We’re now less than a month from the start of the conference portion of the college basketball season. Then again, there are a couple of December conference games, in a bit of a scheduling anomaly. One of those was Sunday, with Virginia Tech beating Miami in overtime, and another will be this Thursday between Maryland and Boston College. Yes, that win means Virginia Tech, who everyone including me picked dead last in the ACC, technically leads the conference standings at 1-0. But how did that win affect their standing in these rankings? As mentioned previously, this ranking will be published every other week until the beginning of conference play.
1. Syracuse (9-0, LW: 2)
Syracuse passes Duke for the #1 spot in the ACC this week, although I was reluctant to do so. While Duke has lost twice, their losses are to Kansas and Arizona, two really good teams. Syracuse is undefeated against a lighter schedule, passing Duke on the merit of their win against Baylor, who beat Kentucky Friday night, and a streak at one point of 4 straight wins over “Power 6” opponents (Minnesota, Baylor, Cal, Indiana). Games with old Big East rivals St. John’s and Villanova still await before their debut in ACC conference play.
2. Duke (7-2, LW: 1)
As mentioned above, Duke has lost games against Arizona and Kansas, two of the top teams in the nation. They did pick up a quality win over Michigan in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, leading into several days off for exams. The Blue Devils will play a neutral-site game with UCLA in addition to 3 other easier opponents before beginning conference play.
3. North Carolina (6-2, LW: 3)
A very streaky Tar Heels team, as evidenced early in the season with a loss to Belmont, followed by a win over Louisville, showed it again with a loss at UAB before a win on the road at top-ranked Michigan State. Games with Kentucky and Texas await before their non-conference schedule lightens up, although both of those tests are home in Chapel Hill.
4. Pittsburgh (9-0, LW: 4)
The Panthers join Syracuse as the only remaining undefeated teams in the ACC, which is ironic considering it is the first ACC season for both. While they don’t have one trademark win, Pitt has won games over Texas Tech, Stanford, Duquesne, and Penn State. If they can beat Cincinnati a week from tomorrow, they should be perfect when conference play begins, barring an upset.
5. Notre Dame (6-2, LW: 7)
Notre Dame moves up 2 spots not because of what they have done, but because the teams around them have struggled. As for the Irish, since the last rankings they have blown out Cornell, lost to a ranked Iowa team, and struggled to beat Delaware. Notre Dame will play a couple of easier contests before upcoming tilts with Indiana and Ohio State, both at neutral sites. Looking ahead to January, their first ever ACC conference game will be when they host Duke on January 4.
6. Florida State (6-3, LW: 6)
The Seminoles have had a tough couple of weeks, but they don’t drop because they’ve been playing tough competition and most everyone else has struggled as well. Their struggles include road losses at Florida and Minnesota, but they righted the ship with a home win against Jacksonville State on Sunday, leading into games with Charlotte, UMass, and Charleston Southern before the beginning of conference play.
7. Virginia (7-3, LW: 5)
Virginia drops a couple of spots after dropping a couple of games. After wins over Hampton, SMU, and Missouri State, the Cavaliers lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, 48-38, in a defensive battle, and to Wisconsin-Green Bay, 75-72. While Green Bay is good, at least by Horizon League standards, it’s a head-scratcher that they beat the Cavaliers in Charlottesville. A trip to Tennessee will produce Virginia’s toughest remaining game before conference play begins.
8. Maryland (5-4, LW: 8)
Maryland’s ranking remains steady, despite a 2-2 record over the last 2 weeks. After wins over Providence and Morgan State, the Terrapins had an understandable loss to Ohio State, ranked in the top-10, followed by a mild upset loss at the hands of George Washington (who is 8-1, by the way). Maryland will face Boston College on Thursday to open up ACC play, before hosting 4 more non-conference opponents, the toughest of which is Bradley.
9. Clemson (7-2, LW: 9)
Clemson also remains where they were two weeks ago, based on wins against Coastal Carolina and South Carolina State before a loss at Arkansas on Saturday. The Tigers have 3 non-conference games left before starting ACC play, including a trip to Auburn on December 19.
10. NC State (6-2, LW: 13)
The Wolfpack move up 3 spots from the previous ranking, and they might have a case to be even higher, because they are playing some good basketball. They’ve won 4 in a row, including wins over Florida Gulf Coast and Northwestern, and all by double digits (only the Long Beach State game was less than a 20-point win). They stay in 10th because of playing a moderately weak schedule, although they have non-conference games coming up with Tennessee and Missouri before their conference schedule begins
11. Georgia Tech (7-3, LW: 10)
It’s difficult to drop the Yellow Jackets a spot, due to playing one of the tougher schedules amongst the teams in the middle to bottom portion of these rankings, but they were passed by NC State. Tech lost to Ole Miss and St. John’s in New York over the Thanksgiving holiday, losing both games by double digits, before picking up a quality win over Illinois in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. After hosting Kennesaw State, the Yellow Jackets will close their non-conference schedule with a couple of road tests at Vanderbilt and Charlotte.
12. Wake Forest (8-2, LW: 11)
Like Georgia Tech, the Demon Deacons are passed by NC State and fall a spot from the previous ranking. Wake lost to Kansas and Tennessee in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, although they hung around with Kansas, and picked up a convincing win against USC, in addition to a come-from-behind, overtime win against Richmond on Saturday. The Deacs host St. Bonaventure and UNCG after a week off, before traveling to Xavier after Christmas and opening conference play against North Carolina.
13. Virginia Tech (7-3, 1-0 ACC, LW: 15)
The Hokies move up 2 spots for a couple of reasons. The first reason is the fact they’ve won 4 straight games over the last 2 weeks, although the first 3 games were over Furman, Radford, and Winthrop. The second is that last game, a conference win over Miami, in overtime. While the Hokies are better than we thought, they will have a stiff test with VCU coming to Blacksburg this week. Looking ahead, they will probably be in for a rude awakening in their first conference game when they play Syracuse.
14. Miami (5-5, 0-1 ACC, LW: 12)
Miami’s overtime loss to Virginia Tech I just mentioned was their 4th overtime game of the young season, and they’ve won 2 of the 4. One of their overtime losses was to George Washington, and they didn’t look good at all in one of their regulation losses, to Nebraska. Their remaining non-conference games look easy on paper, but so did several of Miami’s games against lackluster competition earlier in this season. The defending champions of the ACC are struggling due to fielding one of the conference’s youngest roster.
15. Boston College (3-6, LW: 14)
The Eagles were one of the teams I thought in my preseason post had a good chance to be a sleeper team in the ACC, due to having a veteran roster. Now that the season has started, Steve Donahue’s bunch is really struggling. After a neutral site win against Washington, they snuck over Sacred Heart in overtime, before losing to Purdue and USC. While most of the teams they’ve lost to are good teams, I thought they would play better than this. It won’t get any easier, with an early conference game against Maryland, before matchups with Auburn, VCU, and Harvard.