After some upsets, and a few other near misses, the rankings look different once again this week, particularly in the middle tier of teams, which has seemingly become a theme each week this season. At the top, there’s a small shakeup as well, ahead of a game which is always a definitive moment in the season, North Carolina and Duke on Wednesday. Nine teams are still in the running for an NCAA bid (and it would be 10 without Syracuse’s postseason ban), with the league expected to get six or seven teams in (although, let me clarify the bids are not based on conferences).
1. Virginia (23-1 overall, 11-1 ACC, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 2nd)
Last Week: at NC State (W, 51-47), Wake Forest (W, 61-60)
This Week: Pittsburgh (Monday), Florida State (Sunday)
Virginia without Justin Anderson is a different team, and the Cavaliers can’t wait to have him back after nearly being upset by NC State and Wake Forest. That being said, the Cavaliers didn’t lose, so they remain at the top of these rankings for at least another week. Pittsburgh, who is coming off an upset, comes to Charlottesville tonight, before the Wahoos host Florida State.
2. Duke (22-3. 9-3, 2nd, AP: 4th)
Last Week: at Florida State (W, 73-70), at Syracuse (W, 80-72)
This Week: North Carolina (Wednesday), Clemson (Saturday)
Duke also had a near miss at Florida State, before coming from behind to beat Syracuse on the road in a tournament-like atmosphere. That comes ahead of another game in a great atmosphere, when North Carolina comes to Cameron Indoor Stadium, before a game against bubble team Clemson. Many would put Duke at the top of these rankings, but the Blue Devils have two more losses in conference play than Virginia, which more than offsets Duke’s head-to-head win.
3. Notre Dame (22-4, 10-3, 5th, AP: 10th)
Last Week: at Clemson (W, 60-58)
This Week: Wake Forest (Tuesday), at Boston College (Saturday)
The Irish weren’t overwhelming in their win against Clemson, but they survived the week without a loss, and move ahead of a pair of teams who can’t say the same. This week, Notre Dame plays two teams from the bottom tier of the conference, hosting Wake Forest and going to Boston College, although the Deacons nearly beat Virginia on the road over the weekend.
4. Louisville (20-5, 8-4, 3rd, AP: 12th)
Last Week: Pittsburgh (W, 69-56), NC State (L, 74-65)
This Week: at Syracuse (Wednesday), Miami (Saturday)
Louisville beat Pittsburgh (something another top-tier team couldn’t do), but couldn’t beat NC State at home, falling victim to an upset for the first time all year, as all of their losses were in games against even teams or in games where Louisville was the underdog. The Cardinals will try to regroup on a trip to Syracuse, before hosting a team they previously beat on the road in Miami.
5. North Carolina (18-7, 8-4, 4th, AP: 15th)
Last Week: at Pittsburgh (L, 89-76)
This Week: at Duke (Wednesday), Georgia Tech (Saturday)
The Tar Heels had a tough week. After the loss of former coach Dean Smith last weekend, and the aftermath of his passing over the past week, in addition to a triple murder in a possible hate crime on campus, the team lost their first game since on the road at Pittsburgh, when the Panthers couldn’t miss hardly anything from the floor. The Heels know they will need to play better, as they will travel to Duke on Wednesday for the league’s biggest rivalry, before hosting what is sure to be an emotional game in their first home game since Smith’s passing, against Georgia Tech.
6. Pittsburgh (17-9, 6-6, 6th)
Last Week: at Louisville (L, 69-56), North Carolina (W, 89-76)
This Week: at Virginia (Monday), at Syracuse (Saturday)
Pittsburgh played a good game against Louisville, but fell away at the end, but made up for it in an upset over North Carolina, where they shot 65% from the floor, including a 72% clip in the second half. On a quick turnaround, the Panthers will travel to Virginia, where they will try to pull off their third upset of the season (they also beat Notre Dame), before traveling to Syracuse. After beating the Heels, the Panthers are now in the NCAA bubble discussion.
7. NC State (15-11, 6-7, 11th)
Last Week: Virginia (L, 51-47), at Louisville (W, 74-65)
This Week: Virginia Tech (Saturday)
Another team in the bubble discussion is the Wolfpack, who had potentially fallen off the projected bubble until a road win at Louisville on Saturday, coming just days after a near miss at home against Virginia. The Wolfpack get a week off to enjoy the win, and prepare for the stretch run, which starts with Virginia Tech on Saturday. The weakness on the Pack’s resume is their overall record of only four games over .500, but with a relatively easy stretch of games (by ACC standards), they have an opportunity to improve on that mark heading into March and a potential spot in the dance.
8. Clemson (15-10, 7-6, 8th)
Last Week: Notre Dame (L, 60-58), Virginia Tech (W, 75-54)
This Week: at Georgia Tech (Monday), at Duke (Saturday)
The Tigers, despite a 1-1 record for the week, played two very strong games, coming very close to upsetting Notre Dame at home, before dominating Virginia Tech. Clemson is another ACC team who is on the projected NCAA bubble, currently seeming to be on the outside looking in, but that can change for the better this week, if they can find a way to beat Duke on the road, or for the worse, if they don’t beat Georgia Tech.
