A couple ACC games have already been played, but the unofficial official kickoff to the conference season is this weekend, as all 12 teams have a game to get things started. To celebrate, some idiot decided it would be a good idea to host the first basketball-themed roundtable of the season, so, below are the questions. Also below are the knights of the ACC roundtable who have already spit out their answers; go see what the rest of the ACC has to say.
On the B-Rink
1. The ACC failed to win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the first time ever. Let's panic a bit: Why did this happen?
As I've postulated as a prerequisite to the notion that UVA will be improved in conference play this year, the ACC is, on the whole, less talented than it was last year. It is a bit of a down year. And the Big Ten, on the other hand, is looking better than it has in the past. It was bound to happen eventually; it still took a down year for the ACC and an up year for the Big Ten for the Big Ten to even squeak out a 6-5 win in the Challenge. And even then, a couple of the ACC's losses could have swung the other way with just a little bit of luck. Just one of them things - statisticians will tell you the law of averages is bunk, but at the same time you can't expect this thing to go on forever and the ACC not to drop one here and there. Besides, this is a fun event, and how much longer would the Big Ten have wanted to play ball if they didn't get a win once in a while?
2. The obvious question that needs to be asked: Who is your Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Freshman of the Year?
Up to this point, Jon Scheyer is the only player in the ACC's top five in both points and assists and plays for the league's highest-ranked team; he seems a natural choice. Forget it. The one player I'd rather have on my team above any other right now is UNC's Ed Davis. He and Wake's Al-Farouq Aminu are both averaging a double-double, but Aminu is shooting under .500 while Davis's shooting percentage is a whopping .631. Amazing even for a forward. Davis also contributes three blocks a game. Think about it: that's six points a game the other team doesn't get. And 63% shooting! He's not a liability from the line, either, so you can't just hack him. Keep going on that pace and Scheyer might eventually be named POTY anyway, but he won't deserve it.
With GT's Derrick Favors averaging 12 and 9, there's really not much of a race for Freshman of the Year. Just so he has some competition to beat, C.J. Harris of Wake, Jordan Williams of Maryland, and Michael Snaer of Florida State are making some solid contributions. There aren't any John Wall types in the ACC this year - perhaps a big reason why it's a bit of a down year - but Favors stands well above the competition and barring injury has this thing on lockdown.
Too early to name a coach just yet, but I'll tell you right now it'll be GT's Paul Hewitt if the media's prediction of 4th place comes even remotely close to true, after that 2-14 season last year.
3. The other obvious question: What are your expectations for your own team?
I've gone over this pretty extensively, of course: Make the postseason. Even if it's the CBI. And improve over 11th place and 4 wins.
4. The other other obvious question: Which teams are going dancing?
This looks like a slow year for the ACC, Madness-wise. Duke and UNC are the locks. I'll also put Wake, FSU, and Clemson in. Maryland, bubble team, but they're going to have to make a major showing and probably knock someone else out. That's....pretty much it. Five teams. Six, if all the pieces fall into place, but here's thinking they won't. Four would not surprise either: Clemson and FSU in particular do not inspire the kind of confidence I'd need to give any kind of guarantee.
5. The decade in basketball isn't quite over yet, at least not the way I reckon it. But it's still not too early for reminiscing. What was your team's Game of the Decade? And what one game would you like to have a do-over for?
Best game of the decade?
As for the do-over, it's my question so I get to answer twice. I'm doing this because really these two games are brothers, in that some dipshit whose job it was to arrange and schedule these games made a major-league mistake. And they were both in 2001.
First is the 2001 tournament game against Gonzaga - an opponent we never should have been set up with. Gonzaga had already made an Elite Eight run and then a Sweet Sixteen run as a 10 seed twice, meaning they had knocked off two 7s, two 2s, and a 6, two years running. Did anyone on the committee stop to think it might be a good idea to seed them higher instead of lower? Noooooooo. At least, not til the year after they'd beaten us. Instead of excitement as should be the case entering the tourney as a nice high seed, I remember a distinct feeling of dread over the Grounds: not only were we stuck with giant-killing Gonzaga, we were the cursed 5 seed playing a 12 seed. Doom. And hell, we came that damn close to winning it anyway. 13th-seeded Indiana State would have awaited us, meaning a likely Sweet Sixteen date with Michigan State. But we got our crack at the Spartans the next season in the ACC-Big Ten Challeng.....
.....and then had it taken away because some dipshit decided to put the game in the larger Richmond Coliseum on the same day as a later hockey game. With the ice prepared and ready to go, the rink was simply covered up and the floor placed over top. Predictably, the day was warm and humid, the ice melted, and the floor was sopping wet from condensation. It wasn't basketball. Pete Gillen called it Bambi on ice. The players couldn't run - at best they jogged, flatfooted so as not to stick their heel out and slip. Nobody leaped for a rebound, lest they slam to the ground upon landing. The fan in me wanted to keep going, because our team was doing a better job of figuring out how to score under the insane conditions. The decent human being in me, who I keep trying to strangle, knew they should have called that game three minutes after it started. I want that game back, on a basketball court this time. And I want it in U-Hall where we'd have enjoyed a proper home court advantage.
6. Is your team, and the ACC in general, better or worse off because of the expansion from the Big East? Basketball perspective only, never mind football's championship game or any of that division stuff. Old-guard teams, what do you think of the difference between pre- and post-expansion ACC? Ex-Big-Easters, the Big East is still a pretty beefy hoops conference and (almost) rivals the ACC for hoops supremacy; is your basketball team better off here or are you having some buyers' remorse?
From the selfish perspective, here's how it looks: We're 11-11 against the expansion teams. But more important is this stat: 8-13. That's our record in games against old-guard teams that we only played once in the seasons since expansion. In other words, the teams we would have played twice but didn't, because those games were replaced with ones against expansion teams. Clearly, it's been a help.
Even more importantly, we're 2-1 in the ACC tournament against the expansion teams. One of those wins was in the 2006 tournament, where we played 10th seeded VT as the 7th seed. No expansion means we would have gone straight to playing UNC, where we lost. Instead, we got an extra win, which was probably the difference between the low-seed NIT invite we got, and staying home.
But has the expansion diluted ACC basketball as everyone feared?
No. It's made the ACC stronger. In the five years before expansion, the ACC earned 23 tournament bids. In 2001, there were just three teams repping the conference. In the five years since, the ACC has 27 bids, including two years with seven teams invited. I don't think that ever happened before expansion. Five of those bids have been earned by expansion teams, and they all have at least one. That's their fair share.
But this is the biggest benefit of expansion, at least from a competition standpoint: the ACC now plays three extra tournament games. And the best part is they're being played by bubble teams. The fifth and sixth seeded teams used to be placed in first-round games they were likely to lose; now they're in games they're likely to win. Those are exactly the teams that might need that little extra oomph to get into the tournament.
7. The SEC divides its conference into the same divisions in basketball as it does in football. Should the ACC do the same?
I threw this question in at the end because it popped into my head just before I hit "send" to the other bloggers and I decided I was actually curious to hear the answers. Myself I want no part of it; it would just increase the inequities of scheduling since we'd all have to play the same division teams every year, and it sucks to get into a situation where one division is consistently way stronger than the other.