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