NCAA

ACC Championship Preview: Do the Cavaliers stand a chance against mighty Clemson?

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ACC Championship Preview: Do the Cavaliers stand a chance against mighty Clemson?

For the first time ever, the Virginia Cavaliers are ACC Coastal Champions and will look to win their first conference championship since splitting the ACC with Florida State in 1995. To do it, however, the Cavaliers will have to go through the defending national champions and four-time defending conference champion Clemson Tigers. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC.

Here's what you need to know.

Clemson and Virginia last met in 2013

Despite being in the same conference, these two teams virtually never play one another. Aren't divisions fun? I could tell you what happened in that game, but it doesn't matter. Bronco Mendenhall was not the coach of the Cavaliers and none of the players are the same.

Both teams are coming off rivalry wins

Clemson dispatched South Carolina with ease in a 38-3 victory last week. That was the Tigers' sixth straight win by at least 35 points. Virginia, meanwhile, snapped a 15-game losing streak to Virginia Tech in a 39-30 win in Charlottesville. For Clemson, it was business as usual, but it will be interesting to see how the Cavaliers look after such an emotional victory over a heated rival.

Clemson has not lost a game in almost two years

When was the last time Clemson has lost, you ask? You have to go back a long way. The Tigers went a perfect 12-0 this season and 15-0 last season with a full schedule, an ACC championship and two playoff games. To find their last loss, you have to go all the way back to Jan. 1, 2018. The Tigers lost in the College Football Playoff semifinal to the eventual champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. That's a streak of 27 straight games without a loss.

Clemson is a juggernaut

You haven't heard much about Clemson this season which is unusual for an undefeated defending national champion. But while LSU and Ohio State were stealing all the headlines, Clemson was quietly going about its business and dismantling its ACC schedule.

The Tigers rank 4th in the nation in scoring offense (45.3 points per game), 10th in rushing offense (256.4 yards per game), 25th in passing offense (285.3 yards per game), 3rd in total offense (541.8), 1st in scoring defense (10.1 points allowed per game), 11th in rushing defense (106.3 yards allowed per game), 1st in passing defense (126.5 yards allowed per game) and 2nd in total defense (232.3 yards allowed per game).

Again, all of those rankings are national and each is higher than Virginia.

Virginia is Clemson's first ranked opponent since Sept. 7

Before you despair over how good the Tigers have been this season, consider that they have not been tested all that much either. The last ranked opponent Clemson faced was Texas A&M on Sept. 7. The Aggies finished the season unranked with a 7-5 record. There is no question that UVA has had a tougher schedule.

The Cavaliers also boast the same number of wins against ranked opponents, one. Virginia Tech was ranked No. 24 when they came to Charlottesville last week.

Perkins is the top offensive player in the ACC

Most of the focus going into this game will likely be on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence who remains undefeated in his college career. Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins, however, has actually been the bigger weapon this season.

Perkins has more passing yards on the season with 2,949 than Lawrence does with 2,870. Perkins is also a bigger running threat with 687 rushing yards. In total, Perkins is the top offensive player in the conference and ranks 13th nationally averaging 303 yards per game. Yes, context matters and there have been plenty of games in which Lawrence has not had to air out the ball or even play the full 60 minutes. The point is that not all of the top playmakers in this game will be wearing a paw-print helmet.

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Georgetown stayed close with No. 15 Butler, but forgot to cover Sean McDermott

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Georgetown stayed close with No. 15 Butler, but forgot to cover Sean McDermott

WASHINGTON -- By no stretch of the imagination did Georgetown have a good game against the Butler Bulldogs on Tuesday evening. But in the final minute of regulation, the Hoyas found themselves in a closely contested ballgame with the chance to steal a home victory over a ranked opponent. 

