Tudor: Several ACC teams will have to play catch-up in league play

December 25, 2012 

Going through the Christmas season roll call, there’s Charleston and Coastal Carolina, Colorado State and Delaware, Florida Gulf Coast and Georgia Southern, Harvard, Iona, Mercer, Old Dominion, Richmond and South Alabama.

All of those schools have basketball wins over ACC opponents.

After yet another disappointing football season, there was much optimism and anticipation for ACC hoops when the league teams began preseason practice in October.

But with roughly one more week of heavy non-conference scheduling ahead, only Duke and at times N.C. State are in tune with expectations.

Almost everything else amounts to modest accomplishments.

Maryland, for instance, is 10-1 with only a schedule-opening loss at Kentucky, which has since fallen out of the top 25. But in reality, the Terps have played their lightest non-league slate in years, maybe ever.

Those 10 Maryland victims have a collective 53-68 record with George Mason (7-4), Northwestern (9-4) and Stony Brook (8-3) accounting for a big percentage of the combined wins.

Virginia (9-3) seemed to be upticking but then took a hit from Old Dominion (2-10) on Saturday after starting the season with losses to George Mason and Delaware in the first three games.

Reigning ACC champ Florida State (7-4) has been taken down by South Alabama (6-5) and Mercer (7-6), but the most stinging loss so far for the Seminoles was a 72-47 humbling from Florida in Tallahassee on Dec. 5.

The best win for North Carolina (9-3) probably was the 93-87 escape against ECU (7-3) in Chapel Hill on Dec. 15.

Almost all of the league’s impressive wins have been provided by Duke (Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and Temple) and N.C. State (Connecticut and Stanford).

Most of the power rankings have the ACC at third or fourth – behind the Big Ten, Mountain West and Big East.

UNC’s losses to Indiana, Butler and Texas have done much to undermine the bright preseason prospects. Monday the Tar Heels disappeared from the top 25 poll.

But in defense of the Tar Heels, they’ve lost to two top-tier teams in Indiana and Butler, and the loss to Texas was against a established winning program on the road.

Not only that, UNC is in the situation of replacing four NBA first-round draft picks with a collection of inexperienced and/or previously injured players.

But the vast majority of the league’s losses to seemingly inferior foes is so baffling that it’s probably a mistake to just assume the ACC is really any stronger overall than the Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley or some other leagues with less impressive reputations.

Before the start of conference play Jan. 5, UNC will get a shot at No. 20 Nevada-Las Vegas and Virginia Tech goes to Brigham Young (8-4). Otherwise, there aren’t any genuine non-league chances left.

What this means is that the 18-game league schedules will amount to a circular firing squad for most of the ACC teams. Duke, N.C. State and probably UNC will begin with enviable NCAA tournament positions. But the remaining nine might have to go 10-8 or maybe even 11-7 to feel safe about landing a bid.

But that’s what losing games to weak teams in early season can bring about. Losing to Duke is understandable but losing to Florida Gulf Coast, which is exactly what Miami did, isn’t.

Tudor: 919-829-8946

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