Last week was an exciting and interesting week for college basketball, and the ACC was right in the thick of it. The conference placed 6 teams in the top 20 of this week’s AP Poll on the back of some strong performances from the top of the conference, which is already a mark of the ACC’s insane depth, but some of the less heralded teams had their moments as well.
With the ACC-Big Ten Challenge this week, a lot of teams are going to face pretty solid competition this week, so the conference is bound to be interesting. Here’s how things shape up right now:
1. #1 Duke (8-0)
I’m only doing this because I have to. According to ESPN’s Win Probability, Duke’s chances of making their comeback against Texas and their comeback against Florida was 0.04%. And yet here we are, with the Blue Devils still undefeated and Marvin Bagley looking like possibly the best player in the country. The optimist in me says they were down to mediocre teams and they can’t keep coming back forever, but right now, there’s no reason to move Duke from the top.
2. #5 Notre Dame (6-0)
Bonzie Colson is quietly putting up the All-American numbers he was expected to: right now, he’s averaging 20 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 1.8 steals, and 1.5 assists per game and is shooting at a 59% clip. The Irish had flown relatively under the radar so far, but a comeback victory against Wichita State put people on notice and an upcoming date with #3 Michigan State is going to be impossible to ignore.
3. #13 North Carolina (5-1)
Sure, UNC got shellacked by Michigan State, but that shouldn’t take away from their previous performances: Dominant victories against Stanford and Portland, then a well-fought comeback victory against Kenpom’s 30th ranked team, Arkansas. For some perspective, the Heels had the worst offensive performance a UNC team has ever had and are still #15 in Kenpom’s offensive rankings. Both statistical and visual indicators point to this game being an outlier, not the norm. Carolina will look to get back on track against Michigan, another solid team (Kenpom 40).
4. #10 Miami (5-0)
The Hurricanes have played 5 games. Their toughest opponent has been Kenpom’s 127th ranked La Salle, which Miami only won 57-46. The Canes have a talented, experienced team, and they will be tested for the first time this week against #12 Minnesota. Guard Bruce Brown is almost averaging a double-double, with 9.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game.
5. #17 Louisville (4-0)
Pretty much the same story as Miami here, but with more coaching drama and less domination: Three of Louisville’s four victories have been within 15 points, and the best team they’ve played is Kenpom 155 Southern Illinois (ironically, the team they did blow out). Their test this week will come against Purdue.
6. #18 Virginia (7-0)
Kenpom will tell you that Virginia is the 3rd best team in the nation. Kenpom, in this case, is wrong. I actually have them on par with Louisville, but if one of your wins is a game with a final score of 49-37 (yes, this is an actual basketball score), you lose all tiebreakers. That’s just how it is. Kyle Guy has been everything the Cavaliers wanted out of him in his second year. Oddly, he shoots better from outside than he does inside.
7. Florida State (5-0)
Leonard Hamilton’s squad has started strong again, despite needing to reload after the losses of Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac to the NBA. Terance Mann has been a model of efficiency inside the arc, hitting almost 69% of his field goal attempts.
8. Virginia Tech (5-1)
The Hokies have dominated in every one of their victories, so they have shown the ability to climb this list. But right now, a loss to Saint Louis University keeps them down here. Regardless, it’s good to see Virginia Tech starting to build some consistency.
9. Syracuse (6-0)
Syracuse won a tight match against a solid Maryland team on Monday night, bolstering their early resume. The rest of their victories haven’t been against competition that’s been nearly as good, though, and their margins of victory have been relatively shaky.
10. Georgia Tech (3-1)
A tight loss to then-ranked UCLA is the sole blemish on the Yellow Jackets’ record, and they will get a chance to redeem themselves when last year’s tournament darlings and today’s Kenpom 50th-ranked Northwestern Wildcats come to visit. Ben Lammers is still a shot-blocking machine, averaging almost 4 per game.
11. Clemson (5-1)
Very similar to Georgia Tech here; Clemson’s loss is to a solid Temple team and they’ve done everything else right so far this season. Clemson doesn’t have, however, an All-ACC talent or a coach who has shown he can take mediocre talent particularly far, so they stay down here until they prove me wrong.
12. NC State (5-2)
NC State enters this week on a two-game losing streak, or they’d be higher. The win against Arizona, while incredible when it happened, looks much less impressive after the week that Arizona had as a whole. Meanwhile, losses to Tennessee (a good team) and Northern Iowa (not a good team) have brought the Wolfpack back down to Earth, and a good Penn State team is next. Things could quickly get ugly heading into December despite a win against the then-#2 team in the country.
13. Boston College (5-2)
Welcome to being at the not-bottom, BC! The Eagles’ two losses are to Providence and Texas Tech, two fine teams, and while the Providence game was a wipeout, BC played TTU pretty close. An early ACC start against Duke on December 9th is a cruel twist of scheduling, but BC looks like they’re finally on an upswing.
14. Wake Forest (2-4)
Man, I really wanted them to be better. The Demon Deacons started the season on the wrong foot entirely, opening with a 3-game losing streak to Georgia Southern, Liberty, and Drake. They’ve cleaned up a bit and gone 2-1 since then with a loss to a decent Houston team, but it’s still clear that Wake Forest is not the team that many thought (and/or hoped) they would be after an NCAA Tournament appearance last year.
15. Pittsburgh (2-4)
Pittsburgh is being left out of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge because the ACC has an extra member. Given their resume, which getting absolutely washed by Penn State and soundly beaten by Navy and Montana, they’re probably the right choice. Replacing 11 players was never going to be easy.