It was another interesting week of ACC basketball, as we now enter into the stretch run of the regular season, and we sit just two weeks away from Selection Sunday. This league has it all, from teams fighting to be a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, to teams fighting to be in it at all, and even a game this week between two teams well below .500 trying to not finish last in the conference. And with a week left, no one is locked into their ACC Tournament seeding yet. That being said, this should be a very exciting week of basketball, and there are matchups every day this week with a high level of intrigue.
The ongoing weekly debate of Virginia vs. Duke in these rankings has come to a point where it’s nearly impossible to pick one team over the other. Both teams have exceptional resumes, and are both playing very well right now. Therefore, for the first time in the history of these rankings (although that history only dates back to last year), there is a tie at the top. It isn’t fair to either program to be listed as second best, so both get recognition as #1.
1 (tie). Duke (26-3 overall, 13-3 ACC, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 3rd)
Last Week: at Virginia Tech (W, 91-86, ot), Syracuse (W, 73-54)
This Week: Wake Forest (Wednesday), at North Carolina (Saturday)
The Blue Devils didn’t have their best week necessarily, but they still won both games. Virginia Tech nearly pulled off the upset of the year in all of college basketball, but Duke found a way to win in overtime, before returning to the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium to dominate Syracuse. The surprisingly close win over the Hokies may have been a wake-up call, as now the Blue Devils host Wake Forest, who they already beat on the road, in their last preliminary bout before the main event, their rematch with North Carolina, this time in Chapel Hill.
1 (tie). Virginia (27-1, 15-1, 2nd, AP: 2nd)
Last Week: at Wake Forest (W, 70-34), Virginia Tech (W, 69-57)
This Week: at Syracuse (Monday), at Louisville (Saturday)
After beating Wake Forest and Virginia Tech by a combined four points in meetings earlier in the season, Virginia answered by doubling up Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, before dominating rival Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers remain second in the AP Poll, the highest for any ACC team, behind only Kentucky, the lone undefeated team in the nation. The Cavaliers need one win to clinch the top seed in Greensboro, but will have to earn it as they travel to Syracuse and Louisville this week. The Cavaliers have held opponents under 40 points six times, which as twice as many as any other team.
3. Louisville (23-6, 11-5, 5th, AP: 16th)
Last Week: at Georgia Tech (W, 52-51), at Florida State (W, 81-59)
This Week: Notre Dame (Wednesday), Virginia (Saturday)
After squeaking by on the road at Georgia Tech in their first game since the dismissal of guard Chris Jones (who has since pleaded not guilty to rape charges), the Cardinals responded to any critics with a resounding win on the road at Florida State. This week can make or break the season in some ways for the Cardinals, as they will host Notre Dame and Virginia, and can either solidify themselves as a top 15 team, or can fall out of the top 20.
4. North Carolina (20-9, 10-6, 4th, AP: 19th)
Last Week: NC State (L, 58-46), at Miami (W, 73-64)
This Week: at Georgia Tech (Tuesday), Duke (Saturday)
The Tar Heels struggled offensively in a loss to NC State, which was Roy Williams’ first home loss to the Wolfpack as the Carolina coach, but rebounded to beat bubble team Miami on the road, for their first win in three years over the Hurricanes after four straight losses in the series. This week the Heels head to Georgia Tech for their final road game of the season, before hosting their rematch with Duke, looking for revenge after their overtime loss in Durham earlier in the season.
5. Notre Dame (24-5, 12-4, 3rd, AP: 12th)
Last Week: Syracuse (L, 65-60)
This Week: at Louisville (Wednesday), Clemson (Saturday)
The Irish lost to Syracuse in the renewal of an old Big East series in their only game this past week, and fall out of the top 10 in the AP Poll for the first time since the poll’s January 12 edition. With games with Louisville and Clemson on the horizon this week, the Irish need one win to clinch a double bye in the ACC Tournament, and two wins or a win and a Louisville loss to clinch the three seed. The latter scenario could take place when the Irish and Cardinals meet on Wednesday.
