Not trying to toot my own horn (especially because I wasn’t that accurate – I picked unc to finish 2nd), but before the season I predicted unc and georgia tech wouldn’t live up to their lofty expectations. Why? They were too dependent on freshmen, many of which don’t really contribute until their second or third years, if ever (e.g. Woods and Walker of wake).
The teams that are at top all have experience galore. Take a look at the ACC standings:
- duke – returned 4 of their top 5 scorers from last season, all of which are juniors or seniors.
- VT – also returned 4 of their top 5 scorers, all of which are juniors. VT’s top 5 scorers this year are juniors.
- maryland – I was big on them in the preseason because they had their top 4 scorers back (all starters), both guards, and 7 of their top 8. They responded, sitting tied for 2nd in the ACC.
- wake – while they lost their top 2 scorers to the NBA, their next 4 returned. They have 3 senior starters to go with their stud soph (Aminu) and freshman (Harris).
- fsu – they are sort of the exception here, but they are also just in 5th place. The noles lost Toney Douglas, by far their leading scorer by 13 points, and their #3 scorer in Echefu. Their top 3 scorers this year are sophomores or freshman, so they are the youngest team in the upper half of the league. Their stud recruit, Snaer, has been solid with 8.8 ppg.
- clemson – They did lose their #2, 3, and 5 scorers from last season. Thus, they are sitting in 6th and not higher. But Booker is back for his senior year as their star player, Stitt at PG is a junior and their #2 scorer. Their #5 and 6 scorers are a senior and junior respectively. FYI: their stud freshman, Jennings, hasn’t panned out yet (3.2 ppg).
Notice who is not in the top half? You’ve got it – georgia tech and unc, two teams that were extremely dependent on inexperienced players this year. georgia tech still has a good shot at finishing in the upper half since they are 6-6, but their freshmen have faded. Favors is still the odds on bet to win Rookie of the Year, but his production has dropped off. He’s reached double digits in just 2 of his last 6 games. Freshman guard Udofia, who was averaging 10+ going into ACC play, has scored just 19 points in his last 10 games. So much for a 2-14 team from a year ago storming to the top of the standings.
Then there is unc, who sits at 3-8. Injuries haven’t helped their cause with Zeller and Davis out (both sophomores). But guys like Ginyard and Graves were mostly bench players before. So even though they are upperclassmen now, they aren’t that “experienced”. And freshmen like Henson, Strickland, the Wears, and McDonald just aren’t that good yet. Neither is sophomore Larry Drew.
Experience, especially in the backcourt, is the name of the game and it shows in the standings.
Pretty fair article by ESPN’s Andy Katz about Virginia Tech’s schedule with some insight from Head Coach Seth Greenberg: Article
He messed up some of the data, like Tech’s nonconference and overall schedule ratings, but otherwise has some good info.
Also, I read today where CBS’s Jerry “Hairy” Palm still has Virginia Tech OUT of the tournament, even with their win against wake. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had them in even before that game.