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The ACC Race Is Now Officially Interesting

If you were paying attention on Saturday, Florida State went to Duke and performed great public service by sending the Cameron Crazies away forlorn and heartbroken on a three at the buzzer. The Seminoles ended Duke’s 45-game home win streak but more importantly set up what could be a four way battle for the top of the ACC between UNC, Duke, Florida State and Virginia.

After FSU beat UNC by 33, the conventional wisdom was the Seminoles, who had a series of questionable losses coming into ACC play, benefited from a fluke game. Many, including myself, expected the Noles to play like utter crap in the next game vs Maryland then get it handed to them in Durham. That didn’t happen. FSU dominated Maryland and was exceptionally resilient playing Duke at home. Every time it looked like Duke had taken control of the game, FSU fought back.  With two wins over the preseason favorites for one and two in the ACC, FSU is in a great position to challenge for first in the ACC. UNC and Duke will be in the mix as will Virginia which played well at Duke and has shown no signs of being anything but a solid team. While UNC should have acquitted itself better in Tallahassee, the fact FSU has now won in Cameron at least says UNC didn’t get smacked around by a crappy team. Depending on how the rest of the season goes, that loss may mere end up being a loss and that’s it.

As of this morning KenPom had UNC, Duke, FSU and UVa each projected to finish with a 12-4 ACC mark. If that would happen(and it is still a longshot) you would have a repeat of 1995 when UNC, Maryland, UVa and Wake Forest all finished 12-4 in league play.  Also of note is these four teams are ranked in the top 25 according to KenPom. UNC is #8, Virginia #14, Duke #15, FSU #23.  While the ACC is really weak towards the lower half, the evidence right now is the top four are good teams. For all the talk of the ACC being a weak conference, there will be nothing easy about winning the ACC with four solid teams battling it out at the top.

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48 comments to The ACC Race Is Now Officially Interesting

  • AZACCFan

    FSU played very well in Durham. They had plenty of challenges with the officiating, but toward the end of the game fewer calls went against them.

    They acted like a confident, veteran team of real bruisers which they are. Numerous players scored for them. So this win was no fluke.

    UNLV continues to play very well and has their best start in 20 years.

    I also was not very impressed with Syracuse, and they lost.

    So there are plenty of prominent teams that haven’t fared very well. Historically, when ACC teams beat up on each other it hurts the conference as a whole. This year the opposite seems to be happening as multiple other schools have emerged as THF mentions above. This will help the conference as a whole, which is important.

  • ^Will be very interesting to see what happens with Syracuse. Last year they started of 18-0, then lost 4 in a row and 6 of their next 8. I don’t think they will slide that badly this year, but I could definitely see them losing 3 or 4 of their last 10.

  • makeitWayne22

    Lets see what FSU does, when they are not playing UNC or Dook, its easy to get up for those games…

  • Heel To The End

    ^easier than it is to get up for FSU, apparently.

  • LarryS

    Hey, it’s that time of year, with conference battles and hostile road environments, and it’s a long season. One week a team is everyone’s favorite, the next week “What happened to……?”.

    Baylor has lost 2 in a row (Wow, what a difference a year has made for Frank Haith), #19 Michigan loses at Ark., #11 UConn loses at Tenn., and Alabama gave Ky. all they could handle in Lexington.

    This has been an exciting weekend of college BBall, and my favorite part was knowing the media mantra will change, the next time Duke wins at home, to “Duke has now won ONE straight game at Cameron Indoor Stadium”.

    As far as the ACC race goes, UNC’s fortunes are in their own hands. Take care of business and the regular-season conference title stays in Chapel Hill.


    A couple of comments about FSU:

    Before the last few games, the Seminoles had certainly not performed up to their potential, offensively, but when you look at players like Snaer, Dulkys, and Miller (who I think will really help them out and has only played 8 games this season), and the increased confidence they seem to be getting, then FSU will be here to stay if they keep their focus up.

  • makeitWayne22

    HTTE, UNC only plays 4 games a year, that I know theyll be up for., NCSU and DOOK.. The other ACC games are a crap shoot

  • CarMichael

    Sene of Virginia is injured and expected to miss the rest of the regular season-could be back for tournaments. This is a blow for them as they already had a thin roster.

