It was a hectic week in the ACC, with lots of intrigue, tight games, and a few upsets thrown in, so that we truly still have no idea what is what in the middle of the ACC. The top is beginning to sort itself out, though. Here are our current power rankings.
1. #2 Virginia (16-1, 5-0 ACC)
They still haven’t lost in the ACC, managing to avoid becoming the latest victim of NC State’s inexplicable giant-killing. The Cavaliers handled the Wolfpack in Charlottesville and are now on an 8-game winning streak, though this might be put in jeopardy next Tuesday when Clemson comes to town. Before that, they have a chance to build even more momentum with games against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Also, they now have company in the “probably the lowest winning score since the shot clock was invented” category after Cincinnati beat UCF 49-38, so I guess I can’t make fun of them for it anymore. For now.
2. #5 Duke (16-2, 4-2)
I didn’t think Duke deserved to be #2 in Douglas’ power rankings last week, after losing to NC State. Then they went and proved me wrong, with easy wins over Pittsburgh and Wake Forest and a tough one, in what has become classic Duke comeback style, against Miami. In an odd quirk of ACC scheduling, Duke will play Pitt and Wake Forest again in the next week, giving them the opportunity to gain momentum heading into a tough late January-early February.
3. #15 North Carolina (15-4, 4-2)
The Heels have had an extremely uneven conference schedule so far, with shaky to outright bad performances against Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Virginia intermingled with quality games against Florida State, Boston College, and now Clemson. The Notre Dame and Clemson games this past week required big-time clutch performances from the Heels and they delivered, holding Notre Dame without a point for several minutes to finish the game and pushing Clemson back 3 different times when a multi-possession game was cut to 2 by otherworldly shooting. This is experience that will be valuable down the line. UNC will play Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech this week.
4. #20 Clemson (15-3, 4-2)
It looked like the Tigers might have been fakers after a peak #Clemsoning moment against NC State, where a three-point shooter missed a game-tying free throw, but they came back in a big way by beating a very good Miami team before losing to North Carolina in a hard-fought battle. Though they might not have come out of it with a positive record, this week proved that Clemson is for real, and will certainly be making some noise come March.
5. #25 Miami (13-4, 2-3)
Miami had a brutal week with games against Clemson and Duke, and while they lost both times, they were just a few bounces from winning both games. Miami’s athletes are a lot of fun to watch when they’re on their game, and with Jim Larranaga calling shots, that’s usually the case. Their upcoming schedule is much friendlier than their ACC slate has been so far, so hopefully for them, their record will begin to reflect their quality a little more than it currently does. That starts this week with contests at NC State and vs Louisville.
6. Boston College (13-6, 3-3)
UNC’s big win over Boston College just keeps looking better, as the Eagles continued their surprising tear through the ACC with an upset of Florida State. I’d make a joke about BC’s ACC win total from the past two seasons, but I think at this point, this season, they’ve earned respect. A two-game road trip featuring Louisville and Syracuse is next on the Eagles’ schedule, and it’s not inconceivable that they clean up. This team is legitimately scary.
7. Louisville (14-4, 4-1)
I’m not sure Louisville belongs here, but everybody else keeps losing while they keep pulling off surprising wins. Everybody knew Louisville had the talent to do what they’ve done so far, but coaching has been a question. Last week was a particularly good week for the Cardinals, featuring wins against Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame, the last of those a double-overtime thriller. The Cardinals might be finding some stability after a rocky start, and if they are, the rest of the country should be on lookout. This team started the year in the top 25 for a reason.
8. Florida State (13-5, 2-4)
Florida State is a good team whose ACC schedule has consisted nearly entirely of teams ranked ahead of them on this list. They won one of those, against UNC, and the one game against a team that isn’t, namely Syracuse (worth noting that this game went to double overtime). They have both had a challenging start to the schedule and been on the wrong end of some statistical toss-ups, and that 2-4 record, as ugly as it looks, shouldn’t last. The Seminoles have lost 3 of their last 4, though, which can make for an ugly locker room for a team that was ranked just a couple of weeks ago. Games against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech will be opportunities to set the ship on course again.
9. Notre Dame (13-6, 3-3)
Allow me to quote last week’s Power Rankings:
While their 30-point walloping of NC State was impressive, especially since the Wolfpack turned around and handled Duke, the Fighting Irish need to prove they can beat top-tier ACC teams.
Yeah, about that... loss to Georgia Tech, loss to UNC, loss to Louisville. Suffice it to say they didn’t prove much last week. The Fighting Irish can be a good team even without Bonzie Colson if some of their role players step up on a consistent basis, but any team would be damaged by the loss of a surefire All-American. They need to find a way to win without him, though, starting this week with a game at Clemson.
10. NC State (12-6, 2-3)
Behold, the unlikeliest of giant-killers. Kevin Keatts certainly knows how to get the team ready for big games, as he’s gotten them to take down then-2nd ranked Arizona, then-2nd ranked Duke, and now then-19th ranked Clemson. In between, though, are a bunch of ugly losses, like the first time they played Clemson, a blowout at the hands of Notre Dame, and now, an admittedly excusable loss at Virginia. Markell Johnson has returned to the team, which could do a lot or a little. We’ll see, starting this week against Wake Forest and Miami.
11. Georgia Tech (10-7, 3-1)
Josh Pastner has filed a civil lawsuit against the man who accused him of NCAA violations. This story just keeps on giving, and is much more interesting than the man’s team has been so far this season. Wins against Notre Dame and Pittsburgh just don’t really move the needle for me, sorry. This week will be much more notable for the Yellow Jackets, as they host Virginia and travel to Chapel Hill.
12. Virginia Tech (13-5, 2-3)
Like Georgia Tech, VT had a pretty nondescript week with a win against Wake Forest and a loss to Louisville. Also like the Yellow Jackets, the Hokies could make some noise this week against Florida State and/or UNC. As for now, though, they haven’t done much to merit moving them up this list.
13. Syracuse (13-6, 2-4)
Loss to Florida State, easy victory against Pittsburgh. Again, ho hum. Snapping a four-game losing streak is good, but when it’s against Pitt, it’s hard to point to it as a momentum shift for the Orange. We’ll get a better idea of where they’re headed this week when they host Boston College.
14. Wake Forest (8-9, 1-4)
The biggest disappointment in the ACC marches on. Danny Manning’s squad had a particularly bad week, with losses to Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Duke, and it doesn’t get much easier with 2 of their next three against Virginia and Duke (the ACC has made some strange scheduling choices). The Demon Deacons are scrambling at this point and need a big win to have any hope of turning their season around.
15. Pittsburgh (8-11, 0-6)
Not only is Pittsburgh winless in ACC play, they’ve been utterly hapless since the conference season started. They have breached the 60-point mark once, held their opponents under 75 points three times, and never lost by less than 14 points. And they haven’t just been playing the conference’s powerhouses; three of those losses were to Syracuse, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech. Duke and NC State are next. They might have a chance against State? Maybe?