College Basketball Betting: The ACC is a Wasteland of Mediocrity
Looking for a challenge the back-half of the college basketball season? Try handicapping the ACC. Most conferences by now are defined by a few haves, some have nots, and handful of teams that could go either way. The ACC can best be summed up by Duke, Louisville, Florida State, Virginia and 11 (!) teams that look primed to host a first round NIT game. Of those 11 squads, KenPom’s projected conference records have four going 7-13, two at 8-12, three at 9-11, one at 10-10, and one at 11-9. That’s not a lot of separation from nearly three quarters of the league. Obviously of those 11, a few will exceed or fall short of those projections and that is where we as bettors can cash in but the waters are really murky and trying to decipher what direction many of those teams will head is going to be a tough task. And it’s not just the 11. Florida State and Virginia don’t appear nearly as stout as they were last season. And Louisville, who at one time was ranked no. 1, recently lost three of five. That said, those three teams and Duke, do appear to be the “haves” of the league. The rest? Let’s take a look.
NC State – The Wolfpack are the one team of our 11 question marks that is projected to post a winning record in ACC play and only because they stormed back from a second half double-digit deficit to beat a six-man Notre Dame squad last night. They’ve been without CJ Bryce (concussion) for three games and need him to return if they are going to avoid another trip to the NIT. There’s work to be done with only one quality win (vs. Wisconsin).
Virginia Tech – After Buzz Williams left, the Hokies barely had enough players to fill a roster yet after last night’s win at Syracuse, they sit 2-2 in league play and have that early season win over Michigan State in their back pocket. Considering the roster overhaul and a first-year head coach, any other season in the ACC would have been a wash. But Mike Young, who can coach with the best of them, has a legit shot to win 20 games.
Pittsburgh – The Panthers beat Florida State, lost a home to Nicholls State and Wake Forest, and won at North Carolina — quintessential ACC basketball! Jeff Capel has for the most part cleaned up the mess left by Kevin Stallings. The Panthers are competitive because they play slow and defend. But can they score enough to win when the defense isn’t holding teams below 60? Their 40% 2-pt shooting in league plays doesn’t suggest so.
Georgia Tech – Tech is somehow 10-5 against the spread which puts to rest the theory that you need an ace-level head coach to cover numbers. Getting Jose Alvarado back helps. I don’t think they win at North Carolina without him (25 points, 8 assists). And they fired back with a respectable point spread covering loss to Duke last night — the Blue Devils never led by more than 12. If I’m a Tech fan, I hate the fact that my team is going to be competitive and can potentially take advantage of a watered down ACC. Because that means they may keep Josh Pastner around.
Notre Dame – The Irish played only six players in Wednesday’s road loss to NC State. That’s not ideal considering the ridiculous 20-game conference schedule. Rex Pflueger should return soon though he’s struggled after tearing up his knee last season. One of the more enjoyable ACC teams to watch but the margin for error is small for a squad that lives by the three and doesn’t defend at a high level.
Boston College – How is a team that lost to Northwestern by 18 at home 3-1 in ACC play? More importantly, how did they beat Virginia by 7? And Nik Popovic, one of BC’s better players, has missed the last six games. The Eagles are power rated as the worst team in the ACC because they are the worst team in the ACC. However, their next five ACC games are all against teams outside KenPom’s top 60 so maybe the good times continue to roll.
North Carolina – I wanted to leave the door open for this team but then they go and blow a 14-point lead at home to Pitt. It’s bad in Chapel Hill and Cole Anthony’s return isn’t the answer.
Syracuse – Speaking of bad, Syracuse’s “best” win this season came against Georgia Tech. The Orange are banged up; three players logged 40 minutes in the loss to Virginia Tech. They challenged themselves more than usual in non-conference play but failed to score a win. And they play Duke, Florida State, and Louisville only once each (two of which on the road) meaning quality wins are going to be hard to come by. Boeheim’s kid is only a sophomore meaning it’s unlikely he’ll walk away. The most telling stat is Syracuse’s 120th-ranked defensive efficiency rating. Hard to regress that much when offense is down across the entire college basketball landscape.
Miami – The Hurricanes were given no breaks by playing Duke and Louisville (twice) to open up ACC play. In fact, a short price at home vs. Pitt on Sunday offers a good bet on opportunity. Miami is one of the few teams on our list that should reap the benefits of the ACC’s widespread mediocrity.
Clemson – The Tigers went an 8-game stretch where they scored 52, 67, 60, 53, 54, 68, 45 and 62 in regulation. And then they hung 81 on NC State which resulted in their first ACC win of the season. Sounds about right.
Wake Forest – Ah, my favorite coach on the planet. No team consistently produces more inconsistent results than the Demon Deacons. I’m proud to say I’ve bet only one Wake game this season; the OVER in their 82-70 win over Davidson. I immediately cashed my ticket and took a knee.