THE SANTA CLARA
February 2, 2017
Now that we are well into the college basketball season, rankings are beginning to settle out as the top teams separate themselves from the pack. Just as teams do, certain conferences start to prove themselves and the Atlantic Coast Conference has emerged as the best conference in college basketball.
The ACC’s advantage over the Big 12 or Big East is purely due to the amount of quality teams in the conference. The ACC had six top-25 teams in the AP Poll released Monday, two more than any other conference.
The achilles heel of the ACC is that it lacks a truly elite team. The argument could be made that the ACC does not possess a true national title contender, even if the conference is full of tournament-quality teams. The top team in the conference in Louisville, who ranks sixth in the nation.
The top four are Gonzaga, Baylor, Kansas and Villanova, who have each proven themselves through consistency. Fifth ranked Arizona lacks a dominant offensive player that can create a shot for himself, which always becomes critical come tournament time. Despite beating then No. 3 UCLA in Westwood, Arizona does not have another outstanding win. Look for their matchup at No. 13 Oregon on Saturday to show what kind of a team they really are.
The lack of a top five team is concerning, but the ACC still has viable title contenders. Louisville has proven that they can beat the top competition in the country. They have an incredibly strong win vs. No. 8 Kentucky, who looks poised for a spot in the Final Four come tournament time. Still, Kentucky couldn’t handle the Cardinals backcourt of Quentin Snider and Donovan Mitchell—one of the best in the nation on both ends of the floor.
Other ACC contenders include No. 12 North Carolina and No. 15 Florida State. UNC has yet to put everything together, but they have the talent and experience to make a deep tournament run. They will prove themselves worthy as they get further into ACC play.
FSU has had an excellent season and has proved that they can play with anyone. They have the most wins against the BPI top-25 with a record of 5-1. Guard Dwayne Bacon can create shots as well as anyone in the nation, Xavier Rathan-Mayes is incredibly dynamic and 7’1” 300 pound fifth-year senior Michael Ojo is a man among boys.
And like it or not, No. 21 Duke still has to be considered a title contender as well. Although they have not yet put it all together, the Blue Devils have one of the most talented rosters in the country and have plenty of time to get their defense whipped into shape. The star power of Jayson Tatum, Grayson Allen, Harry Giles and Luke Kennard cannot be denied. Despite Coach K’s illness, his basketball philosophy still has the ability to right this ship and acting head man Jeff Capel is no slouch either.
Once March Madness rolls around, all the “experts” will look like fools when the favorites stumble to the wayside of a Cinderella story. But the sheer number of quality teams in the ACC makes them the most likely conference to host the National Champions.
Bo Kendall is a sophomore communication major.