ACC Basketball: Preview and Predictions
The ACC will again deliver some of the best college basketball action in the nation.
With six conference games ready to tip off this weekend (January 5-6), it won't take long to discover the pretenders and the contenders.
The following is a quick look at each of the league's 12 teams and a prediction of how they will fare in the upcoming season.
Stats for this article provided by Statsheet.com (as of January 2, 2013).
12. Wake Forest
Current RPI: 201
Best Win: Mercer
Worst Losses: Iona, Richmond
Mid-season MVP: Travis McKie (14.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
Biggest Strength: Wake can shoot the ball (46.2 percent from the field—No. 57 in the nation). McKie and C.J. Harris form a nice pair of wings who can score points in bunches. As long as they are hitting, the Demon Deacons have a shot (pun completely intended).
Area of Concern: Am I limited to one? The Demon Deacons really struggle on the boards. In 11 games, they only have pulled down 97 offensive rebounds (No. 328 in the nation) and 253 defensive rebounds (No. 303). When they start making their way through their ACC slate, it's going to be tough for them to stay in most games without being able to compete on the glass.
Prediction: I don't want to be a wet blanket, but WFU's three-game winning streak is about to come to a screeching halt as they open their ACC schedule against Duke. They will struggle to match their last year's conference win total of four games.
11. Boston College
Current RPI: 138
Best Wins: Penn State, Providence
Worst Loss: Bryant
Mid-season MVP: Ryan Anderson (15.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg)
Biggest Strength: If the Eagles fans have patience, this program will eventually come of age. The top six scorers are either freshmen or sophomores. Ryan Anderson (pictured) is a legitimate frontcourt baller.
Area of Concern: BC doesn't apply much pressure on D. They only steal the ball 5.6 times (No. 280 in the nation) and only block 3.1 shots (No. 216) per game.
Prediction: Steve Donahue's team is still at least one more year off from being competitive in the league. A handful of wins is all that can be expected.
10. Georgia Tech
Current RPI: 107
Best Win: St. Mary's
Worst Loss: Cal
Mid-season MVP: Marcus Georges-Hunt (11.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Biggest Strength: The Yellow Jackets may have as much scoring balance as any team in the conference. They have seven players who score between six and 11 points per game.
Area of Concern: Tech doesn't get to the line very often—only about 17 times per game (No. 311 in the nation). To make matters worse, they only hit 64.7 percent of their freebies (No. 278).
Prediction: The Yellow Jackets are getting some nice production from two freshmen (Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter). Tech needs to turn it up a notch in league play just to exceed their four conference wins last year.
9. Virginia Tech
Current RPI: 142
Best Wins: Oklahoma State, Iowa
Worst Loss: Georgia Southern
Mid-season MVP: Erick Green (24.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.6 apg)
Biggest Strength: Erick Green is a big time scorer. What would happen if they set him up to launch 30 shots per game. Could he go "Jimmer" on the ACC? Hmmm...
Area of Concern: The Hokies are not a good shooting team from beyond the arc. They are only hitting a hair over 32 percent from distance.
Prediction: The Hokies have proved that they can compete with some legitimate teams. They beat Iowa and (then) No. 10 Oklahoma State. But, they were also rocked by Colorado State (by 36 points) and BYU (by 26 points). Inconsistency will be the downfall of James Johnson's first team in Blacksburg.
Current RPI: 182
Best Win: UTEP
Worst Loss: Coastal Carolina
Mid-season MVP: Devin Booker (11.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg)
Biggest Strength: Clemson is a big team. Their frontcourt size should help them to make life difficult in the lane for most of their ACC opponents.
Area of Concern: The Tigers play at a very slow pace in an uptempo league. That would be okay if they were a more talented offensive team. But the challenge that their pace causes is that if (or should I say when) they fall behind, it's hard for them to come back.
Prediction: If Clemson could play all of their games at Littlejohn, they might be able to jump up to the upper half of the league standings. Unfortunately, the Tigers will still play .500 ball in the ACC and probably end up no higher than eighth.
Current RPI: 16
Quality Wins: Michigan State, UMass, UNC Charlotte
Worst Loss: Florida Gulf Coast
Mid-season MVP: Durand Scott (15.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.0 apg)
Biggest Strength: Miami takes care of the ball, only turning it over 11.2 times per game. Durand Scott and Shane Larkin, the 'Canes backcourt, only give it away four times between the two of them.
Area of Concern: The Hurricanes are going to have to figure out quickly how they are going to get by for the next 6-8 weeks without their senior center Reggie Johnson, who was averaging 12.6 ppg and 10.1 rpg.
Prediction: Jim Larranaga will have to be creative to keep the 'Canes season together without Johnson. Unless Kenny Kadji steps up, what could have been a solid year might turn into a disappointment.