    The ACC has really improved since Christmas with important players rejoining their teams at Miami, Maryland, Wake, and FSU. The NC State-Miami game that starts at noon Sunday is an important one. Despite their 1-2 start, Miami has good talent and a shot at making the NCAAT, but today’s game looks like a must-win. I guess you could say about the same for State.

  • BoyWilliams

    I don’t want to jinx it here, but I think we have a real shot at going undefeated in the ACC this year. …Aside from Duke, who else could beat us?

  • LarryS

    “Sene of Virginia is injured and expected to miss the rest of the regular season–could be back for tournaments. This is a blow for them as they already had a thin roster.”

    That does hurt.

    Sene is a 7-foot Sr. starter, and their best shot blocker - well, practically their only shot blocker - though he’s not a good rebounder for his size. UNC’s interior potential against Va. just got easier.

  • jtchill84

    As of now, FSU is the team to beat in the ACC. UNC has real issues, especially with the loss of Strickland. I, for one, was not impressed with our first half against Virginia Tech - looked like more of the same stuff that gets us in trouble so often: soft defense and over-confident, sloppy offense. As for dook: Duke came in to the FSU game ranked last in the ACC in field goal percentage defense. Florida State finished the game at 54 percent, including 67 percent (18-for-27) in the second half. The Seminoles scored 50 points after halftime.
    People on this board often talk about how college teams evolve over the course of a season, usually to rationalize early UNC losses, hoping that we’ll be better later. There is truth in this; and the current state of affairs is that FSU is the team that has evolved the most, and the best.

  • So you didn’t watch the 2nd half vs VT? I mean, seriously, only UNC fans would complain about the first half of a game UNC won by coming out and playing at a high level in the 2nd half.

    Besides, we have to see how the loss of Strickland plays out. If there is a major step up and coming together because of it, UNC could end up better because of it though I still think there will be times it will hurt.

  • Heel To The End

    i see what youre saying, THF.
    i would only say that i think there are some of us that are mystified how, after the FSU debacle, your word, it took another entire half for our guys to really, REALLY, answer the bell.
    a 4 day wait to get that taste out of your mouth, and you arent
    about apoplectic to go all Gunny Highway on someone.
    i think some of us find it strange is all.

  • LarryS

    “People on this board often talk about how college teams evolve over the course of a season, usually to rationalize early UNC losses, hoping that we’ll be better later.”

    I don’t doubt that a few of the responses are to rationalize losses, but in the case of this particular UNC team, and how it has such a high ceiling with very talented players, it has much more to do with recognizing their growth potential than it does with hoping they’ll do better.


    “i would only say that i think there are some of us that are mystified how, after the FSU debacle, your word, it took another entire half for our guys to really, REALLY, answer the bell”

    It doesn’t mystify me, and , actually, I might have been a bit more surprised had they come out operating on all cylinders and with supreme level of confidence , right after their previous humiliation.

    The Heels looked a little awkward for a while, and VPI looked like they had all downed a couple of those 5-hr. energy drinks, but once they started getting a feel for things, and really started executing at both ends of the floor, then talent and skill took over….and the 5-hr. energy drinks wore off.

  • Heel To The End

    and all too soon, this season will be over.
    there are only 12 regular season games left. maybe some of us that never got to wear the colors feel how quickly it can end.

  • Heel To The End

    Miami not very impressive today.
    theyve played over 16 minutes without registering a single assist.

  • Well, as Roy said in the postgame he thought they played well in the first half except they didn’t hit shots. Obviously the defense was capable of going up another notch because it did but I think the bad shooting made that first half look worse. It was also a road game. VT had their own reasons to be motivated and some of the crap VT threw up and hit was just stupid.

    Anyway, all bets are off now. Strickland going out changes the team and they have to respond and adjust to that now. If the way they responded to Some Other Kid leaving is any indication, NCSU is in for a world of hurt on Thursday.

  • Heel To The End

    ^i would be in favor of that.

    i think we all understand shots not going in. thats more the reason for losing to GT last year. we shot something like 30%.
    but, if the defense is capable of going up another notch, and you just had your butts handed to you, WHY didnt it go up another notch from the start?

