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January 26, 2007

ACC Breakdown: Road woes for Yellow Jackets

Weekly ACC Update
Team Conf. Overall
Boston College 6-1 14-5
North Carolina 5-1 18-2
Virginia Tech 5-1 15-5
Duke 4-2 17-3
Virginia 4-2 12-6
Clemson 4-3 18-3
Maryland 2-4 16-5
Florida State 2-4 14-6
Georgia Tech 2-4 13-6
Miami 2-5 9-12
NC State 1-5 11-8
Wake Forest 1-6 9-10
Standings as of 1/26

Best matchup: Boston College forward Jared Dudley vs. Duke forward Josh McRoberts: Dudley is the main reason Boston College has soared to first place in the conference. He leads the ACC in rebounding and trails only Virginia guard Sean Singletary in scoring. Duke's chances of contending for a Final Four berth depend partially on whether McRoberts can live up to his considerable potential. A big performance Sunday against Dudley - the conference's best player through the first half of the season would be a giant step in the right direction.

Worst matchup: North Carolina inside game vs. Miami inside game: Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright give the Tar Heels a front line that could compare favorably to just about any frontcourt in the nation. Both players should put up huge numbers Wednesday against a Miami team that already has lost center Anthony King and forwards Jimmy Graham, Fabio Nass and Adrian Thomas to injuries.

The pressure is on: Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets' NCAA Tournament hopes took a hit with back-to-back losses to North Carolina and Maryland that dropped the Yellow Jackets' conference record to 2-4. The greater concern is that the Jackets have lost 16 consecutive road games. Georgia Tech plays three of its next four games at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, and the Jackets must hold serve at home to make up for their road woes.

Upset alert: North Carolina at Arizona. This might not really qualify as an upset since Arizona is at home, but North Carolina is the superior team in this matchup. The Tar Heels are better than Arizona, but they're traveling across the country to face a team looking to end a tailspin. Arizona's victory over Arizona State on Wednesday gave the Wildcats some momentum that they'll carry into Saturday's game. Look for the Wildcats to beat a higher-ranked foe and provide more evidence that the Pac-10 is the nation's toughest conference this year.

Who's hot: Virginia guard J.R. Reynolds has made two-thirds of his shots and has averaged 34.5 points per game in his last two outings. Boston College guard Tyrese Rice scored 26 points Tuesday in an 85-82 victory over Florida State. Rice is averaging 19.3 points per game in his last three contests. Florida State guard Isaiah Swann has shot 7-for-11 from 3-point range in his last two games. Virginia Tech guard Zabian Dowdell has shot 54.8 percent while averaging 22 points per game in his last seven outings. Maryland forward James Gist shot 10-of-11 and scored a career-high 26 points Wednesday in an 80-65 triumph over Georgia Tech.

Who's not: Georgia Tech guard Javaris Crittenton has shot 4-for-20 overall and 1-for-8 from 3-point range during the Yellow Jackets' two-game skid. Wake Forest guard L.D. Williams has shot 8-for-24 in his last three games. North Carolina State guard/forward Gavin Grant has shot 4-for-16 during the Wolfpack's two-game losing streak.

Must-see TV: North Carolina at Arizona (Saturday, 1 p.m.,, CBS): Two of the nation's top freshmen will square off when North Carolina's Brandan Wright meets Arizona's Chase Budinger. North Carolina could be walking into a hornet's nest when it goes on the road for this intersectional matchup because Arizona needs quality wins after dropping three of its last four games.

Key stat: North Carolina entered the week leading the nation with a rebound margin of plus-10.8.

Bench bonus: Virginia Tech forward/guard A.D. Vassallo came off the bench and scored 16 points Tuesday in the Hokies' 92-85 victory over Miami. Raymond Hicks scored 16 points as a reserve for the Hurricanes.

They said it: "This shows the rest of the league that we're still a good team without Sean Williams and Akida (McLain). We're still going to be a tough team to beat, and we're still going to play hard. We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves, and we're just going to keep coming at you."

- Boston College guard Sean Marshall to EagleAction.com after making a buzzer-beating 3-pointer Tuesday to give the Eagles an 85-82 victory over Florida State. That marked Boston College's first victory since Williams and McLain were dismissed from the team.

Injury update: Miami backup forward Fabio Nass injured his right knee in practice last week and will miss the rest of the season. Miami center Anthony King and Adrian Thomas also are out for the year, while forward Jimmy Graham will miss at least the rest of the regular season.

Worth noting: Virginia guard J.R. Reynolds' 40-point effort Sunday in an 88-76 victory over Wake Forest marked the highest-scoring game by a Cavalier since Devin Smith also collected 40 points against Iowa State on Dec. 6, 2004. Wake Forest shot just 5-for-16 on free-throw attempts Wednesday in an 88-60 loss to North Carolina. The Demon Deacons hadn't fared so poorly from the line since going 4-for-16 against High Point on Dec. 17. 1999. Wake Forest's 28-point loss tied for the third-largest margin of defeat by the home team in Joel Coliseum history. Maryland ranks second in the nation with 7.7 blocked shots per game. Connecticut leads the nation in that category. Georgia Tech shot 1-for-17 from 3-point range Wednesday in an 80-65 loss to Maryland. The Jackets entered that game leading the ACC with an overall field-goal percentage of 50.7.

Freshman to watch: Boston College forward Shamari Spears. The dismissals of Sean Williams and Akida McLain have forced Spears into the starting lineup. He responded by scoring a team-high 14 points Saturday in a 74-54 loss to Clemson.

Something you may have missed: Miami's struggles this season have overshadowed sophomore guard Jack McClinton's emergence as one of the league's top outside shooters. McClinton entered Thursday leading the ACC with a .447 percentage from 3-point range. He also ranked second to Maryland's Mike Jones with 2.68 baskets from beyond the arc per game.

RPI watch: The ACC had seven of the top 32 teams in the RPI index as of Wednesday. The ACC representatives in the top 32 were No. 2 North Carolina, No. 7 Duke, No. 16 Clemson, No. 27 Florida State, No. 29 Maryland, No. 31 Virginia Tech and No. 32 Boston College.

More Conference Breakdowns: Big 12 | Big Ten | Big East | SEC | Pac-10

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