ACC Preview Revisited – Part TwoPosted by mpatton on January 2nd, 2014
As the non-conference portion of the 2013-14 college basketball season nears its conclusion and conference play looms large in the New Year, the ACC has seen its share of ups and downs along an uneven early stretch. While some of its teams (Duke, Syracuse) appear to be capable of the preseason hype bestowed upon them, others have been a mixture of confounding (North Carolina), shockingly underwhelming (Boston College, Maryland) and utterly but pleasantly surprising (Florida State). The conference some were talking about being the greatest college basketball had ever witnessed hasn’t shown the depth and consistency in non-conference play to justify that acoolade, but there is still a long way to go as this new-look league embarks into ACC play. Here’s a look back at the RTC preseason ACC rankings as voted upon by the writers and how those teams have performed thus far and look to perform as the season progresses.
To review Part One of this feature, click here.
6. Maryland (8-5)
- Signature Wins: Providence, at Boston College
- Signature Losses: Connecticut, Boston University
- Reasons for Optimism: Seth Allen is back, which should take pressure off of freshman Roddy Peters. But it’s also worth noting that Peters looks like he’ll be the real deal eventually. He’s already the team’s best distributor and his ability to draw contact in the lane should make him valuable going forward. Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman make a pair of sharpshooting forwards who are a horrible match-up for anyone. Last but not least, the Terrapins already have a conference road win under their belt.
- Reasons for Pessimism: What looked to be a great one-two punch in the frontcourt has turned into an awful start for Shaquille Cleare and nothing special from Charles Mitchell. Also, home losses to Boston University and Oregon State raise serious questions about the team’s consistency. The team often loses sight of its strengths on offense (or commits needless turnovers), which leads to scoring droughts and opponent runs.
- Forecast: The losses essentially come down to defense: When the Terrapins hold opponents below a point per possession, they’re 6-0 (not counting Tulsa or George Washington, both of which effectively scored a point per possession). But when Maryland fails to limit its opponents on offense, the team is 1-4. This team needs to finish in the top three of the standings to sniff the NCAA Tournament, but the NIT should be in the cards with a strong conference showing.
7. Boston College (4-9)
- Signature Wins: Washington (ranked #145 by Ken Pomeroy), Philadelphia University
- Signature Losses: at Auburn, Connecticut
- Reasons for Optimism: This is essentially the same team that won a game in last season’s ACC Tournament in addition to winning three straight conference games to finish the season. Opponents can’t possibly continue hitting over 75 percent of their free throws.
- Reasons for Pessimism: Where to begin… an absolutely atrocious defense highlighted by below average to awful categories in everything except committing fouls… unrealistic expectations for Olivier Hanlan (who’s actually having a better season in most respects)… only beating floundering Sacred Heart in overtime and nearly as bad Florida Atlantic by three (both at home)… or (in all likelihood) pushing its losing streak to Harvard to six straight seasons. A team that looked like a potential bubble team now looks like a miracle is the only way it sees any postseason at all.
- Forecast: Gloom and doom. Between no signed recruits for 2014 and no real hope of salvaging much better than a top-14 finish in ACC play, it’s going to be a very long winter in Chestnut Hill. Steve Donahue needs a freak performance early in conference play or the cellar looks increasingly likely for the woebegone Eagles.
8. Pittsburgh (11-1)
- Significant Wins: Stanford, Penn State
- Significant Losses: Cincinnati
- Reasons for Optimism: Pittsburgh is an efficiency monster. The Panthers are top-20 in both offense and defense according to Ken Pomeroy. Lamar Patterson is doing a convincing impression of a poor man’s Oscar Robertson (so far he’s averaging 17.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.6 APG and 1.5 SPG on great shooting). Jamie Dixon’s team also dismantled a good Stanford team, eventually winning by more than 20 points away on a neutral floor.
- Reasons for Pessimism: To put things kindly, the Panthers haven’t beaten anyone (losing a heart-breaker to Cincinnati). To add insult to injury Pittsburgh’s one loss was in a hideous 48-possession game. They also have played eight home games and four neutral site games with a schedule ranked #295 by Ken Pomeroy and #266 by Jeff Sagarin.
- Forecast: This team has a lot to prove, to say the least, but so far looks better than expected. That said, the Panthers still need a strong conference showing, as the selection committee has shown no qualms keeping out gaudy win-loss record propped up by low-grade non-conference wins.
9. Georgia Tech (9-4)
- Significant Wins: Illinois, at Charlotte
- Significant Losses: Dayton, at Vanderbilt
- Reasons for Optimism: With the addition of Trae Golden, the Yellow Jackets’ offense is significantly improved this season. Specifically, the team is hitting far more of its twos (and it can’t continue hitting less than 30 percent of its threes). Robert Carter (now out for the season) has developed into an elite rebounder and Daniel Miller continues his upward trajectory while admittedly taking on a smaller role. Brian Gregory also appears to have realized that Chris Bolden should only make the rotation when his shots are falling (which has yet to happen this season).
- Reasons for Pessimism: While the offense is improved, the defense has slipped. Teams are countering Georgia Tech’s elite two-point defense by taking more threes. The team has also lost all but one game it has played against top-100 opponents. There’s not much evidence that this team is improved over last year, which raises concerns for Gregory going forward — especially considering where it would be without Golden.
- Forecast: The Yellow Jackets will likely find themselves just above the cellar in conference play, but on a good shooting night they won’t be pushovers, and teams that rely on rebounds and twos will likely struggle in Atlanta.
10. NC State (9-3)
- Significant Wins: at Tennessee
- Significant Losses: North Carolina Central, Missouri
- Reasons for Optimism: TJ Warren is having an ACC Player of the Year caliber season offensively, with only a three-point shooting slump hurting his efficiency from last season. Desmond Lee and Cat Barber have proven ready to join the rotation immediately. Transfer Ralston Turner’s sharpshooting has lessened the graduation of Scott Wood. This team was a minute of competence and decent luck from knocking off Missouri in Raleigh, but its bad free throw defense has to get better (NC State is currently allowing opponents to shoot just shy of 80 percent from the line, good for worst in the country)!
- Reasons for Pessimism: One bad loss and one good win otherwise leave a schedule where the Wolfpack look like a mediocre team on all accounts. This year’s offense doesn’t have the firepower to cover up the team’s defensive lapses. There’s still some talent here, but Warren’s likely departure makes next year look like a continuation of Mark Gottfried’s rebuilding effort.
- Forecast: Look for this team to improve as it gets more experience under its belt, but a middle of the pack conference finish and a trip to the NIT are about all NC State fans should hope for this season. Who knows, though, the Belmont/UAB/Texas Tar Heels might make the trip to the PNC Center this year, so a rivalry split may be in play.