Friday, March 21 2014 7:28 AM EDT2014-03-21 11:28:45 GMT
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(RNN) - It took the ACC only one weekend to provide a few surprises in conference action.
Two of the three teams ranked in the Top 25 - Duke and North Carolina - took home losses in their openers. The other, No. 2 Syracuse, needed a 14-4 run in the final six minutes to win its debut.
This week, the teams that earned early upsets - teams like Notre Dame, Virginia and Wake Forest - get to show whether those wins were signs of things to come or outliers of an otherwise average season.
Monday (all times Eastern):
Maryland at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
The Terrapins (10-5, 2-0) are in the midst of a turnaround on a season that started in disappointing fashion. Thanks to a scheduling oddity that gave them a conference game in early December, they sit alone at the top of the ACC with a 2-0 record.
Nick Faust showed why he was once a top high school recruit in the victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday, leading the team with 16 points and shooting 4-6 from 3-point range. Coach Mark Turgeon's team has a balanced attack with several guys who can score in double figures, and he uses a deep bench to keep fresh players on the court.
Pitt (13-1, 1-0) showed their record was not completely due to a soft schedule. The former Big East squad came out of a hostile environment at NC State with a win in its first-ever ACC matchup.
Lamar Patterson again proved he is the team's rock - the senior leads the Panthers in scoring and assists. He has the ability to out-muscle opponents on his way to the rim or to pull up and hit the long jumper. Talib Zanna and Michael Young give the team a pair of dynamic rebounders on the offensive glass.
Georgia Tech at No. 16 Duke, 7 p.m.
The Blue Devils and North Carolina started out the conference season at 0-1 for the first time since the mid-'90s. Freshman Jabari Parker had his worst game in a Duke uniform, with seven points on 2-10 shooting, in the loss to Notre Dame.
Rodney Hood had 27 in a losing effort, and he remains one of the more efficient scorers (52 percent shooting, 44 percent on 3s, 84 percent free throws) in the country. His teammates will also need to shoot a high percentage, as opponents have consistently out-rebounded them.
Georgia Tech could be without its best rebounder, Robert Carter Jr., for a month or longer after he tore his meniscus Dec. 29. Daniel Miller gives a good effort protecting the rim every night, and he and Kammeon Holsey will need to help fill the defensive void left by the injured sophomore.
Fellow sophomore Marcus Georges-Hunt has shown the potential to be a No. 1 guy, and this could be his time to prove it. Both he can Trae Golden will need to improve their accuracy for the Yellow Jackets to have success, though. The two were a combined 8-23 shooting in the loss to Maryland.
The outlook appeared grim for the Fighting Irish only a few weeks ago: they blew an eight-point lead in the final minute against Ohio State, lost their leading scorer when Jerian Grant left school and needed overtime to beat Canisius at home. But a win over Duke has at least put a bandage on those recent wounds, if not healed them.
Senior Eric Atkins put up monster numbers with his backcourt partner gone, including 19 points and 11 assists against the Blue Devils. His newfound aggressiveness in getting to the basket has resulted in better shots for everyone, as he can find open teammates when the defense looks to double-team.
The Wolfpack still have much to prove. Competitive games at home against quality teams (Missouri, Pittsburgh) both got away from them in the second half. They have proven they have a pure scorer in sophomore T.J. Warren. He put up 20 or more points in nine straight games (including three with 30 or more).
Anthony Barber has elite speed that helps him get shots in the lane and cause turnovers on defense. Ralston Turner is the one guy the other team has to defend behind the 3-point arc.
The Hurricanes almost got the upset of the season when they traveled to Syracuse on Saturday. Despite losing nearly everyone from last year's ACC championship team, coach Jim Larranaga still has them playing strong defense. What they miss most from a year ago is a go-to player who can get himself and others quality looks. They are 270th in the country in field goal percentage.
Rion Brown has not found the range from distance much lately, but he still possesses a sound jump shot that can light up a scoreboard. Another senior, Donnavan Kirk, has been the team's most outstanding interior defender, and he can be counted on to block shots and corral rebounds.
The Tar Heels have suffered when Marcus Paige isn't productive, and he was locked down most of the game by Wake defenders in the team's loss Sunday. They beat the teams that started the year ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3 this season, but also played flat against lesser opponents.
James Michael McAdoo is a versatile forward who can dominate for stretches. UNC also has several young big men, including Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, who have stepped up and will progress even more during the season. Another one, Joel James, has been out with an injury but could be back soon.
Also on deck:
Wake Forest at Virginia, 7 p.m.
Florida State at Clemson, 7 p.m.
The Seminoles have depth, size and show a willingness to outwork teams on both ends of the floor. That is what made the loss on their home court against a struggling Virginia team so surprising.
Aaron Thomas has come on in the last month to be a leader on offense. He joins Okaro White, Ian Miller and a few others who can be effective scorers. Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo are both 7' tall and provide an unusual matchup situation for other teams.
Clemson used a relaxed slate of non-conference games to get its young players comfortable playing together. They lead the conference in points allowed, despite not having a senior on the team.
At 6'6", K.J. McDaniels is the ACC's leading shot blocker and leads the team in points, rebounds, steals, 3-pointers and free throw percentage. He also produces a highlight-level play on a nightly basis. Landry Nnoko has trouble staying out of foul trouble, but he is another high-level stopper in the low post for the Tigers.
Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
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