After the first three games in ACC conference play, the rankings have their biggest shakeup yet. While there are still plenty of unknowns in the league, as it is still early in the conference schedule, we have plenty of games left between the group of five at the top to look forward to.
1. Virginia (15-0 overall, 3-0 ACC, Last Week: 3rd)
There are two teams left in the country with an undefeated overall record: Kentucky and Virginia. The Cavaliers were voted first by two of the AP’s voters, and rank second in the poll, their highest ranking since 1983 (the highest they got last year was third). Their undefeated record is intact after surviving upset bids from Miami (in double overtime), NC State, and beating a top 15 team on the road at Notre Dame. The Wahoos will defend the top spot in these rankings this week with a home game against Clemson and a trip to Boston College.
2. Duke (14-1, 2-1, 1st)
The Blue Devils were the third-to-last undefeated team left, along with Kentucky and Virginia, before their loss on Sunday at NC State, which came after a blowout of Boston College, and an escape at Wake Forest. The loss to the Wolfpack dropped Duke to fourth in the AP Poll, not dropping any further as other top ten teams also suffered recent losses. The road to 1,000 wins for Mike Krzyzewski had been scheduled to potentially end Saturday at Louisville if the Devils had won out, but now the earliest Coach K can reach the milestone is on January 19 at home against Pittsburgh. That being said, the game at Louisville will be the highlight of the week, not just for Duke, but the entire league, but first the Devils host Miami on Tuesday.
3. Notre Dame (15-2, 3-1, 4th)
The Fighting Irish began conference play with a double overtime win over Georgia Tech, before beating North Carolina on the road, and giving Virginia about as good a test as anyone has before falling short. Mike Brey’s team is for real, and a big reason why is a .535 field goal percentage, which is the best in the nation. This week the Irish play a rematch against Georgia Tech, with this one on the road, before hosting Miami. At 12th in the AP Poll, the Irish are right on the cusp of cracking into the top ten, a position I don’t think anyone expected them to be in.
4. North Carolina (12-4, 2-1, 5th)
After opening up conference play with a bad blowout of Clemson on the road, the Heels lost by a single point to Notre Dame at home, but responded with a comeback win to beat Louisville, closing on a 22-8 run in the late minutes to erase a 13-point deficit and beat the Cardinals. This team sits in the top ten nationally in both rebounds and assists, and after winning six out of seven sit 15th in the AP Poll. Carolina will travel to in-state rival NC State, who just beat Duke on the same floor, on Wednesday, before hosting Virginia Tech on Sunday.
5. Louisville (14-2, 2-1, 2nd)
It may seem that I’m being a little harsh on Louisville, who is, after all, ranked sixth in the AP Poll, but according to these rankings fifth in their own conference. The Cardinals, however, struggled against Wake Forest and Clemson (with the Clemson game at home), before blowing a late 13-point lead to lose to North Carolina. Since Notre Dame beat North Carolina and North Carolina beat Louisville, the teams are ordered that way here, especially since the Heels have honestly looked better in ACC play than the Cardinals have. As Louisville has already found out, the ACC is a tough league, and after a game against Virginia Tech it won’t get any easier, as the Cardinals host Duke on Saturday.
6. NC State (12-5, 3-1, 7th)
After an ugly loss to Cincinnati just before the beginning of ACC play, the Wolfpack have improved vastly and have made the statement they will be competitive in the ACC, with a blowout of Pittsburgh, a near miss in an upset bid on the road at Virginia, and a dominating upset of Duke. The win should, for now, move them into the projected NCAA field, and they will have yet another opportunity for a resume-building win on Wednesday, when they host North Carolina, before traveling to Florida State on Saturday.
7. Miami (11-4, 1-1, 6th)
The Hurricanes came into conference play having lost three out of five games, but nearly upset Virginia in their ACC opener, taking the Cavaliers to double overtime, before a week off and a close win over Boston College. The Hurricanes are about to face a rough stretch, including back to back games on the road at Duke and Notre Dame this week. But you know Jim Larranaga will have his team ready, no matter how hard the test.
