THE Authoritative ACC Badketball Power Rankings- How The Lower Half Lives

Some of these teams might be performing just as well if they were being led by Coach Cooper…yes this was a show in the ’90s….take a moment to reflect, old people. This is what you weren’t watching on Friday nights. Or maybe you secretly were, it did last FIVE seasons. With an intro like this, you have to be a winning coach, right? Right?!

With an eclectic league schedule this past week, and an especially heavy Sunday, I waited a couple extra days to post this poll. I don’t want my reactions to be knee-jerk, I prefer to let a few more games elapse between polls. More habits have revealed themselves. More unsung heroes have risen to the occasion. Some coaches have lost their teams, (in my opinion). But since the last power poll was 6,000+ words, let’s get started before this thing gets Michener-esque. As it stands I had to cut it in half. Just too much goodness for one sitting!

One of my favorite sayings, and I don’t know in what forms it has been mimicked or predated, but here goes: You can learn just as much about the game of basketball watching it played poorly as you can by watching it played with great execution.

Without further ado, the bottom half of the poll.

#15 Virginia Tech Hokies (8-11, 0-6) RPI: 211 SOS: 152 Last Poll: 15

Last 5 games: 0-5, with resounding road losses to FSU. UNC, and Louisville before returning home to be destroyed at the hands of Notre Dame this week, before surprisingly taking UVA to the mat today before blowing it late, 50-47. 

If there were a college version of NBA tanking this would be it. Satchel Pierce and Shane Henry being asked to go it alone underneath with Joey Van Zegeren removed from the team is wasting a year of development for those young men, removing them from more comfortable supporting roles, and making them take on bigger, more physical opponents.

Would have liked to have seen this team do better against an Irish club that was also height-challenged, but Justin Bibbs missing time with this concussion is really throwing a wrench into what little offense the Hokies could muster to begin with (he ranks 3rd in Overall Ranking on SCACC Hoops metric behind just two players, UNC’s Marcus Paige and Duke’s Quin Cook, his efficiency is through the roof as a Freshman).  He had hit for 22 and 25 in his first two ACC games and then 15 vs Louisville before being diagnosed. The Hokies can’t afford to miss their most talented true freshman in eons for much longer. He represents too much of the offense. His absence allowed for a glimpse of freshman Ahmed Hill, who looked like he could definitely handle an alpha role with a bit of seasoning. He is definitely not afraid to attack.

Problem: Zach Auguste, returning from a one game supension for an academic issue, had his way with the Hokies in a mere 20 minutes, with 16 points and 8 rebounds. Over 10 more minutes that’s a 24/12. And it was with ease. To help you understand the Hokies rebounding futiility: In 13 non-conference games, they won the rebounding battle 6 of 13 times, tying once. An even split. Since conference play began? And remember that’s against a 340th ranked SOS. In the league they haven’t come close: In fact, dating back to the WVU game the Hokies have been outrebounded by 102. That’s almost 15 extra opportunities per game, tire VT defenders down, and earn extra time in the Hokie end, and gain advantages in the bonus.

But the Hokies don’t help themselves: Looks at these splits since ACC play began:

  • 46/108 from three! That’s pretty good. Good enough for top 20 in the country (though they were 10th at one time). That’s 43%, VT might be on to something there.
  • But then we see: 66/165 from two, which is an even 40%. That is a big problem.VT would gladly trade a few of those threes for conversions in the painted area. More contact, and more FT attempts. At this point, no Hokie has the officials respect except Devin Wilson. But Wilson’s lack of a consistent jumper leaves him charging at the goal hoping for a whistle. Since ACC play began he averages just under 7 ppg. He takes decent care of the ball, though Notre Dame was a bit of a nightmare. It represented the worst differential of the year to date (-13).
  • Finally, the team isn’t aggressive. They have shot just 79 FTs in 5 league games, to their opponents 108. There is no conspiracy, the Hokies just shy away from contact, and don’t have any muscle to command whistles.

