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ACC midweek: The giant killer comes calling

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Mason Plumlee (5) and Duke will have their work cut out for them when they face off with Virginia. (Source: ACC Digital Network) Mason Plumlee (5) and Duke will have their work cut out for them when they face off with Virginia. (Source: ACC Digital Network)

(RNN) – In typical Duke fashion, the Blue Devils have pulverized opponents immediately following their three losses this season. The average margin of victory in those three games was 23 points.

Considering that two of those teams currently sit in the top five in scoring offense in the ACC – and that Duke (24-3, 11-3) is operating without one of the best forwards in the nation – tells you a lot about the type of season this team is having.

Then we have Virginia (19-8, 9-5), who has done this: lost to four-win Old Dominion; lost by 15 points to Clemson, the lowest scoring team in the ACC; lost to the Fighting Joe Flaccos (better known as Delaware); and lost to the overall worst offensive team in the conference, Georgia Tech. Somewhere in there they managed wins over North Carolina and NC State.

Let's narrow it down even more. The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), a measurement no one understands but is somehow deemed essential to filling the NCAA Tournament bracket, has six teams ranked in its top 80 that the Cavaliers have beaten. Very nice.

There are also six teams ranked 140 or lower that Virginia has lost to. Ouch.

All that said, this is still a team that is built to beat Duke. This is their only meeting of the regular season, and it's a matchup of strength vs. strength.

Duke and Virginia are first and second in the ACC in both 3-point shooting percentage and 3-point defense. Duke is the highest scoring team in the conference, and Virginia gives up the fewest points.

Freshman center Mike Tobey's second game back gives the Cavaliers a better chance of containing player of the year candidate Mason Plumlee. Tobey gave his team valuable production off the bench before succumbing to mononucleosis and missing five games.

This could be a battle, and it's definitely a game Virginia needs in terms of conference tourney seeding and a better shot at making the NCAA Tournament.

Tipoff is Thursday at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN or ESPN2.

Wake Forest at Florida State, Tuesday, 9 p.m. EST, ESPNU

Congratulations, Wake Forest. You just knocked off the last team in the nation without a conference loss. What are you going to do now?

Well, Tallahassee is 250 miles away from Disney World, but it's close enough.

Frankly put, the Deacons (12-14, 5-9) don't have anything to prove. They've already blown several attempts at gaining relevance by dropping close games to beatable teams. Their defeat of Miami was probably a flash in the pan against a great team suffering from the beating of a tough schedule.

The Seminoles (14-13, 6-8) are in pretty much the same boat as Wake Forest, except they haven't beaten anyone noteworthy.

Youth and inconsistency might as well be extra opponents on the floor for FSU, because they have both gotten the better of this team.

Virginia Tech at Miami, Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST

The most well-rounded team in the ACC, maybe the country, is playing a group that makes no secret of its reliance on a single player.

Yeah, let's not inject too much drama into this matchup. The Hokies (12-15, 3-11) give up more points than any team in the conference, and they also miss more shots than everyone except for Georgia Tech.

Miami is still Miami. The Hurricanes (22-4, 13-1) from top to bottom have proven they are a national force. If this is the team everyone says it is, the Hurricanes will turn the Hokies into a grease streak on the long highway to the tournament.

Boston College at NC State, Wednesday, 8 p.m. EST

It's not a good sign that NC State (19-8, 8-6) outrebounded a four-guard lineup and still gave up 18 points in three minutes and lost by 11.

That's exactly what happened against North Carolina on Saturday, and it's the latest bit of damage to the armor of a team that was picked to win the ACC.

Either the coaches who voted in that poll were trying to instill overconfidence in the Wolfpack, or some things have gone terribly wrong between practice and live games. We're picking the latter.

NC State has a high-powered this, it's ranked in the top 10 in whatever category and if they get hot ... yadda yadda.

This is a bad time to make a misstep, because despite a poor conference record, Boston College (12-15, 4-10) has five scorers capable of picking people apart on any given night, and when they want to, they can stifle people defensively. The key word is "when."

The somewhat surprising win against Maryland last week should have opened some eyes, and perhaps taking down a team the caliber of NC State is all the motivation the Eagles need.

Maryland at Georgia Tech, Wednesday, 8 p.m. EST

Don't look for the Terrapins (19-8, 7-7) to lay an egg the way they did last week against Boston College.

While other people are singing the praises of Alex Len, today we will talk about a player that really matters for Maryland – Charles Mitchell. He spends most of the game on the bench, but while he is on the floor, he makes an impact.

Mitchell is the second-leading rebounder for the team, he's a big body that allows some rest for the frontcourt starters and he is a freshman. His development is perhaps just as important as the team's star Ukrainian center.

Georgia Tech (14-12, 4-10) doesn't need a miracle to beat Maryland, but it needs something pretty powerful.

The Yellow Jackets' propensity to miss shots plays right into the strength of the best rebounding team in the ACC. This team doesn't help itself with instant offense (3-pointers), easy offense (free throws) or set offense (field goals), all categories in which Georgia Tech ranks last in the ACC.

North Carolina at Clemson, Thursday, 7 p.m. EST, ESPN/ESPN2

Now that the Tar Heels (19-8, 9-5) have the longest winning streak in the ACC (three games, for what it's worth), they have the weight of the world hanging around their necks. Just a tiny bit of sarcasm.

UNC's wins against Virginia and NC State in the last week and a half pushed them to a 2-5 record against top five teams in the conference.

Clemson (13-13, 5-9) will have its best chance to win this game by containing James Michael McAdoo.

Don't laugh. The Tigers have a clear size advantage in the paint with Devin Booker, K.J. McDaniels and Milton Jennings, and they can shut down that area of the floor.

The key is to contain Carolina's perimeter players. Easier said than done.

Reggie Bullock has become more reliable in close games, and P.J. Hairston is the model of consistency since coming back from a concussion earlier this month.

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