ACC Recap: North Carolina and Louisville pick up big wins
Margin of victory is the theme of the week with a handful of blowouts in the conference
Thanks for reading the Her Hoop Stats Newsletter. If you like our work, be sure to check out our stats site, our podcast, and our social media accounts on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also buy Her Hoop Stats gear, such as laptop stickers, mugs, and shirts!
Haven’t subscribed to the Her Hoop Stats Newsletter yet?
Despite a few upsets and some outlandish scores, this was probably the most normal week we have seen in the ACC in 2022. Teams have established their identities, and a big win or loss is more likely due to chance than indicative of team strength at this point in the season.
That being said, we can still gain valuable information about postseason success from end-of-regular season games. For example, Duke and Boston College need to be excellent to avoid the 7- and 8-seed in the ACC Tournament, as no seed that low has made the semifinals in five years and a quarterfinal matchup with NC State or Louisville would be detrimental to their ACC tournament chances.
Getting to that next round is pivotal when you are fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and teams like Miami and Florida State will have to pull off a few more upsets if they even want to be considered for an at-large bid, although it is very unlikely that either school sneaks in.
Notre Dame - Notre Dame started the week with a very impressive defensive effort against Virginia Tech, winning 68-55 and holding Elizabeth Kitley to only eight points. Olivia Miles led the team with 24 points, and has emerged as a viable ACC Player of the Year candidate. Her playmaking ability sets her apart from other star players, and her 7.0 assists per conference game is drastically higher than second place in the conference (Lorela Cubaj - 4.0).
However, Notre Dame’s five-game winning streak finally came to an end. While I am sure Niele Ivey will not make any excuses, the Fighting Irish had to play eight games in a four-day span, which culminated in a 70-65 loss against Florida State on Sunday. Add in the quality of opponents in their first three matchups and it is hard to imagine that they were at full strength heading into Tallahassee. The Seminoles fought the entire game, especially Morgan Jones who hit some clutch shots at the end of the game to keep their tournament hopes alive.
Dara Mabrey struggled mightily in this contest, going 0 for 8 from the field and missing wide-open teammates in transition multiple times. Ivey looked to the bench for a temporary replacement, but the thin Fighting Irish second unit provided only six points of their own, proving depth could be a concern for this team.
Louisville - The Cardinals finally had enough of their offense getting ridiculed for slow starts and an inability to close out games. This week Louisville beat Clemson 93-71 and Syracuse 100-64, both on the road. That is the highest and third-highest scoring output for any team in an ACC game this year. Hailey Van Lith was phenomenal against Clemson, scoring 34 points on 13 of 16 shooting, including 6 of 6 from beyond the arc.
The game against Syracuse was a more balanced effort, with six Cardinals scoring in double figures highlighted by 18 points from Liz Dixon off the bench. Just because Louisville was on fire offensively does not mean their defense slowed down, as they managed 19 steals across the two games. The Cardinals are firmly back on the path to a one-seed.
Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets were in prime position to earn a top 16 spot ahead of the committee’s second release tomorrow night. They had only one game this week, a showdown with NC State. Play well and No. 11 Georgia Tech would all but guarantee a favorable ranking.
However they did not play well, and don’t let the final score fool you. The Yellow Jackets fell to NC State 59-48, and the only reason it was close at the end was laziness out of the Wolfpack with a few careless turnovers in the final minutes that ruined a perfect second half. The Yellow Jackets could not generate an open shot for most of the game and had far too many isolation possessions end in desperate heaves. For a team that prides itself on defense, some semblance of an offensive game plan is still necessary.
To reiterate, Georgia Tech’s defense gives them a high floor as a team. Any school that can hold Elissa Cunane scoreless in a half of basketball has serious potential to be a problem in March.
North Carolina - The Tar Heels reacted to their narrow loss to NC State by showing no mercy on their next opponents. North Carolina started the week with a comfortable 78-59 victory over Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons struggle at guarding shots close to the basket, and Alyssa Ustby made them pay with 18 points.
During Sunday’s game, Miami put on a masterclass of how to miss shots over and over again. North Carolina played sound defense, but the Hurricanes had plenty of looks that should have fallen. The first quarter finished 28-2 North Carolina, with a halftime score of 53-13. The game was slightly more competitive in the second half, but a final score of 85-38 is the largest margin of victory in an ACC game this year. Deja Kelly finished with 18 points while Ustby added a double-double.
ACC Blunders of the Week:
They were so close. All year we have waited patiently for Virginia to sneak into the win column against an ACC opponent, and it finally looked like it was going to happen on Sunday vs. Clemson. The Cavaliers took a nine-point lead into halftime and were still up four heading into the final period, but 15 fourth-quarter points from Delicia Washington sunk all of Virginia’s hopes and dreams.
The Cavaliers still have Wake Forest and Pittsburgh on the schedule, which are both maybe winnable games by their standards, but sitting at 0-10 in the ACC and 3-17 overall is not where Tina Thompson wants to be in her fourth season as head coach.
Important Game Tracker:
No. 11 Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech, Thursday, February 10th
No. 23 North Carolina @ Virginia Tech, Sunday, February 13th
No. 18 Notre Dame @ No. 3 Louisville, Sunday, February 13th
No. 5 NC State @ Duke, Sunday, February 13th
James’ Weekly ACC Power Rankings:
NC State (21-3)
Notre Dame (18-5)
Georgia Tech (18-5)
North Carolina (18-4) ⇧1
Virginia Tech (17-6) ⇩1
Boston College (15-8)
Florida State (11-10) ⇧1
Miami (12-9) ⇩1
Wake Forest (12-11)