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Maryland Basketball Pre-Conference Play Round Table: The State of the ACC

ACC basketball is on the way! To celebrate, Brendan from From Old Virginia is hosting our first basketball roundtable of the season. By this point, I hope you know the drill. He asks, I answer.

1. The ACC failed to win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the first time ever. Let's panic a bit: Why did this happen?

I didn't think the ACC would lose to the Big Ten, but I did call a weak ACC back in spring. At the time, it was a chance for Maryland to win the conference (that has since evaporated). Unfortunately, the conference stayed weak.

The Big Ten, meanwhile, has been called a contender for the best conference for months. As it turns out, they are. The ACC got some unlucky outcomes - Duke against Wisconsin, Clemson losing to Illinois - but that doesn't mean we're still a superior conference. Outside of a stronger-than-usual Duke, the ACC is in a down year. Meanwhile, the Big East - boring as ever - have a few legitimate title contenders.

That's okay, though - Tobacco Road is heavily outrecruiting every other conference. In two years, the ACC will be the unquestioned king of CBB.

2. The obvious question that needs to be asked: Who is your Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Freshman of the Year?

I'm assuming it's the ACC version of all these awards - otherwise, two of these would be John Wall. I'm also assuming they're thus far, not predictions.

The MVP, at this point, is pretty clearly Jon Scheyer. He's been amazing this year - good shooting percentage and ridiculous A/T ratio = MVP. I really don't expect him to keep it up, but he's taken a large leap this year. If it's a prediction, watch out for a streaking Greivis Vasquez or Al-Farouq Aminu.

Coach is more difficult. My principles force me to exclude K and Roy - they have the most to work with - and I can't give it to Gary at this point. No one is quite deserving of it yet, but I'll say this: I've been very impressed by Leonard Hamilton's squad. No predictions here, but if FSU stays in the ACC race, he'd be a candidate.

Freshman's kind of obvious, sadly: Derrick Favors. It's not even close. Jordan Williams should be in the top 5, though.

3. The other obvious question: What are your expectations for your own team?

Expectations are a funny thing in College Park - Maryland never sticks to them. This team has the potential to get 10 wins in the ACC, provided Jordan Williams develops properly and Greivis Vasquez plays at 100% all the time. They also have the potential to win 6 games, as long as Vasquez is inconsistent and they get murdered on the boards.

For now, I'm calling somewhere in-between, probably 8-8ish, on the bubble in March, and an NIT appearance. More than that, and it's a pleasant surprise at this point. Don't quote me, though - it could be anywhere.

4. The other other obvious question: Which teams are going dancing?

Duke and UNC, for starters. FSU, Georgia Tech, and Clemson are also pretty safe at this point. I'm also expecting Wake Forest and Miami to get bids. VT and Maryland will be on the bubble, but at this point they're on the outside looking in (for VT, simply because they've played no one of note yet).

5. The decade in basketball isn't quite over yet, at least not the way I reckon it. But it's still not too early for reminiscing. What was your team's Game of the Decade? And what one game would you like to have a do-over for?

Game of the Decade is pretty subjective - if we're talking purely enjoyment factor, I"m not sure how anyone can say it's not the National Championship game against Indiana in 2002. That feeling cannot be replicated. If we're talking the actually best game, there's more options. To me, it's between the UCONN game leading up to the national championship and the John Gilchrist game against Duke. Heck, even the UNC upset last year could qualify in terms of how good the game was - that comeback was amazing. I'd lean Gilchrist, for no real reason - just a feeling. Vasquez's comeback against the Heels is a darkhorse.

The next one's easy: have you heard that Duke came back from 10 down in :54? I'd like to have another shot at that one.

6. Is your team, and the ACC in general, better or worse off because of the expansion from the Big East? Basketball perspective only, never mind football's championship game or any of that division stuff. Old-guard teams, what do you think of the difference between pre- and post-expansion ACC? Ex-Big-Easters, the Big East is still a pretty beefy hoops conference and (almost) rivals the ACC for hoops supremacy; is your basketball team better off here or are you having some buyers' remorse?

I don't like it at all, but I'm not as opposed to it as I assume most Tobacco Road-ians are. It changed ACC basketball as we know it and, yes, diluted the product - none of the teams are traditional basketball schools, and none have been major contenders except BC for one season. 

Then again, neither has UVA or N.C. State or, heck, even Maryland. I love tradition as much as the next guy, but at some point conferences need to expand to remain competitive. It hasn't ruined basketball for me in the ACC, per se. It does suck, but you get used to it. If you asked me this question two years ago, I'd have a much different answer. I've adjusted.

7. The SEC divides its conference into the same divisions in basketball as it does in football. Should the ACC do the same?

I really don't see the point to it. It's just more red tape in terms of organization, and it unfairly seeds the tournament, if I recall correctly. Perhaps if someone explained the pros to it I would be more receptive.

Oh, and I really don't like how the divisions limit who teams play. I'd rather have a more natural rotation, particularly because I feel no real connection with my Atlantic peers.