We are now half-way through the ACC Regular Season and eight games into the conference slate, the conference remains very much a mystery; or does it?
If the season ended today Miami, yes the Miami Hurricanes, would be the ACC Regular Season Champions. The No. 14 (likely to move up) Hurricanes have rose to the top of the conference standings in impressive fashion besting the preseason favorites. Miami beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill, destroyed Duke at home and this past weekend took out NC State on the road.
In recent years when a team other than Duke or North Carolina climbed to the top of the standings it was typically because their early conference schedule wasn’t the toughest, but you can’t say that about what Miami has done. At 8-0, they have been clearly the best team in the conference and they have earned it. But what about the rest of the league?
Duke has been inconsistent since Ryan Kelly went down to injury. One game they will barely scrape by Wake Forest and the next they’ll destroy Florida State in Tallahassee, a place they have struggled at times over the years. Duke at 6-2 sits two games back of Miami in the conference standings and has the opportunity to avenge both of their losses, but even if they win out they have to get some help to win the regular season outright.
One of Duke’s loses came at the hands of preseason ACC favorite NC State. The Wolf Pack with its rejuvenated program is a contender again in the ACC, but they are plagued by as many inconsistencies, if not more, than Duke. They have struggled to win any ACC road games which included loses at Wake Forest and Maryland. At 5-4 in the ACC they are facing an uphill battle unless they get some help and they can start winning some games on the road.
They will get an opportunity in the rematch with Duke Thursday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
North Carolina, the other team thought by many to be a preseason contender has been anything but. They have looked simply pedestrian for most of the year. They are 15-6 overall and unranked. They have looked bad in loses NC State, Virginia and Miami, but have managed to win 5 of their last 6, but they need to start beating some of the upper-echelon teams in the league to get back in the race.
As for the rest of the league it is a mishmash of underwhelming teams. Virginia right now at 5-3 is the third best team in the league based on record and their victory over North Carolina, but few would probably say that the Cavaliers are even a lock to get into the NCAA Tournament this year.
Beyond them there is a real precipitous drop from the top three or four teams and the rest of the league. This may be the season where there is more parity than ever in college basketball, but the ACC is clearly a have an have-nots league again with a new edition to the haves.
At this rate I would have to say the race for the league will come down to Duke and Miami, though that could change if the Blue Devils lose to NC State on Thursday night. If, however, they win that game it could very well come down to a show down between the two team.
Miami, though, has the distinct advantage of having that two game cushion and would have to lose at least one if not two more games which is hard to see if they continue to play well because the ACC is just so weak after the top three or four teams.