After numerous delays and missed deadlines in recent weeks, we find ourselves squarely in the new year and wholly devoid of holiday-themed excuses to avoid writing another of these freeform looks at ACC hoops. Still, I delayed things an extra day to avoid jumping back in all at once. There will be an attempt to keep it to every Monday in the future.
We’ll begin with old news and wander on over towards more recent happenings at my leisure.
Duke is in a State of Flux…Right?
So we’ve missed a bit on the Blue Devils during this unintended sabbatical, haven’t we? Duke looked oddly outmatched against a Virginia Tech team that followed a big upset with two straight losses. Duke responded to that game with 100 and 93 points respectively in wins over Georgia Tech and Boston College, the latter of which came under new temporary head coach Jeff Capel. One big blow came with a bruise to Amile Jefferson’s (13.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG) right foot. He will miss Tuesday’s game at No. 9 Florida State and to this point, he’s probably the team’s best overall player and the unchallenged team leader. It’s the same foot he broke last season.
Despite the ongoing circus that is Grayson Allen and hall of fame coach K out for a time with back surgery, the Blue Devils usually take at least one solid beating per season before tightening the screws and figuring it all out. We’ll see if the loss in Blacksburg was that moment this season.
Roller coaster Week for the Hokies
Virginia Tech's Seth Allen (concussion) will be a game-time decision for tonight's game against Syracuse, per a school spokesman.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 10, 2017
Virginia Tech closed 2016 with a December 31 upset of No.5 Duke. That win earned them a national ranking, the Hokies then promptly belly-flopped in road losses against N.C. State and Florida State. Those are both good teams so there’s little shame in losing there, but the injury bug appears to have bitten at the wrong time for Tech. Freshman big man Khadim Sy turned an ankle in pregame against the Wolfpack and Seth Allen sustained an injury against N.C. State that has him in the medical staff’s concussion protocol. Sy will likely return to action full-time after limited minutes against FSU, while Allen’s status for Tuesday night’s home game against Syracuse will be a game-time decision. The Hokies could be down to a six-man rotation and conference play is just starting. Clearly, there’s lots of work ahead for Buzz Williams but he still has that program well ahead of schedule.
Look at the Top of the Standings
After non-conference play ended, everyone took a deep breath and tried to assess just how good Florida State (15-1, 3-0) and Notre Dame (14-2, 3-0) really were. Neither program challenged itself in the early portion of the schedule, but the talent on both clubs was undeniable. No. 9 Florida State has the better resume to this point with wins over Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, plus a road win over Virginia. Dwayne Bacon (18.1 PPG) and Xavier Rathan-Mayes (10.4 PPG, 4.7 APG) have done exactly what folks expected of them. The dynamic wings have provided plenty of fireworks aided by one of the top freshman in the nation in Jonathon Issac (12.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG). That crew has led to the Seminoles scoring 86.6 PPG so far, good for 14th in the nation.
The Irish have nice wins over Pittsburgh and Clemson plus a seven-point win over Louisville so far in ACC play. There were hints recently of how good Mike Brey’s club was with an eight-point loss to defending national champions Villanova and a five-point defeat to No. 15 Purdue. Both games saw the Irish relinquish first-half leads, but they hinted at what could be. Bonzie Colson is still averaging a double-double with team-highs of 16.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. He’s joined by Steve Vasturia, V.J. Beachem, and Matt Farrell in averaging at least 14 points per contest and that firepower has been able to mask some of the defensive liabilities apparent early.
Both teams appear poised to keep things rolling deep into conference play and the Seminoles really look the part of a top ten team right now.