ACC Stock Watch – New Year’s Edition

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 2nd, 2015

As we welcome 2015, the ACC’s 15 teams have all concluded their non-conference seasons. In the New Year’s edition of this week’s ACC Stock Watch, we’ll examine the league’s trending players and teams based on how they were predicted to finish in conference play (you can view the preseason ACC media projections here) and how they’re playing now.

Trending Up

  • Duke. The Blue Devils are on fire to start the season. Their veterans have ceded major roles to the star freshmen without complaint or drop-off in production. Their 12-0 start includes good wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Temple and Stanford.
  • Tyus Jones, Duke. Taking over the reins of a national championship contender is difficult enough, but unseating a senior in Quinn Cook and maintaining harmony on the floor is really something else. Jones has emerged as a true revelation and has made the Duke offense (the most efficient in college basketball) hum. Even his high school coach didn’t think he’d be this good so fast.
Tyus Jones may fly under the radar on a team with Jahlil Okafor, but he's been a revelation for Duke (Lance King)

Tyus Jones may fly under the radar on a team with Jahlil Okafor, but he’s been a revelation for Duke (credit: Lance King)

  • Virginia. Everyone knew the Cavaliers would be good again, but possibly better than last year? They’ve already held two teams to single-digit points in a half, and Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris have been capably replaced. Hopefully the recent defensive showing against Davidson was an aberration (72 points allowed by a Virginia team that had holds opponents under 50 per game on the year).
  • Notre Dame. A 13-1 start is great and this team is rolling on the offensive end. The Fighting Irish currently rank third in the country at 86.0 points per game and are shooting an otherworldly 55.4 percent from the field (best in the country). However, questions exist about the strength of Notre Dame’s non-conference schedule.

  • Justin Anderson, Virginia. Anderson was the 2014 ACC Sixth Man of the Year, so his talent was already well-known. But what he’s done in assuming the scoring lead for a contender while combining his great athleticism and deadly outside shooting has resulted in his appearing on some national Player of the Year lists.
  • Trevor Lacey, NC State. NC State’s approach coming into the year was to try to manufacture offense by committee, but Lacey, an Alabama transfer, has been pretty good as TJ Warren’s successor. He’s averaging 17 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the field and 43 percent from three. He’s a big reason that the Wolfpack could surpass their preseason expectations.
  • Jerian Grant, Notre Dame. Do you think the Irish missed this guy last year? Returning from an academic suspension, Grant has played at an All-American level and he’s a big reason for Notre Dame’s impressive start. There’s been no discernible rust for the senior after so much time off; he’s third in the conference in scoring (17.6 PPG) and first in assists (6.2 APG) so far.


  • North Carolina. The two losses to Iowa and Butler don’t look so bad anymore, and certainly a loss to #1 Kentucky in Lexington was expected. The Tar Heels, however, boast good wins over UCLA, Florida and Ohio State, but questions still exist about their baffling periods of inefficiency on the defensive boards and unreliable three-point shooting. This team could sink or swim in ACC play.
  • Miami. Jim Larranaga’s team got off to a fantastic 8-0 start before dropping three of its next five, including surprising losses to Green Bay and Eastern Kentucky. Expected to end up just below the top tier of the conference standings, the Hurricanes have to hope their hot start is more indicative of the season they’ll have rather than this recent slide.
Jim Larranaga's Miami team has followed a strong start with three losses in five games heading into ACC play (USATodaySports)

Jim Larranaga’s Miami team has followed a strong start with three losses in five games heading into ACC play (USATodaySports)

  • Pittsburgh. At 10-3 to this point, there is a nagging question about the Panthers similar to the one involving Notre Dame: How battle-tested is Pitt entering ACC play? Jamie Dixon’s team lost its only real chance at a resume-builder in a Maui Invitational loss to San Diego State, so it’s tough to currently gauge just how good they really are. Pitt is 6-0 since Cameron Wright returned to action, but the team didn’t play an opponent of consequence in that six-game stretch.

Trending Down

  • Syracuse. The Orange lost a lot from last year’s team, but the common line of thinking was that they had freshmen who could offset some of that attrition. Instead, point guard Kaleb Joseph has been inconsistent in replacing Tyler Ennis and Chris McCullough is now struggling after a promising start. At 9-4 and with zero headline-grabbing non-conference wins (unless you want to count Iowa), Jim Boeheim’s team is in jeopardy of missing out on the Big Dance.
  • NC State. The Wolfpack were considered a middle-of-the-road ACC team in the preseason, and nothing in the non-conference slate has done anything to change that perception. While the team definitely has some talent, it has whiffed on opportunities to secure any impressive wins. The Wofford loss was troubling (though also controversial), but a blowout loss to Cincinnati at home in their last tune-up before conference play doesn’t suggest a team ready to surprise.
  • Florida State. The Seminoles are far and away the biggest disappointment in the ACC so far. If not for a fluke game-winning basket in their rivalry game with Florida, the Seminoles would have arrived at conference play at 7-6. Instead, their 8-5 record includes a pair of ugly losses to Northeastern and UMass. Aaron Thomas’ shocking departure this week and the slow development of their big men seem to spell doom for Florida State in conference play.
  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina. Paige was chosen as the preseason ACC Player of the Year, but he’s had a pedestrian non-conference performance (13.6 PPG, 3.8 APG). It’s not a surprise that his scoring has dropped as there are more reliable scoring threats on the team this year and he’s taken over the ball-handling role more often. But his chilly 36 percent shooting from the field is a definite concern, and he looks tentative going to the basket. Could more playing time for Joel Berry help Paige feel less pressure to perform in ACC play?
  • Olivier Hanlan, Boston College. Although he was recently named to the Wooden Award watch list, Hanlan’s role as the primary ball-handler for the Eagles has yielded mixed results. He averages three turnovers per game and his scoring (15.5 PPG) obscures the fact that he’s struggled in the role of point man for Jim Christian’s squad.
  • Chris Jones, Louisville. First, there’s the flop heard around the world that earned him a suspension from Rick Pitino. More damaging for Jones, though, has been his extreme offensive inefficiency for a team that often struggles to score. Jones is only shooting 30.8 percent from the field and a putrid 29.8 percent from three. He’s a high-volume shooter who is not shooting the ball well, and that’s a serious drag on the Cardinals’ offense. Even though he’s a fantastic on-ball defender, he’s killing Louisville on the other end.
Lathan Wells (77 Posts)

A 30-year old unabashed college basketball fan, I currently reside in Richmond, Virginia. I especially enjoy following the ACC and the local teams, VCU and the University of Richmond. I hope to continue my journalistic pursuits in the sports arena full-time in the future, but in the meantime I am really enjoying covering the greatest sport there is for RTC. Follow me on Twitter @prohibitivefav.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *