Take a close look at the latest Associated Press and Coaches top-10 rankings. Notice something odd? Yep, two different teams listed at No. 1, but from the same conference. That’s the ACC, flexing its basketball biceps again.
Take your choice of No. 1 this week, Duke with the AP or Virginia with the Coaches. Add in Florida State and Virginia Tech, and that makes 40 percent of the top-10 coming from the ACC. North Carolina and North Carolina State are in the AP top 20. Every single team in the league – all 15 – hit Christmas break with a winning record, and of the 38 losses for the entire conference, 21 have come by six points or under.
ACC excellence is not exactly news, but this is a tad extraordinary. League play starts soon, and just think of the potential fratricide. Before that, here are 27 things to know about the baddest, beefiest conference in the land.
1. The three national leaders in scoring margin are all lodge members – Duke (27.8), North Carolina State (23.9) and Virginia Tech (23.1). Plus, Virginia (22.1) is at No. 5.
2. Duke’s fab four freshmen of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones are averaging 65.8 points and 7.3 steals a game. Duke’s opponents are averaging 63.8 and 6.6.
3. Balance, thy name is Florida State. Five different Seminoles have scored at least 20 points in a game. The bench is averaging 34.1 points. They’re 11-1 and in the top 10, despite the fact Phil Cofer – the top returning scorer from last season – has played only 22 minutes so far with an injury and scored seven points.
4. Virginia Tech is in the top 10 for the first time in 23 years.
5. Virginia has held six opponents under 50 points in a game.
6. North Carolina broke 100 points four times and 90 seven times in its first 10 games. The Tar Heels hadn’t done that since 2008-09. That season ended with a national championship.
7. In nine of 12 games this season, Duke’s defense has produced double figures in steals or blocked shots, or both. The Blue Devils have gone six games in a row with at least 10 steals, the longest streak in 18 years.
8. Eight different ACC teams have beaten a ranked non-conference opponent this season.
9. The league is 134-35 against every team in the nation not named Tennessee. The Vols seem to be the ACC antiserum, with a 3-0 record.
10. Ten North Carolina State players are averaging at least 13 minutes a game. Six of them are shooting 52.8 percent or better.
11. Louisville has made 41 more free throws than its opponents have shot, and leads the nation by getting 27.1 percent of its scoring from the line.
12. Duke junior Javin DeLaurier has put up 29 shots this season. He’s missed four. He’s made his last 13 in a row.
13. Virginia has committed five or fewer turnovers in a game five times, and leads the nation in assist-turnover ratio.
14. Four of the five starters for Virginia Tech the other night had already completed requirements to graduate.
15. Besides being Boston College’s third leading scorer, guard Jordan Chatman teams with student manager Siqi Wang to give BC video updates in Chinese Mandarin and maintain a presence on Weibo – China’s most popular social media site. That means 445 million users can hear about how Ky Bowman is averaging 18.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists, and leading the league in minutes played, sitting out barely two minutes a game.
16. Marcquise Reed, with an 86.4 career percentage, is statistically the best free throw shooter in the history of Clemson. The former record had stood for more than 50 years. But last season, Reed wasn’t even the best free throw shooter on the team. Shelton Mitchell edged him 85.7-84.5, and has moved into ninth on the career list.
17. Notre Dame has three of the top eight players on the ACC in assist-turnover ratio, though one of them – Rex Pflueger – is gone for the year with a knee injury.
18. In its first 11 games, Georgia Tech has started 10 different players, in five different combinations. Not one Yellow Jacket has started all 11.
19. Louisville forward Jordan Nwora averaged only 5.7 points a game last season as a freshman. This year, he’s at 17.8, the biggest jump anyone has made in the ACC. He’s the first Louisville sophomore or freshman in 41 years to score 20-plus points in at least six of the first 10 games.
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20. North Carolina has led by double digits in 10 of its 11 games. The only exception was the loss to Kentucky.
21. Pittsburgh won eight games all last season. The Panthers reached that mark this season on Dec. 15.
22. Syracuse lost back-to-back non-conference games for the first time since joining the Big East in 1979, and was beaten by Buffalo for the first time in 55 seasons. But these are the same Orange who gave No. 13 Ohio State its only loss so far, by 10 points, on the Buckeyes’ home court.
23. Miami is the only ACC team with all five starters averaging in double figures – from 16.2 to 12.5.
24. Wake Forest leading scorer Brandon Childress has 656 career points. His father Randolph had 2850 at Wake in the 1990s. That makes them the top-scoring father-son duo in ACC history.
25. ACC teams played in three overtime games on Nov. 23 alone, but one the entire month of December.
26. Despite the annual high regard for the ACC, the league has its share of conspicuous Final Four droughts. It has been 34 years for Virginia, 35 for North Carolina State, 40 for Notre Dame, 46 for Florida State, 56 for Wake Forest and 77 for Pittsburgh. Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Boston College have never gotten there at all.
27. And finally, Jan. 19 could be interesting. Virginia at Duke. When’s the last time you saw No. 1 playing against . . . No. 1?