Despite another down year for the ACC, Bart Torvik projects the conference to get six bids in the NCAA Tournament. However, which teams that will be is up in the air. Here, I will attempt to do the impossible: create a hierarchy for this beautiful mess of a conference and evaluate where the Virginia Cavaliers sit at this point in time.
This one is easy. The Cardinals have been an embarrassment to their once proud program, and then some. Still sitting at the two win mark in late January, one has to wonder whether Kenny Payne can be a rare circumstance of one-and-done.
The three point line has been killer for Earl Grant’s squad. They are shooting from beyond the arc at a success rate of 29.6% while letting opponents shoot 38.5%. This net rate is the worst in the entire country... with the exception of IUPUI. College basketball sickos are well aware that this is not good company.
This team doesn’t do much of anything well, which is why they are 1-9 in conference play. According to Shot Quality, the Jackets rank 247th in adjusted defensive efficiency, the worst mark among all power conference teams. For a team that is not known for size, they also struggle to space and make shots.
Similar to Georgia Tech, Notre Dame followed up a poor non-conference resume with an abysmal start to ACC play. The only redeeming quality about Mike Brey’s squad is that they can shoot well. Otherwise, there is a reason Brey recently decided to call it a career.
After going just 3-9 in non-conference play, including losses to Siena, Troy, and Stetson, the Seminoles approach the weekend with an even 5-5 record in the ACC. This is not your typical athletic FSU squad, filled with NBA talent. But Leonard Hamilton seems to be figuring out a formula to start getting more out of his roster.
While it started out so promising for Virginia Tech, they now sit at a mere 2-7 in conference games. The good news for the Hokies is that they were in a similar place last year, and ended up playing their way into a spot in the NCAA Tournament. There is no guarantee this happens again but the computer metrics indicate positive regression is in the future.
The Orange have lost on a couple of heart breakers recently, both at Miami and hosting North Carolina. Is it basic unluckiness or inability to close out games? It’s hard to say. The bottom line is that Syracuse is just 13-8 without any wins over tournament-level teams.
Tyree Appleby is the engine that makes the Wake Forest offense go in a similar way to what Alondes Williams did for them last year. He leads the conference in assists and is fourth in points. The concern with Wake Forest is their defense, who ranks 302nd in the country in open three rate allowed.
It feels very weird putting Duke at this spot but they deserve to be here. From 2008-2022 (there is no Torvik data before 2008), Duke ranked outside of the top 10 offensively once, and never outside the top 15. This year the Blue Devils offense ranks 51st. We know top tier talent will continue to come to Duke under Jon Scheyer but there is legitimate concern about his ability to run a successful program where the stakes are high.
6. North Carolina State Wolfpack
NC State has the formula to be extremely successful. They have a borderline lottery pick guard in Terquavion Smith, other lengthy shooters around him, and a big that can score the rock in D.J. Burns. If Kevin Keatts can figure out how to fully maximize his talent, look out for this team in March (if necessary, of course).
The Tar Heels are fairly easy to get a grasp on at this point. Given that they are firmly in the tournament at the 7-9 seed range, the Heels win all the games they should and lose to all the better teams. The only exception is an early December loss to Virginia Tech, who was a better team at that time anyways.
Look, there’s the argument that Pitt is due to regress a bit if you look at their computer metrics. But I am a firm believer that teams can change, and in this case improve, over the course of a season. While the Panthers did not have an eye popping non-conference performance, they did hold their ground. In ACC play, they rank fourth in the ACC in Torvik’s purely results-based metric, right where they belong.
Jim Larranaga has figured out the era of NIL and the transfer portal and has revived the Miami program because of it. Once again, the Canes have elite scoring guards such as Isiah Wong but also more length than we are used to seeing. While the defense is not great, I have full faith in this Miami program, who is currently 16-4 (7-3) on the season.
Well... this came out of nowhere. Brad Brownell, who has been discussed as on the hot seat as early as 2015, has finally come out of his shell and been the biggest beneficiary of a down ACC. Sure, they had an early blunder against South Carolina as well as a blowout loss to a bad Loyola-Chicago team. Even with that said, there is no denying the Tigers deserve recognition as they stand alone atop the ACC standings at 9-1.
1. Virginia Cavaliers
I think we can handle this, right? Shouldn’t be too controversial? Virginia opened the year with by far the most impressive non-conference resume, including wins over Baylor and Illinois, and a lone single digit loss to Houston. The AP Poll and essentially every analytical site would agree to put the Hoos atop as well. Even though the pack line defense has been just good and not great, UVA has figured out a sustainable formula for offensive success.