Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 4th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

Another miserable week of basketball in the ACC.  By my count, the ACC notched zero good wins.  That said they only had three shots (Wake Forest against Richmond and Gonzaga or Miami at Duke).  The conference still managed to finish 15-7 (14-6 discounting the conference game), even against middling competition.

Bizarro Team of the Week:  Florida State.  Hands down.  Unanimous decision.  That’s what happens when you lose to a team projected to be the worst major conference team in Division I history.  The Seminoles handed Auburn its first (and very likely only) victory over a BCS-conference team in a hideous game of basketball.  You can blame it on Chris Singleton’s horrific free throw shooting (he went 4-12), but this game shouldn’t have been within 20.  Before this win Auburn had lost at home to UNC-Asheville, Samford, Campbell, Jacksonville and Presbyterian.  The only team the Tigers had beaten in the top 300 (out of the 345 total D-I institutions) according to Ken Pomeroy was number 210, Middle Tennessee State.  That’s epically bad.  And the Seminoles played worse.  They looked lazy and complacent the entire game, giving up uncharacteristic open threes and making more characteristic possessions of offensive ineptitude.  I used to think this team was the second best team in the ACC, but if that’s true, the ACC is much worse than anyone thought.

Team of the Week:  North Carolina has quietly won six of their last seven with the one loss coming to a very good Texas team (by two).  While they didn’t face particularly tough competition, the Tar Heels put away Rutgers and St. Francis handily.  I covered the St. Francis game, and, while it wasn’t perfect, the Tar Heels are better than when they started the season.  I’m still perplexed as to why Roy Williams insists on playing Larry Drew II over Kendall Marshall, but I haven’t won two national championships, so I won’t complain too much.  Carolina showed stretches of offensive and defensive brilliance (really the entire second half was a defensive show).  While pretty much everyone assumed Reggie Bullock was going to be their sharpshooter, it looks more and more like Leslie McDonald may be stepping up to that role.  I’m still not confident McDonald will be an elite scorer at the ACC level, but I think he could be just as solid as Will Graves was last year.  I think the other major concern in the backcourt will be developing an identity: last year Texas never really chose one point guard, and they paid the price.  That could be why Williams is sticking with Drew.  In the frontcourt, there’s as much talent as any team in the nation (and probably more), but there’s not a whole lot of toughness.  Tyler Zeller still allows smaller players to push him around; John Henson is pretty slight himself; and Harrison Barnes has looked much more willing to put up jumpers than take the ball to the basket.

Player of the Week:  Nolan Smith takes the honors this week after a dominant performance for Duke against Miami.  The Blue Devils were struggling offensively, but Smith scored 28 points with five rebounds and five assists to boot.  In the game against UNC Greensboro, Smith finished with 26 points, five rebounds and nine assists.  Especially when Kyle Singler isn’t having great nights, Smith is going to be crucial for Duke if they want to stay undefeated.

Power Rankings

1.  Duke (13-0, 1-0) struggled a lot against Miami.  Their offense still hasn’t found a real flow since losing Kyrie Irving to a toe injury.  They are still running tests to see how long he’ll be out, so we’ll keep updating you as news surfaces.  Kyle Singler and Seth Curry had an off night, but the bigger issue was the Plumlee brothers.  Mason and Miles Plumlee looked soft all night against Reggie Johnson and the Miami frontline.  They’re going to be crucial if Duke wants to cut down the nets again this season.  They can’t continue to be nonfactors (or worse) on both ends of the floor.  Both are athletic–especially Mason–and they’re going to have to start reaping the benefits of that athleticism and living up to the hype if Duke is going to reach its potential.  As an important aside, Mike Krzyzewski passed Dean Smith for second on the all time wins list with the win over UNC-Greensboro.

2.  North Carolina (10-4) took care of business (see above).  The most interesting moment from the Saint Francis postgame presser came when a reporter asked Roy Williams if Kendall Marshall’s increased minutes were a sign of things to come.  Williams responded that Marshall’s extra minutes were a product of Larry Drew’s defensive intensity (apparently Drew gave the “I’m tired” signal twice during the game).  But clearly Williams is not on the “bench Larry Drew” bandwagon.  They start conference play at Virginia Saturday.

3.  Maryland (9-4, 0-1) is rising largely thanks to losses by much of the conference.  The Terrapins throttled North Florida in their only game of the week.  The game was highlighted by strong performances from Jordan Williams (who finished with 17 points and 11 boards) and Sean Mosley (15 points, four rebounds and six assists).  Although one dark spot was Williams’ 1-10 effort from the charity stripe…  Still, Maryland fans have to like Mosley starting to look more like last season.

4.  Miami (11-4, 0-1) slaughtered Pepperdine before taking a respectable defeat in Cameron Indoor.  Reggie Johnson in particular was just terrific, finishing with 22 points on 9-10 shooting.  He’s starting to look like the third best big man in the ACC behind Williams and Zeller.  Assuming Johnson can keep out of foul trouble, the Hurricanes have a very impressive trio in Malcolm Grant (junior), Durand Scott and Johnson (both sophomores).  Assuming all three develop, Miami could be a contender next year.

5.  Clemson (11-4, 0-1) had the best record for the week (3-0) with dominant wins over Delaware State, Eastern Carolina and Citadel.  While none are elite teams, three wins are three wins (especially this week). Jerai Grant has exploded as of late and is 63.9% from the field.

6.  Virginia Tech (9-4, 0-1) took care of South Carolina Upstate before absolutely demolishing Mount Saint Mary’s.  The Hokies still have major injury woes, which will only add pressure to Malcolm DelaneyDorenzo Hudson may be the toughest of them all, as I expected him to be their number two option this season.  It’s hard to think of a way the Hokies could live up to their preseason hype between injuries and underperformance, and I still think they’re on the wrong side of the bubble.

7.  NC State (9-4) got Tracy Smith back, which is huge.  They also blew out Alabama A&M and San Diego, which was expected.  With Smith I think the Wolfpack can right the ship and at least finish in the top half of the conference.  I’m not sure if they’ll be able to get the ten conference wins I think will be necessary to garner an at-large bid, but I think they’ll make a decent run.

8.  Boston College (11-3, 1-0) lost at heartbreaker at Rhode Island and beat South Carolina.  I may be punishing Steve Donahue’s squad a little too much (Rhode Island is a pretty good team) because I still think this team has a good shot to make the tournament.  Would you believe me if I told you the Eagles have the fourth most efficient offense in the country?  That’s got to get you somewhere, even if you do have a very subpar defense.  Now they just need to end their two-year losing streak to Harvard this week…

T9. Georgia Tech (7-6) is 7-6?  That’s awful.  If not for Wake’s infamous season, there would be a lot more negative press surrounding Paul Hewitt‘s squad, but I guess it pays to be not quite the worst.  The Yellow Jackets are still shooting horrendously from beyond the arc–although they made over 40% in a crazy double overtime loss to UNC Charlotte.  The two big issues with that loss are that Charlotte dismissed their best player earlier this season and the game was in Atlanta.

T9. Florida State (11-4, 1-0) lost to the worst major conference team in the country…see above for more.

T9. Virginia (9-5, 1-0) was blown out by Big 12 (normal) cellar-dweller Iowa State in Charlottesville.  Not really a promising outing.  Mike Scott is still out with an injury, and it shows: not one Cavalier player scored in double figures.  None.  KT Harrell (off the bench) led all Virginia scorers with 9.

12. Wake Forest (6-8) got a real boost in the worst major conference team in the country race thanks to wins out of Oregon State and Auburn.  Now if DePaul can go on a little run, the Demon Deacons might have it locked up.  Seriously.  Jeff Bzdelik’s squad lost at Richmond and to Gonzaga this week.  Both losses were expected, but they were also both red line upsets (for those fans of mid-majors).

A Look Ahead

If you look closely at the power rankings you’ll notice that the three teams that lost their first game of conference play are in the top half of the conference, while two of the three winning teams inhabit the lower portion of the rankings.  This means one of three things: (1) the rankings are totally off base; (2) the games were not good measurements of the teams’ talents; or (3) the conference is bad enough that pretty much every game is a toss-up.  I’m hoping the answer is 1 or 2, but I’m worried it’s 3.  I think Duke and North Carolina are going to rack up a ton of conference wins.  Maryland, Miami, Clemson, NC State, Boston College and a healthy Virginia might too, but I think there are much larger flaws on these teams that will lead to more inconsistency.  It’s looking like a lot of low seeds again this year from the Big Dance, buffered by lots of wins over middling and even plain bad conference opponents.  The good news is there’s not much place to go but up.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 28th, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A Look Back

Happy holidays. In honor of the holiday season, this post is going to be short and sweet. ACC basketball had another slow week. Only Florida State played games of note in the Diamond Head Classic. As the conference only played 15 games this week, I’ll try and give season summaries for each team, as we get ready to really kick off conference play.

  • Bizarro Team of the Week: Virginia took the prize this week with a loss to Seattle. At home. I understand Mike Scott is still out, but one player shouldn’t be the difference between a decent team and one ranked near the bottom of D-I. Especially when the Cavaliers were playing at home. No excuses.
  • Team of the Week: Florida State - The Seminoles came up big at the Diamond Head Classic this week, notching wins against Baylor and Hawaii. Even though they lost to eventual champion Butler, the Seminoles showed that you can win with some shutdown defense. Baylor was probably overrated to start the season, but they have about as much talent as any team in the nation (excluding the point guard position). Florida State definitely won’t win any offensive beauty pageants, but they finally showed they can really hurt opponents by keeping them out of an offensive flow.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (11-0): Coach K’s team sat idle last week. The Blue Devils are clearly tops in the ACC with or without Kyrie Irving. However, they haven’t shown the same smooth offense that I think will be necessary in March to take the national championship. There’s still a whole lot of time for either Mike Krzyzewski to figure out a viable alternative to Irving at point, or let Irving’s toe heal. I think one (or both) are pretty likely, but until we hear more news from Durham we can only speculate.
  2. Florida State (11-3, 1-0): FSU had their most productive week of the year. I think the Seminoles are going to be most dangerous against teams with shaky point guard play (think North Carolina, Wake Forest and to a much smaller extent Duke). I think their game in January against the Blue Devils may be Duke’s best chance to lose in ACC play, since Florida State plays an elite defense that could really fluster Duke’s offensive weapons. That said, Florida State runs one of the ugliest offenses in the country. Essentially, they don’t run an offense. This means I doubt they will be able to win many games that reach the 70s.
  3. Boston College (10-2, 1-0): BC eked out a win over Bucknell. The Eagles have one of the most efficient offenses in the country, and I think they’ll be much better than expected during ACC play (given much of that credit goes to the ACC’s lack of depth). That said, barely beating Bucknell is probably not a great sign for future success. Regardless, Steve Donahue’s team looks like they’ve really bought into his program, which has helped reduce the new coach growing pains.
  4. North Carolina (8-4): UNC has only “good losses” but only one “good win” (Kentucky). Not really something to brag about. That said the Heels do look better on offense (though they struggle with offensive consistency), and they’re the second ranked ACC team according to Ken Pomeroy (after Duke). But Tar Heel fans won’t take “moral victories.” The Tar Heels probably should finish second in conference play, but they need to show the ability to win on the road (their only true road game, at Illinois, was very ugly).
  5. Miami (10-3): won three games in as many days against Oral Roberts, Rice and Akron. Durand Scott, Malcolm Grant and Reggie Johnson are real playmakers, but Johnson especially needs to learn to stay out of foul trouble (currently he’s averaging six fouls in 40 minutes). Scott and Grant have been lights out from downtown, and that will need to continue in conference play. I think the real key for the Hurricanes is defense. Although the Hurricanes are also question marks on the road: they’re only truly ugly loss came at Rutgers (and their only road win came against a horrendous Florida Gulf Coast squad).
  6. Maryland (8-4, 0-1): nothing too impressive out of Gary Williams and company. They beat up on New Jersey Institute of Technology as they should have. Not to come off sounding like a broken record, the Terrapins still need a leader. They need that player who can take over the game with two minutes to play, even if it’s only from the foul line. So far Sean Mosley has been a total flop, and Jordan Williams is at least another year from being that kind of player.
  7. Clemson (9-4, 0-1): beat a decent College of Charleston team on the road and dominated Delaware State (who almost beat N.C. State earlier in the week). Demontez Stitt’s return is good news for Tiger fans.
  8. Virginia Tech (7-4, 0-1): beat Saint Bonaventure in overtime. But the big news came when Dorenzo Hudson required surgery for a foot injury and will be out the rest of the season. To put it another way: the Hokies are done. If there was ever any hope that they could put it back together and live up to expectations, this erased it. The Hokies are hobbled (and just not all that talented). Expect them to drop from here on out. They could pull a Tennessee and beat Duke… but Seth Greenberg is no Bruce Pearl, so don’t count on it.
  9. Georgia Tech (6-5): didn’t do themselves any favors by losing to Siena this week. Admittedly, Siena is a solid mid-major squad (and the game was on the road). I’m worried about leadership here. No offense to Iman Shumpert intended, but he’s not the player I want running my offense on the road. He’s very streaky and can singlehandedly win games and singlehandedly lose games. Additionally, Georgia Tech shoots an abysmal 26.1% from three (only two of their players on the entire roster break 30%).
  10. Virginia (8-4, 0-1) took one on the chin this week from Seattle. This is a totally different team without Mike Scott, who has proved to be a real player. He’s the key to a successful ACC season. I’d still be surprised if this team can finish in the top half of the ACC (barring a totally superhuman season out of Scott).
  11. N.C. State (7-4): looked really bad against Delaware State. That’s not a game the Wolfpack can afford to win on a putback with 2.1 seconds to play. Tracy Smith still isn’t back, and he should add a totally new dimension to this team in a low post threat. The Wolfpack will need to finish solidly in the top half of the conference and might have to win a game in the NCAA Tournament to save Sidney Lowe’s job though. That looks like a long shot from where we’re standing now.
  12. Wake Forest (6-6): continued the nightmarish start by dropping a game to Presbyterian, a team still making the transition into D-I, at home this week. The Demon Deacons are looking like they’re going to go into conference play under .500, and they’re not going to be favored in any conference games this season. They’ve also got a couple of tough games (Richmond and Gonzaga) before they start conference play, and they’ve already shown they can lose to a Big South team. I’m not sure this season could end faster for Jeff Bzdelik unless Tony Chennault turns out to be a top-notch point guard.

