It’s been a topsy-turvy last two weeks in the ACC since my last power rankings.
Every team except NC State and Boston College has won at least once, and 10 of the league’s 15 teams have won more than once. Every team except Duke has lost a game, while nine have lost multiple games.
As a result, ranking these teams from top to bottom is becoming more difficult each week. It is, however, made a little bit easier when the teams are divided into tiers, something the standings have already done naturally.
That said, here is how the teams stack up this week:
The Top Tier
1. North Carolina (21-5, 9-3 ACC, Previous Ranking: 3rd, AP Poll: 10th)
The Tar Heels lead the ACC standings, and these rankings, on the strength of a 13-0 home record, and a 6-4 away record, including a 3-3 conference road record in the best conference in the land. Offensively, the Tar Heels remain very strong statistically in points (87.4 per game, 6th nationally), rebounding (44.2, 1st) and assists (18.3, 3rd). They lost at Duke on Thursday, but I rarely penalize a team for losing at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
2. Virginia (18-6, 8-4 ACC, PR: 2nd, AP: 14th)
In the first draft of these rankings, written at halftime of last night’s Virginia-Virginia Tech game, Virginia was at the top. But after the Cavaliers blew a 14-point halftime lead in a double-overtime loss, they dropped from that perch. People focus on Virginia’s defense, and rightfully so, but while their offense is ranked 270th in points per game, they are 17th in offensive efficiency (an explanation here is that they are 2nd to last in tempo). We’ll know just how good the Cavaliers are after this week, with back-to-back games at Duke and North Carolina.
3. Louisville (20-5, 8-4 ACC, PR: 1st, AP: 8th)
As good a team as Louisville has had since joining the ACC, they just can’t seem to beat Virginia. The Cardinals are 1-5 in games against the Cavaliers since joining the ACC, with all six games being between two ranked teams, and Louisville has lost both meetings this year by eight and 16 points. The Cardinals are a real threat to win the ACC Tournament–as long as they don’t run into Tony Bennett’s packline defense that they just can’t seem to figure out.
4. Florida State (21-5, 9-4 ACC, PR: 4th, AP: 17th)
The Seminoles, who are 16-0 at home, are 6-1 against ranked opponents, making them the only ACC team who is over .500 in such games. Road play is the ‘Noles biggest weakness–in a current 3-3 stretch, all three losses are away from Tallahassee. There are no “easy games” in the ACC, but the Seminoles do have a relatively slate over their next three games, as they are all against the bottom four teams in the league.
5. Duke (20-5, 8-4 ACC, PR: 7th, AP: 12th)
After a midseason swoon saw the Blue Devils lose three of four in January, they are suddenly hot again, having won five straight since including Thursday night’s win over North Carolina. Looking back over the season, the Blue Devils are 13-1 at home, with the only loss coming on Jan. 23 to NC State, in what is now one of the season’s real headscratchers. Duke is 2-3 on the road, and will be tested in such a game at Virginia, before returning home to meet Wake Forest, whose last win at Cameron Indoor included a stellar performance by… Tim Duncan (it’s been a while: Jan. 11, 1997).
6. Notre Dame (19-7, 8-5 ACC, PR: 5th, AP: 25th)
The Irish have alleviated their four-game losing streak with home wins over Wake Forest and Florida State. The biggest weakness for the Irish is rebounding: strangely enough, even with double-double machine Bonzie Colson (16.7 ppg, 10.8 rpg), the team ranks 245th nationally (34.7 rpg). On one hand, the Irish are entering a stretch that is easy by the ACC’s lofty standards, meeting Boston College and NC State this week; on the other hand, it still may not be easy, as both are on the road.
The Middle Tier
7. Syracuse (16-10, 8-5 ACC, PR: 8th)
The Orange are playing well, and are 8-5 in the ACC, just a game and a half behind North Carolina at the crowded top of the league. That said, they are still a middle-tier team to me because of their full resume, which includes poor play in the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Orange are an NCAA Tournament bubble team, something that just isn’t said about top-tier ACC teams. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Orange in the tournament, as the last team with a bye to the Round of 64 (thus avoiding the “First Four”).
