To this point in the season it looks as if the ACC's hoops teams have taken a similar approach to determining who controls the title race that the football teams have in recent years. In other words, there's order in disorder as eight teams are within two games of each other atop the standings. Three games for the conference involve five of those eight teams with the other (North Carolina) desperately needing a win on the road in order to right the ship. The best matchup of those three: Duke hosting Georgia Tech, who won the first meeting in Atlanta 71-67 back on January 9th. The Yellow Jackets have won four of their last five while the Blue Devils are looking to bounce back from their loss at Georgetown on Saturday.
The differences in the first meeting between these two were rebounding (34-26 Georgia Tech) and Duke's three-point shooting (6-for-28). And with big men the caliber of Gani Lawal (21 pts, nine rebounds in that win), Derrick Favors and Zachary Peacock, Georgia Tech is at a decided advantage in the paint. The Blue Devil four-man rotation of Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers has to step up, especially on the boards, if Duke is to defend Cameron Indoor Stadium. In that loss those four combined for twelve rebounds; Lawal and Favors grabbed seventeen (with Peacock grabbing another four).
The Yellow Jackets also rank second in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (36.6%) and fourth in three-point percentage defense (29.3%), and they've got the players required to make the triumvirate of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith work for everything they get as they did in the first meeting (combined 14-for-42 in the first meeting). Ultimately, whether or not Georgia Tech can win in Cameron will come down to how well guards Iman Shumpert and Mfon Udofia take care of the basketball. Tech averages just over sixteen turnovers per game on the season and handed it over fifteen in their win over Duke. They can't do that at Cameron and expect to win.
Also on tap Thursday is Maryland/Florida State and North Carolina/Virginia Tech, two games in which all four teams need wins to bolster their resumes. The Tar Heels need a win period, but they're likely to have their hands full with Malcolm Delaney. Arizona visits Washington in hopes of continuing their win streak and remaining atop the Pac-10 standings and a pair of Big East bubble teams square off in South Bend as Notre Dame hosts Cincinnati in a game neither can afford to drop at this point in the season.
7p ESPN2 Georgia Tech at Duke
7p ESPN Purdue at Indiana
7p ESPNU Florida at Alabama
9p ESPN2 Tennessee at LSU
9p ESPN Cincinnati at Notre Dame
9p Raycom Maryland at Florida St
9p Raycom North Carolina at Virginia Tech
10:30p FSN Arizona at Washington
11p ESPN2 Portland at Gonzaga
11p ESPNU Cal State Fullerton at Long Beach
7p Detroit at Butler
7p Buffalo at Central Michigan
8p Troy at Middle Tennessee St
10p Arizona St at Washington St
10p UC Santa Barbara at Pacific
10:30p California at USC
Duke over Georgia Tech: Look for the Blue Devils to redeem themselves from that showing in DC on Saturday. They aren't as bad defensively as they were against the Hoyas and they won't shoot as poorly as they did in the first meeting with Georgia Tech. Duke wins by seven.