JOHNSON: Previewing The ACC

Here is a look at the downtrodden ACC as the league heads into into conference play and how the Pack matches up with each of its conference opponents this season.

Here's a quick capsule on each team in the conference and some specifics about how their games against NC State this season. Predictions for each team are at the end of the article.

Pomeroy: 277 Sagarin: 289 RPI: 272
If you've watched Boston College play, the following thought has probably gone through your mind – ‘Steve Donahue does know he's in the ACC now right? It looks like he just recruited the same guys he recruited at Cornell.' Things are not good for Boston College – they are young, inexperienced and don't have a lot of athleticism on the court. As bad as Wake Forest's eight-win season was last year, the Eagles may be worse – they have five wins so far and will be underdogs in every remaining game on the schedule.

Against the Pack (1/19 & 2/1) - If NC State fashions itself as any sort of upper-half ACC team, it needs to take care of business against Boston College. Based on Pomeroy ratings, the Eagles are the second worst team on the entire schedule for the Pack behind Delaware State.

Pomeroy: 106 Sagarin: 133 RPI: 209
Clemson lost a lot of talent from the team that captured the school's first NCAA win in 14 season, but the general consensus was that Brad Brownell would find a way to turn this collection of players into a decent team. That hasn't happened so far this year, as the Clemson offense has tanked and its defense hasn't been able to do enough to make up for the fall. The Tigers eliminated themselves from any NCAA hopes before the turn of the calendar – going 7-6 with losses to the likes of Texas El Paso and Coastal Carolina.

Against the Pack (2/25) - The Pack plays Clemson just once this season, in Littlejohn Coliseum at the end of February. On paper, the Pack matches up pretty well with the Tigers – they aren't a great shooting team and the defense isn't nearly as strong as its been in past seasons. However, it's tough to tell what either team will look like two months ahead of time.

Pomeroy: 10 Sagarin: 9 RPI: 2
The Blue Devil defense has fallen off a bit this season, which appears to have knocked them into that second tier of title contenders below Kentucky, UNC, Syracuse and Ohio State. The Devils are usually one of the best on-the-ball defensive teams in the country, but teams are shooting relatively well against them so far this season. The offense remains as strong as ever though – they are year in and year out one of the best shooting teams in the country. Due to a slightly easier schedule, the Devils have a decent shot at taking the regular season crown over the Heels.

Against the Pack (2/16) - Another team that the Pack doesn't play for a while, the Blue Devils will host the Pack in their only match-up of the season. On top of being one of the toughest environments to play in, this is a terrible match-up for the Pack as the Devils have an array of weapons on the perimeter and shoot over 40 percent from beyond the arc as a team. It would take a spectacular effort for the Pack to upset Duke at Cameron this year.

Pomeroy: 36 Sagarin: 51 RPI: 66
Florida State, perhaps more than any other team, is going to the reason the league only gets in three or four teams this year. The Seminoles were supposed to the clear-cut third place team in the league, returning most of their starters from last year's Sweet Sixteen squad. Instead the ‘Noles have gone 0-2 against the Ivy League and failed to pick up anything close to a signature win. They sit at 8-5 with a bad loss to Princeton on their resume and will need something in the neighborhood of 11 conference wins to have any shot at the NCAA tournament. The offense has gotten worse and even their incredible defense hasn't been enough to make up for the turnovers and terrible shooting.

Against the Pack (2/18) - The Pack will have just one day off between visiting Cameron Indoor and hosting Florida State in February. It's a brutal six-day stretch for the Pack that has them play Duke, Florida State and UNC in succession. The team plays Duke at 9pm on Thursday then plays Florida State at 1pm on Saturday. The match-up is pretty good for the Pack – the Seminoles can't shoot and turn the ball over like crazy – but fatigue against a very physical ‘Noles team could be the biggest concern.

Pomeroy: 123 Sagarin: 124 RPI: 161
Like Florida State, the Yellow Jackets aren't a good shooting team and have a lot of trouble scoring. The problem for Georgia Tech is that its defense isn't nearly as good as Florida State's – no offense and a mediocre defense is pretty much the recipe for going 7-7 to start the season. It hasn't helped that this team has played a pretty tough schedule along the way, but home or away there isn't much excuse for losing to the likes of Tulane and Fordham. It will be interesting to see how first-year coach Brian Gregory builds this team going forward, because right now it's a mess.

Against the Pack (1/11 & 2/9) - Going to Atlanta will be a key game for the Pack this season, as playing on the road on the ACC is tough but it's a win they absolutely have to pick up. It's another good match-up for the Pack in that the Jackets shoot less than 30 percent from behind the arc and struggle to hold onto the ball. Their interior defense could give the Pack some problems, but their offense probably won't be able to keep up enough for it to matter.

Pomeroy: 6 Sagarin: 6 RPI: 13
The Tar Heels were picked as the favorites to win the national title this year and while they haven't quite lived up to those expectations they are still the best team in the ACC from top to bottom. What's scary about the Heels this year is that the outside shot is falling for them – they now have three legitimate shooting threats from behind the arc. They don't force turnovers, but they are spectacular in every other defensive area and they never foul. Never. Somehow they manage to play great interior defense every year while sending the opposition to the line at an extremely low rate.