  • Well I think if I or Roy knew the answer to that we’d both be freaking geniuses. Also, I agree with Roy when he says you have to give the other team credit for being really good sometimes. I think VT had a nice stretch but watching this group and honestly a lot of Roy’s teams there is a “weather the storm” mentality that pervades itself at times. UNC seems to be more content to wear a team down that come out and destroy them from the start. I don’t know why that is but that seems to be how it goes.

  • LarryS

    “maybe some of us that never got to wear the colors feel how quickly it can end.”

    Not sure what benchmark you’re talking about, but I agree it can, and usually does, end too quickly, or with the preferred outcome, for 344 of the 345 Div 1 teams.

  • BeachHeel

    VT was definitely on fire to begin that game, particularly Hudson who was having an out of body experience. They were playing in front of their biggest, loudest crowd of the year in Cassell and were amped up and playing as well as they are capable of playing. Still, our guys were not playing with the defensive intensity that many of us and I am sure Roy expected they would. To LarryS’s point, their confidence may have been shaken after the FSU game and when VT came out on fire it could have been deja vu. Give our guys credit for responding to being punched in the nose, regaining their mojo in the second half, and winning easily. All while dealing with the adversity of losing Dex. Was that not the first game we have won all year after trailing at the half? and on the road?

  • AZACCFan

    NCSU is a good team. Playing much better than last year!

  • BeachHeel

    I guess we trailed LBS at the half and won, at home. None the less, coming from behind on the road to win going away has to be good for the confidence of this team. Hopefully they can keep it going.

  • carolinablue74

    Interesting that beating a team that is at the very bottom of the ACC is supposed to be a sign of improvement!!

    But looking at the bright side of the Strickland injury, we will have two starters now who can stretch the perimeter defense. Also, occasionally this team will be forced to play a slower half-court game just so KM gets a little respite.

  • LarryS

    “Interesting that beating a team that is at the very bottom of the ACC is supposed to be a sign of improvement!!”

    Nonsensical comment.

    First, a team can show signs of improvement even when beating much lesser opponents, and second, the way they played in the second half (maybe the best of the year), and especially compared to the FSU game, was a definite improvement.

  • Heel To The End

    Vanderbilt had a guy yesterday, senior, who had 44 or 46 3s in his 100+ game career.
    he hit 4 yesterday, 2 while i was watching. completely unguarded.
    never hit 4 in a game his whole career.
    6’8′ 225 forward.
    it isnt 1986.

  • jtchill84

    “Interesting that beating a team that is at the very bottom of the ACC is supposed to be a sign of improvement!!”

    Someone else called this a nonsensical comment, but I think it has merit. It says a lot about our mindset as fans, and how we’re grasping for some stability and positivity. Which I think means we have some sub-conscious realization that things are not as well as they could be in Tar Heel Land. The overwhelming consensus is that UNC is much more talented and better coached than VT; hence one would expect nothing less than a fairly straightforward victory, no matter what had happened recently. This is not the NBA where every player on every team has gone through several filters to get there, and on a good night any team can beat any other. We have better players (than VT) by a longshot, and I think our coach is a lot better than VT’s as well (and that’s not an insult to S.G.). But in the first half (and here I disagree with THF, I also watched the tape, and I saw a lot of open 3-pt shots for VT, not all of which went in, and a bunch of soft defense), UNC displayed their all-too-familiar lackadaisical style.
    I agree that in the second half we played very well.
    What I would like to see is that level of play 80% of the time, instead of around 30-40% of the time, as we’re seeing now.

  • LarryS

    “The overwhelming consensus is that UNC is much more talented and better coached than VT; hence one would expect nothing less than a fairly straightforward victory, no matter what had happened recently.”

    I agree with this, but my original comments had to do with the statement implying how could we consider beating VPI to be an improvement, which I still think is nonsense.

    This is not grasping for stability and positivity, or saying the team doesn’t have progress to be made, it’s simply oberving what actually happened in that one game. You can improve beating teams like that, and we did to a significant degree in the second half, not just compared to FSU but to other games as well.

  • 52bgJ

    “it isnt 1986.”

    food for thought: the 2-3 zone has been around since the days when big men dominated the game. despite that, it is still the zone most employed by those few who do use it, and the first thing that pops in peoples mind when the subject comes up. has the shape of the court changed since then? I think it has.

