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ACC Weekend: Several teams have something to prove

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T.J. Warren leads NC State into a contest with an East Carolina group that is tougher than advertised. (Source: ACC Network) T.J. Warren leads NC State into a contest with an East Carolina group that is tougher than advertised. (Source: ACC Network)

(RNN) - You can't read a game wrap-up about the N.C. State Wolfpack this season without seeing T.J. Warren's name in the first sentence.

Let this be a lesson to little basketball players everywhere: when you become the sixth-best scorer in the country people will talk about you - a lot.

He was named prominently in an ACC Player Power Poll featuring super sophomores and for good reason.

Warren is as good a team spark plug as there is in the country, averaging 23 points and seven rebounds per game for a team so young the trainers place Similac beside the Gatorade cups.

Speaking of youth, freshman point guard Anthony "Cat" Barber is pulling his weight as the team's second-leading scorer. His 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio is indicative of a ball handler with 10 games of college experience, but it would help if that number rose.

If State (8-2) can shake its modus operandi of serving up inferior performances with superior talent in crucial games, this team can roll into conference play with a full head of steam.

East Carolina (10-2) is not the minor inconvenience it appears to be. The Pirates showed what they were made of in November when they gave Duke all it could handle 24 hours after rallying from a 17-point halftime deficit against Norfolk State.

Then again, their top-20 ranked scoring offense couldn't get them past UNC Wilmington, so there you go.

Tipoff: Noon ET Saturday

Saturday games

Florida State vs. No. 22 UMass, 2 p.m. ET

Florida State is going to the Orange Bowl!

Before indignant football nuts start logging onto their Gmail accounts, I realize the football team is playing across the country in Pasadena.

However, the basketball team is participating in a four-team doubleheader at the Metro PCS Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, FL. And like the football team, the hardwood Seminoles are taking on a powerful foe that has left a path of destruction.

Chaz Williams, who is barely taller than your mother, is steering a UMass team off to a 10-0 start with an offense as dangerous as any in the country. The Minutemen, ranked for the first time in 15 years, also have a large chip on their shoulders after their selection show watch party last year ended without their names called.

The 'Noles need all hands on deck for this one.

Devon Bookert is showing improvement at point guard. It's a good sign that he had a season-high eight assists in a blowout win over Charlotte, a team that beat ranked Michigan and Kansas State.

Ian Miller has been superb from the free throw line so far, and Okaro White has had a hot touch from outside. Those two also need good games to keep this one from getting out of hand.

Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt, 4 p.m.

It's been a mixed bag of nuts against SEC teams this year for the Yellow Jackets (8-3), with a win over Georgia and a loss to Ole Miss.

Georgia Tech can do more than just win two of three games against that conference, all of them away from home. It can get a win to begin a tough stretch that includes its first two conference games and keeps the team away from McCamish Pavilion until almost mid-January.

Robert Carter Jr. and Daniel Miller, please stand up. The duo is first and third, respectively, in the ACC in rebounding to lead a team whose overall margin against opponents in that category is one of the best in the country.

That's going to come in handy against a Vandy (6-3) team whose shooting is, well, not good. The Commodores bust the boards almost as badly, so this could turn into a feast of fast-break scoring opportunities for the Yellow Jackets.

Virginia Tech vs. VCU, 5 p.m.

What does a team battling a piecemeal lineup and a team battling horrid inconsistency do for fun the weekend before Christmas? They face off in an intrastate duel to determine who can stink less.

For everything that VCU (9-3) does well defensively, they have done just as poorly on the other end of the floor. The Rams are currently below 40 percent from the field. While not excusable, you can look past it because the number of teams that force more turnovers fit in one hand.

All I can say is, just keep shootin', Jarell Eddie. Just keep shootin'. He's hitting 48 percent on 3-pointers this season and has hit at least six in three games, including a 61-60 overtime win against Miami nearly two weeks ago.

Notre Dame at No. 3 Ohio State, 7:30 p.m.

Once again, a basketball matchup that would have been really interesting on the football field, because surely that 2006 Fiesta Bowl deserves an encore before this generation dies out. Just saying.

How is it the Buckeyes are ranked third with an 11-0 record scoring only 76 points per game? Obviously, because their defense is the bomb. Just ask Marquette. You should have been at the funeral for that team's offense when it played Ohio State. Someone's aunt cried until she passed out. And then there was cake afterward.

Last Saturday's win over Indiana came at just the right time for the Irish (8-3). It means they've already beaten a Big Ten team whose only other losses were to ranked opponents.

This is a winnable game for Notre Dame, no question. You have to score to win, and watching the Buckeyes shoot sometimes is like watching wild animals mate on National Geographic - you know it's going to happen, but really?

Notre Dame is not a shabby defensive team at all, and I'd love to see what happens if a shooter as dangerous as Jerian Grant gets transition opportunities.

Also on deck:

Maryland vs. Boston University, 1 p.m.

Wake Forest vs. UNC Greensboro, 2 p.m.

Virginia vs. Northern Iowa, 4 p.m.

Pitt vs. Cal Poly, 4 p.m.

UNC vs. Davidson, 5 p.m.

Sunday games

Boston College at Auburn, 2 p.m.

Olivier Hanlan picked a terrible time to let his shooting hand go cold. Wins over Sacred Heart and Philadelphia have bookended losses to Purdue, Southern Cal and Maryland.

In those five games, Hanlan has hit 25 percent of his 3-pointers, and his overall shooting for the year is down to 34 percent. To his credit, he got to the line 16 times against the Terrapins and only missed once.

This is a good weekend to get things back on track, not just for Hanlan, but for a BC (4-7) team that only has two other players averaging double-digit scoring.

Auburn (5-3) isn't quite at the bottom in terms of defending shooters, but the Tigers can touch barrel wood with their fingers.

Also on deck:

Miami vs. La Salle, 7 p.m.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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