The only issue is they forgot to cover sharpshooter Sean McDermott. They forgot about him quite often in a 69-64 loss to No. 15 Butler

Throughout an 18-1 run stretching from the end of the first half and into the second, the Hoyas somehow could not find No. 22 in black on the court. Slipping screens, rotating into corners and simply finding the open hole on the perimeter, McDermott continuously found ways to get open against the Hoyas defense. 

Entering the game, he was a 40% 3-point shooter. Georgetown knew he was going to be a threat. Yet, possession after possession he was left on an island in the corner of the court. He rarely missed. 

“He’s not the focal point of their team but tonight he played a great game,” Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing said. “We knew that he was a very good shooter. Our goal was to keep him off the 3-point line and we didn’t do a good job of getting that.”

He scored 12 of Butler’s points during that run. Every basket during that stretch was from behind the arc. It erased a 14-point deficit for the Bulldogs and gave them control of the game.

As deadly as those threes were, though, it was McDermott’s last three that was the biggest. 

Somehow, after trailing by seven late in the second half, Georgetown had climbed back into the game. Entering the final minute, it was tied at 64 and the Hoyas appeared to have the momentum. The home crowd of 5,329 was on their feet and fully invested. 

Then McDermott did what he had done all game to that point: Slip away from a helping defender and knock down an open three. He faked to set up a pick-and-roll and read the Hoyas defense to perfection. Once again, he was left alone from behind the arc.

That was the final of McDermott’s 25 points on the night to lead all scorers. From the field, he was 9-for-12, and 7-for-10 from behind the arc. It was the second time this season he reached 25 points and the third time in his career he nailed seven 3-pointers. 

There’s no easier way to say it other than he torched Georgetown. 

The failure to close out on one of the best 3-point shooters in the Big East will haunt the Hoyas. Despite Mac McClung and Omer Yurtseven’s 8-for-30 combined shooting effort, the Hoyas were in the game. They’ve never been in a game this season when neither of them were able to get going. 

Add in 12 forced turnovers in the first half and a nine-point lead, it was a missed opportunity. A missed opportunity that the 12-9 (2-6) Hoyas cannot afford to have anymore this season.

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Baldwin heats up again as Butler beats Georgetown

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Baldwin heats up again as Butler beats Georgetown

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Kamar Baldwin heated up after halftime for the second consecutive game, helping No. 16 Butler overcome another deficit to beat Georgetown 69-64 Tuesday night.

Baldwin scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half, and now Butler has won two consecutive games after dropping three in a row in Big East play.

Baldwin didn't quite go off like Friday against Marquette, but Butler's leading scorer took over the game after being held to one point in the first half. Baldwin scored 12 in the second half and set up Sean McDermott for the go-ahead 3-pointer with 49.9 seconds left.

McDermott scored 11 of his 25 points during an 18-3 run early in the second half. Butler (17-4, 5-3 Big East) was down by as many as 14 before halftime but never trailed again after taking the lead.

Baldwin was the catalyst for the turnaround, four days after he followed up a two-point first half by scoring 29 the rest of the way in an overtime win. He had four of his six assists in the second half and finished with 13 points.

Georgetown (12-9, 2-6) built its big lead by making 13 of 14 free throw attempts and capitalizing on Butler's 12 first-half turnovers. Center Omer Yurtseven led the Hoyas with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Butler: Comeback or not, the Bulldogs miss point guard Aaron Thompson. He has now missed two consecutive games with a wrist injury, and Butler had to rally each time. Baldwin can clearly flip a switch, but Butler's offense works better with Thompson setting the table.

Georgetown: A team that struggles on defense can't afford to go cold. Especially with just a seven-player rotation, the Hoyas can get worn down easily by talented opponents, and their upcoming schedule doesn't get any easier.

UP NEXT

Butler: Hosts Providence on Saturday afternoon before a showdown next week against Villanova. The Friars have lost three in a row and four of five.

Georgetown: Coach Patrick Ewing returns to Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon when the Hoyas visit St. John's. Fans chanted the former New York Knicks star's name in November when Georgetown upset Texas in Ewing's old home arena.

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