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DWHoops Presents ACC Women's Basketball Digest

  Weekly ACC WBB Digest for 1/29/2014
Volume 3, Number 11
 
By Rob Clough

Digest ACC Power Rankings
Through January 29, 2014


#1 Notre Dame 19-0,
6-0
 
Last: MIA (W, 79-52)
@MD (W, 87-83)
Next: 1/30 VT
2/2 @DUKE (ESPN, 2 PM)

#2 Duke 20-1,
7-0
 
Last: UVA (W,90-55)
@VT (W, 76-72)
Next: 1/30 @MIA (CSS)
2/2 ND (ESPN, 2PM)

#3 North Carolina 17-3,
5-1
 
Last: @WAKE (W, 83,65)
Next: 1/30 SYR
2/2 MIA (RSN, 2 PM)

#4 Maryland 16-3,
4-2
 
Last: @UVA (L, 86-72)
ND (L, 87-83)
Next: 1/30 @NCSU (ESPN3, 7 PM)
2/2 @SYR (RSN, Noon)

#5 NC State 18-3,
5-2
 
Last: BC (W, 85-76)
@GT (W, 80-73)
Next: 1/30 MD (ESPN3, 7 PM)
2/2 open

#6 Syracuse 15-5,
4-3
 
Last: CLEM (W, 84-75)
UVA (W, 84-75)
Next: 1/30 @UNC
2/2 MD (RSN, noon)

#7 Florida State 15-5,
3-4
 
Last: DUKE (L, 85-77 OT)
VT (W, 70-54)
Next: 1/30 open
2/2 @WAKE

#8 Georgia Tech 13-7,
3-4
 
Last: @VT (W, 70-54)
NCSU (L, 80-73)
Next: 1/30 CLEM
2/3 @PITT

#9 Virginia 10-10,
3-4
 
Last: MD (W, 86-72)
@SYR (L, 84-75)
Next: 1/30 @WAKE
2/2 CLEM

#10 Miami 11-9,
3-4
 
Last: @ND (L, 79-52)
@CLEM (L, 60-52)
Next: 1/30 DUKE (CSS, 7 PM)
2/2 @UNC (RSN, 2 PM)

#11 Wake Forest 11-8,
2-5
 
Last: UNC (L, 83-65)
@BC (W, 56-50)
Next: 1/30 UVA
2/2 FSU

#12 Boston College 11-10,
2-5
 
Last: @NCSU (L, 85-76)
WAKE (L, 56-50)
Next: 1/30 @PITT
2/2 @VT

#13 Clemson 10-11,
2-5
 
Last: @SYR (L, 84-75)
MIA (W, 60-52)
Next: 1/30 @GT
2/2 @UVA

#14 Virginia Tech 10-9,
0-6
 
Last: GT (L, 73-52)
FSU (L, 70-54)
Next: 1/30 @ND
2/2 BC

#15 Pittsburgh 9-11,
1-5
 
Last: @DUKE (L, 111-67)
Next: 1/30 BC
2/3 GT

Editor's Note: Our sidebar is presented in pink in
remembrance of Kay Yow

Parsing The Week's Results:

The biggest win of the week was Notre Dame going to College Park and beating Maryland (see below). However, that wasn't the only significant game Maryland was involved in, as Virginia upset the Terps in their final visit to Charlottesville. Both of those games revealed an essential flaw in this year's Terps: the lack of a go-to scoring guard. Laurin Mincy is trying but is still playing her way back into shape after tearing an ACL. Maryland's point guard rotation has been decent, but no one has truly seized the job as was hoped. Opponents are able to key in on Katie Rutan a bit more now that the Terps don't have the fearsome offensive rebounding of Tianna Hawkins to contend with. The other problem is that Maryland doesn't have a perimeter stopper of any kind. Virginia and Notre Dame's guards were able to score at will and got plenty of open looks, and pressure from both clubs forced too many turnovers. Maryland is still tough and scrappy, but they need to have more of their guards take on the personality of their leader, Alyssa Thomas.

