ACC Basketball Power Rankings: Duke dominant, but feast or famine for rest of the league
If you live, eat, and breathe college hoops, Feast Week absolutely delivered the goods.
We had huge upsets, from Rick Pitino and Iona clipping No. 10 Alabama to Dayton’s buzzer beater over No. 4 Kansas to Wisconsin’s big win over No. 12 at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.
In the ACC, No. 5 Duke was the showstopper, toppling No. 1 Gonzaga 84-81 in the Continental Tire Challenge in Las Vegas. With the victory, Duke became the number 1 team in the country in Monday’s AP Poll, though the Blue Devils remain the only ACC team in the Top 25.
Despite having only one team in the Top 25, it wasn’t all bad for the rest of the ACC in Feast Week.
Virginia bounced off the mat and won the Roman Legends Classic, hammering a solid Providence team in the championship. Louisville also impressed, picking up quality wins over Maryland and Mississippi State to capture the Baha Mar Bahamas Championship. But the rest of the league has failed to impress, and this week’s ACC-B1G challenge could spell even more tough results for the conference as the season edges towards conference play.
Here are Saturday Road’s ACC Power rankings through Feast Week. Last week’s list is here.
15. Pittsburgh (2-4)
It is going to take quite the turnaround for Jeff Capel’s squad to escape the cellar of Saturday Road’s rankings this season. Pitt lost a pair of home games to mediocre opponents last week, including a 68-52 walloping by Vanderbilt. The Panthers limited preseason SEC Player of the Year Scottie Pippen Jr. to just 11 points and lost by 16 anyway. Given Vanderbilt’s lack of high level talent around Pippen,
14. Miami (4-3)
The Canes couldn’t take advantage of home-court crowds at the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando last week. Miami was blown out by eventual tournament champion Dayton in the first round, 76-60. They then struggled to upend North Texas, 69-63, before losing 96-60 to an angry Alabama in the 5th place game. Isaiah Wong is a special player, and Kam McGusty can really score, but the Hurricanes can’t stop anyone. They rank 162nd nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, a number that is mind-boggling for a Power 6 outfit. Until that improves, Miami’s ceiling is very limited.
13. Boston College (4-3)
The Golden Eagles got back in the win column with a victory over Columbia last week. Monday night’s tilt with South Florida, played after this piece was written, will be another good barometer of BC’s growth in year one under Earl Grant.
12. Georgia Tech (5-1)
The Yellow Jackets won twice last week, but didn’t play well in either victory.
A 15-point home win over a Charleston Southern team that is one of the worst programs in Division I is nothing to write home about. The Jackets were down 12 at the half to a middling Georgia Southern before Michael Devoe played out of his mind and helped Georgia Tech escape with a 2-point victory. No. 23 Wisconsin visits McCamish Pavilion on Wednesday night in the ACC-B1G challenge. A win in that game would help foster some belief that Michael Devoe is good enough to carry Georgia Tech back to NCAA Tournament contention this season.
11. Syracuse (3-3)
Three weeks into the season, we know who Syracuse is as a basketball team.
When the Orange hit shots, they are pretty good. When they don’t, they have issues because the 2-3 zone isn’t working with this personnel. The Orange rank 156th in Adjusted KenPom Defensive Efficiency and 21st in Adjusted KenPom Offensive Efficiency, the largest disparity between offense and defense of any team in the Power 6.
The result is a week like Syracuse had at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, where they were suffocated (29 percent FG) against VCU, and lost by 12; caught fire (54 percent and 41.2 percent from 3 point range) and whipped Arizona State; and then went cold again (41.7 percent FG) in a lopsided loss to Auburn in the 5th place game.
Undefeated Indiana visits this week, and the Orange very badly need a quality win for their nonconference résumé.
10. Notre Dame (3-2)
Notre Dame challenged Syracuse for most disappointing team during Feast Week.
The Fighting Irish went 1-2 at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, losing a barnburner to St. Mary’s in the opening round and falling to a Texas A&M team tapped to finish in the bottom half of the SEC in the 5th place game.
The Irish’s only win came against overmatched Chaminade, the Division II school that hosts the Maui Jim Maui Invitational every season.
That’s not good enough, especially from a veteran Notre Dame team that should be a NCAA tournament group.
9. NC State (5-1)
The Wolfpack played only once last week, defeating a quality Louisiana Tech team 90-81 Saturday at home. NC State got 31 points from Jericole Hellems in the win. The 6’7 senior wing is now averaging 17.3 points per contest, and he’ll take those numbers into an ACC-B1G challenge game against Nebraska Wednesday night. I’m still not sure what the Pack’s ceiling is without star center Manny Bates, but Kevin Keatts’ team sure does play hard.
