On the ACC’s weekly coaches teleconference Monday, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon was asked about his team’s 3-0 start in conference play mirroring that of Syracuse, one of the other newcomers to the league.
Dixon’s tone was something along the lines of, “And you’re surprised because …”
“When they went out to add teams, I think their mission was to get the best basketball teams they could land,” Dixon said.
Georgia Tech gets to render its opinion Tuesday night, when Pitt makes it first visit to Atlanta as a league member.
Going into Monday play, the ACC standings after a little over a week of competition required some time to digest and not only because the league has mushroomed into a 15-team conglomerate. Syracuse and Pitt, which joined the ACC last July, shared first place with Virginia at 3-0. Florida State and Clemson, picked to finish ninth and 14th, respectively, were next at 2-1.
Joining Georgia Tech among the unwashed masses at 1-2 was Duke, which was defeated by the third new member, Notre Dame.
“I don’t know if we ever verbalized it — Jim, Jamie or I — while we were on the road this summer, saying, ‘Hey, let’s have the old Big East really get going,’” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Dixon. “But there’s probably a little bit of pride of getting into the league and establishing yourself right away.”
Wallowing at the bottom at 0-3 was North Carolina. Syracuse waxed the Tar Heels on Saturday 51-45, UNC’s lowest total since 1997. The Tar Heels are 0-3 in ACC play for just the second time in school history.
Said UNC coach Roy Williams, “We’re not doing very well.”
Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion, Georgia Tech will be the fourth team to attempt to deliver the Panthers their first conference loss. It might be foolish to read too much into the results from the first sixth of the conference season, but it’s attention-getting.
“That’s odd,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said of Duke and North Carolina starting a combined 1-5. “I don’t think anybody would have predicted that. But North Carolina’s 0-3 and beat Michigan State at Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky, so I think that speaks volumes for our league.”
Pittsburgh is 15-1 and ranked No. 22. Gregory called Pitt forward Lamar Patterson perhaps as good an all-around player as there is in the country.
“I don’t know why no one else is talking about him,” he said.
Coming out of the notoriously rough Big East, Dixon said he hasn’t noticed a difference in how physically teams play in the ACC. His team has seen fewer zone defenses, “but that could just be the three teams” that Pitt has played, he said.
It will be Tech’s second consecutive game against one of the newbies, having defeated Notre Dame 74-69 Saturday at McCamish. The Jackets will travel to Notre Dame Feb. 26 and Syracuse March 4.
“I don’t think anybody questioned that Pittsburgh and Syracuse would be really good this year,” Gregory said. “They’d be 3-0 in the (old) Big East.”
His team will have a say in whether the Panthers will be 4-0 in the ACC.