This article was written up by contributing writer Chris Bengel. Follow Chris on Twitter @DurtyPuckHead for lots of good Terrapin-related information.
1. Duke – As much as it pains us to say it around here, the Blue Devils have looked like the best team in the country so far this season. After losing Austin Rivers and Miles Plumlee from last season’s underachieving team, Duke has received top notch play from seniors Mason Plumlee (19.2 ppg & 11.3 rpg) and Seth Curry (16.1 ppg). Plumlee is playing out of his mind and is a strong National Player of the Year candidate along with Indiana forward Cody Zeller. Duke has beaten three top-five teams this season including Louisville (now #6), Ohio State (#7), and Kentucky (unranked).
2. NC State – Despite early losses to Oklahoma State and Michigan, the ACC preseason favorites still have arguably the most talent of any roster in the conference. The Wolfpack have four players that average double figures and lead the nation in field goal percentage (51.7%). C.J. Leslie isn’t playing his best basketball; he’s only averaging 12.9 ppg but continues to get rebounds (7.7 rpg). Once it’s all said and done, the Wolfpack will be one of the top teams in the ACC.
3. Maryland – You could make a case for the Terrapins at the #2 spot. However, Maryland hasn’t faced much competition aside from a season opening loss to Kentucky in the Barclays Center Classic. The Terrapins have have solid wins against Northwestern and George Mason but have also faced some of the worst that Division I basketball has to offer. Alex Len and Dez Wells have impressed in the early part of the season and freshmen like Charles Mitchell and Seth Allen have shown flashes of incredible talent But conference play will tell us just how good the Terrapins are.
4. North Carolina – It’s not very often that the Tar Heels that ranked in the 20s this early in the season. Their two losses include Indiana and Butler. Coincidentally, Butler upended the previously #1 ranked Hoosiers this past Saturday. North Carolina’s main issue seems to be finding scoring from someone other than James Michael McAdoo. McAdoo is one of the supreme talents in the country but he doesn’t have the superstar teammates that he had a season ago. Guys like Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston are averaging double figures but are certainly no Harrison Barnes or John Henson. After losing Barnes, Henson, Kendall Marshall, and Tyler Zeller, you can expect a team to have some type of letdown. But with bigtime schools like North Carolina and Duke, it’s always been about replenishment. The Tar Heels will finish in the top four in the ACC but likely won’t be in the talks for contending for a national title.
5. Miami – The Hurricanes are off to a strong start aside from a bad loss to Florida Gulf Coast. That is the main reason that I have North Carolina ahead of Miami. The Hurricanes have a huge resume-building win over #13 Michigan State. Shane Larkin and Durand Scott are both averaging 15.3 ppg and are paired along with big man Reggie Johnson (9.7 rpg & 2.2 bpg) to give the Hurricanes a very talented starting five. Miami could be a sleeper team in a weaker ACC than we’ve seen in recent years.
6. Virginia Tech – The Hokies have to be the surprise team in the conference. With Seth Greenberg fired and several players transferring, Virginia Tech rallied and raced to a 7-0 start out of the gate. However, they have lost two of their last four games (West Virginia & a bad loss to Georgia Southern). Senior guard Erick Green is playing out of his mind right now, averaging 24.8 ppg which is good for second in the country only behind Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum. If Green continues his impressive play, the Hokies could in the upper portion of the ACC standings.
7. Virginia – The Cavaliers didn’t start off the year playing their best basketball. Virginia lost their season opener against George Mason and dropped a Preaseason NIT contest against Delaware. Despite a 1-2 start, the Wahoos have won seven in a row including wins against Wisconsin and Tennessee. Junior forward Akil Mitchell may not be Virginia’s leading scorer but he is arguably their top producer. Mitchell is averaging 13.4 ppg and a team leading 9.2 rpg.
8. Florida State – Having the Seminoles this high could come as sort of a surprise. Yes, they have four losses but two of those defeats came at the hands of Florida and Minnesota, two teams in the Top 25. Florida State has a few solid wins including against St. Joseph’s and BYU. They have lost a lot from last year’s team including big man Bernard James. However, the Seminoles still have senior guard Michael Snaer (team leading 14.2 ppg) who brings solid experience to the starting lineup which will come in handy during conference play.
9. Georgia Tech – The Yellow Jackets are off to a strong 7-2 start with the only blemishes being losses against California and nationally-ranked Illinois. Freshman guard/forward Marcus Georges-Hunt leads Georgia Tech averaging 11.4 ppg and 4.7 rpg. Georges-Hunt has scored in double figures in all but two games thus far. The Yellow Jackets will most likely finish towards the bottom of the ACC.
10. Clemson – The Tigers have had a tough schedule to start off the season. They have losses to ranked team like Gonzaga and Arizona. Clemson has three players that average in double figures but are expected to finish in the lower end of the spectrum.
11. Boston College – Things are bad in Boston these days. The Eagles have already lost to a lowly Bryant squad and were also defeated by the College of Charleston. On top of all that, New Hampshire gave Boston College all they could handle on Sunday afternoon in a 61-59 Eagles win. They did beat Penn State along with Auburn. Sophomore forward Ryan Anderson leads the way for the Eagles as the California native is averaging a double-double (15.2 ppg & 10.0 rpg).
12. Wake Forest – It’s a far cry from the Demon Deacon teams earlier in the decade. Wake Forest has some bad early losses including a 26-point loss against Iona and their most recent, a 71-67 defeat at the hands of Seton Hall. The Demon Deacons have no signature wins and things will get even tougher in a few weeks when ACC play begins. C.J. Harris and Travis McKie lead the way and each are averaging a shade over 13 ppg. Wake Forest will most likely be in the cellar of the conference unless Boston College manages to play worse down the stretch.