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ACC Weekend: Duke's 'inside' job

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North Carolina got the best of Duke in their first meeting of the season. There's no reason to think it can't happen again. (Source: Duke Photography) North Carolina got the best of Duke in their first meeting of the season. There's no reason to think it can't happen again. (Source: Duke Photography)
Point guard Rod Hall is the second-leading scorer for Clemson, but he - like everyone else on the roster - plays in K.J. McDaniels' shadow. (Source: Rex Brown/Clemson Athletics) Point guard Rod Hall is the second-leading scorer for Clemson, but he - like everyone else on the roster - plays in K.J. McDaniels' shadow. (Source: Rex Brown/Clemson Athletics)

(RNN) - If there was a dictionary entry for "primetime TV," it would be this: two teams tied in the conference standings playing their season finale, and their names are Duke and North Carolina.

That entry is several pages over from "must-see TV," which is essentially the same definition, except the Blue Devils and Tar Heels would be tied for first place, not third.

It's not that this game is any less worth watching. It just takes some (but not all) of the sheen off the matchup considering either shade of blue has ruled the ACC for about 15 years - that four-month-long incident involving Miami last year notwithstanding.

Despite its high ranking (which likely will change on Monday) and the hype its talented (and young) lineup has generated, the No. 4 Blue Devils (23-7, 12-5) have been a frighteningly streaky team (cough! Wake Forest… cough! Notre Dame… cough! Clemson). Too much? Sorry.

Ignore that hiccup Thursday against the Deacons. That's just Duke being Duke - meaning the Devils sometimes stink chuck it up from the 3-point line instead of trying to drive to the basket. Granted, they lead the conference in outside shooting, but that's not always reliable.

Duke has attempted 23 free throws per game over the course of the season, but in all four of its losses to unranked teams (including UNC, unranked when they played Feb. 20), that average dropped to 16. That's baffling considering they normally make 16 free throws per game when the attempts are up.

Now let's solve this math puzzle. Since the worst of those four losses was by 13 points to Clemson, Duke could have won - at least - three of those games by attacking the paint instead of settling for jumpers. X=MC squaring up to shoot too much is killing the Dukies.

North Carolina (23-7, 13-4) hasn't had quite the same problem with consistency. The No. 14 Heels went from OK to bad and then shot straight up to unbeatable with little variance in between stages.

James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson and company pose enough of a post presence to give the Blue Devils some real problems.

With virtually no resemblance to the squad who beat the preseason's top four ranked teams and then lost to squads that were afterthoughts on the schedule, the Heels could be one of the most dangerous threats entering the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

Anyone who doesn't believe that should remember 75 years of Tournament history tells us hot streaks rule in the postseason. Get used to seeing Carolina blue for a while.

Saturday games (all times eastern)

Pitt at Clemson, 4 p.m.

Clemson is, without question, the best easily forgotten team in the ACC. We'll leave the exact meaning of that statement open to interpretation.

ESPN bracket guru Joe Lunardi doesn't have the Tigers (19-10, 10-7) in the NCAA Tournament. That's probably because their only impressive win is against Duke, and their offensive philosophy is "K.J. McDaniels or bust."

A little Rod Hall love, anyone? Nearly 10 points and four assists per game here. Just saying, it's something.

Anyway, it's not beyond Clemson to surprise a few teams in the ACC Tournament and on the national stage. Why do we say that?

Lunardi projects Pitt (22-8, 10-7) as a 10 seed in the tourney, despite not beating any of the top four teams in the ACC and with No. 15 Cincinnati as its only meaningful non-conference win.

Also on deck

Wake Forest at Clemson, 2 p.m.

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 2 p.m.

Sunday games

No. 5 Virginia at Maryland, noon

Congrats, Wahoos! You've just won the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament. What are you gonna do now?

"We're going to… Turtle World." Hey, it sounds funny, but Maryland (16-14, 8-9) is a well-rested team finishing the regular season at home with nothing better to do than think about the conference's top dog. And go to class. Yeah, there's that.

This could turn into a nightmare for Virginia coach Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers (25-5, 16-1) have nothing else to prove, which is often confused with having nothing else to play for. Yes, there is a difference.

The Cavs don't need to finish the regular season on a 14-game winning streak, but they can. They don't have to win this game just to prove they're not fat and happy after a regular season title and weeklong layoff, but they should.

The one thing they can't do is have a letdown and give an already loaded tournament field more motivation.

No. 7 Syracuse at Florida State, 2 p.m.

Do the Seminoles really pose that much of a threat to the Orange? Well, FSU (18-11, 9-8) has won its last three, a streak that started on the road against Pitt.

