ACC Basketball: Not Terrible?
The ACC is the last major conference without a loss this year (22-0). The season is barely a week old, but last year at this point, the ACC was 19-5 with awful losses to Stetson, VCU (both by Wake Forest) and Kennesaw State (Georgia Tech). This year, the league is beating who it should, which is more than some conferences can say.
The average team ranking in each conference, average ranking of opponent in wins and losses by each conference is below (rankings courtesy of Ken Pomeroy):
- ACC (22-0): Avg. ranking: 58.8; Avg. opponent rank (wins): 193.6; Avg. opp. rank (losses): N/A
- Big 10 (20-2): Avg. ranking: 40.4; Avg. opponent rank (wins): 239.8; Avg. opp. rank (losses): 3.5
- Big East (30-3): Avg. ranking: 57.3; Avg. opponent rank (wins): 241.9, Avg. opp. rank (losses): 61.3
- Big 12 (17-2): Avg. ranking: 59.5, Avg. opponent rank (wins): 244.9; Avg. opp. rank (losses): 62.5
- SEC (19-5): Avg. ranking: 70.4; Avg. opponent rank (wins): 214; Avg. opp. rank (losses): 110.2
- Pac 12 (18-6): Avg. ranking: 83.5, Avg. opponent rank (wins): 208.8; Avg. opp. rank (losses): 102.3
The ACC has a difficult trek back to the dominance it once had over the rest of college basketball. The perception of it won’t change overnight, or even in one season. But here are some teams that have a chance to get some big wins for the ACC in the next 10 days:
- Maryland. The Terrapins are playing in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic, which starts tomorrow, and face an athletic No. 16 Alabama squad in the first round. Maryland had a hard time with UNC-Wilmington, but the Terrapins will get better as the year goes along under new head coach Mark Turgeon.
- Virginia Tech. The Hokies advanced to the semifinals of the Preseason NIT, where they face No. 5 Syracuse in Madison Square Garden on November 23rd. Virginia Tech is banged up and lacks a true go-to scorer, but that balance has been beneficial so far in a 3-0 start. An upset seems unlikely, but head coach Seth Greenberg’s teams have done it before.
- Florida State. The first two rounds of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas shouldn’t be challenging for the No. 25 Seminoles. But they could face No. 4 Connecticut in the title game on November 26th. The Seminoles are good enough defensively to win, but UConn is also excellent on defense. Florida State still has a chance to steal one if it’s a low-scoring affair.
- Duke. The Maui Invitational field is loaded, and the No. 6 Blue Devils could conceivably beat two ranked teams. Duke will face either No. 10 Memphis or No. 17 Michigan in the semis and then No. 12 Kansas (should they advance) in the championship game on November 24th.
- N.C. State. The Wolfpack will play in the Legends Classic in the Meadowlands starting with No. 18 Vanderbilt on November 19th. Should N.C. State win, it would likely face Texas on November 21st; he Longhorns are unranked but still a name program. Wins like those would add to the already-positive momentum that Mark Gottfried has generated by signing a top-five recruiting class.
ACC teams have had some inexplicable losses in recent years that have hurt the league’s reputation almost as much as failing to win big games has. Florida State lost at Auburn last year while Virginia lost at home to Seattle. Miami lost to UCF and Rutgers. Boston College lost to Harvard (for the third straight year) and Yale, both at home. (Wake Forest’s plethora of awful losses aren’t really worth mentioning.) We’ll call this the “Don’t Embarrass Us, Please” group:
- Virginia. The Cavaliers have managed to find one of the least competitive holiday tournament: The Paradise Jam in St. Thomas. Virginia with a healthy Mike Scott needs to beat TCU in the first round on November 19th and should beat Norfolk State or Drexel in the next round. No. 21 Marquette would be its likely opponent in the championship game, but the ACC needs wins in those first two.
- Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets will go to the Charleston Classic (starting November 17th) and face St. Joseph’s followed by VCU or Seton Hall. Georgia Tech is 2-0 under new head coach Brian Gregory, but there are plenty of teams in the Charleston field that would potentially be terrible losses (St. Joseph’s, Western Kentucky or even Seton Hall and LSU).
- Clemson. The Tigers host College of Charleston on November 19th and Coastal Carolina on November 22nd. Neither team is a “cupcake” (Charleston is 133rd, Coastal 163rd per Ken Pom), but particularly considering both games are in Littlejohn Coliseum, these are must-wins.
- Miami. The Hurricanes travel to Ole Miss on November 25th. Ole Miss (2-0) is not a bad team, but Miami has a lot of talent and could make the NCAA Tournament under new head coach Jim Larranaga. With non-conference games at Purdue, at West Virginia and Memphis looming, the Ole Miss game is a must.
- North Carolina. The No. 1 Tar Heels will play in the Las Vegas Invitational (November 25-26) in a surprisingly weak field. Carolina can’t lose to South Carolina (lost to Elon yesterday), Southern Cal (lost at home to Nebraska) or even UNLV, arguably the second-best team in the field.
Wake Forest should be better this year, but a November 19th home matchup against improved North Carolina Central is scary. The Deacons travel to Orlando for the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving and will play Dayton on November 24th followed by Arizona State or Fairfield, the latter of which has embarrassing loss potential.
Boston College nearly lost to New Hampshire at home and could lose at Holy Cross or to UMass. The Eagles will play in the ESPN 76 Classic in Anaheim and could lose to first-round foe St. Louis on November 24th. BC has to feel pretty good if it can win two of those three games. The rest of the field in Anaheim isn’t great, but neither is Boston College.
Considering there are four new head coaches and three in Year 2, the perception was that the league would be terrible, and it still might be. But maybe the coaching carousel has stopped spinning long enough for some of the “other” programs (not Carolina and Duke) to finally develop consistency.