6. Syracuse (18-11, 9-7, 8th)*
Last Week: at Notre Dame (W, 65-60), at Duke (L, 73-54)
This Week: Virginia (Monday), at NC State (Saturday)
If the Orange were not banned from the postseason, they would be an interesting case study for bracketologists. They haven’t had their best season, and do have a couple of less than stellar losses, but with recent wins against Louisville and Notre Dame, beating the Irish this past week on the road, they would very likely be in the thick of the bubble conversation, particularly considering that they have a winning record in arguably the best conference. Instead, as they will not head to the ACC or NCAA Tournaments, or any other postseason event, they prepare for their last two games this week, with their final home game tonight against 2nd-ranked Virginia, before traveling to face NC State over the weekend.
7. NC State (17-12, 8-8, 7th)
Last Week: at North Carolina (W, 58-46), at Boston College (L, 79-63)
This Week: at Clemson (Tuesday), Syracuse (Saturday)
The Wolfpack moved comfortably off of the NCAA bubble and solidly into the field for the first time all season with their win over North Carolina, their first in Chapel Hill since 2003. But when the Wolfpack couldn’t back it up on a trip to Boston College, falling by a whopping 16 points to the Eagles, they worked their way back on to the bubble, a place they’ve been this time of year for three of the four seasons Mark Gottfried has been the Wolfpack coach. The good news for Wolfpack fans is that Gottfried has never missed the NCAA Tournament at NC State, and if the Wolfpack can win games against Clemson and Syracuse, and avoid upset in Greensboro, that streak should continue.
8. Pittsburgh (19-11, 8-8, 6th)
Last Week: Boston College (W, 71-65), at Wake Forest (L, 69-66)
This Week: Miami (Wednesday), at Florida State (Saturday)
The Panthers are also on the bubble, although they were never projected within the tournament, but they didn’t help their case this week with a close home win over then-last place Boston College, before falling on the road at Wake Forest, losing the lead late. Pitt is now listed as the fourth team out of ESPN’s projected field, and the sixth team out according to bracketmatrix.com, which combines 80 various projected brackets from around the Internet into a consensus bracket. Wednesday they will play Miami in a “play-out game”, where the winner is likely to be eliminated from at-large contention for the Big Dance, before traveling to a must-win at Florida State.
9. Miami (18-11, 8-8, 9th)
Last Week: Florida State (W, 81-77), North Carolina (L, 73-64)
This Week: at Pittsburgh (Wednesday), at Virginia Tech (Saturday)
Miami defeated rival Florida State, despite a late rally by the Seminoles, before letting a great opportunity for a resume building win slip away with a home loss to North Carolina. The Hurricanes are the fifth team out of the projected field on ESPN, although 10% of the Bracket Matrix projections have Miami in the field. As mentioned, the Hurricanes play Pittsburgh in a likely elimination game for an at-large bid, but even with wins over the Panthers and Virginia Tech, they may need a quality win in the ACC Tournament to find themselves in the Madness.
10. Clemson (16-12, 8-8, 11th)
Last Week: Georgia Tech (W, 70-63, ot)
This Week: NC State (Tuesday), at Notre Dame (Saturday)
For a while, Clemson was also on the tournament bubble, but a mid-February stretch of four losses in five games ended their shot. However, the Tigers were able to end that stretch on Saturday with an overtime win over Georgia Tech, although the extra session was needed after they blew a 23-point lead in regulation. Tuesday, the Tigers host NC State with both teams trying to play spoiler, as Clemson tries to spoil State’s NCAA hopes, while the Wolfpack hope to spoil the night for Clemson in their last game at Littlejohn Coliseum before its massive renovations next year. Clemson will then close out the regular season at Notre Dame.
11. Florida State (15-15, 7-10, 10th)
Last Week: at Miami (L, 81-77), Louisville (L, 81-59)
This Week: Pittsburgh (Saturday)
In the games since back-to-back wins against Georgia Tech and Boston College and a competitive game with Virginia, the Seminoles have hit a late-season slump. They trailed 62-44 in the late minutes at Miami, before the late heroics of Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who scored 30 points in 4:39, before being blown out at home by a Louisville team that had been struggling themselves. The ‘Noles have one game left before heading to Greensboro, likely as the 10 seed, but in that one game they can play spoiler against Pittsburgh, who has to have the game to stay in NCAA at-large contention.
