After today’s action, all ACC teams have played 5 or 6 league games. It seems to me that some symmetry is starting to emerge. You can categorize these teams in the following groups of three:
Tier I (Excellent) – Duke, UNC, Wake Forest. All of these teams are legitimate Final Four contenders. Once the polls come out, Duke will ascend to #1 nationally, meaning that 3 Tobacco Road programs will have held down the top spot this season. So much for the “but there’s no room at the top with UNC and Duke down the road!” theory. If the small private school in Winston-Salem can do it, there’s no excuse for the large state university in Raleigh to accept second-class status.
Tier II (Good) – Virginia Tech, Clemson, Miami. All of these teams should make the NCAA tourney, and I could see each of them reaching the Sweet Sixteen. As I predicted before ACC play started, Virginia Tech has indeed shaken off its typical December struggles, landing impressive road wins against Miami and then #1 Wake Forest. It’s not a talented enough group to compete for the league title, but as usual, Basketball Grobe is getting the most out of what he’s got. Miami’s loss to the Hokies assures they will come into Raleigh hungry on Tuesday night – lucky us.
Tier III (Mediocre) – Florida State, Maryland, Boston College. Meet your NIT and CBI participants. These teams are all fundamentally flawed and, especially in BC’s case, very inconsistent. These teams are very glad for the heavily populated league cellar. This tier also contains two fairly hot seats (those belonging to Leonard Hamilton and Gary Williams). It’s not comforting that NC State has suffered two double digit losses to Tier III opponents.
Tier IV (Shitty) NC State, Virginia, Georgia Tech. The largest dropoff in quality is between Tiers III and IV. These teams have beaten nobody but each other. No team has a realistic path to any post-season whatsoever. Epic meltdowns and uninspired play are hallmarks of Tier IV. Paul Hewitt saved his job (barring a league first 0-16 season) by signing Derrick Favors, and Sidney Lowe works for Lee Fowler. Dave Leitao has no such life raft available.