Season Preview: The ACC

We’re taking a look at some of the nations most popular college basketball conferences this season. In this installment, we take a look at the ACC, for seasons change and all that.

All-Conference Team

-Montrezl Harrell, F, Jr., Louisville

-Jahlil Okafor, F, Fr., Duke

-London Perrantes, Soph., G, Virginia

-Olivier Hanlan, Jr., G, Boston College

Breakdown – Harrell, Okafor and Paige and mortal locks for most first-teams. It’s not even close, really. The last two spots? I really looked at Perrantes and how quickly he grew up as a freshman under Tony Bennett. I think he’ll be key in how well the Cavaliers do after losing Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. Hanlan will be asked to do pretty much everything in Jim Christian’s first season.

Predicting The Finish

Duke – Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones headline an amazing recruiting class. Rasheed Suliamon should be doing Rasheed Suliamon things. It’s Duke. It’s Mike Krzyzewski. It’s another season.

North Carolina – Outside of the afforementioned Meeks and Paige, look for J.P. Tokoto to emerge this year. The real winner here though, is Meeks’ waistline.

Louisville – New team on the block with an All-American candidate in Harrell. But the real focus is on Terry Rozier, who has been viewed as a possible first-rounder in the 2015 NBA Draft if he lives up to his potential.

Virginia – The scary thing is, this Virginia team might be as good as last year’s and the lost Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. Perrantes plays beyond his year and Malcolm Brogdon has the skills to be the ACC’s top scorer.

Syracuse – With Dejuan Coleman coming back, this team will have their best chance at having a solid low-block presence. Rakeem Christmas should have a great senior season, but watch for yet another Joseph on Jim Boeheim’s roster: Kaleb.

Pittsburgh – Durand Johnson could be a darkhorse for ACC Player of the Year and will pace a pretty solid team for Jamie Dixon. Look for Vanderbilt transfer Sheldon Jeter to string together a lot of good performances.

North Carolina State – What do you do when you lose your entire offensive gameplan? No, Mark Gottfried didn’t shred it on accident or anything. T.J. Warren just left for the NBA. Cat Barber and even Desmond Lee could pace this squad.

Sleeper Team – Virginia Tech – Forgive me, but there’s just something about Buzz Williams. The man finds way to make something out of nothing. He’ll get a lot out of Seth Allen and somehow, he’ll find a way to make this a middle-of-the-pack team.

The Rest….because there’s only so much you can saw about sub-par teams

Notre Dame

Florida State

Clemson

Wake Forest

Boston College

Miami

Georgia Tech

Sleeper Player

Kennedy Meeks, Soph., F, North Carolina – Not only will Meeks, who averaged 7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds, benefit from Paige being his point guard for another season, but he also lost around 50 pounds, which could greatly help his conditioning on the court. He’s not exactly a ‘sleeper’ with all stats like that and the McDonald’s All-American label, but I think you could see a double-double of 17-12 per out of him if all the hype is true.

Most Likely To….upset Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium this season

Calling it an upset, that eliminates the top teams. That said, I’m going with Wake Forest on March 4. Danny Manning has like magic or something in his coaching acumen. He pulled a few good wins in his time in Tulsa. He may have to rip all the tread off Codi Miller-McIntyre’s figurative tires to get it, but for some reason, I see Wake pulling the shocker at the end of the season. Maybe it’s because it’s 2 a.m. and I decided to finish this up now.

 

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With Virginia, it’s a choice of good wins or bad losses

It’s a simple question: With their resume, does Virginia have the resume to bypass the seemingly endless amount of other teams on the proverbial Bubble and make it into the field?

Consider me as one of those who thinks yes, without question. And it all has to do with their quality wins.

According to RealTimeRPI.com (the site I swear by when it comes time to look at such things) the Cavaliers have seven wins over Top 100 RPI teams. Four of them are against the Top 50 in North Carolina State, North Carolina, Wisconsin and now, Duke. The three Top 100 wins are Florida State*, Tennessee and Maryland.

(*Yes, somehow Florida State is still a Top 100 team.)

So we have the wins out of the way. Now, we have to look at the other side of things, the part that might actually weigh on the Wahoo’s NCAA Tournament chances more than anything. The bad losses.

And man, they’re awful. In fact, you could make a case that everything I’m writing is total crap, and these should keep them out.

On the season, Tony Bennett’s team is 20-8. Of those eight losses, six are against teams outside the RPI Top 150, including what could turn out to be the shot to the jugular to their Big Dance chances, the 63-61 loss to a dreadful Old Dominion team that ranks 323rd in the RPI*.

(*I understand there are other ways of determining what Virginia’s chances are. But the RPI is the main factor by which the NCAA Tournament Committee decides, so by that rationale, one has to think like the committee thinks.)

In fact, before back-to-back losses to North Carolina (20th) and Miami (3rd) on Feb. 16 and 19, all of the Cavaliers’ losses were to teams outside the Top 150.

So yea, one might see exactly why the case can be made that Virginia has some work to do, possibly even needing a decent run in the ACC Tournament.

But here’s my main argument, with the numbers all laid out: Those disgusting losses early in the season to bad teams, all of which were in the CAA (George Mason, Old Dominion, Delaware), don’t mean as much as getting four wins over sure-fire tournament teams in Wisconsin, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke.

Had the conference wins come in a lesser power conference such as the SEC or Big 12, which range from “bad” to “a bit down” this season, I’d say otherwise. But this a season in which even Miami, who isn’t traditionally a power in the conference, is dominant, and the ACC has shown to be  up there with the B1G this season as a best-of-the-best conference (though I believe the B1G to be the best overall, the ACC a slight second).

So the Selection Committee has to ask itself: What do we value more? Good wins or bad losses? When it comes to Virginia, the answer to that question will decide whether they’re celebrating or sulking on national television during the Selection Show in a few weeks.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten