The basketball season has moved into conference play in the ACC, with Duke winning it’s conference opener against Miami at home in Durham. No surprise, really. Sorry, Hurricanes, but you’ve got three potential All-ACC players on your roster and you play like you’ve never seen a man-to-man defense. But, let’s put that aside for the moment and take a moment to discuss the landscape of the ACC. My Big East pals hate the smack talk over the ACC, and they keep telling me how the ACC is down this year, except Duke. Now, I have a crazy amount of respect for the Big East, but I also know ACC ball, and the last two years, the ‘ACC is down’ story resulted in two national champions.
I also know that ACC ball is tough, and the season forges out teams that are stronger at the end of the season than the start.
So, is anyone besides Duke really a threat in the ACC this season?
The ACC has some good coaches and stellar recruits. Despite everyone declaring them dead, UNC is playing like an NCAA tournament team, quickly leaving the awful season of last year behind. No, right now, they don’t look as good as Duke, but they are talented, albeit young. Duke versus UNC is a brawl, and there is a good chance that UNC will split the games with Duke this season. No, I’m not crazy. Not only is Roy good against K, UNC is getting better by the week and both teams play all out against each other. But UNC isn’t Duke’s only threat.
Maryland has managed to take it to both Duke and Maryland even in years when it looked like Gary Williams was trying to win with a team that he rounded up from the rec the night before. He’s got a legit star and is a good coach. He’s going to be a problem for the ACC this year.
Sid Lowe is my pick for a coach who’d better get it done this season. The good news for Lowe is that NC State has more talent on this year’s team than they’ve had since the 80’s. The bad news is that they are all young. Lowe finally has a team that could compete with Duke and UNC, but he still hasn’t proven that he can stand toe-to-toe with the heavyweights. He needs to get into the NCAA tournament this season, and he needs to give UNC and Duke the same fits that Gary Williams does.
Virginia Tech was supposed to be the team that could compete with Duke this season, but so far they’ve lost their way. Wake Forest tanked when they lost their point guard, and Georgia Tech lost too much talent to the NBA. Only Florida State seems like a team with promise to compete with the upper part of the conference.