The ACC is always in contention for best league in the country. This year, I’m not sure there’s a contest, at least at the beginning of the season. The conference has 7 teams in the AP Top 25, 10 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s top 51 (Damn you, Notre Dame, for not making that neater), and has just one loss out of 31 games played, that loss being to #5 Tennessee last night. It’s by far the best conference record in the country. All in all, the conference is flying sky-high compared to its peers, but how do things stack up within the ACC at this early point in the season? Here’s my take:
1. #1 Duke (2-0)
Even if Kentucky doesn’t really look like the top-3, or even top-10 team they were billed as, scoring more points than a Calipari team has ever allowed and handing him his worst loss in a decade is seriously impressive. They looked a little shakier in their second game, against Army, but, unlike the AP, we aren’t in the business of moving teams down unless they really deserve it.
2. #7 UNC (3-0)
It’s not showing up in the numbers yet (with the possible exception of Leaky Black), but the team’s freshmen look much more comfortable in college than most freshman we’ve seen take the court the past several years, and this can only be a good thing for UNC going forwards. The rest of the team is just as good as expected, which is to say they look like Final Four contenders.
3. #4 Virginia (2-0)
With scores of 73-42 and 76-57 in their first two games, Virginia almost looks like a team that plays actual basketball if you just check the scores. Don’t let that distract you from the fact that they lost to a #16 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
4. #15 Syracuse (2-0)
Syracuse has looked fine despite making just 6 out of their 33 three-point attempts so far, which is really a sign of how good they’re going to be the rest of the season once their shooting returns to normalcy.
5. #19 Clemson (2-0)
Both of Clemson’s games so far have looked like UNC’s against Stanford: opening up big leads and then cruising to a pair of 20-point victories. They haven’t looked challenged, and have 5 players who have scored between 21 and 30 points in those two games. Also, their 100-80 win over The Citadel was their first 100-point game this decade. The More You Know!
6. #14 Florida State (2-0)
The ‘Noles have struggled a little, holding off Tulane 80-69 in their most recent game, but also don’t have one of their better players, Phil Cofer. They’re playing pretty good basketball regardless, including an impressive win over Florida in the opener.
7. #16 Virginia Tech
An easy enough win over Gardner-Webb started their season off. More interesting is the fact that they have a freshman who the NCAA won’t let play because his ACT score was too good. Good lord.
Chris Lykes looks ready to be a star after being a key role player last year as a freshman. I am also eagerly anticipating the 5 minutes when Miami and UNC play when the 6’7 Leaky Black is guarding the 5’7 Lykes.
9. N.C. State
State has dominated three opponents ranked 268th or lower according to Kenpom, and all at home. They’ve got the pieces to be pretty good, but there’s something to be said for early-season challenges.
10. Notre Dame
Despite losing Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, Mike Brey’s offense doesn’t really look like it’s missed a beat. T.J. Gibbs has started the season cold, though.
11. Boston College
Ky Bowman might be the single-most depended on player in the ACC since Erick Green, though freshman point guard Wynston Tabbs doesn’t look half-bad.
New coaches in total rebuild situations who look to be taking the right first steps. Pittsburgh in particular could be fun to watch, if Capel applies the Duke system minus the immediate hateability.
14. Wake Forest
This team fell off in a hurry from two years ago.
15. Georgia Tech
Just had to go and ruin the perfect record, huh? There’s no shame in losing to Tennessee, of course, but the conference standings looked so much better before it.