Looking Ahead

In case you can’t tell, the ACC has major leadership issues. Most teams have point guard questions, and I’m not confident any of these teams (outside of Duke) are ready to win in hostile environments. The conference is marred by underachieving squads (N.C. State and Virginia Tech), inconsistent squads (North Carolina and Florida State) and just plain bad squads (Wake Forest and Georgia Tech). The only pleasant surprises have been Boston College and Miami. I’m seeing a lot of high seeds come Selection Sunday unless someone drastically improves (Florida State and North Carolina are in the best shape). But the season is still less than halfway done, and there’s still a lot of basketball to play. Here’s to a better 2011. Happy holidays.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • No news on Kyrie Irving or his toe, but Sidney Lowe did pipe in on Tracy Smith’s injury: per Brett Friedlander of Star News Online, Lowe said, “It’s a tough deal… It’s very frustrating, but I think it’s frustrating for Tracy as well.  This was a big year for him, a big year for us.”  Now, I don’t want to read too much into a coach’s postgame interviews following a tough loss to Arizona (who had their way with the Wolfpack inside), but it sounds like Lowe is starting to feel some hot seat pressure.  He continued: “I just think it’s one of those things where Tracy is going to have to decide he can play with a little bit of pain. That’s up to him… Certainly we don’t want him out there limping and everything. I think his biggest thing is getting over the fear of the injury itself…Structurally, everything is okay, but it’s his first real injury, so we have to be patient with him. The doctors say he’s okay, but they can’t feel his pain. So we have to go with what Tracy is saying.”  While I can feel his pain, Lowe really should stand by his players (read: not make it sound like he thinks they’re soft or faking injuries).  His job might be on the line, but Tracy Smith could have declared for the draft last year and never given Lowe the opportunity to complain about his injury.
  • Mike Scott of Virginia, Demontez Stitt of Clemson and Tony Chennault of Wake Forest are all out with injuries.  Scott underwent ankle surgery and his return time is still to be determined; Stitt required arthroscopic knee surgery and should be back before the end of the month; and Chennault is out for another month or so while his foot heals.
  • In other news, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski tied Dean Smith at second on the all-time win list with 879 after Duke soundly beat Elon in Durham Monday.  This is obviously a testament to the job that Coach K has done over his career at Duke, and there are sure to be plenty more wins for the Blue Devils as the season progresses.
  • Team of the Week: Virginia Tech sneaks past Georgia Tech for the award this week.  This is partially because I’ve ripped Virginia Tech the past couple weeks for being totally out to lunch.  But the Hokies got a very impressive (and much needed) win over Mississippi State on a neutral court.  Mississippi State was supposed to be the pride of the SEC West, but has come out with a slow start.  That said, a dominating win is a dominating win, and the Hokies won 88-57 with five players scoring in double figures.  Seth Greenberg should take note: his team is a whole lot better when Jeff Allen, Erick Green, Dorenzo Hudson and Manny Atkins produce on offense.  Malcolm Delaney only took 11 shots.  So when Virginia Tech starts back with losing ways because Delaney is the only one with any interest in trying to score, don’t be surprised.  However, if this team has finally figured out that they have the talent to win real games and they just need to utilize it, look out.  There’s a reason (albeit a somewhat misguided one) that this team had so much hype in the preseason, and they finally lived up to it.
  • Bizarro Team of the Week: Wake Forest – It was actually a fairly good week for the ACC overall.  But Wake Forest continued their epic struggles.  I really do hate choosing them week in and week out, but the only other losses in the conference came against good schools (Central Florida, Arizona and Texas).  Meanwhile Wake, almost lost to UNCG (yes, the 0-9 school out of the Southern Conference that hadn’t lost within double figures of an opponent all season).  Wake followed one almost loss with an actual loss at Xavier, which is much more excusable as the Musketeers are probably a Tournament-bound team.  Wake has to find some answers and find them fast.  Two of their next four games (Richmond and Gonzaga) are going to be very tough.  Wake legitimately has a strong case to be one of the top five worst major conference schools (along with Auburn, Oregon State, DePaul and South Florida).  Tony Chennault may hold the key for Wake to establish some decent guard play, but that remains to be seen.

(ed. note – following the submission of this week’s check-in, Wake dropped a game to a team known as the Presbyterian Blue Hose to continue its nightmare campaign)

A History Lesson: In case you hadn’t heard, the ACC and Raycom Sports teamed up to produce the ACC Vault.  We covered the Vault on its official opening last week, and I highly suggest you spend some time perusing the website.  It’s very easy to use (whether you want to find a specific play or a game).  I’ll be promoting one game a week with a few of my thoughts.  This week, I’m going to stick with the 1997 ACC Championship between North Carolina and North Carolina State.  You can see most of my thoughts on the game in the article on the site’s release, but the game has some historical significance.  It was Dean Smith’s last ACC game, and one of Herb Sendek’s first.  The Tar Heels brought star power with Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter and Shammond Williams, while N.C. State countered with a more deliberate offense that led to far more open looks than one might have expected in such a David vs. Goliath game.  Please feel free to comment if you have any suggestions for great games too!

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (11-0) beat Elon handily in their one game of the week.  Offense still lacks a real flow without Irving, and Coach K might need to investigate switching Nolan Smith back to the two guard.  Seth Curry would take some time but has a point guard build, or he could try running the offense through Kyle Singler.  Not sure either is ideal, but it’s definitely worth trying a couple things out before getting too deep into conference play.
  2. Florida State (9-2, 1-0) beat Stetson and Loyola Marymount this week to continue their winning ways.  They have games at Hawaii and Auburn (go ahead and chalk that one up) before heading to Virginia Tech to continue conference play.
  3. Boston College (9-2, 1-0) beat Bryant 93-77 in their lone game of the week.  Should be interesting to see how this team holds up in conference play.
  4. North Carolina (8-4) gets a boost in the ratings for playing a talented Texas team very close.  After watching the game, I literally have no idea why Roy Williams continues to play Larry Drew II at point instead of Kendall Marshall.  Marshall played much better than Drew II, but still only saw significant playing time when Drew II was sidelined with foul trouble (it’s no coincidence that the Tar Heels lost the lead when Marshall went out).
  5. Georgia Tech (6-4) got a much needed win over Richmond this week.  The Yellow Jackets still look like they’re very much on the wrong side of the bubble, but beating a team that looks like a contender in the A-10 is a quality victory.  Now a win this week against Siena would give Paul Hewitt another good win against decent mid-major competition.
  6. Virginia (8-3, 1-0) soundly beat Oregon and eked out a win over Norfolk State without the aid of Mike Scott who is averaging team best 16.3 points and 10.4 rebounds a game.  For the Cavaliers to be relevant, they desperately need Scott’s production.
  7. Virginia Tech (6-4, 0-1) took care of business in the Bahamas this week.  Now they need to sustain this level of play.
  8. Miami (8-3) lost a tough game against Central Florida this week.  The Hurricanes struggled with foul trouble inside with Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble fouling out in 16 and 25 minutes, respectively.  Central Florida is undefeated so far, but the Hurricane defense was vulnerable with Johnson and Gamble playing very limited minutes.  Keep an eye on their foul trouble in ACC play.
  9. Maryland (7-4, 0-1) didn’t play this week, but they have three cupcakes before continuing conference play at Duke.  The Terrapins really need Sean Mosley to step up and give them a more consistent second option beyond Jordan Williams.  They are still a leaderless team right now, so winning close games (or games on the road) will be pretty difficult.
  10. N.C. State (7-4) missed out on a huge chance to add a resume victory over Arizona this week, and Tracy Smith’s absence in the paint was evident.  The Wolfpack and Sidney Lowe really need Smith’s production and ability to open up the floor for jump shooters.
  11. Clemson (7-4, 0-1) won two creampuff games this week with Demontez Stitt in recovery. Jerai Grant had two excellent games off the bench.
  12. Wake Forest (6-6) continues to struggle.  Here’s to hoping that Tony Chennault has the answers.

A Look Ahead

Finals are over!  That’s good news for everyone–especially college basketball fans.  We still have a couple more uninteresting weeks before conference play really begins.  Probably the best chance for good games comes from Florida State, who will probably take on Butler (or Utah) and then most likely Baylor or Washington State in the Diamond Head Classic, a tournament that should give the Seminoles an opportunity to build their at-large resume.  All three match-ups are very intriguing because each team has shown significant defensive strength so far this season.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A Look Back

The biggest news this week (in the country) was Kyrie Irving’s injury.  Here’s what we know: it’s a “complicated” ligament injury that will have him out for an undetermined period of time.  Initial estimates pointed to him coming back in three to four weeks, but Mike Krzyzewski noted that he could be out all season.  I’d be surprised if Irving sat the whole season, but obviously I don’t know exactly what the injury is.  What I do know is Duke has one of the best medical staffs in the country.  Rather than speculate on the nature or duration of the injury, I’ll try and address the effect of the injury on Duke.

Kyrie Irving was Duke’s best player (so far) this season.  If you watched the close games, he totally took over for long stretches.  While he struggled a little making decisions in the halfcourt offense, Irving was phenomenal in transition.  Without Irving, Nolan Smith will be expected to step into the point guard role (a place he struggled last season).  His production will definitely take a hit, and Duke will not be as effective out in transition.  Audacity of Hoops had a very interesting statistical view of Irving’s plus-minus (expounded out to forty minutes) on the floor versus on the bench.  The sample size is small, but the point is clear: Duke is a very good team even without Irving.  Are they number one?  Probably not.  Only time will tell.  Coach K is one of the best “adapters” in the land.  For example: in 2001, he navigated Duke around Carlos Boozer’s broken foot, and Boozer came back just in time for the Big Dance (where they then won the national championship).  Regardless, Irving’s injury is huge, so I’ll keep you posted on any updates (which should be coming in the next week or two).

Team of the Week: Boston College – With a solid road win over Maryland and topping a streaking Providence, BC takes the honors this week.  The Terrapins led late in the game but couldn’t score for the last two and a half minutes.  Maryland did not score a single point down the stretch.  None.  Still, Steve Donahue and his players deserve the credit.  They took advantage of Maryland’s lack of a leader when it counted.  The Eagles have a solid team that has the talent to finish second in the ACC.  Do I think they will?  Probably not.  But Donahue is a good coach, and the players look like they have bought into his system.  The Eagles have won their last five games (losing to Wisconsin on a neutral court), and they have a very winnable nonconference schedule extending into January.

Bizarro Team of the Week – Wake Forest: I’d like to give this to Maryland for coughing up the game to Boston College.  Unfortunately, Wake Forest took note of the Maryland effort and outdid them by losing to UNC Wilmington –by 12.  Really?  UNCW.  Ken Pomeroy ranks UNCW as a solid 234th in the nation.  Defensively, they’re even worse (304th out of 345 teams).  But Wake couldn’t manage to score 70.  I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but Wake is terrible.  They’ve dug a cellar under the ACC and are camping out.  I would not be surprised if they didn’t win one game in conference play (they certainly won’t be favored in any of them).  I really hope Jeff Bzdelik gets things turned around soon (I have faith he will once he gets some of his recruits into the system).  Wake lost a lot of talent, but they’re still much more talented than UNC Wilmington, Winthrop or Stetson.  Those losses are unacceptable.

