Let’s get right into it. Here’s what the final five teams could use in the second half of the season.
Miami - Good health the rest of the season
There isn’t really much to say about Miami. They don’t have many weaknesses, Isaiah Wong is playing like a POY candidate, and it took a good not great Maryland team shooting 60% to give them their only loss. This has the potential to be a special season for the Hurricanes and they can only hope that it isn’t derailed by some bad luck.
Syracuse - Better shooting from Judah Mintz
Mintz is a very good player, but he’s only 5-27 from three in 13 games. The Orange need another guy besides Girard to make outside shots, and Mintz has the pedigree to become that guy. Improving his shooting off the dribble seems like the next logical step in his development.
NC State - Secondary scoring to help protect against cold shooting nights from their stars
The guard trio of Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner, and Casey Morsell can put up points in a hurry. But when one of them has a cold shooting night, it sinks the offense. In the loss against Pitt, for example, Joiner was 0-12 from the field. NC State needs more from players like Jack Clark and DJ Burns to stay at the top half of the conference.
Clemson - Another strong rebounder
Clemson is 10-3 but hasn’t played any particularly strong teams. They were outrebounded 46-27 in a 2 point loss against rival South Carolina and 42-28 in a 3 point loss to Iowa. Those are two easily winnable games by winning a few more battles down low. Brad Brownell has been at Clemson since 2010 and you have to wonder how much longer the football team’s success can distract fans away the general mediocrity of the basketball program. Clemson has made a habit of losing games in the final seconds (including the SC game this year). Not rebounding allows less talented teams to stay in the game.
Wake Forest - A way to repeat the performance they just had against Duke.
Wake Forest beat Duke. Yes, the Blue Devils were missing a few key pieces, but it is still a big win for the Demon Deacons. Am I grasping for straws at this point in the series? Absolutely.
How do these teams match up with Pitt?
Outside of probably Miami, these compose most of the complete toss-up games for Pitt in the conference. They don’t see NC State again, and Wake Forest and Clemson are two very winnable home games. Splitting with Miami would be nice too, especially if Miami remains a top 25 team the rest of the season. Should be another fun season of ACC play.
Hail to Pitt.