No ACC team is perfect, even as well as some are playing, and all of them need to make New Year's resolutions that can improve their play. Whether they keep them or not is a different story altogether, but hey, show of hands if you've kept your resolutions the past 10 years or so? That's what I thought. It couldn't hurt.
Clemson: Move the basketball more on offense Clemson's offense has been bad, bad, bad for the past five years or so under Brad Brownell, and it's not showing any signs of getting better, particularly without go-to, do-everything star K.J. McDaniels. Clemson is shooting better than 50 percent from two-point range but just 29.1 percent from long range, and the Tigers have attempted more than a third of their shots from behind the arc. Also, they're registering assists on just 46.4 percent of their field goals. So maybe a few more passes, some off-the-ball movement, and, you know, a screen or two here or there -- I know, I know, let's not get too crazy -- might help generate some better looks closer to the basket.
Duke: Feed Jahlil Okafor In the beginning of the year, Duke was working the ball inside-out consistently, either letting the magnificent freshman Jahlil Okafor put a beautiful post move on a hapless opponent or watching as he dished to a wide-open teammate for a jumper as a double team collapsed on him. Duke is still doing this reasonably well, and the Blue Devils can't go away from that in games. Feed the big fella and let him go to work. Almost any possession that doesn't include an Okafor touch when he's on the court is a bad possession.
Oh, and Okafor's resolution will be to shoot better from the foul line. He's shooting just 51.1 percent. If Duke is going to feed him and he's going to shoot that poorly, teams likely will take their chances fouling him rather than let him go to work, so he has to make them pay.
North Carolina: Marcus Paige, fix your shot. Oh and freshmen, accelerate that learning curve. Who knew that Marcus Paige, preseason ACC Player of the Year, would still be such a question mark for the Tar Heels? He's hit just 35.3 percent of his two-pointers, 34.2 percent of his threes, and he isn't getting to the foul line as much as he was toward the end of last season. If he can get back on track, the Tar Heels are going to look much more like the team that was in last season's NCAA Tournament.
Freshman Justin Jackson has averaged 13.3 points in North Carolina's four KenPom top-100 wins this season and 7.4 in all other games. That's not a coincidence. As freshman point guard Joel Berry continues to progress, Paige can continue to get more comfortable playing off the ball and adjusting to his role as more of a scorer, too. But it has to keep happening.
NC State: Be smart in late-game situations The Wolfpack set about making this resolution a thing a bit early, executing fairly well down the stretch in a comeback win over Louisiana Tech (a face-palm-inducing foul on a 3-pointer aside). But whether it's fouling an opponent with the lead, missing free throws or turning the ball over, NC State has had trouble closing out opponents cleanly.
NC State needs to learn to put the foot on the throat, hit its free throws (as head coach Mark Gottfried, he of the aforementioned face-palm, said after the Louisiana Tech game, have the courage to make them) and just close out opponents. Things are only going to get tougher from here, and an at-large profile is still right there for the Wolfpack.
Wake Forest: Devin Thomas, chill Wake Forest's junior forward could be one of the best players in the ACC. He has that kind of talent. But he also has a temper, and far too often -- particularly in key moments -- it gets the better of him. He already has four technical fouls through 12 games, and he was ejected from the Bucknell game after arguing a foul against him after a contact technical earlier in the game.
At times, the fouls and adversity affect his play, too. As first-year head coach Danny Manning tries to build a program, he can't have one of his best players going off the reservation every third game or so. It's a bad example, and it's something he can't afford to tolerate, even if it means more losses.
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