Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Conference Play Primer: The ACC

Favorite: Duke Blue Devils

I'm not expecting too much of an argument on that one. Not only is Duke the No. 1 team in the country right now -- even without Kyrie Irving -- but the rest of the ACC has been just pitiful. People are legitimately discussing whether or not Duke has a chance to go undefeated this season, and I guarantee that there are more people that think Duke won't lose a game than think the Blue Devils won't win the ACC.

Player of the Year: Reggie Jackson, Boston College

There are a number of legitimate Player of the Year options in the ACC at this point in the season, but I'm going with Jackson. He's second in the conference in both scoring (19.2) and assists (5.0) while grabbing 4.4 rpg and shooting an obscene 50.9% from three. He's also been the catalyst in BC's resurgence under Steve Donahue, carrying the team to a 10-2 mark here early in the season, which includes a win on the road against Maryland in their ACC opener. As crazy as it may sound, BC might just be the second best team in the ACC. And Reggie Jackson is the reason why.

All-Conference Team:

  • G: Nolan Smith, Duke: 17.1 ppg, 5.4 apg, 4.6 rpg
  • F: Kyle Singler, Duke: 17.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg
  • F: Chris Singleton, FSU: 14.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.1 spg, 2.4 bpg
  • F: Mike Scott, UVa: 15.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg (takes Kyrie Irving's spot)
  • C: Jordan Williams, Maryland: 18.2 ppg, 11.9 rpg
Biggest Surprise: Virginia Tech Hokies

Boston College has probably been the only team in the conference that has been a surprise in a positive way. Since I don't want to talk about the Eagles, I'll go the other direction. This was supposed to be Virginia Tech's year to breakthrough. With senior Malcolm Delaney leading this way, the Hokie's were going to have the supporting cast around the ACC Player of the Year as they gave Duke a run for their money atop the conference. That was the plan, anyway. Then Allan Chaney had a heart condition discovered, JT Thompson tore his acl, and Virginia Tech struggled through the non-conference portion of their schedule before finding out that Dorenzo Hudson, last year's leading scorer, would miss the rest of the season due to injury. Without a quality win, and with very few quality wins available in the ACC this year, it looks as if the Hokies will once again miss the NCAA Tournament.

Biggest Disappointment: Harrison Barnes

Since I'm not going to simply answer "the conference as a whole" (because that would be too correct accurate easy), I'll go with Barnes. Barnes has been far from bad this season. He is the Tar Heel's second leading scorer at 12.3 ppg, which, as an incoming freshman, is commendable. The problem is that with the hype bestowed upon this young man this season, "commendable" is not good enough. Barnes was named CBSSports.com preseason national Player of the Year and became the first freshman to ever be named an AP Preseason All-American. Its not his fault that he had this much hype coming in, but he certainly hasn't lived up to those expectations. Its not an issue of talent, it seems more to be an issue of confidence. Barnes is not playing as aggressive as many expected him to, and he certainly isn't shooting the ball all that well. There is still time for him to turn things around. Personally, I'm hoping he will; Barnes seems like a genuinely good kid.

Teams to keep an eye on:
  • NC State: Don't write off the Wolfpack just yet. If you remember, last year's leading scorer and rebounder, big man Tracy Smith, is still out of the lineup with a knee injury he suffered early on in the season. With as much young talent as Sidney Lowe has on that roster, missing your best and most experienced player was expected to yield some growing pains.
  • Florida State: Chris Singleton is probably the best individual defensive player in the country. With the Seminole's size, they are one of the best half court defensive teams in the country as well. Offense is their problem, as they don't seem to run anything at that end of the floor, but Singleton looked improved on that end at the Diamond Head Classic.
  • Maryland: The Terps have talent on their roster, especially in the front court where Jordan Williams anchors an athletic front line. Their issue is in the back court. Two freshmen and Adrian Bowie have been sharing point guard duties, and it hasn't gone all that well. Maryland has four losses, but all four were winnable games that the Terps cost themselves with poor decision making down the stretch.
  • North Carolina: There is just too much talent on this team to ignore. Will they put it all together? I don't know. But December is too early to write off a team with seven Burger Boys on the roster.
  • Miami FL: Two great guards, a hoss in the middle, and a couple of athletes on the wing? What more does a team need in this conference?
Teams to forget about:
  • Virginia Tech: Injuries and illnesses have just decimated this team's depth and talent level. Malcolm Delaney is a player, but there just isn't enough on this roster.
  • Georgia Tech: The loss to Kennesaw State was bad, as that team as not won a game since then. But then three days before Christmas the Yellow Jackets went to Siena and lost to a Saints team that was without Clarence Jackson and that had a banged up Ryan Rossiter in the second half. Paul Hewitt is lucky he got the contract he did after that Final Four season.

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