Ballsy ACC Rankings, End of 2010


No. 1 DUKE
People are already asking the big question…can Duke go undefeated? It’s a fair question certainly, but it might be a bit premature of course. While the ACC might be down this year, that doesn’t mean there isn’t enough talent out there to take down the nation’s number one team. I’m not handsome, but I still get laid once a year-ish.

Most experts say Duke’s biggest challenge is at Florida State January 12. Obviously the Seminoles are one of the top two or three teams in the conference. They have the size and the defensive ability to give Duke fits, but I don’t see it. Duke’s guards will abuse the Seminoles’ guards, who turn the ball over even after the game ends.

You want a dark horse upset? How about a January 30th road trip to St. John’s? Yes, Duke loves playing in Madison Square Gardens, but this is a new Red Storm. The Johnny’s have already knocked out two decent road wins at Arizona State and this past week at West Virginia. This team is getting more confident and they will have already been tested through a tough Big East schedule by the time Duke pays a visit.

Just imagine how good this team could be if they ever learned to play a functional offense. According to Ken Pom, the Seminoles are fifth in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. Only one opponent has managed to crack 70 points this season. However, they are only 107th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency.

Their biggest problem has been turnovers. The Seminoles hand it over 17 times per game. They’re 307th in the nation in turnover %. Four different players have produced 30 or more turnovers this season and only two players, Derwin Kitchen (49-30) and Luke Loucks (33-30) have more assists than turnovers.

The Eagles are just fifth in the ACC in scoring at 75 points per game. However, numbers can be deceiving. BC is actually third in the entire nation in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. With 11 juniors and seniors, the Eagles are slowing the pace, not turning over (10th in the nation), taking smart, open shots and hitting 75-percent of their free throws.

If they can avoid a collapse in the ACC, they might just have a good shot at the big dance. They’re already 5-1 against top-80 teams, including solid wins against Texas A&M and against their ACC opener against Maryland.

I wouldn’t call the Tar Heels a contender, but they’re certainly improving. Ken Pom has them 25th in the nation, thanks in large part to a solid strength of schedule (16th).

This year’s squad has surprisingly been effective on the defensive side. They’re 17th in defensive efficiency, fifth in blocks. However, while the guard play has improved, it’s still too inconsistent. They can’t steal the ball (226th in the nation) and Larry Drew has no shot to speak of (he’s now shooting 36-percent from the floor, 19-percent from three).

I still can’t believe that Coach Williams doesn’t just roll the dice and start both Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock. Sure they have limitations, but they both have more upside than the current starters. The fact is, North Carolina has only beaten one team ranked in the top-90 (and that was an inexperienced Kentucky team at home). I may have them third in my power rankings, but that’s not saying much in this league this season.

The Hurricanes have managed to win enough games to keep talk of a NCAA tournament bid alive. Of course they’re going to need to probably go 8-6 in the ACC to assure that. Possible? You bet. Likely? Sure. Do I need to work on my sentence structure? You bet.

The key to Miami’s success this year was finding a reliable third option. So far, Reggie Johnson has been that third option. In just 22 minutes per game, the sophomore center is averaging nearly a double-double (12 points, 9.5 assists per game). His .578 shooting percentage is a lot (according to my math). However, the problem is he can’t stay on the damn floor. Foul trouble continues to be his Achilles’ heel, which is better than if his problem really was his Achilles’ heel. He’s fouled out three times, finishing with four fouls five other times.

A week ago, everything was coming up Virginia. They had won five in a row, including solid wins over #17 Minnesota, Virginia Tech and Oregon. Mike Scott was looking like an All-ACC player. He was averaged 16 and 10, producing five straight double-doubles. Cavalier fans could once again show up in public in their Cavs gear. Then the roof caved it, or rather Scott’s ankle caved in.

One surgery later and the Cavilers’ best player is out for an undisclosed amount of time. Since his departure, Virginia has lost two straight (including an embarrassing loss at home to Seattle). They’ve hit just 31-percent of their shots in those two defeats. Maybe now we can appreciate how good and how important Mike Scott is.

The Tigers have won five straight after suffering three straight loses to begin December. Should you suddenly believe in this team? First, those three loses came against Michigan, South Carolina and Florida State. All three teams are ranked in the top-100. In Clemson’s five-game winning streak, their toughest opponent was the College of Charleston (96th). In fact, three of their foes are ranked 250 or lower.

I’ll hold off on handing out too much praise, however, you can drop some love on Jerai Grant. The Tigers center has been on a roll lately. Prior to this season he never averaged more than 7.2 points per game and he only managed double figures twice in the Tigers’ first seven games. However, he’s produced double figures in seven straight now, averaging nearly 17 per game in his last four. He’s done all that without ever taking more than nine shots in a game. He’s hitting 61-percent of his shots this season, as well as knocking in 74-percent of his free throws. Not bad for a big guy.

The best player in the ACC not wearing a Duke uniform has to be Jordan Williams. He’s third in scoring in the ACC, first in rebounding. He’s hitting 57-percent of his shots and he has grabbed at least 10 boards in all but two games this season. However, the Terps have struggled to find a consistent outside shooter. They’ve hit only 33-percent of their three-point shots. In their four loses, they have hit only 14 of 59 from downtown. For you Maryland grads, that’s roughly 24-percent.

Rumor was that Tracy Smith would be back after Christmas. So far, no Smith. He better get back soon or this ACC run could be Coach Sidney Lowe’s farewell tour. The fact is, the Wolfpack seem to be sleepwalking through their schedule, beating a bunch of bad teams unimpressively. Their only quality win was against George Mason back in mid-November.

Freshman Lorenzo Brown stepped up nicely for a while with Tracy Smith gone. He produced four double-digit games in his first five. However, he’s cooled down lately. He’s made two or less shots in five of his last seven games.

Of course, points can be scored by any number of players (four are averaging 10 or more), but the biggest loss so far has been defensive rebounding. Last year, Smith was 7th in the ACC in defensive rebounding. This year, State is just 291st in the nation in defensive rebounding %.

I’ve always hated the saying, “stick a fork in them, they’re done,” but you know what, it’s so fitting here. Coach Greenberg’s squad has just been destroyed by injuries this season. So far the Hokies have lost J.T. Thompson, Allan Chaney, Cadarian Raines and now the biggest injury, starting guard Dorenzo Hudson.

This season was so promising. This was the year they were going to finally break through into the NCAA Tournament. Hell, they could even give Duke a run for their money. Not anymore. They’re down to an eight-man roster (remember this was a team struggling with Hudson) and are probably going to bring on a football player to help fill in. Right now, I’m not sure they could make it to the NIT’s.

At 6-5 this team is going nowhere and Paul Hewitt’s days in Atlanta are numbered. It’s one thing to lose to Syracuse or even cross-state rival Georgia. But this squad has lost to Kennesaw State earlier this season and then last week lost to Siena on the road.

The reality is, the Yellow Jackets have no inside game, so opponents are just camped out on the three-point line. That’s why the Jackets are ranked 341st out of 345 schools in three-point shooting. One would think they would just drive it to the hope more and take more two-point shots (where they hit a solid 47-percent). Of course thinking hurts.

The pride of the ACC…actually I was a bit surprised to see the Demon Deacons ranked 184th in the nation according to Ken Pom. I mean this is a team that has lost games to (#289) Stetson, (#242) Winthrop, (#221) NC Wilmington and (#246) Presbyterian. A 184th ranking is just too high. Maybe Ken Pom likes their uniforms.