9. Syracuse (16-9, 7-5, 9th)*
Last Week: at Boston College (W, 70-56), Duke (L, 80-72)
This Week: Louisville (Wednesday), Pittsburgh (Saturday)
Syracuse will have no postseason, so rivalry games are the closest thing the will have to a postseason atmosphere this season, and they played well in a pair of them, beating Boston College before falling to Duke. Now the Orange play a pair of home games in which they may be underdogs. They will definitely be one against Louisville, and they may be one against a hot Pittsburgh team. Saturday’s game against Duke began a brutal stretch of five out of six games against top 10 teams.
10. Miami (15-9, 5-6, 7th)
Last Week: at Wake Forest (L, 72-70)
This Week: at Boston College (Monday), Virginia Tech (Wednesday), at Louisville (Saturday)
Miami lost their only game of the week, at Wake Forest, when Angel Rodriguez missed a potential game-tying layup at the buzzer, before Sunday’s game in Chestnut Hill against Boston College was postponed to Monday due to the winter’s latest nor’easter. That postponement causes a stretch of three games in six days for the Hurricanes, as they fight to make the NCAA Tournament, hosting Virginia Tech on Wednesday, before traveling to Louisville on Saturday. The silver lining of the crowded schedule is that their next two games are against two of the bottom three in these rankings.
11. Florida State (14-12, 6-7, 10th)
Last Week: Duke (L, 73-70), at Georgia Tech (W, 57-53)
This Week: Boston College (Wednesday), at Virginia (Sunday)
The Seminoles just wouldn’t go away against Duke on Monday, and got as close as a 1-point deficit in the closing seconds, before their upset bid fell short (one of the week’s themes). They followed that near miss up with a road win at Georgia Tech, for their third road win in conference play (several other middle-tier teams cannot match that road record). This week Florida State will host Boston College, before traveling to Virginia hoping to upset the Cavaliers.
12. Wake Forest (12-14, 4-9, 13th)
Last Week: Miami (W, 72-70), at Virginia (L, 61-60)
This Week: at Notre Dame (Tuesday)
Wake Forest is improving in their first year under Danny Manning, with a win over Miami, arguably the best team they’ve defeated all season. They also nearly came back to beat Virginia, coming from 13 behind to have the ball in the closing seconds with a chance to win (they didn’t get a shot off).
13. Virginia Tech (10-15, 2-10, 14th)
Last Week: Georgia Tech (W, 65-63), at Clemson (L, 75-54)
This Week: at Miami (Wednesday), at NC State (Saturday)
The young Hokies have good games and bad games, as evidenced by their pair of games in the past week. They defeated Georgia Tech at home, before traveling to Clemson to get dominated even more than the 21-point margin would indicate. All of the Hokies remaining games except one are against potential NCAA Tournament teams, with three of their next four on the road, with the lone home game coming against Duke. They can go upset hunting, starting this week on a road trip to Coral Gables and Raleigh.
14. Georgia Tech (11-14, 2-11, 12th)
Last Week: at Virginia Tech (L, 65-63), Florida State (L, 57-53)
This Week: Clemson (Monday), at North Carolina (Saturday)
The Yellow Jackets have experienced a bevy of close losses all season, and that continued with near misses against Virginia Tech and Florida State. 10 of the Jackets’ 11 league losses have come by seven points or less, with the exception being Virginia, but are very likely to play on the opening day of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. It won’t get any easier this week, as Tech hosts Clemson and travels to North Carolina, where they will be the unlucky team playing the Heels in their first home game since the death of Dean Smith.
15. Boston College (9-14, 1-10, 15th)
Last Week: Syracuse (L, 70-56)
This Week: Miami (Monday), at Florida State (Wednesday), Notre Dame (Saturday)
The Eagles lost at home to Syracuse, before Sunday’s game against Miami was postponed, leading to (like Miami) a stretch this week of three games in six days. After the Canes head back South, so will the Eagles, as they travel to Florida State, before hosting Notre Dame. Boston College’s only league win was one of those close losses for Georgia Tech, with the result being the same in the rest of the Eagles’ ACC contests. In my mind, they are well below the level of even the teams directly in front of them in these rankings.
*ineligible for postseason, including ACC Tournament, due to self-imposed ban to comply with NCAA investigation
Game of the Week: #15 North Carolina at #4 Duke (Wednesday, 9:00 pm ET)
As mentioned above, North Carolina is coming off a tough week as they go into this game against their biggest rival, on the road at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Heels have now lost three out of four, although the first two were against top ten opponents, but the only win was against Boston College. Duke has won five straight, and eight out of nine, avenging the lone loss of the stretch to Notre Dame with a 30-point beatdown of the Irish 10 days later. These teams do seem to be trending in different directions, although you can throw records and recent results out the window when these two teams meet. That being said, Duke still has more talent on the floor, and will have a home court advantage. Carolina will play a strong game, but the Devils will be stronger.
Duke 74, North Carolina 69.