Ta’Niya Latson runs previous the Boston Faculty protection. Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire through Getty Photographs photograph.In the case of probably the most intriguing convention in girls’s faculty basketball, many appear to agree that the ACC takes the cake. With six groups ranked within the AP High 25, your entire convention has been filled with nice battles and storylines this season.
Going into tonight’s matchups, the highest 5 groups are No. 16 Duke and No. 9 Notre Dame, each 8-2; No. 23 Florida State, No. 11, 8-3; North Carolina, 7-3; and No. 13 Virginia Tech, 7-4. Louisville, is subsequent, at 7-4, adopted by 6-4 No. 15 NC State, 6-4 Miami, 5-6 Syracuse and 4-7 Wake Forest. Boston Faculty and Clemson are additionally 4-7, whereas Virginia is 3-8, Georgia Tech 2-8, and Pitt, 0-10.
Corridor of Fame coach Muffet McGraw, who joined the ACC Community crew as an analyst after retiring from Notre Dame in 2020, stated win-loss information and rankings don’t replicate how good every staff is that this season.
“I believe this yr, you’re going to see the parity of groups which have three or 4 losses and nonetheless be primary within the convention,” McGraw stated. “I believe that the parity is there. Everybody’s getting higher. I believe there’s extra expertise round, in all probability due to the switch portal. That has positively improved some groups.”
When basing it on the attention check alone, it does appear to be that the switch portal has had a big impact on the general high quality of league groups. Two of Duke’s greatest gamers, Celeste Taylor and Kennedy Brown, transferred from Texas and Oregon State, respectively. Virginia Tech noticed Ashley Owusu and Taylor Soule switch from Maryland and Boston Faculty respectively. NC State options transfers Diamond Johnson, River Baldwin and Mimi Collins.
It’s positively no coincidence that each one three of those groups are three of the highest groups within the convention, with NC State coming off of a visit to the Elite Eight. Nonetheless, the staff that misplaced to the eventual champion within the Last 4 – Louisville – did appear to take a step again this yr after initially struggling in non-conference play resulting from being too depending on Hailey Van Lith offensively, in addition to having a porous protection.
Regardless of this, the Cardinals have managed to bounce again in convention play, although they’re at the moment on a two-game shedding streak to Wolfpack and Demon Deacons. Van Lith continued to place her staff on her again, averaging 19.3 factors, 5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals per sport.
The Tar Heels and the Irish each made spectacular runs final yr to the Candy 16, with the previous particularly being the one staff that basically made eventual champions South Carolina sweat. This yr North Carolina is 16-5 total. On the finish of 2022 and starting of 2023, they had been on a four-game shedding streak to Mchigan, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami.
Nonetheless, they’ve managed to just lately flip issues round on a seven-game successful streak as the most popular staff within the ACC. Bench gamers like Paulina Paris (6.8 factors and 1.1 steals per sport) and Future Adams (4.7 factors, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per sport) have stepped up in massive methods throughout this successful streak.
“I simply suppose that was my principal concern for North Carolina: who was going to step up exterior of their 5 principal starters and we’re beginning to see that, in order that’s an excellent signal for UNC,” ACC Community analyst Kelly Gramlich stated.
For Notre Dame, they’ve actually taken huge steps within the third season of head coach Niele Ivey, at the moment 17-3, with standouts Olivia Miles, Maddy Westbeld and Sonia Citron. They’re an awesome two-way staff, having the No. 2 scoring offense and No. 4 scoring protection respectively in league, scoring 78.4 factors whereas permitting simply 58 factors per sport.
“The truth that they’re higher defensively, and I believe that that’s simply a number of gamers rising up and maturing and getting higher yr over yr, that’s what separates them and I believe that’s what makes them the favourite proper now,” Gramlich stated.
One staff particularly that has actually risen this yr, because of stout protection, is the 18-3 Blue Devils. They boast the main scoring protection within the convention, solely permitting 52.1 factors per sport.
Head coach Kara Lawson has actually taken her expertise teaching Staff USA 3×3 girls’s basketball and the NBA’s Boston Celtics and used it to mould this staff in her picture, enjoying arduous each evening and actually stopping their opponents from having a shot, which may pay dividends come March, the place they haven’t performed since 2018.
One other defensive-minded staff that has actually shocked folks this yr is the Virginia Cavaliers, who went from being useless final within the convention final yr at 5-22 total to now being 14-8 total beneath new head coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton. The most important enchancment has positively been defensively, the place they’re solely permitting 61.6 factors per sport and 37.1. % taking pictures.
What makes this much more spectacular is that there wasn’t that a lot roster turnover, because the Cavaliers nonetheless have seven gamers from final yr’s staff: Carole Miller, Taylor Valladay, Mir McLean, Kaydan Lawson, Camryn Taylor, London Clarkson and McKenna Dale.
“I believe Amaka was an awesome alternative and he or she’s doing an awesome job and goes to do an awesome job constructing that program again as much as the place they’re aggressive within the ACC,” McGraw stated.
The Seminoles are a 3rd staff that has been an enormous shock this yr, climbing again into the highest 25 rankings after a two-year absence. A lot of their spirited play is because of their dynamic newcoer, Ta’Niya Latson, who’s averaging 22.7 factors, 4.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks per sport, being the primary true freshman to guide the ACC in scoring.
FSU additionally has two different double-digit scorers in Sara Bejedi (11.6 factors, 2.5 assists and 0.9 steals per sport) and Makayla Timpson (13.5 factors, 9.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and a couple of.5 blocks per sport). They at the moment are the highest-scoring staff within the league, averaging 83.5 factors per sport.
“Their depth may be very distinctive, they play all 11 gamers on their roster,” Gramlich stated. “I believe that their depth actually makes them stand out and I believe that they will make a deep run.”
Two groups which were someplace in between this yr are the Hurricanes and the Eagles. The latter misplaced key gamers to the switch portal, and the previous initially bought off to a 7-4 begin in non-conference play. Each groups have promising younger gamers which might be able to serving to them to be darkish horse contenders within the convention Event.
Miami has Haley Cavinder (12.8 factors, 4.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 0.8 steals per sport) and Future Harden (12.1 factors, 5.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and a couple of.1 steals per sport). Boston Faculty has Dontavia Waggoner (13.1 factors, 7.5 rebounds and three steals per sport), JoJo Lacey (11.4 factors, 5 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 0.5 blocks per sport), Maria Gakdeng (10.7 factors, 6.2 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.5 blocks per sport), Taina Mair (10.9 factors, 4.8 rebounds, seven assists and two steals per sport) and Andrea Daley (10 factors, 6.2 rebounds, one steal and 0.6 blocks per sport).
Total, the depth of the ACC has been really unparalleled this season, as there are a number of groups able to successful the convention and making deep runs within the NCAA Event. There are nice offensive and defensive groups, and groups which have managed to rebound from troublesome begins.
Eight groups are projected to qualify for the postseason: Notre Dame, Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Miami and Florida State. Whether or not or not any of them could make it to the Last 4 could have loads to do with how they end each, within the common season and within the ACC Event.
“You positively wish to be a staff that may host within the first and second rounds, so if Virginia Tech hosts, if North Carolina hosts, if Florida State hosts, that’s an enormous difference-maker as a result of then, all it’s a must to do is win two video games and get to the Candy 16,” Gramlich stated.