A great week of ACC basketball culminated with Syracuse’s win over Duke in an overtime classic, as well as Virginia’s buzzer-beater at Pittsburgh. With that action, as well as a lot of great action among the teams in the middle and even at the bottom of these rankings, only 3 teams stayed put in this week’s edition.
1. Syracuse (21-0 overall, 8-0 ACC, Last Week: 1st)
Syracuse stays at #1 in these rankings with their 67-57 road win at Wake Forest, followed by their thrilling, 91-89 overtime win over Duke in what some have called the greatest game in the history of the Carrier Dome. After top ranked Arizona lost to Cal, Syracuse moves from 2nd to 1st in the new AP Poll, taking the top spot unanimously, and becoming the first ACC team not located in North Carolina to be #1 since Virginia in 1983 (no, Maryland was never #1 during their national championship year). Notre Dame and Clemson come to the Carrier Dome tonight and Sunday, respectively. It’s amazing to think Jim Boeheim considered his team’s preseason ranking of 8th to be “too high” after losing Michael Carter-Williams to the NBA and Brandon Triche and James Southerland to graduation from last year’s Final Four team.
2. Duke (17-5, 6-3, 3rd)
Duke moves up from 3rd to 2nd despite the loss, considering that loss was to top-ranked Syracuse, in overtime, and Duke played exceptionally well in that game. Duke also beat Pittsburgh on the road back on Monday, 80-65, before their trip to the Carrier Dome. This week the Blue Devils have a couple of games that should be easy (although nothing is guaranteed in the ACC) when the host Wake Forest on Tuesday and travel to Boston College on Saturday. Duke moved up 6 spots in the AP Poll, from 17th to 11th, despite the loss, which shows just how well the Blue Devils have played in the 6 games since their loss to Clemson.
3. Virginia (17-5, 8-1, 4th)
Virginia beat Notre Dame 68-53 on Tuesday before picking up a huge 48-45 road win at Pittsburgh on Sunday when Malcolm Brogdon hit a 3 just before the buzzer. The pair of wins advance the Cavaliers to 8-1 in conference play, and the win over a ranked Pittsburgh team finally made people around the country pay attention. With that, they are now ranked 20th in the AP Poll, and are among the top 15 in a few national power ranking posts. This week the Cavaliers host Boston College on Wednesday before traveling to Georgia Tech on Saturday.
4. Pittsburgh (18-4, 6-3, 2nd)
Pittsburgh had to know when they looked at the schedule back in the fall that this past week would be tough, even with two home games, as Duke and Virginia came to the Petersen Events Center. After an 80-65 loss to Duke and a 48-45 loss to Virginia, they can now call it their worst week in quite some time. If it’s any consolation, both losses came to teams currently ranked, although Virginia moved in only after beating the Panthers, and Pitt hangs on to a ranking of 25th in the AP Poll due to the strength of their losses. In fact, all 4 of their losses on the year are to teams currently in the top 20. This week, the Panthers travel to Miami before hosting Virginia Tech in a couple of games in which they will be heavily favored and trying to get back on the winning track.
5. North Carolina (14-7, 4-4, 6th)
The Tar Heels seem to have found something, and are playing better the last couple of weeks than they played during their 1-4 start to conference play. That continued with a 78-65 win over Georgia Tech on Wednesday, and an 84-70 win over NC State on Saturday. Both games were won very comfortably, with comfort being something Roy Williams and Tar Heel fans haven’t had much of this year. Bracketologists have the Heels in the 8 to 10 range as far as NCAA seeding goes, although they can play themselves higher or lower. Tuesday the Tar Heels host Maryland in the last regular season meeting in a historically good, close series, before traveling to Notre Dame on Saturday.
6. Clemson (14-6, 5-3, 7th)
After a couple of disappointing losses, this week the Tigers rebounded with a 53-49 win at Florida State in their only contest of the week. The win was the first in program history over a team that had previously beaten Clemson at home by 4 or more points, after previously going 0-72 in such games. They also have 3 road wins for just the 9th time in 61 seasons in the ACC, and they’ve done so only about halfway through the season. Clemson is even getting close to a projected spot in the NCAA Tournament, with time left to play their way in. Georgia Tech comes to Littlejohn Coliseum on Tuesday before a Clemson travels to #1 Syracuse for a showdown with Syracuse on Sunday night.
7. Florida State (13-8, 4-5, 5th)
Florida State falls 2 spots in these rankings after a pair of 4-point losses, first losing 74-70 at NC State, before losing at home to Clemson by a 53-49. They had previously beaten Clemson on the road by 15. Both losses were tough pills to swallow for the Seminoles, although Clemson is among the upper half of ACC teams, and NC State is among the volatile group in the middle. With that pair of losses, the Seminoles are, according to multiple projected brackets, on the NCAA bubble, although every one I’ve read still has them in the field. This week, Virginia Tech will come to Tallahassee on Wednesday, before Maryland hosts the Seminoles on Saturday.
8. Maryland (13-9, 5-4, 11th)
A week ago, I was concerned Maryland was losing control of their season after back to back losses. They responded with back to back wins this week, beating Miami at home, 74-71, and Virginia Tech on the road, 80-60. While the Terps, who I thought at the beginning of the year would be a NCAA team, aren’t quite there yet, they are certainly starting to gain a little momentum as they try to move back into the upper echelon of the ACC. That being said, Maryland plays two big games this week with a trip to Chapel Hill on Tuesday and a home contest with Florida State, who already beat them by 24 in Tallahassee, on Saturday.