As for JVZ, an ACC-All Academic, someone pointed out to me that with his red-shirt year, he could graduate and wind up going elsewhere for his final year. I don’t expect him back this year or ever. Another painful reminder that the Hokies haven’t truly had a reliable pivot taller than 6’8″ since Jimmy Carruth in 1993. Coleman Collins had talent, but his father’s illness weighed too heavily on him in his time in Blacksburg.

This team isn’t any semblance of a team yet, as Williams appears to be adhering to his “not my circus, not my monkeys” approach he espouses in his motivational tweets, and I expect next year, Buzz will have “his” team revved up and the talk of the town, it’s just me being empathetic for those kids’ years who get wasted by the constant transition. If there were a grade worse than 15 I’d give it. Through no fault of the players. The transition in Blacksburg did not have to be so graceless.

A key stat that should not be wasted on you: The Hokies have allowed 41-104 thee point conversions since ACC play began. That is just below 40%, and good for 57% true field goal percentage. That number was much lower when VT played a #340 ranked non-conference schedule. In just three weeks, the Hokies have dropped from 107th to 190th in 3pt FG Defense, and dipped in shooting themselves from 9th to 31st. This kind of regression was to be expected as league play began. And without the help down low, it’s going to be more of the same. And today they faced “THE PACK LINE”. An evil spell, passed down from previous generations, father to son…

This Week: Pitt (home, Tuesday) and @Wake on Saturday

Mobility: Nothing will change without a win. No matter how bad BC or GT plays.  As it stands the Hokies remain the worst-rated Power Five program in the RPI.

#14  Boston College Eagles   (9-9 , 1-5)   RPI: 136  SOS: 47   Last Poll: 14

“Bird law in this country is not governed by reason.” –Charlie Kelly

Last 5 Games: Since the Eagles couldn’t capitalize on the hospitality of Coral Gables, they got to lick their wounds a bit against Harvard, winning a tight contest against Tommy Amaker’s (likely) NCAA bound Tide. The Eagles quickly returned to the L column losing at home vs UVA, and away at Syracuse. The Birds of War finally broke through today with a a narrow road win in ATL, where GT has managed to lose their last three home games by a combined six points. 

To give you an indication of how little prognostication services regard BC. Of their remaining 13 games, not one sim site I frequent has them a favorite in any, save for one, VT. And that, a slim advantage, at 0.5 pts due to the game being on the road. I still see these two fighting it out for the last seed in the ACC tournament.

BC ranks above 142 nationally in only one category: 3 pt FG defense. Out of 345 teams. They rank 22nd, and that’s largely because BC allows easy baskets inside, they aren’t much in the way of rim protection and they foul at a rate good for 280th in the country, which is among the lowest 5th. Playing Duke and having no answer for Okafor a couple weeks ago certainly escalated those numbers.

The number that should concern BC fans, and Canadians alike buddday (Coach Cliff is not your budday, Fwiend), along with Olivier Hanlan’s future agent: He is toiling for these Eagles to the tune of 36.6 minutes a night, that’s good for #23 in the country. That’s out of 1725 starting D-1 players in the country. His efficiency is going to wilt also as teams key on him. BC desperately needs Aaron Brown and Patrick Heckmann to step up their efficiency. As of now, Hanlan accounts for around 40% of BC offense. By all accounts it hasn’t worn him down yet. He has increased his minutes to 38.8, and raised his slash lines. And his is no small achievement, having faced Duke, UVA, Syracuse to this point. Two of the top defenses in the nation. But until BC finds Hanlan some help he should maybe think about going on strike:


This week:  Louisville (Weds)  Coach Pitino stripped Montrezl Harrell of his captaincy and all is not well internally at the YUM. @Clemson (Sat), the Tigers have embraced defense, and shortened games and will be a tough out for any of the non-elite teams in the ACC going forward.

Mobility: Another win and you have to swap them with GT, but as of now GT is just so much more highly regarded, and suffered tight losses to better teams. In reality they should be co-#14s.

