Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.
A Look Back:
The ACC looks out of sorts right now. Duke is the only undefeated team remaining (to put that in perspective, the Big East has seven undefeated teams and even the normally middling SEC has two unbeaten teams left); the conference is fifth in the RPI (behind the Mountain West, no less); and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is shaping up to fall to the Big Ten for the second straight year. Admittedly, the strongest teams in the ACC have lost to respectable top 25 foes; the RPI is shoddy this early, since it’s still nearly impossible to judge strength of schedule; and the matchups in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge favor the ACC enough where it should be an actual challenge as to which conference will win.
Team of the Week
Say hello to the Virginia Cavaliers. Yes, the same team I slated ninth last week just overcame a ten-point halftime deficit to shock upstart Minnesota on the road. That’s a huge road win for the ACC in the Challenge (especially considering no one picked Virginia to even make this a game). The Golden Gophers were ranked 13th and 15th in the Coaches’ and AP polls, respectively, coming into Monday night’s contest. The Cavaliers were led by seniors Mustapha Farrakhan (23 points, 4-5 from three), Mike Scott (17 points, 12 rebounds), and freshman Joe Harris (24 points, 4-6 from three). Tony Bennett showed his team might not be the most talented squad in the ACC, but they can surprise some people.
Player of the Week
Kyrie Irving had a phenomenal week. He totally shut down All-American Jacob Pullen on the defensive end, while offensively he finished with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Irving has a quick first step and the ability to create his own shot, which combines with very good court vision (especially for a freshman) to make him virtually unguardable. He can shoot the three, get to the bucket, or collapse the zone while dishing it to an open teammate with relative ease. Expect to see his name here multiple times this season.
- Duke (6-0): Duke showed off a dominant performance against Kansas State to start the week. As mentioned before, Irving was phenomenal. Five Duke players finished in double figures, and the game never felt in question despite subpar performances from seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. This Duke team has a ton of offensive weapons. Especially when the threes start to fall, the Blue Devils put up points in a hurry. Huge game this Wednesday against Michigan State.
- Florida State (5-1): Florida State lost a closely contested game to Florida at home this week. Not surprisingly, the Seminoles’ offense was the root of their troubles: they finished shooting an ugly 33% from the field and 55% from the charity stripe. Defensively, they held an explosive Gator team to under 40% from the floor. They’ll need to score more than 50 points if they want to beat Ohio State this Tuesday night, but watch out if Chris Singleton can get this offense into a rhythm.
- Clemson (5-1): The Tigers needed overtime to take care of a pesky Seton Hall team in the Virgin Islands, but the bigger concern is on the glass. Clemson has only averaged 32.2 rebounds a game (good for 287th in Division I), and they play at a pretty good pace. While they might not need a dominant rebounding performance to beat Michigan, they’ll need to improve before conference play rolls around.
- Maryland (5-2): After a tough 2kSports Classic, the Terrapins enjoyed a light week, taking care of Delaware State and Elon. Elon kept it a little close for comfort after a slow start, but a dominating 24 points and 13 rebounds from Jordan Williams sealed the deal. Maryland really needs Sean Mosley to step into a more involved role: last year, he averaged more points, more rebounds and less turnovers. It’s tough to lose a player like Greivis Vasquez (who used 30.6% of Maryland possessions last season), but as this team matures, players should find their respective roles.
- N.C. State (4-1): The Wolfpack are still without Tracy Smith. Smith’s role on this team cannot be understated: he’s the best rebounder, senior leader, and first offensive option for an otherwise very young team. Not having Smith really showed down the stretch as Georgetown took over the finals of the Charleston Classic (not to mention in the nine rebound advantage). Smith is supposed to come back in the middle of December, and N.C. State will be a very different team when he does.
- Virginia Tech (4-2): The Hokies sport two quality losses (Kansas State and UNLV), but they weren’t all that competitive in either game. So far, Seth Greenberg’s squad relies too heavily on Malcolm Delaney and hasn’t shown the ability to give him the support he needs to be successful. They have a real measuring-stick game at home against Purdue this week. This team has played a tougher schedule than last year’s “snubbed” squad, but they haven’t capitalized on any of the opportunities.
- Virginia (4-3): Despite Sammy Zeglinski’s injury Tony Bennett’s squad got the first quality win of the season at Minnesota. Don’t think this punched a ticket to the Big Dance (or even the NIT), but it’s a great sign for the Cavaliers going forward.
- North Carolina (4-2): North Carolina continues to underachieve. The Tar Heels were only up six on the University of North Carolina-Asheville with five minutes to play, and then barely eked out a win over the College of Charleston Sunday. Both games were at home. So far, no one has stepped up as the leader of this team. Tyler Zeller looks like the most likely candidate right now, but he needs to be much more aggressive if he’s going to be the go-to guy this season (and avoid nagging injuries). There is plenty of talent to be found, but someone needs to take over and make this his team.
- Boston College (4-2): Boston College rebounded with wins against Texas A&M and Cal, but lost to a talented Wisconsin team. The Eagles seem to be getting more and more comfortable with Steve Donahue’s style, but they are far from perfect.
- Georgia Tech (4-2): The Yellow Jackets played two impressive games this week. After beating a talented UTEP team they took a (slightly overrated) Syracuse team down to the wire. Paul Hewitt has got talent this year in Brian Oliver and Iman Shumpert. Now he only has to coach that talent to its potential.
- Miami (4-2): The Hurricanes are a mixed bag. Maybe the team is too caught up in Randy Shannon’s recent firing. But I expected Durand Scott to be much more of a factor. They definitely should move up in the rankings as the season progresses, but the big three of Malcolm Grant, Scott and Reggie Johnson (who admittedly is averaging a very solid 12 points and 10.5 rebounds a game) will be expected to really step up. This week the Hurricanes get tests against Mississippi and West Virginia this week.
- Wake Forest (3-3): The Demon Deacons took care of Marist, but dropped a game at home to Winthrop. Tuesday night’s game against Big Ten cellar-dweller Iowa will not be for the faint of heart.
A Look Ahead to the ACC — Big 10 Challenge (predictions included)
7:00PM Virginia at Minnesota: Minnesota (1-0, Big 10)
**Author’s Note: Virginia already won this game, but I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I picked Virginia.
7:00PM Iowa at Wake Forest: Wake Forest (1-1)
7:00PM Georgia Tech at Northwestern: Northwestern (2-1, Big 10)
7:30PM Ohio State at Florida State: Ohio State (3-1, Big 10)
9:00PM Michigan at Clemson: Clemson (3-2, Big 10)
9:30PM North Carolina at Illinois: North Carolina (3-3)
Upset alert: look for North Carolina to at least temporarily find themselves on the road at Illinois.
7:15PM Indiana at Boston College: Boston College (4-3, ACC)
7:15PM N.C. State at Wisconsin: Wisconsin (4-4)
7:30PM Purdue at Virginia Tech: Purdue (5-4, Big 10)
9:15PM Maryland at Penn State: Maryland (5-5)
9:30PM Michigan State at Duke: Duke (6-5, ACC)
Call me a homer, but I like the ACC to win the challenge. Especially since Virginia was able to steal a win on the road Monday night. The games to keep an eye on now are Ohio State – Florida State, North Carolina – Illinois, Purdue – Virginia Tech and Michigan State – Duke. No games are gimmes for either conference (as Virginia proved), so it should be another great year of the Challenge. Don’t forget to tune in for a couple of the games, though I’d suggest looking for games taking place outside of Winston-Salem.