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ACC Roundtable: Basketball Tipoff Edition

November 19, 2010


The ACC Roundtable (shown actual size)

The month of November is a crazy time in the college sports world. Football is coming down the wire but basketball season is getting started making for some really busy days for those of us in the blogging community and the sports media world as a whole.

Certainly football still dominates the headlines in other parts of the country during November, but here in the ACC we run to embrace basketball with open arms as soon as they start rolling the ball carts out onto the hardwoods for those first practices. And ACC football is only part of the reason we come running.

As such, this isthe first ACC Roundtable of the 2010-2011 basketball season, and I feel honored to host it. Fittingly, an N.C. State blog kicks off the year given State’s Everett Case essentially birthed the league as we know it in Reynolds Coliseum way back when. Without Case bringing big time basketball to Raleigh—the showmanship, the spotlight introductions, the tradition of cutting down nets after tournament wins, The Dixie Classic and the ACC Tournament itself—there would’ve been no arms race to force UNC, Duke and Wake to catch up to State and produce the best basketball hotbed in the country in the process.

What I’m saying is, the next time you’re cursing your TV set for all the endless hype ESPN showers on Duke and Carolina, you can blame Everett Case and N.C. State.

Alright, enough history and living in the past (we miss you badly, 1980s). Here are the questions I tossed out to our roundtable participants about teams in this millennium and some select responses. I HIGHLY (like, you better damn do it) recommend you visit all the linked blogs for their complete compliment of answers.

And for those of you wondering where my answers are, I’m going to try something novel: I’ll try to feature two answers for each question—one I agree with the most and one I tend to disagree with. I’m letting my compatriots do the talking for me. (I’m also lazy.) (And I had to cook some barbecue for my work’s pot luck food thingy and was up ’til…NEVERMIND ON WITH THE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:)

Question One: Every football season, we bloggers and pundits preach the importance of the league to perform well out of conference to improve the league’s image. Basketball certainly has a much better reputation historically, but do you think the ACC has some work to do before league play starts to get back to being viewed as the NCAA’s standard-bearer for the sport? Could a dominant or lackluster performance in November and December significantly help or hurt the ACC’s reputation or are most folks’ opinions about ACC basketball pretty set?

I agree most with

I think you could make an argument (and probably win it) that the ACC isn’t even a top 3 conference this year. The Big East will always be up there simply due to the huge number of teams there that have top-flight potential combined with the few consistently good teams in that conference (Pitt, Nova, Syracuse). The Big 10 is becoming consistently stronger in basketball, with Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, and Wisconsin all top 15 candidates. The Big 12, too, is absolutely loaded: Kansas State is a top 5 team, Baylor is probably a top 10 team, Kansas is probably a top 10 team, and Texas and Missouri are both top 20 teams.

The ACC has Duke…and not a lot more. UNC should be good, sure, and Virginia Tech has that potential, but you could argue that even the SEC could challenge the ACC in basketball this year (Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt). There are a lot of quality teams in the ACC this year, as there are every year, and that creates a lot of parity. There aren’t, however, a lot of elite teams past Duke and maybe UNC, and that’s what sells on a national scale.

To the second part, a strong showing will certainly help and a poor one will certainly hurt. If UNC beats Illinois and Texas, Maryland beats Temple, Miami beats West Virginia, Virginia Tech beats Purdue, N.C. State beats Arizona, and Florida State beats Florida, well, you have six legitimate teams plus Duke (and maybe Clemson, who knows?). I don’t think anyone is so stubborn that they’ll see the ACC as a weak conference after an OOC showing like that, nor anyone that would think that the ACC is still awesome after Clemson loses to Delaware St. and Virginia Tech is upset by St. Bonaventure.

