Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech bring Parity to the ACC
By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Geoff Nelowet:
The Atlantic Coast Conference has been known as a basketball power for decades, and year after year, Duke and North Carolina take center stage. Either the Blue Devils or Tar Heels has won the ACC regular season title over the last six seasons, but this could be the first year in a long time that neither of the perennial powers wins the conference.
This year, parity is abundant, as Maryland, Virginia Tech and bottom-feeder Virginia are in the top four of the conference with Duke in second. Maryland is now 4-1 in conference play, and they have won against ACC foes by an average of over 17 points.
Senior guard Greivis Vasquez, who is averaging 17.8 points and 6.2 assists per game, leads Maryland. He is a frontrunner for ACC player of the year, and he is a shoe-in for the All-ACC team. Senior forward Landon Milbourne has also chipped in scoring almost 15 points per contest.
The Terps got off to a shaky start this season in non-conference play. Although four of their five losses came against proven opponents in Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Villanova and Wake forest, they also have a home loss to William & Mary, which instilled a lack of confidence of the team’s potential early in the season. Maryland has bounced back winning four of five conference games to sit alone in first place in the ACC.
The Virginia Cavaliers have also found good fortune this season, as they won their first three conference games – a feat UVA has not accomplished in 15 years. The Cavaliers are led by sophomore shooting guard Sylven Landesberg, who is averaging over 17 points a game. Junior forward Mike Scott has also played a major role averaging over 13 points and 7 rebounds per game.
The Cavaliers rely on their strong defense to win games, and at times their scoring ability can be problematic. When Landesberg is on the bench, the Cavs lose a noticeable dimension to their attack, and they have gone long stretches appearing inept with the ball in their hands with Landesberg off the court. Virginia has now lost two straight ACC games. They are still fourth in the conference – just behind Virginia Tech, who they lost to at home this past Thursday night. The young Cavs will have to prove that their wins over ranked and ACC opponents were not a fluke.
Virginia Tech, now third in the ACC, is 16-3, and they have won three ACC games. They have played a relatively weak non-conference schedule, which brings into question how they will fair as they get into the thick of their conference schedule, as they are still virtually unproven. Junior guard Malcolm Delaney has dominated this season, and he leads the ACC in scoring at 19.9 points per game.
This may be an anomaly of a year in the ACC with surprises atop the conference and UNC falling back to the middle of the pack. Teams such as Virginia, Virginia Tech Maryland should look to take advantage of essentially a down year in the ACC with the conference title open to all takers.