It was generally expected that the ACC would be a bit down this season, but it was hoped that things would be better than last year, when the ACC was looked at as a less than elite basketball conference. Sadly, the results thus far haven’t shown any of the improvement the conference’s fans were hoping for. So far in non-conference games, the ACC sits at 98-44, a .690 winning percentage. There are certainly plenty of wins left before conference play kicks into gear on January 7, so that record could and should get better. However, in comparison with the other Big Six conferences, the ACC ranks fifth, with only the Pac-12 holding a worse non-conference record (88-57, .609) to date. Even the SEC, never truly known as a hoops power, has won 101 out of 140 non-conference games-and that includes the struggles of preseason top-10 Vanderbilt.
While the non-conference season has seen its share of good wins, there have also been some lost opportunities for good wins by individual schools. In the past week, Clemson went 1-2 in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, with losses to UTEP and Hawaii. Florida State was routed by Florida and Georgia Tech suffered a home loss to Mercer. North Carolina played almost perfect basketball in a rout over Texas; the Longhorns seemingly were behind by double digits as soon as the game began. Duke started slow, but poured it on late to defeat UNC-Greensboro. Miami got Reggie Johnson back from a serious knee injury over the summer, and defeated Charlotte by 15 points. Johnson’s return is important for Jim Larranaga’s squad; it gives the ‘Canes an inside presence to add to what has been a perimeter-oriented offense.
Looking ahead, Virginia looks to keep rolling along even as players transfer out of the program. It was recently announced that James Johnson was given his release and would transfer from Virginia, making four players from coach Tony Bennett’s first recruiting class that will leave the program. Despite that, the Cavaliers have won eight straight games, and should push the string to ten with games against Maryland Eastern Shore and Towson. The Cavaliers will face a test on Monday night against an LSU squad that recently gave Marquette its first loss. The Tigers may be heading into that matchup on a seven-game win streak of their own, should they handle Grambling on Thursday night. Maryland gets Alex Len on the floor after his ten game suspension is over for two non-conference games this week. Len will give the Terrapins some much needed size, but he isn’t exactly built for bruising down low-though he stands over 7 feet tall, he only weighs in at 225 pounds. Still, he will give the Terrapins another option on offense, adding to ACC leading scorer Terrell Stoglin. The Terps will put their four-game win streak on the line against Albany tonight, with games against Samford on Saturday and Cornell next Tuesday to follow. Boston College, the only conference team under .500, faces a nemesis of the recent past on Thursday, as Harvard comes to Chestnut Hill. The Crimson have had the better of it over the Eagles in the recent past, and should be favored to win again. A game with Rhode Island follows on Monday.