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ACC update: Freshman guard Hannah Hidalgo is leading Notre Dame to a dominant start

Freshman Hannah Hidalgo is fifth in the NCAA in scoring. She has contributed mightily to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s historic numbers.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 17 Women’s Purdue at Notre Dame
Freshman Hannah Hidalgo has been phenomenal for the Fighting Irish.
Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The holidays are approaching, which means we are one step closer to ACC play. That’s when we will learn who the true contenders are. Most conference games start around the new year so, until then, here’s the latest ACC update:

No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-1, 0-0 ACC)

Since losing opening night to now-No. 1 South Carolina, the Irish have looked like one of the most dominant teams in college basketball, winning eight-straight games by an average margin of 40 points. During this stretch, freshman guard Hannah Hidalgo has been absolutely sensational. She’s averaging 23.6 points, which is fourth in the nation, and 5.8 assists, which is 26th in the nation.

The ACC continues to produce dynamic freshman scoring guards; last season, it was Ta’Niya Latson from Florida State who dominated as a freshman. Hidalgo is averaging a mind-boggling six steals per game, which is almost two steals more than the second-ranked player at the national level.

Her on-ball pressure and off-ball instincts mean she and the Irish are in transition quite a bit. Her motor on both offense and defense is why she has been so spectacular this year. She’s a big reason why the Irish are the best offense in the ACC and a top-five defense in the conference. Their in-conference games start on New Year’s Eve, which will test how they stack up against some of the nation’s best. But as it stands right now, Hidalgo is well on her way to winning WBCA Freshman of the Year.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-3, 0-0 ACC)

It might not seem like it now, but the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets could be a team to look out for as we approach conference play in the next two weeks. After a couple of tough losses to good Power 5 teams, the Yellow Jackets responded with a huge win on the road against the Georgia Lady Bulldogs.

Georgia Tech is one of the slower-paced teams in the conference. Much like last year, they don’t attempt a lot of 3s, but they have been making a statement on defense, even with a fairly inexperienced roster. Georgia Tech has a lot of freshman and sophomore players getting heavy minutes.

The Yellow Jackets have a well-rounded team. Toni Morgan, Kara Dunn, Kayla Blackshear, and Rusne Augustinaite are all averaging double digits in scoring and will have many more years together in the future to gain continuity. Georgia Tech currently has a net rating of almost 19, which is very impressive given that they’ve lost three games.

As mentioned before, in-conference play will say more about where the team stands, but Saturday’s win on the road against a talented Georgia team might be a sign that they’ve turned a corner.

No. 3 North Carolina State Wolfpack (11-0, 0-0 ACC)

The Wolfpack are the only undefeated team left in the ACC. After entering the season unranked, NC State is now the third-ranked team in the country. So how did they get here?

In the first ACC recap of the season, I talked about their impressive win against UConn. They followed that game up with another win against a top-five team in Colorado at the Paradise Jam Tournament.

Much like Notre Dame, the Wolfpack are a top-five offense and defense in the conference. They are a very disciplined team that doesn’t foul a lot, but are very disruptive at the point of attack and at the rim. On offense, the ball doesn’t stick and they’re constantly flowing into multiple, different actions, which is tough to guard at any level. Whether it’s cross screens into a post touch, dribble handoffs or spread pick and roll, the Wolfpack have a variety of sets to rely on. Perhaps most importantly, they maximize spacing in the half court, despite not being a great 3-point shooting team.

If they can dominate ACC play, they will be the biggest story in college basketball, especially considering they started the season unranked. Their first ACC game is Dec. 31 at Virginia.