9. NC State (14-8, 4-5, 10th)
The Wolfpack picked up a big win at home on Wednesday by beating Florida State, 74-70, before failing to overcome a big first half deficit in Chapel Hill, losing to the Tar Heels 84-70. The loss to North Carolina ended a 3-game winning streak, and despite that loss, with the losses of others around them they move up in these rankings, and even move onto the NCAA bubble of one prominent writer. If this very young Wolfpack team that lost its top 5 scorers from a year ago could make the tournament, that would easily be Mark Gottfried’s best coaching job. The Pack have a few days off this week before traveling to Miami on Saturday. If they’re truly on the tournament bubble, these are the type of games they simply must have.
10. Wake Forest (14-8, 4-5, 8th)
Wake Forest falls 2 spots in these rankings after doing something rare for their program: losing at home. Even though Wake hasn’t had a winning record in conference play since 2010, they lost back to back home games for the first time in 2 years. While a 67-57 loss to Syracuse is certainly understandable, a 79-70 loss to Georgia Tech is not, particularly after Tech’s best player, Trae Golden missed a majority of the game with a groin injury. While Wake also lost their best player, Codi Miller-McIntyre, to an ankle injury just before halftime, the Deacs still should have been able to beat Georgia Tech at home. And it won’t get any easier for Wake Forest, as they will travel to Durham on Tuesday night to play an 11th ranked Duke team that will probably be fired up after their overtime loss to Syracuse. Wake will get a week off after that game, giving them time to regroup after, more than likely, falling to 4-6 in league play.
11. Miami (11-10, 2-6, 9th)
The Hurricanes drop 2 spots based on just 1 of their 2 games from the past week, a 74-71 loss to Maryland. Although that loss was on the road, they fall behind the Terrapins due to the head to head matchup (and Maryland’s better overall numbers), and NC State after the Wolfpack beat Florida State. In their other game of the week, Miami played Norfolk State in an unusual February non-conference game, which they easily won 64-49. As usual, the Hurricanes under Jim Larranaga have a very strong defense, although this young team is struggling to score. The Hurricanes get a couple of home tests this week, with #25 Pittsburgh and NC State coming to the BankUnited Center.
12. Notre Dame (12-10, 3-6, 12th)
The Irish remain 12th after a 68-53 loss at Virginia and a 76-73 overtime win at home over Boston College. It’s tough to leave the Irish 12th after a win, but they remain here since the team they beat was below them in these rankings. While the win was against one of the ACC’s worst 2 teams, the Irish showed some good signs in that game. Their wins in conference play in their inaugural ACC season are against the 2nd, 14th, and 15th ranked teams in these rankings, although all of those wins are at home, and the Irish are winless on the road. They’ll try to change that tonight, although that will be difficult because they will be at #1 Syracuse, before they host North Carolina on Saturday.
13. Georgia Tech (12-10, 3-6, 13th)
It’s also difficult to keep Georgia Tech in the same place in the rankings, because after their 78-65 home loss to North Carolina, they turned around and beat Wake Forest on the road, 79-70, after losing Trae Golden early to a groin injury. Golden remains day-to-day, and the Jackets need him quickly after an already injury-depleted roster lost sophomore Solomon Poole, who was dismissed today after a discipline issue. This is not a good time for the Jackets to have a short bench, either, as they travel Tuesday night to Clemson before hosting #20 Virginia on Saturday in Atlanta.
14. Boston College (6-15, 2-6, 15th)
Boston College is finally off the bottom of these power rankings, for the first time since the November 25 edition. They move up after beating Virginia Tech for the 2nd time this season, and doing so in blowout fashion, winning 76-52, before taking Notre Dame to overtime in South Bend and losing 76-73. For the Eagles, who I picked to finish 8th in the ACC with an entire starting lineup returning from last year, it has been a disappointing campaign. Their only 2 conference wins are against the Hokies, which is the reason they are now ahead of Virginia Tech despite a worse overall record. The Eagles need to draw on the momentum of the victory this week, as they have a very difficult slate, traveling to #20 Virginia on Wednesday before hosting #11 Duke on Saturday.
15. Virginia Tech (8-13, 1-8, 14th)
Virginia Tech was the consensus last place pick in the conference, but had moved out of the cellar in these rankings by early December (although their highest showing was just 13th). They have been stuck on 14th for the last 6 weeks, but now have fallen back into last place in these rankings, which is also where they are in the standings, after a 76-52 loss to Boston College and an 80-60 home loss to Maryland. You have to wonder if coach James Johnson, now 5-22 in his career in conference play and 21-32 overall, is on the hot seat. And it won’t get any easier for the Hokies this week, as they travel to Florida State on Wednesday, before traveling to #25 Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Game of the Week: Notre Dame at #1 Syracuse (Tonight, 7:00 PM ET)
Even though this game is between the top-ranked team in the country and one of the bottom-tier teams in the ACC, it has a certain level of intrigue to it. We know Notre Dame has the capability of big wins, as they beat Duke earlier in the year. Also, the last time Syracuse was undefeated after 20 or more games (they’re 21-0 now), back in 2011-12, an unranked Notre Dame team was the one to pull the upset to end the winning streak. However, Notre Dame has lost 9 out of 11 at the Carrier Dome in this former Big East series, and hasn’t won a road game all year. There’s a possibility of a “hangover” for this Syracuse team after their huge win over Duke on Saturday night, there’s certainly not a probability of that happening. If you’re thinking Syracuse having to play extra minutes on Saturday puts them at a potential disadvantage, think again; Notre Dame also played in overtime Saturday against Boston College. More than anything, this is the game of the week because everyone wants to see Syracuse play again after the way they played against Duke and the way they won that game.
Syracuse 72, Notre Dame 56.