ACC Stock Report: Volume III

Posted by Matt Auerbach on January 24th, 2019

As we are now a third of the way through the conference docket, the preseason favorites of Duke, Virginia and North Carolina have forged a three-way tie for first at 5-1. Two other teams sit a half-game behind that trio, as Syracuse and a surprising Louisville squad are at 4-1, which is where we start this week’s stock report.

Uptrend

It’s Return of the Mack Around Louisville (USA Today Images)
  • Chris Mack: Given the context of a largely unproven roster, it was reasonable to assume that Louisville would be a sub-.500 team in mid-December. Instead, Mack’s team navigated the non-conference slate nimbly enough to take nine of its 13 games, highlighted by a mammoth home win over an increasingly exceptional looking Michigan State club. That momentum has carried over into ACC play, as the Cardinals have won four of their first five contests, announcing themselves as an upper echelon player in throttling North Carolina by 21 in Chapel Hill. It was the worst home loss for the Tar Heels in the Roy Williams’ era, and that performance played a major part in Louisville’s rapid ascension in the KenPom ratings. Up from a middling 63rd in the preseason to a robust 16th now, it appears that Mack didn’t understand that 2018-19 was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Barring something unforeseen, the Cardinals are poised to return to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year hiatus. Louisville hosts NC State tonight in a match-up between the two most pleasant surprises the league has to offer this season.
  • John Mooney: Injuries and uncharacteristically poor shooting (223rd in 3FG, 266th in 2FG) have combined to sabotage this season in South Bend. Short of another Mike Brey magic act, the Fighting Irish look destined to miss the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years for the first time since 2006. The bright spot amid that disappointment has been junior center John Mooney. Averaging a double-double on the season, Mooney now ranks 10th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, first in ACC games –where he’s snatching more than 14 total boards per game — and 70th in offensive rating. It will likely be a long winter at Notre Dame, but the Mooney is a sole bright spot as he is putting together a First Team All-ACC campaign.

Downtrend

Buzz Williams (USA Today Images)
  • Florida State: While both teams have spent some time hovering around the top 10 of the national rankings for much of the first two months of the season, their inclusion felt more circumstantial than anything else. Recently, that has manifested itself, as both teams are trending toward the middle of the ACC standings. After starting 12-1 and peaking at ninth in KenPom in late November, the Seminoles have now dropped four of their first six conference games and sit at 31st overall with their last win of equitable consequence coming over Purdue nearly two months ago. The schedule softens in the near-term, which could promote the healing process. Senior Phil Cofer, who missed the team’s first nine games of the season, has also missed the last two contests. Point guard Trent Forrest has also been hampered by a toe injury that has impacted his play. Without a full strength roster, Florida State has proven much closer to a mid-pack ACC team than a top-10 club.
  • Virginia Tech As for Virginia Tech, a 15-3 overall and 4-2 ACC record still sparkles even if things look a little more dicey under the hood. In its two conference losses to date, Buzz Williams’ team got completely stifled by Virginia in a non-competitive 22-point loss before getting blitzed by North Carolina for a 21-point loss in Chapel Hill. Non-conference wins over Purdue and Washington are somewhat mitigated by a puzzling loss to a Big Ten winless Penn State. The Hokies still rank 10th in KenPom despite a clear drop in defensive efficiency over the last several weeks. Virginia Tech’s next five games will be a good measuring stick to see whether this club is a viable fourth-place club or if it is more aptly placed in the middle tier. Either way, it is fair to assume the Hokies’ national rating peaked in the top 10 two weeks ago.
Matthew Auerbach (60 Posts)


Share this story

Leave a Reply

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