Strange opening weekend leaves ACC hoop standings upside down

Upset wins by Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech against Duke and North Carolina, Florida State at Virginia and Boston College against Syracuse suggest thatthe league is as deep and balanced as its been in recent memory

Michael Thomas Shroyer—USA Today Sports
Dec 31

ACCGBOverallFlorida State 2-0 — 14-1 Boston College 1-0 .5 8-6Clemson 1-0 .5 11-2Georgia Tech 1-0 .5 9-4Miami 1-0 .5 11-2Notre Dame 1-0 .5 12-1Virginia Tech 1-0 .5 12-1Virginia 1-1 1 11-2NC State 0-1 1.5 11-3Pittsburgh 0-1 1.5 11-3Syracuse 0-1 1.5 8-6Louisville 0-1 1.5 11-2North Carolina 0-1 1.5 12-3Duke 0-1 1.5 12-2Wake Forest 0-2 2 9-5. No, the ACC standings posted above aren’t upside down. It’s not a misprint.Perennial bottom-feeders Boston College, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia Tech really are bunched near the top behind another unlikely frontrunner, Florida State, while nationally ranked preseason favorites Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia are all in the unfamiliar position of looking up at the rest of the pack.The reversal is the product of a strange opening weekend of ACC play in which virtually nothing went as expected.Of course, most teams have only played one game and order will likely be restored as the long conference season plays itself out.But with results such as the double-digit victories by Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech against Duke and North Carolina, Virginia’s home loss to Florida State and Boston College snapping a 20-game ACC losing streak at the expense of Syracuse, indications are that the league is as deep and balanced as it’s been in recent memory.Predictions of as many as 10 ACC teams making it into the NCAA tournament this year might still be overly optimistic.Still, as UVa. coach Tony Bennett told his team after its 60-58 setback to the 20th-ranked Seminoles on Saturday, the soft touches came to an end with the close of the nonconference schedule.”I said, `Welcome to the ACC.'” Bennett said after the game. “If you aren’t right and you aren’t executing all of the way through, you will not be successful. … “That’s the fine line every team in this league has.”UNC learned that lesson the hard way in Atlanta on Saturday.Playing a team whose first-year coach Josh Pastner has publicly acknowledged his Yellow Jackets’ rebuilding status, the Tar Heels sleepwalked their way to a 75-63 loss in which UNC committed 20 turnovers, made just five of 26 free throws and sent the opposition to the free throw line 33 times.”They just came out with better energy and better effort than we did,” said point guard Joel Berry, who struggled to a 3 of 13 performance from the floor.. “We thought we were going to come in here and just win because it’s Georgia Tech, but they did a great job of coming out with energy. To them, it felt like a bigger game than it was to us.”The same could be said for Virginia Tech against Duke. The only difference is that unlike Georgia Tech, the Hokies are a vastly improved veteran team that is rapidly staking a claim as one of the ACC’s best.Among the believes is Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team would have had its hands full amid the electric atmosphere at Blacksburg’s Cassell Coliseum even if suspended star Grayson Allen had been in the lineup.”I really feel like the two teams played like the way they’ve been playing. Virginia Tech has been playing really good basketball,” said Krzyzewski, who will take a leave of absence following Wednesday’s home game against Georgia Tech to undergo back surgery. “Continuity, good eight-man rotation, feed off of one another … that’s how (the Hokies) played today. A very unselfish team. A tough team to guard.”We played like we’ve been playing, without continuity. We haven’t played well since before exams, and that continued. We had some good practices when we returned from Christmas, but it’s not enough. They made us not play well and we didn’t play well.”NC State didn’t play well in its 81-63 defeat at Miami, as the Wolfpack’s young players got their first taste of ACC action. Wake Forest also lost, squandering a late 13-point lead in falling to Clemson.The resilient Tigers scored the game’s final 15 points to win their ACC opener and set up what promises to be an emotional matchup against UNC on Tuesday. Given the way the teams are playing right now, there’s a real possibility that Clemson could start its conference schedule at 2-0 while the defending national runnerup Tar Heels find themselves dug into an 0-2 hole.And no, that’s not a misprint.