College Basketball State of the ACC Betting Report: Is Duke Still The Conference Favorite?
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured: Coach K (Duke)
With each passing calendar day, the ACC picture becomes clearer. Not much has significantly changed at the top since the first installment of the State of the Conference report. The fact remains that this is Duke’s conference to lose — even after its loss to Virginia on Monday.
In what was Coach K’s last trip to Chapel Hill (allegedly), Duke absolutely dismantled the Tar Heels from the tip. Just when UNC started to show some fight as a possible threat to the Blue Devils, Duke quickly reminded UNC and the rest of the conference why it should win this league.
The Blue Devils may be the lone ACC team in the NCAA Tournament with a legit shot at a run. Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket only has four teams from the ACC in the Big Dance — with Duke as a No. 2 seed — while our own Mike McNamara has five ACC teams in his field.
With time slowly dwindling, the league has become more intriguing than ever, as we wait to see if some other teams will be able to step up and truly rival the Blue Devils.
All odds via FanDuel
Even though the Blue Devils lost at home to Virginia on Monday, this is Duke’s conference to lose this year.
Coach K’s bunch is tied with Notre Dame atop the league, with Wake Forest only 0.5 games back and Miami (FL), North Carolina and Virginia all on the Demon Deacons’ heels.
However, the Blue Devils’ body of work still stands above the rest of the league.
First, it starts with a level of talent no other team in the conference can match. Paolo Banchero is a future lottery pick, Wendell Moore Jr. has made drastic improvements, A.J. Griffin has shot lights out as of late and Mark Williams is a force inside.
Second, Duke cruised past Wake Forest, Notre Dame and North Carolina on the road. Sure, it looked mortal in losses to Miami (FL) and Virginia at home, and in close victories against Clemson (home) and Louisville (road), but this UVA loss was an obvious let down spot.
Duke is still the favorite, so it’s not time to push the panic button — just yet.
We were a bad first half away from a completely different game a week ago when Duke visited Notre Dame.
While Duke ended up pulling away to a 14-point victory, it took a very uncharacteristically bad shooting night from the lethal Fighting Irish to win that one. Notre Dame ended up shooting 16.7% from 3 and 27.9% from the field.
This is still a very well-balanced Notre Dame squad that ranks 72nd in AdjO and 76th in AdjD. The Irish hover around above average in shooting in the ACC, but have been ice cold from deep since the Duke game.
If Notre Dame’s offense can find its past selves, this will be a formidable No. 2 in the ACC. This is a team that is more than equipped to exploit Duke’s defensive woes on the perimeter.
Notre Dame is currently tied with Duke, and will look to be a thorn in the Blue Devils’ side until conference tournament play.
The Fighting Irish have a relatively easy schedule the rest of the regular season, with only Wake Forest being a true threat to them.
Just when I start to build some delusional confidence in my Tar Heels, they quickly remind me that they are nothing more than a flash-of-the-pan style team with serious holes all over on both sides.
When North Carolina gets open looks and its shots fall at their normal rate, it can turn every game into a track meet. The Tar Heels are still one of the most efficient and explosive offenses, ranking 25th in AdjO and near the top of the ACC in scoring and 3-point shooting.
The downside is the continuous struggles on defense. More open than a 24-hour McDonalds, UNC gives every opposing offense ample scoring opportunities on cuts and drives.
When the shooting doesn’t fall, UNC looks like one of the worst teams in the league. This is the definition of boom-or-bust, and that’s a constant headache to deal with tying money into.
If UNC can somehow manage to get hot again in the ACC Tournament, it will look to exact revenge on the Blue Devils in the most pivotal of moments — that’s if the Heels already don’t get their revenge before that in the end-of-the-season showdown.
Future add alert.
I am putting a small piece on Wake Forest at this number. The Demon Deacons are the most under-the-radar team in the conference, KenPom still has Wake Forest ranked second in the ACC, and this number gives some value to play around with.
Wake is firmly in contention to steal the top seed, sitting at 9-4 in conference play. The Demon Deacons are led by one of the best players in the nation in guard Alondes Williams, as he averages 19.8 points, seven rebounds and 5.2 assists per game.
A complete star in the business.
He has led Wake Forest to the 48th ranking in AdjO, and top-three ranks in the ACC in scoring, rebounds, assists and field goals (as of writing) as a team.
Wake Forest is all around sneaky good on the offensive end.
The defense is top notch as well, ranking 51st in AdjD.
Being balanced on both ends is a trait I look for in a team to make a deep run in a tournament style of play. Also, having a +1700 in our back pocket gives us some wiggle room to play with if Wake meets up with Duke late in the postseason.
Hello, UNC 2.0.
Has anyone cooled off more than the Hurricanes? It feels like a month ago, but we were shocked as a nation at how well Miami (FL) was looking. The Canes were a contender to rival Duke after beating them 76-74.
Since then? Miami has cooled off, going 3-4, with losses to Florida State (twice), Notre Dame and Virginia.
The Hurricanes haven’t shot better than 32% from deep in their past two losses, and are unable to stop opponents with their defense when the shooting goes cold.
Miami (173rd in AdjD) can’t afford to have bad offensive slogs in its games if it wants any real chance of rivaling the top-tier ACC competition.
Here comes Tony Bennett.
While Virginia isn’t nearly as strong defensively as in years past (89th in KenPom’s AdjD) and is still average on offense, it’s somehow just one game back of Duke for first place in the ACC.
The Cavs dominated the Blue Devils in the paint, and blew out Miami (FL) in their previous game.
With a coach like Bennett (that preaches culture) and a team that plays with a high basketball IQ, anything can happen.
Virginia has been here before — plenty of times.