#13 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets  (9-9, 0-6)  RPI: 81  SOS: 12  Last Poll: 10

Last five games: Lost to a Notre Dame squad that started 5 guys shorter than 6’5″ Yet only outrebounded them by 7. When Notre Dame had Zach Auguste, GT outrebounded them by 20, go figure. But the truly crippling figure? 12-6 on the offensive glass. In a 3 point loss, that’s part of the tale of the tape. Just two of those six falling, and you hand ND the defeat they’ve had coming to them. The loss to Pittsburgh was galling. Pitt was 22-44 from 2, GT 15-39. Once again outrebounding their opponent by double digits. Its tough to win on the road in the ACC, but this one was winnable. Pitt keeps sneaking away with wins against a farce of an early season league schedule.

Most embarrassingly, last week UVA had them at 2 points at the 13 minute mark. UVA held GT at 10 from the 10 minute mark til the 3 minute mark. UVA held the Jackets to their halftime total of 16 til the 16 minute mark. GT remained at 22 from the 9 minute mark until the 3 minute mark. UVA allowed six points from there and rumor has it that UVA Coach Bennett didn’t even bring out the ball rack for the next practice. Just 28 suicides, one for each point allowed. 

Nobody ever promised you a rose garden Tech fans. But they certainly didn’t do your faithful any favors with the opening of the ACC slate. GT does nothing well statistically beyond rebound their own missed putbacks. It’s the old Moses Malone trick, only without the and-1 to finish it off.

Brian Gregory is not long for this job. His record in games in the league by less than five points is abysmal. Something like 18-42. In a league where coaches can make a difference in those type of outcomes, his deficiencies are glaring. You look at twitter during a critical timeout, where GT needs a bucket and you hear a collective groan from GT fans.

Against UVA they were 12-37 from two, and 0-12 from three, and only managed to get to the line 8, yes you read that correctly, 8 times. Why is the coach not telling guys to go to the basket when jumpers don’t fall, and when he has a couple of big oaks to toss it in to. Find your rhythm some other way.

This is Coach Gregory’s 4th year on the job. He has won 12, 16, 16, and now 9. As I see it, those last seven wins are going to be very difficult to get this year. He is squarely on the hot seat in ATL, an AAU hotbed. With most other jobs recently filled or entrenched with long-time bosses, GT is an attractive job. Gregory needs to see an NIT this year at least, and that’ll require going at least .500 the rest of the way. Who amongst us sees that happening?

This Week: @Miami (Weds), where schizophrenia reigns for the U. Who knows what team shows up? Then home Saturday vs NC State, a tough out. 

Mobility: Two more losses and they are going to be challenging the Hokies for 15th.

#12  Florida State Seminoles (10-10, 2-5)  RPI: 136  SOS: 77  Last Poll: 12

Last Five Games: Since shooting the lights out to get their first home ACC win against VT, the ‘Noles dropped three straight (@Syracuse, @Pitt, NC ST) before knocking off Clemson on the road in a game whose videotape should be burned. They played valiantly yesterday in the Dean Dome, falling by just four. 

The Noles shoot it pretty well, though they rank near the bottom from three. What is keeping Leonard Hamilton’s team afloat is a propensity for getting to the FT line. They are 14th in the country in attempts.

We’ll never know just how good this version of FSU would have been if key player Aaron Thomas weren’t lost for the year. But Xavier Rathan Mayes is developing into quite the go-to player. But he and Montay Brandon need to be threats from the perimeter. Both shoot under 25%. Devin Bookert is the leader there, shooting 38%, still not stellar.

I’d like someone to explain the Phil Cofer outburst vs Pitt to me. This well-regarded Freshman’s last 10 games, he has attempted 53 baskets, but in just one did he attempt more than 10, and that was Pitt, when he had 13, while scoring 21 and grabbing 11 rebounds. On a team that has several big men who can’t convert in the paint, why is Hamilton holding back the reigns? He isn’t especially foul prone or mistake laden. He is easily the best two-way option FSU has up front right now as Kiel Turpin and Boris Bojanovsky are just big bodies who provide adequate rim protection and 10 fouls a night.

This Week: Is a very important one for the club, with two winnable home games. If they win these two, they’ll move to 12-10, 4-5, which puts them in the NIT mix. They play at home vs a scrappy Wake Forest team on Weds, and then versus Hamilton’s old squad from the Big East days, Miami in a Sunday matinee.

