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Hoops Check-In: The ACC Is Starting To Show Its Teeth

Virginia got a dose of conference reality Monday night. More reality comes this weekend as the Wahoos dive deeper into an improved ACC slate.

Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Is it just me, or does Virginia’s ACC schedule suddenly look more daunting than it did a week ago?

Maybe it’s the Virginia Tech hangover talking, but it doesn’t look like there are many easy outs on the horizon. UVA has two of its next three games away from home. Georgia Tech, who it plays Saturday, took both UNC and Pitt to the wire on the road. Florida State, who Virginia plays one week later, hung tough with the Heels for most of their game Monday night. In between? Virginia hosts the ACC’s surprise team, the 13th-ranked Miami Huricanes.

Bigger picture, the home and away splits this year don’t appear to do Virginia many favors. Virginia makes road trips to 4 ACC teams that are currently ranked: Miami, Pitt, Louisville, and Duke. Away games at Wake Forest and Clemson look tougher than in recent years. Meanwhile, Boston College, Syracuse, and NC State, three of this year’s weaker ACC squads, all come to JPJ.

More and more, this year’s version of the ACC is starting to look like the meat grinder that most envisioned during recent rounds of expansion. Current bracket projections are too early to be taken seriously, but there have been multiple projections that suggest the ACC could send 8 teams to the Big Dance. Virginia has won the last two regular season titles with 16-2 records. With six ACC teams currently ranked, it wouldn’t shock me if this year’s league champion ends up at 14-4.

Of course, the scheduling talk is only part of the equation. And a lot of it becomes moot if the Wahoos return to the form they showed against the likes of Villanova, West Virginia, and Notre Dame. The level of play Virginia achieved in those games was good enough to beat anyone in the country. If the Blacksburg edition of the ‘Hoos continue to show up, they’ll be in for a bumpy ride.

One important thing the Wahoos have going for them is the experience of their roster. Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, London Perrantes, and Evan Nolte have played major roles on two ACC champion teams. They undoubtedly remember the effort needed to make those title runs.

"In order for us to be the team we want to be, we have to be on our game every night," Gill told the Daily Progress following Monday's loss.

One would bet Gill, Brogdon, and company will be redoubling their efforts after the setback against the Hokies. They’ll need to figure things out quickly, because the ACC has started to grow into a beast again.