ACC Basketball Power Rankings, Week of 2/17

While the only movement in this week’s power rankings was at positions 6-8 and 11-13, this past week was a big week for the ACC.  Syracuse remained undefeated, despite close calls against Pittsburgh and NC State.  Unfortunately, the Duke-North Carolina game was moved from this past Wednesday to this coming Thursday due to the winter storm that paralyzed the east coast.  That means, though, there will be 15 ACC games this week, instead of the normal 14.

1.  Syracuse (25-0 overall, 12-0 ACC, Last Week: 1st)
Somehow, someway, the Orange managed to improve to 25-0 overall, and 12-0 in league play, with 2 nail-biting wins over the last week.  Wednesday night at Pittsburgh, it took a Tyler Ennis buzzer-beating 3 from well beyond NBA range to give the Orange a 58-56 win.  Up to the point of that shot, the Orange had led during the 2nd half for a total of 6 seconds.  Saturday, NC State gave Syracuse enough openings before giving them the late basket that was the difference by goaltending, with the Orange winning 56-55.  The Orange remain #1 in the nation, and will remain the undisputed #1 until they lose.  That loss could come this week, because after the Orange host Boston College on Wednesday night, they will travel to #5 Duke on Saturday for a rematch of their epic overtime win over Duke on February 1.

2.  Duke (20-5, 9-3, 2nd)
Due to the postponement of the Duke-North Carolina game, the Blue Devils had just one game this past week, in which they beat Maryland 69-67 in the last scheduled meeting of two old rivals, allowing to Devils to move to #5 in the AP Poll.  Also due to the postponement, Duke will have to play 3 games this week.  First, they will travel to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech on Tuesday night.  Then, on Thursday, they will play the makeup game in Chapel Hill against the Tar Heels.  It all culminates Saturday night when #1 Syracuse comes to Durham as the Blue Devils try to avenge their previous loss to the Orange.

3.  Virginia (21-5, 12-1, 3rd)
Very quietly, the Virginia Cavaliers are putting together a very solid season.  After a 61-53 win over Maryland and a 63-58 win at Clemson, Virginia now sits at 12-1, just a half game behind Syracuse for the conference lead, and moves to 14th in the AP Poll.  They remain 3rd in these rankings since their only loss is to Duke, putting Duke ahead of the Cavaliers, and since Duke has a better overall résumé.  This week, they could very well continue their hot play, as they will take on a pair of bottom half ACC teams, first traveling to Virginia Tech on Tuesday before hosting Notre Dame on Saturday.

4.  North Carolina (17-7, 7-4, 4th)
The only game of the week for the Tar Heels was their Saturday contest against Pittsburgh, which they won, 75-71, after a few extra days off due to the weather and the postponement of their game against Duke.  The Heels, riding a 6-game winning streak after a 1-4 start to conference play, were the first team out of the new AP Poll (so technically they’re ranked 26th).  They can change that with a good week this week, starting tonight at Florida State, before hosting #5 Duke on Thursday, in a make-up game, and Wake Forest on Saturday.  With the exception of Duke, the other two teams the Heels play this week are really slumping.

5.  Pittsburgh (20-6, 8-5, 5th)
The Panthers fell out of the AP Poll from their previous spot of 25th after a couple of tough losses.  The Panthers led all but 6 seconds of the 2nd half Wednesday night against undefeated, top ranked Syracuse, before losing 58-56 on Tyler Ennis’ buzzer heroics.  Then they traveled to Chapel Hill on Saturday, only to lose a close 75-71 outcome.  The Panthers have lost 4 out of 6, although the 4 losses are to the top 4 teams in the conference, and the two wins were both in overtime.  Pitt does not play again until Sunday against Florida State, which will be their first game in 8 days.

6.  NC State (16-9, 6-6, 8th)
After beating Wake Forest convincingly, 82-67, the Wolfpack of NC State traveled to Syracuse and nearly knocked off the undefeated Orange, losing 56-55.  During the final minute, when Syracuse had fouls to give, Wolfpack forward TJ Warren was fouled just before moving into the shooting motion on a layup, causing many to say the play should have been continuation.  Instead, State had to inbound, turned the ball over, and committed a goal tend on the other end that was the difference.  The Pack are in the midst of a 3-game road trip, with games at Clemson this Tuesday and at Virginia Tech this Saturday still to come, before coming home for 3 out of their final 4 games.

