The ACC-Big Ten Challenge... well, it was one game for each team, so let’s not get carried away with what it might or might not have exposed or revealed about different teams. But what are power rankings except a way to overreact to everything you can? Without further ado, here’s what the ACC looks like to open the last month of 2018:
all times Eastern
1. #1 Duke (7-1)
Another year, another Duke home win against a weak opponent in the ACC-B1G Challenge. This year, it was Indiana, followed by a win Saturday against 1-8 Stetson. Man, Duke’s non-conference schedules are something else.
Next: Tonight hosting Hartford at 7:00 PM
2. #4 Virginia (8-0)
Beating Maryland at Maryland is pretty impressive, and doing it 76-71 is positively un-Virginia-esque. They’re still 351st in the country in tempo, but they’ve shown the ability, on occasion, to put up offense with the rest of college basketball.
Next: Hosting VCU at 1:30 PM Sunday
3. #11 Florida State (7-1)
FSU makes two ACC teams to have defeated Purdue for basically their only notable win of the year so far, but the Seminoles have been impressive, with a balanced attack and some pretty stifling defense (13th in the nation according to kempom.com).
Next: At UConn, 6:30 PM Saturday
4. #14 UNC (6-2)
UNC had to move out of the top 3 after another loss, even if it was to a very good Michigan team. The downward-trending defense and discombobulation seen in about 5 of the team’s last 6 halves have been worrying, but even a slightly disoriented UNC team is very good.
Next: Hosting UNC-Wilmington at 9:00 PM tonight
5. #15 Virginia Tech (6-1)
A surprising loss to Penn State in the Challenge prevented Virginia Tech from jumping UNC in Kenpom, the AP Poll, and our (obviously just as well-regarded) power rankings. They’ve still looked pretty good, though, albeit against weak competition besides the game against Purdue.
Next: Hosting Virginia Military Institute at 7:00 PM tonight
6. Syracuse (6-2)
Add Syracuse to the list of ACC teams that have started out the season with excellent defensive efforts, ranking 7th in defensive efficiency through the first few weeks of the season. Stomping Ohio State like they did has definitely pushed them up to contender status.
Next: Hosting Georgetown at 3:30 PM Saturday
7. North Carolina State (7-1)
NC State did a lot better than many, myself included, expected in their first real test of the season, keeping it close against Wisconsin before ultimately succumbing. Vanderbilt’s not horrible, either, and the Wolfpack absolutely took it to them, 80-65. Maybe they’ve got some bite to them, after all.
Next: Hosting Western Carolina at 7:00 PM tonight
8. Clemson (6-2)
There’s no shame in losing to Creighton and Nebraska, two good teams, but having done so back to back, has to have hurt, and Clemson only beat St. Peter’s by 5 in their ensuing matchup. It’ll be tough to get back on track sooner rather than later, looking at what they’ve got next up...
Next: Hosting #22 Mississippi State at 4:00 PM Saturday
9. Notre Dame (6-2)
This team really has to learn to get it together in crunch time. They let Illinois have a chance to win it at the end despite leading by double digits early in the second half, then couldn’t take the lead despite getting within one point multiple times down the stretch against Oklahoma, losing 85-80. This is the youngest team Mike Brey has had in a while, and it’s certainly looked the part so far.
Next: At UCLA at 10:30 PM Saturday
10. Boston College (6-2)
Imagine my shock when I found out that not only has Boston College had two different 20-point scorers in the past two games, but neither of them has been Ky Bowman. They lost to Providence in overtime, but if the team has found Bowman some complementary scorers, they’ll be dangerous with a little more gelling time. Freshman Wynston Tabbs is one to keep an eye on for sure.
Next: At Texas A&M at 6:00 PM Saturday
11. Louisville (5-2)
The biggest upset of the ACC-B1G Challenge was almost certainly the Cards taking down Michigan State. They’ve looked decidedly mediocre other than that game, but Chris Mack’s squad certainly flashed potential there, and as the rookie coach finds his legs, maybe there’s something brewing here.
Next: Hosting Central Arkansas at 7:00 PM tonight
12. Miami (5-4)
Kenpom actually likes the Canes a fair bit, ranking them at 40th in the nation despite the pedestrian record and 4-game losing streak. Losing games of 2, 3, and 4 points before a relative shellacking by Penn probably has something to do with them not losing much purchase, but in power ranking form, losing 4 straight is... detrimental.
Next: Hosting Houston Baptist on 12/19
13. Pittsburgh (7-2)
Solid performance against Iowa, just losing by one, followed by a loss against... (checks notes) Niagara? I guess you really do win some and lose some with a rookie head coach in total rebuild mode.
Next: At West Virginia at noon on Sunday.
14. Georgia Tech (4-3)
A two-game skid, both close games, against Northwestern and St. John’s, are the first real hiccup of the season for this team, but the Yellow Jackets just haven’t looked that organized on offense this season against adversity. Their defense has been stellar, though.
Next: Hosting Florida A&M at 2:00 PM Monday.
15. Wake Forest (4-3)
A 10-point loss to Richmond has Danny Manning’s seat warming up a little bit, as he’s failed to build off the relative success he had a couple of years ago despite one of the better freshman classes in the ACC. Manning’s had a penchant with the Deacons to fall apart as the season progresses, and he’ll have to reverse that trend hard to salvage this season before it totally derails.
Next: Hosting Charlotte at 7:00 PM on Thursday.