2013-14 ACC Season Review – Part IPosted by Brad Jenkins on April 9th, 2014
Now that the 2013-14 season is all over, let’s take a look back at how each ACC team performed. We will do so in three parts, dividing the league into groups of five teams based on ACC Tournament seeding. For each school, we’ll compare its actual season results with preseason expectations, and point out the surprises in each case — both the pleasant and unpleasant. Finally, we will take a quick peak at the short- and long-term prospects for each program. In Part I today, we’ll start with the teams with the most room for improvement, the bottom five of the league. Three of these teams are changing head coaches, and another will probably do so next year if that team finishes in this group again.
11-Tied) Georgia Tech (16-17, 6-12 ACC) - No Postseason
The Yellow Jackets were #11 in the preseason ACC media poll so they finished as expected, but with Notre Dame and Boston College having disappointing seasons, they could have threatened to do better. No doubt, it was troubling to see teams with seemingly equal or inferior talent (namely, Clemson and Miami) finish above Georgia Tech in the standings. In fairness, Brian Gregory’s team was dealt a bad blow when Robert Carter Jr. missed the first 10 ACC games with a knee injury, as Georgia Tech dropped seven of those games and never recovered.
- They were who we thought they were. Coming into the season, Georgia Tech’s offensive firepower was suspect, and that turned out to be the case as they finished #14 in the league in offensive efficiency.
- We didn’t see this coming. After effective freshman campaigns, the sophomore trio of Carter Jr., Marcus Georges-Hunt and Chris Bolden were expected to make strides in production, but that didn’t happen. They only raised their combined scoring averages from 28.0 PPG as rookies to 28.5 PPG this season.
- What the future holds. Probably no ACC head coach will have his job on the line more than Gregory next year. If the Yellow Jackets don’t make the NCAA Tourney it will likely be his last in Atlanta. It won’t be easy with the loss of three key seniors, including center Daniel Miller who was selected third team all-ACC. Next year’s junior class holds the key to the next couple of seasons, with the aforementioned trio of Carter Jr. Georges-Hunt, and Bolden needing to produce.
11-Tied) Wake Forest (17-16, 6-12 ACC) - No Postseason
This was a make or break year for Jeff Bzdelik, and despite the program’s first winning season during his four year tenure, it was not enough to offset the deep-rooted dissatisfaction among Wake Forest fans and alumni. The Deacons performed fairly well in the non-conference and got off to a good start in league action, but could not sustain that level of play, dropping seven straight during the heart of conference play. Soon after the end came in the ACC Tournament, Bzdelik was forced out.
- They were who we thought they were. During his career, Jeff Bzdelik’s teams have been homecourt heroes and that proved to be the case again. The Deacons knocked off rivals North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State in Joel Coliseum, but only won a single game on the road, over last place Virginia Tech.
- We didn’t see this coming. Senior Travis McKie was expected to compete for all-ACC honors but instead he had the least productive year of his career. McKie, well-liked and respected around the league, had career lows in scoring (10.7 PPG) and shooting (41.4%).
- What the future holds. Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman made an interesting choice with his hire of Danny Manning as the new head coach. Manning, who won a North Carolina state championship at nearby Greensboro Page High School in the early 1980s, has only two years of head coaching experience but brings great name recognition to the program, something sorely lacking in the previous hire of Bzdelik. It’s rare that a college and NBA star comes back to the college game as an assistant coach and works his way up the ladder, but barring unexpected defections, Manning will inherit a pretty talented squad.
11-Tied) Notre Dame (15-17, 6-12 ACC) - No Postseason
Unlike the other two schools making the jump from the Big East, Notre Dame struggled mightily in its first year competing in the ACC. Of course, the main reason was that preseason first team all-ACC junior Jerian Grant was suspended for academic issues after 12 games. After that, the Irish played inconsistently and out of sync the rest of the way. Mike Brey tried 12 different starting lineups but never found the right combination, despite some players having pretty good individual seasons.
- They were who we thought they were. Under Brey’s leadership, Notre Dame has never been known for tough and hard-nosed defensive play. That was certainly the case this season as well, with the Irish finishing #14 in the league in defensive efficiency.
- We didn’t see this coming. Even with the loss of Grant, most did not expect Notre Dame to fall so far. Brey has managed similar lineup losses before with great results, so it was a surprise that this Irish team, with solid seniors Eric Atkins and Garrick Sherman in t0w, ended Brey’s 13 year postseason streak.
- What the future holds. The return of Grant is expected, and he along with Pat Connaughton should give the Irish a good senior duo to build around. But long term, it remains to be seen if Notre Dame’s style will succeed in the ACC. In the old Big East, Notre Dame was unique, relying on offensive skill in a league full of tough athletic defensive-minded teams. While it’s debatable whether the new ACC is as strong overall as that Big East, it may take a while for the Irish to figure out how to beat their new rivals.
14) Boston College (4-14, 8-24 ACC) - No Postseason
Clearly, Boston College was the biggest disappointment in the league. The Eagles were picked eighth in the ACC media’s preseason poll and most considered them a reasonable bet to make the NCAA Tournament. Steve Donahue dramatically raised the level of the Eagles’ non-conference schedule to prepare them for the season, but the move backfired in a huge way, as they limped into ACC play with a 4-10 record. By then, the team’s confidence level was too low to recover, and Donahue’s coaching reign at Boston College is now over as a result.
- They were who we thought they were. The clear weakness of this team was the lack of an inside presence, and as soon as it became clear that seven-footer Dennis Clifford was not going to be healthy enough to play, the Eagles had no answer in the post and were dominated in the paint.
- We didn’t see this coming. Despite its terrible season, Boston College pulled off the stunner of the year, upsetting #1 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, handing the Orange their first loss of the year after an amazing 25-0 start.
- What the future holds. Much of next year’s success may depend on Olivier Hanlan’s decision this month on whether to jump into this year’s NBA Draft. In the long term, one has to be concerned for Boston College. The new coach, Jim Christian, is not exactly a household name, and he comes to a program that probably ranks last in the ACC with regards to practice and training facilities, and likely has the lowest recruiting budget to work with. Those are not exactly the characteristics of a healthy major-conference program.
15) Virginia Tech (9-22, 2-16 ACC) - No Postseason
The Hokies met their expectations this year but that’s not such a good thing since they were picked to finish last in the preseason. For most of the year it was clear that Virginia Tech was just overmatched talent-wise. After a second last-place finish in as many years, James Johnson was fired.
- They were who we thought they were. Going into the season, the Hokies had to replace the 2012-13 ACC Player of the Year, Erick Green, so we knew scoring would be an issue. Virginia Tech finished a distant last in the ACC in offensive efficiency, with a miserable 0.909 points per possession.
- We didn’t see this coming. The Hokies may have pulled off the surprise hire of the entire offseason, snagging the excellent coach Buzz Williams. At Marquette, Williams had great success prior to this past season, and he did it with kids that are very similar to the type of players that Seth Greenberg used during his best years in Blacksburg. Look for Williams to keep going after those chip-on-the-shoulder kids and build the program back up fairly swiftly.
- What the future holds. Not only does the coaching look to be improved, there is some young talent to work with. Guard Devin Wilson took some lumps as a freshman point guard but improved as the season went on, showing a promising all-around game on the way to making the all-ACC Freshman team. Freshman wing Ben Emelogu and sophomore big man Joey Van Zegeren also look like potential high-level ACC players.