ACC Roundup: Duke loss, close games put all teams on upset alert

With Devin Thomas scoring in bunches and shooting well from the field (41 combined points against Duke and Georgia Tech), Wake Forest should be a tough out for anyone in conference play -- especially at home.

Jeremy Brevard/Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The ACC coaches continue to praise the conference’s depth and overall talent; and if early results are any indication, they are correct in doing so.

Since ACC play began roughly 10 days ago, the league’s top five teams have either been pushed to the brink (Virginia) or fallen (Duke, Louisville). And mid-tier teams, like NC State, have bolstered their national profile, as well.

The Wolfpack’s Sunday upset of No. 2 Duke indicates that almost every game could be a battle. By extension, the league may be significantly better than last season.

ALL-ACC TEAM (JAN. 5-11)

Devin Thomas, Wake Forest

Wake’s mercurial junior center followed up a 24-point performance in a close loss to Duke with 17 against Georgia Tech, while shooting 17 of 29 for the week.

Thomas also added 19 rebounds, five assists and two blocks in just 65 minutes (one close loss, one win). If this Thomas shows up the rest of the season, look out for the Deacs.

Justin Bibbs/Adam Smith, Virginia Tech

It was just one game for each — a loss, in fact — but the two had great nights at Florida State. Bibbs, a freshman guard, had 25 points on 8 of 17 shooting, while Smith added 24 points on 8 of 18 shooting.

The two combined to make nine three-pointers — something that could keep the Hokies’ thin roster in most conference outings.

Chris Jones/Terry Rozier, Louisville

The guard duo had huge weeks, scoring 81 of their team’s 129 points in a win and a loss (Jones on 14 of 29 shooting and 6 of 12 from beyond the arc; Rozier on 15 of 36 shooting).

They also combined for 16 assists and 12 steals (six each) while playing all but 11 minutes in the two contests. Jones and Rozier nearly knocked off North Carolina on the road by themselves. They also helped the Cards muddle through an ugly win over Clemson.

Pat Connaughton, Notre Dame

The undersized 4-man has never lacked in heart or effort, averaging 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two games against quality competition (North Carolina and Virginia). He’s also savvy enough to make up for his lack of height on the defensive end, while exploiting the mismatches on offense.

Trevor Cooney, Syracuse

The junior guard nearly beat Florida State by himself, averaging 18.5 points for the week, on 12 of 26 shooting (nine triples). In the FSU game alone, Cooney seven 3-pointers, breaking out of a slump at the best possible time.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

**Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan averaged 18.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in two Boston College losses, while playing all 80 minutes in that two-game stretch.

**Florida State freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes averaged 18 points on 50% shooting in two games last week (one win).  

**Duke’s Jahlil Okafor averaged 17 points on 12-of-17 shooting to go with 11.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.0 blocks.  

**Miami’s Angel Rodriguez had 17 points in the Hurricanes’ only game (a win over Boston College) to go with three assists.  

**Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame averaged 16.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games last week (on 12-of-18 shooting), while Syracuse forward Rakeem Christmas added 16.0 ppg and 9.5 rpg in two games.

SPECIAL SHOUT-OUTS

**Duke’s Quinn Cook averaged 15 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and a steal in nearly every minute of two games last week (a win at Wake and a loss at NC State). 

**Speaking of the Wolfpack, Trevor Lacey averaged 15 points but had 21 of those in the win over Duke on 8-of-13 shooting and was spectacular.  

**Teammate Ralston Turner averaged 15 points on 9-of-17 shooting (8-of-14 from three) in two games and played pretty well in each of them, keeping the Wolfpack in the Virginia game for a time.

**Georgia Tech’s Charles Mitchell averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds on 11-of-19 shooting in two games last week for the Yellow Jackets (both losses, but still).

FRESHMAN WATCH

**Rathan-Mayes, Bibbs and Okafor have been covered already, but Duke’s Justise Winslow averaged 15 points last week in two games, along with 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists (struggled mightily at NC State, though). 

**North Carolina’s Justin Jackson had 14 points in two games last week on 6-of-10 shooting and added 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks.

**NC State freshman Cody Martin had got plenty of playing time last week and rewarded his coach with 10 points in two games to go with six rebounds, eight assists and two turnovers in 30 total minutes. 

**Wake’s Mitchell Wilbekin averaged 9.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in two games, while his teammate Cornelius Hudson aded 10.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 2.0 apg.

Also worth pointing out that Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku had his best game in a long time at North Carolina, finishing with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting to go with eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 27 minutes.

Syracuse freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph has been shaky with the ball this year, but he had 12 assists/2 turnovers in last week’s two games (both wins) and he has 24 assists/6 turnovers in Syracuse’s last five games.

THE "I SEE YOU WORKING" TEAM OF THE WEEK

Wake Forest

The young Deacs, under first-year head coach Danny Manning, have been up and down all season. But they followed up a near-win over Louisville by pushing Duke to the brink at home, and then finally getting their first ACC win of the season at home against Georgia Tech.

After starting the season 4-5, they’re 5-3 in the last eight and have close losses at Florida and at home to Louisville and Duke, plus two wins over Ken Pom top-100 teams.

The Georgia Tech game wasn’t pretty, but it’s a win and it shows the kind of upside the Deacs have if they can put it together — especially in Winston-Salem, always a dangerous place for any team in the ACC.