8. Syracuse (12-4, 3-0, 9th)
Some might put the Orange higher on this list, after their perfect start in ACC play, and while they have won six in a row, including three conference games against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Florida State, with two of those on the road, it hasn’t been exactly the toughest stretch you could have in the ACC (three of the bottom four in these rankings). I said from the start I wouldn’t be surprised to see Syracuse start 6-0 or 5-1, because of those three games, and their next three, against Wake Forest, Clemson, and Boston College. Down the road when the schedule gets tougher, including one stretch of five currently ranked opponents in six games, then we’ll see how good the Orange really are.
9. Wake Forest (9-8, 1-3, 11th)
The Demon Deacons move up in this poll after going 1-2 in their last three games, but it isn’t because of the results, but how they played. Wake played well against Duke and Louisville, giving themselves a chance to win in both contests, although if this team is going to be competitive they’ve got to learn to close games. They did close against Georgia Tech, for Danny Manning’s first ACC win, and Tuesday will travel to Syracuse in their only game this week, before having a week to prepare for North Carolina.
10. Clemson (9-6, 1-2, 12th)
After an embarrassing 24-point loss at home to North Carolina that wasn’t even as close as the score indicates, the Tigers improved dramatically in their next two games, nearly upsetting Louisville before comfortably beating Pittsburgh, with both of those games on the road. This week the Tigers will be challenged, traveling to Virginia before hosting Syracuse, a couple of games that don’t look good for them on paper. But after this past week, I don’t know what to expect from the Tigers.
11. Pittsburgh (11-5, 1-2, 8th)
Some may see this ranking as a little low, but the Panthers have not been playing well to start their ACC schedule. After a blowout loss at NC State, Pitt needed overtime to put away Boston College, before losing to Clemson in their home opener. While this team looked decent at times in non-conference play, their first three league games have been problematic, and while home games against Florida State and Georgia Tech don’t appear too difficult in the ACC, this team needs to start playing better soon.
12. Georgia Tech (9-6, 0-3, 10th)
Tech had a fairly good showing in non-conference play, but it hasn’t translated to league wins, at least not so far, although their loss to Notre Dame was in double overtime on the road, before losing close games to Syracuse and Wake Forest. This week the Yellow Jackets take on Notre Dame again, this time at home, before traveling to Pittsburgh on Saturday.
13. Florida State (9-7, 1-2, 13th)
Since the last rankings, the Seminoles have played two non-conference games, winning against Florida when a Florida player inadvertently tipped the ball in the wrong basket at the buzzer, and losing to Mississippi State, and two league games, beating Virginia Tech convincingly before losing at Syracuse. The Noles have a less than stellar non-conference resume, and the win over the Hokies and loss to the Orange were both expected and predictable. A road game with Pittsburgh and a home game against NC State this week may give us a better sense of direction to where the Seminoles are headed this season.
14. Boston College (7-7, 0-3, 14th)
The Eagles haven’t won a conference game yet in Jim Christian’s first year at the helm, although they have had chances to win, with one exception. After being blown out at Duke, the Eagles took Pittsburgh to overtime, and lost a close game to Miami. This week it won’t get any easier, as they play a non-conference game in which they are likely to be underdogs against 10-3 Harvard, before hosting 2nd-ranked Virginia on Saturday.
15. Virginia Tech (8-7, 0-2, 15th)
It’s going to be a long year for Buzz Williams in his first year at the helm in Blacksburg. After a 31-point loss to West Virginia in their last non-conference game, the Hokies lost a close game to Syracuse, before losing fairly convincingly to Florida State. From here, they hit the ACC gauntlet, with a stretch of four straight games against ranked opponents. It starts with a trip to Louisville on Tuesday, before traveling to North Carolina on Sunday.
Game of the Week: #2 Duke at #6 Louisville (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET)
This game has been circled on the calendars of many ACC followers for a while, as Duke and Louisville play for the first time as conference opponents. In addition to that, had Duke won all of their games leading up to this one, it would have been the first chance at 1,000 wins for Mike Krzyzewski. While Duke’s loss to NC State foiled that storyline, it could still be his 999th win if the Blue Devils beat Miami this week. Both teams have lost their most recent game, although they have a game between now and Saturday, although Louisville struggled some in their wins as well. That being said, Duke has the better team on paper, although Louisville has a very talented team, and I expect the Devils to come out like they have something to prove in their first road game since the loss at NC State.
Duke 72, Louisville 65.