Part 2 begins......now.
Where they were picked: 10th
We play them: Twice
How they've done: Kinda hard to say. If any ACC team's OOC schedule is packed with fluffy cupcakes, it's Miami's. I'm not sure whether the toughest team on there is South Carolina, Minnesota, or UNC-Wilmington, but it's definitely one of those, cause it ain't Stetson. Now, they've gone and beaten all those teams, and the only blemish on their record is their loss to Boston College. But I'm not sure whether that means BC is better than we think or that Miami isn't as good as their 14-1 record indicates.
I'm inclined toward the latter, though. Miami was picked 10th because they were hit really hard by departures, losing three of their starters including Jack McClinton, who just missed a 20-point average. Other than a turnover rate that's a bit too high, there isn't much on the stat sheet, either standard or tempo-free, that jumps out at you as evidence they're not so hot, so I'm just gonna go with my gut here: they're not so hot. I think they'll have a tough go of it in conference play this year, and a split would be a nice thing and not outside the realm of reasonable expectations.
Where they were picked: 1st (tie)
We play them: Once, on the road
How they've done: UNC has four losses because they're ballsy enough to play a nasty schedule (Texas, Kentucky, MSU) and go on the road to places like College of Charleston and provide tiny schools with framable moments. They seem to have fallen behind Duke a bit in the ACC hierarchy, but let's not get our hopes up: Staying within 15 at the Dean Dome would be a monumental achievement.
North Carolina State
Where they were picked: 12th
We play them: Twice
How they've done: I wish I could say badly, because they're the one team the media thought would be worse than us. But they've held their own. The schedule with Arizona and Florida on it (both close losses) looks tougher than it is, because neither of those teams are what they used to be, especially Zona. Same goes for Marquette, who they beat. Still, if they were as bad as all that you'd expect a loss to a crap team to be on there somewhere, and there isn't one. I'd say for now they fall into the same category as Miami. But at least, I'd rather play these guys twice than, say, Duke.
Where they were picked: 11th
We play them: Very funny
How they've done: You didn't think I'd ignore us on this, did you? Here's how it stacks up. I'd really, really, really have liked to get a win against one of those four BCS teams we played. All four were in the lower echelons of their conferences and it'd have been a good way to see us stack up well against that kind of team and give us confidence we can hang in our own conference too. That Auburn game would have been a win if Mike Scott had been on the court, but the USF game was ugly.
But the main thing is we've been improving pretty much every game, not including the UTPA game tonight which appears to be a really ugly one. It helps that the frontcourt has been getting reinforcements as time goes on - Sene comes back from suspension and Scott from injury. But there have been some big positives - the point guards and the three-point shooting among them. The constant improvement is a mark of quality coaching, and I will tell you what: it won't take long for the close losses to turn into close wins.
Where they were picked: 7th (tie)
We play them: Twice
How they've done: Like Miami, they've piled up the wins against so-so competition. That was all with Malcolm Delaney in the lineup, though. Delaney sprained his ankle against Longwood, and it probably isn't all that bad, but VT's fortunes depend on that being true. No Delaney in the ACC will mean bad, bad times.
But we don't play these guys til the end of the month, by which time he'll probably be back in the lineup. Probably. It might not matter. Most of VT's scoring comes from neither the post nor three-point land, which is the same model as UAB. That's the kind of team I think we match up with best. Could we sweep the season series? I think of the teams we play twice, this is where we have the best chance of doing that. A split is much more likely, though.
Where they were picked: 5th
We play them: Twice
How they've done: So remember when I said it wasn't actually that funny that Maryland lost to W&M? This is why. W&M's pretty good. Them and Purdue (also really good) are the spots on Wake's record. Gonzaga is the skin on the wall - not bad. Wake is going to have to work at it to get an NCAA bid, but if they get there, it shouldn't surprise.
Fortunately for us, three-point shooting isn't in Wake's arsenal, either. Unfortunately, Al-Farouq Aminu is. Wake is a big, tall team, they shoot for high percentages, and their bigness causes opposing teams to miss a lot of shots. We, on the other hand, have to use Jerome Meyinsse as a center. This is not a team we want to play twice.
So. Big picture? The first three games (NC State, GT, Miami) are going to be very, very instructive. Check out the KenPom projections. According to the smartest hoops stat guy in the business, they're all basically toss-ups. That's how I see it too, except for maybe GT. Win them all or lose them all - either one seems possible (though to be real about it, winning all three is not something you should get your hopes up for.)
What I think, though, is that whatever the outcome of this first week of ACC play - whether it's 0-3, 3-0, or in between - that'll tell you exactly what to expect for the rest of the year. 0-3, and well, only a month or so til lacrosse. This is the kind of competition we'll need to do well against if we're going to see my prediction of improvement come true. Afterwards - hey, one at a time. But remember, this is our year for the easy schedule, the ACC is not as good as it was last year, and we're better than before. Been saying it every time I talk about this. Pretty soon we'll get to see if I'm right. KenPom projects 7-9, which would be an improvement of three games and definitely good enough for some kind of postseason play. Don't know if you'd be happy with that, but here in Tony Bennett's first year, that's probably good enough. (Despite my angry rants of last year.)