April 17, 2021

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ACC Weekly College Basketball Power Rankings – 2/26/21

1. Florida State Seminoles (14-3, 10-2) (+1)

For the first time all season, we have a clear #1 in these ACC Power Rankings. Since the last edition on February 10, the Seminoles have gone 4-0 with wins against Wake Forest (although at home and needing overtime), Virginia at home by 21, Pitt on the road, and Miami on the road. Three of those four aren’t all too impressive, but just winning games is enough to put the ‘Noles comfortably in first place in these Power Rankings. The 21-point drubbing at home against Virginia put FSU in good position to capture the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament. Since then, though, UVA has faltered and FSU has kept on winning, giving the Seminoles a firm grip on the top spot in the conference. FSU has a road date against UNC this weekend that should be their toughest test remaining in the regular season. With three games left on the schedule before the ACC Tournament, I have a hard time seeing anyone other than FSU being the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament at this point.

2. Virginia Cavaliers (15-6, 11-4) (-1)

Things start to get very muddied past the #1 Seminoles in these rankings. How could Virginia be on a three-game losing streak and only fall one spot? Keep reading… The rest of the league’s performance made that possible. Despite the L3 streak, the ‘Hoos did go 2-3 since the last edition of these Power Rankings with a road win over Georgia Tech and a double-digit home win over UNC—neither opponent managed to crack 50 points. UVA’s offense has been in a bit of a rut over the past five games, as the ‘Hoos are averaging just 60.6 PPG over their last five. Opponents have been trying to force Kihei Clark (10.2 PPG, 4.6 APG, 42.9% FG%) to beat them with his shot rather than his playmaking ability. For as good of a player as Clark is, his shooting leaves much to be desired. Junior wing Trey Murphy (10.8 PPG, 52.3% FG%, 46.2% 3PT FG%) has also been a ghost during UVA’s two most recent losses to Duke and N.C. State; Murphy has managed just seven shots, including only four from behind the arc (0-4), during UVA’s two most recent losses. Seniors Sam Hauser (15.3 PPG) and Jay Huff (13.6 PPG) are each skilled on offense, but neither plays well when confronted with length and physicality (see: FSU blowout loss), and they need a third leg to prop up the stool on offense. Either Clark or Murphy will need to be that third leg down the stretch, or else UVA could be a 6 seed facing an early exit in the NCAA Tournament come mid-March.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (14-5, 8-4) (E)

Virginia Tech has played just once since our last Power Rankings due to COVID concerns within the program, and that one game was a 16-point loss at the hands of Georgia Tech earlier this week—at home no less. COVID pauses have been shown to wreak havoc with teams, particularly in their first games back. I’ll give the Hokies a pass and keep them at the #3 spot due to the circumstances. The team also just reinstated sophomore guard Tyrece Radford (11.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG) from a month-long suspension stemming from a recent arrest and guilty plea for DUI. Radford was also handed a weapons charge, but that was put under advisement by the judge for one year. With Radford back, VT is nearing full-strength (sophomore guard Jalen Cone, who averages 9.2 PPG, is still nursing an ankle injury), although his presence wasn’t enough for VT to overcome Georgia Tech. His return couldn’t come at a better time, though, as the Hokies were starting to look shaky without him after some early successes immediately following his arrest (including a 14-point home win over Virginia). However, during the month of February, the Hokies are now 1-2 with losses to Pitt and Georgia Tech, while the lone win was a 4-point, overtime victory against a Miami team that is in shambles right now. With home games against Wake Forest and Louisville on tap, as well as a season finale @ N.C. State, anything less than a 3-0 stretch could send the Hokies down this list.

4. Clemson Tigers (14-5, 8-5) (+1)

Clemson’s only played twice since our last Power Rankings, but they’ve stayed hot and are now winners of four straight, as well as five of their last six. This is a streaky team (started 9-1, then lost four of five, now won four straight), and one has to wonder whether they might be peaking too early. You can’t complain with winning games, though. I think this team is criminally underrated, and their blind resume should match up well against other teams in the seeding process. Clemson is 3-5 against Quad 1 opponents based on the NET Rankings, and they’re 6-0 against Quad 2 opponents, giving them a 9-5 record against quality opponents. It’s definitely heavy on Quad 2 wins, but Clemson has held their own against the top teams and sports wins over Alabama, Florida State, Purdue, and Maryland. In a very un-Clemson-like fashion, the Tigers challenged themselves during the non-conference slate, and I think they’ll get rewarded with a seed in the 5-7 range, depending on how the last few weeks unfold.

