It's easy to look at Maryland's Penn State victory as just a win over Penn State. Of course, it was. And it's easy to say that Penn State is terrible. Of course, it looks like they are. But did you know what the line on this game was? 1.5. KenPom had Penn St. winning by a couple. And Maryland won by 23 in a performance that was dominant for all but five minutes.
That's pretty nice in its own right. But compared to the rest of the ACC? It's gold.
Remember when the ACC used to dominate the ACC-Big Ten Challenge? Yeah, well, they lost again this year. And it's looking more and more like the ACC might be more down than ever before.
Duke is Duke, still undefeated and looking like they'll stay that way for quite some time, seeing how they don't play Ohio State anytime soon.
Everyone else? Yikes.
Virginia Tech was the preseason ACC #2 and supposedly was ready to make the leap to a tournament team. The hype is looking misplaced so far. Kansas State is a good team and it's tough to play there on the road, but the Hokies got blown out by more than they should've against the Wildcats. Then they lost to UNLV - a good UNLV team, to be sure, but that's a game that the ACC #2 should be winning or, at the very least, losing by fewer than 12. And then they lost to a Purdue team in Blacksburg that just lost to Richmond by 9.
North Carolina already looked kind of shaky with losses to Minnesota and Vanderbilt. Then they went to Illinois and lost there, too. (Minnesota, by the way, promptly came back home and lost to UVA, of all teams.) Now, those are three pretty good teams, Minnesota's crazy-ass loss notwithstanding. I'm not yet of the "UNC NIT repeat" school of thought, because as long as there's that much talent I'm pretty confident they'll figure it out eventually. But they're clearly not the "old UNC" that everyone thought they were at the start of the year. They've got potential, but they aren't going to challenge Duke for the ACC crown.
The preseason #4 was N.C. State. I'm assuming you've heard about their "performance" against Wisconsin: they lost by 39. Yeah, 39. Wisconsin only mustered 50 points against Manhattan; they scored 87 against N.C. State in Raleigh. The Wolfpack have some talented youngsters, but they looked downright terrible.
Florida State was the preseason #5, and they've lost their only two games of consequence. It's been against solid competition - Florida and Ohio State - but they have no wins of record and two losses in which they totaled 96 points...combined. That's 48 points/game. They're more than likely the best defensive team and the country and will be a bear to play, but there is less than nothing going on offensively in Tallahassee.
Clemson has a nice win over Seton Hall, but have lost to Michigan and Old Dominion. Miami got blown out at Rutgers. Georgia Tech got blown out at Northwestern. And Wake Forest, as you've probably heard, has lost to Stetson, VCU, and Winthrop.
UVA, of all teams, has been solid. And a lot of other teams have had their moments. But there has been a lot more disappointment in the conference than their has been impressiveness. Florida State is a scary team, but no one has any idea what to expect out of UNC, Virginia Tech, or, most of all, N.C. State in the conference.
Maryland, of course, was #6 in the preseason poll. They looked good in their only two losses and have taken care of business in all of their other games. And though it's easy to look at the 23-point win over Penn State as nothing much, it's worth noting that the line was just 1.5 and that KenPom had Penn State by a couple. Maryland looked terrible and still won easily, and there's something to be said for that.
If the Terrapins play to their own potential and end up at #2 or #3 in the conference - which would take, presumably, ten conference wins or so - and can beat one of Temple or Villanova, they'll be a near-lock to make the NCAA tournament. That looks more and more likely by the day.
Or, of course, it could be a bad thing, because a weaker ACC means fewer bids which means that Maryland's in-conference performance will have to be better than normal to secure a bid. But against these teams, it's looking like that might not be the most difficult task.