Pitt-Syracuse matchup highlights ACC's weekend
A look at five things to watch in the Atlantic Coast Conference this week:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 22 Pittsburgh at No. 2 Syracuse. These two newcomers from the Big East are the only remaining teams undefeated in ACC play, with both at 4-0. The Panthers and Orange rank 1-2 in the conference in scoring margin and bring the league's top two winning streaks into their meeting — Syracuse (17-0) is one of three unbeatens left while Pitt has won six in a row.
LOOKING AHEAD: North Carolina, at 0-3 off to its worst start in ACC play since Dean Smith's final year in 1996-97, will look to keep digging its way out of last place when the Tar Heels visit a Virginia team that had won its first three league games before its last-minute loss at No. 23 Duke last Monday. Coach Roy Williams says reversing that slide "depends on the makeup of your team talent-wise and the makeup of your team mentally — are they tough enough to handle some adversity and put it behind them and go on?"
PLAYER TO WATCH: North Carolina State forward T.J. Warren has an ACC-best three 30-point games so far, leads the conference with an average of 22 points and has led or shared the Wolfpack's scoring lead in every game but two. Next up: Duke, which has been plagued by uncharacteristically porous defense, and Maryland, which ranks in the ACC's bottom third in two key defensive stat categories.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: ACC teams as a whole have been pretty solid on the boards. Twelve of the league's 15 teams rank in the top third of Division I in rebounding margin, the highest percentage by far of any of the seven major conferences. League leaders Virginia and Pitt are each at an average of plus-8.7. The top 12 teams are each at plus-3 or better, and the only team that has a negative rebounding margin is Boston College (minus-1.8).
ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: The ACC leads the nation with four teams in the top 10 but there's a serious question about one of them — No. 3 Duke, after point guard Chelsea Gray broke the same kneecap she dislocated last season. Coach Joanne P. McCallie says, "It is definitely the nature of sport where different people step up, especially in the face of adversity."