It's early in the college basketball season. Very early in the college basketball season. But it's hard not to come away encouraged after the first week of serious play. We all know how the Terps fared this past weekend: two close losses to the #4 and #16 teams in the country. We've wrote extensively about those games, and I think our optimism is obvious.
But it wasn't anything the Terps did this weekend that has me especially enthused this Monday morning. It's what the rest of the ACC didn't do; namely, beat a decent team. Let's take a quick look:
(Disclaimer: I'm only discussing the five teams picked to finish ahead of the Terps because the rest of the ACC isn't worth talking about.)
Duke: Duke's gotten a ton of hype since last April. Unfortunately, it seems to be deserved. They're 3-0 with wins over two mid majors, and Ivy league favorite, Princeton. It's not the quality of their wins that I'm impressed with, but the margin by which they're destroying teams. Their average margin of victory over the last three games is 44 points. Kyrie Irving looks to be as good as advertised, and Kyle Singler looks better than he did last season. Unlike their Tobacco Road counterpart, Duke is for real.
North Carolina: Oh, Carolina...how you've managed to fool the media two years in a row is beyond me. Last season, when Carolina was picked to tie Duke for the ACC crown, many of us thought that they were severely overrated. Of course, we were right. The Tarheels went on to lose 17 games and miss the NCAA Tournament. This year, with Harrison Barnes and a couple other new pieces, the Tarheels were picked to finish third in the conference and we're inexplicably ranked #8 in the country. Well guess what, national media? You got hosed again! The Tarheels dropped two games this weekend to unranked opponents. Then, ESPN dubbed the games "upsets." It's almost like their setting up North Carolina to fail.
Just for comparison's sake: The Terps lost two games by a combined 13 points to the #4 and #16 teams in the country. Carolina lost two games by a combined 12 points to two teams who didn't sniff the Top 25. Which Williams would you rather be right now?
North Carolina State: Didn't have a bad weekend but certainly didn't make a huge statement either. They beat two bad teams in East Carolina and George Mason, and then got trounced in the second half by #21 Georgetown. (Side note: I had a very difficult time figuring out who to root for in this game.) The point being, Maryland looked as good, if not better than NC State this weekend. Take into account that Gary Williams' teams usually get better as the season goes on, and Sidney Lowe's don't, I'm feeling pretty good about our chances of finishing ahead of NC State.
Virginia Tech: Lost by 16 to third ranked Kansas State, and then trounced UNC Greensboro by 22. They're going to be competitive this year, and may be the Terps' toughest test after Duke. Malcolm Delaney is a stud, and he's got some talent around him in Dorenzo Hudson and Jeff Allen. In a week where much of the ACC saw their stock drop, VT probably remained neutral.
Florida State: They're 4-0 but they haven't played anyone. I mean anyone. They beat UNC Greensboro by about the same score as VT, and their other three wins were 20+ points blowouts against cupcakes. We'll find out a lot about this team next week when they take on #5 Ohio State and #10 Florida within a two day span. Until then, I'm reserving judgement.
So, there ya have it. The first complete week of the college basketball season is in the books. During last week's roundtable, I said the Terps would finish between 3 and 5 in the ACC. Now, I'm saying between 2 and 4.
Duke will finish first. Maryland, FSU, and VT will fill up the 2 through 4 spots. Carolina is overrated. And NC State is good, but not Top 4 good.
Those are my rash conclusions after Week 1. What say you guys?