Checking In On.. The ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2011

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer for RTC.


Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Coach K Gets 903: Mike Krzyzewski made basketball history by passing his mentor Bob Knight on the all-time wins list. The record is a testament to Krzyzewski’s consistent excellence over the last three decades. It was an incredible accomplishment and dictated the better part of a week’s coverage.
  • Eligibility and Injuries Plague ACC: The ACC has five players out with eligibility issues, seven are out with significant injuries, and one is out after violating team rules. Alex Len (Maryland) may have his eligibility after he sits out ten games (he’ll be back in late December), but DeQuan Jones (Miami) is out indefinitely because of the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into allegations of the Nevin Shapiro scandal; Shane Larkin (Miami) is awaiting word on his eligibility after transferring from DePaul; Thomas de Thaey (NC State) is waiting for his amateur status to be reviewed; and Ian Miller (Florida State) will miss at least first semester due to eligibility issues. On the injury front, JT Thompson and Marquis Rankin (Virginia Tech) are out for the season while Pe’Shon Howard (Maryland), Antwan Space (Florida State), Julian Gamble and Reggie Johnson (Miami), and Leslie McDonald (North Carolina) are out indefinitely with various injuries. Wake Forest’s Ty Walker is suspended for violating the team’s honor code but is expected back against Seton Hall. Yikes.
  • Virginia Hype Came Too Soon?: Kellen Carpenter hit the nail on the head in his preview of the Cavaliers. He pointed out lack of offensive balance and inability to make twos as the two biggest questions facing Tony Bennett’s squad. The team has had success from inside the arc in its wins, bu looking at the boxscore from their loss to TCU reveals the Cavaliers shot less than 40% on two-point attempts. Mike Scott was still solid, but the rest of the team struggled a lot. The other problem is Virginia’s crawling tempo makes it very difficult to come back from deficits.
  • Mark Gottfied Can Recruit (and possibly coach, too): Mark Gottfried came into Raleigh with high expectations from the Wolfpack fanbase. So far, he has lived up to all of them. Gottfried has a top-five recruiting class sealed up thanks to signing TJ Warren, Rodney Purvis, and Tyler Lewis in the early period; he has another potential star possibly joining the ranks in Amile Jefferson. He also managed to get NC State its best non-conference win in quite a while with a huge comeback against Texas. One of the biggest problems with last year’s team was it could not come from behind. I generally chalked it up to effort or general pessimism that comes with frequent losses. Gottfried seems to have turned things around at least a little.
  • Carrier Classic Wows: Aside from North Carolina’s hideous uniforms, the Carrier Classic was terrific. Often blending sports and patriotism leads to awkward, jingoistic moments instead of the heartfelt tributes the mix is supposed to be (think of replacing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” with “God Bless America”). But this felt right. Though the game wasn’t close, North Carolina and Michigan State played a gritty game that was fitting for the game’s audience. The setting was spectacular, with the sunset over the ocean. This was a great idea and by all counts North Carolina and Michigan State were honored to participate.