Player of the Week: Jordan Williams, Maryland - Williams is the obvious choice, but I hate giving this honor to someone who couldn’t get up a bucket in the last two minutes of a close game.  But in truth it wasn’t his fault (at least directly).  As a big man, he requires someone to get him the ball.  Long story short: that didn’t happen.  Still, I’d like to see him get a little more aggressive down the stretch.  But you can’t argue with his numbers: 23 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes against UNC Greensboro and 27 points and 13 rebounds against Boston College.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (10-0): Duke didn’t have any trouble with Bradley or Saint Louis this week.  Andre Dawkins looked especially good, scoring a career high 28 points against Bradley in Irving’s absence.  All that talk about the effects of Irving’s injury applies more to Duke’s national hopes than their conference aspirations.  Without Irving, Duke is still the class of the ACC.  They’ll be much more susceptible to a couple of losses, but they still have a lot of offensive weapons.
  2. Miami (FL) (7-2): Miami took care of Stetson this week.  Not a whole lot more to say.  But I encourage you to check out Miami’s game against Central Florida, the only unbeaten squad left in the Sunshine State.  The game is on Fox Sports at 1:00 PM EST Saturday.
  3. North Carolina (7-3): The Tar Heels beat Evansville decisively but weren’t ever able to put Long Beach State away.  The game never felt like Long Beach State was going to win, but Roy Williams probably wanted more separation.  However, two major pieces of good news for Tar Heels fans came out of the game: Harrison Barnes had his first double-double (19 points and ten rebounds), and Larry Drew II hit six of seven from the field to finish with 13 points and eight assists.  That’s the kind of production most expected Barnes to showcase from the start, and the Heels will be thrilled if he can keep his numbers at those levels.  As for Drew, that’s the first competent offensive performance he’s had this season (and more critical fans might suggest in his entire career).  Chapel Hill point guards aren’t known for scoring in bunches, a product of Williams’ system, but a starting point guard needs to be able to hit shots.  He had some particularly important shots late in the second half when Long Beach State was trying to mount a comeback.
  4. Boston College (8-2, 1-0): See “Team of the Week.”
  5. Florida State (7-2, 1-0): Florida State continued their painful offense, but they did get strong contributions from Deividas Dulkys (17 points), Derwin Kitchen, Bernard James and Okaro White (nine points each).  The Seminoles need to find a way to repeat that production night in and night out rather than relying on Chris Singleton for everything.  If they can score 75 every time out, they will win the majority of their games.
  6. Virginia (6-3, 1-0): Mike Scott is a player.  So far, he’s averaging 16.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.  He had an off night against Radford, but finished with ten points and 13 boards.  He’ll be crucial if Virginia wants to keep from sliding back down into the second half of the ACC (where everyone picked them in the preseason).  A lot of credit goes to Tony Bennett for getting this team ready to play and picking up a couple great wins already.
  7. Maryland (7-3, 0-1): This team can’t win close games unless someone steps up.  Sean Mosley is having an awful year (his numbers are down significantly from his sophomore season).  If I had to guess, I’d say his decreased production comes from more pressure in Greivis Vasquez’s absence.  His offensive efficiency rating has dipped from 116.6 last season to an ugly 89.0.  I think Terrell Stoglin may need to be the one to step up down the stretch.  It’s tough being a freshman leader, but someone has to do it (or at least get Jordan Williams the ball).  Otherwise, this team is going to lose a lot of close games.
  8. N.C. State (5-3): Not much to report here apart from a win over South Carolina Upstate.  Although the close loss to Syracuse is looking better after the Orange totally dismantled Michigan State this week.  Once Tracy Smith is healthy, this team could still make a run for second.  Keyword: could.  I’m totally disenchanted with Sidney Lowe’s coaching, so I don’t expect it to happen, but they should at least get to the middle of the pack.
  9. Virginia Tech (5-4, 0-1): Life is tough for Virginia Tech basketball fans.  They get built up and let down season after season.  This week’s win at home against Penn State was nice, but it’s not going to help the at-large resume a lot (Maryland beat the Nittany Lions on the road by a much more convincing margin).  The good news for Hokie fans is that Malcolm Delaney didn’t have to beat Penn State solo: three other Hokie players scored in double figures (Jeff Allen had a double-double, while Terrell Bell and Erick Green added some help).  Seth Greenberg is going to have to find a way to get that sort of production against better teams too.
  10. Georgia Tech (5-4): Georgia Tech blew a lead to in-state rival Georgia to lose a heartbreaker.  The Yellow Jackets bounced back with a win over Savannah State, who is admittedly very bad (1-10 to be exact).  This week, Paul Hewitt can add a real resume booster with a win against A-10 contender Richmond.
  11. Clemson (5-4, 0-1): Brad Brownell got off to a quick start, but they’ve dropped their last three games–most recently choking away a lead at Florida State.  Demontez Stitt is having knee troubles, but luckily for the Tigers, they have two very winnable games ahead of them in Savannah State and UNC Greensboro which they should be able to handle even if they’re without their leading scorer.
  12. Wake Forest (5-4, 0-1): Ugh.  See “Bizarro Team of the Week.”

A Look Ahead

It’s exam time, ladies and gentlemen!  That means the good games are few and far between.  There are a couple of gems coming up.  Saturday is definitely the best day:

  • Central Florida vs. Miami (1:00 PM, FSN)
  • Texas @ North Carolina (4:00 PM, CBS)
  • Georgia Tech vs. Richmond (5:00 PM)
  • Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State (8:00 PM)
  • Wake Forest @ Xavier ** (8:00 PM, CBSCS)
  • Arizona @ N.C. State (4:30 PM, FSN) on Sunday is also one to keep an eye on because Arizona’s Derrick Williams is a beast in the paint.

**OK, so that probably won’t be a great game unless Wake makes some major adjustments.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • So I was wrong about the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  The Big Ten won, 6-5 (thanks to a comeback victory for Purdue over Virginia Tech).  The ACC sported wins from Duke, Virginia, Boston College, Wake Forest and MarylandN.C. State, Clemson and North Carolina were totally embarrassed by Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois, respectively.  If you’re keeping score at home, the predicted bottom of the ACC is better than the bottom of the Big Ten.  Fantastic.  Duke is now the only ACC team with fewer than two losses.
  • Luckily, the bottom tier of the conference seems to be improving, making the ACC a turbulent sea of mediocrity.  In better news, Mike Krzyzewski won his 876th game Saturday to tie Adolph Rupp at third on the all-time wins list.

Team of the Week

Miami ekes this one out over Boston College and Virginia.  The Hurricanes scored two very impressive wins over West Virginia and Mississippi.  Durand Scott caught fire, torching the Rebels for 27 points, six rebounds and six assists.  Reggie Johnson added 17 points and ten boards.  The Hurricanes put up an astonishing 57 points in the first half before putting things in cruise control for a 13-point win.  Malcolm Grant lead the way against West Virginia, putting up 26 points on the afternoon.  Miami showcases three guys who have the ability to carry the team on any given night.  When Scott and Grant get to the foul line, they’re deadly.  And Miami’s two losses come in a heartbreaker at Memphis and an ugly game at Rutgers.

Bizarro Team of the Week

Virginia Tech wins hands down after losing their third straight game at home against Virginia.  Virginia’s definitely better than everyone thought, but that’s still inexcusable for a team searching for an elusive at-large bid.  I wrote in the Conference Primer that “Seth Greenberg’s squad should hear their names called come Selection Sunday, and they should be a pretty high seed.”  I was totally wrong.  There’s almost no chance they sniff a high seed, and they’re currently staring at another disappointing Selection Sunday if they can’t get it together.  They have no marquee victories: the only “Power Six” team the Hokies have beaten is Oklahoma State. Unlike Miami, the Hokies only have Malcolm Delaney, who puts up solid numbers, but he can’t do it alone.  They will need to find a real second threat to take some of the scoring load and defensive focus off Delaney.

Player of the Week

Kyrie Irving – I don’t like to repeat weekly honors for fear of beating dead horses.  But it’s tough to find a player in the country who was as valuable as Irving this week, much less the conference.  Irving exploded against Michigan State for 31 points, six rebounds, four assists, which is enough, to say nothing of his two steals and two blocks to boot.  In a game that featured four of the most talented seniors in the country (Duke’s Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith; Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers), Irving was the best player on the floor.  He scored at will: from the line, beyond the arc and off the dribble.  While he struggled in the first half against Butler–having to sit much of it after two offensive fouls–Irving was the difference-maker in the second period, exploding for 17 points in the second half alone.  So far this season, Irving has played against and with some of the best players in the country, and he’s consistently bested all of them.  Virginia’s Mike Scott was a close second.

Power Rankings

1. Duke (8-0): I went to the Duke – Butler game Saturday, and I was very impressed by both teams.  The most interesting thing to watch was how much Brad Stevens’ triangle and two frustrated Duke’s offense.  Duke also relied heavily on threes, even when they weren’t falling.  An off night in a hostile environment seems like Duke’s best shot to lose during ACC play.  Mason Plumlee will be a key factor on those nights.  If he disappears (or gets in foul trouble), forcing Duke into halfcourt sets will lead to a lot of jumpers.  Duke is a good enough shooting team that I don’t expect them to have but one or two “off nights” this season, but they’re far from unbeatable.

2. Miami (6-2): You’ll be seeing a whole lot of movement in these rankings between the second and 11th spots.  This is the first major leap.  I don’t expect Miami to stick around here for the whole season, but the Hurricanes showed that they are a talented team with a variety of weapons.   Their game against Central Florida (who just beat Florida) will be a big test for Frank Haith’s squad before conference play.

3. North Carolina (5-3): The Tar Heels rebounded from a woodshed beating in Champaign to take down Kentucky in the Dean Dome.  The Kentucky game showcased the talented frontcourt of Tyler Zeller and John Henson, but don’t move your expectations too high.  Kentucky is a young team with major interior depth issues.  Roy Williams should be thrilled with the win, but he still needs to overcome backcourt problems. Why Larry Drew II continues to play more minutes than Kendall Marshall, I’ll never know.  Harrison Barnes had another lackluster week, but the Carolina offense is probably as much to blame as Barnes’ slump.

4. Florida State (6-2): Florida State is a tale of two teams.  Defensively, they are the most dominant team in the nation: they are ranked first by Ken Pomeroy in adjusted defense behind great shot-blocking and field goal defense (the Seminoles are holding opponents to a striking 31.6% from the floor).  However, on offense, Florida State is a total train wreck.  They turn the ball over way too much, and Chris Singleton is their only player averaging double figures in scoring.  In halfcourt sets, the team is inactive, leading to bad shots and turnovers.  Florida State is turning the ball over at an alarming 26.4% rate, good for 332nd in the country.  That has to change if they want to be a factor in conference play. I’m sorry, but if you give Duke a quarter of your possessions in transition it doesn’t matter how good you guard them in halfcourt sets.

5. Maryland (6-3): The Terps are a strange team this year.  They’ve been good, but not quite good enough.  They almost notched a major nonconference win against Temple but couldn’t hold on down the stretch.  That leaves them with three very strong nonconference losses (two of which could have gone Maryland’s way if someone had stepped up down the stretch).  Jordan Williams is a star, averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds a game, but he hasn’t shown the ability to step up when it counts at the end of games.  Just this week, Williams missed two crucial free throws with about a minute to go that would have brought the Terps within one.  It should be interesting to see if Gary Williams can coach someone into a leader this season: if he can, they’ll be a very tough team to beat; if he can’t, they’ll lose a lot of close games.

6. Boston College (6-2):  Stability has taken hold after the Eagles’ embarrassing loss to Yale.  Since then, the Eagles are 5-1 with wins over Cal, Indiana and Massachusetts.  The only loss comes to Wisconsin, who just trounced N.C. State.  Sunday at Maryland will give them a chance to earn their stripes.  A fun fact about Boston College: currently, the Eagles are ranked eighth in adjusted offensive efficiency by Ken Pomeroy largely thanks to taking care of the ball and making free throws.  Eighth!  Needless to say, I was surprised (and if you aren’t, you’re lying).

7. Virginia (5-3, 1-0): The Cavaliers had another impressive week, knocking off in-state rival Virginia Tech on the road.  That gives them two straight upsets.  Getting blown out by Stanford remains their ugly loss, but sometimes things happen on the road.  Mike Scott has been tremendous so far, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds a game.  Once Sammy Zeglinski gets totally healthy, Virginia could be a solid, tournament-bound team.  It’s definitely too early to make any guarantees, but if I had to put money on an ACC team from Virginia making the Big Dance, I’d really consider Tony Bennett’s squad.

8. N.C. State (4-3): Sidney Lowe’s seat is on fire.  Yes, Tracy Smith is still injured.  Yes, they Wolfpack’s three losses came against very good teams (Georgetown, Wisconsin and Syracuse).  But their top win is against George Mason.  N.C. State had a chance to make a big statement at the beginning of this season and impress voters.  Now, Arizona is the only noteworthy team separating the Wolfpack from conference play.  They have the talent.  Now Lowe just needs to find a way to convert that talent into big wins.

T9. Georgia Tech (4-3): Speaking of hot seats, Paul Hewitt may push the athletic department to finally buy him out.  He’s well on his way to having another fairly talented, very disappointing team.  I couldn’t move Georgia Tech up after an embarrassing loss to Northwestern, but the Yellow Jackets did play Syracuse close right after Thanksgiving.  At the core of their problems is an abysmal 26% clip from three (less than 20 schools in D-I are worse) when threes account for a third of their shots.  They’ll need to improve their efficiency drastically, or find a way to steal Derrick Favors back from the NBA to compete in the ACC this season.

T9. Virginia Tech (4-4, 0-1): I think we covered most of the Hokies’ problems above.  But I can’t say it enough: Malcolm Delaney can’t do it alone.  And if he keeps trying, they’ll keep losing.

11. Clemson (5-3): Clemson quietly sports back-to-back losses against Michigan and at South Carolina this week.  Things probably won’t get any easier for the Tigers, as they take on Florida State in Tallahassee this Sunday.  There’s not any one glaring problem with this team, but Brad Brownell needs to make some changes.  Clemson isn’t terrible in any one statistic, but they don’t shine anywhere either.

