We’ve been playing basketball for about a month. Here’s a look at the first of our weekly rankings. It’s clear who to rank #1 in the conference, and the bottom of the standings are pretty simple to figure out as well. However, spots 2-7 are much more difficult. It’s an indicator of how up and down the middle of the ACC standings will likely be this season.
1: Duke (9-0), #1 RPI: The Blue Devils have beaten a number of impressive teams so far this season. If the NCAA Tournament began tomorrow, they would likely be the #1 overall seed.
2: NC State (6-2, #10 RPI): The Wolfpack didn’t look good in losses to Oklahoma State and Michigan, but they later came back with a very strong neutral court win over UConn. This is a very talented team.
3: UNC (7-2, #50 RPI): North Carolina lost to Butler, and they were soundly beaten by #1 Indiana. It’s still probably fair to rank them #3 in the league, because of the overall talent on their roster.
4: Virginia Tech (7-1, #96 RPI): The Hokies are a basket away from remaining undefeated. They have good wins at home over Iowa and Oklahoma State.
5: Maryland (8-1, #104 RPI): Maryland was narrowly defeated by Kentucky in their first game of the season. They won all their games since then, including a solid win at Northwestern.
6: Miami (5-1, #46 RPI): Miami gets a lot of credit by beating Michigan State. However, they also lost at home to Florida Gulf Coast.
7: Virginia (8-2, #150 RPI): Virginia is trending up. After losing to George Mason and Delaware early in the season, the Hoos have won seven games in a row, including a very good road win at Wisconsin.
8: Georgia Tech (6-2, #56 RPI): The Yellow Jackets look like an improved team under second year coach Brian Gregory.
9: Clemson (5-3, #139 RPI): The Tigers haven’t stood out either way, so far. They haven’t beaten anyone special, and their three losses came go Gonzaga, Purdue and Arizona.
10: Florida State (5-4, #151 RPI): FSU has four home losses already. They were upset by South Alabama and Mercer, defeated by Minnesota, and steamrolled by Florida. Four home losses this early in the season is a bad sign, though the Noles are capable of playing better than they have.
11: Wake Forest (4-5, #174 RPI): Wake is playing poor basketball again this year, as they’ve done for the entire Jeff Bzdelik era. It’s tough to see him retaining his job after this season.
12: Boston College (4-5, #207 RPI): The Eagles have been defeated at home by Bryant and Harvard.
Duke will probably remain at or near #1 throughout the season, while Wake Forest and Boston College will likely stay at the bottom. Florida State can move up, though those four early home losses really hurt them. As usual, the middle of the ACC is going to be a dogfight.
Addition by Subtraction
After another week of basketball, the ACC has only one unbeaten team remaining: the Duke Blue Devils. After knocking off Temple on Saturday, Duke is 9-0 on the season. Three teams have one loss: Maryland, Virginia Tech and Miami.
The Blue Devils have arguably been the most impressive team in the country this season. They have wins over #95 Kentucky, #13 Minnesota, #39 VCU, #16 Louisville, #22 Ohio State and #23 Temple. Minnesota, Louisville, Ohio State and Temple all have just one loss on the season – to Duke.
After a disappointing first round exit from the NCAA Tournament last season, Duke is back to playing good defense, and they appear to have better chemistry and teamwork as well. I think it’s fair to attribute the better defensive play to Andre Dawkins (a poor defender) taking a redshirt year this season, and I believe the Blue Devils might be better off with Austin Rivers moving on to the NBA as well.
Duke has four very winnable games remaining on their non-conference schedule: Cornell, Elon, Santa Clara and Davidson. They have to be considered the favorite in the ACC at this point in the season.
Early Season Player of the Year Candidates
Right now, only two legitimate ACC Player of the Year candidates have emerged. Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Virginia Tech’s Erick Green would be at the top of the list if voting took place tomorrow.
Mason Plumlee: The big post player is averaging a double-double, with 19.2 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game. There’s probably not a better big man in the country right now.
Erick Green: The senior guard is second in the country at 24.6 points per game, narrowly behind national leader C.J. McCollum of Lehigh (24.9 ppg). Green is coming off a 23 point, 10 assist, 0 turnover game against West Virginia. He’s playing as well as any guard in the country.
Other players could emerge as we get deeper into the season, but as of now Plumlee and Green are the guys to keep your eye on.
Game of the Week
There isn’t much exciting action in the ACC this week, though Charlotte does visit Miami on Friday night. The 49ers are 9-0 on the season and ranked #38 in the RPI. Miami has some momentum after beating Michigan State at home in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. However, another home loss to a team from a smaller league wouldn’t be good.