Meanwhile, Duke nearly fell victim to an upset the same night as Maryland, as Florida State took them to overtime before falling. FSU outhustled and outworked Duke all night, with forward Natasha Howard piling up an astounding 28 points and 22 rebounds. FSU had a four point lead with over a minute left, but Duke's Tricia Liston and Alexis Jones tied the game up and Duke got its hustle back. In overtime, Duke scored the first nine points to put it away quickly. The Devils continued to adjust to life without Chelsea Gray by crushing an overmatched Pitt team in Durham; the Panthers simply didn't have the talent or depth to keep up with Duke, especially in the post.

NC State and Syracuse separated themselves from the middle of the ACC Pack just a bit. The devastating inside duo of Kody Burke and Markeisha Gatling crushed an undersized BC club to the tune of a combined 51 points and 19 rebounds. They then teamed up for 30 points and 13 rebounds against Georgia Tech. State held star Tech guard Kaela Davis to just five points on 1-7 shooting. Picking up a road win against a competitive peer (I'm not quite ready to put State in the top tier of the ACC just yet) is big for the Pack, who are winning the games they need to win. See below for an account of Syracuse's week.

UNC had a relatively quiet week, playing just once as they took care of Wake Forest in tidy fashion. The most interesting thing one can say about that game is the coach Andrew Calder went back to a more veteran starting lineup with Latifah Coleman and Brittany Rountree, as Diamond DeShields and Jessica Washington came off the bench. I imagine this was more to reward the hard work of Coleman and Rountree than it was to punish the rookies, but both responded quite well to coming off the bench. DeShields had 19 points and 7 rebounds; again, what's turning her into the leading candidate for ACC rookie of the year is not so much her scoring but her ability to get boards from the wing. I don't talk about Stephanie Mavunga enough in this space, but that's partly because her stat line is a steady double-double nearly every time. For Wake, Dearica Hamby and Chelsea Douglas combined for 42 points and the rest of the team for 23, which is a line that I feel I've written more than once this year.

Virginia Tech continues to be the hard-luck team in the ACC. Their lack of a bench is starting to wear on them even as forward Uju Ugoka continues to put up All-ACC numbers. Vanessa Panousis is also in a deep slump after erupting for 21 against Duke, and the Hokies can't hope to win any ACC games if their offense continues to be mired in the 50s. Defensively, they couldn't contain Georgia Tech's Ty Marshall, who dropped 30 on the Hokies. The Hokies looked to be in great position to have a winning season, but they'll have a lot of work to do if they still hope to achieve that goal.

Best Win: Notre Dame 87, Maryland 83. This was a great win in the sense that the Irish went to a tough place to play and won to stay undefeated. It was great in the sense that Jewel Loyd dropped 31 points on the Terps and is closing in on being our ACC player of the year at the midway point. It was great in the sense that the Irish won despite getting absolutely pummeled in the paint (50-34) while getting very little from a foul-plagued Natalie Achonwa. It was not so great when one considers that the Irish had a 22-point lead with four minutes to go in the first half and somehow let that dwindle to just twelve at the half. The Terps just kept pounding it inside to Alyssa Thomas and Alicia DeVaughn, and the Irish were helpless to stop that duo. Indeed, Thomas actually brought her team all the way back in giving her team a 64-63 lead midway through the second half. The Terps kept fighting but were a little punched out after that point. Still, it took a Jewel Loyd stickback with a minute left to put the Irish up by two possessions and seal the deal. Loyd's return was a welcome one after she sat out the game against Miami. It took the Irish a while to get going against the Canes, but they still managed to drop nearly 80 points on a Miami team that couldn't keep up on the offensive end. When playing the league's elite teams, you have to have at least three or four scorers to keep things competitive.

Worst Loss: Clemson 60, Miami 52. The worst thing about this game from Miami's perspective is that the final score could have been much worse, if the Tigers hadn't missed sixteen free throws. Miami was pretty much stuck in the mud in this game; even though they crashed the boards for 20 offensive rebounds, they still kept missing shots, shooting just 26% from the field. A middle-tier team like Miami simply can't afford any losses to lower-tier teams, but Miami's inability to generate any easy offense combined with Clemson's veteran duo of Nikki Dixon and Quinyotta Pettaway combining for 30 points and 16 rebounds in a low-scoring game put them in a tough spot. Throw in a beatdown loss against a Notre Dame team minus Jewel Loyd, and the Canes took a step backward this week.