12. Wake Forest (5-3): Wake rounds out the ACC for the third week in a row, despite two wins.  Color me unimpressed by beating Iowa and Holy Cross at home.  Wake is still struggling mightily rebounding, turning the ball over (but also forcing turnovers), and shooting in general (interestingly, they manage 44% from downtown).  The most frightening part of their poor field goal shooting has been that it has come against bad teams.  If you can’t break 50% against cupcakes, conference play is going to be very tough (also known as, Wake will be tabbed to lose every game, baring drastic, sudden improvement).

A Look Ahead

  • The non-conference week ahead figures to be pretty quiet, but on Sunday, conference play continues with Boston College at Maryland and Clemson at Florida State (the games are at 4:00 PM and 6:15 PM EST on Fox Sports Net).
  • Is Duke really such a draw for CBS that enough viewers will watch them play a nondescript St. Louis team at home to make it worth the network’s while?

History In the Making in Durham

Coach K now sits only three games behind Dean Smith and 26 games behind Bob Knight in all-time wins.  For my math-inclined friends: Duke has 23 regular season games, three possible ACC tournament games, and six possible NCAA tournament games.  That totals 32 total (possible) games, putting Coach K at 908 for his career.

Of course, that requires Duke going undefeated (or losing less than six of their possible games).  Can the Blue Devils do it?  It would be fitting that the coach to pass Knight on the wins list did it with the first undefeated squad since Knight’s 1976 Hoosiers.  But it probably won’t happen.  Technically, it’s possible (as it is for 19 other teams in D-I).  And yes, the ACC looks really weak so far.  But Duke still relies too heavily on threes (often struggling in halfcourt sets), and if they’re struggling in a hostile environment, they could fall flat.  Not to mention Butler’s zone really gave Kyrie Irving a lot of trouble the first half.  I’m not sure how many teams Duke will see as good as Butler defensively (besides Florida State), but the Bulldogs showed that Duke is beatable if you keep them out of transition.  Every game has more and more pressure–not to mention the fact that they’ve only won eight games so far.

In short, don’t get on a plane to Vegas to put your life savings on the Blue Devils going 40-0.  Even finishing the regular season unscathed leaves six possible games against top competition on neutral courts.  That alone is a daunting task for even the best of teams, not to mention one relying on a freshman point guard, even if he goes #1 overall next June.  While it’s tough to pick out a specific team that will knock Duke down, all it takes is a great night (with a mediocre night from Duke).  This team has flaws, and eventually those flaws will catch up to them.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 30th, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back:

The ACC looks out of sorts right now.  Duke is the only undefeated team remaining (to put that in perspective, the Big East has seven undefeated teams and even the normally middling SEC has two unbeaten teams left); the conference is fifth in the RPI (behind the Mountain West, no less); and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is shaping up to fall to the Big Ten for the second straight year.  Admittedly, the strongest teams in the ACC have lost to respectable top 25 foes; the RPI is shoddy this early, since it’s still nearly impossible to judge strength of schedule; and the matchups in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge favor the ACC enough where it should be an actual challenge as to which conference will win.

Team of the Week

Say hello to the Virginia Cavaliers.  Yes, the same team I slated ninth last week just overcame a ten-point halftime deficit to shock upstart Minnesota on the road.  That’s a huge road win for the ACC in the Challenge (especially considering no one picked Virginia to even make this a game).  The Golden Gophers were ranked 13th and 15th in the Coaches’ and AP polls, respectively, coming into Monday night’s contest.  The Cavaliers were led by seniors Mustapha Farrakhan (23 points, 4-5 from three), Mike Scott (17 points, 12 rebounds), and freshman Joe Harris (24 points, 4-6 from three).  Tony Bennett showed his team might not be the most talented squad in the ACC, but they can surprise some people.

Player of the Week

Kyrie Irving had a phenomenal week.  He totally shut down All-American Jacob Pullen on the defensive end, while offensively he finished with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.  Irving has a quick first step and the ability to create his own shot, which combines with very good court vision (especially for a freshman) to make him virtually unguardable.  He can shoot the three, get to the bucket, or collapse the zone while dishing it to an open teammate with relative ease.  Expect to see his name here multiple times this season.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (6-0): Duke showed off a dominant performance against Kansas State to start the week.  As mentioned before, Irving was phenomenal.  Five Duke players finished in double figures, and the game never felt in question despite subpar performances from seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith.  This Duke team has a ton of offensive weapons.  Especially when the threes start to fall, the Blue Devils put up points in a hurry.  Huge game this Wednesday against Michigan State.
  2. Florida State (5-1): Florida State lost a closely contested game to Florida at home this week.  Not surprisingly, the Seminoles’ offense was the root of their troubles: they finished shooting an ugly 33% from the field and 55% from the charity stripe.  Defensively, they held an explosive Gator team to under 40% from the floor.  They’ll need to score more than 50 points if they want to beat Ohio State this Tuesday night, but watch out if Chris Singleton can get this offense into a rhythm.
  3. Clemson (5-1): The Tigers needed overtime to take care of a pesky Seton Hall team in the Virgin Islands, but the bigger concern is on the glass.  Clemson has only averaged 32.2 rebounds a game (good for 287th in Division I), and they play at a pretty good pace.  While they might not need a dominant rebounding performance to beat Michigan, they’ll need to improve before conference play rolls around.
  4. Maryland (5-2): After a tough 2kSports Classic, the Terrapins enjoyed a light week, taking care of Delaware State and Elon.  Elon kept it a little close for comfort after a slow start, but a dominating 24 points and 13 rebounds from Jordan Williams sealed the deal.  Maryland really needs Sean Mosley to step into a more involved role: last year, he averaged more points, more rebounds and less turnovers.  It’s tough to lose a player like Greivis Vasquez (who used 30.6% of Maryland possessions last season), but as this team matures, players should find their respective roles.
  5. N.C. State (4-1): The Wolfpack are still without Tracy Smith.  Smith’s role on this team cannot be understated: he’s the best rebounder, senior leader, and first offensive option for an otherwise very young team.  Not having Smith really showed down the stretch as Georgetown took over the finals of the Charleston Classic (not to mention in the nine rebound advantage).  Smith is supposed to come back in the middle of December, and N.C. State will be a very different team when he does.
  6. Virginia Tech (4-2): The Hokies sport two quality losses (Kansas State and UNLV), but they weren’t all that competitive in either game.  So far, Seth Greenberg’s squad relies too heavily on Malcolm Delaney and hasn’t shown the ability to give him the support he needs to be successful.  They have a real measuring-stick game at home against Purdue this week.  This team has played a tougher schedule than last year’s “snubbed” squad, but they haven’t capitalized on any of the opportunities.
  7. Virginia (4-3): Despite Sammy Zeglinski’s injury Tony Bennett’s squad got the first quality win of the season at Minnesota.  Don’t think this punched a ticket to the Big Dance (or even the NIT), but it’s a great sign for the Cavaliers going forward.
  8. North Carolina (4-2): North Carolina continues to underachieve.  The Tar Heels were only up six on the University of North Carolina-Asheville with five minutes to play, and then barely eked out a win over the College of Charleston Sunday.  Both games were at home.  So far, no one has stepped up as the leader of this team.  Tyler Zeller looks like the most likely candidate right now, but he needs to be much more aggressive if he’s going to be the go-to guy this season (and avoid nagging injuries).  There is plenty of talent to be found, but someone needs to take over and make this his team.
  9. Boston College (4-2): Boston College rebounded with wins against Texas A&M and Cal, but lost to a talented Wisconsin team.  The Eagles seem to be getting more and more comfortable with Steve Donahue’s style, but they are far from perfect.
  10. Georgia Tech (4-2): The Yellow Jackets played two impressive games this week.  After beating a talented UTEP team they took a (slightly overrated) Syracuse team down to the wire.  Paul Hewitt has got talent this year in Brian Oliver and Iman Shumpert.  Now he only has to coach that talent to its potential.
  11. Miami (4-2): The Hurricanes are a mixed bag.  Maybe the team is too caught up in Randy Shannon’s recent firing.  But I expected Durand Scott to be much more of a factor.  They definitely should move up in the rankings as the season progresses, but the big three of Malcolm Grant, Scott and Reggie Johnson (who admittedly is averaging a very solid 12 points and 10.5 rebounds a game) will be expected to really step up.  This week the Hurricanes get tests against Mississippi and West Virginia this week.
  12. Wake Forest (3-3): The Demon Deacons took care of Marist, but dropped a game at home to Winthrop. Tuesday night’s game against Big Ten cellar-dweller Iowa will not be for the faint of heart.

A Look Ahead to the ACC — Big 10 Challenge (predictions included)

Monday

  • 7:00PM Virginia at Minnesota: Minnesota (1-0, Big 10)

**Author’s Note: Virginia already won this game, but I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I picked Virginia.

Tuesday

  • 7:00PM Iowa at Wake Forest: Wake Forest (1-1)
  • 7:00PM Georgia Tech at Northwestern: Northwestern (2-1, Big 10)
  • 7:30PM Ohio State at Florida State: Ohio State (3-1, Big 10)
  • 9:00PM Michigan at Clemson: Clemson (3-2, Big 10)
  • 9:30PM North Carolina at Illinois: North Carolina (3-3)

Upset alert: look for North Carolina to at least temporarily find themselves on the road at Illinois.

Wednesday

  • 7:15PM Indiana at Boston College: Boston College (4-3, ACC)
  • 7:15PM N.C. State at Wisconsin: Wisconsin (4-4)
  • 7:30PM Purdue at Virginia Tech: Purdue (5-4, Big 10)
  • 9:15PM Maryland at Penn State: Maryland (5-5)
  • 9:30PM Michigan State at Duke: Duke (6-5, ACC)

Call me a homer, but I like the ACC to win the challenge.  Especially since Virginia was able to steal a win on the road Monday night.  The games to keep an eye on now are Ohio State – Florida State, North Carolina – Illinois, Purdue – Virginia Tech and Michigan State – Duke.  No games are gimmes for either conference (as Virginia proved), so it should be another great year of the Challenge.  Don’t forget to tune in for a couple of the games, though I’d suggest looking for games taking place outside of Winston-Salem.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • The ACC looks rough early.  I think I was a little optimistic coming into the season, especially with Virginia Tech.  I definitely underrated Florida State and Maryland marginally (at least so far), but as a whole, play has been underwhelming in the early going.
  • Unfortunately, the ACC wasn’t helped when N.C. State’s Tracy Smith went down with a knee injury.  I really think Smith would have been a major factor in the Georgetown game.  State was absolutely picked apart inside, and Smith’s talent and experience would have been invaluable — especially as things started getting out of hand in the second half.  I’m not sure Smith would have been the difference, but he certainly would have helped significantly.  Smith is expected to be back in around three weeks.  The injuries don’t stop there: Virginia Tech is having major injury issues with J.T. Thompson and Allan Chaney out for the season.  Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski is out for the first couple of months recovering from knee surgery.  Wake Forest is fighting injuries to Melvin Tabb (mono), Tony Chenault (foot, 8-10 weeks) and Nikita Mescheriakov’s eligibility (not to mention anyone who has suffered through watching them play).
  • In recruiting news, the ACC had a huge signing day.  Duke looks ready to reload with three LOI’s from 5-star recruits Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers and Michael Gbinje (not to mention 4-star Marshall Plumlee).  North Carolina inked two 5-stars in James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston.  Virginia Tech also has a sneaky-good class coming in with four-star recruits Dorian Finney-Smith, Marquis Rankin and C.J. Barksdale.

