ACC Surprises: What Made Us Raise Our Eyebrows


The ACC didn’t disappoint us thus far: who knew how many tricks the conference would surprise us with? The Atlantic Coast Conference boasts 5 of the top 15 nationally ranked teams in the land, as well as 4 of the top 10. This conference is associated as the strongest basketball conference in the US and has been for a long, long time. Notre Dame and Louisville are fully indoctrinated in the ACC. UNC’s long-time opponent, Maryland, is no longer in the mix. Times have changed, but in a number of surprising ways this season. I’ve found two major ones right off the bat.

Surprise #1: Virginia? Is This 1981?

Not since Ralph Sampson donned the Cavaliers’ Navy Blue and Orange has UVA looked so dominant. It was the 7’4” 3-time player of the year that led Virginia to a NIT title and a Final Four. Sampson was also NBA Player of the Year. Easily the most iconic figure in UVA basketball lore, he has yet to play center for the Cavs this season.

So, what gives? Why is UVA undefeated? Why are they ranked second in the nation?

It’s not like their statistics are jaw dropping. Virginia is ranked an abysmal 140th in Points Per Game (69.3 points), 106th in Assists Per Game (13.8 assists), and a somewhat respectable 36th in Rebounds Per Game (38.4 rebounds). These are not exactly mind blowing.

They seem to be handling the only stat that matters with ease: Wins/Losses. The Cavs sits at a perfect 18-0. UVA is also atop the ACC at 6-0 in conference games.

What’s their secret? It’s two-fold: defense and their schedule

A) Defense

UVA has held three opponents to under 30 points. I don’t mean for the half. I mean for the game. You read that correctly. There are U-10 rec leagues that put 30 on the scoreboard by half. UVA is holding college teams to that level.
The Cavs held both Rutgers and Harvard to sub-30 performances. They also set an ACC record by holding Georgia Tech to under that number. GT scored a measly 28. That’s the lowest any Atlanta Coast Conference team has ever put up in a game. UVA is dangerous.

B) Schedule

The Cavs have only played two ranked teams thus far. However, they beat both #13 Notre Dame and #21 Maryland on the road. They’re a mentally strong team.

But, we will see how much that theory holds when UVA squares off against #5 Duke, #10 Louisville and #15 UNC on the road in three straight games.

Nonetheless, the Cavs have been an ACC surprise as well as a national one.

Surprise #2: UNC’s Stats, Despite The Ranking

Chapel Hill has always been a heavy hitter in the statistical rankings. However, this season in particular has seen the Tar Heels in a phenomenal position. And they’ve done it across the board.

UNC is 2nd in the nation in rebounds, grabbing 44 a game. That’s 44 times Chapel Hill either get another possession or stop the opposition from having another one of their own. This is an incredibly important part of the Tar Heels’ success.

They’ve also ranked incredibly high in Assists Per Game, 18 per game. This puts UNC as 5th best in the land in this category. Being ranked 19th in the nation can be improved on but still bodes well for them, as they put up nearly 80 points per game.

More from North Carolina Tar Heels

Chapel Hill hit some road blocks at the start of the season. They posted two tough losses to unranked Butler and Iowa early in the season and got handled by #1 Kentucky. Other than that, though, the Tar Heels have played well. The Tar Heels came out on the losing side of a nail biter to #13 Notre Dame but they promptly bounced back for a victory over #5 Louisville. Chapel Hill has not lost since. They’ve taken out the #22, #12, and #18 ranked teams in the land this season.

Chapel Hill must continue to trust the numbers and the close games they’ve been on the losing side of will start to shift in their favor. Learning how to close out a game is a game in and of itself. UNC will continue to improve on this.

The Tar Heels strength of schedule is formidable and has the right balance of winnable games to build confidence as well as stretch goals against teams like #1 Kentucky. This will help UNC come March. Just keep the big statistics coming.

Other noted ACC surprises:

Notre Dame’s high performance

Duke’s back-to-back shellackings they suffered at the hands of unranked Miami and NC State this season.

Let us know what has surprised you this ACC season in the comments section below!