Syracuse-Virginia headlines weekend in ACC
A look at five things to watch in the Atlantic Coast Conference this week:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 4 Syracuse at No. 12 Virginia. The winner of this matchup of the league's top two teams will have the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament. Expect a tight, low-scoring game: The Orange's last five games have been decided by a total 14 points, prompting coach Jim Boeheim to say "We're not overpowering too many people, I can promise you that." Both teams get it done with defense. The Cavaliers (23-5, 14-1) lead the league in points allowed (55.2) and field-goal percentage defense (38.6 percent) while Syracuse (26-2, 13-2) gives up just 58.5 points per game.
LOOKING AHEAD: Clemson's NCAA tournament hopes took a serious blow with its loss at struggling Wake Forest, but the Tigers (17-10, 8-7) might revive them if they can reach 20 wins before the league tournament. Clemson wraps up the regular season with three winnable home games — against Maryland, Miami and Pittsburgh — and is trying to reach the 20-win mark for the first time since Brad Brownell's first season in 2010-11. That's also the last time the Tigers reached the NCAA tournament.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Duke's Jabari Parker continues to show why he was one of the nation's top recruits. Parker has won the ACC's rookie of the week award nine times — more than all other freshmen combined — and his 15 20-point games are the most by an ACC freshman since Stephon Marbury had 16 in 1995-96. Coach Mike Krzyzewski says Parker has "been a willing student and learner, and he's accepted coaching extremely well."
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: There hasn't been anything free about free throws for North Carolina this season — except when Marcus Paige is shooting them. In a statistical oddity, Paige leads the ACC in free-throw percentage while playing for the league's worst team at the foul line. Paige makes 89.9 percent of his free throws while the rest of his teammates make them at just a 58 percent clip.
ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: In this age of conference realignment, no team has stepped into a new league and dominated it quite like No. 2 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish (27-0, 14-0) have already locked up the top seed in the ACC tournament and set a school record for victories to start a season. All that stands between them and a perfect debut season in the ACC are games against No. 14 North Carolina and at No. 13 N.C. State.