Winners, Losers, and What to Watch
Let’s take a look at the winners and losers this week and what to watch for on Saturday.
Winner: Arizona Wildcats
Many wrote off Arizona (17-4, 7-1 PAC-12) early in the season after they scuffled out of the gates and lost all three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Wildcats, who climbed to #11 in the rankings, have lost just one game since returning to the U.S. Earlier this week, Arizona got revenge for that loss, beating Colorado 80-71 to claim their fifth straight win in PAC-12 play. Freshman 7-footer Deandre Ayton has continued to impress and improve his NBA Draft stock. He is averaging a double-double so far with 19.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. The Wildcats will look to pick up their sixth consecutive win when they host Utah on Saturday at 5:30pm.
Loser: Clemson Tigers
The Clemson Tigers (16-4, 5-3 ACC) are one of the surprises in college basketball this season. Clemson moved up to #18 in the rankings following a 67-58 win over Notre Dame last Saturday. However, the Tigers lost their second leading scorer for the rest of the season, senior forward Donte Grantham, to a torn ACL in the win. Clemson’s offense looked abysmal in their first game without Grantham as the Tigers scored just 36 points in a blowout loss to #2 Virginia on Tuesday. On a team where five players (Marcquise Reed, Grantham, Gabe DeVoe, Shelton Mitchell, and Elijah Thomas) averaged double digit scoring, while no one else averaged more than four points per game, Clemson will need their role players to step up if they hope to challenge for an ACC Championship and a deep run in March. The Tigers return to action when they travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech at 6pm on Sunday.
Saturday’s Premier Match-Up: #2 Virginia at #4 Duke (2:00pm CBS)
On a loaded weekend of college hoops which features the Big 12/SEC Challenge, one game sticks out above the rest. The second ranked Virginia Cavaliers travel to Tobacco Road to battle with the Duke Blue Devils. Virginia (19-1, 8-0 ACC) enters the contest on an eleven game win streak and holds a two-game lead over Duke in the ACC standings. The Cavaliers feature a three guard lineup of Kyle Guy, Devon Hall, and Ty Jerome who combine for nearly 54% of the team’s scoring. A win over the Blue Devils in the only game between the two teams this year would put Virginia well on their way to a regular season conference title. Duke (18-2, 6-2 ACC) is undefeated at home so far this season. Their only losses were on the road against Boston College and North Carolina State. All five starters average double figures in scoring for the Blue Devils, led by Marvin Bagley III’s 21.6 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Duke will need to control the pace and get out in transition to overcome Virginia’s stout half-court defense. Look for the Cameron Crazies to fuel the Blue Devils to a big win at home.