We are almost halfway through the regular season and conference play is fast approaching. The ACC continues to flex its muscles with four teams in the Top 10. However, there are a few unranked teams that have really impressed out of the gates and could surprise people in March. Here’s a look at those teams:
RV (5 points) Duke Blue Devils (10-1, 0-0 ACC)
The Blue Devils are 10-1 to start the season; however, they’ve yet to play any in-conference opponents. Around this time last season they were in the same situation, starting the season 9-1 before facing their first in-conference opponent. Last year they showed that they were not on the level of the best teams in the ACC, but perhaps this year will be different. What’s noticeable about the Blue Devils’ approach this season is that they are attempting significantly fewer 3-pointers per game than they were last year (14 to 21). They made a conscious effort to attack the rim much more, attempting eight more 2-point field goals per game than they were last season. This has actually led to a noticeable increase in efficiency from 46.6 percent to 49.3 percent.
The Blue Devils don’t have a star player in particular that has willed them to wins so far this season. It has mostly been by committee, as it was last season. They returned most of their players from last season and what has jumped out is how great this team is in the passing lanes and forcing turnovers. The Blue Devils have four players averaging over a steal per game. They are fourth in the ACC in steals per game and opponents are shooting an abysmal 32 percent from the field against them. They have the best defensive rating in the ACC and a Top 5 defense in all of college basketball. It has yet to be seen if they can maintain this performance against elite teams; they will be tested in January. If they can wreak havoc in the ACC, they could sneakily creep into the Top 25.
RV (3 points) Florida State Seminoles (10-1, 0-0 ACC)
If you haven’t had the chance to watch Florida State’s Ta’Niya Latson, you are doing yourself a disservice. She leads the ACC in points per game and is fifth in all of college basketball at 25.5. On Sunday, Latson scored 34 points in only 25 minutes against Texas Southern in a game the Seminoles won 108-51. At only 5-foot-8, Latson is one of the best guard finishers in college basketball and one of the most efficient scorers in the nation. Latson is shooting 52 percent from the field and 44 percent from three this season, which means averaging an ultra-efficient 1.23 points per scoring attempt, according to Her Hoop Stats.
Latson’s ability to get downhill and finish through contact at her size is unlike anything I’ve seen. Latson beats almost every defender off the dribble while also being a tenacious defender. Her motor never seems to stop going and perhaps what’s most mind-boggling about her season thus far is that she is averaging a block per game at only 5-foot-8. As for the Seminoles, they have a Top 4 offense in the ACC, and although they’ve yet to play any ranked opponents, they have very respectable wins against Wisconsin and Florida already this year. At 10-1, the Seminoles are another team not to be ignored in the ACC, as they are led by one of the nation’s most dynamic scorers.
FSU Ta'niya Latson is having a crazy start to her fr season avg 28.3ppg, 5.8reb, & 1.8ast in 4 games. @NiyaLatson @fsuwbb— Ballislife Womens Basketball (@ballislifewbb_) November 17, 2022
She finished last night's game against rival Florida w/ 32pts, 5reb, 4ast & 2stl. She also doubled up on ACC Player of the Week & Rookie of the week! pic.twitter.com/KhQDiDUnPw
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-2, 0-0 ACC)
Georgia Tech plays an abnormal style of basketball compared to the rest of the ACC. Not only are the Yellow Jackets one of the slowest-paced teams in all of college basketball, but they also don’t attempt many 3-pointers. In an era where philosophies are geared towards a more space-and-pace style, the Yellow Jackets are the antithesis of that. The strategy has worked so far, as they are 8-2 to start the season. Georgia Tech went through a complete roster re-haul this offseason and so far it has been the transfer guards Cameron Swartz and Bianca Jackson that have been leading the team in the scoring department.
Swartz previously spent three years at Boston College, where last year she averaged 16 points per game. Jackson has played for South Carolina and Florida State. This year she is making the most of her starting role. The Yellow Jackets face Boston College on Sunday in what will be a meaningful game for Swartz. Expect to see an exciting matchup as she returns to Conte Forum for the first time in almost a year.