ACC Basketball Power Rankings, Week of 2/23

While there’s not a tremendous amount of movement in this week’s rankings, there is a change at the top.  It’s tough to rank the two when neither has lost, except to each other, since January 28, with current winning streaks of seven and six games, and its reached the point where, in Virginia’s case, just sneaking by with a win isn’t enough to keep them on top here.

1. Duke (24-3 overall, 11-3 ACC, Last Week: 2nd, AP Poll: 4th)
Last Week: North Carolina (W, 92-90, ot), Clemson (W, 78-56)
This Week: at Virginia Tech (Wednesday), Syracuse (Saturday)
Duke showed a tremendous amount of fight to come from double digits down to beat North Carolina in overtime in the game’s biggest rivalry, before beating Clemson even worse than the 22-point margin would indicate.  This team has played extremely well since their loss to Notre Dame on January 28, with a 30-point win over that same Notre Dame team as the signature win of the streak, in addition to the win over North Carolina.  This week, expect the streak to continue, as Duke travels to Virginia Tech and hosts Syracuse.

2.  Virginia (25-1, 13-1, 1st, AP: 2nd)
Last Week: Pittsburgh (W, 61-49), Florida State (W, 51-41)
This Week: at Wake Forest (Wednesday), Virginia Tech (Saturday)
Virginia has lost the top spot after both of their wins this past week, although by double digits, were really much closer than the score would indicate, and, dating back to games the week before against NC State and Wake Forest, they have struggled since losing guard Justin Anderson to injury.  While nothing is necessarily easy in the ACC, they do have a couple of games against lower-tier teams Wake Forest and Virginia Tech to work out some of their recent difficulties, although London Perrantes may or may not be out with a broken nose.

3. Notre Dame (24-4, 12-3, 3rd, AP: 9th)
Last Week: Wake Forest (W, 88-75), at Boston College (W, 87-70)
This Week: Syracuse (Tuesday)
The Irish took care of business in wins over Wake Forest and Boston College, enabling them to move back into the top 10 in the AP Poll.  After they host Syracuse, they will get a week to prepare for a game next week at Louisville.  Last year, with Jerian Grant out with academic issues, this team was 6-12 in the ACC, showing Grant’s invaluable meaning to this team as he has led them into the top 10 this year.

4. North Carolina (19-8, 9-5, 5th, AP: 15th)
Last Week: at Duke (L, 92-90, ot), Georgia Tech (W, 89-60)
This Week: NC State (Tuesday), at Miami (Saturday)
North Carolina didn’t look like they could hang with Duke early in their game against the Blue Devils, but would come back to take a double-digit lead late in the game before Duke’s incredible comeback gave the Heels an overtime loss.  Carolina then proceeded to blow out Georgia Tech in the first home game since former coach Dean Smith’s passing, even honoring Smith by running the “four corners” offense for a play.  This week they host rival NC State after a close game earlier in the season in Raleigh, before traveling to Miami, a place where they’ve had their share of past struggles.

5. Louisville (21-6, 9-5, 4th, AP: 17th)
Last Week: at Syracuse (L, 69-59), Miami (W, 55-53)
This Week: at Georgia Tech (Monday), at Florida State (Saturday)
The Cardinals struggled to a loss at Louisville, before finding a way to win a back-and-forth game with Miami.  In the game against Syracuse, part of the reason they didn’t play particularly well was the suspension of point guard Chris Jones.  Jones was reinstated for Saturday’s game, but then was dismissed from the program on Saturday, leaving the Cardinals without their third-leading scorer, who led the team in assists and steals.  It will be interesting to see how the team reacts, particularly with the next two games on the road, at Georgia Tech and Florida State.

6. Pittsburgh (18-10, 7-7, 6th)
Last Week: at Virginia (L, 61-49), at Syracuse (W, 65-61)
This Week: Boston College (Tuesday), at Wake Forest (Sunday)
The Panthers had to play Virginia just two days after their upset of North Carolina, and hung in the game for a while but were somewhat overmatched on the road against the Cavaliers, but they came back to win on the road at Syracuse.  The Panthers recent strong play has taken them from NCAA Tournament afterthought to a bubble team, currently being listed as the sixth team out in ESPN’s projected field, and first out of the CBS Sports projected field.  Pitt doesn’t have any ranked teams left on the schedule, so they can’t afford to lose many more, particularly this week when they host Boston College and travel to Wake Forest.

7. NC State (16-11, 7-7, 7th)
Last Week: Virginia Tech (W, 69-53)
This Week: at North Carolina (Tuesday), at Boston College (Saturday)
The Wolfpack took care of business in their only game of the week, beating Virginia Tech, and due to the struggles of some other teams on the bubble over the last week, moved from being the last team in the projected tournament field to the fourth-to-last team in, according to ESPN and CBS Sports.  Mark Gottfried’s team will have a shot to improve their resume this week in Chapel Hill, before a trip to Boston College, when they will try to avoid a “bad loss” against the Eagles.

8. Syracuse (17-10, 8-6, 9th)*
Last Week: Louisville (W, 69-59), Pittsburgh (L, 65-61)
This Week: at Notre Dame (Tuesday), at Duke (Saturday)
I recently said that, since Syracuse is banning themselves from the postseason this year, games against highly ranked opponents and rivalry games would be postseason-like for the Orange.  Sure enough, they stepped up to the plate for their game against Louisville, beating the Cardinals by 10, although they did lose to Pittsburgh.  This week, two more of those big games exist, but this time on the road, traveling to South Bend and Durham to face top 10 opponents.

