It's that time of year again. The conference schedule begins to show its teeth, and projected wins in January turn into hotly contested battles. Monday saw a highly anticipated matchup of two ranked teams. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame invaded the Dean Dome in a matchup of two ranked teams and escaped with a one point victory. Notre Dame improved its record to 15-1, but more importantly rose to 3-0 in conference play. This big road win for the Irish gave coach Mike Brey his first 3-0 start under his 15 year tenure. Pat Connaughton set the pace with 16 points and 9 boards for Notre Dame who had only dropped one previous game before falling to the undefeated Cavaliers.
The Hokies traveled to Tallahassee on Tuesday and fell short to the Seminoles 86-75. The Hokies, in the midst of a three game slide, started slowly in the first half. They never got clicking defensively against the 'Noles who finished Virginia Tech out to improve to 9-6. Coach Williams had this to say following the loss. "We probably set a record for defensive field goal percentage," Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. "They went on a run there where they scored 10 consecutive times." The Hokies need to find a pulse on defense as the schedule doesn't get easier from here. With trips to #5 Louisville, and #18 North Carolina on the immediate horizon, the gobblers need to be able to limit their opponent, and at the very least stop the bleeding.
On Wednesday the conference saw a full slate of games with Syracuse escaping with a one point win visiting Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets kept it interesting throughout, falling one point short of a huge win for the program. Virginia continued to impress as it held court in Charlottesville with a comfortable ten point victory over the Wolfpack of N.C. State 61-51. Louisville and Duke both had tougher games than intended. Louisville, perhaps still hung over from the bourbon state battle eased by a 9-6 Clemson squad 58-52. Duke traveled to Wake and notched an eight point win.
Saturday's premier matchup was #5 Louisville traveling to Chapel Hill to face #18 North Carolina. In what was one of the most thrilling games of the year, Carolina came back on multiple occasions to steal one in the Dean Dome. Marcus Paige sealed the deal for the 'Heels with a layup with only 8.5 seconds left in regulation. "I said jokingly to my teammates that I was back," Paige said. "I know I haven't been playing the way I'm capable of playing, you guys know that, it's pretty well documented at this point. And I need to play better. ... But my teammates still have a lot of confidence in me and I still have a lot of confidence in myself." The Wahoos also posted a big road win defeating Notre Dame in a battle of top 25 foes.
The week ended with the biggest upset to date. Duke traveled to Raleigh, and southern hospitality wasn't on the menu. The Wolfpack rudely gave the Devils a 87-75 loss that shook up the standings in the A.C.C. Duke didn't do itself any favors only managing to shoot 37% from the floor, while the 'Pack shot an impressive 62% from behind the arc. Duke has some work to do if it wants to peak in March. "Were we as tough as we needed to be? No," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Does that mean we're soft? No. We're a good team. We need to learn to play at that level. You've got to be in these things to learn it."