The ACC? It's even better than we expected

By Bill Roth

SUNRISE, Fla. — After watching Clemson rally from 12-points down in the second half to beat the Florida Gators 71-69 this afternoon in the Orange Bowl Classic, one thing is becoming clearer by the week: The ACC is not only loaded, it's better than we expected just six weeks ago.

Clemson, which was picked 13th in the pre-season media poll, is now 9-1 with wins over Ohio State and Florida, and will play host to South Carolina this coming Tuesday.

“Obviously a terrific win for our team. I couldn’t be more proud of our players," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said after picking up his 300th career coaching win. “For most of the game, it felt like Florida was in control. I think we did a good job of battling back.  We finally got consecutive stops and then Marcquise Reed got rolling for us and created some big time offense for us. I thought we played smart down the stretch when we needed to finish the game.” 

Reed scored 22 against the Gators including his 1000th career point.  Six weeks ago, did anyone assume Clemson would be a factor in ACC basketball this year?

And then there's Boston College which is No. 79 in the RPI and has a conference win over Duke heading into the Christmas break. BC might not win many more conference games, but clearly it's a capable team, and one of 11 ACC squads ranked in the top-100 as of today.

That's the good news. The bad? The league is going to start cannibalizing itself in a few weeks when league play begins in earnest. There will be a few teams that lose four-out-of-five games, which will cause great angst among coaches, but sheer unpredictability and excitement for fans.

I've seen Florida State play three times this season, and Clemson once.  Those two teams are going to be a problem for everyone else in the ACC this year even though the 'Noles (8th) and Tigers (13th) weren't picked in the top half of the ACC's pre-season poll.

Ya know, Florida is really nice basketball team. The Gators were ranked in the top-5 nationally just a few weeks ago. But they've now lost to three ACC teams: Duke, FSU, and now Clemson.  UF may be in the SEC, but the Gators have seen first-hand how good the ACC will be in 2018.




Florida Coach Mike White is incredibly fit and in fantastic shape.


However, when White leaped into the air following an official's call midway through the second half today, something happened that I don't ever recall seeing before. His belt broke.  The buckle just snapped, leaving Coach White a bit perplexed as it fell in front of his dress slacks. 

The Florida coach spent the rest of the game tugging at his pants while the leather strap was thrown on the floor behind the Gator's bench.  (see picture below.)

The Gators have road games at Texas A&M (10), Missouri (4), and Kentucky (26) coming in the next few weeks. That's three top-30 RPI teams away from Gainesville.  

A team that might've been the SEC favorite a few weeks ago after scoring 111 points against Gonzaga is now looking to find itself again heading into the last couple weeks of the calendar year.

So, White is looking for some answers, and a new belt as the Christmas break approaches.



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William Rothpast