Look at this week’s college basketball rankings. You’ve got No. 1 Villanova (12-0) from the Big East, No. 2 UCLA from the Pac-12, and Nos. 3 and 4 Kansas and Baylor from the Big 12. We don’t get to the ACC until Nos. 5 and 6 with Duke (12-1) and Louisville (11-1).
But don’t let the top four fool you. There’s no denying which conference reigns supreme.
“The best conference in college basketball is without question the ACC,” CBS Sports college hoops analyst Jon Rothstein said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The ACC is in position to have similar representation that the old Big East had in 2011 when it had 11 teams in the field of 68. Right now, when you forecast the ACC heading into conference play, 13 of the 15 teams have a legitimate chance to make the NCAA Tournament if you’re going to give Syracuse the benefit of the doubt because of what happened last season. And look, I think that Wake Forest was on the outside looking in heading into the season, but Danny Manning has two strong sophomores in Bryant Crawford and John Collins. John Collins is the best player in the ACC that nobody’s talking about.”
Collins is averaging 17.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game for the Demon Deacons (9-3).
“And the big thing that you need to look at when you’re forecasting the ACC in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, look at other leagues around the country,” Rothstein said. “The American looks like a one- or two-bid league, the Atlantic-10 looks like a one- or two-bid league, and the Mountain West clearly looks like a one-bid league. Where are the bids going to come from? I think they’re going to come from the ACC.”
The aforementioned Blue Devils will begin conference play without Grayson Allen, who has been suspended indefinitely, this after a trio of tripping incidents and an emotional meltdown in Duke’s 72-61 win over Elon on Dec. 21.
Rothstein believes that Allen will be suspended for three games.
“I think it will be for the ACC opener against Virginia Tech, and then Duke plays conventionality Georgia Tech and Boston College,” Rothstein said. “I firmly believe Allen will be back (against Florida State).”
It’ll be interesting to see if Duke misses Allen. After all, the Blue Devils, who lost to Kansas by a bucket in November, have won 10 straight games, including nine by double digits.
“Here’s the amazing thing,” Rothstein said. “I wrote all summer long that Duke’s overall talent put it in position to have a season comparable to what we saw Kentucky have during the 2014-15 season when they started out the year 38-0 before losing in the Final Four to Wisconsin. Duke didn’t have Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Marques Bolden – three potential lottery picks in next year’s draft – and still after 13 games, they’ve only lost one game on a last-second shot by Frank Mason when they lost to Kansas. I think if all hands are on deck, everyone else is playing for second place.”
Duke plays at Virginia Tech (10-1) this Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.
Louisville, meanwhile, plays No. 12 Virginia (10-1) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.
“The Louisville basketball program is going to be far more relevant if Rick Pitino is the head coach and thriving than if he isn’t,” Rothstein said. “Louisville right now, along with Virginia, I think is the best defensive basketball team in the sport. They’ll play tonight. Louisville doesn’t have as many household names as Kentucky or a UCLA or a Duke, but the Cards have several guys that have taken major strides from last season. Donovan Mitchell has made a step. Deng Adel looks like he’s on the verge of stardom. And Quentin Snider, based on what he did last week on Kentucky, looks like he’s going to challenge Joel Berry from North Carolina as the guy who could hold the mantle as the ACC’s top point guard.”