Last week in my initial post for ACC Basketball, I focused on the Syracuse-North Carolina State game. While the Wolfpack kept it close for awhile, Syracuse eventually proved itself to be the better team, pulling away in the second half to win by double digits. However, another out of conference game the next night that didn’t get any mention in my previous post may prove to have a bit more meaning.
A look at the conference standings at the moment shows that the Virginia Cavaliers have the second best record in the conference, a half game behind the Duke Blue Devils. Granted, the standings don’t mean a whole lot at the moment as ACC teams as a whole have primarily built their won-loss records on a bunch of guarantee games, mixed in with a few more challenging matchups. For the Cavaliers, this meant a trip out west to face the Oregon Ducks. While the Ducks aren’t exactly a Pac-12 power, they are expected to be improved in their second year under former Creighton head coach Dana Altman. The fact that Virginia went to Oregon, which can be a tough place to play, and came out with a 13-point victory augurs well for the upcoming season. Virginia has been getting it done on defense, and while it’s 9-1 record is impressive, they have been mostly under the radar, save for a win over a ranked Michigan team in the ACC-Big Ten challenge. As stated last week, the ACC has several candidates who could be the third-best team behind consensus 1-2 picks North Carolina and Duke, and it’s possible that Virginia could be that team. Of course, there’s a long way to go before that is determined-and the proving will begin when conference play starts.
With conference play scheduled to start on January 7, the upcoming slate is filled with non-conference games. Notable matchups include tonight’s Texas-North Carolina game in Chapel Hill. Former Clemson coach Rick Barnes brings a Longhorns squad that isn’t loaded with future pros as in years past to face the team many have picked to win the national championship. That’s not a knock on Texas; they still have talent, just not as much as in previous seasons. The game will feature two young talented point guards in Kendall Marshall for the Tar Heels and Myck Kabongo for the Longhorns. The big question will be can Texas handle the talented front line of North Carolina. Thursday night finds the Seminoles of Florida State meeting the Gators of Florida in an ACC-SEC tilt. Florida State makes its name with defense but often has trouble scoring points, while the Gators are a good offensive team whose only losses are to top-five teams Ohio State and Syracuse. Also on Thursday, Clemson’s Tigers begin a trip to Hawaii to participate in the Diamond Head Classic, where possible dates await with Kansas State and Xavier following tomorrow night’s opener versus UTEP.