I didn't have many strong opinions about the ACC coming in to the season, but I did have one belief. Virginia Tech will do better in the conference than everyone was thinking. Some of that will be due to their conference schedule, the easiest in the league. If the Hokies, voted to finish eighth, only beats the four teams below them and loses to all seven teams above, they'll still finish 8-8. And Seth Greenberg has typically overachieved with his Hokie teams, knocking off both Duke and UNC in their first three seasons in the ACC.
If they want to repeat that sort of play, they'll rely on Malcolm Delaney, the third most utilized player in the ACC – only Al-Farouq Aminu and Greivis Vasquez get more touches. Delaney currently leads the conference in points and is third in three-pointers; oddly enough for a point guard, he doesn't crack the top ten in assists. He's the first, second, and third scoring option on this team, and UNC has been burned by a couple of guards already this season. He's also missed the last two games with an ankle injury, and is pretty doubtful for Sunday.
The rest of major players on the team vary in height from 6'5" to 6'8", and yet somehow this melange of similar-sized players is 17th in the nation in blocks and 11th in defensive efficiency. Jeff Allen will be the one to watch here, leading the team in rebounds, blocks and steals. He pulled down 12 against Hansbrough last season, and so far no Tar Heel has shown that type of intensity this season. Beyond him, look for two lightly-played reserves from last year's game, Victor Davila and Dorenzo Hudson. Hudson has carried the team in Delaney's absence, going off for 41 points against Seton Hall, but it's tough to say if his recent play is an improvement or an aberration.
Greenberg has never used particularly deep bench, but this year he's extended it to play nine or ten a game. They don't get much production from their bench though, and play a pretty slow tempo; if UNC can keep the pace up and the starters winded, they'll have the opportunity to extend a lead against some pretty weak competition. The big question for the Heels, of course, is whether the result of the Charleston game has refocused the team. In that regard, a home game against the Hokies is a good place to start. The team is scrappy and technically sound – they hardly ever give up steals – but without their candidate for All-ACC and quite beatable. The season begins anew on Sunday, and it's time to see which way it's going.