9. Miami (17-10, 7-7. 10th)
Last Week: at Boston College (W, 89-86, 2ot), Virginia Tech (W, 76-52), at Louisville (L, 55-53)
This Week: Florida State (Wednesday), North Carolina (Saturday)
The Hurricanes are another bubble team, although the highest I’ve seen them projected is as the second team out, with other projections having them a little bit further out.  The Hurricanes did win the games they couldn’t afford to lose this week, beating Boston College and Virginia Tech, but lost a golden opportunity for a high quality road win when they couldn’t finish at Louisville.  They will have another opportunity for one at home when they host North Carolina, but first they have to take care of business at home against rival Florida State.

10. Florida State (15-13, 7-8, 11th)
Last Week: Boston College (W, 69-60), at Virginia (L, 51-41)
This Week: at Miami (Wednesday), Louisville (Saturday)
The Seminoles have consistently stayed near the .500 mark in the league and a game or two above it overall throughout the last few weeks, which is a nice way for their season to unfold after a horrendous start in November and early December.  The Noles beat Boston College as expected, and played Virginia very strong, staying within one to two possessions for most of the game, until very late in the second half, on the road against the nation’s second-ranked team.  Now they will go upset hunting once again, as they travel to Miami and host Louisville.

11. Clemson (15-12, 7-8, 8th)
Last Week: at Georgia Tech (L, 63-52), at Duke (L, 78-56)
This Week: Georgia Tech (Saturday)
A couple of weeks ago, Clemson had worked their way on to the NCAA bubble, but now they’ve dropped out of contention, and likely need to win the ACC Tournament to go dancing, after a stretch of four losses in five games.  That includes this past week’s losses to Georgia Tech, embarrassing because of the Yellow Jackets’ record, and Duke, embarrassing because of the score.  The Tigers now get a much-needed week off before a rematch with Georgia Tech, this time at home.

12. Wake Forest (12-15, 4-10, 12th)
Last Week: at Notre Dame (L, 88-75)
This Week: Virginia (Wednesday), Pittsburgh (Sunday)
A few days after nearly beating Virginia, Wake Forest was close with Notre Dame at half, before the Irish slowly pulled away in the second half.  The Deacons have often played better than the results indicate, but therefore don’t have the record to show it.  Now they get a rematch with Virginia, who will be without either one or two of their key players, before senior night against Pittsburgh, where Wake can potentially play NCAA spoiler.

13. Georgia Tech (12-15, 3-12, 13th)
Last Week: Clemson (W, 63-52), at North Carolina (L, 89-60)
This Week: Louisville (Monday), at Clemson (Saturday)
The Yellow Jackets were decently impressive in their win over Clemson, picking up their third league win, but then were destroyed in Chapel Hill in a game that wasn’t even as close as the 29-point margin.  To their defense, it was going to be difficult for anyone to win in the Smith Center in the first home game for the Tar Heels after Dean Smith’s death.  Now, on a quick turnaround, they host a ranked Louisville team on national TV, looking for the upset in Louisville’s first game without Chris Jones, before traveling to Clemson for a rematch.

14. Virginia Tech (10-17, 2-12, 14th)
Last Week: at Miami (L, 76-52), at NC State (L, 69-53)
This Week: Duke (Wednesday), at Virginia (Saturday)
The Hokies are young, and Buzz Williams is building a program.  But it can’t be easy to be a Virginia Tech fan this basketball season, and particularly this past week, as they were blown out by both Miami and NC State.  That being said, it doesn’t get any easier for the Gobblers, as this week they play the consensus top two teams in the conference.  They can look forward to next week, when they will play Boston College in the battle of the cellar.

15. Boston College (9-17, 1-13, 15th)
Last Week: at Florida State (L, 69-60), Notre Dame (L, 87-70)
This Week: NC State (Saturday)
The Eagles are also struggling mightily in ACC play, in a league where they haven’t been favored in a game all year and likely won’t be, not even against Virginia Tech (that game is in Blacksburg).  Jim Christian has some talented players, but doesn’t have much depth to compete at an ACC level, and it showed in losses to Florida State and Notre Dame.  The Eagles get a week to prepare for NC State, in their final game before that trip to Blacksburg, which is arguably their biggest game of the year, in the sense of battling for position in the league.

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

Game of the Week: NC State at #15 North Carolina (Tuesday, 8:00 pm ET)
NC State could use a big win to give themselves some cushion on the NCAA bubble, and here they will play a ranked opponent on the road in a rivalry game, an obvious chance for such a win.  When these teams met in Raleigh, the Tar Heels won 81-79, but the Wolfpack nearly tipped in an intentionally missed free throw in an attempt to tie the game at the buzzer.  The Heels have won 11 straight meetings at the Smith Center, with the last Wolfpack win coming in 2003, but these games are often very hard-fought and very close.  Carolina had lost four of six before Saturday, but they are a better team than that would indicate, and remain ranked in the top 15.  Whoever wins this game will have played well and will have a lot to be proud of, but will also have some bragging rights.
North Carolina 83, NC State 78.

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