Down the stretch we go with two weeks left before the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season comes to an end. While the top three spots in the league tournament seem to be safe, the middle of the pack is where the attention is. Teams trying to stay away from playing on the first day, the last eight sets up. Plenty of games are still to be played, so movement in the middle of the standings is sure to happen. Here are some other things going on in the ACC.
If you are on the road in league play, it might be a good idea to let the game go an extra five minutes. There have been eleven overtime games so far in league play, the most since the 2015 season. The road teams have had an advantage in these games having won nine of the eleven played so far.
It was a very good past seven days for the Clemson Tigers. They were named the NABC Division 1 team of the week for wins over Pittsburgh and then-No.5 Louisville 77-62. Duke’s Vernon Carey, has twelve double-doubles to his credit so far in his freshman season with the Blue Devils. That ties him for second in the nation among the nation’s freshman. North Carolina State freshman big man Manny Bates leads the conference in blocked shots (2.96/game). It also ranks him eighth in the nation. In his last game at Boston College on Sunday, Bates recorded three blocks in that game. The last freshman to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in blocked shots was Florida State’s Solomon Alabi with 2.1 blocks per game. Freshmen have led the league in blocked shots seven times previously.
Virginia senior forward Mamadi Diakite was named ACC Player of the Week. He averaged 17 points and four and a half rebounds in victories over Notre Dame in OT 50-49, and over North Carolina 64-62. Against the Irish, he hit the game-tying bucket with 25 seconds left en route to an ACC-high 20 points. Versus the Tar Heels, Diakite came back with 15 points and four rebounds as Virginia won back-to-back games at North Carolina for the first time in school history.
The Rookie of the Week is Miami’s, Isaiah Wong. Wong put up 17 points, 4.5 rebounds and three assists in the Hurricanes double-digit wins over Boston College and Wake Forest. Wong is the first Miami freshman player to have back to back 20 point nights since January 2001 and helped his team to back-to-back ACC wins in double digits for the first time since January 2016.
The win over Louisville last Saturday for Clemson was important for another reason. It gives them a pair of wins over Top-5 teams this season. It marks the first time the Tigers have had two wins over Top-5 teams in the same year since 1979-80. Florida State freshman, Patrick Williams, scored a team-high 16 points on Tuesday night vs Pittsburgh. He has scored in double figures in four of his last five games. (13.6 during that period). The Tar Heels got a much-needed boost from the return of senior guard Brandon Robinson on Monday night. In that outing vs the Irish, Robinson played 25 minutes and score 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting. He had missed the last four games with an ankle injury.
If there is one thing that Notre Dame has done really well this season, it is taking care of the basketball. On Monday night vs North Carolina, the Irish turned the ball over only six times matching their season-low. Already this season, ND has turned the ball over less than ten times in thirteen games. They lead the nation in fewest turnover giving up 9.8 per ballgame.
Pittsburgh sophomore guard, Xavier Johnson, scored twelve points in the loss at FSU. Those points allowed him to move past Sam Clancy into third place in scoring all-time through a sophomore season. Johnson now has 830 points in 60 career games. Virginia is really good at home and they are a league-leading 62-8 (.886) over the past seven seasons. Duke is second at 61-9 (.871). Virginia is 11-3 heading into their game on Wednesday night vs the Eagles. UVA has now won 11 or more home games in 11 straight seasons. Virginia Tech has been knocking down a three-point shot all year long. They rank 13th in the nation in three-point makes per game (9.9) and are one of just three high-major schools to average 9.9 or more three-pointers per game this season.
Next week, the final push is on in the ACC.