Not coincidentally, it's also a year full of mediocrity. The only team playing championship-caliber basketball right now is Duke, with everyone else still searching for consistency. By ACC standards, this is going to be an ugly year on the court.
Every year, I like to take a snapshot of how teams are doing right before ACC season kicks into full swing. Included below are record, relevant rankings and Pomeroy's prediction for final record along with the some thoughts on each team (all stats are as-of Wednesday, January 6th). This year we're splitting the column into two parts – the first six teams will run today and the rest will run tomorrow.
Boston College (10-5, 1-0 ACC)
Pomeroy: 75 Sagarin: 88 RPI: 112
Predicted Record (Pomeroy): 15-15, 6-10
They lost to Harvard for a second-straight year at home, but this year they won't have Tyrese Rice to help them as they attempt to sneak into the NCAA Tournament. None of their fivelosses look good on paper – Harvard, Rhode Island, Northern Iowa, Saint Joseph's and Maine – so they'll need a pretty spectacular conference season to manage a second-straight trip to the Big Dance.
The offense for the Eagles has been good but not great, mostly propped up by being the best offensive rebounding team in the conference (Corey Raji has been an absolute monster on the offensive glass for the Eagles). But the Eagles simply haven't been able to create turnovers on defense leading making life difficult for Boston College when they don't have the ball.
Clemson (12-3, 0-1)
Pomeroy: 18 Sagarin: 22 RPI: 48
Predicted Record (Pomeroy): 21-9, 9-7
This has become standard operating procedure for the Tigers – Clemson plays really well out of conference and then fall flat once the calendar turns. They once again put together a nice NCAA resume before ACC play, high-lighted by a neutral-court win against Butler.
Their defense has been as good as anyone in the nation thanks in large part to their familiar pressing style which has made them one of the best turnover-generating teams in the nation. It's possible that their style of play simply lends itself to looking great against mediocre competition but exposes them once conference play starts.
There is hope, however, as the Tigers have also been the second-best offensive team in conference to date – fueled by good shooting (especially inside the arch) and great offensive rebounding. It's also a year where the ACC is relatively weak at guard so the Tigers press might prove more effective.
Duke (13-1, 1-0)
Pomeroy: 2 Sagarin: 3 RPI: 2
Predicted Record (Pomeroy): 28-3, 14-2
While the Blue Devils lost Gerald Henderson to the NBA, so far they've been the team that has best recovered from losing its star player(s) to graduation or the pros. Scheyer and Singler are still around while Nolan Smith has become a legitimate third weapon for Duke and Andre Dawkins has been a lights-out scorer since the day he stepped onto campus.
It's a pretty simple formula – the guards and Singler do all the scoring while the big men do all the dirty work underneath. Scheyer has to be the early favorite for ACC Player of the Year, averaging 18 points a game and sporting an other-worldly assist-to-turnover ratio – about four points higher than his closest competitor in that category. Pomeroy currently ranks him as the best offensive player in the nation (Dawkins, meanwhile, is third in the ratings despite his limited playing time).
Florida State (13-2, 1-0)
Pomeroy: 17 Sagarin: 21 RPI: 56
Predicted Record (Pomeroy): 22-8, 10-6
They play really good defense and can't score, mostly because they can't hold onto the ball. Don't be fooled by the points per game - this team plays at a fast pace but is offensively inept. Luckily for the Seminoles the defense is so good that the offense might get away with being bad.
It starts with their team size which gets them a lot of blocks and alters a lot of shots as well - they make opponents miss shots better than any team in the conference. Certainly, their play so far has backed up this idea. They've lost just two contests, both on the road to good teams. Meanwhile they beat Georgia Tech in overtime on the road.
Georgia Tech (11-3, 0-1)
Pomeroy: 31 Sagarin: 35 RPI: 69
Predicted Record (Pomeroy): 19-11, 7-9
With the amount of talent on this team, it's hardly surprising that they've managed to emerge from non-conference play with just two losses. The Jackets can partially thank their schedule for that, their toughest game out of conference was at Charlotte, but give the team credit for winning the games in front of them.
They play a very similar style to the Seminoles, using their team size (notably Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal) to turn making baskets into a tough task for the opposition. What they have done better than the ‘Noles is exploit that size on the offensive end, where they ruthlessly attack the offensive glass and take enough good shots to make up for the team's turnover problems.
Pomeroy: 41 Sagarin: 59 RPI: 92
Predicted Record (Pomeroy): 17-13, 7-9
The Terrapins snuck into the NCAA Tournament last year despite a 7-9 conference record by playing great in December and then managing to squeak out two ACC Tournament wins. They'll have to do a lot better than 7-9 this year though thanks to a poor out of conference performance.
Maryland is pretty pedestrian on both sides of the ball. Offensively the Terrapins shoot relatively well but do a great job of minimizing turnovers. On defense, they do a great job of defending the shot and force enough turnovers to keep teams off the board. This is a team that will be fighting for its Tournament life in late February.