A look at four things to watch in the Atlantic Coast Conference this week:
GAME OF THE WEEKN.C. State at No. 1 Syracuse. Behind ACC scoring leader T.J. Warren, the young Wolfpack (16-8, 6-5) has been one of the league’s hotter teams, winning five of six while pushing themselves onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. Syracuse (24-0, 11-0) needed a Tyler Ennis 35-footer at the buzzer against Pittsburgh to remain unbeaten. While the top-ranked Orange’s 2-3 zone has been completely unfamiliar for many of its new conference mates, N.C. State has faced it twice in the previous three seasons.
LOOKING AHEAD They’ll try to play the league’s top rivalry – Duke-North Carolina – again Thursday night after the game was postponed due to a severe winter storm that dumped snow, ice pellets and freezing rain throughout the Triangle. Both teams play twice before then, with the No. 8 Blue Devils (19-5, 8-3) taking on Maryland and Georgia Tech and the Tar Heels (16-7, 6-4) facing No. 25 Pitt and Florida State.
PLAYER TO WATCH:Ennis not only saved Syracuse’s undefeated start against Pitt, he has been a key for the Orange all season.
The four-time ACC rookie of the week leads the league in assists (5.7) and steals (2.2) and is second in assist-turnover ratio. And then there was the 35-footer that kept the Orange perfect – a miracle shot that earned a congratulatory phone call from Vice President Joe Biden.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS Virginia’s unexpected rise might have been the league’s biggest success story – had Syracuse not won its first 24 games. With a victory today at Clemson, the 17th-ranked Cavaliers (20-5, 11-1) will match their best start to ACC play since the 1981-82 team also opened 12-1 behind Ralph Sampson. Coach Tony Bennett’s team also will match a school record with 16 straight home wins if they beat Notre Dame on Feb. 22.