Thursday, April 10 2014 2:43 PM EDT2014-04-10 18:43:26 GMT
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(RNN) - A relatively quiet few days ahead have a pair of scheduling anomalies: Two games in conference play.
Normally reserved for after the New Year, fans get their first chance to see ACC teams go head to head a little early. Other games of note include Clemson traveling to SEC country and Boston College heading west to meet a team from the Pac-12.
Clemson Tigers at Arkansas Razorbacks, 2 p.m. Saturday
The Tigers (7-1) feature a smaller lineup and more up-tempo playing style than in past years, but they still have one of the dominant defenses in the league. They allow 51 points per game, best among ACC teams, and their lone loss came against No. 21 UMass in a game that went down to the wire.
K.J. McDaniels is in the middle of a breakout season, averaging 17.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and at least one highlight play per game. Landry Nnoko, at 6'10, is another strong rebounder and shot blocker, and Devin Coleman is showing he can be a good source of points if given the court-time.
Arkansas (5-2) has picked up a pair of wins against quality opponents already, beating SMU of the AAC at home and knocking off Big Ten team Minnesota at the Maui Invitational. A pair of talented 6'6" guards, Michael Qualls and Alandise Harris, combine for nearly 30 points a game and are the team's top two rebounders.
Virginia Tech Hokies at Miami Hurricanes, 12:30 p.m. Sunday
The conference schedule kicks off with an afternoon matchup in Coral Gables, FL. The Hokies (6-3) and the Hurricanes (5-4) ended last season on opposite ends of the standings but should be evenly matched as both teams rebuild their rosters.
The Hokies rely on junior Jarell Eddie and freshman Devin Wilson to get the offense going. Eddie is coming off a career game of 34 points on 13 of 18 shooting, including six 3-pointers, in the team's win over Winthrop. Another talented freshman, Ben Emelogu, has missed the last three games after suffering a concussion.
The Hurricanes have struggled as coach Jim Larranaga looks to replace all five of his starters from a year ago. Rion Brown, the only man on the team who saw any time of note in 2012-13, leads the way in scoring, rebounding and assists. Miami showed some tenacity against Nebraska in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, closing a 16-point halftime gap to five points in the second frame, but they never got any closer.
Boston College Eagles at USC Trojans, 7 p.m. Sunday
The Eagles came into the season with high expectations, but a tough early schedule and some disappointing play have them sitting at 3-5. Most of their problems have been on the defensive end, as they give up an ACC-worst 81 points per game, including 88 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge against Purdue.
The offense has been there, with guard Olivier Hanlan leading the way. The combo guard can score in bunches either in the lane or from the outside; he has averaged nearly 21 points a night. Junior Ryan Anderson remains a force in the low post, his combination of footwork and shooting touch can embarrass opponents forced to defend him.
The Trojans (5-3), under new coach Andy Enfield, made a statement with their most recent win against Xavier of the Big East. They also have a familiar face to the ACC, Maryland transfer Pe'Shon Howard. The senior had his best game so far in the recent win, scoring 23 and dishing out seven assists.
Maryland Terrapins at Boston College Eagles, 7 p.m. Thursday
Chestnut Hill, MA, hosts the second early conference clash. Like BC, Maryland has faced a tough road early on, including battles with two teams currently ranked in the top 12.
The Terrapins (5-3) looked outgunned against No. 5 Ohio State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, although Charles Mitchell put up a 12-point, 11-rebound performance against the Buckeye big men. Dez Wells has shown in the past he could take over games, but he has been working to get teammates involved early on and only increasing his number of shots if they fall behind. Coach Mark Turgeon may try to get Wells to look for his chances more often, as that produced good results down the stretch last season.
Coach Steve Donahue has been tweaking his rotation in an effort to find a successful lineup, and everyone's minutes outside of Hanlan, Anderson and Joe Rahon could see a sizable change. Junior Eddie Odio has shown the tools to be a top-notch interior defender, and with more consistent play he could become a regular in the starting five.
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