12. Wake Forest (13-16, 5-11, 12th)
Last Week: Virginia (L, 70-34), Pittsburgh (W, 69-66)
This Week: at Duke (Wednesday), at Boston College (Saturday)
The Deacons were beat embarrassingly bad by Virginia, even considering the Cavaliers are ranked second nationally, getting doubled up for the first time since sports-reference.com’s records begin (the mid-1970s). However, they responded with a win over Pittsburgh, in a game that they didn’t necessarily play their best in, but they found a way to close, something the Deacons haven’t done well much this season. This week, they will have a shot at a monumental win for the program when they try to win at Duke for the first time since Tim Duncan’s senior year in 1997, before traveling to Boston College for their best chance all year for Danny Manning’s first ACC road win.
13. Boston College (10-18, 2-14, 15th)
Last Week: at Pittsburgh (L, 71-65), NC State (W, 79-63)
This Week: at Virginia Tech (Monday), Wake Forest (Saturday)
The Eagles have struggled to compete all year, having several good players, but not enough depth to consistently play well in the ACC. However, as Jim Christian finishes his first season in Chestnut Hill, the team is playing better. Olivier Hanlan is scoring 29.2 points per game in the last five contests, including 39 in a close road loss to Pittsburgh, and the Eagles upset NC State, leading by as many as 23 over the Wolfpack. This week they will play two bottom tier teams, first traveling to Virginia Tech, with whom they are currently tied for last in the league, before hosting Wake Forest.
14. Virginia Tech (10-19, 2-14, 14th)
Last Week: Duke (L, 91-86, OT), at Virginia (L, 69-57)
This Week: Boston College (Monday), Miami (Saturday)
Like the Eagles, the Hokies are playing some of their best basketball of the season, particularly doing so in an overtime game against Duke this past week, stunning the basketball world by nearly beating the Blue Devils. They also played fairly well, albeit in a game they were overmatched and on the road, against Virginia. This week they will play the aforementioned battle for the cellar against Boston College, before hosting Miami, where they can really spoil the Canes’ NCAA hopes.
15. Georgia Tech (12-17, 3-14, 13th)
Last Week: Louisville (L, 52-51), at Clemson (L, 70-63, ot)
This Week: North Carolina (Tuesday)
The Yellow Jackets didn’t play all that poorly, but didn’t close, in a one-point loss at home to Louisville. They did show some fight to come back from 23 down at Clemson to force overtime against the Tigers, but their momentum stalled in the extra session, and the Jackets had yet another heartbreaking loss. With Boston College and Virginia Tech playing as strong as they have all year, Georgia Tech is now at the bottom of these rankings. It’s a tough pill to swallow for the Jackets, who have lost by seven points or less in 12 of their 14 ACC losses. Their regular season ends on Tuesday when they host North Carolina.
*ineligible for postseason, including ACC Tournament, due to self-imposed ban to comply with NCAA investigation
Game(s) of the Week:
#3 Duke at #19 North Carolina (Saturday, 9:00 pm ET)
North Carolina will have a chip on their shoulder after blowing a late double-digit lead in Durham on February 18, with this game taking place in Chapel Hill. Like I said two weeks ago, I feel like Duke has more talent on the floor in this game, although you can throw the records and expectations out the window for any matchup of these two rivals. Even still, the Heels come into this week having lost five of eight, while Duke has won nine in a row, and 12 out of 13.
Duke 75, North Carolina 71.
#2 Virginia at #16 Louisville (Saturday, 6:30 pm ET)
If Virginia gets by Syracuse tonight, this game will be to finish the ACC regular season with a 17-1 record, a game better than last year’s 16-2 mark which led to their first ACC Tournament title since 1976, and even (in the loss column) with their 1980-81 regular season championship team, which went 13-1 in Ralph Sampson’s sophomore campaign. To finish off their historic season, however, they will have to win on the road against a strong Louisville team, who may still be trying to lock up a double bye in Greensboro in this game. This will be a nice lead-in to Duke-Carolina for ESPN.
Virginia 52, Louisville 49.
Editor’s Note: If you want to see the hardest-played game in the league this week, it may just be tonight at 9:00 pm (ET) when Boston College plays at Virginia Tech. Why? Nobody wants to finish last in the league, but the loser here will almost be guaranteed the 14th and final seed in Greensboro.