Checking In On… the ACCPosted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2011
Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.
RTC is interested in learning how to improve our Checking In On… series in each conference. Let us know in the below poll where we can improve this weekly piece (feel free to add specific comments). Thanks.
A Look Back
The biggest news came out of Charlottesville when Virginia announced that Mike Scott needs season-ending surgery on his ankle. Scott was Virginia’s best player and only post threat. I was just starting to buy into Tony Bennett’s squad as a potential sleeper for the top half of the conference, but without Scott, they don’t stand a chance. Don’t get me wrong, this Virginia team will still win some games in the ACC, but I don’t think there’s any chance they can sneak into the Tournament (despite having the best non-conference win of the ACC, a November road triumph at Minnesota ).
ACC Vault Film Session
In honor of the crushing loss Virginia sustained at home against North Carolina last week, our historical matchup will feature the same two teams, this time in Chapel Hill from 1983. Virginia was in a better place then as far as a post presence goes, with superstar big man Ralph Sampson. On the other side of the court, North Carolina wasn’t really slumming talent-wise with Sam Perkins, Michael Jordan and Brad Daugherty. That’s three top five NBA Draft picks on the same team (the next season they added sixth overall pick Kenny Smith). Like our game last week, Virginia led most of the game by as much as 16 points. But the Tar Heels came storming back, and the Cavaliers led by three with just under three to play. That doesn’t sound like much, but in the age without a shot clock (which was introduced three seasons later), they should have had no trouble holding the ball. But Sampson missed the front end of a one-and-one, and what follows is must-see basketball. Jordan got the putback to close the deficit to one with a minute to play. Then His Airness (with four fouls) picks Rick Carlisle’s pocket and finishes it off with a huge tomahawk jam. All in all, it was an epic game, even if Virginia finished with a loss.
- Bizarro Team of the Week: Boston College – Wait; am I allowed to give the award to a team undefeated in conference play with the second best overall record? Yes. That’s what happens when you start conference play 2-0, including a road win at Maryland, but go 0-2 in the Ivy League portion of your schedule. In addition to an early season slip-up at home against Yale, Boston College lost to Harvard for the third year running. Maybe Harvard and Yale were bitter they couldn’t beat Steve Donahue when he was at Cornell last season and played their best games of the season. Or maybe Boston College is just grossly inconsistent. I’ll hear arguments for a little of both, but I’m starting to lean towards the latter. Truthfully, the Harvard loss wasn’t nearly as bad as the Yale one, but there’s no excuse for going winless at home against the Ivy League.
- Team of the Week: Clemson – The Tigers have quietly won seven straight since losing at Florida State. Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant combined for 35 points and Grant added 11 boards in the win against Miami. The Tigers may not be loaded with star talent, but Brad Brownell has done a fantastic job getting the Tigers back on track after three straight losses earlier this season. He’s looking like a solid early choice for ACC Coach of the Year if he can get Clemson back to the Big Dance this year without Trevor Booker.
- Player of the Week: Tracy Smith is back. He looked absolutely dominant in NC State’s game against Wake Forest. Now, I don’t want to look too much into a big-time performance against an abysmal team, but Smith controlled all aspects of the game. He was very vocal on offense, even away from the ball; made great passes; and was virtually unstoppable when he wanted to score. He’ll definitely challenge Jordan Williams for the conference’s best big man this year, and Smith brings solid range that Williams can’t match. He also pulled down 11 boards in the dominant conference opener.
- Duke (15-0, 2-0) dominated UAB before getting the job done against Maryland. Duke’s two close wins to start conference play might be cause for concern, but no one has waltzed through their schedule so far. The Blue Devils are going to lose a couple of games this year, probably on the road when threes aren’t falling–and the other team is shooting well. But wins are wins, and it’s very important to know how to win close games as well as blowouts.
- North Carolina (11-4, 1-0) got a tough, conference road win this week at Virginia. After the game, Roy Williams was very pleased with his team’s aggressive play, even if the execution wasn’t flawless. The Tar Heels are still woefully inconsistent on offense, but never scoff at a road win.
