ACC Games To Watch During Opening Weekend

By Joe Atmonavage
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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball is back.  The season opens with a slate of games starting Friday. Here are some ACC games that may be worth watching to begin the 2013-14 college basketball season.

Maryland vs. no. 16 Connecticut

This is the marquee game involving an ACC team on opening weekend. The talented but unproven Terps will head up to the Barclays Center to start their season for the second straight year and will face a deep and experienced Connecticut team.

Maryland is a talented group that is led by junior Dez Wells. The Terps finished 25-13 last season and were a win or two away from their first NCAA tournament since 2010. They lost lottery pick Alex Len to the NBA, but return the core of their team. Point guard play is a huge question mark for the Terps, especially after losing projected starter Seth Allen to injury, and it will be tested immediately by the Huskies.

Connecticut has one of the best backcourts in the nation in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Both guards can score the basketball extremely well, but they also love to pressure the ball. I expect second-year Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie  to have his guards pressure the Terps relentlessly. If Maryland wants to be in this game, they must limit turnovers and slow down Connecticut’s backcourt.

Players to watch:

Connecticut isn’t just loaded at the guard position. Forward DeAndre Daniels is someone who may play himself into the lottery of the next NBA draft. He struggled early on in his career, but showed flashes of how good he could be and why he was ranked the tenth-best prospect in the 2011 class towards the end of last season.

Over the last four games last year, he averaged 21.3 points with nine rebounds and 3.3 blocks. Daniels scored 21 points and tallied 11 rebounds in their exhibition against Southern Connecticut last week.  He will be a tough matchup for Maryland because of his versatility and athleticism.

Maryland also has a guy who is destined to have a big season. Forward Jake Layman has garnered some national attention heading into the season. The sophomore is extremely long and has drawn comparisons to the Houston Rockets‘ Chandler Parsons.

Layman’s jump shot has looked almost automatic in preseason scrimmages and in their exhibition on Sunday against Catholic. He was 5-of-7 from deep and poured in 23 points on Sunday. He also has the ability to put the ball on the floor and create, which makes him tough to handle.

Davidson vs. Duke

It is too bad we can’t make this an alumni game so we could have a Steph Curry vs. Seth Curry battle. However, if there is one reason to watch this game, it is because of Duke freshman sensation Jabari Parker. Parker is being overshadowed by some other freshmen (*cough* Andrew Wiggins *cough*), but the fact of the matter is that Parker can flat-out play and his debut should be exciting to watch.

Boston College vs. UMass

If you want to watch two excellent guards, then this is the game for you. UMass guard Chaz Williams is a joy to watch. He has been named to the First-Team All-Atlantic 10 for two straight years and will likely be on that list again this season.  Williams, who is listed at 5-foot-9, can score the basketball at a high rate, but also is an excellent distributor and defender. Last season, he averaged 15.5 points per game to go along with 7.3 assists and two steals.

Olivier Hanlan had a very solid freshman campaign last season at Boston College. He averaged 15.4 points per game and had one of the best performances ever by a freshman in the ACC tournament. He poured in 41 points in the first round while shooting 8-of-10 from 3-point land. He can score the basketball with the best of them and will be even better in 2013-14 with a year of experience under his belt.

The two may not match up because Hanlan has almost seven inches on Williams, but they will make this game worth watching.

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