  • jtchill84

    Yes Larry, in that sense, they learned that if they play hard they have the ability to overwhelm their opponent, even on the road. That’s a welcome development.

  • chapelhillfan

    Actually, THF, good and successful coaches do complain about first halves like at VT.

  • Roy didn’t complain about it. Said he thought they played pretty good but missed some shots.

  • LarryS

    Wow, Virginia Tech over Virgina in Charlottesville! Go figure.

    Also, Wisconsin over Illinois at Assembly Hall. Faustus1500 should have some comments on that one since he has Illinois season tickets.

  • faustus1500


    The boo birds and the Fire Bruce Weber blog posts are in full effect.

    On a side note, Virginia Tech didn’t collapse on Mike Scott. Virginia shot 1 for 14. I really hope Roy was watching that game. I trust Carolina’s bigs against the prohibitive favorite to win ACC Player of the Year. Whoever will be defending Zeglinski needs to understand one thing…..all he does is shoot three pointers.

  • rathskellar68

    The idea that the loss of Strickland will be a net plus is very unpersuasive. What could we gain, possibly? OK, more scoring from that position and a coming together of the team (which we should expect during league play in any event).

    What do we certainly lose? Our quickest player, best perimeter defender (on a team that desperately needs perimeter defenders), best driver (on a team that needs those too), only reliable backup PG, depth, and experience.

    Even if the possible gains come to pass — obviously an open question at this point — they fall far short of what we know we’re losing.

    It’s a net loss. The only question is how serious.

  • faustus1500

    Losing Strickland will clearly affect Carolina. I am just not sure how badly. I thought he should have sat while his ankle healed. When a player’s entire game revolves around your quickness why play him if he is nowhere near full speed. Still, Carolina adds a greater dimension offensively, and I am not sure Bullock is a huge drop defensively. Strickland’s speed wasn’t a great asset when defenses simply packed in the lanes and dared UNC to shoot from outside. Let’s be honest with ourselves, UNC is losing their backup point guard, but the offensive gains may be more than that loss. While I hate seeing Strickland injured, I think the team will be fine but will have issues facing teams with fast guards like Missouri.

  • carolinablue74

    @faustus, I still don’t understand why someone has to leave a deadeye shooter in the perimeter to help TWO tall defenders in the paint. Makes no sense. No wonder the word is defeat Carolina by driving and kicking it out to the perimeter shooter, because the UNC defenders are just clueless on perimeter defense. I didn’t buy and still don’t buy the notion that this team would win a championship by playing great defense when time and time again this team has been burnt by good guards. Any team with a balanced inside and outside game can defeat this team.

  • CarMichael

    LarryS & carolinablue,

    I didn’t see the game, but according to the UVA board, and contrary to Larry’s impression, VT frustrated Mike Scott by double-teaming him on nearly every catch, forcing UVA to shoot 3s, which last night they couldn’t hit at all.

    EVERY college or NBA team that plays MtM gives help inside, depending on matchups. UNC usually does not double down on the post feeds this year precisely because Henson and Zeller can guard most post players by themselves. We do try to bring weakside help when a driver gets loose in the paint. That’s because post players have trouble defending a driver without fouling or giving up a dish-and-dunk to a big man. The alternative to helping on the driver is to have your bigs hack the driver, a tactic Duke uses when they have big men to spare. We can’t afford that this year, and Roy doesn’t like the tactic anyway.

    Playing MtM without help doesn’t work. That’s why NOBODY plays MtM without help.

  • faustus1500

    ^This is done to generate turnovers. Guards collapse and try to strip the ball to set up the fast break. Problem is that such collapses always allows for open three pointers. The hope is that after running a team ragged outside shooters will not have the legs to knock down open looks. Against a team such Ohio State who has a big man who can pass this can be problematic because the four other players are capable three point shooters. In a way, this is similar to what Virginia does. Teams who have done well against Ohio State and Virginia are teams who are able defend the bigs one on one.

  • LarryS

    CarMichael, I think you mistook someone else’s comments for mine. I didn’t see the Virgina-Virginia Tech game.