Current RPI: 149
Best Wins: Tennessee, Fairfield, Wisconsin
Worst Losses: Old Dominion, Delaware
Mid-season MVP: Akil Mitchell (13.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg)
Biggest Strength: Mitchell is having a breakout season. The 6'8", 234-lb forward is ready to compete every night alongside Joe Harris to give the Cavs a dynamic inside-outside duo.
Area of Concern: Because of the pace that they play at, Virginia better not fall behind. They are literally one of the most deliberate (code for slow) teams in D-I hoops.
Prediction: Tony Bennett has made gradual progress with the UVA program. He will have to push the Cavaliers to move beyond last year's 22-10 (9-7 ACC; NCAA appearance) finish.
5. Florida State
Current RPI: 86
Best Wins: BYU, St. Joseph's, UNC Charlotte
Worst Losses: South Alabama, Mercer
Mid-season MVP: Michael Snaer (16.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.4 apg)
Biggest Strength: The Seminoles consistently get the ball in the lane and go to the line a lot (over 24 times per game). Additionally, FSU makes their opponents pay for putting them there. They hit 73.1 percent of their attempts
Area of Concern: So far, Florida State is committing more turnovers (15.8 tpg) than assists (12.2 apg). When you are giving it away more than you are setting up scoring opportunities, it's a problem.
Prediction: Two of the Seminoles four losses came against Florida and Minnesota. The other two came against Mercer and South Alabama...Huh? In spite of the fact that FSU has had an uneven opening to the 2012-13 season, don't be fooled by their early record.
Current RPI: 65
Best Wins: George Mason, Northwestern
Worst Loss: Kentucky
Mid-season MVP: Alex Len (13.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
Biggest Strength: Maryland is a good shooting team, hitting on 50.3 percent of their FGs (No. 10 in the nation). When you have three players shooting above 57 percent (Len, Dez Wells and James Padgett) in your frontcourt, good things will happen.
Area of Concern: The Terrapins need to get better three-point shooting from someone as they move into the ACC schedule. Freshman Seth Allen can provide some of that off the bench, but Maryland may find that their opponents pack the lane and dare them to shoot from beyond the arc.
Prediction: Other than their opening-game loss against Kentucky, Maryland has rolled through the rest of their pre-conference schedule undefeated. Mark Turgeon's Year 2 is shaping up to be an exciting one for Terrapin fans. Top four finish in the conference? You bet!
3. North Carolina
Current RPI: 25
Quality Wins: UNLV, Long Beach State
Worst Loss: Texas
Mid-season MVP: Reggie Bullock (13.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.2 apg)
Biggest Strength: Lots of scoring options and lots of people willing to share the ball (No. 1 in the nation in assists per game) is a good combination for Roy's squad.
Area of Concern: Which Tar Heel team will show up on a game-by-game basis? If it is the team that had focus and intensity against UNLV, Carolina will challenge for the league title. If the listless and lethargic squad that got pounded by Texas or that struggled with East Carolina shows up, UNC could be a bubble team in a hurry.
Prediction: This Carolina team will be a work in progress through the whole season. Not exactly how the Tar Heels usually do it. But come March Madness time, UNC will go at least to the Sweet 16 or beyond.
2. North Carolina State
Current RPI: 13
Quality Wins: UConn, UMass, Stanford
Worst Loss: Oklahoma State
Mid-season MVP: C.J. Leslie (15.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg)
Biggest Strength: The Pack's overall shooting is outstanding. Currently, they are the national leaders in team FG percentage (53.5 percent). Five or six players can go for double figures any night.
Area of Concern: NC State is going to have to prove that they can win on the road and against Top 25 teams. Their two losses this year were on neutral court and the road. Last year, the Pack was 5-4 on the road and didn't win a game against a ranked team until the NCAA tournament.
Prediction: With C.J. Leslie doing his thing and a deep, talented roster, the Pack is back. But they will still come up short of winning the ACC.
Current RPI: 1
Best Wins: Louisville, Ohio State, Minnesota
Worst Losses: Currently undefeated
Mid-season MVP: Mason Plumlee (19.5 ppg, 11.6 rpg)
Biggest Strength: Offensive firepower and excellent balance makes it hard for Duke's opponents to focus on stopping one main scorer. Cook's emergence as a legitimate floor leader shouldn't be overlooked in creating the evenness.
Area of Concern: Rebounding continues to be the weakest part of the Blue Devils game. Their four-out, one-in approach doesn't help things on the offensive glass.
Prediction: The Blue Devils have the talent and experience (starting three seniors) to not only win the ACC, but to win it all in Atlanta. The emergence of Plumlee as a force in the middle has changed the trajectory of Duke's season. Also, Seth Curry is playing with a different level of confidence that translates into him being a bona fide scoring threat (instead of a on-again, off-again shooter) in crunch time.