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ACC Weekend: Battle for the crown

C.J. Fair leads Syracuse against Rasheed Sulaimon and Duke in a battle that could define who the top team in the ACC really is. (Syracuse University Athletic Communications/Duke Photography) C.J. Fair leads Syracuse against Rasheed Sulaimon and Duke in a battle that could define who the top team in the ACC really is. (Syracuse University Athletic Communications/Duke Photography)
Malcolm Brogdon has been a quiet assassin for the Wahoos, putting up incredible individual numbers in conference play without fanfare. (Source: Matt Riley/ Malcolm Brogdon has been a quiet assassin for the Wahoos, putting up incredible individual numbers in conference play without fanfare. (Source: Matt Riley/

(RNN) - Anyone who watches the game between No. 2 Syracuse and No. 17 Duke on Saturday should know they are not only watching the first intra-conference matchup between two traditional powers.

Just thinking about it, that is incentive enough to watch every single second, but there is more beneath the surface.

It potentially signals a changing of the guard. Duke (17-4, 6-2 ACC) is a member of the long-reigning royal family of the ACC, but Syracuse (20-0, 7-0) has swept in from some faraway land, conquering everything in its path.

Are we talking about basketball or Game of Thrones? A little confusion, but we might as well run with it.

The royalty of the House of Cameron has incentive. They lost their first conference game to the least likely member of the invading triad [Notre Dame]. But the Dukies have won six of seven since falling to the Irish, and a 15-point crushing of second newcomer Pittsburgh last game was a reminder that the crown will not change hands easily. Young prince Jabari Parker looks as valiant as ever after flagging in recent weeks.

The House of Orange is a company of beasts, plainly put. They look smooth and flattering, but play with a deadly ferocity, especially in the waning minutes of a battle. Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney are as talented a pair of backcourt generals as there are in all the land, even though neither looks capable of growing a full beard.

And then we have the stately patriarchs of each family. Mike Krzyzewski has gotten more attention because of his four grand conquests [national championships] and significant time ruling the best college basketball kingdom on the planet.

But Jim Boeheim has a ring of his own, and he joins Coach K as the only men to win 900 games at one school. Off the court, Boeheim's temperament seems the polar opposite of his counterpart. But in between the first and final buzzer, they have a starkly similar competitive streak.

Blood may not be shed on Saturday - save for a casualty caused by a stray elbow - but rest assured a battle of the most severe magnitude is imminent.

Saturday games (all times eastern)

Boston College at Notre Dame, noon

If BC (6-14, 2-5) could play Virginia Tech every ACC game, it would have an undefeated conference record. The Eagles' 76-52 win Wednesday gave them their second victory against the Hokies in three weeks.

This contest may represent their last time to savor that taste for a while. Their next two games are against Virginia and Duke.

The last three games have answered the question of whether Notre Dame (11-10, 2-6) more closely resembles the team that beat Duke or the one that lost to Indiana State and North Dakota State. The Irish didn't clear 60 points against Virginia or Wake Forest, and they shot 39 percent against FSU.

NC State at North Carolina, 1 p.m.

The Tar Heels (13-7, 3-4) seem to have leveled off their nose dive in the past week, winning three of the last four. The offense has been clicking, dropping 80 on Clemson, the nation's stingiest scoring defense, and 17-for-23 shooting (74 percent, 12 points higher than their season average) against Georgia Tech. The win against the Yellow Jackets was the first conference road win of the season for the Tar Heels.

The Wolfpack (14-7, 4-4) has regained some of its swagger as well. Desmond Lee stepped up by scoring at least 11 points in three straight games.

Clemson at Florida State, 3 p.m.

Please don't take Clemson's 55 points per game average in the last six contests or its only double-digit scorer as a sign that things are wrong with the team's offense. It's just that the Tigers (13-6, 4-3), uhh, they believe in efficiency. Yeah, that's it.

But it's not like they need to score at will. Their defense in the paint and on the perimeter is frightening. They're like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens of college basketball.

If this team had one true long-range bomber to keep defenses honest, wow, the big boys at the top of the ACC would have a lot more to worry about.

FSU (13-7, 4-4) will test Clemson in every possible way, as a 15-point win earlier this month can attest. The Seminoles counter the Tigers' ACC-leading 3-point defense with the third-most efficient outside shooting in the conference.

These are also probably the two best teams in the ACC at contesting shots, unlike more highly regarded defensive teams like Syracuse and Virginia, who rely on pressure and schemes to disrupt offenses.

Also on deck

Maryland at Virginia Tech, noon

Georgia Tech at Wake Forest, noon

Norfolk State at Miami, 7 p.m.

Sunday game

Virginia at No. 18 Pittsburgh, 12:30 p.m.

Anyone who believes basketball games should at times resemble shark feeding frenzies needs to watch this game.

It will be physical, you dig?

It also might surprise you to know the Cavaliers (16-5, 7-1) are pretty good at shooting the ball. Actually, that's not true at all, but no one has gotten around to telling that to Malcolm Brogdon.

The 6'5" guard has been one of the singular most destructive forces in the ACC during conference play. Since January began, he has averaged 15 points per game, is third in the conference with a 51 percent shooting percentage and leads all ACC players with 2.1 steals per game. He's also good for five or six rebounds per game, an outstanding number for a backcourt player.

His weakness is turnovers, an area where he has vastly improved, but it is still a concern against a team with the third-best turnover margin in the ACC.

Pitt (18-3, 6-2) has looked mortal after a hot start. Although to be fair, their two conference losses were to Syracuse and Duke.

The Panthers bounced back from their loss to the Orange with a 33-point slobber-knocking of Clemson. They lost by 15 to Duke on Tuesday, so the Cavaliers might want to keep their heads on a swivel to avoid dropping two straight.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

  • FOX19 Poll

  • Who is the best team in the ACC right now?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Syracuse (20-0, 7-0)
    13 votes
    Virginia (16-5, 7-1)
    2 votes
    Pitt (18-3, 6-2)
    0 votes
    Duke (17-4, 6-2)
    4 votes
    0 votes
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