We’ve made it deep into the college basketball season, and it’s time to start looking at this year’s contenders and pretenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference. This is nearly as deep a conference as it used to be, but there are still a few good teams at the top and a few teams that may get into the NCAA Tournament in the middle. So let’s take a look at where each team ranks in the ACC.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels
Did they lose to Florida State by 33? Yes. Should they be held accountable for that? Yes. But does it mean everything? Of course not. The Tar Heels have beaten their other three ACC opponents easily, and they have quality wins over Michigan State and No. 7 Wisconsin. We’ll see where they stand after Thursday’s game against NC State.
2. Duke Blue Devils
I don’t think Duke is far behind UNC in my rankings, but they’ve left some things to be desired. For one, they’ve only played four true road games, and they’ve lost two of those games. A road game against Maryland Wednesday will tell us more about the Blue Devils, and even though they lost to Florida State on Saturday, I have to be objective here.
3. Florida State Seminoles
Florida State has played the best 8-day stretch of games of any team in the country this year. Beating No. 3 UNC and No. 4 Duke (and Maryland in between) isn’t something that should ever be overlooked, even if it’s a Kentucky or an Ohio State that does it. But that was still only eight days, and I need to see more before I do something as bold as declaring FSU to be a better team than Duke or UNC. They’re on the right track, though — ACC Players of the Week two weeks in a row (Deividas Dulkys and Michael Snaer) isn’t a bad start.
Pretty stunned that FSU is unranked in this week's Coaches' Poll. No. 23 Louisville has lost 5 of 8. Best win in that span was St. John's...—
Josh Parcell (@JoshParcell) January 23, 2012
4. Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia could be legit. But I watched a little bit of their game against Virginia Tech last night, and the Cavs lost 47-45 at home to the Hokies. After that, I’m not going to give them a shining recommendation for the top three of my power rankings. It was just one game, and UVA looks like they’re building something, but they’ve lost two of their last three games after winning 12 games in a row.
5. NC State Wolfpack
NC State has won three consecutive games and nine of their last 10. Mark Gottfried’s system seems to be taking shape in his first season as head coach, but this is going to be a team that is squarely on the bubble for the rest of the season. Their ugliest loss was an 82-71 defeat at the hands of Georgia Tech, but they need a good win to have a shot at making the Big Dance. Games against UNC and Virginia this week will be very tough tests, but two good opportunities to get a quality win.
6. Maryland Terrapins
Maryland is a weird team. You’d think they’d be a little better than they are — six losses so far, including three in their last five games. They don’t do anything particularly well, and they rank near the bottom in assists per game (10.8 per game is worse than 307 teams). They play Virginia, UNC and Duke twice each the rest of the way, so they have the ability to make moves. But based on what I’ve seen so far this year, the chance to pull off multiple upsets seems unlikely.
7. Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies started ACC play with four consecutive losses before beating Virginia Sunday night. That win over the Cavs may be the only reason why I have them ranked so high. Head coach Seth Greenberg appears to be on the hot seat again, even though I’m not sure he could do much better with the resources he’s been given.
8. Clemson Tigers
Clemson’s schedule isn’t very tough the rest of the way. They got their one game against Duke out of the way, have two games against Virginia left, a game at UNC (where they haven’t won in like 50 years) and a season-finale at Florida State. At 2-3 in the ACC, I don’t think they’re going to make any moves, but they could reasonably win 18 or 19 games this season.
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake is that school that is going to pull off a crazy upset at some point this season. They seem like that kind of team, don’t they? FSU fans are hoping that won’t be happening Wednesday night in Tallahassee.
10. Miami Hurricanes
Miami actually impressed me a little in their 78-73 loss to NC State on Sunday. They were getting abused on their home floor, but they fought back and had a shot to finish the comeback toward the end of the game. They lost, but for a team whose biggest win was Rutgers, they showed guts.
11. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech has a couple of decent pieces. But let’s face it, they’ve lost three games in a row and seven of their last eight. The Yellow Jackets are about as powerful as a butterfly right about now.
12. Boston College Eagles
BC is just straight-up awful. I don’t know how to explain their wins over Clemson and Virginia Tech. That’s how bad they are.