-1 freshman has a lot to learn but he’s immensely talented. He may not crack Boeheim’s 2-3 zone first time out but he can still impact the game.

Sunday’s ACC Action

NC State at Syracuse || 6:00 || ACCN

ACC Standings