In this very strange basketball season in which no one seems to want to stay No. 1 and the top 25 is a chaotic mess on a weekly basis, the two rock-solid certainties everyone expected in the ACC remain rock-solid certainties.
North Carolina is the best team in the ACC by a wide margin.
Boston College may go winless in the ACC.
Everything else in the ACC may have gone haywire, but you can still count on those two.
Despite a few bumps along the way and Marcus Paige’s sudden slump and Roy Williams’ ebbing-and-flowing frustration with the way the Tar Heels have played, North Carolina is 7-0 – albeit with the Tar Heels’ toughest games yet to come amid an increasingly compressed schedule.
“We knew we were going to have a tremendously difficult schedule the second half of the year and a lot of road games,” Williams said.
As for Boston College, the Eagles have lost their six ACC games by an average of 20.8 points, coming no closer than a 67-53 home loss to Miami. This is what Boston College coach Jim Christian knew was coming, with five freshmen in a nine-man rotation, although Broughton product Jerome Robinson has been the most impressive of the bunch.
“There’s lots of pieces we have to still add here in order to have a chance,” Christian said. “This is like the first wave of that. You’re not going to get that many pieces all in one class.”
The Eagles’ best chance for an ACC win – and avoiding the unprecedented football-basketball ACC academic-year shutout – may be at home against Virginia Tech on Feb. 23. The Hokies, though, are 4-3 and came within a shot of upsetting North Carolina on Sunday, a symbol of how the rest of the ACC is the same crazy mess as the rest of the country.
Virginia Tech has as many ACC wins already as the past two seasons combined, while Clemson, Miami and Pittsburgh are ahead of Virginia, Duke and Syracuse in the standings going into Monday night’s Duke-Miami game.
Just to me it seems like the league is deeper than it’s ever been in my five years.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried
Rick Pitino has cobbled a lineup of transfers and freshmen at Louisville into one of the country’s best defensive teams, and Mike Brey once again has one of the country’s best offensive teams at Notre Dame despite the departure of Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton.
“I just think if you look at the league, the teams that maybe haven’t been in the NCAA tournament are greatly improved, and teams that have been in the tournament are playing pretty well,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “Just to me it seems like the league is deeper than it’s ever been in my five years.”
The volatility is contagious. Feeling the absence of Amile Jefferson, Duke lost three in a row for the first time in almost a decade, including back-to-back ACC games at home, then shot 71 percent in the second half to beat N.C. State. If the Blue Devils shoot like that, they can – and will – beat anyone.
The Wolfpack whiffed on what looked to be its best early opportunities to pick up its first ACC win, then went into Pittsburgh and posted a 44-19 first half. N.C. State has a great opportunity to double its ACC win total Wednesday when it hosts Georgia Tech.
Wake Forest, meanwhile, failed to capitalize on a solid nonconference performance and sits at 1-6 in the ACC. Demon Deacon fans have cut Danny Manning miles of slack because of who he isn’t, but he’s 0-13 on the road in the ACC, a similar pace to that of reviled predecessor Jeff Bzdelik (2-32).
Then there’s North Carolina and Boston College, 7-0 and 0-6, the only constants in a very variable ACC.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock