The ACC is very good, but even more so the ACC has turned out to be a wildly unpredictable mess. Georgia Tech has more conference wins than Duke. Coach K is out with an injury and Notre Dame is undefeated and sitting atop the ACC standings.
Dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria.
Let’s dive in and see if we can make sense of anything.
Irish Eyes Still Smiling
The Notre Dame triumvirate of Bonzie Colson, Steve Vasturia, and Matt Farrell continues to lead the way for the Irish (16-2, 5-0) with plenty of help from a deep bench. In a hard fought 76-71 win at Virginia Tech Saturday, Colson had his standard double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, Vasturia scored 20 points while shooting 57 percent from the field, and Farrell made the play of the day with his heads up dive to make a steal late.
Buzz Williams calls Matt Farrell ND's "engine." Irish coach Mike Brey calls him "my Aaron Rodgers." Farrell scored 3 pts in ACC last yr.
— David Teel (@DavidTeelatDP) January 16, 2017
When you have a freshman reserve guard like T.J. Gibbs who came off the bench to score 13 points in 17 minutes, you know you’re in a good spot talent-wise. Mike Brey continues to push the right buttons with this team and at this point the Irish appear poised for another run at the Final Four come March.
Georgia Tech Confounds Expectations
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) January 16, 2017
The Yellow Jackets were picked by virtually everyone to set up a cot in the ACC cellar. In fact, Jon Rothstein of CBS — who is an excellent reporter — tweeted this in preseason:
Georgia Tech may have the worst power-five roster I've ever seen. Yellow Jackets won't win a game in ACC play this season. Book it.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 14, 2016
Oops. To be fair, the roster isn’t impressive on paper with lots of youth and not much bulk to speak of. Despite that, the Yellow Jackets (11-6, 3-2) now have wins over North Carolina, Clemson, and N.C. State. The biggest difference is senior big man Ben Lammers who has exploded to average 15.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this season. Freshman guard Josh Okogie, plus Tadric Jackson and Quinton Stephens are also averaging double-figures in scoring and Georgia Tech is getting help from the bench too. Josh Pastner is maximizing the ability of his entire roster, something many observers — myself included — weren’t convinced he was capable of when hired.
Tar Heels Knock Off Seminoles in Chapel Hill
Second consecutive week Joel Berry earns National Player of the Week honors #UNCBBall
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) January 16, 2017
If it’s possible for North Carolina to do anything quietly, one might describe the program’s return to the top ten and current tie for second place in the conference as “quiet”. Slowly but surely, the No. 9 Tar Heels (16-3, 4-1) have rolled up ACC victories and fully asserted themselves with a nice 96-83 win over Florida State Saturday. Joel Berry has been critical during a four-game ACC winning streak with 26 points against the No. 10 Seminoles and 31 points in an overtime win over Clemson that began the streak. Point guard is probably the most important position on Roy Williams’ teams and he’s got yet another stud in Berry.
Florida State (16-2, 4-1) is in the middle of as tough a stretch as any team in the nation will face this season. The ‘Noles will have faced six consecutive ranked teams after games against No. 12 Louisville and No. 15 Notre Dame this week. There’s no time to dwell on a tough road loss in a conference that’s filled with them.
What’s Going on at N.C. State?
It was not a good week for Mark Gottfried. The only question is, did he lose sleep over his team’s performance or did the noise from the sharpening of a thousand pitchforks keep him up nights?
The Wolfpack (12-6, 1-4) have dropped three straight; a record-setting 51-point loss at North Carolina, an eight-point loss at Boston College, and a 10-point loss at home to surprising Georgia Tech. He finished that stretch questioning his team’s toughness as the murmurs of his critics are growing increasingly louder. The worst part is that this is one of the most talented teams Gottfried has assembled in Raleigh, led by incredible freshman Dennis Smith Jr. The State point guard scored a career-high 31 points in the loss to the Yellow Jackets which didn’t hurt his 19.5 PPG average. There’s too much talent to be losing games in the fashion State is, and it seems like it will be a brutal week of practice ahead of Wednesday’s game against Pittsburgh.