Yesterday, we looked at the first six games of the ACC schedule for the Virginia men’s basketball team this season. The middle seven-game stretch of conference play is a little easier as the Hoos gear up for a tough back stretch, but everything in the ACC is always going to be a challenge. Let’s get to it.
@ Georgia Tech (1/18) - The Yellow Jackets are still coached by Josh Pastner, and they’re going to have an interesting season ahead as they’re already facing a postseason ban for 2020 from the NCAA. This is a team that was picked to finish 12th in the ACC and is preseason No. 66 per KenPom and will rely heavily on guard Jose Alvarado and forward James Banks III.
NC State (1/20) - The Wolfpack are a mystery this season. They have a lot of really strong pieces returning and Kevin Keatts is a more-than-competent coach, but there are still a lot of question marks. It is unknown if Keatts will have redshirt junior DJ Funderburk as the season gets underway after the forward was suspended indefinitely due to some parking issues on campus.
Getting NC State at home is a benefit for Virginia, but they have talented players like Markell Johnson, CJ Bryce, and Braxton Beverly returning. The Wolfpack were picked to finish sixth in the ACC in the preseason poll.
@ Wake Forest (1/26) - Danny manning returns for the Demon Deacons, and they’ll have one of the best guards in the country in Brandon Childress. Wake went 11-20 (4-14 ACC) last season, with the wins coming against NC State, Pitt, Notre Dame, and Miami. The Deacs were picked to finish last in the ACC this season, but are second to last per KenPom at No. 80 overall (Boston College is No. 119).
Florida State (1/28) - The Hoos play FSU for the second time just 13 days after the first matchup. The chances improve being within the friendly confines of JPJ, but this is a game that could go a long way in the season standings as the Seminoles are likely going to finish in the top half of the conference.
Clemson (2/5) - The Tigers are predicted to finish in the lower third of the conference this season, and Clemson has had a lot of turnover as they lost players like Marcquise Reed, David Skara, Shelton Mitchell, and Elijah Thomas. Big man Aamir Simms will be a key player for Brad Brownell, but there are still a lot of questions around Clemson’s squad.
@ Louisville (2/8) - Oh hey, a return to Virginia’s favorite spot! The Cavaliers have had some good luck at the KFC Yum! Center, including defeating Oregon and Purdue there in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, respectively, in last season’s NCAA tournament (which, Virginia won). The Cards are a team to watch in the ACC this season, bringing back preseason Player of the Year Jordan Nwora and players like Steven Enoch and Darius Perry. In addition to the returnees, they add a stellar freshman class highlighted by five star SF Samuell Williamson. Louisville was picked to finish third in the ACC, but received the second-most first place votes.
Notre Dame (2/11) - Don’t sleep on the Irish. Notre Dame had an abysmal season last year — they went 3-15 in the ACC — but Mike Brey and ND were dealing with an abundance of injuries and inexperience. Rex Pfleuger returns from an ACL injury, and the Irish have John Mooney coming back to build on a season where he was one of seven Power 5 players that finished the season averaging a double-double. The Irish have just one freshman on the roster, but their six sophomores have a year of experience under their belts.
This stretch of seven games has three genuinely tough ones with games against Louisville, FSU, and NC State. Virginia should be able to pick up wins against Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Clemson, with Notre Dame being a toss-up.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a look at the final seven ACC games of the season!