This week's ACC blogger roundtable is hosted by friend of the blog James Curle from the N.C. State blog Riddick & Reynolds. And not a moment too soon, as we haven't really done basketball coverage justice in the early season, and BC is already set to face their second opponent of the season tonight at 7 PM.
Curle's questions and our answers below. Onward.
Every football season, we bloggers and pundits preach the importance of the league to perform well out of conference to improve the league's image. Basketball certainly has a much better reputation historically, but do you think the ACC has some work to do before league play starts to get back to being viewed as the NCAA's standard-bearer for the sport? Could a dominant or lackluster performance in November and December significantly help or hurt the ACC's reputation or are most folks' opinions about ACC basketball pretty set?
I don't know if you Tobacco Road folk really want to hear this, as I know you pride yourself on your college basketball superiority, but ACC basketball as the "NCAA's standard-bearer for the sport?" Maybe in years' past, but this year? I just don't see it. Clearly Duke enters the season at number 1, but I'm not sure the conference is the standard-bearer it once was when the only other ranked team teams to start the season -- North Carolina and Virginia Tech -- are either massively overrated based on brand name (UNC) or just got kicked in the teeth by K-State (Virginia Tech).
The Big Ten is probably the best conference - at least at the top - going into the season, with two teams (Michigan State and Ohio State) ranked in the top 4 and Illinois and Purdue also ranked in the Top 25. There are other really solid programs floating just outside the Top 25, including Minnesota, Wisconsin and Northwestern (ed. note: Go U! NU!). The conference has a really good shot at knocking off the ACC in this year's ACC/Big Ten Challenge for just the second time in the history of the event. And the Big Ten better capitalize this year too, before they give the ACC an automatic win next season when they add Nebraska to the fold.
Back to the question though, I don't think a dominant or lackluster performance in November and December will significantly help or hurt the ACC's reputation. The reason is basketball, unlike football, doesn't rely that heavily on national perceptions and polls because hey, how's this for a novel idea -- the sport has a playoff!
Much like football, however, when two of your conference's top four programs aren't known nationally as a basketball powerhouse (Virginia Tech and Florida State), you tend to have more national perception problems than normal. With programs like Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest likely to take a step back this year, this will do more to negatively shape the national perception of the conference than anything that happens on the court in the early season.
We've all seen our teams at least once now. Have you seen anything in the limited action thus far that is cause for concern or cause for greater optimism that where your opinion stood just a couple of weeks ago?
I didn't get to "see" BC play their season opener against St. Francis, but reading through the tea leaves and the box score, this stat made me pause a bit: 4-21 shooting from 3
BC was coming off a 15-for-33 shooting night from beyond the arc in their exhibition against Philadelphia, but seemingly went cold from three against St. Francis (NY). I'm all for a new offensive philosophy and I think this club will benefit from Donahue's faster-paced offense, but I'm not really interested in living and dying by the 3, especially with the lack of depth on this year's roster. If one or two players go cold from 3, it will be a long night for BC.
Give me your preseason votes for: POY, COY, ROY. Explain.
I don't have strong feelings either way about these preseason awards, because again, unlike football, the best player/coach/rookie usually wins these things instead of the awards devolving into a beauty contest (cough, Heisman, cough).
Duke is clearly the best team in the conference, so I'll go with Duke's best player, Kyle Singler, as the ACC Player of the Year.
For Coach of the Year, I'll go with Jeff Bzdelik. Just kidding yo. Let's say Mike Mike Krzyzewski, mostly because he's built a program that has become an annual lock for the Sweet 16 and doesn't get nearly the credit for doing so when it comes to end-of-season awards like Coach of the Year.
For rookie of the year, let's go with North Carolina's Harrison Barnes. It probably won't even be close.
Which stands the greater probability of reoccurring this season: Duke winning the national title or Carolina returning to the NIT?
Duke winning the national title is much more likely to happen. Reason being even if Carolina manages to win just 15 games this year, they'll manage to find a way into the NCAA Tournament on name-brand alone.
I can't speak to the attendance figures for most of the other schools in the league, but State's opening matchup against Tennessee Tech was nowhere near a sellout. There were quite a few empty seats in the Dean Dome for the game against Lipscomb as well. As television and internet technology continue to advance, consumers are starting to get better entertainment value for the dollar staying home rather than paying for tickets to attend the game themselves. In the coming years, how will Ads - struggling to balance very tight budgets - continue to move tickets and put butts in the seats without slashing ticket prices drastically?
Damn. This question reads like a grad school thesis, and probably warrants its own 3-part blog post on the topic.
Let me give you the Cliff notes. The reason N.C. State and North Carolina didn't sell out their opening matchups against Tennessee Tech and Lipscomb is because ... they were playing Tennessee Tech and Lipscomb. I couldn't tell you the first thing about either program - not where they are located (other than Tennessee Tech is probably located somewhere in Tennessee, as a guess), what conference they play in, what their mascots are or their NCAA Tournament history. With due respect to grads of Tennessee Tech and Lipscomb, natch.
The best early season matchups usually occur in these exempt, "made for ESPN" preseason tournaments, played not on campus, but rather at neutral sites in exotic, tropical locations. This decreases the number of marquee matchups played on campus in the early months of the season.
Basically, there are too many early season home games against nobody opponents. In order to fix this, schools have to bring in big name, non-conference opponents to campus. Otherwise, people are going to vote with their wallets and stay home as your team beats up on the Tennessee Techs and Lipscombs and St. Francis NYs and
Stetsons (whoops) of the college basketball world.
Of course, this will never happen as ADs are more interested in padding the W column against creampuffs to add to the win total and improve their program's tournament resume than actually go out and challenge themselves by bringing a major conference program to campus. The result? Your program beats St. Francis (NY) by 30 points in front of a half-empty home court.
Which team will be the big surprise this season, either exceeding expectations or greatly falling well short of them?
BC was picked to finish 10th in the preseason media poll. I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen, and the Eagles will finish somewhere in the middle of the pack this year in the ACC. Call me crazy, but I'm feeling a 7-9 or 8-8 season. Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have staked early claims to the bottom two spots in the conference, and the Eagles are going to win some games this year and won't finish 10th. There's too much talent returning for Donahue and the Eagles not to surprise some teams this year.