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As The ACC Turns: Weeks 3 and 4


Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We had a very active 2 weeks with rivalry games, big upsets, and big let downs. We see Miami solidly atop of the conference with a 2 game lead on the field. UNC and Virginia used a strong fortnight to move up in our rankings as previous contenders FSU and Maryland lost a step. And Georgia Tech, welcome to the win column. Oh, and if you haven't noticed, Erik Green is one fire. Onto the rankings!

1) Miami (6-0) Previous rank: 3rd
What they did this week
W Miami 60 Boston College 59
W Miami 90 Duke 63
W Miami 71 FSU 47

Coming off the best 2 weeks in the history of Miami basketball, the Canes are sitting pretty with a perfect 6-0 record in conference. It's great to look down the (power) rankings and look down on the Triangle schools who treat basketball as king and the national rankings have us a 14/15 and rising.

We don't need anymore words written about the Duke game, but to show up and play a complete game against FSU speaks to this teams character and mental toughness. With so many seniors, you expect nothing less. Around the league you watch teams drop winnable games after big wins (cough, cough, looking at you NC State). But UM took care of business at home.

What's hot: The Bank United Center. The game against Duke was sold out a week in advance when Miami hosted the number 1 team in the country for the first time. The place was absolutely rocking with a bunch of UM star alums and future stars in attendance. I'm most proud of the follow up performance of the crowd against FSU. While I could not be there in person, it looked well attended for the beat down of our rivals.

What's not: Free throws. While winning by 20 this isn't a huge issue, but miami is 11th in the conference in FT percentage, hitting only 59.2%. Miami doesn't take a ton, they are 9th in the conference in FT attempts. But against a team like NC State, we are going to need those gimme points.

2) Duke (4-2) Previous ranked: 2nd

What they did this week
W Duke 73 Georgia Tech 57
L Miami 90 Duke 63
W Duke 84 Maryland 64

With NC State unable to bring it night in and night out, Duke is still number 2, though they also lack a road win in conference. Duke had a very poor first half, trailing the last place Yellow Jackets by one at half. Mason Plumlee was tentative with the ball and either turned it over or clanged balls of the rim. The 2nd half was completely different; Mason hit some shots to end the game with 16 points and 13 rebounds and Seth Curry hit 6-7 threes for 24 points on the night as the Blue Devils forced 21 turnovers against a team that had previously done well valuing the ball.

There is nothing else to say about the Miami game, Miami played a near perfect game and everything that could of gone wrong did go wrong for Duke, with their Curry-Cook-Thornton trio going 1-29. They bounce back with a really strong showing against Maryland with Suliamon hitting 6 three pointers in a row at one point.

What's hot: Pre-Miami Seth Curry. 6-7 from 3 is ridiculous and some of them were from legitimate NBA distance. Add in the fact he is playing on a bum wheel due to a chronic shin issue and his season to date is pretty remarkable. He is also 11 for his last 17 from deep.

What's not: Slow Starts. Both the Georgia Tech and the Miami game fit a pattern for Duke this year. They frequently have lethargic first halfs with long spells without scoring. The anemic first half caused discussions of whether Miami would be rushing the court by halftime

3) North Carolina State (5-2) Previous Rank: 1st

What they did this week

L Maryland 51 NCSU 50
W NCSU 66 Clemson 62
L Wake 86 NCSU 84
W NCSU 91 UNC 83

Oh NC State, it was pretty easy to predict the let down loss against a talented, if troubled, Maryland team, but a close losses to Clemson and Wake, two teams in the cellar of the conference, are not acceptable. While they only had a one day rest between the brutal Clemson game and the Wake game, championship teams can't go from playing a perfect game against a rival to dropping the ball against 2 sub-par opponents. Yes, Wake got into foul trouble and the no call on CJ Leslie's game tying shot was atrocious, but Wake has 9 freshman! I wouldn't be surprised if this State reels off 4 wins in March and wins the conference, but for right now, they have a lot of work to do between the ears. They managed to get excited for the UNC game and beat their crosstown rivals at home and didn't rush the court. But championship teams grind out the less exciting games on the schedule.

