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ACC Hoops Preview, Jan. 28

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 9:56am

VIRGINIA (15-5, 6-1 ACC) AT NOTRE DAME (11-9, 2-5 ACC)

Time: 9:00 p.m.

TV: ESPNU/WatchESPN

THE SKINNY

Well, weve seen this movie before, right? A Notre Dame team that seems cooked, done, finito, and Mike Brey has pulled a magical rabbit out of the top of his mock turtleneck? Hmm. Ive said this before, but Notre Dames going to have to make some three-pointers. The only team to beat Virginia in ACC play so far this season - Duke - made 10-of-22. The other six teams combined to make 23-of-90 threes (25.6%). And thats because youre not making a lot of two-pointers against them - teams are shooting just 41.2% inside the arc in ACC play against the Cavaliers. And, as weve discussed before, Notre Dame takes a lot of three-pointers anyway. Even though theyre not going in. And theyre not. Since the Duke game when Notre Dame made 6-of-12 threes, the Irish are shooting over 51% from two-point range and 27.9% from three, averaging 22.7 attempts a game from beyond the arc and 38 from two. Well, this is the one game where a little chucking from three might not be the worst thing. Virginias three-point defense on the season is good, but not great (32.1%), and teams have had to score from three to have a chance. Notre Dame has nothing left to lose at this point, right? Bombs away!

NAMES TO KNOW

Akil Mitchell. Oh, look! Akil Mitchell is back! His game at Duke was memorably horrible, for this as much as being GIFd by SB Nation!

And Mitchell also threw a bad pass on Virginias last possession. But hey. That was then. And since, Virginias 6-8 lanky senior rebounding machine is back to being himself. Hes taken just seven shots in the last two games, but hes made five of them. And he even made two free throws against Virginia Tech! Like, in a row! Thats the thing about Mitchell - he has a high free-throw rate (64.5, which is 144th nationally) but he shoots just 44.9% from the line. He says its all in his head. I say, probably, but that doesnt really matter right now, does it? Anyway, somewhat like his teammate Joe Harris, Virginia is better when he doesnt HAVE to take all of the shots and get all of the rebounds. After he finishing at least 18% of Virginias possessions in four of its first five ACC games, hes down to 12% against UNC and 7% against Virginia Tech. And his efficiency numbers are up. This game, hell be guarding Notre Dames Garrick Sherman some in all likelihood, and Shermans been red-hot lately. Mitchell knows how to make life difficult on opposing big men, and hes going to be needed in that department, whether its to reach over and get a steal, or just use his length to bother Sherman. (Note: I know Mitchell wont play the five, but its not like Virginia doesnt double the post or that Mitchell wont get switched onto Sherman at times. So there, jerks.)

Eric Atkins. There is not a major-conference player playing a higher percentage of his teams minutes than Atkins (92.4%), and hes having to carry the scoring load on the perimeter with Jerian Grant out, so we can cut him a little bit of slack here. And he certainly hasnt played badly, but there have been some games where its evident the strain is getting to him. He did finish with 24 in the loss at FSU (his most since Canisius), but in the last four games, hes shooting 8-of-26 from three (30.8%), and that includes his 4-of-8 at Florida State. And hes not getting to the foul line nearly as much; in the first four games of the post-Grant era, he averaged 8.3 attempts. In the last four games, hes averaged 1.8. He was already taking a pretty healthy percentage of his shots from three, but now its gotten even higher. And hes a capable driver, as hes shown at times. Hes going to have to heat up from three in this game, though, or the Irish basically have no shot.

STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

Virginia is off to its best start in ACC play since the 1982-83 season. That team lost just three times all year, but it started 7-1 in ACC play. Its three regular-season losses were twice to North Carolina, and.to Chaminade. Yep, see? Even Virginias best teams had non-conference head-scratchers! Speaking of history, Notre Dame is off to its worst start in conference play since 2006, when the Irish started 1-6 in the Big East before finishing 6-10. This is also Notre Dames worst record through 20 games since 2006 (the Irish were 10-10). Notre Dame finished 16-14 that year and 28th in Ken Poms rankings, though, so who knows? Not surprisingly, this is Notre Dames worst defensive ranking since Ken Pom began tracking it in 2003 (152nd) and just the second time in Breys tenure the Irish have given up a defensive efficiency over 100. Somewhat surprisingly, this is the highest a Tony Bennett-coached team has ever been ranked in defense, if it holds up (fourth nationally with an 88.7). All of his previous teams have been sixth or worse, and given up below a 90.0 efficiency rating just one other time (the 2012 Virginia team was sixth with an 89.7).

NARRATIVES

Virginia Win: 

Virginia Loss: Congratulations, Virginia! For the first time since 1982-83, your team is re-

ready to lose inexplicable ACC road games again. What, did it sound like I was going to say ready to take the next step? Ready to be an ACC power? Well, I could see how that sounds the same.

Notre Dame Win: Mike Brey, for one night, anyway:

 

Notre Dame Loss: Notre Dames season, post-Duke:

PREDICTION

Virginia, 64-60. I am sooooo tempted to go full #goacc with this. So tempted. But I just dont think this is the one. I dont know why. I do think Mike Brey has one of those head-scratching wins left in this Notre Dame team, but I dont think its this one.

Overall: 45-17 (37-13 ACC)

Last week: 13-1 (13-1 ACC)