Wait a second. I must be living in the past. There’s just one ACC team in the national top 25 polls? Really?
What happened to one of the strongest college basketball conferences in the country?
For most of us living in the High Country, we all love and follow college basketball, particularly, our favorite ACC team. Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, and Wake Forest all have its fair share of fans in the area, leading to more water cooler talk about the conference and college basketball.
As a Wolfpack fan, I’ve seen many years of struggles and heartaches to go along with a few highlights here and there. Needless to say, I was not around for the amazing 1974 championship team that went 30-1, dominated the ACC, and had one of the greatest college basketball players to ever life in David Thompson, as well as Avery County native Tommy Burleson and current assistant coach Monte Towe all leading the Wolfpack to a title. I also was not around for the 1983 title team, easily the greatest Cinderella story in my book. Who can forget Dereck Whittenburg throwing up a prayer from 30 feet away that was answered with a Lorenzo Charles dunk as time expired to defeat Hakeem Olajumon, Clyde Drexler, and the rest of the Houston Cougar powerhouse “Phi Slama Jama”?
This season, the Wolfpack continue to struggle, currently sitting at 1-2 in conference play and coming off of a blowout loss to Florida State. Looks like more tough times for Wolfpack fans all around.
Things are not much better a little way down the road in Chapel Hill as UNC is coming off an embarrassing 20-point defeat at the hands of a Georgia Tech team whose record was one game under .500 for the year and had suffered a 17-point loss to same school called Kennesaw State. With a 12-5 record and a team full of high school All-Americans, you have to wonder what UNC will have to do to avoid yet another year of missing the NCAA tournament.
While the Wolfpack and Tarheels are finding some struggles early on, nobody can say they are playing worse than the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Many of the Demon Deacon fans I know feel worse about the basketball program now than ever before. Wake currently holds a paltry 7-11 record and is 0-3 in ACC play. In the team’s three conference games, Wake lost to N.C. State by 21 points, to Maryland by 19 points and most recently to Virginia Tech by a whopping 29 points. Things don’t get any easier as the team has to travel to Georgia Tech, then play fourth-ranked Duke this weekend.
Speaking of those Duke Blue Devils, we finally come to the only truly legitimate threat to come close to a national championship this season representing the ACC. While the Blue Devils have proven they can be beaten (Florida State beat the Devils 66-61 last week), they are easily the most talented, best coached, and best all-around team in the conference. Comparing the rest of the in-state conference teams to Duke, there is truly no comparison. With a record of 16-1 overall and a 3-1 record in the conference, Duke is clearly the team to beat in the conference. As a Wolfpack fan, it pains me to give any credit to an in-state rival like the Blue Devils, however credit must be given where it is due, and the Blue Devils have certainly earned its spot atop the weak ACC.
One thing is for certain. The battle for second place in the conference is wide open and might be fairly entertaining, even if the runner-up to Duke would lose to the 8th place team in the Big 12 Conference.