ACC Basketball Power Rankings, Week of 2/9

After a pair of top 10 matchups among ACC teams Saturday, there’s plenty to talk about this week.  In addition to that, among the middle group of teams, the only one to have a perfect week was Pittsburgh, but they barely beat Bryant, and the only team to not have a win was NC State, but they only played one game.  That being said, here are updated power rankings.

1. Virginia (21-1 overall, 9-1 ACC, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 2nd)
Last Week:  at North Carolina (W, 75-64), Louisville (W, 52-47)
This Week:  at NC State (Wednesday), Wake Forest (Saturday)
I left Virginia on top after their loss to Duke on January 31, and they showed why with wins over top 15 opponents against North Carolina and Louisville.  Now the schedule gets a little easier, traveling to NC State before hosting Wake Forest, but they will have to do so without their leading scorer, guard Justin Anderson, who is out 4-6 weeks with a finger injury.

2. Duke (20-3, 7-3, 2nd, AP: 4th)
Last Week:  Georgia Tech (W, 72-66), Notre Dame (W, 90-60)
This Week:  at Florida State (Monday), at Syracuse (Saturday)
Duke remains second here, and in the top five nationally, after surviving a Georgia Tech upset bid before completely obliterating Notre Dame to avenge a loss to the Irish just 10 days before.  This week, the Blue Devils hit the road, playing a pair of the league’s middle-tiered teams, including the renewal of a recently born rivalry on Saturday at Syracuse.

3. Louisville (19-4, 7-3, 4th, AP: 9th)
Last Week:  at Miami (W, 63-55), at Virginia (L, 52-47)
This Week:  Pittsburgh (Wednesday), NC State (Saturday)
Louisville moves up a spot, despite a loss to Virginia, by passing Notre Dame.  That being said, the loss to Virginia did feature a stretch of over 10 minutes when Louisville did not score, but other than that the Cardinals played the Cavaliers pretty evenly.  This week, the Cardinals will be favored in  a pair of home games, playing Pittsburgh, who is somewhat hot but also mid-pack, and a struggling NC State team.

4. North Carolina (18-6, 8-3, 5th, AP: 12th)
Last Week:  Virginia (L, 75-64), at Boston College (W, 79-68)
This Week:  at Pittsburgh (Saturday)
The Tar Heels also pass Notre Dame and move up a spot, which is appropriate considering they did score 64 points against the Virginia defense (the most points scored in regulation against them in ACC play), and took care of Boston College on the road.  The Heels get a few days off before a trip to Pittsburgh on Saturday, giving the program time to grieve the death of longtime former coach Dean Smith, who led the Tar Heels to 13 ACC titles and two national championships.

5. Notre Dame (21-4, 9-3, 3rd, AP: 10th)
Last Week:  Boston College (W, 71-63), at Duke (L, 90-60)
This Week:  at Clemson (Tuesday)
After beating Boston College, the Irish went to Duke, where they were embarrassed by the Blue Devils, in a game where they couldn’t make a shot and Duke couldn’t miss.  They will try to regroup Tuesday with a trip to bubble team Clemson, who will be hungry for a win over a ranked team, so the Irish need to be careful to not let one loss turn into multiple ones.

6. Pittsburgh (16-8, 5-5, 9th)
Last Week:  Bryant (W, 72-67), Syracuse (W, 83-77)
This Week:  at Louisville (Wednesday), North Carolina (Saturday)
After barely beating Northeast Conference team Bryant on Monday, the Panthers recovered to beat Syracuse for their second biggest win of the year (behind Notre Dame).  This week, a team that has a decent win-loss record but not enough big wins to get them into the NCAA Tournament conversation will have two chances for one, playing Louisville and North Carolina, in a week that could make or break their season.

7. Miami (15-8, 5-5, 11th)
Last Week:  Louisville (L, 63-55), Clemson (W, 56-45)
This Week:  at Wake Forest (Wednesday), at Boston College (Sunday)
The U was in the midst of a three game losing streak following their loss to Louisville, and had played their way backwards from an NCAA probability to the bubble, before beating fellow bubble team Clemson on Sunday with a very strong defensive effort.  While wins over Wake Forest and Boston College in the coming weeks wouldn’t necessarily be resume builders come March, they are certainly games the Hurricanes can’t afford to lose.

8. Clemson (14-9, 6-5, 6th)
Last Week:  at Florida State (W, 62-56), at Miami (L, 56-45)
This Week:  Notre Dame (Tuesday), Virginia Tech (Saturday)
After finding revenge against Florida State, the Tigers fell on the road at Miami.  Before the Miami game, the team was listed among the “Next Four Out” (the fifth through eighth teams out of the projected NCAA field) according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, but now are not listed among the eight teams closest to the bubble.  That can change positively with a win against Notre Dame, although it could also change negatively with a loss to Virginia Tech.