Mobility: If they lose both of those you can be sure they’ll drop, beating Wake and Miami, they could move up 2-3 spots. The potential for motility here is probably the highest of any team in the league. 

#11 Wake Forest Demon Deacons  (9-11, 1-6)  RPI: 137 SOS: 51  Last Poll: 8

Last Five Games: After racing back to push Louisville in the ACC Sunday night opener, the Deacs have given Duke a run for their money (pre-Duke tailspin), and beat GT at home before dropping their last 3  @ Syracuse, UNC, and @Clemson. For me, the loss to Clemson was a very winnable game. They held a six point lead at half, were containing Clemson star Jaron Blossomgame (held to just 8 pts.) They needed that win. 

Wake really rebounds well and has a nice one-two punch in Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas. Their chief problem, and one that is more pronounced than ever is their FT line futility, for a team that ranks 7th nationally in attempts and 24th in makes, but just 301st in %, this correlates directly to a number of close losses. I never have the solution for better shooting from the stripe. But the problems appear mental now. The top two players I mentioned above, Thomas and CMM? They clock in at 57.8% and 60.6% respectively. Teams would rather foul them than let them shoot it. Thomas is especially perplexing, as he has so many little dipsy dos around the hoop and has soft left handed touch in the 8-10 foot area.

This Week: @FSU (Weds), and an oasis in the winter desert of ACC play getting VT at home this weekend. 

Mobility: Who knows? With two wins they could be back in the top of the lower middle-class. Two more losses and they’ll be back in Bzdelik territory. 

#10 Clemson Tigers  (11-8, 3-4)  RPI: 98  SOS: 52  Last Poll: 13

Last Five Games: That Florida St loss by two has to sting. The Tigers are 3-2 in their last five, with one of the losses understandably coming against UVA. Had they been 4-1, they’d be 12-7 overall, a decent win or two and some consistent play away from the bubble. That loss is going to hurt. The team is a little bit bi-polar, laying a whupping on Syracuse at home, bouncing back as though the UVA game never happened. Then dropping the game to FSU, before rallying to defeat Wake in a game they should have lost. 

This Clemson team will be famous for fouling. 25th in the country, they will put you on your behind. In fact, for playing such tight defense the Tigers don’t have a player with a D Rtg above 106.6 per SCACC Hoops Tempo-Based stats. It was too far down to count, but from eyeballing, it appeared as though their top individual defensive player is ranked in the 40s or 50s.

But the lack of individual standouts doesn’t belie the system Coach Brownell has installed which keeps the Tigers within striking distance of a lot of games. He holds the ball on offense, makes teams make FTs on D. The -65 at the line on the year is diluted by the weaker non-conference results. In the ACC, Clemson is going to try to bully you with Landry Nnoko, Donte Graham and Blossomgame.

Watching the UVA game was very instructive as to how much hero ball Clemson relies on offensively. Desperately trying to lengthen possessions and shorten the game, Clemson took wild shot after wild shot. They are not enough of an offensive threat to make the NCAA this year, but the team’s key players are all still eligible. Assuming Blossomgame doesn’t take some bad advice (he’s not as good as KJ McDaniels was, nor will he get the opportunity to play like KJ has in tanking Philadelphia) and go pro, this team has a solid foundation in place to become an upper-tier club next year. Assuming Brownell lets go of the leash a little on offense and doesn’t allow other teams to remain in games because of his plodding style.

This Week: A chance to go 5-4 in the first half of what was a manageable slate of opening ACC games for Clemson. The second half is slightly tougher. They play @NC St on Wednesday in what will amount to a tough challenge (perhaps they could borrow Marcus Paige, he likes that building) and then get a limited BC team at home on Saturday. This is where that FSU loss comes in. They could lose the NC St game and not have it be a concern. Now it looks like BC could be a relative must-win to keep the NIT spirit alive. 

Mobility: If they win both these games. They’ll deserve top half consideration. 

