January 19, 2007

ACC Breakdown: Matchup of freshmen in Chapel Hill

Weekly ACC Update
Team Conf. Overall
Boston College 5-0 13-4
Virginia Tech 3-1 13-5
North Carolina 3-1 16-2
Clemson 3-2 17-2
Duke 2-2 15-3
Virginia 2-2 10-6
Virginia 2-2 10-6
Miami 2-3 9-10
Maryland 1-3 15-4
Florida State 1-3 13-5
NC State 1-3 11-6
Wake Forest 1-4 9-8
Standings as of 1/18

Best matchup: Florida State forward Al Thornton vs. Boston College forward Jared Dudley: Dudley already leads the ACC in scoring (19.1 points per game) and rebounding (9.1). The star forward will have to inherit even more responsibility now that the Eagles have kicked center Sean Williams and forward Akida McLain off the team. The only player in the ACC who might mean more to his team than Dudley is Thornton, who averages 17.8 points per game and gives the Seminoles their only real inside presence. Thornton scored 27 points all in the second half as the Seminoles earned their first conference win Wednesday with an 82-73 triumph over No. 23 Virginia Tech. The two high-scoring forwards square off Tuesday night at Boston College.

Worst matchup: Virginia guard Sean Singletary vs. Wake Forest guard Ishmael Smith: Although Smith was leading the league in assists heading into Thursday's game with Duke, Singletary clearly has the upper hand in this matchup. Smith has collected 18 turnovers and only eight assists during the Demon Deacons' three-game losing streak. The freshman will have his hands full Sunday against Singletary, who ranks second in the ACC with 19.0 points per game.

The pressure is on: Maryland: The Terrapins want to end their two-year NCAA Tournament drought, but they can look forward to another NIT berth if they don't turn things around in a hurry. Maryland owns a 1-3 conference record and already has followed a giant step forward (handing Clemson its first loss of the season) with a big step backward (a 103-91 loss at Virginia). The Terps can start digging out of the hole they've created for themselves by winning Sunday at Virginia Tech.

Upset alert: Maryland at Virginia Tech: The pressure is on Maryland because we believe the Terps are much better than their record indicates. They proved it last week by knocking off Clemson. We believe they'll demonstrate it again by winning at Virginia Tech, a good team that isn't quite as good as it showed in victories over North Carolina and Duke.

Who's hot: North Carolina freshman forward Brandan Wright has scored in double figures in every game this season. Boston College forward Jared Dudley has scored in double figures in 23 consecutive games over the last two seasons. Dudley has averaged 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game since returning from a stress fracture in his left foot. Boston College guard Sean Marshall has scored at least 20 points in five of his last seven games. Florida State forward Al Thornton has averaged 23.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in the Seminoles' four ACC contests. Georgia Tech guard Javaris Crittenton has averaged 18.3 points and 5.3 assists per game in his last three outings. The freshman has set career highs in scoring in two of his last three games. Maryland forward Ekene Ibekwe is averaging 18.5 points and 12 rebounds per game in his last two contests.

Who's not: Clemson has shot 10-for-32 from the free-throw line during its two-game losing streak. Clemson forward Sam Perry, center Trevor Booker and guard Vernon Hamilton were a combined 0-of-8 from the line Wednesday against North Carolina. Miami guard Jack McClinton has shot 11-of-49 from the field in his last four games. Maryland guard D.J. Strawberry is shooting 7-for-27 overall and 0-for-6 from 3-point range in his last three games.

Must-see TV: Georgia Tech at North Carolina (ESPN, Saturday at 9 p.m.): This game should be a Rivals.com reader's dream as it features five freshmen who were ranked among the nation's top 10 recruits by this site last year. North Carolina features forward Brandan Wright (Rivals.com's No. 3 recruit) and guards Wayne Ellington (No. 8) and Ty Lawson (No. 9). Georgia Tech counters with forward Thaddeus Young (No. 5) and guard Javaris Crittenton (No. 7).

Key stat: Eleven Miami players have made at least one start this season.

Bench bonus: Georgia Tech senior guard Mario West came off the bench Saturday and scored a career-high 18 points in an 88-80 victory over Florida State. Virginia reserve forward Jamil Tucker has averaged 8.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in his last two outings.

They said it: "It was just something I needed to do. Hey, we have rules and you have to abide by them. It's just that simple. When you don't, this is what happens. No one's ever really happy with it, but you've got to have some order."-Boston College coach Al Skinner, speaking to EagleAction.com about his decision to dismiss center Sean Williams and forward Akida McLain from the team.

Injury update: Miami will play at least the rest of the regular season without forward Jimmy Graham, who broke a bone in his right hand during a victory over Maryland last week. The Hurricanes already had lost center Anthony King to a wrist injury and forward Adrian Thomas to a sports hernia for the rest of the season. North Carolina State forward Engin Atsur has missed the Wolfpack's last two games with an injured left leg. Injuries have caused Atsur to play in only six of North Carolina State's first 17 games. Virginia forward/center Ryan Pettinella has played in only 10 of the Cavaliers' 16 games this season because of an injured left knee.

Worth noting: Virginia Tech guard Zabian Dowdell was named the most recent ACC player of the week. Dowdell has scored at least 20 points in five of his last seven games and led the Hokies to a 94-88 victory over North Carolina on Saturday. Georgia Tech guard Javaris Crittenton was named the ACC freshman of the week after leading the Yellow Jackets to victories over Duke and Florida State. Maryland forward Ekene Ibekwe needs to block just two more shots to reach the 200 career block plateau. Virginia Tech's victory over North Carolina last weekend marked the first time the Hokies had beaten a top-ranked team since thy knocked off Memphis State 69-56 on Jan. 10, 1983. No. 23 Virginia Tech moved into the Associated Press Top 25 this week for the first time since 1996. Georgia Tech will try to end a long road drought Saturday when it travels to North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets have lost 14 consecutive games on opponents' home courts, including 11 in a row to ACC opponents. That skid includes three one-point losses. Georgia Tech hasn't won on an opponent's home floor since beating Miami 76-72 on Feb. 26, 2005. Georgia Tech hasn't beaten North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1996. ... When Duke whipped Wake Forest 62-40 on Thursday, it marked the fewest points the Blue Devils had allowed an ACC opponent in 25 years. The last time Duke gave up just 40 points against an ACC foe, the Blue Devils actually lost the game 40-36 to Maryland on Jan. 9, 1982.

Freshman to watch: North Carolina forward Brandan Wright. The most accurate shooter in the ACC proved this week that his rare slumps don't last very long. After shooting just 1-of-8 Saturday in a 94-88 loss to Virginia Tech, Wright responded by making his first seven attempts Wednesday in a 77-55 triumph at Clemson. Wright shot 8-of-10 in the game and finished with 17 points while improving his ACC-leading field-goal percentage to 64.1 percent.

Something you may have missed: His performance got lost in the rubble of a 22-point defeat, but Clemson forward Trevor Booker blocked eight shots Wednesday against North Carolina. The 7-footer leads all ACC freshmen with 40 blocks this season.

RPI watch: The ACC entered Thursday's games with eight schools ranked among the top 36 teams in the RPI index. The ACC's big six included No. 4 North Carolina, No. 7 Duke, No. 12 Clemson, No. 22 Florida State, No. 29 Maryland, No. 30 Georgia Tech, No. 35 Virginia Tech and No. 36 Boston College.

More Conference Breakdowns: Big 12 | Big Ten | Big East | SEC | Pac-10


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