That's right folks, I've finally mashed together my love of good TV and sometimes good ACC basketball into one column. It's happened and I hope the two of you who share my interests enjoy it. To the rest of you, I'm sorry.
Teams are listed in my predicted order of finish. TV shows are simply best matches, and not by any means a 'best of 2012' list.
TV Show: Mad Men (Always a safe bet to be at the top every year. Unflappable leading men. Features predominantly white people in power positions. Sorry Nate James. And fine, Jeff Caple.)
What the Numbers Say: Duke has the best offense in the nation thanks to a combination of never turning the ball over and hitting over 40% of its 3s as a team. The defense is back on track after a horrid 2011, once again forcing teams to take a lot of bad shots or more specifically a lot of bad 2-point shots. Rebounding is their one potential weakness, as they aren't great at either end on the glass.
Why I Ranked Them Here: Because they're the best team in the conference and right now its not particularly close.
2. NC State
TV Show: Justified (Plenty of action, capable of some great moments but rarely able to put them all together to ascend to the level of a Mad Men or Breaking Bad. Raylan Givens would never, under an circumstances, put himself in a harness and glide down to the floor of an arena though.)
What the Numbers Say: A dominating offensive team that cannot generate turnovers and seems to flat-out refuse to defensive rebound. Both these things will cost them at some point in conference play, but the offense is so good and so talented that the Pack will outscore almost everyone on a night-to-night basis.
Why I Ranked Them Here: They are the only team apart from Duke that has shown they are good enough to compete with a great team (at Michigan) and consistent enough to avoid major letdowns.
TV Show: Boadwalk Empire (Like the show, the Heels are spending the early part of the season trying to figure out how things will work after losing some of its best talent. Apologies for the vagueness, trying not to spoil the show for anyone.)
What the Numbers Say: Not since 2006 has Roy had a team that relied this heavily on the 3-point shot. It could easily end up being his most 3-point reliant team since he got to UNC. Until McAdoo becomes a legitimate go-to scorer or Brice Johnson learns how to play enough defense to stay on the court, the Heels might just have to embrace their new-found identity.
Why I Ranked Them Here: Still a ton of talent, still managed to avoid any head-scratching losses, but the best win is at home against UNLV last weekend.
TV Show: Girls (Critics acted like it was the best show ever, leading to a ton of backlash after its debut. I told everyone Miami was the second-best team in the ACC, leading to a ton of backlash after the Canes first game. The truth, in both cases, was somewhere in between.)
What the Numbers Say: The loss of Reggie Johnson isn't going to help their poor rebounding numbers. After hitting 41% of his 3s last year, Kenny Kadji is hitting less than 30 percent so far this season. If he's not going to be a capable outside scorer, he needs to pick up the slack left by Johnson on the inside - particularly in the rebounding column. In general, this is a team that would look a lot better if it wasn't hitting just 33% of its 3-pointers on the year.
Why I Ranked Them Here: They would actually be 2nd on the list if not for the Reggie Johnson injury. Could be a very dangerous team in March if they can win enough to make the tournament.
TV Show: Revolution (I like some of what I've seen from both, other parts lead me to believe that neither have a high enough ceiling. Both still have a lot to prove in the next few months.)
What the Numbers Say: One of the best teams in the nation inside the arc, allowing teams to shoot just 37% from 2-point range while hitting over 56% of its shots from 2. Also a very good rebounding team, but the Terps have consistently lost the turnover battle despite poor quality of competition which is not a good sign heading into league play.
Why I Ranked Them Here: 12-1 but haven't played a team ranked inside KenPom's top 80 since losing the opener to Kentucky. We just don't know what they'll do against good competition.
6. Georgia Tech
TV Show: Parenthood (Quietly putting together some really good performances but no one is really watching. Also, I don't watch Parenthood, I just know its by the same guy who did Friday Night Lights and its apparently been very good this season if you like crying. Hopefully there's not as much crying on GT's team.)
