#12 CLEMSON 9-1 (3-1)
This week: #12 (@ #18 UVA 1/16)
Last week: T-19 (74-70 Win vs NC State, @ UNC PPD)
Clemson has burst on the scene this season and finds themselves 0.5 GB for the ACC lead. A projected “middle-of-the-pack” team has taken full advantage of early opportunity with notable wins against Purdue, Maryland and a Florida State team that was ranked 18th at the time. The question down the stretch will be can Junior Nick Honor continue to help Aamir Simms? Simms leads the Tigers in minutes, points and rebounds while Honor has shot 46% from the field and 44% from three. As the teams only other player averaging double figures, he will need to continue on that trend for the Tigers to handle the gauntlet of the ACC.
#16 LOUISVILLE 8-1 (3-0)
This week: #16 (@ WAKE 1/13, @ MIAMI 1/16
Last week: UR (73-71 Win vs 19 VT, vs GT PPD)
Louisville received the biggest jump this week, going from unranked to #16. The Cards are 8-1 on the season, with the lone loss coming from an 85-48 drubbing courtesy of Wisconsin, but they appear to be the most consistent team in the conference thus far. Carlik Jones and David Johnson average 16 and 15 PPG respectively, giving Louisville one of the best back courts in the conference, and Jae’Lyn Withers has been a force inside. The team collectively shoots 48% from the field. They won’t be tested much this week but matchups vs FSU, DUKE and @ UVA loom right around the corner.
#18 VIRGINIA 7-2 (3-0)
This week: 18 (vs. ND 1/13, @ #12 CLEMSON 1/16)
Last week: 22 (70-61 Win vs WAKE, 61-49 Win @ BC)
If you’re a Virginia fan then you understand this statement: the best thing to do is keep Jay Huff in the game. The 5th year leads the ACC in FG%, shooting 67.7%, but it’s what he provides on the defensive end that propels UVA. Transfers Sam Hauser and Trey Murphy provide an offensive spark but are lost on the defensive side of the ball in Tony Bennett’s patented “Pack-Line” defense. Add in first year Reece Beekman averaging 25 minutes and you frequently have three players on the court together that are adjusting. Jay Huff has provided a security blanket for the uncharacteristic dribble penetration the Hoos have allowed this year averaging almost 3 blocks per contest. The good news for opponents: you can score easier on UVA this year than in years past. The bad news: they’re getting more solid defensively with four players averaging double figures.
#21 DUKE 5-2 (3-0)
This week: #19 (@ #20 VT 1/12)
Last week: #21 (83-82 Win vs BC, 79-68 Win vs WAKE
Every ranked opponent that Duke has faced has resulted in a loss. They were outmatched vs Michigan State at home and outplayed by Illinois…at home. Everyone knows the advantage Cameron Indoor plays for Duke. Where else in college basketball can inbounding players have their ears tickled by the students? Even with fans, however, Duke still loses those games as they struggled with identity early in the season. That no longer appears to be the case as newcomers Jeremey Roach, DJ Steward and Jalen Johnson have started gelling with Matthew Hurt and Jordan Goldwire, increasing their level of threat not only in the ACC, but nationally, as well.
#20 VIRGINIA TECH 9-2 (3-1)
This week: #20 (vs #19 DUKE 1/12, @ WAKE 1/17)
Last week: T-19 (73-71 Loss @ Louisville, 77-63 Win vs ND)
I don’t know what to make of Virginia Tech just yet. An early victory against 3rd ranked Villanova grabbed attention just long enough for the nation to see them lose to Penn State at home by 20 in the ACC/BIG 10 (14(?)) challenge. I will say this: Keve Aluma is the most exciting player in the ACC so far. He can jump out of the gym and looks to dunk on anyone in his path on the way out (see link below). We’ll see what Mike Young’s Hokies can do as ACC play heats up.