8. Wake Forest (6-1)
The Demon Deacons finished second in the Emerald Coast Classic, grabbing a nice 80-77 win over Oregon State, an Elite 8 team last March, in the process. The Deacs would have liked to be more competitive in the championship against LSU, but all told, Steve Forbes’ team is one that has a nice 8 man rotation, three quality scoring options and, at least so far, can really shoot (36 percent from 3 point range).
The ACC doesn’t seem to have anyone that is far and away better than anyone else right now, save Duke. Could Wake Forest take advantage of that and become one of the season’s nicer, more surprising success stories?
7. Clemson (5-2)
After placing 4th in the Charleston Classic, Clemson played Charleston Southern last week and won handily, ending their Feast Week tour of Charleston. The Tigers get Rutgers in the ACC-B1G challenge, a game that Clemson should win, and one that will offer a Quad 1 victory because it comes in Piscataway. You can’t miss too many of those resume building opportunities if you figure to spend most the season on the bubble like Clemson.
6. Virginia Cavaliers (5-2)
Virginia was much, much better this week. The biggest reason? Virginia defended like Virginia again. The Hoos won the Roman Legends event by holding Georgia to 55 and Providence to 40, then milked out a 61-43 win over Lehigh on Friday. Virginia still isn’t scoring in bunches, and they won’t, so long as Armaan Franklin is going to shoot 28.9% from downtown.
But if Tony Bennett maximizes this team’s potential defensively, they’ll still be a tough out in ACC play.
5. North Carolina (4-2)
The Heels bounced back from their 0-2 Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic showing with a comfortable 19-point victory over UNC-Asheville last week. Armando Bacot poured in 22 for the Tar Heels, who also shot an efficient 7-14 from beyond the arc.
No. 24 Michigan visits the Dean Dome Wednesday night in a battle of two of the nation’s Jumpman programs.
4. Florida State (5-1)
What a fine line there is between a stunning loss and an unbeaten week. Just ask Florida State.
The winningest team on their home floor in America since 2015 (even better than Kansas!), the Seminoles nearly tripped up against Boston University on Wednesday night in Tallahassee. Then freshman Matthew Cleveland did this to save the Noles from an agonizing loss:
Matthew Cleveland’s game-winner:
— Tomahawk Nation (@TomahawkNation) November 25, 2021
Leonard Hamilton has plenty to work on to get this team ready for league play, though, and they’ll need to be way better Tuesday night at No. 2 Purdue if they hope to have any chance at pulling off the big upset. On the bright side, FSU is one of the biggest teams in the country, and it has the size and length to really bother Purdue.
3. Virginia Tech (5-2)
The Hokies squandered two chances for big time résumé wins at the NIT last week, falling to No. 9 Memphis 69-61 and then losing by a point to No. 25 Xavier.
NATE JOHNSON FOR THE LEAD! pic.twitter.com/iTkjW73qyS
— Xavier Basketball (@XavierMBB) November 27, 2021
Neither of these losses will hurt the Hokies in March, but they feel like missed opportunities. More disappointing? The fact Mike Young’s offense couldn’t muster more than 59.5 points per game in its first 2 contests against teams in the KenPom top 100.
Still, Saturday Road believes in this Hokies team and they remain just ahead of FSU for a top 3 spot, for the time being.
2. Louisville (5-1)
The Cardinals weathered the Chris Mack suspension with only one defeat, thanks to an impressive week in the Bahamas. The Cardinals defense led the way, stifling Mississippi State in the first half and building a 16 point halftime lead on their way to a comfortable win. Louisville then frustrated Maryland 63-55 in the Baha Mar Bahamas Championship game, winning despite shooting only 35 percent from the field and a woeful 22 percent (6-27) from deep in the game. Right now, the Cardinals defense, which ranks 16th in Adjusted KenPom Defensive efficiency, is keeping them in every game they play.
The question is who, outside of Noah Locke, will provide constant offense. When Locke is good, he’s really good:
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 27, 2021
But he’s also not a point guard, and his usage rate (30%) is far too high for a low assists player (just 2 assists all season). Locke needs less of the basketball, not more of it, and Chris Mack will need to figure out how to tell Locke that sooner rather than later for the Cardinals to maximize their potential.
1. Duke (7-0)
We knew Paolo Banchero was good but did anyone expect to him to look that much better than Chet Holmgren on Friday night in Las Vegas? Banchero poured in 20 of his 21 points in the first half, helping Duke build a halftime lead they would maintain throughout the second half against then No. 1 Gonzaga.
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) November 27, 2021
Banchero isn’t a one-man band.
Wendell Moore Jr. continues to play well, Mark Williams is a freakish athlete who has dramatically improved as a basketball player, and the fact Duke can beat Gonzaga while only getting 6 from Trevor Keels is a testament to the depth in Durham.
One question you’d never have worried about in seasons past: will Duke be challenged enough in ACC play to be battle-tested come March? Right now, the answer might be no, as the league has only 5 wins over teams in the Bart Torvik top 70 this season (two of which have been won by Duke).
But this week’s ACC-B1G games could change the narrative.