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January 12, 2007
ACC Breakdown: Blue Devils slumping
Best matchup: North Carolina offense vs. Virginia Tech defense: This game features an intriguing contrast in styles between North Carolina's high-flying attack and Virginia Tech's grind-it-out approach. Tar Heels are shooting better than 50 percent from the floor and lead the ACC with 88.8 points per game. The latest NCAA rankings have North Carolina second in the nation in scoring. Virginia Tech allows just 57.9 points per game and ranks second in the league in scoring defense. The Hokies' opponents are shooting just 39.4 percent against them. Virginia Tech stunned Duke last week. A victory over North Carolina on Saturday would give the Hokies very realistic NCAA Tournament aspirations.
Worst matchup: Georgia Tech rebounding vs. Florida State rebounding: Georgia Tech has outrebounded its last nine foes and ranks second in the ACC in rebound margin. Florida State is last in the league in that category. The Seminoles are struggling to replace Alexander Johnson, who left early for the NBA. Although Georgia Tech doesn't have an outstanding rebounder – Ra'Sean Dickey leads the Yellow Jackets with 6.2 boards per game – its teamwork on the glass should prevent the Seminoles from getting many second shots.
The pressure is on: Duke guard Greg Paulus: The sophomore has 11 turnovers and just seven assists in his last three games. He was held out of the starting lineup Wednesday in a 74-63 loss to Georgia Tech after collecting six turnovers with just one assist in a 69-67 overtime loss to Virginia Tech last weekend. Paulus remains Duke's most experienced point guard and must step up his game if the Blue Devils have any hopes of winning the conference title.
Upset alert: Clemson at Maryland: While official odds hadn't been placed on this game as of Thursday afternoon, the current ACC standings would make a Maryland victory seem like an upset. Clemson is the nation's lone remaining unbeaten team, while Maryland has dropped its first two conference games. We believe the desperate team will win at home.
Who's hot: Virginia guard Sean Singletary has been named the ACC player of the week for two consecutive weeks. Singletary is averaging 27 points per game in his last four contests. … Boston College forward Jared Dudley has averaged 19.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in each of his last two games since returning from a left foot injury that sidelined him for three games. … North Carolina has committed just 10 turnovers in each of its last three games. The 30 turnovers represents the Tar Heels' lowest total in a three-game stretch during Roy Williams' four-year tenure. … Wake Forest center Kyle Visser has scored in double figures in every game this year. … Florida State forward Al Thornton has averaged 24 points a game during the Seminoles' two-game losing streak. … Clemson guard Cliff Hammonds leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio. Hammonds has 62 assists and only 21 turnovers this season. … Virginia Tech guard Zabian Dowdell has shot 20-of-38 overall and 8-of-11 from 3-point range in his last three games.
Who's not: North Carolina F Reyshawn Terry has not scored a basket in each of the Tar Heels' last two games. … Wake Forest forward Jamie Skeen has failed to score in each of his last two games despite appearing in the starting lineup in both contests. … Duke guard Greg Paulus has 11 turnovers and seven assists in his last three games. … Maryland's three starting guards – Greivis Vasquez, D.J. Strawberry and Mike Jones were a combined 5-of-30 overall and 3-of-19 from 3-point range Wednesday in a 63-58 home loss to Miami.
Must-see TV: Duke at Miami (Fox Sports Net, Sunday at 5:30 p.m.): Could the Blue Devils really drop to 0-3 in conference play? If Miami wins at home this weekend, we soon could start seeing the words "Duke" and "bubble" in the same sentence.
Key stat: Duke has 259 turnovers and only 220 assists this season. Florida State and Wake Forest are the only other ACC teams with more turnovers than assists. All three of those schools are winless in conference play.
Bench bonus: Clemson guard K.C. Rivers hasn't started a game all season, but he still leads the Tigers in scoring. The sophomore has averaged 15 points per game and is shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range as the Tigers' sixth man.
They said it: "Our primary goal was to get to the NCAA Tournament. Now we feel like we're competing for the ACC title, for the top seed in the conference tournament. This is the last unbeaten team in the country, so we should expect to win."- Clemson coach Oliver Purnell.
Injury update: North Carolina State forward Engin Atsur sat out an 87-76 loss to Clemson on Tuesday with an injured left leg. Atsur already had missed nine games earlier this season because of a hamstring injury. … Boston College forward Akida McLain has missed the Eagles' last five games with an injured right ankle. … Georgia Tech doesn't have injury problems, but off-court troubles have weakened the Yellow Jackets' depth. Georgia Tech guard Lewis Clinch will sit out the remainder of the season for a violation of school policy. Clinch was averaging 13.2 points per game and shooting 47.6 percent from 3-point range.
Worth noting: ACC statistical leaders include Virginia guard Sean Singletary in scoring (19.1 points per game), Boston College F Jared Dudley in rebounding (9.3), Wake Forest guard Ishmael Smith in assists (6.4) and Maryland G D.J. Strawberry in steals (2.7). … Duke is 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 1996. … North Carolina forward Brandan Wright was named the ACC's freshman of the week after averaging 16 points and six rebounds per game in victories over Penn and Florida State. Wright kept up the pace Wednesday by collecting 16 points and nine rebounds in a 79-69 victory over Virginia. … Clemson matched its best start in school history Tuesday with its victory over North Carolina State. The 1986-87 team that eventually reached the Sweet 16 also won its first 17 games.
Freshmen to watch: This is turning into the year of the freshman point guard in the ACC. Three of the league's top four players in assists – Wake Forest's Ishamel Smith (6.4 per game), Georgia Tech's Javaris Crittenton (5.9) and North Carolina's Ty Lawson (5.2) – are freshmen. Lawson also ranks second in the ACC with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.7.
Something you may have missed: Clemson F/C James Mays apparently is the Tigers' good-luck charm. Clemson won its first 11 games last season when Mays was active, then lost 10 of its next 13 games after he was ruled academically ineligible. The Tigers now have won 28 consecutive games with Mays in the lineup.
RPI watch: Clemson's non-conference schedule might not look very strong on the surface – the Tigers haven't beaten a single team ranked in the Associated Press or USA Today/ESPN poll – but that hasn't had an effect on the RPI index. Clemson currently is ranked sixth in the RPI index, 14th in the USA Today poll and 17th in the AP poll. Clemson may have benefited from its road victories over Old Dominion, Minnesota and South Carolina. The Tigers also boast a 79-49 triumph over Appalachian State, which currently is ninth in the RPI index. Other ACC schools ranked in the top 20 of the RPI index are No. 2 North Carolina, No. 13 Duke and No. 20 Florida State. North Carolina State, which has lost its only three games away from home this year, is all the way down at No. 159 despite owning a 10-6 record. Other ACC teams outside the top 100 include No. 110 Wake Forest, No. 112 Virginia and No. 165 Miami.