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Jan
20
2017

The Grind of #ACC Basketball

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Good afternoon, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) sports fans.  Hope you all are ready for a great weekend of ACC basketball.

It’s early, but people are already talking about NCAA tournament seeding when have more than half the conference season left (my buddy @TalkinACCSports does a great job at this).  And the ACC basketball conference is a grind.  We all know that.  For example, Ken Pom has the ACC with 10 teams in the top 50, including Virginia (5), North Carolina (6), Louisville (8), Duke (12), Florida State (18), Notre Dame (22), Clemson (33), Miami (34), Wake Forest (38), and Virginia Tech (50).

So, I really think that the ACC winner might have at least four conference losses, so there won’t be as many one seeds in the NCAA tournament from this conference.   But that doesn’t really tell the entire story here – Georgia Tech is ranked 103 in Ken Pom, but has win over North Carolina – and is .500 in the ACC – many experts (cough cough… Jon Rothstein… cough cough) had Georgia Tech with zero (yes, zero wins).  I watched Georgia Tech for the first time this year pretty extensively in their matchup at Virginia Tech.  Josh Pastner is getting every ounce out of his roster basically clogging the lane and daring teams to shoot the three-point shot – Georgia Tech will get a couple more wins that you don’t expect this year.   So my point above here is that you expect a tough game almost every night in the ACC.  This weekend, I can make a case for every team (except maybe Boston College) to win it’s ACC game.  And that’s not parity folks – that’s ACC basketball at a high level.

Let’s expand this discussion and talk about Louisville – the Cards could be a 2/3 seed in a bracket (leaning towards a three here), but if you’re one of the top teams in the Big 10, you won’t want to meet them in the NCAA tournament (Louisville had wins over Indiana, Kentucky, and Purdue before ACC play began, started out 1-2 in the ACC  – and is 4-2 in the ACC with three overall losses – that is an insane schedule – you get wins over Indiana, Kentucky, and Purdue – and you start out 1-2 in the ACC). 2/3 seeded North Carolina has three losses – but losing to Kentucky by 2 points in the last seconds isn’t a blemish. North Carolina lost to Indiana on the road, but I’d take the Heels in any rematch with Indiana. You think a Gonzaga wants any piece of a 3/4 seeded Notre Dame and Mike Brey? Of course the Zags want no piece of Notre Dame (or North Carolina and Louisville)

The ACC prepares your team for the NCAA tournament.  I wrote about this last year when I was discussing why the ACC did so well in the NCAA tournament – and it hasn’t really really changed:

You might ask – why is this happening?  Why is the ACC performing so well on the big stage?  Well, for three reasons:  1.) Matchups, 2.) The variety of styles of play in the ACC, and 3.) Coaching.

First, media analysts are correct that match-ups play a huge part in these games.  ACC teams always have some of the highest rated recruiting classes in the country.  You can count on North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, and even Miami now to have the talent to compete with anyone in the country.

Second, ACC teams are very prepared for NCAA tournament play because of the variety of defenses and offenses that they play against in the conference.  For example, you gotta face:

  • The all-out attack of the guards from Virginia Tech;

  • The length of a Florida State [Editor’s Note – I can throw Louisville in here, too] (they have huge players all over the floor)

  • The McDonald’s All-Americans on North Carolina and Duke;

  • The defensively efficient University of Virginia (and yes, they now know a thing or two on offense);

  • The unsettling matchup zone of Syracuse; and

  • The offensively efficient (deathly offensively efficient – fantastic offensive sets) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (and sometimes, Pittsburgh Panthers).

I could go on here for a while (almost every night here in the ACC, you have a battle) – but you get it.  Facing a variety of styles makes you ready to play a variety of opponents at NCAA tournament time.

Third, look at some of these coaches you have to play against in the ACC:

  • Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

  • Roy Williams, North Carolina

  • Rick Pitino, Louisville

  • Mike Brey, Notre Dame
  • Jim Boeheim, Syracuse

  • Tony Bennett, Virginia

  • Jim Larranaga, Miami

  • Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech

  • Leonard Hamilton, Florida State

  • Brad Brownell, Clemson

This is going to be a year when the ACC doesn’t have a high number of one seeds in the NCAA tournament (there are years when the ACC had three).   In fact, if you’re looking at your brackets this year, don’t take the one seeds to advance to the Final Four (if Gonzaga is a one seed and you’re in their bracket as say a Louisville, Notre Dame, Florida State, or North Carolina, you like your chances).  But the ACC men’s basketball talent, the different styles of basketball, and the coaching prepares the conference teams to advance in the NCAA tournament.

Thoughts?  Chime in here.

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