Here we go.
1. Just how good is the ACC compared to the rest of the nation this year? Looking toward the near future?
Michael Rogner: It's been five years since the ACC had a Final Four team, so the conference hasn't instantly morphed into the superconference that a lot of people predicted. But it's not far off. Virginia might be the best team in the county (and imagine if they all come back to school), and UNC, Louisville, and Duke can all present arguments as top 10. But the middle is where it falls off. Notre Dame is really good, but who beyond that? Syracuse, Miami, and NC State have all had their moments. And then there is the bottom end. The ACC has five teams ranked higher than 100 at kenpom.com, whereas the Big 12 only has one (granted, they only have 10 teams). But FSU has a huge recruiting class coming in, and Wake and Virginia Tech should get turned around pretty quick. It's taken longer than expected, but the ACC is on a trajectory to be just brutal in a couple of years.
Matt Minnick: The league is very good. Certainly one of the top 3 conferences (the Big 12 is the other sure one, and then pick either the Big 10 or Big East) in the country. But exactly how good depends on your perspective. Do you value top end greatness or overall depth? If it's the former, the ACC is loaded with 5 teams ranked in the top 15 on KenPom. No other conference has more than 3 teams in the top 15 (Big 12), and the Big 10 and Big East only have 1. However, if you place more emphasis on depth, the ACC comes up a bit short with a third of the conference ranking outside the top 100. Looking forward, I can see this league separating from the pack and becoming the unquestioned best conference in the land.
Ariya Massoudi: I really think the ACC was overrated this year. Sure the addition of Louisville added a spark but many thought this league would be "the best ever assembled/of all time" and it hasn't been as good/deep as previously thought. The Big 12/Big 10 both have been stronger in my opinion. Sure the top of the conference is very good but really places 6-15 don't have a ton of separation. Expected more from this conference at this point in the season. Going forward I think the program support and coaches are there to be a dominant conference. Teams like Syracuse and Pittsburgh regaining form plus programs like FSU, Wake, GT, Miami have program potential to help make this an incredible conference in the future.
2. How many NCAA teams from the ACC this year?
Minnick: I'm gonna go optimistic and say 8.
Massoudi: I think 8 teams make it in from the ACC this year
Rogner: Eight: Virginia, Duke, UNC, Notre Dame, and Louisville for sure. Then I'll take three of Miami, Syracuse, NC State and the field.
3. Which team(s) in the conference has been the most surprising and the most disappointing?
Massoudi: Most surprising team for me this season has been Notre Dame. I knew getting Jerian Grant back was going to help them a ton but I didn't expect the role players to progress as much as they have. It'll be interesting to see how much losing Auguste hurts them the rest of the way. Most disappointing is FSU. Yes I know losing Aaron Thomas is a big deal but that's part of the disappointment. The Noles had a chance to really do some damage in this version of the ACC and it's disappointing to see how bad Florida State really is without Thomas.
Rogner: Notre Dame has been the pleasant surprise. Jerian Grant is obviously a great player, but him coming back has turned them from a team with a losing record to one that is pretty much going to the dance. On the negative side, I'll go with NC State. They have seven top 100 players on their roster, which puts them in the company of about 12 teams in all of college basketball, but they're a bubble team. Team Rankings gives them a 57% chance of dancing. They lost to Wofford, at home. Beating Duke may have saved their season, but they still have a lot of work to do to reach their talent level.
Minnick: I could go several ways with the most surprising. UVA was expected to be solid, but no one expected Tony Bennett's squad to be this elite. The Wahoos' defense is suffocating and their offense is currently the second most efficient in the country. But my pick is going to have to be the team who is currently the most efficient offense in the country, Notre Dame. Mike Brey has a nice blend of talent and experience with shooters all over the court. Their defense is not good, but few Fighting Irish teams ever are. But this was a team most predicted as a bubble squad and they currently sit at 16-2. On the disappointing end, if you go by record it has to be FSU. Obviously some of that is due to losing the team's best player and having other key cogs battle injury. But the results are the results. NC State can also be considered here, though they still have the time (and talent) to string together some impressive wins.
