On the cusp of the ACC getting into full swing here is my take on how the conference stacks up. Number in parenthesis indicates their position in previous power rankings.
1. (1) North Carolina 13-1 overall, 0-0 in the ACC, AP Rank: #2,
The Heels used a stretch of seven weak non-conference opponents to really iron out the wrinkles. UNC has improved significantly on defense and everyone seems to be fitting into their roles. Wayne Ellington has become a very consistent perimeter scorer with the duo of Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright controlling the paint. Ty Lawson seized upon the opportunity afforded him by the Bobby Frasor injury to step up his game and now leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio. UNC gets their first ACC opponent in Chapel Hill on
Saturday Sunday in the form of Florida State.
2. (6) Duke 13-1, 0-0, AP Rank: #5
As much as I kept waiting for Duke to run through a rough patch of losing it has not happened. The Devils have squeezed by in some games and in others against far weaker opposition they have not exactly dominated the score. And while Duke has been very, very marginal on offense their defense is stingy enough to keep them out of too much trouble. The question for them moving forward is whether they can continue to win games on such a narrow margin of error or will they actually develop some offense. Only time will tell but so far with a 13-1 record and wins over Gonzaga and Air Force Duke is still Duke and at present the second best team in the ACC.
3. (9) Clemson 15-0, 1-0, AP Rank: #23
I honestly thought playing a team like Florida State would expose Clemson but that did not happen. Clemson went to Tallahassee and won by two which does not necessarily make me a full blow believer despite the fact I am running them up to #3 at this point. Winning on the road in the ACC is pure gold and until Clemson begins losing or playing badly against good teams, I see no reason to knock them down.
4. (2) Maryland 13-2, 0-1
Maryland has two losses which at this point do not look all that bad. Sure Boston College has played horribly at times but losing at Chestnut Hill is by no means a bad loss and Notre Dame is turning out to be a very good team. The Terps continue to get great efforts from the freshman PG duo of Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes who are together averaging 8+ assists per game. D.J. Strawberry, Mike Jones, James Gist, and Ekene Ibekwe are averaging in double figures providing the offensive punch. Maryland has also ramped up the defense and pressure which has been a key to their success. The most pressing issue facing the boys in College Park is the propensity to turn the ball over at an alarming rate. Undoubtedly having two freshman at the point can be problematic and controlling the ball will be key to success in conference play.
5. (4) Florida State 12-3, 0-1
Despite the loss to Clemson, FSU has been consistent and should make a lot of noise in the ACC. Al Thornton is having an All-ACC caliber season but the most pressing issue is the early schedule which land the Noles at 0-3 to start the ACC season. If that turns out to be the case, FSU’s biggest challenge will be to weather that storm and see if they can post at least nine wins to try and get into the NCAA Tournament.
6. (5) Georgia Tech 11-3, 0-1
The Yellow Jacket spiral downward which began with UCLA throttling them in Maui, deepened at Miami, finally bottomed out with a loss at Vanderbilt. Since then they have won five straight against some downright horrible teams and Georgia who incidentally has played almost half the ACC or so it seems. Georgia Tech should continue to get better. The Jackets are young and they are perhaps the second deepest team in the conference behind UNC. The two meetings between those two will be something watch.
7. (3) Virginia 9-3, 1-0
Virginia is an enigma. Actually UVa has an offense predicated on Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds which is perimeter oriented and given to being streaky by nature. For example the Cavs went to the San Juan shootout and could not here the broadside of a barn with a sawed off shotgun losing to Appalachian State and Utah. Then Wednesday night against Gonzaga they nailed everything that threw at the basket hitting 18 threes and going to halftime up 60-26. In other words, going to Charlottesville could be a painful experience if the shooting is hot.
8. (7) NC State 10-4, 0-1
NC State has reached that point most people thought they would be at before the season started. NC State barely got past UNCG and until the Engin Atsur back at point there is very little hope they can resolve their turnover problems against stingy defenses like Duke. Depth will also be a plague on the house in Raleigh and frankly there is nothing they can do that with limited personnel. It will be all about guts and a lot of hope they can catch a few teams on a bad night. Ultimately this is just a storm that must be endured for the Wolfpack.
9. (9) Boston College 9-4, 1-0
Boston College has lost some games which really make you scratch your head, the latest along those lines was an inexplicable defeat at the hands of Duquesne. BC also struggled to beat Northeastern and despite the fact they knocked off Maryland at home, there is really no way of knowing which version of the Eagles you will see on any given night. This of course makes them somewhat disappointing and exceptionally dangerous all at the same time. If the season so far has been an indication BC could end up torwards the bottom end of the conference but don’t count them out as a late bloomer much like they were a year ago.
10. (11) Virginia Tech 10-4, 1-0
There were high hopes for the Hokies in the preseason but with a recent loss to Marshall the latest of four losses all to mid-major teams. However if we play the transitive win game VT did be App. State which beat UVa which beat Gonzaga which beat UNC. In other words VT has been inconsistent but has the kind of players which can make them very dangerous. Ultimately it looks like they will falter more times than not.
11. (12) Wake Forest, 8-5, 0-1
Only slightly better than Miami, at least in terms of record despite the Miami win over GT. However Wake plays Miami on Saturday which could go a long ways in determinig which one of them will play the #5 seed in March.
12. (10) Miami, 8-7, 1-0
When Miami has lost they have not been competitive and when they win they are usually playing someone downright terrible . That will be true come Saturday against Wake and then Miami will proceed to lose….often.