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New Threats for ACC, Big Ten

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Feb. 2 Music Issue. Subscribe today!

If Maryland hosting Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge left you disoriented, you're not alone. Conference shifts bring unfamiliar rivals. In their first season since bolting the ACC, the Terps­ -- ranked 14th nationally through Jan. 12 -- threaten to win the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the ACC has its own new worries: Louisville is sixth in its first season, Notre Dame 12th in Year 2.

NOTRE DAME
FEAR IT
Pick your poison, ACC foes. Jerian Grant (16.6 ppg, 6.3 apg) is playing as well as any guard in the nation, and three of his teammates are averaging at least 14.1 ppg (Zach Auguste, Demetrius Jackson, Pat Connaughton). The Irish rank first in adjusted offensive efficiency (121), lead in effective field goal percentage (61.3) and have the second-best turnover rate (14 percent). Good luck protecting that basket.

EXPLOIT IT Notre Dame is an average defensive team (99.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, 153rd), and the lack of a second big man could prove costly. Auguste, a 6-foot-10 forward, is the only starter taller than 6-5. Somehow the Irish are still holding opponents to 43 percent shooting from 2-point range, but teams with two capable bigs such as NC State can attack Notre Dame in the post.

No Freebies Here
Notre Dame opponents attempt one free throw for every five field goal attempts, the lowest rate in the nation.

Free throw attempts allowed
21.5 percent


LOUISVILLE
FEAR IT
Tobacco Road hasn't seen anything like the kind of defensive pressure that Rick Pitino's crew will bring to the ACC. Louisville is holding teams to an adjusted 85.4 points per 100 possessions (fourth in the nation) and forcing turnovers 25.6 percent of the time (sixth). Sure, the Cardinals do their fair share of clutching and grabbing, but they are a nightmare 
for opposing guards.

EXPLOIT IT The Cards' 3-point shooting is abysmal (29.7 percent), meaning teams can pack it in against F Montrezl Harrell (15.5 ppg, 9 rpg) and cut off G Terry Rozier's drives without fear of repercussion. PG Chris Jones has been particularly dreadful, hitting just 35.1 percent of his shots. That's not an ideal recipe to break Virginia's pack-line defense, which 
the Cardinals will face twice this season.

Pull Out All The Stops
The Cards allow just .527 points per possession after timeouts, the best mark in the country.

Field goal percentage after timeouts
28.0 Percent


MARYLAND
FEAR IT
The Terps have three players who get buckets in bunches -- swingmen Jake Layman (14.4 ppg) and Dez Wells (13.9 ppg) and PG Melo Trimble (15.9 ppg). But defense has been Maryland's calling card: The team sports an adjusted defensive efficiency of 90.5 points allowed per 100 possessions. Credit 6-11 F Damonte Dodd for some of that stinginess; his block rate of 10.9 percent ranks 27th, according to KenPom.com.

EXPLOIT IT Maryland gives up 1.05 points per play in transition. The Terps allow opponents to take 39.2 percent of their shots from deep (302nd in the country). So far, that's worked to their advantage, as teams have made just 27.8 percent of those shots. But such a low percentage is unsustainable. All those attempts could lead to disaster against a sure-shooting team such as Michigan State, which hits 41.3 percent of its treys.

Beware The Free Throw Star
Trimble ranks 18th nationally in free throw rate (how often he gets to the line) -- and hits most of them.

Trimble's free throw percentage
88.6 percent

All stats through Jan. 12.