Well, if you haven’t paid attention to the ACC in the last month, it’s time to start. Duke isn’t the only force on the coast as teams such as UVA made statements in late 2018 and look to make their name known in 2019 before March (which is only 2 months away!). Happy New Year! It’s time to separate the headliners and the rebuilders. Take a look.
North Carolina: Will the real Tar Heels please stand up?
These guys are hard to figure out. They looked alright playing mediocre teams, plus Stanford, at the beginning of the year, but weaknesses were exposed in an 89-92 loss to Texas. Kerwin Roach smoked the Heels’ defense for 32 points as the Tar Heels gave up 92 and couldn’t win despite Coby White’s 33 points. A win UCLA against is looking less and less impressive. The one shining star on the Tar Heels’ record would be a 103-90 win against then-4 Gonzaga, but inconsistency has been a big issue. Also, Roy Williams refuses to play athletic marvel, top recruit, and NBA prospect Nassir Little more than a few minutes a game. Little needs the exposure; he has the potential to go top-5 in the draft if he can impress scouts which I believe he can do easily. His productivity is impressive in the few minutes he is granted. The consistency lies in freshman PG Coby White: that kid is a star. UNC plays Pittsburgh on January 5.
Pittsburgh: Jeff Capel Turning A Bad Program Around
I’ve been bad about following this since former Duke assistant head coach Jeff Capel departed for Pitt, but he’s making a bad program look fun again! They’re not going to win the ACC or something, but he has them set to be a winning program. The recruits flow to him. Plus, their social media platforms have been hyped. It’s not going to happen instantaneously, but Pitt is creeping back into competition. I can’t wait to see what happens there next. Pitt contested throughout the whole game in a 68-69 loss to ranked Iowa. They play UNC on January 5.
NC State: They’re Legitimate.
This is what I can say about NC State right now: Wow! Kevin Keatts was apparently the answer for State. They’re currently ranked #18 in the country. Torin Dorn is an excellent player. I’m excited for NC State-UNC this year (an early January game): this rivalry seems to come to life more and more as NC State revitalizes itself after the Mark Gottfried disaster. Poll voters have mixed opinions as some put the Pack near the top 10 while others didn’t rank them at all. They’re an intriguing development and look good in the future. They have a strong record of 12-1 and have a huge win on the board against #8 Auburn, the only blemish being a loss to Wisconsin. Star player Markell Johnson, though, is apparently having an issue as head coach Kevin Keatts didn’t play him for “low energy”: “Markell was low energy. So when you’re low energy, you don’t play for me… It’s not about the guy that scores the most points, but the guy who plays the hardest. I wanted more energy from him, especially on the defensive end.” NC State plays Miami on January 3.
Virginia Tech: Hokies Better Than Ever
Yet another team is on the rise: Virginia Tech had high expectations at the beginning of the season and has lived up to the hype thus far. They did lose to Penn State but have otherwise kept a clean record and entered the top-10 for the first time in a while. They’re the only team in the conference with an ACC win after kicking off the conference stretch with an win vs. Notre Dame in which their offense shone. Yet again, a trip to Blacksburg will be no fun for anybody.
Clemson: A Competitor
In general, this Clemson team has a goal: to prove that last year’s Sweet Sixteen run was no fluke. They’ve beaten the teams, certainly, that they should beat with a few losses intermittently, but in general is a strong group. Marcquise Reed has returned from a knee sprain, giving them back their best player after a little under a month out. This Clemson team will certainly be a competitor in the ACC and will be no easy game for anyone. Clemson will play Duke on January 5.
Syracuse: Up and Down
They beat Ohio State, they lose to Old Dominion. They defeat Georgetown, they get beaten by Oregon. This season hasn’t been anywhere close to consistent for the Orange. Tyus Battle has continued to be a force after returning to New York for another season, but in general this team hasn’t quite found its identity. Hopefully for ‘Cuse fans, they can do so during ACC play.
Florida State: Top-10 Power
The Seminoles are set to have a pretty good season, their current #9 rank supported by quality wins over LSU and Florida (a rout). Phil Cofer is back from the squad that made the Elite Eight last year alongside Terance Mann who can both be major producers on the offensive end of the court. The ‘Noles, however, will get their first major test against #4 UVA on January 5.
Virginia: Final Four Contender (But Still, UMBC)
Well, get ready, because the Wahoos are just as good as they were last year. With lockdown defense, they can contend with anybody provided that they make something happen on offense. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome can do so at least most of the time, as well as (only) NBA prospect De’Andre Hunter. They are going to be a major favorite- though probably second to Duke- for the ACC crown and will be able to contend with anybody in the NCAA. As of now, they’re undefeated (though the strength of schedule is not there); however, Virginia has a history of choking when it matters most: March.
The remaining teams, their records, and their upcoming schedule:
Next: vs. Syracuse, Saturday 12pm
Next: @ 10 VA Tech, Saturday 12pm
Next: vs. Miami, Sunday 6pm
Next: @ Louisville, Sunday 6pm
Next: vs. Wake Forest, Saturday 2pm
Next: @ Georgia Tech, Saturday 2pm
Bleed blue. Get this: we finally get to watch our team play again! Duke takes on their first ACC foe in Clemson in Durham on Saturday at 8pm.