ACC Basketball: 13 Interesting Non-Conference Matchups To Watch

Jim FolsomContributorNovember 9, 2010

ACC Basketball: 13 Interesting Nonconference Matchups To Watch

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 15: Head coach of the United States, Mike Krzyzewski on the sideline against France during their exhibition game as part of the World Basketball Festival at Madison Square Garden on August 15, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    ACC fans:

    It's time to stop with the inferior feeling that football season inevitably brings. You've been the stepchild for two months now. It's time to assert yourselves. It's time for what you do best.

    It's basketball season.

    Here are some November matchups in the ACC to get you started.

    These games will be not only interesting, but will be important come NCAA Tournament time. Seedings may be depending on the outcomes of some of these games. Bubbles may also burst for a few teams because of them.

    The ACC will surely come out on top in many of these games, because well, this is not football.

Virginia Tech at Kansas State (Nov. 16)

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 12:  JT Thompson #33 of the Virginia Tech Hokies defends against Adrian Thomas #30 of the University of Miami Hurricanes in their quarterfinal game in the 2010 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 12,
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Virginia Tech returns all five of its starters this season.

    The Hokies are coming off an impressive season last year when they posted a 25-9 record but the offseason has not been kind.

    Valuable backup forward J.T. Thompson was lost for the season when he blew out a knee, and transfer Allan Chaney collapsed in the spring and was later diagnosed with a heart condition.

    But the starting five will be a good one for head coach Seth Greenberg.

    He said to the Roanoke Times, “I like our team. We’ve got some toughness. We’ve got experience. We’ve got maturity. We’ve got good guards. That’s a pretty good combination.”

    The starting five includes guards Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson, forwards Jeff Allen, Terrell Bell and Victor Davila.

    "Those five guys are as good as any in the country," Greenberg said. 

    Kansas State is ranked No. 3 in the preseason polls and is a legitimate Final Four contender.

    Senior guard Jacob Pullen is the preseason pick for Big 12 Player of the Year. He has scored in double figures for 37 consecutive games and is 14 shy of the school record.

    The Wildcats starting five includes Pullen, shooting guard Rodney McGruder, small forward Jamar Samuels, small forward Wally Judge and power forward Curtis Kelly.

    Kelly came on at the end of the season, and even more improvement, and consistency, is expected of the Connecticut transfer as a senior.

Maryland at Pittsburgh (Nov. 18)

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    SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 21:  Eric Hayes #5 of the Maryland Terrapins makes a jumpshot against the Michigan State Spartans during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Spokane Arena on March 21, 2010 in Spokane, Washington. (Phot
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Maryland has only six returning players from last season's squad.

    They will be counting heavily on six new freshmen to contribute. Rebuilding projects are nothing new to Gary Williams. After all, he is in his 22nd season at Maryland. He knows his way around the block. The Terps have not had a losing season since 1992.

    Guards Sean Mosley and Adrian Bowie, forwards Dino Gregory, James Padgett and Jordan Williams make up the probable starting lineup.

    Newcomers include power forward Berend Weijs, a junior college transfer from Harcum (Pa.) College who should bolster the Terps’ inside game. Mychal Parker, a small forward from Washington, N.C., can shoot the three.

    Three other signees—point guard Pe’Shon Howard from Mouth of Wilson, Va., power forward Ashton Pankey from Jersey City, N.J., and shooting guard Terrell Stoglin from Tucson, Ariz.—are rated 3-star prospects by Scout.com.

    Pitt is ranked No. 4 entering the season. Jamie Dixon's Panthers have four returning starters, an impressive cast of newcomers and are thinking Final Four this year. The Panthers last trip there was in 1941. They feel they are ready this year.

    Ashton Gibbs is one of the country's best shooters. He will likely be Pitt's leading scorer this season. Guard Isaiah Epps will be hard to keep off the court, as he is a pass-first guard who is already a big-time defender.

