The madness that is the NCAA tournament may have begun early this year in the ACC. It has been an absolutely wild ride in college basketball. There have been many many upsets and crazy buzzer beaters, and of course, the so-called “experts” could not have predicted the way this season has gone. Nobody could have even gotten close to this season.
This has been the most questionable start this year and that is with the preseason number one, the Duke Blue Devils. The 18th ranked Blue Devils have a 14-4 start and have a losing 2-3 record in ACC play. Duke is ranked 10th currently in the ACC. They were suppose to be a clear top three team with the firepower they’ve brought in with recruiting. Duke have brought in five top 50 ESPN recruits this season along with some stars returning with likes of Grayson Allen, but the Blue Devils have struggled with injuries terribly throughout the season.
Starting with their number one recruit, Winston-Salem’s own Harry Giles who has gone through many knee surgeries for torn ACLs. He has returned to Duke but is not at full strength while they need him terribly. Jayson Tatum, Grayson Allen, and Marques Bolden huge parts of this Blue Devil team have been held out of action at the start of this season due to injury.
But the two most important injuries have hurt this team the most were the injuries of Amile Jefferson and Hall of Fame Coach Mike Kryzewski. Both were not serious injuries, but they have hurt a young Duke team through the start of conference play that they will desperately need if they want to turn this season around.
The North Carolina Tar Heels have actually given themselves a good start to the year despite having an all-star recruiting class to their rivals next door. The 9th ranked Tar Heels have a 17-3 record and ranked 2nd in the ACC, and this year it is obvious that experience has won over young talent. UNC has zero freshman freshmen in their starting lineup and the experience these players have definitely helped them this season.
The Tar Heels have looked much scarier than both of their triangle rivals (Duke and NC State) with have only lost to a National Championship contender Kentucky Wildcats, a good Indiana Hoosiers, and Georgia Tech. Recently the Tar Heels had a very impressive home win over the scary Florida State Seminoles. They were without Theo Pinson, the Junior 6’6″ forward from Greensboro, North Carolina who made his debut recently in a blowout win against NC State. The Tar Heels have a great chance to redeem themselves last year and bring home their sixth NCAA Title.
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have had a decent start to the being ranked 11th in the ACC with a 11-7 start with a very young team that has a ton of potential. They barely lost to the 9th ranked Tar Heels earlier this month. The NC State Wolfpack have also had a solid start to the season being 13-6 despite being ranked 13th in the ACC. They’ve been carried by standout freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. who is a projected top three pick in next years 2017 NBA Draft.
Teams have some time before they have to worry about the NCAA Tournament and get their teams prepared. The Tar Heels look near ready, the Blue Devils have a long way to go, and NC State and Wake are just trying to get in. This may become the most unpredictable March Madness we have ever seen.