Checking In On… the ACCPosted by mpatton on December 14th, 2011
Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference. You can follow him on Twitter @rise_and_fire.
- Wake Forest’s Dynamic Duo: The Demon Deacons may not be the prettiest team to watch, but CJ Harris and Travis McKie are lighting up the box score. We knew (even if I, in a gaffe of all gaffes, left him off my All-Freshman team last year for Ryan Harrow) Mckie was going to be one of the ACC’s top players this year, but Harris has been a very pleasant surprise. The pair are efficiently combining for nearly 57% of Wake Forest’s points through the first 10 games of the year. Harris has already made as many threes as he made all last season on 18 less attempts, and he’s significantly more effective inside the arc. It remains to be seen how Harris will adapt to the defenses of ACC play, but so far he has to be leading the “surprise of the year” category.
- Duke’s Post Presence: That’s right: after two solid years of berating the Plumlees as overrated and generally poor basketball players, it’s time to give credit where it’s due. Mason Plumlee has developed into a very good big man. No, he can’t make a free throw to save his life, but he’s much better offensively everywhere except the boards than he’s been the last few years. He developed a couple of solid post moves, stopped turning the ball over as much and learned to hold his ground on defense. If he can either learn to crash the offensive glass or hit 60% of his free throws, I’m confident in saying he’ll be one of the top three or four bigs in the ACC this season.
- That’s right, the ACC Digital Network launched this season. Check out JR Reid break down North Carolina‘s softness and the conference power rankings. So far the coverage is fairly limited, but as it expands this could become one of the better sources of information for ACC fans.
- North Carolina (8-2) stays atop the rankings with a hard-fought win over Long Beach State, which better get rewarded by the Selection Committee in March for playing such a tough non-conference schedule. The Tar Heels dominated on the inside with John Henson and Harrison Barnes leading the scoring, but it is worth noting that this is another game where four Tar Heel starters played more than 30 minutes.
- Duke (9-1), despite whisperings of being overrated, is off to a great start this season. The Blue Devils have played seven tournament teams (from last year) in ten games. One of the team’s biggest problems is its free throw percentage, which is at least in part due to the fact that Mason Plumlee draws the most fouls of any Duke player and is shooting a smooth 38% from the line. I expect both the team’s 66% mark and Plumlee’s 38% mark to improve throughout the season, but it’s still cause for pause.
- Virginia (8-1) is also off to a great start with one glaring exception (ahem, TCU). The Cavaliers are getting it done defensively. They also get one of the rare tests this week, traveling to Oregon for a true road matchup with Dana Altman’s Ducks. One under-reported part of team’s offensive struggles is KT Harrell‘s slump and Sammy Zeglinski‘s slow(ish) start. Zeglinski was injured to start the year, and finally looks like he’s back to normal the past couple of games. Harrell, on the other hand, has taken a pretty big step backwards in terms of perimeter shooting. If he starts knocking down shots, it will really help the Cavaliers space the floor for Mike Scott to operate.
- Florida State (7-3) got a couple of unimpressive wins against unimpressive opponents last week. The Seminoles only have one more shot at a really tough opponent in Florida, which will pit the country’s best offense against arguably its best defense, but we’ll save that preview for next week. Essentially, the Seminoles’ problem is no one has stepped up offensively to take Derwin Kitchen’s and Chris Singleton’s respective places. Will Michael Snaer or Bernard James step up before conference play begins next month?
- Virginia Tech (7-3) has lost to its three best opponents (Syracuse, Minnesota, and Kansas State) competitively and beaten everyone else. Erick Green is great, Jarrell Eddie is a great compliment, and the team’s perimeter length makes for great on-ball defense. Everyone talks about how Maryland will play small this year, but the Hokies will be the ACC’s best under-sized squad.
- NC State (6-3) is an enigma. The Wolfpack are great for 20-30 minutes a game, but absolutely cannot put together a solid 40 minutes against good competition. They will get another chance with new number-one-because-we-didn’t-lose Syracuse visiting the RBC Center this week. Sharpshooter Scott Wood will be critical against the Orange zone, as he’s the only perimeter threat the Wolfpack have. One guy no one is talking about (well, at least outside of Raleigh) is Richard Howell, who is having a career season this year. He’s averaging 12 points and eight rebounds a game.
- Georgia Tech (6-4) is quietly doing OK. Well, not by normal standards, but the Yellow Jackets aren’t terrible. After a true road win over in-state rival Georgia (and a less impressive blowout of Savannah State), it’s probably time for me to start reevaluating picking Brian Gregory‘s team to finish in the bottom three. Now watch them pick up a loss to Alabama A&M on Monday…
- Miami (5-4) looks lost without Reggie Johnson. I refuse to judge this team before he’s back, but the start of the year hasn’t been promising. I still think this is the sort of team that could catch fire the second half of conference play and win a (First Four) game in the NCAA tournament, but until Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant start living up to expectations–or at least making 45% of their two-point attempts–the Hurricanes are in trouble.
- Wake Forest (6-4) just looks like a different team from last year. It has a lot of the same players on the roster, but there’s an energy about this squad that was never present on last year’s team. This team knows it can be competitive, which will make Wake Forest a much more dangerous place to play this season for ACC teams.
- Clemson (4-4) is a little lower here than many might place the Tigers, but a losing streak isn’t pretty. Andre Young absolutely needs another option to step up or the Tigers are going to struggle to put up points against almost anyone in the country. You can see just how passive this team is by how few free throws they’ve shot. The Tigers have shot 104 free throws in eight games; in eight games Terrell Stoglin alone has shot 71 free throws. That has to change.
- Maryland (5-3) hasn’t played since eking out a game against Mount Saint Mary’s last week. The Terrapins literally have nothing resembling a test until conference play. They should take advantage of these games to try and establish a second scoring option and to hopefully ease Pe’Shon Howard back into the system, as he has started doing some drills.
- Boston College (3-7) won a game and did it playing two good halves of basketball! Also, with games against Bryant and Sacred Heart looming, the Eagles could conceivably scrape up a three-game winning streak before their game against Harvard. Patrick Heckmann‘s stats have come back to earth, but he’s still Steve Donahue’s best player.
- Player of the Week: John Henson wins the award this week combining for 37 points and 22 rebounds against Long Beach State and Evansville. He did it on 23 field goals too while adding seven blocks. Henson has been the best Tar Heel big man this season, even if his attempts to move some of his offense out to the high post appear slightly misguided.
- Rookie of the Week: Patrick Heckmann sneaks by with the award this week for his dominant performance against Stony Brook where he put the Eagles on his back late in the second half when the Sea Wolves appeared to be closing the gap. Heckmann finished 5-5 from the field for 18 points in only 22 minutes.