ACC basketball looking a lot like ACC football

Three from perennially powerful league rank in the Top 25, but none in top five

Staff writerDecember 9, 2009 

A look at The Associated Press' latest men's basketball Top 25 demonstrates that the ACC has a lot of work to do to gain national respect this season.

Just three ACC teams - No. 8 Duke (7-1), No. 11 North Carolina (7-2) and No. 24 Georgia Tech (6-1) - are in the Top 25 one week after the ACC lost 6-5 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Big Ten's first win in the event's 11 years.

The Big East, which is the conference ACC fans like to say they're battling for national supremacy in basketball, has three teams (Villanova, West Virginia and Syracuse) in the top seven - ahead of all of the ranked ACC teams.

The Big 12 has the top two teams - No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Texas - and four ranked teams overall. The SEC - which just finished a shellacking of the ACC in the football rivalries in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina - has three top-10 teams (Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida) and four Top 25 teams.

And the Big Ten has used its success in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to get four teams ranked. Wisconsin, which defeated ACC members Duke and Maryland in recent weeks, made its season debut in the poll this week at No. 20.

Only the struggling Pac-10, with only Washington in the Top 25, has fewer ranked teams than the ACC among the so-called power conferences.

The bad news for the ACC is that a Clemson team picked third in the conference preseason media poll isn't living up to that prediction. With K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby gone from last season's team, the Tigers lack the perimeter shooting to draw defenders and clear space for powerful post player Trevor Booker to operate in the lane. Clemson has quality wins over Butler and South Carolina, but it appeared uninspired in a loss to Texas A&M and suffered an incredible collapse against Illinois after leading by 23 at home in what turned out to be the decisive game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Maryland also has failed to deliver for the ACC in losses to Villanova, Cincinnati and Wisconsin, all of which are ranked. None of those defeats will take the Terrapins out of NCAA Tournament consideration, but they're missed opportunities for marquee nonconference wins. With Gary Williams at the helm and a veteran backcourt featuring Greivis Vasquez, Maryland could have done itself and the ACC a favor by winning at least one of those games.

The ACC has had some pleasant developments, too:

Miami (8-1, with its lone loss against conference foe Boston College) has played an easy early schedule but defeated South Carolina and Minnesota.

Miami, Duke, Florida State and N.C. State won early-season tournaments. N.C. State (at Marquette) and Wake Forest (at Gonzaga) also pulled off unexpected road wins over quality opponents over the weekend.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams appears to be steeling his young team for the NCAA Tournament with nonconference games against four teams (Texas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Michigan State) ranked No. 12 or higher. And N.C. State, which was picked in the preseason to finish last in the ACC, received three points in this week's AP voting.

But what appears to be emerging is a league that possesses excellent depth without a lot of Top 25 talent and without a top-five team. In other words, ACC basketball is resembling ACC football.

Anybody who follows ACC football knows that's not a good thing.

ktysiac@charlotteobserver.com or 919-829-8942

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