UVA's Dynamic Duo, Surging Yellow Jackets, Updated ACC Rankings
It’s been a busy early season stretch around the ACC. They played to a 7-7 draw in the ACC/SEC Challenge, and then conference play opened over the weekend.
Dynamic Defensive Duo
Tony Bennett’s Virginia teams are known for great defense, and he’s had some incredible individual defenders in his 15 seasons at the helm in Charlottesville. But he’s never had a duo as good as Reece Beekman and Ryan Dunn. It’s the best defensive one-two punch the ACC has seen in a long time.
Reece Beekman is the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He just shut down two of the better guards in the country this past week, Texas A&M’s Wade Taylor and Judah Mintz of Syracuse. The senior point guard is averaging a career-best 2.6 steals per game too. He’s on pace to easily break the UVA career steals record, held by Othell Wilson.
Yet, Beekman hasn’t been the best defender on his own team this season. What Ryan Dunn is doing is on its own level historically. He’s currently leading the ACC in both steals (2.8) and blocks (2.8). Wahoo fans are debating whether he’s their best ever defender not named Ralph. It’s no wonder Dunn is soaring up NBA Draft boards, coming in at 18th in the latest ESPN mock draft.
Ryan Dunn is the only college basketball player in the past decade with 20 blocks and 20 steals through 7 games. The 20-year-old forward boasts an exceptional blend of length, instincts, and mobility at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan.— League Him (@League_Him) December 1, 2023
Early frontrunner for National DPOY and… pic.twitter.com/Vwe04apdJL
These Yellow Jackets Can Sting
After a shaky start to the season, nobody had a better past week than Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets pulled off back-to-back upsets of Top 25 opponents. They throttled Mississippi State 67-59 in the ACC/SEC Challenge. That game was not as close as the final score indicates. Then they held on to beat Duke 72-68 in the ACC opener.
This is the same team that in the two prior games lost to UMass-Lowell and got shellacked by Cincinnati. The emergence of a pair of freshmen has been a major key for them. Big man Baye Ndongo scored a game-high 21 in the win over Duke. And guard Nait George has moved into the starting lineup, leading them with 9 assists on Saturday. They were not very popular recruits either, great finds by first-year head coach Damon Stoudamire.
North Carolina inherits the top spot after dropping 100 points on Tennessee in the SEC Challenge. Freshman point guard Elliot Cadeau (7.1 PPG) has dished out 24 assists while only committing two turnovers over the past five games. Virginia looked like a team that could contend for the ACC title this past week. Watch out for freshman guard Elijah Gertrude (3.0 PPG) now that his redshirt is lifted.
After a couple impressive road wins, Clemson will put their perfect record on the line this week against fellow unbeatens South Carolina and TCU. Miami has one of the best starting lineups in the country. There’s been a steep drop-off when the Canes go to the bench though. I think Duke is better than fifth, but it’s hard to justify having them higher right now. Scheyer seems to be still figuring out some of his new pieces.
Middle of the Pack
NC State notched a sneaky good road win on Saturday, in overtime at Boston College. Wake Forest should be much improved when they eventually get Damari Monsanto back. The Deacs win over Florida was huge for their resume. If Florida State hadn’t blown double-digit second half leads in losses to Georgia and North Carolina, the Seminoles would be in this week’s Top 25.
Pittsburgh is struggling of late, losing three of their last four. Freshman sensation Bub Carrington (14.6 PPG) has only shot 32% from the field during that stretch. The middle of the pack teams didn’t make it very difficult for Georgia Tech to move up. We’ll see if the Jackets can keep the momentum going against rival Georgia on Tuesday.
Other than a good win over Iowa State in Orlando, Virginia Tech hasn’t been that impressive so far. Hokie big man Lynn Kidd (15.1 PPG) is on his way to a breakout season though. Boston College choked their way to a bad loss against Loyola (IL). The lack of three-point shooting is a problem for Syracuse, but the Orange are young and should improve as the season goes along.New Notre Dame coach Micah Shrewsberry doesn’t have a lot to work with. But the grit the young Irish have shown tells you they’ll be a problem once the pieces are in place. And Louisville has already matched last season’s win total. Progress.