Welcome to The Dean’s List! The weekly segment that brings readers hot takes, freezing cold takes, and everything in between from the world of Carolina athletics.
Hubert Davis has to be pretty pleased so far, as his Tar Heels enter this week with a 6-2 record. Sure, having two losses in November is far from ideal, but it’s hard to be ashamed of losing to #1 Purdue and #13 Tennessee (I don’t know that Purdue will last that high, but still, they got there). It’s safe to say that the locker room is a lot happier of a place than the one in Durham after the boys in the wrong shade of blue were exposed by Ohio State. Or, if we’re wanting to be even messier, Davis is probably happy to not be coming off of a loss to Louisville, a team that managed to lose to Furman in mid-November. Things are pretty great at the moment, but something is bugging me.
There is a tweet that I was waiting patiently to swing at, and somehow Christmas has come early this year. How did it come early, you ask? I will get to that, but for now, let’s take a look at the tweet in question.
I want to know the names of the five people who voted UNC to win the ACC in Hubert’s first year. pic.twitter.com/zNjKmDEhJf— Josh Graham (@JoshGrahamRadio) October 19, 2021
According to sports radio host Josh Graham, it was quite a thing for five people to vote for UNC to win the ACC in a year where the conference looks pretty suspect. Heck, I’ll even be generous and point out that for a while there, the Tar Heels looked suspect as well. Here’s the thing, though: UNC was, and is, a contender for the ACC regular season title, and could very well win the ACC Tournament. It isn’t just my opinion, and now we finally have some numbers that will back me up.
This week, the NCAA released their NET rankings, and the Tar Heels are sitting at #26, which is good enough for second in the ACC behind Duke at #10. Wake Forest isn’t far behind at #29, but from there the next highest ACC team is Virginia Tech at #40. As of right now, UNC is 0-2 against Q1 teams, but are undefeated against Q2 (2-0), Q3 (1-0), and Q4 teams (3-0). And if anybody thinks that there’s an ACC team out there that is without a Q1 loss, you would be mistaken, because every single ACC team that has played a Q1 team has at least one loss, including the Blue Devils, who lost to #33 Ohio State.
If KenPom is more of your style, UNC is currently 29th in the country overall, which once again is second-highest behind Duke. In adjusted offensive efficiency, the Heels are ranked 9th in the country, which is the highest in the conference. Adjusted defensive efficiency does present some pretty different results at 81st place, but the Heels have really turned around their defensive performances since their two losses. After giving up 182 total points in their losses to Purdue and Tennessee, the Heels only gave up 166 points to UNC Asheville, Michigan, and Georgia Tech. Their performance against Michigan may have been the most impressive so far, as the Wolverines only made 35.1% of their field goal attempts, and 31.3% of their three-pointers.
While numbers are pretty fun to look at right now, two of the biggest reasons the Heels could take over the ACC are Caleb Love and R.J. Davis. So far Love and Davis are averaging 16.3 and 14.3 points respectively, and both are averaging 40% or better from three-point range. Their point guard play has drastically improved under Hubert Davis’ system, and they are playing extremely fast and physical. Turnovers are still a bit of a problem, but Love is averaging 1.4 steals a game, and Davis 0.9. It’s hard to find a better duo of guards in the ACC, and that is something that every team in the conference is going to have a very hard time dealing with. This team is a team built for March on paper, and it’s hard to not see them making a lot of noise during March Madness as long as they can keep playing as well as they have been.
So, I think it’s safe to say that the five people that voted for the Tar Heels were well within their rights to do so. Don’t get me wrong: winning the ACC isn’t going to be easy, and it’s hard not to wonder if Duke will finally break their regular season title drought in their final season with Coach K leading the charge. However, this team COULD win the ACC, and they’re proving it with the way they are playing right now.