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Tomahawk Nation's ACC Basketball Preview and Predictions

One might argue that this is a little late in the game to be doing an ACC preview. On the contrary. Pre-season predictions are full of speculation and guessing as to how players will develop and how a team will perform. They are valuable and a great place to start a discussion.

This weekend marks is the beginning of ACC conference play. A handful of teams have already had their first conference match up, but from here on out, it will be exclusively ACC play with a few exceptions of course. At this point in the season, we have data to notice tendencies, trends and evaluate performance.

Prior to the season, who would have predicted that UNC would have four losses in out of conference play? Granted, three of those four losses are to some of the best teams in the country. Did anyone think that Florida State would be ranked and have one of the best defenses in the country?

Take a look inside for the current state of affairs in the ACC and our best guess at how things will end up.

As many of you know, we're big fans of Ken Pomeroy's work and use his statistics as the basis for many of the discussions and points made on this site. His rankings are based on advanced metrics using tempo-free statistics to develop 'bias' free standings. You could argue that his formulas favor one style of play versus another, but in the time that we have been following them, the rankings are very accurate and are kool-aid free.

Currently, Pomeroy has the ACC as the best conference in the country:

Ranking of conferences by average rating of the teams

Conference Rating Conference Rating
1 Atlantic Coast Conference .9071 18 Big West Conference .4027
2 Big 12 Conference .8982 19 Southern Conference .3741
3 Big East Conference .8699 20 Sun Belt Conference .3618
4 Big Ten Conference .8682 21 Southland Conference .3349
5 Southeastern Conference .8378 22 Ivy League .3267
6 Pac 10 Conference .7898 23 Atlantic Sun Conference .3198
7 Mountain West Conference .7481 24 Ohio Valley Conference .3058
8 Conference USA .7025 25 Summit League .2843
9 Atlantic 10 Conference .6906 26 America East Conference .2534
10 Missouri Valley Conference .6579 27 Patriot League .2419
11 Western Athletic Conference .6446 28 Big South Conference .1828
12 Colonial Athletic Association .5984 29 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference .1694
13 West Coast Conference .5761 30 Northeast Conference .1478
14 Horizon League .5710 31 Independents .1143
15 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference .4581 32 Southwestern Athletic Conference .0707
16 Mid American Conference .4483 33 Great West Conference .0642
17 Big Sky Conference .4248  

If you look at the national polls, one could argue that the perception and statistics are in alignment:



Yes, the Big East has 6 teams in the top 25, but they also have four more teams in the conference. Percentage wise, 37.5% of the Big East are in the top 25 and 33.3% of the ACC is in the top 25. The Big East currently has three teams in the top 10, 18.8% of the conference, while the ACC has two in the top 10, which is 16.7% of the conference. Keep in mind, these are small sample sizes. This year may not be quite the down year that many predicted it to be for the ACC.

Now onto the individual team assessments in alphabetical order:

Boston College Eagles

Record: 10 - 5

Rankings: Pomeroy 76 RPI 117 AP NR

Out Of Conference Highlights: Ups and downs. The Eagles have lost to St. Josephs, Northern Iowa, Harvard, Rhode Island and Maine. The do have wins over Michigan, South Carolina and Providence. The poor losses out weight the quality wins.

Conference Schedule Notes: Clemson twice. Florida State twice. Duke twice. GTech away. UNC at home.

Summary: The Eagles are looking to improve on their 9-7 ACC campaign from last year. However, it is going to be tough going as Al Skinner's team lost its leading scorer, Tyrese Rice, and didn't add a single player to the roster. The departure of Rice hasn't resulted in a significant drop in their offensive efficiency as they currently rank 62nd in the nation, scoring 1.08 points per possession. This team is being led by the core group of Reggie Jackson, Joe Trapani and Corey Raji (younger brother of former BC lineman BJ Raji). Trapani is having another excellent year with an ORating of 113.5. The Eagles are young yet experienced team and will be competitive in the middle of the pack of the ACC. They play a slow tempo game and try to shut you down with man to man defense. Where they get into trouble is that they force little to no turnovers. Granted, they hang on to the ball well with a TO% of only 18.6 and an OReb% of 42.6.