- Maryland (10-5, 0-2) moves up after a tough loss at Duke and a woodshed beating of Colgate. The Terrapins gave Duke everything they could handle at Cameron. Jordan Williams, as usual, was phenomenal, but the guard play left a lot to be desired. If Gary Williams can figure out a way to get his backcourt to start performing well, look out. The Terrapins still haven’t shown they can close out a close game, but I think they’ll develop that skill as the season progresses. The Duke game at College Park on February 2nd is looking to be one of the best games of the season (and maybe Duke’s best chance for a regular season loss).
- NC State (11-4, 1-0) got a couple of wins against unimpressive teams this week. That said, I was at the Wake Forest game, and the second half was an offensive showcase for the Wolfpack. Sidney Lowe needs this team to keep up that sort of offensive efficiency and challenge for an at-large bid.
- Clemson (12-4, 1-1) has bounced back from an ugly stretch earlier. Now they must prove they can beat better teams.
- Virginia Tech (10-4, 1-1) will have trouble overcoming all of their injuries, but they played a very strong game against Florida State. I don’t think they have the depth to be the team everyone expected, but Seth Greenberg’s squad shouldn’t be the nations biggest disappointment.
- Boston College (12-4, 2-0) had a disappointing week. See above.
- Miami (11-5, 0-2) may be showing their true colors, having lost their first two games of 2011. Both were road games, but I expected the Hurricanes to do a little more at Clemson. More specifically, I expected more of Reggie Johnson. After he had a dominant game at Duke, he was a total nonfactor at Little John, playing 26 minutes but only attempting three field goals. He has to be one of their primary options unless Malcolm Grant or Durand Scott are having career games. Johnson will be the key for Miami going forward. When he’s playing well (and isn’t in foul trouble), they will be a very tough team. When he’s not, Frank Haith might want to start checking out potential job openings.
- Virginia (10-6, 1-1) needs an inside threat, but I don’t think they have one now that Mike Scott is out for the year. They were able to hang with North Carolina for most of the game but couldn’t close it out. They also only managed 19 points in the second half. You’re not going to win many games scoring 19 points in either half (just ask Florida State). Tony Bennett has done a very good job getting this team to the level it’s at. I know it’s probably frustrating for Cavaliers fans, but I think he’s building a good program. His style isn’t spectacular, but I see him as a Herb Sendek-esque coach: never elite, but very consistent.
- Florida State (11-5, 1-1) lost an ugly game at Virginia Tech. One thing is clear about the Seminoles: they don’t run an offense. Chris Singleton is a great player. There’s no denying that. But the rest of the team has some real trouble on offense. Take the game in Blacksburg: Singleton was 9-14 from the field; rest of the team was 13-48. That’s not going to cut it.
- Georgia Tech (7-7, 0-1) looks like they’re ready to join Wake Forest in the ACC cellar after falling in three of their last four (and to .500). Can’t say I’m that surprised. If Paul Hewitt couldn’t win with Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal, he’s going to have a real tough team winning without them.
- Wake Forest (7-9, 0-1) finally got a win at the Big South! That’s right, the Demon Deacons took care of the Panthers to improve to 1-2 in Big South play. Unfortunately the Deacs play in the ACC, where even in a down year victories are going to be harder to come by. I count three winnable games for Jeff Bzdelik’s squad: Georgia Tech at home, Virginia at home and Florida State at home. Florida State is probably a stretch, but hey, they lost to Auburn right?
A Look Ahead
Conference play is in full swing. Below are chances for teams to make big statements this week (all times EST), with one big non-con game this weekend.
- Wednesday Upset Watch: Duke at Florida State (9:00PM, ESPN): Duke hasn’t played in an environment like Tallahassee yet this season. They’ve also had two pretty close games in ACC play. I fully expect the Seminole defense and atmosphere to lead to an off shooting night. The only question is whether Florida State will be able to score. I’m guessing not, but they need to make a statement.
- Thursday: Virginia Tech at North Carolina (9:00PM, ESPN): This should be an interesting measuring-stick game for both of these teams. Virginia Tech doesn’t have any big bodies inside, so I think the Carolina frontcourt will be too much, not to mention homecourt advantage.
- Saturday: Maryland at Villanova (1:00PM, CBS) gives Maryland a much-needed chance for a marquee win. Call me a homer, but I think they’ve got a shot. Jordan Williams will be unguardable, and the Villanova guards haven’t been as good as advertised. Gary Williams just needs to figure out how to get a serviceable game out of his backcourt, which might be asking a lot.