ACC Basketball Power Rankings: Who Will Challenge Duke?
The ACC has some explaining to do.
Usually the blue bloods of basketball like to flex their collective muscle during the out-of-conference season, but the joy has been rather subdued outside of Durham, North Carolina.
We all knew that Duke was loaded heading into this season and, even with the injury to Kyrie Irving, the defending national champions appear to be the cream of the crop yet again.
The question now becomes, how will the rest of the ACC standings look? Some teams have already disappointed while others have been pleasant surprises.
Suffice it to say though, even in this small sample size, flaws have begun to emerge for every team in the conference.
Therefore, here is a ranking of the 12 teams based on their play so far this season. While I fully expect there to be some turmoil as the weeks progress, particularly when conference play begins, this is what we have learned so far in 2010-11.
Enjoy and let the debate begin!
1. Duke Blue Devils
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There's really nothing that needs to be said here.
The defending national champions combined with an undefeated record have made the Blue Devils a formidable foe yet again.
Duke embarrassed Kansas State, survived Michigan State and only once this season failed to score at least 82 points in a game.
The Kyrie Irving injury certainly dampens the ridiculously high expectations, but Duke has still established itself as the prohibitive favorite.
While Duke may lose a game or two in the ACC, it seems almost certain that they will be atop the standings when it is all said and done.
The real question becomes will they peak too early and face an unexpected loss in the NCAA tournament?
2. Florida State Seminoles
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Could Florida State be the contender for ACC glory?
The Seminoles are 10-2, their only two losses to a ranked Florida and a dominant Ohio State team.
The main problem in assessing the boys from Tallahassee has been their lack of a signature win. Yet, their gutsy come-from-behind win against Clemson told a tale that Florida State could be near the top of the ACC when it is all said and done.
Chris Singleton leads a well-balanced offensive attack, but the calling card of the Seminoles this season has been an ACC best in scoring defense at 59.2 points per game.
Florida State has opponents shooting less than 34 percent in 12 games this season. While that number may go up when the competition improves, coach Leonard Hamilton may finally have all the pieces in place to make a run.
Their next ACC showdown with Virginia Tech will go a long way in determining the pecking order of ACC contenders and pretenders.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels
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Roy Williams is not the most cuddly figure in the world.
It seems clear that North Carolina's coach wants to choke the media personalities who may have overhyped his team entering the year.
North Carolina is certainly talented and they will not have to suffer through the embarrassment of last season. However, they are still growing and learning how to become an elite team.
While none of the Tar Heels' four losses are necessarily bad, they are still too many for a team with the prestige of Carolina.
Fortunately for them, the ACC appears to be down and they could peak right about the same time.
Until that happens and coach Williams finds some toughness inside, Carolina will stick here.
4. Boston College Eagles
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Boston College never seems to get any attention.
The Eagles have a new coach in Steve Donahue, a man that inherited a 15-16 team last season.
Boston College already has a 10-2 mark, and an impressive victory on the road against Maryland to open up the ACC season.
Reggie Jackson has exploded this season. The guard is averaging 19.2 PPG, scoring in double figures in every game except one. With a 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio, Jackson is an offensive catalyst and will be the difference-maker this season.
While Boston College has a bad loss to Yale, their only other loss to Wisconsin is certainly understandable. Even with a weak bottom third in the ACC, will the Eagles be able to continue their strong play heading into the conference season?
The key will be in the frontcourt, the Eagles rank near the bottom of the ACC in rebounding and will face some formidable big men this season.
Boston College appears to be soaring now, but will that translate into an NCAA tournament bid for the second time in three years?
5. Maryland Terrapins
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The Maryland Terrapins just cannot seem to get over the hump.
Every time coach Gary Williams and company look to be on the verge of something, they stumble.
Maryland appeared to be one of those contenders to finish near the top of the ACC and still may be.
However, an unfortunate loss at home to Boston College to open conference play have the Terrapins wondering what went wrong.
Maryland is a very good team, but they have yet to pick up that signature victory so far.
Their physicality and toughness make them a tough team to play. The Terrapins rank 17th in the country with over 40 rebounds per game.
Jordan Williams has exploded with a great sophomore campaign with over 18 points per game. His play will dictate Maryland's future as the season continues.
6. Miami Hurricanes
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Let's face it, Miami Hurricanes basketball is just a weird term for everyone.
"The U" builds their prestige on football and despite a 10-3 record on the hardwood, the buzz is still lacking in Coral Gables.
Coach Frank Haith has built a strong offense with three players averaging double figures, but the Hurricanes are still averaging more turnovers than assists.
ACC success has usually relied upon strong guard play and the Hurricanes are very young with only one senior on the roster.