Trending Up: Syracuse. The Orange got two hard-earned wins to vault into sixth place in both the standings and the ACC WBB Digest power rankings. The first came against Clemson, who led the Orange by six with eight minutes to go, but a 26-11 Cuse run put them away. What was encouraging about this run is that it was led by Rachel Coffey (8 points) and Taylor Ford (6 points), instead of being spearheaded by the usual Brianna Butler-Brittney Sykes duo. The Orange then had to hold on against a resurgent Virginia club to pick up their fourth league win. Syracuse blew a fifteen point lead against Virginia's suddenly-hot shooters Ataira Franklin, Lexie Gerson and Faith Randolph. This time around, it was the Sykes-Butler tandem that preserved the win, though once again Coffey (surely one of the most underrated players in the ACC) made some key plays.

Trending Down: Boston College. The Eagles are banged up, with Kat Cooper missing the loss to NC State after getting her arm wrenched out of her shoulder vs UNC and Kristen Doherty suffering from bruised ribs. The bottom line is that the Eagles lost a couple of winnable games. They actually led by one against Wake Forest with a minute left and didn't score again, as Wake scored 7 points at the foul line. Live by the three, die by the three, but losing a home game to a conference peer is devastating. The Eagles were down just two at the half against NC State before the Pack went on a 21-10 run that kept them at arm's length the rest of the way. The good news for the Eagles is that Karima Gabriel is back and starting to play effectively in the post. Cooper came back after missing a game. If they can get everyone healthy, they have a shot at evening their conference record, with the goal of getting to .500 and a WNIT bid. Their next three games are against Pitt, Virginia Tech and Virginia, so this is all in the realm of possibility. If the Eagles struggle in those three games, then their postseason hopes will be dim indeed.

Millesa Calicott, Wake Forest
Millesa Calicott
Wake Forest
(File Photo by Orin Day)
Surprise Player Of The Week: Millesa Calicott, Wake Forest. She scored ten points against Boston College to help propel them to a somewhat surprising win. Whenever Wake gets any help from its bench and secondary players for stars Hamby and Douglas, they have a chance to win games.

Stat Of the Week: Talking RPIs. Let's take a look at the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and Strength of Schedule (SOS) for each ACC school, and what that currently means. Numbers are from realtimerpi.com as of 1/29/2014 and are presented in RPI order.

  1. Duke - RPI 2, SOS 3. The Devils simply need to keep winning in order to secure a one seed, thanks to their already high RPI and loaded February schedule. Their long run at RPI #1 ended yesterday, when Stanford pulled into the lead.

  2. Notre Dame - RPI 4, SOS 18. Playing Maryland boosted the Irish SOS from 28 to 18, and playing Duke will further increase that number. If they sweep or split with Duke, it's highly likely that they'll be the #1 seed in their own regional, deferring a possible UConn matchup until the Final Four.

  3. NC State - RPI 15, SOS 57. Their December win over LSU really helped their cause, as the Tigers now stand fifth in the RPI. If they win the games they're supposed to win, they'll cruise to a four or five seed.

  4. Syracuse - RPI 17, SOS 23. Beating Texas A&M has been a huge SOS boost. This is another team that could get as high as a five seed.

  5. UNC - RPI 19, SOS 38. The Heels are gunning for a one seed, but need to make up some ground by beating some good teams. Their SOS is on one hand boosted by facing three teams in the top 11, but dented by a larger number of opponents in the bottom third.

  6. Maryland - RPI 25, SOS 51 Playing Notre Dame increased Maryland's SOS from 73 to 51, but their overall RPI dropped four places with the loss. The Terps have a win over UNC in hand, but need another marquee ACC win to assure themselves of a two seed. Their remaining chances are all away from home.

