The Current Standings:
As you can see from the mess above, parity has really hit the league
with the exception of the two league leaders. No team has an RPI lower
than 80, but only five have an RPI better than 50. Predicted
bottom-feeders Clemson, Wake Forest and Maryland have played much better
than expected, while Virginia, Florida State & (especially) Georgia Tech
have struggled. What this means is that every second-half game will be
crucial, and the ACC tournament will be more heated than ever, as teams
fight and claw for an all-important 17th win. The good news is that every
victory will help a team's RPI, so if any of the logjammed squads can get
at least 8 league wins (including in the ACC tournament) and about 17
overall, the ACC can still get five teams in the NCAA tournament.
Virginia and NC State look like the best bets overall to accomplish this,
both because they have the highest RPI's and SOS's, but also because
they're on hot streaks.
Georgia Tech has lost 4 out of its last 5 games, including a tight OT
loss to Wake Forest and a narrow road loss to NC State. Teams are
starting to really key in on Fallon Stokes, limiting her effectiveness,
but the real problem is turnovers. They're by far the worst in the league
in ACC play, and it's wiping out their solid rebounding and defense.
Their crucial second half games include home tilts with Virginia and
Maryland & NC State--three teams they lost to on the road. Tech has to
win those home games or they are cooked.
Wake's won two of their last three and lost to Virginia after coughing
up a huge lead. They have serious rebounding issues and aren't shooting all
that well, but their defense and scoring balance is keeping them in games.
Beating UNC at home was a serious confidence boost for a team that needed
one after 3 straight losses, and it helped them nip Georgia Tech on the
road. Liz Strunk is bidding for All-ACC status with her scoring--in ACC
play only, she's third in the league with 16.9 ppg. Wake only has 3 home
games left and has a stretch with 3 out of 4 games on the road. Their
goal is the NIT, and if they can go 14-14 or better, they have a shot.
Florida State is a good team that's gone through a rough stretch, losing
4 in a row. One was in overtime where they turned the ball over 26 times.
The good news is that Shante Williams is becoming a great player, leading
the team in scoring, rebounding & assists against Georgia Tech. They will
look to right the ship against Duke on Wednesday night, and they certainly
have the personnel to do it. They simply have to hang on to the ball and
try to win the rebounding battle.
After a disastrous 0-5 league start, the young Wolfpack team has won 3
of their last 4, with the only loss at Duke. They also came very close to
beating both UNC and Virginia. The Pack's next four games will likely
determine their ultimate fate, with 3 of them on the road, including UNC
and Virginia. With frosh like Sasha Reaves, Marquetta Dickens and Keisha
Brown starting to emerge around old hands like Kaayla Chones & Nanna
Rivers, NC State is a team to watch out for. Their outstanding SOS means
that if they can get to 17 wins, they have a great chance at postseason
play. Consistent rebounding and shooting are their keys.
The great enigma of the league is still in Charlottesville, VA. After
winning 4 of 5, they dropped 2 straight league games before barely nipping
Wake. Clemson came back from a huge deficit to beat them, and the Hoos
blew a late point point lead against UNC at home in that loss. Their
comeback against Wake has to hearten them a bit, especially since Brandi
Teamer's suspension has been lifted. With their excellent SOS, Virginia
simply needs to take care of business at home against Maryland, NCSU, FSU
and Wake & then steal a road win against Georgia Tech. The Hoos have a
chance at a solid extra win when they play Georgetown. This is a team to
keep an eye on; if they get to 17 wins, I predict they'll make the NCAA's.
Maryland continues to stun everyone with their great play. Though they
got handled on the road by Duke & UNC, they scored an upset at home over a
fine Clemson team. The big disappointment was the loss to NC State in a
game where Shay Doron and Alli Spence were suspended. That loss seemed to
wake them up a bit, as they snapped a string of four straight games where
they'd been outrebounded by outboarding Clemson. That continues to be
their big problem as their defense has improved. Maryland needs about 4-5
more wins to wrap up an NCAA bid, and it's well within their reach.
Their loss to Duke notwithstanding, Clemson is in good shape overall.
They have three easily winnable road games left and will have a shot at
winning the rest of their home games as well. Their rebounding continues
to be their Achilles Heel, because their scoring is way up, they have good
depth and balance, and are a good defensive club. They have to keep clubs
off the offensive boards in particular. Still, I expect Clemson to wind
up with 9 or 10 league wins and to get into the NCAA's.
UNC stumbled against Wake but pulled out big wins against FSU and
Virginia. Their trio of Camille Little, Ivory Latta & La'Tangela Atkinson
continues to impress, though their rebounding has been strangely lax the
past few games. The game the Heels have circled is on Valentine's Day
againt Duke, the game that could give them a chance to get closer to first
place. They still have to go to Littlejohn and face Clemson (a team they
handled easily in Chapel Hill) and endure a rematch with NCSU first.
Otherwise, the Heels have a favorable second half schedule with road games
they should win and home games against their tougher foes.
Duke is 8-0 and has obviously played well, but has tough road games
against NC State, Maryland and UNC ahead of them. The team is doing a
good job of dealing with one opponent at time, putting aside talk of
streaks and attending to the matter at hand. Any road game can be a
dangerous one in this league, and that goes double for this year. If Duke
goes into any game with a lazy attitude, they could lose.