This weekend should show if the ACC is truly a two-team race.
Basketball commentators are crowing again about how strong the ACC is from top to bottom, with six teams ranked in the top 15. But we’ve seen and heard all this before, and I don’t buy it.
The ACC looks like a two-team race to me, with both Virginia and Duke at the top and rest of the league still having to verify its worth, including the Tar Heels. This week has already proven my point, and Saturday’s games might give us more validation.
If, for example, No. 13 Florida State — which barely beat unranked Miami at home Wednesday night — does not give top-ranked Duke a very good game in Tallahassee, volumes will have been spoken on whether the Seminoles are again a talented-but-undisciplined fraud. If fourth-ranked Virginia quiets the Clemson crowd in Death Valley, the Cavaliers will certainly move up a couple of spots.
If the Tar Heels don’t dominate and blow out Louisville, which lost in overtime at Pitt, then Roy Williams’ team will have a challenge catching the ‘Hoos and the Devils. Carolina has looked great in spurts but has yet to play that 40-minute game.
Early season rankings are impressive to a point. Most of them are the result of non-conference wins that could be a sign of strength or could be misleading. N.C. State had moved up to No. 15 in the polls and should have been favored over 12th-ranked Carolina. The Wolfpack was a 1½-point pick but lost a game after trailing most of the way before a raucous PNC Arena crowd, despite forcing 23 Tar Heel turnovers.
No. 9 and once-beaten Virginia Tech barely got by unranked Georgia Tech by three points in Atlanta. If the Hokies are a true contender, they should have waxed the second-division Yellow Jackets. Syracuse handled Clemson at home in a test of unranked teams, which confirmed that both should be unranked.
The only wins this week that validated their rankings was dynamic Duke running away from woeful Wake Forest in Winston-Salem and 14-0 Virginia methodically taking care of business at Boston College. What that tells me is to expect a battle royale from the Duke-Virginia games on January 19 and February 9. UNC may be close, but still no cigar until it proves otherwise.