I think it is time we do it. The talk needs to happen. You know the one. It is the thing the man dreads, but the lady needs to maintain stability. “DTR”, defining the relationship, is the moment that really lays the groundwork for all that is to come. So, ACC men’s basketball, shall we delve into a few questions and set the record straight?
Is it good? That term “good” would need plenty of elaboration.
UVA’s defense is good. The schools of research triangle of North Carolina, Duke, NC State, and UNC, have good scoring. In fact, they’re one-two-three in the ACC and all top 10 nationally. Of course, if you have had the pleasure of watching ESPN for more than 15 seconds, you’re aware that Zion Williamson has some dunks that are good.
The talent is good, what about the entertainment value? Seven of the fifteen teams in the conference have a positive, double-digit scoring margin. Those numbers should be expected to go down through attrition and the conference schedule hitting full swing. As of late, there have been some real thrillers. Look no further than the Syracuse-Duke matchup earlier this week. The first OT game of the 2019 ACC basketball slate saw a top-ranked Duke team lose in Cameron Indoor for the first time in almost 13 years. Just days before that Cam Reddish had to put his league’s fifth-best 3 pt. field-goal shooting percentage to work at the buzzer to avoid an upset in Tallahassee.
The criteria to assess a value is relative. The consistency of the conference, however, is a migraine-inducing eye test away from being labeled.
Let’s go back to that Florida State team Duke faced in Tallahassee. In week 10, the Coaches Poll and the AP came to the same conclusion, the #11 spot is where Leonard Hamilton’s squad belonged. Pitt disagreed. Yes, the same Pitt that went 0-18 in conference play last year. Under the leadership of former Coach K sidekick Jeff Capel, the Panthers have turned themselves around, making Pittsburgh a location no one is really jumping at the bits to play at again. This could be the awakening of the Krzyzewski pupil trail. I digress. After their loss to unranked Pitt, #11 Florida St. finds themself tenth in the early ACC standings, but 11th in the country. Obviously some rearranging is to come by next week, but for the time being it is a unique spectacle.
Look a little bit further and you will find this NC State, Wake Forest, and Miami triangle. The Wolfpack handled the Hurricanes in Coral Gables back on January 3. A week or so later, DJ Vasiljevic led the way against the Demon Deacons for a Miami win. The third side to the triangle fell into place on January 15, when Wake Forest picked up its lone conference win against the #17 Wolfpack.
Are there any more consistencies to point out? Ky Bowman has been lighting it up, averaging 20.3 points and eight boards, for Boston College, who as a team are yet to get that first conference win. Although, they’ve done the Commonwealth tour and played Notre Dame in a close one in South Bend. Similarly, Clemson has hit a rough patch and their spot near the bottom of the standings seems harsh. Before grinding out a win against a defensively sound Georgia Tech team, they had to face Duke, Syracuse and UVA.
Hmm. Well, that seems to be it for all the commonalities, or lack thereof, in play. Unless you’re interested in that Virginia team. Consistency is kind of their thing. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and Kihei Clark are quite the little trio in the backcourt and De’Andre Hunter is a physical specimen. They will make sure of two things: their opponents will not score a lot of points and they will score more than their opponents. Just ask Buzz William’s team. Tech has been around for a while now and it seems they have arrived but on Tuesday night it did not seem that they arrived in the John Paul Jones Arena. An embarrassing loss in the eyes of the Hokies, whose faithful do not take Commonwealth Clash losses lightly, Justin Robinson and probably draft bound Nickeil Alexander-Walker will have to rally that team some more if they expect to stay on the big stage come March. Safe to say, that Cavalier team is brutally efficient and Tony Bennett definitely does not lack the mind to take them far.
Now, as we wind down, where is this relationship going? On June 20, NBA Draft night, ACC highlights will be all over the place, as much of the talent will be getting paid this time next year. More true this year than ever with the 1-2-3 recruits in Durham, there will be a plethora of young guns to reinvigorate the pool. Similar to the effect of an Alabama in the SEC for college football, who doesn’t want to get a run in the hallowed grounds the ACC offers? Duke and UNC still have their matchups to come this season, the twice-a-season affair always produces some classic memories. Heck, UVA and Duke square off in a #1 versus #4 battle this weekend.
So, is this going to work out? Can all the hype invested in this dysfunctional love affair between “A Chaotic Conference” basketball and the every day sports enthusiast be justified? With six spots in the top 25 occupied by ACC schools, the tension and chemistry will be thick if we refuse to acknowledge its relevance. The year is still young, as well. Things have a way of working its way out and contenders and pretenders come to light. Plenty of stars are there to shine and the unpredictable upsets and stat lines will continue to bewilder us.
I cannot deny what is there. I’m willing to give it a chance, ACC. Play on.