Player of the Week: Chris Singleton, Florida State: Singleton has been absolutely unbelievable for the Seminoles so far.  Through four games, he’s averaging 19.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 3.8 steals per contest.  The performance that sealed the deal was his unconventional triple-double against UNC Greensboro (22 points, 11 rebounds, 10 steals, 6 assists and 4 blocks).  If he can keep his scoring up this season, the Seminoles could be a dark horse in the ACC runner-up race.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (4-0): Through four games, the Blue Devils have been incredible.  Kyrie Irving introduced himself to the college basketball world with nine assists and one turnover against Princeton.  Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have looked good, not great, but Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry can shoot.  If the Blue Devils catch fire from downtown (and with five players who could shoot 40% from beyond the arc in Singler, Smith, Curry, Dawkins and Irving, that should happen plenty) they’ll be close to unbeatable.  It’s still early, but so far the Blue Devils lead both adjusted offense and adjusted defense in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. Duke’s ability to get past Marquette in the second half Monday without much from Kyle Singler speaks to their depth across the starting lineup. How will Mason Plumlee build on his big game in Kansas City?
  2. Virginia Tech (2-1): I’m leaving the Hokies here mainly out of respect for Kansas State.  The Hokies have come out flat: they rely too much on Malcolm Delaney and are easily drawn into sloppy play.  There’s a reason Seth Greenberg’s squad didn’t make the tournament last year: they weren’t that good.  I expect Virginia Tech to get better (though losing J.T. Thompson really hurts), but I expected a team that returns all five starters to be ready to go right away.
  3. Florida State (4-0): The Seminoles have a very good defense: color me not surprised.  It’ll be interesting to see how Florida State’s defense evolves as the season progresses, but they’ll get a big test next Sunday against Florida.  If the Seminoles can muster up some solid offense, they’ll be a very tough team to beat this year.  Definitely a tournament-level team, and arguably a top-25 team so far.
  4. N.C. State (3-1): Getting blown out in the second half by Georgetown wasn’t good, but it wasn’t terrible.  N.C. State is a very young team with Tracy Smith, and it’s no surprise they struggled against a veteran Georgetown team with one of the country’s best backcourts (especially if you consider Georgetown’s biggest weakness in the post).  Hopefully, for Sidney Lowe’s sake, the Wolfpack get Smith back before their showdowns with top-25 teams Wisconsin and Syracuse.  In the meantime I expect them to manhandle Fairleigh Dickinson.
  5. Clemson (4-1): The Tigers’ lone loss comes against Old Dominion (one of the top mid-majors in the country), and Clemson made a game of it, only losing by one after an ugly first half.  There’s no doubt they miss Trevor Booker, but Demontez Stitt looks like he’s ready to take on a much bigger offensive role this season.  Consistency will be the biggest question for the Tigers going forward.
  6. Maryland (3-2): I thought Maryland would be totally lost without Greivis Vasquez, but the Terps played Pitt and Illinois down to the last minute.  Gary Williams has done a great job getting this team to such a competitive level very quickly.  Unfortunately, Maryland still turns the ball over a lot, and they haven’t shown an ability to close out big games.  That said, I’m still very impressed with the showing they put up at the 2k Classic against two of the country’s top teams. The Terps would be better served to feed Jordan Williams the ball more than they have.
  7. North Carolina (2-2): This team is having some major growing pains.  Two straight losses to Minnesota and Vanderbilt are not what Tar Heel Nation was expecting out of Harrison Barnes’ debut.  Before you’re too quick to judge Barnes, remember: he’s a freshman (with colossal expectations), and the Heels do not have a legitimate point guard.  If I were Roy Williams, I’d bench Larry Drew II immediately to get some quality time in for frosh Kendall Marshall.  Marshall is the future of the program, and can he really play that much worse than Drew?
  8. Miami (2-2): Miami can deal with losing at Memphis.  And they made a very close game of it.  But getting blown out at Rutgers?  That’s totally unacceptable.  Reggie Johnson (12 points and 14 boards) was the only Hurricane in double figures.  I’m not sure where Durand Scott was, but he needs to step up his game if the Hurricanes don’t want to join the lowest tier of the conference.  Right now, I’m pegging Miami as a horrendous road team that could prove a tough out at home.  They just as easily could be a terribly inconsistent team.  Frank Haith’s seat started warming up this week.
  9. Virginia (2-2): The Cavaliers are the best of the worst this week.  While they notched wins over William and Mary and U.S.C. Upstate, they got blown out by the Pac 10 – first by Stanford, then by #11 Washington.  If it’s possible to have a bad time during a November trip to Hawaii, Virginia has found the way. They’ll try to salvage things against Oklahoma on Tuesday.
  10. Georgia Tech (3-1): 3-1 isn’t that bad, right?  Georgia Tech has looked awful so far-most notably in their blowout loss at Kennesaw State.  The most important question is what was Paul Hewitt doing playing at Kennesaw State in the first place?  What good comes out of that game?  The Yellow Jackets get a chance to prove the doubters (which should be nearly everyone at this point) partially wrong this week with a game against UTEP.
  11. Boston College (2-1): Boston College has got to stop losing to Ivy League teams.  They lost to Yale last week.  Yale isn’t even supposed to be a real competitor in the Ivy League, much less the ACC.  Steve Donahue runs a very different style than Al Skinner, and I’m not sure he or his players have totally adjusted.  It’ll take a few years to get everything optimized to his style of play, but in the meantime he should be avoiding the easy losses. To keep the bad loss from dwelling, the Eagles beat Holy Cross rather soundly.
  12. Wake Forest (2-3): Wake Forest has major issues.  So far they’ve lost to Stetson, been blown out by Virginia Commonwealth, and couldn’t keep up at Winthrop. They check in at a smooth 159th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, lowest among any of the “Power Six” conference teams, save DePaul and Auburn.  So far the Demon Deacons miss Ish Smith more than anything: currently they sport a ghastly 25.5% turnover percentage…  That means they turn it over more than once every four possessions.  If Wake can’t improve their offensive execution by conference play, the ACC will have a new conference doormat.

A Look Ahead

The non-con tournaments continue!  Duke will look to make a major statement this week at the CBE Classic in Kansas City with a big game against #4 Kansas State Tuesday. It may as well be a true road game with the Wildcats’ campus just two hours away.  Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech also participate in early-season tournaments throughout the week.  Most importantly, the Big 10-ACC Challenge is right around the corner (starting November 29).  While the Big 10 looks like a far superior conference on paper, the basketball gods were very kind in placing games (Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke all play at home) and somehow Wake Forest drew Iowa and Boston College drew Indiana.  Even if the ACC doesn’t win, there are a ton of great games, so make sure to get it on your calendar early.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2010

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

So I finally found my way out of the snowy winter doldrums (unlike the Tar Heels) – and the 67 feet of snow around here – in time to give you the latest ACC update. We’ll try to keep the same categories for the teams as last time, based on their postseason prospects: Definite Dancers, Probably Safe, Bubbly, NIT-picking, and CBI-Dreaming.

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record after games of Sunday, Feb. 14)

DEFINITE DANCERS

1. Duke (21-4, 9-2)

RESUME: The Blue Devils only served to enhance their resume over the last two weeks, going 4-0, with three of those coming in impressive fashion. Oddly, the one close game wasn’t at UNC or vs. Georgia Tech, but at Boston College. I know BC is struggling this year, but I’ll give the Devils a pass on that one. The trip to Boston is a tough one, and it became the biggest game of the year on a campus that doesn’t really care about much (sorry for my anti-BC biterness this week – reasoning later on).

FUTURE: Last time out, I said Duke was looking like a #4 or #5 seed. But barring a few bad losses, or an early exit from the conference tourney, Duke should get a #2 or maybe #3 seed. As for the rest of the slate, I only see one real challenging game: March 3 at Maryland. Duke should finish with 27 wins and a 13-3 league mark – not too shabby.

2. Wake Forest (18-5, 8-3)

RESUME: Welcome to the upper tier, for now. Wake posted four wins over the last two weeks, including a testing road win at surging Virginia and convincing home wins over Boston College and (now struggling) Georgia Tech. The Deacons are playing well – thanks largely to guard Ishmael Smith — but they still could defend a little better. Wake is second-to-last in the ACC in points allowed per game at 67.6, and dead last in assist/turnover ratio – meaning their guards need to take better care of the ball, and the defense could stand to put on some more pressure.

FUTURE: A few more wins could get Wake into a top-4 seed, and all five contests left on the slate are very winnable. Watch out for a hot Deacons team as March rolls around…

3. Georgia Tech (17-8, 5-6)

RESUME: The Jackets are really struggling to score of late, failing to break 70 in three of their last four – all losses. The game at Duke was never close, and the game at Miami is not a game a top-tier team should lose. I’ll forgive the loss at Wake Forest, but even Tech’s most-recent win – a 2-point home win over N.C. State – was too close for comfort. Derrick Favors seems to be struggling to find his shot of late, and is being replaced by another freshman whose dad was really good at NBA Jam: Glen Rice Jr.

FUTURE: Last time out, I said Tech’s trip to Duke would tell us a lot, and it told us this team’s not ready. What will Saturday’s trip to Maryland tell us about the Jackets?

PROBABLY SAFE

4. Maryland (17-7, 7-3)

RESUME: The Terps move up from No. 5 to No. 4, and are a near-lock for the dance, but I’m hesitant to boost them into the “Definitely Dancing” category. When you’re a presumptive #8 or #9 seed, a mini-skid could put you back on the bubble again. I’d still like to see Maryland win a truly tough road game, considering the Terps struggled mightily at Clemson and Duke in the last few weeks.

FUTURE: After an easy win Monday night against Virginia, Maryland really doesn’t face a tough road test until the season finale in Charlottesville. But, they still have to face Duke, Clemson and Georgia Tech at home. I’m guessing an optimistic 5-2 finish for Maryland, which would make them a safe bet for a top-8 seed in the Big Dance.

5. Clemson (18-7, 6-5)

RESUME: Yes, I know the Tigers beat Maryland, so how do they fall behind the Terps? Four losses out of five didn’t help, including one at Boston College, and home wins over Florida State and Miami don’t exactly send my heart a-flutter. They’ll be in the dance, but for some reason, I see the Tigers as the most vulnerable ACC team in the first round of the tourney.

FUTURE: After hosting Virginia Saturday, Clemson still has to go to Maryland, Florida State and Wake Forest, and they host Georgia Tech. I see 2, maybe 3 losses in there. Does a team that goes 8-8 in a weak ACC really impress you that much when it comes time to fill out a bracket? Me neither.

6. Florida State (16-5, 4-3)

RESUME: Two wins over Georgia Tech, including one on the road, stand out as highlights of the season for the Seminoles so far. While the wins might not be the impressive, FSU’s best attribute right now is a lack of bad losses. A home loss to NC State might be the worst of the bunch, but losses at Florida, Ohio State, Maryland and Duke aren’t anything to worry about.

FUTURE: Three home games out of the next four set up well for FSU, including Maryland on Thursday and Miami on Saturday. FSU needs to stand tall in Tallahassee to stay in this semi-safe tier.

BUBBLY

7. Virginia Tech (20-4, 7-3)

RESUME: Virginia Tech took advantage of a home-heavy slate the last few weeks to nearly lock up a dance card. I’m leaving the Hokies in the “Bubbly” level for now though, because they have been too moody to trust this season. The loss at Miami isn’t a great one, but they bounced back with four average to above-average wins: UNC, Clemson, Virginia and at N.C. State. While I may not really be feeling Clemson come tourney time, I could see a surprise Sweet 16 for the Hokies with the right matchups…

FUTURE: Tech has three home games (Wake Forest, Maryland, N.C. State) and three on the road (Duke, BC, Georgia Tech). They really need to win two of three at home and could use the same on the road. I’m seeing a home loss to Maryland and road loss at Duke. The season finale at Georgia Tech could be a toss-up depending on where the teams are in the standings.

8. Virginia (14-9, 5-5)

RESUME: As of my last report, I was high on the Cavaliers, and assumed they’d climb up a tier this time around. But two losses to Virginia Tech and a loss to Wake Forest and Maryland each were not balanced out by wins over the lackluster N.C. schools.

FUTURE: Right now, Lunardi has Virginia among his first eight out, while our resident bracketologist doesn’t even mention the Cavs. A surprise win over Clemson (2/20), Duke (2/28), or Maryland (3/6) in the next few weeks would help. I still think the ACC could get eight teams, but the Cavs are one team who will likely be rooting for the favorites to win all the smaller conference tourneys.

NIT-PICKING

9. Miami (17-8, 3-8)

RESUME: This is where it starts to pain me to even mention teams as playing postseason games. The fact that Miami will play in the NIT is another reason to HATE the idea of a 96-team Big Dance. Yes, the Canes beat Wake, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, but they won all three of those at home. Miami has TWO road wins this year: Stetson and Pepperdine. Wake me when it’s over, please.

FUTURE: Looking at what’s left, it’s possible Miami could finish the regular season with as many as 21 wins, possibly finishing off the most unimpressive 20-win season in history.

CBI-DREAMING

10. North Carolina (14-11, 3-7)

RESUME: Barring a miracle run in Greensboro, the NCAA Tourney is going to be missing a familiar shade of blue this season, and I’m here to tell you that the world will go on. If they play an NIT game in Chapel Hill, and no one is there to care, did it really happen?

FUTURE: UNC should beat Miami at home, and might win at Boston College on Saturday, but that’s all I’m seeing. They might make the NIT as a good story and extra TV ratings, but that’s about it.

11. N.C. State (14-12, 2-9)

RESUME: Does a resume even matter in this case? Sure, they had a few heartbreakers earlier in the year, but the Wolf Pack need a makeover on both ends of the floor.

FUTURE: One win, maybe two left on the schedule (BC at home, maybe at Miami).

12. Boston College (12-13, 3-8)

RESUME: The Eagles put in a valiant effort against Duke last weekend, but failed to make me look like a genius in my picks.

FUTURE: A home win over North Carolina would be nice, but it’s just playing out the string now.

CRYSTAL BALL TIME…

So my perfect record in Upset Specials fell by the wayside, as did my hopes of a Beanpot Hockey championship for my alma mater. But BC’s gotta win something this year, right?