I disagree with From Old Virginia:

“Back”? I wasn’t aware anything had changed. It’s going to take some pretty colossal years of failure for the ACC to relinquish its status as the dean of college hoops. At least three of our freshmen specifically cited the ACC as one of their reasons for coming to UVA. Everyone wants that ACC offer. The ACC is to college basketball as the Yankees are to baseball: they might underperform for a year or two, but they’re still the standard of excellence.

Question Two: We’ve all seen our teams at least once now. Have you seen anything in the limited action thus far that is cause for concern or cause for greater optimism than where your opinion stood just a couple of weeks ago? (non team-specific blogs can answer the question about any one team in particular or the league as a whole.) **Ed. note: These questions were sent out prior to the epic failures from some of the league’s members this week.

This isn’t really an agree/disagree kind of question, so I’ll let Brandon of sum it up from a league-wide perspective:

Well, as I write this after the Virginia Tech-Kansas State game – I’m a tad worried as they were supposed to be the second best team…and they looked far from it. Georgia Tech falling to Kennesaw State and Wake to Stetson obviously throw up the red flag, but we didn’t expect much from them anyway. Outside of that, everybody’s winning so I won’t hit the panic button yet, but there’s a good chance the ACC struggles a bit in ‘10-11.

Some quick hits from other blogs:

FOVI will say that the play from the point guards, Jontel Evans and Billy Baron, has been a pleasant surprise, and Mike Scott has shown the hoped-for willingness to take charge. Baron’s shooting has provided a real spark. But the shooting looked good early last year, too, and dove off a cliff come January. (Wake Forest blog, for those unaware): We have no ball handlers. We don’t box out on defense. We’re extremely young. We make a ton of mistakes. So, no, that’s pretty much what I thought was going to happen-I just didn’t think we’d lose to Stetson. My opinion is where it was prior to the start of the season, which is that Virginia Tech is a good team, but not nearly at the level it was pegged at to start the season. The Hokies are very thin underneath and will be able to be pushed around by bigger teams. Tech needs to play smarter against bigger and better teams and not exacerbate their problems by getting into foul trouble or turning the ball over. I’m all for a new offensive philosophy and I think this club will benefit from Donahue’s faster-paced offense, but I’m not really interested in living and dying by the 3, especially with the lack of depth on this year’s roster. If one or two players go cold from 3, it will be a long night for BC.

Question Three: Give me your preseason votes for: POY, COY, ROY. Explain.

I agree the most with Gobbler Country:

POY: Kyle Singler. If he has an average year and Duke wins the ACC, he’ll run away with the award.
COY: Gary Williams. I think Maryland overachieves this year.
ROY: Harrison Barnes. Last year on one of our podcasts I asked Joe Ovies, “Who the **** is Harrison Barnes?!” I have a feeling I’m about to find out.
I disagree with Bird from, and it’s solely on the basis of the opening line to his answer. Humor carries Bird through the rest of his explanation to exit the answer unscathed, however:
I don’t really follow ACC hoops. I only really follow GT hoops. So my ACC POTY will be that VT guy that’s supposedly good. The Coach of the Year will be Roy Williams because any improvement would be better than the circus he fielded last season. My Rookie of the Year will be one of UNC’s superstar recruits since I’m assuming UNC will be starting all freshmen this season. They kicked everyone off their team from the 2009-2010 season, right?
“…don’t really follow ACC hoops?!?” Say it ain’t so, brother! The ghost of not-yet-dead Bobby Cremins weeps ghostly tears of sadness!
Question Four: Which stands the greater probability of reoccurring this season: Duke winning the national title or Carolina returning to the NIT?

