Beyond the ACCtion: Out Of The Gate In Fine Style

Photo: Louisville's Montrezl Harrell
Credit: Louisville Athletics

Four Top 10 teams, big wins highlight opening week for ACC Men’s Basketball

GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – The biggest waves of a college basketball season aren't made in mid-November, but the tide is definitely trending the Atlantic Coast Conference’s way through the first week of the 2014-15 college basketball season.

ACC teams enter this weekend’s full slate of action with a combined 33-5 record in nonconference games. That includes three wins in four true road games, and the ACC is the only league to stand 2-0 versus nationally-ranked opponents away from home.

The ACC also leads all conferences with four teams – Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia – among the top 10 of both major polls.

One of the biggest eye-openers of opening week occurred on Monday night, when Miami – a team with nine newcomers on its roster picked 10th in the ACC preseason poll – took down No. 8 Florida by a 69-67 score on the road.

The win was the Hurricanes’ first over a ranked team on the road in nearly three years and snapped a 33-game Florida homecourt winning streak that stood as third-longest in the nation. Miami shot 65.2 percent from the floor in the second half, including 7-of-10 from 3-point range. Leading the assault was Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez, who poured in 20 of his game-high 24 points in the final 6:47.

“Angel Rodriguez was sensational," Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. "He's going to do whatever is necessary to win.”

Tuesday night saw No. 4 Duke down No. 19 Michigan State, 81-71, in the Champions Classic at Indianapolis. The Blue Devils have averaged 101 points in winning their first three games and 6-foot-11 freshman Jahlil Okafor – picked as the preseason National Player of the Year by several media outlets – has lived up to hype thus far by connecting on 25 of 30 shots from the floor while averaging a team-high 17.7 points per game.

Okafor isn’t all that surprised by his early success – not because he bought into the press clippings but because he spent the past few months going head-to-head with some pretty talented teammates.

“I would say that games are definitely easier than practices, and one of our plans is to have practices be harder than games,” Okafor said. “I play against a 7-footer every day in Marshall Plumlee, and with Amile Jefferson, Sean Obi. I’m playing against the best of the best at my position.”

Week One saw other noteworthy developments around the league. Defending ACC champion Virginia is off to its first 3-0 start since the 2001-02 season. Notre Dame stands 3-0 for the first time since 2011-12.

And Louisville didn’t disappoint in making its long-awaited ACC splash, winning its first two games in convincing fashion and claiming the league’s first ACC Player of the Week honor. Preseason All-America forward Montrezl Harrell was a solid choice after scoring a career-high 30 points and pulling down seven rebounds in the Cardinals’ 81-68 season-opening win over Minnesota in the Armed Forces Classic. Harrell was also honored as the National Player of the Week by CBSSports.com, ESPN.com and CollegeSportsMadness.com.

A school record has already been set at NC State, where a slimmed-down BeeJay Anya swatted back 10 shots in the Wolfpack’s 79-43 win over Jacksonville on Thursday night. Anya’s single-game blocked shot total tied for 10th best in league history.

The next two weeks will see ACC teams continue to test the waters against outside competition and, in some cases, exotic venues. The upcoming schedule for league teams includes games in the Virgin Islands (Clemson), Puerto Rico (Boston College), Maui (Pitt) and the Bahamas (North Carolina). The 16th annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge is set for Dec. 1-3.

FUTURE SITE HOSTS

While college basketball fans are only beginning to focus on the 2014-15 season, the NCAA continued to look ahead with the release of preliminary round sites for the 2016-2018 Division I Men’s Basketball Championships earlier in the week.

There are a number of ACC connections, beginning with NC State hosting the 2016 first and second rounds at PNC Arena. Barclays Center in Brooklyn will also host first- and second-round action in 2016, one year prior to hosting ACC Tournaments in 2017 and 2018. Louisville and the KFC YUM! Center have been designated the 2016 South Regional hosts.

The ACC itself will serve as a first- and second-round host in 2017, when the Greensboro Coliseum sees its first men’s postseason action since 2012.

Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena – site of the 2019 ACC Tournament – will play host to NCAA first and second rounds in 2018. Two ACC schools will serve as regional hosts – Georgia Tech for the South Regional at Philips Arena and Boston College for the East Regional at TD Arena.