ACC Stock Watch: 01.30.15 Edition

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 30th, 2015

This week was an eye-opening one for ACC teams, with several marquee match-ups that shed greater light on the haves and have-nots of the conference race. Now moving into February, the teams with staying power are starting to emerge and those that are disappointing are showing their true colors as well. This is this week’s ACC Stock Watch.

Trending Up

  • Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish keep beating good teams and are a stellar 8-1 in ACC play at the turn. They withstood a 10-point deficit from Duke on Wednesday night and never lost their composure. This is starting to look like a team that has major potential come NCAA Tournament time.
  • North Carolina. The Tar Heels’ six-game winning streak has put them in the thick of the conference race through four weeks. Marcus Paige seems to have regained some of his missing star power, and some timely shots falling for Justin Jackson and Nate Britt make the team more dangerous from the perimeter. Don’t forget Joel Berry and Theo Pinson are expected to return before year’s end, too.
  • Virginia Tech. Hokies’ fans had been waiting to see some early returns on Buzz Williams’ hiring, and this may have been the week they got a glimpse of what he’s building. Virginia Tech nearly knocked off undefeated Virginia last weekend before bowing out by just three points, then procured an overtime win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday for Williams’ first ACC win. Progress, people.
Adam Smith's game-winning three in OT gave Virginia Tech its first ACC win under Buzz Williams (USATodaySports)

Adam Smith’s (far left) game-winning three in OT gave Virginia Tech its first ACC win under Buzz Williams and reason for hope in the future (USATodaySports)

  • Nate Britt, North Carolina. After learning of the emotional state Britt was in prior to North Carolina’s ESPN Big Monday match-up with Syracuse, his performance became that much more admirable. Britt set a career high with 17 points, but perhaps more importantly for Roy Williams’ team was his 4-of-5 shooting from three. Could he finally be the long-range complement to Paige the Tar Heels desperately need?
  • Jerian Grant, Notre Dame. No need to talk too much about how outstanding Grant’s season has been as the national media has that pretty well covered, but anyone who watched his performance live against Duke had to be amazed. He was the best player on the court in that game (yes, including Jahlil Okafor) en route to a stat line of 23 points, six rebounds, 12 assists, three steals and two blocks. Yes, he’s for real.
  • Louisville’s Backcourt. The much-maligned Cardinals’ offense has shown signs of life, largely because of the clearly improved shooting of their guards. Terry Rozier and Chris Jones had an especially dominant week in wins over Pittsburgh and Boston College on the road; combined, they scored 94 points in the two contests on 65 percent shooting from the field and 67 percent from three.


  • Clemson. Clemson has admirably managed to eke out a 4-4 record in the ACC so far this season. Their complete demolition of NC State in Raleigh on Wednesday night certainly served as a pleasant surprise for Tigers’ fans, but their preceding two-point win over Wake Forest didn’t speak to a team on the rise. This is still a difficult squad to figure out, but for now they’re at least remaining competitive.
  • Georgia Tech. At 1-7 in the ACC and just 10-10 overall, how can the Yellow Jackets be anything but trending downward? Well, six of their seven ACC losses have come by seven points or fewer and four by five points or fewer. Throw in their 20-point blowout over Miami in Coral Gables this week and you have a team vastly underperforming but clearly with some talent on the roster. They’ve dug themselves too big of a hole to realistically climb out of, but there may be more surprises in store from this group before the year is over.
  • Justise Winslow, Duke. Winslow narrowly avoided the least preferable tier of our list this week by having a decent outing against Notre Dame, finishing with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and 3-of-4 shooting from deep. Prior to that, Winslow was like a ghost, scoring in single figures in the previous four games and seeing only 10 minutes on the floor due to ineffectiveness in the tilt with St. John’s last weekend.

Trending Down

  • Duke. 4-3 in the conference is not where a team with this much talent should be right now. Couple that with the fact that their next match-up is at undefeated Virginia; their soft defense is again becoming a problem; and Rasheed Sulaimon was shockingly dismissed from the team Thursday — there are a myriad of reasons to question whether Duke’s season is destined to disappoint.
Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor have to wonder which way Duke is heading after a tumultuous week (

Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor have to wonder which way Duke is heading after a tumultuous week (

  • Syracuse. The bubble has probably burst on the Orange, as the times of beating up on the weaker parts of the conference are over. Jim Boeheim’s club fell to both Miami and North Carolina last week, continuing the trend of being just well-coached and talented enough to beat the teams they should but way too thin on the bench and offensively inconsistent to beat the cream of the crop. Their upcoming stretch of games is absolutely murderous and could put their NCAA hopes to bed for good.
  • Pittsburgh. The Panthers’ season was already proving to be one of mediocrity, but becoming Virginia Tech’s first casualty of this ACC season was a new low for Jamie Dixon’s team. Sitting at 13-8 and 3-5 in conference play, this is an NIT-bound team. Things won’t get any easier when they host Notre Dame Saturday.
  • NC State. After the win over Duke on January 11, the Wolfpack looked like a team that could contend for a spot in the upper tier of the ACC standings. They’ve since dropped four of five, including a home loss to Notre Dame where they held an 18-point first-half lead and a head-scratching thumping at the hands of an offensively challenged Clemson team. Their inability to put two quality halves together has been the story of their conference season thus far.
  • Wake Forest. Danny Manning’s first year in Winston-Salem was sure to be a difficult one, but the manner in which the Deacons keep losing has to be immensely frustrating for the new head coach. Five of their seven losses have been by single-figures, including a two-point loss to Clemson and a six-point double-overtime defeat at the hands of Florida State this week. There’s enough veteran talent for Wake Forest that some of those games should have gone the other way by now.
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.

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