Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Conference Calling: ACC

In one of the first posts here on TBI, I discussed why the ACC was still one of college basketball's biggest dogs. As the season wears on, however, the conference's description is taking on a more negative tone, less "big dog" and more "dogging it."

Until Conference Realignment Roulette drags North Carolina off to the SEC or Duke to the Big 12 or something just as ludicrous, the ACC can never be completely written off. At least, UNC and Duke can never be written off. With the way the rest of the league is operating, it may very well be safe to ignore the other 10 teams.

  • Real Time RPI currently has the ACC ranked below the Mountain West, of all things, in league RPI. The MWC has shown no fear of the Atlantic Coast, with not only UNLV's big win over the Tar Heels, but also TCU supplying the only blemish on the Virginia Cavaliers' season so far.
  • Carolina and Duke play for top seeds, and right now, they'd both be in line for a 1 or a 2, according to Joe Lunardi. Carolina currently holds his South #1, despite having a 4-2 record against the Top 100, compared to Duke's 7-1. The one, however, was a 22-point drubbing at the hands of Ohio State, and apparently that outweighs a 10-point loss to UNLV and a last-possession heartbreaker at Rupp Arena. I don't see any other possible reason that the Heels should be ahead of Duke...maybe Carolina beating Michigan State by 12 and Duke only winning by five? Either way, February 8 and March 3 are going to decide who gets the top line in Greensboro.
  • Yes, Virginia is just one errant buzzer-beater from being unbeaten. Tony Bennett has scheduled quite well for a coach who wasn't quite sure what he was working with this year. There were plenty of winnable games with decent high-major opponents like Oregon, LSU and Michigan sprinkled in. The Cavs lost 30 percent of last season's scoring, and had to re-integrate forward Mike Scott into the lineup after he missed a large chunk of the 2011 season. Mission accomplished. Scott has averaged 16 points and nine rebounds, but is playing less than 30 minutes per game in the non-con schedule. They're allowing 50.3 points per game, ranking second in the nation. The problem is this: allowing 35 to Drexel, 38 to South Carolina State, and 42 to Maryland-Eastern Shore is quite different from pulling those numbers against Virginia Tech, N.C. State, and Miami. They'll get into the Tournament, barring something like a 4-12 ACC finish, but their current #5 seed projection may take a beating.
  • Virginia Tech and N.C. State currently have better RPI rankings than UVa, primarily due to respectable SOS figures. State sits 19th, Tech 53rd, and Virginia is 219th. The problem with both teams' Tournament resumes is tied to those potent schedules. Both had ample opportunities to get the "statement" wins that decide at-large bids in March. Both played Syracuse, Tech faced Minnesota and Kansas State, and the Wolfpack took on Vanderbilt and Indiana. None of those games ended in victories. Both have beaten St. Bonaventure and Tech has two wins over a somewhat disappointing Oklahoma State team. Still, they'll need to completely feast on the ACC's minnows and steal wins against Carolina, Duke and UVa to really get something to hang a resume on. Right now, Lunardi has VT in a play-in game against Marshall. State's nowhere to be found.
  • Miami was a preseason dark horse, but an early injury to big man Reggie Johnson put them in a funk. Luckily for them, they didn't succumb to any bad losses. All four of their defeats have been against current Top-60 teams (home against Memphis and at Purdue, West Virginia, and Ole Miss). With Johnson back, the Canes are on a four-game win streak, including a 15-point win at Charlotte. Johnson's averaging 10.8-6.5 with nine blocks in his four games. Also, guard Durand Scott has shot 26-42 (61.9%) from the floor since Johnson's return after shooting 26-86 (30.2%) without him. Additionally, power forward Kenny Kadji has cracked double figures in five of his last six games, including 21 against Florida Atlantic and 30 against UNC-Greensboro. If the Canes can keep getting this kind of potent inside play from Johnson and Kadji, they will have a big advantage against many of their ACC opponents, and could still sneak into the Tournament.
  • Florida State had a great defensive roster last season, led by NBA Draft pick Chris Singleton. But they couldn't score. This season, Singleton's gone...and the Noles still can't score. 41 against Harvard, 49 against Michigan State, and most recently, 73 against TRIPLE OVERTIME. To be fair, they rebounded well after only scoring 10 in the first half against Princeton, but that's the kind of game that stands as a major blemish, both on the RPI resume and the vaunted "eye test." It'll take multiple major upsets in ACC play for them to manage a trip to the NCAA Tournament...but the Noles are the kind of team that could make some noise in the NIT. Lose to Auburn tonight, and FSU can probably begin planning for the NIT now.
  • Georgia Tech has probably already had that nail-in-the-coffin loss with a six-pointer last week at Fordham. They haven't been close in any of their Top-100 losses, including getting crushed at home last night by Alabama, and wins over VCU and Georgia will only account for so much this season. Losses to Mercer and Tulane more than offset that good will.
  • Maryland's on a nice seven-game winning streak, but none of those has been over a Top-100 team. Notre Dame at #108 is the cream of the crop, and since then, the Terps have survived Mount St. Mary's by three, FIU by four, and Radford by five. Allowing 68.6 points per game against the #212 schedule in the nation is no way to go through the ACC. Terrell Stoglin's 21.2 ppg average looks nice, but he'll need a lot of help to keep Maryland out of the ACC cellar.
  • Wake Forest hung tough with Dayton and at Seton Hall, but their biggest wins so far are against Yale and Nebraska. Meanwhile, they've lost at home to Wofford and by 28 at Arizona State. Still, they're getting waxed on the glass on both ends (25.2% offensive rebounding, 328th in America, and 65.7% defensive, 249th nationally). That won't fly against the Plumlees or Henson-Zeller or even Johnson-Kadji. It'll be a long year in Winston-Salem.
  • Boston College is currently projected by RealTimeRPI to win two games in the ACC. And one of those is over Clemson. And this is why those two teams are headed for miserable campaigns. But, we'll try to find a bright spot for each team. For BC: they're getting 36% of their points from behind the arc. Of course, that's because 43% of their shots come from three-point range, because they're always behind. Clemson's 44th in the nation in rebound percentage, snaring 53.6% of available caroms, which will always keep them in a game, especially if they can sustain their 41% FG defense. But, again, it's easier to outrebound Alabama State and The Citadel than to do it against Miami and Virginia and Duke.
Currently, the ACC has four teams projected to make Joey Brackets' field of 68. Again, that includes VT playing in a play-in game. The worst thing that could happen for the ACC is for the rest of the league to cannibalize each other, but that may be exactly what goes down. If Virginia's for real or Miami surges with Reggie Johnson, the ACC will blessedly be something more than Duke, Carolina, and the 10 Dwarves. If you're sick of the ACC, this could be your year. After all, Syracuse and Pitt are coming soon.

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