With seven games left in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season, the race for the overall number one seed as well as staying out of the basement is becoming more important. At the top is Clemson who holds a half-game lead over Virginia and Pittsburgh. At the bottom is Louisville who picked up their first win in league play last week over Georgia Tech. With the victory, the Cardinals have vaulted over the Yellow Jackets and out of the cellar of the league. Let’s take a look at what is happening in the ACC.
The Pittsburgh Panthers (17-7, 10-3) have been getting great play and production from graduate guard Jamarius Burton, who in league play is averaging 18 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. He is shooting 49.7% (82-of-165) from the field. and 91.8 % from the free throw line (45-of-49). Going into Tuesday night’s home game vs Louisville, Burton had scored 15 points in his last 9 of 12 conference games. On Tuesday night, Burton’s scoring ability was not needed (8 points) as his teammates picked him up. Five players finished the game in double-figures as the Panthers defeated Louisville (3-21, 1-12), 91-57. Bench scoring was a key for Pittsburgh as they got 41 points from there. Pittsburgh shot over 50% from the field and from 3-point land. Burton is seventh in scoring at 16 points a game, seventh in field goal percentage at 51% (130-of 255), and fourth in free throw percentage at 85% (66-of-78).
Despite the tough season that the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-15, 1-12) are going through, senior center Ja’von Franklin has been raising his game. In Saturday’s loss at home to NC State, Franklin had a stat sheet-stuffing kind of game scoring 16 points, eight boards, five assists, and five blocked shots. The assists and blocked shots are career-highs. In his last two games, Franklin has blocked eight shots and ranks fifth in the league in blocked shots averaging 1.59 a game. He is 6th in offensive rebounding averaging 2.50 a game (55 in 22G).
North Carolina State joined the ranks of the AP Top 25 this week for the first time since January 28, 2019. The Wolfpack are ranked #23 with the help of a four-game winning streak. NC State’s stay in the poll may be short-lived after Tuesday night’s loss at #8 Virginia 63-50. The Wolfpack bench did nothing to help out their starting five as four players went a combined 0-for-5 in 39 total minutes. It did not help that NC State shot 33% from the field (19-of-57) and 29.6% from 3-point land at 8-of-27. Heading into the Virginia game, graduate forward DJ Burns dropped 24 on Georgia Tech last Saturday. It was his fifth straight game with at least 14 points. In his last three games, Burns was averaging 23.3 points and seven rebounds. On Monday vs Virginia, Burns had eight points and six rebounds. Fouls were a problem as he had four in the game.
Virginia Tech (14-9, 4-8) begins its week on Wednesday night at home vs Boston College (11-13, 5-8). This is a big game for the Hokies since the Eagles are the team right above them in the standings. The first time the two teams met was back on December 21 at BC where the Eagles were winners 70-65 in overtime. In that game, neither team shot the ball well from long range. BC was just 3-of-19 for 15.8%, and Virginia Tech was just a little better going 5-of-20 for 25%. One player that could help the Hokies out is sophomore guard Sean Pedulla who in two games last week, both vs ranked teams, averaged 21 points, three rebounds, and 2.5 assists. He is 11th in the scoring race averaging 16 points a game.
North Carolina’s forward Armando Bacot recorded his 63rd career double-double on Saturday night vs Duke. The 14-point 10 rebound performance has him tied for sixth all-time in ACC history with Mike Gminski (1977-80) of Duke. Bacot is now seventh all-time in ACC rebounding with 1,250. Duke won the game 63-57. Virginia graduate guard Kihei Clark is now the all-time leader in minutes played in the ACC. In 148 career games, he has logged 4,939 career minutes. He passed Duke’s Kyle Singler (2008-11) who also played in 148 games and had 4,887 minutes played. Clark is also 18th in assists in the history of the ACC with 664.
We have Co-Players of the Week in the ACC. First, there is Duke’s Jeremy Roach who averaged 20.5 points and 4.5 boards in wins over Wake Forest and North Carolina. For the first time in his career, he posted back-to-back 20-point games, 21 vs Wake then 20 vs the Tar Heels. Miami’s Nijel Pack is the other player of the week. He averaged 18.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in wins over Virginia Tech and #20 Clemson. Against the Hokies, Pack went for 17 points, and against the Tigers, he had 20 points, four rebounds, and three steals in helping his team get a much-needed road win.
The ACC Rookie of the Week is Blue Devils’ Dereck Lively II. He averaged 10 rebounds, six blocks, and 5.5 points versus Wake Forest and North Carolina. Against the Demon Deacons, he had seven points, six rebounds, and four blocked shots. Versus the Tar Heels, Lively had a career-high in block shots with eight, rebounds with 14, and scored four points. Every team needs a rim protector. Lively seems to be one for the Blue Devils.
That’s all for this week. We will be back next week with more from the ACC.
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