Just by a first glance, two of the four Associated Press Top 5 teams are in the ACC through the eight weeks of this growing season. That shouldn’t come off as brand new for anyone who’s turned on their televisions. But, when ACC programs are consistently dominant and successful, it’s not reportable news because we’re accustomed to it. It’s just the college basketball universe letting us know that the ACC is still the most dominant conference amongst the Power 5.
While Virginia stays undefeated as the most consistent team in the country, they haven’t garnered as close as much attention than the highly touted core of probable first-round freshmen from Duke. Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett have graced the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Zion and RJ are balling and are starting to show their guile in a tight win against a tough opponent in Texas Tech, which only signalizes a potential tear that Duke may go on in ACC competition en route to the ACC tournament in March.
We look at the top teams in the ACC and of course the two sit at the No.1 and No. 2 spot. Yet, when you really take a peek at the AP Top 25 and Coaches’ Poll, No. 9 Florida State is off to an expeditious 11-1 start. Both NC State and North Carolina are still in the top 25. As an addition: All 15 teams in the conference have over-.500 records entering the new year. Even with teams like Miami, who entered the season losing four straight, have found a way to win two straight and get 7 wins before the new year starts.
The ACC is still showing why they continue to be the standard of excellence for college basketball programs everywhere, but 2018-19 just feels a little more special for each of the 15 teams. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. The three national leaders in scoring margins are in the ACC, and the AP Top 25.
Duke leads the nation at 27.8, with obvious contributions from Zion, RJ, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones. They are followed by North Carolina State (23.9) and Virginia Tech (23.1).
2. Duke’s Fab Four averages over 66 points a game – most in the nation.
The guys who will have their names called in June in Brooklyn, presumably in a sequential fashion, are averaging 65.6 points a game and just about 7.3 steals a game. Since they’re multifaceted, they’ve held opponents to a combined 63.6 points per game.
3. Virginia held six opponents to 50 points or fewer in a game.
The Tony Bennett – led Cavaliers are one of the stoutest and disciplined defensive teams in college basketball at this point in the season. No. 2 Virginia was graced with the returns of Seniors Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter, and Ty Jerome, who have contributed to the team being second in the country in defensive efficiency (0.806), only trailing Texas Tech (0.746). They have the country’s best defense, holding opponents to an accumulated average of 50.3 ppg.
4. Additionally, UVA has committed five or fewer turnovers a game.
They also lead the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio. When they face Duke on January 19, these astronomically exceptional stats will be put to the test.
5. Florida State is off to one of their best starts in years.
The nation’s best scorer — Phil Cofer, who is the returning scorer from last year — is returning to full health. He has played only 22 minutes, but that hasn’t stopped the tenacious upstart Seminoles, who’s bench score over 34 points a game. They have stayed at the No. 9 spot for a majority of the season, too. An 11-1 record and impressionable wins against Florida, UConn, LSU, and Purdue have put the country on notice about Leonard Hamilton’s team.
6. UNC has scored over 100 points four times this year.
Not only has that not happened since 2008-09, (a season that saw the Tar Heels win a national title) the Tar Heels are defying the words of prognosticators everywhere. A big win against Gonzaga got the nation’s attention, and though they could improve defensively, (ranked 25th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating, lowest of Roy Williams’ tenure as UNC’s head coach), they’re still the 14th ranked team in the country.
7. The Wolfpack are dangerous with their best start in 13 years.
A major upset at the hands of second-year NC State head coach Kevin Keatts occurred last week to then-No.7 Auburn. One of the contributing factors? Keatts rotates 10 players, and six of them shoot 52% or better.
8. For Clemson, star guard Marcquise Reed is back, and his impact is felt.
At an average of 19.4 ppg, Marcquise Reed is itching to make a statement once ACC competition starts in 2019. Technically, he is the greatest free throw shooter in school history, (86.4%) surpassing his teammate Shelton Mitchell who shot 87% from the charity stripe. Still, he is looking forward for his Tigers’ first real test of the year, as the open their 2019 ACC campaign against Duke on Saturday, Jan. 5th.
9. Expect the Pitt Panthers to make some noise this year.
Just last season, the Pitt Panthers won eight games, only to eclipse that milestone this year. Sitting at 9-3 with senses of optimism evident, they’ve competed well in some close losses against West Virginia and No. 24 Iowa. A visible improvement from last year. They look forward to a duel with UNC to start their new year on Saturday, Jan. 5 at noon inside the Petersen Events Center.
10. The ACC Leads the Power 5 in overall wins in 2018.
With a combined 134 wins from the likes of Duke, Clemson, North Carolina, NC State, and Florida State, the ACC leads all Power-5 conferences, with the Big 10 only trailing them by 10 wins. The SEC, (113) Big East (93-30) and Big 12 (87-26) all follow behind the ACC.
Each program goes into the new year standing over .500 and for some, the path to a national title is in sight. Yet for each of the 15 programs in the winningest conference in the sport so far in the new year, all 15 programs are tasked with upholding the reputation of the winning ACC, which may be an easy task considering the early success of each team.