ACC WIN OF THE WEEK

NC State over No. 2 Duke, 87-75. NC State had been keeping its head above water in terms of its NCAA Tournament hopes, beating some good teams in its competitive schedule but losing some of those games, too — until it broke through on the biggest stage imaginable, knocking off the Blue Devils.

The Wolfpack shot extremely well (10 of 16 from beyond the arc), but it was the defense that won the day, holding Duke to 44.7% from two-point range (33.3% by players not named Jahlil Okafor) and 7 of 27 from three.

They managed to limit Okafor as much as possible while still contesting Duke’s outside shots as best they could, and it worked. It was as impressive a performance as any ACC team has had this year in any game.

#goacc TEAM OF THE WEEK

Pittsburgh. This is really a cumulative award for the Panthers, who entered ACC play 10-3 and on a six-game winning streak. It seemed like Pitt was trending in the right direction.

The Panthers then got blown out at NC State, won a game at Boston College in overtime this past Tuesday (though they should have lost, facing a 10-point deficit inside of three minutes) and lost 71-62 AT HOME to a bad Clemson team in a game that wasn’t that close.

The top of the ACC is strong, and even the next tier is competitive. But for Pitt to let show such potential, only to look horrible once conference play begins, it’s a head-scratcher.

HONORABLE MENTION

Georgia Tech was 0-3 entering ACC play and took a top-25 Notre Dame team to overtime on the road in their ACC opener. But since, they’ve lost at home to Syracuse in a 46-45 game and then 76-69 at Wake in a game that wasn’t as close as the final would indicate.

Boston College, for losing a 10-point lead inside of three minutes to go to Pitt AT HOME, is a worthy honorable mention as well.

#goacc PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Tie: Patrick Heckmann, Boston College and Chris Bolden, Georgia Tech. Because what’s more #goacc than a tie? Heckmann finished the week for Boston College 2-of-8 shooting, scoring seven points and pulling down six rebounds in his 53 minutes, but he also had four fouls in eight turnovers in two games (both losses).

It remains mind-boggling that, as one of the Eagles’ most experienced players, he’s continued to regress. Meanwhile, Chris Bolden — a frequent winner of this award in the past — shot just 2-of-16 from the field last week in two losses for the Yellow Jackets (1-of-8 from three) in his 56 minutes of action, though it’s only fair to add that he had three assists, four steals and just two turnovers.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

**Wake’s Konstantinos Mitoglou played 33 minutes in two games, shot 2-of-7 from the field (0-of-5 from three) and was 1-of-4 from the foul line. He did have seven rebounds.

**Notre Dame’s Martinas Gerben saw 17 minutes in two games, missed all three of his shot attempts, went 1-of-2 at the foul line, had one rebound and three fouls.

**Syracuse sophomore Chinonso Obokoh deserves mention just because he picked up four fouls in five minutes against Florida State, which is impressive.

GAMES TO WATCH

Wake Forest (9-8, 1-3) at Syracuse (12-4, 3-0), Tuesday, 8 p.m.

Under previous head coach Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest wasn’t very good anywhere, but the Deacs particularly weren’t good on the road. Wake went 2-30 in conference road games during his tenure and both wins were against teams that finished 9-22.

Syracuse has had struggles of its own this year, but the Orange are tough at home — still beatable, though, and if the Wake team we saw against Duke and Louisville doesn’t show up in some semblance at Syracuse, then maybe there’s still a lot of work to do yet in Winston-Salem.

(Well, that’s true regardless, but this will tell us a lot more about whether or not we should be excited about Wake’s potential this year.)

Miami (11-4, 1-1) at No. 4 Duke (14-1, 2-1), Tuesday, 9 p.m.

Spoiler alert: games at home following Duke losses are generally not pretty for Duke opponents.

Duke has not lost a home game immediately following a loss since 2007, and in the last three seasons alone Duke has won 11 of its 14 home games immediately following a loss by double digits.

Miami’s the unlucky recipient of Duke’s rage this time, but the Hurricanes have been one of the more intriguing teams in the league this year. They looked good early, fell off a bit and might actually be good?

Too soon to tell, but this will be a solid early test.

No. 15 North Carolina (12-4, 2-1) at NC State (12-5, 3-1), Wednesday, 7 p.m.

In recent decades, this rivalry has been much more of regional interest than national. But perhaps some who tuned in to watch the Wolfpack on Sunday will take a gander at this game as well, because it’s always a fun one.

Last year’s tilt in Raleigh saw an epic scoring duel break out between T.J. Warren and Marcus Paige. Can NC State replicate its performance from Sunday, or something close to it? Can Paige, hobbled by plantar fasciitis, be well enough to carry the Tar Heels yet again?

No. 4 Duke (14-1, 2-1) at No. 6 Louisville (14-2, 2-1), Saturday, 12 noon

This was supposed to be the game where Mike Krzyzewski went for win No. 1,000 against fellow coaching great Rick Pitino in a top-5 clash. Even though that won’t be happening, this is still a huge game for the Blue Devils AND for Louisville, with implications in the ACC standings and beyond.

Back before Duke got its first loss, this was the game everyone was pointing to as a likely first loss for Duke. We’ll see what the Blue Devils are all about in this one, and what Louisville’s dominant defense can do against Jahlil Okafor and company.