5. North Carolina Tar Heels (14-8, 8-5) (+1)

UNC is a great example of a team that’s making the middle tier of these rankings especially hard this week. Last weekend, the blow the doors off of Louisville at home by a final of 99-54. That meant they’d won five of their last seven conference games—with the only losses coming @ Clemson and @ UVA during that time—and were 7-games over .500 for the first time since 2019. Then, they go out and schedule Marquette to replace a game against Boston College that was postponed due to the Eagles’ COVID issues, and they get thumped on their home court by a final of 83-70. The irony shouldn’t be lost on folks that trading a game against the Boston College EAGLES for a game against the Marquette GOLDEN EAGLES was a bad choice. Now, I have no idea what to do with the Tar Heels, and I would imagine the Selection Committee is feeling something similar right now. UNC’s best win of the season is their road win at Duke. And even that looked pretty unimpressive until the Blue Devils resurrected their season over the past two weeks. The Tar Heels have a nice volume of wins, but the quality is severely lacking. They’re 1-6 in Quad 1 games, but they have one this weekend against FSU at home. UNC needs to quickly forget about the Marquette debacle and focus on winning this weekend’s contest. Otherwise, they open the door to potentially giving their spot in the NCAA Tournament to the dreaded team 8 miles down the road (as the crow flies).

6. Louisville Cardinals (12-5, 7-4) (-2)

Maybe the third time’s the charm when it comes to returning from COVID pauses? I’m sure Louisville fans would prefer to not have to test that theory at this point. When the Cards returned from their first COVID pause of the season in a game at Wisconsin back in December, they didn’t have senior grad-transfer point guard and leading scorer Carlik Jones (17.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.5 APG). It’s hard to excuse a 37-point blowout loss, but playing on the road without your starting PG is a decent start. It also helped that the Cardinals went on to win five straight after that Wisconsin game. This past weekend, though? Yikes. The Cards, coming off a 19-day COVID hiatus, had all five members of their starting five healthy (in terms of COVID) for their showdown at UNC, and they were even getting senior big man Malik Williams back from a foot injury that had kept him out since preseason. Sure, Williams was likely to be rusty and shouldn’t have been counted on, but his presence was a boost for Cards fans longing to see him get back on the court. Then the game started. While the first 10 minutes finished with the two teams tied, Louisville was outscored by 45 points (!!) in the last 30 minutes en route to a 99-54 defeat. Louisville was almost doubled up in a conference game with all five starters healthy. At least they recovered well this week by beating Notre Dame at home by 12? I guess? What I wrote about UNC applies to U of L. Good luck to the Selection Committee in trying to seed this team. Louisville is winless (as of now) against Quad 1 opponents this season. Yes, they’re 7-0 in Quad 2 games, but their best victory on paper is a home win over Georgia Tech. The Cards have three opportunities left in the regular season to gain their first Quad 1 victory, as all three of their remaining games (@ Duke, @ Virginia Tech, vs Virginia) qualify for that distinction. 0-7 against Quad 1 opponents at the end of next week, and perhaps we hear rumblings of Louisville being on the bubble entering the ACC Tournament.

7. Duke Blue Devils (11-8, 9-6) (+4)

[Insert .gif of The Undertaker rising from his coffin.] I’m going to start calling this team the Zombie Blue Devils. Once written off for dead while falling to 7-8 after home losses to UNC and Notre Dame on February 6th and 9th, respectively, Duke is nearing “I’m thinking I’m back” territory. Many Bracketologists have the Blue Devils firmly on the bubble, although most say Duke is on the outside looking in as of now. Wins over N.C. State, Wake Forest, Virginia, and Syracuse have put Duke squarely in the mix. It looks like the ACC is most likely going to get six teams into the Dance, but Duke and its reputation could push that number to 7 if the Zombie Blue Devils “earn it” down the stretch. Next up for Duke is a huge game against Louisville at home this weekend. Duke lost to the Cardinals earlier this season, so this is a big revenge game. Louisville is also the team ahead of the Zombie Blue Devils in these rankings, so a win for Duke would certainly give them the edge over the Cardinals in my book. It’s incredible all of this is happening even after the departure of freshman forward Jalen Johnson. As advanced analytics guru Evan Miyakawa points out, though, we really shouldn’t be all that surprised. According to Miyakawa’s analytics, Johnson was actually hurting Duke more than he was helping them when he was on the floor. It be like that sometimes.

