The ACC is tough.
I know, that’s not exactly news, but the last couple of weeks serve as proof, as everyone in the ACC has lost a game since my last rankings two weeks ago (although Virginia’s loss was in a non-conference game).
That makes it tough for guys like me, who are trying to put these teams in some kind of order as they drag through the chaos of the midseason stretch, with everyone having successes and failures jumping off the pages of their resume.
That said, here are the latest ACC Power Rankings:
1. Louisville (18-4, 6-3 ACC, Previous Ranking: 4th, AP Poll: 6th)
Sure, it was against the 13th- and 14th-ranked teams in these rankings, but boy the Cardinals have looked impressive in the last week in blowout wins over Pittsburgh (on the road) and NC State. The Cardinals rank 2nd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (85.1 points allowed per 100 possessions).
2. Virginia (16-4, 6-2, PR: 5th, AP: 9th)
The Cavaliers moved up three spots in today’s AP Poll after a loss, a rarity in college basketball, but it was only appropriate after losing at the buzzer at top-ranked Villanova in a non-conference battle that both teams played well enough to win. Tony Bennett’s “packline” defense continues to lead the nation in points per game allowed, giving up just 53.7 per contest.
3. North Carolina (19-4, 7-2, PR: 1st, AP: 12th)
The Tar Heels were beaten in every facet of the game on Saturday at Miami, once again proving how hard road wins are in this league, although they are one of two teams who have yet to lose all season at home (11-0). North Carolina is in the top seven per game nationally in points (88.3, 7th), rebounds (45.3, 1st), and assists (18.3, 3rd).
4. Florida State (18-4, 6-3, PR: 3rd, AP: 15th)
After a 6-1 start to league play got them up to sixth in last week’s AP Poll, the Seminoles have lost back-to-back games at Georgia Tech and Syracuse, although they remain perfect at home (14-0). The ‘Noles aren’t specifically top-notch on either side of the ball, but are still very good on both ends, ranking 32nd in offensive efficiency and 28th in defensive efficiency.
5. Notre Dame (17-5, 6-3, PR: 2nd, AP: 20th)
The Fighting Irish have also dropped two straight, and three out of four, after starting 5-0 in ACC play, and it doesn’t get easier this week with games against Duke and North Carolina. The Irish rank 230th nationally in rebounding (35.2 RPG), an astounding low number for a team ranked in the top 25.
6. Virginia Tech (16-5, 5-4, PR: 7th, AP: receiving votes)
The Hokies are, quietly, on a roll in recent ACC play, winning three out of four, with the only loss coming at North Carolina. Two of their next three games are against rival Virginia; the series was always competitive even in the years the Cavaliers had the best record in the ACC and the Hokies had the worst, meaning the games should be even better with Virginia Tech now so competitive.
7. Duke (16-5, 4-4, PR: 6th, AP: 21st)
In the last week, the Blue Devils suffered their first home loss of the season to NC State, then picked up their first road win at Wake Forest. Mike Krzyzewski, even while recovering from back surgery, has been critical of his team’s efforts, although they can restore Coach K’s faith if they can win tonight at Notre Dame ahead of a three-game homestand.
8. Syracuse (13-9, 5-4, PR: 8th)
Until Saturday, the biggest hole in Syracuse’s resume was the lack of a quality win, but the Orange alleviated the issue with their win over Florida State. Now, after struggling in non-conference play, they are over .500 in the league and playing their best basketball of the season as it enters the stretch run, with less than six weeks until Selection Sunday. The next step is a win on the road–the Orange are 0-7 away from the Carrier Dome–and they’ll have a chance Wednesday in Raleigh.
9. Georgia Tech (13-8, 5-4, PR: 12th)
The biggest surprise in the ACC is Georgia Tech. I wasn’t sure the Yellow Jackets would win three conference games at all this season, yet they already have three wins over ranked opponents, including last week’s triumphs over Florida State and Notre Dame. The stretch is even more remarkable when you consider the Yellow Jackets rank 300th nationally with just 67.1 points per game, although they are 14th in adjusted defensive efficiency.
10. Miami (14-6, 4-4, PR: 9th)
Miami is hard to beat at the Watsco Center, where they are 10-1 on the season, including a convincing win Saturday over North Carolina; rival Florida State comes to Miami on Wednesday night. Interestingly enough, while Jim Larranaga’s teams typically share the ball well, these Hurricanes have only 12.1 assists per game (272nd).
11. Wake Forest (12-9, 3-6, PR: 13th)
Since the last rankings, Danny Manning finally got his first ACC road win at NC State, but since the Demon Deacons have blown great opportunities for wins at Syracuse and at home against Duke. The Deacs, who are currently projected as the very last team in the NCAA field by ESPN, rank 12th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, although with better defense and a better clutch streak this team could be even better. If the Deacs can win at Boston College tomorrow night, they will pick up their first season sweep of an opponent since 2012.
12. Clemson (12-8, 2-6, PR: 10th)
The Tigers stopped their six-game losing streak with Saturday’s win at Pittsburgh, which was a battle for last place in the standings. Even after their struggles, however, the Tigers are ranked 31st in KenPom and 40th in the RPI, on the strength of the fourth toughest schedule (according to KenPom), and a road non-conference win over South Carolina that keeps looking better. This week the Tigers meet Georgia Tech and Florida State, a pair of games that are traditionally close regardless of the teams’ records entering play.
13. NC State (14-8, 3-6, PR: 15th)
The Wolfpack got their first win in Cameron Indoor Stadium since January 18, 1995 (37 days before I was born). However, in a blowout loss to Louisville, the Pack fell to just 1-17 in games after a win over Duke/North Carolina since 1990 (the end of Jim Valvano’s tenure). The key for NC State all season has been “outscoring their own defense,” as they have allowed 77.7 per game (295th).
14. Boston College (9-13, 2-7, PR: 14th)
Since the Eagles had a promising 2-2 start to ACC play, they have lost five in a row. However, there are signs of improvement from these perennial bottom-dwellers–games that have been blowouts in the past are now close losses. There aren’t moral victories in the ACC, although losing close games, on the road no less, shows Jim Christian is, slowly, rebuilding the Eagle program.
15. Pittsburgh (12-9, 1-7, PR: 11th)
The only way to describe Kevin Stallings’ first trip through the ACC as the Panthers coach is that it has been a disaster. Pitt sits last place in the standings, having lost six straight, with a two-game road trip to Chapel Hill and Durham to test them this week. Just keep in mind, as much I hate to admit it, that in November I picked this team to finish fourth in the ACC.