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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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%).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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.