With the holidays behind us, it's time to look ahead to the start of the ACC basketball schedule.
Coming into the season, NC State was considered the favorite in the ACC with virtually their entire team returning after a surprising trip to the Elite Eight. Duke was expected to take a step back after losing a couple of key players while North Carolina was supposed to remain in the mix while rebuilding.
It was expected to be a three-horse race for the ACC title with teams like Maryland, Miami, Virginia and Florida State battling for a postseason berth. Less than two months into the season, it appears things might shape up a bit differently.
NC State looks shaky playing the role of favorite, obviously not used to having the bullseye on their back. Nonetheless, they remain a serious contender.
Duke has surprised everyone with how well they have played so far and may now be the favorite in the ACC, as well as a national title contender. That said, Duke always seems to sprint out of the gate and play extremely well in these preseason tournaments and against a tough out-of-conference schedule.
North Carolina is talented, but there are major concerns about their play thus far. They don't have the experience or the talent to play their usual suspect defense and simply expect to outscore everyone.
The big surprise has been Maryland, which has greatly benefitted from the NCAA granting transfer Dez Wells immediate eligibility and a talented freshman class that is big and can really crash the glass.
The Terps lost a close game to Kentucky, one they would have won if not for digging such a deep hole in the first half. They blew out Northwestern on the road but haven't been challenged very much thanks to a very weak out of conference schedule.
The Terps should be considered a serious sleeper in the ACC. The top teams in the conference aren't great on the boards while Maryland's size has dominated even the biggest opponents, including Kentucky. If they can solidify the play at point guard and shoot the ball better from the outside, they will be a handful.
Florida State has been surprisingly inconsistent and doesn't appear to clicking on all cylinders. They won last year's ACC tournament so it's far too early to count them out.
The rest of the conference leaves a lot to be desired, proving just how far the ACC has fallen as a former basketball powerhouse.
NC State (12-6)
North Carolina (11-7)
Florida State (11-7)
Virginia Tech (8-10)
Georgia Tech (7-11)
Boston College (5-13)
Wake Forest (5-13)