As fall semesters wind down across the schools in the Atlantic Coastal Conference, final exams are starting to take place and the schedule is slowing down a bit. Final out-of-conference play to bolster early-season records is dwindling down for each team opening their season, meaning we are getting that much closer to seeing how these teams will fare against their real competition.
We will find out who is the outright favorite to not only win the ACC– but perhaps a national championship as well. ACC competition is set to kickoff once the new year rings in, and although early matchups have their favorites, these games will be a potential indication of what kind of season the top teams will have leading up to the conference tournament, and ultimately, Selection Sunday.
A brief look at each team’s opening conference game can be seen below.
No. 3 Duke vs. Clemson
Much of the conversation surrounding Duke this year — mainly their core of astronomically gifted freshmen Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones and recently announced National Freshman of the Week RJ Barrett– is how they will fare against interconference competition.
The College Basketball world (TV personalities and those self-acclaimed social media “college basketball experts” alike) all considered this season as a write-off, a coronation ceremony of sorts for the Blue Devils in an unopposed waltz to a national title and undefeated season, only to be humbled by No. 3 Gonzaga in the Final of the Maui Invitational in late-November; their only loss of the year.
Duke and Clemson’s 2019 ACC campaign begins in Cameron Indoor Stadium, where they will face off against standout guard Marcquise Reed — who’s averaging over 19 points per game (PPG) but recovering from a sprained knee at the moment — and the Clemson Tigers who may present a challenge to the young Blue Devils.
No. 6 Virginia vs. No. 10 Florida State
Virginia is looking to stay undefeated while facing off against ACC opponents coming into Charlottesville in 2019.
In what will be Florida State’s biggest test so far this season, the Noles are recently coming off a convincing 79-71 win against UCONN and a strong showing from Senior Guard Terance Mann, who put up 20 points on the Huskies in the second game in the Never Forget Classic.
No. 12 North Carolina vs. Pitt
The two-loss Tar Heels, who were absolutely blown off the court in Ann Arbor last week by John Beilein’s Michigan Wolverines, are looking to start 2019 on the right foot as they travel to the Petersen Events Center to put their first W in the win column against Pitt, who showed admirable effort against West Virginia in a 10 point loss this past Saturday.
Their backcourt comprised of TreyMcGowens and Xavier Johnson, who combined for 39 points against the Big 12 powerhouse, will look to give the Tar Heels some difficulty on Saturday, January 5.
No. 13 Virginia Tech vs. Notre Dame
Mike Brey’s Irish are looking to start their 2019 inside Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg as they battle with the Virginia Tech Hokies on New Year’s Day. The Irish have not had an ideal start to their season, but understandably so. Growing pains aside for the 6-3 Irish, they have suffered back to back losses against Oklahoma in the Madison Square Garden and a crushing loss against UCLA, spoiling a 14-point comeback.
Tech, with one loss on the year coming from a tough loss at the hands of Penn State, is led by sophomore guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who is averaging around 17 points a game.
No. 25 Syracuse vs. Notre Dame
Soon after Notre Dame’s first ACC game against Tech, the Orange will be next in line to face the Irish on Saturday, January 5.
Jim Boeheim’s most trusted junior and multifaceted guard, Tyus Battle — who averages 17 points a game and is no stranger to knocking down the big shot in late-game situations, especially last week against Georgetown — will try to play spoiler in Notre Dame’s ACC home opener.
North Carolina State vs. Miami
It would be euphemistic to say that Miami’s start to their 2018-19 campaign has been pretty dismal. Their four losses, one coming after another at the hands of Rutgers, UPenn, Seton Hall, and Yale omit very little optimism for the Canes’ beginning of ACC play set to begin on Wednesday, January 3rd as the North Carolina State Wolfpack enter the BankUnited Center.
The Pack, who sit comfortably at 8-1, have been led by senior guard Torin Dorn, who is shooting over 53% from the field while averaging 17 points per game.
Louisville vs. Miami
In Miami’s second game of ACC Contention, they will square off against the Louisville Cardinals for the Cards’ ACC home opener. Chris Mack’s squad has played well but have come up with three losses in three tightly contested ballgames, including a one-point loss to Indiana during the Big Ten-ACC Challenge week. Look for the L’Ville Cards to establish some dominance in their conference and surprise some folk in Chris Mack’s team in challenging to contend for a conference title.
Boston College vs. No. 13 Virginia Tech
The Boston College Golden Eagles just put up 95 points against the Providence Friars last Tuesday in a shootout, only to come up short, 100-95. BC is 6-2, and they will visit Blacksburg to get a good start to their 2019 ACC campaign. 6-foot-1 junior guard Ky Bowman leads his Eagles in scoring (19.1 PPG) and is second on the team in rebounds per game (6.8 RPG).
Georgia Tech vs. Wake Forest
A significant win against Florida A&M ended a two-game losing skid for the Yellow Jackets and now sit at 5-3. They will face off against the Demon Deacons, who are also 5-3, to begin their ACC season in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.