The ACC welcomed a few newcomers this season. It looks unusual to see the likes of Syracuse and Pittsburgh joining one of the nation's best basketball conferences, but those two schools are the ones leading the way in 2013-14.
Syracuse is a title contender. Pittsburgh is still trying to figure out how serious it really is this year. Meanwhile, longtime powerhouses Duke and North Carolina are struggling out of the gates in conference play. Exactly how we expected the ACC to turn out.
As we round the corner of the season's halfway mark, let's take a look at how the ACC is panning out. Where does everyone stand with a few conference games out of the way?
1) Syracuse Orange - Arguably the best team in the nation, the Orange have easily handled the Tar Heels at home, picked up a double-digit point win over No. 8 Villanova and added another ranked win against Baylor. C.J. Fair is a Player of the Year candidate. Syracuse's defense averages nearly 10 steals per game. You don't want to see this team in March.
2) Pittsburgh Panthers - A one-point loss to Cincinnati is all that separates Pitt from a perfect record. The Panthers don't have a single win against an RPI top 50 team, but they have chances to prove themselves with two meetings against the Orange and one with the Blue Devils. Every win has come in double-digit fashion so far.
3) Duke Blue Devils - Jabari Parker is apparently mortal; he's struggling in ACC play. But the Blue Devils notched a good win over the Cavaliers on Monday, and they're now 6-3 against the RPI top 100. Rodney Hood continues to step up. If Parker can return to his early-season form, Duke will move up.
4) Virginia Cavaliers - No. 22 overall in RPI, the Cavaliers would've loved to walk away from Cameron Indoor with a win, but they came up short. Still, a 3-1 start to conference play has looked impressive.
5) Florida State Seminoles - Florida State handed Massachusetts its only loss of the season back in December, and the Seminoles have a win over No. 10 VCU. They came within inches of beating Michigan and Florida. Losing 62-50 at home to Virginia marked a rough start to ACC play, but FSU bounced back with double-digit wins over Clemson and Maryland.
6) Clemson Tigers - Pick up a win over Duke, and you'll start turning heads. Clemson cruised to victory against the No. 16 ranked team in the nation. The only "bad" loss we've seen came against Auburn. K.J. McDaniels continues to be a dangerous scorer against any opponent.
7) North Carolina Tar Heels - Who knows what to make of the Tar Heels. They have wins over No. 3 Louisville, No.1 Michigan State and No. 11 Kentucky, but an 0-3 start in conference play is unheard of in Chapel Hill. UNC hasn't seen that kind of rough patch since Dean Smith's last season. The offense has to improve; even against Syracuse, 45 points is pathetic.
8) Miami Hurricanes - Miami's defense is the highlight of the team so far. Eleven opponents have been held to 60 points or less. Now, the level of competition is exactly stellar, but the Hurricanes kept it tight with the Orange and capitalized on facing a fading Tar Heels team.
9) N.C. State Wolfpack - Losing to North Carolina Central and sliding by UNC Greensboro, the in-state competition has already been tough for N.C. State. The Wolfpack nearly lost by 30 to the Cavaliers on Saturday. It's an up-and-down squad that doesn't excel in any particular area.
10) Maryland Terrapins - Starting point guard Seth Allen is back from injury, but his comeback is still a work in progress, as he disappeared in the Terp' 85-61 disaster of a game against the Seminoles. Maryland is still looking for a signature win this season.
11) Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Losing Jerian Grant due to academic issues comes as a huge blow to the Irish. He was leading the team with 19 points per game. Notre Dame still managed to open conference play with a win over Duke, but the losses to N.C. State and Georgia Tech that followed put a damper on that brief celebration. It also needed overtime to take down the mighty Canisius in Grant's absence.
12) Wake Forest Demon Deacons - A win against UNC doesn't look as good these days. Wake Forest is 1-3 since Dec. 28, with huge losses to Xavier, Virginia and Pitt. Granted, those are all respectable programs, but the Demon Deacons aren't even close to hanging with these teams as of late. One of the nation's better rebounding team needs to elevate its shooting percentages. You won't beat many opponents finishing 35 percent from the floor.
13) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets - Wins over Illinois and Notre Dame are nice, but blowout losses to Maryland and Duke remind us where Georgia Tech stands in the conference. There's no perimeter threat here, as the Yellow Jackets shoot under 30 percent from beyond the arc.
14) Virginia Tech Hokies - Losses against USC Upstate and UNC Greensboro make the Hokies want to forget this season altogether. They're shooting 43 percent from the floor, ranking then No. 242 in the nation. Plus, Virginia Tech just lost to Boston College. The rest of ACC play should be fun.
15) Boston College Eagles - Hey, at least Boston College has more conference wins than UNC. That's something to hang your hat on. The Eagles are one of the worst rebounding teams in America, and they're not particularly impressive in any other facet of their game. Clearly the worst team in the ACC this season.