January 20, 2011
There has been a lot of talk about the relative weakness in the ACC basketball picture this year, with only Duke showing the league's customary strength. While I think UNC will continue to improve over the ACC season, there are not many other teams who seem to stand tall in the long run. Every team has a major flaw, it seems, partly because of defections to the NBA across the league last year.
None has been hurt worse than the Demon Deacons at Wake Forest, who would have had three AA candidates this year if everyone who left was still on board. James Johnson and Jeff Teague would be seniors this year, and Al Farouq Aminu would be a junior had they not chosen the pro route. What was left behind is one of the weakest teams I've ever seen in the ACC, having watched closely since 1963. The team is very young, yes, and should get better. There is some talent there to build on. Right now, however, they don't deserve to be in the same league. They look like hapless kids. Playing last night against Georgia Tech, they played the first 12:30 of the second half without scoring a field goal. With 3:00 minutes left in the game were down 68-29. They shot 26% from the floor and were 9-26 from the free throw line. Not one player reached double figures. Wow. Earlier in the year, they lost to four D-2 schools. Wow. After watching them play a few times, I'm not sure who Wake can beat in the league this year.
I would add that most of the teams in the league are not as good as they usually are. This is the vaunted and feared ACC basketball? Not what I'm used to seeing. As I say, I think Wake will get better, and will challenge in a couple of years. Maybe the rest of the league will too. I love the ACC and always have, but the constant drain of talent from the league by the pro teams has taken a big toll on the ACC in recent years. I'm not sure when, or if, it will ever reach the lofty position it once held.
The schools still recruit great talent, but most of the best players only stay for one or two years. Coaches are pressured to win today, thus they recruit the best players and not the best student-athletes. But the best teams usually have a stable of upperclassmen who know how to play together. The present situation is not a great formula for long term fan support. I see a lot of empty seats on the tv screen lately.