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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.