By Mychal Hunter
Last week was a good week to be a fan of the ACC. The conference stood tall and destroyed the Big 10 in the annual inter-conference challenge, while the Pac-12 was still finding its footing with Arizona, Oregon and USC faltering. The SEC, Big 12 and Big East all look like very deep conferences early on, but it looked as if the ACC had once again established itself as the premier conference in the country.
Then bad things started happening.
Georgia Tech dropped a game at home against…ugh, Grambling, which we do not need to revisit (see this past weekends write up). The Jackets followed that up with a better showing on Sunday, but eventually lost again, this time to Tennessee at home. Coach Josh Pastner desperately needs Josh Okogie back, as well as Assistant Coach Darryl Labarrie who is currently on administrative leave with pay for what has been described as minor infractions. The word is GT is just waiting on the NCAA to clear him to resume his responsibilities. The Jackets missed an opportunity to get a quality win on their tournament resume at home against a Vols team that looks like it’s heading to the dance this year. The Jackets have a must win game tonight at Wofford.
Notre Dame predictably bounced back after a whoopin at the hands of Michigan State, defeating St. Francis two days later, but was then shocked in South Bend by a 4-4 Ball State team. DJ Harvey, the promising freshman wing for the Irish has really struggled in his last five games, averaging only 3.4 points despite playing 16 minutes per game.
The Fighting Irish have a possible “get right” game against Delaware on 12/9, but they are actually traveling to Newark, DE to play the game. Home court matters in college basketball.
A trio of other ACC squads failed to pick up quality wins as well when Syracuse lost to Kansas in Miami, Louisville lost at home to Seton Hall and Virginia lost last night in Morgantown to West Virginia.
The Syracuse and Virginia losses aren’t exactly a big deal, just a missed opportunity to hang some shiny new pelts on the wall at the ACC clubhouse, but Louisville probably shouldn’t be losing at home to Seton Hall.
I don’t want people to think I am disrespecting the Hall, Kevin Willard has a legit top 25 team that will be dancing in a few months, but I expected Louisville to play better at home following a loss in The Challenge. The Cardinals now sit at 4-2 on the young season and I don’t really know what to make of them. To this point I had kept them high in the ACC Power Rankings based on their talent and expectations, but early on their most impressive win is George Mason at home on opening weekend. The only true road game the Cardinals have played was the loss in West Lafayette to a very good Purdue team. Louisville certainly has the talent to run off a string of wins and put themselves in a better position before conference play starts, but they really need to win the games they should win against both Indiana and Memphis in the coming weeks before their showdown with Kentucky.
West Virginia really kind of exposed the Hoos last night I thought. While Kyle Guy finally came to life in the second half (whoa did he), Ty Jerome, Nigel Johnson and DeAndre Hunter did not look comfortable at all. Which, hey, when Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles and Lamonte West are running around hitting every shot they take and the crowd is screaming like banshees, who could be comfortable. I am sure it was a learning experience for those young players and expect them to come back and get a good quality win against Davidson on 12/16. However, expect the Cavaliers to come down in my rankings a little bit on Friday.
Syracuse losing to Kansas, eh, not shocking. Kansas is one of the 5 premier teams in the country. The Orange came back out last night and got a win against their old rival UConn in MSG, which I am sure is a nice consolation prize for that fan base.
To end today’s thoughts on a good note, big ups to Florida State, who was able to hang a fat shiny pelt on the clubhouse wall, defeating Florida, in Gainseville, by 17 points. Upperclassmen Terrance Mann and Phil Cofer are playing really well for the Seminoles and sophomore point guard CJ Walker (pre-season player to watch list) is really coming into his own. Somehow, Leonard Hamilton has this team sitting at 7-0 without getting a whole lot out of five star freshman MJ Walker, who will turn it around eventually, he is simply too talented. Look for the ‘Noles to run it to 9-0 before a 12/16 showdown with Oklahoma State in Sunrise, FL for the Metro PCS Orange Bowl Classic. That game has some interesting match-ups, particularly Jeffery Carroll matching up with Terrance Mann.
Real quick I want to say, Wake Forest, I see you. The Demon Deacons have run off four straight wins and are playing a lot better basketball of late. They have a showdown with Tennessee on 12/23 that is going to tell us a lot about what the future holds for Danny Manning’s club.
P.S. : Glad to see the young man, Ty Solomon from S.C. State is ok. That was a scary moment at PNC last weekend. Kevin Keatts consoling the opposing coach on their bench was a heavy moment.