Lessons Learned: ACC Weekend Wrap-UpPosted by KCarpenter on February 11th, 2013
There were some near-upsets on the road as two of the better teams in the conference narrowly escaped with wins, while most of the other match-ups were good old-fashioned beatdowns. The bulk of the ACC remains as muddled as ever while Miami continues to assert its dominance and separate from the rest of the so-called conference contenders. Does that mean we learned something new this weekend? We just might have. Here are six thoughts from the weekend’s action…
- Duke Is A Bad Road Team. The Blue Devils’ best win in a true road game was a 19-point rout of Florida State (a team that’s 5-5 in the ACC). What was the second best road win for Duke? It might have been yesterday’s one-point victory over Boston College, the second worst team in the conference with a 2-8 record. That’s not a good sign. While Duke is now technically a winning team in hostile environments (3-2), the total point margin (usually a better predictor of future performance), is -10. Now, it’s been a tough year on the road for everyone in this league and five games isn’t a lot of data to draw from, but it bears mentioning that Duke has yet to show much of anything positive in this environment.
- Lorenzo Brown Is Everything For North Carolina State. Before last night, Brown had played 10 minutes total in the past three games for the Wolfpack due to an injury, and not coincidentally all three of those games were losses. Yesterday, Brown returned to help the Wolfpack stop the skid against Clemson. Brown isn’t the best player on his team, but he is certainly the most indispensable. The electric player has probably been the best true point guard in the conference this season even though his play has slipped from the high-water mark he set last year. If Brown can return to form and his team can learn to play a little better defense, NC State will be a factor in the conference race again. Now, though? NC State is in a three-way tie with Maryland and Florida State for fifth place, a somewhat shocking position for the preseason favorite in this league.
- Virginia Might Be For Real. Virginia sits at third in the ACC standings and I don’t think it’s a mirage. I had some doubts because it’s hard to get a good feel on this team. The Cavaliers are one of the hardest teams in the conference to evaluate. The team’s slow pace distorts the meaning of the usual totals and per-game measures and the glacial pace combined with the tough defense results in typically ugly, low-scoring games with numerous missed shots. That said, the team’s blueprint for success — slowed pace, tough defense, and deadly accurate three-point shooting — has been getting results. Virginia’s 11-point victory over Maryland in College Park is one of the more impressive road wins in the conference this year. Of course, any team looks impressive when they go 11-of-19 from beyond the arc, but that kind of performance from Virginia shouldn’t be surprising to us by now. This team has proven itself to be one of the best perimeter shooting teams in the country. Their mark of 39.8% from behind the arc is good for ninth-best in the entire country, though only third in the ACC.
- Florida State’s Record Is a Mirage. The Seminoles are currently tied with Maryland and NC State in the conference standings, but hopefully nobody thinks that this team is on par with the other two. Wake Forest, for example, easily beat the Seminoles by 25 points on Saturday. While this should technically be a surprise because of Wake’s position in the standings, make no mistake, Florida State was never going to win this game. Although this team was actually picked #25 in the national preseason poll, the Seminoles have simply been a disaster. Sure, Michael Snaer’s multiple buzzer-beaters are a nice story, but this narrative simply reveals the narrowness of Florida State’s wins. Four of their five ACC wins this season have been by three points or fewer. Four of their five conference losses have been by 19 points or more. Sure, the league record still says 5-5, but it’s a really ugly 5-5.
- Miami Is Better Than the #8 Team in the Country. Rankings in the national polls are silly exercises as everyone knows, but in the case of Miami, “silly” might be an understatement. This team has been ranked in the national poll for only four weeks. Last week the Hurricanes were #8, right behind Arizona, one of the three teams that beat Miami early in the season. I understand that early in the season folks weren’t convinced that Miami hadn’t just been beating up on bad teams. I understand that the losses to Indiana State and Florida Atlantic used to look worse than they do now. We are running out of excuses. This weekend Miami eviscerated North Carolina with style and panache to go 10-0 in the ACC. Duke eked out a one-point win over Boston College. Are poll-voters really going to pretend that Miami is a top-middle team rather than a legitimate national contender? (Ed. note: Miami is #3 in the latest AP Poll.)
- The Best Player on the Conference Is on the Worst Team. If there was any argument about this, it’s over: Erick Green is the conference’s best individual player and Virginia Tech, now sitting at 2-8 in the ACC, is the worst team. I understand that this isn’t news to anyone following this league. We all knew Green was good and his team was bad, but let’s grant each the superlative. In the Hokies’ 10-point loss to Georgia Tech over the weekend, Green scored 28 points. The rest of his team scored 26. He also led his team in assists and steals and was second in rebounds and blocks. He shot a better percentage (45%) than any of his teammates except for Marshall Wood who went 1-of-1 from the field. The next best shooting percentage after Green belonged to Will Johnston, who managed to go 2-of-6 from the field. No one else on the team broke 30%. My respect and admiration for the effort that Green puts forth to win every night, despite his team’s near continual struggle, is only growing.