Who’s hot, who’s not as ACC basketball season debuts
Aside from Duke’s remarkable non-conference season, it’s been another year of mediocre results for the ACC heading into league competition, which begins this weekend.
The top-ranked Blue Devils beat five Top 40 Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) teams — including four at neutral sites — with wins over Minnesota, VCU and Louisville in the Bahamas, Temple in East Rutherford, N.J., and Ohio State at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
That doesn’t include a neutral site win over Kentucky when the since-slumping Wildcats were ranked in the top five nationally.
Duke’s tally equals the number of Top 40 wins for the rest of the ACC combined, and three of those other ACC wins came at home.
Preseason favorite N.C. State is the only other ranked team, and it’s barely hanging on at No. 23. After reaching as high as No. 9, UNC tumbled out of the polls after high-profile blowout losses to Indiana, Butler and Texas, and no other team has stepped up to take its place.
Miami and Maryland could be solid tournament teams, but the Terrapins haven’t proven they can beat a tournament-quality opponent yet, while the Hurricanes must navigate their way through injuries.
Teams like Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Miami will need double-digit ACC wins to even enter the NCAA discussion.
On the plus side, every conference team has a winning record, and with everyone in the Top 200 there isn’t a school that will be a huge drag on teams’ RPI numbers like last year’s Boston College squad, which entered the league season at No. 273.
With the league season about to start, here’s a quick look at all 12 ACC teams, ordered by their listing on RealTimeRPI.com.
Wins to tout: Louisville, Ohio State, Minnesota, Kentucky
Losses to hide from: none
Outlook: The No. 1-ranked Blue Devils look like a national championship contender as the calendar turns to 2013. Mason Plumlee is a national player of the year candidate and Seth Curry is having an all-ACC level year. Duke is clearly the ACC’s best right now.
Wins to tout: Connecticut, Stanford, Massachusetts
Losses to hide from: None
Outlook: The Wolfpack have won eight straight games after a 3-2 start. N.C. State has done it with offense — the team has shot better than 50 percent in 11 of its 13 games and leads the county with a field goal percentage of 53.5.
Wins to tout: Michigan State, Massachusetts
Losses to hide from: Florida Gulf Coast, Indiana State
Outlook: The Hurricanes haven’t been 100 percent and won’t be for a while longer. Guard Durand Scott was out early and now center Reggie Johnson is sidelined until mid-February with a broken thumb. With everyone, Miami is a top-5 team in the league.
Win to tout: UNLV
Loss to hide from: Texas
Outlook: UNC needed time to overcome the departure of four star players. The Tar Heels have the toughest schedule of all the ACC contenders, with home-and-homes against Duke, N.C. State, Miami, Maryland and FSU and just one game against lower-echelon teams like Boston College, Wake Forest and Clemson.
Win to tout: George Mason
Losses to hide from: None
Outlook: Since falling to then-No. 3 Kentucky by 3 to open the season, the Terrapins have won 12 straight, the longest streak since the national champion ’01-’02 team won 13 in a row. However, Maryland has played just one road game and has the 282nd-ranked non-conference schedule.
Wins to tout: Brigham Young, St. Joseph’s, Charlotte
Losses to hide from: South Alabama, Mercer, Auburn
Outlook: The reigning ACC champions are scuffling after alarming home losses to South Alabama and Mercer. Normally one of the ACC’s better defensive teams, the Seminoles are near the bottom in field goal percentage defense (41.1 percent) and are allowing nearly 70 points per game.
Win to tout: St. Mary’s
Losses to hide from: None
Outlook: The Yellow Jackets haven’t lost at new McCamish Pavilion, although No. 133 Tulane was the only Top 200 team they faced. Georgia Tech’s youngsters are leading the way, with freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt tops in scoring (11.5) and freshman Robert Carter Jr. tops in rebounding (6.8).
Wins to tout: Oklahoma State, Iowa
Loss to hide from: Georgia Southern
Outlook: Erick Green has been the ACC’s most dominant scorer, averaging 24.4 points and topping 20 in all but one game. But he needs help, and the Hokies enter conference play on a 2-4 slide — most recently a 36-point home loss to Colorado State and a 26-point loss at BYU.
Win to tout: Penn State
Losses to hide from: Bryant, Harvard
Outlook: Other than sophomore forward Ryan Anderson (16.3 points, 9.7 rebounds) the young Eagles remain basically a feckless bunch. Boston College is the worst-shooting team in the ACC (43.5 percent) and is weak defensively.
Win to tout: Tennessee
Losses to hide from: Old Dominion, Delaware
Outlook: Injuries to point guard Jontel Evans have slowed the Cavaliers this season. But Virginia remains a good shooting team, at times, thanks to Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. Virginia needs Evans healthy to be an NCAA Tournament team.
Win to tout: Xavier
Losses to hide from: Iona, Richmond
Outlook: In his first two seasons at the helm, Jeff Bzdelik went 5-27 in the ACC. The Demon Deacons may struggle to improve on that history this year, though a three-game winning streak, capped off with a win over Xavier Wednesday, offers the deflated fan base a glimpse of hope.
Win to tout: Texas-El Paso
Losses to hide from: Purdue, Coastal Carolina
Outlook: Unable to score efficiently, the Tigers rely on defense to survive. That’s a tough formula in ACC play. Inconsistent Milton Jennings and rugged Devin Booker aren’t enough to get the Tigers many league wins.