Marquette at Duke (Nov. 20)

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    INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 05:  (L-R) Kyle Singler #12, Jon Scheyer #30, Brian Zoubek #55 and Nolan Smith #2 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrate after Scheyer drew a charging foul against Gordon Hayward #20 of the Butler Bulldogs during the 2010 NCAA Division I M
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Duke Blue Devils, the defending national champions, are looking to repeat.

    They have a lot of talent returning, not to mention the game's best coach, Mike Krzyzewski.

    Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith are the only returning starters, but don't be fooled. The team is still loaded.

    The Plumlee brothers, Miles and Mason, are a formidable frontcourt, and transfer Seth Curry will provide three-point shooting. Freshman point guard Kyrie Irving will look to push the tempo, creating open looks for the shooters.

    This Duke team may even be better than last season's.

    Marquette will be playing their usual role of Big East sleeper.

    They return Jimmy Butler, who is among the best players in the Big East along with Darius Johnson-Odom, who when hot can really light it up. Point guard Junior Cadougan will be ready to take over following a year hampered by an Achilles injury.

    Marquette is quite accustomed to the underdog role. Duke better not sleep on them.

Boston College at Texas A&M (Nov. 25)

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 11:  Biko Paris #5 and Cortney Dunn #55 of the Boston College Eagles chase Mike Scott #32 of the University of Virginia Cavaliers in their first round game in the 2010 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on Ma
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    BC returns four starters, but with new coach Steve Donahue, it will be a fresh start for the Eagles.

    This road game at Texas A&M will be BC's first big test.

    Joe Trapani and Corey Raji both return after averaging double figures a season ago to lead the Eagles. Donahue led Cornell into the Sweet Sixteen a year ago before bowing out to Kentucky.

    The Eagles will have three tuneup games before this one on the 25th. Some of the early kinks should be worked out by then.

    Texas A&M will bring an inexperienced team into 2010. But these guys will be athletic.

    David Loubeau and Ray Turner are looking to have breakout years this year after sitting behind a senior-laden team a year ago.

    The Aggies have advanced to at least the second round of the NCAA Tournament for five consecutive years. They are a legitimate basketball power.

Duke at Oregon (Nov. 27)

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11:  Malcolm Armstead #11 of the Oregon ducks shoots over Brandon Smith #12 of the Cal Golden Bears in the second half during the Quarterfinals of the Pac-10 Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 11, 2010 in Los Angeles,
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Coach Dana Altman takes over at Oregon with a team that is picked to finish dead last in the Pac-10.

    E.J. Singler will look to have a big game against older brother, Kyle.

    Junior point guard Malcolm Armstead is back after thinking of transferring along with five of last year's players. Having him back will be huge for the Ducks.

    With this game being at Oregon, a long plane ride and an opponent Duke may not take seriously, this could a tough one.

Florida at Florida State (Nov. 28)

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    BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 19:  Head coach Mark Few of the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Michael Snaer #21 of the Florida State Seminoles look on during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at HSBC Arena on March 19, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (P
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    When the Gators come to town, there will be excitement in Tallahassee.

    This season the basketball game is going to be a big one. Florida comes in with a Top 10 preseason ranking and plenty of expectations. They have the entire starting five returning from a season ago that went to the NCAA Tournament.

    Seniors Alex Tyus, Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin give the Gators an experienced frontcourt with plenty of athletic ability.

    Parsons at the small forward can shoot the three and take it to the hoop. Tyus has been working on his mid range jumper to go along with his low post game. Macklin is a big man in the middle who can dominate the paint.

    Kenny Boynton is a prolific scorer who can not only shoot the three, but also dribble and penetrate. Erving Walker runs the point and has huge range on his jumper.

    The Gator bench is also very deep with newcomers Casey Prather, a Corey Brewer-type player and Patric Young, who is large and athletic.

    The 'Noles will counter with ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Chris Singleton, who will have some tall help with seven-footer Jon Kreft and the 6'11" Xavier Gibson. These guys can really block shots. In fact, FSU led the nation in field goal defense a season ago. But can they score?