  • OVERALL SEASON RECORD: 13-7
  • UPSET OF THE WEEK: 3-1
  • HOCKEY RECORD: 0-1

LAST WEEK’S CORRECT PICKS

GEORGIA TECH at DUKE

  • My Prediction: Duke by 4
  • Actual Result: Duke by 19

MARYLAND at FLORIDA STATE

  • My Prediction: Maryland by 2
  • Actual Result: Maryland by 4

NORTH CAROLINA at MARYLAND

  • My Prediction: Maryland by 6
  • Actual Result: Maryland by 21

LAST WEEK’S INCORRECT PICKS

NORTH CAROLINA at VIRGINIA TECH

  • My Prediction: UNC by 3
  • Actual Result: Virginia Tech by 4

DUKE at BOSTON COLLEGE (UPSET SPECIAL)

  • My Prediction: Boston College by 2
  • Actual Result: Duke by 3

BEANPOT HOCKEY FINAL: BOSTON COLLEGE vs. BOSTON UNIVERSITY

  • My Prediction: BU 4, BC 2
  • Actual Result: BC 4, BU 3 (can’t win ’em all)

THIS WEEK’S PICKS (Upset special in italics)

  • WAKE FOREST at VIRGINIA TECH, Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2).  Wake Forest knocks the Hokies closer to the bubble. Wake Forest by 6.
  • FLORIDA STATE at VIRGINIA, Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPNU).  Virginia needs this one to stay in the discussion. Virginia by 3.
  • NORTH CAROLINA at BOSTON COLLEGE, Saturday, Noon (CBS).  I’m including this one only because it’s on national TV. Boston College by 5.
  • GEORGIA TECH at MARYLAND, Saturday, 2 p.m.  Maryland makes sure the Jackets remain in a late-season free fall. Maryland by 3.
  • VIRGINIA TECH at DUKE, Sunday, 7:45 p.m. (FSN).  I was close last week with my BC over Duke upset special. So I’m trying another one against the Devils. Virginia Tech by 2.
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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2010

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After a week away from RTC, I just couldn’t help myself, and decided to come back to bring you up to date on the wacky, wild (and mediocre) ACC. Seriously though, the ACC is proving to be relatively unimpressive this year. We worried about that early in the year – at least I wondered that – and it’s starting to come to fruition as we head into February.

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record after games of Monday, Feb. 1)

The rankings will change a little this week, as we try to separate the contenders and pretenders into tiers, based on NCAA Probability: Definite Dancers, Probably Safe, Bubbly, NIT-picking, and CBI-Dreaming:

DEFINITE DANCERS

1. Duke (17-4, 5-2)

RESUME:  Duke is still the best team in the ACC, but they have some serious weaknesses that have shown themselves in recent weeks. First of all, I have always wondered why a big-time program – especially one that is counting on young players as important contributors — would avoid true road games until conference play. And now I have proof. Duke is 1-4 in true road games, posting an impressive win at Clemson while falling at Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Sunday at Georgetown, where they decided not to play defense at all. The Blue Devils are looking more like a #4 or #5 seed than a #1 or #2.

FUTURE: Duke hosts Georgia Tech Thursday in a revenge game that qualifies as the ACC game of the week. They then visit Boston College Saturday. They should win that one too – but that’s a challenging turnaround and trip, so beware, Dookies.

2. Georgia Tech (16-5, 4-3)

RESUME: Easy wins over Wake Forest and Kentucky State. I didn’t even know there was such a school as Kentucky State. The Jackets hold onto this No. 2 spot, despite the three league losses. But that “impressive” road win at North Carolina a few weeks back isn’t so impressive anymore.

FUTURE: The trip to Cameron on Thursday should tell us a lot about Tech, but possibly more about Duke. A loss there wouldn’t be killer for the Jackets, except that it would be their fourth of the season in the ACC. Yikes.

3. Wake Forest (14-5, 4-3)

RESUME: Three road ACC losses for the Deacons – Miami, Duke, Georgia Tech (last weekend) – and none of them were even close. The win at UNC is looking less impressive by the day, but I still think Wake is definitely in. They could end up seeded anywhere from #3 to #10, but they’re definitely in.

FUTURE: Wake hosts Miami Tuesday and heads to Virginia Saturday. They REALLY could use a 2-0 week to get this thing on the right track.

PROBABLY SAFE (Yes, I know the league will get more than three bids — I’m guessing six. But who those next three teams will be is very much up in the air.)

4. Clemson (16-6, 4-4)

RESUME: That 4-4 league record doesn’t look good, and the Tigers really don’t have many impressive wins (Butler? at Maryland?). But this team has too much talent to not figure things out in the final month of the regular season.

FUTURE: I see at least five wins in the last eight league games, and probably six. A 9-7 league mark and two wins in the ACC tourney should lock up a #7 to #9 seed. Clemson could use a win at Virginia Tech Saturday to get that started, though.

5. Maryland (14-6, 4-2)

RESUME: My preseason pick is showing some signs of life, and should be able to secure a dance ticket. The 9-point loss at Clemson wasn’t great, but recent home wins over NC State and Miami were convincing enough (24 and 22 point margins) to be impressive.

FUTURE: The one issue for Maryland may be its remaining schedule. The Terps still have to play Duke twice, and face some tough road tests, starting Thursday at Florida State.

6. Florida State (16-5, 4-3)

RESUME: Two wins over Georgia Tech, including one on the road, stand out as highlights of the season for the Seminoles so far. While the wins might not be the impressive, FSU’s best attribute right now is a lack of bad losses. A home loss to NC State might be the worst of the bunch, but losses at Florida, Ohio State, Maryland and Duke aren’t anything to worry about.

FUTURE: Three home games out of the next four set up well for FSU, including Maryland on Thursday and Miami on Saturday. FSU needs to stand tall in Tallahassee to stay in this semi-safe tier.

BUBBLY

7. Virginia (13-6, 4-2)

RESUME: Personally, I think the Cavaliers will end up dancing. One of the unimpressive road losses earlier this year – at South Florida – is starting to look respectable, while many of the other losses were by less than three points. And while UNC is definitely down right now, the 15-point blowout win in Chapel Hill is still worth its weight in gold for fans in Charlottesville.

FUTURE: That said, UVA needs to win both of its games this week: home against NC State Wednesday, and home vs. Wake Forest Saturday. I know Wake is a tough game, but if the Cavs can go 2-0 this week, they might jump up a tier into the nearly-definite dancers.

8.  Virginia Tech (16-4, 3-3)

RESUME: I was tempted to only include the Cavaliers on this tier, but I’ll be nice to the Hokies this week. The win at Virginia last week is the only solid road win of the year for Tech (maybe the win at Iowa counts), but a one-point win over struggling BC was a great escape.

FUTURE: This may be the end of Virginia Tech on the bubble, though. The Hokies host UNC and Clemson this week, and I can’t see them winning both. Even one loss (especially if it’s to UNC) could hurt any chance of staying on the bubble.

NIT-PICKING

9. North Carolina (13-8, 2-4)

RESUME: The talking heads on TV are debating whether UNC will miss the dance. I don’t see a debate at all – they are headed to the NIT. The Heels have too much youth, too many blowout home losses, and just too many tough games still to navigate. The wins over Ohio State and Michigan State are nice, as are victories over NC State and Virginia Tech, but the losses are just too hard to ignore. As is the upcoming schedule…

FUTURE: I mean, seriously, if you’ve watched UNC this year, do you really expect them to win more than a few of the remaining games? The Heels still have to go on the road to  Virginia Tech (Thursday), Maryland (Sunday), Georgia Tech, Boston College, Wake Forest and Duke. I see maybe three wins out of those six – if they’re lucky. Plus, they still host Duke, Florida State and Miami. UNC will get an NIT invite, obviously, even if it’s just on name alone. But they need a miracle to make the big dance.

10. Miami (16-5, 2-5)

RESUME: Miami will go to the NIT only because it might reach 20 wins, not because any of them were impressive – at all. Sure, there was Minnesota, Wake Forest, and last week vs. Virginia Tech. But everything else on this resume is a total joke, and the remaining schedule takes the ’Canes away from Miami a few times – meaning nearly definite defeats.

FUTURE: Out of nine remaining ACC games, I’m seeing a real chance at just two wins, despite an imbalance of home games. The remaining slate is brutal. The only game where Miami would be favored is home to NC State. The ’Canes still have road games at Wake Forest (Tuesday night), Florida State (Saturday), Clemson and North Carolina. They still have to host Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia and Florida State.

CBI-DREAMING

11. NC State (14-8, 2-5)

RESUME: The Wolf Pack have been burned this year by lots of close losses, but as they say, close only matters in horseshoes, hand grenades, and 96-team NCAA Brackets (what a joke). The win over Duke could bump them into the NIT discussion – but only if Duke acts like a top-10 team the rest of the way.

FUTURE: Two road games this week at Virginia (Wednesday) and at Georgia Tech (Saturday), and two likely losses. I really only see two wins out of the remaining nine for NC State (maybe three), which would mean an optimistic final record of 17-14 and 5-11.

12. Boston College (12-10, 3-5)

RESUME: The win over Clemson was followed quickly by a bad home loss to Florida State. BC still hosts Duke and North Carolina, and travels to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. The Eagles hockey team also gets to lost to Boston University in next Monday’s Beanpot final – so there’s that. What’s the Beanpot, you ask? Only the coolest in-season college sports tournament in all the land…

FUTURE: The Eagles welcome Duke to Boston on Saturday.

RAMBLING RANT OF THE WEEK

Making a return for this week only, the rant tackles an issue that everyone on this site seems to hate – so I’m jumping on. Why the hell do we need to mess with perfection? A 96-team Tournament? Really? We already have 7, 8 or even 9 teams from one conference going to the dance, including .500 teams from power conferences. It further minimizes the regular season, and throws even more asterisks into the record books. What if Northwestern finally makes the dance after it expands? Do they still celebrate like they would if they made it this year? And how will you feel when 22nd-seeded North Carolina (in a down year) “shocks” No. 3 Kentucky. You’ll feel empty and unmoved, that’s how you’ll feel.

CRYSTAL BALL TIME…

Considering how topsy-turvy things have been in the ACC this year, my 10-5 mark is quite respectable. But by perfect 3-0 mark in upset picks is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

OVERALL SEASON RECORD: 10-5
UPSET OF THE WEEK: 3-0

LAST WEEK’S CORRECT PICKS

BOSTON COLLEGE at VIRGINIA TECH
My Prediction: Virginia Tech by 4
Result: Virginia Tech by 1

DUKE at CLEMSON
My Prediction: Duke by 3
Result: Duke by 13
 
GEORGIA TECH at FLORIDA STATE (Upset of the Week pick)
My Prediction: Florida State by 2
Result: Florida State by 2

LAST WEEK’S INCORRECT PICK
 
WAKE FOREST at NORTH CAROLINA
My Prediction: UNC by 11
Result: Wake Forest by 13
 
VIRGINIA at WAKE FOREST
My Prediction: Virginia by 2
Result: Wake Forest by 12

THIS WEEK’S PICKS (Upset special in italics)

GEORGIA TECH at DUKE, Thursday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Duke takes care of business at home. Duke by 4.

MARYLAND at FLORIDA STATE, Thursday, 9 p.m.
Maryland picks up a big win away from home to boost its resume. Maryland by 2.

NORTH CAROLINA at VIRGINIA TECH, Thursday, 9 p.m.
I can’t call this an upset, but I see UNC getting this one late. UNC by 3.

DUKE at BOSTON COLLEGE, Saturday, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
A SHOCKING upset special of the week, but I’m just feeling it. Boston College by 2.

NORTH CAROLINA at MARYLAND, Sunday, 2 p.m. (FSN)
Maryland completes the best overall week for an ACC team. Maryland by 6.

BONUS PICK (ON ICE)!

BEANPOT HOCKEY FINAL: BOSTON COLLEGE vs. BOSTON UNIVERSITY, Monday, 8 p.m.
Despite a down year, my alma mater pulls out its 30th Beanpot title in 58 tries. BU 4, BC 2.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 20th, 2010

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

We’ve waited months now for the bulk of the ACC to give us some excitement – and this week, it delivered in a big way. Upsets, big wins, surprising losses, we had it all. Now, if only I can find a way to wrap it up into a semi-readable package.

ACC POWER RANKINGS (records as of Wednesday morning, Jan. 20):

1. Duke (15-2, 3-1)

PAST:  What do great teams do when faced with a tough loss? They bounce back with back-to-back 20-point wins. The Blue Devils let Boston College hang around for a half before rolling the Eagles, 79-59, then took care of Wake Forest in a 90-70 win. The Plumlee brothers man-handled the Wake frontcourt, with Miles Plumlee going for 19 and 14, while brother Mason scored 11 points. If there was one flaw in this one for Duke, it was letting the Deacons get back into a game they had no business in. Wake actually tied the game at 55-55 before Duke finished the game with a 35-15 run.

FUTURE: After two home games last week, Duke hits the road to face N.C. State Wednesday and Clemson on Saturday. Wednesday’s game should be pretty simple, but Saturday’s game will be a huge test for Duke. With ESPN College Gameday in town, the folks at Clemson will be revved up beyond belief for the 9 p.m. start. A fast start by Duke, however, could end the Tigers’ hopes.

2. Georgia Tech (14-4, 3-2)

PAST: Had Tech not lost at Virginia to start the week, the No. 2 spot would’ve been a gimme. But they still move up because a road win in Chapel Hill is just that impressive. A win in and of itself would’ve been impressive, but when you have the heart to post a road win in the final minute after blowing a 20-point lead, you deserve at least a week at No. 2.

FUTURE: After Tuesday’s win over Clemson, Tech heads south to face Florida State in Tallahassee on Sunday. Surprisingly, this could be my pick for upset of the week. But you’ll have to read more to find out.

