BOZICH | Early ACC basketball snapshot highlights Louisville, No - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Early ACC basketball snapshot highlights Louisville, North Carolina, Gbinije

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Rick Bozich takes an early look at ACC basketball. Rick Bozich takes an early look at ACC basketball.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – We’re one month into the college basketball season. Time for the first updated snapshot of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

BEST TEAM: North Carolina.

I know the Tar Heels (7-1) lost to Northern Iowa. I know people still insist the Tar Heels are soft. I know you can make an argument for Duke, Virginia or other teams. I know you have Carolina Fatigue.

I still believe what I believed a month ago – Roy Williams has the most effective blend of inside and outside talent on Tobacco Road, especially now that Marcus Paige is healthy. Kennedy Meeks has continued to improve, making nearly 62 percent of his shots. Brice Johnson is this close to averaging a double double.

SURPRISE TEAM: Louisville.

Most of the pre-season predictions had the Cardinals picked to finish sixth, seventh or even eighth in the league. Today, Rick Pitino’s team is looking no worse than fourth or fifth.

The Cards are first in the league in field goal percentage on offense (really) and defense as well as rebounding margin (at plus 18.9, more than 6 per game better than any ACC team).

You can credit some of that to the Cards’ schedule, but this team looks better today than it looked in late October.

DISAPPOINTING TEAM: North Carolina State.

Nobody expected the Wolfpack to contend for the ACC title. They were picked eighth, right behind U of L, during the ACC’s Operation Basketball.

But N.C. State has lost three of eight games, including one to William & Mary by 17 points. Ken Pomeroy projects a 6-12 ACC finish, making you wonder how Mark Gottfried got a contract extension.

BEST PLAYER: Cat Barber, North Carolina State.

I know he doesn’t have the greatest reputation around the University of Louisville, but I can understand why Rick Pitino recruited Barber. He’s second in the league in scoring and second in assists. He's also State's third-leading rebounder. One flaw: I wonder if he is the only starting guard in the league who has not made a three-point shot. Barber is 0-for-9 from distance.

BEST FRESHMAN: Malik Beasley, Florida State.

Give Leonard Hamilton credit. He knows how to find and recruit talented players. Beasley, a 6-foot-5 guard, is only the latest rookie to shine for Hamilton, averaging 18.6 points per game.

MOST IMPROVED: Michael Gbinije, Syracuse.

Carmelo Anthony and Michael Carter-Williams aren’t walking through that door, but if Gbinije keeps playing the way he’s gone off during the first nine games this season he’ll be the next Big Thing at Syracuse.

The only stat I need to share is this one: Gbinije has made 32 of 64 three-point shots.

Louisville, as a team, has made 42 threes. Gbinije is averaging 19.7 points per game, up from 12.7 last season. Not bad for a guy who transferred from Duke and averaged less than 4 ppg two years ago.

FAB FIVE: Barber; Gbinije; Grayson Allen, Duke; Damion Lee, Louisville; Devin Thomas, Wake Forest.

BEST WIN: North Carolina over Maryland, 89-81, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

WORST LOSS (by a good team): Miami (at home) to No.  102 Northeastern, 78-77.

WORST LOSS (by any team): Virginia Tech (at home) to Alabama State, 85-82. Alabama State is ranked 293 by Ken Pomeroy.

TEAMS SCHEDULING WITHOUT COURAGE: 5 – Boston College, Duke, N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech have yet to play a road game. It's two weeks before Christmas, folks.

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: North Carolina at Texas, 5:15 p.m. Saturday.

The Longhorns can’t beat the Tar Heels. Heck, Texas couldn’t beat Washington or struggling Michigan. But I still give Roy Williams credit for taking his guys on the road.

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