ACC Taking Stock: Volume I

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on November 22nd, 2017

While it’s natural to focus on the upper echelon of a league when evaluating non-conference play, it’s instructive to keep a watchful eye on the under the radar squads as well. These are the units that ultimately could act as stumbling blocks for the heavyweights down the road while providing the depth and balance that generally makes the ACC the ACC. For this season’s initial iteration of our weekly stock report, we will ignore that Duke already looks unspeakably robust even by its lofty standards and that defending champion North Carolina looks far better than expected, in favor of reviewing a few teams projected to finish in the league’s bottom half.

Stock Rising

The talented Battle has been mighty impressive to start the year. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

Tyus Battle, Syracuse: It is no secret that for Syracuse to exceed expectations this season that the sophomore guard would have to carry the offensive load, and through four games, he has done just that. Efficiently tallying 92 points on 59 percent shooting from two-point range and 43 percent from three-point range, defensive attention on Battle is making the game easier for backcourt mate Frank Howard, who notched a career-high 18 points in Syracuse’s Monday night victory over Oakland. Maryland and Kansas loom after Wednesday’s home date with Toledo, so it will be interesting to track how better competition affects his production.

Stock Overperformance

Boston College: After six straight losing seasons, any sign of life in Chestnut Hill is a step in the right direction. And look, let’s not get too excited about Boston College whipping three KenPom sub-300 squads, but there is no denying that the Eagles acquitted themselves well in last weekend’s loss to Texas Tech. To be within two points with less than three minutes to play against a likely NCAA Tournament team was encouraging, and that was even before the Red Raiders thoroughly dismantled Northwestern. Following that up by beating La Salle by 21 points in the consolation game, led by a season-high 25 from Jerome Robinson, is yet another promising sign. Robinson and Ky Bowman appear to be one of the conference’s better backcourts, and Illinois State graduate transfer Deontae Hawkins has added more toughness and maturity to the frontcourt. It’s only been five games so far, but Boston College doesn’t look like a team earmarked for the league cellar again this year.

That is in part because of:

Stock Dropping

It hasn’t been an easy road yet for Kevin Stallings. (Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)

 

Pittsburgh: This has quickly become a cautionary tale. The clichés are endless — Pittsburgh fans grew bored and disenchanted with the success of winning 20 games every year (the Panthers actually won 30 twice) and regularly making the NCAA Tournament under former head coach Jamie Dixon. Dixon knew that it was better to leave a smidge early than to stay too late, bolting for his alma mater TCU, where he won the NIT last year and will almost assuredly have the Horned Frogs in the NCAA Tournament this time around. As a consolation prize, Pittsburgh was awarded former Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. After finishing under .500 last year despite a pair of all-ACC talents on the roster, the Panthers already appear to be the worst major conference team in college basketball. A home win over UC Santa Barbara temporarily relieved the sting of opening weekend losses to Navy and Montana, but rival Penn State took out years of basketball frustration on Pitt in a Monday night mauling. If the Panthers win a single league game this year, it will be a gargantuan upset.

And that’s even with these guys on the home docket:

Stock Underperformance

Wake Forest: If Danny Manning’s charges were ahead of schedule in making the NCAA Tournament First Four last year, then they are now currently doing 95 MPH in reverse. Unlike Pittsburgh, Wake has ACC-caliber talent on its roster, which means that a 1-4 start with losses to Liberty and Drake could easily cause you to ask “WtF?”. The early but expected defection of stud big man John Collins to the NBA left a massive void in the paint, but that is no excuse for beginning the season ranked 178th in defensive efficiency against a relatively weak schedule. Wake Forest was expected to feel the losses of Collins’ production and Dinos Mitoglou’s versatility (who also turned professional, in his native Greece), but an experienced backcourt led by the explosive Bryant Crawford and the anticipated improvement of seven-footer Doral Moore were supposed to mitigate that transition. Nope.

Matthew Auerbach (32 Posts)


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