4. Can FSU extend it's 6-year ".500 or better" streak in conference play?
Minnick: Can they? Maybe. But the margin for error is quite small. In order to get to 9 wins the Noles can't afford any slip ups against teams like Virginia Tech, BC, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Clemson. The problem is, none of those games are sure-fire wins. And even sweeping those games would still require a couple upsets along the way. The odds are definitely not in our favor.
Rogner: No. Four conference wins is more likely than nine. It's remarkable the step back this team has taken from last year. Yes, losing Aaron Thomas is an absolute killer, but the true loss has been Okaro White and Ian Miller. Both of those guys were frustrating as hell at times, but being a part of an ACC Championship they understood the effort that you have to have on every possession.
Massoudi: I really don't see FSU finishing at .500 or better this season. The defense is pathetic and it seems the "edge" this program played with has been lost the past few years.
5. Where do you think FSU's recruiting class ranks in the conference?
Rogner: No. 1. Duke, Syracuse, and Louisville all have great classes as well. But FSU has three guys who are all going to have an impact from day one. Dwayne Bacon is the type of player we don't see around here, unless he's playing for the other team. The guy plays on a team full of high end Division I prospects, and he is head and shoulder's above all of them. If he can tighten up his handle between now and the first game, he'll contend for ACC freshman of the year. Malik Beasley is going to be really fun to watch. He's just so explosive. Terance Mann should be that guy who is relatively quiet as a freshman and a matchup nightmare by the time he's a senior. You gotta love having a coaches son, especially one who is 6-5 and fluid. The final kid is Christ Koumadje, and I just can't wait for FSU fans to see this guy run up and down the court. It's remarkable. He's 7-4 and runs like a deer. I could watch it all day. Sure, he's extremely raw and has thighs the size of my forearms, but he's 7-frickin-4 and can move. If all works out, he's a modern Shawn Bradley.
Massoudi: As far as the recruiting class goes FSU definitely has one of the best classes in the ACC. The future is extremely bright with Bacon/Beasley coming in (please none of you eat weed) and next year's team could be a lot of fun to watch.
Minnick: It's up there. You could make an argument that it's the number one class now that Louisville had star guard Antonio Blakeney decommit. Some have Syracuse ranked above FSU, but I personally feel Dwayne Bacon is being undervalued and will (should) be a consensus top 15 prospect when it's all said and done. There will still be a few more guys signed by the Blue Bloods of the conference, but FSU will very likely end up with a top 4 class in the conference.
6. What is your ACC Record prediction for the Noles?
Massoudi: I think the Noles finish at 7-11 in the ACC, likelier 6-12 than 8-10.
Minnick: Perhaps some of the freshmen progress and become more consistent quicker than I anticipate. But at this time, my prediction is 7-11, with 6-12 being the next likeliest. Fortunately, between the play of Phil Cofer, the ceiling of XRM, and the potential of the incoming class, better times appear to be just around the corner.
Rogner: I'll go 5-13, and yes, that sucks. It's been a decade since FSU went through a season like this one. And now ACC teams are spending a lot more money, so if we don't choose to keep up, then we should expect a lot more seasons like this, and not just because we lost our one star player. Luckily Stan Wilcox is saying all the right things, and there seems to be momentum to keep pace with the Georgia Tech's and Wake Forest's of the world. But I'll believe it when I see it. We need more than new seats and an unfunded future practice facility to keep the program propped up. I'm not sure how Ham landed the class he did, and I'm not sure how he's high on the board for so many talented '16 kids, but I hope he keeps doing what he's doing. It would be nice to be able to out-talent some ACC teams.
How about you, TN Community? Do you agree? Or are we babbling idiots who are way off? (I suppose you could agree, but we're still babbling idiots). Chime in with your comments.