Fear the Turtle?
Basketball Grim in the ACC Right Now
The Winston Salem Journal
February 5, 2010
ACC basketball and that dopey groundhog in Pennsylvania operate on similar schedules.
Show and tell becomes official in six weeks.
groundhog didn’t see his shadow Tuesday – never mind that it was dark
outside – and retreated for a longer winter’s nap. Meanwhile, the ACC
heard the elephant footsteps of gathering critics and stayed in the
hole, pondering the options.
At the moment, the options don’t
look all that appealing. Only No. 10 Duke and No. 21 Georgia Tech are
ranked among the AP’s top 25. They’ll play tonight in Durham, two of
the three candidates most likely to advance beyond the NCAA second
round. The other: Wake Forest.
As computer models and analytical
eyeballs judge things right now, six ACC teams would make the field:
Duke, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Florida State, Clemson and Maryland.
The rankings used by the NCAA put only Duke among the top 22, with
Maryland No. 50, a perilous position.
Defending champion North
Carolina’s fall gets the most attention, stunning in its swift descent
from No. 9 on New Year’s Day to No. 76 in the NCAA computer, or three
spots beneath Western Carolina. Minutes after a despondent-on-arrival
home loss to Virginia, Coach Roy Williams glanced at the 75-60 box
score and said: “How can you go any lower? Be honest. How can it be any
worse than it is right now?”
This is how: trips to Virginia Tech
tonight and Maryland Sunday, trips to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest down
the road, two games against Duke.
Carolina draws immediate
attention as the bellwether team, based on tradition and two national
titles in five years. The emerging consensus about ACC mediocrity is
based on NCAA Tournament results involving the other teams, the
league’s first defeat in the Big Ten challenge series and Duke’s
defensive collapse against Georgetown Saturday.
The Blue Devils
chose an awkward time to drop their call at Washington’s Cell Phone
Arena. With President Obama and Vice President Biden sitting in the
front row, Duke’s defense collapsed like a kite-based missile shield.
hit 72 percent of its shots, the best by any opponent since UCLA made
73 percent on Dec. 10, 1965 and still lost by 16 points at Cameron. The
Hoyas built a 23-point lead and coasted 89-77. The big guy left with
more than a minute remaining, and he didn’t miss a thing.
There’s no complete team
missing around the league? A sense of completeness. Duke has veteran
guards and young post players – and, for the fourth consecutive season,
nobody with anything resembling the physical presence of Shelden
Williams. Georgia Tech flexes substantial muscle and youthful vigor but
hasn’t yet developed a consistent floor leader. Wake Forest suffers
severe mood swings.
Everything is relative, of course. Outside
of about four high-ranking teams, the NCAA field doesn’t pack much
dynamite. With only two schools ranked, however, the ACC is an easy
target compared to the Big East (four teams among the AP’s top seven,
five overall). The Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC have four ranked teams each.
Even the Mountain West (New Mexico, Brigham Young) can match the ACC
Polls don’t mean much now. Computer rankings mean a bit
more because they incorporate schedule strengths. Virginia Tech, for
instance, can promote a solid overall record but its nonconference
schedule ranks No. 336 out of the 347 schools, a perennially bad
Unless things change, the ACC could sink below the
thudding finishes of 2003 and 2006, when nobody won a third-round game.
The league still had five top-10 teams combined those seasons, and Duke
was No. 1 in the final 2006 poll.
Perhaps things can change, and if they don’t, spring will come anyway.