By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
In previous years the ACC has been the premier basketball conference.
Blue blood programs like Duke and North Carolina routinely make the Final Four and win national championships. Both teams played in the Final Four last season and UNC played in the national title game. Both programs are struggling this season.
The Tar Heels were the No. 1 team in the preseason. They have not lived up to those expectations. They currently are 18 – 11, 10 – 8 in conference play.
They did defeat No. 6 Virginia over the weekend. That was their first Quadrant 1 win, which is crucial for an at-large team. They were previously 0 – 9 against those teams.
“His ability to stretch it, and then he can also go inside – he’s tall, man,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of Pete Nance. “He filled in the way (Brady Manek) did last year. When they can stretch you out and all of a sudden the floor opens up, that changes their dynamics.”
The Cavaliers (21 – 6) are the highest ranked team in the conference at No. 13. They are currently third-place in the ACC behind Pitt and Miami. They also lost to lowly Boston College earlier last week, scoring a season-low 48 points. UVA is going in the wrong direction less than a month before the NCAA tournament begins.
The Blue Devils (21 – 8) are fifth in the conference. They were No. 7 in the preseason poll. It looks like they are coming together at the perfect time. Star freshman forward Kyle Filipowski is the leading scorer (14.8 points per game) and rebounder (9.2 per game) this season. He should be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft and if he plays well Duke can win any game.
Duke won four consecutive games and they are trending in the right direction as the season is winding down. They have two regular season games remaining against NC State and at North Carolina. The ACC Tournament begins March 7th.
No. 16 Miami (23 – 6) has changed the culture of their program. They used to be known as a football school but over the last few years they changed that. The Hurricanes are coming off of a bad loss to in-state rival Florida State (9 – 20) over the weekend. They blew a 25 point second half lead to lose, 85 – 84.
“We played as well as we could in the first half,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said. “But it appeared to me to start the second half that our battery died. We didn’t have the energy or juice and it showed most of all with our defense.”
The loss ended Miami’s seven game winning streak. It also knocked them out of an outright lead in the ACC standings and a perfect home record. They have one game remaining against Pitt.
Clemson (21 – 8) is having a surprisingly good season. They are currently fourth in the conference. In previous years this would be more impressive. They should make the NCAA Tournament and they have a chance to win a game.
This is a down year for the ACC but they should get 5-6 teams in the NCAA Tournament. I would be surprised if they have a team that can advance to the Elite Eight.