Mark Gottfried Has The Wolfpack Rolling, Cleaning Up On The Recruiting Trail And Scoring Early-Season Victories. (Bill Kostroun/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. North Carolina (3-0): The Tar Heels got off to a solid, but not dominant start to the season with wins over two solid teams away from Chapel Hill. Like many predicted Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller are the two key offensive pieces with Kendall Marshall adding virtually nothing directly in terms of scoring but producing a jaw-dropping 9.3 assists a game. With games against Tennessee State and South Carolina coming this week, Tar Heel fans don’t have a lot to worry about. But next week look out for Wisconsin and Kentucky.
  2. Duke (5-0): The Blue Devils avoided a very tough match-up thanks to Michigan beating Memphis in the first round of the Maui Invitational. But they got a very physical game from a rebuilding (but very solid) Tennessee team, which should prove beneficial in the long run. The defensive effort and potential are lower for this Duke team than many past teams (less defensive flexibility and lateral quickness), but the team holding the Volunteers to 0 of 8 from beyond the arc showed signs of promise. Also, don’t look now but the Blue Devil frontcourt seems to be finding some confidence and accepting its role. This team still has a lot of room for improvement and is probably a touch overrated by polls, but each game has looked slightly better.
  3. Florida State (4-0): The Seminoles’ defensive intensity hadn’t been there until a dominating 80-39 beat down of South Alabama. To be sure South Alabama is no giant-killer, but it was good to see Leonard Hamilton’s team in mid-season form, holding its opponent to under 25% shooting on the night. Still not much to judge the Seminoles by until they play Michigan State in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge next week, but last year’s turnover woes continue, scoring is relatively balanced, and Bernard James and Terrance Shannon make an absolutely beastly frontcourt duo. The Seminoles need a go-to scorer to step up if they want to challenge the big dogs on Tobacco Road.
  4. Miami (3-0): Despite not having DeQuan Jones or Reggie Johnson, the Hurricanes have won all three games by double digits thanks largely to the dynamic backcourt duo of Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, who both desperately need to improve their field goal percentages. Without Johnson in the paint, Jim Larranaga’s squad is forced to gang rebound. When Johnson returns, this team could turn some heads.
  5. NC State (4-1): I’m glad I jumped on the NC State bandwagon in the Summer Update a couple of weeks ago. Mark Gottfried’s talented team has finally started playing some (emphasis on some) defense, and it showed real perseverance to come back and beat Texas after being down 18 late in the second half even if the referees helped. Scott Wood is also apparently OK despite initial concerns that he wouldn’t be back for quite some time. I said it last year, and it still applies: this team has NCAA Tournament talent.
  6. Virginia Tech (3-0): The Hokies have already taken care of three weak opponents. They’ll have to face a much deeper and more talented Syracuse team Wednesday though that should give a better evaluation of the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Dorenzo Hudson has become the man so far, averaging nearly 20 points a game on 60% shooting. Potential breakout star Erick Green hasn’t been shabby either although I expected him to get a few more possessions. However, the story of the first three games is freshman Dorian Finney-Smith, who is absolutely slaughtering the boards grabbing over eleven a game. If he can get his shot to start falling, Austin Rivers will have serious competition for ACC Rookie of the Year.
  7. Virginia (4-1): The Virginia bandwagon should lose some people after a home loss against TCU. The Cavaliers are just not efficient offensively not to mention they are literally the third slowest team in the country (only averaging 60.6 possessions a game). The defense is good though, and Mike Scott is a beast. An interesting game to look out for is the game at home against Michigan, which pits two media darling coaches, John Beilein and Tony Bennett, against one another in a game that either team feasibly could win (actually, it’s a huge long shot for Virginia, but I think the talent is there).
  8. Clemson (2-1): Brad Brownell’s team should be concerned after a loss at home to College of Charleston. Andre Young and Devin Booker have been great, though I think Young needs to look for his own shot a little more. This team has a long way to go if it wants to finish in the top half of the conference.
  9. Wake Forest (3-0): I considered putting Wake Forest above Clemson, but decided against it based on the Demon Deacons’ iffy defense so far (not to mention a weak strength of schedule). Travis McKie and CJ Harris are both playing well averaging over 20 points a game. I expect those numbers to dip as the competition improves, but it is still a nice start for the duo.
  10. Maryland (2-2): The Terrapins look out of sorts right now. Mark Turgeon was flustered after a brutal 26-point defeat to Iona, but Terrapin fans need to remember that both Pe’Shon Howard and Alex Len are both out and will be returning pretty soon. Len probably won’t be a huge factor (except in deepening the rotation and adding much-needed size), but Howard’s presence will allow Terrell Stoglin to move back off the ball where he belongs.
  11. Georgia Tech (3-2): Losses to St. Joe’s and LSU say more about this team than its win over VCU (don’t be fooled because the Rams made the Final Four last year). I think the Yellow Jackets have the most total talent of any of the bottom four teams, but I am just not sure how it will come together. Positives include Glen Rice Jr. stepping up to lead the team in scoring and assists while being second in rebounding. The downside is Rice is only averaging 3.5 assists a game.
  12. Boston College (1-2): We have a clear cellar-dweller in the ACC and it is Boston College. Despite the major question marks at the bottom of the conference, I wouldn’t be surprised if this team only won one conference game. The Eagles were run off the floor at home by UMass. Read that again and understand they lost by 36 points at home to a middling A-10 team. If that’s not enough, they were also spanked (on the road at least) by Holy Cross. The defense is horrendous and the offense is mediocre. It is shaping up to be a long year in Chestnut Hill.

Reader’s Take II

Weekly Awards

Player of the Week: Travis McKie has dominated Wake Forest’s first three games offensively. He’s leading the ACC in scoring, and he’s doing it efficiently. Jeff Bzdelik probably would like to see McKie’s rebounding improve, but 6 a game isn’t shabby. McKie is also giving the Demon Deacons 1.3 steals a game. The question is how he’ll respond to better competition. Other players to watch for this award are CJ Leslie (who has been great since returning from a short suspension for NC State), Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller, and Mike Scott.

Freshman of the Week: Dorian Finney-Smith edges out Austin Rivers for the award this week. Through Virginia Tech’s first three games the talented freshman is averaging 8.3 points and 11 rebounds a game. Rivers has a significant edge in points (14.2 points a game), but he has been very inconsistent in Duke’s system. I expect it will come down to these two (and maybe Antwan Space) for the final award. James McAdoo would be in the running on any other team, but his minutes are too limited at North Carolina.

Brian Goodman (966 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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