ACC BASKETBALL | Can Someone Please Figure This Conference Out?
01/30/2017 10:32 PM
At this point in the college basketball season, it is clear to not only to me, but to many experts across the country, that the ACC is the most compelling conference in the nation.
Is it the best? I think so, but as always, that can be debated, although I don’t see the argument for other conferences.
Regardless, there is no question the ACC is the most compelling conference in college basketball.
Just look at the conference right now. Six teams are currently ranked in the Top 25, #6 Louisville, #9 Virginia, #12 North Carolina, #15 Florida St., #20 Notre Dame and #21 Duke.
Each of those teams is extremely capable of winning the national championship. Here’s why:
#6 Louisville: The Cardinals may be 6-3 in the conference, but look at how they are playing now. UofL is coming off back-to-back blowout wins over Pitt and North Carolina St. Sure, those two teams are near the bottom of the conference standings, but, the Cards are playing this well without Quentin Snider, and Tony Hicks, although Hicks only missed the NC St. game. To me, the Cardinals’ most impressive performance recently was their loss at Florida St. UofL got off to a bad start in the match-up, but it still was within striking distance at the end, on the road at one of the top ten teams in the country, without Snider.
#9 Virginia: The Cavaliers are the best defensive team in the country, although not necessarily in EVERY statistical category. Look at what this team did against #1 Villanova on Sunday. The Cavs shut the Wildcats down in the first half, like they did to the Louisville Cardinals and so many other teams this season.
#12 North Carolina: This team is extremely hard to figure out. The Tar Heels are coming off a loss to Miami (FL) this weekend that was NOT pretty for UNC. And prior to that, the Tar Heels were not necessarily blowing out teams like Boston College and Wake Forest like they should have. But, unlike Virginia, the Heels have one of the best offenses in the country. UNC has scored at least 90 points in 13 games this season. That’s incredible!
#15 Florida St.: This team was on a roll up until last week. After going 5-1 in a six-game stretch against ACC teams that, at the time, were each ranked in the Top 25 was an extremely impressive feat. Well, what happened at Georgia Tech and at Syracuse last week? I don’t know. Perhaps the Seminoles were tired? For their sake, let’s hope so. When this team is “on,” it’s “on.” My only hesitation with FSU is that unlike the traditional ACC powers, it has not been in this sort of situation for a while, with high expectations as the NCAA Tournament gets ready to take place.
#20 Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are slipping right now, just like the Seminoles are. Notre Dame though has lost four of its last five, including three straight, against #12 Virginia, Georgia Tech and #21 Duke. I saw this team in person earlier this month against Syracuse and I am telling you… There may not be a more fundamental team in the conference. This team can shoot the ball with the best of them. And the players have a knack of knowing exactly where their teammates are on the court at all times.
#21 Duke: Finally, the team that many thought would win it all, the Blue Devils. Do NOT count this team out of it. They are finally getting healthy once again. They are finally getting passed all the “Grayson Allen” drama that occurred at the start of ACC play. And Coach K will likely be back soon. That’s a scary recipe for the other teams in the conference.
In some form or fashion, those six teams all bring something different to the table that the other teams in the conference don’t. That’s what is making this very exciting. You will not see a battle between two “identical” teams in February and early March. Each one has strengths that others in the ACC do not.
The most intriguing part about this race for the top of the ACC though is that not one of those six teams apparently wants to win the conference. Every team has at least two losses in ACC play. And many of those teams’ losses are against teams they should have beaten.
Therefore, the race for the ACC regular season championship is going to be fascinating going down the stretch.
Another interesting twist to this whole season so far is that the top five scorers in the league are each on teams that are right now at least two games outside of first place. Usually, one would assume that one of the “star scorers” in the league is on the best team in the conference. Well, that is not the case this year.
Pittsburgh’s Jamel Artis leads all scorers with 21.1 ppg, while Duke’s Luke Kennard (20.4 ppg) and Pittsburgh’s Michael Young (20.3 ppg) are second and third respectively. Pitt is in dead last in the ACC standings with a 1-7 conference record, yet the Panthers have two of the top three scorers in the league. That’s crazy!
Oh yeah, one last thing. CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has 11 teams from the ACC making the NCAA Tournament. That is at least three more than every other conference in college basketball.
So, don’t just keep your eyes peeled on the race for the ACC title, but also the race to avoid the bubble come March.
Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be fun!