Opening weekend in the ACC provided an initial taste of what we are going to be in store for this year. And by golly, outside of Duke, it tasted like a whole hell of a lot of mediocrity with a pretty heavy dose of crap (again).
Some would say "Let's not draw any major conclusions here" or "It's only the first game in the longest ACC conference season to date, maybe pump the brakes a little." I say, if ESPN can use one game to define a season, then reverse course like Leonard Shelby from Memento the following week and completely redefine said season, then I can too. So no matter what I may write in the weeks to come, the below are definitive statements about the state of the basketball teams in the ACC. . . for now.
VIRGINIA 61 North Carolina 52
Please don't miss Bart's recap here.
Rush to Judgment: UNC just lost to the last place team in the Colonial Athletic Conference by double digits and is looking a 2010 style disaster right in the face unless its point guard play and defense improve. But Roy being Roy, he'll try to jam his square peg of a team into the round hole of his system until the 'Heels squeeze into the tourney as a 7 seed, or fall completely apart trying. As for UVA (the previously referenced last place team in the CAA - look it up), its coach Tony Bennett clearly doesn't like things that are great because he continues to involve the 'Hoos in unwatchable basketball games.
Brakes Pumped: UNC lost of what will likely be one of 5-6 ACC road losses this year against a top 6 ACC team. And that's.... OK. The 'Heels were going to lose some of these this year. No need to panic.... yet. UVA, on the other hand, is capable of losing to any ACC team on any night as a result of their style of play and lack of offense, but all said and done, UVA is probably a top 6 ACC team this year -- which is a scary proposition for the ACC.
DUKE 80 Wake Forest 62
Rush to Judgment: Free Throws Problems!! Foul Trouble!! Depth!! Seriously, has there been a more disconcerting 18 point win in recent memory where a shot 46% from three (11 makes) and its point had 14 assists? State has to be licking its chops right now for this weekend's game in Raleigh. This is the type of game Duke loses by double digits every year, right? Mid-January road game? Like clockwork. Wake is in the running with Wake circa 2 years ago for futility - just an awful, awful basketball team that should probably be temporarily shuttered. (I kid... a little).
Brakes Pumped: Duke played poorly and won an ACC game by 18. This game tells us nothing about the Devils -- that will come Saturday. Wake has like 37 freshmen on the roster. If Bzdelich has any coaching ability (and the jury is still out), this should be a pretty salty team in the back half of ACC play that may ruin more than one season.
North Carolina St. 78 BOSTON COLLEGE 73
Rush to Judgment: What the hell, Wolfpack? I get that you are young, but Boston College is also going to be challenging Wake as worst team in the post expansion-ACC era. Sweating the Eagles in the last 20 seconds, even if it is in Chestnut Hill, just SCREAMS first round upset potential, and I imagine there is an Ohio Valley Conference school (hopefully Austin Peay) just waiting to get their shot at a 5 seed Wolfpack team come March.
Brakes Pumped: A young Wolfpack team won its first road conference game. That's all that really matters. Assuming the Pack doesn't struggle against Georgia Tech this week, it can look forward to its season defining game (until March) on Saturday against the Blue Devils - in Raleigh. Boston College, on the other hand, is still awful, but they are going to steal a couple as well -- almost did Saturday.
MARYLAND 94 Virginia Tech 71
Rush to Judgment: Remember earlier this year when we thought Virginia Tech might be pretty good? Yeah, that's not happening The Hokies have lost 3 in a row by about ~28 points per loss, 5 (and almost 6) of their last 7, with a loss to Georgia Southern and an absolute obliteration at the hands of, um, Colorado St. But guess what Terp fans: that also means Maryland still hasn't beaten anyone. Maryland gets Florida St. at home this week. Loser doesn't make the NCAA tourney. I'm calling it here. I refuse to believe in Maryland until I have to. It's in my DNA.
Brakes Pumped: Actually, I'll stick with most of the above. I'll buy Maryland as soon as they sell me something worthwhile. Virginia Tech is clearly falling apart. What happened?
Florida St. 71 CLEMSON 66
Rush to Judgment: Florida St., your killing me. We all want the 'Noles to turn the tide -- to be that consistent top 3-4 team in the ACC that sneaks into the Sweet 16, or further, every other year. The ACC desperately needs another consistently good team. Yet here they are, almost letting a sure win in Clemson slip away. This is the last shot for FSU. The former Big East cavalry comes beginning next year, likely pushing the 'Noles back to mediocrity (if they aren't already there). As for Clemson, they aren't as atrocious as everyone says, but it's still going to be a long year. That said, the Tigers are going to cause a few teams to sweat selection Sunday by picking folks off at Littlejohn like they almost got FSU.
Brakes Pumped: Like NC State, the 'Noles won an ACC road game, and you gotta be happy with that, regardless of final score. The game at Maryland is important, but on the road. Win that one, and perhaps that means that Florida St. may be finally getting its bearings. The key to the 'Noles season, and getting in the tourney, is to hold serve at home and play .500 on the road. In this year's ACC, that is more than possible. Clemson, on the other hand, is just a notch above Wake and BC.
Miami 62 GEORGIA TECH 49
Rush to Judgment: This is the most impressive ACC win of the weekend - road win, double digits, against a team that is seemingly on the rise. I like what's going on at Georgia Tech, and this is a road game that most other middle of the pack ACC teams drop. Or maybe Georgia Tech is just bad. I don't know, frankly. Still, Miami is locking up that 3rd spot in the ACC pretty early.
Brakes Pumped: It's unclear if this win is truly any more impressive than Florida St.'s win, much less UVa's win. Georgia Tech, despite the nice out of conference record, is more unproven than Maryland this year, but they've still been salty - we'll know more later (patience, right?). Miami has lost a couple of head scratchers (although I'll give them a pass for having to play Christmas day -- who does that in college?). But the 'Canes are the only other ACC team besides Duke and NC State that, right now, looks capable of getting a top 8 seed in the NCAA tourney
After this first set of games, I'm worried about the ACC in its last year before full transformation into the Big ACC East. I was looking for more from FSU, NC State and UNC. There is some comfort in that at least 2 of those teams won, but the ACC's prospects are not great. There are 3 awful teams (Wake, BC, Clemson) and a fourth (Virginia Tech) who may have spiraled into awful, two unproven teams (Maryland, Georgia Tech), a schizoid (Virginia), two disappointing teams that have work to do (UNC, Florida St.), a middling tourney team (Miami) and two locks (Duke, NC State). Still, the 18 game schedule should allow for teams to get hot against stretches of bad to middling competition, separating the mediocre wheat from the crappy chaff to join Duke and NC State in the big dance. Buckle up!