We knew this was going to be a down year for the ACC for the third year in a row, but I don’t think we knew this season would be so wild. Through 10 games for most of the ACC teams (bc and wake have played 11), the parity amongst the teams is far greater than I thought it would be. Or should I say the standard deviation amongst the teams in a game-by-game basis has been more than expected. Just look at florida state for example:
- The noles lost 5 games out of conference, including a 14 point first half against harvard and a 10 point first half vs princeton.
- fsu loses by 20 in their ACC opener at clemson, a team that is now just 4-6 in the league.
- The noles win by 33 over unc, the most talented team in the league (while scoring 90).
- fsu wins at duke, handing duke their 1st home loss in almost 3 years.
- florida state beats uva.
- After winning 7 straighth in ACC play, the noles lose at boston college to a team starting 4 freshmen and a transfer that was 2-7 in the ACC, 7-16 overall, and had lost 6 in a row.
- fsu beats the canes, snapping miami’s 5 game winning streak.
Biggest Positive Surprises: nc state already has more ACC wins than they had in any of Sidney Lowe’s 5 seasons with 7 this year (Lowe went 25-55 in ACC playing, never winning more than 6 in a season and he did that just once). But the pack have a murderous 8 days coming up, with @duke, fsu, and unc looming. One win out of those 3 would be a state-ment.
The canes also are trending up. miami has never had a winning record in the ACC since joining in 2004 (and they’ve only finished 8-8 once). It looked like business as usual for the canes this year, opening 1-3 in the league. But they won 5 straight after that, including winning at duke for the first time. They even played tough at rival fsu, but fell to 6-4 on Saturday. With wake, maryland (whom they beat without Kadji), and bc still on the slate, they have a great shot at their first winning ACC season.
New Coaches: It is interesting to note that both those teams have new coaches. We all know (if you read this site regularly) how bad Sidney Lowe was. Gottfried (nc state)has already achieved more than Lowe ever did, at least in the regular season (Lowe did have a knack for making a run in the ACC Tournament). And Larranaga (miami) has done a good job with the canes. Haith was a decent coach (heck, he’s winning like crazy at missouri this year), but could never get miami over the hump. Larranaga won with less at george mason, and inherited a solid, experienced team this year. The out of conference schedule was hard on them with Reggie Johnson out and Kenny Kadji figuring out how to play with veteran guards, but they are streaking now. Turgeon (maryland) has also done a solid job at maryland. They are just 4-6, but have played well and Stoglin is the best pure scorer in the league. The cupboard seemed to be bare for the terps with Jordan Williams leaving early, but they have overachieved to date. Meanwhile, another new coach, Gregory at georgia tech, is taking it on the chin (2-8) thanks to what Paul Hewitt left him with.
Biggest Disappointment: Virginia Tech — Yes, our expectations were too high after starting 11-3 out of conference. And yes, this is a really young team. But this is TechHoops.com, so we are all Hokie fans, and I don’t think any of us predicted a 3-7 start where we needed clemson to miss a free throw and a shot at the buzzer, and bc to miss a free throw and a 30-footer to beat those two teams in the Cassell. Our 3 wins have been by a combined total of 5 points, with our 7 ACC losses by 58. Tech’s yet to play a complete game, with at least one offensive Sahara Desert per game. The Hokies have not reached 70 points even once this calendar year, and have been held to 60 or less 6 times.
Let’s take a look at the ACC Media’s preseason predictions (back in October), my pre-ACC predictions (end of December), and the current standings:
|4||uva||VA TECH||nc state||7-3|
|11||wake||ga tech||ga tech||2-8|
*Note that I included the tiebreakers so the ‘Current’ column reflects their true ranking if the ACC Tournament started today.
It is interesting that miami actually sitting below where the media picked (well, they are tied for 5th) and right where I had them. Yet it feels like they’ve overachieved. To me, that’s because they started 1-3 but have improved greatly since then, winning 5 of 6. They feel like a top team now. And with Johnson and Kadji inside, they have a formidable inside-outside punch with Grant, Scott, and Larkin on the perimeter.
I still feel unc is, by far, the most talented team in the league. Just check out the 2012 NBA mock drafts. But Roy Williams is an overrated coach and his teams rarely play hard on defense. I mean, who couldn’t win with almost all McDonald’s All-Americans? Great recruiter, but average coach. They got waxed by florida state because the noles were physical with them (and Dulkys played out of his mind), and the heels never like teams that can battle inside with them. Then, the heels choked down the stretch against duke. Still, I think they win the league. They may not win the regular season title, but I’m putting my chips on their talent in the ACC Tourney.
florida state is too mercurial, due to their lack of offense. They can lose to anybody on any given day since they don’t have consistent scoring. And duke just doesn’t have the star power of past years, though Rivers is growing into a superstar, proving his top recruit ranking in the unc game last week.
As for the Hokies, I think finishing 8th or 9th is the realistic, though difficult, ambition at this point. The Hokies could catch clemson who is a game ahead of them. The two meet in the final week of the season and a VT win would give them the tiebreaker. Tech could also catch maryland, who is just a game ahead, but the terps have the tiebreaker (so it is really a 2-game lead). VT could also slide down the charts though. Tech still has to play @fsu and @duke (both tied for first), and play nc state (#4) and uva (#5). The georgia tech game is the only game the Hokies will be clear favorites in the rest of the way. As for 6th and above, those teams are all at least 3 games ahead of VT, so catching them with just 6 to play isn’t reality.
With Tech sitting in 9th right now, I think holding onto that spot would be a success. 8th or 9th doesn’t matter since they play each other in the always empty Thursday noon game in the ACC Tournament. Not what we wanted heading into the ACC schedule, but realistically it is about the best we can do at this stage.