ACC Hoops Capsules: Wake Forest improving
Wake Forest won five ACC games in coach Jeff Bzdelik’s first two seasons in Winston-Salem, but the Demon Deacons are off to a 2-1 start in league play and are going for their first three-game conference winning streak under the third-year coach.
Prior to Bzdelik’s arrival, the Deacons won four-consecutive games in 2010, ending with a victory over Georgia Tech in mid-February. But the Deacons fell apart after that and dropped five of their final six ACC games and were blown out by Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Since, they have been nothing short of miserable against league foes. On Tuesday night at Clemson, however, C.J. Harris, Travis McKie and company can win a third-consecutive ACC game and shake off another portion of the anti-Bzdelik brigade that has been strong in numbers and loud in its opposition to the coach since he was hired to replace Dino Gaudio nearly three years ago.
But this would require notching a road win, and the only ACC win away from home for the Deacons under Bzdelik was at Boston College last season. Clemson (9-6, 1-2) is better than those Eagles and will certainly defend as well as anyone in the ACC. In addition, Littlejohn Coliseum is one of the more underrated venues and environments in college basketball. This won’t be an easy task for the Demon Deacons by any stretch.
Bzdelik, however, isn’t worried about that. His focus is his team and how they’ve grown.
“I used the term ‘resilient’ against Virginia, and that term applies once again to this basketball team,” Bzdelik said after Saturday’s 75-72 win over Boston College. “We got down 10-0 out of the game and came storming back. We built ourselves a lead… Our team is resilient, they battled, we got timely stops and we made it interesting all the way to the end.”
And Wake Forest won. And at 9-6 overall and 2-1 in the ACC, is confident enough to steal one against a Clemson team that has scoring issues.
Pick: Clemson, 56-52.
When: 7 p.m.
Full Court Press: Very dangerous game for the Wolfpack because the Terrapins are a darn good team to have experienced consecutive losses, so they will be hungry and ready to explode at home. Maryland has a lot of overall talent and plenty of depth, so N.C. State has to avoid foul trouble. However, Mark Gottfried's team better starting talent and is playing so well of late. This is a test in its maturity, as to be a big-time team, N.C. State must back up the win over Duke with a very difficult road win at Maryland.
Pick: Maryland, 74-71.
When: 7 p.m.
Full Court Press: Playing on the road in the ACC isn’t easy, especially when you’re a program that has shown the propensity over time to lay enough eggs during a season to just miss out on the NCAA Tournament. But this is a different Miami team. It has learned to handle not having Reggie Johnson very well and is playing exceptionally well. The key in this game is being mentally ready to play and handling the improved Eagles. Boston College is more than capable of springing the upset. Ryan Anderson has become quite consistent and usually another player steps up each game.
Pick: Miami, 68-62.
When: 9 p.m.
Full Court Press: How will the Blue Devils respond to suffering their first loss of the season? Will they have senior guard Seth Curry, who went down late in Saturday’s loss at N.C. State? With Curry, Duke should be in good shape against the Yellow Jackets. The Blue Devils are going to have to change their approach, as not having Ryan Kelly means they can’t play the same style they were with him. Georgia Tech can challenge the Blue Devils with its beef and depth. But when led by two freshmen in scoring, Cameron Indoor Stadium isn’t usually a place to find confidence.
Pick: Duke, 74-60.
Season record: 127-29