What's hot: Offensive rebounding. While they rebounded pretty evenly against their opponents, NC State had 3 straight games this week of double digit offensive rebounds. including 17 against Wake Forest. Cleaning up the glass and getting easy looks is a good place for this team to start to turn it around.

What's not: Playing away from home. NC State only has 1 road win, where the eeked out a win against BC. They have played 4 road games all year and are 1-3, losing their last two. Last I checked Greensboro is about a 90 minute drive from Raleigh.

4) North Carolina (3-3) Previously Rank: 5th
What they did this week

W North Carolina 62 Maryland 52
W North Carolina 79 Georgia Tech 63
L NCSU 91 North Carolina 83

North Carolina seems to be getting their feet back under them after a rough start to the season. 2 of their last 3 wins are against quality opponents, Maryland and FSU in addition to the GT win. It is starting to feel like players are finding their roles, which starts with Reggie Bullock (24 points against Maryland) and James McAdoo (19 points, 11 rebounds). There is no shame in the loss to a very good NC State team. This is a team that's on the bubble and the next 10 games will decide if its another NIT year or a 10-12 seed. With a favorable schedule of BC, VT, and Wake over the next 3 games, they have a chance to improve their tourney chances. Teams are probably going to need 10 conference wins to dance this year, 9 if they are lucky.

What's Hot: Defense. We know Maryland hasn't been scoring a lot recently and are often held under 60 in league play, but the Heels forced 21 turnovers and held All conference caliber center Alex Len to 10 points and 5 rebounds. Holding GT to 63 points on 36% shooting and forcing 19 turnovers was also a healthy step in the right director.

What's Not: 3 point shooting. They shot only 5-19 from 3 against the Terps and 6-17 against Georgia Tech.. A team with only one legit, experienced big man is going to need more 3s to compete each night in the ACC. 8-22 against NC State was a slight improvement.

5) Virginia (4-2) Previous rank: 6th
What they did this week

W Virginia 56 FSU 36
W Virginia 74 Virginia Tech 58
W Virginia 65 Boston College 51

After dropping 2 games last week, Virginia had a clean slate the last 2 weeks, with 3 wins against middle to lower tier teams. These are exactly the games the Cavaliers want to win. Is it just me or is there some really good defense being played in the conference? Clemson, Duke, Miami, UVa, Maryland, and Florida State are all really tough to score on. That is half the league. It's rare to see teams crack 70 and it doesn't look like the 80 point UNC teams of the past are here this season. It doesn't make for exciting basketball, but it keeps games close and interesting. Not in this one, of course, but in general.

Virginia got hot against their in-state rival with Evan Nolte and Joe Harris combining for 25 points on 12-21 shooting and most impressively only 6 team turnovers. It was nice to see a different pair, Akil Mitchell and Justin Anderson, step up in the win against BC. This seems like a team starting to gel.

What's Hot: Stifling defense. The Cavs are ranked 2nd nationally, only giving up 51.1 points per game and held their 16 opponent under 60 this season against BC.

What's Not: I can't find one. Not to say they are a perfect team by any stretch of the imagination, but their defense papers over a lot of issues and they won all 3 of their games this week. They hit over 50% from the field on the week. If pressed, I'll go with valuing the ball with 13 turnovers against BC and 16 against FSU, but again only 6 against Virginia Tech.

6) Maryland (3-4) Previous rank: 2nd

What they did this week

W Maryland 51 NC State 50
L North Carolina 62 Maryland 52
W Maryland 64 BC 59
L Duke 84 Maryland 64

Maryland is another team that's hovering around .500 and needs a good run to break out. Since a 94 point outburst against Virginia Tech, they haven't cracked 65 points in their last 6 games. Maryland is currently in flux, starting freshman Seth Allen over struggle Pe'Shon Howard, who suffered an ACL tear last year and seems to still be recovering. This is a team that could benefit from a scorer/driver who can make the defense scramble and hit Len when the defense rotates slow or kick out to Dez Wells and Seth Allen. Wells is trying to be the guy, and admirably, but he could use another wing player to help get it done.

What's Hot: Rebounding. Maryland is first in the country with 43 rebounds per game. Part of it can be all the bricks being thrown up in and around College Park, but rebounding is a good indicator of future success.

