The ACC and The Top Heavy Crisis


Paolo Banchero and Duke are back atop the ACC. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The Atlantic Coast Conference once housed Michael Jordan and James Worthy on the same team, the legendary run of Christian Laetnner and Duke since coach Mike Krzyzewski’s arrival and becoming a factory of producing NBA players. This year, there is a top-heavy crisis that puts the ACC at one of its weakest points we’ve seen in a very long time.

Who wants part four of my college basketball guide? It’s the ACC’s turn this week and we’re diving feet first into the shallow end of the pool.

Duke and Rally for Coach K

The Blue Devils have stacked the deck for themselves with strong freshmen in AJ Griffin, Trevor Keels and potential top-three pick Paolo Banchero to a team that already returns sophomore center Mark Williams and junior forward Wendell Moore. Their starting five is perhaps on their way to the NBA in some capacity, especially Williams and Banchero given how much impact they have on the game.

Coach  Krzyzewski has constructed a top 10 offensive unit in the nation, ranking ninth in overall offensive rating which is aided by the super freshman Banchero being a step above everyone else. The Duke system, while it has been subject to minor renovations over the years, still emphasizes balance in play and not letting one player do everything. But when you have a hot hand, you feed the beast and the top three scores for the Blue Devils are all capable of taking over games when necessary. 

Banchero can simply overwhelm teams with his star power,  Griffin has the capability of being a human microwave, and Wendell Moore’s all around game can lift Duke in a multitude of ways. A Krzyzewski-coached team is never to be counted out, especially in his final year of coaching at Duke.

The incredibly weak ACC is going to hurt Duke’s chances of maintaining a high seed come tournament time due to losses to wildly inferior teams such as Miami, Florida State and a Virginia team that doesn’t even closely resemble the 2019 national championship team. Something also feels missing from this Duke team, and it’s hard to put your finger on what it might be, but they don’t feel like a true force as they have in past seasons.

Duke will be a force no doubt, but the concept of “Coach K’s final season” could seep into the minds of the team and perhaps shrink them in the moment.

Everyone else

As stated in the introduction, the ACC is the equivalent of jumping into the shallow end of a pool feet first, only the second you hit the bottom of the pool the water is ankle deep. Every team that isn’t named Duke is a wild card for an NCAA tournament bid and no clear second team is in the field for a league that will most likely send two teams to the tournament.

For a while, The U was seen as the second best team who could make a run in the ACC but have since fallen to the fourth spot in the conference and are on a two game skid at the time this is being written. Their up and down play on both ends can be the demise of the team this season. It also doesn’t help the Hurricanes in the long run that two of their top three scorers, Kameron McGusty and Charlie Moore, are seniors and will not be there next season.

Notre Dame, though in second place at the moment, had a really rough out-of-conference turnout with egregious losses to St. Mary’s, Illinois, Texas A&M, Indiana and getting the doors blown off by an inferior ACC school in Boston College. They are everything but guaranteed an automatic bid into the tournament.

Despite Oklahoma transfer Alondes Williams exploding into a star, Wake Forest might be another team to watch, but nobody is safe in the ACC. Louisville just turned over their program following the dismissal of head coach Chris Mack. Clemson, UNC and Virginia are all simply undermanned and don’t have the firepower to make a serious run in conference tournament play.

The second bid ACC team will most likely come from whoever makes the league tournament championship game. Duke is the one eyed man crowned king in the land of the blind, but one of these teams will stumble their way into this championship game. You have to remember, this is March Madness — anything can happen.