3. North Carolina (12-6, 1-2)

PAST: Calm down, Chapel Hill. Yes, I know your Tar Heels have left the top 2 for the first time this year. Do I think Georgia Tech has better post-season prospects than UNC? Probably not. But for now, No. 3 is where the Heels belong. Losses to Clemson and Georgia Tech are nothing to really be ashamed of, but this slight slide is more about overall body of work. More on that later.

FUTURE: I don’t doubt that UNC will turn things around, beginning with Wednesday’s home game against Wake Forest. This is a decent matchup, but I expect UNC to take out some frustrations on the Deacons. Oddly, UNC has the weekend off before heading to N.C. State next week.

4. Clemson (15-4, 3-2)

PAST: Even with a loss to Georgia Tech Tuesday, Clemson deserves this two-spot boost from last week. The home win over Clemson was incredibly convincing, and the road win at N.C. State is nothing to brush off, especially with the anticipated letdown after the win over the Heels. Trevor Booker finally seems to be figuring out how to take over games when he’s called upon, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the ACC.

FUTURE: Saturday’s home date with Duke might be the most important game at Littlejohn in recent memory. I know it’s a top-5 team coming to town, but if Clemson wants to be taken seriously in the ACC, this is a game they have to win. And please, Tiger fans, I’m begging you: don’t rush the court if you win.

5. Wake Forest (12-4, 2-2)

PAST:  The overtime win against Maryland was nice, and the Deacons showed some heart in the loss at Duke, but I still don’t know what to think of this team. Their four losses are all to above-average or elite teams (Purdue, William & Mary, Miami, Duke), but I still find myself underwhelmed when I watch the Deacons play.

FUTURE:  Now, that could all change based on Wednesday’s performance at UNC. As I mentioned above, I’m predicting a solid UNC win here, but the Deacons could still show me something, even in a loss. Wake hosts Virginia on Saturday in game that looks much tougher than it did a few weeks ago.

6. Virginia (12-4, 3-0)

PAST: Well, hello there, Cavaliers! Welcome to the top half of our rankings, and an unheard of four-spot jump in one week. I wasn’t really taking Virginia seriously for a while, but after a road win at N.C. State and home wins over Georgia Tech and Miami (convincingly), it’s hard to ignore the Cavs now. Sylven Landesberg is emerging as one of the league’s major stars, and the Hokies are proving to be a well-coached, mature team that knows how to win close games. The two-point win over UNC-Wilmington was a little close for comfort, but I’ll let it slide.

FUTURE: So they’ve won at home, but can Virginia post a big-time road win? We’ll find out on Saturday when they head to Wake Forest. A win there, and Virginia won’t be able to sneak up on anyone anymore.

7. Virginia Tech (14-3, 1-2)

PAST: I really didn’t want to improve the Hokies’ spot this week. The win over Miami is looking less and less impressive, and a loss at Florida State didn’t help matters, but the rest of the mid-level teams were even more unimpressive this week. I was a Hokie believer a few weeks ago, but they still have to show me something – and soon.

FUTURE: The Hokies host Boston College Saturday, and better win convincingly to stay up this high.

8. Maryland (12-5, 2-1)

PAST: Maybe my preseason pick does have a little life, after all. The Terps recovered from a heartbreaking overtime loss to Wake Forest to post a convincing road win at Boston College. Now, the Eagles aren’t a great team, but a win in Chestnut Hill is nothing to laugh off.

FUTURE: After beating Longwood Tuesday night, Maryland hosts N.C. State on Saturday.

9. Miami (15-4, 1-4)

PAST: I had already planned to drop the Hurricanes to at least No. 8, but then they went and TOTALLY REDEEMED THEMSELVES by losing to Boston College on Tuesday. BOSTON COLLEGE! AT HOME! Everyone and their uncle ripped Miami’s early-season schedule and inflated record, and it was with good reason. The Hurricanes were thoroughly dominated by Virginia and Virginia Tech, then lost to the league’s worst team.

FUTURE: Miami has the weekend off after getting beaten by Boston College Tuesday night.

10. Florida State (14-4, 2-2)

PAST: The Seminoles lost at home to a desperate N.C. State team, then topped Virginia Tech by five.

FUTURE: FSU hosts Georgia Tech in a tough game on Saturday. Watch out for an upset there…

11. N.C. State (12-6, 1-3)

PAST: An impressive win at Florida State was followed up by a relatively impressive loss at home to Clemson. The Wolf Pack are still trying to find any sort of stride after more than a handful of heartbreaking losses.

FUTURE: The Pack is home to Duke on Wednesday and at Maryland on Saturday. A win in either game would be mighty impressive.

12. Boston College (11-8, 2-3)

PAST: The Eagles pulled out what looks now like a semi-impressive win at Miami. But considering Miami’s schedule, it won’t exactly boost their RPI. BC also kept it close for a half against Duke before showing their true stripes in the second half. They were then easily handled by Maryland at home on Saturday.

FUTURE: After Tuesday’s win at Miami, the Eagles head to Virginia Tech on Saturday.

BENEATH THE NUMBERS…

HOW GOOD IS UNC?  My belief? Still very, very good. But, the question has to be asked at this point. Lots of people, including this blogger, praised the Tar Heels for their tough early-season schedule, but if you look at the seven toughest games on that schedule, you can’t help but notice the 2-5 record (and three double-digit losses):

  • Ohio State (4-point win)
  • Syracuse (16-point loss)
  • Michigan State (7-point win)
  • Kentucky (2-point loss)
  • Texas (13-point loss)
  • Clemson (19-point loss)
  • Georgia Tech (2-point loss, at home)

Like I said, I still think UNC will be a force in the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament, and with a young roster I think they still have some growing to do. But that record against good teams has gotta be keeping Roy Williams up at night.

HOW BAD IS MIAMI?  The Hurricanes are proving to be what we thought they were, and are the poster children for all that is wrong with pre-conference scheduling for too many teams. If I hear one “pundit” try to use the old “20-win” threshold to determine NCAA bubble candidates, I will point to Miami, then scream.

CRYSTAL BALL TIME…

I’m not one to brag, but I’d like to point out my pick for upset of the week was Georgia Tech over North Carolina by two points in Chapel Hill. And what happened? The Jackets won by 2 POINTS!  Thank you, thank you very much. That’s 2-for-2 on upsets this year, although staying perfect there might be a stretch, as I’m really going out on a limb this week.

OVERALL SEASON RECORD: 7-3

UPSET OF THE WEEK: 2-0

LAST WEEK’S CORRECT PICKS

GEORGIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA

  • My prediction: Georgia Tech by 2
  • Actual result: Georgia Tech by 2

MARYLAND at WAKE FOREST

  • My prediction: Wake Forest by 9
  • Actual result: Wake Forest by 2 (OT)

MIAMI at VIRGINIA TECH

  • My prediction: Virginia Tech by 10
  • Actual result: Virginia Tech by 15

WAKE FOREST at DUKE

  • My prediction: Duke by 6
  • Actual result: Duke by 20

LAST WEEK’S INCORRECT PICK

NORTH CAROLINA at CLEMSON

  • My prediction: UNC by 3
  • Actual result: Clemson by 19

THIS WEEK’S PREDICTIONS

WAKE FOREST at NORTH CAROLINA, Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

  • UNC emerges after two tough losses and takes out its frustration on the Deacons: UNC by 11

BOSTON COLLEGE at VIRGINIA TECH, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

  • Virginia Tech is too good to lose this one, and BC is too bad to win it: Tech by 4

VIRGINIA at WAKE FOREST, Saturday, 4 p.m. (RAYCOM)

  • Wake is too good to lose twice in one week, right? But I’ll go out on a limb and say the Cavs stay hot: Virginia by 2

DUKE at CLEMSON, Saturday, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

  • Clemson will be amped up for this one – maybe too amped up. Duke pulls it out late: Duke by 3

GEORGIA TECH at FLORIDA STATE, Sunday, noon (RAYCOM)

  • My upset special of the week. Tech gets flustered by its No. 2 ranking in the RTC poll, and drops a close one: Florida State by 2
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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2010

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After weeks and weeks of mediocre matchups, we have FINALLY been rewarded with a big week of games to talk about. So let’s get right to it.

(Plus, my prognostication got off to a great start – just call me Joe Lunardi. Wait, I’m not that nerdy.)

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Tuesday, Jan. 12)

1. Duke (13-2, 1-1)

PAST: The Blue Devils stay atop our rankings, despite the “upset” loss at Georgia Tech (if I see one more person call it an upset – I’m looking at you, ESPN, with your “Upset Alert” – I’m gonna scream). Duke lost to a very good team and in a very tough venue. They showed a few chinks in the armor – namely their lack of any sort of depth – but it was not enough to cost them the top spot here.

FUTURE: Two home games this week – Wednesday against Boston College and Saturday against Wake Forest. Guess which one will be the bigger test?

2. North Carolina (12-4, 1-0)

PAST: We didn’t really have time here last week to talk about the loss at Charleston. Is it one that would bother me if I were a UNC fan? Yes. Would I get hung up on it? Absolutely not. Any time a team like UNC takes a non-traditional road trip like that, the home team and its fans prepare for the biggest game ever on campus. With the players and fans amped up, it’s a tough test for even the best teams. As for Sunday’s win over Virginia Tech? It proved just how experienced and talented teams respond to tough losses.

FUTURE: The Heels face the toughest week of anyone in the league, traveling to Clemson on Wednesday and hosting Georgia Tech on Saturday. If UNC and Duke both go 2-0 this week, we might have a close race atop the rankings.

3. Georgia Tech (12-3, 1-1)

PAST: If the Yellow Jackets had not lost at Georgia, they might have leapt over UNC this week. But Saturday’s win over Duke was enough to make Tech fans forget about that in-state loss. Gani Lawal is emerging as an all-around force, not only scoring 21 points, but also dominating the vaunted Duke frontcourt in the second half, as Georgia Tech out-boarded the Devils 26-12.

FUTURE: After a semi-trap game Wednesday at Virginia, Tech heads to Chapel Hill Saturday for what is easily the ACC game of the week.

4. Wake Forest (11-3, 1-1)

PAST: This is where this gets interesting. I debated bumping Wake down after a one-point loss at Miami, but I’ve never been one to overreact too much to one game, and Wake’s three losses are Purdue, William & Mary and now Miami. They’re on shaky ground here, but I still have faith in the Deacons.

FUTURE: Wake hosts Maryland Tuesday and heads to Duke on Sunday.

5. Miami (15-1, 1-1)

PAST: The Miami win over Wake may not have cost the Deacons a spot, but it bumped the Hurricanes up a few places. Yes, their schedule still stinks, but the Hurricanes proved they can share the court with a real Division I team. Dwayne Collins led the way on Saturday, with 23 and 11, as Miami continued its best start in half a century. But as the schedule proves, that’s all relative.

FUTURE: The ’Canes travel through Virginia this week, facing Virginia Tech on Wednesday and Virginia on Saturday. Both will be tough games, but if Miami wants to be taken seriously in the ACC, they need to win both.

6. Clemson (13-3, 1-1)

PAST: The win over Boston College isn’t enough to bump Clemson up one spot – but everyone else at this mid-level faltered this week, so this was really a process of elimination.

FUTURE: Clemson hosts UNC Wednesday and heads to N.C. State on Saturday.

7. Virginia Tech (12-2, 0-1)

PAST: Yes, I know the Hokies didn’t post a win this week – losing their only game, at North Carolina. But compared to the rest of the middle-ground, I still find the most promise in Blacksburg. Last week, I said I wanted to see how the Hokies fared with a healthy Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson in the lineup. The pair combined for 40 points, but the Hokies let things get away from them in the second half against UNC. Nothing to be ashamed about, especially in Chapel Hill.

FUTURE: The Hokies host Miami Wednesday and head to Florida State Saturday.

8. Florida State (13-3, 1-1)

PAST: In their only game this week, Florida State lost at Maryland. So far, it looks like the same old FSU team: one that struggles away from Tallahassee, and loses to mediocre/good teams.

FUTURE: The Seminoles host N.C. State Tuesday and Virginia Tech Saturday. At least they’re at home.

9. Virginia (9-4, 1-0)

PAST: The Cavaliers posted a very nice comeback win at N.C. State, thanks largely to 23 points from Sylven Landesberg. Virginia is tough to figure out so far, but we should learn more this week…

FUTURE: …with home games vs. Georgia Tech (Wednesday) and Miami (Saturday). A split would be really nice for the Cavaliers, methinks.

10. Maryland (10-4, 1-0)

PAST: A one-spot jump for Greivis Vasquez and Co. after a strong (how strong is to be debated) win over Florida State at home. Maryland nearly let a big lead slip away in that one, and won’t have much time to recover…

FUTURE: … before a Tuesday trip to Wake Forest. They also play at Boston College on Saturday. The Terps desperately need two wins to move up to where I think they belong in these rankings.

11. N.C. State (11-5, 0-2)

PAST: I really do feel for the Wolf Pack. They seem to have some talent, but they keep losing heartbreakers. Now, with a home loss to Virginia, you can add losses they really shouldn’t suffer at all.

FUTURE: The Pack heads to Florida State Tuesday and hosts Clemson Saturday.

12. Boston College (10-6, 1-1)

PAST: The Eagles were never really in it in a 16-point loss at Clemson.