Against the Pack (1/11 & 2/9) - The Pack has very little chance of winning in Chapel Hill, they would have to catch UNC on an off night and play tremendously well on top of it to win that game. According to Pomeroy, they have something in the neighborhood of a 30 percent chance of winning in Raleigh.

Pomeroy: 50 Sagarin: 54 RPI: 60
We covered this on Tuesday. Here's the link.

Pomeroy: 162 Sagarin: 156 RPI: 96
The Terrapins are a hard to team to figure out at this point in time. They've looked terrible in a lot of games, but have managed to scrape together a 10-3 record in spite of themselves. Then at the turn of the calendar they got guard Pe'Shon Howard and center Alex Len onto the court – making them a bigger, more talented and deeper team. It's impossible to say if this makes them a good team, however, but Pomeroy rates them as comparable to Wake Forest and it's tough to see them being that bad with the recent additions.

Against the Pack (1/8) - Because Maryland is such a mystery right now, this game has to be scary for Pack fans. Another good match-up on paper – Maryland doesn't do a good job of exploiting the Pack's biggest weakness on offense (turnovers) or defense (outside shooting). Add in that the game is being played at the RBC Center and this is a game that the Pack should, and needs to, win.

Pomeroy: 68 Sagarin: 76 RPI: 67
The Hurricanes are similar to the Pack in the sense that they have a very good offense carrying a mediocre defense. They did nothing in the OOC schedule to help their NCAA cause though, dropping all three games to their top-100 opponents and losing in overtime at Mississippi. But all those games were without star center Reggie Johnson, who returned to the line-up in late December. It remains to be seen how good the Hurricanes can be with a complete line-up, and how much of a break the tournament committee would give them for their early-seasons struggles.

Against the Pack (1/22 & 2/29) - Expect plenty of points to be scored in both games. The Pack will be favored at home and the Hurricanes will be favored on the road. Miami lives and dies by the 3-pointer (nearly a third of their points come from 3s), so perimeter defense will be key. This is one of the teams the Pack will be fighting in the middle tier of the ACC, so being able to sweep the Canes would be a huge boost for the Pack in conference.

Pomeroy: 29 Sagarin: 24 RPI: 49
Currently holding the spot as third-best team in the ACC, it will be interesting to see how much of Virginia's 13-1 performance is real and how much is a result of a terrible OOC schedule. The Cavs can play defense but their slow pace (currently 338th out of 345 teams as far as tempo) means that bad teams will be able to hang around. Look no further than a seven-point win over a terrible Towson team as evidence. As with most Tony Bennett teams, they rebound insanely well on the defensive glass and don't both with offensive rebounds much.

Against the Pack (1/28) - With just one day of rest between traveling to the Dean Dome and hosting Virginia, it will be interesting to see how the Pack plays out of the gate in this game. The key for this game will probably be keeping the turnovers down and staying patient offensively – the Pack is talented enough to make some shots against the Virginia defense but if they cough the ball up frequently it could be a very long night in Raleigh.

Pomeroy: 35 Sagarin: 34 RPI: 37
It appears as though it will be another season straddling the bubble for Seth Greenberg and the Hokies. They once again failed to pick up any signature wins but avoiding any devastating losses to the resume. The Hokies are solid on both ends of the court and currently boast the best 3-point defense in the country – teams are shooting just 24 percent from behind the arc against Virginia Tech. They'll be part of a cluttered middle tier of the ACC desperately trying to get double-digit wins in the conference and hoping that's enough.

Against the Pack (3/4) - The Pack ends its regular season in Blacksburg. It's impossible to say where they'll end up between now and then, but this could potentially be a must-win game for either team. Tech always plays tough at home, but the Hokies defensive prowess relies on guarding the 3-point line – something that the Pack doesn't need to have success on offense.

Pomeroy: 168 Sagarin: 150 RPI: 114
The good news for Wake Forest is that year two of the Jeff Bzdelik era is going better than year one – they've already eclipsed their win total from last season. The bad news is that this is still a terrible team that will struggle to win more than one or two games all season in the league. The Deacons aren't good on either side of the ball and struggle in just about every defensive category. They are pretty good at getting the free-throw line though, so they've got that going for them.

Against the Pack (1/14 & 2/4) - See Boston College. Good teams win these games easily. Even decent teams should win both. The Pack's road to double-digit ACC wins is paved with blowouts over Wake and Boston College. If they fail to go 4-0 against these two teams, they stand no chance at dancing.

The best case scenario for the ACC as a league is one where the bottom half is really, really bad and the top half accumulates wins by beating up on the weaklings. Duke and UNC could also help the league by dropping a few games to the middle of the pack and improving some NCAA resumes. Here is my not-at-all-confident prediction for the league.

1. North Carolina (14-2)
2. Duke (13-3)
3. Virginia (11-5)
4. Florida State (10-6)
5. NC State (10-6)
6. Miami (10-6)
7. Virginia Tech (9-7)
8. Maryland (6-10)
9. Clemson (5-11)
10. Georgia Tech (4-12)
11. Wake Forest (3-13)
12. Boston College (1-15)

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