We are now getting into December and teams begin to tighten up their flaws before conference play begins. Here is a look at where teams are right now in the ACC and their pecking order. Or as Akula has eloquently put it, this is what They Done Did.
I was wrong, very wrong. I was sure that losing a player like Austin Rivers would take some time to adjust to get the offense going. But Quinn Cook has played excellent thus far in the season and Duke has the #1 RPI in the country. I can't imagine them playing much better than they are right now. Their defense is suffocating. The scary thing about this team is that Marshall Plumlee hasn't even played yet and Duke looks to add him into the fray once conference play starts. He makes them really deep and this is the type of depth that NC State hopes to have in the near future, but that takes years of consistent recruiting. The only question mark I have is that they haven't played against a good team with a talented upperclassman big man. UK had freshmen Nerlean Noel and another guy who Cal plucked from the football team. When they played Louisville they were without their top big man also and OSU lost Sullinger through the draft. What happens when they play a team like NC State that has two good junior and senior big men on their front line. If you can stop plumlee then thats half the battle against Duke right now. But duke has the depth advantage and will out last State if the game is called tight. Also can they keep this intensity up during the entire season. But this is definitely a team that has the making of a final four run.
2. NC State
I have NC State as second in the ACC right now. I know Adam Gold pushed the panic button early but ever since the UNCA game this team has played about where I expected them to play. They aren't playing defense like Duke does but they are trending towards that direction. This team has an RPI of 12th in the nation. Thats right, 12th. This team is coming together and the parts are starting to fit, once they tighten up their defense this will be the team everyone envisioned in the preseason. Leslie is starting to play like the player we imagined and so is LoBrown. Brown needs to tighten up on the turnover department and get better shooting from the perimeter. But it seems if this team will bring just bring it for 40 minutes they can beat about anyone they play. Richard Howell and TJ Warren has been pleasant surprises. This is still a very good team and this season will provide opportunities for them to end up a #2 seed in the tournament this year.
I said that Miami would be the sleeper team in the ACC and so far they have shown it. They have an RPI of 46 and had one slip up against Florida Gulf Coast. Which is a really bad loss but they also beat Michigan State. So they got at least a good win there which is more than I can say about many of the other teams in the ACC. They are pretty good down low and all five starters average double digits. So its tough to key in on any one player on their team. I think they'll stay in the upper half of the ACC all season but if this team stays focus and plays hard they are going to be a tough out for every team they play.
Maryland has a RPI of 79 mainly because they haven't played anyone but UK and UK turned out not to be as good as what most were expecting. But I like Maryland here because of what they have in the paint. They have the two things you need to be good in college basketball, a good big man and a good guard. Dez Wells has played well so far and is averaging about 12 points a game and Nick Faust is averaging 10 points a game and Alex Len is getting 13 points a game. They are among the best rebounding team in the nation. This should be another tough team in this league. Pe'shon Howard leads the team in assist and that has allowed Nick Faust to go to his more natural position of playing off the ball at times. If you can neutralize Alex Len though this team can be beaten but I doubt they will get blown out by anyone.
5. Virginia Tech
This was tough to put this team over UNC. But I wanted to rank these teams over what they have done so far this year and not on their name. Virginia Tech could be higher had they not lost to West Virginia by one point. They are playing very well and already have beaten Oklahoma State. So they at least have a win over a ranked team which is more than I can say about UNC. But I don't believe its sustainable throughout the season which is why I have Maryland and Miami ranked above them. You can't talk about this team without mentioning Erik Green who is averaging 24 points a game and they have a 3 point shooter in Jarell Eddie who is making over half of his three points this year. But if you find a way to shut down Green, you're going to beat this team. Virginia Tech has an RPI of 88 right now so they have to continue to show that they can beat good teams to get more respect.
6. North Carolina
I know this may shock some, especially since they are ranked 21st in the nation, and no I'm not just hating on UNC. Their best win is Long Beach State who has an RPI of about 96. They were basically blown out by Butler and they were literally blown out by Indiana. This team has serious questions about who is going to play the center position as no one out of Desmond Hubert and Joel James has stepped up to shown they should be the starter. Brice Johnson from what I have seen is playing better than James Micheal Mcadoo who continues to under whelm. When faced against good competition this team looks for JMM to deliver and he just can't, he isn't a banger down low and he doesn't have enough skills to play on the wing. I like Marcus Paige's game but this team is only going as far as Reggie Bullock, PJ Hairston, and Dexter Strickland will take them. Right now that doesn't look far. This team has some good players they just have to stop playing inside - outside and try to play outside - inside. Their talent is on the perimeter and they should attack teams with their wing players and then try to go inside to JMM. They can improve if they start playing well from the perimeter but I don't have any hope that their inside game is going to improve much this year, which is typically how Roy Williams likes to run his offense, great point guards with a great big man. They have a future great point guard in Paige but is missing in the big man department.
7. Florida State
Who saw this coming? We all just assumed that Leonard Hamliton would have this team playing great defense but they haven't at all this year and the team has suffered for it. FSU never has consistently lit up score boards but they always had the right amount of offense to go with their staunch defense. Now the defense is gone and the only offense they have comes from Michael Snear and Okaro White who are averaging 13 and 12 points per game respectively. We knew this team would take a hit but they have been hit hard. I don't see the this team improving too much, their defense will get better I assume but I don't see them generating enough points for it to matter. I have FSU here because I expect them to play better defense as the year progresses. This team could still make the tourney if they turn it around but they are going to have to knock off Duke and NC State to have that chance, this is the last team with any hope of making the tournament this year, the ACC will probably get 6 teams in though at least 5.
8. Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has a respectable 63 RPI right now. They haven't beaten anyone of note either, their best win is UGA. This team doesn't have any stars on the team but right now they look like a middle of the road team in the ACC. They only have two players averaging double figures so its tough seeing this team being able to put up points against the better teams in the ACC. I don't expect this team to do better than where I have them now. They could dip some if Clemson and Virginia show they can beat good teams.
If it wasn't for the bad loss to Purdue, Clemson would be higher. They tried against Arizona, they really did but in the end Arizona was just better. This team has a lot of fight in it and it will be tough to go there and win because they are going to give you a game as NC State learned so well last year. KJ McDaniels is their leading scorer with 12 points per game and they have two others averaging 11 points per game, Milton Jennings and Kevin Booker. They should rise up this list but I can't see them getting higher than 6th. But expect this team to surprise some people and may get a win over the top 3 teams in the conference at home.
Virginia has some bad losses. This team sorely miss Mike Scott scoring and will not be able to generate enough points to win this year. Its that simple.
11. Wake Forest
Just another bad season for Wake. You wish they were good because it makes the basketball in this state that much better but you're glad for an easy win after having to play UNC and Duke too.
12. Boston College
They lost to Harvard for the fifth straight year, thats all that needs to be said about this team.