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Taking a look at Duke women's basketball's ACC competition

Guard Haley Gorecki has been the mainstay of Duke's offense for the last two years.
Guard Haley Gorecki has been the mainstay of Duke's offense for the last two years.

Duke has already started ACC play with a double-digit victory against Boston College, but there's still a long way to go for the Blue Devils. If Duke really has improved since its worst season in more than a decade, it will have to prove it in the coming months. The Blue Zone gives you a brief look at the rest of the season:

Wake Forest (Jan. 2)

The Demon Deacons have already made history this season. They handed East Tennessee State their first Power Five win since 2008—despite East Tennessee State missing its best player. And that was Wake’s fourth loss to a midmajor so far. Don’t expect the Demon Deacons to finish any higher than second-to-last this year. Between them and Clemson, the race to the bottom is going to get interesting.

Louisville (Jan. 5)

Louisville is the favorite to not only win the ACC, but to secure a one-seed in the NCAA tournament. It currently ranks seventh in the nation. Louisville has also beaten preseason March favorite Oregon by double digits and exhibited smart game plans and exceptional defense all season. The Cardinals should have good odds on a national title.

Virginia (Jan. 9)

Virginia made the NCAA tournament two years ago but has cratered since. This year, it nearly lost to Old Dominion. Virginia plays multiple ranked powers and top mid-majors, which is by design. First-year coach Tina Thompson has tried to foster a competitive and humble team. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers are very likely to end up in the cellar of the ACC behind their poor shooting.

Virginia Tech (Jan. 12 and Feb. 27)

Despite 15 straight years under .500 in ACC play, the Hokies have finished with very good records the past few years. However, that's because of their nonconference schedules, which they pack with easy opponents to pad their schedules. It will be hard to predict how Virginia Tech looks in ACC play this year.

Notre Dame (Jan. 16)

It's official: Notre Dame is not great this year. It lost 10,000 points to graduation and the WNBA draft after its championship appearance last year and is now missing two key players. The Fighting Irish have two five-star freshmen to help, but one of them has been lost on defense. They’re 1-1 against ranked teams, and even lost to a couple of unranked squads. Don’t expect them to be a serious challenger this season.

Clemson (Jan. 19)

The Tigers have seen three players graduate and have already lost to a Division II school. With coach Amanda Butler in only her second year, anything but the basement in the ACC will be impressive.

Syracuse (Jan. 23)

Syracuse is an enigma. On the one hand, they kept pace with then-No. 1 Oregon for 20 minutes and took ranked Michigan to overtime. On the other hand, they lost to Oregon by 17 and lost by six to unranked Green Bay. A pair of top recruits should provide a boost later in the season, but for now, the Orange should finish around the middle of the pack.

Georgia Tech (Jan. 26)

An extremely light early schedule has obscured the fact that the Yellow Jackets are not a serious contender in the ACC. They sit at 7-1 but have not played any top teams. On the other hand, they’ve beaten up their opponents and lost a close game. It has been a good start to coach Nell Fortner’s tenure, but Georgia Tech is unlikely to finish ahead of more than a couple of teams. 

N.C. State (Feb. 2 and Feb. 24)

The Wolfpack was ranked in the preseason and currently sits at No. 13, supported by a win over top-10 ranked Maryland. N.C. State is led by center Elissa Cunane, and has a pair of five-star prospects coming along. The Wolfpack is not the favorite, but don’t be surprised if well-regarded coach Wes Moore can lead this team to an ACC title.

North Carolina (Feb. 6 and March 1)

A few good recruiting classes have come to bear for the Tar Heels, who haven't been bad so far. They’re a bit of a wild card and have yet to be tested so far, so it’s hard to know how they’ll do in 2020.

Miami (Feb. 9)

The 25th-ranked Hurricanes are led by Beatrice Mompremier, preseason ACC player of the year and a WNBA prospect. But Miami’s offense was just shut down in a loss to Indiana, their third loss to a ranked team this season. Its physicality, combined with Mompremier’s dominance, should keep them in contention, though their talent isn’t as deep as Louisville’s or Florida State’s. 

Pitt (Feb. 13)

The 11-20 record they earned last season is basically still the expectation for the Panthers. They have enough talent to win some games, but not enough to get above .500 in the ACC. Losing by 22 to midmajor Ohio is certainly not what a winning team does.

Florida State (Feb. 16)

The Seminoles slot in at No. 8 nationally. They made early statement wins, beating Michigan State and Texas A&M, the latter being a top-10 team, but lost to ranked South Dakota State. With two five-star freshmen growing into bigger roles, this team could still be getting better. If Louisville is the ACC favorite, consider Florida State the next-best team.


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