The best part about preseason predictions is how quickly they go sour. Of course they might be proven right in the end but it is funny to hear people talk about teams one month into the season as they compare to what we thought they were back in October. In my opinion no one has looked like I thought they would look with the exception of Wake Forest and Miami. Virginia, NC State and Maryland have been very good so far, UNC, Duke, and Georgia Tech still have some growth to undergo though UNC appears to be better positioned than the other two. Florida State and Clemson have played well though I am still reserving judgment on the Tigers. Boston College left the gate very flat. So with one month in the books, here is how Tar Heel Fan ranks the ACC.
1. North Carolina(6-1 overall, 0-0 in the ACC)
UNC has dealt with a myriad of questions about defense and on the court chemistry early in the season. Roy Williams is still working the team through any number of rotations in an effort to come up with a serviceable and consistent game plan. The loss to Gonzaga was frustrating simply because UNC got outfoxed by a junk defense on a night when they seemed incapable of hitting an outside shot. The follow-up win over Ohio State was huge in helping this team find it’s legs. Seven straight cupcakes before conference play will aid in working out the kinks.
2. Maryland(8-1, 0-0)
Despite the loss to Notre Dame, Maryland is still looking like one of the best teams in the ACC. However, even with UNC’ s struggles to gell there is a clear line separating the top team from everyone else. The Terps have been exciting to watch and while adding two freshman guards in Hayes and Vasquez was not enough of a talent boost, the attitude they have brought to College Park is just as good a reason as any for their success through nine games.
3. Virginia(5-1, 1-0)
Except for a buzzer beater loss at Purdue, the Cavs would be 6-0 with a fairly decent string of wins. Sean Singletary is living up to every bit of the expectation placed upon him. The Cavs led off the season by beating Arizona and have routinely dominated most everyone they have played with the exception of the one loss and a tough win over NC State. What remains to be seen for UVa is how well they continue to perform depending most on their guard play.
4. Florida State(5-2, 0-0)
Is Florida State this good? Possibly. At 5-2 they have just got done playing three consecutive ranked opponents losing to Pitt and Wisconsin and then beating Florida. For the most part they have played well against the cupcakes but it is the stiffer schedule and the presence of a quality win which gives this season’s version more boost in terms of NCAA Tournament viability. The Seminoles benefit greatly from being an experienced and well coached team. December will be kind to FSU with a schedule full of Christmas cookies before hitting Clemson on Jan. 3rd and then traveling to UNC.
5. Georgia Tech(6-2, 0-1)
If I had written this right after the Maui loss to UCLA, I would have placed the Jackets second behind UNC. For a while they looked very close to the Heels in many ways and they were getting great contributions from their freshman. UCLA took GT to the woodsheed and it does not appear they have recovered barely beating a less than impressive Penn State team and now losing to Miami who may be the second worst team in the conference. GT needs some wins and some confidence.
6. Duke(7-1, 0-0)
Duke has been wholly unimpressive so far. The games they have won have been fairly ugly, especially against major conference schools. The wins over Indiana and Georgetown were marred with horrid shooting by Duke. It is clear Duke is opting for a slower pace and not much in the way of points. It is the offense or lack thereof that has me convinced Duke needs to win some of the next few games with serious offensive production in mind because 60-70 points a game is not going to get very far given the parity seen in the college basketball world.
7. NC State(5-1, 0-1)
Let it be said that NC State is an interesting team. Sidney Lowe is really getting the most out of the players he has. Ben McCauley, Gavin Grant and Brandon Costner have been stellar. However the depth is an issue and will continue to be an issue even if they get Engin Atsur back and Treveor Feguson becomes eligible. NC State is getting by right now by playing sound basketball and dictating the tempo. The road for NC State will get bumpy from here on out starting with a visit from Alabama.
8. Clemson(9-0, 0-0)
Clemson has built a record on mostly cupcake games however they did travel to both Minnesota and South Carolina coming away with blowout wins. Looking ahead at the rest of the non-ACC schedule Clemson could very well win the rest of them. They play Georgia at home but the Bulldogs barely beat Wake Forest. I am inclined to leave the Tigers in the lower part of the poll until they register a win over someone that has seen the NCAA Tournament sometime recently…and not by automatic bid.
9. Boston College(4-2, 0-0)
BC is off to a slow start with losses to Vermont and Providence. The win on the road at Michigan State is a good sign that the Eagles may have recovered from the early swoon to get things moving in the right direction. Unfortunately for BC the coming schedule in December is not easy with Maryland looming this weekend and Kansas two days before Christmas. That being said, BC will be well tested to make a nice run once conference play starts in earnest.
10. Miami(5-3, 1-0)
It was a toss-up here between Virginia Tech and Miami but the Canes get the edge because they beat Georgia Tech. Miami is finding life after Diaz and Hite to be very difficult with losses to Cleveland State, Buffalo, and Northwestern. The win over the Jackets was a huge surprise for the simple reason that Miami is just not a very good basketball team. I would expect Miami will settle down one spot by next month and stay there for the remainder of the season.
11. Virginia Tech(4-3, 0-0)
The Hokies were a team which many thought would be middle of the pack in the ACC and a possible contender for an NCAA Tournament berth. However lossess to Western Michigan, Southern Illinois, and George Washington means VT will need to do some serious legwork in conference play with at least nine wins and one or two of those over ranked opponents. In my opinion Seth Greenberg is a good coach and this team is athletic which is why the expectations have been raised this season. If the Hokies do not live up to those expectations, I think the questions about Greenberg will begin to surface.
12. Wake Forest(5-2, 0-0)
I think any hope that this season would be an trend upward as part of the rebuilding process went out the window when Wake got pummeled by Air Force. Granted AF is a very good team, that being said, Wake is not, in any way, shape, or form. The December 17 matchup with Virginia Tech will give an indication of where Wake is at and also if VT can put together a serious push in the ACC.