We are about a month into the season. What have we learned about the ACC at this point? Sadly, not as much as we would have liked to at this point. It is harder than ever to differentiate among teams throughout the conference, yet I have agreed to take on this monumental task and endure your guaranteed abuse.
Here are your ACC power rankings through 12/10 - I focused on placing teams into 4 "tiers" first, which I found easier, then trying to compare teams against their new peers. I also threw in one or two relative strengths or weaknesses to watch out for (thanks, Ken Pomeroy, for those!)
I'd be glad to hear how you would have ranked the ACC down in the comments. I was conservative about straying drastically from preseason expectations at this early point in the season, as we still have a ways to go to figure out which teams are "for real" (i.e. this wasn't just to annoy Hokies).
Tier A: The Elite - The clear team to beat in the ACC at this point in the young season
1. Duke Record: 9-0.....AP Poll Rank: 2.....KenPom Rank: 5.....Best win: vs. Louisville (neutral).....Worst loss: N/A
Duke has played a monster out-of-conference schedule and impressed throughout, defeating names like Kentucky, Ohio State, and Louisville. Imagine last year's team...but without ball-hog Austin Rivers, and now Mason Plumlee can make free throws! (73% vs. 53% last season) The only bright side for UVA is that the Hoos see Duke just once, and it's at JPJ.
Strength: Three-point shooting
Weakness: Rebounding! (250th in nation in DReb%)
Tier B: Underperforming...but good enough - We may have expected more, but both teams have done enough to hold serve.
2. NC State Record: 6-2.....AP Poll Rank: 25.....KenPom Rank: 27.....Best win: vs. UConn (neutral).....Worst loss: vs. Oklahoma State (neutral)
The Wolfpack came into the year as the favorite to win the conference but have yet to click. They lost their two tough marquee games and won those that they were supposed to. Despite a mediocre defense, one would think that the talent on this team, led by CJ Leslie, will make some noise this year.
Strengths: 3PT shooting, 2PT shooting
Weaknesses: FT shooting, forcing turnovers
3. North Carolina Record: 7-2.....AP Poll Rank: 21.....KenPom Rank: 19.....Best win: @ Long Beach State(!).....Worst loss: vs. Butler (neutral)
See: NCSU. UNC lost both of their tough OOC games to date, and haven't done much else. Still, it's too early to knock them back a tier just yet. Despite losing key players to the NBA last season, the Tar Heels are still balanced and fairly experienced. Their most glaring weakness comes at getting to the free-throw line; they are 345th out of 347 teams nationally in FT attempts / FG attempt.
Strengths: Offensive rebounding, limiting FTs
Weaknesses: Getting to FT line, shooting FTs
Tier C: The Contenders - Against weaker schedules, all have shown flashes of strong play. Still, we don't have much to differentiate among these four squads at this point. All are close (and none are far from UNC, either).
4. Miami Record: 5-1.....KenPom Rank: 49.....Best win: vs. MSU.....Worst loss: @ Florida Gulf Coast
Another unknown quantity here. Miami dropped a road game without Durand Scott but rebounded to defeat Michigan State and UMass. The Hurricanes are too senior-laden not to win lots of ACC games this year, with Reggie Jackson and Kenny Kadji leading the way alongside Scott to form a balanced offensive attack
Strengths: Shooting, shot-blocking
Weaknesses: Rebounding, forcing TOs
5. Virginia Record: 8-2.....KenPom Rank: 35.....Best win: @ Wisconsin.....Worst loss: vs. Delaware
WE ARE AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!111one.
In seriousness, those two losses were a terrible shame...but both did come without a point guard. Additionally, the progression of the defense in just a few short months has been astounding, and a big win at Wisconsin as well as at home against Tennessee demonstrate that. The Hoos could use a little more consistency on offense, but UVA will have a top-15 defense in the nation once again (currently 10th on KenPom, adjusted for opponent strength) and will win a lot of games because of that.
Strength: Defense. (Blocks, 2PT shooting %)
Weakness: Getting to FT line, offensive rebounding
6. Virginia Tech Record: 8-1.....KenPom Rank: 62.....Best win: vs. Oklahoma St......Only loss: (@ WVU)
The Hokies came into the season lowly regarded, but came a long way in proving that their hot start was for real after beating Oklahoma State at Cassel Coliseum and losing to West Virginia in the final seconds on the road. Erick Green looks like a potential first-team All-ACC player, coach James Johnson looks much tougher to mock than Seth Greenberg, and those two match-ups against VT look like fun ones.
Strength: Limiting TOs, FT shooting
Weakness: Forcing TOs, offensive rebounding
7. Maryland Record: 8-1.....KenPom Rank: 74.....Best win: @ Northwestern.....Only loss: (vs. Kentucky (neutral))
Maryland gained a lot of national respect after a close loss to an overrated Kentucky team; then, they beat Northwestern, George Mason, and 6 teams ranked worse than 180th by KenPom. The Terps are solid, and 7' 1" sophomore Alex Len ls daunting; there's a good chance they regret their out-of-conference scheduling come March.
Strength: Offensive rebounding, limiting free-throws
Weakness: Turn the ball over too much, don't force turnovers
Tier D: Respectable - This group responsible for the ACC's "depth"
8. Florida State Record: 5-4.....KenPom Rank: 69.....Best win: vs. St. Joe's (neutral).....Worst loss: vs. South Alabama
After an exodus of last year's experienced squad, the Seminoles are a shell of their former selves, losing games to S. Alabama and Mercer and getting shellacked by rival Florida. Keeping them at 8th for now based on a strong Coaches vs. Cancer Classic showing as well as confidence in Leonard Hamilton.
Strength: 3 PT shooting
Weaknesses: Defensive rebounding, turning ball over
9. Georgia Tech Record: 6-2.....KenPom Rank: 86.....Best win: vs. St. Mary's (neutral).....Worst loss: vs. California (neutral)
The Yellow Jackets won't be a recognizable bunch, but freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter could lead this team to surprise some people. They'll finish their non-conference without any big wins, but will likely avoid major losses as well. Coach Brian Gregory has his team playing good defense.
Strength: Shooting defense, avoiding turnovers
Weakness: 3PT shooting, forcing turnovers
10. Clemson Record: 5-3.....KenPom Rank: 63.....Best win: @ South Carolina.....Worst loss: vs. Purdue
Clemson had a chance to knock off Arizona at home, but fell apart late. They look to be the next team that will head into ACC play with no bad losses but no big wins either.
Strength: Avoiding TOs
Weakness: Forcing TOs, shooting defense
Tier E: Not Respectable - This group responsible for not embarrassing us too much
11. Boston College Record: 4-5.....KenPom Rank: 178.....Best win: @ PSU.....Worst loss: vs. Bryant
After a miserable 2011-2012 year, it will take another year to rebuild. At the very least, these guys have to eventually beat Harvard? Please? That will have to win until next year.
Strengths: Shooting, defensive rebounding
Weaknesses: Defending the 3, forcing TOs
12. Wake Forest Record: 4-5.....KenPom Rank: 212.....Best win: vs. Mercer (neutral).....Worst loss: vs. Nebraska
Wake Forest will compete for a third straight year in the ACC basement. Despite talent like Travis McKie, now a junior, Jeff Bzdelik can't get his team to show anything on the court. It will be tough for him to justify a return if he doesn't right the ship soon.
Strength: Offensive rebounding, limiting free-throws
Weaknesses: Turn the ball over too much, don't force turnovers