Well I trust that all our readers in the mid-Atlantic region have stocked up on their essential provisions for the blizzard of 2016. For the first time in the nearly 30 years that I’ve lived in VA, my company closed all operations the day before the first flake even hit the pavement. So I have music channels playing on the TV while reviewing the ACC season and looking for things worth noting. (I’m pretty sure that the music I’m listening to will never be embedded into a game thread by BJD.)
So follow along, note the things that stand out to you after the first three weeks of the ACC season, and add your thoughts to mine in the comments.
There are quite a few interesting things to note about Clemson’s season to date. Enough so, that I’ve included a short section below our standard trend graphs. So review the numbers and we’ll get to the Tiggers in a few moments.
I’ve included a few new columns from ESPN’s conference summary to our table this week. I found it interesting that according to ESPN’s calcs, Duke is 3-3 against the weakest conference schedule in the ACC (to date). Duke’s conference strength will pick up with two games against UNC and L’ville to go along with games at Miami and UVa at home. Has anyone seen a countdown clock showing when Amile Jefferson is expected back?
It’s interesting to see that every team except BC has at least one Top-50 win this season. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that before. This factoid dovetails nicely with a comment I made last week that there seems to be more upsets in the ACC season than we’ve seen in the recent past. I hope this trend continues not only this year, but in the future as well. A conference that is stronger from top to bottom would certainly produce more interesting games even when we don’t have an emotional interest in the outcome.
UVa slips a little after a loss @FSU and a home win over Clemson.
Duke’s ranking shows the effect of their current three-game losing streak.
Pitt suffered a big drop after a home loss to State.
Notre Dame has climbed into our “IN” category by winning 4 of 5, though the win at Duke is the only one worth talking about. I think that ND’s rise shows that winning is always good, even if the wins are nothing to crow about.
FSU has managed to climb the rankings and straddle our two graphs with the #40 ranking. But their ACC record of 2-4 leaves plenty of room to doubt whether or not they can play their way into the NCAAT. A rise in rankings with a 2-4 record might seem a little strange until you go back to the RPI table and see that FSU has played the 5th toughest conference schedule in the nation so far. Their conference losses have come on the road against Clemson, Miami, and L’ville along with a home loss to UNC. So even though the losses aren’t horrible, losing is never good…even with a rise in the RPI ranking. The best I can do with FSU today is to take a wait-and-see approach to see how many games like the road win at Florida they have in them.
Syracuse has started rising up the rankings by going from 0-4 to 3-4. Though to be honest, the win at Duke is the only one worth talking about. But repeat after me….winning is always good.
WF and GT only have one conference win so far, so it’s hard to get excited about their “bubble” status.
CLEMSON AND VT
Without a doubt, Clemson and VT are the two biggest surprises that I’ve seen in the ACC so far. My impressions of Buzz and VT are based on a sliding scale of results vs expectations. But Clemson’s conference season has been impressive and was certainly not expected based on their weak OOC schedule and their performance against that schedule. To be specific, losses to #207 Minnesota and a blow-out home loss to #147 UMass wouldn’t lead anyone to expect Clemson to start the ACC season 5-2 against what ranks today as the toughest conference schedule in the nation.
When I look at home wins against L’ville, Duke, and Miami and then look at their remaining schedule, it doesn’t take much optimism to see the possibility of 12 ACC wins for Clemson. To put Clemson’s accomplishments into perspective, let’s draw comparisons to some previous bubble teams at NC State. In ’02 and ’03, State had a grand total of three wins against NCAAT teams in both seasons combined (and two of those wins came in the ACCT). So Clemson has already matched that aggregate accomplishment level with over half the conference schedule left to play.
Now for the bad news. Clemson’s super-weak OOC schedule draws to mind the fate of some past bubble teams (VT and Greenburg, Herb at ASU, and SMU two years ago). But my favorite example illustrating punitive NCAAT selection standards is Penn St in 2009:
- 22-11 overall; 10-8 in conference
- RPI Ranking – #68 (in line with several of Herb’s bubble teams)
- Two Top-25 wins
- Total of six Top-50 wins.
- OOC SOS ranking- #304
Anyone that thinks that the OOC schedule doesn’t matter simply hasn’t been paying attention. Whether any of this applies to Clemson this year will depend on their results over the remaining schedule. A weak OOC schedule doesn’t always hurt (ie, Notre Dame last year), but it never really helps unless you’re aiming for the NIT.
One last observation on Clemson’s schedule…while their conference schedule ranks top in the conference and nation today, that probably won’t last. Clemson’s H/A conference games are against UVa, FSU, BC, and VT. So they have already played the majority of their tough games and three of the hardest left (Pitt, UVa, and ND) are all at home. So on the one hand, Clemson probably won’t get as much help from schedule strength as they’ve gotten with the first three weeks of ACC play. But on the other hand, Clemson has what will probably be their toughest remaining games at home where they’ve already delivered what most people consider three big upsets so far this season.
The bottom line is that Clemson’s fate is clearly in the team’s hand and the administration has made that task harder than it needed to be with their poor decisions when designing the OOC schedule. On a depressing note, the fact that I’m more interested in discussing Clemson than State tells you all you need to know about State’s season so far.
To back up my title of “Big Surprise” for VT and Clemson, who would have ever thought that either team would have a better conference record than UVa and Duke three weeks into the conference schedule?