9. Syracuse* (15-8, 6-4, 8th)
Last Week:  Virginia Tech (W, 72-70), at Pittsburgh (L, 83-77)
This Week:  at Boston College (Wednesday), Duke (Saturday)
In between their win over Virginia Tech and their loss to Pittsburgh, Syracuse announced a self-imposed, one-year postseason ban as a show of cooperation with the NCAA investigation against them.  The ban includes not only the NCAA/NIT (the Orange had likely been headed for the NIT this year), but the ACC Tournament, meaning this year’s field in Greensboro will only be 14 teams.  In some ways, that makes rivalry games, like the two they play this week, even bigger, as any win in a big game would be some consolation for the lack of a postseason.

10. Florida State (13-11, 5-6, 10th)
Last Week:  Clemson (L, 62-56), at Virginia Tech (W, 73-65)
This Week:  Duke (Monday), at Georgia Tech (Saturday)
The Seminoles couldn’t complete the season sweep of Clemson, but did complete it against Virginia Tech.  Tonight they come home to play Duke, and while they are not likely to go to the NCAA Tournament, barring an incredible run of games in the regular season or Greensboro, they can add a memorable win to their season if they can find a way to beat the Devils (easier said than done), before traveling to Georgia Tech.

11. NC State (14-10, 5-6, 7th)
Last Week:  at Wake Forest (L, 88-84)
This Week:  Virginia (Wednesday), at Louisville (Saturday)
The Wolfpack trailed Wake Forest 74-51 with 9:47 left in the game, only to make an incredible rally to make the game close late.  Even given the final score, the game was somewhat embarrassing for the Pack, who have now lost four out of five, with the lone win in overtime against Georgia Tech.  For now, they’ve fallen off of the bubble and have some work to do if they want to go dancing.

12. Georgia Tech (11-12, 2-9, 13th)
Last Week:  at Duke (L, 72-66), Wake Forest (W, 73-59)
This Week:  at Virginia Tech (Monday), Florida State (Saturday)
After hanging around with Duke at Cameron Indoor, Georgia Tech proceeded to demolish Wake Forest, leading much of the game by more than the final score indicates.  All of Tech’s losses except one have been close, and they are playing as well now as they have all season, so with games this week against Virginia Tech and Florida State, I’d be surprised if they didn’t win at least one.

13. Wake Forest (11-13, 3-8, 12th)
Last Week:  NC State (W, 88-84), at Georgia Tech (L, 59-73)
This Week:  Miami (Wednesday), at Virginia (Saturday)
The Deacons dominated much of the game against rival NC State, but still struggled to close, which has been a theme all year, before proceeding to be rattled on the road at Georgia Tech, falling to an 0-5 road record in the ACC.  That road record doesn’t suit well this week considering their Saturday game at Virginia, although up first is a home contest against Miami.

14. Virginia Tech (9-14, 1-9, 14th)
Last Week:  at Syracuse (L, 72-70), Florida State (L, 73-65)
This Week:  Georgia Tech (Monday), at Clemson (Saturday)
Despite their record, the Hokies are getting more and more competitive, which you often see later in the season out of young teams, as they are getting more and more comfortable playing at the college level.  After close losses to Syracuse and Florida State, the Hokies should continue to be competitive this week against Georgia Tech and Clemson.

15. Boston College (9-13, 1-9, 15th)
Last Week:  at Notre Dame (L, 71-63), North Carolina (L 79-68)
This Week:  Syracuse (Wednesday), Miami (Sunday)
While they aren’t winning, in a couple of games this week against ranked opponents, the Eagles weren’t necessarily blown out either, particularly Saturday against North Carolina, when they were tied at halftime and stayed within single digits for most of the game.  They will be a home underdog this week against Syracuse and Miami, but are playing well enough to, if the cards fall right, maybe pull a surprise.

*(ineligible for postseason, including ACC Tournament, due to self-imposed ban to comply with NCAA investigation)

Game of the Week:  #4 Duke at Syracuse (Saturday, 6:00 pm ET)
This game is on Valentine’s Day, but there is no love lost between these two programs in what is undoubtedly the best rivalry to come out of the ACC’s recent additions, particularly after two terrific games last year.  This year, the teams are somewhat mismatched, with Duke coming in fourth in the nation, and Syracuse with a handful of tough losses and no big wins, having an NIT resume if they were not forfeiting their postseason opportunity with a self-imposed ban.  That being said, the Duke-Syracuse series generally provides about as close to a postseason atmosphere as a regular season game can have, and perhaps the Orange will treat this game and one on February 28 in Durham as their postseason games for 2015 as consolation for not going anywhere after their regular season finale on March 7.  I expect Syracuse to play hard and play well, with the Carrier Dome crowd giving them a home court advantage, but in the end Duke will win a close game, continuing to solidify their place in the top tier of the ACC.
Duke 67, Syracuse 65.

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