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ACC Weekend: The color of success

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Jaron Blossomgame and Clemson have a tough task in facing Syracuse, but the Tigers have the tools to get it done. (Source: ACC Network) Jaron Blossomgame and Clemson have a tough task in facing Syracuse, but the Tigers have the tools to get it done. (Source: ACC Network)
The development of FSU center Boris Bojanovsky (15), shown fighting Duke center Marshall Plumlee (40) for a rebound, is key for the success of the Seminoles. (Source: Duke Photography) The development of FSU center Boris Bojanovsky (15), shown fighting Duke center Marshall Plumlee (40) for a rebound, is key for the success of the Seminoles. (Source: Duke Photography)

(RNN) - Basketball fans, if you haven't gotten to know Clemson - the confoundingly simple overachievers who have as good a shot as any to knock off undefeated Syracuse - then take this opportunity to say hello.

First things first, don't confuse Clemson orange with Syracuse orange, which is so closely related to the athletic program that they actually named the teams Orange.

Orange you glad we got that all cleared up? Thank you, thank you. Don't forget to applaud for the next act as well.

Both these teams play defense as effectively as any team in America, yet they do it in totally different fashions.

The Tigers (15-6, 6-3) can pester opponents to death with their man-on-man defense, and they do an excellent job of rotating to help. That formula is the reason they're among the nation's leaders in scoring defense (second), field goal percentage defense (ninth), 3-point percentage defense (fourth), and they lead the ACC in blocked shots per game.

K.J. McDaniels is Clemson's Swiss army knife. His per-game averages in points (16), rebounds (seven) and free throw shooting (86 percent) lead the Tigers. Although he's only 6'6", his 55 total blocks leads the team by a wide margin. Landry Nnoko, a 6'10" center, is their next best shot blocker with 37.

Syracuse (22-0, 9-0) is built from a different mold. The team's unofficial nickname might as well be "2-3 Zoners" because that's all they play, and it shows.

Unlike the Tigers, who practically lure shooters to the paint so they can pounce, the Orange try to make sure the ball stays as far away from the rim as possible. It works, as proven by the 36 shots from 3-point range Duke hoisted up Saturday.

Syracuse has far more scoring options, so even if the Orange shooters run into a brick wall of defense, surely someone can emerge and save the day.

Isn't that right, Tyler Cooney? Or C.J. Fair? Or Jerami Grant? Or Rakeem Christmas?

Eh, you get the point.

Saturday games

Virginia Tech at No. 25 Pittsburgh, noon

Pitt (19-4, 7-3) finally emerged from its sleep walk and prevented three straight losses by taking out Miami in overtime Wednesday. Lamar Patterson scored a school record 10 points in the extra frame.

Any upset-minded fans who have notions the Hokies (8-14, 1-9) will break their nine-game losing streak… yeah, not so much.

Pitt is 192-24 in the Peterson Events Center and playing its first game there since dropping two straight against Duke and Virginia. In other words, the Panthers are a little motivated.

North Carolina at Notre Dame, noon

Could it be that someone has taken a defibrillator to North Carolina's basketball season and brought life back to the Tar Heels? It sure looks like it.

UNC (15-7, 5-4) won four straight by an average of 14.5 points since getting embarrassed by Virginia on the road Jan. 20. The Heels need to beat Notre Dame just to prove they haven't slipped back into the schizophrenic pattern from the first half of the season. And yeah, it would help their credentials for the NCAA Tournament.

The Fighting Irish (12-11, 3-7) have shown flashes of brilliance with an upset of Duke and close losses to Ohio State and Iowa. Notre Dame is a solid, middle-of-the-road team, but clutch moments evade them. As do wins.

Florida State at Maryland, 3 p.m.

Here's a name you don't hear very often: Boris Bojanovsky. It's a big name for an equally large man. He's 7'3", to be exact. It's amazing ACC Weekend has overlooked him for half a season considering he's so huge - the tallest player in the history of the FSU basketball program, according to their sports information department.

The sophomore has been vital this season for the Seminoles (14-8, 5-5). If he had enough attempts to qualify, his 61 percent field goal shooting would lead the ACC. He leads the team in blocks (fourth in the ACC), and he swatted seven shots in their upset of then-No. 22 UMass on Dec. 21.

If Bojanovsky adds some weight to his frame [he's listed at 240, which he most definitely is not], he could play more minutes and become more of a physical rebounder, making this a frightening team to face.

Maryland (13-10, 5-5) looked like it was waking up from a stupor when January started. Then it dropped three straight before finally beating Virginia Tech on Wednesday.

This is the last of four games that comprise the Terrapins' most winnable stretch in the conference schedule. Beating FSU would make them 3-1 during those four games, so they need this one.

No. 11 Duke at Boston College, 6 p.m.

The Blue Devils (18-5, 7-3) could not have asked for a better rebound from Syracuse - home against Wake Forest and at BC, one of the worst teams in the conference. UNC is next, so Duke should take this opportunity to fine tune their boxing out technique.

The Eagles (6-16, 2-7) will give Duke plenty of opportunities to work on offensive rebounding. Their shooting defense is the worst in the ACC.

Also on deck

Virginia at Georgia Tech, noon

NC State at Miami, 2 p.m.

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