    That will be up to Singleton, guards Micheal Snaer and Deividas Dulkys, who shot 39.7 percent from three-point range last season after hitting just 28.6 percent as a freshman. Add 5-star shooting guard Ian Miller, and FSU has the makings of a contender.

    This one should be fun.

Virginia at Minnesota (Nov. 29)

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 12:  Nolan Smith #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks to get by Mike Scott #32 of the University of Virginia Cavaliers in their quarterfinal game in the 2010 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 12, 2010 i
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    A Top 20 recruiting class has Virginia looking to the future.

    The future will get a strong test early with games in November against Stanford, Washington and Minnesota. The Cavaliers will have an experienced backcourt with junior guard Sammy Zeglinski, who started 44 games over the last two seasons, and sophomore guard Jontel Evans, who started 11 of Virginia’s last 17 games.

    Tubby Smith's Golden Gophers will also have an experienced backcourt with senior Al Nolen at the point and Blake Hoffarber at shooting guard. This gives the Gophers a chance in the Big Ten to stay competitive.

    Power forward Trevor Mbakwe and center Ralph Sampson III give the Gophers some size and talent in the frontcourt as well.

    This game could give some early season momentum to the winner.

Ohio State at Florida State (Nov. 30)

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    ST. LOUIS - MARCH 26:  William Buford #44 of the Ohio State Buckeyes goes up for a shot as Melvin Goins #21 and Wayne Chism #4 of the Tennessee Volunteers defend during the midwest regional semifinal of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Edw
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The 'Noles will face another Top 10 opponent after the Gators leave when Ohio State comes to town.

    The Buckeyes will have plenty of veteran players to go along with four highly touted freshmen, including two McDonald's All-Americans coming in.

    Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Buford give the Buckeyes one of the best starting fives in the game.

    With this group you get size (Sullinger, Buford), shooting ability (Diebler) and athleticism (Thomas, Lighty).

    Now with a deep bench, the Buckeyes feel like they are in good shape for an even deeper NCAA run than their Sweet 16 of a year ago.

    FSU will provide a good early test.

Michigan at Clemson (Nov. 30)

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    BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 19:  Tanner Smith #5 of the Clemson Tigers handles the ball against the Missouri Tigers during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at HSBC Arena on March 19, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/G
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Another team getting used to a new coach this season is Clemson. Oliver Purnell is gone; the new coach is Brad Brownell.

    “Our style is different from what our current players are accustomed to,” Brownell said. “We won’t be as extended in our defense as Clemson has been in the recent past."

    “Some of the half-court man-to-man will be similar, but there will be some adjustments made. I hope our guys will be able to grasp what we want to do quickly.”

    Three starters—guards Demontez Stitt and Tanner Smith and forward Jerai Grant—return from last year's squad that went to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year.

    Michigan is rebuilding.

    They have no seniors and only two juniors. They will be a team looking to improve as the season progresses. But early on, they could be dangerous because, well, they don't know any better.

    This game looks to be one that the ACC can depend on for a win in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Georgia Tech at Northwestern (Nov. 30)

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    MILWAUKEE - MARCH 21:  Zachery Peacock #35 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets passes the ball as he is covered by David Lighty #23 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Bradley Center on Mar
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    A good sleeper team this year is Northwestern.

    The Wildcats have never been to the NCAA Tournament, but this season's team feels like they have an excellent shot to be the first.

    Four starters return from a 20-win team a year ago, including forward John Shurna who averaged 18 PPG last season and is on the Wooden Award watch list.

    A trip overseas in the offseason gave the Wildcats extra practice and four wins against professional teams from Italy to build from. Shurna, Juice Thompson and Drew Crawford each averaged between 16 and 18 PPG on the four-game trip.

    Georgia Tech is a guard-oriented team with four guys who can shoot the jumper in Glen Rice, Jr., Mfon Udofia, Brian Oliver, and senior Moe Miller.