What's Not: Shooting. From anywhere. Against NCSU, UNC, and BC, the University of Maryland was 67 for 173 from the field. Thats 38.7%. They are 23% from the 3 pointer, only making 11 long distance shots. And at line they are shooting 64% on only 34 shots. The lack of shooting, and 3 point shooting in particular, means teams can sag off towards Alex Len, daring other teams to beat them.

7) Florida State (3-3) Previous Rank: 9th
What they did this week

L Virginia 56 FSU 36
W FSU 60 Clemson 57
L Miami 71 FSU 47

You know FSU is going to play defense, and I've seen games with under 20 points in the half, but 36 points is ugly. Really ugly. I guess it is what happens when you put two of the slowest teams against each other. FSU, Virginia, and Clemson are really battling for most defensive, least watchable offenses in the conference. Scary moment when Terrence Shannon hit his head on the floor and was taken off on a stretcher. He is out indefinitely with a sprained beck. The 60 points against Clemson was a veritable scoring explosion against another defensive-minded team with center Kiel Turpin leading the way with 16 points and 4 blocks. Its pretty amazing that the 47 points against Miami wasn't even the low scoring mark of the season.
What's Hot: Nothing.

What's Not: Everything. 16-43 for the field, 1-15 from 3, 37% from the line, out rebounded by 8, only 5 assists, and coughed up the ball 18 times against Virginia. The Miami game saw them go 16-52 from the field, hit 3 3s on 17 shots and only have 4 assists. The 11 turnovers was an improvement. There was no joy in Mudville Charlottesville or Coral Gables for the Seminoles.

8) Wake Forest (3-4) Previous Rank: 12th

What they did this week

L Clemson 60 Wake Forest 44
L Virginia Tech 66 Wake Forest 65
W Wake 86 NCSU 84
L Georgia Tech 82 Wake Forest 62

Wake had a mostly down 2 weeks, but a win against NC State has to make it all feel better. The loss to Clemson stung and saw the Deacons shoot just 34% from the field. And the loss to Virginia Tech with 12 seconds left threatened to send them into their shell. But the young squad regrouped at home and caught the Woofies napping. Freshman Devin Thomas saw expanded action and responded with 25 points and 14 rebounds, with 3 steals and 4 blocks for good measure, not to mention helping get the Wolfpack frontcourt into foul trouble. They really needed the GT game to help them move up in a conference race that is so tightly packed.

What's Hot: Travis McKie. Thomas had one great game, but McKie did it all week. My favorite Deacon put up a line worthy of an upperclassman against Virginia Tech. 20 points on 8-12 shooting and 15! rebounds while leading the seminary freshman in a tough loss. He had 16 and 8 against vs NC State and 12 of the teams 44 against Clemson. He is the reason why veterans are so important to teams. We're going to forget the GT game.

What's not: Standing out. Wake is in the middle third of nearly every team stat kept by the ACC. They only area where they are in the top 3rd in offensive rebounding and they are 8th in 3 pointers made per game. It would nice to see them carve out an identity for themselves as the season grows and find a means to consistently win games.

9) Clemson (3-4) Previous rank: 10th
What they did this week
W Clemson 60 Wake Forest 44
L NC State 66 Clemson 62
L FSU 60 Clemson 57
W Clemson 77 Virginia Tech 70

The 3rd bash brother (as I'm now referring to FSU, Virginia, and Clemson) managed to split four grinding games. Clemson used a 23-7 run to pull away from the Yahoos, limiting their top 2 scores to 10 points below their average. They couldn't contain TJ Warren against the Pack, as the freshman had 21 points and Howell hit the game winner with 2 minutes to go. With a close loss to FSU and a solid win over VT, I'm tempted to move them up during the next rankings.

What's Hot: As a commenter pointed out last week, I was sleeping on KJ McDaniel. While stymied by NC State, he had 14 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks in the win over Wake Forest and leads the conference in blocked shots per game. I'm looking forward to his impending triple-double. Hat tip to Devin Booker for his 27 against NC State.

What's Not: Passing. The Tigers are dead last in the conference with a paltry 9.4 assists per game in conference. This is a team game and their lack of a guard is what is holding them back.

