Skip to content

Conference Catchup: Duke leads a top-heavy ACC

Jan 3, 2013, 11:59 AM EDT

Duke Blue Devils forward Mason Plumlee (5) shoots against the Davidson Wildcats during the first half of their NCAA basketball game in Charlotte Reuters

Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our ACC Conference Catchup:

Favorite: Duke

This team looked good in the preseason, but we all had some questions about how the pieces would fit together. Those questions have been answered in spades, as Quinn Cook has settled into the distributor’s role with ease, allowing Seth Curry to be the gunner he wants to be. Mason Plumlee is the steady scorer and rebounder we all expected, and Ryan Kelly is the super-effective sidekick who can do what’s needed on any given night. With freshman Rasheed Sulaimon rounding into a reliable starter as well, the Blue Devils look unstoppable.

Contenders: NC State isn’t as dominant as we all thought they would be, in light of the talent available in Raleigh, but it’s hard to really quibble with losses to quality teams like Oklahoma State and Michigan. The Wolfpack have taken care of business in every other respect, and seem ready to roll in conference play.

Maryland lost a close game to Kentucky to start the season, and have reeled off twelve straight since. They’re still under the radar because they’ve beaten twelve so-so teams, and because they haven’t had the same leading scorer on consecutive nights all season long. Having options is a good thing, but it’s also nice to know there are two or three guys who will always carry the load.

North Carolina… I seriously feel like I’m mentioning them out of habit on one hand. But there’s no doubt that there’s top talent in Chapel Hill, and a hall-of-fame coach, so I’m not marking them out of the race until we’ve seen how they react to conference play.

Biggest Surprise: Maryland

The Terps looked like a collection of decent parts in the early going, but credit Mark Turgeon for getting them to play like a team. Pe’Shon Howard is playing like a pass-first point guard, dishing nearly six assists per game, Dez Wells is fitting in well for a new guy, and Alex Len is living up to his vast potential on the blocks. A whole cadre of additional options are developing into reliable role players as well.

Biggest Disappointment: Florida State

FSU was obviously going to be hard-pressed to hold serve after the departure of Bernard James, but preseason All-American Michael Snaer and Ian Miller as returnees seemed like a solid base for the Seminoles to work from. The team that prided itself on defense has been distinctly sub-par, by their own exacting standards. Losing to rival Florida by 25 points was a bitter experience, and losing home games to South Alabama and Mercer almost defies comprehension.

Player of the Year: Mason Plumlee, Duke

Virginia Tech’s Erick Green was a tempting choice, due to his flashy scoring numbers, but it has to be Plumlee. He’s averaging a double-double for the nation’s number one team, and he just doesn’t miss around the basket. That might sound simple, but look around at the big men in DI and you’ll see that Plumlee’s 63.8% shooting is truly remarkable. When he’s not scoring, he’s setting up teammates by drawing defenders and passing out of the post. The 6’10” senior is a luxury most programs just don’t have any more.

Best Freshman: T.J. Warren, NC State

Warren’s a crazy-good shooter and a big guy to boot. He’s shooting 69.4% from the floor, and even nails the occasional three-pointer to keep defenses honest. It was a fair bet that Warren would be a huge part of State’s future plans, but how great for Mark Gottfried that the frosh is paying dividends right here and now.

Three Predictions

  • Duke will sweep the season series with UNC. The Tar Heels probably have more raw talent to call on, but Coach K has a rock-solid team that has played in sync since day one of the season. After a very rugged non-con season, the Devils should be ready for anything.
  • The ACC will get four teams in the NCAA tourney. The league is very top-heavy this season. With very patchy non-conference records at UNC and Miami, and a big drop-off in talent below them, it’s a shaky year for the league that will be bolstered by Pitt and Syracuse next season.
  • Georgia Tech will surprise somebody. There are no superstars on this team, but the ‘Jackets have size and experience, as well as rapidly improving freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt. Brian Gregory will find a way to snatch a win or two away from somebody he has no business beating before the league slate is through.

Power Rankings (* = tourney team):

1. Duke*
2. NC State*
3. Maryland*
4. UNC*
5. Miami
6. Florida State
7. Virginia
8. Georgia Tech
9. Virginia Tech
10. Clemson
11. Boston College
12. Wake Forest

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Latest Posts
  1. Dave Leitao returns as head coach at DePaul

    Mar 29, 2015, 2:24 PM EDT

    ACC Tournament: Virginia Cavaliers v Boston College Eagles Getty Images

    Dave Leitao is the leading candidate to become the head coach at DePaul for a second time.

  2. Five-star 2015 big man Ivan Rabb hits game-winning free throw to win California state title (VIDEO)

    Mar 29, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpti1yzy1ymy3ytizody1zwrhyzfhmme2odcxyjawntbi AP

    Five-star big man Ivan Rabb makes a clutch free throw to win a California state title.

  3. Wisconsin vs. Kentucky: The Final Four rematch we deserved to see

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Wisconsin and Kentucky get to play again after last season’s thrilling National Semifinal.

  4. No. 2 Arizona, Sean Miller’s quest to reach Final Four once again falls short

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:37 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The label of “best coach yet to reach a Final Four” will remain Miller’s for another offseason, whether that’s fair or not.

  5. Updated tournament records: Big Ten, SEC champions headed to Indy

    Mar 29, 2015, 12:50 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The Big Ten champion and SEC champion move on to Indy.

  6. Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky catch fire as No. 1 Wisconsin beats No. 2 Arizona

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Dekker scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half at Wisconsin beat Arizona in the Elite Eight for the second straight year.

  7. Frank Kaminsky dances his way to the Final Four (VIDEO)

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:34 PM EDT

    Arizona v Wisconsin Getty Images

    Frank got a little funky after Wisconsin’s win over Arizona.

  8. Rick Barnes is no longer the head coach at Texas

    Mar 28, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Barnes coached at Texas for 17 seasons.

  9. Arrests made as Michigan State fans gather, set fires near off-campus apartments after Sweet 16 win (VIDEO)

    Mar 28, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Some Michigan State students got a little too rowdy following a win over Oklahoma.

  10. Reports: The Citadel hires VMI head coach Duggar Baucom for same position

    Mar 28, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT

    Duggar Baucom AP

    The Citadel hired away the head coach of a Southern Conference rival.

  11. Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey on college hoops: ‘It’s absolute torture watching some of these games’ (AUDIO)

    Mar 28, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets Draft Picks Press Conference Getty Images

    Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had some strong words on the current state of college basketball.

  12. Frank Kaminsky’s growth results in individual and team benefits for No. 1 Wisconsin

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:17 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Frank Kaminsky’s path to stardom may not follow that of last year’s national Player of the Year winner, Doug McDermott, but it’s one that many players hope to navigate during their own time in school.

  13. Tom Izzo blames himself, new Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart movie on Michigan State’s sluggish Sweet 16 start

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:55 AM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Michigan State might have been the only people in the country watching “Get Hard” on Friday afternoon.

  14. Former oddsmaker believes Kentucky would be underdog against all-time great college basketball teams

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Kentucky might finish the 2014-15 season unblemished, but how do they stack up against some of the best teams in college basketball history?

  15. Tourney Snacks: Duke-Gonzaga, Louisville-Michigan State advance to Elite 8

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:52 AM EDT

    Justise Winslow (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Get caught up on all of Friday’s NCAA tournament action.

  16. Tip times, announcer pairings and channel guide for 2015 Elite 8

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:27 AM EDT

    Quinn Cook AP

    The schedule for Sunday’s Elite 8 games.