Miami is talented, they have some scorers and they have showed some moxy. Their near comeback against UCF would have given them a nice feather in their cap, but they still look strong.
Still, like most ACC teams, there are question marks that will need to be answered.
7. North Carolina State
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Paging Sidney Lowe, time is ticking.
The North Carolina State coach knows he is in a make or break season. After four years, the Wolfpack are 71-62, but a meager 20-44 in the ACC.
This is clearly eating away to the Wolfpack fans who unceremoniously deposed Lowe's predecessor despite making postseason play nine out of ten years.
With a down ACC, fans expectations are high but at 7-4, the results can only be inconclusive.
The four losses have been to Syracuse, Georgetown, Wisconsin and Arizona. None of them are that bad, yet none of the wins up to this point are going to impress anyone.
The Wolfpack have three more probable wins before the ACC tilt begins and the pressure cooker goes into full gear.
Lowe and company must beat Wake Forest before going on the road to Boston College and Florida State before a huge game against Duke.
Lowe can survive going 2-2 during this stretch, but anything worse could set his team towards desperation rather quickly.
The red jacket may be flashy and the late-season heroics are impressive, but they may not be enough if the Wolfpack do not step it up.
8. Virginia Cavaliers
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Tony, Tony, Tony.
The Cavaliers just frustrate you. On one hand they can beat Minnesota and Virginia Tech on the road in convincing fashion.
Later on, they are barely surviving Norfolk State and lose at home to Seattle right before Christmas break.
To be fair, Virginia has had some bad injuries.
Mike Scott's arthroscopic surgery clearly rattled the confidence of this team, even if they gutted out a big victory over Oregon during that stretch.
Sammy Zeglinski cannot seem to find his form after injuries cost him the beginning of the season, and the team is missing that confident stroke of senior captain Will Sherrill.
Virginia is a team that relies on freshmen and as a result could lose and beat just about anybody. If shooter Joe Harris and mid-range artist K.T. Harrell continue to improve, Virginia will be looking at an NIT bid.
If they stick to where they are right now, they're probably closer to where the prognosticators had them.
Still, coach Bennett has to be excited about the future. It just needs to hurry up and get here.
9. Virginia Tech Hokies
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A one-man team can only go so far.
The Virginia Tech Hokies came in as a media darling. People felt bad that they were snubbed by the NCAA tournament last season and predicted a finish near the top of the ACC in 2010-11.
Well, people seemed to turn a blind eye to all the losses in the frontcourt.
Considering that Jeff Allen can be his own worst enemy, Virginia Tech's success relies on Malcolm Delaney.
After playing selfishly in the beginning in the season and starting 4-4, the Hokies have rebounded a bit with an emphasis on sharing the ball. If Delaney continues to get his teammates involved, they can still rise up to expectations.
However, if the Hokies revert back to their old form or continue to struggle offensively, they could end up being one of the biggest disappointments in the country.
10. Clemson Tigers
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Remember when the Clemson Tigers would dominate the out of conference play?
In the three previous seasons, Clemson lost a combined four games in the first two months of the season. These Tigers have lost four games already and their signature victory is an overtime victory over Seton Hall.
The Tigers have not looked awe-inspiring up to this point, considering the competition it is hard to tell just how good (or bad) Clemson may be this season. Their three-game losing streak came to respectable teams, but their 11th-ranked ACC offense has to be concerning to fans.
Clemson has to win against Miami and Georgia Tech because things could get rough after that with the ACC schedule.
11. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
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Coach Paul Hewitt is asking, can I just get a two-pointer?
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have an offense that is so putrid, their shooting percentage of 40.1 is 293rd in the country.
When you add in the fact that they are averaging 15 assists and 13 turnovers, things really look bleak.
Losing to Kennesaw State was an eye-opener, but the Jackets have now lost three of the last four and have a tough game against Richmond, a team that knocked off Purdue earlier this year.
Georgia Tech has fallen mightily under coach Hewitt and he appears on the verge of finally being bounced from his post. Despite his strong recruiting, he has been unable to keep and cultivate that talent into a consistent winner.
This may be the year that the clock runs out on the Hewitt era.
12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
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What on earth is going in Winston-Salem?
Wake Forest has fallen and cannot get up. Somewhere coach Dino Gaudio must be laughing because the scapegoat is watching the Demon Deacons stink up the place.
At 6-6 Wake is the only team without a winning record in the ACC. They have lost three out of the last four, the lone victory was a last-minute thriller against a winless UNC-Greensboro squad.
No offense to new coach Jeff Bzdelik, but his team looks like they have quit on him already. The talent may not be what is was last year, but it's not nearly this bad.
Wake Forest gives up more than 73 points per game. Have fun when the ACC season starts, Demon Deacons.