Saturday, January 30, 2010

Duke's loss to Georgetown begs a bigger question: Does the ACC suck?

After Duke laid an egg in DC, dropping a non-conference contest to Georgetown 89-77, head coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked if he thought that the Hoyas were a national title contender.

"I think anybody that's playing in the Big East or the ACC has a chance to do that," Coach K said after the game.

Clearly, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but you should understand his point. Generally speaking, the ACC and the Big East both have a number of teams with a punchers chance at winning six games in March.

That's what happens when you count teams like Duke, UNC, UConn, and Syracuse as members of your league.

While there are currently six teams ranked in the Big East, three in the top ten and two that look destined to be a #1 seed come Selection Sunday, the ACC has, frankly, a lot of question marks.

The biggest question?

Who is the dominant team in the league.

It sure isn't North Carolina, who won at NC State on Wednesday to snap a three game losing streak. Its not Clemson or Georgia Tech, who have looked great at times when playing at home but haven't been able to perform on the road. And it sure didn't look like Duke today, who, for the second time in four games, decided it was unnecessary to play any defense.

Does that mean that its Maryland? Or Virginia Tech? Or Wake Forest? Florida State?

The point is that no team in the ACC is going to run through the league. Its kind of like back in 2007, when five teams finished with 10 or 11 wins in ACC play. Its very balanced. Hell, Miami is in last place in the conference, and they went 14-0 before in non-conference play, including a win over Minnesota. Any given night, anyone in this league could lose, especially when playing on the road.

While that will make for an entertaining conference race and exciting games, it doesn't exactly make it easy for a large number of teams to earn themselves a bid to the dance.

The problem gets magnified when you look at how the ACC did out of conference. On the whole, the league did not notch many impressive wins:

  • 11/19 UNC 77, Ohio State 73
  • 11/19 Clemson 70, Butler 69
  • 11/27 Duke 68, UConn 59
  • 12/1 UNC 89, Michigan State 82
  • 12/2 Miami 63, Minnesota 58
  • 12/2 Georgia Tech 74, Siena 61
  • 12/5 Wake Forest 77, Gonzaga 75
  • 12/19 Duke 76, Gonzaga 41
  • 12/30 Virginia 72, UAB 63
While some of those wins are pretty impressive, that is all of the out-of-conference wins the ACC has over tournament opponents, and some of them (UConn, Minnesota) are far from guaranteed to be dancing. Hell, Virginia, who is currently tied for third in the league, has lost to South Florida, Penn State, Stanford, and Auburn.

That's not exactly a murderer's row.

The problem is that now the ACC teams in the middle of the pack (which is pretty much the entire conference, right?) are trying to build their tournament resume against each other, which isn't an easy thing to do when you consider that Duke may be the only ranked team in the ACC come Monday.

Think about it like this. The reason that we can say so many teams in the Big East that have struggled this season are still alive is because they are going to have a ton of chances to win games against top 10 or top 15 teams. Take Cincinnati. They are 13-8 overall, and 4-4 in the Big East, but they still play Syracuse, West Virginia, Villanova, and Georgetown. If they can put together a strong finish to the season and pick up a couple wins against the cream of the Big East crop, all of a sudden their tournament chances look much more promising.

But what about a team like Clemson? The Tigers are 3-4 in the ACC and 15-6 overall, but they have already lost to Duke twice, and won't play another team that is currently in the top 25.

All things being equal, whose shoes would you rather be in?

No comments: