The ACC regular season is winding down and it should be an exciting final couple weeks.
The regular season championship is still up for grabs and teams will be fighting for tournament position up until the last regular season games. There will also be some interesting match-ups that will have a big impact on potential NCAA Tournament spots and seeding.
As we head toward the final stretch of another unpredictable year in the ACC, here are our updated conference power rankings.
Not only are the Cavaliers alone atop the ACC standings with a 14-1 record, they’re also riding an 11-game winning streak. UVA had to battle to win on the road at Virginia Tech last week, but it was the sign of a team that figured out a way to win in a tough environment despite not playing well. Tony Bennett has to feel great about the way his team is playing as they head toward a huge showdown with Syracuse on March 1.
2. North Carolina
Things appear to be coming together for North Carolina at the perfect time of the year. The Tar Heels have won nine straight games and they’re doing it with outstanding defense and strong rebounding, which are typically two key ingredients for teams that have postseason success. Now, it will be critical for UNC to maintain this momentum as three of its next four games will be on the road.
Had Duke been able to knock down a couple shots in the second half against North Carolina, the Blue Devils probably would have been one spot higher in these rankings. However, Duke deserves credit for knocking off Syracuse on Saturday night and for handling last week’s difficult stretch by winning three of four games in an eight-day span. Hopefully the squad can get some rest over the next few weeks and be fresh for a potential postseason run.
Although Syracuse fans are most angry about the call on C.J. Fair and subsequent ejection of Jim Boeheim at the end of the Duke game, the Orange have much more legitimate issues to be concerned about. In the grand scheme of things, the loss to Duke didn’t mean much for Syracuse. It didn’t affect conference standings and it was only their second loss of the season. The bigger issue is that Syracuse is very lucky to not currently be in a four-game losing streak, and the Orange are having major problems shooting the ball consistently. This is not the time of year to go into a shooting slump.
If the Tigers can play well for the rest of the regular season and have a good showing in the ACC Tournament, they still have a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament. Clemson can’t afford to have any slip-ups like it did in the double overtime loss to Notre Dame, and finishing the regular season on a six-game winning streak, which is very possible, would look very favorable in the eyes of the selection committee. It’s time for K.J. McDaniels to put the team on his back.
6. Florida State
As Leonard Hamilton’s teams often do, Florida State is hanging around in the middle of the ACC standings and playing tough against the upper level teams in the league. The Seminoles battled against North Carolina before ultimately falling just short, and then knocked off Pittsburgh on the road, which is a terrible loss for the Panthers. If I’m Syracuse, I’d be scared to death about that regular season finale on the road in Tallahassee, where the Noles have a history of pulling off big upsets.
Things have gone in the wrong direction for Pittsburgh since the loss to Duke on January 27. Since that game, the Panthers have lost four of six, and the only two wins came in overtime against Miami and Virginia Tech, two of the worst teams in the league. Jamie Dixon’s squad has gone from being a potential contender for the league championship, to now just hoping for a decent seed in the conference tournament. It’s been a disappointing collapse for a team that showed great potential earlier in the season.
A win at Duke last weekend would have been the highlight of the season for the Terrapins, and it looked like it might happen, but Charles Mitchell’s shot just rolled softly off the rim and the Blue Devils escaped with a victory. Now, Maryland has another opportunity to earn a signature win for the season with Syracuse coming to College Park on Monday night. It should be an interesting game as both teams are in desperate need of a win.
9. N.C. State
I still can’t believe N.C. State lost at Syracuse last weekend. For Jim Boeheim to complain about the officiating at Duke after his own team was the beneficiary of such a questionable call against the Wolfpack is hilarious. However, you can’t blame Syracuse or the referees for N.C. State not showing up for the next game on the road at Clemson, where the Pack lost by 17 points. The season is on the line for Mark Gottfried and his team when UNC comes to Raleigh this week.
No one has noticed, but the Hurricanes have actually played well over the past week, picking up wins against Notre Dame and Boston College. For a roster that’s so inexperienced and lacking in playmakers, wins over any opponent are a good sign for Jim Larranaga.
11. Notre Dame
Notre Dame showed some signs of life against Virginia this past weekend as the two teams were tied at 30 going into halftime. That quickly ended in the second half when the Cavaliers used a 30-5 run to pull away from the Irish. Notre Dame just seems overwhelmed by the more athletic teams in the league, and this is something Mike Brey needs to address immediately with his recruiting.
12. Georgia Tech
I know Georgia Tech has struggled with injuries this season, but there’s no excuse for the lack of fight the Yellow Jackets showed earlier this week against Duke. There were multiple possessions where Georgia Tech players didn’t hustle for loose balls or just quit on plays, which led to easy Duke buckets. Those aren’t things I ever expect to see from a Brian Gregory coached team, especially considering how much of his principles are based on what he learned from Tom Izzo.
13. Wake Forest
It was a promising start to the season for the Demon Deacons, but Wake Forest is now back in full dumpster fire mode. The Deacons are in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, and five of those have been by double digits. This program has become an embarrassment. And change can’t come soon enough.
14. Boston College
Boston College beating Syracuse in the Carrier Dome will go down as one of the most bizarre upsets in ACC history. We’re having trouble with it now because it’s still weird to think of that as an ACC game, but we’ll look back on it years from now. The Eagles are awful. They showed that by following up the Syracuse win with a 27-point loss to Miami. How they beat Syracuse on the road is difficult to even comprehend. The Orange should be ashamed.
15. Virginia Tech
New Virginia Tech Athletic Director Whit Babcock is in a difficult spot with the men’s basketball program. The Hokies appear to be headed for a last-place finish in the league for the third consecutive year, attendance is down, and the roster doesn’t exactly feature promising young talent. Unless something major changes over the next few weeks with the team, it won’t be a surprise if major changes are made this offseason in Blacksburg.