#9  Pittsburgh Panthers  (13-7, 3-4)  RPI: 79 SOS: 79  Last Poll: 11

Let’s start with some happier memories, was it just four short years ago?:

Last Five Games: Starting with a bad loss to Clemson, then beating FSU and GT (yawn for Pitt fans); they showed where they stand in the pecking order against two of the top three ACC teams this past week in Duke and Louisville. This year’s version of Pitt is just not on par. They lost both games by double digits. 

Pitt, like many ACC teams takes excellent care of the ball and few chances on defense, electing to play the man and not the passing lanes. But here’s a slight disconnect, for a team that ranks 216th in the country in three-point %, why are they only making them at a 318th ranked clip? They aren’t shooting it enough from deep.

One thing you don’t want to do is get behind to Pitt, because Jamel Artis and James Robinson convert at a close to 85% clip combined. But it won’t matter much as these Panthers will soon be revealed as a slightly below .500 ACC team this season as the schedule gets brutal:

Louisville, @VT (win), Notre Dame, Bryant (?), Syracuse……so there will be a few more Pitt wins in here, but the ensuing stretch is just unfair: @Louisville, UNC, @UVA, @ Syracuse. If I’m being optimistic, I say they steal the home game or the road game at ‘Cuse, but this will be the hill that the 2014 Panthers die on, unless you were pragmatic enough to recognize going in to the season that this was an NIT team. I personally hold out hope in Jamie Dixon, as I admire the job he does, but this year being down Cameron Wright for seven games didn’t help, and neither does his seeming lack of confidence in the bench. Robinson, Artis, and Michael Young all return next year and probably the year after, so the future is bright for Pitt.

Next Week: @VT (Tuesday), home vs ND (Sat) 

Mobility: If they beat ND, they can hold on to this spot at least. Not much to move the dial until that upcoming stretch after the Bryant affair (I just like how that sounds, real adult-like and such), that’s where Pitt could really make strides if they shock the world.

#8 Syracuse Orange  (14-6, 5-2)  RPI: 66  SOS: 83  Last Poll: 7

Last Five Games: You’re not fooling me Coach Boeheim. That seven-game win streak was just for show. Losing @Clemson and then to Miami in the Carrier Dome is who this team really is. They hadn’t really played a tough opponent since losing those back-to-back games against Michigan (YIKES DOES THAT LOOK BAD NOW) and St. John’s, who is a quality club, but no threat to the Orange most years. Sandwiching those two losses around a win at BC, and narrowly squeaking out the ACC opener @VT raise too many warning flags. 

Rakeem Christmas is putting up quite a campaign for ACC POTY (18.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg, and six double-doubles, though those are coming slower in ACC play), and though competition will be stiff he may be doing more with less than the other top candidates. Losing running mate Chris McCullough to the torn ACL, Trevor Cooney shooting like the hacker he is, and poor PG decision-making by Tyler Ennis replacement Caleb Joseph have all contributed to this “malaise”.

It’s tough to be the Orange, everyone expects 30 wins every year. This version still has to play UNC, Duke twice, Louisville, UVA, and ND. This team should wind up about .500 in league play, and will be at the mercy of the Selection Committee, and unless some of those games I mentioned are Ws, the Orange don’t have much in the way of quality wins to boast. Christmas has played his tail off, and most certainly will be a lottery pick for someone who needs a big with an NBA ready body.

Boeheim needs to find solutions, and I’m not sure Cooney shooting more is the answer. So it is a good thing that they are looking to Christmas and Tyler Roberson and Michael Gbinije a bit more as answers to the McCullough dilemma. But even with a stout frontcourt, you need guards to win ACC games, and Cooney is lost playing with Joseph. As I’ve said a few times now, it is night and day between the looks Cooney gets with Joseph compared to what he was getting with Tyler Ennis last year.

If anything we can all rejoice in the Christmas experience:

This Week: Monday @UNC, bye this weekend, resume play at home vs VT next Tuesday. 

Mobility: A road win at UNC could see them climb a spot or two temporarily. No game this weekend is not helping matters. 

I’ll be back later with the top half of the league. Follow me on Twitter @insidetheacc.


Leave a Reply