FUTURE: Wednesday’s game at Duke could be ugly. Saturday’s home game against Maryland shouldn’t be close either, but moody Maryland might play down to its competition again.

WEEK THAT WAS…

GANI TIME, GANI-WHERE: Derrick Favors may have gotten all the preseason hype, but try to watch a Georgia Tech game and tell me that Gani Lawal isn’t the most impressive player on the floor. My DVR flamed out for most of the Duke-Georgia Tech game (blame the wife, I was away for the weekend), but I did catch the last 10 minutes or so. And Lawal seemed to have his way with the Duke frontcourt. Sure, Duke missed 22 of its 28 3-pointers, which didn’t help its cause, but with Lawal dominating like this and Favors growing up with each game, Georgia Tech can only get better.

HOW TO TREAT MIAMI?: The Hurricanes are an impressive 15-1, but nearly all of those 15 wins are against the hyphens and ampersands of the world (UNC-Wilmington, USC-Upstate, North Carolina A&T ). This week’s win over Wake Forest was a good place to start, and players like Dwayne Collins, Malcolm Grant and James Dews are talented enough to keep up in the ACC. But no one will believe in the Hurricanes unless they can win some tough ACC games – and do it on the road.

CRYSTAL BALL TIME…

I went 3-for-5 in my first week, including the Georgia Tech “upset.” From here on in, we’ll keep track of overall win/loss record. And if you want to join in, just add on your predictions to my five games of the week.

LAST WEEK’S CORRECT PICKS

DUKE AT GEORGIA TECH

  • My prediction: Georgia Tech by 2
  • Actual result: Georgia Tech by 4

FLORIDA STATE at MARYLAND

  • My prediction: Maryland by 5
  • Actual result: Maryland by 9

VIRGINIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA

  • My prediction: North Carolina by 10
  • Actual result: North Carolina by 14

LAST WEEK’S INCORRECT PICKS

VIRGINIA at N.C. STATE

  • My prediction: N.C. State by 4.
  • Actual result: Virginia by 8

WAKE FOREST at MIAMI

  • My prediction: Wake Forest by 8
  • Actual result: Miami by 1

THIS WEEK’S PREDICTIONS

MARYLAND at WAKE FOREST (Tuesday, 8 p.m., RAYCOM).  Wake Forest rebounds, and Maryland stays moody: Wake Forest by 9

MIAMI at VIRGINIA TECH (Wednesday, 7 p.m.).  Miami realizes what it’s like to play a tough road game, and falls hard: Virginia Tech by 10

NORTH CAROLINA at CLEMSON (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN).  The toughest game to pick of the week. I see UNC eking one out on the road: UNC by 3

GEORGIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN).  My upset of the week comes as the Heels come home from Clemson: Georgia Tech by 2

WAKE FOREST at DUKE (Sunday, 8 p.m., FSN).  Duke finds its 3-point stroke, and its frontcourt scoring: Duke by 6

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2010

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

There may not have been a ton of games this week in the ACC, especially games that looked good on paper heading in. But there were more than a few interesting results and developments. So let’s get on with it. Be sure to scroll to the end and see if you can beat my predictions for this week’s biggest games.

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Tuesday, Jan. 5)

1. Duke (12-1, 1-0)

PAST:  After splitting the top spot last week with rival UNC, the Blue Devils sit atop this week’s rankings all by themselves. No, it wasn’t the win over Long Beach State or the 59-point demolition of Penn. Duke pretty much dismantled highly regarded Clemson Sunday night, posting a 21-point win that was never even remotely that close. Jon Scheyer is scoring more than enough for Duke, and Kyle Singler and the Devils’ frontcourt proved it could handle a seasoned big man like Trevor Booker. An impressive win, to say the very least.

FUTURE: The Blue Devils face two interesting road tests this week — something they’re not really used to this season. They face Iowa State in Chicago on Wednesday, then head to Georgia Tech for a big date on Saturday. A win there would keep Duke on top of these rankings for another week.

2. North Carolina (11-4, 0-0)

PAST:  Well, there was that Charleston thing on Monday night, but that’s not enough for us to drop them this week. 

FUTURE:  The Heels host Virginia Tech this weekend, leading up to next week’s trip to Clemson and home game against Georgia Tech.

3. Wake Forest (11-2, 1-0)

PAST:  The Deacons take the award for most basketball played this week — and they have two impressive wins to show for it. Wake needed overtime to shake off a very, very good Richmond team on New Year’s Eve (a game I predicted to be a dogfight last week in this space), then went two overtimes to beat Xavier on Sunday in a game I am sad I couldn’t see. More on this game later.

FUTURE:  Fortunately for the tired Deacons, just one game is on the slate this week — a trip to sunny Coral Gables to face Miami on Saturday.

4. Georgia Tech (11-2, 0-1)

PAST:  I won’t waste anyone’s time with details of Tech’s rout of Winston-Salem State, but the 9-point road win at Charlotte is worth mentioning, if only because it was a near disaster. Tech held a 15-point lead in the second half, and needed some big free throws from do-everything-star Gani Lawal to ice it late. Lawal scored 29 points in the win over a good Charlotte team that entered the night with 10 wins.

FUTURE:  A short trip to rival Georgia tonight, then a huge home date with Duke on Saturday afternoon.

5. Florida State (13-2, 1-0)

PAST:  The Seminoles thumped Alabama A&M by 47 points, and followed that up with a 40-point pasting of Texas A&M – Corpus Christi.

FUTURE:   The Seminoles head to Maryland on Sunday.

6. Miami (14-1, 0-1)

PAST:  I almost bumped the Hurricanes up a spot after two more wins this week — except they were against Bethune-Cookman and Pepperdine. No matter the schedule, 14 wins is nothing to laugh at, so beware the ‘Canes as ACC play kicks into gear.

FUTURE:  Saturday’s home game with Wake Forest is one the Hurricanes have to have to be taken seriously as ACC contenders. And I’m gonna predict a win for my new ACC darkhorse (after preseason pick Maryland let me down — big time).

7. Clemson (12-3, 0-0)

PAST:  I really can’t bump Clemson down more than one spot for a loss at Cameron Indoor. But Booker and Co. better find a way to hang around with the ACC’s best if they want to be taken seriously.

FUTURE:  Clemson hosts the ACC’s trainwreck of the year — Boston College — on Saturday. Lose there, and I will find a way to bump the Tigers down more than one spot.

8. Virginia Tech (12-1, 0-0)

PAST:  On the surface, Saturday’s overtime win over Seton Hall in Cancun was nothing exciting. But when you realize that ACC leading scorer Malcolm Delaney missed the game, and Dorenzo Hudson dropped in 41 points, you realize how big a win it was. So far this season, the Hokies have been a one-man show, with Delaney carrying the load. Maybe one or two games without Delaney might be just what Virginia Tech needed with ACC play coming up.

FUTURE:  ACC play couldn’t open in a much tougher fashion for the Hokies, as they head to North Carolina on Sunday. Fortunately, the week-long layoff should be enough time for Delaney’s ankle to heal.

9. N.C. State (10-4, 0-1)

PAST:  Just when you thought last week’s heartbreaker at Arizona was a punch in the gut, N.C. State falls victim to Chandler Parsons’ 75-foot 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer to lose to Florida Sunday night. If you want to be optimistic in the new year, NC State fans, just think that you’ve used up all your bad breaks so far this year, and you’re still 10-4.

FUTURE: The Wolfpack host Holy Cross on Wednesday.

10. Virginia (7-4, 0-0)

PAST: Last week, I said a win for Virginia over UAB would get them out of the cellar. In fact, the 9-point win bumped them up two spots (nearly three, but I just couldn’t pile onto the poor N.C. State fans). The win was easily the biggest ever for coach Tony Bennett in his short career in Charlottesville, with Sylven Landesberg leading the way with 19 points. UAB didn’t help its own cause though, missing 10 of its 15 free throws.

FUTURE: Virginia hosts Texas-Pan American on Tuesday night.

11. Maryland (8-4, 0-0)

PAST:  Maryland, you disappoint me. I piled on the praise in my preview, and thought you were the darlings of the ACC. Then you go out and lose at home to William & Mary. Now I know the Tribe are one of the nation’s top mid-majors this season, but you can’t drop that game at home. Your other three losses (Villanova, Wisconsin, Cincinnati) are nothing to be ashamed of, but this is one the Terps needed to have. Not even a rout of ACC whipping boy UNC-Greensboro on Sunday was enough to help you.

FUTURE:  Maryland hosts Florida State on Sunday.

12. Boston College (9-5, 1-0)

PAST: Just when you thought home losses to Harvard and Rhode Island were bad, the Eagles go and lose — AT HOME — to the University of Maine. This is a team that is not even in the upper echelon of the America East, but the Black Bears still found a way to beat the Eagles at Conte Forum. It’s bad enough for BC fans that the biggest one I know (who also happens to share lots of my DNA) is calling for Al Skinner’s head. Skinner is one of those guys that everyone seems to love, and he has gotten plenty of great years out of teams that no one expected to be great. But it’s hard to ignore these three simple names: Harvard, Rhode Island, and MAINE.

FUTURE: I’ve made this joke before in this space, as BC continues to host what should be easy cupcake opponents in Chestnut Hill. But the Eagles better watch out for NJIT this week. The same NJIT that set the standard for Division I futility. Sorry Eagles fans, but I think you should get comfortable at the bottom of these here rankings.

WEEK THAT WAS…

ACC-TUAL ACC GAMES: Duke’s anticipated date with Clemson turned out to be a real dud on Sunday. The Blue Devils man-handled the Tigers, and proved that their seemingly easy early-season schedule was nothing to laugh at. The frontcourt-heavy Dookies are proving that they can change their style on the fly. Sadly for ACC fans, we have to wait another month for the first Duke-North Carolina game of the season (February 10 in Chapel Hill).

WAKE UP WAKE: The Demon Deacons might be dragging around campus a little bit this week after playing a season’s worth of overtimes in just a few days time. The win over Richmond is nothing to laugh at, especially considering the Spiders are a likely Tournament team. The double-OT shootout with Xavier would have easily been the ACC game of the week, if not for N.C. State’s stunning loss to Florida. Ishmael Smith took over for the Deacons in extra time, dropping nine of his 28 points to cap a 10-for-14 day from the floor. Not only was it a big win for Wake, but it came in the inaugural Skip Prosser Classic, as two programs with direct ties to the late coach got together for a whale of a game.

HOKIE, HOKIE, HIGH: Sadly, because of my paying job (blogging just isn’t profitable), I was only able to watch pieces of a few ACC games this week. One that I did catch most of happened to be Virginia Tech-Seton Hall. At first, I was disappointed not to get a chance to watch Malcolm Delaney play, but Dorenzo Hudson made me forget about that in a heartbeat. Hudson made shots from all over the floor, and literally strapped the Hokies to his back in the second half and overtime. His 41 points was the best scoring effort at Virginia Tech since Bimbo Coles in 1990 – now there’s a name from my childhood. This kid could be a true ACC star in the coming years, and if he can find a way to be a complement to a healthy Delaney, the Hokies could be trouble for the rest of the league.

CRYSTAL BALL TIME…

With conference play really getting under way, we’ll highlight a few (hopefully five each week) specific games in this space (in chronological order), and have a little fun with predictions. Predicting final scores is crazy, but I’ll try to give you the winner and a margin of victory. Each week we’ll keep track of my overall record, and the +/- on my scoring margins. Feel free to play along in the comments and pick the same games as I do. The winner will get the greatest prize in the world: my undying respect

VIRGINIA at N.C. STATE – Saturday, Noon (RAYCOM): Lady Luck has gotta side with the Wolfpack at some point, right? Unfortunately, they get to open up the year of conference play with a tough game against a surprising Virginia team that just posted a top-25 win over UAB. I see the Pack rising to the challenge, and posting an important home win over the Cavaliers.

PREDICTION: N.C. State by 4

DUKE at GEORGIA TECH — Saturday, 2 p.m. (ESPN): After Sunday’s Duke/Clemson showdown turned into a rout, here’s hoping the Yellow Jackets can put up a fight. The frontcourt matchup should be fun to watch, as Singler, Scheyer and the big men try to figure out Lawal, Derrick Favors and Georgia Tech. I’m going with the Yellow Jackets in a semi-surprise.

PREDICTION: Georgia Tech by 2

WAKE FOREST at MIAMI – Saturday, 6 p.m. (ESPNU): The Hurricanes will finally get to see what a real opponent looks like, but they get to do it at home. Unlike some, I won’t completely disregard the Hurricanes’ 14-1 record on account of their joke schedule, but I don’t expect the Deacons to play their third-straight close game. Wake wins this one relatively easily.

PREDICTION: Wake Forest by 8

FLORIDA STATE at MARYLAND – Sunday, 5:30 p.m. (FSN): The Terrapins’ pre-conference slate has been one to forget, and they need this win much more than the Seminoles. I expect Maryland to find its stride and pick up a critical victory.

PREDICTION: Maryland by 5

VIRGINIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA – Sunday, 7:45 p.m. (FSN): If Delaney’s ankle heals, and Hudson continues his strong play, the Hokies could make this interesting. But I see the Heels running away with it at the end.

PREDICTION: North Carolina by 10

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