10) Virginia Tech (2-4) Previous rank: 7th
What they did this week

W Virginia Tech 66 Wake Forest 65
L Virginia 74 Virginia Tech 58
L Clemson 77 Virginia Tech 70

Here is the AP write of the Wake game

Robert Brown made a short jumper with 12.3 seconds left to lift Virginia Tech to a 66-65 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday. Brown, who previously made one of his last 10 shots, had the ball with the shot clock winding down before driving into the lane for the score and getting fouled. He missed the free throw. Wake Forest called a timeout with 8.8 seconds left to setup the final play. C.J. Harris missed a contested jumper in the lane and Tyler Cavanaugh missed the put back. Virginia Tech's Jarell Eddie got the rebound as time expired.

I have nothing to add to the Wake game, but the Virginia game plan seemed to be let Green get everything he wanted and clamp down everyone else. The Hokie guard had 35! points and the rest of the team had 24 combined. Those not named Green shot 8-25. Get the man some help!.

What's Hot: It's easy to put Erik Green in this spot every week, but props this week go to Jarell Eddie. The Charlotte native scored 18 points on 8-11 shooting and grabbed 9 rebounds with only one turnover in 36 minutes of play against Wake. He chipped in 9 points and another 9 boards against the Wahoos and against Clemson he had 19 to complement Green's 25.

What's Not: Foul Shooting. The Hokies were lucky to escape with a win against Wake after shooting just 8-16 from the foul line against Wake. They followed it up with 15-24 against UVa and 23-32 in the loss to Clemson. They are getting to the line but need to convert more.

11) Boston College (1-5) Previous rank: 11th

What they did this week

L Miami 60 Boston College 59
L Maryland 64 BC 59
L Virginia 65 Boston College 51

Three losses drop them to 1-5 in conference. Ouch. Miami escaped with a close win that had both sides gripping about the refs. I shudder to think what a BC loss would have done to UM's psyche going into the Duke game. Glad I don't live in that reality. BC struggled against 3 of the better defensive teams in the conference, failing to break 60 points. The Eagles don't get much of a reprieve with UNC, Clemson, Miami, and Duke in their next four. At least 3 of the 4 are at home.

What's Hot: I'm going to give it to Olivier Hanlan for having the hot hand. He had 17 efficient points against Miami, a less efficient 18 on 16 shots against Maryland and 10 points on 13 shots against Virginia. Trust me, it was slim pickings.

What's Not: Rebounding. BC got outrebounded in all 3 games by -3, -8, and -9 respectively. They are 10th in the conference in offensive rebounding.

12) Georgia Tech (1-5) Previous rank: 8th
What they did this week

L Duke 73 Georgia Tech 57
L North Carolina 79 Georgia Tech 63
W Georgia Tech 82 Wake Forest 62

After 2 disappointing trips to the Triangle, Georgia Tech got their first conference win of the season with a convincing win over Wake Forest in Atlanta, stopping a 5 game skid. Prior to the win, they played a good first half against Duke before they were overwhelmed and the 63 points against UNC was one of the better offensive outputs to that point. The Wake game saw Robert Carter play a near perfect game going 9-10 from the field for 20 points in just 25 minutes. The 20 team assists was their best mark in conference games so far.

What's Hot: Variety. Georgia Tech had 3 different plays score over 18 this week.Chris Bolden had 20 against Duke, Kammeon Holsey had 18 in the loss to North Carolina, and Robert Carter had 20 against Wake. Now if they can just get them to all do it at the same time...

What's Not: I think i can just write "shooting" every week or so. The Yellow Jackets are last in the conference shooting just under 39%. Their 54% against Wake was a high water mark they hope to improve on.

What's on tap for the Canes?

January 30th, Blacksburg, Virginia
Miami at Virginia Tech
9pm on Fox Sports South/ESPN3

February 2nd, Raleigh, North Carolina
Miami at North Carolina State
4pm on CBS

Miami gets to take in the Erik Green show at Virginia Tech before traveling to Raleigh to take on the ever dangerous Wolfpack. While more puppy than wolf on the road, the Pack is undefeated at home this season. This nationally televised matchup between these 2 teams leading the conference is must watch and a chance for UM to put further day light between themselves and the rest of the conference.