ACC Capsules: Virginia can't afford letdown

Coming off a key win over North Carolina, Virginia can't suffer a letdown against Wake Forest.

If Virginia is going to make a push for an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, it needs to make Sunday's win over North Carolina count.

The way not to do that is to follow up the impressive victory by falling to a Wake Forest team that could finish last in the ACC. A loss to the 7-6 (0-1 in ACC) Demon Deacons on Wednesday night would basically cancel out the win over UNC, and would join Virginia's baffling loss to Old Dominion a few weeks ago as major strikes against its NCAA chances. 

Virginia (11-3, 1-0) getting point guard Jontel Evans back was huge against UNC. He had six assists and no turnovers in the second half. Moving forward, he may have been the final ingredient to a team that can achieve its goals.

"He’s not where he needs to be defensively, but he still could come up with some plays tonight," Bennett said Sunday. "He could body as an older guy. He bodied (UNC’s Marcus) Paige a couple times. His ability to put pressure on the paint and get in there stood out. He made one floater and some drives.

“He got us some great looks, and that makes all the difference in the world.”

Wake, which is coming off a decent week in which it defeated a struggling Xavier team and lost by 18 points at top-ranked Duke, will be desperate for a victory, so Virginia should expect Wake’s best effort.

Pick: Virginia 64-57.

Jan. 8

Clemson (8-5, 0-1) at Duke (14-0, 1-0)

When: 7 p.m.

Full Court Press: The outcome of this game won’t have nearly as much to do with Duke as it will Clemson. Duke is going to win — no way this Clemson team leaves with a victory. Whether or not the Tigers are competitive depends on their ability to get off quality shots and fight Duke on the glass. Otherwise, it could get real ugly.

Pick: Duke 78-54.

Jan. 9

Boston College (8-6, 0-1) at Virginia Tech (9-5, 0-1)

When: 7 p.m.

Full Court Press: It’s tempting to pick BC because the Eagles are playing better basketball than the Hokies. But the Hokies’ resume is much more impressive, and if that team re-emerges, Erick Green and Virginia Tech should win. And picking BC to win on the road is just too dangerous.

Pick: Virginia Tech 81-76.

Georgia Tech (10-3, 0-1) at NC State (12-2, 1-0)

When: 8 p.m.

Full Court Press: This should be an interesting game because the Yellow Jackets have a lot of bodies, most of whom are high-caliber athletes, and North Carolina State has a thin bench, and as a result the team occasionally takes off segments of games. Georgia Tech also won in Raleigh a year ago, but as much progress as the Jackets have made, they don’t have enough to overcome the Wolfpack’s fire power. Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie could post huge numbers on Georgia Tech’s youngish front line.

Pick: NC State, 86-72.

Florida State (9-5, 1-0) at Maryland (13-1, 1-0)

When: 8 p.m.

Full Court Press: The general feeling among the ACC media is that Florida State will get things straightened out and make a strong push in league play. At the same time, many still question Maryland’s worthiness as an ACC contender. Some of those questions can be answered Wednesday night, and this should be a terrific battle as the teams sort through this. Both clubs have something to prove, but the deeper and more proven Terrapins should notch the victory.

Pick: Maryland 73-66.

Jan. 10

Miami (10-3, 1-0) at North Carolina (10-4, 0-1)

When: 7 p.m.

Full Court Press: The Hurricanes are an NCAA Tournament team even without Reggie Johnson, whom they won’t have at the Dean Dome on Thursday. A lot of the media believes North Carolina isn't an NCAA tourney team. This corner, however, sees the Tar Heels making the dance. The point is that Miami is probably the better team right now, especially after watching UNC do so little in executing the intangibles of the sport in falling at Virginia on Sunday. That said, expect a fired up North Carolina team to take advantage of Miami’s occasional silliness on offense.

Pick: UNC 70-65.

Season record: 122-22