What the Numbers Say: A very, very good defensive team that appears to have enough talent to maybe compete in the league this year with the addition of a good freshman class. Like Maryland, they are excelling by defending shots and grabbing defensive rebounds. Unlike Maryland, they don't really have a reliable way to score. Tech is getting helped some by opponents shooting just 67% from the line against them so far.
Why I Ranked Them Here: Someone in the ACC is bound to surprise, why not Georgia Tech? They do one thing really well, which is better than all the teams listed below them.
7. Florida State
TV Show: Louie (Just like with the TV show, I have no idea what to expect from this team from game-to-game. Also both teams are run by overweight middle-age white guys. Sorry Leonard Hamilton, we know Stan Jones actually coaches the team.)
What the Numbers Say: This is what happens when the vaunted Florida State defense becomes very ordinary, as its currently ranked 85th according to Pomeroy after four consecutive years of being in the top 20 (including #1 overall in 2009 & 2010). The Noles just haven't found any great post defenders and as a result aren't forcing misses at nearly the same rate they have in prior years.
Why I Ranked Them Here: They'll recover some and upset a few people because that's how Florida State does things, but they'll lose to far too many bad teams to stay in the upper-half of the league.
TV Show: The Walking Dead (Oh come on, like a show full of slow moving, hard-to-kill undead creatures isn't a perfect match for Virginia's style of basketball.)
What the Numbers Say: Slow, plodding offense combined with a great defense. Still allergic to offensive rebounds, still great at defensive rebounding. It's Virginia basketball under Tony Bennett. What makes Virginia a potentially more dangerous team this year is that its shooting 38% from behind the arc.
Why I Ranked Them Here: I just don't believe in Virginia nearly as much as the numbers believe in Virginia. Pomeroy actually has them as the 2nd-best team in the league right now... I respectfully disagree mostly because they lost to a 2-win ODU team.
9. Virginia Tech
TV Show: Homeland (Got off to a great start to begin the season but fell apart rather quickly. Also I'm not sure which has bigger holes - the VT defense or Homeland's plot.)
What the Numbers Say: Remember that 7-0 start where the offense looked really good? Well, turns out it isn't. The Hokies haven't been able to pull in enough offensive rebounds, or shoot well enough from behind the arc, to maintain that early season offensive output. Combine that with a defense that ranks 10th in the ACC so far behind Wake & BC and you have a few train wreck losses and a new coach trending in the wrong direction going into league play.
Why I Ranked Them Here: They have Erick Green, which keeps them from being last.
TV Show: Saturday Night Live (You know what your getting every time and if you're lucky 10 minutes of it might be entertaining)
What the Numbers Say: Clemson basically remains a poor man's Virginia, which is not a compliment. Actually a fairly good team inside the 3-point line, but they can't rebound or shoot the 3-ball. They also can't shoot free-throws, which is kind of a big deal when you slow the game to a grind and make every possession more valuable.
Why I Ranked Them Here: I still think Brownell is a good coach but he's gotta get players at some point.
11. Wake Forest
TV Show: How I Met Your Mother (Both peaked a long time ago and now we just wonder why we bother tuning in every week.)
What the Numbers Say: You know, I look at their roster this year and it actually has a lot of pieces that seems like it might combine into a decent team. But then you realize that they play no defense, don't rebound and turn the ball over a lot. Ultimately, that's gotta be on Bzdelik right? The parts are not adding up to anything but another terrible season.
Why I Ranked Them Here: Their coach
12. Boston College
TV Show: Parks & Recreation (It's a group of nice, well-meaning people who aren't cut out to play ACC basketball. Plus their former coach Al Skinner had a truly Ron Swanson worthy mustache)
What the Numbers Say: Their offense would be decent... if they could get an offensive rebound or hit a 3-pointer. Their defense would be decent... if they could get a turnover or force a few more misses. So yeah, you know, right on the doorstep of being a middle-bottom-tier ACC team.
Why I Ranked Them Here: They still have Ivy league talent at every position except whatever position Ryan Anderson plays.