8. Syracuse Orange (13-7, 7-6) (-1)

Syracuse is stuck in the back half of these rankings due to their incredibly light schedule this season, both inside the ACC and out. The Orange’s weak conference slate isn’t their fault, and COVID complications haven’t helped things. But, Syracuse’s best non-conference wins were an OT home victory over Buffalo and a home win over Georgetown by 5 points. Their stiffest test was a road game at Rutgers as part of the Big 10 / ACC Challenge, which Syracuse lost by double figures. In conference play, ‘Cuse has played Boston College twice, Miami once, and N.C. State twice, so those bottom tier squads account for five of the Orange’s seven ACC wins. An 18-point home win over Virginia Tech is this team’s crowning achievement on the season, while a pair of losses to Pitt (including a 20-point drubbing on the road) is probably the low-point. Syracuse has three straight opportunities for quality wins coming up, including a Quad 1 matchup against Georgia Tech on the road this Saturday. If the Orange can beat the Yellow Jackets on the road, they can elevate themselves back into the bubble conversation with just a week to go in the regular season.

9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12-8, 8-6) (-1)

On the other end of the spectrum, Georgia Tech has had the most difficult ACC slate thus far. The Yellow Jackets have split a pair of games against Florida State, lost to Virginia twice, beaten Virginia Tech on the road, and split a pair of games with Clemson. After taking on the aforementioned Orange this weekend, GT will play Duke for a second time this year, as they draw the Blue Devils at home on Tuesday night in a revenge game for the Jackets. With three straight wins under their belt as of now—including their first two road wins in ACC play capped off by a Quad 1 win @ VT that was sorely needed on Tuesday night—bracketologists have put the Yellow Jackets firmly on the bubble, but most have them on the outside looking in at this juncture. Tech needs to win two of its last three games vs Syracuse, vs Duke, and @ Wake Forest to have a fighting chance of an at-large bid, and even that would likely require winning two games in the ACC Tournament. A clean sweep over the next week, though, and Tech would probably only need one ACC Tournament win to get in, as that would put them at 16-9 with wins over FSU, Clemson, UNC, Virginia Tech, and Duke. This is the most important week of Head Coach Josh Pastner’s tenure. He’s probably not on the hot seat yet due to COVID and financial constraints within the Georgia Tech athletic department, but making the NCAA Tournament this season would fit in with the timeline he laid out when he was hired and would get the monkey off his back in a big way.

10. N.C. State Wolfpack (11-9, 7-8) (+3)

Head Coach Kevin Keatts’ team is starting to figure out life without senior point guard Devon Daniels (16.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.7 STL). Daniels tore his ACL and has been out since the January 27 game against Wake Forest. Over the past 10 days, the ‘Pack have beaten Pitt, Wake Forest, and Virginia—all on the road. The UVA victory stunned the college basketball world and exposed a number of flaws in the ‘Hoos. It was also a vindicating win for Keatts, who can point to the progress his team has made during the second half of the year during this upcoming offseason as a source of optimism moving forward. While the loss of a senior leader and point guard like Daniels is obviously crushing, freshmen guards Cam Hayes (7.2 PPG, 3.3 APG) and Shakeel Moore (7.2 PPG) have gotten more reps together in Daniels’ absence. That has meant some growing pains in the short term, but I think State will be better off come next season with so much experience under those two guys’ belts.