  • Basic philosophy is the outside shot is a lower percentage shot than the inside one so the defense reacts to stop that shot. This comes from Dean Smith and based on UNC’s ridiculous level of success, even with the three point shot being in basketball for 26 years it would appear to be less of an issue than everyone thinks.

  • carolinablue74

    There is nothing wrong in committing hard fouls on a player that is driving to the basket. To not do that is folly. If one has to help they must know where to help at, in most cases help is given on the open floor or setting a trap. Big men help give each other weak-side help in the paint.

    For this team, on multiple occasions against FSU and even VT, perimeter defenders left their man wide open to help defend the opposing teams’ big man. Not every big man is a black hole like Zeller and a lot of them are actually taught to pass to open player in the perimeter rather than take a contested shot. Unless UNC stops this, every guard will have a field day scoring against this team, and every team with balanced inside-outside scoring will be able to handily beat this team.

  • faustus1500


    I was watching the first half and Va Tech wasn’t doubling down on Scott. Of course, Virginia really doesn’t have anyone who can penetrate on a regular basis.

  • carolinablue74

    Basketball has changed tremendously over the past 2 decades since Dean Smith retired. Maybe the 2 point shot is the higher percentage shot, but most team don’t allow the easy access to the post and big men nowadays are more adept at scoring from the perimeter in today’s guard dominated game. In the past few years shooting guards and big men with range have been the most sought after players for a reason. Heck even UNC was more successful in the recent past when players could actually score from the perimeter instead of relying solely on their big man to score in the paint.

  • faustus1500

    Kentucky tends to funnel guards and wings into the paint because Davis is a shotblocking presence. UConn used to that as well.

  • “Unless UNC stops this, every guard will have a field day scoring against this team, and every team with balanced inside-outside scoring will be able to handily beat this team.”

    UNC is 68th out of 345 teams in 3P% allowed. Teams are shooting 31.7% against them. Ohio St. who everyone says is one of the best defensive teams in the country and has a PG most of the experts say is the best perimeter defender in the country surrenders 31.6% from three. In fact Aaron Craft got absolutely lit up by Illinois’ Brandon Paul a couple of weeks ago.

    Among the other elite teams UK gives up 31.1%, Syracuse gives up 31.4%, Duke gives up 32.7%, Kansas 33.3%, Missouri 34.5%.

    Bottom line is, yes it matters but only to a point. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the scheme as much as there is with how UNC players close out three point shooters. Watching FSU, who is top ten in 3P% allowed and 304th in attempts allowed(UNC is 312th) they get to shooters almost on the catch. UNC players need to close-out better than they do at times.

    Also, note that its not UNC’s defense that invites the three, its their interior size that does.

  • CarMichael

    LarryS, my apologies. I was looking at a post by faustus1500 that began with your username.

    Faustus, as I said, I didn’t see the UVA-VT game, but I see the AP recap agrees with the UVA posters that Mike Scott was double- and triple-teamed much of the night.

  • faustus1500

    ^like I said. I am basing this on what I saw in the first half. Even the announcers in the game said as much. If Virginia Tech was double and triple teaming Scott, there were open shooters who biffing open looks. Like I said before Virginia shot 1 for 14 from three.

    I don’t think you have to double down when you have UNC’s frontcourt. You have solid shot blockers and you have a guy in Zeller who can step in and take the charge. I what you depends who you are playing against. Against a team like Florida and Missouri you should know that they like the shoot from outside. Doubling down on Steve Moore, Patrick Young, Ricardo Ratliffe, or Erik Murphy is not smart because it is highly doubtful any of those players are capable of going off for 40. One thing that worked very well for Illinois against Ohio State is that they let Meyers Leonard defend Sullinger one on one. If there is one thing Weber understands, it is defense. Trust me Leonard is half the defender that Zeller and Henson are.

    Against the RPI 100, opponents are shooting 33% against the Heels. That is pretty good. However, what bugs me is that in UNCs last five losses going back to the ACC Tournament loss to Duke teams have shot over 42%. Only Kentucky shot below 44%. Maybe, it is simply the closeouts which are not happening fast enough. However, I would like to think our frontcourt can handle the other teams big men, and I don’t even want to see a single clean look by the opposition.

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