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ACC Christmas Gifts Part 1

What will each ACC team hope to find under the tree this morning?

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Butler vs Georgetown Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With ACC play heating up and the “buy games” over, we are starting to see each team’s strengths and weaknesses become clearer. If each team could ask for one thing this holiday season, what would it be?

Pitt - John Hugley to return to last season’s form.

Starting off with an obvious one. Pitt has struck gold with Hinson, Elliott, and Cumming so far this season. And Burton has improved his efficiency a ton from last year. So much has gone right for Pitt the last six weeks. They just need more players. And a returning all conference player rounding back into form in the second half would make a wonderful gift.

Duke - Health for Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead

Lively II and Whitehead were both consensus top 5 recruits in last year’s class. Whitehead fractured his foot in the offseason and missed the first three games of the season. Just as he was beginning to work off the rust with a 15 point outing against Maryland Eastern Shore, he was out again with an illness in Duke’s loss to Wake Forest on Tuesday. Lively II missed the opener recovering from a calf injury and was also out with an illness against Wake. Duke certainly is teeming with talent, but even with a team that rosters five players 6’10” or taller, Lively II is their best rim protector. The Demon Deacons out-rebounded the Blue Devils by seven, the second time this season that has happened. Not coincidentally, Duke lost both games (other time was against Purdue).

Virginia - Some long-range shooters

Tony Bennett’s program is at its best when it can combine the suffocating pack line defense with shooting a high percentage at the other end. When you play as slow as Virginia, shot attempts are a premium. Players like Kyle Guy and Deandre Hunter provided that luxury. UVA started the season on fire, making 33-64 from deep in their first three games. Since then, they’ve fallen back to earth and are currently in a 22-85 stretch over their last 4 (2-2 record).

Virginia Tech - A how-to video on drawing fouls

The Hokies are not good at getting to the line. They only average about ten free throws made per game. This is an even worse problem on the road. VT has played two true road games this season, and they went a combined 9-14 from the line in 85 minutes of play. Naturally, those games represent their only two losses of the season. Sadly, they get Pitt at home this year.

UNC - Hubert Davis to find that switch he flipped last March and turn it on again

To be fair, if we ignore the ten-day stretch after Thanksgiving, then UNC is still undefeated and ranked number one. But those games did count and the Tar Heels lost four of them in that stretch. Davis’ team has talent and experience all over the place, but they have to improve defensively if they want to chase a high tournament seed. If they squeak in again as a lower seed, they’ll still be dangerous just from talent alone.

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow and have a wonderful holiday season.

Hail to Pitt.