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.
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 Delaney. Dorenzo 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.