Clemson Tigers

Record: 12-3

Rankings: Pomeroy 16 RPI 51 AP 21

Out Of Conference Highlights: Neutral site victory over Butler 79-60. Losses to Texas A&M and Illinois.

Conference Schedule Notes: Already lost 74-53 to Duke. GTech twice. Duke twice. North Carolina once. Finish with FSU, GTech and Wake.

Summary: In a nutshell, defense and Trevor Booker. Oliver Purnell's team currently ranks 12th in the nation in defensive efficiency, holding teams to .87 points per possession. They create turnovers and they get out and run, capitalizing on their opponent's mistakes. That is reflected in the fact that 57.4% of their points are inside the are, compared to only 26% from beyond the arc. Those numbers rank 58th and 189th nationally. Where Clemson struggles is both getting to the free throw line and getting easy points there: FTRate 33.2 and FT% 63.6%. Trevor Booker is an absolute beast on the inside and his success will determine the success of the Tigers. Look for the Tigers to be close to the top in the ACC.

Duke Blue Devils

Record: 13-1

Rankings: Pomeroy 2 RPI 2 AP 5

Out Of Conference Highlights: Four point loos at Wisconsin. Wins over Arizona St, Gonzaga, Iowa St, St John's and Connecticut.

Conference Schedule Notes: North Carolina twice. Clemson once. Georgia Tech twice. Florida St once at home. But they have two interruptions: Georgetown January 30th and Tulsa February 25th.

Summary: Duke is going to be tough to beat. They currently rank 1st and 5th in the nation for offensive and defensive efficiency. They shoot lights out, particularly from beyond the arc. They don't turn the ball over and they rebound. Jon Scheyer is having an All-Conference year and has already been named by the US Basketball Writers Association as national player of the week. Many wondered how Duke would compete with out a true point guard and being such a big team. With the development of Zoubeck, the Plumlee brothers and Lance Thomas, Kyle Singler is able to move to his natural 3 spot. On defense, they play tight man to man defense and they limit your shooting ability. However, they do not generate a lot of steals and they are not the best on the defensive glass. But their length is giving their opponents fits. It will be interesting to see how they fare in a huge ACC this year.

Florida State Seminoles

Record: 13-2

Rankings: Pomeroy 15 RPI 59 AP 22

Out Of Conference Highlights: Losses at Florida and Ohio State. Wins over Alabama, Marquette, Auburn.

Conference Schedule Notes: Georgia Tech twice. Clemson twice. Duke once. North Carolina once. Both games are on the road. Finish the year with UNC, Clemson, Wake and Miami.

Summary: Defense, defense, defense. Currently the Seminoles have the 4th best defense in the nation. They are holding opponents to 36.6% shooting from inside the arc. The Seminoles are the tallest team in the country and are a highly athletic group. They are scoring more points than they did last year and are shutting down opponents that gave them trouble in out of conference play last year. With a win at Georgia Tech under their belt, the Seminoles look to make a solid run through the ACC.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Record: 11-3

Rankings: Pomeroy 34 RPI 70 AP 20

Out Of Conference Highlights: Wins over Sienna, Charlotte and USC. Losses to Dayton and Georgia.

Conference Schedule Notes: Open conference with Florida State (loss) and Duke.  Play Duke twice, UNC twice, Wake twice, Clemson twice, Florida State twice. The only two ACC games they play at home in a row are Florida State and Duke to open the season.