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-12, 6-9) (-2)

Notre Dame’s offense has come back down to earth a bit after putting 79+ points up in four straight games, including 93 points in a win at Duke on February 9. Since that win against Duke, the Irish are 1-2 with a victory over Miami at home to go with a pair of losses at Syracuse and at Louisville. This is still an incredibly talented offensive squad, and with only two seniors who receive meaningful playing time—although both are in the frontcourt—this could be a team to keep an eye on heading into next season as a sleeper pick to enter the top half of the ACC standings in 2021-22.

12. Pittsburgh Panthers (9-9, 5-8) (-2)

If Duke embodies the Undertaker rising from his grave meme, Pitt embodies the meme of the dog sipping coffee surrounded by a house on fire while saying “this is fine.” The Panthers have won just once since January 20, going 1-7 over that span, and they’re currently losers of four straight. But it’s what’s going on off the court with the Pitt program that’s even more alarming, if that’s possible. The team’s second- and third-leading scorers, junior wing Au’diese Toney (14.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG) and junior point guard Xavier Johnson (14.2 PPG, 5.7 APG, 3.4 RPG), respectively, have each put their names in the transfer portal and announced they will transfer from the team and play their senior seasons elsewhere (although each player technically has two years of eligibility remaining due to COVID rules). Sophomore forward and, at one point in time, ACC Player of the Year candidate Justin Champagnie (18.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG) can’t carry this team all on his own, although that’s effectively what he’ll be tasked with doing over the course of Pitt’s last three regular season games. Head Coach Jeff Capel is on his way this season to his third straight losing season to open his tenure at Pittsburgh, and the future doesn’t look bright at all given the events that have transpired this week within his program.

13. Miami Hurricanes (7-14, 3-13) (-1)

With the announcement that senior point guard and team heartbeat Chris Lykes will likely be out for the remainder of the season due to his ankle injury, there’s become little reason to hope for a turnaround for the Hurricanes this season. It’s a lost year for Head Coach Jim Larranaga, as injuries have decimated this team. Senior Kameron McGusty hasn’t quite returned to form since returning from an injury in mid-January, while Lykes and freshman guard Earl Timberlake are both likely done for the year. Now the question becomes whether any of Miami’s seniors (six seniors received playing time this season) will seriously consider coming back for another run next year given the extra season of eligibility the NCAA granted players due to COVID. This is especially relevant for Lykes given his injury issues this year and his limited upside in the NBA at 5’7″ in stature.

14. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-12, 3-12) (E)

Well. At least Wake Forest beat Boston College. That win pretty much cements the Demon Deacons’ status as not in the cellar of the conference again this season. Wake looked like they were making progress when they’d won three of five and then took FSU to overtime—on the road!—before falling by a final score of 92-85. Since then, however, they’ve been outscored 224-161 by Duke, N.C. State, and Clemson. Head Coach Steve Forbes is a great coach that likely has a bright future ahead of him, but this season was always going to be a tough one. Clawing away three wins in the ACC is more than I had this team pegged for, though, so kudos to the Deacs.

15. Boston College Eagles (3-13, 1-9) (E)

Are we still doing this? It kind of feels like BC has just opted out of the season without even telling anyone. Or maybe they did and the ACC’s offices just forgot to check their voicemails. (Former) Head Coach Jim Christian is gone and the team is technically on pause for COVID. The Eagles haven’t played since February 13, and while they’re scheduled to play Notre Dame tomorrow at home, it’s kind of like that old saying “if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around, does it really make any noise?” BC has Notre Dame, Florida State, and Miami left on the schedule. None of these games matter for NCAA Tournament aspirations. I guess ACC Tournament seeding hinges on these games? Whatever. I say shut it down and try again next year. Or, given the 65-113 record of this program since the 2015-16 season, maybe take a year off.

Key Remaining Regular Season Conference Games to Watch

  • Saturday, February 27, 12:00PM ET: Syracuse @ Georgia Tech
  • Saturday, February 27, 4:00PM ET: #11 Florida State @ North Carolina
  • Saturday, February 27, 6:00PM ET: Louisville @ Duke
  • Tuesday, March 2, 8:00PM ET: Duke @ Georgia Tech
  • Wednesday, March 3, 7:00PM ET: Louisville @ #16 Virginia Tech
  • Saturday, March 6, 4:00PM ET: #15 Virginia @ Louisville
  • Saturday, March 6, 6:00PM ET: Duke @ North Carolina