8. Virginia Tech (17-7, 6-6 ACC, PR: 6th)
At halftime last night, I thought the Hokies were beginning a free fall. They had lost two straight and three of four, and were trailing Virginia by 14 at home in a rivalry game. Then the Hokies came back, winning in double overtime on Seth Allen’s lane jumper. Now, the Hokies face back-to-back road games at Pittsburgh and Louisville, but then return home for three of their final four games.
9. Wake Forest (15-10, 6-7 ACC, PR: 12th)
The Demon Deacons are in their best stretch of basketball since 2010. That season was the last time they made the NCAA Tournament, and currently this year’s edition is squarely on the bubble, as the first team out of the projected field on Bracket Matrix, and the fourth team out on Lunardi’s bracket. One knock against Wake’s tournament chances is that they are 0-6 against ranked opponents, and the only other ACC team without a ranked win is Boston College. They will have two more chances before the ACC Tournament to get one (at Duke, Louisville), but first head to Clemson tomorrow.
10. Miami (16-8, 6-6 ACC, PR: 10th)
The Hurricanes are projected in the 9- to 10-seed range in NCAA projections, on the strength of a win over North Carolina and no bad losses. They nearly picked up another signature win, taking Louisville to the wire on the road, and will have additional chances coming up. But first comes two games against Georgia Tech and Clemson where, in regards to NCAA positioning, wins may not help as much as losses would hurt.
11. Georgia Tech (15-10, 6-6 ACC, PR: 9th)
Just getting Georgia Tech to this point, in the cluster around .500 in the middle of the ACC pack, may be enough to make first-year coach Josh Pastner the ACC Coach of the Year. This has been done strictly with defense: the Jackets rank 254th in kenpom.com‘s adjusted offensive efficiency, but are eighth defensively. The Yellow Jackets are projected by most to be just outside the NCAA field, and (strangely enough in the loaded ACC) they only have one game left against a ranked opponent.
The Bottom Tier
12. Clemson (13-11, 3-9 ACC, PR: 11th)
Some would place Clemson in the middle tier of the league, and on paper they should be a middle tier team. They are, in fact, Lunardi’s second-to-last team in the NCAA field, although Bracket Matrix has them as the sixth team out. But at some point, strength of schedule (third-toughest nationally) will stop carrying this team in those discussions, because at some point they have to start winning. The Tigers have lost three straight, and nine of 11 after winning their ACC opener at Wake Forest, and now face the Deacs again trying to find the same late-game magic they had on Dec. 31.
13. Pittsburgh (14-11, 3-9 ACC, PR: 14th)
Every year has that team in the ACC that can’t seem to win a close game, and this year it’s been the Panthers. There have been some blowouts, but most of their ACC losses have been close. After an 11-point road win at Boston College, Saturday the Panthers finally won a close one, beating Syracuse to move out of a last-place tie in the league. Will they be able to keep the momentum up? Maybe–three of their next four games are at home, but two of those games are against North Carolina and Florida State.
14. NC State (14-12, 3-10 ACC, PR: 13th)
The splits for NC State this season are 11-4 at home and 1-7 away, but lately the problem has been everywhere. The upset at Duke feels ages ago, as the Wolfpack have lost five straight since, getting absolutely destroyed in three of those games, and now they have to face North Carolina, a team that beat them by 51 in January. The Pack have possibly the best player in the conference–Dennis Smith Jr. (18.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 6.8 apg)–but that’s the only positive development this season in Raleigh.
Update: According to reports, Mark Gottfried has been fired by NC State, effective at season’s end. The firing has not been confirmed by the university.
15. Boston College (9-17, 2-11 ACC, PR: 15th)
For a lot of teams, whether or not they can win a few games on the road is the key to a successful season. But forget away games for the Eagles–they’re now just 8-8 at home overall, and just 2-5 in conference home games. after showing some promise early in the ACC portion of the schedule, the Eagles have lost nine straight, returning to a place they’ve resided for the last several years: last place.