Monday, March 24, 2008

ACC exposed

There shouldn't be any further debate about the relative strength of the ACC after the happenings of last weekend. Not after two of the top three teams in the conference lost to lower seeded and mediocre Big East foes on Friday and Saturday night. Clemson seemed to lose its composure against Villanova who handled their press and their interior advantage with relative ease. It was a tough first round game for a five seed but the Tigers almost played like they were just happy to be in the NCAA Tournament at all.

Duke had the flaws that were apparent all season long exploited by West Virginia, a lack of low post game and a fatal dependence on 3-point shooting. West Virginia's Joe Alexander, who really isn't all that different from or talented than former Terp Nik Caner-Medley, scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. It is a little less impressive when you consider that he only hit 7 of his 22 field goal attempts. He played well in the game but was hardly the reason they beat the Blue Devils. Duke's freshmen clearly went into the NCAA Tournament with little left in the tank. Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Taylor King could muster little offense in the two NCAA Tournament games.

The near loss to Belmont the night before should have made Duke fans very worried about the chances they would get back to the Sweet 16. The lack of interior presence for the Blue Devils was fatal in this game as an equally small West Virginia squad dominated the glass and got too many follow up shots off misses. Duke tried to play Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas in the middle but neither was able to provide the defense or rebounding that was needed. By the time Mike Krzyzewski decided to go with a small lineup in the 2nd half it seemed the die was cast. The perimeter shooting that had carried Duke during the season failed to materialize.

It was especially nice to see DeMarcus Nelson flop in his final two games at Duke. He followed up his two point stinker against Belmont with a 6 point effort against West Virginia and went a combined 3/17 from the floor in two NCAA Tournament games. He was simply terrible the entire game. You would have never known he was the defensive player of the year and 1st team All-ACC this season by watching the last two games. Maybe that will be a lesson not to talk about another player because it certainly came back to haunt Nelson after he called out Maryland's Greivis Vasquez after the last Maryland game. I think it was a tribute to Krzyzewski that this team, with its numerous flaws, won as many games as it did this season.

It is a sign of how bad things were for the ACC that some were taking solace in Miami's narrow loss to Texas in the second round. The only team left alive is North Carolina and that is a good thing for the ACC because the Tar Heels look to be playing their best basketball of the season. They have as good a chance as any to win another championship for Roy Williams but that doesn't change the fact that the ACC is no longer a preeminent basketball conference. If UNC doesn't fulfil its destiny and get to another Final Four it will be the first time since the early 1960's that the ACC has not had a Final Four participant in three consecutive seasons. Simply put the ACC is as bad as it has been in a long time.


freestater said...

Add to that MD's loss to Syracuse and VT getting manhandled at home by Ole Miss and the ACC has nothing besides UNC to brag about. It seems to me that ACC fans need to adjust their mindset to the reality of the post-expansion ACC. The ACC is no longer the preeminent basketball conference and that doesn't appear likely to change anytime soon.

James said...

I know statistics are hardly everything, but the league as a whole had a better record against teams with better records than any other conference (I'm talking about the RPI). Pretty much every team but UNC and Clemson had weak spots (one loss to Villanova doesn't = a weak spot) over the course of the season, but if you add it all up, it wasn't too bad.

Don't forget, Virginia won at Arizona, BC beat a UMass team that's in the NIT Finals now, and NC State beat a small handful of Big East teams AND Davidson. These are the worst three teams in our conference. Comparing any of these teams to Oregon State, St John's, Rutgers, and Northwestern is just no comparison. A lot of teams had their glaring problems, but everyone had bright spots during the season - everyone. They just weren't quite so singularly bright as the SEC freak-show Georgia... and they weren't towards the end of the season - the part that everybody remembers.

Esquire said...

The bottom of the ACC is certainly better than the bottom of most of the other power conferences. Even teams like Boston College and Virginia had a slim chance to beat the best teams in the league, and they almost did a few times. Oregon State, St. Johns and Northwestern had almost no chance of beating the best teams in their conferences. The question is what does that tell you about how good a conference is compared to others?

I usually feel that the middle of the pack tells you more about conference than the best or worst teams. By that count the ACC really falls short. If you look at the median RPI for the major conferences I think you get a more accurate picture of where the leagues stack up.

The ACC is 4th behind the Pac 10 (48), Big East (53), and Big 12 (59) with a median of 63. The much maligned SEC was right there with a median RPI of 64. Only the horrendous Big Ten was worse with a median of 101.

There were a few notable OOC wins by ACC teams as you pointed out but there were also many poor losses by the middle and bottom of the conference as well. Maryland, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Georgia Tech all had some really dreadful losses to mid-major teams. It cuts both ways. I suppose you could say that Virginia in 10th place wasn't that much worse than Virginia Tech which finished in 4th place but is that really a good thing?