Summary: Despite a miserable 2008-2009 season, Georgia Tech made significant noise on the national scene with the return of Gani Lawal and the addition of Derrick Favors. They likely have one of the best front courts in the nation with those two players. However, Favors is still very raw. Mfon Udofia is playing better than expected and giving the Yellow Jackets the point guard they desperately needed. Like the Seminoles, the Yellow Jackets are prone to turnovers with a TO% of 22.7. They do very well on the offensive and defensive glass and will show you a variety of fronts on defense. They can get away with the turnovers as they shoot the ball very well and are relatively efficient despite the missed opportunities. Their athleticism and scoring in the paint will make them very competitive in the ACC. **Note: In the process of writing this, GTech upset Duke. Going to be an interesting year in the ACC**

Maryland Terrapins

Record: 9-4

Rankings: Pomeroy 41RPI 91 AP NR

Out Of Conference Highlights: Beat Indiana in Bloomington. Losses to Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Villanova and William and Mary.

Conference Schedule Notes: Florida State twice. Duke twice. UNC once. Georgia Tech once.

Summary: Maryland had a lot of attention in the off season as they had a wonderful recruiting class and learned that Greivis Vasquez would return. Many felt that Maryland could make a significant run through the ACC and get Maryland back to the elite level to which it was accustomed. Vasquez got off to a slow start and the Terps went 9-4 in their out of conference play. They are not a big team by any means and it will be interesting to see how they handle the larger lineups in the ACC. They may get away with it by continuing to play at a high pace. They are one of the more balanced teams in the conference with an offensive efficiency of 109.8, 55th nationally, and a defensive efficiency of 91.5, 47th nationally. Don't be fooled. Maryland is better than their 9-4 record.

Miami Hurricanes

Record: 14-2

Rankings: Pomeroy 23 RPI 98 AP NR

Out Of Conference Highlights: A 63-58 win over Minnesota and an 85 - 70 win over South Carolina. Outside of that, not a whole lot to write home about. They only played 3 teams in the Pomeroy top 100 and only 6 teams in the Pomeroy top 200.

Conference Schedule Notes: Lost to BC 61-60 in Boston. Florida State twice. Duke once. UNC once. Wake Forest twice. Tough stretch: Maryland, VTech, Wake, FSU, GTech, Clemson, Duke.

Summary: Miami's numbers look great to start the season. They have an effective shooting percentage of 56.7 and are holding teams to an eFG% of only 42.2%. But outside of BC and Minnesota, who have they played? They only scored 69 points against Stetson, who the Noles rolled 80-38. Miami is also getting into trouble with a TO% of 21.9%. They do, however, for their opponents to turn the ball over on 22.7% of their possessions. Dwayne Collins has taken over the leadership roll after the departure of Jack McClinton. He has been an absolute beast on the boards and is playing great defense. Malcolm Grant has also emerged into a nice player. The 6'1 sophomore has an ORtg of 116.9 and is distributing the ball well. 

North Carolina Tarheels

Record: 11-4

Rankings: Pomeroy 46 RPI 61 AP 9

Out Of Conference Highlights: Brutal schedule. Wins over Ohio St, Michigan St, Nevada. Losses to Syracuse, Kentucky Texas and...College of Charleston.

Conference Schedule Notes: Tough finish. At BC, then FSU, at Wake, Miami at home then Duke. Play Duke twice, Wake twice, Georgia Tech twice. Clemson once.

Summary: This is a big, young, athletic team that is loaded with talent. The Seminoles are the only team in the country that is bigger than the Tarheels. Roy Williams would not have been pleased heading into conference play with and 11-3 record, but given the level of competition, it would have been palatable. Deon Thompson and Ed Davis are starting to emerge as great players. Ed Davis considered going to the NBA last year and decided to stay. It looks like it was the smart option for him. He has an ORating of 112.9 and an eFG% of 64.7. It might be best to ignore the CofC loss and pay close attention to the Tarheels. They have an offensive efficiency of 110.2 and a defensive efficiency of 92.5. They also like to get out and run with a pace of 75.9, which is eight heisght in the country.

North Carolina State Wolf Pack

Record: 11-4

Rankings: Pomeroy 91 RPI 119 AP NR

Out Of Conference Highlights: 77-73 win at Marquette. Losses to Florida (OT loss), Northwestern, and Arizona.

