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ACC Basketball Roundtable: Conference Play Begins Again

The ACC kick starts its conference basketball schedule this weekend with all 12 programs facing one another Saturday or Sunday. Specifically, BC-Clemson, Duke-Georgia Tech, Florida State-Maryland, Wake-Miami, UNC-Virginia Tech and Virginia-NC State. To preview this weekend's ACC action, Brendan from From Old Virginia is hosting our first basketball roundtable of the season.

His questions and our answers are below.

1. The ACC failed to win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the first time ever. Let's panic a bit: Why did this happen?

The short answer is it was bound to happen sometime. The ACC has an inherent advantage in every ACC-Big Ten Challenge as we drop last year's weakest link and send them off to play Siena.

The not-so-short answer is that the Big Ten is actually pretty, pretty, prettttty good this season. Purdue looks like a National Championship contender, while Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Michigan State have all turned in strong performances in the first half of the season. It's still too early to tell, but the Big Ten might be a stronger conference than the ACC at the top. Duke is playing at another level but after the Blue Devils, you'd be hard pressed to tell me who the second and third best teams in the ACC are. Florida State? Clemson? Wake Forest? Who knows.

Is the ACC-Big Ten Challenge a fair measure of which conference is better? No. It never has been, so no need to hit the panic button. Rather, just give the Big Ten props for finally winning the made-for-TV event one of these years.

2. The obvious question that needs to be asked: Who is your Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Freshman of the Year?

Right now, the ACC Player of the Year is Jon Scheyer. As mentioned above, Duke has quickly separated themselves from the rest of the ACC at 13-1, including a drubbing of a Top 25 Clemson team in the ACC opener. For an end of season prediction, I think the award stays with Duke, with either Scheyer, Nolan Smith or Kyle Singler taking home the award.

For ACC Coach of the Year, let's start with who it won't be. It won't be Al Skinner, Sidney Lowe, Tony Bennett, Paul Hewitt, or Gary Williams. If Duke absolutely steamrolls the rest of the ACC to the tune of 14-2, 15-1 or 16-0, Mike Krzyzewski will make a strong case for the award. If Clemson or Florida State stay in the ACC title race, Oliver Purnell and Leonard Hamilton will receive a significant amount of support for COY. I remain unconvinced that Florida State will sustain their success in ACC play, but if they do get to 10, 11 or 12 wins, Bunny Colvin Leonard Hamilton has might vote for Coach of the Year.

The ACC Freshman of the Year is Derrick Favors going away. Favors is already averaging 12 points per game and 8 rebounds for the 11-3 Yellow Jackets.

3. The other obvious question: What are your expectations for your own team?

Honestly, I'm not sure anyone has the slightest clue what to expect of Boston College in the Eagles' final 15 ACC games. The doomsday scenario as projected by kenpom not three days ago was that the Eagles would lose all 15 of their ACC games and finish the season at 10-20, 1-15 ACC. While I don't think that will happen, it's hard to see the Eagles winning more than 8 games in conference this year. There is plenty of talent on this BC roster, but losses to Maine, Harvard, Rhode Island and Saint Joseph's cloud a prediction. Right now, I'll say the Eagles finish 6-10 in conference and 15-15 overall (and no postseason for the Eagles for only the second time under Al Skinner).

4. The other other obvious question: Which teams are going dancing?

Duke has the inside track on a 1 or 2 seed in the tournament at this point. North Carolina will definitely be dancing. After Duke and UNC, it's anyone's guess. Clemson and Florida State will probably do enough to get in. I have a feeling that the ACC bubble could be quite large this year, with Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Miami and Maryland all vying for a Tournament berth. This year might be another poor showing for the ACC a la the 2008 tournament where only four teams got in. If hard pressed for an answer, though, I'll go with six teams from the ACC - Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Miami and one of Wake Forest/Virginia Tech.

5. The decade in basketball isn't quite over yet, at least not the way I reckon it. But it's still not too early for reminiscing. What was your team's Game of the Decade? And what one game would you like to have a do-over for?

The Game of the Decade was arguably BC's 65-63 victory over the #7 Syracuse Orange on February 7, 2001. This was the Eagles first win over Syracuse since 1997 and helped propel the Eagles to a 2001 Big East tournament title. That was until last season, when a 12-2 Eagles team went to the Dean Dome and gave #1 North Carolina their first loss of the season, beating the Heels 85-78. This is one of the best wins from BC which unfortunately no one really remembers, as news broke later that afternoon that Jeff Jagodzinski would be fired if he interviewed for the NY Jets head coaching job.

There has been plenty of heartbreak for the Eagles in the NCAA Tournament over the past decade, with losses to USC, Georgia Tech, Georgetown and Milwaukee-Wisconsin, but one loss stings above all others. Villanova 60, Boston College 59 in overtime in the 2006 Regional Semifinal. Suffice it to say, a do-over of that game would be more than welcome.

6. Is your team, and the ACC in general, better or worse off because of the expansion from the Big East? Basketball perspective only, never mind football's championship game or any of that division stuff. Old-guard teams, what do you think of the difference between pre- and post-expansion ACC? Ex-Big-Easters, the Big East is still a pretty beefy hoops conference and (almost) rivals the ACC for hoops supremacy; is your basketball team better off here or are you having some buyers' remorse?

Appreciating that this fact may very well change by season's end, Boston College has won more ACC basketball games (31) than any program not named North Carolina (50) or Duke (47) since joining the conference. BC's basketball program has enjoyed a lot of success since moving to the ACC and is better off here. For one thing, a 16 team conference is way too big. Had we stayed behind, BC basketball likely would have been lost in the mix behind programs like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette and Villanova. Second, while I don't think we have seen any appreciable uptick in recruiting, longer term I think BC's recruiting will be strengthened from the move to the ACC.

The only reason why BC would have any buyers' remorse is missing out on the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Will all due respect to the ACC Tournament, the Big East Tournament was one of the most exciting events of the year for BC fans in the World's Most Famous Arena. Then again, now that the Big East Tournament includes all 16 teams and one can't make heads or tails of the convoluted tournament bracket, this too may be a bit more watered down.

7. The SEC divides its conference into the same divisions in basketball as it does in football. Should the ACC do the same?

Eh. Why further ingrain the ACC's divisional format in another sport? Fans outside of the ACC couldn't tell you who is in the Atlantic Division and who is in the Coastal Division anyway. Moving basketball to the divisional format would only serve to confuse more outsiders. Plus there's this little issue of having Duke and North Carolina on the same side, creating a situation where (gasp!) Duke and UNC couldn't be the top 2 seeds in the ACC Tournament.

I'm not 100% convinced the ACC got the football/baseball divisions right in the first place. Moving the divisional format to basketball would only serve to further complicate the matter if the ACC ever decides to go back and reevaluate the current Atlantic and Coastal division makeup.

Besides, I don't think the division format works in college basketball. We speak from experience. When the 14-team Big East tried adopting a divisional format (with division names even dumber than the ACC's - we present to you the "Big East East" and "Big East West"), results were certainly mixed. The divisional format seemed to produce teams with very unbalanced resumes. In 2002-2003, Boston College tied UConn for first place in the Big East East with a 10-6 record, but was left out of the NCAA Tournament.

Your turn.