Two weeks and change into the college basketball season, the ACC has seen the good, the bad, the ugly, with the league as a whole picking up some very impressive wins, as well as some less than stellar losses. Five undefeated teams remain in the league, heading into the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, which starts tonight.
1. Duke (7-0, Previous Ranking: 1st)
The Blue Devils have been very impressive, and haven’t had to play a close game yet, even in games against Michigan State, Stanford, and Temple, all of which they won comfortably. Freshman Jahlil Okafor is the real deal, averaging 17.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. The Devils will be tested on Wednesday, traveling to 2nd-ranked Wisconsin. Duke is fourth in the nation in both points and assists per game, and sits fourth in the AP Poll.
2. Louisville (5-0, 2nd)
The Cardinals have been strong, although the toughest team they’ve beaten since an opening night win over Minnesota in the Armed Forces Classic is Cleveland State. That being said, the Cardinals are allowing just 46.6 points per game, good for third in the nation, and lead the nation in rebounding, as they have moved up to fifth in the AP Poll. Their strength of schedule will improve the next two Tuesday nights, with a home game against Ohio State and a neutral-site game with Indiana at the Jimmy V Classic.
3. Virginia (7-0, 3rd)
Speaking of defense, the Cavaliers are leading the nation in points allowed, at just 43.6 per contest. Virginia has not allowed more than 55 points in any game, and has allowed 42 or less in four of their seven games, although their toughest competition was La Salle and Rutgers in the Barclays Center Classic. This week the seventh-ranked Cavaliers play a pair of rivalry games, playing Maryland in the first non-conference meeting between the two since 1952, and VCU, with both games on the road.
4. Miami (7-0, 10th)
The Hurricanes have been impressive, winning the Charleston Classic in addition to road wins at Florida and Charlotte. The ‘Canes are 21st in the nation in shooting percentage, with a .504 clip, and after starting the season unranked, currently sit at 15th in the AP Poll. Guards Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, both of whom transferred from Big 12 schools, have made a major impact, as the team prepares to face Illinois, who has also played their way into the top 25, in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
5. North Carolina (5-1, 4th)
After a trio of easy wins, the Tar Heels took a trip to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, and didn’t come back unblemished, as they lost a tight game to Butler, but also came back with a pair of wins over ranked opponents, convincingly beating UCLA and Florida. The loss dropped the Tar Heels, who are in the top 14 in the nation in rebounds, assists, and blocks, to 12th in the AP Poll, as they prepare to face Iowa in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, with a December 13 trip to top-ranked Kentucky looming.
6. NC State (6-0, 7th)
While none of the Wolfpack’s wins so far have been overwhelming, in terms of the strength of their opponent, the team has won all their games, even showing early they know how to win close games, as they did against South Florida and Boise State. They have one win over a possible NCAA tournament team, beating Richmond, as they head into a busy week with a trip to Purdue for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and an early conference game at home against Wake Forest. The Pack are fourth nationally in rebounds per game but 316th (out of 351) in steals.
7. Syracuse (5-1, 5th)
The Orange only have one loss to their credit, falling to Cal by 14 in the 2K Sports Classic, and beat Iowa in that event’s third place game. In their other four games, the Orange have taken care of business against mismatched opponents, winning the closest one by 18. Syracuse sits in the top 28 nationally in each of the four major defensive stat categories, but has some work to do offensively if they want to compete in the ACC’s upper echelon as they did a year ago. Before breaking for exams, the Orange travel to Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, before hosting St. John’s, a couple of games that will be true tests.
8. Notre Dame (6-1, 9th)
The Irish have played well in their early season slate of games, with their only loss coming to Providence by a single point in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic, an event where they also earned a resume-building 13 point win over UMass. Led by guard Jerian Grant, the Irish lead the nation in shooting percentage, making over 58% of their shots. That shooting touch will be key as the Irish host Michigan State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge before a hosting a couple of lighter tests, then Florida State in an early conference game.
9. Pittsburgh (4-2, 8th)
Four of the Panthers’ six games have held to form, with three wins over light competition, and a loss to a strong San Diego State team. In the other two, the Panthers blew out a Kansas State team that had nearly upset Arizona the night before at the Maui Invitational, and were upset by Hawaii. As the Panthers prepare to travel to Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, they sit 199th in country in rebounding, and 286th or worse in three of the four major defensive categories.
10. Georgia Tech (5-1, 14th)
While the Yellow Jackets haven’t necessarily pulled any upsets in any of their five wins, they have looked fairly strong, highlighted by an 80-73 win over rival Georgia in their season opener. In addition to that, they only lost by 2 to Marquette in the Orlando Classic, a strong showing against a traditional power. No one on the team averages more points per game than Marcus Georges-Hunt at 12.0, but the team has four players averaging at least 10.2, showing a very balanced offensive attack. The 31st-ranked rebounding team in the nation will head to Northwestern for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge this week before hosting USC Upstate.
11. Florida State (3-3, 6th)
The Seminoles, who were projected in the preseason by many to be an NCAA Tournament team, have had a rough go of it since their opening night win over Manhattan. They lost to Northeastern before dropping two more to Providence (who blew them out) and UMass at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. They righted the ship in their most recent two games, beating The Citadel and Charleston Southern, as they prepare to host Nebraska tonight in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and UCF later in the week, with an early conference game at Notre Dame lurking next week. The ‘Noles rank no higher than 79th in any major stat category, and rank 205th or worse in five of the eight major categories.
12. Wake Forest (4-3, 11th)
With the exception of a 30-point road loss at Arkansas, who has now jumped into the top 20, Wake hasn’t played a very tough schedule, and in some games against lighter competition have looked strong. In others, against Iona and Delaware State, it’s been obvious this young team and first year coach Danny Manning has work to do. Led by Devin Thomas, who is averaging a double-double, the team ranks ninth nationally in rebounds, a stat that really plagued them during the Jeff Bzdelik era, but 201st in field goal percentage. The schedule gets tougher this week, with the Deacs hosting Minnesota in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, then traveling to NC State for a December conference game, which they don’t seem ready for.
13. Boston College (2-3, 12th)
Other than an expected win over New Hampshire and an upset of New Mexico, the Eagles have struggled, although it has been against a tough schedule, as they have lost to UMass, West Virginia, and Dayton. Statistically, the Eagles are incredibly average, not ranking higher than 140th or lower than 257th in any stat category other than points per game, where they are 285th. The Eagles are the one team not participating in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and instead they are hosting Marist tonight, before hosting rival Providence on Friday.
14. Clemson (4-2, 14th)
Defensively, the Tigers are, as usual, very decent, allowing 60.0 points per game, and ranking 43rd in the nation in blocks with 5.3 per game. Offensively, the Tigers are lacking after losing their leading scorer from last season KJ McDaniels. Other than a big win over Florida A&M, every game has been close, with the Tigers earning a quality win over LSU, but losing to Winthrop and Gardner-Webb. The Tigers face Rutgers in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge before hosting back-to-back SEC opponents in Arkansas and Auburn.
15. Virginia Tech (4-2, 15th)
While the Hokies have picked up four wins, the best teams they have beaten are Liberty and Miami (OH), so they don’t really have any quality wins. In addition to that, while a loss to Northern Iowa was expected, the game wasn’t close, and the Hokies also lost to Appalachian State. Buzz Williams has a young team, and they are shooting the ball well, as they are 14th in the country (.514), but they aren’t rebounding well, ranking 293rd with just 31.3 per game.
ACC-Big Ten Challenge Prediction: Big Ten 8, ACC 6