Conference Schedule Notes: Lost to Wake on December 20th 67-59. Play UNC twice, Wake twice, Maryland twice. Only get FSU, Duke and Clemson once.

Summary: The Wolfpack shoot the ball well and limit their opponents shooting percentage. However, they don't generate turnovers nor do they rebound well. They are however, like the rest of the ACC a big team, with the exception of Point guard Javier Gonzalez who stand 5'11. As nice a job that Gonzalez does distributing the ball, he is turnover happy. The expectations weren't high for the Wolfpack this year and they are currently playing good basketball, but will not be competing for the top position in the ACC this year. But, look out for them in the next few years as they have a big freshman class and even more top recruits on their way.

Virginia Cavaliers

Record: 8-4

Rankings: Pomeroy 66 RPI140 AP NR

Out Of Conference Highlights: Big win over UAB. Losses to South Florida, Stanford, Penn St and Auburn.

Conference Schedule Notes: Wake Forest twice. VTech twice. Duke, UNC, Florida State and Clemson once.

Summary: Sylven Landesberg is the player to watch on this team. He is off to a good start and should have another nice season. There has been significant improvement in the Cavaliers offense this year as they currently rank 38th in the country in offensive efficiency. They rank 108th for defensive efficiency. They play a slow tempo style of game and try to limit  their mistakes. They are putting together a good core of players, but will not be competing for the top spot in the ACC this year. They will likely stick around in a lot of games due to the fact that they limit their turnovers.

Virginia Tech Hokies

Record: 12-1

Rankings: Pomeroy 48 RPI 63 AP NR

Out Of Conference Highlights: Overtime victory over Seton Hall. Only loss is to Temple, who is playing some good basketball of late. Also have wins over Iowa and Georgia.

Conference Schedule Notes: UNC twice, Georgia Tech once, FSU once, Duke once. . Wake Forest once.

Summary: Like the Seminoles, the Hokies are all about defense. They currently rank 11th in the nation. They limit their mistakes and play shut down man defense in a slow tempo game. They also do a really nice job on the boards. Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen are the dynamic duo in Blacksburg again this year. Fortunately, the Seminoles will not need to see the likes of J.D. Vasallo. Delaney has an ORating of 114.3, he has an ARate of 23.7 and has a True Shooting % of 57.9. The TS% takes into account FTs and weights for 3 point shots. Jeff Allen, once again, is doing the dirty work on the boards and on the defensive end.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Record: 11-2

Rankings: Pomeroy 38 RPI 32 AP NR

Out Of Conference Highlights: Wins over Gonzaga, Richmond, Xavier. Losses to Purdue and William and Mary.

Conference Schedule Notes: Georgia Tech twice. UNC twice. FSU once. Duke once. Clemson once.

Summary: Defense...defense...defense. Wake Forest currently ranks 17th in the country for defensive efficiency. The, like the Seminoles, hold their opponents to a minuscule shooting percentage 41.9% and only 24.3% from beyond the arc. They also do a phenomenal job on the glass and it is likely due to the fact that this is a big team. Their effective height is the best in the country. Aminu is the name to know with the Deamon Deacons. He is an absolute beast in the pain and is one of the best offensive rebounders in the country. Ishmael Smith is also a wonderful player and will serve them well in ACC play. This is not a guard heavy conference and he is playing at a high level, likely better than expected. Wake will quietly compete for one of the top spots in the ACC.

There is is. The ACC is a better conference than many expect and there should be some outstanding basketball this year. There will be surprises for sure and there is certainly parity in the league this year. You could say that for basketball in general.

Here is the predicted order of finish:


North Carolina

Florida State

Georgia Tech


Wake Forest



Virginia Tech

Boston College


North Carolina State

Predicted Player of the Year: Jon Scheyer

Predicted Rookie of the Year: Derrick Favors

Predicted Defensive Player of the Year: Trevor Booker

Predicted NCAA Tournament Teams: Duke, UNC, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest