by David Cassilo / @dcassilo

As was breifly mentioned last week, the ACC, outside of No. 1 Duke, is headed for a down year. As the season turns to December this week, just one ACC team is ranked compared to three teams from the Mountain West Conference. Who would have ever thought that was possible?

Thus, the question for the conference right now is: what’s beyond Duke?

The only other teams receiving votes, North Carolina and Virgina Tech, both already have two losses. Wake Forest has lost to Stetson and Winthrop at home. Boston College fell to Yale. Georgia Tech was downed by Kennesaw State.

While other teams, mainly Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina State and Maryland, fight to be deemed the conference’s second best, the entire conference can make a big statement with a strong week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Big Ten, which won the event for the first time last season, boasts five ranked teams and at least seven NCAA tournament quality teams.

Monday night, the ACC took the first step to recovering the event’s title as Virginia knocked off No. 15 Minnesota 87-79, on the road. Relying on 10-for-13 shooting from deep, the Cavaliers were able to beat a Golden Gophers team that had previously defeated North Carolina.

While the win was a minor victory for the conference, it served as a major one for what had looked like a weak Virginia team.

From The News & Advance:

“This is big,” said Mike Scott, who let out a huge yell after completing the three-point play. “A lot of people probably thought we were going to get blown out of the gym, especially looking at our Maui tournament where we only won one game. I think people had a lot of doubt in us.

“But we just came out and played hard. Transition defense was killing us in the first half, but in the second half we were able to get back and make them play against our half-court defense.”

With the victory, make the early score, 1-0 ACC. Tuesday and Wednesday will provide some more enticing matchups with No. 20 Illinois-North Carolina, No. 2 Ohio State-Florida State, No. 22 Purdue-Virginia Tech, Wisconsin-North Carolina State and the must-see contest of No. 6 Michigan State-Duke all on the schedule.

If the ACC doesn’t put on a good showing this week, perhaps Duke should pull the opposite of TCU and head to the MWC for better basketball competition.