The ACC's weekend included a signature win for Virginia, a squandered opportunity for
, and the conference's alleged best team getting crunched in front of the First Fan.
Further confirmation that this season ACC hoops rests on brand and tradition, rather than accomplishment. Or put less diplomatically, the league is down.
How down? Think Clapton doing "I Shot the Sheriff" or Pacino in "S1mone." Pitiable vehicles that don't approach the performer's ability or reputation.
You want to talk about the ACC being the No. 1-ranked conference by USA Today stat guru Jeff Sagarin and No. 3 by CollegeRPI.com?
I'll point out that the league leader, Duke, was exposed by the
fourth-best team, Georgetown, with the Obama-Biden duo in attendance. And the team picked to finish 11th just whacked the defending national champs in their own building.
The ACC isn't in Pac-10 territory, but based on recent results and our lyin' eyes, does any conference team besides the Blue Devils inspire confidence that it will reach the
tournament's second weekend?
Start with Virginia. The Cavaliers' remarkable win at North Carolina is at least as much a reflection of the present state of Tar Heels hoops as of coach
's ability to get his kids to pivot after last Thursday's late face-plant versus Virginia Tech.
The Cavaliers shot 52 percent from the field, limited Carolina to 36 percent, and guard Sylven Landesberg was a certified load from start to finish.
Most heartening to Bennett: "The unselfishness with which we played," he said, "and that was defensively and offensively. There was an unselfish effort on the defensive end to stop people together, and then on the offensive end, sharing the ball. I think that overflowed into both ends of the floor (and) was, to me, the thing that I liked most about that game."
Virginia is tied for first place in the loss column fielding a team that's not significantly more talented than the one that finished 11th last season and won only 10 games. What's that say about the conference?
While Bennett received verification that his message was getting across, Carolina coach Roy Williams sounds as if he needs couch time. The Tar Heels have lost four of five — three at home and three by double figures.
"I'm at wit's end," Williams said, "but at the same time, I still have to keep trying to think of something to do, and I have to keep working and make sure that they keep working because if not, we don't have any chance whatsoever."
Though the Tar Heels are 10th in the league, they also are only two games back in the loss column behind Duke, Maryland and the Cavaliers.
Carolina struggling certainly contributes to the notion that the ACC is down. But often another team steps into the void. No one has, not with any consistency.
One reason might be that the league this year fields collections of talent rather than talented collections.
"Any given night, you don't know who's going to win," said N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe, whose last-place team, by the way, handed Duke one of its two league losses.
"You could have one team go and knock off a nationally ranked team, and then go play a team that's not ranked at all and lose to them," he said. "You just don't know. But what you do know is that this league has a lot of talented players, and on any given night, if those talented players decide that they're going to be better, that they're going to go get it, then they're going to win."
Virginia Tech appeared capable of filling the void and still might do so. But if last Thursday's come-from-behind win at Virginia signified a step forward, Sunday's loss at Miami was a step back.
The Hokies permitted the Hurricanes to do to them what they had done nearly three weeks prior: Jump on Miami early and keep them at arm's length.
The Hurricanes shot 70 percent from the field in the first half, 63 percent for the game, against a Tech team whose players can recite coach Seth Greenberg's defensive drills in their sleep.
"Obviously, I was extremely disappointed with our defensive execution in the first half," Greenberg said. "Our attention to detail, our sense of urgency, our toughness, our communication was just not what it needs to be if we're going to be relevant in the next 10 games."
Tech has every chance to be relevant. So do eight or nine other teams. It's what happens when flawed teams routinely leave the door open.
The question becomes how many of the ACC's inconsistent or inattentive teams can take advantage of the openings?
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at
. For more from Fairbank, read his blog at dailypress.com/fromthetarpit.