ACC Power Rankings, Basketball

ACC Power Rankings: Top Three Unchanged Moving Into Final Round of Games

Another week of games means another week of changes to our ACC Power Rankings, including a boost for Florida State after a pair of huge home wins and praise for Georgia Tech, which ended the regular season on a high note with a road win over North Carolina State.

1) North Carolina (25-5, 15-2 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 3)

The Tar Heels just keep rolling along, and have now won six games in a row after a disappointing loss to No. 2 Virginia three weeks ago. Their latest conquest? A 79-66 win over Boston College, where UNC outrebounded the Eagles, 60-35, held BC to 34.3-percent shooting, and didn’t trail by less than 14 in the second half. The performance—which included five Tar Heels reaching double figures—was just another reminder that UNC can beat teams in a myriad of ways and is fully capable of capturing another national championship. Before that, though, the Tar Heels have one more test: a date with No. 4 Duke in Chapel Hill to close out the regular season.

2) Virginia (27-2, 15-2, AP No. 2)

With a 79-53 win over Syracuse Monday night, the Cavaliers ran their record against teams not named Duke to 27-0 this season. UVA’s defense was again stifling—limiting the Orange to just 10 points in the final 15 minutes of the game—but it was the offense that stole the show. The Cavaliers knocked down 18 triples—which tied a school record—and the dynamic backcourt of Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome combined for 41 points. With the second-best offense and defense in the country, per KenPom, UVA, much like UNC, has the look of a team capable of a deep run come March.

3) Duke (26-4, 14-3, AP No. 4)

The Blue Devils narrowly avoided disaster at home against Wake Forest, as Chaundee Brown’s short jumper rimmed in and out at the buzzer to hand Duke a heart-stopping 71-70 win. It was just another reminder that, despite all the top-tier talent, the Blue Devils are an entirely different team without Zion Williamson, who remains sidelined with a knee sprain. Luckily for Duke, Mike Krzyzewski did say that he was hopeful the freshman star would be healthy enough to play by the ACC Tournament next week. In the meantime, the Blue Devils should probably work a little bit on free throw shooting. They make just 68.9 percent of their shots at the charity stripe—second worst in the conference.  

4) Florida State (24-6, 12-5, AP No. 14) ↑2

No team in the conference might have had a better week than the Seminoles, who notched a pair of huge wins against N.C. State and Virginia Tech (in overtime) at home to seal a double bye in the conference tournament next week. The win against the Hokies was particularly impressive, given that FSU trailed by 14 at halftime and shot just 37.9 percent from the floor. FSU may be overshadowed by the teams ahead of it in the conference standings, but make no mistake, the Seminoles are an excellent team, with 10 players that play at least 10 minutes per contest, and a stifling defense that is rated 13th-best in the country.

5) Virginia Tech (22-7, 11-6, AP No. 15) ↓1

Heartbreak might be the best way to describe the Hokies’ loss to FSU on Tuesday. VTech was leading by 14 points at the break and tied the game at 61 with 14 seconds to play, thanks to an Ahmed Hill triple before running out of gas in the extra period. The emergence of Kerry Blackshear—who had three straight double-doubles before fouling out late in the second half of the defeat to the Seminoles—has helped the Hokies cope with the continued absence of point guard Justin Robinson, but VTech needs him back badly. Just seven Hokies saw the floor against FSU.

6) Louisville (19-11, 10-7) ↑2

The Cardinals somewhat righted the ship on Sunday, beating hapless Notre Dame at home to snap a three-game losing streak—a stretch in which they failed to top the 60-point mark. Head coach Chris Mack criticized his team’s toughness after a loss to BC, and Louisville responded by outrebounding the Irish, 49-30, and holding a 46-26 edge in points in the paint, a good sign for a team that had been floundering after a collapse against Duke three weeks ago. The Cardinals will need all of that toughness in the final game of the regular season, a trip to Virginia to play the No. 2 Cavaliers.

7) Syracuse (19-11, 10-7) ↓1

With 15:05 left to play Monday night against UVA, a Tyus Battle corner triple gave the Orange a 43-42 lead, and it seemed like Syracuse had a chance to pull an upset. Instead, the Cavaliers turned it up on both ends and ran away comfortable victors. The 18 UVA 3-pointers were the most Syracuse has allowed in program history, but the Orange should probably be more concerned about offense moving forwards. Jim Boeheim’s team averages exactly 70 points per game, just 10th best in the conference.

