We’re a little over two weeks into college basketball season, and while no ACC conference games have been played, there have been some meaningful games and upsets over the last 17 days. I plan to write these power rankings every other week from now until the beginning of conference play, and every week once the “real season” starts in January. Here are the updated power rankings.
1. Duke (4-1). This was a tough call between #1 and #2, since Syracuse is undefeated. Duke’s loss, however, is to an exceptional Kansas team, who I don’t see losing to anyone in the ACC (at least not right now). Duke did struggle this week with East Carolina and Vermont, but they came away with wins, so I’ve left them at #1 for now.
2. Syracuse (4-0). It still feels odd to say Syracuse is the 2nd-best team in the ACC. Regardless, they have looked pretty good in 3 of their 4 wins, winning against Cornell, Fordham, and Colgate by comfortable margins, although their game against St. Francis (NY), who had previously beaten Miami, caused a little bit of a scare, before the Orange eventually won by 6. The Orange are in Hawaii this week for the Maui Invitational.
3. North Carolina (4-1). The Tar Heels have already proven that while they have a load of talent, perhaps they lack some consistency. After a blowout win over Oakland, the Heels beat Holy Cross by just 8, and lost to Belmont at home. In a tournament over the weekend, they struggled against Richmond before winning by 10, then popped up and beat #3 Louisville by 9. A date with #1 Michigan State is lurking next week when the ACC-Big Ten Challenge comes around.
4. Pittsburgh (4-0). You could make a case Pitt should have been higher, as they are one of 3 undefeated teams left in the ACC, and are the lone team out of the 3 who haven’t had a scare in their early season matchups. The reason they remain in their preseason slot at 4th is because the best team they’ve played is Lehigh. That will change when they play Texas Tech tonight.
5. Virginia (4-1). The Cavaliers were 1 of 4 ACC teams who were ranked in the AP preseason poll. While they have fallen out of the rankings after a close loss to then 14th-ranked VCU, they’ve taken care of business against the rest of their competition to uphold their good standing in the conversation of the ACC’s elite.
6. Florida State (5-1). The Seminoles jump from 12th in my preseason rankings to 6th based on their performance in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. In the tournament’s opening round, the ‘Noles defeated 10th-ranked VCU, before losing in overtime to #14 Michigan (who went to the national title game last year), and defeating Northeastern to finish 3rd in the tournament. FSU will face another test Friday at #15 Florida, before traveling to Minnesota next week.
7. Notre Dame (4-1). The Irish have taken care of business in 4 of their 5 games, easily defeating their opponents. In their other contest, however, the Irish lost to Indiana State by 13. Interestingly, Indiana State’s only loss is to the same Belmont team that beat North Carolina. The Irish have an easier schedule until late December, when they will play Indiana and Ohio State back-to-back.
8. Maryland (3-2). In Maryland’s 3 wins, they have easily triumphed over their competition, with a medium-quality win coming against Northern Iowa. Their 2 losses aren’t terrible, with one coming on opening night to UConn after a furious comeback to make the game close, and the other coming by 7 to Oregon State, at home in College Park. The Terrapins final appearance in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (on the ACC side, anyway) will have them facing future conference rival Ohio State in Columbus, next week.
9. Clemson (5-1). The Tigers jump from 14th to 9th due to a surprisingly good stretch of basketball. Over their first 6 games, they’ve held each opponent to 62 or less (in their wins, its 58 or less), while scoring 71 or more in 4 of their 6 games. The wins include in-state rival South Carolina, SoCon power Davidson, and 2013 NCAA tournament team Temple, all without much drama. The lone loss came by just 6 to a good, undefeated UMass team, who in today’s AP poll were ranked 24th.
10. Georgia Tech (4-1). Georgia Tech has beaten who they should beat so far, including a win over in-state rival Georgia by 9, while losing to an undefeated Dayton team out of the Atlantic-10 conference. This week they will play Ole Miss in the Barclays Classic in Brooklyn, before hosting Illinois next week during the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
11. Wake Forest (5-0). The Demon Deacons are undefeated thus far, but stay in 11th in my rankings because of who they’ve played. Their toughest tests yet came from Jacksonville and Colgate, who both played tight games with Wake before the Deacs pulled away late. That undefeated record is, to be subtle, on the line, when Wake Forest travels to The Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, and plays Kansas in their tournament opener. After the game against the Jayhawks, win or lose, they will play the remainder of the tournament against a tough field.
12. Miami (3-2). Miami drops 3 spots due to their early struggles this season. While the Hurricanes are defending ACC champions (both regular season and tournament), they are clearly hurting from the loss of the top 6 scorers from that team. The season began with an overtime loss to St. Francis (NY). Georgia Southern also took them to overtime 3 days later, although the ‘Canes pulled that one out. While Miami has since won comfortably over Texas Southern and College of Charleston, they lost last Thursday to Central Florida. This week the Hurricanes will play in the Wooden Legacy in Charleston, SC, beginning with a battle with George Washington on Thursday.
13. NC State (2-2). Like Miami, NC State lost all 5 starters from last year, and their young team is struggling to find success. While the Wolfpack have comfortably defeated Appalachian State and Campbell, and lost at Cincinnati, the low point of the young season surely came last Wednesday. NC State lost to NC Central, in a game that went to overtime. The extra session was dominated by the Eagles, who won by 10. Tomorrow, the Wolfpack face another test, when last year’s Cinderella team, Florida Gulf Coast, comes to Raleigh.
14. Boston College (2-4). The Eagles of Chestnut Hill are definitely the ACC’s biggest surprise so far. Myself, as well as other analysts, projected a much better year for Boston College, with all 5 starters back. Instead, Steve Donahue’s squad has struggled to beat their non-conference opponents. First, they lost to Providence in overtime, followed by a 13-point loss to UMass and a 3-point loss to Toledo. After they got off the schneid with a 3-point win against Florida Atlantic, they lost to UConn and defeated Washington at the 2K Sports Classic in New York.
15. Virginia Tech (3-3). Virginia Tech can make a case that they should be above Boston College. After starting the season with a stunning loss to USC Upstate by 1, they beat West Virginia by 5, and Western Carolina and VMI by wide margins. In the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, the Hokies hung around #1 Michigan State in the first half, before losing by 19, and lost by 1 to Seton Hall. With the exception of a home game against VCU, the Hokies have an easier schedule leading into conference play. Their fans need to enjoy the wins they can get now, because they will be hard to come by later.