7.  Maryland (14-12, 6-7, 7th)
Despite a pair of losses over the past week, Maryland stays 7th in these power rankings.  Why?  The losses were a 61-53 road loss to Virginia that was closer than the score indicates, and a 69-67 loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where no visitor has won all year, when the final shot by the Terrapins rolled out instead of rolling in the basket.  Maryland played well in both contests, giving their ranked opponents tough tests as the visitor, and for that they should be commended.  As for actually winning, they’ll have a good shot at that when a struggling Wake Forest team visits the Comcast Center on Tuesday night.

8.  Clemson (15-9, 6-6, 6th)
Clemson falls 2 spots in this week’s rankings, as the Tigers are currently in a 3-game losing streak.  Tuesday night, a trip to South Bend provided some “free basketball”, with Notre Dame winning 68-64 in double overtime.  Saturday, in a matchup of the conference’s top 2 defenses, Virginia came to Clemson and won 63-58.  While the loss to Virginia wasn’t a surprise (no one has beaten them except Duke), the loss to the Irish was a bit of an upset, as the Tigers came into that game 3.5 games ahead of the Irish in the conference standings.  The Tigers can write the ship this week, with a home game against NC State on Tuesday and a rematch with Georgia Tech Saturday after their previous meeting, which was won 45-41 by Clemson.  The game with NC State is huge for both teams, as both try to work their way onto the NCAA bubble.

9.  Florida State (15-10, 6-7, 9th)
The Seminoles had an up-and-down week, first losing at home to Miami, 77-73, before beating Wake Forest on the road, 67-60, coming back from an early 16-point deficit.  FSU had previously defeated Miami by 10 in Coral Gables before the loss, and had lost by 25 to a sub-par Wake team a year ago, and got rid of some demons with the win (no pun intended).  This coming week will be huge for the NCAA Tournament chances of a team now projected to be on the outside looking in for the first time all season.  Tonight, the Seminoles host North Carolina, in a series in which something interesting always seems to happen.  Sunday, Florida State travels to Pittsburgh.  A win in either one of these games, or both, would help the Seminoles tournament hopes.

10.  Notre Dame (14-12, 5-8, 10th)
For the first time since the first week of January, and for the first time ever in ACC play, the Irish of Notre Dame have a 2-game winning streak.  It came with a double overtime, 68-64 home win over Clemson, and a 73-69 road win against Boston College, which was the first road win of the season for the Irish.  The win over Clemson was Notre Dame’s first over one of the mid-pack teams in the ACC, with their previous wins coming over Duke, from the top tier of the league, and Virginia Tech and Boston College (twice), from the bottom tier.  The Irish will have a couple of chances this week to pick up their second road win, as they travel to Miami on Wednesday and #14 Virginia on Saturday.

11.  Georgia Tech (13-12, 4-8, 13th)
Very quietly, and with a couple of exceptions, the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech are playing relatively well as of late.  In their only game of the past week, which was moved from Wednesday to Thursday due to “Snowpocalypse”, the Jackets beat Boston College, 74-71.  And with that, and the struggles of some of the teams around them, they move up to 11th in these rankings, the highest they’ve been since December 9.  The weekend they had off sets up perfectly, as they had extra time to prepare for Tuesday’s game at home against #5 Duke, who could be caught looking ahead to games with North Carolina and Syracuse.  Saturday, Tech hosts Clemson, who they almost beat at Littlejohn just a couple of weeks ago.

12.  Miami (12-13, 3-9, 12th)
The Hurricanes of Miami had a strange week.  First, they went up to Tallahassee and beat their in-state rivals, Florida State, 77-73, after previously losing the Seminoles by 10 at home.  Then they went to Virginia Tech, and lost to one of the conference’s bottom 2 teams in a 52-45 game that was poorly played all around.  Miami is the only ACC team to lose to Virginia Tech, but they’ve lost to the Hokies twice.  They only stay at 12th in these power rankings based on the strength of their win over the Seminoles, and the struggles of Wake Forest.  After two straight games on the road, this week the Canes have back-to-back home games, hosting Notre Dame on Wednesday and Boston College on Saturday.

