Submitted by Jim Feist on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 12:00 AM
by Jim Feist
The ACC is a basketball powerhouse again despite an erratic year from Duke team. After all, the Blue Devils won national titles in 2015 and 2010, with North Carolina copping a championship in 2009 and getting to the title game last season. Here's a look at some of the best of the ACC with the tournament time on the horizon.
North Carolina: Roy Williams has another talented team that crushed Wisconsin in an early season showdown, 71-56. Junior guard Joel Berry (14.8 ppg) run the break while 6-8 junior Justin Jackson (18.7 ppg), 6-10 senior Kennedy Meeks (12.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg) and 6-9 senior Isaiah Hicks anchor a huge frontcourt. They are tops in the ACC in scoring.
The Heels had scored 84+ points in a school-record 7 ACC games before getting shut down at Miami. North Carolina just finished up a sizzling 20-6 spread run at home where they love to unleash that depth and tire out opponents. After coming up short to Villanova (77-74) the Heels are primed to make another March run.
Virginia: While North Carolina runs at opponents, the Virginia Cavaliers prefer an all-out defensive style, near the bottom of the ACC in scoring but playing a suffocating defense. They gave top-ranked Villanova all they could handle in a 61-59 defeat and topped Louisville (61-53).
Senior guard London Perrantes (12 ppg) carries the offense, while 6-7 junior Isaiah Wilkins leads in rebounding. It's not a big team in the low post, but a group of hustling in-your-face defenders who make opponents struggle for every rebound and point. Is it any wonder that the Cavs began the season 12-6 under the total?
Louisville: Louisville is not to be taken lightly, with wins over Purdue, Kentucky, Indiana and Duke. 6-3 sophomore Donovan Mitchell (14.8 ppg) runs the break, while 6-9 junior Jaylen Johnson and 6-10 senior Mangok Mathiang crash the glass. Injuries to guards Quentin Snider and Tony Hicks haven't slowed them down yet, but the depth will be worth keeping an eye on, especially when tourney play means three games in three nights.
Florida State: The Seminoles started a stretch on the last day of 2016 playing six consecutive Top 21 teams. And they excelled, going 5-1, losing only to North Carolina (96-83). A pair of youngsters lead the way in 6-7 sophomore Dwayne Bacon (17 ppg) and 6-10 freshman Jonathan Isaac (13 ppg, 8 rpg). They are second in the ACC to North CArolina in scoring and can play tough defense, as we saw in a 60-58 win at Virginia as a +9 dog.
Notre Dame: Notre Dame has a veteran team for coach Mike Brey and the Irish have played well. 6-8 senior V.J. Beachem (14.7 ppg) and 6-6 senior Steve Vasturia (14.5 ppg) lead the way, along with 6-10 junior guard Matt Farrell (14 ppg) and 6-5 junior Bonzie Colson (15.5 ppg, 10.6 rpg). They beat Louisville (77-70), but also lost to Villanova (74-66), Purdue (86-81), Florida St (83-80) and Virginia (71-54). The Irish are 10-4-1 ATS after a loss and 21-8 under the total after a defeat.
Duke: The talented Blue Devils have had problems on and off the court. 6-9 senior Amile Jefferson (13 ppg, 10 rpg) is reliable in the frontcourt, tutoring young talents 6-6 sophomore Luke Kennard (19.7ppg) and 6-8 freshman Jayson Tatum (16.5 ppg). But the up and down play of junior Grayson Allen has had the coaching staff pulling their hair out, as well as sending the kid to the bench. Is this a down year? The oddsmakers might say so, on a recent 2-8 spread run.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies are in the Top 5 in scoring in the ACC, led by 6-7 senior Zack LeDay (16 ppg) and sophomore guard Ahmed Hill (13 ppg), while 6-6 sophomore guard Chris Clarke (12 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is a workhorse under the boards. V-Tech topped Nebraska and Michigan early in the season, but got their signature win in an 89-75 rout of Duke as a +5 dog. Do they have any more upsets in them? They'll get their chance against Virginia this weekend.