  7. Florida State - RPI 30, SOS 43. Beating Duke would have been a huge boost. The Noles need a marquee win or two to prevent dropping down to an eight seed. They could go as high as a six seed.

  8. Georgia Tech - RPI 41, SOS 30. The Jackets have played a tough schedule, which is why they're still high in the RPI. They look like they're destined to be a nine seed, unless they can produce upsets against the league's elite. In case you're counting, that's an astounding eight ACC teams that are on track to make it to the NCAA tournament.

  9. Virginia - RPI 52, SOS 8. The Hoos are starting to respond in the league after being chewed up by a brutal schedule. They have an outside chance of an NCAA berth, but a solid WNIT bid seems more likely.

  10. Boston College - RPI 82, SOS 32. Losing at home to Wake Forest was a major blow to their WNIT hopes. Their remaining schedule suggests that they'll continue to battle for that .500 record, game by game.

  11. Miami - RPI 97, SOS 52. Repeat: losing to Clemson was a very bad thing for Miami. They can still get to the WNIT but can afford few slip-ups along the way.

  12. Pitt - RPI 117, SOS 42. Suzie McConnell-Serio would be ecstatic if her Panthers could reach .500 in her first season at the helm. She can't let huge blowouts against the top tier impact her players' confidence when facing other programs in rebuilding mode.

  13. Wake Forest - RPI 125, SOS 109. Wake's soft schedule has allowed them to get eleven wins. I'd say that fifteen is about their cap.

  14. Virginia Tech - RPI 139, SOS 85. The Hokies are in free-fall and have to play Notre Dame next.

  15. Clemson - RPI 166, SOS 114. The Tigers are showing signs of life, and middle-tier teams have to take them seriously.

Five Games To Watch:

  1. Syracuse @ UNC (1/30, 7pm, RSN): The Orange have a chance to punch above their proverbial weight class this week, with games against UNC and Maryland. A win against either puts them in great shape in the league standings, but going 0-2 wouldn't hurt them too much. Their scramble style of play and overall youth mimics that of UNC, but their overall talent is not in the same tier.

  2. Maryland @ NC State (1/30, 7pm, ESPN3) : This is another chance for a team bubbling under to get a signature win, and Maryland's road loss to Virginia shows that they are perhaps vulnerable against some lesser opponents. State certainly has the size and shooting to battle Maryland, but do they have the depth? And can they contain irresistible force Alyssa Thomas?

  3. Notre Dame @ Duke (2/2, 2pm, ESPN): This is one of three or four games that will likely determine the ACC race. Duke is 0-2 against Notre Dame in the McCallie era, and their ability to pass and shoot mimics that of Devil nemesis UConn. Duke's flaw all year has been defending the corner three in their zone; if they don't get that ironed out against Notre Dame, then Duke's six year ACC home winning streak could be in jeopardy. Duke's last such loss came when assistant Daron Park led Maryland to a 76-69 victory on February 17, 2008, the day when Brenda Frese gave birth to twins.

  4. Florida State @ Wake Forest (2/2, 2pm) : Florida State's run of games against elite opponents is temporarily over, and they have a chance to feast on a Wake squad consisting mostly of two great players and little else. The battle between FSU's Natasha Howard and Wake's Dearica Hamby alone makes this interesting.

  5. Clemson @ Virginia (2/2, 2pm) : While the Hoos dropped a close game to Syracuse, there's no doubt that they're playing much better. However, a Clemson squad armed with a streaking Nikki Dixon and a returned-to-health Quinyotta Pettaway will be a bigger challenge than one might think.

On Thursday, Orin will be covering either Syracuse at UNC or Maryland at NC State - lingering snow in the area and road conditions will dictate this decision. JP Mundy and Dana Warren will cover Wake's home contests Thursday and Sunday. Also on Sunday, Orin and Rob will be on hand for the marquee Notre Dame at Duke matchup. Primary coverage will be hosted at DWHoops, with a recap and a Irish-centric gallery seconded to the Digest. Just five weeks until Greensboro!


 

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