8) North Carolina State (20-10, 8-9) ↓1

The Wolfpack is one of those teams where you never quite know what you’re going to get, as evidenced by Wednesday’s last-second loss to Georgia Tech—at home on Senior Night no less. N.C. State is more than capable of scoring the basketball—it averages 82 points per game and shoots 46.8 percent from the floor as a team—but issues defensively continue to plague the Wolfpack. It allows opponents to shoot 44 percent from the floor, third worst in the conference.

9) Clemson (18-12, 8-9)

Head coach Brad Brownell’s team continues to be an enigma, capable of playing up and down to any team in the conference, as evidenced by a two-point loss to the Tar Heels on Saturday, as well as a two-point win at Notre Dame Wednesday evening. The Tigers don’t really have a signature victory—and likely missed their last chance against UNC, but still have a reasonable shot to make the NCAA tournament. Clemson currently resides in Joe Lunardi’s “First four out” with just one game left to play in the regular season, and that’s in large part to Marquise Reed, who averages 19.2 points per game and played a starring role against the Fighting Irish with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting.

10) Georgia Tech (14-17, 6-12) ↑1

Kudos to the Yellow Jackets, who won two conference games in a row for the first time all season in style, knocking off the Wolfpack behind James Banks’ game-winning three-point play with just two seconds to play. GT has undeniably had problems scoring the ball this year, so Banks’ hot shooting moving into the ACC Tournament has to be a blessing. The junior forward is shooting a combined 20-of-26 in the past three games and has hit double figures in each of those contests.

11) Boston College (14-15, 5-12) ↓1

The Eagles simply looked like they didn’t belong on the same floor as No. 3 UNC for much of the game Tuesday night, falling behind, 48-25, at halftime and never making a serious comeback effort. BC has the pieces to be a decent team, with Ky Bowman, Nik Popovic, and Jordan Chatman making up three solid options offensively, but has struggled for consistency throughout the 2018-19 campaign. After all, this is a team with an upset win over FSU in January, but also two puzzling losses to Notre Dame to its name.

12) Miami (13-16, 5-12) ↓1

The Hurricanes nearly let an 11-point lead slip against Pittsburgh—the last place team in the ACC—but held on to win its fourth consecutive home game behind 27 points from senior Anthony Lawrence, who surpassed the 1,000-point milestone in the process. Still, a win over the worst team in the conference won’t draw many plaudits with the difficult season Miami has had, or the Hurricanes’ struggles on defense. Opponents shoot 44.7 percent against Miami, the second-worst defensive mark in the ACC.

13) Wake Forest (11-18, 4-13)

Inches were all that separated the Demon Deacons from one of the biggest upsets of the season, as Brown’s jumper rolled around the rim before falling out to hand Wake Forest a devastating loss. A win would have been a nice silver lining to the season for a team that still hasn’t won at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1997, but certainly wouldn’t have changed the fact that the Demon Deacons have struggled throughout Danny Manning’s fifth season. Wake Forest still has the worst scoring margin, field goal percentage, and field goal percentage defense in the conference.

14) Notre Dame (13-17, 3-14)

In fairness to the Fighting Irish, they continue to find a way to make games close—just one of their past seven contests (all losses) has been decided by more than 10 points. Notre Dame has taken Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and now Clemson to the wire before coming up just short in all four games. Unfortunately for the Irish, they haven’t had a consistent scorer outside of double-double machine John Mooney for much of the season, and that’s meant that Mike Brey’s team has continued to lose these close games.

15) Pittsburgh (12-18, 2-15)

A loss to Miami ensured that the Panthers streak of futility on the road continues—Pitt has now lost 24 consecutive games away from home. That’s just one concerning statistic for a team whose season has completely unraveled after a promising start to conference play. The last time the Panthers won a game was Jan. 9, when they unseated Louisville at home. Pittsburgh has never stopped trying—a credit to a young team that’s had a trying two months, but the reality is that the Panthers are now assured of finishing last in the conference for the second consecutive year, and the rebuild under new head coach Jeff Capel still has a long way to go.

Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor

March 7, 2019