Brandon from and I see eye-to-eye on this one:
The latter – it’s HARD to repeat, Florida did it a couple years ago, but with basically their entire core back. To find another team that repeated as champs, you have to go back to Duke in the early 90s, and basketball has changed a lot since then. Odds on, neither of these happen, but a team like UNC that had so many struggles last year could much more easily slip back before Duke makes another run all the way to a title.
I disagreed with Testudo Times‘s take:
Duke winning the title and it’s not even close. There’s too much talent for UNC to fail again. If Tyler Zeller is healthy and Jon Henson can add a few dozen pounds, they’ll have the best post play in the ACC. Harrison Barnes is legit and Kendall Marshall will provide the biggest thing that was missing from last year’s team: a steady point guard. I don’t think at all that Duke will win the national title, but I know that Carolina won’t be in the NIT.
I think we learned last year that—just like the banking industry—Carolina is not so big it can’t fail. And I’m not that sold on UNC’s thin-but-talented frontcourt nor Kendall Marshall being that light-speed point guard Roy needs in order to succeed.
Question Five: I can’t speak to the attendance figures for most of the other schools in the league, but State’s opening matchup against Tennessee Tech was nowhere near a sellout. There were quite a few empty seats in the Dean Dome for the game against Lipscomb, as well. As television and internet technology continue to advance, consumers are starting to get better entertainment value for the dollar staying home rather than paying for tickets to attend the games themselves. In the coming years, how will ADs – struggling to balance very tight budgets – continue to move tickets and put butts in the seats without slashing ticket prices drastically?

Folks were pretty much all in agreement on this one: increase the appeal of the games themselves, either by winning or scheduling up. Blogger So Dear says it well:

ADs will put butts in the seats by making the ticket a commodity. And a commodity is a team that wins games. You may have to come up with 4 for $40 deals, or group discounts, or promotions or whatever for some of those early season games, but if you have a winning team-the people will want to come.

Unfortunately, if it is the other way around, it doesn’t matter if your ticket is $5; a person in Winston-Salem is not going to want to watch Wake Forest get waxed by Stetson or beat Hampton by 7.

As does BC Interruption:

Damn. This question reads like a grad school thesis, and probably warrants its own 3-part blog post on the topic.

Let me give you the Cliff notes. The reason N.C. State and North Carolina didn’t sell out their opening matchups against Tennessee Tech and Lipscomb is because … they were playing Tennessee Tech and Lipscomb. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about either program – not where they are located (other than Tennessee Tech is probably located somewhere in Tennessee, as a guess), what conference they play in, what their mascots are or their NCAA Tournament history. With due respect to grads of Tennessee Tech and Lipscomb, natch.

The best early season matchups usually occur in these exempt, “made for ESPN” preseason tournaments, played not on campus, but rather at neutral sites in exotic, tropical locations. This decreases the number of marquee matchups played on campus in the early months of the season.

Basically, there are too many early season home games against nobody opponents. In order to fix this, schools have to bring in big name, non-conference opponents to campus. Otherwise, people are going to vote with their wallets and stay home as your team beats up on the Tennessee Techs and Lipscombs and St. Francis NYs andStetsons (whoops) of the college basketball world.

Of course, this will never happen as ADs are more interested in padding the W column against creampuffs to add to the win total and improve their program’s tournament resume than actually go out and challenge themselves by bringing a major conference program to campus. The result? Your program beats St. Francis (NY) by 30 points in front of a half-empty home court.

Question Six: Which team will be the big surprise this season, either exceeding expectations greatly or falling well short of them?

I agree most with From Old Virginia here:

Boston College will do a lot better than 10th, and Georgia Tech was voted 9th but they are going to suck a lot more than that. By losing to Kennesaw State(!) – no, check that: by getting blown out by Kennesaw State(!!), they’ve already started.

And apparently you State fans are really getting to Bird from From The Rumble Seat, lol:
I work with a lot of State grads and they force me to watch a few Sidney Lowe games per year. I feel like Sidney could find a way to coach the Dream Team to a losing record. So I’d say NC State will fail to meet expectations. And maybe Clemson or some other random school will do better than expected. Beats the Hell outta me. I watch 1-2 ACC games a year that don’t involve Georgia Tech.
Thanks to all the bloggers who participated. Again, visit their sites to read all their takes on these questions…each one is a great read!
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