    Who will rebound?

    That will be the task handed to 6'8" forward Kammeon Holsey, who had to sit out last season after sustaining a preseason knee injury. Also chipping in will be 6'11" center Daniel Miller.

    Both of these teams will look to put on a three-point shooting clinic. This should be interesting to watch.

North Carolina at Illinois (Nov. 30)

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    NEW YORK - APRIL 01: Head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, Roy Williams watches on against the Dayton Flyers during the 2010 NIT Championship Game at Madison Square Garden on April 1, 2010 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Two teams that disappointed last season and have a lot to prove this year meet up in a must-watch game

    North Carolina, which missed out on the NCAA Tournament last season in defense of their national title, will have some familiar faces and some highly touted new ones.

    The Tar Heels welcome back Tyler Zeller and Larry Drew but were stung by the departures of the Wear twins and Ed Davis.

    Stuck without a big man because the Wears were supposed to be there, North Carolina got a break when Justin Knox transferred from Alabama. Since he has graduated from Alabama, he will be allowed to play this season.

    Newcomers who will contribute early and often include Harrison Barnes, who scored 44 points in a two-game exhibition in the Bahamas for the Heels. Also, Reggie Bullock, who chipped in 38 points, will see big minutes.

    Illinois has its entire starting five back from a season ago.

    This includes point guard Demetri McCamey, shooting guard D.J. Richardson, small forward Jereme Richmond, power forward Mike Davis and center Mike Tisdale.

    McCarney is the Big Ten's leading assist man from a season ago. Davis is the Big Ten's leading rebounder.

    The Fighting Illini also hauled in a top 10 recruiting class last season, so the bench is deep.

Iowa at Wake Forest (Nov. 30)

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    NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 20:  Ishmael Smith #10 talks with coach Dino Gaudio of the Wake Forest Deacon Demons during the second round of the 2010 NCAA mens basketball tournament at the New Orleans Arena on March 20, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by D
    Dave Martin/Getty Images

    I'm thinking about betting on Iowa in this one.

    Basically, I just put this one in because I didn't want to leave Wake Forest out. The NCAA Tournament selection committee will do that. It's their fault.

    You fire a coach who takes you to the Big Dance and replace him with the coach from...Colorado? Have I seen Colorado in March Madness? I don't think so.

    Here is the Demon Deacons projected starting five: guards C.J. Harris, Gary Clark and J.T. Terrell and forwards Ari Stewart and Melvin Tabb. Only Harris started last season, so not only is the new coach an iffy choice, he has an inexperienced team to work with. Maybe the NIT is within reach.

    Former Siena Coach Fran McCaffrey takes over at Iowa and will try to turn them around. Good luck with that.

    The Hawkeyes are going to try and play up tempo this year, so that should be fun anyway. This game will be an evenly matched game at least and, hey, it counts in the ACC-Big Ten thingy.

North Carolina State at Wisconsin (Dec. 1)

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 13:  Iman Shumpert #1 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets guards Javier Gonzalez #10 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack in their semifinal game in the 2010 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on on March 13,
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Three 5-star recruits—6'8" power forward C.J. Leslie, shooting guard Lorenzo Brown and point guard Ryan Harrow—have the Wolfpack fans excited. But it may be the returning players who should have them excited.

    Tracy Smith is a candidate for player of the year in the ACC.

    With veterans like C.J. Williams, Richard Howell and DeShawn Painter also at his disposal, coach Sidney Lowe has a very stacked team this season, looking to make some noise.

    Wisconsin seems to always be near the top of the rankings, but nobody pays them much attention.

    Michigan State gets most of the Big Ten love, but Wisconsin is always formidable.

    Again the Badgers have senior leaders in forward John Leuer, who averaged 15 PPG last season and center Keaton Nankivil, who has a nice 20-foot jumper. Also, junior guard Jordan Taylor returns to run the point for the Badgers.