13.  Wake Forest (14-11, 4-8, 11th)
With a 4-3 start in conference play, the Demon Deacons were 14-6 and seemed as if they had righted the ship in coach Jeff Bzdelik’s 4th season after a questionable hiring and lackluster record.  But after an 82-67 loss to NC State, who they had beaten earlier in the season, and a 67-60 home loss to Florida State after blowing a 16-point lead, the Deacs have lost 5 straight to drop to 4-8 in conference play and 14-11 overall.  According to what I’ve read through other blogs and social media, the loss to Florida State may have been the nail in the coffin for Bzdelik’s firing at the end of the season.  As for the coming week, Bzdelik will have 2 chances to improve on his 2-29 conference road record at Wake, with games at Maryland on Tuesday and at North Carolina on Saturday.

14.  Virginia Tech (9-15, 2-10, 14th)
The Hokies had a week to prepare for Saturdays’ matchup with Miami, and it showed, at least somewhat, in a 52-45 win over the Hurricanes.  Tech is now 0-10 against ACC opponents not named Miami, and 2-0 against Miami, who happens to be the ACC’s defending champions (although the team is much different this year).  The win over the Hurricanes was the first game of a 3-game home stand, as this week they host 14th-ranked Virginia on Tuesday before hosting NC State on Saturday.  Speaking of coaches on the hot seat, you have to wonder about the future status of Hokies coach James Johnson.

15.  Boston College (6-19, 2-10, 15th)
And speaking of coaches on the hot seat, you also have to wonder about Boston College coach Steve Donahue.  As a bad season keeps getting worse, unlike Virginia Tech, it’s been close losses that have plagued the Eagles.  This past week, they lost twice by a total of 7 points, losing at Georgia Tech, 74-71, before allowing Notre Dame’s first road win, losing at home, 73-69.  Now the Eagles hit the road, traveling first to #1 Syracuse on Wednesday to attempt a monumental upset, before heading to Miami on Saturday.  The Eagles could win out, and win in all 5 rounds of the ACC Tournament, and would still be under .500 overall and just over it in conference play.

Games of the Week:

#5 Duke at North Carolina (Thursday, 9:00 PM ET)
I picked for this game last week, and it was moved to this Thursday due to inclement weather.  Here is my paragraph from last week’s post (copied and pasted, with the numbers updated):
In the first of two annual meetings between these fierce rivals, Duke travels up “Tobacco Road” to play North Carolina in the Smith Center.  Duke has won 3 out of the last 4 meetings in Chapel Hill and, although the Tar Heels are playing very well, I think that trend will continue.  The Heels have won 6 in a row, mostly in convincing fashion, and while none of the games qualify as their best performance of the season (I’ll give that to their road win at Michigan State), this has been their best stretch of the season.  Duke, however, is also playing some of their best basketball, having won 7 out of 8 with the loss coming in overtime at Syracuse (and they played well in that game, too).  Now, while I do believe Duke will win, North Carolina should make this interesting.
Duke 83, North Carolina 78.

#1 Syracuse at #5 Duke (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET)
The rematch of the best college basketball game so far this season, Syracuse’s 91-89 overtime win at home against Duke, is almost here.  Neither team has lost since the February 1 classic, validating that they are the two best teams in the conference (sorry Virginia, you’re a close 3rd), and two of the best in the nation.  That makes this game the biggest game this year in the ACC, and one of the biggest nationally.  The way this series kicked off at the Carrier Dome was special, but now we get a chance to see how it kicks off at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  Duke has won 30 straight games at home, and 15 straight in conference play.  Syracuse has had a lot of close calls lately, threatening their undefeated record, and they are going into a building where I’m not sure the Miami Heat could leave with a win.
Duke 67, Syracuse 63.

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