As for Syracuse (26-4, 13-4), Jim Boeheim's blazer wasn't the only thing that unraveled in the loss at Duke. After going unscathed in its first 25 games, the team has since gone 1-4.

Also on deck

Boston College at NC State, 7 p.m.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

(RNN) - If there was a dictionary entry for "primetime TV," it would be this: two teams tied in the conference standings playing their season finale, and their names are Duke and North Carolina.

That entry is several pages over from "must-see TV," which is essentially the same definition, except the Blue Devils and Tar Heels would be tied for first place, not third.

It's not that this game is any less worth watching. It just takes some (but not all) of the sheen off the matchup considering either shade of blue has ruled the ACC for about 15 years - that four-month-long incident involving Miami last year notwithstanding.

Despite its high ranking and the hype its talented (and young) lineup has generated, the No. 4 Blue Devils (23-7, 12-5) have been a frighteningly streaky team (cough! Wake Forest… cough! Notre Dame… cough! Clemson). Too much? Sorry.

Ignore that hiccup Thursday against the Deacons. That's just Duke being Duke - meaning the Devils sometimes stink chuck it up from the 3-point line instead of trying to drive to the basket.

Duke has attempted 23 free throws per game over the course of the season, but in all four of its losses to unranked teams (including UNC, unranked when they played Feb. 20), that average dropped to 16. That's baffling considering they normally make 16 free throws per game when the attempts are up.

Now let's solve this math puzzle. Since the worst of those four losses was by 13 points to Clemson, Duke could have won at least three of those games by attacking the paint instead of settling for jumpers. X=MC squaring up to shoot too much is killing the Dukies.

North Carolina (23-7, 13-4) hasn't had quite the same problem with consistency. The No. 14 Heels went from OK to bad and then shot straight up to unbeatable with little variance in between stages.

We stand here to remember a 2013-2014 UNC team that was scary bad. We will miss them. Now, a moment of silence.

With virtually no resemblance to the squad who beat the preseason's top four ranked teams and then lost to squads that were afterthoughts on the schedule, the Heels could be one of the most dangerous threats entering the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

Anyone who doesn't believe that should remember 75 years of Tournament history tells us hot streaks rule in the postseason. Get used to seeing Carolina blue for a while.

Saturday games (all times eastern)

Pitt at Clemson, 4 p.m.

Clemson is, without question, the best easily forgotten team in the ACC. We'll leave the exact meaning of that statement open to interpretation.

ESPN bracket guru Joe Lunardi (http://espn.go.com/ncb/bracketology) doesn't have the Tigers (19-10, 10-7) in the NCAA Tournament. That's probably because their only impressive win is against Duke and their offensive philosophy is "K.J. McDaniels or bust."

But it's not beyond them to surprise a few teams in the ACC Tournament and on the national stage. Why do we say that?

Lunardi projects Pitt (22-8, 10-7) as a 10 seed in the tourney, despite not beating any of the top four teams in the ACC and with No. 15 Cincinnati as its only meaningful non-conference win.

Also on deck

Wake Forest at Clemson, 2 p.m.

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 2 p.m.

Sunday games

No. 5 Virginia at Maryland, noon

Congrats, Wahoos! You've just won the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament. What are you gonna do now?

"We're going to… Turtle World." Hey, it sounds funny, but Maryland (16-14, 8-9) is a well-rested team finishing the regular season at home with nothing better to do than think about the conference's top dog. And go to class. Yeah, there's that.

This could turn into a nightmare for Virginia coach Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers (25-5, 16-1) have nothing else to prove, which is often confused with having nothing else to play for. Yes, there is a difference.

The Cavs don't need to finish the regular season on a 14-game winning streak, but they can. They don't have to win this game just to prove they're not fat and happy after a regular season title and weeklong layoff, but they can.

The one thing they can't do is have a letdown and give an already loaded tournament field more motivation.

No. 7 Syracuse at Florida State, 2 p.m.

Do the Seminoles really pose that much of a threat to the Orange? Well, FSU (18-11, 9-8) has won its last three, a streak that started on the road against Pitt.

As for Syracuse (26-4, 13-4), Jim Boeheim's composure wasn't the only thing that unraveled in the loss at Duke. After going unscathed in the first 21 games, the team has since gone 1-4.

Also on deck

Boston College at NC State, 7 p.m.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

  • WAFB Online Poll

  • Which is most likely to decide this weekend's Duke-UNC game?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    UNC's post players
    15%
    2 votes
    Duke's outside shooters
    57%
    8 votes
    Coaching strategy
    7%
    1 vote
    The crowd
    21%
    3 votes
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