The ACC Argument: SI’s Preseason Conference RankingsPosted by mpatton on October 25th, 2012
Andy Glockner revealed his preseason conference rankings – quite impressively giving nearly as many words to the SWAC as the Big Ten — with the ACC coming in at fifth behind all of the power conferences except the Pac-12 (#8). Glockner’s top two make sense. The Big Ten and Big East both have fewer questions than the other conferences. Also, it’s a safe bet based on the past couple of seasons that those two will be on top of the college basketball totem poll.
However, ranking the Big 12, SEC and ACC raises a few more questions. The first issue is weighting the depth of the conference against the quality of the best teams. Is it better to have a strong top or a decent bottom? Both certainly enhance a conference’s standing, but it says here that a strong top is more important. After Kansas, the Big 12 is a mess. It’s true most of those teams will be good, but does one great team (that’s headlined by Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, and some talented freshmen) make for the third best conference in the country? The SEC is a different story. Kentucky, Missouri and Florida have the potential to be great. Tennessee and Alabama should be good. But are those five better than the ACC’s top five? Also can any fan expect consistent results from Frank Haith?
The ACC has more players to replace, but Glockner in his evaluation sells Miami and Florida State short. Underselling Miami is understandable: The Hurricanes return nearly everyone from a good team that underachieved last season. That’s the perfect recipe for overrating a team. But Miami’s most important player – Reggie Johnson – was a non-factor much of last season thanks to a knee injury the year before. To make matters worse, Malcolm Grant lost his shooting touch. But a year of development for Shane Larkin and Rion Brown, not to mention a full year to get used to Jim Larranaga’s system, and there’s plenty of reason to like Miami going into this season.
With Florida State, the question comes down to how much faith you have in Michael Snaer. It’s true that the Seminoles lost a lot from last season, but their remaining roster is still underrated. Snaer may be the best shooting guard in the country. His lateral quickness makes his on-ball defense on par with Aaron Craft’s (Author’s Note: The two actually excel at different things. Craft is better than anyone in the country at disrupting offense by getting in passing lanes and pestering the ball-handler; Snaer’s lateral quickness makes him impossible to get around, so players never get good looks when he’s focused.) Throw in
Xavier Gibson Okaro White, who was raw last season but showed extended flashes of brilliance in the post, Ian Miller, and some talented freshmen, and now Florida State looks like a Top 15 team. Is it a lock? No, but I’d take the Seminoles against anyone in the SEC not named Kentucky or Florida with confidence.
At the end of the day the Big 12, SEC and ACC all have significant questions. Arguments could be made for any order depending on the rate the relative importance of depth and quality at the top. However, the ACC’s top five teams look very strong, especially in the parity-laden landscape of college hoops this season.