The ACC has more going on the just expansion. - Andy Lyons
Most teams have completed the first half of their out of conference schedules. With just a month to go before ACC play kicks off, we take a look at where each team stands 1-12, and what they need to do to improve prior to the start of conference games.
A lot can happen between now and March. Nonetheless it where each team stands in the ultra competitive ACC, especially coming of of last week's ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
With our further delay here are my early season rankings:
Reason they are ranked where they are: Mason Plumlee (19.6 ppg 11.0 rpg) looks like a POY candidate early on. The freshman Rasheed Sulaimon (12.9 ppg) has adjusted to big time college hoops seamlessly. Veterans Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly continue to provide perimeter scoring almost any team in the nation would envy. But more then anything else, Quinn Cook (10.5 ppg, 5.9 apg) looks like the highly touted recruit and big time PG he was supposed to be coming out of H.S.
Room for improvement: Inside Depth. Duke has been sensational. Not even Dick Vitale could have hoped for a start this smoking. Unlike Sulaimon, fellow freshman stud Amile Jefferson has gotten off to a slow start. Before the season ends they will need Jefferson or Josh Hairston to become viable options off the bench when Plumlee or Kelly need a blow.
Biggest Win: In a normal year, the Kentucky win would stand head and shoulders above the rest. But in addition to UK's troubles (losses to Baylor and Notre Dame back to back), the Devils have also beaten Big 10 powerhouse Ohio State, and Big East favorite Louisville. It's rare to have a trifecta of wins that impressive, this early. They get another quality team in a neutral arena this Saturday, when they take on Temple in East Rutherford, N.J.
Tourney chances: Needless to say, there's little doubt Duke will be there. It's very early, but if they keep this up the only question is whether or not they get a #1 seed.
Reason they are ranked where they are: They certainly pass the eye test. The Terps have rolled to 6 consecutive wins after a tight loss (which they easily could have won) against Kentucky to open the season. Alex Len (14.7 ppg 9.0 rpg, 2.7 bpg) has been a monster down low. Dezmine Wells and Nick Faust are both very capable wings. Pe'Shon Howard (6.7 apg) has thrived as a pass first PG.
Room for improvement: Consistency. Maryland has looked terrific for spells, but lethargic and sloppy at times as well. Seth Allen can has had moments but has also disappeared at times. Big freshman Shaquille Cleare is still getting his bearings, but certainly has the talent to be a bigger factor.
Biggest Win: MD looked really good outclassing an above average Northwestern team by 20. They also survived a sloppy performance to hold off a very good mid major in George Mason. If they had only played a better first half against Kentucky.......
Tourney chances: Very very very good. Anywhere from a 2-6 seed at worst. The will only get better as young players (Cleare & Jake Layman) get more comfortable.
Reason they are ranked where they are: Durand Scott. Miami gave up over 66 ppg and was 2-1 against Stetson, Florida Gulf Coast (loss) , and Jacksonville with out Scott but surrendered just 61 ppg in three wins over Detroit, Michigan State, and UMass with Scott. The senior guard is a difference maker. In addition, Shane Larkin (16.3 ppg 3.7 apg 52% 3P%) and Trey McKinney Jones (12.0 ppg 46% 3P%) have been spectacular. Reggie Johnson (12.8 ppg 10.8 rpg) is a load. And Kenny Kadji (10.5 ppg 7.2 rpg) rounds out a starting line-up where all 5 players average in double figures, and he is just now finding his touch. Miami has some very nice pieces in place and have come back furiously following the early embarrassment against FGCU.
Room for improvement: Bench production. Rion Brown needs to regain his touch and provide punch off the bench. Julian Gamble has been effective spelling Johnson and Kadji, and would benefit from more minutes.
Biggest Win: Michigan State, of course!! Scenes like this do not happen every day:
Tourney chances: Pretty damn good. This team is really coming together and is poised to make some noise in the ACC. ESPN even named them team of the week.
#4 Virginia Tech
Reason they are ranked where they are: For starters Erick Green (24.9 ppg 4.0 rpg 4.4 apg) is playing like a young Allen Iverson/Russell Westbrook/Jay Williams. Jarrell Eddie (17.1 ppg 53% 3P%) has been lights out as well. Add to mix Robert Brown (13.4 ppg 3.4 apg) and you have a pretty lethal big three. Cadarian Raines has balanced things out by providing just enough inside (9.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg). This is a team that has been much better then expected, and could pose problems for the big boys come conference play with their fast-paced style.
Room for improvement: Hard to find any. Who'd have thought they would be this good?
Biggest Win: Smoking Iowa at home was impressive, but beating an Oklahoma State ranked #15 team at the time, that beat NC State earlier in the year, was an attention grabber.
Tourney chances: Excellent. Seth Greenberg would tell us to hold off here. But unlike some of the Hokie teams that got screwed selection Sundays of the past, this team already has 2 quality out of conference wins.
#5 North Carolina
Reason they are ranked where they are: There is no shame in losing to mid major powerhouse Butler, nor #1 ranked Indiana. James Michael McAdoo (15.8 ppg 9.3 rpg) has been a dominant force at times, but looks like he should be even better. Reggie Bullock (12.3 ppg 49% 3P%) looks ready to be a consistent outside compliment to McAdoo, but PJ Hairston (11.6 ppg 34% 3P%) still needs to shoot more consistently. Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland are experienced guards, who know and excel in their roles.
