The ACC & SEC Blog asked me to be a part of a roundtable discussion. Here are my answers to their probing questions.
1. The national perception is that the ACC is down this year. Duke has been in the top 10 all year, but no one else has come close. Does the conference deserve this reputation? Why or Why not?
In past seasons the ACC has gotten by with some top heaviness and average teams beneath. Generally is is UNC and Duke ranked in the top ten, a couple of others in the 10-25 spots in the polls and a few more who get into the NCAA Tournament beyond those. This season that is not the case. Duke might be top ten and in line for a #1 seed but they also have losses to Wisconsin as well as getting throttled by Georgetown. Maryland has a loss to William & Mary on their schedule. After that you have FSU, Virginia Tech and Clemson as the next most likely candidates to make the NCAA Tournament and even then some folks are balking on the Hokies. So, yes the league is down but one could argue it has been down for awhile but UNC's three Final Four runs and two titles alongside Duke still being #1/2 seed material during that span has masked it.
2. Does Duke have what it takes to make a run to a National Championship? Why or Why not?
Yes and no. On one hand, Duke has three prolific scorers, a solid PG and excellent team defense. Those are most of the ingredients you need. The lack of an interior scoring threat puts them into a tough position. Duke is too dependent on perimeter scoring which could go cold at the wrong time. Duke also lacks a significant enough post presence to stop a team with a balanced offense. That is not to say Duke cannot get favorable matchups and get to the Final Four where anything could happen but at some point they are going to run across a Kansas or Kentucky who has all the parts and it will be very tough to overcome the Blue Devils' state deficiencies.
3. We know Duke and Maryland are in, but who else gets in from the ACC? Will we see any surprises on Selection Sunday?
I am thinking six teams from the ACC get in. Georgia Tech's late season swoon will probably end up costing them a bid unless the Jackets can do some damage at the ACC Tournament. Georgia Tech is 3-6 since the beginning of February with their only wins being over UNC, NC State and Boston College, all at home. Wake Forest also lost to UNC and NC State but is 5-4 during the same span with a win over Clemson to close the season. The Deacs other two losses of late have been to Virginia Tech and FSU, hardly bad by any measure. FSU, Virginia Tech and Clemson should all be in which means we are spared Seth Greenberg's perpetual groveling/whining.
4. What is the biggest surprise of the season (good or bad)?
Bad: UNC. That is all I have to say about that.
Good: The fact Greivis Vasquez turned into an elite player, not just in the ACC but on the national level. Vasquez could be good at times but the fact he has put together a complete season surprised me.
5. A couple of teams have had disappointing seasons. Whose seat is the hottest?
No one appears to be in trouble this season. Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech should be fired like two years ago but he snagged a sweet rollover contract following the Jackets' trip to the title game in 2004 which carries an expensive buyout. There is little chance GT moves on that in the current economic conditions. NCSU's Sidney Lowe is being given more time and rightfully so seeing what he has in the recruiting pipeline. The coach no one really wants to discuss as being on the hot seat is Wake's Dino Gaudio. Some of that has to do with Skip Prosser's untimely death which thrust Gaudio into the head coaching position. However, despite having talented teams over the past two seasons, Gaudio has lost control of the ship to a certain extent as the season wore on. Last season was far worse as Wake went from ranked #1 at one point to losing out of the NCAA Tournament to a #13 seed. This season the Deacs played well enough early on but again there are issues with chemistry and unhappy players leading to a four game losing streak which Wake managed to break versus Clemson. The one saving grace is, Wake probably has played well enough to go to the NCAA Tournament unless they find a way to lose to Miami. For now, everyone is safe but come next season there could be a reckoning.
6. Who is your player and coach of the year? Why?
POY: Greivis Vasquez, MD
COY: Gary Williams, MD
I think Vasquez was the best player in the ACC and I think he meant more to his team as far as elevating the Terps to a regular season co-championship with Duke. Jon Scheyer was good but he clearly had more help along the way.
Gary Williams did more with less than anyone else in the ACC. Granted having good guard play solves a variety of ills in college basketball but Williams got significant contributions out of freshman Jordan Williams and a slew of role players. Besides, Maryland was picked for fifth and finished tied for first.