Well, here we are in the third week of January and the ACC is looking like a four-team max Big Dance league. Word nationwide is that the preeminent basketball conference is having a “down” year and everybody wants to know why. As usual, there isn’t a simple answer but a confluence of different reasons for the general malaise outside of Durham.
Duke is good. Maybe not #1 good without super frosh point guard Kyrie Irving who’s out with an injured toe, but a lock for the tournament and a likely #1 seed. With Irving, we will speculate that the Blue Devils would have run the table. The kid is that good.
Yesterday in a coaches conference call Gary Williams suggested part of the level of play league-wide is the plethora of freshmen playing meaningful minutes. While this is true, it certainly isn’t uncommon in other leagues or unusual in the ACC.
N.C. State starts three freshmen while North Carolina and Wake Forest start at least two each game. Beginning in 2005-06, there have been just two seasons in which no freshmen or redshirt freshmen ranked in the top 10 in the ACC in scoring.
However, this season and last season only one freshman has been among the top-10 ACC scorers, so maybe the ACC’s talent pool isn’t what it once was. Across the nation, freshman continue to have a big impact at places like top-ranked Ohio State, #10 Texas and #12 Kentucky (the Cats have to rely on freshmen ‘cause everybody goes to the NBA after one season!).
Coaching changes have had an impact at Clemson, Wake Forest and Boston College. Some new faces are having better seasons than others. Injuries have been a key issue in Blacksburg where four players who would have either started or played substantial minutes are out for the season, while in Charlottesville the Wahoos lost their best big man in Mike Scott and their bench is simply too thin to minimize the impact.
Fans continue to call for a coaching change in Atlanta where Paul Hewitt is imply unpopular and his record isn’t helping him out in that department. If Miami had a larger legion of basketball fans it’s likely we’d be hearing the rumblings of discontent there as well. Sid Lowe keeps making more and more N.C. State fans pine for Herb Sendek as the Wolfpack can’t seem to get to the next level.
Florida State is making the best of what they have and North Carolina is better than they were last year but a far cry from what people expect from the Chapel Hill basketball machine.
We predict Duke, North Carolina and Florida State make the NCAA tourney. The Hokies are already on the bubble, but they can play their way in. Somebody else (Terps?) could also sneak in based on the fact that the selection committee needs 68 teams.