Room for improvement: Marcus Paige has all the talent in the world as a freshman. 39% from the floor and 3 turnovers per game are numbers he can and will improve upon.
Biggest Win: They showed how good they can be in comfortable wins over Mississippi State and UAB. A more signature Tar Heel win remains on the horizon.
Tourney chances: Well above average. This is a very young team that will improve as the season progresses.
#6 NC State
Reason they are ranked where they are: CJ Leslie is as good a player as there is in the ACC. His numbers (11.7 ppg 7.5 rpg) are not reflective on how talented he really is. Freshman TJ Warren (15.7 ppg) is the heir apparent. Richard Howell remains a beast down low, and Lorenzo Brown (10.5 ppg 6.0 apg) is still as good a lead guard as there is in the country. All the weapons (Scott Wood and Rodney Purvis especially) remain in place. What this team needs is to recapture the chemistry that they rode to the Sweet 16 last year.
Room for improvement: Intensity. The Wolfpack were destroyed on the boards in a loss to Oklahoma State. And against Michigan they played well at times, but gave the Wolverines far too many clean looks. In a team full of stars, they need some guys to step up and do the dirty work.
Biggest Win: UMass? Penn State? Not the kind of wins that were expected from a team this talented in the preseason. Fortunately they still have plenty of chances.
Tourney chances: Still very good. They could still end up being the class of the ACC if they find themselves.
Reason they are ranked where they are: Joe Harris (16.5 ppg 46% 3P%) has shown the propensity to be the go-to guy for the Hoos. Akil Mitchell (12.6 ppg 9.4 rpg) has been relentless in the paint. Consistent to their MO under Tony Bennett, they only allow 52.8 ppg this season.
Room for improvement: Well they don't score that much!! The return to form of senior PG Jontel Evans (less then a point a game so far in 3 contests) will help.
Biggest Win: Surviving the blood bath in Madison against fellow defensive stalwart Wisconsin was truly impressive.
Tourney chances: Asi Asi, Mas or Menos, Ehhhhhh. I like this team. But the ACC is perceived as top heavy. It will take some big wins for them to get in.
Reason they are ranked where they are: The defending ACC Tournament Champs have lost to lightweights Mercer and South Alabama. They were also handled by a good Minnesota team. Michael Snaer (14.1 ppg) has been good but not yet broken out. Ian Miller (7.0 ppg) has been disappointing thus far. Okaro White has been very effective, but young guys like Montay Brandon, Devon Bookert, and Aaron Thomas have flashed skill, but like most freshman have had their inconsistencies.
Room for improvement: They are inefficient offensively and have not yet achieved the standard of a Leonard Hamilton coached team on defense. There is a lot of room for improvement all-around. Don't count them out yet though, Snaer is a warrior and Hamilton is one of the best coaches in the nation.
Biggest Win: BYU?? I guess.
Tourney chances: Not terrific. The bad losses are well, BAD. But should they get on a roll, they are more then capable of taking down the top teams in the conference. A win or a good showing against UF this week would be a step in the right direction.
#9 Georgia Tech
Reason they are ranked where they are: OK, so they lost to a terrific Illinois team and beat a bunch of mostly nobodies. They have a better roster (Marcus George-Hunt and Robert Carter) but still continue to struggle to score (62 ppg as a team). They might just be here by default.
Room for improvement: Can anyone (Carter, Mufon Udofia, Brandon Reed, Jason Morris, Chris Bolden) emerge as a consistent scorer?
Biggest Win: Tulane is not a terrible team, and GT beat them soundly.
Tourney chances: If guys start making shots, who knows? Right now, not so much.....
Reason they are ranked where they are: Because DJ Byrd of Purdue outscored them all by himself if the first half of the Boilermakers win over CU. Because their leading scorer at the time, Milton Jennings, was arrested on drug charges and missed that game. The guard play remains suspect. On the bright side of things, Devin Booker and KJ McDaniels remain solid scorers.
Room for improvement: Someone needs to step up and provide consistent scoring from the guard spots.(Jordan Roper?? Rod Hall?)
Biggest Win: Beating in state rival South Carolina showed potential.
Tourney chances: This year or next???
#11 Wake Forest
Reason they are ranked where they are: How exactly does a team with Travis McKie and CJ Harris lose to Iona and Richmond, AND get blown out by Nebraska at home?
Room for improvement: Anywhere and everywhere. Harris, McKie, and freshman PG Codi Miller-McIntyre give the Deacs the ability to score on the perimeter, but who can finish inside?
Biggest Win: Well they did beat Mercer, who beat FSU. Ipso facto, Wake should beat FSU?!?!
Tourney chances: LOL!!!!
#12 Boston College
Reason they are ranked where they are: Because whether or not the football team can pry Al Golden (very unlikely) away from Miami is bigger news then the basketball team. Oh yeah they lost to Bryant College (who?).
Room for improvement: Ryan Anderson is a good player. Olivier Hanlan also looks like a nice freshman guard. But will Dennis Clifford emerge as a solid big man? This team is also severely challenged athletically.
Biggest Win: Penn State or Auburn, take your pick.
Tourney chances: About as good as my chances to win Powerball.
Thanks to all who took the time to read this. More Power Rankings to emerge as the season progresses.